Remembering Portugal’s Jewish Prized Poet

Herberto Hélder’s writing touched on the dark, mystic, and mythological

(Herberto Hélder)

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. (more…)

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to Visit Israel

A trip to the Holy Land could be just what the celebrity couple needs

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on February 14, 2015 in New York City. (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images)

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. (more…)

Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire, Again

No, this year is not a major anniversary. But we can never forget.

School children at the commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire on March 24, 2006 in New York City. (Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

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. (more…)

For Passover, a Manischewitz Wine Cheese Ball

A dish to make this seder different from all other seders


Tired of seeing the token bottle of Manischewitz idle in the corner of the buffet table during the Passover seder, touched by no one, its sweet, sweet nectar going unappreciated? You’re in luck. Shannon Sarna, the food writer behind concoctions like brisket latkes and candy-filled challah, has one-upped herself this year with a recipe for something so strange and inventive it might just be brilliant: the Manischewitz Wine Cheese Ball. (more…)

Remembering Yehuda Avner’s Worst Speech

One of Israel’s singular storytellers dies at 86

(Yehuda Avner with Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin)

On Tuesday, Yehuda Avner, an iconic Israeli ambassador and witness to so much of the Jewish state’s history, died at the age of 86. Among other distinguished roles, the Manchester-born Avner served as an adviser and English speechwriter for Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak Rabin, as well as Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Britain, and Ireland. Tributes following his death have dubbed him “Begin’s Shakespeare,” and highlighted his eloquence in conveying Israel’s story throughout his career as a diplomat, speechwriter, and historian. (Here’s just one example of Avner’s singular storytelling style from the Tablet archives.)

Yet for all his fabled command of rhetoric, Avner’s most poignant speech was arguably his worst–and first. (more…)

The Singapore Story is the Israel Story

Late founding father Lee Kuan Yew looked to another young, security-focused state in 1965

Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on May 26, 2011. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

The many obituaries, remembrances, and panegyrics that have appeared in response to the death of Singapore’s founding father and long-serving prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, at age 91, hit all the major themes. As most tell it, Lee, who died Monday in the Singapore hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia, was a legendary statesman who, by downplaying human rights and multiparty democracy, pushed all the chips of his legacy onto the table of development.

The wager paid off. Visitors to 21st century Singapore, seeing its spotless boulevards and thriving financial hub, can understand why Lee titled one of his memoirs From Third World to First. But what many of the appraisals fail to mention even in passing is one of Lee’s biggest gambles ever: His decision to follow in the footsteps of Israel. (more…)

Obama-Bibi Kvetch Session/Happy Hour

Join Tablet on Thursday in New York City for drinks and decompressing


Are you annoyed/frustrated/infuriated/confused by one or both of these men? Join Tablet this Thursday at Black Door in Manhattan for happy hour. (more…)

Boca Synagogue Wins Guinness World Record

For congregant-made prayer shawl measuring 1471.74 square feet

Boca Raton Synagogue's Guinness Book of World Records prayer shawl. (Facebook)

First there was the world’s largest chicken nugget, a 50-lb kosher masterpiece unveiled in 2013. Then there was the world’s largest Shabbat dinner, which drew 2,226 people to Tel Aviv in 2014. The latest Jewish creation to be anointed with a Guinness Book of World Records certification is a prayer shawl, or tallis, from Boca Raton, FL, that clocks in at a whopping 1,471.74 square feet. (more…)

Jewish Book Recommendations for Spring

Picks from new Jewish Book Council head Naomi Firestone-Teeter


Naomi Firestone-Teeter has been named the new executive director of the Jewish Book Council, succeeding Carolyn Starman Hessel, who helmed the organization for 20 years. We caught up with Firestone-Teeter to get her five recommendations for new Jewish books out this spring. Ever the literary champion, she gave us six. (more…)

Painting by Hitler Up for Auction

Bidding on the 1912 watercolor still life starts at $30,000

1912 watercolor by Adolf Hitler. (Nate D. Sanders Gallery)

Call it springtime for Hitler. The genocidal Führer’s penchant for painting didn’t bear much fruit during his lifetime—he was rejected several times from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and later sold scenic postcards with middling success—but his pre-war work has seen what you might call a posthumous surge. (more…)

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