Friday Five: Aly Raisman, Michael Moynihan, Jonah Kohn, the Schottenstein family, Mitt Romney

Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman, 18, from the Boston area helped the American team to their first women’s gold since the “Magnificent 7” at the Atlanta 1996 games. Raisman is particularly popular in the Jewish community for performing her floor routine to “Hava Nagila.” Despite finishing fourth in the Women’s All-Around Final, she is expected to be back on the podium at least one more time in these games; she still has the beam and floor finals to go. Boisterously cheering her on are parents Rick and Lynn, whose hilarious video — removed from YouTube by the IOC on copyright grounds — became an Internet sensation for their reaction to her qualifying routine, which included endless uses of “Come on!” and “Stick it!”

Jonah Lehrer, a staff writer for The New Yorker, resigned hours after the Jewish website Tablet Magazine published an article revealing that he had fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his recent book, “Imagine.” The neuroscience and psychology writer’s undoing began three weeks ago when Michael Moynihan, contributing editor for Reason magazine and author of the Tablet article, first pressed Lehrer about quotes attributed to Dylan. Lehrer claimed that he’d pulled the quotes from material furnished by Dylan’s manager. Moynihan, a self-professed “Dylan nerd” started sleuthing. “This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic,” Lehrer eventually admitted on Monday. Six weeks ago, Lehrer was accused of “self-plagiarism” for recycling an article written for the Wall Street Journal in his inaugural blog post for The New Yorker. Whether Moynihan was driven by a love of Dylan or pursuit of truth, Lehrer has gone from Malcolm Gladwell protege to the Milli Vanilli of prose.

Fourteen-year old Jonah Kohn sure is a smart kid. The San Diego Jewish Academy eighth-grader won a $25,000 science prize at the second annual Google Science Fair competition. In his video, he explains that when he was in class playing guitar, it was too loud to hear. He then realized that by putting his teeth on the guitar, he could hear the vibrations. This led to his award-winning science project that enhances music for people with hearing loss.


Plenty of people deserve credit for this week’s Siyum HaShas: Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi for redacting the Oral Law back in the second century; Rabbi Yehuda Meir Shapiro for launching the page-a-day Daf Yomi study program in 1923; the organizers of this week’s largest celebration, the 90,000-person Siyum at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. But more than anyone, this 7-and-1/2-year Daf Yomi cycle belongs to the Schottenstein family, which put up the money for ArtScroll’s English translation of the Talmud, completed in 2004. Not everyone likes the translation or uses it, but it has become an indispensable resource for countless Jews “doing the daf” and arguably has made the Talmud more accessible than ever before.


Let’s avoid making fun of his gaffes, or even adjudicating them as gaffes, and focus on the bright side: Whatever Mitt Romney said in Jerusalem on Sunday, and however he said it, he has nudged two substantive issues back into the political debate in a season afflicted otherwise by fluff. (How many Caddies does Ann Romney drive?) He called Jerusalem Israel’s capital; that forced the White House to once and for all stop running scared and own up to longstanding U.S. policy, that the United States does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to reignite a debate about whether it should. And his claim, comparing the thriving Israeli economy to the depressed Palestinian economy, that “culture makes all the difference” occasioned a debate about what, exactly, is the role of cultural practices in determining a nation’s well-being.

Keep up with JTA’s comprehensive coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Click to login and write a letter to the editor.