Diary of a Self-Hating Jew

A day in the imagined life of David Axelrod

Axelrod on Capitol Hill last week.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Did Benjamin Netanyahu call David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel “self-hating Jews” (as was reported) or not (as his aides insist)? Tablet Magazine got hold of the Obama senior adviser’s private diary from one day last week, and it suggests Bibi was (or wasn’t, maybe) right.

Woke up at 5:30. Total of three hours of sleep. Finished health care strategy memo around 2 and then spent a half hour reading Mondoweiss on the separation wall. Good stuff. Examined face through bloodshot eyes. That beak! It’s not getting any smaller. Thought the mustache would maybe minimize it, but all it does is make me look more hairy. Caught glimpse of Washington Monument out the window. Kind of reminds me of the mezuzah that hung on the door of grandma’s Lower East Side tenement. What a horror show that place was. Reeked of cabbage and B.O.

Stumbled over to WH. Oh, do I love the look of all the lissome shiksas as they head down to the Metro. Sure, they’re all scrubbed and focused now, with their iPods and their briefcases, but who knows what mischief they were up to just a few hours ago. Happy to see they finally got my nameplate on my office door. It’s only been a half-year. Probably should have changed the name when I had the chance. Back in Chicago, it worked. They like their ethnics there. Here, it’s just a liability. Even that great Jew Netanyahu de-Judaized his name back when he was fresh out of MIT. Ben Nitay. Who was he trying to kid? What if I’d been Dave Axel? Could have been anything. Could have been the front man in a rock band. Could have been a man in my own right instead of pulling the strings from the sidelines. Meeting with Conference of Presidents today. Lord help me. Hope they don’t make a big stink over the food options again. I guess under W they would ship a whole smorgasbord down from Brooklyn whenever the Jew crew came to call. I think all they’ll have in the Roosevelt room is mixed nuts. Good. Let ’em starve. Maybe I’ll just sit it out. Obama can handle them without me. Seeing the vein in my neck bulge as they go on and on about the “special relationship” might just throw him off his game. Better get that Hebrew “Obama for President” sign out of the closet. And definitely get rid of this map of greater Palestine. Health care strategy session at my place tonight. Should probably order some pizza. Have Melanie call Bella Napoli. Should probably get an assortment of pies. Obama’s so picky. You know what, screw it. Let’s just get three pepperoni.

Daybreak: Fatah Conference

And Mike Bloomberg in hot water, in the morning news


• The Palestinian group Fatah begins its conference today in Bethlehem, where it’s set to elect new leadership for the movement. [Ynet]
• Of course, it will also take time to reiterate its rejection of Israel. [AFP]
• But Hamas is preventing Fatah delegates from Gaza from attending the conference. [BBC]
• And three Arab members of the Israeli parliament will be at the conference. [Arutz Sheva]
• Back in the United States, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is under investigation for making illegal donations to Jewish charities with his office’s discretionary money. [NYT]

Sundown: Sometimes English Just Ain’t Enough

Yinglish, anti-Israel Zionism, and a badge of dishonor

Anthony Weiner at a Congressional committee meeting last week.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

• Congressman Anthony Weiner was jokingly chastised for using the Yiddish word “bupkis” in a committee meeting; a commenter on Orthodox site Vos Iz Neias thinks Weiner’s “trying to prove he’s Jewish,” and has a suggestion: “How about marrying a Jewish woman? Then you won’t have to bore Congress with Yiddish words.” [VIN]
• Matisyahu released an exclusive track to Entertainment Weekly. [EW]
• Beliefnet columnist Brad Hirschfeld takes what is essentially a joke—that the violent rioting by ultra-Orthodox groups against secular policies in Israel is “actually quite Zionist”—a bit too far: “I can not help but wonder if it isn’t also a positive sign, however slow and manifestly ugly, of the increasing integration of the Haredi community into the fabric of Israeli society.” [Beliefnet]
• Imprisoned pop music puppet-master Lou Pearlman was once honored as a “20th Century Republican Leader” by party leaders including the also at least somewhat disgraced Trent Lott; Nathan Rabin has the certificate to prove it. [AV Club]
• The NYPD has arrested a 30-year-old Bronx woman in last week’s murder of 90-year-old Holocaust survivor. [NYPost]

