Navigate to The Scroll section

What Happened: August 30, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Hurricane Ida; Countdown Afghanistan; Out of the Fog

The Scroll
August 30, 2021

The Big Story

With winds reaching up to 150 mph along the U.S. Gulf Coast, Hurricane Ida knocked out power in the entire city of New Orleans Sunday. By Monday, there were still hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana without electricity. One person has already been declared dead as a result of the hurricane, but Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Monday that he expects the death toll to rise “considerably.”

In the destruction, a landmark for the invention of America’s greatest art form now lies in rubble. The historic building in New Orleans where young Louis Armstrong was supported in his formative years by the immigrant Jewish Karnofsky family was destroyed.

The Karnofsky tailor shop at 427 South Rampart Street in New Orleans’ Central Business District was opened in 1913. The young Morris Karnofsky and Armstrong became childhood friends, and Armstrong was a guest at the family’s dinners and “worked for the Karnofskys on their coal and junk wagons, tooting ‘a small tin horn,’ according to the National Park Service website. Later, Morris Karnofsky would open New Orleans’ first jazz record store. Armstrong wrote about the lifelong impression the Karnofskys made on him and his appreciation of the Jewish tradition—visible from the large Star of David necklace he wore as an adult—in his memoir, Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, La., the Year of 1907.

The Karnofsky shop on South Rampart Street was designated a historic landmark and targeted for preservation efforts that never came to pass. A local news report describes it now as nothing more than “a pile of bricks mixed with wood and shattered windows.” On Twitter, the actor and New Orleans native Wendell Pierce lamented, “100 years of history demolished in an hour because of the neglect of the City of New Orleans. Great cities celebrate and restore their cultural landmarks.”

Read it here:

Today’s Back Pages: Out of the Fog—‘The Seductress Who Sowed Sin in Ancient Galilee’

The Rest

Afghanistan Update:

The deadline for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan expires at roughly 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday—midnight in Kabul. The Pentagon confirmed Monday that it still expects to meet the deadline.

  • In retaliation for a suicide bomb attack last Thursday, the United States responded with a series of drone strikes. On Saturday, U.S. missiles killed two people purported to be “high profile” ISIS members and injured a third in the eastern Nangarhar Province. On Sunday, a U.S. drone strike in Kabul destroyed what the Pentagon says was a vehicle loaded with explosives and suicide bombers who were planning to carry out an imminent attack on the airport. CNN is reporting that the strike destroyed a house in Kabul, killing 10 members of a single family—seven of them children. The Wall Street Journal puts the number of civilian casualties at five.
  • On Monday, U.S. missile defense systems shot down up to five rockets fired at the Kabul airport.
  • Multiple reports from Afghanistan claim that the Taliban is now fully in control of perimeter security at the Kabul airport where U.S. forces are stationed. According to these accounts, U.S. officials gave Taliban leaders a list with the names of American citizens and other designated persons to use for screening entry into the airport.

China’s authoritarian government is brutally repressive, but it’s not blind. Chinese authorities have banned online video games Monday through Thursday and limited gaming to one hour per day on Fridays, weekends, and holidays. The rules come from the state’s National Press and Publication Administration and are aimed at online gaming companies who are required to use name verification to screen for minors and ensure they are not using their service during unauthorized hours. 

ALL-AMERICAN SOCIAL CREDIT NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH: Do not misbehave or adopt bad opinions, or your bank—undoubtedly the institution you turn to for moral rectitude—might ban your account.

🚨🚨BREAKING: Chase Bank cancels its credit card accounts with General Flynn citing possible “reputational risk” to their company. In case there was any doubt what is happening in this country. @TracyBeanzOfficial

— Regina Hicks (@reginahicksreal) August 29, 2021

Shortly after Marine Lt. Col. Stu Scheller posted a video online criticizing the military’s senior leaders for refusing to take responsibility for the failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, he was relieved of command and subsequently resigned his commission. Scheller, who had 17 years of service, posted the video Thursday to Facebook. Within 10 hours, it had been viewed more than 70,000 times, and by Friday he was “fired.”
See it here:

Sirhan B. Sirhan, the Palestinian national who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy during his presidential campaign in 1968, has been recommended for parole. Sirhan later said that the killing was retaliation for Kennedy’s campaign offer to send 50 Phantom fighter jets to Israel.

The European Union has recommend cutting off all non-essential travel to the United States due to the spike in American COVID-19 cases. Individual countries may create exceptions based on travelers’ vaccination status.

