Friday, December 30, 2011

10 Things New Years Can Learn from Rosh Hashanah

New Year’s is a massive celebration we have been looking forward to for some time. Before We head off to the night club to party, before we pop that champagne cork, let’s take a few steps back. The New Year is not just a chance to party, it is also a time for starting over. Few of us really stop to contemplate the significance of the New Year. The self-improvement process that surrounds the Jewish celebration of the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, offer us an important opportunity for re-energizing, renewal and reflection that will help us in 2012. -- Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

After 1,500 Years, an Index to the Talmud’s Labyrinths, With Roots in the Bronx

Daniel Retter teaching at Young Israel of the Bronx,
has compiled an index to 63 volumes of rabbinical discourse.
Librado Romero/The New York Times
The Talmud is a formidable body of work: 63 volumes of rabbinical discourse and disputation that form Judaism’s central scripture after the Torah. It has been around for 1,500 years and is studied every day by tens of thousands of Jews. But trying to navigate through its coiling labyrinth can be enormously difficult because the one thing this monumental work lacks is a widely accepted and accessible index.

But now that breach has been filled, or so claims the publisher of HaMafteach, or the Key, a guide to the Talmud, available in English and Hebrew. It was compiled not by a white-bearded sage, but by a courtly, clean-shaven, tennis-playing immigration lawyer from the Bronx. -- Joseph Berger, NY Times

To read more, click here.

Day Schools Stuck in Neutral

Enrollment Numbers Grow, But Only Among Ultra-Orthodox

Declining Numbers: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visits
the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital.
Despite a massive push, enrollment is down at Jewish schools,
except for those serving the ultra-Orthodox.
Getty Image
Story by J.J. Goldberg, Forward

To read more, click here.

Judea Pearl, father of slain WSJ reporter, is a leader in artificial intelligence

Judea Pear

Judea Pearl will receive the $75,000 Harvey Prize in Science and Technology from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology on March 29. -- Tom Tugend, JTA

To read more, click here.

Ginzburg tops list of 50 Jewish beauties

Esti Ginsberg
Photo by: Wikipedia commons/Michal Bar

Model Esti Ginsberg voted in first place on list compiled by US online magazine Complex; Mila Kunis comes 2nd, followed by Rashida Jones. -- Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Masorti Supporters Hold Banners High at Demonstration in Beit Shemesh to Protest Haredi Campaign for Gender Separation

Urged by Israeli President Shimon Peres, Thousands Turn Out to Fight for Women's Rights and Freedom of Religious Expression, Values of a Democratic Jewish State Shared by Masorti Movement
Masorti'im of all ages hold their signs high at Beit Shemesh demonstration Tuesday night.
Anyone following news in Israel, this week must be shocked by reports in The New York Times and elsewhere of eight-year-old Na'ama Margolese being terrified to walk alone to her girls yeshiva, Orot, in the city of Beit Shemesh. This little girl from a Modern Orthodox family has been subject to verbal taunts of 'prostitute' and spitting by haredi men who consider her long-sleeve top and below-the-knee skirt immodest. Na'ama's experience followed several incidents in parts of the country in which women defied orders to sit in the back of a public bus. In another indication of growing religious extremism in Beit Shemesh, signs have been posted indicating separate sidewalks for men and women, triggering clashes between haredim and others, including local police and Israeli television, covering the events.

Israelis, from religious to secular, are outraged, and at the urging of their president, Shimon Peres, thousands came on Tuesday evening to this city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to rally against the increasingly violent haredi campaign to exclude and marginalize women.

As you can see from the pictures taken at last night's protest, Masorti supporters were foremost among them, proudly raising signs identifying themselves with the Masorti movement. In a photo that appeared in both the Hebrew and English editions of the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, Masorti is clearly front and center. -- Masorti (Conserviative) Movement in Israel

After 123 Years, Manischewitz Creates Kosher Food for Gentiles

A Print ad for Manischewitz gravies.
A print ad for Manischewitz Tiny Tams, a cracker.
In recent years, Jews who keep kosher rejoiced when popular foods that had been off-limits gained kosher certification, from Oreo cookies in 1997 to the Tootsie Roll in 2009.

According to Mintel, the market research firm, the growth in sales of kosher products — up 41 percent from 2003 to 2010 and projected to grow an additional 23 percent by 2013 — owes less to the popularity of keeping kosher or to new products than to existing products becoming certified.

Now, as mainstream brands increasingly pitch to kosher consumers, Manischewitz, the 123-year-old kosher brand, is doing the opposite: creating kosher products that also appeal to gentiles. -- Andrew Adam Newman, NY Times

To read more, click here.

Pre-Army Students Clean-Up Mosques – and Israel’s Image

Torah students in Judea and Samaria are on a mission to clean-up mosques – and nationalists’ image – marred in “price-tag” vandalism.
'Price Tag' cleanup
Israel news photo by Amihai ben Saadon
Students from a pre-Army Torah academy in Judea and Samaria are on a mission to literally clean-up mosques – and the image of nationalists – marred in “price-tag” vandalism. However, mainstream media have ignored the campaign.

Approximately 50 youth last week damaged mosques and vandalized an IDF base in protest of demolitions of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, and Opposition political leaders and mainstream media used the incidents as a launching pad for blanket accusations against the national religious community.

“In light of last week’s incidents in which extremists acted against soldiers and crossed all red lines, we discussed the issue and decided to express our total opposition to these acts by going to a mosque and cleaning it up,” said Rabbi Yair Ansbacher of the Eitan “mechina” at Maaleh Adumim. -- Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, Arutz Sheva

To read more, click here.

Beit Issie Shapiro named Israel’s most efficient non-profit

Beit Issie Shapiro, a special needs organization in Raanana, was recognized as Israel's Most Efficient Non-Profit Organization.

The efficiency monitor Midot cited Beit Issie Shapiro after it was chosen by a public committee. The award was judged according to impact on society, leadership, management practices, financial planning, ethics, transparency and collaboration with others to increase its circle of influence.

Midot presented the awards earlier this month at its annual conference at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv.

