Yiddish is an Official Language of Sweden?

February 12, 2014
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Yiddish is an Official Language of Sweden?

You’ve heard the old Yiddish adage, “It’s not how many Jews live in a country, but how many years they’ve lived there.” If you haven’t, that’s probably because we made it up. Jews make up just .2% of the population of Sweden. And yet Yiddish is one of the country’s official minority…

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The Cantor’s Son Behind “The Threepenny Opera”

February 11, 2014
By
kurt

An early-20th-century cantor’s son, steeped in the traditions of the old world, aspires for pop music stardom—and gets it. No, we’re not talking about Al Jolson. We’re talking about Kurt Weill. Weill (b. 1900) became famous for songs like “Mack the Knife” and “Speak Low,” but he took a more circuitous route than Jolson toward popular…

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The Jewish Fashion Photographer of Nazi Germany

February 10, 2014
By
Yva

There was a time when Else Neuländer-Simon, known as Yva, was the premier fashion and portrait photographer of her day. Born in Germany to a Jewish middle-class family, Yva opened her own photography studio when she was just 25 years old, and quickly became a sought-after talent. Her photos were published extensively in…

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Pete Seeger: Not a Jew?

February 7, 2014
By
Pete Seeger

When Pete Seeger became bar mitzvah, he sang “Hineh Ma Tov” from the synagogue bimah. Or was it “Tzena Tzena“? No wait, it was that song from Ecclesiastes. What’s that? Seeger wasn’t Jewish? Then why did he sing so many Jewish songs? Often called the father of American folk music, Seeger was a…

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The New Film by The Man Who Brought You “Shoah”

February 6, 2014
By
Last of the Unjust

In the 1970s, when Claude Lanzmann was collecting material for his masterpiece, Shoah, he conducted a set of interviews that didn’t quite fit with the rest—with ex-Judenrat elder Benjamin Murmelstein. Forty years later, Lanzmann, now a hale 87, brings Murmelstein’s testimony to light, along with questions about Jewish memory and morality, in…

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The Black and Jewish “Blind Boy” of Blues

February 5, 2014
By
Jerron Paxton

Ten years ago a Jewish reggae musician named Matisyahu took the world by storm. His music was catchy and heartfelt, and it helped that his look was a novelty: a white Hasidic man in a genre of music mostly associated with black people. Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton is next in line to Matisyahu’s throne. He’s a…

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The Yiddish Separatists in the Siberian Wild

February 4, 2014
By
Birobidzhan

Deep in the swampy climes of Siberia, tucked away on the Chinese border, lies a little region you’ve probably left off your vacation itinerary: Birobidzhan, capital of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO). Part of Joseph Stalin’s nation-building policy for minorities, in which national groups were assigned largely autonomous territories, the JAO was established…

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The Israeli Woman Who’s Reviving the Jazz Clarinet

February 3, 2014
By
Anat Cohen

Among the world’s top jazz musicians, there are few women instrumentalists, and even fewer Israeli women. In fact, there is only one: Anat Cohen, the best jazz clarinetist alive. At least that’s what the readers and critics of Downbeat, the premiere jazz magazine, declared her. Downbeat‘s annual readers’ poll recently named Cohen jazz clarinetist of…

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On the Road with Abraham: The Video Game

January 31, 2014
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On the Road with Abraham: The Video Game

Every Hebrew school kid fantasizes about teaming up with Abraham as he departs Haran, snaking south through Mesopotamia to Canaan, fighting off bandits along the way, right? Okay, maybe that’s just us. Regardless, “Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham,” a new computer game still in the works, allows you to live that fantasy, even if…

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Jewish v. Goyish: The Abbie Hoffman Edition

January 30, 2014
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Jewish Vs. Goyish

While many Jewish comedians (and one in particular) have noted the differing foodways of Jews and gentiles, you might be surprised to find that 1960s radical political activist Abbie Hoffman was one of them. Yes, that Abbie Hoffman. Reviled by some and revered by others for his strident politics, Hoffman was openly and proudly Jewish. In this hilarious and…

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The Anti-Yiddish Riots in Palestinian Tel Aviv

January 29, 2014
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The Anti-Yiddish Riots in Palestinian Tel Aviv

When Mayn Yidishe Mame (“My Jewish Mother”), one of the first feature-length Yiddish talkies, arrived on Tel Aviv screens in 1930, pre-State Palestine had a sizable population of Yiddish speakers. But once the lights went out and the movie started to play, a riot began brewing. Members of the so-called “Army for the Defense of…

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The 18th-Century Jewish Merchant Prince of Rhode Island

January 28, 2014
By
Aaron Lopez

At his prime in the 18th century, Aaron Lopez was the wealthiest man in Newport, Rhode Island. He didn’t get that way by taking the moral high ground. Born in 1731 to Portuguese converso Jews, Lopez practiced Catholicism openly and Judaism behind closed doors. Upon resettling in Newport in 1752, he headed a booming…

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