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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Good News: All-of-a-Kind Family is Back!

June 30, 2014
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Good News: All-of-a-Kind Family is Back!

All-of-a-Kind Family, the mid-century classic Sydney Taylor children’s series of Lower East Side literature, is back! And not in an “Oh how awful, they tarted up 80’s kid favorite Strawberry Shortcake” kind of way. Lizzie Skurnick has gone from reminiscing fondly about the books for Jezebel to re-releasing the novels—about…

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The Swedish Nazi Film You’ll Want to See

June 27, 2014
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The Swedish Nazi Film You'll Want to See

In The Last Sentence, by Swedish director Jan Troell, journalist and former theologian Torgny Segerstedt asks a variation on the old question “If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If a writer protests and no one hears him, what is…

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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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