Is Ladino Endangered?

April 27, 2012
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is ladino endangered

Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, is a combination of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Spanish. When the estimated 300,000 Spanish Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492, they carried this language with them. Today Ladino is spoken on a daily basis by fewer than 100,000 people, earning it a spot on UNESCO’s list of endangered languages. But according…

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Real Jewish Ninjas

April 26, 2012
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real jewish ninjas

Yehoshua Sofer is the “Aluf Abir” (Aluf means “champion”) or headmaster of the Abir Warrior Arts school of self-defense in Jerusalem. According to him, Jews have practiced martial arts since biblical times. As Sofer tells it, Abraham‘s father, Terah, was a warlord who worked for the Babylonian king Nimrod–and Abraham designed his own system of self-defense which he taught…

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Sinbad in the Talmud

April 25, 2012
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sinbad of the talmud

The Talmudic sage Rabbah bar bar Hana got around. Unlike most scholars of his time–who stuck to either a yeshiva in Jerusalem or in Babylonia–bar bar Hana traveled back and forth between both places. But, in the Talmud, he’s known more for his fantastic adventures, which led him across the Egyptian desert and to the…

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Conversion from A to Z

April 24, 2012
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becoming jewish

Converts to Judaism don’t always get the sweetest deal. In fact, according to the Talmud (Yevamot 47a), a potential convert is supposed to be repeatedly dissuaded from converting–just to make sure they’re really serious about the leap. And there’s certainly a lot that converts to Judaism need to learn. The new book Becoming…

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A Jewish Homeland in Germany

April 23, 2012
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a jewish homeland in germany

Lately, it seems like everybody’s a fan of the idea of a Jewish state…and nobody’s a fan of the State of Israel. First, Michael Chabon‘s novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, a sort of post-Zionist fantasy, moved the Jewish “safe country” from the Middle East to Alaska. Then the recent documentary Freeland (watch it here, free) researched the early-1900s quest…

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The Subway Violinist

April 20, 2012
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Quint31

The violinist Philipe Quint was a child genius. At the age of 9, he was a featured performer with the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Later, he became a refusenik, and was finally allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1991. He came with his parents to America, where he enrolled in the prestigious Juilliard School…

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The Holocaust, with Punchlines

April 19, 2012
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the holocaust with punchlines

Edge City is a daily comic strip published in many national newspapers. It’s about a family, the Ardins, who happen to be Jewish. Jewish subjects don’t feature in the Ardins’ life every day, but their religion does come up sporadically. (The strip’s creators, Terry and Patty LaBan, are both Jewish–and a married couple–and…

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Jewish by Identity Theft

April 18, 2012
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jewish identity theft

When people talk about mixed marriages, they don’t usually mean this. In Twelfth and Race, a new novel by Eric Goodman, Richard Gordon, a middle-class Jewish guy, moves to a small Kansas town and has his identity stolen–credit cards, social security card, everything. Years later, on the border between two urban neighborhoods (hence the…

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Was Shakespeare a Woman?

April 17, 2012
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was shakespeare a woman

Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare’s plays? According to many modern scholars, the answer is no–at least, not completely. In 1600s England, it was common to share or borrow pieces of plays for one’s “original” compositions. In recent years, one of the main suspected writers of much of Shakespeare’s oeuvre is Emilia Lanier (1569-1645). Lanier’s claim to…

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Garbage Pail Kids

April 16, 2012
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garbage pail kids

Every artist has a day job, at least at first. In the mid-80s, Art Spiegelman was editing Raw, his underground comics magazine, and writing and drawing issues of a comic book that would later become Maus. In the meantime, his salary came from being an illustrator and designer for Topps, a baseball-card company. As Spiegelman…

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Calendar Girls

April 12, 2012
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calendar girls

How many biblical women can you think of? Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and…? The truth is, many women are mentioned in the Bible. Most aren’t power players with stories of their own like Moses or King David. Many aren’t even named. But Rabbi Jill Hammer and Shir Yaakov Feit, in the new book The Omer Calendar of Biblical Women,…

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Santos of the Jews

April 11, 2012
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santos of the jews

Here’s a series of photographs about Jews in distant places, captured by someone who knows what it’s like to live far from one’s homeland. Born in the Phillipines, Emmanuel Santos moved to Melbourne, Australia, nearly two decades ago. He settled in St. Kilda, a district largely made up of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, most…

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