thescroll_header

New ‘Harry Potter’ Is a Holocaust Allegory

Or else it’s a Christ allegory

Email

Critics agree: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—in which the offspring of mixed marriages between wizards and non-magical folk are tarred as “mudbloods”—is an allegory about racism with parallels in Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Barack Obama’s recent trip to Ghana. Oh, and the Holocaust. The Los Angeles Jewish Journal has some interviews it conducted with Potter producer David Heyman (who also produced Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) to bring home the point. “Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters, are obsessed with the preservation of blood purity,” he says. “They’re not Nazis but they recall the politics and attitudes of Nazi Germany. And aesthetically—although it’s a cliché—the [Death Eater] Lucius Malfoy and his family are blond, like Hitler’s ideal of the quintessential Aryan.” Well, you see what you look for: Christianity Today reminds readers that “many see Harry, though far from perfect, as something of a Christ figure, while his nemesis, the Dark Lord Voldemort, clearly represents The Devil himself.”

Harry Potter: Wizards and Racism [Washington Post]
There’s Something Familiar About ‘Half-Blood Prince’ [The Wrap]
Harry Potter and the ‘Half-Blood’ Jews [Jewish Journal]
Is Harry Potter the Chosen One? [Christianity Today]

Ivanka Trump: Officially Jewish

And engaged; membership has its privileges.

Email
Ivanka at a family PR event last year.(Amanda Rivkin/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been a big week for Ivanka Trump, the lovely heiress/socialite/real-estate developer. First, she became a Jew! Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, the Modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, earlier this week formally certified the conversion of the daughter of real estate mogul Donald Trump (himself raised Protestant, by way of the positive-thinking pastor Rev. Norman Vincent Peale). Oh, and then Ivanka went and got engaged, to her boyfriend, New York Observer owner Jared Kushner, for whom she converted in the first place. Mazel tov to both.

Ivanka Trump on New Fiancé Jared Kushner: ‘He’ll be a Great Father’ [NYM]

Today in Iran

Controversy at Friday prayers

Email

Mir Hussein Mousavi—the leading opposition candidate in last month’s Iranian presidential election—and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who supports him, attended the high-profile Friday prayers at Tehran University today for the first time since the disputed presidential election. Security forces fired tear gas at protesters and arrested 15, according to The New York Times; a prominent Iranian women’s rights activist, Shadi Sadr, was also reportedly beaten by plainclothes militiamen and carted away before reaching the university. Rafsanjani delivered the sermon, calling for “unity” and the release of dissidents rounded up during the month-long revolutionary ferment. Why is the prominent cleric becoming such an opposition figure? Scholar Abbas Milani, who has been analyzing Iranian events for The New Republic in recent weeks, explains:

For at least four years, Rafsanjani has been unhappy about Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s inordinate power, the direction of the country, and Ahmadinejad’s demagoguery—particularly spurred by his sharp attacks against the Rafsanjani family. In the weeks before the election, Rafsanjani clearly sided with the reformists and put his considerable assets—financial and political—in the service of Moussavi. Rafsanjani today must know what most Iranians know: Unless he stands up to this most recent power grab by the triumvirate of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the Revolutionary Guards, he and his family will be next on the chopping block. Should he, on the other hand, be too defiant in his support for the opposition, he invites the wrath of the triumvirate. This Friday’s sermon is thus shaping up as the most important in Rafsanjani’s storied career.

Police Fire Tear Gas Outside Friday Prayers in Tehran [New York Times]
Rafsanjani’s Day of Reckoning [The New Republic]

Today on Tablet

Neurotic mothers, safe havens, and a video agitator

Email

Josh Lambert and Sarah Kippur investigate a new play by David Burman about his mother, “an Argentine Mrs. Portnoy.” In his weekly musing on the Torah portion, Liel Leibovitz compares New york to biblical “cities of refuge.” Etgar Keret faces off with playground mothers already scheming to keep their toddlers from eventually joining the Israeli army. Allison Hoffman talks to “YouTube Michael Moore” Max Blumenthal. And The Scroll will be rolling out new posts all day.

