Rabbis Want Men to Marry Women Their Age

To help solve matchmaking ‘crisis’


If you haven’t heard about the so-called “Shidduch crisis”—a surfeit of single Orthodox women that has matchmakers, or shadchans, flailing for a better formula— well, then you probably don’t read the same blogs we do. The latest culprit is what the New York Post is calling an “epidemic of kosher cradle snatchers”—men marrying much younger women and leaving the “older” ones (20 and over) without prospects. A group of 60 Yeshiva rabbis has issued a letter to the matchmaking community requesting that men be fixed up with partners whose ages are “within a year or two of the boy’s, or even older.”

One woman the Post talked to says the letter exhorting men to seek women out of their teens is itself part of the problem: “Women in the Orthodox Jewish world shouldn’t have an ‘expires by’ stamp on them.” Reliably, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach weighs in with a dehumanizing and hackneyed response, blaming men for treating women like objects instead of like, well, other objects: “Rather than appreciating a woman who has matured like a fine wine, they often look for someone who is all cover and no book.”

Meanwhile, the press has been taking note of the increasing role of Orthodox women in the work force and as leaders in their communities, and the growing number of unmarried women (who are extremely young by most mainstream standards) may be an indication that some of them have hopes beyond child rearing, and expanding those opportunities may be a more satisfactory solution to the crisis. Anything to save us from more puns like the Post‘s headline.

Dreidel Robbers [NY Post]

Why So Much Attention for 1915 Leo Frank Case?

Because it resembles politics today, says ‘LAT’ op-ed


Leo Frank, the Jewish factory boss lynched by a mob near Atlanta after being falsely convicted of a female child laborer’s murder in 1915, is the subject of a new PBS documentary and a musical revival; he also spent the morning as the lead story on Why all this current focus on a nearly century-old story of anti-Semitic bigotry? Steve Oney, the author of a book about the case and a consultant on the PBS film, explained last week in the Los Angeles Times. First, Oney says, the Frank case was a lurid mystery story full of twists like a white Southern jury using the testimony of a black factory worker to convict a Jew, and a damning portrait of a legal system that itself perpetrated racist vigilantism (the lynch mob that killed Frank while he was in state prison, Oney writes, was actually organized by a Superior Court judge). But it’s particularly relevant to our historical moment, he says, because “the conflict at its core foreshadows today’s red-state/blue-state hostilities.” Oney argues that Adolph Ochs, the owner and publisher of the New York Times (and great-grandfather of the current publisher of the Times) stoked the flames of populist outrage by orchestrating a national campaign in Frank’s defense while he was appealing his original conviction. Frank, wronged in the first place, became a symbol of the reach of urban, Jewish media, Oney says, and a Glenn Beck of the day exploited it, giving “voice to a constituency that felt excluded from the halls of power in Washington and on Wall Street.”

The Leo Frank Case Isn’t Dead [LAT]

Tablet Today

Music, mischief, meat, and more


For our weekly podcast, Vox Tablet, Sara Ivry talks to musician Alicia Jo Rabins about her new project, Girls in Trouble, “a song cycle based on stories of women in the Bible.” Marjorie Ingall compares Halloween and Purim, by the numbers. Josh Lambert looks at books on vegetarianism, the Mediterranean, Man Ray, and more. And, as always, there will be updates to The Scroll all day.

J Street in the Middle?

Americans for Peace Now to the left of it, AIPAC to the right, on U.S. House Goldstone resolution


Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is set to consider a nonbinding resolution calling on the White House and the State Department to oppose the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during last winter’s Gaza war. Unsurprisingly, AIPAC and other established Jewish organizations jumped to support the bipartisan bill, which is sponsored by two Jewish members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And perhaps equally unsurprisingly, J Street, the new Israel-focused lobbying group, took the opposite tack—sort of. Early on Friday, J Street released a statement saying it was “unable to support” the resolution, unless it was altered to, among other things, call on Israel to launch an independent investigation into the Goldstone findings. A few hours later, J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, appeared to backtrack with a second statement saying that, in principle, he supported some kind of Congressional action on Goldstone, just not this particular bill, but added that, nonetheless, J Street is “not urging members of Congress to oppose H. Res. 867.”

Then something interesting happened: Americans for Peace Now, the long-established American arm of the Israeli peace movement and, so far, an active J Street booster, came out in clear, unequivocal, though regretful, opposition to the resolution, arguing that Congress wasn’t really the right venue to deal with the various thorny problems, political and otherwise, posed by the report. So, the question is, does that leave J Street in the center—where it says it aims to be—or kind of nowhere at all?

