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Bumble-Ardy

March 21, 2012
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bumble ardy

The children’s author Maurice Sendak recently released Bumble-Ardy, the first book in three decades that he’s both written and illustrated. In fact, the story is not exactly new–it’s adapted from a short film Sendak made for Sesame Street in 1970. Bumble, the book, stars a pig (named, naturally, Bumble-Ardy) who invites a bunch of rowdy friends to a birthday party. Unsurprisingly, the…

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The Slam Poet Goes to Israel

March 19, 2012
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bob-holman

“In the beginning was the word,” says Bob Holman, a slam poet and founder of the Bowery Poetry Club–one of New York‘s premiere poetry venues. “God said it. But who was He speaking to? Christians? Muslims? Jews?” Holman poses this question on his new television series, On the Road. The show tours the world, recording different peoples…

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The Art’s in the Saltshaker

March 16, 2012
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Eva_Zeisel

Eva Zeisel (1906-2011) was trained as a fine artist in Hungary, where she was born. Her talent led her to move to Germany and then the Soviet Union, where she became a renowned glassworker. Glasswork was a government-regulated industry, and Zeisel was appointed to control virtually all the glassware being made in the USSR. It was especially notable,…

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Letters from the Dead

March 15, 2012
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1

Imagine spying on letters written by other people–young lovers, long-separated families, runaway teenagers. Sounds vaguely intrusive and stalkerish, right? Now, imagine you’re reading letters written 70 years in the past–from tourists, refugees, World War II soldiers and their families. It’s less like a stalker, more like a historian. The Blavatnik Archive lets us all be…

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It’s Hip to Be Square

March 14, 2012
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matzah

Most people have a definite mental image of what matzah should look like: It’s evenly perforated, crunchy, and square. However, if you showed a piece of contemporary Manischewitz matzah to a Jew of the past–whether they lived 200 years ago or 2000–it wouldn’t look anything like their matzah, which was most likely round, soft,…

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What Freedom Looks Like

March 13, 2012
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katz haggadah

The Katz Family Haggadah, at first glance, is deceptively simple–it looks like a children’s picture book. It features big-eyed cartoon kids, large, readable text, colorful spreads of blue skies and yellow sand, frogs, and an amazing fold-out picture of the Crossing of the Red Sea. But that’s not all it is. The haggadah uses midrash, Talmud,…

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Sexy Geeks

March 12, 2012
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Sexy Geeks

What makes a man? Today, the word “manly” suggests a specific picture, with bulging pectorals and an attitude. But according to Daniel Boyarin, an author and professor of Talmud at the University of California-Berkeley, that idea only came about in the Middle Ages, when notions of masculinity split into two ideals: scholarly, nerdy monks on one…

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Rabbi Cleopatra

March 10, 2012
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cleopatra

There are all sorts of strange cameos and guest-starring roles in the Talmud. Just like a sitcom, where, unexpectedly, Larry David might be having lunch with Mayim Bialik, the ancient rabbis also had guests show up in unexpected places–for instance, the sage Rabbi Meir’s debate with Cleopatra. In the Babylonian Talmud (in Sanhedrin chapter 11), Rabbi…

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Putting the Book in Facebook

March 9, 2012
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facebook

Alex Epstein left the Soviet Union at the age of 8, in 1979, and settled with his parents in Israel. Now he’s the author of seven books in Hebrew (two have been translated into English), and a recipient of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature. Epstein’s latest publishing venture, a series of ultra-short stories called For My…

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The King’s Wand

March 7, 2012
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scepter

One of the Talmud‘s oddest discussions has to be the debate over the length of King Ahasuerus’s royal scepter. At one point in the Purim story, Esther entered the king’s throne room to beg him not to put the Jews to death. According to the Megillah, when she did that, he lifted his scepter–a sign that permitted…

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Disney’s Anne Frank

March 6, 2012
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disney-anne-frank

A death-defying chase down an Amsterdam sewer. A theme song called “Living Free (Until the Nazis Find Us Again)” that’s just begging for an Academy Award. A nest of musical rats living in an attic who meet Anne Frank and her family and help them escape the Nazis… These are just a few of the tropes of Disney’s Anne Frank, a…

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Kill Me Twice, Shame on Me

March 5, 2012
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Kenny McCormickphoto courtesy: Comedy Central

One of the more famous Jewish customs surrounding the Festival of Lots (also known as Purim) is the liberal consumption of alcohol. The Talmud itself teaches (Megillah 7b), “People are obliged to drink on Purim until they cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed is Haman‘ and ‘blessed is Mordecai.’” However one time,  the Talmud recounts,…

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