Death Penalty

Crises face the newly departed


The latest casualties of Jews’ oft-bemoaned failure to transmit the importance of “looking after our own” from one generation to the next: the dead. Once, according to The New York Times, American Jews, particularly in the Northeast, organized societies to oversee the care and burial of the deceased. Now the dissolution of many such groups—due, in most cases, to aging members—has led to such near-disasters as what befell Florence Marmor, who found that her Queens, New York, plot, alongside her late husband’s, had been sold out from under her (pardon the pun), by a now-deceased administrator. The responsibility for maintaining records and righting wrongs often falls to obscure government agencies, such as the Office of Miscellaneous Estates in New York. Will this problem inspire more Jews to take up the cause of ensuring the eternal security of the people, or to be glad they haven’t put their future remains in the hands of groups that may not pass the test of time?

In other crisis-of-the-dead news, Israel is running out of space for the dearly departed, leading officials to consider “high-density burials” in which bodies are “laid to rest on top of each other in underground crypts.” Perhaps they got the idea from Mrs. Marmor.

With Demise of Jewish Burial Societies, Resting Places Are in Turmoil [NYT]
Israel Faces Grave Outlook for Burial Space [Reuters]

Court Orders Palestinians Evicted

From East Jerusalem homes

A Palestinian women being evicted from her Jerusalem home on Sunday.(

Another long-running legal issue was decided in Israel on Sunday: two Palestinian families were evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem after losing a court battle over the ownership of a plot of land in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, near the Old City—a territory that’s been in dispute since the close of Six Day War in 1967. One family, now homeless, had been living in its house for 53 years, and the ruling allowed for the transfer of what eyewitnesses called “Jewish nationalists” into the properties as soon as they were vacated. According to The New York Times, “The police cordoned off the road leading to the disputed houses, stopping journalists from reaching them. Orthodox Jews were allowed through to visit a nearby site believed by Jews to be the ancient tomb of Shimon Hatzadik, or Simeon the Just, a Jewish high priest.” There’s a long and convoluted history involving the United Nations, Jordan, rent payments, forged deeds, and the Ottoman Empire; but, still, so much for settlement freezes, eh?

Israel Evicts Palestinians From Homes [NYT]

A Guss by Any Other Name

Lower East Side picklery to lose name, too


Last week brought the news that Guss’ Pickles, the stalwart Lower East side vinegared-cucumber emporium, would soon be relocating to Brooklyn. Which was bad enough. But now it gets even worse: As New York’s Daily News reported Friday, a 2007 legal settlement between Pat Fairhurst, who owns the Orchard Street store, and the father-son duo of Steve and Andrew Leibowitz, Bronx picklemakers who had purchased the rights to the name, allows Fairhurst to peddle pickles as Guss’s only at the Orchard Street location. Which means that when Guss’ Pickles moves to Brooklyn, it’ll no longer be Guss’ Pickles. “We have a following, they don’t,” Fairhurst told the News. And yet somehow Fairhurst Pickles of Flatbush doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Lawsuit Forces Famed Pickle Dealer Guss’ Pickles to Change Its Name [NYDN via Eater]
Previously: Guss’ Pickles Decamps for Brooklyn

No Arrests in Tel Aviv Gay Center Attack

Was it homophobia?


Two days after the deadly attack at a Tel Aviv gay and lesbian center, in which a gunman killed two young people and wounded several more, police haven’t made any arrests, but Haaretz reports that they have a lead that suggests a personal feud, rather than anti-gay animus, was behind the violence. Still, an editorial in that newspaper argues that this is not an isolated incident: “incitement” against gays, particularly from ultra-Orthodox individuals, spikes every year around June’s gay pride parades. Haaretz also reports that the center where the shooting took place is frequented largely by Russian-speaking teenagers from families hostile to their sexuality; at least one of those wounded in the attack wasn’t out to his family until he was rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile, blogger Pierre Tristam notes that Israeli officials were quick to reassure the public that the attack was not an act of terror—what he calls a “perverse” attempt to downgrade the status of violence perpetrated by Israelis and against gays. “What, precisely, is the difference between terrorism and a hate crime?” he asks. But, according to the Los Angeles Times, some Israelis did draw a connection between the shooting and terrorist attacks. “Just like we do not stop riding the bus after a suicide bombing,” the center’s director told the paper, “we will continue meeting and holding our activities.”

