Hitler in the Amazon

December 26, 2014
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Hitler in the Amazon

Hitler is alive and well, if not a bit wrinkled, and he’s living in the Amazon jungle thirty years after the end of the Holocaust. Who better than a group of Jewish Nazi hunters to bring him to justice? And thus you have the plot of George Steiner’s surreal and…

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What Kind of Nice Jewish Boy Writes a Book About Santa Claus?

December 25, 2014
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What Kind of Nice Jewish Boy Writes a Book About Santa Claus?

One day, Eric Kaplan’s son’s playdate to the zoo was canceled by his friend’s mother. It was almost Christmas, and the mother, knowing that Kaplan’s son didn’t believe in Santa, didn’t want him bringing up the subject. Kaplan, a writer for The Big Bang Theory and Futurama, was troubled. “I thought…

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Christmas Eve Music for the Whole Mishpucha

December 24, 2014
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Christmas Eve Music for the Whole Mishpucha

Are you struggling with holiday music choices for your interfaith family? Or perhaps you’re a closet carol-loving Jew, like Bob Dylan. Or a non-denominational December-loving person who will poke his eye out if he hears the club version of “All I Want for Christmas (Is You)” one more time. Or…

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Meet Mohandas Gandhi, The Yiddish-Speaking Puppet

December 23, 2014
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The 1920s: When Gandhi Was a Yiddish-Speaking Puppet

Who was the Jon Stewart of the Lower East Side in the 1920s and 30s? It just may have been Modicut, a satirical, leftist Yiddish puppet theater troupe (the only one of its kind) created by Zuni Maud and Yosl Cutler. While Yiddish theater on the LES was everywhere, puppet…

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The ______ [adj] Inventor of Mad Libs

December 22, 2014
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mad-libs

Writer and producer Leonard Stern was __________ [adv] in need of an adjective, so he asked his friend Roger Price. Before he could tell Price what the subject was, Price threw out “clumsy and naked.” Stern and Price spent the rest of the night creating stories with blanks where key…

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A Partisan Heroine for the Ages

December 19, 2014
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A Partisan Heroine for the Ages

Legendary, selfless, with a spirit inextinguishable, Vitka Kempner-Kovner is a Jewish hero for the history books. Claiming that she would “not be humiliated” after witnessing the brutality of the SS in her home country of Poland, Kempner-Kovner escaped to Vilna where, in 1942, she joined the United Partisan Organization. Once the…

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The Novel That’s Hard to Believe Was Ever Taught in Israeli Schools

December 18, 2014
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The Israeli Novel That’s Hard to Believe Was Ever Taught in Schools

The conscientious literature of conflict is a modernist genre: novels like All Quiet on the Western Front privilege the individual’s psychic experience of war over the distant, glorious narrative of a nation’s conquest or defeat. Familiar though the genre is, it’s unusual for such a clear-eyed example as S. Yizhar’s…

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The 19th-Century Lesbian Writer Who Met a Tragic End

December 17, 2014
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amy-levy

The challenges and rewards facing the female entrepreneur, the depiction of same-sex love, and a critique of the materialist values of affluent Jewish society—these contemporary themes got an early, gripping treatment long before Philip Roth, Gloria Steinem, and Susan Sontag by  pioneering 19th-century author Amy Levy.  One of seven children…

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How Mah-Jongg Became Jewish

December 12, 2014
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How Mah-Jongg Became Jewish

How did a game that graced ancient Chinese tables (in the company, some posit, of Confucius) come to grace contemporary Jewish tables (in the company, perhaps, of babka and Slivovitz)? While books, documentary films and traveling museum exhibits have puzzled over mah-jongg becoming such a Jewish craze, no one has…

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The German Jewish Director With a Magic Touch

December 11, 2014
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ernst-lubitsch

Like déjà vu, or the uncanny ache of nostalgia, there is something very particular about Ernst Lubitsch‘s films. The Jewish German director was known for many things—for being Hollywood’s most elegant director, for winning a 1946 Honorary Academy Award for contributions to the motion picture, for writing and directing his…

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The Aussie Folk Guitarist Who Combines Dylan With Carlebach

December 10, 2014
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The Aussie Folk Guitarist Who Combines Dylan With Carlebach

Moshe Hendel Feiglin, the lead singer and guitarist of the Australian folk band Feter Hendel, had an old Shlomo Carlebach song, a nigun, that was stuck in his head. He’d heard it once on an old bootleg tape, and he could never find a copy of it again. Moshe dug…

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Nora Ephron + Lena Dunham = Love

December 9, 2014
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Nora Ephron + Lena Dunham = Love

The Jewish Women’s Archive Power Couples series matches members of the older generation with their successors in the new. Comedy writer-directors Nora Ephron (z”l) and Lena Dunham. Scientist/screen stars Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik. Combining biography, history, and analysis, these side-by-side comparisons produce real insight and feel apropos in what the Forward…

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