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Greetings From Washington, D.C.

Rosh Hashanah wishes from the prez

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Obama at a heath-care reform rally in Maryland yesterday.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In addition to your mother and your grandmother and all your friends with “Yay, 5770!” Facebook status updates, you know who else wants to wish you a happy Rosh Hashanah? Barack Obama. A video greeting from President Barry was posted to the White House blog yesterday afternoon, and he opens with a very well-executed (and charmingly, Obamily cadenced) “L’shana tova tikatevu,” also tossing in a “may you be inscribed for blessings in the Book of Life” to “members of the Jewish faith here in America and around world.” He also gets a chance to tout one of his favorite judicial qualities, asking that we “reject the impulse to harden ourselves to others’ suffering, and let us instead make a habit of empathy.” The rest of it is about what you’d expect: Let us use this time of reflection and reconciliation for families, communities, and even nations to heal old divisions. Let us stand up to anti-Semitism. Let us extend freedom around the world. Let us work to achieve peace and security for Israel. (“That’s why my administration is actively pursuing the lasting peace that has eluding Israel and its neighbors for so long,” he explained.) He winds up by quoting Isaiah, that the Jews are “a light unto the nations,” and by calling Judaism “a great and ancient faith.” And finally: “Michelle and I wish all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah a healthy, peaceful, and sweet new year.” And a good yontif to you, too, Mr. President.

Warm Wishes for Rosh Hashanah [WhiteHouse.gov]

On Tablet Today

Thinking, drinking, and surfing the web for the holidays

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Marc Tracy gathers Rosh Hashanah resolutions from Matisyahu, Ayelet Waldmen, and other intriguing characters. On our podcast Vox Tablet, Sara Ivry talks ethics with political philosopher Michael Sandel. Allison Hoffman checks out an online High Holiday service. Marissa Brostoff offers some innovative Rosh Hashanah cocktail recipes from bartender Doug Quinn. And here on The Scroll, Tablet will keep you updated throughout the day.

Daybreak: Foregone Conclusions

No peace talks, Ahmadinejad’s old song, and more in the news

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• A meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Obama at the U.N. General Assembly next week is extremely unlikely, as no one is willing to budge on anything. [Ynet]
• Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust “a lie.” Again. [AP]
• Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, has come out against the Goldstone report’s call for an independent investigation of the Gaza War in Israel amid “very serious concerns” about Goldstone’s authority. [WP]
• World War II veteran Max Fuchs recalls performing as cantor in a battlefield Sabbath service in 1944. [NYT]

Sundown: You Don’t Call, You Don’t Tweet

Israeli etiquette, Ahmadinejad shunned, and a happy new yarrr!

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• Not finding enough followers on Twitter? Focus on the one you can count on: your mother. She just wants to know where you are, what you’ve eaten, and whether you’re wearing a sweater. [YouTube]
• Despite the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be joined on his visit to New York “by the only Jewish Iranian serving in his parliament,” Jewish organizations have—along with pretty much everyone else he invited—declined an offer to have dinner with the Iranian President. [Ynet]
• In case you haven’t picked up on it from Tablet’s holiday coverage, this Saturday, September 19, is Rosh Hashanah. What you may not know is that it’s also International Talk Like a Pirate Day! We will be forever indebted to anyone who sends us a video of their rabbi saying “shiver me timbers” or the like on the bimah. [Talk Like a Pirate]
• Using the slogan, “Fighting the settlement freeze, saying no to Obama, we are building sukkot for eternity in Judea and Samaria” (rolls right off the tongue, no?), some settlers in Israel are, well, building (traditionally temporary) huts they hope will be exempt from any future demolition. [Ynet]
• A new initiative aims to spruce up Israelis’ manners through lessons “such as showing courtesy on the roads and not blowing cigarette smoke into other people’s faces.” One commenter is optimistic: “Now Mashiach will come!!” [JPost]
• Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit the synagogue in Rome after the High Holidays; he’ll be the second pope to do so, after John Paul II in 1986. [JTA]

Bin Laden Likes ‘The Israel Lobby’

His latest book endorsement

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(CNN/AFP/Getty Images)

Authors love solid plugs for their books, whenever and however they can get them. But it’s awkward when Osama bin Laden comes out as a fan—particularly if he chooses to do it in his regular September 11 video messages. A few years ago, bin Laden endorsed Imperial Hubris, a book by former CIA analyst and fierce Bush Administration critic Michael Scheuer, who wound up going on Fox News to explain that the feeling wasn’t mutual, but that, yes, Americans really, really should read his book.

