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‘Israel’ Is Wrong

‘Times’ blog runs corrections, complaints about ‘Israel Is Real’

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Rich Cohen’s new book, Israel Is Real, which Adam Kirsch panned on Tablet Magazine but Tony Horwitz more or less praised in the New York Times Book Review is getting renewed attention on Paper Cuts, the Times book blog. After noting that the paper ran corrections to Horwitz’s review (Horwitz misidentified the region from which hailed a 12th-century false messiah; Cohen misstated Ehud Barak’s father’s name and city of origin; and both men offered an incorrect history of the Exodus refugee ship), the blog reprints irate letters from readers. They point out additional inaccuracies in the book, for instance stating that Rabbi Abraham Kook was a spiritual leader for West Bank settlers when in fact his son is the one who gets that dubious credit, plus they castigate Horwitz and the Times for glibness. Writes one uncharacteristically succinct reader: “Tony Horwitz is the perfect reviewer for a book on Jewish history by Rich Cohen…. Unfortunately, this was not the April Fool’s issue of the Book Review. What’s next, a review article on recent works of Soviet history by Sacha Baron Cohen?”

There’s a thought.

Israel, Really [Paper Cuts/NYT]
A Land and a People [NYT]

Cuckolded Husband of Madoff Mistress Speaks

Though we wish he wouldn’t

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Just when you didn’t think the sideshow surrounding Sheryl Weinstein—the former Hadassah CFO who outed herself in a memoir as Bernie Madoff’s ex-mistress—could get any ickier, it does. This morning the Daily Beast published an interview with Weinstein’s cuckolded husband, Ron, in which he reveals that he hasn’t read Madoff’s Other Secret—that’s too painful—but nonetheless hopes it does well, because he’d like his share of the money. “Half the profits are mine,” he told Tracy Quan, author of several Diary of a Call Girl books. Weinstein defended his wife of 37 years against bloggers and commenters who have been calling her a “money-hungry slut” but acknowledged that while he wasn’t too fussed about the 18-month dalliance (which happened at a time when he was suffering from undiagnosed ADHD, he explained), he wasn’t too thrilled about Sheryl going public, particularly with details about Madoff’s small member. “I dislike the choice she made. I am not okay with it, but I try to understand it,” Weinstein said, adding that his wife had told him “that if I wanted, I could write my own.” Fair enough, but, you know, we wouldn’t.

Bernie Made Off With My Wife [Daily Beast]
Earlier: Madoff Had Affair With Hadassah CFO

Tablet Today

Political minefields and a beloved architect

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Samuel D. Gruber reviews a new book on the legacy of architect Louis Kahn. Michael Weiss tackles the possibility of another war between Israel and Lebanon. Seth Lipsky inquires how President Obama will handle the release of a convicted Libyan terrorist. And much more, all day, here on The Scroll.

The Decline of the Deli

New book chronicles demise, celebrates sandwiches

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Sax and a sandwich.(JTA.org)

Books about food that have imperatives as titles generally implore the reader to Get Fit! or Just Stop Eating So Much! but journalist David Sax’s Save the Deli wishes you will do so much more—like, turn the tide of American Jewish history so we get kosher-style delis back. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Sax’s book, which comes out in October, follows the deli from its European origins to its mid-century American peak, when there was a large market for semi-kosher homestyle Ashkenazic food: no cheese on the pastrami, but no rabbinic supervision needed. Sax variously blames the rise of the glatt kosher industry and chain restaurants like Jerry’s Famous Deli for the fact that, apparently, in 1931 there were 2,000 delis in New York City, and now there are 25. Oh, and he also says the best rye bread is in Detroit. Who knew?