Blogger Visits Morocco, Meets Jews

Armchair orientalism on The Huffington Post

Email
The Reception of the Ambassadors in Damascus, 1511(Wikipedia)

“Unlike when we were first there some 50 years before,” writes Huffington Post-er Robert M. Grossman, who bills himself as a “writer and lawyer” in an odd post about a trip to Morocco, “many travelers have now been to these places so a current description of our visit to them adds little.” Unfortunately, he can’t help himself, and his fetishistic recounting of a recent trip back—full of “garments of sackcloth,” “honey-scented pomegranates,” and “the appealing aroma of jasmine”—does indeed add little to the body of exoticized portrayals of desert lands and their people in everything from Montesquieu to Indiana Jones. Unable to stop at florid portraits of women with “bespangled and tattooed hands and feet,” Grossman salivates at the thought that they were “doubtless on their way to pray in one of those far-off mosques or assemble for a family meal of figs, dates and flat cakes of leavened bread heated on an open oven outside the metal shed or tent where they lived.”

Grossman’s tale of differences transcended begins with himself and the naval buddy with whom he traveled: “I had never known a Catholic as well as I came to know him, nor he a Jew.” But despite reveling in the “allure of observing droves of Arabs on foot,” Grossman was skeptical when some “men of olive complexion” stopped to help him when his car broke down and, for once, “there wasn’t a camel or donkey in sight.” But when he realized his erstwhile robbers were speaking Hebrew, he solemnly recited the shema, and all was well: “Their Sephardic eyes lit up.”

Things Jewish [HuffPo]

Daybreak: Reduced Restitution

Rockets, skulls, and more from the news

Email

• The Lithuanian government has dramatically reduced a plan to restore property stolen by the Nazis and communists, infuriating Jewish groups. [JTA]
• Yesterday, for the first time in a month, a rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel. [JTA]
• Life in the West Bank is becoming normal-ish. “For the past eight years, a 10-year-old boy could order a strike and we would all close,” says a storeowner. “Now nobody can threaten us.” [NYT]
• Liberian president Charles Taylor sees no problem with his use of displayed human skulls to threaten the enemy, after all “These were not our people.” Here’s hoping he doesn’t mean Jews. [London Times]
• On a summer camp-led visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Arab children were forced to remove their t-shirts, which read “Al-Quds – Arab Culture Capital,” prompting one parent to see bitter irony: “we don’t even get ambulances, so it’s my son’s shirt of all things that gets their efficient treatment?” [Ynet]

Sundown: Elf Defense

An ironic sculpture, a tired jokester, and a cross-genre cover

Email

• “Portraying the German ‘master race’ as garden gnomes was an ironic gesture,” says the artist responsible for a sculpture of a golden gnome giving a “Heil Hitler.” The piece is now on display in a Nuremberg gallery, and it’s being investigated as potentially unlawful. [London Times]
• Years after wearing out his welcome with some of us, Billy Crystal brings his play, 700 Sundays, to Washington, D.C. [Inside NOVA]
• Robert Lappin, a Boston philanthropist whose Jewish education foundation lost $8 million to Madoff, has replaced the $5 million that belonged to his employees’ retirement funds. [Boston Globe]
• Check out a video of jazz-rock-klezmer band the Sway Machinery covering Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” at the Krakow Jewish culture festival; it sounds like singer Jeremiah Lockwood is imagining a Talking Heads-version of the song, but somehow it works. (Also, don’t miss the blonde girl’s ass cleavage about two and a half minutes in.) [JDub]
• Speaking of exposed rears, fabulous Real soon-to-be-Housewife of NYC Bethenny Frankel is set to host her own TV show, Skinny in the City. [NY Post]

PETA Bred

Lettuce-clad activists visit Capitol Hill, while videographers hit kosher plant

Email

When the animal-rights group PETA released grisly undercover footage shot in 2004 at the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, it began four-year cycle of bad press and misfortune for the company that is only now coming to a close. We couldn’t help but think of the meat plant—and feel a little pang of sympathy for it—when we heard of PETA’s latest attention-getting stunt. In observance of National Veggie Dog Day, the group yesterday sent two scantily-clad Playboy playmates to Capitol Hill to hand out free not-dogs and sing the praises of a meat-free life.

