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Religious Jewish, Muslim Boxers to Square Off

For junior-welterweight title

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Salitas in a junior-welterweight title fight last year.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita—an up-and-coming ultra-Orthodox Jewish boxer from Brooklyn—will take on the reigning champion in his junior-welterweight weight class, who’s a religious Muslim—in December, the New York Post reported yesterday. Apparently, no such match has taken place in the past, which means the symbolism is still fresh as a daisy! It also means that there will be even more excitement among Salita’s Brooklyn homeboys than is usual at his matches, where, according to the paper, “local members of the Chabad community show up en masse.” Celebrity Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach told the Post that at those matches, “You would think you were in a yeshiva. All these men in Coke-bottle glasses who are the most gentle people in the world are screaming ‘Hit him!’ as loud as they can.” For those who care about Great Jews in Sports—and, keep in mind, this is a different dude than the Israeli rabbinical student going for the welterweight belt in December—there’s something to the hype: if Salita winds up fighting Amir Khan, he’ll be “the first Jewish pugilist going for the junior-welterweight title since the 1930s, when Barney Ross wore the crown.”

Brawl That Is Holy [NYP]
Earlier: Jewish Boxer Is Contender, Scholar
Related: Barney Ross: The Life of a Jewish Fighter [Nextbook Press]

Daybreak: New Roadmap Still Bumpy

Mitchell’s dreams, HRW’s scandal, and more in the news

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• A group of Israeli and Palestinian activists have created a comprehensive “recipe” for peace; at over 400 pages long, it “highlights how complex and expensive it would be” to broker a deal. [AP]
• U.S. envoy George Mitchell will attempt to “wring” an agreement to freeze settlement growth from Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu. Somehow. [AP]
• An employee of Human Rights Watch has been suspended after the discovery that he is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia, which is, depending which side one takes in the debate over HRW, “either incontrovertible proof of bias or an irrelevant smear.” [NYT]
• A Rasmussen survey says that 59 percent of Americans would support helping Israel if it is attacked—that’s fewer than would support Canada and more than France. [Ynet]
• A hideous rumor that Jews harvest organs from Albanian children is sweeping the anti-Semitic blogosphere; Jerusalem Post commenters blame Sweden for reviving the blood libel. [JPost]

Sundown: Taking the Sting Out

Imagining Mamet, roaming charges, and the band that played on

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• We can’t help but wonder what in the world Israeli company Dvash Malkut was passing off in jars of “honey” that turned out to be fake; in any case, the only safe answer for the High Holidays seems to be going straight to the hive. [Arutz 7]
• Borrowing an idea from Tablet, awesome movie-nerd podcast Filmspotting presents the winning entry in a contest to imagine a scene of dialogue from the upcoming David Mamet adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank; the hosts politely implore Daniel Mendelsohn not to write a corresponding article on anti-Semitism. [Filmspotting]
• The indie-rock icons in Yo La Tengo reminisce about their 25-year history as a band, started as a way “to pass an afternoon.” [NY Mag]
• According to the International Monetary Fund, Palestinians living in the West Bank are on an economic growth course this year. [Reuters]
• However, despite Tony Blair’s best efforts, they still don’t have a reliable cell phone network. (We can just picture him walking around Ramallah asking, “Can you hear me now?”) [Times of London]

Is Madonna Becoming Modest?

‘Esther’ looked like a rebbetzin at last night’s VMAs

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(Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Maybe we’re extra-alert after Madonna’s recent visit to Israel and column in Yediot Ahronot, but we’ve noticed something unusual about the star’s wardrobe lately. In her outfit from last night’s MTV Music Video Awards, she looked like the edgiest rebbetzin at the sisterhood meeting. Combined with photos of her birthday swimming excursion, in which she swam practically fully dressed, we can’t help but wonder: is Esther, the woman formerly known as a pointy-brassiered provocateur, adopting an Orthodox standard of tznius, or modesty? (Her spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, didn’t respond to a request for comment.) And even more important: if so, will covered bods become the biggest fad since kabbalah bracelets?

