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Toronto Film Fest to Honor Tel Aviv, Controversially

Canadian, Israeli directors protest

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A handful of influential Canadian filmmakers are threatening to pull their works from the upcoming Toronto Film Festival if the prestigious festival carries out its plans for a cinematic salute to Tel Aviv. This year’s festival, to open on September 10, is set to include a retrospective of Israeli films about the city, which is celebrating its 100 anniversary this year. That tribute, say some filmmakers, is politically charged, as it promotes Israel as a cultured and enlightened country and covers up the horrors of the Palestinian occupation. The filmmakers—a small group that includes popular author Naomi Klein, acclaimed director John Greyson, and prominent video artist Richard Fung—stress that they are not opposed to the numerous Israeli films shown as part of the festival’s main program, but that they consider the retrospective to be ideologically tainted.

Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni, who is part of the group calling for the boycott, called on Israeli filmmakers to join in. “Israeli filmmakers shouldn’t feel defensive,” Aloni told Haaretz. “They should say to their Canadian colleagues, ‘we stand with you, we don’t represent [Israeli foreign minister Avigdor] Lieberman, we represent the resistance.’ You can’t have it both ways.”

Toronto Festival: Directors protest Tel Aviv Tribute [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Today on Tablet

Second careers, that teenage feeling, and the meaning of remembering

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Marc Tracy talks to two writers who made the switch from other professions. Eryn Loeb looks back at the sexy, provocative young adult novels of Norma Klein. Liel Leibovitz examines troublesome ideas of memory and forgetting in this week’s Torah portion. And updates to The Scroll continue all day.

U.S. Shift on E. Jerusalem: Bad, or Wrong?

One blogger is worried about the change, another doesn’t buy it

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(Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

Haaretz reported yesterday that East Jerusalem is now exempt from the United States’ call for a settlement freeze in Israel, and the The Faster Times’s Dina Kraft worried. She was already anxious over a proposal recently submitted for approval to the Israeli government to build a huge new apartment complex in that part of the city, and a plan to raze 88 Arab houses to make way for a tourist park. She is concerned about the disparity between the “ramshackle” Arab homes and a well-appointed Jewish visitor’s center, and the possibility that Israeli obstinacy about the area is a “cynical attempt to make East Jerusalem as ‘Jewish’ as possible and foil any future attempts to divide the city as part of a future peace deal.” She interviews a researcher who worries what will happen to “the fabric of Arab-Jewish relations by inserting armed camps into Arab Jerusalem,” although he understands “the impulse to focus on a Jewish narrative in the face of Palestinian denials of a Jewish historic connection to the city.”

And then there’s this, which might assuage some of Kraft’s worries, although it’s worrisome in itself: Blogger Lara Friedman at Americans for Peace Now is skeptical of the claim that Israel’s been let off the hook when it comes to East Jerusalem expansion. The Haaretz reporter who broke the news, Barak Ravid, has been irresponsible before, she says, noting that “in this kind of high-stakes political poker, a lot of what we hear in the press is spin (and bluffing).”

The Jerusalem Puzzle: Jewish Enclaves in Arab Neighborhoods [Faster Times]Don’t Believe What You Read [JTA]
Earlier: U.S. Drops Call for E. Jerusalem Settlement Freeze

Daybreak: Obama Can’t Do Everything

Plus Tutu, Sendak, and more in the news

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• President Obama knows he should visit Israel as his support there dwindles, but right now he’s swamped with health care reform. [Ynet]
• Desmond Tutu tells Haaretz that Palestinians are paying the “penance” for the Holocaust, and compares Israel to South Africa, which only achieved “security when the human rights of all were recognized and respected.” [Haaretz]
• Ethiopian immigrant children in Israel are required to attend Jewish schools as part of their conversion process, but religious schools in the town of Petah Tikva are refusing to enroll them. [Jpost]
• Meanwhile, the nearby West Bank settlement of Samaria has offered to “absorb the students.” [Ynet]
• An exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s artwork will come to San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum on September 8. [Examiner]

