On Tablet Today

A relevant voice on Sotomayor, a choreographer thinks outside the box, and a measles outbreak


A.J. Goldmann tells of a new abstract dance piece being performed at a unlikely location—Berlin’s Neue Synagogue. Tablet Magazine columnist Seth Lipsky wants to hear what Lani Guinier, President Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, would have to say about Judge Sonia Sotomayor. And Allison Hoffman investigates the role of anti-immunization propaganda in a measles outbreak in one ultra-Orthodox community. Plus, stay tuned for more on The Scroll!

Mahmoud Couldn’t Even Hurt a Fly

Not for want of trying


Here’s yet one more reason President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really ought to be more receptive to Barack Obama’s offer of bilateral conversation: as it turns out, the Iranian president could really use his U.S. counterpart’s advice on how to successfully swat and a kill interfering insects. Obama, as you’ll recall, displayed another of his superhero skills last month when he suavely and unflinchingly took out a winged irritant interrupting his conversation with a CNBC reporter. The beleaguered Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, was confronted by an enormous bug—an airborne cow, nearly—during a recent speech on Iranian state TV, and he couldn’t effectively get rid of the damned thing. (No doubt Mir Hossein Mousavi would have done better. Or so we’ll keep telling ourselves.)

Check out the Jerusalem Post’s video comparison, chilling titled “Flying Insects vs. World Leaders,” for an object lesson in the insecticidal advantages of democracy over theocracy.

Flying Insects vs. World Leaders [JPost]

Jon Stewart Is a Prophet

Suggests interviewer, despite comic’s demurral

Stewart at the Mark Twain Prize ceremony in November, 2008.(Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Jon Stewart is like a Hebrew prophet, the Reverend Jim Wallis suggests in interviewing the Daily Show star for Sojourners Magazine. Wallis cites Stewart’s combination of humor and truth-telling to make a point (a tactic also used by “Borscht Belt social directors,” Stewart points out), and he likens Stewart’s evisceration of CNBC’s Jim Cramer to the biblical parable of Jesus overturning the tables of the “money changers.” Stewart, of course, rejects the analogy. (Jesus “only had to do one show,” he protests. “We have to do four a week!”)

But might some of Stewart’s other Daily Show antics reflect parables from the Hebrew Bible? Herewith, three examples to boost Wallis’ case.

Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth
In response to guest Will Ferrel’s spontaneous presenting of his teeth for an extreme closeup, Stewart quickly rises and offers his own chompers for inspection, luckily stopping just short of demonstrating the biblical homily’s lesser known third line, “a testicle for a testicle.”

The Tower of Babel
Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones attends a speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without a translator, leading him to conclude incorrectly (one hopes) that the Iranian president was simply stating and restating that he hates Jews.

Jonah and the Whale
And if the signs aren’t clear enough at this point, go back to 2005, when a whale swam up the Delaware River to Trenton, New Jersey, the capital of Stewart’s home state. Jon writes it off as the creature looking for a good time via “champale and condoms,” but we know better: it was waiting for the inevitable moment when Stewart would flee to the ocean, ala Jonah, to avoid his mammoth prophetic responsibilities.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Intro – Party Whale
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Economic Crisis

Daybreak: Is Hillary Losing the Jews?

Debunking myths, subway slander, and more from the news


• A Fox News columnist accuses President Obama of sabotaging his former rival, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by assigning her to “chastise Israel”: “If she continues as the heavy in this new relationship with Israel, Hillary Clinton can kiss goodbye to any future ambitions that rely on her raising money in the Jewish community—or that is, almost any ambitions at all.” [Fox]
The New York Times finds fault with Dennis Ross and David Makovsky’s new book Myths, Illusions, and Peace, which “attempts to debunk the notion that resolving the Palestinian question could pay dramatic dividends elsewhere.” The paper also has an excerpt. [NYT]
• Obama insists that neither he nor Vice President Joe Biden has given Israel the OK to attack Iran. [CNN]
• The hullabaloo over a woman who allegedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs at a Hasidic NYPD officer at a subway station may get her fired, or it may get the New York Post in trouble for its original story. [Gothamist]
• JTA pays tribute to Gary Tobin, a Jewish demographer who spoke up for Jews of color and converts. Tobin died Monday. [JTA]

