Emma Lazarus Live!

November 1, 2011
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emma lazarus live

If you’ll be passing through New York City this fall, we’ve got a great tour for you–and a great tour guide. The Museum of Jewish Heritage’s newest exhibit, “Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles,” opened October 26. It showcases the poet’s life, her work, and her involvement with the construction of the Statue of…

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The Dybbuk Inside

October 31, 2011
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the dybbuk inside

In Jewish mythology, a dybbuk is a wandering spirit of a dead person that possesses a living person. Often, the dead person has unresolved business on Earth or an unsettled score to avenge. This demon became a prominent part of Jewish culture thanks to a play called The Dybbuk, by Yiddish writer S. Ansky,…

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Hasidic Chic

October 28, 2011
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fashion

For New York Fashion Week back in 1993, designer Jean-Paul Gaultier became–according to the New York Times–”the first major designer to use Judaism as an inspiration.” In his show, models dressed in long black coats, high boots, and stockings–and tight, body-covering dresses. Some models bound their hair in kerchiefs; others wore long sidecurls. One walked…

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After Tishrei, Now What?

October 27, 2011
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after tishrei

The month of Tishrei, during which Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot all take place, might be the most well-known month of the Jewish year. The month immediately following it, Cheshvan, might be the least publicized. Cheshvan has earned its low-profile status not only because it can’t compete in terms of joyous holidays (it has none–unless you count Shabbat), but…

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How to Play Jewball

October 26, 2011
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How to Play Jewball

Do Jews care about sports? The popular stereotype says no–Jews are too nerdy and bookish to chase after balls. But Neal Pollack, author, impresario, and occasional MyJewishLearning.com correspondent, has devoted the past two years of his life to subverting that notion. His new novel Jewball is the fictionalized story of a lanky, athletic team…

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Stairway to Heaven

October 25, 2011
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babel

At the start of the Bible, everyone on Earth speaks the same language. This all changes when a group of people decides to build a tower–the Tower of Babel–up to the heavens (Genesis 11). In retrospect, this was not the most strategic move. God is unhappy with the Tower, and curses the builders by…

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“Shema” for Deaf People

October 24, 2011
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sign-shema

The Shema is the most important six-word liturgical formula in Judaism–”Hear o Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One,” runs the usual English translation. But when translating into American Sign Language, one encounters a number of idiosyncratic disconnects. For one thing, the first word–hear. Deaf people don’t “hear” things in the way the Hebrew word indicates.…

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A Scotch, a Herring, and a Crime

October 19, 2011
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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
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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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