Ames, Cross Jew Up Brooklyn Book Fest

Author and comedian put on a ‘touching’ show

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Ames and Cross yesterday.(Kate Glicksberg/Brooklyn Book Festival)

The culminating event at yesterday’s Brooklyn Book Festival was an installment of New York’s popular Happy Ending reading series, and host Amanda Stern started things off on a Jewish note when she told the crowd that she didn’t have a middle name because that’s not traditional for Jewish girls. (It was the first we’ve heard of this one, but lord knows there are obscure customs aplenty). As a child she decided to remedy the situation by dubbing herself Amanda “Michael Jackson” Stern.

Later, the reliably outré writer Jonathan Ames empathized with his childhood tormentors—hey, they couldn’t help themselves from hunting down the only Jew in the neighborhood—before bringing up comedian David Cross who proceeded to bend a depantsed Ames over his knee and administer some paddle blows. Cross then took the stage to debunk claims that he is a self-loathing Jew: “I don’t loathe myself, and I don’t loathe Jews. I just find them both equally annoying.” As for the charge that he can be condescending at times, Cross didn’t deny that his biggest targets are religious folks, to whom he says, “You are living a lie that you will never be able to rewind. I’d say that’s pretty condescending.” This judgment includes ultra-Orthodox Jews: “I find them very rude.” Cross read a selection from his new book I Drink for a Reason entitled “Ask a Rabbi”; although his rabbinical accent was commendable, the faux-advice column didn’t quite have us laughing as loud as his finale, in which he and Ames dropped trou and kissed on stage. Two not-so-nice Jewish boys—what could be sexier?

Can a Jew Represent Blacks?

Rep. Cohen’s fight to retain Memphis Congressional seat

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U.S. Rep. Steven Cohen has about a year until he’s up for reelection in his Memphis district, but the heat is already on. Challenger Willie Herenton, an African-American ex-mayor, is making the case that the area’s 60 percent black electorate needs a black congressman, as The New York Times reported yesterday. Until 2006, when Cohen won, the seat, created in a redistricting 30-odd years ago, was filled by the state’s only black representative—Harold Ford Jr, who succeeded his father. Herenton refused to speak to the Times about his opposition to Cohen, though his campaign manager was happy to talk. “This seat was set aside for people who look like me,” said Sidney Chism. “It wasn’t set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation.” Cohen admits there’s a limit to how much he can understand the black experience, but says he nevertheless votes like a 45-year-old black woman. What he does know? “About being a minority and being discriminated against because of religion.”

Ex-Mayor of Memphis Starts Bid for Congress, Invoking Race in Campaign [NYT]

Toronto Abuzz About Israeli Film

Forget Tel Aviv; they want to see ‘Lebanon’

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Moaz after winning the Golden Lion in Venice Saturday.(Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

The biggest buzz yesterday at the Toronto International Film Festival belonged to an Israeli film—and not, as it happens, one of the movies featured in the much-protested spotlight on Tel Aviv cinema, but to Lebanon, a movie by Samuel Maoz that won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday. The film, which follows the plight of four young Israeli soldiers trapped in an IDF tank behind enemy lines during first Lebanon war, in 1982, is an autobiographical piece that revisits the fog of war, and the lasting psychological effects of combat—“The Hurt Locker meets Waltz with Bashir,” as Hollywood Reporter writer Steven Zeitchik put it.

So, while the City to City sidebar went ahead quietly, with a screening of Danny Lerner’s film Kirot—the story of a Russian sex worker in Tel Aviv, played by, of all people, Olga Kurylenko, better known as the most recent Bond Girl—critics were apparently stampeding to make it into an afternoon screening of Lebanon, which has now rocketed to the top of the acquisitions wish-list for anyone hoping to repeat, or perhaps even improve on, Bashir’s Oscar showing. Poetic justice, irony, or both? While we wait to hear what Naomi Klein thinks, feel free to watch the Lebanon trailer (in Hebrew—though, as Matt Goldberg notes on the film blog Collider, it’s perfectly clear what’s going on even if you’ve disappointed your ancestors terribly by forgetting everything you ever learned in Hebrew school):

‘Lebanon’ and ‘Single Man’ are Suddenly Hot in Toronto [Risky Business Blog]
War and Drugs in the Cross Hairs [NYT]

Today’s Sorry

As Yom Kippur approaches: ‘Fido, I owe you one’

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We all have things to atone for. Did you tell a little lie? Say something nasty to a friend? Shout “you lie” in the middle of a presidential address? To help you get things off your chest, Tablet is offering a Daily Sorry each day until Yom Kippur. Today’s atoner has her four-legged friend on her mind. Here’s her apology.

