Lucky There’s a Mishpacha Guy

Seth MacFarlane’s Fox series just got a lot Jewier


Television’s small pantheon of animated Jewish characters just got a bit bigger: On Sunday night’s episode, entitled “Family Goy,” Lois Griffin, the matriarch on Seth MacFarlane’s Fox hit Family Guy, learned that she was Jewish. She should have seen it coming: her maternal grandmother’s maiden name, her mother tells her in one of the episode’s many uncouth moments, was Hebrewberg, which was the Ellis Island version of Hebrewbergmoneygrabber.

Lois’s husband, the loudobese blowhard Peter, is ecstatic at first about his wife’s newfound status as a member of the chosen people—briefly, he’s an enthusiastic attendee at synagogue, and puts the kids in Jewish day school—but he soon remembers his Catholicism and confronts his wife. “I’m a Catholic,” he tells her, “and I want to live in a Catholic house.”

“Well, I’m Jewish,” Lois responds, “and I want to live in a nicer house.” Spoken like a real Jew.

Family Goy []

Daybreak: Peace is Relative

A stymied traveler, disputed history, and more in the news


• Palestinian farmers in the West Bank are grateful for the relative peace since the second intifada ended—delicate as it may be—that allows them to tend crops freely. [Reuters]
• Delicate indeed—amid the ongoing disputes in Jerusalem, Hamas attacked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah party, for agreeing to delay retaliation for alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza. [AP]
• And, although Defense Minister Ehud Barak got through his visit unscathed last month, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon has canceled a planned trip to the United Kingdom after warnings that he may be arrested there for those alleged war crimes. [Times of London]
• Experts weigh new evidence in an ongoing debate about the United States’ response to the Holocaust. [NYT]

Sundown: Bless You, Drive Through

‘Mount’ing troubles, dystopia, and the next Holocaust flick


• In what sounds like a joke from the movie L.A. Story, a synagogue in Miami has erected a “drive-through sukkah” in the middle of its parking lot for lulav-shakers on the go. [Miami Herald]
• Michael Mann, the creator of such films as Public Enemies, Miami Vice, and Last of the Mohicans, is set to direct an upcoming World War II film based on a Spanish novel about a Hungarian and a German Jew who team up as war photographers. [Hollywood News]
• An interview with Leon de Winter, a Dutch writer whose new novel Right of Return (not yet available in English) portrays Israel in 2024 as a nation that has been all but abandoned after violence led citizens to decide “they love their children more than their country.” [HuffPost]
• Those Israel has called “radical elements who wish to create a crisis around the Temple Mount” have somewhat succeeded; violent skirmishes have escalated around the disputed site, which is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims. [AP]

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Skips Mass, Thanks

But much of Supreme Court celebrates pre-term Mass

All nine justices, at their annual photo session last week.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court convened this morning for the start of its new term, which features a docket heavy with cases concerning business regulation and oversight of the financial system. But the opening ceremonies started yesterday, with the Red Mass, an annual Catholic service held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington that recalls medieval entreaties for blessings on “those engaged in the administration of justice.” (Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife, Jane, is parliamentarian of the John Carroll Society, which began arranging the services in 1953 with the goal of getting the justices’ ears.) This year, the blessings included a homily by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, who asked the justices to help defend the rights not just those who are voiceless for lack of influence or power, but those who are “literally voiceless, not yet with tongues and even without names”—in other words, unborn children.

It’s not terribly surprising that five of the Court’s six Catholic members—Roberts and Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito—were there, but so was Stephen Breyer, who is Jewish but goes every year anyway. Who wasn’t there? Well, Clarence Thomas (Catholic!) sent his regrets, and John Paul Stevens (the lone Wasp on the current court) skipped it, too. And no one expected Ruth Bader Ginsburg to interrupt her Sukkot observances (or, you know, whatever she was doing yesterday) to go; girlfriend has made it clear she doesn’t need to hear it from the Catholics. “I went one year and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion,” Ginsburg told Abigail Pogrebin, who interviewed the justice for the anthology Stars of David. “Even the Scalias, even though they’re very much of that persuasion, were embarrassed for me.”

Supreme Court Majority Opinion: Attend Red Mass [WSJ]

Israel, Egypt and the New ‘Read Sea’

BBC asks, why no ‘cultural normalisation’ between the countries?


After Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni lost his bid to run UNESCO last month—in part because of a statement last year promising to burn all Israeli books in his nation’s libraries—relations between the two Middle Eastern countries are again in the spotlight, and one question, posed by BBC News, looms particularly large: “[W]hy is Egypt so opposed to any form of cultural normalisation?”

