The Jewish Bubbe of Second-Wave Feminism

July 16, 2014
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The Jewish Bubbe of Second-Wave Feminism

 You probably think of Betty Friedan as a feminist, activist, or writer, but there was another side to her: progressive Jew. Born Bettye Naomi Goldstein in 1921 in Peoria, Illinois to parents of Russian and Hungarian lineage, Friedan authored the seminal 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, which is often credited as prompting the second wave…

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Up Close and Personal With a Traveling Moyl

July 15, 2014
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Up Close and Personal with a Traveling Moyl

Not every ritual circumciser, or moyl in Yiddish, starts out dreaming of performing brises all week. David Bolnick, a mohel living in the Seattle area, worked at Microsoft for many years before he quit to become a full time bris-giver. In the documentary Moyl, you can watch as Bolnick goes about his business—bringing new baby boys…

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The Aryan Baby Who Wasn’t

July 14, 2014
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The Aryan Baby Who Wasn’t

Nazis. If it’s not one thing it’s another. In 1935, when the party held a national photo contest to find the most beautiful Aryan baby, Joseph Goebbels himself chose—wait for it—a Jewish child to represent the race. According to Hessy Taft (née Levinsons), her photo was submitted without her parents’ knowledge by Hans Ballin,…

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Catch Elijah This Weekend—He Won’t be Back for 21 Years

July 11, 2014
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Catch Elijah This Weekend—He Won't be Back for 21 Years

This weekend most congregations outside of Israel will read a very special haftarah: the story of Elijah asking God to take his life. Because of the intricacies of the Jewish calendar, this haftarah is only read during leap years that begin on a Thursday (the last five were 1981, 1984, 2005, 2008, and 2011).…

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How Not to Sell Christianity to the Jews

July 10, 2014
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How Not to Sell Christianity to the Jews

The name “London Jews’ Society” might conjure up images of proper Brits at a Hadassah meeting, or of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (or maybe of a Fiddler on the Roof/Downton Abbey mash-up). But it was actually a 19th-century missionary society that began its work in London’s East End, and then…

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Single, Pregnant, and Rabbi

July 9, 2014
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Single, Pregnant, and Rabbi

Julie Greenberg was a single lesbian in Reconstructionist rabbinical school in the eighties, and she was ready to start a family. Eventually, Rabbi Greenberg found a sperm donor, and got pregnant. She ended up having three children via sperm donors, and adopted two more, all while living in a small three-bedroom apartment, and working…

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Kosher Locusts For Pakistan

July 8, 2014
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Kosher Locusts For Pakistan

It might be old hat that locusts—those hair-raising Passover pests—are kosher. But would you ever think they were a solution for malnutrition? Jewish Pakistani Fishel Benkhald has a simple—and surprisingly crunchy—solution for how to deal with his country’s growing health issues. Benkhald has determined that locusts could provide a cheap source of protein for…

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The Holocaust Play Too Scandalous for the American Stage

July 7, 2014
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The Holocaust Play Too Scandalous for the American Stage

When you think of secret diaries from World War II, your first thought is probably Anne Frank. But there’s a much stranger and darker text that most people don’t know about—the diary of Willy Mahler, a Czech journalist who died in Theresienstadt. Mahler had a relatively privileged life in the camp—at one point…

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Seeking Independence from an Oyster-Filled Marriage?

July 4, 2014
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Seeking Independence From an Oyster-Filled Marriage?

So was a Mr. Max Moss of Binghamton, NY when he sought an annulment from his wife on the grounds that she was not sufficiently Orthodox. His claim? She “tried to force him to eat ham, oysters, and other unkosher food.” The brief appeared in the Jewish Transcript—a precursor to the JTA—in 1924. The…

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How to Score a Yiddish Date in 1940s NYC

July 3, 2014
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How to Score a Yiddish Date in 1940s NYC

Long before JDate parodies, Yiddish cinema was poking fun of Jewish assimilation, values both “traditional” and “American,” and the desire to settle down, or, at least, get a date. Amerikaner Shadkhn (American Matchmaker), made in the Bronx in 1940, depicts the saga of Nat Silver, a wealthy businessman who has been engaged seven…

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The Jew Behind the Monokini

July 2, 2014
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The Jew Behind the Monokini

It can’t be said that the Nazis launched many fashion careers, but when, after the Anschluss, Hitler banned nudity in buff-loving Austria, a young Rudi Gernreich may have taken note. Gernreich, who would become famous as the inventor of the monokini—not the one-piece with cutouts we know today, but a topless suit held up by a halter…

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The Most Innovative Judaica We’ve Ever Seen

July 1, 2014
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The Most Innovative Judaica We've Ever Seen

A tie made out of an old tallit. An oil chanukiyah made out of repurposed light bulbs. A yad for reading the Torah made to look like a pixelated mouse icon for a Windows computer. These are all brainchildren of Israeli artist and designer Ken Goldman. Goldman, a modern Orthodox…

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