Supreme Court President Emeritus Meir Shagmar headed the committee, which was formed in cooperation with Maala-Business for Social Responsibility, Sheatufim-the Center for Civil Society and GuideStar Israel, an online resource about nonprofits in Israel.

Beit Issie Shapiro in the past 30 years has grown from serving 16 children with disabilities to helping 30,000 people annually. The organization also helps train thousands of therapists in Israel in its new therapies, and conducts research and shares best practices internationally.

Israel has 30,000 registered non-profit and voluntary organizations, 4,000 of which provide a variety of welfare, educational and support services. -- JTA

MyHeritage - Barking up the family tree

Israeli online genealogy service MyHeritage leads the market with some 800 million profiles in 38 languages.
MyHeritage co-founder Yuval Ben Galim has his own interesting family history
David Greenberg has been researching his family history for nearly 40 years, all the while believing that most of his relatives perished during the Holocaust. His grandfather, Isaac, had emigrated from Lithuania to the United States at the beginning of the last century and found it nearly impossible to access records on relatives left behind the Iron Curtain. His grandson, however, made a remarkable discovery, finding a 96-year-old aunt and 30 cousins still alive.

Greenberg had one thing going for him that his grandfather didn't: The Internet, specifically a web-based service from the Israeli company MyHeritage. When Greenberg and a member of the Lithuanian side of the family began to build their family trees separately, MyHeritage's "SmartMatch" feature put the two together.

Greenberg's story is just one of the many pairings that MyHeritage has facilitated in its nearly 10 years of operation. Company co-founder Yuval Ben Galim, 39, positively beams when discussing the role MyHeritage plays in enabling genealogical detectives to sleuth out their roots. -- Ariel Blum, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hanukkah Alegre!

A group of Washington-area Sephardic Jews gathers monthly to share traditional foods and converse in the disappearing language of their ancestors
The Hanukkah vijitas de al’had in 2009. (David Tarica)
In 2001, Sarajevo-born folk singer Flory Jagoda invited roughly a dozen other Sephardim in the Washington area to join her for conversation over burekas and bumuelos (fritters, or doughnuts). More specifically, she invited them for conversation in Judeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino, the language spoken by Jews in medieval Spain and later in the far-flung lands to which they fled after the expulsion in 1492.

Today, the language is all but forgotten, except by those like Jagoda who spoke it growing up. The group has grown to include more than 20 participants. At their monthly meetings—which members call vijitas de al’had, or “Sunday visits,” after a centuries-old tradition from the Old Country—the men and women eat Sephardic treats, sing songs, and study a Judeo-Spanish reading exercise, complete with vocabulary lists. -- Vox Tablet

To view slide should and Vox Tablet’s audio postcard of Julie Subrin visiting the annual Hanukkah gathering in 2009 for this audio postcard from our archives [Running time: 7:33], click here.

Shale oil project raises hackles in Israel

A drill which is boring 600 metres (2,000 feet)
underground near the Israeli kibbutz of Beit Guvrin
Photo by David Buimovitch, AFP
Among the serene vineyards and pine trees of Israel's wine-growing heartland, a towering drill is boring 600 metres (2,000 feet) underground, dredging up black rocks that smell like petrol.

This is oil shale, rocks saturated with kerogen, a material that turns into oil and gas under intense heat.

Huge deposits of this kerogen-rich rock lie deep underground in southern and central Israel in quantities which Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI) says could make the country an oil superpower and break its dependence on imports.

Shale oil production is often attacked for its high carbon footprint and for being prohibitively expensive, but the entrepreneurs at IEI insist they have found a cleaner, greener and cheaper method of extraction. -- Daniella Cheslow, AFP

To read more, click here.

At Chanukah, Czech Jews marvel at blessings of Havel’s revolution

U.S. Ambassador Norman L. Eisen, his wife Lindsay Kaplan
and Alan Dershowitz and his family sing "Ma'oz Tzur"
after lighting the menorah on first night of Chanukah.
Photo by Ruth Ellen Gruber
On the first night of Chanukah, I stood in the splendid reception hall of the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Prague as the ambassador himself lit the first candle in an imposing gilded menorah and chanted the blessings over the flames.

Since it was the first night of the holiday, these included the Shehecheyanu – the thankful blessing recited when reaching a special or long-awaited moment: “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this occasion.”

How strangely fitting to recite this, I thought, at this very time and in this very place. Two days earlier Vaclav Havel had died, and many people were still in shock at the loss of the shy dissident playwright who had led the Velvet Revolution that ousted the communist regime in 1989 and gone on to become Czechoslovakia’s – and then the Czech Republic’s – first democratic president and enduring moral compass.  -- Ruth Ellen Gruber, JTA

To read more, click here.

Santa Strife at Hoboken Public School after Religious Objections

’Tis the season for tension over religious displays in public spaces, and the latest flareup was triggered by Santa's appearance at a Hoboken public school. The event triggered bureaucratic maneuvering and a noisy web-based debate edged with hostility toward Jews.

Last week, a parent complained about the longstanding tradition at Hoboken’s Salvatore R. Calabro Elementary School to allow children to pose for Santa photos, said Superintendent Mark Toback, who would not reveal the parent’s name.

The district ultimately responded on the advice of its lawyer by adding photo opportunities with a Hanukkah menorah and a kinara, a candleholder used to celebrate Kwanzaa. That event took place without incident on Dec. 20. -- NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

MK on women singing: Orthodox soldiers should use earplugs

Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev said Tuesday that male orthodox soldiers be allowed to use earplugs to block out women singing in official IDF ceremonies.

Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, Ze'ev also argued that such soldiers should have the right to serve in women-free units.

Head of IDF Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai shot back that nobody can tell a female soldier she can't sing in a ceremony just because she's a woman.

The committee meeting comes amid a growing national debate on women's rights and religious rights that has most recently erupted in clashes between police and haredi Jews in Beit Shemesh. -- Lahav Harkov and Staff, Jerusalem Post


IDF chief: Ceremonies where women sing mandatory for religous soldiers

Orthodox Israeli soldiers must attend formal military ceremonies at which women sing but can be excused from informal social gatherings, the head of the military said.

Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz said Tuesday that female soldiers have equality in the military and that there is no ban on women's singing in the IDF. He made the statements during an interview on Army Radio.

Religious cadets walked out of an official ceremony earlier this year at which female soldiers were singing. The cadets were removed from the officer training program.

"The IDF has room for the service of women wherever they can contribute," Gantz said in the interview. Women can “contribute operationally, they can deal with situations, they can sing, the Hebrew singer is part of our culture,” he said. -- JTA

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Israel to send medical aid after Nigeria attacks

Men look at the wreckage of a car following
a bomb blast at St Theresa Catholic Church
outside the Nigerian capital Abuja.
The White House on Sunday condemned
the deadly Christmas Day bombings in Nigeria
as "senseless violence" as it offered condolences
to the Nigerian people over attacks blamed on an Islamist sect.
Photo by AFP Photo/Sunday Aghae
Israel is to send medical aid to people wounded in Nigeria's deadly blasts on Sunday that killed at least 40 people, a foreign ministry statement said, condemning the attacks.

"Israel condemns in the strongest terms these attacks carried out on Christmas Day, and expresses its deepest condolences over the deaths of innocent people," the statement said.

"Israel will supply with Nigerian authorities with medical aid to help the wounded."

The series of bomb attacks on churches during Christmas services and a suicide blast killed at least 40 people amid spiralling violence claimed by Islamists. -- AFP via Yahoo News

PM: No place for harassment or discrimination in Israel

Israel is liberal western democracy," Netanyahu says at weekly cabinet meeting following reports of haredim harassing 8-year-old girl; Steinitz describes haredi extremists as "villains"; Livnat: "Live and let live."

Photo by: Reuters/Uriel Sinai/Pool
Israel is a western, liberal democracy, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting. Netanyahu's comments came following a Friday night Channel 2 report that showed an eight-year old modern orthodox girl afraid to walk 300 meters to school because of harassment from some haredim because of her attire. -- Herb Keinon and Staff, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

TAU develops cancer cluster bomb

Two Tel Aviv University researchers have developed a new method of destroying cancer tumors, which they say could be more permanent.

Based on "tumor ablation" a process through which the tumor is destroyed inside the body, Prof. Yona Keisari of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Prof. Itzhak Kelson of TAU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, have developed a radioactive wire, the size of a pin, which, when inserted into a solid tumor, releases lethal radioactive atoms that irradiate the tumor from the inside out.  -- Viva Sarah Press, Israel21c

To read more click here.

Building a sustainable Jerusalem, one kid at a time

Getting into the green spirit at the Bloomfield Museum

The Bloomfield Science Museum is training hundreds of third- through sixth-grade ‘Green Ambassadors' to care for their city's environment. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Israelis lead world in social network use, U.S. study shows

Report by internet marketing research company comScore shows Israeli internet more than double the global average for time spent on networks such as Twitter, Facebook. -- Oded Yaron, Haaretz

To read more, click here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tim Tebow and the Lessons of Hanukkah

Jews tell two very different stories at Hanukkah -- three, if you count the tale about the oil that was not sufficient for even one day of lighting the Temple lamps, but miraculously lasted for eight. The relationship between the two stories may well be the key to the holiday's most important contemporary lesson -- and engage the theological question brought to popular notice this month by quarterback Tim Tebow. -- Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Huffington Post

To read more, click here.

Israeli Arabs enter Israeli Jewish classrooms

In an educational revolution of sorts, a growing number of Israeli schools are taking a novel approach to the instruction of Arabic: They’re hiring Arab teachers.

The initiative is about far more than teaching children a new language. Educators say they hope to break down barriers in a society where Jewish and Arab citizens have little day-to-day interaction and often view each other with suspicion.

“It is very important to get past the stigmas. We have a chance to get closer,’’ said Shlomit Vizel, principal of the Tidhar elementary school in Yokneam, a picturesque town in the rolling hills of Israel’s northern Galilee region. --Josef Federman, Associated Press via Boston Globe

To read more, click here.

Cuts Above

Barbados Blackbelly sheep on Brenner and Saunders’ ranch.
Ben Harris)

A back-to-the-earth Colorado couple raises top-quality, heritage-bred livestock to produce kosher, organic, premium cuts of beef and lamb -- Ben Harris, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Fortified ER installed in Haifa hospital

During the Second Lebanon War,
Hezbollah missiles struck a few meters
from the Carmel Medical Center.
A new NIS 59 million emergency department – fortified to protect patients, staffers and visitors from rockets and missiles and even biological weapons from beyond the northern border, was dedicated on Wednesday at Carmel Medical Center in Haifa.

During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah missiles struck a few meters from the hospital. This gave the final push to build a protected emergency room.

The Haifa facility was built with 40-centimeter-thick walls made of cement that can stand up to missiles and close hermetically to prevent chemical weapons affecting those inside. Patient care will be able to continue during any such attack, the hospital said. -- Judy Siegel-Itzkovich

To read more, click here.

Attorney for Levi Aron: ‘Inbreeding’ was a factor in Leiby’s murder

A lawyer for the man accused of killing 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky said his client has a mental deficiency due to inbreeding in the Chasidic community.

Attorney Howard Greenberg continued to pursue an insanity defense for Levi Aron during a hearing Wednesday in a Brooklyn Supreme Court. Levi was shown in court via a live video feed from Rikers Island prison. He did not speak or look at the camera, according to reports.

"Look, everybody knows when blood relations have offspring, there can be genetic defects," Greenberg said during the hearing, according to the New York Post. "It's something that needs to be investigated down to the ground."

Aron is charged with murdering Leiby near his Brooklyn home in July. He said he picked up the haredi Orthodox boy in his car when the boy became lost while walking home from camp for the first time and asking for directions. Aron said he panicked after the boy was reported missing.

Parts of Leiby's dismembered body were found in Aron's freezer.

