How dirty can you get (in Hebrew)?

August 22, 2012
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There’s something about the comedy hip-hop group The Lonely Island that screams Jewish. The group is an assemblage of three comedians who’ve made videos together since junior high school, and eventually became regular features on Saturday Night Live. Two of them, Akiva Schaffer and Andy Samberg, are Jewish (Jorma Taccone is not). No doubt the…

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Frank Sinatra in Israel

August 21, 2012
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SInatraShowinIsrael

What does a nice Italian Catholic boy have to do with Israel? For Frank Sinatra, a sincere appreciation of the Jewish people led to a lifelong advocacy for the Jewish state. In the film Frank Sinatra in Israel, from 1962, Sinatra narrates his tour of Israel, including live footage from his concert at Tel…

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Mitzvah Tantz

August 20, 2012
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mitzvah-tantz

The mitzvah tantz is one of  Hasidic Judaism’s most bizarre rituals. It takes place at weddings, when the leading members of a community–a prominent rabbi or the bride’s new father-in-law, or both–dance before her. According to the Talmud, it’s considered a great honor to entertain a new bride–and, specifically, to dance for her–during her wedding. In a…

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Man Ray

August 17, 2012
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If you think you know what Man Ray’s artworks symbolize, you’re probably wrong. A member of the Surrealist and Dadaist movements, Man Ray (1890-1976) was a proponent of art for art’s sake–he intended his work to be appreciated on its own merits, without reading in any meaning. Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitzky in…

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A Kabbalistic Spell Book

August 16, 2012
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kabbalistic-spellbook

Chaim Vital (1543-1620) was one of the most prominent students of the famed kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria. Vital was Luria’s chronicler, recording Luria’s mystical insights, spreading Luria’s teachings, and expanding on them. Vital also wrote his very own spell book. While Vital is known for his books Etz Hayim (Tree of Life) and Book of Visions,…

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In Grandpa’s House

August 15, 2012
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Maurice Sendak illustrated over a hundred books, both his own stories and those written by others. The illustrated book In Grandpa’s House might be his most personal illustration project–the author of the text is Philip Sendak, Maurice’s father. Written in 1970, the year before Philip Sendak’s death–and just after the death of Philip’s wife…

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He Shall Be Released

August 14, 2012
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Pollard

In 1968, Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy wrote “Hurricane,” a song about a man, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who many believed was falsely convicted of murder. The song became one of Dylan’s most successful singles, and it was credited with helping Carter receive a new trial. For literally decades, Jewish and Israeli activists have been…

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Hip-Hop Vaudeville

August 13, 2012
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Hip-Hop Vaudeville

Founded in the late 19th century, the Gebrüder Wolf (Wolf Brothers) were a renowned German-Jewish vaudeville troupe. They started as the three sons of a butcher, but rose to prominence in the 1920s as singers, dancers, and comics. They wrote the song “Tudelband,” which is still a popular German folk song. The…

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Life or Death Pregnancy Cravings

August 9, 2012
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Judaism is full of rules: Rules about holidays, day-to-day rituals, and perhaps most notably, lots of rules about food. The Bible (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14) lists animals that are strictly off limits, and later on the rabbis enacted more hard and fast rules about what’s okay to eat and what isn’t. But the rabbis actually make an…

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Having an Affair with your Synagogue

August 8, 2012
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the-invitation

In the new novel The Invitation, by Anne Cherian, a successful computer engineer invites his three best friends to his son’s graduation from MIT. His friends accept, and then immediately regret it. Their jobs are insecure, their families are unstable, and their lives are falling apart–not exactly the things you want to…

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Bob Dylan Plays at Jewish Summer Camp

August 7, 2012
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Like many other Jewish kids, Bob Dylan went to Jewish summer camp. Growing up in Hibbing, Minnesota,  the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Odessa, Robert Zimmerman (as he was then known) spent his summers at Herzl Camp, a Zionist camp in Webster, Wisconsin. According to some stories, that’s where he first learned to play guitar,…

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Jewish Singles Dances

August 6, 2012
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“Jewish singles dances in the eighties were my guarantee of a lot of free dinners and great stories,” writes Harriet Rose, a stand-up comic and author of the new essay collection I’m Easy, You’re Lucky. Rose is a Jersey girl who’s a little too self-conscious, and a little too smart, about her position…

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