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Religious Life

Who Can Retell? Who Can Retell?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Among the holidays of the Jewish year, Hanukkah may surpass even Passover in the sheer number and variety of the songs devoted to recalling, retelling, and rejoicing in the events of the past and their evergreen message. For American Jews of a certain age nostalgic for their childhood, Diane Ashton deftly surveys the English-language ditties of the 1950’s, from “Who Can Retell” to “I Had a Little Dreydl” and beyond. Today’s casual consumers have their pick of dozens of new CD’s in English, Yinglish, and Hebrew, folk, rock, and heavy metal, many of them rivaling the Christmas market for kitsch. But...
Abortion: Is There a Jewish Perspective? Abortion: Is There a Jewish Perspective?
Thursday, December 10, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Controversy over the Obama administration’s proposed overhaul of American health care has dwelled in part on the issue of public subsidization of abortion. Although the bill passed by the House upheld the status quo and banned such subsidies—to the dismay of its liberal supporters—the subject has not faded from sight. Amid the turmoil, little attention has focused on the question of abortion itself, its moral and ethical status. Is there a distinctive Jewish view of this matter? In practice, to judge by survey results and voting patterns, Jews hold the most permissive “pro-choice” views of any group in the American population,...
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...
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Editors' Picks
The Mendelssohn Enigma Jerome E. Copulsky, Jewish Review of Books. Moses Mendelssohn's public image as the model of the cultured humanitarian Jew was arguably more important than his depiction of Judaism, which found few takers.
On the Ninth of Av Frank Talmage, Commentary. In Catalonia, Spain, once the scene of centuries of Jewish hopes and achievement, a student of Jewish history is beset by a torrent of emotions.
The Self-Centered Life Gil Student, Torah Musings. Why observe the Torah's commandments? Because, says an Orthodox rabbi channeling Oprah, they make you feel good about yourself.
“Friendship Jew” Jenna Weissman Joselit, New Republic. On the perils of cross-cultural exchange as experienced by a Jewish Peace Corps volunteer in Guiyang, China.
Inside the Slaughterhouse Uriel Heilman, JTA. Bred for kashrut, raised by Mennonites on kosher-for-Passover grain, inspected by a man who writes Hebrew science fiction in his spare time: the life of one kosher chicken. (With photos.)
Lucky Little Shul Jenna Weissman Joselit, Forward. A synagogue built in 1913, tucked into a narrow lot on New York's Lower East Side, still stands and is still in use—protected, perhaps, by the constellation of zodiac signs on its walls?
Me and Jonah Harold Bloom, New York Review of Books. My favorite book of the Bible is a sly masterpiece, a parody of prophetic solemnities, a magnificent piece of literature because it is so funny.
Next Year in Worms Michael Brenner, H-Net. The place where Rashi (1040–1105) studied and where the oldest European synagogue stood is now devoid of a Jewish community; but the memory lives on, if selectively.
The Limits of Tikkun Olam Joel Alperson, JTA. To my fellow non-Orthodox Jews: as a community, we must repair ourselves far more urgently than we must repair the world.
Amy Winehouse, Cremation, and the Jews Alan Brill, Book of Doctrine and Opinions. More than half of Americans in Western states are being cremated after death; can the Jewish community be far behind, and where have modern Jewish authorities stood on the issue?