Man on a Mission to Save the Jewish Deli [JTA]
Related: Meat Up [Tablet]

Daybreak: A Question of Dignity

A misguided Dutch group, peace through economics, and more in the news

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• A project called Dignity Return is being planned to exhume the remains of Jews buried in mass graves during the Holocaust and give them each a proper Jewish burial. [JTA]
• Holland will prosecute an Arab group for publishing a Holocaust-denying cartoon; the group claims it was a test of the double standard evinced by the government’s failure to prosecute the politician who used cartoons of Muhammad in a film last year. [AP]
• A big Yankees-Red Sox game that was rescheduled to the night of Yom Kippur has been returned to its original pre-holiday slot in deference to “a higher authority” than ESPN. [AP]
• Israeli and Palestinian ministers got together, in the first such meeting since P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu took office, to discuss economics. [Haaretz]
• Also, Israeli and Palestinian mayors have joined forces for an industrial project. [JTA]

Sundown: Post- Denominational Pals

High-priced holidays, blushing brides, and a wasted plea

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• A Modern Orthodox synagogue in New Orleans lost its home in Hurricane Katrina; since then, it has developed a partnership with a local Reform congregation, and will be constructing a new building on their land. Says one official, this unusual camaraderie is indicative of the “rosy future” for New Orleans’ Jews. [JTA]
• Via a peculiar rant that starts off bemoaning Chicago’s lack of an authentically dirty Jewish deli, a Sun Times columnist discusses the dilemma of expensive tickets for High Holiday services in tough times, and for a population that “risks evaporating into the anything-goes polychromatic wasteland of American culture.” [CST]
• Some Jewish federations in Florida are offering money to Jewish students who stay in-state for college; an example is the Thelma and Isador S. Segall scholarship, presumably set up in a bid to keep its honorees first names’ from remaining among the most popular in the state. [New Voices]
• In its own desperate bid to restore modesty to its tarted-up student body, an ultra-Orthodox girls’ yeshiva in Israel is offering a scholarship of about $265 to anyone who agrees not to wear makeup on her wedding day. [Ynet]
• South African president Jacob Zuma gave a stirring message imploring expat Jews to return home and rejoin the community. The only problem is, he was speaking to Jews who are still in S.A. [JTA]

Huge Yankees-Sox Game Set for Kol Nidre

So many questions, including: will Youkilis play?

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A potentially pivotal game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox has been suddenly rescheduled, and now begins at 8 p.m. on the night before Yom Kippur. The change—motivated by ESPN’s desire to broadcast the match-up as Sunday Night Baseball—prompts the all-important question: will star Red Sox first baseman and Most Famous Current Jewish Ballplayer Kevin Youkilis play against his team’s archrival as it struggles to secure a playoff berth? The issue last arose prominently eight years ago, when Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Shawn Green elected not to play a crucial game that fell on the Day of Atonement. In 1965, as every Jewish boy has been reminded by his mother at one time or another, Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax refused to start Game 1 of the World Series, instead attending shul for Yom Kippur; Dodgers Don Drysdale got shellacked for a loss, and afterward quipped to his manager, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too.” On the other hand, when slugger Hank Greenberg’s Detroit Tigers had a crucial late-season game on Rosh Hashanah, 1934, he played; his two home runs lifted the Tigers to a 2-1 victory. By the time Yom Kippur rolled around, the Tigers had all but clinched a World Series slot, and Greenberg took the day off and entered his synagogue to applause.

One wants to see the hand of Adonai Himself in the uncanny timing whereby the High Holidays always fall smack in the middle of the pennant race and postseason, tempting the talented faithful. Anyway, given that the Sox are currently a mere 6.5 games behind the Yankees, we’d guess most New Yorkers are hoping Youkilis has so many sins that he has no choice but to Kol Nidre the night away.

An Unholy Move by ESPN [New York Post]
Green, Koufax, and Greenberg—Same Dilemma, Different Decisions [ESPN Classic]
Previously: Look, Jews in Baseball!
Yankees Trade For a Jew

Will Netanyahu, Abbas Give Peace a Chance?

At the UNGA? Or maybe later? Or ‘it depends’?

