A New Read on Jewish Life
Updated: 1 hour 33 minutes ago
On Thursday morning—the last day of Hanukkah—we received the following query from reader Daniel S. Palmer: How do you get those last pesky bits of wax off your menorah?
We felt that this was a matter of some importance (if not urgency—after all, Hanukkah and Hannukiahs have been around for a couple thousand years), so we put the question to Tablet’s readers on Facebook and Twitter. The most popular methods were freezing, boiling, and baking in the oven (!), but there were also some nifty pre-lighting tips too.
Hearing a song that was popular during your bar or bat mitzvah season is like traveling back in time. The first few notes creep in and you’re transported into a temple auditorium filled with sweaty 12- and 13-year-olds, the rainbow strobe lights flashing and party motivators directing your arm movements—high, middle, low, repeat—usually to a song like Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration.” But with age comes understanding: there’s actually more to play at a bar mitzvah or wedding than number one hits from the 1980s. Our newest Friday feature finds those songs for you, condensing each week’s new music into a short list of guaranteed party hits, plus a suggested time during the party to play each of the songs. There’s never been an easier way to ensure you’ll look hip at your cousin’s nephew’s wedding next month.
Britney Spears, “Chillin’ With You”
Last night, Omri Casspi, the NBA’s first Israeli player, embarked on his inaugural journey to the White House. The Houston Rocket small forward went to D.C. not because he had won a championship, although his team is currently in the upper echelon of the rough-and-tumble Western Conference, but because it was the ninth night of Hanukkah and he had been invited to the White House Hanukkah party.
For days leading up to party, he excitedly posted on social media and when the time came for him to select a date, Casspi brought his mom. Aww…
One of the central tragedies of our lives is that there are more books out there than we’d ever have time to read. But we’re not going gently into the good night: each Friday, Liel Leibovitz will be reviewing a title lost in the neverending book pile, robbed of well-merited attention, or deserving of a second look.
Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland, by Glenn Dynner
• Leaving Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry said an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal has never been closer. [Jerusalem Post]
• Paging Nora Ephron: The first time Jerry Seinfeld told his now-wife Jessica he loved her was in the fish section at Zabar’s. [Grubstreet]
As we mentioned earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Wednesday to help revive the flagging peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. If there were a concession made for each time we said this about Kerry, well…there’d probably be a peace deal. Unfortunately, we’re not quite there just yet. To help move things along, Kerry is focusing on Israel’s security, which it is prioritizing because there’s really no point in making a peace agreement if a country is going to feel less secure after the fact. (You’d think that this nugget would be filed under Peacemaking 101).
Over at YNet, Ron Yishai spells out, quite compellingly I may add, about why Israel’s security must be resolved before all other issues.
The opening of a new egalitarian plaza next to the Kotel has created the possibility of compromise over how to accommodate all forms of prayer at the Western Wall. Although the plaza is only temporary, liberal Jews see in it the potential to break the decades-old Orthodox control of the holy site.
The Western Wall, the last standing retaining wall of the Second Temple, was first made accessible to prayer in 1967, when the Israeli army conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. It is one of Judaism’s holy sites. Prayer there is under control of Orthodox rabbis, who uphold strict gender segregation and adherence to traditional prayer ritual.
We’re saddened to report that Nelson Mandela has died at 95. The legendary leader, who was imprisoned for 27 years, was South Africa’s first black president and a tireless voice against racial oppression.
When Mandela was hospitalized this summer, Dana Evan Kaplan, a reform rabbi who used to live in Cape Town, described his experience meeting then-President Mandela at interfaith events. Earlier this month Richard Kreitner wrote about the Jews in South Africa who allied with and supported Mandela in his revolutionary struggles.
More than 100 descendants of Jews who converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition celebrated the eighth night of Hanukkah in Palermo, Sicily last night at an unlikely venue: the infamous Steri Palace prison, where Jews were routinely tortured from 1601 to 1782.
“Centuries after the Steri Palace Prison was used to try and extinguish the light of Israel, we came here to show that the flame of Judaism continues to burn,” said Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, the organization that planned the historic event. “For 200 years, Jews were tortured within the palace’s walls, and many were then burned at the stake by the Inquisition for secretly practicing Judaism.”
It’s been a particularly violent day in different hotspots in the world. First, out of Syria, the forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad are being accused of using poison gas in Syria’s nearly three-year-old civil war.
