You’ve Gone Too Far, Baby

IDF rabbi raises hackles of female soldiers


Avichai Ronski, the chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, is denying reports that he said “a priori, women should not serve in the army” at a conference two weeks ago, according to Haaretz. Religious women soldiers at the event where Ronski spoke said they found his remarks insensitive and illogical, given that Ronski met his future wife when she was performing her army service as a clerk in his unit. But objections to Ronski’s supposed statement on the grounds that the army brought him to the altar raises its own prickly question—are these women serving in the interest of national defense or as a way to meet a mate?

IDF Chief Rabbi Says Women Shouldn’t Serve [Haaretz]

Today on Tablet

Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Hound Dog,’ the Dead Sea, Indian food, a Brooklyn Golem, and more


Contributing Editor Wesley Yang reviews Hound Dog, the autobiography of songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Daniella Cheslow sticks a toe in the debate surrounding the shrinking of the Dead Sea. Mimi Sheraton samples the (vegetarian, kosher) flavors of the Indian subcontinent. Marissa Brostoff checks in with an unlikely pair of twin sisters: one’s married to a Palestinian activist and the other’s a rabbi. And filmmakers Stephen and Joel Levinsohn set loose a Golem on the streets of today’s Brooklyn. These stories—along with regular updates here on The Scroll—today on Tablet.

Euros Pressure Bibi

To get with the peace program


German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the list of international voices calling for a halt to Israeli settlement construction. She told a session of the Bundestag (the lower house of German parliament) that building in the West Bank, including “natural growth,” is a hindrance to the two-state solution. As The Jerusalem Post reports, what’s noteworthy about Merkel’s position is not only her center-right alignment but her habitual reluctance to demand too much of the Jewish state.

Earlier this week, the New York Times disclosed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy personally told Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that his foreign minister, the far-right ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, was toxic and should be fired, comparing Lieberman to France’s best-known xenophobe Jean-Marie Le Pen. Given the iciness between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu, there’s a good chance the U.S. president has prevailed upon his European allies to do some gentle nudging and needling of their own. Merkel’s statements are exactly in line with the main criterion put forth by both the European Union and American State Department. And if anyone on the continent is in a position to deflect an anti-Arab boor, surely it’s the part-Jewish head of state who wants the burka banned and the rioting “scum” of the Parisian banlieues brought to heel.

Merkel: Settlements Ruin Efforts for 2-state Solution [JPost]

Sarkozy Comments on Israeli Minister Make Waves [NYT]

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]

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