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Just when you thought it was safe to be only highly skeptical of preliminary Arab-Israeli peace talks instead of extremely skeptical of preliminary Arab-Israeli peace talks, senior diplomats (from an unidentified nation—could be Swedish pranksters!) are telling Haaretz that the proposed confab between President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the upcoming United Nation’s General Assembly isn’t likely to happen—not least because, according to one of the diplomats, the White House has no plan for such a confab.

Abbas said last week that he’d be willing to meet with his Israeli counterpart. He then clarified yesterday, saying he wouldn’t meet with Netanyahu until the P.M. agreed to a complete settlement freeze. Still, rumors of an impending meeting prompted Shmuel Rosner of The New Republic to write, “the agreement of all sides to meet signals an end to the antagonism and bluster that have characterized U.S.-Israel relations since the beginning of Obama’s term”—which is as close to enthusiasm about peace as any Israeli pundit has come in the last six months. Indeed, the Haaretz disclosure runs counter to claims made recently by Israeli President Shimon Peres that a talk is being planned and facilitated by the U.S.

Diplomats: ‘Trilateral Obama Meet With Abbas, Netanyahu Highly Unlikely’ [Haaretz]

God Is Still a Woman, Even Older

Says rabbi who gave famous 1990 sermon

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The New York Times catches up with Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig, a lesbian who gained a measure of fame (or notoriety, depending on your point of view) with her 1990 sermon, “God Is a Woman and She Is Growing Older.” A self-professed “sermon junkie” who now teaches at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College New York campus, she defends her legendary talk against any suggestions it was sacrilege, telling Ralph Blumenthal, “Jewish texts are replete with anthropomorphic images of God. I don’t say God would ever die. I fudged that. Whatever else, I would say God is eternal.” So might be the Times’s interest in Jewish lesbians, if Sunday’s Modern Love column—about a couple challenged by whether they ought to call each other wife—is any indication.

A Rabbi Whose God Is a Loving and Long-Suffering Mother [NYT]
Once Political, Now Just Practical [NYT]

Rough Day for Former Israeli Pols

One on trial, two others start jail terms

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Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not the only pol in trouble in Israel—in fact, it’s a red-letter day for government crime there. Moshe Katsav, who was the first Likud member to be elected president and served from 2000 to 2007, is on trial for rape and sexual harassment; the first witness testified against him this morning. Outside the court, demonstrators rallied in support of the three women who filed the charges, letting them know “they are not alone.” The trial will be closed to the public, but according to Katsav’s lawyer, the court “might allow information about the proceedings to be published from time to time.”

Israeli readers may be holding their breath for these leaks, if only as a distraction from crimes that are beginning to seem dishearteningly run-of-the-mill, by the likes of Abraham Hirchson, Olmert’s finance minister, who begins a five year term for embezzlement today, and Shlomo Benizri, a former Shas minister, who starts his four year sentence for graft. Hirschon will be held in a prison/drug rehabilitation facility, while Benizri will serve in a religious prison. Their fellow inmates can look forward to likely educational sessions from each of them.

First Witness Testifies in Katsav Trial [JPost]
Two Former Israeli Ministers Start Jail Sentences Tuesday [Haaretz]
Related: Grifter [Tablet]

Who By Fire?

L.A. rabbi uses Rosh Hashanah liturgy to ask for help on wildfires

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Wildfires are a fact of life in Southern California, but over the past decade, they’ve grown increasingly destructive of life and property, as developers have pushed subdivisions ever deeper into terrain once considered too risky to build on. The Station fire, which has now spectacularly devoured 122,000 acres of national forest north of Los Angeles, has actually been relatively kind; so far, only 50 homes have been lost, compared to more than 1,000 in the biggest of the fires that raced through suburban San Diego County two years ago. Two firefighters died over the weekend, when their vehicle overturned, but so far no civilians have been killed (though two people who ignored evacuation orders wound up severely burned after taking refuge in their hot tub).

