A New Read on Jewish Life
Updated: 6 hours 46 minutes ago
An Israeli man was assaulted by two men with a stun gun near a Paris synagogue last night, JTA reports.
K. Sassoun, a 52-year-old Israeli, was identified as the victim of Monday night’s attack at a building next to a synagogue on Pavee Street in central Paris, according to the JSSnews.com news site. Sassoun was not seriously hurt but required medical treatment after being knocked down by the stun gun, which sends electric currents that usually incapacitate targets or render them unconscious for several minutes.
The world’s largest whisky exhibition finally reached Tel Aviv last week. For the first time, Whisky Live, a two-day showcase of 300 bottles from countries like Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and India, set up shop in the Holy Land.
One of the most popular stands at the fair, though, had yet to make one bottle. The Milk and Honey Distillery, Israel’s first-ever whisky distillery, started in 2012 as an idea between six friends. They raised more than $70,000 in late 2013, enough to buy barrels and copper stills for their distillery in northern Jaffa. Master distiller Jim Swan, who has advised whisky operations in other New World countries like Taiwan and India, is overseeing their production. I spoke with Milk and Honey co-founder Simon Fried at Whisky Live to learn more about the project.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is back in Israel, and back to business. He gave a press conference today about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, standing in front of neatly stacked piles of Iranian-supplied missiles that the Israeli navy intercepted last week, reportedly en route to Gaza.
An additional 180 mortar shells and 400,000 rifle rounds sat beside the captured missiles on the Eilat pier where Netanyahu was speaking, bolstering the prime minister’s stern message. An Israeli naval missile boat that took part in the raid was docked behind the weapons.
John Kerry Appeals to Iran for Robert Levinson's Release on Seventh Anniversary of His Disappearance
Sunday was the seventh anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who was abducted on a secret CIA mission to the Iranian island of Kish in 2007. He is among the longest-held American hostages; photographs and videos that have been sent to his family over the years show an increasingly haggard man with an untamed beard wearing an orange Guantanamo-style jumpsuit and begging for help.
But that help has been slow to arrive. Iran’s leadership has continued to insist it has no idea who took Levinson or where he might be. “We don’t know where he is, who he is,” Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, told CNN in September. And while American officials insist they haven’t abandoned him, their strategy for finding him has involved polite appeals to Iran, rather than, say, making his re-appearance a precondition of pursuing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
In the kind of publicity-generating move movie studios only dream about, the French government has announced that three valuable paintings looted by the Nazis will be returned to the descendants of their original owners the day before The Monuments Men is set to arrive in theaters in France, JTA reports. According to France’s Culture Ministry, the timing is intentional.
“Portrait of a Woman,” believed to be painted by Louis Tocque, originally belonged to Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer, Jewish art dealers in Berlin. “Virgin with Child,” by Lippo Memmi or an associate, was seized in 1944 from banker Richard Soepkez in Cannes, and “Mountain Landscape,” by Flemish painter Joos de Momper, belonged to a non-Jewish Belgian banker whose property in France was confiscated in 1943.
Purim begins Saturday evening, which means it’s time for the parody videos, that historic holiday tradition, to begin making their way across the Internet. This one, from A.K.A. Pella, takes a page from one of recent pop culture’s most deliriously catchy creations: Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis’ inanely entertaining What Does The Fox Say?
It’s actually a pretty concise retelling of the Purim story, which works strangely well with the song’s jaunty rhythm. It gets a little intense toward the end, though, perhaps forgetting it’s a parody and not a parsha. Still, it’ll probably get stuck in your head. Have a look:
Downtown Manhattan yesterday looked a lot like Jerusalem the previous weekend, with tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathering to protest Israel’s proposed military draft, which would require religious citizens to join the army.
Sunday’s two-hour rally brought together protestors from various ultra-Orthodox communities, some from Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, and many others from the predominantly ultra-Orthodox enclave of Kiryas Joel, north of Manhattan. Tight security surrounded the streets around Wall Street, where men and women stood in separate groups while chanting along to Hebrew prayers blasting over loudspeakers, the New York Times reports.
