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Today on Tablet

Davening Lotus position, anti-anti-enlightenment, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Taffy Brodesser-Akner attempts to reconcile modern Orthodox Judaism and yoga, finds that each can complement the other. Book critic Adam Kirsch reviews a new book on “anti-Enlightenment” by Israeli thinker Zeev Sternhall—a Holocaust survivor, and therefore one who knows whereof he speaks. The Scroll, meanwhile, aims always to enlighten, or at least to brighten your day.

Patriots Receiver Edelman to Start in Playoffs

Football-playing Jew is, turns out, not Jewish

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Edelman stiff-arms a Denver Broncos defender in October.(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Wide receiver Wes Welker, the 2009 NFL leader in catches, was injured Sunday in his New England Patriots’ final regular season game, and will be replaced next Sunday by rookie Julian Edelman. Kupel’s, the legendary Boston-area Jewish bakery, has already named a bagel sandwich after Edelman. Even Bill Simmons, the massively popular sportswriter, has alluded to Edelman’s presumably Semitic origins: “‘Julian Edelman’ might be the least likely name of a football player this decade. He sounds like he should be an acoustic singer, or an indie director, or a dentist, or the son of a famous rock star, or a Beverly Hills doctor who does breast implants … .”

Except Edelman is none of these things: instead, he is a Gentile wide receiver for the New England Patriots. Kaplan’s Korner—a blog devoted to Jews in sports and, relatedly, maybe the best blog ever—called the Pats’ media office, which said that Edelman “has Jewish ancestry but was raised as a Christian.”

Now, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is Jewish, and generously so; the Hillel at his (and my) alma mater, Columbia, is named after him. But Jewish NFL owners are about as rare as Jewish dentists. A Jewish slot receiver—that would have been something.

Edelman MOT? [Kaplan’s Korner]
Belichick Focuses on Ravens, Moves On to Edelman [CSN]

Daybreak: Sunny With A Chance of Peace

Plus Rabbi Shmuley stuck at Newark International, and more in the news

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• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded a note of unusual optimism regarding potential future talks with the Palestinians. [Haaretz]
• It turns out that the suicide bomber who slayed seven CIA agents in Afghanistan last week had actually been recruited by Jordanian intelligence to infiltrate al Qaeda in the Afghan hinterlands. [NYT]
• Iran announced plans to stage a massive military exercise next month while the world responds to its latest nuclear counteroffer. [WSJ]
• Rabbi Shmuley Boteach pens a dispatch from Newark International Airport, where a man recently went through a “secure” exit and shut the airport down for a time. Boteach says he had to wait for hours while his wife and children’s plane sat on the runway. [JPost]
• An Arab Knesset representative accused the Israeli military of training dogs to attack anyone who says, “Allahu Akbar.” The IDF denied the charge. [Haaretz]

Sundown: The Israeli Pledge of Allegiance

Plus Colorado shuls are cyber-attacked, and more

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• A controversial bill to require Knesset members to swear loyalty to “the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist, democratic state” came up for debate today. The legislation is supported by Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party. [JPost]
• Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly insisted to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that East Jerusalem be on the table during final-status talks. [Arutz Sheva]
• Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat accused Israel of acting like a “spoiled child” on the topic of West Bank settlements. [Haaretz]
• The Websites of two Boulder, Colorado, synagogues were hacked and defaced with anti-Semitic messages. The unidentified culprit goes by the handle Waja (Adi Noor). [Denver Post]
• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg wonders what former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who lapsed into a coma exactly four years ago, would think now of his decision several years ago to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. [The Atlantic]

State Dept. Supports Embattled Anti-Semitism Envoy

Rosenthal had stirred pot with comment on Oren and J Street

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The U.S. State Department is standing behind its anti-Semitism envoy, Hannah Rosenthal. She told Haaretz last month that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s choice not to speak to J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization she used to advise, was “most unfortunate.” The comment prompted a minor tempest: prominent figures in the American-Jewish community questioned her fitness; Israel sounded a concerned note; and State felt compelled to confirm its total support of Oren.

Today, the department did the same with Rosenthal. “Special Envoy Rosenthal has the complete support of the department,” it asserted. “As a matter of longstanding policy the United States has supported a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To that end the U.S. government encourages broad dialogue among responsible partners for peace.” Looks like Uncle Sam is getting its wish.

State Department Backs Its Anti-Semitism Envoy [JTA]

Earlier: Administration Rebukes Its Anti-Semitism Envoy
U.S. Anti-Semitism Envoy Attacks Ambassador Oren

Presenting iTalmud

Is there an app for that? Let’s discuss for 17 weeks

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Does your busy schedule prevent you from studying the Jewish law for the requisite five hours per day? Do you find yourself wondering—and, inexplicably, failing to remember—what Mani II’s position on dealing with drought is? Have you ever been bored on the subway? Then may we suggest iTalmud, the mishnaic iPhone application. The whole Talmud, with multiple search functions, in the palm of your hand—for only $19.99.

