Tablet Today

Israeli deconstructions, Diasporic reconstructions, and the birth of a Torah


Evan R. Goldstein examines the controversy around an Israeli historian’s claim that the Jews didn’t really originate in Israel, while Adam Kirsch reviews the memoir of a young American Jew who travels the world looking for positive examples of Diaspora living. Abigail Miller looks at a female sofer who’s spending a year penning a Torah on public view at a San Francisco museum. And there will be more here, all day, on The Scroll.

Jon Minus Kate, Plus 5770

Gosselin tells parenting blog he loves Jews, shops at Zabar’s

Gosselin at what appears to be a milkshake-based PR event earlier this month.(Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

ParentDish blogger Susan Avery interviewed reality-TV star-cum-cad Jon Gosselin last week, and we here present a selection from that interview, offered with no comment beyond ParentDish’s headline, “Jon Gosselin Loves His Kids, His Girlfriend and the Jews.” Because, really, what else is there to say?

PD: Let’s try a happy topic. What are your plans for Halloween and Thanksgiving with the kids?
JG: Thanksgiving is tough. Kate has custody on Thanksgiving, but I will stop by to see my kids. Halloween I don’t have custody. Hailey [Gosselin’s post-Kate love interest] handles my schedule. It’s kinda weird, but I can confide in her. She’s my best friend. I lost a lot of friends; people burned me left and right.

PD: And Christmas?
JG: Christmas, yeah. This is the first year I will celebrate Chanukah. Hailey is Jewish. Everyone in my life is Jewish now, my attorney. I love it. I’m now half Jewish and half Korean. The family values are great. On Christmas, I’ll see my kids during the day for a couple of hours. …

PD: Tell me more about your interest in Judaism.
JG: I just went through Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur and learned about the new year and every Friday is the Shabbat dinner. I love challah bread. I’m learning about Jewish food, going to Zabar’s. I love that place. I’m learning about kosher and when not to order a bacon, egg and cheese and make an ass of myself. …

PD: Are we going to see you converting to Judaism?
JG: I talked to Rabbi Shmuley a couple of times. He has nine kids.

Jon Gosselin Loves His Kids, His Girlfriend and the Jews [ParentDish]

Daybreak: Is the Pope Jewish?

Nuremberg translator dies, a blast in Lebanon, and more in the news


• Pope Benedict will visit Rome’s major synagogue in January. Reuters says this “significant because relations between the Vatican and Rome’s Jewish community—the oldest in the diaspora—have often been considered a bellwether of Catholic-Jewish relations worldwide.” [Reuters]
• An explosion occurred at the home of a Hezbollah official in southern Lebanon yesterday; the blast appears to be an accident, which Israel says is proof that the house was being used as a munitions bunker. [Haaretz]
• Richard Sonnenfeldt, the German Jewish refugee who served as chief interpreter for American prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials died Friday. [NYT]

Sundown: Jewish News for Italians

Happy Columbus Day! Plus, Abbas flipped, the Coens dissed, and Potok staged


• Italy has a new publication, Pagine Ebraiche (Jewish Pages), that aims “to speak to the external world, not the internal Jewish world.” In other words, it’s a Jewish paper for non-Jewish Italians—who, apparently, care! [JTA]
• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who kowtowed to pressure from the United States and Israel to postpone an investigation into the accusation of Israeli war crimes in the Goldstone Report, has reverted to kowtowing to pressure from his constituents (and, perhaps, from Hamas), and is now calling for immediate action. [NYT]
• When the Coen brothers consulted Markle Karlen, “the most vital and fluent member of the local Jewish Community Center’s Yiddish club” on the Yiddish section of their script for A Serious Man, he deemed it “the usual shtetl shtick. A woodchopper. A poor old woman. A dybbuk. Who needs it.” [WP]
• A Bay Area critic spends most of his review of a theatrical production of Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen retelling the plot, but it seems like he liked it. [SF Chronicle]
• A blogger praises the subtle knowledge of Judaism that permeated The New York Times’s recent piece on the Shabbat elevator fiasco. [Get Religion]

Kosher Cookies Leave the Bronx

With Stella D’oro’s move to Ohio, will Breakfast Treats taste the same?


Last week, Stella D’oro—the Italian cookie maker that’s been keeping Orthodox Jews in dairy-free chocolate desserts for decades—shut down its 79-year-old factory in the Bronx, after negotiations with the local bakers’ union failed. Legendary New York foodie Gael Greene called the move “tragic.” Stella D’oro’s move, however, isn’t prompting the screaming from kosher circles that erupted after then-owner Kraft Foods announced in 2003 that it would start making the company’s Swiss Fudge cookies—known affectionately in some quarters as shtreimels, after the round fur hats worn by some ultra-Orthodox sects, which they (sort of) resemble—with milk-based chocolate. That’s because the company isn’t changing the recipe, merely transferring baking operations—and 136 jobs—to a plant in Ohio. But, still, who knows if the move will also mean changes for the company’s product lines. We won’t be surprised if people start stockpiling the biscotti and Breakfast Treats, just in case.

