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How to Follow the Israeli Elections Online—and in English

From polls, to reporting, to political parody videos

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(Stutterstock)

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. (more…)

Help Us Create Tablet’s New Tote Bag Slogans

We’re seeking reader submissions for catchy, tote-able taglines

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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.

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Low Vaccination Rates at Jewish Schools in CA

Is putting other kids’ health at risk really a Jewish value?

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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.

California in general is chock full of crunchy clusters of people who refuse to vaccinate. A study published earlier this month found five areas in the Golden State with stratospheric rates of unvaccinated or under-immunized kids: Northeastern Sacramento County and Roseville (5.5 percent); Marin and Southwest Sonoma (6.6 percent); Northeast San Francisco (7.4 percent); an area from Alameda to El Cerrito (10.2 percent) an area south of Sacramento (13.5 percent). The statewide average vaccine refusal rate, outside these areas, is 2.6 percent. To achieve herd immunity, in which the percentage of people who are vaccinated is high enough to protect the unvaccinated, 94 percent of the population has to be immunized against the measles. (more…)

Johnny Depp Has Considered Becoming a Mohel

Actor says he’s given ‘serious thought’ to the profession

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Actor Johnny Depp at the premiere of 'Mortdecai' on January 21, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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.’

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Two IDF Soldiers Killed Near Lebanon Border

First fatal Hezbollah attack in Israel’s north since 2006 raises questions about deterrence

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Israeli soldiers look at a burned-out vehicle after a Hezbollah attack on the Israel-Lebanon border on January 28, 2015(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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Chelsea Handler: Topless Peacenik

American comedian bares all in Israel with a message of coexistence

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Chelsea Handler is baring her breasts on Instagram again, this time to promote a message of peace and coexistence in the Middle East.

The photo—posted early Thursday morning in Israel—depicts the American comedian sitting astride a camel in a Napoleonic pose, illuminated by the glorious, waning desert sunlight. A pair of Israeli flag pasties provide a modicum of ‘modesty’ for sensitive viewers who may be offended by human anatomy. (more…)

My Visit to Auschwitz: Remembering, Educating, Acting

Randi Weingarten reflects on this week’s 70th anniversary commemoration

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Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum Piotr Cywinski, and Auschwitz survivors arrive at the former concentration camp on January 27, 2015. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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. (more…)

The Merchant of Vegas, Onstage in London

Shakespeare’s prickly classic gets a timely update in new production

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Emily Plumtree as Nerissa and Susannah Fielding as Portia in 'The Merchant of Venice.' (Ellie Kurtz)

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.

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Broadway Stalwart Joel Grey Comes Out

Willkommen out of the closet!

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Jennifer Grey and Joel Grey at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival on April 20, 2013 in New York City.(Michael Loccisano/Getty)

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.”

Grey—born Joel David Katz to Goldie and Mickey Katz—has performed for television, film, and on the stage. He is probably best known as a star of musical theater—he played the Wizard in the original Broadway cast of Wicked, and famously created the role of the Emcee in Cabaret. The latter earned him a Tony Award, and he won an Oscar when he reprised the role for the 1972 film. In 2013, he was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theatre. (more…)

Sheldon Silver To Be Replaced as Assembly Speaker

Albany assigns interim replacement, will hold an election in February

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New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver walks out of the Federal Courthouse after his arraignment on January 22, 2015 in New York City. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

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.

Silver’s temporary replacement as speaker is Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, and other lawmakers will take on aspects of the job as well. The State Assembly will hold an election for the new speaker on Feb. 10.

Silver may still resign as a gesture, though he maintains his innocence. He has, however, agreed to not impede Albany’s process of replacing him.

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The Case Against Sheldon Silver

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