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Emancipation & Its Discontents Emancipation & Its Discontents
Monday, December 14, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

“One day [Jews are] being completely segregated, [and the] next thing you know, Napoleon comes through town, tears down the ghetto gates, and we can do whatever we like, sort of.” Thus the author Michael Goldfarb, describing the thesis of his recently published book, Emancipation. Especially in the cases of France and Germany, Goldfarb writes, there is no denying the profoundly liberating energies that were unleashed when the Jews, like a spring suddenly uncoiled, were enabled to join the larger societies in which they lived. Nor can there be any proper understanding of the larger course of modernity apart from this...
A Talmud for Today A Talmud for Today
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In Israel and the United States, high-level Talmud study thrives today with an intensity unmatched since the days of the great East European yeshivot. Yet to most English readers the Talmud, the essential Jewish compendium of legal and narrative discussion, remains a closed book—or rather 63 books. All the more reason, then, to welcome a new and expertly edited 900-page selection from the “sea of the Talmud.” What if a dip into the ocean doesn’t suffice? Two English-language editions have come to the aid of the student unversed in the original languages or modes of rabbinic reasoning: a partial translation...
Festival of Lights Festival of Lights
Monday, December 7, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Hanukkah, the eight-day holiday whose Hebrew dates are 25 Kislev - 2 Tevet, begins this year on the evening of December 11. It commemorates an ancient victory at once military, political, social, and religious. Militarily, the victory, which took place in Judea in 165 B.C.E., saw the routing of the forces of the Greek Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes by a rebel Jewish army under the leadership of Judah Maccabee. Politically, it ushered in a prolonged period of independent Jewish rule under the Hasmonean dynasty. Socially, it betokened the triumph of traditionalist Jews over the assimilating Hellenizers in their midst. Religiously,...
Asymmetric Lawfare Asymmetric Lawfare
Friday, December 4, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The Goldstone Report on Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war, endorsed by the UN General Assembly on November 5, has taken on a life of its own in the court of world public opinion. Increasingly, both its enthusiasts and its detractors see it as a weapon, even more potent than the UN’s Zionism-Racism resolution of November 1975, in a campaign to render illegitimate the very existence of the state of Israel. So loud has the drumbeat over the Report become, and so widening its repercussions, that an entire website—cited in the first item below—is needed to collect the facts and to...
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Editors' Picks
Russian Renaissance Marat Grinberg, H-Net. During the Russian Revolution, Jewish cultural nationalism flourished—only to wither under internal and external Bolshevik assaults.
George Eliot's Talmud Study Michael Pitkowsky, Menachem Mendel. Where did the Victorian novelist do the research in Judaism necessary to write Daniel Deronda? Her notebooks offer some clues.
Changing Jewish Liturgy Aryeh A. Frimer, Torah Musings. Over the millennia, changes to Jewish prayers have been introduced by printing errors, or forced upon Jews by censors. Now, changes are proposed to correct an "androcentric bias."
Indigenous Israel Allen Z. Hertz, American Thinker. Of all extant peoples, Jews have the strongest claim to be aboriginal to the Holy Land—but have misunderstood the concept of aboriginal rights.
What's in a (Jewish) Name? Shai Secunda, Talmud Blog. Hunting for baby names, one Talmud scholar riffles through a lexicon of Jewish names in antiquity.
Technicolor Metropolis Jonathan Rosen, New York Times. Far from an account of daily life, a "biography" of Jerusalem unleashes 3,000 years of kings, killers, prophets, pretenders, caliphs, crusaders, and orgiasts, all surfing an ocean of blood.
Roots of Resistance Benjamin Ivry, Forward. Painfully shy, prone to melancholy, and known for his tragicomically inert stage characters, Samuel Beckett was, in fact, a dynamic member of the French Resistance.
Gertrude Stein's Vichy Protector Eric Banks, Chronicle Review. The modernist writer's dogged role as anti-Semitic propagandist was enabled by dapper Vichy bureaucrat Bernard Faÿ, who not only guaranteed her safety but solidified her status as a literary star.
An Egyptian Jew in Exile Jerry Gordon, New English Review. "We started our life as stateless, robbed, homeless refugees": In an interview, Bat Ye'or speaks of her family's heritage, her writing career, and her predictions for the Middle East.
Multicultural Mass Associated Press. The past two decades have seen one of the most significant influxes of Christians into the Holy Land since the Crusades, creating a wholly new, multilingual and multicultural Christian landscape.