Sundown: Having Your Ham, But Not Eating It

Not-so-mysterious ways, aloha ‘ShalomTV,’ and an elegant gesture

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• Two Kentuckians joined forces to end their bidding war over a 15.6-pound champion ham, paying a total of $1.3 million to charity. One of the lucky winners is a Jewish banker who says, “I’m delighted to participate in it but I’m not going to take any part of it home and cook it.” [Courier Journal]
• U2 rescheduled a New Jersey concert to accommodate a football game—and also “out of respect” for the fact that the show had been set for Yom Kippur. [NYT]
• An op-ed in the Forward makes a public stink about how Jewish groups shouldn’t have made such a public stink about President Obama’s honoring of Mary Robinson. [Forward]
• Live in Hawaii and wish you could watch shows like Modern Jewish Mom or Rabbis Roundtable? A self-professed “child of the boob-tube” has created an online petition to bring more Jewish TV to the 50th state. [Examiner]
• A colleague remembers Ted Kennedy’s tribute to Yitzhak Rabin: the senator carried dirt from the graves of his slain brothers overseas and buried it above the murdered Israeli prime minister. [TPM]

Better Living Through Cycling

Orthodox man tries to get Satmars to bike

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Baruch Herzfeld is a modern Orthodox bike repairman on a mission: to convince Satmars in Brooklyn that biking is kosher. For about a year now, members of the Orthodox sect in Williamsburg have been fighting to stop the city from establishing bike lanes in their neighborhoods on the grounds that the activity is immodest (also, bike lanes would eliminate some parking spaces). That’s bunk, says Herzfeld, whose own brothers are rabbis who allow him to pop wheelies; he’s trying to entice passing Satmars to likewise become peddlers by offering to lend them vehicles through a program he’s established called Bike Gemach—the Yiddish term for free loan society. “I’m not doing it because I want to change the world,” Herzfeld says, “I just think it would be a healthy thing for the whole city if some of these guys got on bicycles.”

Brooklyn’s Bicycle Man Uses Two Wheels to Bring Hasids and Hipsters Together
[Forward]

Related:
Hasids on Bikes [Tablet]

Say You’re Sorry

And we’ll run it on the site

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Yom Kippur is right around the corner, and we all have things to repent for. That, dear readers, includes you. Maybe you said something nasty to a friend, maybe you’ve told a little lie, maybe you stole $50 billion dollars and sent the global economy into a tailspin. Whatever it is, we want to hear about it for our new Daily Sorry feature. Starting in early September and running every day until Yom Kippur, we’ll run one reader’s message of atonement. (Or more than one, if we get lots. Or maybe not every day, if we don’t.) It’s very simple: call our hotline, leave us a short message saying what you’re sorry for (don’t worry—there’s no need to give us your contact information, or even your name), and we’ll run it on the site. And you’ll feel much, much better about yourself.

Ready to say you’re sorry? Call us at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for. We can’t forgive you, but we can make repenting more fun.

After 20 Years, a New ‘Shalom Sesame’

Jewish-themed ‘Sesame Street’ is back, now with Gyllenhaal and Messing

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Shalom Sesame, the Jewish-themed Sesame Street spinoff that aired on PBS stations in the late 1980s and introduced a generation of kids to Big Bird’s porcupine friend Kippi ben Kippod and Oscar the Grouch’s Israeli cousin Moishe Oofnik, is being revived. This time, it will feature the talents of Jake Gyllenhaal, Debra Messing, Ben Stiller, and Cedric the Entertainer; the original guest-starred Mary Tyler Moore, Izthak Perlman, B.B. King, and Stiller’s dad, Jerry. For those unfamiliar with this landmark in both children’s television and Jewish cultural history, here’s a superb introduction. Or, watch some clips from the Hanukkah episode: in one, an eager little olive oil jug who survived the collapse of the Second Temple meets the potter who made him on a reunion show (“I just might runneth over!” he tells the host); in another an American time-travel tourist asks a miller from Judah Macabee’s village, “You make pretty good dough on this job?” Yuk yuk yuk.


