Daybreak: War Crimes

Hamas and Israel both guilty, Rome adopts Shalit, and more from the news.


• Amnesty International reports that by its standards, both Israel and Hamas are guilty of committing war crimes during the recent conflict in Gaza. [London Times]
• The city of Rome has made kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit an honorary citizen and taken up the cause of his release. [Ynet]
• The photographer who runs the HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library has had permission to document most of the synagogues in Australia revoked by Jewish security groups, for undisclosed reasons. “I could never have imagined being blacklisted on an entire continent,” he said. [JPost]
• Bernie Madoff has been inducted into the Con Artist Hall of Infamy. [LAT]
• Michael Jackson may have a secret Saudi-Arabian Jewish widow. But probably not. [JTA]

Sundown: The Jackson Question

Faux paranoia, a subway skirmish, and a good call by God


• Everyone’s wondering, will Michael Jackson’s kids be raised by their Jewish mother? And if she used a donor egg, are they still Jews? [JTA]
• A Palestinian American comedian wrote a parodic column positing that Facebook is a Zionist conspiracy; too bad it’s so unfunny, some people might mistake it for an earnest theory. [JPost]
• A woman whose dog puked on the NYC subway either harassed or was harassed by the city’s first Hasidic police officer. [Gawker]
• In the grand tradition of leaving one’s political decisions to a higher power, Joe the Plumber has decided not to run for Congress after God gave the idea a thumbs down. [NY Mag]
• And, in another grand tradition, the Baltimore Jewish Times brags about Jewish comedians in honor of Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming movie Bruno. [BJT]

A Muslim for Scotland

Who thinks Jews should join the party


Nationalist political parties tend, for the most part, not to be the sort of organizations that embrace diversity. But one of the leading lights of the Scottish National Party, whose platform is based on local governance rather than on notions of racial purity, is Osama Saeed, the Glasgow-born founder of the Scottish Islamic Foundation.

Saeed is expected to run in the next general election for a parliamentary seat previously held by Mohammed Sarwar, Britain’s first Muslim MP. He has come in for criticism as a kind of Trojan Muslim who conceals his support for a restored Islamic caliphate behind his neatly trimmed beard and natty ties. But in an interview with London-based altmuslim, he says all he wanted was the freedom to have state-supported parochial schools—something Orthodox Jews, as it happens, also enthusiastically support, along, he noted, with people who speak Gaelic.

Muslims in Europe: The Scottish Example [altmuslim]
Related: Boneheads and Ballots

Those Were the Days

An appreciation of Norman Lear


The inimitable (and Talmud-quoting) Norman Lear gets love from the A.V. Club on the release of a new boxed set of DVDs of six Lear shows. Not all the titles are winners. One Day at a Time and The Jeffersons are singled out as second-rate, though without the latter there’d be no Diff’rent Strokes or Fresh Prince of Bel Air. And a world without those gems would be like a world without rainbows.

More frequently, Lear created universes populated by the cantankerous, opinionated likes of Archie Bunker, Maude Findlay, and James Evans. The legacy they left is “not in today’s best sitcoms—which tend to be gag-oriented and stingless, not achingly relevant—but in the sports analysts and political pundits yelling at each other all across the cable TV spectrum. The problem is that none of those bozos are as funny or endearing.”

The Norman Lear Collection [AV Club]

Holocaust Survivors Will Get Assets

Left by heirless Jews


A number of Eastern European countries have agreed for the first time that “heirless Jewish property should be used to aid needy Holocaust survivors,” Haaretz reports. Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, which had previously maintained that such property belonged to the state, joined 42 other nations in signing on to the restitution plan at the Holocaust Era Assets Conference, which ended yesterday in Prague.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, several EU countries, including Germany, still put up “serious obstacles” that block Holocaust property claimants from taking back their property.

Heirless Jewish Assets to Be Used for Aid to Survivors [Haaretz]

For Restitution Seekers, 10 European Countries That Have Obstacles

Rah Finland!

Cold hands, warm hearts


Apparently, Finland, besides being “one of the most pleasant and peaceful societies on the entire continent,” is a haven for Israel-lovers, reports Michael Freund. On a recent trip there, he saw “churches where the Israeli flag is proudly displayed side-by-side with the Finnish national colors, and where entire Christian congregations recite ‘Hatikva’ first in Hebrew and then in Finnish” and was bombarded by Hebrew-speaking Nordic Zionists, Jewish and non. Sounds like Finland is less ambivalent on the matter than even Israel itself—maybe that’s where we should be sending our youth if we really want to foster pride.

