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A Very Broken Hallelujah

Moscow produces most insufferable cover yet of Leonard Cohen’s classic

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Leonard Cohen. (THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/GettyImages)

I spent the last four years of my life writing a book about Leonard Cohen. When you devote so much of your time, emotional reserves, and intellectual energy to one artist, you really get to ponder the meaning of their work, which, in my case, meant focusing intensely on Cohen’s best-known song, “Hallelujah.” I interviewed the song’s producer at length, compared it to Jeff Buckley’s better known rendition, and parsed its lyrics. And while I have a lot to say about the song in my book, I don’t claim to have arrived at any definitive understanding of this masterpiece.

I’ll tell you one thing, though: I know for certain what it’s absolutely not about. It’s absolutely not about Russian oligarchs singing it for three hours straight in an effort to break the Guinness World Record for longest song ever released. (more…)

France to Extradite Brussels Shooting Suspect

Mehdi Nemmouche faces murder charges for Jewish Museum shooting

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Flowers are pictured at a makeshift memorial at the entrance of the Jewish Museum in Brussels, where a deadly shooting took place May 24, 2014. (GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)

Mehdi Nemmouche, the 29-year-old suspected of carrying out the May 24 shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum in which four people were killed, will be extradited from France to Belgium to face trial, JTA reports. Nemmouche, a French citizen who was arrested in Marseilles the week after the attack, faces murder charges.

Video footage released by Brussels police after the attack show the shooter entering the museum and opening fire with an AK-47 before quickly leaving. Nemmouche was detained during a routine customs search at the Marseilles bus station on June 2 after authorities discovered “Kalashnikov rifle, another gun and ammunition similar to those used in the shooting.” He has since been held by French authorities on suspicion of murder, attempted murder, and possession of weapons “in the context of terrorist activity.” (more…)

Gary Oldman’s Bigotry Blindspot

The actor’s problem is that he sees Gibson and Baldwin as one and the same

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(Mel Gibson: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Alec Baldwin: Brad Barket/Getty Images)

We’ve been through it many, many times before. A famous white man past 50, in a fit of pique toward somebody exerting an unwanted and presumably undeserved amount of authority over him—be it the cops, the ever-present paparazzi exercising their constitutional right to free assembly, or simply a much younger woman he very much wants to sleep with—lets loose with an emotional tirade in which he says something offensive about the Jews/blacks/gays. The Internet goes bananas, every trend reporter with a blog to maintain breathes a sigh of relief that we’ll have something juicy to write about that day, and said over-50 white man releases an ill-advised, often grandiose, apology that nobody is appeased by. And then everyone forgets about it when Prince George does something cute. This is the way the world ends, fa la la.

So it’s almost refreshing that Gary Oldman’s recent anti-Semitic-ish remarks in Playboy and subsequent bizarre and unconvincing apology followed a somewhat different template. Unlike Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin, whose controversial utterances he was purporting to defend, Oldman was speaking on the record, to an interviewer, and on a topic on which he had obviously had time to formulate a opinion. (more…)

Swastikas Spray Painted on Philly Synagogue

Congregations of Ner Zedek a target of anti-Semitic vandalism in the past

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Two large swastikas were spray painted outside the Congregations of Ner Zedek in northeast Philadelphia Sunday night, JTA reports. The city sent a maintenance team to remove the graffiti when congregants discovered it Monday morning. Congregants began poring over footage recorded by the synagogue’s recently-installed security cameras, hoping to identity a suspect.

According to Fox 29 News, the Conservative congregation includes many elderly members, some of them Holocaust survivors. “I have a number of Holocaust survivors here in my congregation, and if they see something like this. Of course it brings back all sorts of terrible memories of what they went through,” the synagogue’s rabbi, Reuben Israel Abraham, told reporters. (more…)

Judy Blume is Publishing a Novel for Adults

Beloved young adult writer’s new book is described as ‘quintessential Judy’

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Judy Blume with Sofia Coppola and Sarah Flack on November 13, 2003 in New York City. (Scott Gries/Getty Images)

Shhhh, now! Listen closely to the gasps of glee escaping across this vast land for happy news is out: Judy Blume will publish a new novel next year for adults! It’ll be her first novel targeting the older set since Summer Sisters came out 16 years ago. Carole Baron, Blume’s editor at A.A. Knopf, tells the New York Times the still untitled book is “pure Judy Blume, writing about family and about friendships, about love, about betrayal. It’s quintessential Judy.”

