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American Judaism

Rootless Cosmopolitan(s) Rootless Cosmopolitan(s)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 by Sam Munson | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The search for the Next Big Thing is as endemic in the American literary world as in politics and the clothing industry. When it comes to writers, the itch tends to express itself through the excited serial discovery of identifiably new or neglected "voices," preferably young and often of the ethnic or sexual variety: African-American, or second-wave feminist, or, recently, immigrant Russian-Jewish. Members of this last category are taken to include the short-story writer Lara Vapnyar, the music critic Alex Halberstadt, the literary anthologist Boris Fishman, and Keith Gessen, a founder of the cultural journal n+1 and sometime novelist. Whether...
Another Madoff Casualty? Another Madoff Casualty?
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 by Elliot Jager | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Shrunken and wizened, the American Jewish Congress lies on its evident death bed, debilitated by a loss of raison d'être as much as by Bernard Madoff's financial depredations. Under the circumstances, reflections on the spotty record of its approach to Jewish life, or on waste and duplication in the alphabet soup of the Jewish organizational world, may forgivably give way to a brief look at the once-proud agency's origins and purposes.  
The Return of Peoplehood The Return of Peoplehood
Friday, July 9, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Among the various attempts over time to articulate a common, all-embracing sense of identity and direction for the Jews—that sprawling, fractious, and diverse group—the notion of peoplehood has been experiencing something of a revival. The Jewish Agency, for one, has announced that peoplehood will henceforth be the focus of its programming, and Israel will of course play a central role in this effort. But does a central role for Israel actually comport with the broadly inclusive tent that the "peoplehood" rubric seeks to establish? Some say no.
Retrieving American Jewish Fiction: Myron Brinig Retrieving American Jewish Fiction: Myron Brinig
Friday, July 2, 2010 by D.G. Myers | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"For Jews," the historian Jerry Z. Muller said recently, "Jewish economic success has long been a source of both pride and embarrassment." Very few Jewish writers have risen to even this level of ambivalence. The ground note of Jewish fiction has been hostility to business—the prooftext is The Rise of David Levinsky—and the story of Jewish success in establishing banks, department stores, and clothing lines has fallen to strangers (including anti-Semites) to tell.
The Museum Life The Museum Life
Thursday, June 24, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Once consisting of simple repositories of objects, museums today have become educational, cultural, and—some say—spiritual places of their own, pendant somewhere between houses of worship and spaces of entertainment and commerce. And Jewish museums?
Identity Check Identity Check
Monday, June 21, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Central to a recent, hotly-debated essay by Peter Beinart is the contention that younger American Jews, overwhelmingly of liberal disposition, are increasingly distanced and alienated from Israel—and that the major reason why is to be found in Israel's own posture and behavior.  Is this indeed so?
ArtScroll, Inc. ArtScroll, Inc.
Friday, May 21, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Since its creation in 1976, the Orthodox publishing empire known as ArtScroll has brought out hundreds of titles: English translations of classic texts like the Bible, the siddur (prayer book), the Talmud, and others as well as self-help books, histories, biographies, fiction, and even cookbooks.  All are marked by traditional scholarship, decent English, handsome and often innovative typography and graphics—and an unabashedly ultra-Orthodox (haredi) viewpoint. Advertised and marketed with acumen and zeal, ArtScroll has swept the English-speaking Orthodox world and made surprising inroads among non-Orthodox readers as well.  A newly published study, Orthodox by Design, provides the first scholarly investigation of the...
Orthodoxies Orthodoxies
Friday, April 2, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"Is Modern Orthodoxy an Endangered Species?" This was the question posed at a conference yesterday in Jerusalem. Some speakers suggested that the very term "Modern Orthodoxy" doesn't fit the Israeli context or even accurately describe this slice of Jewish life. But what, indeed, is it? Like nearly all denominational labels, this one is a product of the ideological and political debates of the 19th century, as the radical options posed by modernity—including the possibilities of assimilation without conversion to Christianity and of political self-determination—scrambled traditional categories as never before. In this unprecedented situation, adherents of tradition in general and of traditional Jewish law...
Easter Easter
Thursday, April 1, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Around the world this weekend, Christians are preparing to celebrate Easter, the holiday marking the death and resurrection of Jesus and the culmination of the period of penitence that began with Ash Wednesday on February 17.     The first bishops in Jerusalem were Jews, and so the early Christian community commemorated the Feast of the Resurrection on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, coinciding with the Jewish festival of Passover. In Temple times, the essential rite of Passover was the slaughter of a paschal lamb; the Christian Bible explicitly tied this ritual with Rome's crucifixion of Jesus:...
Thoroughly Modern Matzah Thoroughly Modern Matzah
Thursday, March 25, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

When Jews the world over sit down next week to mark the birth of Jewish history, matzah will figure prominently at the table. Matzah baking is an exacting task; according to traditional law, the entire process, from first kneading to exit from the oven, must be accomplished in 18 minutes flat, with not a speck of leaven in sight. For thousands of years, these specifications and others were laboriously met by hand. Yet this most ancient food has a modern history, too. The first matzah machine was invented in 1838 in France. With rabbinic approval, the technology moved steadily eastward.  The...
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Editors' Picks
Go Ahead, Buy that Train Set Dennis Prager, Jewish Journal. A holiday season defense of material pleasures.
Flow Matisyahu, Rolling Stone. Three songs performed by the reggae fusion star, along with an interview about his changing relationship to Judaism and, yes, his recently shorn face. (Video)
Happy Hanukkah, Marines! William McGurn, Wall Street Journal. There are few more illuminating tributes to Judah Maccabee than the American Jews who don the uniform of the United States Marines.
Havel and the Jews Paul Berman, Tablet. Rita Klimova, Havel's ambassador to the U.S., was a Jew who lived on Riverside Drive. But the connections among Israel, the Jews, and Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution went much deeper. (Interview by Marc Tracy)
Blaming the Jews Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard. It would be Jewish journalists, of course, who have come up with the smartest ways to package anti-Jewish sentiment for a U.S. audience in the presidential election season.
The Meaning of Hanukkah Jon D. Levenson, Wall Street Journal. In some ways, Christians preserved the story of Hanukkah better than the Jews did.
Wrong Assumptions Jack Wertheimer, Jewish Week. A new report on intermarriage provides no evidence that the supposed cold shoulder that intermarried families receive is the cause of their staggeringly high rates of non-affiliation.
Rabbi-Chaplains of the Civil War Karen Abbott, New York Times. Could a member of the Union Army "despise and reject the Savior of men . . . and yet be a fit minister of religion"?
Diaspora and Disagreement Arnold Eisen, On My Mind. It was never enough for Zionists to proclaim the virtues of life in Israel—they had to argue that Jews could only expect assimilation or anti-Semitism from the Diaspora. Were they wrong?
Varieties of Religious Experience Mark Oppenheimer, New Republic. Major American politicians seem unusually promiscuous in their religious affinities, not just switching houses of worship but totally altering the substance of their faith.