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Arts & Culture


Class Divide Class Divide
Thursday, November 11, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The world's two largest Jewish communities differ in many ways. Class is one of them. That fact was made painfully clear this week as 4,000 communal professionals, activists, and donors met in New Orleans for the general assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America—at the same time that, in Israel, the National Insurance Institute (equivalent to the U.S. Social Security Administration) issued its annual report on "poverty and social gaps" in the Jewish state.
The Non-Zionist The Non-Zionist
Monday, November 8, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The YIVO Institute in New York recently marked the 150th birthday of perhaps the most eminent among its founders: the historian and nationalist ideologue Simon Dubnow (1860-1941). Massively influential in its time, Dubnow's historical writing has been overshadowed by the work of later generations of scholars. In the meantime, the cause he championed—Diaspora Jewish nationalism—was throttled by the Holocaust.  Yet the man and his ideas may be ripe for rediscovery.
The Jewish Saul Bellow The Jewish Saul Bellow
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 by Sam Munson | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Does Saul Bellow (1915-2005) need an introduction? Nobel laureate, three-time National Book Award winner, famed for his capacious mind and his profoundly idiosyncratic, sky-reaching prose, a lifelong generator of personal and public controversy, Bellow was also the unrivaled paragon, during his life and after his death, of American Jewish letters. But readers of the massive new collection of the novelist's letters might be forgiven for wondering in what sense Bellow was a Jewish writer at all.
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 Mad Mystic of Bratslav The Mad Mystic of Bratslav
Monday, November 1, 2010 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (1772-1811) is the strangest and most paradoxical leader in the history of Hasidism, and one of its most original, albeit mad, geniuses.  Nahman has been an object of both literary fascination and considerable scholarly research. He also shares center stage with Franz Kafka (1888-1924) in Rodger Kamenetz's Burnt Books.
The Azeri Exception The Azeri Exception
Friday, October 29, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Someone forgot to tell the republic of Azerbaijan that Jews and Muslims cannot live together in peace. Somewhere between twenty and forty thousand Jews reside in that Shiite country, which sits on Iran's northern border and enjoys diplomatic, economic, and military ties with Israel. Can this last, and for how long?
Jumping with Dance Jumping with Dance
Thursday, October 28, 2010 by Margot Lurie | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"I don't like that people think Israel: war, guns, army. This doesn't really color who we are."  Thus speaks Ohad Naharin, artistic director of the Batsheva dance company, which recently completed a triumphantly successful round of performances in New York. To tell the story, and the significance, of modern dance in Israel is indeed to add a bright and distinctive hue to the "color" both of the state and of its cultural achievements, among which Batsheva occupies a place of shining honor.
Under Islam Under Islam
Thursday, October 21, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In the two decades following the establishment of the state of Israel, approximately 850,000 Jews were forcibly driven out of Arab lands. Their expulsion marked the beginning of the end of 2,500 years of Jewish life in North Africa, the greater Middle East, and the Persian Gulf. Until recently, their story has been largely unrecognized and untold in the English-speaking world.
Good Girl Gone Bad Good Girl Gone Bad
Monday, October 18, 2010 by Margot Lurie | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Fifty-five years ago, a star was born: plucky, lucky Marjorie Morningstar, the "American Everygirl who happens to be Jewish." At least, that's how Time described her. Today, depending on whom you ask, Herman Wouk's 1955 novel, Marjorie Morningstar, is either the story of the romantic awakening of a blue-eyed Jewish beauty or a cautionary tale about what happens when you stray too far from your origins.
Englishing the Hebrew Bible Englishing the Hebrew Bible
Friday, October 8, 2010 by David Curzon | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

All translators of the Hebrew Bible into English work in the shadow of the genius of the King James Version (KJV), done in the 17th century and still in wide use today despite its thee's and thou's.  Jewish translations, following the sequence and other features of the Hebrew Bible, and guided by rabbinic understandings, have been brought out by the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) and others.
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Editors' Picks
Wingate's War Matti Friedman, Times of Israel. For the British military establishment in Mandate Palestine, Orde Wingate's disdain for uniform—indeed for clothes in general—was highly unorthodox. Small wonder, then, that he also supported the Haganah.
National Anthem Philologos, Forward. Israel wouldn't have to abandon "Hatikvah" to have an anthem which Muslim and Christian citizens would be proud to sing: just restore some of Naphtali Herz Imber's original lyrics.
Ghetto Seminaries Fred MacDowell, On the Main Line. No fooling: On April 1, 1906, The New-York Tribune published a long article about the "Jewish boys who risk health by long study in foul rooms"—including the heder that would become Yeshiva University.      
Village of Idiots Matti Friedman, Times of Israel. While the fables of Chelm have come to be seen as products of a quintessentially Jewish culture, their history begins not with Jews in Poland, but with Christians in Germany.
The Betrayal of Liberalism Hilton Kramer, New Criterion. A chastened American liberalism meets the ‘60s counterculture, in this essay by the critic and founder of the New Criterion who died yesterday at the age of eighty-four. (1998)
An Abundance of Haggadot Jewish Ideas Daily. Through the Haggadah, wrote the late Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, "the memory of the nation is annually revived . . . and the collective hope sustained." Yet precisely that sense of the collective seems absent from many of today's Haggadot, even the best of them.
Journey to Freedom Yocheved Golani, Jewish Press. In the the Koren Ethiopian Haggada, rare photos show the arduous, sometimes fatal journey through the Sudan to freedom, as well as initial interactions with modern technology. 
A Series of Unfortunate Segments Leon Wieseltier, Jewish Review of Books. There is immodesty in the notion that newness, and one's own signature, will suffice. The New American Haggadah is abundantly a labor of love, but love is not enough.    
Freedom Tales Yehudah Mirsky, Jewish Ideas Daily. From a medieval manuscript to the script for an interfaith seder, a new crop of Haggadot shows that the old words still hold their own.    
Making a Hash of the Haggadah Michael Medved, Commentary. The impulse to revise and update the prescribed Passover service remains unquenchable, yielding results that range from the odd to the preposterous.