A psychological exam has found Aron competent to stand trial, although he has admitted to hearing voices. Aron has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and kidnapping.

New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) told the Post that Greenberg's comments on inbreeding show that he is a "sick, self-hating Jew who's making a mockery of this case." -- JTA

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dry Bones for Hanukkah

Slain Wesleyan Student's Prophetic Book about Anti-Jewish Prejudice

Julia's Star - a book about Jewish identity and cultural acceptance,
written and illustrated by a young Johanna Justin-Jinich.
Picture gy Johanna Justin-Jinich.
When she was 15, Johanna Justin-Jinich wrote and illustrated a book about religious tolerance from a Jewish schoolgirl's perspective.

In the story, "Julia's Star," a dark-haired fifth-grader wears a Hanukkah gift to school one day — a Star of David necklace. Julia's friends are stunned. They whisper to each other and ask questions aimed at stereotyping the young girl. The ignorance upsets Julia but she works to educate her friends, inviting them to a Shabbat service at her synagogue.

In the end, Julia receives a handmade apology card from her friends.

"Even though in the beginning they made assumptions about her culture and religion, the girls were eager to learn about Julia's identity as a Jew," Justin-Jinich, who was Jewish, wrote in the book.

Justin-Jinich's story would prove startlingly prophetic.

Six years later, a mentally ill, anti-Semitic stalker would fatally shoot her inside a college bookstore café near the campus of Wesleyan University, where Justin-Jinich excelled in her studies and championed a number of causes, including the fight for civil rights. -- Alaine Griffin, Hartford Courant

To read more, click here.

Report: Hadassah Medical Center can’t meet payments

The Hadassah Medical Center has not been able to pay its suppliers, an Israeli business daily has reported.

Hadassah's debt to its suppliers is reportedly about $2.65 million, according to the Calcalist, a publication of Yediot Achronot.

The Hadassah Medical Center does not receive any Israeli government support, as it is owned by Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America.

The Hadassah organization lost about $90 million in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Following the Madoff affair, Hadassah cut its annual support to the hospital, according to Yediot Achronot.

Hadassah told Ynet that "unlike other hospitals, Hadassah does not receive any budgeting from the government or the State health system. This is a temporary setback in a minor portion of the payments due to the fact that Hadassah has not received all of its due payments from various parties." -- JTA

Also see Ynetnews by clicking here.

UNESCO Stops Funding Children's Palestinian Teen Magazine Following SWC Protest

A day after a protest from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to UNESCO's Director-General over a Palestinian youth magazine which published materials exalting Hitler, UNESCO has agreed that it "will not provide any further support to the publication in question."

Zayzafouna, a magazine which supposedly promotes democracy and tolerance, published an article by a ten-year-old Palestinian girl who said that in her dreams, Hitler told her, “Yes. I killed them [the Jews] so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world.” The article was brought to the public's attention by Palestinian Media Watch.

To read more, click here.

Israel easing restrictions on Palestinians for holiday

The Israeli army has eased travel and other restrictions on Palestinian Christians for the holiday season.

The Israel Defense Forces, in conjunction with the coordinator of government activities in the territories, announced the easing of restrictions on traveling outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel through Jan. 20. The move comes following an IDF meeting Tuesday with religious leaders from Bethlehem.

The IDF authorized 500 Christian Palestinians from Gaza to visit Israel and the West Bank to see family and participate in religious services. Christian Palestinians from the West Bank also will be permitted to visit Israel during the holiday season.

Some 400 Christian Palestinians will be permitted to leave Israel for travel abroad via Ben Gurion Airport, and 200 Christians from Arab countries can visit the West Bank. -- JTA

Friday, December 23, 2011

The First War of National Liberation

Swiss illustration of I Maccabees.

This is the 2,179th anniversary of the world's first war of national liberation.  There have been many since. To a surprising extent, such wars have followed the pattern first established by the Maccabees. They, like later heads of independence movements, were leaders of a people conquered and occupied by a great empire. They fought to claim the right of national self-determination.

Resentment of foreign rule may simmer for a long time, but war is often remembered as beginning in a dramatic incident. -- By Diana Muir Appelbaum, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read more, click here.

Israel introduces first national air pollution reduction program

Haifa Bay.
Photo by: Baz Ratner

Ministry of Environmental Protection says program will substantially reduce emission of most harmful pollutants.

To read more, click here.

Prominent Jewish Athletes from Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated's list Includes the usual names--Sandy Koufax, Mark Spitz and Hank Greenberg--and 22 others.

To read more and see the accompanying photo gallery, click here.

Apple buys Israeli flash storage maker in $500m deal

An Anobit chip is already incorporated in Apple devices
such as the iPhone, iPad and the MacBook Air, above.
Photograph: Finnbarr Webster / Alamy/Alamy
Apple has bought Israel's Anobit, a maker of flash storage technology, for up to $500m (£319m), the Calcalist financial daily reported on Tuesday, following almost a week of speculation surrounding the companies.

The newspaper said Anobit's management was in the process of gathering its staff to formally announce the acquisition by Apple. There was no announcement at the time of writing on either company's website. The purchase is the first by Apple of an Israel-based company.

Flash storage is used in mobile phones and some computers to store data: it gives high-speed access but because it has no moving parts, unlike a magnetic hard drive, it is immune from knocks and magnetic fields. But such SSDs – solid state drives – are pricier and are a comparatively young technology. -- Charles Arthur and agencies via

To read more, click here.

Cheers! We're Not Poisoned — Or Are We?

Language Experts Float Dueling Theories on 'L'Chaim'
To Life: Our language expert revisits his column on ‘L’Chaim.’
Does it date back to an old custom of testing wine to see if it was poisoned?
Istock Photo
Two interesting comments have come from readers about my November 25 column on the Jewish toast “l’chaim,” which I traced back to a medieval custom, still practiced by Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews, that is connected to the Kiddush, the traditional Sabbath and holiday blessing over wine.
To Life: Our language expert revisits his column on ‘L’Chaim.’ Does it date back to an old custom of testing wine to see if it was poisoned?
Istock Photo
To Life: Our language expert revisits his column on ‘L’Chaim.’ Does it date back to an old custom of testing wine to see if it was poisoned?