Over the weekend, a new bin Laden tape surfaced, and this time he recommended that Americans read “another book, titled The Israel Lobby, by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.” The book famously argued that American policy in the Middle East is captive to Israeli interests, at the expense of America’s—and, unsurprisingly, has become a favorite among the anti-Zionist crowd, both in the United States and, apparently, in deepest Waziristan (or, you know, wherever).

Walt responded on his Foreign Policy blog that he wished bin Laden had been captured already, but goes on to add that, as long as bin Laden was drawing attention to the issue, Americans should really take a minute to remember that “unconditional U.S. support for Israel and Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians is a source of great resentment in the Arab and Islamic world.” Walt went on reiterate his call for a get-tough policy with Israel—which of course gets to the heart of what freaked people out about his book in the first place. Walt’s Foreign Policy colleague David Rothkopf has, in the past, noted that while there’s no reason to think Walt and Mearsheimer are themselves anti-Semites, they’ve done relatively little to repudiate the wilder anti-Semitic views of those who also champion the book. Now, with the Obama Administration making no bones about its willingness to pressure Benjamin Netanyahu to do things he may not, politically or philosophically, want to do, Rothkopf writes, a little hysterically, that “Walt and Mearsheimer have achieved a near miracle, creating one thing on which both the current Washington establishment and Bin Laden can agree on.” Yoo hoo, J Street! Are you listening?

Bin Laden’s Book Club [Stephen M. Walt/FP]
On the latest great selection from Osama’s Book Club [David J. Rothkopf/FP]
Earlier: AIPAC and Obama Headed for a Showdown?

‘Seinfeld’ Cast to Reunite on ‘Curb’

Jewish Journal has questions; Baltimore Sun has answers

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(Toby Canham/Getty Images)

Curb Your Enthusiasm will be even more meta than usual in its seventh season, when the real cast of Seinfeld reunites for a fictional Seinfeld reunion show organized by Larry David’s HBO alter ego, Larry David. That means real-life comedian Jerry Seinfeld will play himself playing a slightly grayer version of his most famous character, Jerry Seinfeld. It also means, according to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, that we’ll be privy to fictional versions of the David-Seinfeld writing team’s internal conversations about whether the last episode of Seinfeld was as bad as critics declared it, and if George Costanza getting married could ever be a plausible plot twist. The Journal hopes that among these pressing issues, the Seinfeld reunion plot arc—which stretches across the whole season of Curb—will address this “lingering question”: “Why was the obviously Jewish Seinfeld never openly described as Jewish on the show?” Well, spoiler alert: in a Baltimore Sun interview today, David is asked that very question. His reply: despite the unmistakable Jewishness of the show, explicitly discussing such a thing is still verboten on network television. “The difference is that on Seinfeld, you did have a lot of people watching who did get offended by many of the things we did, because it was a network show. But the people who are watching Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO, they’re paying to watch this.”

David, ‘Seinfeld’ Cast Reunite, Rant [Jewish Journal]
Larry David Talks ‘Seinfeld’ and Jewish Identity [Baltimore Sun]

Good Breeding

Israeli woman dies after producing 1,400 descendants

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Her offspring may not be quite “as many as the stars in the sky,” but there’s no denying the grandness achieved by Rachel Krishevsky, who died in Israel at 99, leaving behind approximately 1,400 descendants, starting with her 11 children and extending down the generations to “a few hundred” great-great-grandchildren. For some reason, Ynet feels the need to point out that Krishevsky was not a “record-breaker,” as “there are two well-known cases of living people having great-great-great-grandchildren.” But we doubt Krishevsky, who relatives say knew “the entire book of Psalms by heart,” as well as “all of her descendants,” would be disappointed; with all those names, she probably didn’t need Sudoku to keep her mind sharp til the end.

