Jews vs. Aliens / Jews vs. Zombies

April 9, 2015
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Jews vs. Aliens / Jews vs. Zombies

Q: What happens when a rebbe goes shopping for lemons and comes face to face with an alien invasion? A: He learns deep humility and makes sure to leave a good tip. A few weeks ago, two e-book originals with the unlikely titles Jews vs Aliens and Jews vs Zombies…

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See the Only Woodcut Haggadah Made By and For Holocaust Survivors

April 8, 2015
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When Rabbi Abraham Klausner—a U.S. Army chaplain stationed in Munich after liberation—was planning the first seder for survivors after the war, he came across a haggadah created by survivors, for survivors. The haggadah, humbly titled a “Supplement to the Passover Seder,” was put together by survivors and displaced persons around Munich…

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Meet Ethan Hawke’s Jewish Piano Teacher

April 7, 2015
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Ethan Hawke's Jewish Piano Teacher

Seymour Bernstein is a musical genius. He is 88 years old and lives in a charmingly cluttered studio apartment in Manhattan, where he teaches piano and sleeps on a pullout couch. This is where he sat down to film this thoughtful documentary directed by Ethan Hawke, Seymour: An Introduction. Hawke…

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The Strange and Surprising History of the Maxwell House Haggadah

April 6, 2015
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The Strange and Surprising History of the Maxwell House Haggadah

In our worst nightmares, coffee is not kosher for Passover. In early 20th-century America, this nightmare was almost real: Jewish stores mistakenly classified coffee beans as legumes, making them forbidden during Pesach according to Ashkenazi tradition. But then American advertising came to save the day — in the form of…

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A Favorite Seder Song Like You’ve Never Heard it Before

April 3, 2015
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A Classic Seder Song Like You've Never Heard it Before

Can music change the world? Create peace? For some, that might be marketing copy. For the members of Diwan Saz, an incredibly skilled multi-faith and multi-ethnic 9-piece band, it seems to be an earnestly held belief. Part of its name, “diwan,” means “coming together of people” in Turkish, and Diwan…

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The Matzah Machine Controversy That Tore European Jewry Asunder

April 2, 2015
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Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But progress is a touchy subject, particularly where Jewish law is involved. In 1857, the first matzah-baking machine was invented in Austria. The automated device kneaded and pressed the dough, and the result was a thin, perforated circle that was then placed in an oven. Over time,…

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A 19th-Century Parody Haggadah for Schoolteachers

April 1, 2015
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A 19th-Century Joke Haggadah for Schoolteachers

Do your bosses and clients oppress you? Have you spent years getting an education only to enter a low-paying, low-status profession? If so, this haggadah is for you. Published in 19th-century Odessa, Sefer Hagadah La-Melamdim (The Schoolteachers’ Haggadah), is complete with the laws, liturgy, and commentaries of traditional haggadahs. But this…

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How to Host an Anarchy Seder

March 31, 2015
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How to Host an Anarchy Seder

Many a Passover seder leader finds herself pulled between the opposing poles of structure and chaos. One method of finding that balance: the anarchy seder. At anarchy seders, like the one Rabbi Susan Elizabeth Lippe holds at her Austin, Texas home every year, participants are encouraged to embrace the chaos.…

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If Your Cantor Were a Rock Star He Would Sound Like This

March 30, 2015
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If you ask Brooklyn-based musician Yoshie Fruchter, the great cantors of the 20th century –Yossele Rosenblatt, Leib Glantz, and Fruchter’s own grandfather — were actually laying the groundwork for a new brand of rock. If these names don’t ring a bell, don’t worry: Fruchter’s album Schizophonia, which reinterprets great cantorial recordings…

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Catch the Steamy Romance Atop Masada, on a TV Near You

March 27, 2015
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Premiering next week on CBS, The Dovekeepers, based on the bestselling Alice Hoffman novel of the same name, dramatizes the story of Masada, the ancient mountaintop fortress, with bloody sword fights, battering rams and flaming torches. There’s lots of steamy makeout scenes by candlelight and overwrought romantic dialogue. (“Can you…

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Shvitzing With the Jews in a Ukrainian Bathhouse

March 26, 2015
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Quiet in Odessa

In a chaotic Ukraine, how do Jews see themselves? Dmitry Khavin’s new short documentary Quiet in Odessa (which screens this Friday in NYC) lets a few of the port city’s remaining Jews meditate on what it means to have stayed put while others left for Israel, the U.S. and Europe —…

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Why Singapore’s Army Sang Israeli Songs

March 25, 2015
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Why Singapore’s Army Sang Israeli Songs

Who’s got Singapore’s back? For a tiny nation surrounded by Muslim countries, the answer is obviously “another tiny nation surrounded by Muslim countries,” i.e. Israel. But it turns out Israel doesn’t just have Singapore’s back–it’s also also got its arms, military technology, and calisthenics routines. Why’s that? We’ll have to turn back…

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