A New Read on Jewish Life
Updated: 10 hours 57 minutes ago
Outsourcing Our Jewish Obligations: Hiring Others to Live the Jewish Lives We Can’t Be Bothered to Lead Ourselves
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Brooklyn-based Hasidic group—or maybe it’s just one hateful, nutty dude—that, eager to shield yeshiva bochers from the abominations on display throughout Greenwich Village last Sunday, but committed to registering their/his rejection of gay marriage, hired Mexicans to hold protest placards, dressing them in a costume complete with peyot and other Hasidic-like garb.
Whatever else you want to say about them (and there is plenty), it’s interesting to note that the wily mind or minds behind this stunt tapped into the same insight that is driving billion-dollar valuations across Silicon Valley–namely that there’s a mint to be made from connecting people who don’t want to do something with other people who’d be more than happy to do that something on their behalf, for a modest fee. Herewith are some other tasks of Jewish life that we might think of outsourcing:
This Independence Day—”Welcome to Earth“—kick back and enjoy some of Tablet’s coverage of the July Fourth holiday, from delicious recipes, to mini-models of the statue of liberty in Brooklyn, and much more. Check us out:
Woo! Woo! Statue of Liberty in Sheepshead Bay! by Louie Lazar
Howdy. I imagine that right now, half of you have already made plans filled with beaches, beers and/or salty kosher meats that are going to come off the grill so juicy and delicious that you just have to eat more and more and more because it’s the freakin’ weekend.
The other half, though—and let’s be honest here—is probably a bit stressed out because you don’t quite have the types of funfunfun plans lined up that seem to be a Bud Light-branded requirement of being alive during this long, patriotic weekend.
A Sequel to 'Welcome to the Dollhouse,' 20 Years in the Making, Will Show Us What Happened to Dawn Weiner
“You better get ready, because this afternoon, at 3 o’clock, I’m gonna rape you.” This is the most indelible (if often slightly misquoted) line in one of the most indelible independent films of the ’90s, a decade chock-full of them: Welcome to the Dollhouse.
The feature debut from director Todd Solondz, Welcome to the Dollhouse tells the story of Dawn Weiner, a miserable adolescent girl growing up in a miserable section of suburban New Jersey.
Who’d have thought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was such a big Mariah Carey fan?
Carey and her billionaire partner, Australian entrepreneur James Packer, have been yachting around the Mediterranean and made their most recent anchoring in Israel. Since they’ve been in the Holy Land, Carey has been seen shedding tears on a trip to the Western Wall with her four year old twins, Roc and Monroe in tow. And get this: last Sunday, Carey and Packer paid a stately visit to the Netanyahus—Bibi and wife Sara—for dinner.
There are two ways a young author can fail to write a book worth reading. The first is to be insufficiently audacious—creating the sort of timid stuff that grows, like mushrooms, in the dark and clammy rooms that host MFA workshops but dissolves upon first contact with the world outside. The second is to go the opposite way, writing big and bold tomes that are so busy declaring their wild ambitions that they have no air left for stories, emotions, and other forms of human frailty. This audacity crisis often fells even some of our best and brightest, so when a debut novel comes along and dares just enough and hits the right notes, it deserves our attention.
Jessamyn Hope’s Safekeeping, published last month, is such a book. At its core is a shiny MacGuffin, an ornate brooch forged centuries ago by a master Jewish goldsmith. At the novel’s outset, Adam, a young American burdened by personal tragedies and a panoply of addictions, appears in a kibbutz in northern Israel, sweaty and penniless. Decades before, his late grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, lived on the same kibbutz and had a passionate affair with a young woman, a hardened pioneer he’d never stopped loving; now, the grandson is hoping to find the same woman and give her the brooch, the grandfather’s most prized possession. The kibbutz is small, but, in Hope’s evocative telling, it contains multitudes, including a young Canadian woman struggling with mental illness, a wily Belorussian émigré desperate to leave Israel for the splendors of Manhattan, and a tough old kibbutznik who refuses to accept that the ideals to which she’d devoted her life are fading in the glare of capitalism’s bright light. That these characters are all in some way broken only makes the novel’s game of emotional chess more compelling: Hope is both generous enough to give each of her creations the space to clamor for safety, love, and well-being, and tough enough to know that not all lives end well, the best of intentions be damned.