The brutal murder of the pioneering Jewish heritage researcher Jiři Fiedler has shocked and saddened the Jewish heritage community and beyond.
Fiedler, 78, and his wife Dagmar, are believed to have been killed in their Prague apartment at the end of January, though their bodies weren’t found until two weeks later. Local news reports at the time didn’t reveal their names. Police are investigating, but so far, few details have been made public.
A barber in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan is offering an usual deal: a pre-Passover haircut for Jews. The cost of the cut, the New York Daily News reports, is just $12—a $3 discount from the usual $15 price.
Miguel Sanchez, who advertised the deal on a hand-written sign outside his barber shop on Broadway and West 187th St., told the Daily News that more than 20 Jewish customers had since stopped in for a trim. Still, his promotion drew criticism from locals, largely because it appeared to directly offer a discount to a specific group of people, which in addition to being kind of tacky is also discriminatory.
Though it seems like the sun just set on the last Broadway incarnation of Fiddler on the Roof, it looks like Tevye, Golde, Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze, and Bielke are heading back to the stage one more time. While it may seem a bit formulaic to revive the shtetl classic for the fifth time on Broadway, it’s not really a surprise—Fiddler has become one of the most ubiquitous shows around. (You can hear Alisa Solomon, author of the new book, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof, discuss the musical’s enduring legacy with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry here.) Plus, with attention newly being paid to Tevye and his daughters in light of their upper-crust Edwardian simulacra on the PBS hit Downton Abbey, the timing is actually pretty smart.
ArtsBeat reports that the new musical will feature choreography by Israeli-born Hofesh Shechter, who was profiled in Tablet last summer. “My movement is 360 degrees, like being encapsulated in a bubble—everything moves in any direction,” he said at the time.
Over the past week, one man has become, seemingly, a symbol of everything to be feared by Jews and other minorities—chiefly ethnic Russians—in Ukraine: Stepan Bandera. Who was he?
Born in 1909 in what was then Austria-Hungary, Bandera led one of the factions of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, a proto-fascist movement that advocated sovereignty for ethnic Ukrainians—and the removal of other ethnic groups from Ukrainian territory. In the 1930s, this meant primarily Poles, because Ukraine was then under Polish rule. Bandera spent five years in prison, and was only released after the Soviet invasion in 1939.
Though Israel used to host fashion weeks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when its textile industry was booming, the country’s modern fashion week history only began in 2011. That year, two different fashion weeks took place for the first time. The Holon Fashion Week, the less commercially oriented of the two, was started to promote fashion as part of a wider cultural discourse (its fourth annual event will take place in October. The Tel Aviv Fashion Week, produced by fashion entrepreneurs Motty Reif and Ofir Lev, was created as the more mainstream, commercial affair. But the following year the two men parted ways acrimoniously, and two competing Tel Aviv Fashion Weeks were born.
Nobody seems to know exactly what happened between the former partners. “According to the rumors it is a case of money and ego—as always,” Yael Ben Israel, a fashion writer at Israel’s Globes financial newspaper, told me.
It may surprise you to learn that this Saturday’s New York Times crossword puzzle—the most difficult puzzle of the week and a wicked mental undertaking—was built by a 17-year-old who lives with his parents in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes. But David Steinberg, a friendly, articulate high school junior, is in fact a crossword puzzle veteran, having had his first puzzle published by the Times when he was 14—making him the second-youngest person to enjoy such an honor.
The New York Times crossword, edited by Will Shortz, is popularly regarded as the crème de la crème of mainstream puzzles. And while solvers toil through Steinberg’s Saturday grid over a cup (or three) of coffee, the teenager will be in Brooklyn at the 37th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, or ACPT, speaking about his newest brainchild: a collaborative online database of New York Times crossword puzzles published between 1942 and 1993, when Shortz began as editor (puzzles published since then are already available online). Steinberg calls it the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project.