Police: We Have Lead in Gay-Lesbian Center Killings [Haaretz]
Threatening Incitement [Haaretz]
Isn’t It Terrorism When Victims Are Gay? []
Israeli Gays Left Feeling Vulnerable [LAT]

An Indicted Foreign Minister

Would be great news for Bibi

Lieberman speaking at the Knesset today.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Image)

Israel’s National Fraud Squad determined Sunday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should be indicted for a host of crimes, including, as Haaretz reports today, “money laundering, accepting bribes, obstruction of justice and harassing a witness.” After an investigation that lasted about a decade, the fraud squad concluded that Lieberman profited to the tune of 10 million shekels, about $260,000, and he now says that he’ll resign his cabinet post if Israel’s attorney general indicts him.

The foreign ministry was characteristically given to moderates under previous Likud prime minister, but this time it went to an ultra-conservative nationalist because of his party Yisrael Beiteinu’s remarkable showing in last year’s elections. According to many observers of his tenuous right-wing coalition, Netanyahu has been hoping that Lieberman’s legal troubles would do him in, thus allowing the prime minister to avoid firing a foreign minister internationally recognized as an embarrassment for Israel. (Even Nicolas Sarkozy, bane of the banlieue “scum” and the Islamic headscarf, publicly called for the ouster of a man.) An indictment, then, would be perhaps the best thing that’s happened to Benjamin Netanyahu so far in his administration.

Lieberman: If I’m Indicted for Corruption I Will Resign [Haaretz]

A Bad Jewish Poetry Contest

And our ode to soup

(WordRidden’s Flickr)

[Ed. note: Tablet Magazine previously noted’s forthcoming Bad Poetry Day competition, but temporary Scroller Marc Tracy was unaware and composed this ode (sonnet? whatever) to mark the occasion.] In honor of Bad Poetry Day (August 18—what, you didn’t have it on your calendar?), is sponsoring a bad Jewish poetry competition. You should submit your entries to by August 11. While it just wouldn’t be fair for us to compete—we are professionals, after all—we thought we’d inspire you to brilliant heights of awful Jewish verse with a quick sonnet. Please forgive us if we screw up our iambs.

Shall I compare thee to a matzoh ball?
Thou art more soft and more delicious.
My nose is ever-set to heed your call,
Your olfaction could n’er prove malicious.
Tho’ not the type apt to disintegrate,
Blown to bits by a spoon’s first tender touch,
Thou’rt also not the type who’s strength’s so great
A blowtorch is requir’d—which is a little much.
Thy substance intermingles perfectly
With chicken broth that does thyself surround,
Thy supple taste, it doth pair marv’lously,
With the soup’s celery, just plucked up from the ground.
So long as I can’t eat bread for one week,
So long your respite and pleasure shall I seek.

Bad Poetry Contest [MyJewishLearning]

On Tablet Today

Commentary, classics, and a Grand address


On Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, Vox Tablet, writer Constance Rosenblum talks to Sara Ivry about the Grand Concourse, a 100-year-old Bronx thoroughfare with significance to Jewish life. Books columnist Josh Lambert pages through volumes on the Warsaw Ghetto, Rashi, and teen novels. Plus, stay tuned for much more throughout the day, here on The Scroll.

Daybreak: Anger After Tel Aviv Shooting

Hate, corruption, and history


• A gunman opened fire on a Tel Aviv gay community center on Saturday night, killing two and wounding at least five others; demonstrations against the hate crime have erupted throughout the nation. [JTA]
• Israeli police are pushing for the indictment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of fraud and corruption. [WPost]
• Lieberman says he will resign if he’s indicted. [Haaretz]
• America’s oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island, has opened a visitor center celebrating its over 250 years of history. [AP]

Sundown: Obama Honoree Under Fire

Plus, Hamas shows two faces


• Some, including President George W. Bush’s Jewish Liason, are upset that President Obama is giving Mary Robinson a Presidential Medal of Freedom. A one-time president of Ireland, Robinson has been criticized for permitting the 2001 anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa to be dominated by anti-Semitism. [JTA]
• Hamas’s leader said his group would sit down to negotiations with Israel pending a settlement freeze and the lifting of the Gaza blockade, and that a state based on the 1967 Green Line could be on the table. [Wall Street Journal]
• However, Hamas also threatened to boycott talks with Fatah unless the rival Palestinian faction releases prisoners currently being held in the West Bank. [Haaretz]
• Orthodox rabbinate-certified “kosher” cellphones—which cannot access the Internet, so that children are not privy to inappropriate material—are all the rage in Britain, with even non-Jewish parents wanting them. [Vos Iz Neias]

Uncle Bloomberg Wants YOU

Mayor seeks campaign workers. Yiddish preferred.

