First He Rescued Jews, Then He Lost His $4 Million Violin

June 26, 2014
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The Righteous Gentile With The $4 Million Violin

Founder of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, rescuer of over 1,000 Jews from Nazi persecution, world-renowned virtuoso violinist. This is a guy we can get behind. Born in Poland in 1882, Bronisław Huberman had an ear for the harrowing trends of Nazi ascension. After writing an open letter in 1933 calling upon German intellectuals to denounce…

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What’s In God’s Tefillin?

June 25, 2014
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What’s In God’s Tefillin?

Tefillin, or phylacteries, are the black leather straps and boxes that are worn on the head and on the arm during weekday morning prayers. Madonna puts them on with her teeth. Barbie has a pair. Once on a plane they were mistaken for a bomb. But tefillin have an even greater claim to fame: even God…

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Crocheting Holocaust Rape Into Disturbing Art

June 24, 2014
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Crocheting Holocaust Rape Into Art

Israeli artist Gil Yefman doesn’t hesitate to shock. His most recent show, “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn (To Me You Are Beautiful),” focused on the Holocaust, and on the juxtaposition of everyday objects and beautiful scenery with the horrors of violence—particularly sexual violence. A crocheted “Sex Slave Doll,” whose gaze rests on a monitor…

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A Forgotten Satire of Yiddishe Mamas and Soviet Fools

June 23, 2014
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A Yiddish Satire With Yiddishe Mamas and Soviet Fools

Stories of a bustling courtyard populated by hapless sages and wise young fools fill Moyshe Kulbak‘s classic satirical family novel of Soviet Minsk. It’s a compelling, tender read, newly translated by Hillel Halkin with a rich introduction by Jewniverse’s own Sasha Senderovich. The premise is familiar from other beloved Yiddish works—think Sholem Aleichem‘s Tevye the Dairyman from…

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Why the Rabbis Said We Should Censor the Bible

June 20, 2014
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Why the Rabbis Said We Should Censor the Bible

According to Jewish law, embarrassing someone is akin to murdering them. And this idea is taken so seriously that the Mishnah actually recommends censoring some Bible stories, because they are embarrassing for the characters involved. Tractate Megillah 4:10 lists some stories that shouldn’t be read in the synagogue, and some that…

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Groucho Marx’s Favorite Boy Violinist

June 19, 2014
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Groucho Marx's Favorite Boy Violinist

Long considered perhaps the greatest violinist of his time, Jascha Heifetz was a virtuoso’s virtuoso. Born in Vilnius in 1901, Heifetz started young, receiving his first lessons from his father—a violin instructor—at three. By seven, he had made his debut. Five years later, Fritz Kreisler, an extraordinary violinist in his own right, declared,…

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Meet Tom Freud, Sigmund’s Famous Niece

June 18, 2014
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Meet Tom Freud, Sigmund’s Famous Niece

You’ve probably heard of Lucian Freud, Sigmund Freud’s grandson, and a master of 20th-century painting, but he wasn’t the first member of the famous clan with visual acumen. The famous psychoanalyst‘s niece, Martha, who went by the name Tom Seidmann-Freud (1892-1930), was an imaginative illustrator and author whose work from the 1920s is avidly…

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The Jewish Giant at the Freak Show

June 17, 2014
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The Jewish Giant at the Freak Show

When you think about tall guys today, most people think of the NBA. But sixty years ago, you would have been more likely to think of the circus. And you may have thought about Eddie Carmel, specifically. Born in Tel Aviv in 1936, Carmel suffered from gigantism and acromegaly, an abnormal growth disorder of the hands,…

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The Man Who Sent His Wife’s Corpse to All of Israel

June 16, 2014
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The Man Who Sent His Wife's Corpse to All of Israel

Remember when a man was so enraged over the murderous gang rape of his lady that he sent one-twelfth of her corpse to every tribe in Israel? It’s a story from Judges 19 that could rival any episode of The Sopranos. The craziness starts when a Levite, who has spent several days winning back…

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Brooklyn’s Weekly Shabbos Air Raid Siren

June 13, 2014
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siren

How do you prepare for Shabbat? Maybe by kneading some challah, inviting some friends to lunch. Probably not by blacking out your windows and hiding under the bed. But on Friday afternoons in parts of Brooklyn, the vintage air raid sirens that signal the start of the Sabbath might trigger your inner Mrs.…

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Why Does the Pope Wear a Kippah?

June 12, 2014
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Why Does the Pope Wear a Kippah?

You probably know that Pope Francis visited Israel not long ago. While he definitely stood out from the crowd, there was one way in which be blended right in: his kippah. Or whatever that is on his head. What he’s wearing is actually called a zucchetto—that’s Italian for “small gourd.” If you’ve been wondering…

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An Israeli Film Popping With Lipstick and Guns

June 11, 2014
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Policeman

Shirtless men on bicycles, male bonding, gender relations, and social unrest. In Policeman, Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s newest film, opening in select theaters on June 13, a band of special operations unit policemen, led by the patriotic and driven Yaron, contend with their own fallibility and the rupturing of Israeli society.…

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