Still, inevitably, there’s the question: Why does this keep happening? Today, in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky offers up a brief eulogy for the two firefighters, a prayer for those who have lost their homes, and a call to everyone else to start opening their wallets for relief efforts, using a familiar piece of the impending Rosh Hashana liturgy, the Nitaneh Tokef: “Who will live, and who will die? Who by water, and who by fire?” We’re glad he skipped the part about the earthquakes and the plagues.

Who by Water, and Who by Fire? [Jewish Journal]

Today on Tablet

School books, true memories, and Olmert’s web

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Marissa Brostoff explores a Jewish group that advocates for changes to school text books to “fend off group defamation.” Liel Leibowitz parses the charges against former Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert. Adam Kirsch presents a new book that recreates the world of the Warsaw ghetto. Todd Gitlin looks at the real story of the Baader-Meinhof gang, the subject of a new film. And, as always, we will keep bringing you updates on news and culture right here on The Scroll.

British Novel About Aging Lithuanian-Born Jew

Adam Thirlwell’s latest gets mixed reaction

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The British author Adam Thirlwell, acclaimed a promising young novelist by Granta in 2003, has just published The Escape, and the reviews in the London papers are mixed. The story borrows from Philip Roth (though he thanks Saul Bellow in his acknowlegements): there’s lots of sex and the protagonist, Raphael Haffner, a London-raised Lithuanian Jew getting on in years, wrestles with who he is. Insistent that “his ‘people’ are English while his faith is Jewish,” notes the Guardian, “Haffner thinks of the Abrahamic god as ‘omnipotent yet constantly underachieving.’” He heads to an Alpine town to reclaim the chateau that had belonged to his deceased wife’s family before being seized first by the Nazis and then by the Communists. En route he takes up with a middle-aged hausfrau and a young Romanian yoga teacher. What links Haffner to the instructor, Thirlwell said in a recent interview, is “that they have suffered trauma through being in wars, but back in ordinary life, this becomes unspeakable. There are certain things you might never talk about that are central to your life.”

The Escape by Adam Thirlwell [Guardian]
The Books Interview: Adam Thirlwell [New Statesman]
The Escape [FT]
The Escape [Telegraph]

Daybreak: Obama Plans for Peace

A violent clash, a deportation, and more from the news

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• Despite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying he will not resume talks with Israel without a full settlement freeze and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s assertion that “We must not commit to target dates on a comprehensive agreement,” President Obama is envisioning a two-year plan to establish peace. [Haaretz]
• While scouring a refugee camp for Palestinians who threw firebombs into a nearby Israeli settlement, the IDF killed a teenage suspect. [Haaretz]
• In an eerie tribute to the now 100-year-old man who orchestrated their evacuation, a vintage train will carry people who escaped the Nazis as children from Prague to London. [AP]
• Another former Ivan, John Kalymon, 88, will be deported from the United States for his involvement with Nazis in World War II. [JPost]
• And the recession has led to cuts in Holocaust education in several states. [USA Today]

Sundown: Madoff Mystery Remains

A perceived threat, a real threat, and bagels

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• According to The Washington Post, three new books about Bernie Madoff “offer insights on a sort of mass denial” that supported his scheme, although “none seems to fully capture the man behind the crime.” [WPost]
• Israeli billboards for Survivor were covered up by authorities in a religious neighborhood; although the ads were clean, said a spokesman, “from reports we have received, it’s an immodest show.” [Ynet]
• A Hamas education minister does not approve of the United Nations’ suggestion that Palestinian students be taught about the Holocaust, which he calls “a big lie.” [BBC]
• An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal warns President Obama that Israel might really attack Iran: “The reality that Western leaders don’t want to admit is that preventing Iran from getting the bomb is an Israeli national imperative, not a mere policy choice.” [WSJ]
The New York Times offers the thrilling opportunity to ask anything you ever wanted to know about bagels! A two-pronged question from one commenter: “1. Is there, in fact, anything intrinsically Jewish about the bagel? 2. If there is, how come we now have bacon bagels?” We’ll be holding our breath for the answer. [NYT]

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