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Today on Tablet: Jewish Body Week Continues

And a video of the fabulous Rachel Shukert

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Rachel Shukert on Jewish Body Week from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

For today’s installment of Jewish Body Week, we present a video clip Tablet Magazine contributing editor Rachel Shukert talking about her Jewish body. Also today, Liel Leibovitz asks why Jewish men who made it in show business opted to cast non-Jewish women for so many leading roles. Eddy Portnoy looks at the tradition of Jewish muscleman, complete with a slideshow. Eryn Loeb explains how vegetarianism has connected her to the kashrut of her youth, and how she’s begun to leave both behind. Plus, a treat from the archives: Elissa Strauss explores the colorful variety of Yiddish slang for “vagina.” Stay tuned all week for more on the the Jewish body and a new video testimonial each day. And, of course, The Scroll is here to update you all day.

FBI Arrests Potential Israeli Spy

U.S. scientist sold information to agents posing as Mossad

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Stewart David Nozette, a 52-year-old American scientist who worked for the Energy Department and NASA and helped prove that there’s water on the moon, was arrested Monday for trying to sell classified state secrets to an FBI agent posing as a Mossad operative. In addition to a long career with the U.S. government, he also spent 10 years as a technical adviser for a consultant company owned by the Israeli government, the Associated Press is reporting. The criminal complaint also suggests a history of odd behavior, according to the wire service: In January of this year, he allegedly traveled outside the United States with two thumb drives and didn’t return with them, and he allegedly told a colleague that if the U.S. government ever tried to jail him for an unrelated crime, he’d go to Israel and “tell them everything” he knows. That was enough to get the FBI to embark on an elaborate sting operation in which Nozette ponied up information about U.S. satellites for $2,000 in cash, then gave more on “nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, and other major weapons systems” for $9,000.

So does this mean Nozette a spy who got caught or a megalomaniac with high-level clearance? So far, signs suggest the latter. “The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf violated US law,” the AP says.

FBI Nabs Scientist on Espionage Charges [JPost]

Giuliani Race-Baits Brooklyn Jews

If Bloomberg loses, it could be Dinkins redux, he implies

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Giuliani campaigning for Bloomberg on Sunday.(NYTimes.com)

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani stumped for incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg over breakfast at the Jewish Community Council in Borough Park, Brooklyn, on Sunday. Rather than simply saying Bloomberg’s done a helluva job, worthy of that third term he gave himself license to run for, Giuliani sounded a warning note about what life in the city used to be like and what it can be like again if Mike isn’t returned to office: crime and chaos and a pandemic “fear of going out at night and walking the streets.” As if people didn’t know exactly what Giuliani was talking about, he added, “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

The comment, delivered as it was among Orthodox rabbis and Jews old enough to remember the black-Jewish Crown Heights riots of the mid-’90s (and to remember that Giuliani’s predecessor as mayor was David Dinkins, who, like Bloomberg challenger Bill Thompson, is black), drew the expected fire from Thompson’s campaign, but also from Brooklyn City Councilman Bill de Blasio, who told the New York Times that Giuliani was on the “verge of race-baiting.” Even Giuliani’s admiring biographer, the conservative historian Fred Siegel, was appalled. “It’s smart to have Rudy out there, but not in this way,” Siegel told the New York Observer. “You want a positive appeal to draw ethnic voters to the polling place. But the overtones here are double-edged.” Siegel also said that Bloomberg’s follow-up to Giuliani’s remark—to compare New York to Detroit, where “gains are always in danger of being turned around”—was neither “neither morally defensible nor politically sensible.”

Stumping With Mayor, Giuliani Stirs Old Fears
Siegel: ‘Neither Morally Defensible Nor Politically Sensible’

Dwek, Center of N.J. Fraud Case, Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud

UPDATED: Son of Syrian community helped feds arrest rabbis, pols, organ trafficker

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Dwek, right, and his lawyer after posting bail in May.(NJ.com)

Solomon Dwek, who helped federal authorities in New Jersey build a wide-ranging corruption investigation that ensnared the chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community and a clutch of local politicians, is expected to plead guilty today to federal fraud charges, according to NJ.com.

Dwek, the son of a prominent Syrian rabbi, was arrested in May 2006 after he allegedly tried to kite checks worth more than $50 million, including a $25.2 million check he tried to deposit at a drive-through ATM. Court documents filed in July indicate that Dwek agreed to help prosecutors break open multimillion-dollar money-laundering rings allegedly being run through religious charities in the tight-knit Syrian communities of Brooklyn and northern New Jersey and, in one gory instance, an organ-trafficking ring between the United States and Israel. The five rabbis arrested in the case, including 87-year-old chief rabbi Saul Kassin, face an array of conspiracy and fraud charges.

Dwek, who faced up to 30 years in prison on the original bank fraud allegations, is expected to be the star witness in any cases that go to trial.

