The “Mad Woman” Who Sold Jewish Rye to Goyim

January 14, 2014
By
Levy's Rye Bread

In the long history of Jewish culinary triumphs, there has never been a finer invention than pastrami on rye. And there has never been a rye bread more indelibly linked to Jews than Levy’s. For that we have the “Mad men” of Madison Avenue to thank, and in particular, a Jewish “Mad woman” named Judy Protas.…

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A Yiddish Poet’s Musical Second Wind

January 13, 2014
By
Tsvey Vetln

When composer Benjy Fox-Rosen was a kid, his grandmother sang him the songs of her favorite Yiddish poet, Mordechai Gebirtig (1877-1942). “Wait a little longer, dear,” goes one of the Krakow songwriter’s most famous songs, “Reyzele.” But she wasn’t much of a singer, so, like the gentleman courting his pious lover in “Reyzele,” Fox-Rosen had to wait a…

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When Sholem Aleichem Met Mark Twain

January 10, 2014
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twain-aleichem

The Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916) was an author and humorist whose 40-plus volumes famously combine high intellect with a raucousness and a Jewish redneck sensibility. His style was uncannily reminiscent of another writer of his time, an American, who also had a knack for satire and irony: Mark Twain. In Aleichem’s novel The Bloody Hoax (1913), a…

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The 17th-Century Torah for Girls

January 9, 2014
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Tzenah Urenah

If there had been book blurbs in the 17th century, one for the Tsenah Urenah might have read: “What a time-saver. I keep it in the kitchen, next to the schmaltz.” Written by Rabbi Jacob ben Isaac Ashkenazi, the Tsenah Urenah (in any of its varied spellings), or “women’s bible,” was once as…

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The Lost Jewish Tribe of China

January 8, 2014
By
Kaifeng Jews

On the southern bank of the Yellow River lies Kaifeng, the former capital of the Northern Song Dynasty and an important pit stop along the Silk Road. From the 10th to 12th centuries, innumerable merchants trod its city streets, among them a small cohort of Sephardic Jews who settled down and set up shop. For…

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Gary Shteyngart Writes a Memoir

January 7, 2014
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Little Failure

The first half of Gary Shteyngart‘s new memoir, Little Failure, reads like a first-person Colbert Report segment on Russian Jewish refuseniks. The celebrated Russian émigré novelist wastes almost no page space on developing such trifles as plot or character. We know the premise (Russia is a bad place), and we know what gets the family…

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The One-Room Shul in an Old Philly Prison

January 6, 2014
By
Eastern State Penitentiary

The Alfred W. Fleisher synagogue didn’t always have a rabbi, but in the mid-20th century it did have Morris “The Rabbi” Bolber. Bolber, the fomer leader of a murder ring in Philadelphia, and Fleisher’s congregants, were inmates in the Eastern State Penitentiary, a notorious prison that is now a National Historic Landmark. The synagogue had been…

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When King Henry VIII Bribed the Rabbis

January 3, 2014
By
King Henry

In 1527, King Henry VIII was desperate to divorce his first wife, Catharine of Aragon. So when his Catholic advisors denied him annulment, Henry sent messengers to the Jewish community in Italy, instead, hoping that a little money might win them over to his side. (He would have asked England’s Jews…

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A 21st-Century Yiddish Pop Hit Straight from Azerbaijan

January 2, 2014
By
ilhama

In the 20th century, the Andrews Sisters made the Yiddish-ish song “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein” a hit (it was even successful in Germany before the Nazis realized the song was Yiddish, and not a southern German dialect). In the 21st century it was an Azerbaijani non-Jewish singer named Ilhama Gasimova who brought it to…

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2014: The Year “Fiddler” Turns 50

January 1, 2014
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fiddler on the roof

Was there ever a real-life shtetl as joyful, as funny, as musical and, ultimately, as heartbreaking as Anatevka? Probably not. But after five decades, “our little village” in Fiddler on the Roof still embodies what many American Jews imagine Jewish life was like in the Old Country. Fiddler managed to create an almost-perfect formula…

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The Jewiest Porn You Ever Did See

December 31, 2013
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The Jewiest Porn You Ever Did See

G-rated Jew porn is a thing. Okay, maybe it’s PG. Regardless, the idea for a Jewish porn site that anyone from your bubbe to a bar mitzvah boy will enjoy—but not like that— came to 23-year-old actress, writer, and director Sarah Rosen. Rosen told The Huffington Post about her inspiration for Porn4Jews: “I first…

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Not New Year’s for Jews!

December 31, 2013
By
newyears-eve

According to the Jewish calendar, nothing happens tonight at midnight. It is 5774 now, and it will be 5774 tomorrow. You probably think that’s because Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. And it is—one of them. But did you know that according to Jewish law there are actually four new years? Every year? Rosh…

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