The first of these, from Harold Zvi Slutzkin of Jerusalem, begins with an improvement on my translation of the Aramaic words savrei maranan that precede the blessing. What they mean, Mr. Slutzkin points out, is, “What do you think, my masters?” and he continues:

“The opinion asked for was whether the wine might be harmful or even poisoned, as it was in the case of several assassinated monarchs of the Byzantine period — i.e., whether the drinker of it was destined for life or death. Only after the assembled company responded resoundingly ‘L’chaim,’ ‘For life,’ was the wine drunk.” -- Philologos, Forward

To read more, click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Hanukkah, Marines!

Jewish Leathernecks light the way.
Getty Images/Image Source
When Jews begin their Hanukkah celebrations this week, they will commemorate a 2,200-year old revolt led by Judah Maccabee against a Greek empire attempting to crush the Jewish faith. For some, the holiday holds an added resonance, linking their military service to one of the greatest Jewish warriors of all time.

These are the Jews of the United States Marine Corps.

In the popular mind, a Jewish Marine may sound exotic. In fact, Jews have their own chapters in the history of the Corps. In his book "Semper Chai!" Howard J. Leavitt explains the compatibility with a refreshing lack of nuance: "[M]any Jews were—and are—Marines, and the basic and lofty precepts and spiritual underpinnings of the United States, the U.S. Marine Corps and Judaism are one and the same, without any differences or conflict." -- William McGurn, Wall Street Journal

To read more, click here.

Hanukkah at Whole Foods: Now with matzoh!

Whole Foods: They’ve gone crackers over Hanukkah.
Photo by Jessica Goldstein,The Washington Post
On Saturday, I headed to Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom, where buying more than a dozen items may very well bankrupt my family. But that sketchy Safeway under the Watergate is closed so, you know, desperate times.

I see Whole Foods has a Hanukkah display. A whole display for Hanukkah! Change has come to America.

And then I see the classic supermarket screw-up: Whole Foods is selling matzoh. Matzoh and matzoh balls and a wide variety of matzoh-y things would be just spectacular if this were a) a Passover display or b) the cracker section, but it is neither. It is Hanukkah which, for the uninitiated, is not Passover and is not a holiday on which one eats matzoh. What Whole Foods is really displaying is a casual kind of ignorance for which there is no excuse.

The War on Christmas gets all kinds of sparkly graphics on the TV news, perhaps because Christmas decorations lend themselves quite nicely to all things sparkly. But for those of you who care about the less-sparkly things in life, this is what a swipe at Hanukkah looks like: It looks like a callous kind of carelessness, a sign that the great Whole Foods, which manages to ensure that organic pasta comes packaged in biodegradable boxes made of locally grown hemp, cannot devote all of 30 seconds to a Wikipedia search for “Hanukkah food. -- Jessica Goldstein,The Washington Post

To read more, click here.

The Terrorists in Europe's Backyard

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is a growing threat beyond North Africa.

Europe's security is being threatened by a terrorist organization that many people have never heard of. Last week, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), based in north Africa and active since 2002, posted pictures of five Europeans kidnapped in November and currently being held in Mali. Formerly known as the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat, AQIM is an al Qaeda affiliate whose principal aim is to overthrow the Algerian government and establish an Islamic state governed by Shariah law in north Africa, Spain and Portugal. The group has a presence not only in Algeria but also in Mali, Niger and Mauritania. It has not yet solidified its foothold elsewhere in the Maghreb, including Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. -- Avi Jorisch, Wall Street Journal

[Mr. Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is senior fellow for counterterrorism at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.]

To read more, click here.

Haifa’s Technion in New York State of Mind

Israeli university, Cornell win NYC bid for new grad school
Roosevelt Island the Queensboro Bridge.
Photo from Wikipedia

The Technion, the Haifa-based university that is Israel’s most prominent institute for science and engineering, is now going to have a foothold in the world’s other center of Jewish life: New York City. Cornell University, with which Technion was partnered on this project, won a competition to build a new science graduate school on 2.1 million square feet of free space from the City (which is also kicking in $100 million) on Roosevelt Island, which lies in the East River between Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the Astoria neighborhood of Queens. It is crossed by the Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge and, as of this year, officially known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. It is even serviced by the subway!  -- Marc Tracy, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Dutch Senate to appoint ritual slaughter commission

The Dutch Senate has delayed its vote on banning ritual slaughter and will appoint a commission to study putting new standards for such slaughter into place.

Undersecretary for Agriculture Henk Bleker said Wednesday that he will appoint the commission to establish standards for ritual slaughter, including how long an animal can remain conscious, The Associated Press reported.

The upper house of the Dutch government froze the vote after a majority of senators expressed their objection to the ban on kosher slaughter, or shechitah. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June.The Senate had been scheduled to vote on Dec. 20.

Proposed by the Animal Rights Party and supported by the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders, the bill requires that animals be stunned before slaughter. Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter must be performed with the animal fully conscious.

Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme said she would submit a new bill banning ritual slaughter to parliament if the current one is defeated by the Senate in January, when it is likely to vote on the measure.

The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. 

About 1 million animals are ritually slaughtered each year in the Netherlands, according to The Jerusalem Post, of which a few thousand undergo shechitah. -- JTA

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What’s the most important message to learn from Chanukah?

What’s the most important message to learn from Chanukah? Is it a lesson about God’s miracle or about the Jews' overcoming adversity? Or is it about religious freedom?

A multi-denominational exploration with Conservative answer by Rabbi Jason Miller, Reform answer by Rabbi Brooks Susman, and Orthodox answer by Rabbi Reuven Bulka.---Jewish Values On-Line

To read more, click here.

New Book Reveals Systematic Hate, Veneration of Terror by Palestinian Authority Even During Peace Process

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israeli research institute studying Palestinian society and its leadership through its Arabic language media, today announced the release of Deception: Betraying the Peace Process, a new book describing the systematic hate speech used by the Palestinian Authority (PA) even as they portray themselves to the world as pursuing peace.