Have an apology of your own waiting to get out? It’s not too late to repent. Call Tablet Magazine’s Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us all about it.

On Tablet Today

A reading list, a risky admission, tooting the horn, and those two little words

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C.A. Blomquist braces herself to tell her father about her conversion to Judaism from Christianity. On our weekly Vox Tablet podcast, Gabriel Sanders discusses—and attempts to blow—the shofar. Josh Lambert pages through the newest volumes on the Israeli Black Panthers and Hebrew poetry, plus kids’ books, fiction, and more. Marjorie Ingall muses on children and apologies. And stay tuned for updates to The Scroll.

The Story Behind The ‘Lost’ Ad

Turns out the group wanted more shekels

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The controversial Israeli ad thatimplied that non-Israeli Jews, particularly those who intermarry, are somehow “lost,” and which uses ominous train imagery to get its point across, was actually the extremely misguided result of a bold attempt to reinvigorate the Masa organization’s brand in Israel, where its backers hope that the government will pick up even more of its tab. Masa, an organization that brings foreign Jews to Israel to live and study, currently receives half of its annual $39 million budget from the government, and half from the nonprofit Jewish Agency. But, according to JTA’s Fundermentalist blog, the Jewish Agency has sustained massive cuts, and was consequently hoping that Israel would contribute 75 percent of Masa’s budget in the future. That’s why Masa was trying to grab the attention of the Israeli government’s constituents with a provocative ad. That plan, of course, completely backfired: an uproar ensued, the ad has been pulled, and Masa is certainly in a weaker position vis-a-vis getting more money from the Israeli government than before. Apparently, though, much of the dissatisfaction with the ad, at least among Masa’s Jewish-American backers, stems not exclusively from its content but from its steep, $850,000 price tag. Bad enough it was a stupid campaign with an offensive message; you couldn’t even get a decent deal?

More on the MASA Ad Controversy [JTA]
Earlier: Ad Calls Non-Israeli Jews ‘Lost’

Daybreak: How Dangerous Are Settlers?

Talk and more talk today in the news

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• Even the most hard-core Jewish settlers in Israel’s West Bank may be more bark than bite when it comes to violently resisting evacuation. [NYT]
• Meetings between Iran and world leaders are scheduled to begin in October; they will discuss the nuclear program in Tehran, whether Iran likes it or not. [Reuters]
• Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu states the obvious: “there is still work to do” for his country to strike an understanding with the United States. [AP]
• Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, a leader in the Reform movement who ordained the first female rabbis in the United and Israel, died Saturday at 79. [JPost]

Sundown: Israel Takes Attack to U.N.

Plus debating Iran sanctions and Biden’s early new year.

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• Israel formally filed a complaint with the United Nations over this morning’s rocket attack, arguing that it violated a U.N.-mandated ceasefire and that the Lebanese government should be held responsible. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already condemned the attack. [Ynet]
• Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that his country opposes further sanctions against Iran because it has no cause to doubt Iran’s declaration that its nuclear program is purely peaceful. [Haaretz]
• As for the U.S. Congress, Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told American Jewish leaders that he hopes to move forward next month on a bill that would allow U.S. sanctions against companies that help Iran import petroleum. [JTA]
• Vice President Joe Biden hosted national and Washington, D.C.-area Jewish leaders, as well as Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, at a reception to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. It was a bit early, but it’s the thought that counts. [JTA]

Ortho Women Are De-Lousing Experts

Charge up to $200 per kid

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(iStockphoto)

It’s pretty much universally agreed that lice are to be avoided. But it turns out that there are people to whom lice represent not the nadir of childhood—that is, the awful confluence of nit combs, long hours stuck in a chair, and ostracism by the Temple Beth Am preschool class of 1983—but something rather more promising: a business opportunity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these people are Orthodox housewives in Brooklyn, who are so practiced at picking critters out of their own children’s hair that they’ll happily do it for others, at a price. Today’s Jewish Chronicle peeks into the teeming world of lice-removal services, where pros like Abigail “The Lice Lady” Rosenfeld and L’via “The Lice Queen” Weisinger charge up to $200 a head to suffocate and remove nits kids have picked up at summer camp or on trips to Israel.

