Cherubs

March 2, 2012
By
cherub

Cherubs–those sweet little babies with wings–have become a symbol of valentines and love. But they’re actually mystical creatures with a biblical basis, sometimes depicted as children and other times as animals, or a sphinx-like combination of the two. The word cherub is of uncertain origin. One midrash claims that the Hebrew word comes from ke-ravya, or…

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Uncle Feygele

March 1, 2012
By
10902551

“Who exactly are my people? Where do the borders of folk begin?” asks poet Yermiyahu Ahron Taub in his poem “Wandering Jew in Little Rome.” Community–the traditional Jewish community he was raised in, and the gay community he created for himself–is one of Taub’s favorite subjects. He was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Philadelphia. When he…

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Masters of Jewish Culture

February 29, 2012
By
humor-marx

We know that Jewish culture goes beyond the kitsch of shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But does the investigation of Judaism in popular culture warrant an entire school curriculum? According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the answer is an emphatic yes. Joselit, a professor at George Washington University, is launching a master’s degree in Jewish Cultural Arts–the first…

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Jewish Privilege

February 28, 2012
By
images

Hailey is a recent college graduate, freshly relocated into her mother and stepfather’s luxury penthouse in Manhattan. Unemployed, she’s both the wealthiest and poorest 1% of the country…and she’s caught in both the economic crisis and a crisis of identity. Her story, told in Michelle Haimoff‘s new novel These Days Are Ours, takes place during Passover…

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Star of David

February 27, 2012
By
hebrew

Today, the Star of David is a ubiquitous Jewish symbol. However, this widespread use is a relatively recent development. In fact, if you asked King David about the star that bears his name, he’d probably have no idea what you were talking about. In the times of the Temple, rather than a star, the Jewish…

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Ten Lost Tribes

February 24, 2012
By
tribesmap

In the Bible, the Land of Israel was divided into twelve areas, one for each tribe (except for the priestly tribe of Levi) . But 2,700 years ago, ten of the twelve tribes were lost, exiled by invading Assyrian armies–and nobody knows for sure where they went. According to one legend (Targum Jonathan Exodus 34:10), the land…

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Rapping about Seinfeld

February 23, 2012
By
wale

The 1990s TV program Seinfeld was, according to its premise, a show about nothing. Everyday situations such as rivalries between old men and eating the tops of muffins, in Jerry Seinfeld’s worldview, came to embody major existential crises. The Seinfeld outlook offered a neurotic, cerebral way of living one’s life–and it sparked millions…

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Swimming and Judaism

February 22, 2012
By
michealpheolps

According to the sages of the Talmud (Kiddushin 29a), there are a few things a father is obligated to do for his son: 1. Circumcise him, 2. redeem him from the priests, if he’s a firstborn, 3. teach him Torah, 4. find him a wife, and 5. teach him a trade. In the context of Talmudic priorities, the list seems…

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Horror and Remembrance

February 21, 2012
By
king

Herman Wouk is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Caine Mutiny, War and Remembrance (a thousand-page epic about World War II), and several other books. He’s also 96 years old, and is still writing. His most recent book, The Language God Talks, a meditation on his fascination with science and his Jewish faith, was released last year…and he’s already…

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Job, the Musical

February 20, 2012
By
joseph tech

Joseph, with his Technicolor coat and his rags-to-riches story, seems like the ideal protagonist for a musical. An exotic setting! Family drama! And a great tear-jerker ending! The story of Job might make a great musical, too–for an audience of masochists or depressives. The biblical story is about an ordinary man caught in an argument between God and Satan, both…

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Before and After the Holocaust

February 17, 2012
By
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
By
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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