At a press conference today, the authors and human rights activists warned that the hate speech and incitement against Israel by PA leaders is the fundamental impediment to achieving peace. In the book, authors Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik document numerous breaches in the PA's commitments to recognize Israel, to cease hate incitement and to reject violence and terror - requirements established by the international community and accepted by the PA.

The book meticulously catalogues hundreds of examples of hate speech, glorification of terrorist murderers and other anti-Israel communication, detailing efforts to spread hate even among school-aged children.

To read more, click here.

Knesset committee advances marriage bill

A Knesset committee has approved a bill that would allow couples wishing to marry to register with any rabbinate in the country….

Jewish couples now must register with the rabbinate in the city or region of residence of one member of the couple. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Israeli officials escalate war of words with N.Y. Times

Israeli officials are stepping up their criticism of The New York Times, slamming columnist Thomas Friedman and arguing that the newspaper is an unfit venue for an Op-Ed from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a scathing letter first leaked last week to The Jerusalem Post, Ron Dermer, a top aide to Netanyahu, declined an invitation for the prime minister to write an Op-Ed for the Times. By way of explanation, Dermer cited what he alleged was the newspaper's anti-Israel tilt.

"It would seem as if the surest way to get an Op-Ed published in The New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel," he said.

Dermer's letter came just days after Friedman, a frequent critic of Israeli settlement policies, asserted that U.S. congressional support for Netanyahu was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby." -- Staff, JTA

To read more, click here.

Allen, Spielberg and other Jews grab Golden Globe nominations

Famed directors Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg led the list of Jewish nominees for Golden Globe Awards.

Allen with his “Midnight in Paris,” a critical and commercial success, was rewarded with three nods: best motion picture (musical or comedy), director and screenplay.

Spielberg's “War Horse” was nominated for best motion picture (drama) and “The Adventures of Tintin” for best animated feature film.

The Golden Globe nominations, which were announced Dec. 15, are seen as a predictor for the Oscar races. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah Recipes From Chocolate Cake to Onion Rolls

From chocolate cake to onion rolls, recent Jewish cookbooks offer a tantalizing range of recipes for Hanukkah treats to complement the latkes -- Joan Nathan, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Opinion: The 7 Wonders of the Jewish World

The Dead Sea
Photo by Marc Israel Sellem

A new list: The 7 Wonders of the Jewish World, with “world” not being a geographical location, but the full realm of Jewish experience. -- Natan Slifkin, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

At 100, the doctor is still in

In Goldman's cluttered office are diplomas, photos of him and family through the years and other trinkets that he's collected over time. Much has been given to him by appreciative patients. He says the space may look messy, but he knows where everything is.
Dr. Fred Goldman still makes house calls.

He must, he explains. That’s where the patients are.

“If they’re sick and can’t leave home,” he said, “I go to see them.”

On Monday, they came to see him. Patients, friends and family — some using walkers, some in strollers — gathered in numbers passing the century mark at the Avondale office Goldman calls “the dump,” to throw a surprise birthday party for the internist who is the oldest licensed physician practicing medicine in the state of Ohio.

Dr. Fred Goldman is 100. -- Cliff Radel,

To read more, click here.

Foods of Israel: Sunflower Seeds

Photo by Sarah Melamed
At one time every Israeli, especially male soccer fans, knew how to crack sunflower seeds. It was a perquisite to living in Israel, along with not so subtle line jumping. Those without this talent were looked upon as outcasts.

Chucking the shells directly on the sidewalk was part of the local custom. At bus stations piles would accumulate to the size of termite hills. By a quick glance at the height of the mound, it was possible to estimate the duration of the commuter’s wait, and indirectly the efficiency of the town’s public transportation.

While most Israelis are proficient with single seed shelling, some have become professional. They load fistfuls in their mouths and fire the shells like a submachine gun. Attempting to imitate this feat will only lead to appendicitis from swallowing the wrong parts, or the very least indigestion.

Sadly, modernism has taken its toll.  -- Sarah Melamed, Forward

To read more, click here.

Broadway-bound musical on Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach debuts in U.S.

Broadway World calls ‘Soul Doctor: The Journey of a Rock Star Rabbi’ the 'first major Jewish-themed musical since Fiddler on the Roof.'
“Soul Doctor,” a new Broadway-bound musical, tells the story of the beloved and controversial father of popular Jewish music, Shlomo Carlebach. It will debut in South Florida on December 24, with shows first in Miami Beach, then in Fort Lauderdale.

Steve Margoshes, the composer/orchestrator of such Broadway hits as Elton John’s “Aida,” The Who’s “Tommy” and “Smokey Joe’s Café,” has woven 30 of Carlebach’s hit songs into the show.

“Soul Doctor” traces Carlebach’s childhood escape from Nazi Germany, his discovery of gospel and soul music during his unlikely friendship with Nina Simone; his rise as a “Rock Star Rabbi” in the 1960s; and his personal conflicts to keep his family together while traversing the globe. -- Jewish Journal via Haaretz

To read more and see accompanying videos, click here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jewish US Army vet recalls lessons learned in Iraq

US soldiers leaving Iraq
Photo by REUTERS
As the last US combat troops left Iraq on Sunday, bringing the nine-year conflict to a close, Jewish war veteran Ilya Bratman reflected on his time in the country.

The former US Armored Corps serviceman, who is in Israel for a Limmud FSU leadership summit, remembered the highs and lows of his military career and his near brush with death.

“We were taking off from Baghdad International Airport in a Hercules C-130 when the pilot began maneuvering wildly,” he said. “It’s a cargo plane – there are no seats – so we were thrown around inside hitting the walls. Some people were knocked out and many others were screaming.” -- Gil Shefler,Reuters via Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Dramatic drop in number of Israeli nurses

'In New York, nurses earn much more' (archives)
Photo by Yaron Brener

Israel ranks 22nd in number of medical caretakers in developed countries. 'In a few years we'll really have to import nurses from India,' says head nurse at Wolfson Medical Center

Daniel Edelson, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

A year of healing after the great Carmel fire

A massive inferno last December took a devastating toll on the northern Israeli biosphere, but there's some good news 12 months later.
Battling the December 2010 fire.
Photos courtesy of the KKL-JNF archive
Winter flowers are blooming in the Carmel Forest.