Rev. Billy, Local Pols Protest Stella D’oro Closing, Want Govt. to Act [Village Voice]

Glowing Gefilte Fish Found in U.K.

‘Brighter than a glow stick,’ witness says


We were a bit slow to discover this news, for which we wholeheartedly apologize. But having learned it just today, we’re rushing to pass it on to you: gefilte fish, in certain circumstances, can glow in the dark., a British online Jewish news source, broke the news on September 24, reporting on the Taylor family of England. “Student Jessica Taylor was shocked to see her late-night gefilte fish snack light up the kitchen of her north London family home by glowing bright green and yellow.” It seems Jessica came home very late and wanted a snack; she didn’t turn on the kitchen light before removing her snack from the fridge, and that’s when she found the phosphorescent fish. She recreated the scene the next night for her skeptical parents. “We all stood there amazed,” her father, Joff Taylor, told the website. “It was brighter than a glow-stick.” A spokesman for Moshe’s deli, where the gefilte fish was purchased, suggested that the fish might have eaten some harmless phosphorus. (“It’s good for you,” the spokesman said.) A representative of the manufacturer, Hoffman’s foods, was less credulous. “I’m a qualified microbiologist, and I have never heard of this,” said Getta Cohli. “I think it was an act of God.” Marcus Dysch, the reporter, had perhaps the best advice: “Best just to check your fish before eating it by turning the lights off. If it glows, throw it away. If it doesn’t, tuck in.”

Glowing Report for Gefilte Fish []
More on the Glowing Gefilte []

Israel’s D.C. Embassy Slaps Down J Street

Bad PR for the left-leaning Israel lobby group


The clenched-teeth relationship between Israel and J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby founded a year and a half ago as a counterpoint to Aipac, just got slightly more clenched. J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami has been informed by the Israeli embassy that Ambassador Michael Oren won’t accept an invitation to speak at J Street’s annual conference because the group’s policies may “impair Israel’s interests.” Embassy spokesman Yoni Peled told Haaretz that its official response to the invitation was the embassy’s opportunity to communicate “its views on the peace process and on the best way to ensure Israel’s security.”

There’s little love lost between the Netanyahu government and J Street, but by refusing to even engage with the organization, Israel is more or less delegitimizing it as a foreign ally of the Jewish state—an embarrassment that’s going to be hard to combat in J Street’s U.S. public-relations work. Imagine a pro-American group in, say, Egypt being told that the State Department won’t meet with its representatives because it puts American interests at risk.

‘J Street Could Hurt Israel’s Interests’

Hasidic Women Train for Jobs

Recession leads to working women in Jerusalem


In the Hasidic world, it’s traditional for men to spend their time studying Talmud at donor-supported institutions that provide them with a small stipend (not much more than $300 a month) while their wives take care of running the household. With the recession, donations have fallen off, leaving already large-families with even less income. Daniel Estrin reports that in Jerusalem the situation has motivated some ultra-Orthodox women to undertake job training at rabbi-approved institutions where they learn how to be hairdressers, make-up artists, and events photographers, trades always in demand for the community’s various celebrations—weddings, brises, and bar mitzvahs. Some also are learning computer skills, a particular challenge for people who, in a few cases, have never before seen a computer. “At first I was very scared to touch the keys,” Devorah Ozeri said. “I didn’t want it to get a virus from me.”

Ultra-Orthodox Women Go to Work [World Vision Report]

‘An Education’ Portrays ’60s British Anti-Semitism

And an alliance of Jewish and middle-class outsiders


An Education, the lightly fictionalized movie about the British journalist Lynn Barber’s teenaged affair with Simon Goldman, a Jewish rogue twice her age, circa 1961, opened in limited release in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend. It has gotten a lot of attention both for its adorable, Audrey Hepburn-esque star, Carey Mulligan, who is the subject of lots of early Oscar buzz for her performance as the Barber-inspired character, and for the casual, period-appropriate anti-Semitism peppered throughout Nick Hornby’s script (“I’m not a Jew!” “I wasn’t accusing you of being one!”). In the shadow of the Polanski affair, it’s more than a little awkward to watch a nubile little waif be pursued and, eventually, deflowered by an older man (a stocky-looking Peter Sarsgaard playing the fictionalized Goldman) with a flashy car and an inexhaustible wardrobe budget. But the chief moral of the story, as New York magazine film critic David Edelstein noted in his wilting assessment, seems to be “beware of Jews bearing flowers.”

That said, the most interesting thing about the film is what it says about the co-dependence of these outsider characters—a lower-middle class girl from the wrong suburb and the aging son of Jewish immigrants, a former kibbutznik armed with nothing but his wits—as they try to crack their way into London society. Of course, Barber—who told the LA Weekly that she was terribly upset Hornby made her father sound so anti-Jewish—went on to become a writer for Penthouse, while her beau’s associates wound up entangled in the 1963 Profumo affair. Goldman, Barber wrote, “in theory represented everything my parents most feared: he was not one of us, he was Jewish and cosmopolitan, practically a foreigner.” But they accepted him, and let her date him and nearly throw away her education for him, because he was charming and interesting and seemed to offer a way up into a better life. And yet. “I was afraid of something—afraid perhaps that they would see through him, see, not the James Bond figure I had depicted, but this rather short, rather ugly, long-faced, splay-footed man who talked in different accents and lied about his age, whose stories didn’t add up,” Barber wrote in her memoir, excerpted last summer in London’s Observer. “He was a liar and a thief who used charm as his jemmy to break into my parents’ house and steal their most treasured possession, which was me.”