Congress to Weigh in on U.N.’s Gaza Report [WP]

Daybreak: Yemeni Jews Escape

Plus crime, progress, and more in the news


• The Wall Street Journal reports on a secret U.S. mission that has rescued 60 Yemeni Jews and brought them to the United States to escape increasing anti-Semitic violence. [WSJ]
• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Israel’s granting of concessions on West Bank settlement growth, saying that “what the prime minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements which he has just described—no new starts, for example—is unprecedented in the context of prior-to negotiations.” [JTA]
• Israel has arrested an ultra-Orthodox Jewish settler accused of terrorism against Arabs, gays, and messianic Jews. [AP]
• An op-ed in the New York Times argues: “Only a U.S. president with the political courage to risk Israeli displeasure—and criticism from that part of the pro-Israel lobby in America which reflexively supports the policies of the Israeli government of the day, no matter how deeply they offend reason or morality” can make any progress toward peace with the Palestinians. [NYT]

Sundown: The Big Questions

On Halloween, heresy, and Hitler


• A mother addresses what she calls “one of the biggest Jewish dilemmas”: Can our kids celebrate Halloween? Her conclusion seems to be that the only reason to say yes is that costumes are “cute” and the only reason to say no is that it skeletons are “spooky.” [Jewish Journal]
• The Telegraph takes on a potentially much more important question: “Why shouldn’t Larry David urinate on a painting of Christ?” Arguing that David treats Jews and Muslims with equal ruthlessness on Curb Your Enthusiasm, a blogger says that his recent defamation of Jesus fits into the show’s style: “That’s how farce works: it’s farcical.” [Telegraph]
• Former Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk will have at least one ally on his side when he faces trial in Germany, but it might hurt more than help him: former Ohio congressman James Traficant, who was released from prison last month after a seven-year corruption sentence, has offered to attend in support of the alleged murderer. [JTA]
• Meanwhile, Fritz Darges, the last of Adolf Hitler’s cronies, has died at 96, leaving instructions to publish his memoirs, which experts hope could be the key to understanding how personally involved the Führer (whom Darges called “warm-hearted” and “a genius”) was in implementing the Holocaust. [Telegraph]
• Hebrew is one of many non-Latin scripts that have been approved today for use in web addresses. [AP]

Israel to Mark 14th Anniversary of Rabin Assassination

But at both far ends of political spectrum, memories aren’t so fond

Rabin at the White House with President Bill Clinton, 1995.(Robert Giroux/AFP/Getty Images)

A rally in Tel Aviv was scheduled to take place tomorrow night, marking the 14-year anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination—but stormy weather has led organizers to postpone the event, at which Labor and Kadima party leaders will speak, until next weekend. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports, members of the religious Zionist movement are struggling with how to commemorate Rabin’s death. On the one hand, they resent being linked by the Israeli left to assassin Yigal Amir, who counted himself among them; on the other, they don’t remember Rabin, co-creator of the Oslo accords, too fondly. The chief rabbi of the town of Safed told the paper he’s “sick of it all. Every year about this time there is a concerted effort to ram Rabin’s legacy down our throat.” That sentiment is apparently shared by a group of right-wing activists who, according to Arutz Sheva, distributed fliers to non-religious schools that read, “Despite our principled stand against murder and intra-Jewish violence, it is clear to all that the message at memorials of this type is not one of remembering Rabin the individual, but rather his so-called ‘legacy.’” (The news network notes that both the right and the left have chosen to forget that Rabin favored the creation of a “Palestinian entity … that is less than a state,” and that he envisioned permanent settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.)

Abroad, Guardian columnist Seth Freedman recalls being a student at a London Jewish day school when Rabin was killed, and teachers framing his assassination as “not the Jewish way … let the unenlightened and barbaric Arab states around us settle their differences via the sword.” While “Judaism certainly does not allow for such base behavior,” Freedman writes, viewing the murder “as a one-off aberration rather than the culmination of years of incitement and provocation was to take a dangerously out-of-context view of the event, and—by continuing to do so even today—those making such assertions run the risk of similar attacks being carried out in the future.”

