Sunday, The Rabbi Skipped The New York Times: Part II

Responses to a Tablet essay about the newspaper’s coverage of the Gaza war

(Erika Cross /

On August 28, Tablet ran an essay by Reform rabbi Richard A. Block titled “Why I’m Unsubscribing from The New York Times.” The piece, an impassioned denunciation of what Rabbi Block saw as the newspaper’s biases in reporting on the Gaza war, struck a chord, and it has been shared on Facebook nearly 20,000 times. After it ran, we did hear from one reader who argued that Block ignored examples that didn’t serve his case. (more…)

Brooklyn Bitcoin Entrepreneur Pleads Guilty

Yeshiva of Flatbush grad Charles Shrem, 24, faces up to five years in prison

Charles Shrem leaving federal court in Manhattan, N.Y. (Photo )

Charles Shrem, once a rising star in the world of Bitcoin entrepreneurialism, faced what could be his lowest moment Thursday in a 14th-floor federal court in lower Manhattan.

“I knew that what I did here was wrong,” the 24-year-old told Judge Jed Rakoff. “I’m pleading guilty because I am guilty.”

Shrem, a graduate of Yeshiva of Flatbush, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money transfer business. The charge could send him to prison for up to five years. (more…)

Gwyneth Paltrow Reportedly Converting to Judaism

The actress, whose father was Jewish, has been raising her children Jewish

Gwyneth Paltrow on April 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Page Six reports that Gwyneth Paltrow is converting to Judaism. The actress was raised both Jewish and Christian, which she’s described as “such a nice way to grow up”; her father, the late film director Bruce Paltrow, was Jewish, and her mother, actress Blythe Danner, is Christian.

The GOOP goddess has embraced Jewish tradition in recent years, saying in 2011 that her children, Apple and Moses, were being raised Jewish. (more…)

Mandy Patinkin Wants to be Israel’s Prime Minister

Homeland star announces plans to run for Israeli office on Colbert Report

Actor Mandy Patinkin on August 24, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Joe Kohen/Getty Images)

Last time Mandy Patkinin appeared on The Colbert Report, he sang the Shehecheyanu during the on-air wedding of a couple whose wedding plans were thwarted because of the government shutdown (remember that?). How do you outdo that kind of performance? Apparently by pledging to run for Israel’s highest office.

Patinkin appeared on the show earlier this week to promote Homeland, whose fourth season premieres October 5 on Showtime. He discussed his beard (“It just brings me along wherever it goes”) and the state of the world (“it’s like they’re stealing your scripts,” Colbert says). (more…)

Joan Rivers: Don’t You Dare Tell Me I Can’t Do It

An excerpt from Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish

Joan Rivers. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In 2005, Abigail Pogrebin published Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish. The following is an excerpt from the chapter about Joan Rivers, the trailblazing comedian who died Thursday at 81 in Manhattan.

I HEAR JOAN RIVERS before I see her. “I’m coming! I’m coming!” she bellows from the elevator as she rides up to her private floor, where I’m waiting in her showily ornate Upper East Side town house. She’s running late, but her assistant, Jocelyn, a friendly, no-nonsense type, has made me feel at home in an extremely formal parlor. It is stuffed with fancy things that hover between chic and gaudy: leopard carpet, dog statues flanking a fireplace, large tufted leather sofa, and embroidered pillow emblazoned with the adage, “I need a man to spoil me or I don’t need a man at all.” (more…)

Jewish Museum of Belgium to Reopen

Four months after a gunman opened fire in the museum, killing four people

People pay their respects in front of a makeshift memorial at the entrance of the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 25, 2014, where a deadly shooting took place the day before. (GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)

Four months after a gunman entered the Jewish Museum of Belgium, killing four people, the museum will be reopening, JTA reports.

On Sept. 14 the museum will host a day-long program to commemorate the reopening, which will purposefully coincide with European Days of Jewish Culture. The event will include speeches by Philippe Blondin, the president of the Jewish Museum of Belgium, as well as Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. (more…)

Joan Rivers Dies at 81

Legendary comedian was on life support, had been hospitalized last week

Joan Rivers on September 4, 2013 in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Joan Rivers died this afternoon, her daughter Melissa has confirmed. The groundbreaking comedian was 81.

Rivers was hospitalized last Thursday when she stopped breathing while undergoing throat surgery. She was temporarily put into a medically-induced coma, and then placed on life support. (more…)

Borscht Belt Ruins on Display in New York City

Photography exhibit shows the remains of the great Catskills resorts

Coffee Shop, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Grossinger, N.Y. (Marisa Scheinfeld)

The iconic hotels of the Catskills today are not what they used to be. Places like Grossinger’s and the Pines Hotel, which haven’t operated in years, have literally decayed since their 1960s and 1970s heyday—and one photographer has the haunting photos that show the extent of the physical erosion of these institutions of 20th-century American Jewish culture.

Marisa Scheinfeld, a photographer raised in Sullivan County, N.Y., returned to the Catskills to explore what remained of the iconic hotels and resorts, finding veritable ruins where once-great establishments once stood. She published a slideshow of the haunting images on Tablet in 2012. An exhibit of her work, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt,” will be on display at the Yeshiva University Museum starting next week. (more…)

Jeter’s Last Home Game Is on Rosh Hashanah

Will Jewish fans head to Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25?

Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees singles against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on September 3, 2014 in New York City. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Derek Jeter’s final regular season home game as a New York Yankee is fast approaching, and for some Yankee fans, it’s a major event. But it happens to fall during another major event: Rosh Hashanah. The Sept. 25 game against the Baltimore Orioles falls on the second night of the High Holiday (which begins at sundown Sept. 24), and while for Jews who only observe the first day of Rosh Hashanah it’s not an issue, it does present a potential conflict for more observant Jews.

It’s a reverse Koufax—at least according to former Major League outfielder Gabe Kapler, who after seasons of being asked by reporters whether he would be sitting out games on Yom Kippur, is gleefully turning the tables, asking Jewish reporters if they’ll be covering the big game. (more…)

Watch Joan Rivers’ Best Stand-Up Comedy

The groundbreaking comedian died at 81 after a weeklong hospitalization

Joan Rivers visits 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' on February 15, 2013 in New York City.(Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Joan Rivers died this afternoon after a weeklong hospitalization, during which she was placed in a medically-induced coma and then on life support. “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

In that spirit, and in celebration of Joan’s legendary wit, here are five of her most memorable television appearances from the 1960s and 1970s. While Rivers may been best known in her later years as a TV personality and red carpet host, her career started with her smart, sharp stand-up comedy. Watching some of these clips, it’s remarkable how ahead of her time her jokes were. (more…)

Bernard Madoff’s Son Dies of Cancer at 48

Andrew Madoff’s death comes four years after older brother’s suicide

Bernard Madoff walks out from Federal Court after a bail hearing in Manhattan January 5, 2009 in New York City.(Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images)

The twisted Madoff family saga has taken another tragic turn. Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff’s younger son, Andrew, has died of lymphoma, CNBC reports. He was 48.

Andrew’s attorney, Martin Flumenbaum, said he “died peacefully” at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and was surrounded by family. Funeral arrangements will be private.

Madoff was diagnosed with stage one lymphoma in 2003. (more…)

U.S. Journalist Steven Sotloff Murdered by ISIS

Captors reportedly didn’t know he was Jewish, held dual Israeli citizenship

In this handout image made available by the photographer American journalist Steven Sotloff (Center with black helmet) talks to Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line in Misrata, Libya on June 02, 2011. Sotloff was kidnapped in August 2013 near Aleppo, Syria. (Etienne de Malglaive via Getty Images)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has murdered American journalist Steven Sotloff, releasing a video yesterday appearing to depict the kidnapped journalist’s beheading. It’s similar to a disturbing video that surfaced online two weeks ago, which showed the murder of journalist James Foley, and which led President Barack Obama to call ISIS a “cancer” that must be extracted.

President Obama confirmed the authenticity of the new video during a press conference in Estonia. “Overnight, our government confirmed that, tragically, Steven was taken from us in a horrific act of violence,” he said Wednesday. (more…)

Israel Claims Nearly 1,000 Acres in West Bank

Area designated ‘state land,’ paving the way for major settlement construction

The Israeli West Bank settlement of Efrat is seen on September 1, 2014. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than a week after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza, bringing an end to the summer-long war, international attention has shifted to the West Bank, as Israel claimed nearly 1,000 acres, designating the area “state land,” as opposed to privately-owned land.

The area’s new status paves the way for controversial Israeli settlement construction, a major obstacle for future peace negotiations. According to reports, Palestinians with ownership claims to the land have 45 days to register objections. (more…)

Hitler’s Childhood Home to Become a Museum

Nazi leader’s former residence in Austria will be a ‘House of Responsibility’

Plaque outside Adolf Hitler's childhood home in Austria. (Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this year, in an act of misguided apologism, the animal rights organization PETA petitioned to have the home of serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer turned into a vegan restaurant. While PETA’s ambitions never panned out, it seems the Austrian interior ministry shares a similar notion of irony: He approved an Austrian historian’s proposal to turn Adolf Hitler’s childhood home into a museum.

This museum may indeed be the only reasonable fate for the house in Braunau am Inn, Austria, which Hitler’s parents sold soon after he was born. According to Haaretz has since World War II served as a library, bank, school, home for the disabled, and pub. (more…)

SodaStream Considering Leaving West Bank

CEO says boycott threats aren’t the reason behind potential factory move

The Israeli SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, next to the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

SodaStream, the Israeli home carbonation system maker whose operation of a factory in a West Bank settlement has drawn criticism and calls for boycott, is reportedly considering moving the controversial plant and consolidating operations at the company’s new plant near Beersheba, JTA reports.

According to CEO Daniel Birnbaum, any potential move would be for financial reasons (the company gets a government subsidy at the Beersheba plant) and wouldn’t be a response to pressures from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which has zeroed in on SodaStream as a prime target. Birnbaum reportedly brushed off boycott threats—which, in the case of their recently-shuttered U.K. store, took the form of daily protests—as a “nuisance” in an interview with an Israeli financial publication. (more…)

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