This colorful sight is a welcome sign of regeneration in the vast woods of northern Israel, which in early December last year suffered a devastating forest fire.

Israeli firefighters got help from 18 countries to put out the Hannukah blaze, but not before it claimed the lives of 44 people, displaced 17,000 more, damaged thousands of homes and scorched more than one third of the Carmel Forest's millions of pine, oak, cypress and pistachio trees as well as killing porcupines, jackals, foxes, wild boars, songbirds and snakes.

One year later, there are signs of life in the charred areas.  -- Abigail Klein Leichman , Israel21c

To read more, click here.

100 Greatest Jewish Films ranks films for the 100 greatest Jewish films. Do you agree?

To read more, click here.

'Kosher electricity law' pulled

‪‪Following public pressure, national infrastructure minister backs away from bill forcing Electric Corp to operate power stations 'according to Halacha'‬‬

Israel's National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau Concerned over status quo
Photo by Ohad Zwigenberg
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau decided Sunday to pull the "kosher electricity bill", which would have forced the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to operate power stations "according to halachic demands" and allowed the Rabbinate to cut off power.

Landau's plan to promote the bill generated thousands of angry responses on Websites and social networks, including a Facebook group which organized a demonstration outside the Knesset. -- ‪Ran Rimon‬, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More Needed For Jews With Special Needs

Disabilities conference seeks to stir communal conscience.
At the special needs funding conference, two Jewish deaf activists, Alexis Kashar, left,
with Academy Award-winner Marlee Matlin
 All of us have “special needs” — to use that kind euphemism for the most unkind physical, mental or cognitive disabilities. Most of us simply don’t know it yet.

Alexis Kashar, who is deaf and president of the Jewish Deaf Resource Center, and a civil rights lawyer on behalf of the physically and learning disabled, recalled a litigation in which the opposing lawyer discovered that his own newly born son was deaf, only to seek advice from Kashar’s firm about how best to educate him.

Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award-winner who has been deaf since infancy, told of meeting Henry Winkler when she was a child, later learning that Winkler was dismissed when he was a child for being “slow,” and a “dumb dog,” before his dyslexia was properly diagnosed. -- Jonathan Mark, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Need Hanukkah gift ideas? Look at these Children’s Books from 2011

An illustration from Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King by Richard Michelson. (Zachary Pullen)
Need Hanukkah gift ideas? From a tale of a Shabbat princess to a Lower East Side detective story, here are the year’s best Jewish kids’ books

A book opens more worlds than a toy, a piece of jewelry, a handheld-gaming device, or an iPod. (OK, maybe not an iPod.) So, here’s a list for all your kid-giving needs this Hanukkah, from the littlest people of the book to the most sophisticated teenagers.

Happy reading, and happy Hanukkah.  --  Marjorie Ingall, Tablet

Listings include:
  • Picture Books for Very Young Readers
  • Picture Books for 4- to 8-Year-Old Readers
  • Chapter Books for Middle-Grade Readers
  • Chapter Books for Young Adult Readers
To read more, click here.

In Mallorca, a year of breakthroughs for descendants of Jews

According to legend, an indentation in a stone wall
near the site of an ancient Mallorcan synagogue
is from centuries of Cheutas running their fingers across it. (Alex Weisler)
A stone's throw from the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, commonly referred to as La Seu, is a dusty cobblestoned alleyway that serves as a hidden reminder of Mallorca's complex Jewish past.

Carrer de Monti-Sion, or Mount Zion Street, has borne witness to the triumphs and tragedies of this Spanish island’s community of Chuetas, the descendants of Mallorcan Jews who kept their Judaism secret after they were converted forcibly to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition. A synagogue once occupied the site that is now the Monti-Sion church, down the street from a restaurant advertising "Sefardi style" food. Legend has it that a long, thin line indented in the stone is the result of Chuetas running their fingers along it for centuries.

The Chuetas, who number an estimated 20,000 of Mallorca’s 860,000 residents, were shunned historically by the island’s Catholic majority as well as its tiny, predominantly expatriate Jewish community. Easily identifiable by their surnames, Chuetas were bullied and insulted. They were refused marriage by the wider Mallorcan community. And they were prevented from entering university.

But after centuries in which they were treated as pariahs, the Chuetas are having a banner year. -- Alex Weisler, JTA

To read more, click here.

Reports: Apple to open Israel development center

Apple will open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors, according to reports.

The development center would be the first to be opened outside of Apple's California headquarters, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

Aharon Aharon, a veteran in Israel's high-tech industry, reportedly has been hired by Apple to head the center, Globes and Calcalist reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

The announcement comes as the company enters talks to acquire its first Israel-based company, Anobit Ltd. of Herzliya, a flash storage solutions provider.

Apple's corporate vice president of research and development, Ed Frank, is currently visiting Israel, according to Globes. Calcalist reported that Frank is meeting with several Israeli high-tech companies.  -- JTA

Orthodox rabbinic group won’t take position on reparative therapy for gays

The Rabbinical Council of America said it will not take a position on so-called reparative therapy for gays.

In a statement released Monday, the RCA, the main umbrella group of centrist Orthodox rabbis, said it will neither “endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those ... struggling with same-sex attraction.” It further affirms that any therapy should be performed only by licensed practitioners.

RCA President Rabbi Schmuel Goldin told JTA that the statement did not represent a shift in the group's position. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Last-ditch operation to catch Nazi war criminals is launched

A last-ditch effort to bring Nazi war criminals to justice in Germany was launched in Berlin.

Operation Last Chance II, announced Wednesday, follows up on the search for the last remaining unpunished Nazis launched by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office in 2006, said Efraim Zuroff, Jerusalem-based chief Nazi hunter for the organization, at a news conference hosted by the German Bundestag.

