A New Read on Jewish Life
Updated: 8 hours 10 minutes ago
In a conversation with Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Hillary Clinton made her first on-the-record comments about the current storm surrounding U.S.-Israel relations. Hoenlein initiated a phone call with Clinton on the subject, and with her permission released a statement summarizing their discussion. According to the statement, the presumed 2016 Democratic frontrunner suggested that “we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests including a two-state solution pursued through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Clinton’s words strike a subtle contrast with her former boss, President Obama, who has insisted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not interested in a two-state solution, and announced that the administration is “reassessing” the contours of its relationship with Israel. In gently pushing back against this, Clinton conveniently issued her comments through an intermediary, thus avoiding an open confrontation with the president.
The University of Michigan chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu is being shut down after a wild weekend party at a Michigan ski resort in January left the hotel completely trashed and saw several members facing misdemeanor charges since minors were present. The historically Jewish fraternity, commonly referred to as Sammy, reportedly threw one hell of a rager, damaging 45 rooms: “Students destroyed ceiling tiles and exit signs, broke furniture and doors and urinated on carpeting, the resort management said.”
Chapter president Joshua Kaplan and treasurer Zachary Levin, both 19, have been charged with allowing minors to drink alcohol, and a third member was charged with “malicious destruction of property over $1000.” The university described the incident as “reprehensible.”
When Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts of the USA, assembled the first group of scouts in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912, she asked four of her closest friends to help out as troop leaders. Three of them—Leonora Amram, Mildred Guckenheimer, and Henrietta Falk—were members of Reform temple Congregation Mickve Israel, the third-oldest synagogue in America.
“The Jewish community has been an essential part of the Girl Scout movement since its beginning,” Girl Scouts spokesperson Kelly Parisi said in an email interview. “One troop leader from the organization’s founding year, Leonora Amram, even served on the first Girl Scout council, and Mildred Guckenheimer later became its secretary.”
“It’s time to raise this Tenenbom to the stake. I have some friends in Lod who could do the dirty work and leave his body in the sands of Rishon.” That’s what Israeli author and Meretz party activist Alona Kimhi posted on her Facebook page after being interviewed by the gadfly and journalist-provocateur Tuvia Tenenbom. (She later claimed that she was only joking.)
Paunchy, prickly, and mercilessly sarcastic, a playwright as well as a gonzo journalist, Tenenbom was born an ultra-Orthodox Jew in Bnei Brak, but freed himself from religion as a teenager, after his family moved to America. Despite Kimhi’s post Tenenbom the tummler is still around. If surviving death threats counts as a mark of journalistic excellence, Tenenbom can cut a notch on his iPhone. By other measures, though, his achievement looks more dubious.
Ever since he was a child, Etgar Keret has always found it hard not to sympathize with the Egyptians in the telling of the Passover story. This came up in a recent conversation with Jonathan Goldstein for Vox Tablet’s Passover special, “We’ll Be Here All Night.”
“Sometimes when you read a story you hate the bad guy more and more,” Keret explained. “But here, you know, from very early on, [the Egyptians] just suffer and suffer and suffer and suffer. And then, they drown.” Keret first explored these sympathies in this short story from his collection The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God (St. Martin’s Press, 2001).
What do we talk about at Passover? Slavery, plagues, food, and of course all the unforgettable stories from Seders past. In this Passover special, produced by Vox Tablet for public radio stations (and you), we’ve got all that and more—hosted by Sara Ivry and Jonathan Goldstein, with stories from Etgar Keret, Sally Herships, Debbie Nathan, Michael Twitty, and Jonathan Groubert.
Passover is fast approaching, which means if you’re hosting a seder it’s almost time to start cooking. Each year we publish recipes for Passover, updated takes on the classic holiday dishes and time-honored recipes that remain delicious to this day (see: Joan Nathan’s homemade matzoh ball soup).
We’ve combed through our archives to bring you some of our favorite recipes we’ve published over the years, as well as creative offerings we’ve found around the web.
Anger. Shock. Frustration. Confusion. Outrage. Hurt.