The Associated Press offers one answer that it sees reflected in the Egyptian media: “Normalization is a dirty word in many circles in Egypt. Journalists in particular feel they must shoulder the responsibility of reminding Egyptians that peace with Israel was forced on them and remains a bitter reality.” Solidarity with Palestinians is another factor. According to the BBC, there are “unwritten rules” governing the enforcement of a cultural boycott. In 1994, playwright Ali Salem decided to see what all the fuss was about and spent several weeks in Israel, documenting his discoveries in a book. Shortly afterward, Salem was ousted from his union and now “no-one will touch his work. Today his plays and movie scripts gather dust amid his tattered reputation.” Hala Mustafa, the editor-in-chief of Democracy magazine, has been ostracized for meeting with Israeli Ambassador Shalom Cohen.

There may be hope coded in the few media voices who don’t think Hosni lost out on the UNESCO because of an Israeli conspiracy, but rather because he is a pawn of the authoritarian government. But even those who work to bring Israeli culture to Egyptians sometimes do so out of bad faith. Says Gaber Asfour, the director of Egypt’s National Centre for Translation, who plans to work with a European publisher to produce volumes by David Grossman and Amos Oz so as to avoid dealing directly with the enemy: “Israel acts with injustice and inhumanity, we have to learn more about them. More than we already know. We have to translate everything.”

Egyptians Nervous of Israeli Culture [BBC]
Egypt UNESCO Loss Stirs Debate on Ties with Israel [AP]

Benjamin Disraeli, Modern Icon?

Simon Doonan Says So


Daily Beast columnist Simon Doonan thinks the new face of cool is the old face of Benjamin Disraeli, “who, despite a penchant for wearing his hair in Shirley Temple ringlets and sporting canary yellow velvet waistcoats, managed to claw his way to prominence.” More praised by Doonan for his foppish self-indulgences than for his savvy domestic policies (or imperialist foreign policies), Disraeli’s style is the apex of “think Yiddish, dress British,” a coupling explored by Adam Kirsch in his Nextbook Press biography of Britain’s only Jewish prime minister. And while it may not be likely that a novel-writing parlor wit with a fondness for older married women will soon grace the ranks of the American Republican party, that’s exactly what the GOP—and the country—could use now that tea parties mean shouting on Glenn Beck’s TV show rather than securing huge loans from the Rothschilds.

Benjamin Disraeli: Dead Cool [Daily Beast]
Benjamin Disraeli [Nextbook Press]
What Disraeli Can Teach the GOP [Tablet]

Iran-Style Anti-Semitism Spreading in Latin America

First Venezuela, now Honduras


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez fondess for Iranian-style anti-Semitism is irrefutable (see especially here and here). Now it seems his tendency has been taken up in Honduras by supporters of that country’s deposed President Manuel Zelaya, whose return to power has lately been a minor cause célèbre of Sen. John Kerry and President Barack Obama. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady lays out the case that Zelaya, who was driven from power on June 28, is just as paranoid and conspiracy-minded as Chavez when it comes to Jews.

Upon returning to Honduras on September 21, where he was offered refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, Zelaya said that “Israeli mercenaries” were subjecting him to “high-frequency radiation.” One ardent zelayista O’Grady cites is Honduran radio host David Romero Ellner, who spouts charming insights like this one: “Sometimes I ask myself if Hitler wasn’t right when he wanted to finish with that race, through the famous holocaust, because if there are people that are harmful to this country, they are the Jews, the Israelites.”

Revolutionary Anti-Semitism [WSJ]

Today on Tablet

African Jews, cheap decor, and recommended reading


On our weekly podcast, Vox Tablet, Anna Boiko-Weyrauch reports from the burgeoning Jewish community in Ghana. Marjorie Ingall presents a video diary of her and her daughters’ creative, low budget sukkah decorating. Josh Lambert digs into new books on German Jews in the Allied forces in WWII, the prophecy of the Coen brothers, and more. And The Scroll keeps rolling along.

Nikki Finke Calls David Remnick ‘This New Jersey Dentist’s Son’

Old-school Jewish class distinctions in blogger’s ‘New Yorker’ riposte


In this week’s New Yorker, writer Tad Friend takes on entertainment-industry reporting diva Nikki Finke, whose Deadline Hollywood Daily site he describes as “Hollywood’s most dreaded news source.” The piece is fine—Friend has covered this terrain before, and for those who don’t follow the business of Hollywood, it’s a handy guide to how the shark pool churns in the new blog-driven era. But, as sometimes happens with these kinds of stories, the most interesting thing about the whole exercise has been watching Finke herself wheel right back around, as she is wont to do, and take a bite out the magisterial magazine.

