A New Read on Jewish Life
Updated: 3 hours 29 minutes ago
Brandeis President Fred Lawrence announced his resignation today in a letter published on the university’s website. “After careful consideration, and in close consultation with the Board of Trustees,” Lawrence wrote, “I have decided to step down as President at the end of this, my fifth academic year.”
Lawrence’s tenure hasn’t been without drama. In April 2014, Lawrence drew criticism for the university’s decision, under his leadership, to revoke an honorary degree set to be awarded to the activist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali. More recently, Lawrence has come under fire for his handling of a campus controversy that began when a student named Daniel Mael published a fellow student’s anti-NYPD tweets, and which quickly escalated to a contentious battle over the limits of free speech.
According to some Lebanese analysts I spoke with this afternoon, the main point of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s much-anticipated speech today was that the Golan Heights would be Hezbollah’s, and therefore Iran’s, next arena of activity. That’s a marked change from his last public speech, delivered more than two weeks ago, when he reassured Hezbollah’s Shia constituency, which is anxious about fighting in Syria to defend Bashar al-Assad, that the organization was not active on the Golan Heights at all. The Israeli strike on a three-car convoy near Quneitra Jan. 18 revealed the truth: Hezbollah and Iran are indeed on the Golan and up to no good. So, even as Israel and Hezbollah both signaled that they were finished with their latest round of hostilities, it is nearly certain that the conflict is certain to flare up again, and perhaps much worse next time out. After all, as Iran marches toward a nuclear weapons program the stakes are getting increasingly high.
The most relevant fact about the recent mini-conflict was the nature of the delegation dispatched to the Golan two weeks ago. It seems that the six Hezbollah operatives and perhaps as many as six Iran Revolutionary Guard officers, including Brig. General Mohamed Ali Allahdadi, a confidante of Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, were setting up a missile base. Accordingly, Hezbollah’s retaliatory strike Wednesday from Lebanon—which killed two IDF soldiers and wounded seven more—was meant less to avenge the death of major Iranian and Hezbollah figures, like Jihad Muhghniyeh, the son of the late Hezbollah director of operations, terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, than it was to reaffirm the purpose of that three-car convoy targeted by Israel two weeks ago.
Best of luck to the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s big game. Tablet’s staff skews New England in their fandom, but I’m rooting for Tom Brady’s menorah. We got this.
Israel’s March elections are fast approaching–and still too close to call. Even for devoted Israel watchers, though, it can be difficult to follow the fluctuations of a political scene that features over half-a-dozen parties jockeying for parliamentary position. And that’s before one bumps up against the Hebrew language barrier. Fortunately, Tablet is here to help.
How can one keep track of the many polls released each week–and how reliable are they? Which analysts are writing in English and offering detailed blow-by-blow accounts of the race’s developments? And who makes the best political parody videos lampooning the contest’s participants? Our primer has the answers.
Last week a young member of Knesset named Stav Shaffir stepped up to the parliament’s podium and delivered a 3-minute speech that soon became a social media sensation. It was the sort of cri de coeur Capra would have loved: With her shock of red hair, flailing arms, and an innocent conviction all too rare in a legislative body whose members are more likely to pour water on each other than pour out their hearts, Shaffir’s speech was a young woman’s J’accuse.
“You forgot about the Negev and the Galilee in order to transfer 1.2 billion shekel bonuses to the settlements,” she thundered at her colleagues on the right. “You forgot Israel. You lost Zionism already some time ago.”
“Are you a ripper, or a cutter?” Sarah Klegman asked me in my kitchen in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles last spring.
We were talking about challah, of course. Klegman, 27, and her baking partner, Elina Tilipman, 30, are the forces behind Challah Hub, a Jewish holy bread and social media project. They’d come over at my behest to spend an afternoon making the traditional Sabbath plaited loaves and brought with them fresh batches of challah dough and salted caramel for the braid.
