Revolutionary Youth

January 27, 2012
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youth-in-revolt-movie

Shmarya Levin was born in Russia in 1867. A politician and activist, he was elected to the first-ever Russian Parliament in 1906, as a representative of the Bund, a Jewish socialist political party. The Parliament was ultimately insignificant–it was both created and controlled by Czar Nicholas II–but Levin’s participation in it gave him the…

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Messed-Up Bible Stories

January 26, 2012
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There’s no denying it. Some stories from the Torah are straight-up disturbing. Often, in Hebrew schools and synagogues, people push these stories into the background, focusing instead on more easily understandable (and less shiver-inducing) parts. However, a new animated web series, Unbelievably Messed-Up Bible Stories, brings the uneasiness and the creepiness to the forefront. “Cain and Abel” uses…

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The Last Battle

January 25, 2012
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Lev-Beh-Ziz

The End of Days occupies a much more central place in Christian theology than in Jewish thought. Judaism, for the most part, is more concerned with the present day than the final days. Perhaps we don’t think too much about the End because some Jewish visions of the apocalypse are just so weird. According to the Talmud, the…

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Another Kind of ‘Green’ Judaism

January 24, 2012
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Cannabis-Chassidis---Front-Cover

“Is marijuana kosher?” The book Cannabis Chasidis: The Ancient and Emerging Torah of Drugs is an insightful, if puzzling, exploration of what Jewish sources think about drugs and chemical experimentation. The author, Yoseph Leib, hails from a traditional, observant Jewish background–but the wisdom given over in Cannabis Chasidis is anything but traditional. Leib combines his own thoughts with…

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Gays, Gypsies and Jews

January 23, 2012
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gay-gypsy-jew

A lot has been said about a new wave of anti-Semitism rocking the world–but there’s been significantly less rocking out against anti-Semitism. That’s why the bizarre song “Gay, Gypsy and Jew” by the Berlin-based reggae/ska band RotFront–and the even more bizarre video–is noteworthy, fascinating, and, well, rocking. The lyrics, sung in broken English, are…

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Faking Hebrew for Beginners

January 20, 2012
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big-pic

One of the best ways to develop an appreciation for the uniqueness of the Hebrew language is to play Hebrew Scrabble. Yes, Scrabble. You see, many Hebrew words are simple–variations on three-letter roots, with prefixes, suffixes, and vowels crammed into the middle. Modifying a word in Hebrew can be like adding an “s” to a word…

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Last of the Red-Hot Mamas

January 19, 2012
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Sophie+Tucker+sophie_tucker

Sophie Tucker (1884-1966) was a star of Yiddish vaudeville and American films. She was born as Sophie Kalish in Tolchin, Ukraine. Her family immigrated to the United States and opened a diner where Sophie sang for tips. She married early, and soon divorced–whereupon Sophie headed for New York City, changing her name, and deciding on the advice of a friend to…

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Third Time’s the Charm

January 18, 2012
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There’s a man at a comedy club wearing a black suit, white shirt, and twirled sidelocks. He’s telling the audience about his last flight to Israel. “When I show up for the flight looking like this, and the security people see that my passport says ‘Chris Campbell,’ they don’t ask me if I packed…

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A Christmas Special for Jews

January 17, 2012
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baal shem tov picture

There’s a certain magic to stop-motion animation–the animation technique that makes physically manipulated objects, like clay figurines, look like they’re moving on their own. It seems honest and unpolished, evoking the same kind of feeling we get from wooden toys. It’s one of the reasons that holiday TV specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are so…

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Ritual Shellfish

January 16, 2012
By
Snails

Tzitzit are the thready fringes that hang from the corners of a tallit. The tzitzit we use today are almost uniformly white, but according to Jewish tradition, they’re allowed to be any color of the rainbow–except blue. In the Torah, we are told to “bind a thread of blue to each corner” of tzitzit.…

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Fanny Brice Meets Ozzy Osbourne

January 13, 2012
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yiddish

It might be hard to imagine a band paying homage simultaneously to 18th-century Yiddish music and 1980s heavy metal. But a few seconds listening to the band Yiddish Princess, and you’ll be convinced the two genres are a perfect fit. Sarah Mina Gordon, the band’s lead vocalist, describes their songs as “informed, unsentimental Yiddish music.”…

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Occupy Your Bank Account

January 12, 2012
By
new_oj

Jews and banks have a somewhat complicated history. In the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish immigrants to America founded the first Hebrew free loan societies and credit unions. These institutions helped small business owners–many of whom were new immigrants–to set up shop, circumventing banks that viewed them as credit risks. The first credit…

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