Six Little Words

December 22, 2011
By
6

Can you tell your life story in six words? In our new world of 140-character breaking news and micro-sized Facebook updates, we’ve trained ourselves to think in brief bursts. But we haven’t necessarily dumbed ourselves down. Smith Magazine‘s Six-Word Memoir Project has tried to hold up the intellectual end of this brevity craze. They’ve enlisted…

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A Holiday from the Black Plague

December 21, 2011
By
decameron

In The Decameron, a group of 10 young people–three women and seven men–leave the city of Florence, where the black plague is running rampant, to vacation at a country villa. The introduction to this 14th-century medieval Italian work of fiction, by Giovanni Boccaccio, tells how these young people pass their time–by flirting, keeping up the…

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Hanukkah Music

December 20, 2011
By
beernukiah

Lighting the family menorah can be a two-second affair. How much time does it take to strike a match and light a fire, anyway? But you can also make it last longer. Singing is one time-honored thing to do while sitting around the menorah. While there are no strict laws about the order of songs,…

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Hanukkah Presents

December 19, 2011
By
hanukkah-gifts

Before the 19th century, there wasn’t a Jewish tradition to give Hanukkah presents. Then again, points out Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna, before the 19th century, there also wasn’t much of a Christian tradition to give gifts during the Christmas season. Then American stores started encouraging the giving (and buying) of gifts, and the modern…

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Pop Sabbaticals

December 16, 2011
By
maor

Maor Levi is a DJ and producer based in Ashkelon, Israel. Under his various pseudonyms (including 123XYZ, M.A.O.R., and Pillow One), Levi has released nearly 20 singles since the age of 12. He’s been working on his first full-length album since 2007. It’s been “nearly finished” for the past 18 months. However, he hasn’t had much…

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Jesus and Irving Mandelbaum

December 14, 2011
By
smile

Leonard is 15 years old, the child of Jewish atheist intellectuals in Berkeley. He’s deeply entrenched in the 1970s, surrounded by burnt-out hippies and disco music. Then he meets Rick, a charismatic hippie in his twenties–who also happens to be a preacher for a sect of fundamentalist Jesus freaks. In Alvin Orloff’s new novel Why Aren’t You Smiling, Leonard’s…

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Bagels and Lox, Russian Style

December 13, 2011
By
vlada

When Jewish immigrants left the Soviet Union and arrived in North America, they experienced huge culture shock. The way Vlada Bilyak tells it in her new documentary, much of her own cultural confusion came from the way her Canadian classmates connected to Judaism–attending religious services or eating bagels. These had nothing to do with what Biyak’s parents had…

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Special Needs in the Bible

December 12, 2011
By
esau

Did the biblical character Esau have ADHD? Did Isaac have a cognitive disability? The new book Esau’s Blessing: How the Bible Embraces Those with Special Needs looks at our biblical ancestors through the lens of contemporary psychology and medicine. When viewed this way, writes author Ora Horn Prouser, Esau “no longer appeared an evil man with misplaced priorities, but rather,…

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One Fat Pharaoh

December 10, 2011
By
Fat_Pharaoh_by_WerecatBoy

How did the Israelites escape from their slavery in Egypt? If you trust Roy L. Moody, a doctor who visited Egypt in the 1920s, their miraculous rescue was due in no small part to the corpulence of Merneptah, generally believed to be the “Pharaoh” of the Exodus story–who was too fat to run after his own slaves.…

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Scenes from the Suburbs

December 9, 2011
By
suburbs

Historian Arthur Hertzberg estimated that in the two decades between 1945 and 1965 one out of every three American Jews left the big cities for the suburbs. This was a trend that occurred throughout the general population, but it was much more pronounced among Jews. Several factors contributed to the general migration:…

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Dangerous Visions

December 8, 2011
By
WWII map

What if the Nazis won World War II? This terrifying question has inspired books (such as Philip Dick’s The Man in the High Castle), movies, and even a recent photography exhibition. By far the most thought-provoking response that’s crossed our desk is Neu-York, a map drawn by the artist Melissa Gould. It’s based on a…

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Our Ancestors, Ourselves

December 7, 2011
By
what-they-saved

“When my father died,” writes Nancy Miller, “I became a middle-aged Jewish orphan.” Miller had always been Jewish, of course, but this ethnic identity had never meant much to her. When she lost her father, however, Miller set off on a massive treasure hunt to uncover her family’s past. She tells the story…

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