Good Cop, Bad Cop: Israel Diplomacy Edition

Imagining this month’s meeting among Netanyahu, Kerry, and Obama

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits with U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House March 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

“With the deadline nearing for the Israelis and Palestinians to sign on to an American framework accord, Mr. OBAMA and Mr. KERRY have fallen into a good-cop, bad-cop routine with Israel — a strategy that may push through a deal but will bruise feelings along the way.” — The New York Times, March 6, 2014

Oval office. Kerry leads Netanyahu to a chair, waits for him to sit down. Obama paces silently on other side of room.

KERRY: You look a little tired. You wanna bite to eat or something? 

NETANYAHU: (shakes head) I’m fine. Thank you. I’m looking forward to discussing …

KERRY: You sure? Big guy like you must get pretty hungry. (turns to secret service agent by door) Hey, Frankie, do me a favor and run out and grab us a couple a falafels. (agent nods) And don’t be stingy with the hummus.


Can the World’s Jews Observe Shabbat Together?

South Africa’s chief rabbi launches global ‘Shabbos Project’ to find out

A billboard in South Africa advertising the 2013 Shabbos Project. (YouTube)

Can the world’s Jewish community keep one Shabbat together? South African Jewry and their Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein want to find out. This week, they launched “The Shabbos Project,” which aims to brings Jews of all backgrounds and beliefs together for one day of rest across the globe.

The initiative is based on the wildly successful local version of program, which galvanized the South African Jewish community in 2013, when the majority of the area’s Jews—religious and not—came together to mark the day from the eve of October 11 through the 12th. The campaign was the brainchild of South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein and his wife Gina, who placed billboards advertising it and produced educational materials for the uninitiated. It soon took on a life of its own and went viral on social media. (more…)

Norway’s Nurses Campaign For Circumcision Ban

Health Minister says he doesn’t plan to outlaw the practice


While Norway announced plans to introduce anti-circumcision legislation in early 2014, so far no such bills have been brought forward. While the country’s health ministry says they will issue new guidelines before the summer—which Health Minister Bent Hoie maintains will not include outlawing the practice—a group of Norwegian nurses are pushing for a ban on non-medical circumcision for males under 15 years old.

JTA reports that the Norwegian Nurses Organization met with members of the health ministry to make their case for a country-wide ban on ritual circumcision, with the director of the group likening the practice to female circumcision and arguing that boys should be able to decide, at 15 or 16 years old, whether or not to undergo the rite. (more…)

IDF Discovers Largest Gaza Tunnel Yet

The tunnel, reportedly dug by Hamas, stretches far into Israel territory

Tunnel reportedly dug by Hamas from the Gaza Strip towards Kibbutz Ein Hashloshah. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Israeli troops have discovered another tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel, JTA reports, and this one is believed to be the largest tunnel discovered to date. A 1.5-mile long tunnel stocked with explosives was discovered and dismantled in October.

Israeli officials announced the discovery of the tunnel on Thursday, saying that it was dug by Hamas in order to get inside Israel and carry out a terrorist attack. (more…)

Madoff Says He Didn’t Betray the Jews

‘I’ve made more money for Jewish people and charities than I’ve lost,’ he says

Bernard L. Madoff leaves US Federal Court after a hearing regarding his bail on January 14, 2009 in New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Bernard Madoff, the convicted Ponzi schemer currently serving a 150-year sentence at a medium-security prison in Butner, N.C., doesn’t much mind his surroundings. “It’s actually very pretty,” he told Politico reporter MJ Lee in a three-hour interview last week, likening the prison to a college campus.

The interview, which was published today, offers insight into Madoff’s life behind bars, as well as his health and state of mind. He’s being treated for kidney disease (but not cancer, he maintains, as has been reported), and had a stent implanted after a heart attack late last year. (more…)

Anti-Semitic Acts Reported at Boston-area Schools

Community addressing incidents at elementary schools in Bedford, Mass.

Bedford High School in Bedford, Massachusetts. (Wikimedia)

Instead of tag or hopscotch, children at two elementary schools in the Bedford school district outside Boston have invented a new game: “Jail the Jews.”

This and other anti-Semitic incidents have taken place in the Bedford school district in recent months, the Boston Globe reports. According to police reports, swastikas, and graffiti were also found at Bedford High School and in one of the elementary schools, prompting a response from the community. (more…)

A Reply To ‘Reading Megillah in Tehran’

Asking whether Jews in Iran are really free to celebrate

The entrance to the Hamadan Shrine of Esther and Mordechai, 1972. (Elias "Yassi" Gabbay; courtesy of Diarna)

Last week, Tablet ran an article by Shai Secunda on how Jews in Iran celebrate Purim. While I have no arguments against his biblical assessments of the Book of Esther, he wrongly portrayed the status of Jews in Iran today in a positive light. As an Iranian Jewish journalist who speaks Farsi fluently and has been regularly reporting on the Iranian Jewry worldwide for nearly 15 years, I have seen, heard and learned firsthand of the very tragic reality that plagues the lives of the Jews who live today under Iran’s totalitarian Islamic regime. (more…)

Beyonce and Jay Z Visit the Anne Frank House

Bey performed in Amsterdam on her Mrs. Carter World Tour last night

Beyonce at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. (Instagram)

Beyonce and Jay Z visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam today, where according to museum staff they spent more than an hour. Beyonce, fresh off last night’s performance at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome (she heads to Antwerp tonight), posted two photographs on Instagram posing near images of the young diarist. (more…)

Boca Raton Chabad Center Vandalized

Concrete parking slab thrown through the building’s glass door

Chabad of East Boca. (Facebook)

On Monday night, a concrete parking slab was thrown through a glass door of the Chabad of East Boca in Boca Raton, JTA reports. While some believe the incident to be merely a drunken St. Patrick’s Day escapade, others have connected the vandalism to an article published in a local newspaper the day before, detailing the center’s ambitious expansion plans. (more…)

Lenny Kravitz’s Jewish Uncle Honored

Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz awarded posthumous Medal of Honor

Lenny Kravitz sits in the audience during the Medal of Honor ceremony in the White House on March 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

There was a famous face in the crowd when President Obama awarded 24 long overdue Medals of Honor—many of them posthumous—to Jewish and Hispanic veterans this week. Rocker Lenny Kravitz attended the ceremony, at which his uncle, Leonard M. Kravitz, after whom he was named, was honored posthumously for his service in the Korean War.

Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz was one of several Jewish veterans honored at Tuesday’s ceremony, decades after their service, following a more than 10-year congressional review of veterans whose ethnicities likely caused their wartime contributions to be overlooked for the nation’s highest honor. Kravitz, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1931, died in 1951 while serving in the Korean War, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest honor. (more…)

Russia’s Chief Rabbi Cheers Crimea Annexation

Berel Lazar, who has close ties with Putin, seen in audience at Kremlin event

Berel Lazar sits in audience during Crimea induction ceremony. (Jewish News One)

Yesterday, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, hosted a ceremony at the Kremlin, which formally began the process of incorporating Crimea into Russia and prompted Ukraine’s withdrawal from the region today. In news footage from the event, the tone of which was triumphant, Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, a 49-year-old Chabad Lubavitch emissary, clapped along with the rest of the crowd as Putin spoke.

His presence wasn’t unusual: Lazar is a highly public figure, and is known for having developed close ties with Putin in the years he has spent working in Russia. In the past two decades, Lazar has spearheaded a remarkable revival of Jewish life in a city, and a country, that had almost none left by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, more than two decades ago: Dozens of synagogues and community centers have opened, and there are thousands of children enrolled at Jewish schools and kindergartens. Not all of these facilities are under the umbrella of Chabad, but the vast majority are; under Lazar’s leadership, Chabad now has representatives in neary 50 cities across Russia, and runs dozens of schools that enroll thousands of young Jewish children. (more…)

Jewish Guys Face Off in Battle of the Calendars

‘Nice Jewish Guys’ send cease-and-desist letter to ‘Naughty Jewish Boys’

Ethan, a Naughty Jewish Boys calendar model. (Facebook)

I have a lot of thoughts about the Nice Jewish Guys calendar, though they can probably be summed up neatly enough by the combination of two sounds: a short, sharp “ugh,” and a longer, more drawn-out “uhhh.” Still, each year I pin it up at my desk at work (it lists the Jewish holidays!), and try to get beyond the cringe-factor to enjoy some retaliatory male objectification. It usually takes about a month to get to that point, and by then I have to start all over.

It looks like I’m not the only one with mixed feelings about the calendar, which was created by TV producer Adam Cohen and is now made in partnership with Jewish online dating behemoth JDate. Duncan Pflaster, a New York-based playwright, took matters into his own hands, posting a Craigslist ad last month looking to cast potential pin-ups for a dueling 2015 “Naughty Jewish Boys” calendar. According to the New York Post, though, the nice guys’ lawyers didn’t take this too kindly, promptly sending a cease-and-desist letter to Pflaster, calling him out for the very naughty act of trademark infringement. (more…)

Israel Launches Airstrikes Against Syria

Retaliation for yesterday’s bombing that injured four IDF soldiers

An Israeli Army Artillery battery unit is deployed on alert near the border with Syria on March 19, 2014. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel launched airstrikes against three military sites in Syria today, the AP reports, killing one soldier and injuring seven others. The retaliatory attacks were in response to yesterday’s bombing near the Syrian border, in which four IDF soldiers were wounded.

The Israeli military said its warplanes hit a Syrian army training facility, an army headquarters and artillery batteries. Israel also had carried out artillery strikes against Syrian military targets shortly after Tuesday’s bombing.


In Europe, Anti-Semitism Looks Like Other Hate Crimes

But 68 percent of Jews said in a survey they hide their Jewishness sometimes

European Union flag. (SOEREN STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

When the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, known as the FRA, started looking into the issue of anti-Semitism in Europe in 2008, only four out of 28 E.U. member states collected data on the issue. A new study was carried out in eight member states amongst nearly 6,000 self-identified Jewish respondents; the aim was to not only to collect data on abuse and perceptions but also to capture their experiences.

The report, released in November, highlighted similarities between the experiences of Jews and those of others subject to hate crimes, including abused women, the LGBT community, Muslims, Roma and Sinti and other migrants. All these groups often failed to report racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic incidents they experienced because they believed that nothing come of their complaint. “In that sense,” says Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos of the FRA, “the study is different from similar surveys amongst Jewish populations in the U.S., because these tend to focus less on hate crime and more on Jewish life, whilst this one focused more on hate-crime.” (more…)

Watch the Trailer for Lois Lowry’s ‘The Giver’

The cautionary dystopian tale will hit theaters in August

Brenton Thwaites and Jeff Bridges in "The Giver." (YouTube)

With Veronica Roth’s Divergent making its theatrical debut this weekend, and the next cinematic installments of The Hunger Games in the works, 2014 is the year of the dystopian novel on the silver screen. And no showcase of the genre would be complete without Lois Lowry’s award-winning classic, The Giver.

Many of Lowry’s books deal explicitly with the Holocaust, and The Giver, while not openly broaching the subject, is her most famous warning against the temptations of totalitarian societies. Judging by its trailer, the film adaptation–directed by Philip Royce and starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Brenton Thwaites–will certainly touch on those themes. (more…)

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