Sundown: Having Your Ham, But Not Eating It

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


• 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


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

Hasids on Bikes [Tablet]

Say You’re Sorry

And we’ll run it on the site


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


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

(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


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


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


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


• 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


• 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

(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]

Dead Sea Could Be a New Wonder

Except that humans are destroying it

The Dead Sea, photographed from the space shuttle Endeavour last month.(NASA via Getty Images)

Officials at Israel’s Ministry of Tourism are wasting no time now that the Dead Sea has been chosen as a finalist in an online contest to name seven new wonders of the natural world, to be announced in 2011. “We are very happy,” said Gura Berger, the ministry’s coordinator of efforts on behalf of the Dead Sea. “But there are still two years ahead of us and we need to encourage one billion people around the world to vote for us.” That seems doable. According to the Jerusalem Post, the contest asks for “sites of extraordinary beauty and ecological significance, which have not been created or significantly altered by humans.” That last bit is what might prove challenging for Dead Sea champions; the body of water is losing more than three feet of depth a year—not because of nature but because of human diversion of Jordan River waters, which feed the Sea, for irrigation purposes in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories, and by the extraction of minerals by companies, like Ahava, along its shores.

Berger concedes the Dead Sea is in peril, but thinks winning the contest would ultimately be a boon for tourism. Though right now replenishment, not people, is what would constitute the best kind of life support.

Dead Sea on Seven Wonders Shortlist [JPost]
Is the Dead Sea Dying? [Science Daily]

Is Jerusalem Online University a Scam?

Blogger charges it’s tricking secular students into Orthodoxy


Orthodox watchdog blog Failed Messiah dug through registration records for the new website of Jerusalem Online University, a small, semi-accredited institution that appears to be unaffiliated with any particular Jewish religious movement, and found ties to a site run by ultra-Orthodox organization Aish HaTorah. On the university’s homepage, secular-seeming boys and girls huddle together around a laptop, and courses cover nothing more theologically sophisticated than “Jewish history, the Bible, interpersonal relationships, and even Kaballah.” Shmarya Rosenberg, who runs Failed Messiah, also notes that, although the Jerusalem Online University site doesn’t mention it, Rabbi Raphael Shore, the university’s director, formerly ran Aish HaTorah’s Aish Cafe, a now-defunct online educational program. Aish Cafe offered some of the same classes Jerusalem Online University now does, and its web address now forwards browsers to Jerusalem Online University’s. What does Rosenberg conclude from all this? That Jerusalem Online University is a secular front that “hides its relationship to Aish HaTorah and to Orthodoxy in order to lure unsuspecting college students to Orthodoxy.”

Shore, for his part, told Tablet Magazine that he’s not trying to hide anything. When the “About Us” section of Jerusalem Online University’s website is completed, he said, it will explain the former affiliation with Aish Cafe. He also said that he raised funds for both Aish Cafe and Jerusalem Online University independent of Aish HaTorah. “One of the reasons we separated was we were very interested in broadening the spectrum of presenters that are in the course and broadening the potential to reach people, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox,” he said.

Exclusive: Aish HaTorah Masks Involvement Of Online Jewish “University” Meant To Lure Unwitting Students To Orthodoxy [Failed Messiah]

Wieseltier Hates Idea of Self-Hatred

Even if he once made same charge himself


In his latest New Republic column, Leon Wieseltier goes to great lengths to discredit the idea that Jews who criticize Israel are “self-hating,” an accusation that has recently been hurled at Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. He takes issue with this notion of “race treason,” (a phrase he lifts disdainfully from the Nextbook Press book The Wicked Son by David Mamet), dismissing it summarily as political semantics—“The defenders of Greater Israel have values, but the critics of Greater Israel have motives”—and comparing it mockingly to the preposterous “birther” movement on the American right: “I mean, any man who opposes Jewish settlement in the West Bank must have a foreskin.”

But while Wieseltier, who admits to having once denounced Henry Kissinger on the same grounds of betrayal he now finds noxious, describes himself as a “recovering Jewish fascist,” he still maintains his essential prickliness. He says of President Obama’s Israel policies, which, he asserts, have taken the love out of “tough love”: “I am not one of those Jews who are maddened by American ‘pressure’ on Israel, but I do not take kindly to it when it is accompanied by a bow to the Saudi king.”

Suspicions [TNR]

Abbas Willing to Talk to Netanyahu

At U.N. next month, albeit informally

Abbas addressing a Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah today.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations next month, according to unnamed Palestinian officials quoted in The Jerusalem Post. Although Abbas refuses to agree to even preliminary negotiating sessions with the current Israeli government until it ends all construction in settlements in the West Bank, the willingness to speak informally is still a big step for the Fatah leader to take, and it makes perfect sense given other statements and gestures emanating from Bethlehem. Yesterday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced plans to establish a “de facto” Palestinian state by 2011, founded on dramatically improved infrastructure, security, and economic development. This would proceed apace with Netanyahu’s so far consistent efforts to scale back the occupational presence in the West Bank by “radically reducing” the number of IDF soldiers stationed there, dismantling outposts, checkpoints and roadblocks, and weakening trade restrictions in the West Bank. Even an informal conference between the two leaders may prove fruitful: sort of a backstage negotiation over material progress, if not peace.

Palestinian Officials: ‘Abbas Willing to Meet With Netanyahu’ [JPost]
Earlier: Palestinian State by 2011, Fayyad Says

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