Woman Dies at 99, Leaves Behind 1,400 Descendants [Ynet]

Israel Tries to Gather Allies

To help shake off the Goldstone Report

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Following the international fallout of the Goldstone Report—a UN-commissioned study on the Israeli incursion in Gaza last winter headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone that concluded the IDF was guilty of war crimes—Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has reached out to the Obama administration as an act of first-response damage control. According to Haaretz, Israel is seeking the support of the U.S., Russia, and other nations still mired in counterterrorism wars abroad. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has also assembled a team of attorneys to combat possible war crimes indictments by the International Criminal Court. The attempt by the Jewish State to shore up as many moral and legal bolsters as possible has already taken the form of denouncing the Goldstone Report as the equivalent of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which stated that Zionism was a racist ideology. The only good news coming out of Jerusalem, it seems, is mutual congratulations by Israeli officials for refusing to cooperate with the Goldstone investigators because of the perceived inevitable bias in any UN-prompted human rights analysis. A joint panel of the Israeli Justice Ministry, IDF, and Foreign Ministry has instructed officers who fought in Gaza not to travel abroad for fear of possible subpoenas or arrests. As for the actual allegations raised by the Goldstone Report, Israel has not responded.

Israel seeks Obama backing on Gaza probe [Haaretz]

Today’s Sorry

An apology to mom

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The March of Atonement continues. Each day until Yom Kippur, Tablet Magazine is offering a Daily Sorry, a series of apologies called into our Sorry Hotline. Today, it’s a somber sorry, from a daughter to her mother.

Want to join the ranks of the atoners? It’s not too late. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

Today on Tablet

The price of admission, an ancient prayer book, a new take on a classic, and the sexy goy

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Jeannie Rosenfeld takes a look at the “exceptional” 1331 Nuremberg Mahzor, now on public display for the first time at the Israel Museum. Liel Leibovitz procures an unusual brisket recipe from a star chef. Marissa Brostoff investigates the reactions of synagogues to their congregants’ financial struggles during the High Holidays. Marjorie Ingall posits that the late Patrick Swayze, in his role as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, represented a dying breed of irresistible non-Jewish men. And more to come throughout the day here on The Scroll.

A Prayer for the Trying

Zev Chafets attempts to discover the way to pray

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The New York Times Magazine may have selected the perfect correspondent to investigate the “right way to pray” for a Rosh Hashana-weekend feature article now available on the paper’s website. Writer Zev Chafets, who starts by visiting the mega-church Brooklyn Tabernacle, is so alienated from prayer that he can’t even bring himself to read a prayer card submitted by a couple “struggling through financial problems” aloud, and is so averse to meditative silence that he sleeps with the TV on.

After a pleasant visit to a “spiritual director” (like a life coach for the soul), Chafets went to Marc Gellman, a Reform rabbi “of liberal theological leanings.” Although Gellman loses some credibility in our book for saying “[o]ur people don’t get emotional in public,” he makes an astute statement on the relative paucity of actual prayer at the average suburban synagogue: “People come to temple to identify with other Jews, or socialize. The writer Harry Golden once asked his father, who was an atheist, why he went to services every Saturday. The old man told him, ‘My friend Garfinkle goes to talk to God, and I go to talk to Garfinkle.’ There’s a lot of that.” While Gellman shies away from innovation like gay congregation Sha’ar Zahav’s prayer sanctifying a one-night stand, he does take a light-hearted stance in encouraging people to worship: “When you come right down to it, there are only four basic prayers. Gimme! Thanks! Oops! and Wow!”

Chafets also chats with a Chabad rabbi who runs an online advice column and “speaks in a prayer vocabulary short on traditional Yiddish and long on New Age maxims of self-improvement, the nature worship of the New England Transcendentalists and Asian meditation.” But in the end, attending an Easter service, it’s The Children who move Chafets with their prayer—“They didn’t pray to de-center their egos or find transcendence or to set off on a lifelong therapeutic spiritual journey”—and lead him to settle on the purest of Gellman’s four prayers, the one perhaps most appealing to a liberal, agnostic soul: “Straight-up Gimme! on behalf of people who really need the help.”

