thescroll_header

Jews Lose Nobel Prize

Literature award goes to Herta Mueller, not Oz or Roth

Email
Mueller at a celebratory press conference in Berlin today.(Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

So it turns out the Nobel Prize for Literature has gone not to the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, as some people were predicting, or to Philip Roth, who others (though fewer others, it seemed) thought was a leading contender. Instead, the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature is Herta Mueller, a Romanian-born German novelist whom none of us had heard of until this morning. She is 56 years old, and she immigrated to Germany in 1987, after years of persecution and censorship in her native country, according to The New York Times. The Swedish Academy, in announcing the award, praised Mueller, “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” This year is the 20th anniversary of the fall of European communism, and Mueller opposed the Ceausescu regime and was a member of Aktionsgruppe Banat, which the Times describes as “a group of dissident writers who sought freedom of speech.” Also intriguing: the Times notes that her father served in the SS during World War II.

Herta Müller Wins the Nobel Prize in Literature [NYT]

No More Shabbat on the Radio

Public ownership kills New York’s weekly broadcast

Email

At 8 p.m. tonight,  the New York Times Company will hand ownership of its 75-year-old classical music station, WQXR, to the local public radio station, WNYC. For classical music fans, the switch means tuning to a new frequency—105.9 FM, instead of 96.3—but for Jewish listeners, it means the beginning of the end for the station’s decades-old weekly Friday night broadcast of Shabbat services from Temple Emanu-El, the Reform bastion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. WNYC spokeswoman Jennifer Houlihan said that WQXR will discontinue all of its religious programming—which also includes Sunday-morning church services—as of January 1, 2010, in accordance with the station’s policy on nonsectarian broadcasting. The synagogue, which will continue streaming services on its website, is still hoping to find another broadcast outlet, but administrative vice-president Mark Weisstuch tells Tablet Magazine that, as of now, “we have not met with much success in finding an alternative radio home.”

WQXR Is Moving to 105.9 FM [WQXR]
Previously:
Shabbat on the Radio

Today on Tablet

Music, poetry, and language

Email

David Lehman, author of Nextbook Press’s latest book A Fine Romance, creates a playlist of his favorite standards from the American songbook, all written by Jews. Robin Cembalest investigates a small-scale revival of the Ladino language in Turkey. Alexa Bryn explores the nuances of left-wing Israeli protest poetry. And, as ever, we offer you updates all day on The Scroll.

Fashion Photog Irving Penn Dies

Was mightier than Jews-as-outsiders stereotype

Email
Penn photographed by Horst in 1951.(NYTimes.com)

Fashion photographer Irving Penn has died. A 2007 New York Times article on “the Jewish eye” in photography said that Penn did “not fit the profile of the nervous outsider,” and was therefore not firmly associated with his Jewishness. Rather, says the Times obit today, he was known for his “compositional clarity and economy” and was “most famous for photographing Parisian fashion models and the world’s great cultural figures, but he seemed equally at home photographing Peruvian peasants or bunion pads.” As the “photographer with the longest tenure in the history of Condé Nast” (he was most associated with Vogue), Penn portrayed the Hell’s Angels as “the graphic equivalent of a Greek frieze,” and typically depicted his subjects “enjoying a splendid isolation from the real world.” He was 92.


Irving Penn, Fashion Photographer, Is Dead at 92
[NYT]

Daybreak: Political Tests

Mitchell’s still trying, Goldstone up next week, and more in the news

Email

• Pollster Mark Mellman explicates the Jewish affinity for Democrats while hammering home that “[s]upport for Israel is a critical element of Jews’ voting behavior.” [The Hill]
• Which doesn’t always favor the liberals—an editorial from a left-leaning Orthodox Jew worries that “far-right European politicians are being seen as kosher by some Jewish leaders as they are ‘pro-Israel’.” [Ynet]
• Pressure from Libya has persuaded the U.N. Security Council to move a discussion of the Goldstone Report from October 20 to 14. [Reuters]
• U.S. envoy George Mitchell plans to keep pushing for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians despite deep reluctance from both sides; for example, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman commented that Mitchell is “spreading illusions and in the end brings disappointment.” [Reuters]
• Influential mathematician Israel Gelfand has died at 96; Gelfand, who emigrated from the Soviet Union, where, as a Jew, his career was compromised, is described by a colleague as “the last of the greatest.” [NYT]