Sundown: Foxholes and Kid Lit

Strange places for atheists, the plight of prisoners, and baseball takes a stand


•A game show in Turkey called Penitents Compete pits religious leaders from the world’s major faiths against each other in the battle for the soul of a nonbeliever. The atheists are examined by a panel of theologians to prove their sincerity—presumably based on how well they know their Hitchens. [CNN]
•One atheist who has yet to be won over was relegated to reading All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten at his niece’s bat mitzvah. [Examiner]
•Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak swears that kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is A-OK. [JTA]
•Former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu has declared it preferable for IDF soldiers to go to jail rather than listen to a woman sing at an army event. Perhaps he has been reading too much American news and has the wrong idea about what prison’s like. [Arutz Sheva]
•A Jewish blogger says that although he’s “about as far from joining the Anti-Defamation League as you will find,” he’s glad the Atlantic Coast Conference has moved its baseball tournament from South Carolina after the state refused to remove a Confederate flag. [East Coast Bias]

Bernie Madoff, Bad for More Jews

Original investors were Ruth’s parents’ friends, says New York

Madoff arriving at court in March.(Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

Things aren’t easy for Ruth Madoff, according to a profile in this week’s New York magazine. Her friends seem to agree that she didn’t know about her husband’s scam, her kids don’t speak to her, she gets lousy PR advice, she’s shunned by New York society, and the man to whom she’s been devoted since high school will spend the rest of his life behind bars. But, even worse, it turns out Bernie didn’t just fleece Yeshiva University and Elie Wiesel; he fleeced all of Ruth’s mishpucha, too. Ruthie Alpern and Bernie Madoff of Littleton, Queens, married in 1959, writer Sheelah Kolhatkar reports:

From then on, the Alpern and Madoff families, and business interests, became intertwined. Bernie graduated from Hofstra in 1960 and was casting about for moneymaking opportunities. Ruth’s father, a certified public accountant whose firm, Alpern & Heller, had been in business since 1948, provided the umbrella for Bernie to launch his market-making operation, buying and selling securities for other companies. Bernie quietly began an investment fund on the side, and two of Saul Alpern’s employees—the accountants Frank Avellino and Michael Bienes—started to work for him, funneling investors who wanted to get in on what were known even back then as Bernie’s guaranteed returns of 13.5 to 20 percent a year.

His earliest investors were friends of Ruth’s parents, retired teachers, accountants, and lawyers who’d sold their houses in Queens, moved down south, and had some extra money to put away. Many of them spent their summers in the bungalow colonies of the Catskills in upstate New York. “My hotel catered to retired people from Florida, my parents’ friends,” says Cynthia Arenson, a classmate of Ruth’s who ran the Sunny Oaks resort near Woodridge and whose parents were best friends with Ruth’s parents. “Thirty percent of my hotel invested in Bernie Madoff.”

Which probably means, if nothing else, that you can get a good rate at Sunny Hill this summer.

Poor Ruth [New York]

Will Israel Bomb Iran?

All signs point to yes


In this week’s Weekly Standard, Peter Berkowitz attempts to answer an often-unasked question about an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program: what would such a strike look like? Berkowitz spoke to high-ranking Israeli policy analysts, and he reports that it’s still undecided whether an attack would be carried out by Israeli Air Force bombers or land-based Jericho missiles. But in either case, he says, the targets would almost certainly be Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the Esfahan nuclear research center and uranium conversion facility, and the Arak heavy water plant and future plutonium production reactors—what are termed the “three critical nodes in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.” And in either case there is no guarantee of success.

Berkowitz also sketches possible regional consequences of a preemptive strike. Iran could order Hezbollah to attack Israel. It could encourage independent terrorist groups to go after synagogues or other Jewish sites in Europe. It might disrupt Persian Gulf shipping lines. And it could cause further chaos among Shiites in Iraq. He rejects the notion that the recent Iranian elections and their brutal aftermath might affect Israel’s calculus: Could the recent spectacle of brave Iranian dissidents taking on the Khamenei regime actually embolden an Israeli effort to forestall an atomic theocracy?

