Daybreak: East Jerusalem for Palestine, E.U. Says

Plus gay marriage, the U.S. vs. England, and more in the news


• The European Union plans to call for the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, and has implied that it would accept a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood; Israel warns that such a move would harm the E.U.’s ability to act as a “significant mediator” in the conflict. [Haaretz]
• Hezbollah’s leader says the group will continue to develop its weaponry in preparation for a potential fight with Israel. [AP]
• Leaders of a cloistered Orthodox community in New Jersey have emerged to voice fervent opposition to same-sex marriage. [AP]
• Reflecting on some recent issues involving Jewishness in England, Roger Cohen says: “I still believe the greatest strength of America, its core advantage over the old world, is its lack of interest in where you’re from and consuming interest in what you can do.” [NYT]

Sundown: Zionism and the Black Experience

Plus fear vs. hate, hippie art, and a rock ‘n’ roll error


• An op-ed in the Jerusalem Post posits that President Barack Obama is “oblivious to African and African-American debts to the Zionist movement.” In case you are too, the paper lays them out in detail. [JPost]
• Commenting on Switzerland’s decision to ban the construction of minarets, a blogger points out that “though Islamophobia is driven by fear, whereas anti-Semitism is driven by hate, the functional expression of both in European society follows very similar trends.” [Beliefnet]
• Psychedelically inclined artist Barbara Mendes, who became a religious Jew later in life and is currently focused on paintings illuminating the Bible, says of her younger days: “My stuff was never raw and sexual.… It was about hippies saving the world through spirituality.” [LAT]
• The Los Angeles Jewish Journal reports on the “long and textured relationship” between the city’s Jews and its public school system. [JJ]
• Musician Pete Doherty committed a gaffe at his concert in Munich on Saturday when he sang a rousing round of German national anthem “Das Deutschlandlied” complete with a Nazi-era verse that has since been excised. [NME]

Mazel Tov, Chelsea

Former first daughter engaged


Chelsea Clinton has snagged herself a nice Jewish boy. President Bill Clinton’s office announced today that Chelsea is engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky. Clinton is a former McKinsey consultant now studying public health at Columbia University; Mezvinsky is a fomer Goldman Sachs banker now at a hedge fund. The couple sent an email to friends announcement their engagement on Friday. The ceremony will be next summer but no specifics have been set, the email said—including who’ll officiate.

Chelsea Clinton Is Engaged [NYT]

Bibi Opposed Prisoner Swap

In 1985 letter to Shamir

Netanyahu and Shamir at a peace conference in Madrid, 1991.(Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

In 1995, a decade after Israel released 1,150 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in return for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon, a new book by a promising Israeli politician reflected unfavorably on the deal and its aftermath. “Today,” the politician wrote, “it’s obvious that releasing these terrorists contributed to creating a cadre of inciters and leaders, men who lit the fuse of Palestinian violence.” The politician was, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu, and he went on to quote a letter he’d written to Yitzhak Shamir, then the leader of Likkud, chiding him for supporting the prisoner swap. “The deal may have saved a few Israeli lives,” Netanyahu had written to Shamir, “but it’s clear to me that the price we’ll eventually pay is that the deal will sentence many others to death. A nation must act first and foremost in the interest of the majority, and I see no way of justifying the deal as having served the majority in any way.” Now, Netanyahu is set to preside over a deal that will release 980 Palestinian combatants in return for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. And his 24-year-old letter to Shamir is giving Netanyahu’s opponents, including some in his own party, an excellent weapon with which to attack his decision. It’s prompting commentators to wonder whether Netanyahu is slated to make the same move as Ariel Sharon and leave Likkud to found his own party.

Are Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak Conspiring a New Political Big Bang? [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Israel Starts Implementation of Settlement Freeze

Settlers refuse to comply


Israeli officials say that government inspectors have begun casing the West Bank for building projects that defy a recently declared 10-month moratorium on certain kinds of settlement construction, according to Reuters. These inspectors are authorized to issue stop-work orders and to confiscate construction equipment. Paving their way, IDF officials spent the past three days distributing injunctions to settlement leaders that order them to enforce the new rules, the Jerusalem Post said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the freeze, which applies to construction that is not already underway or in areas annexed to Jerusalem, last Wednesday, framing it as a bid to restart peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. On Thursday, though, P.A. chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the move was insufficient and intended to appease the U.S. government rather than Palestinians.

For their part, settlement leadership is having none of this. The head of the Samaria Regional Council “tore up a stop-work order delivered to him by an Israeli army major” yesterday and called the order “racist, immoral, and illegal,” Reuters reports. Today, a group of settlement leaders met with the government’s Construction and Housing Minister and told him they would continue building in spite of the freeze, saying “no defeatist governmental decision will stop us from building,” according to the Jerusalem Post. As of today, a settler lobbying group has also taken the issue to court, filing a petition that claims the freeze order was issued in an improper way and its implementation should be postponed.

