Pulling Punches

December 1, 2011
By
boxing

The new documentary Star in the Ring captures the Golden Age of Jewish boxing, even as the era’s last remaining greats are almost gone. “I only lost two or three fights,” says Izzy Zerling, a lightweight champion in the 1930s–one of several great interviews in the film. “The first fight I lost, I…

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Shlemiels and Shlemazels

November 30, 2011
By
logo

“A shlemiel,” explains Matthew Menachem Feuer at the beginning of the new documentary Shlemiel, “is a dreamer. And his dreams don’t match up with reality.” Feuer, a recent devotee of Orthodox Judaism, is the subject of the film. He’s also the crazy, flamboyant singer for a Toronto-area jam band–and a husband and father. As the film begins, shots…

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Was Moses Black?

November 29, 2011
By
moses

The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery is one of our culture’s most enduring legends. From the Bible (the book) to The Ten Commandments (the movie), it has been adapted countless times. The novel Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939) is another retelling of the Exodus story, this time in African-American dialect, mixing biblical rhetoric and slave folklore and song. In…

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The Future of Jewish Music Is Not Adam Sandler

November 28, 2011
By
mac-miller-jewish

Is Mac Miller the future of secular Jewish culture? The Pittsburgh-born 19-year-old rapper is regarded in the music world as something of a prodigy. Born to a Jewish mother and a Christian father, he was raised Jewish and had a bar mitzvah. At sixteen, he released The Jukebox, his first mixtape–an industry term for a free album…

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Maus in the Closet

November 25, 2011
By
maus

Art Spiegelman is haunted by his history. Not only his father’s history as a Holocaust survivor–which was depicted in the graphic novel Maus (1986), regarded as one of the great works of Holocaust literature–but also his own history. The new MetaMaus is Spiegelman’s 300-page, full-color, illustrated history of Maus. Part biography, part critical document, Spiegelman recounts his…

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The Jewish Indian Chief

November 24, 2011
By
bibo1

In 1888, the Acoma Pueblo Indians–a Native American tribe living in New Mexico–appointed Solomon Bibo as chief of their tribe. The Acomas even asked the United States to recognize Bibo as their leader. Most remarkable of all is that Bibo was white man–and a Jew. Solomon Bibo was a trader. He was originally from…

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A Pair of Rabbis & a Pair of Nuns

November 23, 2011
By
Tailor_Boys

Jewish jokes aren’t like regular jokes. Granted, there’s the standard Q-and-A-style “Why did the rabbi cross the road?” setup. But often, Jewish jokes take the form of stories, with a slow buildup, wacky characters, and punchlines that really do pay off. The short film “The Tailor,” written and directed by Gordon Grinberg, is…

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Literary Gymnastics

November 22, 2011
By
etgar-keret

Etgar Keret is one of the most versatile writers in Israel today. His short stories–which include such memorable characters as an accident-prone insurance salesman, a manic-depressive clown, and a suicide bomber who’s having second thoughts–are often funny and always provocative. The stories’ combination of universality and weirdness makes them easy, almost natural, to adapt into…

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Lost in Tel Aviv

November 18, 2011
By
eric-orner

Eric Orner is a comic book artist who is disconnected from his Jewish identity…except that he recently moved to Israel. In the autobiographical comic story “Weekends Abroad”– which was just reprinted in The Best American Comics 2011 –Orner takes us inside his new life. He came to Israel for a job, but he doesn’t…

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How to Command Demons

November 17, 2011
By
demon

The Testament of Solomon is considered part of the pseudepigrapha–it is an ancient text written around the time parts of the Hebrew Bible were written, but it was not included in the Jewish biblical canon. Its opening line, “The testament of Solomon, son of David, who was king in Jerusalem” is almost exactly the start…

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Bagel Fever

November 16, 2011
By
bagels

The bagel has long been a basic codifier of Askenazic Jewish identity. The hip-hop parody group 2 Live Jews, in their anthem of Jewish identification “Shake Your Tuchus,” said, “If you don’t know what a bagel is, I guess I’ll have to clue ya–it’s doughy, round, and can be found at a deli close…

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A Secret History of Yiddish

November 15, 2011
By
120678987

If languages had personalities, then Yiddish would probably be gruff and sardonic, with several unexpected surprises up its sleeve–much like the admired comic book writer Harvey Pekar who died last year. One of Pekar’s last projects was co-editing Yiddishkeit–a new, gorgeously illustrated cartoon history of the Yiddish language and its speakers. Though Pekar’s books were…

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