It’s been an interesting recent news cycle for these what-ifs. Vice President Joe Biden told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that the United States “cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do,” a comment many interpreted to be a green-light to Israeli preemption. And although today’s Jerusalem Post leads with a story explaining that President Barack Obama in no way supports or condones an attack, that’s a minor footnote compared to what Eli Lake at the Washington Times has uncovered: that Netanyahu hasn’t even asked the president’s permission.

Israel would ideally like Washington’s consent to attack because it would like access to Iraqi airspace, which affords the fastest flight-path to Iran and which the U.S. still controls. But its bombers can also reach their targets via less direct routes, like over Saudi Arabia, which the London Times reported last week has told Israeli officials it wouldn’t object to flyovers. Remember that George W. Bush nixed Ehud Barak’s plan to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites in 2008. If Netanyahu never asks permission, Obama can never say no.

Bibi’s Choices [Weekly Standard]
Israel Declines to Ask U.S. to OK Iran Attack [Washington Times]
Saudis Give Nod to Israeli Raid on Iran [London Times

George Washington’s Mitzvah

When to stand up, according to Washington, Obama, and the Talmud


David Brooks continues his Barack Obama torch-carrying in today’s New York Times, likening the president’s dignified ways with those of George Washington, who strictly followed 101 rules of civility. One of them—“if any one come to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up”—caught our eye, as it’s coincidentally also the subject of assiduous pontification in the Yiddish-news website Vos Iz Neais?.

It turns out there’s a mitzvah derived from Leviticus 19:32 that states that a person should rise when a man—specifically with grey hair—enters a room. Later rabbinical parsing tried to determine at what age a person is considered hoary enough to stand for (60 or 70); whether you rise when an elderly woman approaches (some say only if her husband is a Torah scholar—don’t sweat it for merely a doctor’s wife); and if you’re exempt from standing if so doing runs you the risk of losing money, on a subway, for instance, where someone could swipe your seat if you get out of it for only a second. If that last bit seems a little crass, don’t worry: there are further caveats to that exception (for one, it’d constitute “a chillul Hashem,” or desecration of God). We have no doubt someone as dignified as Barack Obama would execute that double-reverse caveat to the caveat and risk forfeiting the $2.25 to show respect for a kindly grandmother. And when he does, you-know-who will write all about it.

In Search of Dignity [NYT]
At What Age Is The Mitzvah Of ‘Mipnei Saivah Takum’ [Vos Iz Neais?]

Blacks are Cursed, Obama Is Evil

Say Russian-language Israeli media, while denying racism


Russian-language media in Israel has been abuzz with racist chatter about Barack Obama in response to the president’s Russia trip, Haaretz reports today. Though Russian-speaking Israelis tend to be a secular crowd, the community’s media personalities have been quoting a lot of Bible: specifically, the part in Genesis where God punishes Noah’s son Ham by turning his skin black and condemning him and his descendants to slavery, in conjunction with a verse in Proverbs where “a slave who becomes king” heralds evil. “We aren’t racists, we simply hate blacks,” the former editor of Vesty, the Russian paper published by Yediot Ahronot, told Haaretz.

Of course.

Why don’t Russian-speaking Jews trust Obama? [Haaretz]

The Jackson 5, in Yiddish

“Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” on Carol Burnett


As Michael Jackson’s media-spectacle memorial service gets started in Los Angeles, it’s worth adding our own tribute. Long before the King of Pop married a Jewish woman or partied with the media-friendly likes of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, he and his brothers performed a music-through-the-years medley on a 1975 broadcast of Carol Burnett’s variety show. One selection: “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” the Andrews Sisters’ Yiddish hit (and a song popularized after the lyricist Sammy Cahn heard a pair of black performers named Johnnie and George sing it at the Apollo Theater). Michael’s introduction is at the 2:50 mark. And, of course, yisgadal v’yiskadash