These aren’t the first accusations since a massive chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus in late August nearly prompted a military response from the United States. While the reports are impossible to verify, two different rebel groups are leveling the charge.
• A 33-year-old American teacher was shot and killed while jogging in Benghazi, Libya today. [Washington Post]
• The Los Angeles Kabbalah Centre is being sued for more than $1 million by former followers. [JTA]
The American Studies Association decided yesterday to boycott Israel, a move endorsed unanimously by the academic organization’s national council. If the association’s members are serious about their purported moral commitments, their only logical next step would be to go ahead and boycott themselves. This actually makes sense.
To hear the American Studies Association tell it, the act is largely symbolic, an expression of “solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.” The move, so spake the ASA’s national council, “is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.”
Germany’s years-long battle against the Church of Scientology may soon be coming to an end.
Last week, Der Spiegel reported that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV)—Germany’s FBI—is dropping its official “monitoring” of the organization. Since the late 1990s, the BfV and a number of provincial-level bureaus have tracked the group for what they describe as its “totalitarian” aims, rejection of “the democratic system” and a “long-term goal” seeking “a social order in which it is the sole authority.”
To the chagrin of some, the end of Jewish mayoral triumvirate (NYC-LA-Chicago) is upon us. In less than a month, Bill de Blasio will replace Michael Bloomberg after 12 years on the job. The election results were a total blowout and, with the result pre-guaranteed, a disproportionate number of hilarious write-in votes were cast. Unsurprisingly, many in the world’s biggest Jewish city were pining for their New York of old when they entered the booths.
First, an obvious recipient for top write-in spot was Christine Quinn (196 votes), who had been the presumptive frontrunner for much of the race until the polling and reality both caught up. But then things got a little wacky. Michael Bloomberg was second (155 votes). This seems noteworthy (or at least telling) since the winner of write-in votes in Bloomberg’s third and final election in 2009 was Mr. Burns, the caricature of a power-crazed billionaire on the The Simpsons.
This week, the AP reported on the phenomenon of Israeli politicians carrying on with their semi-important duties all while having slightly ridiculous nicknames. This isn’t anything new, but with the election of Isaac Herzog to the head of the Labor Party, a new star was born.
When Isaac Herzog was a child, his Egyptian-born, French-speaking mother thought him to be as pretty as a doll. So she blended its Hebrew word, “buba,” with a French-sounding term of endearment, “joujou,” to create a distinct nickname that would stick with the boy for life — “Bougie.”
Israeli model and actor Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman in the upcoming Warner Bros. sequel to Man of Steel. The former Miss Israel, who turned 28 in April (and was thusly appointed ‘Scroll crush’ by my predecessor), has had roles in the past three Fast and Furious movies as well as a guest spot on Entourage.
Director Zack Snyder said in a statement, “Not only is Gal an amazing actress, but she also has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role. We look forward to audiences discovering Gal in the first feature film incarnation of this beloved character.”
• Tablet contributor Daniel Estrin spotted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his apartment, stopping to help an older man take out his trash. The ensuing story is pretty remarkable. [PRI]
Tablet is hiring two paid, part-time spring editorial interns. If you have experience in journalism and are familiar with the landscape of American Jewish life, we’d love to hear from you.
Interns will contribute blog posts and full features as well as assist the editorial staff with research and administrative tasks. The spring internships run from early January through Memorial Day at our offices in New York City.
If you’re nurturing the hope that 2014 will be different and better than 2013, don’t look east. While many would welcome the news of the demise of Hassane Laqees, a senior Hezbollah figure thought to be one of the terrorist organization’s arms and technology chiefs, the context of it (with Lebanon in the foreground of the civil war next door in Syria) speaks to a reality that a quieter time is not quickly approaching.
Hezbollah did not say how he was killed but accused “the Israeli enemy” of targeting him and said Israel would have to “bear all the responsibility and ramifications of this vile crime.” Israeli officials denied involvement.
The Supreme Court heard a rather unusual case yesterday: the one about the rabbi suing Northwest Airlines over the termination of his frequent flier status. According to NPR, Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg was booted from the program because he had “abused it”—mostly by complaining.
According to Northwest, he called the frequent-flier program 24 times within seven months to register what the airline viewed as complaints. Ginsberg was a very frequent flier, with top Platinum Elite status and approximately 75 flights a year. He says he never asked for anything when registering his complaints. The airline contends he “repeatedly asked for compensation.”