Highlights of 2011:
Part II of our round-up of the past year's most popular features on Jewish Ideas Daily. (Part I is here.)
- The Riddle of the Satmar
by Allan Nadler, February 17, 2011
A prospect terrifying to secular Israelis and Zionists worldwide has been the rapid growth of the Jewish state's ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community. Given the stranglehold of haredi political parties on recent coalition governments, and the encroachments by non-Zionist haredi clerics upon Israel's chief rabbinate, once religiously moderate and firmly Zionist, the fear is not entirely irrational.
- The Economist Strikes Again
by Elliot Jager, January 7, 2011
The Economist is a curious publication. A weekly newsmagazine published in London, it largely hews to a classical liberal (or libertarian) line in economics and a correspondingly conservative line in politics. In contrast to most newsmagazines today, it is also a rousing success.
- American Orthodoxy and Its Discontents
by Lawrence Grossman, May 27, 2011
A "case study in institutional decay": that description of Orthodox Judaism in America was offered in 1955 by the late sociologist Marshall Sklare. It has long since entered the gallery of scholarly misjudgments, acknowledged as such by Sklare when events turned out to belie his assessment.
- Science, Faith, and Biblical Archeology
by Alex Joffe, January 17, 2011
Biblical archeology was born out of twinned desires: to "illuminate" the world of the Bible and, ultimately, to prove the truth of the Word. Armed with a trowel in one hand and a Bible in the other, 19th-century archeologists in the Holy Land, most of them Protestant clergymen, had little difficulty finding what they were looking for. Their certainty came from within.
- J Street's Last Hurrah?
by Elliot Jager, March 1, 2011
In a little over three years, a liberal lobby calling itself "passionately and unapologetically pro-Israel" appears to have either supplanted or co-opted other likeminded groups on the Jewish Left—among them, Americans for Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum, and the New Israel Fund.
- Imaginary Vampires, Imagined Jews
by Allan Nadler, July 11, 2011
1897 was a watershed year in Jewish history. And now, Jewish historians may consider adding a surprising entry to the list of that year's events that proved so repercussive in Jewish history: the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
- Spirituality Lite
by Aryeh Tepper, February 15, 2011
A simple truth lurks behind the rise of "post-denominationalism" in Jewish religious life. It is that increasing numbers of Jews are becoming less interested in defining what Judaism means than in sampling aspects of the Jewish tradition that seem to promise spiritual vitality.
- Getting Birthright Wrong
by Philip Getz, July 6, 2011
In mid-June, The Nation magazine, which for decades has provided a special platform for Jewish critics of Zionism, published an article by a young alumna of Birthright Israel, the organization that since 1999 has sent 260,000 young Diaspora Jews (including this writer) on free ten-day tours of the Holy Land.
- Pay to Pray?
by Jack Wertheimer, September 28, 2011
In the middle decades of the 20th century they were called "mushroom synagogues." They popped up in the waning days of summer to provide High Holiday services, then disappeared at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. Today, "mushroom synagogues" are once again in vogue—but with a critical difference.
- Minorities in the IDF
by Aryeh Tepper, July 27, 2011
Recently, while driving by the Israeli settlement of Nokdim (where Avigdor Lieberman lives), I picked up a hitchhiking soldier. We started chatting, and I asked the soldier his name. "Mustafa," he said. "You're a Muslim?" I asked. "Yes," he answered, "from Haifa."
- Talmud: The Back Story
by Yehudah Mirsky, January 27, 2011
There is no getting away from the Babylonian Talmud. Love it, hate it, or both, this monumental work has been central to Jewish life for a millennium and more, managing time after time to find new readers and to summon new forms of reading.
- Jesus for Jews
by Eve Levavi Feinstein, June 15, 2011
That Jesus lived and died a Jew would hardly be regarded as news by most educated Jews and Christians today. Still, while the historical Jesus is ever-elusive, the figure of Jesus, for Jews, has become more accessible.
- The Iraqi Jewish Archive
by Alex Joffe, January 24, 2011
To whom do antiquities belong? Are they the property of modern states, current proprietors of the real estate where they were created, however many centuries or millennia ago? Do they belong to the descendants of those who created them, to the extent these can be identified? Or are they somehow the heritage of "all mankind"? For Jews, these questions took on flesh in 2003 in the flooded basement of a building belonging to the Iraqi secret police.
- Halakhah for Americans
by Elli Fischer, March 18, 2011
Asked in a 1975 New York Times interview how he had acquired his standing as America's most trusted authority in Jewish religious law (halakhah), Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) replied: ''If people see that one answer is good and another answer is good, gradually you will be accepted."
- Is Israeli Democracy Finished?
by Benjamin Kerstein, January 25, 2011
In a now somewhat notorious story published on January 11, Time magazine announced that Israeli politics was taking an ominous "rightward lurch," and concluded that the Middle East's only democracy is on the slippery slope toward something like . . . fascism.
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