Reporter Paul Berger offers up a few theories about why Orthodox women are particularly keen on the lice business, including the idea that Orthodox women come with easily transferable skills learned by picking tiny insects out of fruits and vegetables. Of course, lice also involve children and, frequently, the rules of private yeshiva schools, which require parents to certify their kids are nit-free before showing up for class in September. It’s also something, not irrelevantly, women can do for a living without violating codes of modesty. For now, it seems to be primarily a New York thing, but—like lice—it might be spreading: Aude Prevost, a London mother of three, told Berger she was thinking of starting her own outpost of LiceBustersNYC, an outfit she recently visited with her infested brood. “People would pay a fortune,” she said.

Orthodox Women Offer De-Licing Service at $200 a Head [Jewish Chronicle]
Related: Modest Sums [Tablet]

Hillel Doesn’t Work at Small Colleges

Says small-college student

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The Jewish campus organization Hillel tries to be everything to everyone, but that doesn’t work at small schools, Swarthmore College student Sam Green argues in the Jewish student magazine New Voices. Not that the organization works perfectly at large schools either, he says: “on many campuses Hillel is like a synagogue, JCC, Greek organization, and religious school all in one,” which, coupled with its “non-denominational, pluralistic” approach to religion, is “just as confusing as it sounds.” But that kind of incoherence is less of a problem at universities with “enough Jews to populate Jewish groups and enough wealthy alums to fund Jewish activity.” At small colleges like Swarthmore, Green argues, Hillel offers both—as it were—bad food and too-small portions. The campus “does not have a true Hillel, instead using the Hillel brand to indicate a platform for Jewish student groups”; students trade off leading Shabbat services that leave students who grew up with other traditions feeling uncomfortable; Jewish day school graduates wind up “dismayed” by the paltry turnout and never return, while less affiliated Jews get a whiff of Hillel’s “perceived exclusivity” and never show up in the first place. One point for Hillel’s competitor, the ultra-Orthodox outreach organization Chabad, which Green isn’t cynical about yet—at least they offer “kind and welcoming” staff and “great food.”

The Hillel Monopoly [New Voices]

British Marxist Talks Religion at Harvard Club

Terry Eagleton interviewed by JTS’s Arnie Eisen

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Pairing a pugnacious British intellectual with an American Jewish religious leader for a public conversation on faith must be a lot of people’s idea of fun, because it’s happened in Manhattan two years in a row. The first time around was a bit more raucous: 2,000 people turned out to see Christopher Hitchens and Conservative rabbi David Wolpe storm around the bima of Temple Emanu-El debating the existence of God last November. Last night’s event, on the other hand, was a civilized conversation at the Harvard Club between Jewish Theological Seminary chancellor Arnie Eisen and his interview subject, the British Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. Though the two are not necessarily aligned on questions of faith, they bonded over a disdain for Hitchens and his fellow “new atheist” Richard Dawkins, whose contempt for religion is the topic of Eagleton’s new book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution. Eagleton, who called Dawkins a “bitter, old-fashioned positivist” and said he’d known his other intellectual target at Oxford—“when he was a mere ‘Chris’ Hitchens, we were members of the same Trotskyist society,” he said—posited that these thinkers are motivated by a combination of the stubborn belief that reason is the only valid structure of thought, and, more perniciously, the need for a justification of Islamophobia. They elide radical Islamism and the teachings of Islam, he argued, and while they’re bashing the Muslim faith, are trying to tear the whole edifice of religious thought down with it. It’s “a new and ugly trend,” Eagleton said.

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