UPDATE: NJ.com reports that Dwek, who made his first appearance in federal court this morning since his initial arrest, entered guilty pleas on two counts of bank fraud. Sentencing was set for Feb. 9. Dwek is due in state court later today to enter pleas on similar charges.

Solomon Dwek, Central Witness in N.J. Corruption Probe, Expected to Plead Guilty [NJ.com]
Related: Crisis of Faith [Tablet]

Daybreak: How Jim DeMint Is Like a Jew

A South Carolina GOP gaffe, plus olives, espionage, and more in the news

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• Two South Carolina Republican officials defended U.S. Senator Jim DeMint against the accusation that he hasn’t directed enough money to public projects: “There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies.… DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies.” [JTA]
• Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu will convene his security cabinet to discuss how to handle the Goldstone Report; some say an internal investigation into its findings would be a “way to remove the threat of Israel being hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.” [JPost]
• A former NASA scientist who helped discover evidence of water on the moon has been arrested for agreeing to give secrets to an FBI agent passing as Israeli intelligence. [Haaretz]
• A cooperative of Palestinian olive farmers is learning to make use of the fact that “The same olives whose oil sells for a few dollars a quart locally can be … put in a bottle with an organic and fair-trade certified label, and sold for upwards of $50 a quart at retail stores in the United States.” [WP]

Sundown: In Lieu of Flowers

A confusing request, faint praise, and a comic memoir

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• A supporter of a beloved ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Israel, who has been hospitalized for over a month, implored his fellows to “donate” a year of their lives toward the leader’s recovery, having relied on Talmudic interpretations to determine, somehow, “that the idea is in fact possible.” [Haaretz]
• Negotiations between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency began today, and have been variously described by people involved as “constructive,” “inconclusive,” and “good enough.” (Translation: Tehran’s not giving up on nukes so easily.) [JPost]
• The author of the Illustrated Children’s Bible defends her decision to insulate tots: “In light of radical Islam and Jihadism, how can we countenance Joshua’s campaign of extermination or Saul’s massacre of Amalek, all in the name of God? In the shadow of the Holocaust, do we want to expose little children to the horrors of Lamentations?” [South Carolina News]
• Stuart Hempel, who created a comic strip about Woody Allen in the 1970s, has written a book about the experience, which, based on an excerpt, seems to be mostly dredged up notes from Allen on his portrayal—“my tendency would be to risk being more offensive,” “Please don’t make me so masochistic”—and self-congratulation for pleasing a comedy legend. [Guardian]

Columnist Says Obama Screwed Up on Peace Push

Arab Israeli ‘Jerusalem Post’ writer blames Palestinian leadership, too

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Jerusalem Post Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu-Toameh, the most prominent Arab Israeli newspaper columnist, spoke at Columbia University last night and, interestingly, placed the least blame for the current stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the Netanyahu government. Instead, Abu-Toameh faults President Barack Obama and the Palestinian leadership.

“He made three crucial mistakes,” Abu-Toameh said of Obama in an interview after his talk. “The first was manufacturing a crisis out of the settlements issue; the Palestinian Authority never made an issue of the settlements until Obama demanded a full freeze. The second mistake was dragging [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas to New York to meet with Obama and Bibi on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly—that was a humiliation for Abbas because the Friday before the meeting Abbas had announced he unequivocally that he would not restart the peace process until all settlement activity had been frozen. Then the third mistake came with the Goldstone Report scandal, when the Americans forced Abbas to pull the Goldstone petition from the U.N., and then the story leaked. So this administration has wrecked Abbas’s reputation and credibility.”

Abu-Toameh argued during his speech that demands that Israel leave the West Bank don’t help, either. “Fatah has an interest in keeping Israel in the West Bank because Israel is doing its job by cracking down on Hamas there.” If Israel were to disengage, he noted, “the place would fall apart, and Hamas would win an election in the West Bank.” The top priority in an attempt to restore peace negotiations, Abu-Toameh said, needs to be political reconciliation among the Palestinians. “Instead of putting all the pressure on Bibi, I would go to the Palestinians and say, reunite the West Bank and Gaza, establish good government, speak in one voice, then go talk to the Jews about peace.”

Israeli Hoops Coach Ejected from MSG, Won’t Leave

Rabbinical intervention doesn’t help at Knicks-Tel Aviv game

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(NYTimes.com)

It’s not often that a rabbi steps in to resolve a disagreement on a professional basketball court, but that’s what happened yesterday at Madison Square Garden, when the New York Knicks played an exhibition game against Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, with proceeds to benefit an Israeli charity for children. Pini Gershon, Maccabi’s coach, approached the referee to complain about the behavior of Knick Al Harrington but found that his own ’tude earned him a technical foul—Gershon’s second, which also earned him an ejection from the game. He wouldn’t leave the court, though, and the charity’s founder, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, then approached the referee himself asking him to reconsider Gershon’s removal. “This is not a regular game,” Grossman apparently told the officials. “In a game for friendship, you forgive.” No dice. After a 10-minute argument, Gershon finally left, storming out of the arena. “What can I do? I tried,” said Grossman, rabbinically. “I tried to make peace.”

