A Scotch, a Herring, and a Crime

October 19, 2011
By
scotch

Scotch and herring is the snack of Jewish royalty–the old men at the back of the synagogue on Saturday morning, that is. From this honored tradition, the “Scotch and Herring Mysteries“–a new series of short crime novels by David Y.B. Kaufmann–takes its name. The first short novel, Rampage on Rogers Avenue, opens with a terse…

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Something Borrowed, Something Blue

October 18, 2011
By
gemach

Need a wedding dress, and don’t have the thousands of dollars it might cost? What about a Purim costume, or a bicycle, or a loan for a new car? A gemach can help. The word gemach is actually an abbreviation (in Hebrew) for gemilut hasadim, or “acts of kindness.”  The term originally referred to a…

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Rock Against the Nazis

October 17, 2011
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Holocaust survivors have manifested the trauma and tragedy of life under Nazism in all different ways. Some have created works of literature, moving films, or symphonies. French pop star Serge Gainsbourg went a different route–he made an album of cabaret rock music. In 1975, Gainsbourg was already one of the most famous musicians…

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A Tale of Two Adams

October 14, 2011
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A Tale of Two Adams

Not everyone knows this, but the first two chapters of Genesis tell two different stories about the creation of humanity. In his theological masterpiece Lonely Man of Faith, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik constructs two ideal human types based on the character of Adam in these two stories. The first, Adam I, aims to “subdue the…

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Jewish Gauchos of Argentina

October 12, 2011
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Jewish Gauchos of Argentina

A town of Jewish immigrants, uprooted from czarist Russia to the Argentinian Pampas. Sounds crazy, no? The Spanish-language story collection Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas, written in 1910, describes a group of fictitious Jews who, fleeing real-life pogroms, wind up in Argentina. The slim (126-page) book contains 26 stories, each about a different character. Some portray the…

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Jews Aren’t Just White

October 11, 2011
By
unity

Is the Jewish population growing or shrinking? It could be doing either, depending which survey you’re looking at. The one thing everyone agrees on is this: It’s changing. Be’chol Lashon is a group dedicated to “promoting the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the Jewish people.” According to them, 20% of American Jews are not…

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An Animated Debate

October 10, 2011
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After being commissioned to produce a short film for the Skirball Center’s Projecting Freedom project, animator Hanan Harchol started thinking more about his Jewish beliefs. Or, to be more accurate, he started wrestling with them. In his video series Jewish Food for Thought–two episodes have been produced so far, and more are on the…

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Swinging Chickens

October 7, 2011
By
Beautiful Yetta

Yetta is a snow-white chicken who has fallen off a farm truck in the picture book Beautiful Yetta, the Yiddish Chicken. Using funny and teasing prose–”Yetta, beautiful Yetta, will not be sold. She will not be soup!”–Daniel Pinkwater, author of the classic Fat Men from Space, tells a surprisingly moving story. Yetta, a Yiddish-speaking…

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A Holy Riot

October 6, 2011
By
groggers

How do you rebel against a culture while still participating in it? The Orthodox Jewish punk band The Groggers might be the perfect answer. Their just-released album There’s No ‘I’ in Cherem is a mix of reverent songs and supremely irreverent ones. (“Cherem,” by the way, is the Hebrew word for “excommunication.”) The song “Friday Night Lights” is a surprisingly tender tribute…

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The Great Lulav Crisis of 2011

October 5, 2011
By
lulav-symbolism

Shaking a lulav might get a lot harder this year. During the holiday of Sukkot, Jews all over the world shake the lulav (date palm) and etrog, together with branches from myrtle and willow trees. In these days of globalization, each of these Four Species is harvested from a different place. Most date palms, for instance, come…

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The Jews of “Lord of the Rings”

October 4, 2011
By
lordoftherings

At first thought, Jews don’t seem to have much in common with dwarves, those fictitious creatures from medieval tales. But J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), a philo-Semite and author of Lord of the Rings, based his depiction of dwarves on his knowledge of the Jewish people. Tolkien historian John Rateliff, in his book The History of…

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Israeli Army, Muslim Soldiers

October 3, 2011
By
arab-israelis

McSweeney’s is a literary quarterly that’s featured the likes of Jonathan Franzen and Elmore Leonard. Quality fiction that gets under your skin is its hallmark. Nonfiction stories about Arab-Israeli soldiers fighting terrorism? Not usually its thing. In the magazine’s latest issue, however, there is just that: a 60-page essay by journalist Chanan Tigay about Arab…

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