Lynn Barber: My Age of Innocence [The Sunday Times]

Tablet Today

Mean girls, music makers, Moses, and meals


Marjorie Ingall contemplates Jewish initiatives to cut down on elementary school bullying. Our weekly podcast, Vox Tablet, features David Lehman on his new Nextbook Press book, A Fine Romance: Jewish songwriters, American Songs. Books columnist Josh Lambert reads up on Moses, Menahem Schneerson, Ayn Rand, and more. Jonathan Dixon explores Italian-Jewish cuisine (and offers recipes!). And much more, here on The Scroll throughout the day.

‘Heeb 100’ Announced

Mag’s list of up-and-coming Jews


Heeb Magazine has announced its annual list of 100 Jews to watch. Some of our favorites among the honorees, along with insights they’ve shared with Tablet Magazine: Lisa Anne Auerbach, who knits sweaters with quirky political and environmental messages, told us, “I was riding my bicycle everywhere, and I couldn’t put bumper stickers on it. So I decided to be my own bumper stickers.” David Griffin, whose band Hebrew School recasts traditional Jewish songs as indie rock jams, joked that his work is “a therapy process for me, working the songs through my head.” Nathan Rabin, head writer for the A.V. Club and author of a new memoir about growing up in a Chicago Jewish Children’s Bureau group home, visited his biological mom—a “super goy”—after years of estrangement: “The first thing my mother did when she saw me was she presented me with this Jell-o mold. And I remember thinking she may as well have just given me a crucifix.” We hope these and the other cool characters on the list won’t be offended that Heeb also gives props to someone called “Tushy the Cat,” who the magazine says “sheds fascinating insights on the mediocrities and banalities of the contemporary feline species.”

Heeb 100

Daybreak: Talking Turkey

Israel tries to stay friends, plus women and the law, and more in the news


• Turkey postponed a military drill in order to bar Israel from participating, which caused the United States to back out. [AP]
• And prompted Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak to warn against “criticizing” Turkey, which has been a friend to Israel, although relations have deteriorated since the Gaza War. [Haaretz]
• A program in Israel that trains women to be halachic (Jewish law) advisers has lifted a 10-year limit on their terms as the first graduating class reaches the decade mark. [JPost]
• The Catholic Church in Poland has published a book, Introduction to Jewish Literature and Biblical Exegesis, coauthored by a priest and a rabbi. [Ynet]

Sundown: Solar-Powered Peace

An uncommon rite, bubbly’s back, and Obama’s image


• A group of pro-peace Israeli scientists and activists called Comet-ME has brought solar panels and wind turbines to a Palestinian village left off the power grid. [AP]
• 62-year-old Brooklyn seltzer delivery man Ronny Beberman, in a full neck and back brace after falling off his truck, is back on his route with the help of a driver, to the joy of his clients: “I don’t know if they’re happy that I’m back, or my seltzer.” [NYT]
• An Israeli source says he was “stunned by the level of anger” among Democratic congressmen in the U.S. “over attempts to portray Obama to the American public as an enemy of Israel because of his efforts to restart peace talks and freeze settlement construction.” Such critics may or may not be chastened by the POTUS’s shiny new Nobel Peace Prize. [Haaretz]
• Disabled New Jersey 13-year-old Sydney Forman, who is non-verbal, will have her Bat Mitzvah aided by a communication device. [Jewish Community Voice]

Good Vibrations in Blue

Brian Wilson to put his singular spin on George Gershwin


In the wild world of ex-Beach Boy Brian Wilson, when he calls an upcoming album “the most spiritual project I’ve ever worked on,” almost anything could spring to mind: Gregorian chants? Rainforest noises? Babies gurgling? In fact, his latest muse is even more surprising: George Gershwin. As part of a two-album deal with Disney, Wilson will release a record based on the composer’s unfinished works as well as covers of standards by both George and Ira, two artists whose work is discussed in the new Nextbook Press title A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, America Songs by David Lehman. Can we put in a vote for a “Brian-ized” (to use Disney’s word) “Mischa, Jascha, Toscha, Sascha”?

Brian Wilson’s New Partner: George Gershwin [NYT]

Tablet Today

War on film, finger painting, a muddy mom, and another holiday


Tablet Magazine provides a primer on the upcoming holiday of Simchat Torah. Vanessa Davis illustrates a muddy spa vacation with her mother. Joshua J. Friedman presents a rabbinical student who uses an unconventional canvas for her visual interpretations of the Torah: her fingernails. Allison Hoffman looks at a cinematic trend of Israelis revisiting the 1982 Lebanon War. And stay tuned to The Scroll for more.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.