Sundown: Shop ’n’ Pray

Perennial prize-winners, fear of Christ, and Gibson’s luck

Email

• A supermarket chain in Israel is committed to “maximizing the shopping experience”—not with low prices or expanded merchandise, but with in-store synagogues. [Ynet]
• Why aren’t Jewish Democrats grabbing the kind of city-wide political offices in New York that they once held? Shrinking demographic? Low turnout? Switching parties? Or maybe Jewish interests dovetail enough with the population at large that we actually vote for candidates regardless of their religion? [Jewish Week]
• The Jewish founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is suing a chaplaincy in Dallas, a member of which, he alleges, prayed to Jesus to “kill me and my family then wipe away our descendants for 10 generations.” [JTA]
Newsweek puts both Amos Oz and Philip Roth on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize in Literature; it also gives Bob Dylan 25-1 odds. At this point, hearing any of those names associated with an award feels like déjà vu. [Newsweek]
• The United Nations will add the Holocaust to its curriculum for Palestinian students, despite protests from Hamas. [Independent]
• Which may give them a leg up on Mel Gibson, whose drunk driving conviction has been “erased,” a bad precedent for a guy who may already have some revisionist views of history. [Reuters]

Shabbat Elevators No Longer So Shabbat-y

Decrees halachic authority

Email

In the labyrinthine realm of halacha, Jewish religious law, a new question has arisen: is trudging up and down 17 flights of stairs farther from the definition of “work” prohibited on the Sabbath than entering and exiting an elevator that moves automatically up and down floors?

According to the Jerusalem Post, a “Shabbat elevator”—which is just a regular lift, set to stop automatically on each floor, or sometimes alternating floors, so that religious Jews can navigate tall buildings on their day of rest, “does not merely stop at designated floors automatically; its operating system is adjusted so that the weight of the passengers does not influence the amount of electricity the elevator uses.” But a new statement (debatably) signed by authorities including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, “considered the most important living halachic authority in Ashkenazi haredi circles,” declares that using such an elevator “causes the activation of mechanisms that result in transgressions prohibited by the Torah.” This hair-splitting dilemma has made waves in Israel’s religious community—particularly in one home for the elderly where residents rely on elevators to get to synagogue—but one hotel proprietress has a level-headed response: “The thing is that there are so many streams in Judaism. Some follow everything Rav Elyashiv says, and they will take the stairs, and others don’t, and will continue to use the elevator.”

Leading Rabbis Issue Halachic Ruling Against Shabbat Elevators [JPost]
Elevator Or The Stairs? In Israel, Rabbis Weigh In [NPR]
Ultra-Orthodox Balk at New Rabbinical Ban on Sabbath Elevators [Haaretz]

Sukkot to Go

In New York City, the holiday huts come to you

Email
(COLLive.com)

Perhaps inspired by this idea, enterprising 16-year-old yeshiva student Levi Duchman has affixed a mini-sukkah to a pedicab and has been biking around Brooklyn bringing the mitzvah to the people. (Chabad’s website, which published a report on the project, may have been confused by more traditional stories of Jews in New York—its article uses the word “peddling” instead of “pedaling” throughout.) Although Duchman says the hardest part is the physical exertion, we imagine it would be tough to get people to enter the hut, which looks a bit like cage for transporting kidnapped gorillas to the circus.

Meanwhile, Duchman has New York City sukkah-on-wheels competition. The Chabad affiliate that provides the city’s ubiquitous Mitzvah Tanks has created what it believes to be the world’s largest mobile sukkah, six meters long and affixed to the back of a trailer truck. Although it may be in the running for the Guinness Book, the monstrosity was still probably the least weird thing on view at Times Square last Sunday night.

