A Great Jewish Novel, Out of South Africa

December 27, 2013
By
Lion Seeker

Jews spend a lot of time thinking about “what if?” What if you fall and break your neck, God forbid? What if God had brought us out of Egypt but never given us the temple, huh? What if every great American immigration novel was set in Africa instead? Johannesburg-born writer Kenneth Bonert’s…

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The Man Who Introduced Matzo Balls to Moo Goo Gai Pan

December 25, 2013
By
Ed Schoenfeld

If you ate Chinese food last night you took place in a custom as entrenched as turkey and football, as latkes and sour cream, as…pastrami and egg rolls? “My personal joke is that I learned to speak Yiddish in the Chinese restaurant from my customers.” So says Ed Schoenfeld, a Brooklyn-born Jew and owner…

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How Christmas Eve Became a Jewish Holiday

December 24, 2013
By
Nittel Nacht

You may associate Christmas with Chinese food and a trip to the cineplex, but there’s an older and stranger Jewish tradition for Christmas Eve: Nittel Nacht. Nittel Nacht, whose etymology is uncertain, was the night that Eastern European yeshiva students spent the night playing card games and chess instead of studying Torah, mostly at home,…

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Gaming the Nazis, and Chess

December 23, 2013
By
ephraism-kishon

You don’t often hear of concentration-camp inmates using their chess skills to win favor with Nazi guards before managing to escape. Nor do you hear of Hungarians learning Hebrew as adults and then becoming celebrated satirists in their adopted tongue. Ephraim Kishon (1924 – 2005) was known for just those things. After moving to Israel in…

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Dating in Brooklyn While Russian

December 20, 2013
By
Stealing Cherries

Today, Marina Rubin is a mainstay of the lower Manhattan poetry scene. But in 1989—when most of the stories in her new collection, Stealing Cherries, take place—she was a refusenik, a new immigrant from the Ukraine, a survivor of Soviet anti-Semitism, and a clueless preteen girl lost in the Brooklyn wilds. That’s where these stories begin.…

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A Muslim, a Jew, and a Jerusalem Kabbalist

December 19, 2013
By
courtyard-kabbalist

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure—and sometimes, one man’s trash is another man’s history. In her second novel, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, Ruchama King Feuerman explores the ways two men—one Jewish, one Arab—build an unlikely friendship despite Jerusalem’s cultural and political divisions. Isaac Markowitz, a Lower East Side haberdasher who makes aliyah to realize his…

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In Israel, A Social Network for the Dead

December 17, 2013
By
Neshama

Ever wished you knew where your great-great-grandparents were buried? Ever wanted to visit the grave of a distant relative but don’t know where to find it? There’s a new social network designed to help you out. Shelly Furman Asa has created Neshama.info, a website where you can search for the location of graves…

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Help Us Find the Makers of “Snowvadia,” the Chief Sephardic Rabbi Snowman

December 16, 2013
By
Help Us Find the Makers of “Snowvadia,” the Chief Sephardic Rabbi Snowman

Today we stumbled upon a hard-to-miss snapshot of “Snowvadia Yosef,” a well-crafted homage to Ovadia Yosef, the recently deceased former Sephardic rabbi of Israel and spiritual leader of the Shas party. Snowvadia, as he’s being called, has been making the social media rounds, but we’ve yet to find out exactly WHERE…

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Gogol-Mogol, The Shtetl Miracle Cocktail

December 16, 2013
By
gogol

From the same folks who discovered chicken soup and munching garlic cloves as remedies for the common cold, came the “gogol-mogol” the once-revered, now maligned shtetl health cocktail. What, haven’t heard of it? Gogol-mogol, or “guggle-muggle” in Americanese, is an egg-based beverage rooted in the Russian Old Country. It’s typically made by beating…

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Meet Mr. Israel, the Bodybuilding Rabbi

December 13, 2013
By
Rafael Halperin

Having trouble balancing your hechshered ice-cream business with your pro wrestling career? You might want to consult with the late Rabbi Rafael Halperin—who managed to claim the first Mr. Israel title, think up a shomer-Shabbos credit card, and run a chain of optical shops, all while maintaining a religious life and a celebrated wrestling career.…

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Everyone Wants to Go to Commie Camp

December 12, 2013
By
commie-camp5

In the summer of 2012 conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh labeled Camp Kinderland, “extremist,” pointed to its “Communist roots,” and accused it of indoctrinating children. Comedian Katie Halper, a Kinderland alum, decided there was just one way to get to the bottom of the allegations: go back to camp. For one summer…

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The Marine Corps Marrano

December 11, 2013
By
victor

Up through World War II, The United States Marine Corps was generally viewed as the least inviting of the U.S. Armed Forces for American Jews to join. It was, in the words of Lenny Bruce, “heavy goyish.” Of course, there were a few prominent exceptions to this rule, notably General Victor “Brute” Krulak. Participating at key moments of…

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