The Right Way to Pray? [NYTM]

Daybreak: One Building, Two Religions

‘Jewish Jordan’ retires, Barak brags, and more in the news

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• In “a story that shatters the stereotype,” the AP says, a Reform synagogue in Virginia has opened its doors to a Muslim congregation short on space during Ramadan, becoming an after-hours mosque. [AP]
• Basketball player Tamir Goodman, known as “the Jewish Jordan,” is retiring at 27 after a disappointing career. Maybe he’ll move on to baseball? [AP]
• Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak claims to be unintimidated by Iran. [Reuters]
• In related news, Barak also made it clear that Israel, widely believed to possess a substantial nuclear arsenal, is not ready to consider region-wide disarmament. [AP]

Sundown: Scissor Sister

No blood libel from Moore, Aussie Heebsters, and a High Holi-dog

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• Following a shortage of certified circumcision practitioners, and in a time of controversy about the procedure, Dr. Karen Jaffe has become the first female mohel, or mohelet, in the state of Ohio. [Cleveland.com]
• Jews down under can now enjoy their own recently launched edition of Heeb magazine, and the “No shrimp on this barbie” t-shirts that will inevitably follow. [JTA]
• The verdict is in: Israelis are gaga for Inglourious Basterds. [Haaretz]
• Check out this cute video of a dog responding to the shofar with his own tekiah gedolah; one commenter suggests that “with a little ingenuity,” the ram’s horn “can be made into marijuana smoking device.” [AV Club]
• No need to fear a Michael Moore exposé on Jewish Christ-killers; the director says the nuns at his Catholic school “wanted to make it clear that the Jews had nothing to do with putting Jesus up on the cross.” [NYT]

Where Islamism Meets Authoritarian Socialism

At anti-Semitism, of course

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Wolf-Dieter Vogel has a strongly argued essay up at the online magazine Qantara about the nexus between Islamism and the authoritarian left, best embodied by Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. He cites examples in which the Latin American caudillo has expressed solidarity with the Iranian regime—most recently, Chavez categorized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election as “very important for the peoples who are fighting for a better world.” Vogel sees the sort of kitsch socialism now en vogue in the hemisphere as very amenable to conspiracy theories:

“[F]or them it is about the ‘good’ oppressed peoples’ fight against their enemies, the ‘outsiders’, who attack ‘their’ culture, however that may be defined; the ‘good people’ who are lied to and cheated by propaganda or other influences from ‘outside’.

And since one of the oldest conspiracy theories on record is that the Jews control the world, Vogel writes, it makes perfect sense that Chavez and his allies (like Nicaraguan head of state Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales) would align themselves with Holocaust deniers, theocrats, and guerilla proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah.

False Friends [Qantara]
Related: United By Hate [Boston Review]

Where the ‘Wild Things’ Come From

Brooklyn Jews, says ‘Paste’

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In anticipation of next month’s film version of Where the Wild Things Are, a rather overwrought essay in Paste Magazine traces the trajectory of the children’s classic from Maurice Sendak’s anxious childhood, though his famous book, to the book’s adaptation by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. And it finds profounndly Jewish roots to the classic children’s story. “The little Jewish boy, the yingl, lies nervously awake in the dark,” Charles McNair writes. “It’s September 1939. He’s barely 11.” In McNair’s account, Sendak is a sickly child who “only watches the stickball games in the Brooklyn streets” and who’s “already gay, hardwired, the secret perhaps not even known to him yet, but always there, a slow fuse burning toward puberty. School is a daily trip to gehenem, to hell.” Relief comes in the Jewish folktales and stories from the Torah that Sendak’s father tells him, and which he illustrates. Those stories later inform Wild Things, in which the Things in question “uncannily resemble those uncles and aunts and grans that stomp through the crowded house on holidays”; Max, meanwhile has “a pure id, as deep and famished as Philip Roth’s.” This is all a little much, but here’s hoping that McNair is right about one thing: if the movie manages to please both hipster and family audiences, it could be “a new E.T., blurring the line between child and adult entertainment.”

The Call of the Wild Things [Paste Magazine]

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