Teenager Peddling Celebration Throughout New York [Chabad.org]
World’s Largest Sukkah Mobile? [COLLive]

Why Bibi Was Right to Refute Iranian Holocaust Denial

Oren explains in ‘TNR’

Email

It’s wrong of Israeli left-wing pundits to rebuke Benjamin Netanyahu for refuting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial because that denial is not merely a fringe opinion that scandalizes its holder, it’s a broader, insidious phenomenon that nullifies Israel’s raison d’etre and is a not-so-subtle warrant for genocide, argues Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, in The New Republic. Paradoxically, Oren says, the erasure of the Shoah is tied to an ongoing anti-Zionist campaign that uses Nazi atrocities, which exist only as thought analogies, not real historical events, as a means of browbeating empowered Jews: “The Goldstone Report,” Oren writes, referring to the U.N. findings on alleged war crimes committed by Israel in its invasion of Gaza last winter, “goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves.”

Given Oren’s state employment, his essay might be written off as the work of a stooge—were it not for the fact that his civilian scholarship and analysis has appeared in TNR for years and been taken quite seriously. Bibi may be ideological, but he’s not stupid, and Oren’s appointment looks now to be almost enough to make up for the disaster of Avigdor Lieberman’s.

Deep Denial [TNR]

Vanessa Redgrave Backs Israel

And criticizes Toronto Film Fest protestors in ‘NYRB’

Email
Redgrave at a UNICEF press conference in Berlin last year.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Vanessa Redgrave is known of course for her acting but also for her criticism of Israel and her sympathetic stance toward Palestinians. So it’s surprising to see a letter she published in the October 22 issue of the New York Review of Books challenging those who protested the choice of Tel Aviv as the showcased city at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival. In their declaration, the protestors referenced Israel as an “apartheid regime” and said the festival’s Tel Aviv pick ignored “the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries.”

Redgrave, cowriting with artist Julian Schnabel and screenwriter and playwright Martin Sherman, takes umbrage at the declaration’s use of the phrase “apartheid regime,” and clarifies, “We oppose the current Israeli government, but it is a government. Freely elected. Not a regime. Words matter.” The three go on to question the declaration’s subtext that Tel Aviv should not exist and note that a great many Israelis are similarly critical of their government’s policies toward the Palestinians, “none more so than the Tel Aviv creative community,” they assert. “These citizens of Tel Aviv and their organizations and their cultural outlets should be applauded and encouraged. Their presence and their continued activity is reason alone to celebrate their city…. If attitudes are hardened on both sides, if those who are fighting within their own communities for peace are insulted, where then is the hope? The point finally is not to grandstand but to inch toward a two-state solution and a world in which both nations can exist, perhaps not lovingly, but at least in peace.”

Amen.

Let Israeli Films Be Shown [NYRB]
Earlier: Jane Fonda Is Sorry

Israeli Supermodel Catfight!

Refaeli and Ginzburg feud over IDF service

Email
Ginzburg and Refaeli, kept separated.(Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images; John Parra/Getty Images for Ralph Lauren)

As we all know, Israel is not like America. Today’s example? A simmering catfight between the country’s two Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, superstar (and cover girl) Bar Refaeli and newcomer Esti Ginzburg. See, in America, when models fight, it’s about things like who gets to be called “The Body.” But in a recent interview with Ynet, Ginzburg—who is also a budding actress, with a part alongside Chace Crawford in Joel Schumacher’s upcoming film Twelve—went after Refaeli for failing to do her mandatory IDF service. “Enlisting is a duty, not a choice. There are a million things I don’t feel like doing, but I do them because I have to,” Private Ginzburg told the paper, which linked to a two-year-old story in which Refaeli told a reporter that she had gotten married in order to avoid the draft. “Celebrities have other needs,” she said then. She also, for what it’s worth, went on to articulate a considered position on Zionism: “Israel or Uganda, what difference does it make? It makes no difference to me. Why is it good to die for our country? What, isn’t it better to live in New York? Why should 18-year-old kids have to die? It’s dumb that people have to die so that I can live in Israel.”

