J Street Cancels Poetry Session

After ‘Weekly Standard’ applies pressure


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’


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


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

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


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


• 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


• 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]

Yankees Drop Singer Over Jewish Slur

Blogger says fans won’t miss the tenor


Ronan Tynan is the guy who sings “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch at Yankee Stadium—and a Paralympic gold-medalist, a former member of the Irish Tenors, and a devout enough Catholic to have performed at the installation of New York’s new archbishop, Timothy Dolan, earlier this year. (He also sang Ave Maria at Ronald Reagan’s funeral.) But according to NBC New York, Ronan Tynan may also be a little bit of a casual anti-Semite. According to the station, a real estate agent who was showing an apartment in Tynan’s building on Thursday reassured the singer that his potential new neighbors weren’t Red Sox fans, prompting Tynan to respond, “I don’t care about that, as long as they’re not Jewish.” Well, the apartment-hunter, Gabrielle Gold-von Simson, wasn’t amused, and, apparently, neither was Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, because the team abruptly canceled Tynan’s scheduled performance during tonight’s American League championship opener against the Anaheim Angels in the Bronx. Tynan says he was just making a stupid, callous joke, but, hey, as’s own blogger Josh Alper points out, given how many people like to diss Tynan’s overwrought stylings (and how cold it’s supposed to be in the stands later), it might have been just the excuse the team was looking for to drop him.

Yanks Bench Tenor After Jewish ‘Joke’ [NBC New York]

Homeland Security Inspired by Jews

Plus, Yids make crafty little guards


Jewish-run private security companies are a hot topic on both sides of the Atlantic this week (if, of course, you use local Jewish papers as your barometer of hotness). On our side of the pond, the Department of Homeland Security is reportedly using a national Jewish security network as a model for the kind of infrastructure it hopes other faith communities will adopt. The four-year-old Secure Community Network connects Jewish institutions with 96 Homeland Security liaisons around the country.

In London, meanwhile, two Jewish brothers who’ve been running a private security firm since 2004 say that their industry is thriving in the battered economy, since hard times mean more crime. And, according to younger brother Nick Conn, it’s a great field for small, cunning Jews: “People think that security is about being big and tough. This is not the case. For example, when you are securing a rich Arab who has come over here, being really big and dressed in a suit will just draw attention to the person you are guarding.” Not only that, but older bro Adam Conn says that guarding bar mitzvah parties against unwanted “kids and gate crashers” is a growing field. Score!

Jewish Security Network to be National Model [JTA]
The Industry That’s Toughing It Out [JC]

What About Hamas?

Goldstone concerned that UNHRC missed half the point of his report


It’s something of a long month of climb-downs for Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the UN report that bears his name, accuses Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, and has whipped up a frenzy of international coverage. First, Goldstone told the Forward on October 8 that “we had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.” Moreover, he wouldn’t find it at all embarrassing if “many of the allegations turn out to be disproved,” a position that the Forward shows contradicts Goldstone’s earlier pronouncement in a New York Times editorial that “[r]epeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.”

There is also the matter of Goldstone’s flagging faith in the body that commissioned the report in the first place—the United National Human Rights Council, which in its decision to pass the report onto the General Assembly affirmed only those claims critical of Israel. The HRC’s language, Goldstone charges, did not reflect the even-handedness with which he indicted both sides in the war. The jurist told Agence France-Press, “There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report.” Yes well, anyone familiar with the short but sordid history of the Human Rights Council—an organization that, with the encouragement of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has called five out of ten special sessions to condemn Israel, yet none to call to account Sudan for the ongoing genocide in Darfur—might have anticipated.

The question now becomes this: If Goldstone wishes to portray his own report as a tentative first-draft study and not a thorough and responsible basis for legal action, and he wishes to distance himself from the organization that commissioned it—where does that leave the 575-page document responsible for so much mayhem and ill will around the world?

Goldstone Slams UNHRC for Ignoring Hamas [JTA]

Now Let Us Praise Pastrami

David Sax’s new book on delis has as many fans as pickles


This year’s heavy weight title for world’s biggest deli champion (Oh, you didn’t hear about that award? You’ve really got to get out more!) goes unquestionably to David Sax, whose book Save the Deli hits stores next week. It gets a boost in today’s Wall Street Journal from Dara Horn who posits that “the history of American food is really a history of immigration, and the nostalgia that comes with a cuisine’s decline is an indicator of an ethnic group’s confidence in its American identity.” Sax tells the Village Voice (which, incidentally, stole our picture of the author, but we’re not mad atcha!) that the crazy kids of today love to eat deli after they carouse at the formerly cool bar Max Fish on the Lower East Side (Max Fish is still in business but Ratner’s isn’t? Oy, the heartburn!). Elsewhere Joan Nathan goes on a deli tour of New Jersey with Sax. And Robert Siegel does what we did for our podcast with Sax—goes with him to Ben’s Best in Queens where he tries, as did we, rolled beef. It was good! Listen here, work up your own appetite, and hop on the subway out to Rego Park.