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm water
Summer camps were another Jewish institution I had skipped during my years in Rocky Point, on Long Island, but in my freshman year of college I discovered a camp quite unlike the others, though I can’t recall how I first heard about it. Many camps were either charitable operations that lifted poor kids out of the sweltering ghetto or lavish sports complexes that reflected the growing wealth and wider horizons of the Jewish middle class. Tennis and camping in the woods became one of their children’s tickets to America. Other camps were routine facilities gussied up with faux-Indian tribal motifs. Camp Massad was different. It consisted of a pair of camps in the Poconos, near the Delaware Water Gap, founded in 1941 by a Zionist family, the Shulsingers, who were mainly in the Jewish publishing business: prayer books, Passover haggadahs, gift books for Chanukah, Hebrew-English dictionaries. The camps’ religious orientation was gently Orthodox but their real mission was to instill Zionism into American youth by immersing them in a wholly (not holy) Hebrew atmosphere. This was exactly what had been missing in my old-style yeshiva, where the primary language, as in Eastern Europe, was Yiddish and the study of Talmud crowded out the rest of the Jewish curriculum. A middle-aged Israeli, Shlomo Shulsinger, abetted by his perky wife, Rivka, ran the camp with a stern voice and an iron hand. Stocky and short, with wavy, iron-gray hair, Shlomo dispensed homilies about the Land—Ha-aretz, the Holy Land—and reprimanded anyone caught speaking even a few words of English. His wife, looking equally strict and fit—I rarely saw her without a soccer ball in her hand—ran the sports programs for the girls’ camp. They became my image of the new Jew, the Israeli chalutzim, pioneers who had returned to the soil, embraced manual labor, and were making the proverbial desert bloom—except, of course, that he and she were living in the United States, hands-on emissaries for the Zionist cause.
I arrived at Massad the same year, 1958, that Leon Uris’s Exodus dominated the bestseller list, soon to be followed by an even more popular film version starring Paul Newman as the Sabra hero. They enshrined a tale that left American Jews bursting with unearned pride, easing the pain and unspoken guilt over what had befallen the Jews in Europe. It told how the Zionists had wrested a homeland from the ashes of the Holocaust and how a new kind of Jew, bold, strong, determined, had sprung forth to supplant the persecuted Jew of the Diaspora—the meek, unworldly Talmud scholar, the exploited worker, the small urban storekeeper like my father. This might explain why Zionism had scarcely impinged on my Orthodox Jewish childhood. I had carried around the blue-and-white collection box of the Jewish National Fund, raising money to plant trees in Israel, green forests in an arid land. But many religious Jews, though excited by the David-and-Goliath story of the birth of the Jewish state, saw Israel as a dubious experiment at odds with the fundamentals of the faith. The epitome of Zionism was the kibbutz, which meant tractors, socialism, and free love, with children separated from their parents and brought up in common as sun-baked young pagans. There were religious Zionists too, pioneers in khaki shorts with tiny knitted skullcaps, but Zionism scorned what it saw as the passivity and otherworldliness of ghetto Judaism, as it also spurned the assimilation and material values of America’s Jews. For many kibbutzniks the Soviet Union was the preferred model; for others it was European social democracy. Giving up the dogmas of religion, they grew fanatically devoted to political disputation and ideological commitment, a fractured legacy of the European Left.
You may have seen our Tablet tote bags before, either in person or on our Facebook page. They’re emblazoned with fun Jewish slogans like “I’m Kind of a Big Macher,” and “Dayenu, Already,” along with the Tablet logo.
We’re making a new batch, and we figured who better to help us brainstorm new taglines than our readers! After all, you guys will be the lucky recipients—our tote bags serve as prizes for reader contests and giveaways during our fundraising campaigns.
Editor’s note: The Personal Belief Exception percentages provided by the KQED search tool, which are quoted below, are for the school’s kindergarten class in the 2014-2015 school year. For context, we’ve added the total number of each school’s kindergarten students that year and the number who filed PBEs, data provided by the California Department of Public Health. The original percentage for Contra Costa Jewish Day School was listed incorrectly.
As you surely know by now, measles—once essentially eliminated in America—is again becoming an epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of cases in the U.S. is at a 20-year high. In the recent outbreak at Disneyland, the vast majority of the victims were unvaccinated.
Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany, in Berlin doing publicity for their confusing new film ‘Mortdecai‘ this week, had a particularly revealing interview with Israeli entertainment show ‘Erev Tov With Guy Pines.’
Hezbollah Kills Two IDF Soliders in North of Israel, Raising Questions About Deterrence Capabilities
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven injured yesterday in a Hezbollah attack on IDF vehicles near the easternmost part of the Israel-Lebanon border. Five Kornet rockets were fired at a military convoy, in what was the first fatal attack conducted by Hezbollah in the north since the Second Lebanon War ended in 2006. The IDF returned fire, apparently leading to the death of a U.N. peacekeeping soldier from Spain. The attack came in response to a drone strike earlier this month in the Syrian Golan Heights, which led to the death of six Hezbollah militants and a senior Iranian officer. Israel has not officially claimed responsibility for the deaths, though it is widely believed to have been a targeted strike against a group that was planning attacks on the Golan Heights in Israel. (Whether or not the Iranian officer was the intended beneficiary of the drone’s missile is unclear.) Additionally, on Tuesday, two rockets fell in the Golan, prompting the evacuation of the ski resort on Mt. Hermon.