One is tempted to wonder how differently things might have turned out if instead of a camera-hiding sleuth, PETA had sent these two beauties to Iowa. But, then, maybe Capitol Hill and Postville aren’t all that far from each other. In the old joke, aren’t the two things you’re never supposed to see produced sausages and laws? And there’s another commonality between Congress and a kosher slaughterhouse: a professed aversion to pork.

Video: Peta Parades Playmates for Vegans [Politico]

Dash Snow Backlash

Launched by Jewish blogger over tallis photo, erroneously

Email
(Flickr)

On Monday, Dash Snow, a 27-year-old artist who was known as much for being the rebel hero of a certain type of debauched downtown New York hipster as for his manic, drug-influenced room-sized installations and found-image photography, was found dead of an apparent overdose in Manhattan’s East Village. Tuesday brought a wave of glowing testimonials from Snow’s newly bereft friends, who talked about his recent efforts to kick his drug habit, about seeing him recently with his toddler daughter, Secret, and, from his art dealer, about his work for impending shows.

Now it’s time for the inevitable backlash, and this morning, Jewish blogger Daniel Sieradski posted an item to Twitter noting that he was “having a hard time feeling sad for dash snow, whose definition of good art included defiling Jewish objects.” Sieradski included a link to an image of a half-torn poster depicting a naked man with a tallis draped over his erect—and apparently Wahlberg-proportioned—member. Except, oops! The poster was actually created by Snow’s artistic collaborator and former roommate Dan Colen, whose first art project amounted to ejaculating over pictures of hip-hop stars taken from magazines. Colen’s father, Sy, an avid fundraiser for Israeli groups, speculated to New York magazine in 2007 that his son, whose family lost dozens of relatives in the Holocaust, was probably just trying to suggest his belief in Jewish procreation. “The penis for him, it’s something sacred,” Colen père told reporter Ariel Levy. “It is the staff of life.”

Related: Dash Snow, East Village Artistic Rebel, Dies at 27 [NYT]

Yisrael Beiteinu’s Sexy Knessies

‘Forward’ examines Israel’s political hotties

Email

If the melding of glamorous good looks and nutty right-wing politics hasn’t quite paid off in the United States—sorry about that, soon-to-be-former-Gov. Palin—in Israel, it’s a marriage of electoral convenience made in heaven. The Forward this week profiles Anastasia Michaeli Samuelson, a Russian-born convert to Judaism and a former beauty queen who was this year elected to the Knesset on the Yisrael Beiteinu ticket; that would be the party that wants to implement citizen loyalty oaths and ban Arab parties that were opposed to last winter’s Gaza offensive. (“Another soldier,” writer Netty Gross quotes Samuelson as saying, as the M.K. pats her pregnant belly. The unborn roughneck will be her eighth.) And Samuelson—who the Forward says resembles Sigourney Weaver, though the photo renders her as more of a young Julie Andrews—isn’t Yisrael Beiteinu’s only honey: her fellow M.K. Orli Levy, a former model, is nothing less than a Zionist Marisa Tomei. These are resume points that no doubt contributed to Yisrael Beiteinu’s electoral success, particularly in a land known for squaring sexuality and nationalism.

But here’s the big difference between Samuelson and Sarah Palin: Samuelson’s base is deeply committed to cleaving the state from the synagogue, so as to allow for more progressive domestic legislation (at least for Jews), such as civil marriage—the only means by which many Russian Israelis can get married. Though Yisrael Beiteinu allies cynically with Shas and other Orthodox parties as part of Bibi’s grand coalition, it is not in itself a religious party. Palin’s base, however much its male contingent may pant in private over its matriarch’s ability fill out a pair of high-heels, is still very deeply socially conservative and ostentatiously pious. Her cultivated role as a sex kitten populist for the GOP was thus always freighted with a stark personal-is-the-political contradiction. But that’s a problem that seldom afflicts right-wing women pols in Israel and Europe. Anyone else recall Maxim’s “Women of the IDF” spread?

