Before and After the Holocaust

February 17, 2012
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Panorama-Adler

H.G. Adler (1910-1988), a writer from Prague, was a younger member of the artists’ circle that included Franz Kafka and Max Brod. In 1942, he was deported to Terezin, and later Auschwitz. Panorama, his epic first novel, was written in 1948, went unpublished for 20 years, and–upon its release in 1968–received the impressive Prix Charles Veillon. Since…

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Electric Golem

February 16, 2012
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golem face

The 1920 German silent film The Golem is a classic of early cinema–dark, tortured, dated, and silly, but also genuinely creepy at points. The film is based on an ancient Jewish folktale in which a medieval rabbi molds a giant man from clay, brings him to life with kabbalistic incantations, and uses him to protect the town’s Jewish population…

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Do Jews Meditate?

February 15, 2012
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shabbat-meditation

How did the prophets of the Bible receive their prophecy? Aryeh Kaplan, who was a rabbi, author, and physicist, responds to this question at the start of his book Meditation and the Bible. He suggests that meditation is an intrinsically Jewish practice–and that it was actually the primary tool used by Israel’s prophets to receive Divine communication.”There are…

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A Jewish Twilight

February 14, 2012
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A Jewish Twilight

Every culture has its legends of paranormal monsters–including Judaism. It’s no surprise, then, that contemporary fiction’s obsession with vampires has spawned Jewish varieties. The novel The Last Jewish Virgin: A Novel of Fate by Janice Eidus takes itself incredibly seriously. Lilith, the rebellious daughter of a secular Jewish feminist, enrolls in fashion school and promptly falls for her professor–whom she…

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Sammy Harkham: A Secret History of Lubavitch

February 13, 2012
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Sammy Harkham: A Secret History of Lubavitch

The cartoon short story “Lubavitch, Ukraine, 1876” by Sammy Harkham is a vision of the past that’s neither glorified nor overly sentimental. The comic follows a Hasidic sofer, or scribe, named Harkham, as he goes about his daily routine, running errands for his wife, calligraphing a mezuzah, figuring out plans for Shabbat dinner. Harkham’s problems–work,…

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A Brief History of Gefilte Fish

February 10, 2012
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gefilte-fish_hp

The #1 reason gefilte fish is served at Shabbat dinner tables these days might be, in the words of Fiddler on the Roof, tradition! Originally, however, the dish that we currently call gefilte (a word meaning “stuffed”) was embraced for other reasons. Most notably: financial. Most families couldn’t afford to buy enough fish to feed their entire family,…

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Great Jewish Bloggers of the 1920s

February 9, 2012
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immigration-wave

Anzia Yezierska, the Jewish immigrant writer from Poland, is most famous for Bread Givers (1925), her tenement story of hard life on the Lower East Side. But she also harbored a lesser-known rich, snarky, and dark sense of humor. Her debut collection of short stories, Hungry Hearts (1920)–which showcases that humor–is available for free online. Written in a snappy…

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Honi, the Rainmaker

February 8, 2012
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shutterstock_62524834

The Talmudic fable of Honi the Circle-Maker isn’t the only lesson on environmentalism from traditional Jewish sources, but it’s an especially fascinating–and especially strange–story. Honi, a first-century miracle-worker, had a foolproof way for making rain: He’d draw a circle around himself, pray, and the rain would come (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 23a). One day, he comes across a…

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A Jew from Kentucky

February 7, 2012
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Dan_Bern_1

Dan Bern’s folk songs bear more than a passing resemblance to Bob Dylan‘s–a high-pitched, sometimes scratchy voice is the most obvious similarity. But Dylan was neither as subversive, nor as laugh-out-loud funny, as Bern. Bern isn’t specifically a Jewish musician, although his religion has become something of a running joke. His autobiographical song “Jew…

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Breadcrumbs of the Past

February 6, 2012
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bram-presser-420x0

Until recently, Bram Presser was known as the lead singer of YidCore, a Jewish punk band that played loud, fast versions of songs such as “If I Was a Rich Man” and “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and blew hummus out of a shofar during concerts. Now Presser has taken up writing fiction, and his…

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iPreach

February 3, 2012
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ipulpit_withBible

Who says rabbis are stuck in the past? In these days of internet minyanim and email sermons, it seems religion has more or less adapted to the digital age. But can you imagine a combination pulpit and iPad? Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, one of the new bloggers on MyJewishLearning’s Rabbis Without Borders blog, just showed us the iPodium. Originally developed by a group…

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Beautiful Land, Beautiful People

February 2, 2012
By
ChanaRothman

Chana Rothman, a folksinger and guitarist, has crafted herself in the tradition of Debbie Friedman, mixing traditional Jewish liturgy with original music and lyrics. Her new album, Beautiful Land, takes verses from Psalms and Proverbs and matches them up with positive lyrics about relationships, the environment, and finding meaning in everyday life–a little bit hippie, but…

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