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Arts & Culture

Romancing Hasidism Romancing Hasidism
Thursday, October 7, 2010 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Hasidism has a long history of concurrently repelling and enchanting modern Jews. Today, its distinguishing features—isolationism, religious fanaticism, and aggressive rejection of all things modern, including not only non-Orthodox Judaism but the very idea of secularity—are inexplicable, if not abhorrent, to much of world Jewry.
Feminism and Jewish Art Feminism and Jewish Art
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 by Richard McBee | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

An exhibit now on view at New York's Jewish Museum purports to chart the course of a cultural revision—specifically, the rise of women artists, or, more specifically, the rise of Jewish women artists, or, more specifically still, the rise in the numbers of such artists exhibited at the Jewish Museum over the past 50 years. It turns out that since 1947, over 550 women artists have shown at this one venue in Manhattan.  One wonders if MOMA can match those numbers.
High Season High Season
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 by Elliot Jager | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Everywhere one goes, Jerusalem is crowded with visitors. Hotels are near capacity. The streets are jam-packed with tour buses. So far this year, 2.2 million tourists have visited the country. August was one of the best months ever, but tens of thousands more have now arrived for the Sukkot holiday, among them 7,000 evangelicals from 100 countries to celebrate the Christian Feast of Tabernacles. Hanukkah and Christmas promise still more.
The Best Proletarian Novel Ever Written The Best Proletarian Novel Ever Written
Thursday, September 16, 2010 by D.G. Myers | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Comparisons between the Great Depression and current economic conditions "remain relevant," says the financial columnist Robert Samuelson—"and unsettling." Economic growth for this year's second quarter was a paltry 1.6 percent; unemployment hovers above 9.5 percent; sales of existing homes have fallen to their lowest rate in more than a decade; consumers show little sign of having recovered their confidence. At such a moment, American literature must surely be ripe for a revival of the Marxist-inspired "proletarian novel."
The Golem: Universal and Particular The Golem: Universal and Particular
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 by Benjamin Kerstein | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The most famous and enduring of all Jewish legends is that of the golem, the artificial man. Indeed, with the possible exception of the demon Lilith, briefly pressed into service as a feminist icon, the golem remains the only post-biblical Jewish myth to be widely adopted by non-Jewish culture. Among its recent incarnations are a computer game that bears its name and the army of humanoids who populate James Cameron's film Avatar. 
Orthodoxy and Innovation Orthodoxy and Innovation
Monday, September 13, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

For many religiously observant Jews, the traditional siddur, or prayer book, constitutes a problem. One such Jew was the great hasidic rebbe, Nahman of Bratzlav (1772-1810), who articulated the problem in terms appropriate to his time: the fixed prayers, with their praises and petitions, are like a well-traveled highway, and well-traveled highways attract robbers. By which he meant that excessive routine makes it difficult to concentrate the mind. 
The Romance of Gush Etzion The Romance of Gush Etzion
Friday, September 3, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The modern return of the Jewish people to their homeland succeeded thanks to the extraordinary tenacity of pioneering individuals who, in a dangerous environment, created new communities from scratch. One such community, or rather series of communities, is the Etzion district—in Hebrew, Gush Etzion—located along the ancient mountain route between Jerusalem and Hebron. The first three communities built by Jewish settlers were completely destroyed by Arabs. The fourth still stands today.
World Jewish Congress World Jewish Congress
Monday, August 30, 2010 by Elliot Jager | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In a show of solidarity with Israel, leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) will be gathering in Jerusalem at the end of the month. Not to be confused with the American Jewish Congress, of which it was originally an outgrowth, or the World Zionist Congress, founded by Theodor Herzl, the WJC is an umbrella group of Diaspora organizations (including the European Jewish Congress, the Latin American Jewish Congress, and others) that defines itself somewhat grandly as "the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people." If you haven't heard of it, there's a reason.
It Sounds Better in Amharic It Sounds Better in Amharic
Thursday, August 26, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In his one-man play, It Sounds Better in Amharic, the Ethiopian-born Israeli actor Yossi Vassa humorously contrasts life in the old world and the new, mulling over the differences between traditional and modern ways of dating and the respective virtues of traveling by donkey or Lamborghini. He also narrates his family's 400-mile journey from Ethiopia to Sudan—from where, in 1984, the Israeli air force flew 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Vassa's family covered the 400 miles on foot, in three months. "Not to brag," he comments, "but it took the children of Israel 40 years."
Requiem for a Big Little Magazine Requiem for a Big Little Magazine
Tuesday, August 24, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

After eighty-six years, eighty-two in print and the last few in cyberspace, the New Leader, a quintessential American "little magazine," is folding. Like all good publications, it both embodied and analyzed a world of its own, a world worth remembering. 
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Editors' Picks
The Dreyfus of Classical Music Benjamin Ivry, Forward. Once vilified by Schumann and Wagner for not being German enough, now Giacomo Meyerbeer's music is criticized for not being Jewish enough.
Beinart the Unwise Sol Stern, Commentary. What is wrong with The Crisis of Zionism is contained within its title: Zionism itself is not in crisis. The liberal Zionism that Peter Beinart espouses is.    
Eric Kandel's Visions Alexander C. Kafka, Chronicle of Higher Education. Why is the Nobel-winning neuroscientist who's spent most of his career fixated on sea snails writing on art history?  It may have a lot to do with his background as a Viennese Jew . . .     
Boom or Bust? Peter Thiel, George Gilder, Intercollegiate Studies Institute. In a debate, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel argues that technological progress is decelerating, while author George Gilder says that progress marches ever onward—with Israel as a case in point. (Video)
Happy-Sad Face Christian Lorentzen, London Review of Books. When Nathan Englander isn't shrink-wrapping history, his crude literary appropriations spotlight the flimsiness of his plotting and the cautious plodding of his prose.
Under African Skies Bernard Starr, Huffington Post. When a teenage member of a Pentecostal church in Cameroon decided to convert to Judaism, he was at a loss as to how to proceed, having never met a single Jew or heard of any in the country.
Mr. Popularity Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post. Shimon Peres was widely reviled during his career in the Labor Party, much to the bemusement of political pundits. But, just as inexplicably, he has come to enjoy near-universal approval as President.
Settling a Legacy Chaim Levinson, Yair Ettinger, Haaretz. As the settler movement is divided over whether to follow Zvi Yehuda Kook's theoretical refusal to cede land or his practical compromises, the young are gradually deserting religious Zionism for Hasidism.
The Harlem Document William Meyers, Standpoint. Although the Photo League was never a big organization, it was famous for the names associated with it, and infamous for its ties to the Communist party. (Slideshow)
Manger's M'gilah, and Ours Yehudah Mirsky, Jewish Ideas Daily. In the Purim story as riotously told by the great Yiddish poet Itzik Manger, God is so absent that His providence appears only by way of the Devil.