Israel’s Politician as Super Woman [Forward]

Sadomasochistic Holocaust Porn

Coming to a theater near you!

Email

Director Boaz Yakin last waded into Jewish cinematic waters with A Price Above Rubies, about a married Hasidic woman who wants more out of life, which got lukewarm reviews. Now he’s back with Death in Love, opening tomorrow, which is garnering stronger reactions. It’s the story of a sadistic Holocaust survivor (played by Jacqueline Bisset), the mother of two screwed-up sons, who slept with a Nazi in order to save herself. “Not since Liliana Cavani’s epically stupid The Night Porter has a filmmaker so wantonly ripped off the Holocaust for the unsavory purpose of strutting his unprocessed sadomasochistic fantasies,” says L.A. Weekly. The Holocaust, Yakin tritely mused to the blogger Marshall Fine, is “a symbol for a certain kind of pain and violence that people keep inside and end up passing on from generation to generation.” The son of secular Israeli expats who sent him to Orthodox schools in New York City, Yakin added that the film’s fictional plot derives from deep wells of feeling—“this movie comes from the last 43 years of my life.” Rex Reed expects viewers to walk out screaming.

Death in Love [LA Weekly]
Welcome to Dysfunction Junction [NYO]

The ‘Forward,’ ‘Brüno,’ and Pickles

Excellence in design

Email

We earlier in the week declared a moratorium on all things Brüno, partially because there’s really nothing Jewish about it and mostly because it’s sort of terrible. But we must temporarily lift that moratorium to appreciate the excellent work of the Forward’s art department, as demonstrated by the placement of teaser art on the new issue’s cover. So: nice work. Moratorium now reinstated.

Current Edition [Forward.com]

Blind Orthodox May Touch Their Dates

But not to find out if they’re beautiful, rabbi decrees

Email

It is, in truth, an excellent question, when you stop to think about it. If a blind man “sees” what people look like by touching their faces, how is a blind Orthodox man—prohibited from touching a woman who is not his wife—to see what a potential wife looks like? Thankfully, Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, head of Israel’s Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva, has provided an answer, Ynet reported yesterday: A blind Orthodox man may indeed feel his date—so long as he intends to marry her. “This is the way a blind man gets to know his partner,” the rabbi wrote. “It may even be correct to say that he is required to touch her.” While a religious ruling says men may not look at women because of their beauty, but Sherlo acknowledges one still wants to know about a potential wife’s appearance. “A blind man cares about many things, even if he cannot see them,” he said.

Rabbi Sherlo: Blind Men Can Feel Their Dates [Ynet via Failed Messiah]

Tablet Today

Zen and the art of Hasidism, past and present in Krakow, and a contentious bris

Email

Eddie Portnoy mines the Yiddish press for the tale of a 1926 bris where conflict between two Hasidic sects came to blows. Josh Kun checks in from Krakow, where celebrants at the Jewish cultural festival were “dancing with ghosts” of the city’s storied past. Tablet Magazine contributing editor Joshua Cohen ponders the relationship between Hasidic Judaism and Zen Buddhism. Plus, stay tuned for more on The Scroll.

Daybreak: Preparing for Battle?

Muslims vs. Jews, Bibi vs. the U.N., and more from the news

Email

• Israel sails two naval warships into the Suez Canal as a way of “preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran,” says one official. [London Times]
• An anti-Semitic tirade by one imam at a convention of the Islamic Society of North America in Washington leads to a verbal brawl over the viability of improved relations between Jews and Muslims. [Forward]
• Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu is being coy about whether or not he’ll attend the U.N. General Assembly in September, saying it depends in part on whether he’s reached an agreement with the United States over settlement growth. [Ynet]
• Jews in Toronto take action to support an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which protesters there say were stolen from Palestinians by Israel, the best way they know how: email forwards. [JPost]

Thank You!

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