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Today on Tablet

Books, basics, and the mouths of babes

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Tablet Magazine provides a handy guide to the upcoming High Holiday, Yom Kippur. Marjorie Ingall offers advice to young innocents on atoning. Josh Lambert checks out books about Greek Jews, food, and a family in Fascist Italy, among others. Plus, of course, we’ll keep you updated on The Scroll throughout the day.

Israeli Organ-Harvesting Stories Spread

Through Arab media, blogosphere

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As Israel and Sweden continue to duke it out over the Swedish newspaper story that accused the IDF of harvesting organs from slain Palestinians, the original allegations are spreading. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Algerian daily Al-Khabar started the globalization in an article claiming that Moroccan and Algerian gangsters have been kidnapping children on the streets of Algeria, transporting them to Morocco, then selling them to Israelis and American Jews, who kill them and sell their organs. That story has been picked up by Arab and Muslim media outlets, including not only Iran’s official media outlet PressTV, but also mainstream sources like Al-Jazeera, which linked this claim to the scandals involving Yehuda Hiss, Israel’s former chief pathologist, who resigned from his post after being investigated on charges of organ harvesting, and (like the Swedish paper’s story) to Levy Rosenbaum, the New Jersey rabbi arrested in July for his alleged involvement in the black-market kidney trade. According to Al-Jazeera’s magazine supplement, “The organ theft scandal in Israel is likely to have a domino effect as similar crimes by Israeli organizations in the Arab world have been unearthed; an international Zionist conspiracy to kidnap Algerian children and harvest their organs.”

‘Jews Harvesting Algerian Kids’ Organs’ [JPost]
Palestinians in 2010 Deserve No Less than Jewish Yemenites in 1990s [Al-Jazeera]

Daybreak: A Pointless U.N. Meeting?

Obama plans a photo op, Russian inmates get sanctuary, and more in the news

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• President Obama still plans to meet with Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “on the sidelines” of the U.N. General Assembly this week. [NYT]
• This despite the fact that some officials in Jerusalem say the confab “may turn out to be a symbolic gesture.” [Ynet]
• One Palestinian official agrees: “They can have a photo opportunity, but they can’t announce the resumption of talks.” [NYT]
• The first synagogue in a Russian state-run prison was consecrated last week; the 11 Jewish prisoners there “refurbished the site and even made the menora and the bima themselves.” [JPost]

Irving Kristol Is Dead

BREAKING: Godfather of neoconservatism was 89

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Irving Kristol, who emerged from the intensely Jewish milieu of New York’s City College to become the godfather of neoconservatism in Washington, died this afternoon at a hospice in Arlington, Virginia. He was 89. His son, William Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard, told The Washington Post that his father died of complications from lung cancer.

Kristol was born in Brooklyn in 1920 to parents who had emigrated from Eastern Europe and worked in the garment industry. His turn from the labor socialism of his childhood to a new brand of conservatism crystallized in the 1960s, in opposition to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, and his ideas shaped the modern Republican Party under Ronald Reagan. Kristol once said neoconservatism was not a movement but an “intellectual current.”

“His wisdom, wit, good humor, and generosity of spirit made him a friend and mentor to several generations of thinkers and public servants,” wrote the editors of the Weekly Standard in a post on the magazine’s blog.

Irving Kristol, Godfather of Modern Conservatism, Dies at 89 [NYT]
Irving Kristol, Architect of Neoconservatism, Dies at 89 [WP]
Remembering Irving Kristol [Weekly Standard]

Sundown: Shofar Santa Claus

Rosh Hashanah at work, on stage, and in the Big Easy

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• What’s that strange sound coming down your office hallway? It might be your coworker’s avant garde jazz, or it might be Chabad Rabbi Aaron Cunin, who roams businesses in Silicon Valley the day before Rosh Hashanah, blowing the shofar and offering honey cake to harried Jews. [SJMN]
Jeremiah Lockwood, frontman for Jewish indie supergroup The Sway Machinery, talks about bringing the band’s project Hidden Melodies Revealed, a revitalization of Ashkenazic cantorial music, to the stage on Saturday night at Temple Emanu El in San Francisco for a Nextbook-sponsored New Year’s concert. [Mother Jones]
• The woman who will be leading the first Rosh Hashanah service at a synagogue in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina is grateful that “we have the opportunity to come together as a community, look in each other’s eyes and recognize that we may have lost material things … but we know that what matters is the spiritual.” [NPR]
• A video mocking the allegations of Swedish anti-Semitism since the blood libel incident takes aim at a pitifully easy target—campy pop group Abba—rewriting the band’s lyrics “Gimme, gimme, gimme a man after midnight” as “Primi, primi, primitive and phlegmatic.” Catchy! [JPost]
• Although Washington-area fashion guru Ernest Marx, who died last week, came to the States “in 1938 after the Nazi-led Kristallnacht attacks on Jewish businesses and homes,” a friend describes him as having been “like a pastor” when it came to style. [WP]

Rabbis Should Sermonize on Ethics

In wake of Madoff and other scandals, says Yeshiva president, others

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The question of how the actions of a handful of corrupt Jews reflect on the community at large is a tricky one—naturally, most of us don’t want to take personal responsibility for Bernie Madoff and his ilk, but there’s no denying the fact that sometimes the rest of the world, and even some of us, are bound to make that connection, especially given the long history of negative associations between Jews and money.

Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, is frank about the situation, saying that we’ve “been embarrassed” by Bernie and the July arrest of several rabbis for money laundering. He’s also blunt about the opportunity afforded by the High Holidays to drum it into congregants heads that this is not how Jews are expected to behave: “[T]he rabbis of America have a lot of Jews trapped in synagogues this weekend, and it’s a wonderful time to focus on who we are and how we are.” Joel, along with Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, and two others have signed a letter urging rabbis to talk to their congregations about ethics during Rosh Hashanah services.

Their letter raises the question of whether ideas of Judaism should be proscriptive or descriptive: are we what we think we should be, or are we, well, who we are? Of course, in this case it may be a simpler matter, of the annual need for especially poignant material for the one time of year many Jews actually attend synagogue, and a year that has handed rabbis an obvious choice.

Jewish Leaders Calling for Ethical Renewal [AP]

Today’s Sorry

She wishes she weren’t so grumpy

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Each day until Yom Kippur, Tablet Magazine is bringing you a Daily Sorry, an expression of atonement called into our Sorry Hotline. Today, we hear from a grumpster who’d like to change her ways.

It’s not too late to add your own apology. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

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]

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