Jackson 5 Salute to Vocal Groups [YouTube]

New UJC Chief

Brings fundraising experience, clipboard, and whistle


United Jewish Communities, the money-hemorrhaging umbrella organization for the North American Jewish federation system, announced yesterday that its new president and CEO will be Jerry Silverman, who since 2004 has headed the small but scrappy Foundation for Jewish Camp, a non-profit dedicated to bolstering the fortunes of North America’s Jewish summer overnight camps. In a mark of his innovative fund-raising style, Silverman announced an immediate color war between the Jewish federations of Detroit and Chicago.

UJC Taps Silverman as New Executive [JTA]

Today on Tablet

Holocaust correspondence, a critic’s troubled past, Leonard Michaels, and the dating scene


Tablet Magazine’s senior writer Allison Hoffman traces the fascinating path of a coded Holocaust letter to the descendants of its writer. Hadara Graubart interviews critic Nathan Rabin on his new memoir, a chronicle of growing up in the Chicago Jewish Children’s Bureau. Adam Kirsch delves into the essays of Leonard Michaels. And Jordana Horn divulges her experiences reentering the dating world after a divorce. Plus, of course, updates to The Scroll, right here all day.

Daybreak: No Settlement Freeze, But No Growth

McKinney released, trouble at Harvard, and more in the news


• Although Israel has still not agreed to a freeze in settlement growth, there has been no new construction approved since Netanyahu took office. [JTA]
• An Israeli official told The Washington Times that P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu has not broached the topic of a possible attack on Iran with the Obama administration because he suspects the U.S. would not be on board. On Sunday, though, Vice President Joe Biden said that Israel is a “sovereign nation” and can do as it pleases. [WT]
• Former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has been released from Israeli prison, where she had been held since June 30 after attempting to bring relief supplies to Palestinians. [Haaretz]
• Harvard Hillel accuses its accountant of stealing $780,000 via an elaborate fraud. [Harvard Crimson]
• A group of black and Jewish teens travels through the American South to learn about race relations via a program called Operation Understanding. [Digtriad]

Sundown: Evolution of Evil

Von Brunn’s descent, school rules, and parking protests


• Alleged U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooter James von Brunn’s life seemed to start off on the right track, but devolved steadily into paranoid anti-Semitism, particularly following the death of his son two years ago. [WP]
• A new project investigates the number of children left in foster care in Denmark during WWII while their parents fled the Nazis to Sweden. [Copenhagen Post]
• A recent ruling in Britain, which determined that it was unlawful for a Jewish day school to deny admission to a student based on the relative rigor of his mother’s conversion, has opened a debate as to whether the decision brands Judaism racist and whether a religious-observance test would be any fairer a way to filter applicants. [Jewish Chronicle]
• A recently-discovered 2,000-year-old stone quarry in Jerusalem proves the “intensity” of construction projects such as the Second Temple, says an expert. [Bloomberg]
• “There is a difference between the desecration of the Sabbath on an individual basis and the cancellation of the Sabbath,” says one ultra-Orthodox leader of the ongoing protests against a municipal parking lot in Jerusalem with plans to be open on Saturdays. [WPost]

Formula One Still Likes Nazis

Hitler not all bad, auto-racing honcho says


Formula One, the car-racing championship, is in trouble for a Nazi-related gaffe—again. This time, it’s Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One’s CEO, who’s in trouble, for telling the London Times that, while he’s partial to dictators in general for their way with an iron fist, Hitler was his favorite “in the way that he could command a lot of people able to get things done.” This comes a year after Ecclestone’s friend Max Mosley, the head of Formula One’s governing body (and the son of Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists), resigned after he was caught role-playing a Nazi S/M scene with a gaggle of prostitutes dressed as concentration camp inmates. Clearly, all of this is because cars are actually Nazis.

Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One Boss, Says Despots are Underrated
[Times of London]
Max Mosley Faces Calls to Quit as Formula One Chief after ‘Nazi’ Orgy [Times of London]

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