Esti Ginzburg: IDF Service a Must [Ynet]

On Tablet Today

The fat came back, Begin’s bet, and a scholar looks back

Email

The questions about Iranian nukes has Seth Lipsky thinking back to 1981, when Israel destroyed a reactor in Iraq. Daniella Cheslow reports on the rebirth of schmaltz—no, not Neal Diamond’s newest album, liquified chicken fat. Allison Hoffman talks to Elisa New about her new book, a family memoir. And much more, here on The Scroll.

Has Neil Diamond Been Snubbed?

Public-radio show debates why he’s not in rock Hall of Fame

Email
(Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Neil Diamond, sometimes dubbed the “Jewish Elvis,” is back in the spotlight this week with an upcoming Christmas album and a new book, Neil Diamond is Forever by Jon Bream, who debated the star’s merits with humorist Dave Barry on WNYC yesterday. They focused on the seemingly age-old question: Why hasn’t Diamond been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Sure, bands like Kiss waited ten years before getting a nomination, but Diamond has been making music for 40 years, and his songs have been covered by more than 100 artists. Still, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner’s selection committee passed over Diamond again in favor of other smooth favorites such as LL Cool J and Donna Summer. Love him or think his lyrics are pure cheese (or both), with 37 hit singles and 16 Top Ten albums, it is difficult to claim that he hasn’t contributed “to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll,” the Hall of Fame’s requirement.

Diamond’s rabid fans will have to comfort themselves this year with the schmaltz on his October 13 album, A Cherry Cherry Christmas. And in defense of his Yiddishkeit, it even contains one Hanukkah song, a “party-time” version of Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song” with DJ Ashba.

Neil Diamond: Are You a Believer? [WNYC]

Daybreak: Russian to Foot IDF Bill

Plus a cross to bear, a Nobelist, and more in the news

Email

• Boris Shpigel, president of the World Congress of Russian-speaking Jewry and a member of the Russian parliament, has vowed to pay the legal bills for Israeli soldiers being charged with war crimes. [JPost]
• A small cross on government land in California has spurred a court case and a debate. It may not seem like a big deal, but, says one attorney: “Religious liberty is, in part, about protecting all the touchy people.” [NPR]
• Israeli scientist Ada Yonath is the fourth woman in history to be awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry. [Haaretz]
• A look at what sanctions against Iran would actually mean. [JTA]

Sundown: In Praise of Freaks

Shyne is free, etrogs are inedible, and Roth wins again

Email

• Tired of always honoring Jewish saints like Golda Meir and Jonas Salk? Why not vote for your favorite Jewish “anti-hero,” complete with “accomplishments which are inseparable from their flaws”? Choices include photographer Diane Arbus (“multiple birth fetishist”) and rocker Joey Ramone (“freak”). [Washington DC JCC]
• He might not quite qualify as an anti-hero, and he’s certainly not short on adulation, but the definitely-flawed literary giant Philip Roth has received a 10,000 euro prize from Germany newspaper Die Welt. Staying true to national character, the publication lauds the author’s bang-up job portraying “the tragedy of human existence.” [Publishing Perspectives]
• Rapper Shyne, who changed his name to Moses Michael Leviy in prison, will be released today after serving nine years for assault. [Gossip and Gab]
• A blogger was stopped in her tracks from “making etrog jam and giving it out to women as a segula [charm] for easy delivery” when she learned that the citron fruits, not normally eaten, are heavily doused with pesticides. [Ingathered]
• Samaritans, a sect in the West Bank sometimes known as “Palestinian Jews,” celebrate their own version of Sukkot, with one main difference: they build their huts indoors. [China View]

Thank You!

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