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Israel Tries to Gather Allies

To help shake off the Goldstone Report

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Following the international fallout of the Goldstone Report—a UN-commissioned study on the Israeli incursion in Gaza last winter headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone that concluded the IDF was guilty of war crimes—Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has reached out to the Obama administration as an act of first-response damage control. According to Haaretz, Israel is seeking the support of the U.S., Russia, and other nations still mired in counterterrorism wars abroad. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has also assembled a team of attorneys to combat possible war crimes indictments by the International Criminal Court. The attempt by the Jewish State to shore up as many moral and legal bolsters as possible has already taken the form of denouncing the Goldstone Report as the equivalent of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which stated that Zionism was a racist ideology. The only good news coming out of Jerusalem, it seems, is mutual congratulations by Israeli officials for refusing to cooperate with the Goldstone investigators because of the perceived inevitable bias in any UN-prompted human rights analysis. A joint panel of the Israeli Justice Ministry, IDF, and Foreign Ministry has instructed officers who fought in Gaza not to travel abroad for fear of possible subpoenas or arrests. As for the actual allegations raised by the Goldstone Report, Israel has not responded.

Israel seeks Obama backing on Gaza probe [Haaretz]

Today’s Sorry

An apology to mom

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The March of Atonement continues. Each day until Yom Kippur, Tablet Magazine is offering a Daily Sorry, a series of apologies called into our Sorry Hotline. Today, it’s a somber sorry, from a daughter to her mother.

Want to join the ranks of the atoners? It’s not too late. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

Today on Tablet

The price of admission, an ancient prayer book, a new take on a classic, and the sexy goy

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Jeannie Rosenfeld takes a look at the “exceptional” 1331 Nuremberg Mahzor, now on public display for the first time at the Israel Museum. Liel Leibovitz procures an unusual brisket recipe from a star chef. Marissa Brostoff investigates the reactions of synagogues to their congregants’ financial struggles during the High Holidays. Marjorie Ingall posits that the late Patrick Swayze, in his role as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, represented a dying breed of irresistible non-Jewish men. And more to come throughout the day here on The Scroll.

A Prayer for the Trying

Zev Chafets attempts to discover the way to pray

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The New York Times Magazine may have selected the perfect correspondent to investigate the “right way to pray” for a Rosh Hashana-weekend feature article now available on the paper’s website. Writer Zev Chafets, who starts by visiting the mega-church Brooklyn Tabernacle, is so alienated from prayer that he can’t even bring himself to read a prayer card submitted by a couple “struggling through financial problems” aloud, and is so averse to meditative silence that he sleeps with the TV on.

After a pleasant visit to a “spiritual director” (like a life coach for the soul), Chafets went to Marc Gellman, a Reform rabbi “of liberal theological leanings.” Although Gellman loses some credibility in our book for saying “[o]ur people don’t get emotional in public,” he makes an astute statement on the relative paucity of actual prayer at the average suburban synagogue: “People come to temple to identify with other Jews, or socialize. The writer Harry Golden once asked his father, who was an atheist, why he went to services every Saturday. The old man told him, ‘My friend Garfinkle goes to talk to God, and I go to talk to Garfinkle.’ There’s a lot of that.” While Gellman shies away from innovation like gay congregation Sha’ar Zahav’s prayer sanctifying a one-night stand, he does take a light-hearted stance in encouraging people to worship: “When you come right down to it, there are only four basic prayers. Gimme! Thanks! Oops! and Wow!”

Chafets also chats with a Chabad rabbi who runs an online advice column and “speaks in a prayer vocabulary short on traditional Yiddish and long on New Age maxims of self-improvement, the nature worship of the New England Transcendentalists and Asian meditation.” But in the end, attending an Easter service, it’s The Children who move Chafets with their prayer—“They didn’t pray to de-center their egos or find transcendence or to set off on a lifelong therapeutic spiritual journey”—and lead him to settle on the purest of Gellman’s four prayers, the one perhaps most appealing to a liberal, agnostic soul: “Straight-up Gimme! on behalf of people who really need the help.”

The Right Way to Pray? [NYTM]

Daybreak: One Building, Two Religions

‘Jewish Jordan’ retires, Barak brags, and more in the news

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• In “a story that shatters the stereotype,” the AP says, a Reform synagogue in Virginia has opened its doors to a Muslim congregation short on space during Ramadan, becoming an after-hours mosque. [AP]
• Basketball player Tamir Goodman, known as “the Jewish Jordan,” is retiring at 27 after a disappointing career. Maybe he’ll move on to baseball? [AP]
• Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak claims to be unintimidated by Iran. [Reuters]
• In related news, Barak also made it clear that Israel, widely believed to possess a substantial nuclear arsenal, is not ready to consider region-wide disarmament. [AP]