Gyllenhaal, Applegate Keep It Kosher With Grover
[E! Online]

Madoff Swindled Muslims, Too!

But with help from a Jew

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(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Hey, guess what? Bernie Madoff didn’t just target Jews! According to a story in today’s Boston Globe, Madoff swindled Muslims, too—specifically, Sufis, adherents of a mystical form of Islam. The paper reports that Sufi groups, including the North American chapter of Sufi Order International, entrusted millions of dollars to Madoff. But how did these people find Madoff? Aye, there’s the rub: it was through a California lawyer and money manager named Richard Glantz, who practices Sufism but was, in fact, raised as a Jew. More to the point, his father, Edward, a New York accountant, was an associate of Madoff’s; he was in fact disciplined by the SEC in 1993 for raising $88 million in unregistered securities that were sent to Madoff via the accounting firm started by Ruth Madoff’s father, Saul Alpern. So, you know, never mind.

Followers of a Mystical Religion Were Taken in by Madoff Scheme [Boston Globe]

U.S. Drops Call for E. Jerusalem Settlement Freeze

Realizes Bibi can’t announce halt

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Advantage, Netanyahu. Haaretz reports today that George Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, has dropped the administration’s insistence on a permanent settlement freeze in East Jerusalem, recognizing that it is unfeasible. Although Mitchell said he won’t endorse settlement building in that area, the part of the capital considered Palestinian territory, he also said he won’t continue to demand a public announcement from Netanyahu that such building will be halted (the Israeli prime minister has offered as a compromise a nine-month freeze in construction).

This news comes just after Palestinian sources said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would meet, albeit informally, with Netanyahu at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly, and P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s announcement that the West Bank would become a “de facto state” by 2011, based on its progress on development and security.

U.S. Drops Demand for Israel Building Freeze in East Jerusalem [Haaretz]

Tablet Today

Lotion crusaders, tunes, and Teddy

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Sarah Wildman remembers how the late Ted Kennedy “took the mantle of philo-Semitism.” Liel Leibovitz reports on a women’s anti-war group that has taken on an Israeli cosmetics company that operates out of a West Bank settlement. Alexander Gelfand shares some new musical finds inspired by Passover. And we’ll keep rolling out the good stuff, here on The Scroll.

Birthright Alumni to Be Israel Advocates

In new ‘Diplomatic Fellowship’ program

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Birthright has unveiled a new initiative for alumni of the tour program who want to do advocacy work for Israel, Haaretz reports. The Israel Diplomatic Fellowship is being cosponsored by the Israeli consulate in New York. “the Foreign Ministry’s fingerprints are visible in the program’s stated goals of providing participants with ‘access to high-level Israeli officials and connecting them to young Israelis working as ambassadors for Israel,” the paper says. Birthright hasn’t previously employed participants directly in advocacy work, and indeed, one fellow in the new program told the paper that “Israel advocacy at Birthright did not work. We got images of the waving Israeli flag and 1980s music. It was hilariously bad.” Still, that didn’t stop him—or the other 90 alumni in the program—from signing up for the initiative, which offered them another freea subsidized trip to the Holy Land.

New Initiative Takes Taglit Grads to Next Advocacy Stage [Haaretz]

Daybreak: Kennedy Saved Refusenik Baby

Memories of Lodz, a blind date peace plan, and more in the news

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• A woman recalls how, when she was a desperately ill infant in the Soviet Union, Ted Kennedy saved her life by personally appealing to Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev to allow her family to emigrate to the United States. [CNN]
• The only synagogue in Latvian capital Riga will reopen this week after two years of construction. [FJC]
• Yesterday in Poland, Holocaust survivors and their families marked the 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto with “low key ceremonies.” [AFP]
• Later today, Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu will talk politics with German Chancellor Angela Merkel; he’s also visited sites significant to the Holocaust, as “a visit by an Israeli leader to Germany is never limited to current events.” [AP]
• As Israeli and Palestinian leaders inch closer to resuming peace talks, President Obama plans to bring them together in person at next month’s U.N. Assembly. [Times of London]
• Also, the United States has dropped East Jerusalem from its demand for a freeze on construction in Israeli settlements. [Haaretz]