These are just some of the feelings that overwhelmed me Wednesday night when I read the statement issued by Columbia University Black Students’ Organization accusing the pro-Israel campus organization Aryeh, on whose executive board I serve, of co-opting the “black liberation struggle for the purpose of genocide.”
Here’s a silver lining to the Christmastime suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old in Ohio whose family refused to accept her as transgender: the story of Tom Sosnik. Sosnik is a 13-year-old Jewish day school student in Northern California who was inspired to come out as transgender after hearing about Alcorn’s death.
“All of 6th grade, I struggled with my gender identity. And I am now embracing my truth,” Sosnik, the child of Israeli immigrants, said in a video posted earlier this month on YouTube. “I stand before you as a 13 year old boy. …Thank you all for making me feel safe enough to openly be myself.”
Passover is almost upon us, and students at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have decided to tell the story of Exodus their way. No strangers to elaborate, hi-tech holiday stunts (see: Hanukkah menorah lighting), this time they built an intricate system of pulleys, levers, and dominoes that depicts the Passover narrative.
Highlights are the frogs and hail plagues, and the clever parting of the Red Sea. But my favorite part is probably the part where Pharoah gets a text demanding: “Let my people go!”
Back in January, when the Palestinian Authority moved to join the International Criminal Court as a means of pursuing war crimes charges against Israel over this summer’s Gaza war, Israel responded by swiftly freezing NIS 500 million (roughly $127 million) in Palestinian tax revenue typically transferred to PA officials in Ramallah. Today, less than a week before the PA is set to become an official ICC member (April 1), Israel announced it would unfreeze the funds and resume tax transfers to the PA.
According to a statement released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, Netanyahu approved the recommendation made by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the IDF, and the Shin Bet intelligence agency, whose collaboration indicates the extreme effects of withholding the more than $100 million monthly revenue.
“Lettuce au charoses.” “Kneidlach or borscht a la Sgt. Weinstein.” “Consommè [sic—the accent points the wrong way!] avec Knadlach.” “Palestine wine.” “Roast Beef Ala Yomtov.” “Iced Coca-Cola.”
These were some of the dishes enjoyed by Jewish members of the military at their Seders in both European and Pacific theaters of war 70 years ago. The American Jewish Historical Society at the Center for Jewish History has a file full of yellowing menus, programs, and homemade haggadot for these celebrations of freedom; they make fascinating reading, a lens through which to appreciate American Jews’ culinary and military past.
Reader, please indulge me: When I think about Israel, I’m a churning sea of emotions. My emotions are neither simple nor pure, nor impervious to other emotions, or arguments, or evidence. I don’t think with my viscera, but I don’t think without them, nor does anyone else.
I’ll start with embarrassment. I’m embarrassed that the leadership of a Jewish State (whatever exactly that means) should conduct itself with haughtiness and cruelty. Shall we count a few ways, just for openers?
This Jewish holiday is the one blessed with the greatest number of awesome kidbook choices. So get shopping; go nuts like charoset!
Note: I’m restricting myself to books currently in print. Please do not talk to me about The Carp in the Bathtub. Yes, it is a shonda that it is out of print. And what with pristine copies selling for more than $100, one of you publishers needs to get on this, chop-chop.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accepted the resignation of Igor Kolomoisky from the governorship of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast late Tuesday night. The resignation concluded a weeklong confrontation between the state and Ukraine’s most flamboyant oligarch. It was likewise a reassertion of the state’s monopoly on armed force after Kolomoisky had occupied government buildings in Kiev with his private militia. A week of bluster ended and proffered a symbolic victory for the Central government over the caste of powerful oligarchs whose outsized power the Maidan revolution had pledged to curtail. Poroshenko signed the decree over a gilded table in the presidential administration, dismissing the chastened-looking oligarch in front of live cameras.
Kolomoisky was credited with ruthlessly stamping out separatist tendencies in his home region, the Russophone Dnipropetrovsk, the industrial heartland of the country bounded by Donetsk province. (He offered $10,000 bonuses for captured Russian separatists.) A maximalist vulgarian, the maxim ‘obscenity-laced’ doesn’t do justice to his profane and hilarious screeds, though I would not want to be on the receiving end of one. When asked by a reporter last year about rumors of his possessing foreign passports, he admitted that he held three: Ukrainian, Cyprus, and Israeli. When the journalist pointed out that dual nationality is prohibited by Ukrainian law, Kolomoisky riposted, “Yes, but it does not say anything about triple nationality!”
