thescroll_header

Daybreak: Agriprocessors Trial Begins

Chabadniks in South Dakota, Barak works the phones, and more in the news

Email

•A federal fraud trial opened in South Dakota yesterday against Sholom Rubashkin, head of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa shut down last year after an immigration raid. It’s being held in South Dakota because a judge ruled that Iowans are already biased against the Rubashkins. [USA Today]
• Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is calling foreign ministers from France, Britain, Spain, and elsewhere and trying to persuade them that officially adopting the Goldstone Report, which will be discussed by the U.N. Human Rights Council tomorrow, will effectively promote terrorism. [Ynet]
Haaretz obtained a copy of the Palestinian resolution that will be presented at the U.N. meeting; it accuses Israel both of the alleged war crimes in Gaza outlined in the Goldstone Report and of continuing to limit access to Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem. [Haaretz]
• A synagogue in Florida has installed hand-washing stations outside its Hebrew school classrooms, which it’s requiring kids to use before class as an anti-swine flu measure. Churches, meantime, have suspended the wine-sipping part of communion to avoid spreading germs. [LAT]

Sundown: Wild Things

Molestation arrests up in Brooklyn, mock court puts Abbas in slammer, Maurice Sendak, and more

Email

• Twenty-six arrests were made on charges of child molestation in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community last year, versus one or two in years prior. That’s a good sign, the New York Times says, because it means child abuse in the community is finally being reported. [NYT]
• A Hamas-affiliated organization in Gaza—which is furious at Fatah’s waffling over whether to press the U.N. Human Rights Council to charge Israel with the findings of Goldstone Report—put Mahmoud Abbas on trial in a moot court, convicted him of high treason, and sentenced him to life in prison. [Jerusalem Post]
• Meanwhile, the Israeli government has adapted an undercover intelligence unit that originally operated within the Palestinian territories to fight Israeli organized crime. [Haaretz]
• Maurice Sendak, whose Where the Wild Things Are comes to a theater near you on Friday, isn’t a fan of Hollywood’s lighthearted treatment of childhood but he sees a kindred spirit in Wild Things director Spike Jonze. [AP

Why Are U.K. Tories Aligning With Holocaust Deniers?

London’s ‘Guardian’ asks a good question

Email

Pop quiz: when is it a good politics to make common cause with people who sound an awful lot like Holocaust revisionists? Oh, that’s right—never. So it’s not surprising that there’s been a lot of outcry over the past week or so, and not just from Jewish groups, over the plans by Britain’s Conservative Party to welcome some dubious partners into its European Parliament coalition—including a Polish politician who has objected to Poles taking collective responsibility for the massacre of Jews during the Holocaust and members of a Latvian party that annually commemorates the service of volunteer Waffen-SS militias who slaughtered the country’s 70,000 Jews, plus another 20,000 deportees from other places, and then went on to heroically battle Stalin’s Red Army.

Yesterday, London’s Jewish Chronicle got the Polish pol, Michal Kaminski, to admit he’d worn the insignia of a violently anti-Semitic nationalist party from the 1930s. Today, the Guardian’s editorial board wheeled around to attack David Cameron, the Conservatives’ leader, for abetting the whole situation. And who does the paper invoke to make Cameron feel extra-special bad? Colin Powell, who apparently told the Latvians to knock off their Nazi memorial rallies when they were negotiating to join NATO. “If a Republican U.S. secretary of state can grasp a simple truth about Latvia’s past, why can’t David Cameron?” the editorial asks.


Latvian Waffen-SS: No Ifs, No Buts
[Guardian]
Previously: British Actor Upsets Poles

Conservatives Find Bible Too Liberal

So they’ll write a new one

Email

Conservapedia, the right-wing version of Wikipedia, has launched a project to eliminate what it considers liberal bias in modern versions of the Bible. Part of the problem is translators who throw around words like “comrade” and “labor,” according to Andrew Schlafly, the website’s founder (and son of anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly), and part of the problem is, well, some teachings of the Bible. An improved version, according to Schlafly’s guidelines, will not be “emasculated” or “dumbed down” as leading evangelical versions of the Scriptures apparently are, will “accept the logic of hell … as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil,” and, most amusingly, will “express free market parables”—which might be a stretch given that, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, “the meek shall inherit the earth” is most certainly a bunch of “liberal claptrap.”