At Knicks Exhibition, Rabbi Intervenes When Maccabi Coach Won’t Leave [NYT]

J Street Cancels Poetry Session

After ‘Weekly Standard’ applies pressure

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Early this morning, progressive Israel lobby J Street announced it was canceling a session on protest poetry scheduled for its big debut conference, which kicks off next Sunday in Washington, because it didn’t approve of the “use and abuse of Holocaust imagery” and other potentially offensive material by the three featured poets—Kevin Coval, Josh Healey, and Tracy Soren—in their work. The decision, made sometime over the weekend, was prompted in part by a blog post by The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, who linked last week to a YouTube clip of Healey beat-boxing about Israel “writing numbers on the wrists of babies born in the ghetto called Gaza.” “There’s a certain line we weren’t comfortable crossing,” J Street spokesperson Amy Spitalnick told Tablet.

As it happens, the Standard has also been calling around to members of Congress who had signed up to participate in the conference asking about their participation—a factor that inevitably raised J Street’s discomfort level. According to Politico, Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware backed out after receiving a call from the magazine, and his withdrawal was soon followed by other high-profile exits, including New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Theater J artistic director Ari Roth, who was scheduled to moderate the poetry panel, tells Tablet he decided not to argue against the cancellation when J Street called yesterday, while he was watching football. “It’s J Street’s conference, and they have to pick their battles,” said Roth, who was roundly criticized earlier this year for his decision to stage Caryl Churchill’s controversial protest play Seven Jewish Children.

J Street Conference Sessions [J Street]

Israeli History Textbook Pulled

Previously approved text said Palestinians see expulsion as ‘ethnic cleansing’

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Israel’s Ministry of Education is pulling copies of a high-school history textbook off bookshelves because of concerns over its previously approved content—in particular, Palestinian views on Israel’s War of Independence, Haaretz reports. The textbook was approved by the ministry prior to the appointment of its current chief, Gideon Sa’ar, in March. When it was published two months ago, Haaretz reported that it was the first Israeli textbook to use the term “ethnic cleansing” with respect to the eviction of Palestinians from Israel in 1948; that prompted the ministry to take another look, the paper said.

A chapter on the war currently states: “The Palestinians and the Arab countries contended that most of the refugees were civilians who were attacked and expelled from their homes by armed Jewish forces, which instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing, contrary to the proclamations of peace in the Declaration of Independence.” It also includes the Israeli perspective on the same events. A Ministry of Education spokesman said that “a great many mistakes, some of them serious” had been found in the book and would need to be corrected before it could be returned to the shelves; a history teacher who’d complained about the book told Haaretz, more bluntly, that “presenting Israel’s claims as being equal to those of Arab propagandists is exactly like presenting the claims of the Nazis alongside those of the Jews.”

Israel Pulls Textbook with Chapter on Nakba [Haaretz]
Related: Text Messages [Tablet]

Today on Tablet: Welcome to Jewish Body Week

Plus a video testimonial from parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall

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Marjorie Ingall on Jewish Body Week from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

To kick off Jewish Body Week, here’s Tablet Magazine parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall talking about her Jewish body. Also today, Jonathan Rosen, the general editor of the Nextbook Press Jewish Encounters book series, argues that Jews are as much people of the body as people of the book. Ingall writes about the guilt felt by Jewish mothers unable to breastfeed. Books columnist Josh Lambert looks at new books that deal with the Jewish body. And, in a from-the-archives greatest hit, we’re reprinting Peter Hyman’s essay on his son’s bris and his internal debate on what to do with the foreskin. We’ll have more considerations of the Jewish body throughout the week—and a new video testimonial each day. Plus, as always, we’ll have more on The Scroll throughout the day.

Goldstone to Israel: This Is Serious

Judge isn’t happy with reaction to his U.N. report

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Goldstone at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva last month.(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Richard Goldstone has had it with everyone, apparently. The South African judge, who spearheaded a controversial United Nations inquiry into war crimes committed during last winter’s Gaza war, writes in today’s Jerusalem Post that his critics have not made any effort to “come to grips” with the substance of the allegations put forward in the 575-page document, which accuses both Israel and Hamas of violating international law against targeting civilians. On the flip side, he adds, his fans don’t even seem to be paying attention to what he’s said, particularly, as he noted last week, when it comes to Hamas’s culpability. The report “has been fulsomely approved by those whose interests it is thought to serve, and rejected by those of the opposite view,” Goldstone writes. “Those who attack it do so too often by making personal attacks on its authors’ motives and those who approve it rely on its authors’ reputations.”