And if you want to see Sax talk about the deli in person, check him out next Wednesday in Washington as part of our Jewish Body Week.

The Ethnic Food Chain [WSJ]
David Sax Talks About Saving the Deli and the Enduring Appeal of Hot, Fatty Meat [Village Voice]
At Jewish Delis, Times Are as Lean as Good Corned Beef [NYT]
A Mission To Save Real Jewish Delis, A Dying Breed
Meat Up [Tablet]

‘The Boss’ Is Not in ‘The Tribe’

A surprise to one Irish Jewish Springsteen fan


What’s wrong with the intro to this op-ed?

I have always looked on Bruce Springsteen as the embodiment of lower-middle class, Jewish-American culture. He built up his career in a very Jewish way, shrewdly and carefully. He looked after himself, and never went wild on drugs or drink, just as those other New York-area Jews, Simon and Garfunkel, stayed clean. He was and is good with money…

He was, to my mind, the archetypal Jew who completed the Jewish journey, of taking a format that began with fusions of country and western and black soul music, that had been reinterpreted by Jewish writers, but was now finally being performed by a Jew.

The answer eventually becomes obvious to the writer, Kevin Myers of Northern Ireland: “Bruce Springsteen is as Jewish as hurling or the Christian Brothers.” Of course, his mistake is an honest one (we know where Jackie Mason stands on Italians from New Jersey). We all want to “own” our heroes, and the difference between “steen” and “stein” is subtle but significant. But Myers’s error also involved a leap of, if not impeccable, than at least solid deduction: “it was logical that there should be a Jewish rock star, because for over a generation, Jews had been the intermediary between black music and the larger white population in the US and abroad.”

However, in an attempt to forgive himself for “deal[ing] in stereotypes,” Myers makes another leap, this one also naïve and, in some ways, as reductive as stereotypes themselves: “There is, in reality, no true ‘Jew’, no ‘Protestant’, no ‘Traveller’, no ‘Palestinian’, no ‘Zulu’, no ‘Ibo’…And we on this small island should by now have learnt that tribal divisions are usually a toxic confection in the mind of the beholder.” Quite a jump from this insight on the top of the page: “[A]s we all know, sooner or later, Jews naturally get to the top of the tree. This is one of the simple truisms of life.”

Why it Doesn’t Matter if Bruce Was Born in the USA or in Bray [Belfast Telegraph]
Related: A Fine Romance [Nextbook Press]

Today on Tablet

Paranoia and priorities, and a meditation on God’s creation


Liel Leibovitz starts his year-long exploration of the weekly haftorah with this week’s meditation on the act of creation. Etgar Keret considers the point of maintaining his house when a paranoid friend warns of imminent annihilation. And stay tuned to The Scroll for more all day.

Vote for Tablet Magazine

Our publisher, Nextbook Inc., is up for an award, and we need your help


Tablet Magazine’s publisher, Nextbook Inc., is in the running for a Jewish Choice Award. The awards are presented by Great Nonprofits, a website that allows people who have interacted with nonprofit organizations to rate their experiences. So how do we win? Nextbook Inc. needs good reviews. That’s where you come in. If you like we what we do, please go to the Nextbook Inc page to register your support. Write a brief review there, and—if it’s not too much to ask—give us 5 stars. Thanks!

Jewish Choice Awards [Great Nonprofits]

Daybreak: Human Rights Council OKs Goldstone

Plus, Holocaust jokes, a rogue oil trader, and more


• The UN Human Rights Council has endorsed the Goldstone Report, and is passing it on to the General Assembly; there are a few steps left before Israel and Hamas, if they don’t agree to conduct internal investigations into the Gaza War, could be referred to the International Criminal Court. [Haaretz]
• Editors of a satirical newspaper at Oregon’s Reed College say they’re sorry about a joke article last week that said students at cross-town rival Lewis and Clark had gassed all the Jews on campus. [AP]
The Little Traitor, a film based on Amos Oz’s novel Panther in the Basement, is called “a muddled morality tale” in the New York Times. It’s about a 12-year-old who, on the eve of Israeli independence, strikes up an ambiguous friendship with a British sergeant. [NYT]
• A book on Marc Rich, an oil trader who was indicted by the U.S. in 1983 for trading with the enemy state of Iran and subsequently fled the country, reveals Rich’s internal logic when he “kept Iranian oil flowing to Israel even after the new government in Tehran severed diplomatic relations with Israel”: “Being Jewish, I didn’t mind helping Israel. On the contrary.” [NYT]

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