Stormy Weather Postpones T.A. Memorial Marking Rabin Assassination [Haaretz]
Analysis: Religious Zionism Confronts Rabin Legacy [JPost]
School Flyers Against the ‘Rabin Legacy’ [Arutz Sheva]
The Far Right Wrath That Killed Rabin [Guardian]

Mag Tells Conversion Stories

Some inspired by ‘Fiddler,’ knishes, TV ads


In its forthcoming issue, Moment magazine offers an instructive history of conversion to Judaism followed by first person accounts of what made some folks do it. The narratives are fairly straightforward, save the occasional observation from the province of the improbable. Former Mormon Karen Nielson-Anson speculates that playing Fruma Sarah in Fiddler on the Roof “probably lit the fire,” even though Fruma Sarah is the scary dead wife of Lazar Wolf and her ghost visits Tevye in a nightmare (well, that’s the story Tevye tells his own wife, at least). Tinamarie Bernard, the great-granddaughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, asserts her conversion had nothing to do with inherited guilt but with having “a Jewish neshemah [soul] all along that just needed a chance to take off.” And Hank Eng observes “I love knishes,” a declaration that is ludicrously out of place amidst legit reasons to totally change your religious orientation (we like wafers, especially the Necco kind, but aren’t thinking of taking communion any time).

Then there’s Y-Love, the Orthodox African-American rapper, who recalls seeing “a TV commercial that said ‘Happy Passover from your friends at Channel 2’” when he was a wee boy of 7. It blew his mind so utterly he subsequently proclaimed, “Mommy, I want to be Jewish.” Is that all it takes? Golly—imagine the mess that could’ve been avoided had Ogilvy & Mather been around during the Crusades.

The New Jewish Convert [Moment]

L.A. Synagogue Shooting Not a Hate Crime

LAPD says, though shooter still at large

Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Synagogue yesterday.(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Good news: police seem to have decided yesterday’s early-morning shooting at a Los Angeles synagogue wasn’t a hate crime. They’re not really sure what prompted it, and they definitely don’t know who did it, but the main thing, LAPD counterterrorism chief Mike Downing told the Los Angeles Times, is that the two victims weren’t shot on account of being Jewish, but because someone had a score to settle. Which means that the guy who told the paper that the neighborhood where the shooting happened is “like a small Israel” was more right than he probably realized.

Synagogue Shooting Unnerves Los Angeles [LAT]

Israelis Think War with Iran is Inevitable

Argues Yossi Klein Halevi in ‘WSJ’ op-ed


In an op-ed the Wall Street Journal titled “The Return of Israel’s Existential Dread” (whether it ever really left is debatable), journalist Yossi Klein Halevi parses the growing sense among Israelis that war with Iran is inevitable. He sees this zeitgeist shift reflected in everything from Sabbath dinner conversation to a postcard demarcating how long residents in different parts of the country would have to seek shelter if attacked. He notes that the public remained discomfited by the possibility of Iran signing on to the proposed U.N. deal for shipping its uranium abroad—“If Iranian leaders are prepared to sign an agreement, Israelis argue, that’s because they know something the rest of us don’t”—which is probably for the best, as Iran officially rejected the proposal this morning.

Halevi gives several good reasons (besides being a militarized society that has faced near constant threats to its existence over its short 60 year history) why Israel might be falling into the state of mind characterized by a phrase from early in its history: “Ein breira, there’s no choice.” One is the nature of Iran, which, particularly under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has established itself as near-impossibly unreasonable. As Halevi puts it: “A regime that assembles the world’s crackpots to deny the most documented atrocity in history—at the very moment it is trying to fend off sanctions and convince the international community of its sanity—may well be immune to rational self-interest.”

Another is a question “Israelis have been asking themselves … with increasing urgency: Should we attack Iran if all other options fail?” If all other options have failed, then, presumably, the only alternative to war would be suicide; and, while Jews have fallen back on that last resort in dire historical circumstances, it’s definitely antithetical to the Israeli psyche. But what happens when the populace starts to think of war as inevitable, even as no one wants to see it happen? Does the territory implied by the words “all other options” widen to include innovative and marginal ideas in an attempt to stave off disaster, or does everyone resign themselves to gritting their teeth and pulling the trigger as quickly as possible?

The Return of Israel’s Existential Dread [WSJ]

Taylor Swift Is Not Actually a Nazi

Despite photo with boy wearing a swastika


We’re still not really sure who Taylor Swift is, except that we know Kanye West isn’t a fan, and we have no idea at all who Katy Perry is, but apparently the former went to a birthday party for the latter, at which she had her picture taken with a dude wearing a swastika, and now no one is happy.

