Muslim Enemy of the Reich

November 10, 2014
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Muslim Enemy of the Reich

At a time when stories of Muslim-Jewish unity are far and few between comes the story of a Muslim woman who went undercover to fight the Nazis in occupied France. Noorunissa Inayat Khan was born in Moscow in 1914 to an Indian Sufi father and an American mother, whose brother Pierre Bernard (née Perry Baker) introduced yoga…

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The Filmmaker And the Hasid Who Met on Craigslist

November 7, 2014
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The Filmmaker And the Hasid Who Met on Craigslist

When filmmaker Annie Berman posted an ad in the Craigslist “strictly platonic” section, she was looking for someone to give her some insight into the eruv in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a project she was researching. When “Marty” (not his real name) answered the ad, the two began to speak on the phone, but it…

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Meet Saul Kripke, The Smartest Jew In Philosophy

November 6, 2014
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Meet Saul Kripke, The Smartest Jew In Philosophy

The philosopher and logician Saul Kripke is a pretty smart guy, though you'd probably have to be if you taught yourself ancient Hebrew by six, read all of Shakespeare by nine, and mastered the complexities of Descartes before finishing elementary school.

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The Legend of the Jews’ Arrival in Poland

November 5, 2014
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The Legend of the Jews' Arrival in Poland

Legend has it that when the first Jews reached what is now Poland, driven from the west by Crusades, they saw the word “Polin,” or “Poland” in Yiddish, written on a tree. They mistook it for the Hebrew po-lin, rest here, and thus began one of the greatest and most fruitful…

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The Artist Who Turned Destroyed Polish Shuls Into Great Modern Art

November 4, 2014
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The Artist Who Turned Destroyed Polish Shuls Into Great Modern Art

Declaring “what you see is what you see” superstar artist Frank Stella (b. 1936) made a name for himself painting minimalist flat black canvases, until a book on the development of the Polish wooden synagogue pushed him to a stylistic breakthrough.In 1970, Stella received a copy of the 1957 Wooden Synagogues, the only survey of…

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Ga-ga, The Israeli Dodgeball

November 3, 2014
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Ga-ga, The Israeli Dodgeball

When New York dance studios began offering Gaga classes, some people asked, “Wait, you need to go to a class to learn Ga-ga?” You can forgive them for the confusion, but in Israel, Ga-ga (from the Hebrew verb for touch) is similar to what American kids call dodge ball.Ga-ga can be played anywhere,…

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King Saul and the Witch of Endor

October 31, 2014
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King Saul and the Witch of Endor

In honor of Halloween, today’s installment of Stories From the Back of the Bible is the controversial tale of the Witch of Endor, featuring Saul, the handsome but historically inept first king of Israel. For years, the prophet Samuel’s tough love helped Saul; Samuel rebuked him when necessary and interceded with the Lord and the Israelites…

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Heartbreaking Home Videos From the Old Country

October 30, 2014
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Heartbreaking Home Videos From the Old Country

We tend to think of early 20th-century Jewish migration as a one-way street. But a New York City exhibition shows a different story—in film.Between the wars, some of those emigres traveled back to Europe and captured the old country in remarkable amateur films which are the raw material for “Letters to Afar,”…

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The Ancient Rabbi’s Secret Diary

October 29, 2014
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The Ancient Rabbi’s Secret Diary

Some people fill their diaries with secrets and desires, others with the details of nighttime angel rendezvous.In 1646, such a diary appeared. Titled the Maggid Mesharim, or “Preacher of Righteousness,” the odd and mystical book belonged to Rabbi Joseph ben Ephraim Caro, an esteemed Toledo-born scholar best known for the last essential codification…

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The Young Israeli Poet In Palestinian Drag

October 28, 2014
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The Young Israeli Poet In Palestinian Drag

Growing up in Tel Aviv, Morani Kornberg-Weiss only encountered the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s national poet, by chance. As a “voice from the other side,” Darwish seemed to speak to her across an unfathomable distance – until she began speaking back.The result is Dear Darwish, a book of poems –…

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The Jewish Nazi Film That Was Too Nazi for the Jews

October 22, 2014
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The Jewish Nazi Film That Was Just a Little Too Nazi

What could scream “zeitgeist” louder than a 1942 American comedy about a troupe of Polish actors who use their knack for disguise to fool Nazis? Though it was the season for anti-Nazi propaganda, To Be or Not to Be—directed by Jewish auteur Ernst Lubitsch, whose films were known for having a certain…

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The Puerto Rican Boxer With the Kosher Tattoo

October 21, 2014
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The Puerto Rican Boxer With the Kosher Tattoo

Pro boxers don’t usually wear their sponsorship on their sleeves – but Puerto Rican fighter Miguel Cotto wears his on his neck. Er, scratch that – the Orthodox Union hechsher tattooed on the light middleweight boxer’s trapezius isn’t actually an endorsement from the Union. And the 33-year-old has only four losses in his nearly fifteen-year…

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