A Place Where Israel is Loved [JPost]

Eat, Pray, Live

Should kashrut be more about health?

(Farmers’ Market by Natalie Maynor; some rights reserved)

“The food we have today is a result of life in exile, a life of cold and suffering. But this is not true Judaism,” says Miriam Glazer, a rabbi who spoke at a recent study day held by The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies on the subject of “Jewish Women Maintaining a Healthy Soul,” along with her sister, cookbook author Phyllis Glazer. “Meat comes only after the flood. We today need to return to the Garden of Eden within and be vegetarians,” she continues. While the appeal of finding paradise within is obvious, and there are more than enough reasons to be vegetarian even without factoring in Original Sin, this idea flies in the face of the way a lot of Jews today live. Although Ynet described the conference as catering to “traditional” women, this designation apparently does not include the ultra-Orthodox, who, according to Miriam, “aren’t even remotely part of this world.” Truly, we all might want to reconsider a diet that includes this.

Organic is the True Kosher [Ynet]

Ahmadinejad, Diva

Back to staging walkouts, skipping conferences


With Iran’s feared Basij militia continuing the task of cracking down on opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters, Ahmadinejad has been able to get back to focusing on the work that’s really important to him: orchestrating spectacles at international summits.

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Iran’s delegation staged a walkout this morning during Israeli President Shimon Peres’ keynote address to the Congress of World and Traditional Religions in Astana, Kazakhstan. One delegation member gave an explanation straight from the Ahmadinejad playbook, telling the paper: “Your president is a stealer of lands and a conqueror, and we’re not willing to hear him. Peres represents an abominable Zionist conspiracy, and his place is not here.”

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad himself decided to skip today’s African Union summit in Libya. The BBC reports that some African Union officials had expressed fears that the Iranian leader’s presence would be a lightning rod that would distract from issues on the agenda, including a request from Somalia’s government for military help against Islamist insurgents, but Ahmadinejad himself—a consummate diva—declined to explain his last-minute decision. “All we know is he isn’t coming,” one Libyan official said. Maybe he was afraid of getting hit with more clown noses?

Iranians Walk Out On Peres in Astana [J'Post]
Iran Leader Cancels Africa Visit [BBC]
Ahmadinejad Pulls Out of African Summit [J'Post]

Today on Tablet

Jacques Lipchitz on paper, Israeli marriage woes, and more


Jeannie Rosenfeld examines a new exhibition of sculptor Jacques Lipchitz’s drawings. Michael Weiss explores the thorny questions that surround civil marriage in Israel. These stories—along with regular updates here on The Scroll—are what’s on tap today at Tablet.

Daybreak: Green Energy for Non-Profits

A score from the House, Franken’s victory, and more from the news


• A faith-based coalition led by the Orthodox Union convinced the U.S. House to include a provision on their latest bill offering subsidies to non-profits that want to retrofit their energy systems for efficiency. [WPost]
• Germany plans to pass a law “rehabilitating” people who were branded traitors by the Nazis, and, in most cases, assassinated by that regime. [JPost]
• Al Franken won a senate seat in Minnesota, ending the eight month standoff, giving the Democrats a probable 60 votes that could help them avoid filibusters, and leaving the senate with no Jewish Republicans. [JTA]
• After the latest four-hour tête-à-tête between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. envoy George Mitchell about the settlements, and despite the fact that President Obama has not “authorized any negotiating room,” Barak wants it known that the two nations are not “stuck” on the issue. [JTA]

Sundown: Bernie, She Hardly Knew Ya

Circus prayer, Vegas Jews, and a pushy Frenchman


• “When you spend hundreds of millions of dollars with someone, you think you know him.” Comedian Andy Borowitz imagines a more satisfying apology from Ruth Madoff. [HuffPo]
• French president Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly advised Israeli P.M. Netanyahu to ditch his ultra-right-wing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman in favor of centrist Tzipi Livni. Although this bold suggestion has caused a fracas, a former Knesset member shrugs it off thusly: “There’s hardly a world leader who does not say this.” [NYT]
• Perhaps because of their preponderance of death-defying stunts, circuses traditionally have religious chaplains. Thus, Vermont-based Circus Smirkus recruited Rabbi Ira Schiffer to bless their ring as a “sacred space.” [JTA]
• JewEL, a social organization in Las Vegas, brings together Jews to mingle, eat, and do charity work; it’s the perfect setting, says one member, “whether I want to talk about Israel and be serious or about bagels and lox and be funny.” [LV Weekly]
• A new book by Mitch Albom is forthcoming this September, this one about the friendship between a poor black Christian and an “uppity” Jew. It is, as the Lexington Books Examiner says, “sure to succeed.” [LBE]

Breaking: Franken Awarded Senate Seat

The election of November 2008 is over


Minnesota’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favor of funnyman Al Franken in the seemingly interminable dispute between the Democrat and his Republican opponent, incumbent Norm Coleman, over who won the state’s Senate seat last November. But the fight over which Jew will represent the Gopher State isn’t quite finished: the AP is reporting that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he would sign an order declaring Franken the winner if ordered to do so by the court, but the justices stopped short of an outright command, instead simply saying Franken was “entitled” to be seated in Washington. Neither campaign has commented, but Franken plans a press conference for later today.