Taylor Swift Embraces the Swastika [TMZ]

Today on Tablet

Spooky—and geeky—stories for Halloween


It’s almost Halloween, and Tablet Magazine has some stories to get you in the mood. Marc Tracy reports on a new book that brings a Jewish twist to the vampire trend. Peter Bebergal traces the history of the occult in Judaism. Liel Leibovitz presents a slideshow of of biblical monsters illustrated by comic book artist Mike Dubisch. Leibovitz also reflects on nerdy obsessions via this week’s haftorah. And The Scroll will roll out updates all day.

U.S. Religious Freedom Report: Israel

A look, by the numbers

(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. State Department released this year’s installment of its annual International Religious Freedom Report this week. Here are some numbers from the section on Israel and the occupied territories:

Estimated percentage of country’s Jewish population born outside the country: 30
Approximate number of Messianic Jews living in the country: 10,000
Immigration applications by Messianic Jews blocked by Ministry of the Interior and now in court: 3

Start date of Yom Kippur-related rioting caused by an Arab driving in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood: 10/08/2008
Number of legal permits for foreign workers issued during 2008: Almost 100,000
Number of illegal workers residing in country: at least 80,000

Number of recognized Jewish holy sites: 137
Number of recognized Muslim holy sites: 0

Approximate number of citizens who immigrated under the Law of Return but are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox rabbinate and cannot be married, divorced, or buried in Jewish cemeteries within the country: 310,000
Year that a law was passed requiring the government to establish civil cemeteries: 1996
Number of secular cemetery currently planned: 1

Yearly average number of Hajj pilgrims traveling from Israel via Jordan in order to receive papers on the way to Mecca: 4,500

Number of Jews per synagogue in Beer Sheva: 700
Number of Muslims per mosque in Beer Sheva: 5,000
Number of Bedouins per mosque in unrecognized villages: 80,000

Number of comparisons of women to clay “to shape and mold as husband pleases” in Orthodox marriage pamphlet distributed during marriage counseling necessary to marry in government-recognized ceremonies: 1
Number of suggestions to compliment wife regularly, even if untrue, in that pamphlet: 1
Number of couples that go abroad each year, mostly to Cyprus, to marry in civil ceremonies: at least 5,000

Minimum number of Israeli Muslims killed by Gaza rocket fire: 1

Reports of forced religious conversions: 0

U.S.: Israel Favors Orthodox Sects [JPost]
Israel and the Occupied Territories [State Dept.]

Daybreak: L.A. Shooting Derails Bar Mitzvah

Plus Iran, Russia, Lebanon, and more in the news


• Yesterday’s shooting at Los Angeles synagogue Adat Yeshurun left two injured and one bar mitzvah boy and his family in the lurch—Alejandro Sisro’s ceremony was postponed until the evening, and he consoled himself thusly: “I’ll get famous.” [LAT]
• Also yesterday, Iran officially rejected the United Nations plan for the country to ship its uranium abroad for enrichment. [NYT]
• Meantime, the U.S. Senate passes a bill calling for sanctions on Iran, particularly focusing on companies that help Iran “import or produce refined petroleum.” [JTA]
• Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations warns that he suspects Israel is set to attack his country, citing as evidence the fact that Israel fired on Lebanon as retaliation for this week’s rocket attack. [Haaretz]
• U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Abu Dhabi on Saturday to keep up the pressure on restarting peace talks with Israel, according to an anonymous official. [Reuters]
• A federal judge has issued a “default order” against Russia, allowing some members of Chabad to seek legal action to recover historical rabbinical documents from Russia in U.S. court. [AP]

Sundown: Shul for School

Plus a break for Baltimore’s Jewish paper, Yiddish flu-prevention, and more


• Admission to religious private schools in England has become so competitive that some families are resorting to synagogue attendance to get their kids in. [Financial Times]
• Israel took a break from its busy schedule of refuting charges of committing war crimes and withholding water from Palestinians to deny involvement in the blood diamond trade. [JTA]
• The city of Baltimore is suspending required loan payments for the Baltimore Jewish Times to help keep the publication in business. A journalism ethics expert worries that “if you are in debt to a powerful organization, you may be inclined to not cover them.” [Baltimore Sun]
• The New York City Department of Health wants to protect all citizens from swine flu, going so far as to issue a colorful poster detailing hand-washing instructions in Yiddish; “It pays to have a Jewish mayor,” says a blogger. [Truth, Praise, and Help]
• At the second wedding reception for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner the meal included “a variety of kosher food, as well as hamburgers, hotdogs, steak sandwiches, sushi and salad,” People magazine reports. Wonder if they know that all those other things can be kosher too? [People]

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