Monthly Archives: June 2009

Watch out for Wolpo

By Jeremy Gillick

The right wing group SOS Israel, led by Rabbi Sholom Dov Wolpo, leader of Chabad’s messianic wing in Israel, has published the first in a series of English-language newsletters that includes a vaguely threatening message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accuses him of selling out his nation and country to “High Commissioner Hussein Obama.”

The newsletter comes in advance of the 15th anniversary of Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s death.

The pamphlet includes an excerpt from an interview with 83-year-old Geulah Cohen, a former Knesset member who was an outspoken opponent of Ariel Sharon’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza:

The Lubavitcher Rebbe warned Mr. Moshe Katsav 17 years ago…that he, personally will be the first to fight with all his forcefulness and might against Shamir so that his government will fall. The fact remains that any Prime Minister who has tampered with our inheritance of Eretz Yisroel has received his just desserts in a humiliating and painful fashion.

Being truly concerned for your future, we turn to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and advise you: do not tread on the path of your predecessors which caused danger to the residents of Eretz Yisroel and themselves. Whoever harms Eretz Yisroel is declaring an open war on Hashem and his Torah, with all the resulting consequences Continue reading

Jailhouse Hora

By Michelle Albert


These days, to have a truly memorable bar mitzvah, it has to be somewhere special. Like jail.

According to the New York Times, New York City’s Department of Investigation is pursuing an inquiry into how an inmate held in a jail in Lower Manhattan could have arranged a bar mitzvah party for his son last year. The party, held in the gymnasium of the Manhattan Detention Complex, featuring Orthodox singer Yaakov Shwekey as the night’s entertainment, boasted 60 guests and lasted six hours. It seems a good time was had by all.

The problem, according to the City, is that the party featured real silverware, including metal knives (not allowed in jail), and that the guests brought their cellphones with them (also not allowed). The city is also flummoxed at how Tuvia Stern, the inmate who planned the shindig, could have pulled it off. Rabbi Glanz, a chaplain for the New York Department of Corrections, was suspended from duty. Peter Curico, the Corrections Department bureau chief of facility operations, retired.

Though the party was against the rules, it was something the bar mitzvah boy will never forget. Who else in New York has had a bar mitzvah that caused both the Department of Corrections and Mayor Bloomberg to get involved? Apparently, there is such a thing as too much fun.

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Buy for Israel

By Michelle Albert

Trader Joes

A message currently circulating the Web urges Jews to buy Trader Joe’s products in response to the call by Boycott Divestment Campaign, an organization of anti-Israel groups, to boycott Trader Joe’s grocery stores because they sell Israeli goods.

The Boycott Divestment Campaign is dedicated to ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. They view Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories as apartheid and compare Israel to South Africa.

According to the Forward, the boycott was originated by the group “Don’t Buy into Apartheid,” a member of the Boycott Divestment Campaign, and set for June 20, dubbed “World Refugee Day.” Though the planned boycott has passed, the call for retaliation is still going strong. Stand With Us, an Israel advocacy group based in Los Angeles, has publicly stated their support for buying Trader Joe’s goods on their website, and the email, containing a letter from Rabbi Isaac Jeret of Congregation Ner Tamid in California, urges all readers to continue patronizing Trader Joes’s. The goal is to make it seem as if the boycott never happened.

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This Week’s Links


By Michelle Albert

  • Woody Allen speaks to NPR about his newest movie, the difference between life and fiction, and what he’s like off camera. [NPR]
  • While religious hatred dominates the headlines, a rabbi reminds us that peaceful interfaith exchanges are, in reality, more widespread. [StarTrib]
  • Moment columnist Gershom Gorenberg traces racism across Jewish lines, in both America and Israel. [SouthJerusalem]
  • An American Al-Qaeda member reveals his Jewish background. [ynet]
  • Hamas reportedly prevented an assassination attempt on former president Jimmy Carter during his trip to the West Bank. [Haaretz]
  • Tel Aviv hosts a wedding for five gay couples. [JTA]
  • How Jewish is your summer camp? This graph tells all. [MyJewishLearning]
  • The best way to make zombies even scarier? Make them Nazis. [Forward]
  • The Bible is on Twitter. [Heeb]

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Update: Holocaust Museum Shooting

By Michelle Albert

Holocaust Museum shooter and white supremacist James W. von Brunn is being charged with the murder of Stephen T. Jones, a museum guard, reports the Washington Post. Jones was 39 years old.

Von Brunn is still in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital.

Wednesday evening, the White House issued a statement from President Obama:

“I am shocked and saddened by today’s shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum, and no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world.

“Today, we have lost a courageous security guard who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this painful time.”

This feeling of mourning is spread all over downtown Washington. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington is holding an “interfaith solidarity gathering” outside the Holocaust museum today at 2 p.m., reports the Washington Post. Extra security was added to synagogues and Jewish Schools, and the Holocaust museum is closed.

The museum is flying the American flag at half-mast in honor of Jone’s memory, and a garden of flower bouquets has sprung up in front of the museum gates.