When Jewish-Portuguese poet Herberto Hélder’s book, A Morte Sem Mestre (“The Death Without A Master”), was published last year, no one thought that death would be his master so soon. In fact, publication of Hélder’s next book was scheduled for the coming months. On Monday he had a heart attack and died in his home in Cascais, Portugal, 20 miles from Lisbon. He was 84.
While Hélder is not well-known outside of Portugal, he is considered one of the country’s greatest poets of the late 20th century, on the same level as literary giant Fernando Pessoa. But compared to his more famous literary compatriots like the late José Saramago, Hélder always preferred his poetic art to publicity. There exist very few pictures of him and even fewer interviews, and he had few close friends. When he was awarded the prestigious Portuguese literary prize “Prémio Pessoa” in 1994, he rejected it and instructed the committee: “Don’t tell anyone and just give it to someone else.”
You guys, it’s happening. Man the Golden Gate in the Old City, bedeck the women and the children of the city in flowers, head up to the Temple Mount and start praying like crazy because the Divine Presence is finally headed once more towards Zion and all the trumpets of heaven will announce its entrance.
That’s right. Kimye is coming to Jerusalem.
I don’t mean to alarm you, but I’m afraid I have a bit of upsetting news: The Joker is bad.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the shenanigans of the pale-faced menace, the Joker is a cheerfully psychotic serial killer who is the arch-enemy of one brooding caped crusader. He appeared in the very first issue of Batman, in 1940, and, on the comic book’s last page, was stabbed in the heart by Gotham’s nocturnal savior. If the Joker didn’t die, argued Batman co-creator Bill Finger, then the pointy-eared vigilante was hardly worthy of being called a superhero. His editor, Whitney Ellsworth, knew better, and instructed Finger to draw one more panel, making it clear that rumors of the Joker’s demise were premature. The very next issue, the Joker was back on the prowl. He’s been unstoppable ever since.
In an old stone house on Nevi’im street in Jerusalem on a recent afternoon, young Kurdish and Syrian girls played with wooden toy sets on the floor while their mothers, clad in colorful head scarves and black clothing, chatted on their phones in Arabic and Kurdish with relatives back home. The children were awaiting heart surgery at Israeli hospitals and the parents were nervous, both for their children and because being in Israel at all is a risky proposition for someone from Syria, Iraq, or Jordan. They were brought to Jerusalem as part of a unique relationship between the Israeli NGO Save A Child’s Heart and the Christian group Shevet Achim. The former provides free surgical care for children with life-threatening heart conditions from around the region (and the world). The latter locates children in need of such care and is able to bring them across tense Middle Eastern borders to Israel for treatment.
Medical diplomacy—humanitarian work that can also serve as grassroots statecraft—has gotten a quiet boost in Israel in recent years. Though it remains haphazard and the various groups involved are largely uncoordinated, collectively their efforts have been growing. In the past year, Israeli physicians have treated the daughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the President of Zambia Michael Sata, Syrian rebel fighters and civilians, and Kurdish and Jordanian children. Every Tuesday children from Gaza and the West Bank arrive in vans to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for surgery and check-ups.
Every year, my daughter Josie and I participate in Chalk, a public art project that takes place on the anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire. The fire, as you know, catalyzed the workers’ rights, workplace safety, and union movements. To commemorate it, volunteers spread out around New York City every year on its anniversary, writing the names of the the victims—146 of them, mostly young immigrant Jewish and Italian girls—in chalk front of the addresses where they used to live. We write down the age of the victim when she died, the fact that she was killed at the Triangle Factory. If you are Josie and me, you add flowers, curlicues, and hearts.
Some of the tenements where the victims lived are now gone, replaced by fancy boutiques or big high-rises. But because so many of the victims lived in the East Village, where gentrification hasn’t yet completely taken over, many of the homes look much the same—at least on the outside—as they did back in 1911.