Japanese medical authorities appeared to have recommended that doctors give ivermectin to COVID-19 patients. The anti-parasitic drug remains controversial in the United States, partly due to its association with Donald Trump, and has been mocked in official statements from the Food and Drug Administration. Last Friday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told constituents that “the hatred for Trump deranged these people so much, they’re unwilling to objectively study” ivermectin.

Tokyo’s Medical Assoc. Chairman holds live press conference recommending #ivermectin to all doctors, for all Covid patients.

Japan’s government is one of the most conservative and cautious in the world. Data is clear. Huge news.

— Bren (@brenontheroad) August 23, 2021

Court documents indicate that the FBI paid one of its informants more than $144,000 while he was involved in publishing racist literature. The allegations came out in the trial of Kaleb Cole, a member of the small neo-Nazi cult Atomwaffen who was arrested in February 2020 and charged with being part of a “conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists.”
Read it here:

The Back Pages

In Out of the Fog, historical detective Brian Berger digs through newspaper columns, clippings, and other clues to bring readers the fascinating, scandalous, and forgotten tales of the past. In this installment: “The Seductress Who Sowed Sin in Ancient Galilee”—the True Story of When Cancel Culture Came for a Jewish Silent Film Star.

It’s impossible to say too much about Jewish silent film star, “vampire,” and icon Theda Bara. If the fact that nearly all her movies have been lost—silver nitrate film stock decays, fires burn—makes our adulation seem nostalgic, history says otherwise. For reasons that remain complex but compelling, Bara truly was an era-defining figure, which is why, at the peak of her stardom in 1919, a group of women of Elmhurst—a not particularly Jewish neighborhood in Queens, New York—tried to cancel her.

Bara was born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1885, the middle child of a prosperous Polish tailor and a Swiss mother. Moving to New York in the 1910s to pursue acting, she performed on both the Yiddish and “legitimate” stage to little notice. Her first film appearance, as an extra under her Goodman surname, in 1914’s The Stain, was likewise unremarkable.

Still, something impressed that picture’s director, Frank Powell, who cast Theda as “The Vampire,” co-starring opposite Edward José, in A Fool There Was. This title was a story itself, having been taken from a popular 1909 play and novel by Porter Emerson Browne, who was himself following Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 poem about Philip Burnes-Jones’ painting, “The Vampire.” There was sacrifice among these transformations too: Theodosia Goodman, the Cincinnati Jewess, perished, and Theda Bara was born. But who was she?

The perceptive film historian, Gaylyn Studlar, described Bara’s vampire as “an unnamed adventuress of unknown origins; she victimizes a string of men who masochistically succumb to her sexual allure, an allure that transgresses the ideals of white Anglo-Saxon womanhood.”

The William Fox studio, which produced A Fool There Was, promoted this image with an aggressive publicity campaign, including the fiction that its new star was born in Egypt to a French actress and a Spanish sculptor, and the fact that Theda Bara was an anagram for “Arab Death.” It worked—Bara was an overnight sensation, and though the press would eventually reveal her actual Cincinnati origins, her exotic allure remained, and dozens of more starring roles followed. Most, though not all, of those films played on Bara’s image as an exotic “vamp” icon.

In September 1918 came her most spectacular project yet, Salome, based on the ever-popular seductress heroine whose stories date back to the New Testament and Judeo-Roman historian, Flavius Josephus.

Ads for the “Theda Bara Super-Production” alliteratively announced its “Pagan Pageantry,” “Barbaric Brilliance” and “Drama Double-Distilled.” As fall turned to winter, with the war in Europe ending, and concerns about both left-wing radicals and the influenza epidemic rising, Salome cut a successful swath across the United States’ cities and towns.

Trouble started when the film arrived in Elmhurst, a middle-class neighborhood in New York City’s easternmost borough of Queens, populated largely by those of western and central European, non-Jewish descent.

Unbowed by Bara’s popularity and distressed by the racy advertising that accompanied her work, the Women’s Civic League drafted a letter to local theater owners, the Sheer Brothers, asking that Bara’s pictures no longer be booked there.

As reported in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of February 17, the request was declined. Theater manager Daniel Sheer responded with a wisdom sorely missing in so many modern censorship debates that cut to the heart of the matter: “The majority of persons who object to Theda Bara films are those who do not patronize theaters.”

Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel.

Support Our Podcasts

In addition to Unorthodox, the world’s No. 1 Jewish podcast, and Take One, our daily Talmud meditation, we’re hard at work on exciting new Jewish audio series.