A mobile hotline has been established in Germany (+49 1572 494-7407). A reward of up to 25,000 euro, about $32,500, will be offered in stages for those who provide information: 5,000 euro if the person is indicted, another 5,000 euro if the person is convicted, and 100 euro for every day the person sits in jail up to 150 days, Zuroff said.

There are known Nazis living out their years without facing justice, Zuroff said, adding that he was especially keen to see three Germans brought to justice: Klaas Carl Faber, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1947 in Holland, and escaped jail in 1952 and fled to Germany, where as a German citizen he was protected from extradition; Soreren Kam, who was indicted in Denmark for the 1943 murder of a Danish anti-Nazi newspaper editor; and Gerhard Sommer, who was convicted in absentia in Italy of murder in the massacre of 560 civilians and has been under investigation since 2002. -- Toby Axelrod, JTA

To read more, click here.

Dutch withdraw bill banning ritual slaughter

A bill to ban ritual slaughter was withdrawn by the Dutch Senate days before a scheduled vote.

Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme withdrew the bill late Tuesday after a majority of senators expressed their objection to the ban on kosher slaughter, or shechitah. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June.

The bill had required that animals be stunned before slaughter. Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter must be performed with the animal fully conscious. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Stieg Larsson’s other calling was as an anti-neo-Nazi crusader

Eva Gabrielsson, life partner of the late author Stieg Larsson.
Photo by Per Jarl
Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author of the international best-selling “Millennium” series, including “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” died in 2004 at age 50 of a heart attack, before the publication of his crime thrillers made him one of the most famous writers of the decade. They have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, already spawned three Swedish films and, on Dec. 21, fans will no doubt be lining up for the opening of Hollywood’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, with a screenplay by the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” scribe Steven Zaillian. (The film opens in selected theaters on Dec. 20.)

But amid all this “Stieg industry,” as the late author’s life partner, Eva Gabrielsson, put it, a crucial element often has been overlooked: Just how much Larsson embedded in his novels a fundamental passion of his life — his crusade against neo-Nazism and violent far-right movements, which he viewed as anathema to Sweden and to all modern society. --  Naomi Pfefferman, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Can Israel survive without the backing of American Jewry?

There’s an interesting conversation that’s been going on between Jeff Goldberg and Spencer Ackerman on whether Israel can or can’t survive without the support of American Jewry. Interesting - mainly because it has so very little basis in any reality. These two gifted writes engage in a serious conversation over a topic that doesn’t exist. -- Shmuel Rosner, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Amnesty says Saudi beheading for sorcery "shocking"

Rights group Amnesty International has described as "deeply shocking" Saudi Arabia's beheading of a woman convicted on charges of "sorcery and witchcraft," saying it underlined the urgent need to end executions in the kingdom.

Saudi national Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was executed on Monday in the northern province of al-Jawf after being tried and convicted for practicing sorcery, the interior ministry said, without giving details of the charges. -- Isabel Coles; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Mark Heinrich, Reuters

To read more, click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

U.S. formally ends war in Iraq

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta paid solemn tribute on Thursday to an “independent, free and sovereign Iraq” and declared the official end to the Iraq war, formally wrapping up the U.S. military’s 8 1/2-year mission in the country.

“After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real,” Panetta said at a ceremony at Baghdad ‘s international airport. “To be sure, the cost was high – in blood and treasure for the United States, and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain. ”

The 1:15 p.m. ceremony (5:15 a.m. in Washington) effectively ended the war two weeks earlier than was necessary under the terms of the security agreement signed by the U.S. and Iraqi governments in 2008, which stipulated that the troops must be gone by Dec. 31.

But commanders decided there was no need to keep troops in Iraq through the Christmas holidays given that talks on maintaining a U.S. presence beyond the deadline had failed. The date of the final ceremony had been kept secret for weeks, so as not to give insurgents or militias an opportunity to stage attacks. -- Liz Sly and Craig Whitlock, Washington Post

To read more and to see accompanying video and slideshow, click here.

Disney’s World

Nearly 50 years after Walt Disney’s death, biographers and fans still debate if he was an anti-Semite. A better question might be why we still care.
Walt Disney
Tablet Magazine
Walt Disney was not a controversial figure during his lifetime. But after his death in 1966, historians began putting forth a variety of disquieting revelations about him: The animator and studio chief had testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, it turned out, and he may have been an FBI informant. He was allegedly interested in cryogenics. And he was reportedly prone to making anti-Semitic remarks. But subsequent biographers disagreed, sparking a long battle over Disney’s legacy.

Eric Molinsky worked in the animation industry, and has long wondered not only if the claims of Disney’s anti-Semitism are true but also why they remain a point of fascination and ridicule among cartoonists and others nearly a half-century after his death. For this week’s Vox Tablet, Molinsky, now a radio producer, spoke to an animation historian, a Disney-obsessed playwright, and a fairy-tale scholar in an effort to understand if Disney the man, or Disney’s world view, was truly bad for the Jews. --Tablet

To listen to the interviews, click here. [Running time: 10:37.]

Overnight Makeover for a Kosher First Kitchen

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, in suit, oversees a team,
including Tommy Kurpradit, second from left, the White House executive sous-chef,
in koshering the kitchen for a party. Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times
First, spritz the kitchen’s stainless steel counters with disinfectant. Scrub vigorously.

Next, wrap counters in tinfoil, tight, tight, tight.

Now stretch plastic wrap over the foil and seal with masking tape.

Then repeat for every surface that could possibly come into contact with food — yes, even the hanging pot rack.

And so began the fastidious frenzy to make the White House’s kitchen kosher last week, a nearly four-hour drill that started at 10 p.m. Wednesday. A deadline approached: a truckload of kosher food was due Thursday at 10 a.m.

The Obama administration’s holiday reception season was in full swing. Leftovers from a party earlier Wednesday evening had already been removed. -- Jan Hoffman, NY Times

To read more, click here.