Israel Says Enforcing W.Bank Settlement Moratorium [Reuters]
Settler Leaders: We Won’t Let Inspectors Into Settlements [Jerusalem Post]

Bob Dylan’s Noel

The singer shares holiday memories with British mag


The latest addition to the Bob Dylan chronicles is an exclusive interview the singer gave The Big Issue, a British magazine, about his new album, Christmas in the Heart, profits from which are going to charitable organizations that feed the hungry. His generally terse answers (How does he spend the week between Christmas and New Years? “Doing nothing—maybe reflecting on things.”) do little to offer greater insight into his imagination or talent. Raised Jewish, Dylan says he never felt excluded from holiday celebrations and recalls that around his Minnesotan hometown there was “you know, plenty of snow, jingle bells, Christmas carolers going from house to house, sleighs in the streets, town bells ringing, nativity plays. That sort of thing.” The singer converted to Christianity in the late 70s and is now, he tells the magazine, “a true believer.”

Bob Dylan [The Big Issue]

Berkeley Paper Accused of Anti-Semitism

Activist says its editor is ‘addicted’ to criticism of Israel


There’s a battle against alleged anti-Semitism going on that even the Anti-Defamation League won’t get behind, perhaps because it’s taking place in that hotbed of political debate: Berkeley, California. Several groups have taken issue with a local newspaper, The Daily Planet, and its editor, Becky O’Malley, for publishing what they see as excessive criticism of Israel.

“We think that Ms. O’Malley is addicted to anti-Israel expression just as an alcoholic is to drinking,” said Jim Sinkinson, who has urged advertisers to pull out from the paper. His efforts have succeeded in contributing to the publication’s decline, with ad revenue down 60 percent from last year and its reportorial staff down to one full-time employee. Also joining the campaign is the website, edited by John Gertz, who focused on a letter from Iranian student Kurosh Arianpour, suggesting that Jews “had brought historical persecution—including that by the Nazis—on themselves,” as proof that the Planet is the equivalent of a “publication that praises the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.” He put the question to advertisers: “In these tough economic times, is it really a good investment to continue advertising in a paper, one of whose main purposes seems to be the defamation of Jews and the state of Israel?”

O’Malley, who says “I have the old-fashioned basic liberal thing of believing that the remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech,” refers to the criticism of her paper as a “protection racket,” and, says the New York Times, “she also offered a possible two-entity solution to the conflict, saying of her critics, ‘They could start their own paper.’”

In a Home to Free Speech, a Paper Is Accused of Anti-Semitism [NYT]

Today on Tablet

Reading material for one and all


Marjorie Ingall lists the best Jewish picture books of the year for children, while Josh Lambert looks at books for the holiday season geared to all ages. On Vox Tablet, our weekly podcast, Sara Ivry talks with David Gelernter about his new book, “an impassioned and provocative plea for Jews to recognize their religion’s unique relationship to God and to Western civilization.” And more to come with updates to The Scroll throughout the day.

Daybreak: 10-Month Settlement Freeze

Plus prisoner swapping, a defiant Iran, and more in the news


• Israel has begun the fraught process of implementing a 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank. [Haaretz]
• Israel announced plans to release 980 prisoners in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit by Hamas; the statement declared that this is not “part of a gesture and/or diplomatic agreement” but rather “an incident of bargaining, which can be seen as an ongoing terror attack.” [Ynet]
• Iran is moving forward with a “dramatic expansion” of its nuclear program “in defiance of U.N. demands,” as the AP puts it. [AP]
• The trial of John Demjanjuk for World War II war crimes begins today in Germany; the Times of London says he “was not a Nazi, or even a German…. He is now stateless and regards himself as a victim of the 20th century.” [Times]

Sundown: Gobble, Gobble, Baa, Baa

A gift of sheep, a controversial collage, and more


• Turkeys aren’t the only animals that should be shaking in their boots this week. Israel and the Jewish community in Senegal have donated 99 sheep to needy Muslim families there to sacrifice for the holiday of Tabaski, which marks Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael, as “a symbolic gesture between Israel and Senegal, between the Jewish community and the Muslim community.”* [VOA]
• Finalists for the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature have been announced, including Danya Ruttenberg and Sarah Abrevaya Stein. [JTA]
• A collage made of cut out portions of the Torah and the Koran was kept out of an exhibition in New Haven, Connecticut. Artist Richard Kamler says he intended “to create a common ground.” “You’re not going to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater, even if you have free speech,” says one of the organizers. [NH Independent]
• Hadar, a new council for English-speaking immigrants in Israel, plans to find ways to maximize their influence in the nation. Some have criticized its right-wing bent, but, says the chairman, “we are not trying to be all things for all people.” [JPost]
• Israel is working on new weaponry—including “cutting-edge anti-missile systems and two new submarines that can carry nuclear weapons”—to prepare for a potential conflict with Iran. [AP]
• Have a happy Thanksgiving. We’ll see you Monday.