UPDATE: Coleman has conceded the race, clearing the way for Pawlenty to certify Franken as the victor. “I told him it’s the best job he will ever have,” Coleman said at a press conference at his St. Paul home. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the earliest Franken could be seated would be next week after the Fourth of July break.

State Supreme Court Rules for Franken, 5-0 [Star Tribune]
Minn. Court Rules for Franken in Senate Fight [AP]

Bistro Takes a Stand

Anti-Dead Sea Scroll exhibit, pro-restaurant rights

(Le Sélect Bistro by Sifu Renka; some rights reserved)

Delicacy surrounding public expressions of political allegiance is a professional hazard for journalists, clergy, elementary school teachers, and the like; now, apparently, it’s a concern for restaurateurs as well. Toronto eatery Le Sélect Bistro entered into an online scuffle when proprietor Frederic Geisweiller used its Web site to advise against visiting an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum. Geisweiller asserted that the show features “artifacts seized by Israel in its 1967 surprise war which it waged against its neighbours,” and, although he has since removed the statement, he stands by it, saying, “restaurants should not shy away from voicing opinions.” His proposed boycott set off a chain reaction of arguments on sites such as and While we certainly don’t begrudge restaurants their freedom of speech (although we’d stop short of allowing them the vote), Geisweiller may, for his own sake, want to stop flaunting his woefully oversimplified understanding of the 1967 war; according to the National Post, he cited Wikipedia as his source.

Downtown Bistro Hit Controversy Over Dead Sea Scroll Boycott [NP]

Divine Will

Mark Sanford believes he is doing God’s work


So Gov. Mark Sanford, who previously invoked the moral complexities of the life and struggles of King David as his reason for not resigning from office after he got caught cheating on his wife, now says that God wants him to stay put, too. He issued a statement to his supporters in South Carolina today, which read in part:

[L]ast week I had thought I would resign—as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise—that for God to really work in my life I shouldn’t be getting off so lightly. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride. They contended that in many instances I may well have held the right position on limited government, spending or taxes—but that if my spirit wasn’t right in the presentation of those ideas to people in the General Assembly, or elsewhere, I could elicit the response that I had at many times indeed gotten from other state leaders.

Allowances made for an alternative interpretation of “getting off so lightly,” this seems eminently reasonable. Rather than resign in disgrace, be forgotten by midweek, and have his family torn apart under the relative privacy of civil divorce court, Sanford is choosing to keep himself under constant media scrutiny while also upholding the celestial standards of lower taxes and states rights. What could be more pious than that?

Mark Sanford: Staying is Part of God’s Plan [Politico]

Prayers for Barack

Sending the president the whole megillah


When Abraham Lincoln became president, in 1861, a Jewish city clerk from Chicago named Abraham Kohn took it upon himself to send his fellow Illinoisan a picture of the American flag embellished with an inscription from the Book of Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage.”

After Barack Obama was elected, last fall, Shlomo Perelman, the owner of the Pittsburgh-based Judaica Web site, decided he would follow Kohn’s example and send the new president a gift. But what to send? A DVD set was clearly out of the question. Instead, Perelman asked an Israeli artist named Michael Meron to create a 50-foot scroll printed with more than 3,000 mazels submitted by well-wishers via a Web site he created for the project, Most contributions came from the U.S., but a handful came from as far afield as Britain and Costa Rica; one person entered the Shema prayer, while a woman from Beverly Hills who said her Hebrew name is Bracha took the opportunity to remind Obama that “Barack” is just the Arabic for the Hebrew “Baruch,” or “blessed.”

The megillat brachot, which hasn’t yet been presented to the president, also includes the signatures of Jewish members of Congress, the Hebrew prayer for country and the words from Jeremiah: “Seek the peace of the city in which you live, for through its peace you shall have peace.” “It’s just part of what Jews do,” Perelman told Tablet. “We pray for our country, and we do it no matter who’s in the White House.”

A Blessing for Obama from the American Jewish Community [JPost]

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