All kidding aside, from the looks of it, the app does a superb job recreating those funky, text-filled pages. In fact, we can’t wait to see what it looks like on Apple’s forthcoming device-which-may-or-may-not-be-called-the-iTablet.

iTalmud

Settlers Smash Ice to Protest Settlement Freeze

Participants steal headline writers’ go-to pun

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The head of a Hebron settlement at a Jerusalem protest today.(Menahem Kehana/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, West Bank settlers smashed a symbolic house made of ice—symbolic, because what they really want smashed is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared freeze on West Bank settlement construction. Get it? The ice represents the freeze? Thaw thaw thaw, very funny.

Settlers Smash Ice Structure in Anti-Freeze Protest [Ynet]

Poet Rachel Wetzsteon Dies at 42

‘New Republic’ poetry editor, bard of Morningside Heights

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Sad news from the Upper West Side: talented young poet Rachel Wetzsteon was found dead, apparently a suicide. Tablet Magazine book reviewer Adam Kirsch, an expert on 20th-century poetry who moreover worked with Wetzsteon at The New Republic (where she was poetry editor), had this to say about her: “at 42, she was one of the best poets of her generation, distinguished by her natural gift for form, her tough urban romanticism, and her appealing combination of melancholy and wit.”

In particular, those (like myself) who have spent lots of time in Morningside Heights may smile, and feel not a little awe, at how much insight and beauty Wetzsteon was able to wring out of her sleepy, university-town upper Manhattan neighborhood. In “Short Ode to Morningside Heights,” Wetzsteon juxtaposes the grad-school chatter at the Hungarian Pastry Shop with the towering Cathedral of St. John the Divine across Amsterdam Avenue:

The pastry shop’s abuzz
with crazy George and filthy graffiti,
but the peacocks are strutting across the way
and the sumptuous cathedral gives
the open-air banter a reason to deepen:
build structures inside the mind, it tells
the languorous talkers, to rival the ones outside!

Rachel Wetzsteon, Poet of Keen Insight and Wit, Dies at 42 [NYT]
In Memory, and Admiration, of Rachel Wetzsteon [TNR]

Livni Rejects Green Line as Final Boundary

Even the centrist opposition would keep some West Bank settlements

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Livni in Paris last month.(Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images)

The Wall Street Journal sat down with Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel’s opposition Kadima Party, late last month (that is, before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked her to join his unity cabinet … and before she turned him down). Notably, even Livni—a centrist, appreciably to the left of Netanyahu’s Likud Party—rejects any settlement that would establish the pre-1967 Green Line as the final boundary between Israeli and Palestinian states, due to the Israeli settlements that lie just on the other side in the West Bank and East Jerusalem:

Regardless of what you think of settlement activity in the past—whether you think it’s Jews building in their ancient homeland or it is against international law. It’s not important. Because we have what we call ‘blocs of settlements,’ and most of them are very close to the Green Line. It takes only a few percentages [of the territory]. Whether we like it or not, we have to give an answer to these realities in any peace agreement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted that the Green Line be considered “sacrosanct.” On the other hand, Livni wryly uses her harder line on the final-boundary issue in order to take a softer line on another of Abbas’s demands: a full settlement freeze. As she puts it, “It’s not about building now, but to keep the blocs of settlements as part of Israel in the future.”

Interview With Tzipi Livni [WSJ]

Earlier: The Road Map to Real Negotiations

Today on Tablet

‘Emancipation’, tattle-tales, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, the weekly Vox Tablet podcast features an interview with former BBC journalist Michael Goldfarb on his new book, Emancipation. Marjorie Ingall devotes her weekly column on parenting to tattling: drawing the line between good and bad telling, and educating children on the distinction. Josh Lambert offers up his weekly look at forthcoming books of Jewish interest, including a few novels. And guess what’s back? The Scroll, all day long. Happy New Year.

How To Prevent Plane Bombings? Ask Israel

After failed attack, attention paid to Israel’s success

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A man who was a known terrorist and, it turned out, had explosives lining his underwear was able to board an American plane headed from Amsterdam to Detroit, provoking, among other things, much questioning over how to prevent future such errors. One prominent idea? In the Tweeted words of comedian Bill Maher, “just ask ‘what wld Israel do?’ and do that.” After all, the thinking goes, few countries’ planes are bigger targets for Islamic terrorists; and yet few countries’ planes are safer to fly.

David Harris, the American Jewish Committee President, explains how Israel does it. Airports in Israel contain uniformed security with machine guns and plainclothes visual screeners; every passenger is interviewed extensively; and every El Al flight contains an air marshal.