Unidentified vandals destroyed six 19th-century gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in Mysłowice, Poland earlier this week, JTA reports. Resident Ireneusz Skwirowski told a local website that police would be informed of the incident, adding that she had photographs of the people reportedly behind the vandalism. Skwirowski was part of a group of local residents who, working with a councilman and an historian, restored the long-neglected Jewish cemetery late last year—making the act of vandalism one that very much impacts the community.
Jewish cemeteries throughout Poland, in many towns and villages the last vestiges of pre-war Jewish life, are today a haunting reminder of the country’s lost Jewish community—both for visiting Jews, like myself, searching for their family’s roots, as well as for local Poles living in their midst.
Interested in a tour of Israel led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? You’re in luck. Tonight at 8 p.m. on Channel 13, PBS will be premiering the hour-long documentary Israel: The Royal Tour. In it, Netanyahu gives journalist Peter Greenberg a tour of the Holy Land, from the snow-topped peaks of the north to the deserts of the south. Together they float in the Dead Sea, take a boat through the Red Sea, and raft down the Jordan river. They visit the ancient site of Masada before traveling to Haifa to see the high-tech world of the Technion.
“It was a great mix from the Mediterranean Sea to the (Negev) desert. We had a lot of fun. He said that he hadn’t been on a bicycle for years because of security,” Greenberg told the Jewish Star. “So we put the bikes on the road and jumped on and were racing and the security guards ran after us.”
The Israeli Navy intercepted a ship off the coast of Africa filled with rockets and reportedly headed for Gaza, the Wall Street Journal reports. Israel military officials say the rockets were made in Syria, flown to Iran, and then sent towards their final destination in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently visiting the U.S. to encourage Washington to tighten economic sanctions against Iran, called the interception “a perfect mission.”
The late Harry W. Mazal built a 3,000-square foot addition to his San Antonio, TX, home to house his enormous collection of Holocaust documents and materials—the largest private Holocaust archive in the world. Now the impressive collection has a new home: the University of Colorado Boulder. The Daily Camera reports that Mazal’s daughter, Aimee Mazal Skillin, has donated the full collection to the university.
The collection, which encompasses more than 20,000 books and 500,000 documents, pamphlets and photographs—and includes original transcripts of the Nuremberg trials and other war crimes trials—is estimated to be worth up to $1 million.
In his Feb. 3 review in Tablet, David Mikics misrepresents our book Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East. It is not a biography of the grand mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husaini, though one is in the making, and Mikics fails to show how it compares to related works. He bit off more than he can chew. Thus, he exaggerates: the book, he alleges, purports to demonstrate that “Zionism caused the Holocaust.” He then calls this invention “their logic, a “flawed conclusion,” as if he were refuting what he has in fact attributed to us. In the light of Barry Rubin’s passing—see the obituary by Lee Smith in Tablet—I will answer here.
Zionists rescued Jews on many occasions: in the attempted genocide in Palestine 1915 to 1917, in the Holocaust of World War II, and thereafter in global pogroms and Middle Eastern conflicts. As we have shown, the seeds of the State of Israel stem from the advent of Zionism and the League of Nations. At its 1922 San Remo conference this world body assigned the mandate of Palestine to Great Britain as 52 states recognized historical ties of the Jewish people with Palestine and favored the “reconstituting of their home” there.
Minnesota Republican Michelle Bachmann, former kibbutznik and failed Yiddishist, has some harsh words for American Jews who voted for President Obama. Namely, that in supporting a president who lobbied Congress to hold off on additional sanctions against Iran, they sold out Israel.
According to Talking Points Memo, Bachmann made the assertion in an interview with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “What has been shocking has been seeing and observing Jewish organizations who it appears have made it their priority to support the political priority and the political ambitions of the President over the best interests of Israel,” Bachmann said. “So in some respects, they sold out Israel.”
Samuel Waldman, a 52-year-old Brooklyn-based rabbi who teaches at a girls seminary, has been arrested on the charge of distributing child pornography, the AP reports.
A criminal complaint in federal court in Manhattan charged Waldman with distributing child pornography over the Internet in November by enabling others to download multiple videos depicting children in sexual acts, including girls ages 4 to 11.