The New Yorker posted the article to its website Sunday morning. By 6:23 a.m. Los Angeles time, Finke herself had fired back a riposte that started off by calling the whole magazine “unrelentingly boring” and then descended into broadside attacks against Friend (“easy to manipulate”) and the “slipshod” fact-checking department. (Full disclosure: your blogger used to be a member of that department, and, well, it’s an often thankless, tricky job that becomes nearly impossible to do at all, let alone well, when, as Friend writes, you’re stuck dealing with powerful people for whom “facts are not fixed pillars but trial balloons that you inflate with the gas of vehement assertion.”)

The most fascinating bit, though, is the weirdly anachronistic Jewish class distinction Finke—a onetime debutante and Wellesley girl who grew up on Long Island’s WASPy North Shore, with a mother who simultaneously insisted her daughter marry a Jew, held annual Easter egg hunts, and referred to other (presumably less assimilated) Jews as “Eskimos”—invokes by dismissing David Remnick, the New Yorker’s Hackensack-born, Princeton-educated editor, as “this New Jersey dentist’s son.” And not just that. “Now remember, readers,” she wrote. “You, too, can make The New Yorker your buttboy. Just act like a cunt and treat Remnick like a putz.” Quick! Someone get Philip Roth on rewrite!

Call Me [The New Yorker]
Hollywood Manipulated The New Yorker [Deadline Hollywood Daily]

Mahmoud, Mishpacha!

UPDATED: London ‘Telegraph’ says Iran’s president is Jewish; ‘Guardian’ disagrees

Ahmadinejad in New York for the U.N. General Assembly last month.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, the London Telegraph reported that Iran’s Holocaust-denying, Israel-hating and evidently nuke-seeking president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is secretly a Jew—making him, potentially, the most self-loathing Jew who ever lived.

Versions of this story have been kicking around for a while. Radio Free Europe posted an item in January citing Mehdi Khazali, the pro-reform son of a prominent conservative ayatollah, who apparently called for an investigation into Ahmadinejad’s origins in a blog post. (Khazali was arrested this summer amid the fierce opposition protests that accompanied Ahmadinejad’s re-election, and the link to his site is now dead.) And there’s this anonymous video post, dating back to last fall, that actually accuses Ahmadinejad of being a tool of the Zionist regime, rather than an overcompensating hypocrite—even enlarging his nose to caricature proportions, for effect, in case anyone missed the point. And the Guardian reported back in 2005, when Ahmadinejad was first elected, that the family had changed its name when Mahmoud was still a toddler “for a mixture of religious and economic reasons”—but didn’t draw the Jewish link, or explain what the “religious reasons” were.

So what changed? Well, the Telegraph story cites Ahmadinejad’s identity documents, which he proudly displayed to the press in March. They show his family name was originally Sabourjian (or Saborjhian), which, the story explains, derives from “weaver of the Sabour,” the Farsi name for a tallis. And, to boot, the name is on a list of Jewish surnames compiled by Iran’s interior ministry—so, in other words, according to the paper’s blog editor, it’s “the Persian equivalent of being born Mohammed Greenberg.” So: Mahmoud, how do you say ‘vavoy’ in Farsi?

(By the bye, we were sad that Saturday Night Live punted in its “Weekend Update” sketch featuring Fred Armisen as Ahmadinejad, as usual—but we laughed that much harder when Nasim Pedrad, playing Mrs. Ahmadinejad, joked that “he farts under the sheets, and blames it on Israel.”)

UPDATE: Now it turns out that the folks behind this story might be Iran’s equivalent of the birthers. Middle East analyst Meir Javedanfar writes in today’s Guardian that Ahmadinejad isn’t Jewish and that his father was actually a devout Muslim who taught Koran. Javedanfar cites Tel Aviv University professor David Yerushalmi, who explains that Persians refer to tzitzis as, well, tzitzis, not “Sabour,” as the Telegraph reported, and that “Sabourjian” isn’t a particularly Jewish name, either. No update from the Telegraph, as yet.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Revealed to Have Jewish Past [Telegraph]
Ahmadinejad Has No Jewish Roots [Guardian]

Daybreak: Who to Believe?

Is Ahmadinejad a Jew? Plus more questions from the news.