Sundown: Scissor Sister

No blood libel from Moore, Aussie Heebsters, and a High Holi-dog

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• Following a shortage of certified circumcision practitioners, and in a time of controversy about the procedure, Dr. Karen Jaffe has become the first female mohel, or mohelet, in the state of Ohio. [Cleveland.com]
• Jews down under can now enjoy their own recently launched edition of Heeb magazine, and the “No shrimp on this barbie” t-shirts that will inevitably follow. [JTA]
• The verdict is in: Israelis are gaga for Inglourious Basterds. [Haaretz]
• Check out this cute video of a dog responding to the shofar with his own tekiah gedolah; one commenter suggests that “with a little ingenuity,” the ram’s horn “can be made into marijuana smoking device.” [AV Club]
• No need to fear a Michael Moore exposé on Jewish Christ-killers; the director says the nuns at his Catholic school “wanted to make it clear that the Jews had nothing to do with putting Jesus up on the cross.” [NYT]

Where Islamism Meets Authoritarian Socialism

At anti-Semitism, of course

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Wolf-Dieter Vogel has a strongly argued essay up at the online magazine Qantara about the nexus between Islamism and the authoritarian left, best embodied by Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. He cites examples in which the Latin American caudillo has expressed solidarity with the Iranian regime—most recently, Chavez categorized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election as “very important for the peoples who are fighting for a better world.” Vogel sees the sort of kitsch socialism now en vogue in the hemisphere as very amenable to conspiracy theories:

“[F]or them it is about the ‘good’ oppressed peoples’ fight against their enemies, the ‘outsiders’, who attack ‘their’ culture, however that may be defined; the ‘good people’ who are lied to and cheated by propaganda or other influences from ‘outside’.

And since one of the oldest conspiracy theories on record is that the Jews control the world, Vogel writes, it makes perfect sense that Chavez and his allies (like Nicaraguan head of state Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales) would align themselves with Holocaust deniers, theocrats, and guerilla proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah.

False Friends [Qantara]
Related: United By Hate [Boston Review]

Where the ‘Wild Things’ Come From

Brooklyn Jews, says ‘Paste’

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In anticipation of next month’s film version of Where the Wild Things Are, a rather overwrought essay in Paste Magazine traces the trajectory of the children’s classic from Maurice Sendak’s anxious childhood, though his famous book, to the book’s adaptation by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. And it finds profounndly Jewish roots to the classic children’s story. “The little Jewish boy, the yingl, lies nervously awake in the dark,” Charles McNair writes. “It’s September 1939. He’s barely 11.” In McNair’s account, Sendak is a sickly child who “only watches the stickball games in the Brooklyn streets” and who’s “already gay, hardwired, the secret perhaps not even known to him yet, but always there, a slow fuse burning toward puberty. School is a daily trip to gehenem, to hell.” Relief comes in the Jewish folktales and stories from the Torah that Sendak’s father tells him, and which he illustrates. Those stories later inform Wild Things, in which the Things in question “uncannily resemble those uncles and aunts and grans that stomp through the crowded house on holidays”; Max, meanwhile has “a pure id, as deep and famished as Philip Roth’s.” This is all a little much, but here’s hoping that McNair is right about one thing: if the movie manages to please both hipster and family audiences, it could be “a new E.T., blurring the line between child and adult entertainment.”

The Call of the Wild Things [Paste Magazine]

An Old-Time New Year in N.H.

Historical reenactors make a 1919 Rosh Hashanah

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Paster as Shapiro, a 1919 New Hampshire Jew, with her vegetables.(NYTimes.com)

Most of us see the world of historical reenactment—particularly in New England—as a fairly Jew-free zone; somehow we just don’t see our ancestors as having churned butter, at least not on these shores. But in New Hampshire, a “living museum” called Strawbery Banke celebrates the real heritage of its hometown, Puddle Dock, which had a sizable Russian-Jewish immigrant population in the early 20th century. Kosher cook Joan Nathan visited in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and found Barbara Ann Paster—in her role as Yiddish-speaking housewife Shiva Shapiro, a real woman who lived at the time—making honey cakes, stuffed cabbage, and kosher chicken on a coal stove.

Shapiro’s meal and preparation are as historically accurate as possible to the year she’s living in, 1919, which means a menu based on local ingredients supplemented with things like kale and parsnips, grown by immigrants who smuggled seeds into the country. Surprisingly, the meat wasn’t a problem, as the town boasted, Paster says, “two kosher butchers with delivery: Jacob Segal in a horse and buggy and Harry Liberson, who came here from an advertisement looking for a butcher in The Jewish Messenger out of New York and has stayed for 65 years.”

Shapiro’s great-niece Elaine Krasker, 82, a former Democratic state legislator, has donated most of her forebears’ property to the museum, but she also kept a few things: “I put the scrub board up on the wall in my laundry room,” she said, “to remind me how hard life was … and how much easier it is today.” If you want to be reminded of the same, now you know where to go. Or, of course, you can just count your blessing on the way to Whole Foods.

