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February 22, 2008     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 22, 2008
 

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 22, 2008 news is The English edition of Hamodia, a Brooklyn-based daily paper aimed at the Haredi com- munity, is marking its lOth anniversary. By Jacob Berkman NEWXORK (JTA)--Hillary Clinton could be America's next president, but her picture will never appear on the pages of the country's only Jewish daily newspaper. The English-language ver- sion of Hamodia, which touts itself as "The Newspaper of Torah Jewry," does not pub- lish photographs of women because its editorial board believes that pictures of the female form are immodest and displaying them, even in the context of news cover- age, would be out of line with Jewish law. Cringe or laugh, but the English edition of Hamo- dia its forebear started out in Eastern Europe as a religious Yiddish paper in 1910 and was resurrected as a Hebrew publication in Israel in 1950--is on the rise: In its decade of existence, the English edition has seen its circulation grow to 45,000 households. "In the strictest interpre- tation of halachah, it is a question of modesty," said Menachem Lubinsky, the marketing consultant for Hamodia, when asked about the policy of not running photographs of women. Lubinsky, who spoke to JTA after the paper's publisher, Ruth Lichtenstein, declined through a publicist, citing modesty reasons, said Clinton wouldn't be the first female leader to be affected by the policy. "We never featured a picture of Golda Meir," he insisted. Two weeks ago, when the paper covered the presi- dential primaries and ran a photo of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), it avoided showing a photo of the for- mer first lady, featuring in- stead a photo of Bill Clinton stumping for his wife behind a podium with a "Hillary for President" sign. The policy is not an issue ofbelittlingwomen, Lubinsky insisted, noting that the paper has female editorial staffers, its stories quote women and Lichtenstein writes unsigned editorials. Hamodia, which is head- quartered in the heavily Jew- ish New York City borough of Brooklyn, is attempting to provide global coverage of news for the Orthodox com- munity, Lubinsky said. Unlike most Jewish publica- tions, its copy is riot all Jewish news, all the time. It presents the major news of the day as would a major daily, along with Jewish fare. For instance, the lead story on the tabloid's front page Feb. 6 was about the presi- dential campaigns, while the kickers highlighting stories inside featured the 40th an- niversary of the Bais Yaakov school in Denver, a guide to Jewish weddings and a story about "Modiin Ilit, a Pioneer of Shabbos Observance." Inside the paper, articles about the housing crisis in Buffalo and the convic- tion of the "Terror Lawyer" were offset by photographs of prominent haredi rabbis making visits to Jewish com- munities. Hamodia tends to ignore racier topics, such as sex scandals, or write stories with "careful language, because there is a concern that the paper is passed on to younger family members," Lubinsky said. The paper does not have a Web site because rabbis in the haredi world have banned us- ing the Internet for anything aside from business purposes, Lubinsky said. Even Hamodia's ads are modest. One for The Lingerie Store takingtwo-thirds of a page has no pictures of women in their underwear. The only wares mentioned in the text are velour long robes, spring long robes and cotton knit nightgowns. Lubinsky painted a rosy picture for the paper, noting thatAmerica has an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Orthodox Jews, with half living in the United States and more than half of them in the New York metropolitan area. According to Lubinsky, the paper's readership has a mean income of $60,000 per year. Hamodia's Feb. 6 issue featured four separate news sections and two glossy magazine supplements all filled with ads. The paper is attracting younger generations of Or- thodox Jews who are moving to the right of their Modern Orthodox parents. They became more fer- vently Orthodox after spend- ing time studying in Israeli yeshivas, according to sociolo- gist Samuel Heilman. "These are people who are relatively new to this haredi outlook, and they need to know how to think and they need to know what" the haredi world- view includes, Heilman said in a phone interview from Israel, where he is on sabbatical. "This is the kind of thing that in a dif- ferent culture and society, they would learn on the street. "These are people who have slid to the right, but slid late. They didn't grow up speaking Yiddish or Hebrew. They are steeped in American life and their mama loshen"--Yid- dish for mother tongue - "is English." 