Blume, who briefly figures in Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year looking askance at the placement of her books on the shelves in the offices of a former agent, says she’ll spend the summer revising her manuscript. (more…)

‘SpongeBob’ Restaurant Opening in Ramallah

Landlocked city to get replica of the cartoon’s underwater Krusty Krab eatery

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Krusty Krab, the local eatery on SpongeBob Squarepants. (SpongeBob wikia)

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? The Palestinian entrepreneurs who decided to build an exact replica of the Krusty Krab—the fast food joint that employees the world’s cheeriest and most porous short-order cook, Spongebob Squarepants—in the center of Ramallah.

Questions abound: what, given that SpongeBob’s home, Bikini Bottom, is a nautical wonderland while Ramallah is landlocked, will the new eatery serve? Do the folks at Nickelodeon know about this bit of entrepreneurship? Is Spongebob that popular among Palestinians that his likeness is likely to draw diners? And if so, will the joint’s employees be required to dress up in square pants and little red ties?

These will all be answered in time. (more…)

A Jewish Reading Guide for Pride Month

Rabbis, writers, and poets select essential LGBT titles for Jewish readers

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(Erik Mace)

When my Jewish- and gay-themed novel Sweet Like Sugar came out in 2011, I wrote a blog post for the Jewish Book Council listing other LGBT books I thought might be of particular interest to Jewish readers. I named about two dozen titles, ranging from novels to memoirs to nonfiction.

But that was just my opinion.

In honor of Pride month, I asked several other people who know Jewish LGBT literature (including some who wrote books I’d included in my blog post) to name three essential books that Tablet readers should know about. They could define “essential” however they wanted: most accessible, most overlooked, most influential, best written, etc. The only thing they couldn’t do was choose their own books.

Narrowing down the choices to just three titles is difficult. (more…)

Paul Rudd Loves ‘Annie Hall’

Woody Allen’s 1976 flick is the Jewish actor’s favorite romantic comedy

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Paul Rudd arrives at the 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' Australian premiere on November 24, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Caroline McCredie/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International)

Paul Rudd, lovable staple of the Apatovian canon and star of the occasional quirky romantic comedy, is back on the big screen with They Came Together, a comedy written by Michael Showalter and David Wain out this week. Vulture describes the parody film, which skewers the romantic comedy genre, as “Borrowing heavily from Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, and Jane Austen”—which is a nearly foolproof way to get us to see a movie.

The pop culture site asked Rudd and co-star Amy Poehler what their favorite romantic comedies were, and Rudd’s answer was entirely unsurprising for a Jewish boy from New Jersey. (more…)

The Lost Poems of Ka-Tzetnik 135633

Auction house offering Auschwitz survivor’s elusive pre-war book for $7,000; copies also available at several libraries

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Photocopy of the title page of Ka-Tzetnik's 1931 book of poetry, Twenty-Two Poems. (YIVO)

The most significant moment at the Eichmann Trial occurred when the Polish-born writer Yehiel Feiner collapsed while testifying on the stand in Jerusalem, after he was asked a simple procedural question at the beginning of his testimony—the reason why he concealed his identify behind the pseudonym Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Ka-Tzetnik is the Yiddish term for a concentration camp inmate).

He responded:

“It was not a pen name. I do not regard myself as a writer and a composer of literary material. This is a chronicle of the planet of Auschwitz. I was there for about two years. Time there was not like it is here on earth. Every fraction of a minute there passed on a different scale of time. And the inhabitants of this planet had no names, they had no parents nor did they have children. There they did not dress in the way we dress here; they were not born there and they did not give birth; they breathed according to different laws of nature; they did not live—nor did they die—according to the laws of this world. Their name was the number Ka-Tzetnik.”

Later in his testimony, Ka-Tzetnik stood and turned around, and he then collapsed on the ground. (more…)

‘The Misfits’ Actor Eli Wallach Dies at 98

The prolific nonagenarian appeared in more than 90 films over 60 years

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Actor Eli Wallach speaks during the Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival Gala on November 14, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Eli Wallach, the character actor known for his roles in films like The Magnificent Seven, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and The Misfits, died Tuesday at 98, the New York Times reports. Wallach acted in more than 90 movies in the past 60 years, with recent appearances in The Holiday, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. He acted in various theater productions as well over the years, many of them Tennessee Williams productions, and regularly appeared onstage alongside his wife, the actress Anne Jackson.