The Washington Times spoke with three anonymous officials who said that President Obama agreed to maintain a ongoing understanding with Israel that exempts the nation from revealing its nuclear weapons. [WT]
• In a slightly more dubious exposé, the British Daily Telegraph reported that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has Jewish roots, based on a former family name. [Telegraph]
• Rival paper The Guardian attempts to debunk the idea with a different interpretation of the name. [Guardian]
• Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad agreed to allow inspectors into his country’s nuclear facilities. [NYT]
• Marek Edelman, a leader in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto revolt who received the French Legion of Honor and Poland’s Order of the White Eagle, died last week at age 90. [AP]

Sundown: Buy Me Some Peanuts and Falafel

Plus Jewish hogs, unwelcome visitors, and another poll


• Former Knesset chef Ouri Nidam is now a purveyor of kosher food at Yankee Stadium; he knows more about cholent than he does about baseball’s biggest stars, who he has failed to recognize on at least one occasion. [Haaretz]
• At the risk of hurting our brains with more poll results, Gallup reveals that American Jews support President Obama in greater numbers than members of other religions. [JTA]
• Communities in Columbia, Missouri, geared up for a visit from the lovely folks of Westboro Baptist Church, who will pass through town today bearing their anti-Semitic, anti-gay messages. [KBIA]
• Short-sighted bandits have hacked up palm trees in an Israeli national forest to make lulavim for Sukkot, destroying the trees for future holiday use. [JPost]
• Tom Wolfe might be startled to learn that a new Jewish motorcycle gang, the Hillel’s Angels, is touring Germany in honor of the anniversary of the nation’s unification. [AFP]

Will Arabs, Jews Unite Against Iran?

One blogger theorizes yes


Blogger Jack Midknight sees a possible silver lining for the ever-troubled Middle East. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, he points out, there’s good news in the fact that, as he says, “Arabs fear a nuclear armed Iran, far more than the Jews of Israel.”

Midknight (who is, presumably, writing under a pseudonym and is identified on with little more than his assertion that “I still wouldn’t join an organization that would have me as a member”) cites at least one compelling piece of evidence: “Writing in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, Abdel-Beri Atwan, the editor, said with recent developments ‘the Arab regimes, and the gulf ones in particular, will find themselves part of a new alliance against Iran alongside Israel.’”

While he maintains a smidgen of skepticism—“I can’t believe the possible scenarios currently unfolding will lead to respect for the Jews in any Arab country”—even his most cautious optimism (“the very fact many Arabs are now considering Israel as their best hope for stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons seems to indicate, at the very least, in the short term, Arabs and Jews could become partners in ways ancient feuds would not have allowed in the past”) stems from a frightening proposition: “let’s hope Israel is ready to assume the role some Arabs now consider vital, and will attack Iran within a matter of weeks.”

Will Iran Solve the Arab-Jewish Problem? [Gather]

Goldstone Report Won’t Go to Security Council

But it might mean the end of limited Israel wars

Goldstone at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

The Palestinian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council has stopped its attempt to forward the controversial Goldstone Report—which claimed Israel was guilty of war crimes in its assault on Gaza last winter—to the Security Council. It has done so at the behest of the Obama administration, which warned the delegation that such efforts could derail peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. But it seems as if Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was responsible for egging on the White House—or at least leading the PR campaign against the Palestinian initiative: Netanyahu is quoted in The New York Times saying that any Security Council action on Goldstone would “strike a fatal blow to the peace process, because Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied.”

Whatever legal ramifications ensue from the Goldstone Report, Yossi Klein Halevi argues in The New Republic that its very composition and global reception “may well mark the end of Israel’s limited wars against terrorist groups. Israel cannot afford to continue to be drawn into mini-wars against terrorists hiding behind their own civilians to attack Israeli civilians, given that each such conflict inexorably draws the Jewish state one step closer toward pariah status. Limited victories on the battlefield are being turned into major defeats in the arena of world opinion.”

Palestinians Halt Push on War Report [NYT]
The Goldstone Factor [TNR]

On Tablet Today

Food, shelter, cinema, and time


Tablet Magazine’s Sukkot extravaganza continues, with Samuel M. Gruber’s report on an award-winning student-designed structure at Wesleyan University, and a special holiday salad courtesy of star chef Christopher Lee, brought to you by our own Marissa Brostoff and Liel Leibovitz. Liel’s also got an enraptured take on A Serious Man, the new film from the Coen brothers. David B. Green looks at the Arab Israeli population nine years after riots set off the second intifada. And more, here on The Scroll.

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