The Anti-Semitic Origins of “Hip Hip Hooray”?

January 21, 2014
By
Hep-hep-riots

Three cheers for the bat mitzvah girl! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip… wait, stop. This is all wrong. Turns out our good old American cheer derives from an old anti-Semitic rallying cry, “hep hep.” Or so say some. Ohr Samayach’s Ask the Rabbi maintains “the phrase does have anti-Semitic roots. Rioters in Europe…

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The Passover Seder Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 20, 2014
By
Freedom Seder

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated just eight days before Passover in 1968. Among those grieving his loss were Jews who had joined his nonviolent protest movement, and were dedicated to the causes of civil rights and peace that he championed. Many Jews brought discussions about civil rights to their seder tables that year. By the…

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Bergen-Belsen

January 17, 2014
By
Alfred Hitchcock

In the mid-1940s, newsreel footage of the Allied liberation of Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, and Buchenwald horrified viewers across the world. The images of human devastation at Nazi concentration camps crystallized reigning negative opinions of Germany. But one unseen film featuring Belsen boasted a surprising adviser: the King of Horror himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Made in…

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The Jazz Concert That Changed Black and Jewish History

January 16, 2014
By
Benny Goodman

When Benny Goodman, the Jewish clarinetist and so-called “King of Swing” took center stage at Carnegie Hall on this day in 1938, the audience was in for more than just a rollicking time. The Benny Goodman Orchestra’s performance on January 16, 1938 has reigned for decades as the most significant concert in…

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The “Mad Woman” Who Sold Jewish Rye to Goyim

January 14, 2014
By
Levy's Rye Bread

In the long history of Jewish culinary triumphs, there has never been a finer invention than pastrami on rye. And there has never been a rye bread more indelibly linked to Jews than Levy’s. For that we have the “Mad men” of Madison Avenue to thank, and in particular, a Jewish “Mad woman” named Judy Protas.…

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A Yiddish Poet’s Musical Second Wind

January 13, 2014
By
Tsvey Vetln

When composer Benjy Fox-Rosen was a kid, his grandmother sang him the songs of her favorite Yiddish poet, Mordechai Gebirtig (1877-1942). “Wait a little longer, dear,” goes one of the Krakow songwriter’s most famous songs, “Reyzele.” But she wasn’t much of a singer, so, like the gentleman courting his pious lover in “Reyzele,” Fox-Rosen had to wait a…

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When Sholem Aleichem Met Mark Twain

January 10, 2014
By
twain-aleichem

The Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916) was an author and humorist whose 40-plus volumes famously combine high intellect with a raucousness and a Jewish redneck sensibility. His style was uncannily reminiscent of another writer of his time, an American, who also had a knack for satire and irony: Mark Twain. In Aleichem’s novel The Bloody Hoax (1913), a…

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The 17th-Century Torah for Girls

January 9, 2014
By
Tzenah Urenah

If there had been book blurbs in the 17th century, one for the Tsenah Urenah might have read: “What a time-saver. I keep it in the kitchen, next to the schmaltz.” Written by Rabbi Jacob ben Isaac Ashkenazi, the Tsenah Urenah (in any of its varied spellings), or “women’s bible,” was once as…

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The Lost Jewish Tribe of China

January 8, 2014
By
Kaifeng Jews

On the southern bank of the Yellow River lies Kaifeng, the former capital of the Northern Song Dynasty and an important pit stop along the Silk Road. From the 10th to 12th centuries, innumerable merchants trod its city streets, among them a small cohort of Sephardic Jews who settled down and set up shop. For…

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Gary Shteyngart Writes a Memoir

January 7, 2014
By
Little Failure

The first half of Gary Shteyngart‘s new memoir, Little Failure, reads like a first-person Colbert Report segment on Russian Jewish refuseniks. The celebrated Russian émigré novelist wastes almost no page space on developing such trifles as plot or character. We know the premise (Russia is a bad place), and we know what gets the family…

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The One-Room Shul in an Old Philly Prison

January 6, 2014
By
Eastern State Penitentiary

The Alfred W. Fleisher synagogue didn’t always have a rabbi, but in the mid-20th century it did have Morris “The Rabbi” Bolber. Bolber, the fomer leader of a murder ring in Philadelphia, and Fleisher’s congregants, were inmates in the Eastern State Penitentiary, a notorious prison that is now a National Historic Landmark. The synagogue had been…

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When King Henry VIII Bribed the Rabbis

January 3, 2014
By
King Henry

In 1527, King Henry VIII was desperate to divorce his first wife, Catharine of Aragon. So when his Catholic advisors denied him annulment, Henry sent messengers to the Jewish community in Italy, instead, hoping that a little money might win them over to his side. (He would have asked England’s Jews…

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