That said, he still argues, vociferously, that it was a mistake for Israel’s government to pass on cooperating with the report, and a mistake for Israel to focus on attacking him, personally, rather than addressing the questions the report raised, specifically concerning IDF strikes on civilian installations like sanitation works and chicken farms. Now, with the report headed for the Security Council—and a potential referral to the International Criminal Court—Goldstone says it’s time for Israel’s leaders to head off any further damage by conducting a new government inquiry. (And so, for that matter, does at least one former Israeli diplomat, Avi Primor, who told a German newspaper in an interview published today that Israel ought to “submit our position, our arguments, and not stay away.”) Netanyahu’s government has, thus far, pointed to a lengthy internal IDF report released over the summer, but that’s done nothing to appease critics—which, Goldstone argues, is reason enough to do another one. “Israel has an internationally renowned and respected judiciary that should be envy of many other countries in the region,” he writes. “Has it the will?”

My Mission—and Motivation [JPost]
Related: Report Card [Tablet]

To Bris or Not to Bris

‘New York’ mag considers the question, comprehensively

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(NYMag.com)

It seems New York magazine got the memo about Jewish Body Week—it features a full rundown on circumcision in the new issue. An article on the “shift away from circumcision” as a standard practice for American baby boys credits the change to activists as well as some more provocative factors: “As more U.S. women have sex with foreign-born men, the American perception of the uncut penis as exotic has begun to fade. The decline in the number of practicing Jews contributes as well.” An illustrated breakdown of the procedure itself gets, ahem, straight to the point. If that scares you off, there’s an option for Jews who don’t want to do the deed to their sons, but still want to welcome them into the religion: the Brit Shalom, a male equivalent to the naming ceremony traditionally held for baby girls. It’s an idea that might appeal to two regretful Jews who circumcised their boys: Michael Chabon, who says he considers the act “mutilation,” and Shalom Auslander, who says you might as well “[w]ait eight days, invite the family over, put out some wine and kugel, and just punch him in the fucking face.” But don’t fret if you’ve already sliced your son—a man who was cut as an adult mentions a little-known virtue of the procedure: “I always used to beg out of oral sex.… It was too much sensation, too intense. After the circumcision, oral sex became a whole lot easier.” And should you decide to go for it, in typical New York mag style, the spread includes a listing of recommended local mohels.

Of course, Tablet Magazine hasn’t slacked in covering the topic. We spoke to Melvin Konner, author of Nextbook Press’s The Jewish Body, about the history of the bris and also to an Orthodox documentarian who took a critical look at the procedure and came down against it. Plus, a father wrote about his unconventional search for a significant place to lay his son’s disembodied foreskin to rest.

For and Against Foreskin [NYMag]

Daybreak: Big Solutions

Plus bad advertising, a Hungarian wingnut, and more in the news

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• The European Jewish Congress has a new office in Brussels to serve as a lobby to the European Union; it’s devoted to, among other things, the lofty goal of “reconciliation between the three great monotheistic religions.” [JPost]
• Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu enigmatically told Spanish P.M. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, “We solved the matter of the settlements with the Americans.” [Haaretz]
• A Thai billboard advertising a wax museum with the slogan “Hitler is not dead” and a huge image of the Führer has been covered up. [AP]
• A Hungarian parliament member suspects a Jewish conspiracy to take over his country, where “rumors of a mass Jewish return to Hungary have been floating around … for some time.” He also claims students in Jerusalem are taught in Hungarian. [Haaretz]
• Richard Goldstone writes about the Jewish motivation behind his controversial report. [JPost]

Sundown: Hebrew’s Not Just for Jews

A starving school, an appetite for Israel, and the finer points of slaughter

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• New York City’s Hebrew-language charter school is off to a good start. It’s skirted controversy, poached kids from neighboring religious schools, and one black, non-Jewish parent says it offers more diversity than the local public school [Jewish Week]
• Nearby in Brooklyn, an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva is so low on funds it has sold space on its school buses to a religious publishing company for a “gentle and low-key” and “kosher type” ad. [NYDN]
• Israelis are doing increasingly well peddling their cuisine stateside, perhaps because, as an Israeli food magazine editor put it, Americans are looking to eat more healthfully and “we are the only people in the world that eats salad for breakfast.” [JTA]
• A New Zealand professor’s research has shown that shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter, causes animals pain because they are not stunned before having their throats slit. [JC]
The Jewish Star reports on actor Eliezer Meyer, “king of the Jewish bit part,” who appears in New York, I Love You and told Tablet in June about the oddness of seeing costumed actors during set breaks: “You’ll have guys with payes and beards but no yarmulkes walking into kosher restaurants in [ultra-Orthodox] Williamsburg, so, basically, they’re hasidically half-naked.” [TJS]

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