Every Story is a Nazi Story

June 12, 2012
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Every Story is a Nazi Story

Jud Suss was a Nazi propaganda film. By many historians’ and film critics’ measures, it was the most successful film of its kind. It tells a story about Joseph Suss Oppenheimer, who was an 18th-century financial minister and court Jew of the Duke of Württemburg. In the film–directed by Veit Harlan but conceived…

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The Godfather in Yiddish

June 11, 2012
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the godfather in yiddish

Some parodies exist solely because it’s funny to mash up two disparate genres. Take, for instance, YouTube videos such as Ten Things I Hate about Commandments (Bible stories + high-school movies), and the Fiddler on the Roof/You Got Served trailer (1800s Jewish ghetto/2000s African-American ghetto). In a new Youtube video, the first scene of The Godfather is dubbed into Yiddish. (Watch it here–and don’t…

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Mahler on the Couch

June 8, 2012
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Mahler auf der Couch

Gustav Mahler was a brilliant composer, and a bit of a control freak. He liked to be in charge of everything: As a composer, he conducted his own work. As a husband, he forced his wife to stop composing her own music. And, as a Jew, he converted to Catholicism, hoping that it would help his…

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The Jewnicorn

June 7, 2012
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the jewnicorn

Legends of a single-horned goat or horse date back as far as the Bible. The prophet Daniel tells (8:5): “Behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground, and it had a conspicuous horn between its eyes.” In the Torah, God is compared to a re’em, which…

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Jewish Wild West Women

June 6, 2012
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jewish wild west women

Rebecca Cohen Mayer was born to German-Jewish immigrants in 1837 and raised in Mexico and Texas. When she was 15 years old, she married a man twice her age and set off on the Santa Fe Trail. In a company of over 50 explorers, she was the only woman. The new book With a Doll in…

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Matisyahu, the Exorcist

June 5, 2012
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matisyahu the exorcist

Horror movies are all about planting unexpected things in unexpected places to scare the hell out of you. The trailer for the new horror film The Possession, in theatres August 31 (watch the trailer) does just that. There’s Hebrew writing on a mysterious old box that, while nobody’s looking, sets free a demon. The demon is…

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Midnight Train to Zion

June 4, 2012
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midnight train to zion

Shlomo Carlebach revolutionized Jewish music by adapting it to the idiom of his time–’60s folk music–and writing new tunes to traditional liturgy that were not only likeable, but listenable. Now, jazz musician Jon Madof has upped the ante. He created Zion80, a 15-piece band (including a horn section and four percussionists), and interpreted some…

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An American Childhood in Egypt

June 1, 2012
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an american childhoof in egypt

Sipping from the Nile, a new memoir, tells the story of Jean Naggar, who is now a New York literary agent. A fourth-generation Egyptian, both Naggar’s parents came from prominent Sephardic Jewish families. Life in Egypt was good, she writes, and her family never planned on leaving. But in 1956, the Suez Crisis occurred. President Nasser…

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The Excommunicated City

May 31, 2012
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the excommunicated city

The city of York, England, is a vacation spot where Londoners like to spend long weekends, enjoying a vibrant café culture and a growing nightlife. But there is said to be a Jewish spiritual curse, or herem, placed on the city–and some Jews are careful to avoid ever eating or spending the night in York. In…

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The Precious Age of 13

May 30, 2012
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the precious age of 13

The singer James Levy’s deep rumbling voice and thoughtful lyrics strongly remind us of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. He and his band, The Blood Red Rose, recently released their first album, Pray to Be Free. It includes the song “Precious Age of 13,” an ode to, of all things, Levy’s bar mitzvah. The song starts…

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A Tale of Two Crown Heightses

May 29, 2012
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a tale of two crown heightses

The neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is home to a large population of Hasidic Jews, and a large population of Caribbean immigrants. For the most part, the two groups have kept to themselves–with a few notable exceptions, like the 1991 Crown Heights Riots. Recently four Caribbean high-school girls in Crown Heights, three from Jamaica and…

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The Fifteen Commandments

May 25, 2012
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“All pay heed!” cries Mel Brooks, playing Moses in History of the World, Part I–”The Lord has given unto you these Fifteen Commandments!” He promptly drops one tablet, which shatters. Without missing a beat, Moses continues: “Uh, these Ten Commandments!” It’s a classic movie moment, albeit one with little support from the Bible (or from the Talmud and Midrash,…

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