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The Persian Talmud The Persian Talmud
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

A recent gathering of scholars who have been intensely researching the buried treasures of "Irano-Judaica," together with the release of a volume titled The Talmud in its Iranian Context, underscores one of the most exciting developments in Jewish studies: the effort to put the "Babylonia" back into the Babylonian Talmud.
The Gift of Humboldt Park The Gift of Humboldt Park
Thursday, March 11, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"I am an American, Chicago born"—Augie March's opening flourish, mixing New World swagger with Yiddish syntax—was the calling card of his creator, Saul Bellow, whose own march through American and world literature came to an end five years ago today according to the Hebrew calendar. Born in Montreal in 1915 to Russian-Jewish parents, Bellow moved at age nine to Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. Doubly migrant, the multilingual boy (French, Yiddish, Hebrew) became an avid student  and celebrant of that most American city. After university, wartime  service in the Merchant Marine, years in Europe and New York, he returned to Chicago in...
Yehuda Halevi Yehuda Halevi
Monday, February 22, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

How golden was the Jewish "Golden Age" of Spain: roughly, the 10th–11th centuries C.E.? In the era's once-popular reputation for Muslim-Christian-Jewish tolerance and coexistence (convivencia), it is increasingly easy to see an overused and overstated fiction; more and more, scholarship reveals just how conflicted a time it was, and how conditional was the "tolerance" extended to minority communities. Still, for Jews as for others it truly was a period of amazing cultural creativity and accomplishment, all the more astonishing in light of convivencia's constraints. Under Muslim rule, the most innovative Jewish achievements lay in the realms of poetry and philosophy. Standing at the summit of both,...
Eastern Europe Eastern Europe
Friday, February 12, 2010 by | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The rediscovery—and recovery—of Eastern Europe are central elements in contemporary Jewish culture. Ultra-Orthodoxy tries to maintain versions of Eastern European dress, speech, and mores. The theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel, the melodies of Shlomo Carlebach, the sound of klezmer, the literary productions of authors as disparate as S.Y. Agnon and Jonathan Safran Foer: all in their distinct ways seek to find, in the murdered world of Eastern Europe, a source of living energy for the present.  Not all succeed, and only the best display a grasp of the sheer complexity of the civilization they mean to retrieve and/or to reconstruct. In one impressive recent study, large swathes of...
Master of the Book Master of the Book
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"Of making many books there is no end." In the hands of the master bibliographer Moritz Steinschneider, a phenomenon that induced despair in the author of Ecclesiastes was converted into great science and even greater art.  Steinschneider (1816–1907) lived through the 19th century and into the early decades of the 20th.  One of the founders of the academic study of Judaism before there were typewriters, let alone departments of Jewish studies, he took upon himself the gargantuan task of cataloguing the vast numbers of Hebrew and Judaic treasures, in print and manuscript, scattered throughout state, municipal, and university libraries of Europe. His output was as staggering as it was painstakingly...
Mediterranean Maimonides Mediterranean Maimonides
Tuesday, January 26, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Civilizations come and go. Their greatest surviving creations remain. Such is the case with the work of Maimonides (1135–1204), a towering thinker, known to Jewish tradition as "the Great Eagle," who continues to defy easy characterization. Two new biographies depart from past treatments to situate the thought of this master philosopher within the Arabic civilization of his time, and more generally in the prism of the Mediterranean world. To the late scholar Shlomo Dov Goitein, the Mediterranean was a gracious, cross-cultural society that reached its apotheosis in the person of Maimonides' son Abraham, a Jewish devotee of Sufism. To Maimonides' more recent biographers, it...
Was Dostoevsky a Scoundrel? Was Dostoevsky a Scoundrel?
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 by | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881), rightly known as a peerless master of psychological fiction, a fierce anti-socialist polemicist, an anti-romantic with a pulsingly romantic commitment to prophetic religion, and a dramatist of moral ideas without compare since the English poet John Milton, also happened to harbor an ugly fixation on the Jews.
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Editors' Picks
Coming of Age Adam Kirsch, Tablet. The prolific Hebrew poet Leah Goldberg, born a century ago, was also the author of a piercing novel of adolescence and romance, now released in English.
Touched by a Jewish Angel Peter Manseau, Religion Dispatches. Christian themes typify the work of the late actor Michael Landon (Highway to Heaven); sometimes, though, a Jewish sensibility bursts forth.
Music is My Religion Lea Penn, Haaretz. Ravid Kahalani's eclectic style and soulful singing in Hebrew, Arabic, and sometimes Creole are helping to make his band Yemen Blues an international sensation.
A Still-Relevant Miracle Fania Oz-Salzberger, Haaretz. Today's Israel was germinated out of a process so swift, dramatic, and inventive as to defy comparison with any other nation-building project in modern times.
The Last of the Gauchos Juan Forero, Washington Post. Between 1881 and 1936, tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants settled and created Yiddish-speaking agricultural settlements in Argentina's plains; today, only a few remain.
Balkan Kabbalah Jacob Silverman, Forward. A new novel by the Serbian Jewish writer David Albahari is a passionate exploration of Balkan Jewish identity from the Ottoman era to the present.
Lord Byron's Hebrew Melodies Louis Finkelman, Forward. How many Jews have read the Romantic poet's "She walks in beauty" without a clue that it was written to be sung to a Sephardi liturgical tune?
The Faith of Women Richard Sarason, H-net. Spurred by an interview with a grieving Israeli mother, a scholar has anthologized an impressive range of personal prayers written by and for Jewish women.
A Livorno Tongue Adam Smulevich, Primo Levi Center. While Bagitto is still spoken today, and you can buy a "roschette" in any Livorno pastry shop, studying the Judeo-Italian dialect is no easy task.
A Life on the Yiddish Stage Itzik Gottesman, Forward. A look back at the continent-spanning career of Shifra Lerer, the recently deceased actress and comedienne. (With three-part video interview)