Rosh Hashana, Circa 1919 [NYT]

Today’s Sorry

Swayze, we hardly knew ye

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Been ungrateful to your parents? Feeling guilty about all those plastic Poland Spring bottles? Well, change your ways—but first say you’re sorry. Each day until Yom Kippur, Tablet Magazine is offering a Daily Sorry. Today, we hear from a man who realized he didn’t fully appreciate a certain dirtily dancing actor until it was too late.

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.

Jane Fonda Is Sorry

For signing on to Tel Aviv protest without due diligence

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Fonda at a tribute to Warren Beatty last year.(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

After two weeks of taking flak for signing the controversial letter protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to honor Tel Aviv with a special City to City program, Jane Fonda now says she screwed up—not so much by supporting a half-baked boycott, but by signing something “without reading it carefully enough.” In a column on the Huffington Post, she wrote that “some of the words in the protest letter did not come from my heart,” particularly the ones that were “unnecessarily inflammatory,” like the ones depicting Tel Aviv as a city “built on destroyed Palestinian villages.”

That’s fine, we suppose, but we’re puzzled that it took so long before Fonda got around to re-reading the document that has caused her so much grief. (Maybe it was part of the lesson Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, of the Chai Center, apparently gave her on teshuva.) But never mind, she managed to disengage from the protest just in time to miss yesterday’s press conference, at which Canadian filmmaker John Greyson—who pulled his work from the Toronto festival altogether—reiterated their complaint that the Tel Aviv celebration was just propaganda for Israel that papered over the harsh realities of the Palestinian conflict. Meanwhile, Jewish groups ran ads in the Los Angeles Times and the Toronto Star that read, “Anyone who has actually seen recent Israeli cinema, movies that are political and personal, comic and tragic, often critical, knows they are in no way a propaganda arm for any government policy.” We’re assuming the signatories—who included Jerry Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Natalie Portman—read it thoroughly before they signed.

Expanding the Narrative [HuffPo]
Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen and Natalie Portman Slam Toronto Film Festival Protest
[Haaretz]
Earlier:
Toronto Film Fest to Honor Tel Aviv, Controversially

Tablet Today

The theater of war, and the circle of life

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Alison Buckholtz reflects on the fact that her husband will spend the High Holidays deployed in Iraq. Daniel Gross looks at the economic crisis through the lens of a Jewish calendar cycle. Allison Hoffman compares the U.N.’s notes on the war in Gaza with Israel’s own. Marissa Brostoff examines a new play about a Jewish plot to poison Germany’s water supply after WWII. And, of course, this blog, The Scroll, will continue to inform and entertain all day long.

Israel Could Become Energy Independent

Thanks to natural-gas deposits near Haifa

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(iStockphoto)

Israel could soon be ready to stop importing fuel, as energy companies there increase estimates of the size of a natural gas reserve on the Mediterranean coast near Haifa. Business Week is reporting that the reserve, originally discovered in January, holds a much larger store of natural fuel than originally thought, and the country can expect to begin using gas from this reserve in two years. Traditionally energy-poor, Israel will have paid $5 billion for fuel imports this year alone. Experts say it now looks to have enough fuel to sustain it for at least 20 years, while it undertakes further exploration in the region.

Israel Moves Toward Energy Independence [Business Week]

Daybreak: Is an Attack on Iran Inevitable?

Tarantino in Israel, U.N. bias, and more in the news

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• The International Institute for Strategic Studies has said that Israel will definitely attack a nuclear-armed Iran. [Times of London]
• In which case, would President Obama be to blame? [WSJ]
• Director Quentin Tarantino, on a visit to Israel, is eager to see how a Jewish audience there will react to Inglourious Basterds. [AP]
• A spokesman for Israel says that the U.N. report calling for an independent investigation into his nation’s alleged war crimes in Gaza “was conceived in sin and is the product of a union between propaganda and bias.” [AP]

Sundown: Caught Red-Butted

Caged wisdom, fear of prayer, and a specious search

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• Forget the scarlet letter, some ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel are hoping to brand some transgressors with a scarlet rear end, via raspberry jam smeared on benches to keep naughty boys and girls from hanging out in their neighborhood on the Sabbath. [Ynet]
• Jewish life keeps on going for Jewsin the slammer—some inmates even become closer to their faith, likeGeorge Bluth on Arrested Development (oh wait, that wasn’t actually his faith…), while others celebrate milestones, hopefully not ala Tuvia Stern. [JTA]
• In a post suggesting the hit AMC show should actually be called Mad Mensch (ahem, it would actually be Mad Mensches), The New York Times points out that a reference to “a nosh” on this week’s episode hints at the fact that one character now works at “one of the few mainstream advertising agencies that did not discriminate against people of the Jewish faith.” [NYT]
• A new group dedicated to fighting the “Islamization” of the United States plans to publicly launch on the same day as an Islamic prayer rally in Washington, D.C., which the group says represents a “soft jihad.” [Arutz 7]
• Two Belgian researchers claim to have tracked down distant relatives of Hitler living in New York, using DNA from napkins and cigarette butts; an archivist echoes our sentiment toward the sleuths: “I don’t see what these men are trying to prove or achieve.” [Daily Express]

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