9 screen By Ben Harris NEW YORK (JTA)--In some ways, it's a most natural shidduch. There's Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose best-sell- ing 2007 book, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, marked a turning point in the author's growing exploration of Jewish themes in his fiction. And Joel and Ethan Coen, the maverick filmmakers whose Jewish sensibility has been evident in countless of their movies, but who have yet to fully actualize their Se- mitic humor in a full-blown Jewish film. Until now. Two weeks ago~ the Guard- ian revealed that the Coens had agreed to write and direct the film adaptation of "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." "Naturally, I am over the moon about this," Chabon wrote in an e-mail to JTA. "They are heroes of mine." And to many others. The Coen brothers have developed a cult of fanatic followers that have sustained their unique brand of filmmaking despite generally modest returns at the box office. Their biggest success to date, lastyear's "No Country for Old Men," was nominated for eight Oscars, butthe brothers, sons of a pair of Minnesota professors, have only rarely been embraced by mainstream audiences. Just as "Munich" generated excitement over" the coming together of a beloved Jewish filmmaker (Steven Spielberg) and a renowned Jewish writer (Tony Kushner) to make a film of Jewish interest, the The onl /NONSTOPS from Miami to Tel Aviv, For departures and returns on select dates in February and March* For tickets, call 800-223-6700, any travel agent or purchase online. THE ONLY NONSTOP FLIGHTS FROM MIAMI AND LOS ANGELES TO TEL AVIV. THE MOST NONSTOPS FROM NEW YORK (JFK/NEWARK),IN ADDITION TO NONSTOP FLIGHTS FROM TORONTO -" www.elal.com *The above roundt~ip ~irfare is available c~n select. El AL. flights and is subject. ~ availability when departing Febn~ary 1 O, 19, 2~ or 26 and ~.tarning Febnmry 26.28 or March 4, 6, 11, 13, 18 or 20, 2008 Tickets mu~ be reserved and purchased simultaneously. Abave prices do not include $84.30 app!icable taxes. (These include the September 11th secuFrcy fee of $2.50 per U.S.enplanement, up to $5 on~.wey and $10 roundtrip.) EL AL reserves the right to cancel promotions at any t~me. Cancellst~an/chenge penates and other restrictions app!y @ EL AL israei A~r'ines 2008 Coen-Chabon collaboration is sure to stoke the imagi- nations of Yiddishists and Jewish film buffs alike. And also like "MOnich," it's sure to engender some contro- versy, too. Set ir~ Sitka, a fictional Yiddish semi-state in Alaska created to shelter Jewish refugees after Israel's lost war of independence, The~ Yiddish Policemen's Union is a noirish crime novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler. Sitka is a place filled with Yiddish pimps and prostitutes, drug addicts and degenerates. Where the Chasidic kingmakers are the scheming villains, and the hard-living detectives turn out to have hearts of gold. The plot turns on the murder of the wayward son of a Chasidic rebbe, a drug- addled chess prodigy found dead in his room at a seedy hotel. Meyer Landsman, the hard-boi|ed homicide detec- tive investigating the murder, gets more than he bargained for--as noir detectives always do--when he uncovers a plot by Jewish zealots to ignite a war in the Middle East and retake Jerusalem. Richly conceived and phe- nomenally detailed, Chabon's Sitka is home to just the sort of improbable characters that populate Coen brothers films. It is the Coen brothers, after all, who gave the world The Dude, the hero of their 1998 film "The Big Lebowski," a blissed-out stoner and bowl- ing devotee who finds himself negotiating the return of a bimbowife from her supposed kidnappers. And their love of genre films, particularly screwball comedies and film noir, seems perfectly suited to a novel that contains distinct elements of both. The Yiddish Policemen's Union was released to critical acclaim in 2007. But among some Jewishwriters, the book created a sense of unease, and even barely suppressed outrage, some of which is sure to resurface when the film is released. Claiming Chabon was sending a clear anti-Zion- ist message, Ruth Wisse, a noted Yiddish scholar at Harvard University, demol- ished the novel in a wither- ing essay in Commentary magazine, calling it a "sus- tained act of provocation," among other denigrations; Commentary's editor-in- waiting John Podhoretz and journalist Samuel Freedman offered similar criticisms of the novel. A decidedly less scholarly view was expressed in a New York Post story, headlined "Novelist's Ugly View of Jews." One can only imagine what these critics will have to say once the Coen brothers, with their Jewish fluency and twisted sense of humor, get their hands on Chabon's prose. The upcoming film is being produced by Scott Rudin, who reportedly bought the rights to the book five years ago, before itwas even completed, and the film is not expected before mid-2009. But indus- try skeptics are rightly wary. The film version of one of Chabon's earlier novels, the award-winning The Amaz- ing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, has been reported to be in the works for years, with direction by another famous Jewish filmmaker, Sydney Pollack. But regardless of whether the film version of The Yid- dish Policemen's Union ever sees the light of day, the news alone has been enough to set the biogosphere on fire with overheated speculation. "This is the greatest fit ever," one Israel-based blog- ger heaved. "I can't picture any other director tackling this book and doing it right. What a great fi.t. Yiddish Noir!!]"