The irony of the whole project, it seems to us, is that Schlafly is far from the first to politically reframe the Bible or other sacred texts—but that’s usually the province of liberals, because they’re not religious fundamentalists. It’s one thing to update a man-made text you believe is both valuable and problematic; changing the literal word of God to suit your political ends is quite a different story.

The Bible: Lost in Conservative Translation [Guardian]

Israel’s Tax Law Brings Billionaire Home

Foreign income is untaxed, so movie producer Arnon Milchan moves back

Email

Hoping to ignite a new wave of immigration, Israel changed its tax laws nearly a year ago, offering potential new arrivals, as well as those who’d left the country but are considering a return, a big break. According to the new rules, newcomers would pay no taxes on any foreign income for 10 years following their relocation. Now comes the news, via Globes, an Israeli business magazine, that fertilizer company scion-turned-movie mogul Arnon Milchan is taking advantage of the generous benefits and moving back to Israel. A producer on movies good (The King of Comedy) and less good (Marly & Me), Milchan was estimated to be worth $2 billion by Forbes in March. Who knows how much that’ll change once Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is released later this year, and how much tax revenue Israel will have then forfeited in its effort to reclaim a native son.

Arnon Milchan Moving Back to Israel [Globes]

Fatah Gives Up on Obama

According to memo obtained by AP

Email

President Barack Obama may have won a Nobel Peace Prize, but he’s also been awarded a vote of no confidence as a peacemaker by Fatah. An internal party memo obtained by the Associated Press reads: “All hopes placed in the new U.S. administration and President Obama have evaporated. Obama couldn’t withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby, which led to a retreat from his previous positions on halting settlement construction and defining an agenda for the negotiations and peace.” Originally heartened by his election, Palestinians now see Obama as a sequel to George W. Bush, particularly after the new president acquiesced to the reality of continued Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The big question is whether this memo reflects Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas’s view (Abbas has previously been sanguine about the status quo, citing dramatic economic and security gains in the West Bank as reason enough not to pursue a peace deal with the Israelis as quickly as the United States and Europe would like), or if it reflects the views of Fatah’s Office of Mobilization and Organization, which issued the memo. Now that Abbas has come out against advancing the Goldstone Report—the U.N. Human Rights Council investigation that accused the IDF of war crimes in Gaza—to the Security Council, Palestinians could also argue that Abbas has similarly “caved” to White House pressure.

Fatah Memo: We Lost Hope in Obama for Caving to Zionist Pressure [Haaretz]

No More Immigration Ceremonies at Western Wall

It’s ‘not a banquet hall,’ says chief of supervisory board

Email
British immigrants at a citizenship cermony in August.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

The Jewish Agency has long held citizenship ceremonies for new immigrants at the Western Wall, a place that is conveniently both the holiest site in modern Jewry and a nice backdrop for photographs of grinning, newly minted Israelis. As of tomorrow, though, the agency will move all of its immigration ceremonies to the roof of a nearby yeshiva—nice, sure, but a little lighter on the symbolism. The move is apparently a compromise designed to head off a growing turf battle—literally—between Paula Edelstein, a lay leader of the immigration agency who also chairs the Reform movement’s Israeli arm, and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, head of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which manages the site. Several weeks ago, Edelstein told the Jerusalem Post that Rabinovich had demanded the Jewish Agency start separating men and women at their ceremonies, and, more awkwardly, that women—including, presumably, Edelstein—be blocked from emceeing the events. But Rabinovich tells Haaretz today that, no, of course that wasn’t the reason. He just didn’t want the religious atmosphere at the Kotel to be compromised by, you know, a loud, potentially disruptive celebration. “The Wall,” he said, “is not a banquet hall.” To which we respond, having noted all the bridal couples and b’nai mitzvot who show up there every day, really?

Jewish Agency to Halt Western Wall Ceremonies for Olim [Haaretz]

Tablet Today

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

Email

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

Email
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

Email

• 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

Email

• 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?

Email

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

Email

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. TheJC.com, 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 [TheJC.com]
More on the Glowing Gefilte [TheJC.com]

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

Bad PR for the left-leaning Israel lobby group

Email

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

Email

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]

Thank You!

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