Sundown: Digging for Trouble

Gray areas, the Golden Gate, and parodic justice

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• Perhaps angling for another round of Orthodox protests, the Israeli Antiquities Authority plans to excavate a grave that may contain the remains of a revered third-century rabbi. [JPost]
• An Orthodox rabbi who won’t perform gay marriages but who opposes California’s Proposition 8 was moved by the film Milk to “Thank God we have a tradition in which we can—and do—live with tensions that we cannot resolve.” [Jewish Journal]
• If you’re heading to San Francisco tourist trap Fisherman’s Wharf as penance for your sins, the local Hyatt is offering a special High Holiday package, with discounted rooms, apples, honey, and cake. [LAT]
• The New York Times Freakonomics blog points out that a Swedish paper’s claim that IDF soldiers harvest Palestinian organs is unlikely to be true for logistical reasons; more important, it links to an Israeli “investigative” piece on Swedish use of toe jam in making smoked salmon. [Ynet via NYT]

Remembering Teddy

Campaign aide-turned-AIPAC chief Thomas Dine remembers the 1980 presidential run

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(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

When Ted Kennedy decided in 1979 to seek the Democratic nomination for president, he recruited Thomas Dine, then a staffer on the Senate Budget Committee, to be his defense and foreign policy adviser. Kennedy lost to Jimmy Carter, of course, and Dine joined AIPAC as its executive director, a job he held until 1993. He spoke to Tablet Magazine today.

The first thing I did on the job, which I remember vividly, was to compile his record on Israel. He’d been in the Senate 19 years at that point, and it was quite a prolific record of matters concerning Israel’s standing in the region. Well, he himself didn’t realize how thick his record was, and when I showed him the document—it was Xerox paper I’d typed on and stapled together—and said, “Senator, this is what you have done,” he just sat down on the couch in his office, and held it in his hands. I can’t tell you what he said, to be honest—that’s not Kennedy, he just mumbled a few things—but it was a lovely moment, because he himself hadn’t recognized all that he’d done.

The first major speech he gave to a Jewish group as “Sen. Kennedy, candidate for the Democratic nomination,” was to the Conference of Presidents [of Major American Jewish Organizations], on January 28, 1980. We flew up on the Eastern Airlines shuttle, and we got into the cars, and I’m with him on the back seat. We crossed the Triborough Bridge, and we’re on the FDR, and the driver got very close to the curb and went over a tin can, or something, and it made a big noise. And he went off the back seat and almost hit his head on the ceiling—he thought it was a shot. And you just say to yourself, “Oh, my, it’s not easy to be a Kennedy.” But he was cool; we went to the speech, and I don’t remember what he said, but it was damn good.

He won the Massachusetts primary, and it was very cute—he called me into his office to thank me, because the Jews in Massachusetts had gone four-to-one for him. I said, “Excuse me, your name is Kennedy, you have this fabulous record, they’ve been voting for you all these years—you should have won it five- or six-to-one!”

Then Carter took his stand at the United Nations [with a vote, later disavowed, in favor of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories]. We went to New York, and the senator went to Brooklyn and said, “Hey, I’m a friend of Israel, I can prove it.” And there’s a photo of him, at an event with all these bearded guys in black hats—he was cool. This is the Sunday before the Tuesday primary in New York, and that night we went to a synagogue on the Upper West Side. There must have been 500 people in the room. Kennedy was tired—he’d been in the car, and he was getting grumpy because his back hurt. So he got out there and gave a short speech, and then he got all kinds of questions about domestic issues, because that crowd was already convinced they were going to vote for him. The question I remember was, “Who are your heroes?” He took his time, and then he said, “The teachers in the public schools.” Particularly in rough neighborhoods, he said they were his heroes. And you can imagine how many teachers there were in that audience, or how many people related to teachers, and so he was talking about community, about local needs, education, civil rights, all in one answer.

Related: Primary Time: Of Kennedy, Carter, Jews and the Money Gap [NYM/Google Books]

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