Wallach was Jewish and played several Jewish characters in film and onstage throughout his career. But his breakout roles, and the roles for which he is best remembered, were distinctly Italian characters. (more…)

Former Madoff Accountant Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Paul Konigsberg faces up to 20 years in prison

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

Paul Konigsberg, Bernard Madoff’s former accountant, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to aiding in Madoff’s $17 billion fraud, Reuters reports. Konigsberg, a former senior tax partner at Konigsberg Wolf & Co, admitted to one count of conspiracy and two counts of falsifying the records of a broker-dealer.

The 78-year-old accountant said that he and employees at Madoff’s firm manipulated customer account statements and filed tax returns based on the manipulated statements, but maintained that he wasn’t aware that Madoff’s entire business was a fraudulent operation. Konigsberg now faces up to 20 years in prison. (more…)

Is ‘Raiders’ the Most Audacious Holocaust Movie Ever?

Indiana Jones kicks off Spielberg retrospective at Museum of Jewish Heritage

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Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (MV Film Society)

A little over 20 years ago, when Schindler’s List first appeared, Steven Spielberg gave a series of interviews in which he talked about how, as a child, he’d been uncomfortable with being Jewish.

“It isn’t something I enjoy admitting,” he told Parade, “but when I was 7, 8, 9 years old, God forgive me, I was embarrassed because we were Orthodox Jews. I was embarrassed by the outward perception of my parents’ Jewish practices…. My grandfather always wore a long black coat, black hat and long white beard. I was embarrassed to invite my friends over to the house, because he might be in a corner davening [praying], and I wouldn’t know how to explain this to my WASP friends.”

What his new movie meant, Spielberg suggested, was that he wasn’t embarrassed anymore. He’d figured out how to explain Jewishness to non-Jews, or, at the very least, he’d decided it was time to start trying. (more…)

Man Sues After Landing in Grenada, Not Granada

American with Spanish-Jewish heritage wanted to visit the Andalusian city

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(Milosz_M / Shutterstock.com)

An American dentist hoping to visit the Spanish city of Granada for a few days before a conference in Portugal got a rude awakening when what he thought would be a two-hour flight from London turned out to be a nine-hour flight—to Grenada, in the Caribbean. Time reports that Edward Gamson of Philadelphia is suing British Airways for mixing up the two cities (it apparently happens a lot) and refusing to reimburse the $4,500 first-class tickets he and his partner booked for the trip.

As Gamson told Britain’s The Independent, he wanted always wanted to visit Granada, an medieval center of Jewish culture in Spain. (more…)

French Court Drops Lawsuit Against Dieudonné

Says comedian’s video mocking the Holocaust doesn’t constitute hate speech

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Posters in Tours, France, advertising controversial humorist Dieudonne M'bala M'bala's 2014 show, which was baned by local authorities. (GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)

Controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has escaped his latest legal battle, JTA reports. A French court dismissed a hate speech lawsuit brought against Dieudonné by the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF, over a YouTube video in which he mocks the Holocaust and suggests that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls gives the Jews of France preferential treatment.

While “capable of shocking and offending,” the judge wrote, “the video seeks to stigmatize and discredit Manuel Valls and to denounce the privileged status that he allegedly reserved for French Jews,” and “cannot justify severe limitations on freedom of expression.”

(more…)

France’s Jews Elect New Chief Rabbi

Rabbi Haim Korsia, Jewish chaplain in the French army, selected for the post

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Newly elected 'Great Rabbi of France' Haim Korsia, speaks to journalists on June 22, 2014, in Paris. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

France’s Jewish community has elected a new chief rabbi, JTA reports. The last chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, resigned in April 2013 after admitting to plagiarism and falsifying his academic titles, and the post had since been filled by two interim chief rabbis, Michel Gugenheim and Olivier Kaufmann. But in March, the Jewish community demanded the election of a new chief rabbi, issuing a letter that stated the community needed a “legitimate” chief rabbi to “express the voice of Judaism during the difficult period we are experiencing.”

Rabbi Haim Korsia, the French army’s Jewish chaplain, was elected to the post, beating out Kaufmann 131-97. He has a weighty task ahead of him, representing a community that is becoming increasingly marginalized and under outright attack. In the span of one week earlier this month in Paris, a Jewish teenager was attacked with a Taser; Jewish teens were sprayed with tear gas; and Jewish boys and their grandfather were chased by an ax-wielding man during Shavuot. (more…)

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