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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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Question Everything

September 28, 2011
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shofar

Do you remember what you were thinking about last year around the High Holidays? Have you made good on your resolutions from years past? A project called 10Q offers a new way to stay accountable. It invites you to answer a different thought-provoking question every day from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. The questions are open-ended, so…

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Digging up Treasure

September 27, 2011
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digging up treasure

The video for Moshe Hendel’s new song “Come with Me” doesn’t seem like much. Just the singer, sitting in a rainswept alley, with an acoustic guitar, reflected in a bunch of puddles. But Moshe Hendel doesn’t need any more than that. His debut album, Lost Treasure, which opens with that song, is…

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Nursing Home Rosh Hashanah

September 26, 2011
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caring_for_elderly

Last Rosh Hashanah, MyJewishLearning.com hosted a New Year’s Poetry contest. The poems that showed up astonished us. They were honest and beautiful, sad and funny, innocent and wise. The winning poem, Rita Janice Traub’s ”A Caregiver’s Rosh Hashanah,” came to us from a nursing home in Atlanta, Georgia. “The only shofar sounds we hear are beep of…

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Existential Anti-Semitism

September 23, 2011
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existential antisemitism

How do you define hate? The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre tried to get at the essence of hatred by looking at an example from a very specific time: Anti-Semitism in France during World War II. According to Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew (1945), anti-Semitism is not the product of a twisted intellect, but rather an irrational passion on the…

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Einstein’s Brain

September 22, 2011
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einstein_580x

For the past 90 years–since Albert Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics–Jewish mothers have been wishing their children had the brain of the famous scientist. Two recent quirky discoveries reveal that it’s possible for this to happen. Literally. Einstein specified that, upon his death, he wished to be cremated. However, the on-call…

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Getting Down in Babel

September 21, 2011
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radio b

“The biblical city of Babel has received bad press over the centuries,” notes the press release for Radio Babel, the new album by the band Watcha Clan. They’re invoking the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)–about people who decide to build a tower all the way up to the heavens. God disapproves of this effort…

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