On his blog, Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg—who has disparaged U.S. airport security before—predicts that the United States will never adopt the full extent of the intense Israeli security procedure:

Israel’s one national airport, Ben-Gurion, has a total passenger capacity of 10 million annually; Baltimore-Washington International, by contrast, processes more than 20 million a year … cow-like though we are, Americans are not going to stand for the invasive questioning that is the most crucial component of the Israeli system.

On the other hand, as Goldberg also noted, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Jerusalem last weekend.

What Israel Can Teach The World About Airport Security [Huffington Post]

Related: The Things He Carried [The Atlantic]

Daybreak: British Neo-Nazi Wanted Auschwitz Sign

Plus a dispatch from a West Bank highway, and more in the news

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• The pilfered-then-recovered “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from Auschwitz was intended for a still-unnamed wealthy British Nazi sympathizer, according to the Sunday Mirror. [Haaretz]
• Israel’s Highway 443 traces an ancient route just north of Jerusalem through the West Bank. After an Israeli Supreme Court ruling last week, it will have to be opened to most Palestinian drivers, too. An excellent dispatch. [LAT]
• Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is likely to remain in a coma for the rest of his life, longtime advisor Dov Weisglass said. Sharon has been comatose for four years. [Arutz Sheva]
• Jean Carroll (née Celine Zeigman), a trailblazer for woman comedians, died at 98. Tablet Magazine produced a podcast about her in 2008. [NYT]
• The head of Iran’s soccer program apologized for accidentally including Israel among the recipients of the progam’s annual New Year’s greeting. Don’t worry, we forgive him (though for his sake we hope his government does, too). [CNN via Vos Iz Neias?]

Jewish Terrorist Supplies Kinky Alibi

Can a porn fetish save a crazed killer?

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Attention Law & Order: if you’re looking for strange, ripped-from-the-headlines cases, you may want to call Shin Bet. Three months ago, the Israeli security agency arrested American-born settler Jack Teitel for allegedly murdering two Palestinians and detonating numerous makeshift bombs that targeted intellectuals, gay-rights activists, and police officers. Teitel was quick to confess many of his crimes, but denied one: the murder of two youths at a Tel Aviv gay community center. His alibi, he told his interrogators, was solid: at the time of the shootings, he was surfing a pornographic Website that caters to tickling fetishists, where he was a habitual visitor and where his password was “killarafat.”

The truth, alas, was less piquant: agents were finally able to ascertain that Teitel was driving a pregnant neighbor to the hospital at the time of the community center shootings. Nevertheless, Teitel expressed his support for the horrific act, and told investigators that he had selected his nom de guerre, the Black Bear, as a clear message to Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Nethanyahu to act against Israel’s gay citizens.

Yaakov Teitel’s Investigation: The Confession, the Strange Alibi, and the Plans for the Next Murder [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Today’s News: Run, Shmuley, Run!

Plus Jews have their say on health-care reform, and more

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• In an absolutely must-read op-ed, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hints that he will run for public office should the Libyan Ambassador continue to be allowed to live next-door to him in Englewood, New Jersey. [JTA]
• The United States has urged Israel not to release Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti as part of a swap for captured soldier Gilad Shalit, according to a London-based Arabic paper. [Ynet]
• Jewish groups are taking an increasingly active role in trying to further shape health-care reform before the House and Senate vote on (and likely approve) a single bill. [JTA]
• A moving story of two eight-year-old friends, who happen to be an Israeli Jewish boy and a Palestinian Muslim girl, each injured by a weapon from the other side. “Someone forgot to tell them that they are enemies.” [NYT]
• Percy Sutton, the recently deceased former Manhattan borough president, is remembered for his significant efforts in favor of Jewish causes. [JTA]

Do English Depts. Study American-Jewish Lit?

Hire experts on Roths Henry and Philip, panel suggests

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Why don’t university English departments, which routinely include experts in and courses on a range of American minority literatures (African-American, Chicano, etc.), include American-Jewish literature on that list? That question was posed by a panel at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference, which began Sunday in Philadelphia. Professors on the panel—kicked off by Tablet Magazine columnist Josh Lambert—noted that only two of the top 20 English departments in the U.S. have a tenure-track faculty member with expertise on American-Jewish lit, whereas 11 have a specialist in the Native American canon. Further, panelists pointed out, where expertise on Jewish literature does exist within the academy, it’s often focused singularly on the writing of the Holocaust. Though no one suggested that anti-Semitism was afoot, another panelist argued that, within the academy, “Jewishness has been associated with Israel, white privilege, colonialism and racism”: a set of connotations unlikely, to say the least, to garner minority literature points for the Jews.

The Lost Tribe [Inside Higher Ed]

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