Une photo publiée par Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) le 28 Janv. 2015 à 15h27 PST
Our journey to Auschwitz was long. The fog and the wind were so bad that our flight from Tel Aviv to Krakow was diverted to Warsaw. We drove all night to get there and arrived at Auschwitz exhausted. The trip wasn’t easy, and we barely made it in time to visit the museum before the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation. Then again, it should never be easy to come to this place. And nothing—not talking to survivors or reading extensively about it or teaching it or visiting other museums about it—prepared me for this visit.
For 70 years, it’s been said, “Never forget.” Never forget the marginalization, the stereotyping, the isolation and the dehumanization of Jews, Gypsies and other vulnerable minorities. Never forget that moment it became acceptable to consider them unworthy of life. Never forget the genocide. Never forget their lives, or the systematic attempt to eliminate an entire people.
Ishmael Khaldi is frustrated with the local council. He’s been campaigning four years for a dilapidated road to be repaved outside his village, Khawaled. It would cut the distance to jobs, shops, and health clinics by 80 percent. The council keeps inventing excuses not to re-lay the road. “It’s haflaf,” he says. “It’s chakamaka.” The words both mean a lack of planning and professionalism. They’re Arabic in origin but common slang among Israeli Jews. I ask him about the usage. “It’s Israeli language,” he says. “The mixture of Arabic and Hebrew.” Which is just about where Khaldi fits.
The Zionists who founded Kibbutz Kfar Ha-Maccabi in the 1930s brought the people of Khawaled to work in their apple orchards. Each day the Bedouin went down the old Ottoman road to labor on the land. The same road took them on to the town of Kiryat Ata for medical treatment or shopping. With the establishment of Israel, the Khawaled understood their prosperity was tied to the economy of Kfar Ha-Maccabi and the two other kibbutzim on the Kiryat Ata road—Usha and Ramat Yochanan. So, the Bedouin voted for the political parties that represented the kibbutzniks. They went to the Israeli army, too, where most served in tracking units.
It says something about the current moment in the Middle East—and about us—that we’re already able to treat the stone-age viciousness of the Islamic State in the blasé manner once reserved for news about the latest failure in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks or Iran’s latest expansion of its nuclear program. We know now that IS has beheaded one of its two Japanese hostages last week, and so it’s only a matter of time before they kill the other: The fact that IS cuts people’s heads off with knives, videotapes these savage acts, and turns them into Islamist snuff films that serve as powerful recruitment tools across the Middle East and Europe is simply par for the course. A single beheading video makes only a minor impact on viewers who have become accustomed to a steady diet of Middle Eastern gore available on both CNN and YouTube—including decapitations, crucifixions, mass sexual enslavement of non-Muslim minors, and throwing homosexuals off of towers, in addition of course to the usual run of torture, rape, and murder.
But the biggest problem with Islamic State and the Sunni-Shiite war they’re fighting isn’t the brutal methods that the group has adopted to further its cause. As Lebanese political analyst Elie Fawaz told me recently in Beirut, it’s how that violence to which the Middle East is now being conditioned will shape Arab societies in which a new generation with no memory of any other reality will come to hold power. “These guys are cutting off people’s heads,” said Fawaz. “So, what’s it going to be like when they’re walking around the streets here in Lebanon or elsewhere in the region?”
These are strange days for The Merchant of Venice in London. In the aftermath of the recent Paris terror attacks, tensions in the United Kingdom run high: the chief of MI5 recently said that an attack in the U.K. was “highly likely.” Anti-Semitic violence was on the rise in 2014, even if reports of pessimism amongst Britain’s Jews may have been overhyped. The Merchant of Venice has always been the most problematic of Shakespeare’s problem plays; even when things are quiet, it makes audiences uneasy. But Rupert Goold’s new production of the play, which opened last month at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, plunges headlong into the controversy.
82-year-old Broadway stalwart Joel Grey has revealed that he is gay in an interview with People Magazine.
“I don’t like labels,” says the actor, who maintains he has always been attracted to both men and women, “but if you have to put a label on it, I’m a gay man.”
Since New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced he wouldn’t formally resign from his post after being arrested for corruption, Albany has determined to take the matter out of his hands, the New York Times reports.
After 20 years in power, Silver is in the middle of a swift and brutal fall from grace—prosecutors allege he illegally acquired nearly $4 million in an ongoing scheme that included taking bribes or making arrangements to benefit New York law firms in exchange for payments he failed to report.