Shooting at the Holocaust Museum

By Michelle Albert

Two people were shot and one wounded in the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC Wednesday afternoon, MSNBC reports. A guard and the shooter, identified as James W. von Brunn of Easton, MD, were shot and are currently at George Washington University Hospital for treatment. A third person, currently unidentified, was cut with broken glass.

Von Brunn opened fire on a security guard when he entered the museum at 12:52 p.m., effectively disabling the guard, reports the Washington Post. Before he could advance, however, at least one other guard shot him. The museum was evacuated, and authorities confirmed that the area is secure.

Von Brunn is a known white supremacist. He is probably best known for his attempt to put the Federal Reserve Board of Governors under citizen’s arrest in 1981. He currently works as an artist and an author in Easton, MD. He shills for his new book, Kill the Best Gentiles! on the white supremacist website According to the site, his book is the “culmination of his life’s work.” Von Brunn is 88 years old.

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Iran’s Velvet Revolution?

By Jeremy Gillick

What will change if Mirhossein Mousavi, a former Iranian Prime Minister, a “moderate,” and the primary challenger to reigning Iranian president and rabble-rouser Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wins this Friday’s much-hyped Iranian election? Will Iran abandon it’s nuclear program or change its position vis-a-vis Israel or the United States? Will the country undergo a “velvet revolution,” as Saeed Laylaz, editor of an Iranian business daily, told Ha’aretz it would? Or might Ahmadinejad’s cult-like supporters, backed by the Basij paramilitary and the Revolutionary Guard, revolt, a possibility considered by Robert Dreyfuss at The Nation?

The answer, of course, is that we don’t know. In addition to knowing very little about how Iranian politics actually work–even many of the foremost American experts on Iran concede this unfortunate deficiency–Mousavi himself is a mysterious candidate.

Writing in The New Republic, Laura Secor calls him “a wartime prime minister who has kept near total silence about politics since 1988,” who “lacks charisma” and who “calls himself both a reformist and a believer in revolutionary ‘principles.'” During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, “he was seen as a wise manager at a time of crisis,” she adds, and had the singular advantage of being a “particular favorite of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.” In short, she suggests, he appeals first and foremost to “people who might otherwise vote for Ahmadinejad” but also to some liberals who believe that, in Iran, no platform is the best platform. Continue reading

A Real Girl

By Michelle Albert

Besides being unique in that she’s Jewish, the newest American Girl Doll shares a name with a criminal wanted by the FBI.

Rebecca RubinRebecca Rubin is 18 inches tall, with light brown hair and hazel-green eyes. She is the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants living in New York City in 1914. Her red wool dress, black hat, and two-tone boots show that she is a snazzy dresser. She even comes with her own challah.

Rebecca J. RubinRebecca J. Rubin (the J is for Jeanneatte) is 46 years old and between 5’5” and 5’8” tall. She has brown hair, hazel eyes and is quite possibly Canadian. She might have some light facial hair. She is also occasionally known as ‘Little Missy’ or ‘Kara’. She is wanted by the FBI for arson and attempted arson.

The easiest way to tell them apart? One is a doll and one isn’t.

Read more about Rebecca J. Rubin and Rebecca Rubin after the jump.

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Jewish Fanaticism

By Jeremy Gillick

In the wake of the Manis Friedman controversy, some suggested that Moment should have censored itself in order to protect the Jewish community’s image. Abe Foxman, for example, the controversial director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Forward that, while he was “not shocked that there would be a rabbi who would have these views,” he was “shocked that Moment would give up all editorial discretion and good sense to publish this as representative of Chabad.” (In Moment’s defense, Manis Friedman is a regular “Ask the Rabbis” contributor: see his former responses here, here and here.)

But if it’s fair to silence the extremism within when it’s a merely a fringe phenomenon limited to a few radical rabbis, surely it’s wrong not to publicize–and criticize–it when it appears to be widespread and cross-denominational. Here’s a remarkable, repulsive and, sadly, illuminating video from Max Blumenthal, an investigative journalist and blogger, that I just came across at New Voices.

Filmed on the streets of Jerusalem in advance of President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Blumenthal and Joseph Dana “encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel. Usually I offer a brief commentary on my video reports,” writes Blumenthal, “but this one requires no comment at all. Quite simply, it contains some of the most shocking footage I have ever filmed.”

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A Message from Moment Magazine

Despite the comments of ADL’s Abe Foxman, BeliefNet’s David Klinghoffer and others, we at Moment stand by our decision to include Rabbi Manis Friedman’s response to the question in the Ask the Rabbis section in the May/June 2009 issue: How should Jews treat their Arab neighbors? As we do for every issue, we invited a wide range of rabbis to comment on a question. We do this because it’s important to hear what different people think, even when we don’t agree with them. Incidentally, all the comments but one were more or less the same;  only one took a different stand.  Surely that very minority opinion deserves to be heard, even if it’s offensive to a lot of people. It’s crucial to know where people in our community stand. We can’t pretend different opinions don’t exist. This is why an independent publication is valuable and it is what makes Moment unique. Read the magazine and you will learn surprising things in every issue. Eric Alterman writes for us, as does David Frum. In the next issue we will hear from Gershom Gorenberg and Benny Morris. And of course, our Ask the Rabbis question and responses will be as provocative as usual.

—Editor Nadine Epstein and Moment editorial staff