*Correction, November 30: This post originally stated that the Muslim holiday Tabaski marked Abraham’s binding of his son Isaac.

Oldest Spanish Torah Scroll Sold

At Sotheby’s for about $400,000

Northern Spanish Torah scroll, late 13th century.(Sotheby's New York)

The oldest surviving complete Torah scroll from pre-Inquisition Spain was sold at Sotheby’s yesterday to an unnamed American private collector for $398,500—not quite the half-million bucks the auction house gave as the high estimate, but impressive nonetheless. The 700-year-old scroll was put up for sale by Rabbi Yitzchok Reisman, a Torah scribe and repairman on New York’s Lower East Side who bought it for less than $40,000 a decade ago from a Moroccan family of Spanish origin now living in Israel. Not a bad return—and, as is its wont, Sotheby’s did the rabbi the favor of giving him a photograph of the scroll as a keepsake.

Torah Scroll, Kabbalistic Circle of Shem Tov Ben Abraham Ibn Gaon, Northern Spain [Sotheby’s]
Related: Treasure Trove [Tablet]

A Jewish Leader at the First Thanksgiving

Colonial cantor Gershom Mendes Seixas was a George Washington favorite

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, The First Thanksgiving(Wikipedia)

“We hear much these days about our ‘Judeo-Christian’ heritage and its early and enduring influence on our culture,” says the Jewish Press. But given that only about 2,500 Jews lived in the American colonies in 1776, it continues, “usually those of us who speak of that early dual influence are referring to the Christian Bible with its Jewish roots.” Turns out, however, there was at least one influential Jew at the time of the first official Thanksgiving in 1789. Gershom Mendes Seixas was the cantor and spiritual leader of New York City’s only synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel, until it shut down operations during the Revolution, and he became the leader of a synagogue in Philadelphia, where he used his pulpit to speak out in support of General George Washington. When Washington was inaugurated as president, Seixas was one of the presiding clergy. “This was certainly an act of gratitude by Washington for the preacher’s stalwart support during the war,” says the Press. “It was also, though, an expression of Washington’s thinking about the importance of religious freedom and diversity in the new nation.”

And when Thanksgiving became an official holiday that year, Seixas, back at Shearith Israel, preached that Jews were “equal partakers of every benefit that results from this good government” and should try “to live as Jews ought to do in brotherhood and amity, to seek peace and pursue it,” which, says the Press, “is every bit as relevant to all of us 220 years later.”

This Thanksgiving, Please Pass the Brisket [Jewish Press]

Hadassah: Start Annual Breast Exams at 40

Jewish women’s group doesn’t accept new, relaxed federal guidelines


Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, announced earlier this week that they’re siding with the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer awareness organization and telling women to keep getting annual mammograms starting at 40—not at 50, and only every other year, as a federally funded task force recommended last week. Valerie Lowenstein, Hadassah’s national chair for women’s health and wellness, told Tablet Magazine the decision was basically a no-brainer. “There really wasn’t a debate,” she said yesterday afternoon. “It’s just something we’ve been educating women about for the past 16 years, and it’s something Hadassah stands behind.” It’s probably relevant to note that Komen—whose head, Nancy Brinker, held a press conference on Monday to say how outrageous she found the panel’s recommendations—has given Hadassah about $335,000 in grants for breast-cancer awareness. And also, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency helpfully noted, that Ashkenazi Jewish women are about five times likelier than everyone else to have the genetic abnormality that can lead to breast cancer.

Hadassah Says Mammograms Should Start at 40 [JTA]

Tablet Today

Talking turkey, parsing Palin, and a writer remembered


Allison Hoffman rounds up some plans and suggestions for making Shabbat palatable the day after Thanksgiving. Seth Lipsky ponders reactions to Sarah Palin’s support for Israel and the settlements. Liel Leibovitz remembers the impact of Israeli writer Naomi Frankel, who died last week. And The Scroll will roll out updates until this afternoon, when Tablet Magazine will take a break until Monday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Daybreak: Proposed Settlement Freeze Not Enough

Plus relief for survivors, Wizards owner dies, and more in the news


• Palestinian officials have announced that they will reject Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to halt settlement growth for 10 months in the West Bank, which does not include East Jerusalem. [AP]
• Meanwhile, negotiations for a prisoner swap to free Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas, are stalled over a list of top militants the Palestinian group wants freed. [AP]
• Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that Holocaust survivors who were kept under curfew will not need to produce extensive documentation in order to be eligible for reparation payments. [JPost]
• Abe Pollin, philanthropist and owner of the Washington Wizards basketball team, known for firing Michael Jordan in 2003, has died at 85. [WP]

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