Lev Berenshteyn sat on the porch of his Sheepshead Bay house one recent afternoon, staring at a 16-foot-tall, 6,000 pound monument that rose from his lawn. Berenshteyn, a Jewish refugee from Uzbekistan and a retired limousine driver, had just finished building a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
“Oh, I like it,” Berenshteyn, 69 years old, said in heavily Russian-accented English, “Now every morning when I go to clean the yard, I see that ‘The Lady’ is here.”
Biblical Israel was America’s inspiration. Its successor, the State of Israel, yet may be America’s salvation, though usually the issue is put the other way around. America’s founders, to be sure, saw in their “new nation, conceived in liberty” a new Israel, and Lincoln dubbed Americans an “almost chosen people.” We long since put the notion of national election on the back shelf along with other memorabilia of the Revolution and Civil War. But Israel’s founding and fight for survival strike a chord in our national character that reminds of us what we were and still should be.
The notion of “national election,” to be sure, has scant purchase in a world where every identity group claims the right to the equality of its own narrative. It evokes Europe’s wars of national aggrandizement, foreign wars to make the world safe for democracy, and the marginalization of minorities. The notion that one nation’s narrative might trump another’s offends the leveling Zeitgeist: Identity politics excludes the distinction between good and evil, for every narrative is valid in its own terms. That was the nub of President Barack Obama’s oft-quoted 2009 remark, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
Sir Nicholas Winton, nicknamed the “British Schindler” for rescuing more than 650 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through Kindertransports to the United Kingdom, died today at age 106, the BBC reports.
Winton was born in 1909 to German Jewish parents in London. In 1938, the 29-year-old Winton traveled to Czechoslovakia to visit a friend. It was there he witnessed how dangerous the conditions were increasingly becoming for the country’s Jewish population. The Guardian reports that in an interview with BBC Radio 4 last year, Winton explained he was fully aware of the urgency of the situation, thanks to information he received from the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia while Prague:
Last night, the State Department released nearly 3,000 pages of Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as Secretary of State, as part of a court-mandated process that will continue throughout the coming months. The contents of the communiques are now being pored over by journalists, opposition researchers and interest groups, all searching for tidbits that might shed light on Clinton’s conduct in the Obama administration. Naturally, attention has already been turned to what the documents say about her outlook towards Israel. The answer: a lot, and also not much.
A quick rundown of the relevant emails:
Israel shut its border crossings with Egypt on Wednesday after a car bomb exploded in the North Sinai capital of El-Arish. The attack was part of a series of coordinated Islamic militant assaults on checkpoints within the Egyptian province. At least 50 people—many of them Egyptian soldiers and policemen—are believed to have been killed. Four Israelis were reportedly injured, as well. A group called Sinai Province, an affiliate of the Islamic State, have allegedly used Twitter to claim their responsibility for the attacks, reported Haaretz, including attacks to at least 15 security sites, and three suicide attacks.
The incident follows the Islamic State’s release of a video message released on Tuesday called, “A Message to Our People in Jerusalem,” reported The Jerusalem Post. In it, a masked ISIS member proclaims:
It’s a big day for Israeli hip hop: two of the scene’s biggest names, Lukach and Nechi Nech, have new albums out. It’s a good opportunity for fans to take the measure of an art form, Hebrew hip hop, that is growing into something original and formidable.
Calling his latest release “Crack Games,” Lukach—a corpulent, playful, and massively charismatic MC—continues his evolution into a local Israeli hybrid of Big Pun and Weird Al. In “The King of Crack,” he takes on the persona of a hardened dealer who makes a fortune by selling the synthetic drug to Israeli politicians and blowing all of his profits on sushi. In “Gym Song,” he spins an absurdist tale of the various hallucinations he suffers after passing out while on the treadmill, including a dance party in heaven with Tupac Shakur and Yitzhak Rabin. And just when you’re ready to dismiss Lukach as a clown who would sacrifice everything (even his talent) for another great punchline, he comes out with a song like “Night Falls Again,” a beautiful and slow mash-up of trip hop and auto-tune, and more puns and small lyrical gems like: I follow the religion of Moses / Of striking water out of rocks.
