For those religious readers of this column, I apologize for not writing one last week. We were super-busy week with the Forward 50. Hope you enjoy this week’s edition!
KILLER’S CULT: New York Jewish Week Israel correspondent Michele Chabin looks at the campaign to free Yitzhak Rabin’s murderer.
Also in the Jewish Week: Editor Gary Rosenblatt is bearish on Annapolis.
‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!’: In Brooklyn’s Jewish Press, an Orthodox woman examines the climate of violence and fanaticism that led to her being beaten while riding on a Jerusalem bus.
CHABON ON ISRAEL: Some have suggested that Michael Chabon’s “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” carries an anti-Israel message. Chabon, however, tells The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle that he’s no anti-Zionist. “I strongly believe in Israel’s right to exist; but even more, I fear that it is necessary,” Chabon tells the paper. “I have no doubt whatsoever that there is only one regime, one government in the world that can be trusted not to turn its back on Jews.” He adds: “On the other hand, the unreasoning, knee-jerk support for any country, including Israel — the ‘my country right or wrong’ attitude — is utterly alien to me.”
APPLAUDING FINKELSTEIN Now that anti-Israel fire-breather Norman Finkelstein has lost his tenure bid at DePaul University, he’s enjoying life as a martyr. Speaking at Princeton Finkelstein was his usual bilious self. And for it, The New Jersey Jewish News reports, he received a standing ovation. But Stanley Katz, the professor who introduced Finkelstein, wasn’t as impressed. “I’m sometimes critical of Israeli policy, but I don’t think it helps to criticize in the way he does,” Katz told the Jewish News. “He has a way of putting things in the most extreme way he can possibly put them. His is a world of black and white, while the world I live in is almost entirely gray. It was a presentation totally without nuance, and I didn’t find it very convincing.”
Also in the Jewish News: Editor Andrew Silow Carroll writes that rather than bashing Chabad, we should try learning from the movement’s successes.
REISER ON HUNT: Comedian Paul Reiser delivers the keynote speech at the Saint Louis Jewish Book Festival, and the Jewish Light is there. Reiser took issue with those who viewed his hit sitcom “Mad About You,” co-starring the blond Helen Hunt, as a show about a relationship between a Jew and a non-Jew:
I never conceived it as a show about a Jew and a non-Jew. As a matter of fact, before we cast Helen Hunt, none of the original prospects was blonde. We must have met 300 actresses. But when Helen auditioned, she was perfect for the part. We never used the words ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish’ on the show. I have always shied away from making shows too anything, whether it is Jewish or Italian. Actually, Helen seems very Jewish since she is smart and funny, and in real life she is partly Jewish.
Reiser also tackled the matter of the effect his Jewishness had on his comedy:
Well, first of all, I’ve never been a Gentile. I once invited a non-Jewish friend to come over to join my family for dinner and she was amazed at how fast and funny everyone was at the table. There is something about being Jewish that makes us hard-wired to do comedy.
REST IN PEACE: A Texas judge upholds the right of a religious Jewish family to opt out of an autopsy, Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice reports.
KUSHNER ON MAMET: L.A. Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman talks with Tony Kushner about fellow playwright — and political antagonist — David Mamet, and more.
VANISHING VETS: San Francisco’s J. attends a gathering of the Jewish War Vets.
REDFORD ON ‘TIKKUN OLAM’: Michael Elkin, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s arts and entertainment editor, has the strangest celebrity interviews. This week’s, however, takes the cake. Asked about the concept of tikkun olam, movie legend Robert Redford says: “A wonderful phrase, one which the whole world should adopt. We can all try to play a part in trying to improve the world, even in some small way.” I’m not sure what takes more chutzpah, asking Redford what he thinks about tikkun olam or starting an article with the sentence: “Butch Cassidy and the Tzedakah Kid?”
Also in the Exponent: Executive editor Jonathan Tobin says Desmond Tutu is no friend of ours.
STEINSALTZ ON KABBALAH: Famed Jewish scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz took on the pop-Kabbalah phenomenon in a lecture in Montreal, The Canadian Jewish News reports. “Sometimes it’s a complete fake, but people enjoy it,” Steinsaltz said. “People say all types of things nobody understands, and even supernatural powers are hinted at – and that’s why it’s popular.”
CLOSE READER: Simon Rocker gives Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s latest book a close read — and makes some interesting discoveries.
Also in the J.C.: A look at the relationship between Tony Blair and his new adviser, former Israeli ambassador to the U.K. Zvi Heifetz; British Jewish parents are worried that water pipes their kids bring back from Israel are being used to smoke pot; and Laura Saperstein traded lawyering for boxing — and is now going pro.
In Other Jewish Newspapers: Chabon on Israel, Kushner on Mamet, Redford on ‘Tikkun Olam’