Bloomberg for Mayor(Bloomberg talks to a prized constituent)

In his quest to secure a third term as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg has apparently decided that he requires more than his Jewish background to woo the city’s not-insignificant bloc of Yiddish- and Hebrew-speaking voters. To that end, and perhaps also to do his small part to fight the recession, Bloomberg is hiring staffers to work the field in Brooklyn and Queens. For the job, which pays by the hour, Yiddish or Hebrew is preferred; you ought to be “well-spoken, persuasive, confident, and hardworking”; and you’re ideally available to work “afternoons and evenings (excluding Fridays and Saturdays) through November 3rd.” It’s good to know that even for hard-working politickers, Shabbat can still be a day of rest.

Bloomberg Campaign Seeks ‘Persuasive’ Hebrew/Yiddish Speakers [The Daily Politics]

Jewish Crooks

Our editor ponders Madoff, Dwek, and other shandes


New York has posted an article from next week’s issue by Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief, Alana Newhouse. The subject is Bernard Madoff and New Jersey’s Syrian-Jewish money-laundering ring, and specifically how Jews reconcile the existence of such prominent Jewish wrongdoers with the Tribe’s penchant for believing themselves to be “chosen.” According to Alana, the paradox comes down to the double-edged sword of Jewish exceptionalism. “Maybe we can’t have Philip Roth and Leonard Bernstein without Bernie Madoff and the informant behind the Jersey busts, Solomon Dwek,” she writes. While specific historical factors planted the seeds for Jews’ undeniable political, scientific, and cultural success, “those very same factors might have predisposed them to distinction in less-savory domains,” she adds.

But, as they say, read the whole thing. Please check out our coverage of the Dwek fiasco as well. For a people who claim to be ashamed of such characters, we sure do talk about them a lot.

Bad for the Jews? [New York]
Previously: Crisis of Faith
About Us: Alana Newhouse

Self-Loving Emanuel No ‘Self-Hating Jew’

Bibi denies earlier remark; profile proves it wrong

Rahm Emanuel in full macher mode(Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

The Benjamin Netanyahu-Rahm Emanuel “self-hating Jews” kerfuffle continued apace this week. To recap: earlier this month, according to Haaretz, Netanyahu called Emanuel, President Obama’s chief-of-staff, and David Axelrod, Obama’s top political adviser, “self-hating Jews.” Then, earlier this week, a spokesperson for Bibi denied that his boss said it. And today Haaretz runs a massive profile of Emanuel that quotes Emanuel’s father—a one-time member of the Irgun, the militant Zionist group of Mandatory Palestine—and others on the subject of just how ridiculous the notion of “Rahm Emanuel, self-hating Jew” is. “I’m simply surprised that in Israel they jump down his throat,” Benjamin Emanuel tells the newspaper of his son. “I love the country, my children are Zionists, they came to Israel every year, and I don’t know why they’re attacking Rahm. I support Netanyahu.”

The lengthy piece mostly focuses on the crazed, brilliant, mad, pleased-with-himself Emanuel rather than this contretemps specifically, and it contains little that will be news to those of us who have read the umpteen profiles of Emanuel that have showed up in the American press. But appearing in Israel, in the same newspaper that originally broke the alleged “self-hating Jews” remark, the article could repudiate not only Netanyahu’s particular characterization of Emanuel but perhaps also Netanyahu’s larger attempt to discredit the U.S.’s calls for a more moderate approach to the Palestinian question.

Rahm Emanuel: Self-Hating Jew or Peace-Broker? [Haaretz]
Spokesman Denies Bibi’s “Self-Hating Jews” Remark [JTA]
Previously: D.C.’s ‘Self-Hating Jews’

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