GoEuro, a company that “prides itself on helping customers make educated decisions when it comes to their travels,” just released its annual Beer Price Index, a ranking of 75 countries according to the cost of what, for many, is one of the most important travel ingredients. And Israel, represented by Tel Aviv, did not fare well, coming in third from the bottom at no. 73, making the city the third most expensive place to buy a beer. But let’s dig deeper.
According to GoEuro, the average price of a 33cl beer (a bottle) bought at a bar in Tel Aviv is $9.53. That’s almost $7 more expensive than the price of a beer at a bar in Krakow, Poland, which sits at the no. 1 spot (least expensive). (In Tel Aviv, customers will pay $2.06 if they buy from a supermarket. In total, the average cost of a bottle of beer in Tel Aviv is $5.79.)
Author Samuel G. Freedman Is Creating a Project to Preserve the Work of his Jeff Schmalz, a Trailblazing Reporter Who Covered AIDS
Back in the day, Jeff Schmalz was a rock star reporter at the New York Times. He was in charge of the paper’s Metro coverage while still in his 20s. He was a closeted gay man.
And for good reason, recalls Schmalz’s friend and colleague Samuel G. Freedman, now a columnist at the Times, a professor at Columbia Journalism School, and the author of seven non-fiction books. “The newsroom in the ’70s and ’80s was a homophobic place,” he told me. “Journalists who came out saw their careers stagnate or even nosedive.”
Two Iranian truck drivers sat idly in the parking area of the Poti Free Industrial Zone (FIZ), waiting for customs authorities to clear their cargo and for FIZ personnel to prepare new papers. Within hours, they’d be chugging along Georgian roads on their way to Iran. Three more Turkish trucks awaited just outside the FIZ entrance, while a dozen containers lay between the customs office and the FIZ’s only warehouse.
A friendly manager of RAKIA Georgia, the FIZ’s owner, welcomed me on a warm late October afternoon after a seven-hour drive from Georgia’s charming capital Tbilisi. My hostess solicitously whisked me to a conference room, fetched me a strong Georgian coffee, pointed to the restrooms, and promised she would join me in a few minutes. Left alone, I looked around. Strewn over the large mahogany table was informational material left from a previous meeting. Alongside some glossy promotional brochures was a thick A4 document, a summary of the Free Zone’s investment strategies from 2010 to 2013.
One 5-pound chicken
Put the chicken in a large pot and pour water over top to almost cover, about 8 to 9 cups. Add the quartered onion, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the black pepper, and turmeric, then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer, then cook the chicken until done, about 40 minutes.
In the vast Persian community of Los Angeles, Farrokh Maddahi is known as the “champion” of fessenjan, a traditional chicken-and-walnut stew. Likely named for an old Persian town called Fisinjan (according to historian and author Nawal Nasrallah), the dish—a delightful combination of sweet, savory, and tart, blending pomegranates, onions, and turmeric—is one of the glories of the old Silk Road. Today it is often served at weddings or special occasions, always over basmati rice.
Maddahi comes from Tehran and traces her roots to the Jews who were exiled to Babylon after the destruction of the First Temple. After settling in Babylon, many of these Jews set off for the Persian Empire, following the trade roads and encountering the key ingredients in fessenjan. Walnuts are the basis for the sauce, adding a little crunch; the Jewish version adds apricots and dates to sweeten it up and balance the tartness of the pomegranate molasses. (Maddahi’s recipe is here.)
“I’m here until I have a deal in my hands,” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif just said here in Vienna. “I think we can do it.”
What Zarif is really saying is that during his one-day trip to Tehran, he got a green light from supreme leader Ali Khamenei to make a deal. Now it’s only a matter of getting the American side to show a liiiittttttle more flexibility.
Oh hey, here’s an uplifting video to brighten your day. This is the story of Matthew Jurgens’s bar mitzvah.
In the early 80’s, shortly after Jurgens was born, his mother was diagnosed with leukemia. She received treatment at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY on Long Island. “I have one fuzzy memory of my mother which involves me playing a card game with her when she was in the hospital,” wrote Jurgens, now 31.