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Arts & Culture

Psalms for the Perplexed Psalms for the Perplexed
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Some mainstream Israeli musicians have recently been turning for material to religious texts; others have become immersed in the musical traditions of Sephardi Jewry. The two trends have come together in a new album, Mizmorei Nevukhim ("Psalms for the Perplexed"), by Kobi Oz.
Retrieving A.M. Klein Retrieving A.M. Klein
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

What qualifies a literary work as "Jewish"? Debates on this subject, once conducted with rigor, have become sillier over the years, descending to the recent call for inducting the African American writer Walter Mosley—whose mother was Jewish, and in whose detective novels the heroes are all black men—into the Jewish literary pantheon.
The New Israel Museum The New Israel Museum
Friday, August 13, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

An expanded and revamped Israel Museum re-opened to the public in late July after three years of renovations. While the modest architecture remains as it was, the modernist cubes rolling with the Jerusalem landscape, the jumble of buildings has been streamlined: 25,000 square feet of exhibition space have been added, but the number of items on display has been reduced by a third. Overall, the design is significantly more user-friendly, with a spacious new entrance hall leading to the museum's remarkable collections, including its three most significant wings: archeology, Jewish art and life, and fine art.
Rootless Cosmopolitan(s) Rootless Cosmopolitan(s)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 by Sam Munson | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The search for the Next Big Thing is as endemic in the American literary world as in politics and the clothing industry. When it comes to writers, the itch tends to express itself through the excited serial discovery of identifiably new or neglected "voices," preferably young and often of the ethnic or sexual variety: African-American, or second-wave feminist, or, recently, immigrant Russian-Jewish. Members of this last category are taken to include the short-story writer Lara Vapnyar, the music critic Alex Halberstadt, the literary anthologist Boris Fishman, and Keith Gessen, a founder of the cultural journal n+1 and sometime novelist. Whether...
All That (Israeli) Jazz All That (Israeli) Jazz
Thursday, July 22, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Add jazz to the growing list of fields in which Israelis are taking their place among the international elite.  As the American magazine JazzTimes gushed in May 2008, "When it comes to jazz, Israel is the source of an almost miraculous outpouring of talent."
Come Swing with Me Come Swing with Me
Thursday, June 17, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

On May 25, a new sound was heard in Jerusalem. Combining the soulfulness and optimism of Moroccan Jewish liturgical music (piyyut) with the syncretistic and improvisational spirit of American jazz, the New Jerusalem Orchestra (NJO) made its triumphant debut at the 2010 Israel Festival.
Chaim Grade’s Quarrel Chaim Grade’s Quarrel
Friday, June 4, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Mir vet men nit maspid zeyn... No one will eulogize me... The death several weeks ago of a reclusive, elderly widow in New York has raised hopes that, at long last, scholars and lovers of Yiddish will have access to the buried treasures in her apartment. These are the legacy—manuscripts, papers, works waiting for translation—of her husband, one of the greatest Jewish writers of modern times.
Speaking of Hebrew Speaking of Hebrew
Monday, April 26, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Over time, successful social transformations lose their capacity to amaze. So it is that we forget just how astounding was the modern revival of Hebrew as a language suitable for all aspects of life. Of course, Hebrew never really died; throughout history it was the written language of scholarship and religious thought, and the spoken and sung language of prayer. This rich and multi-layered legacy was mined by the Zionist writers, linguists, and educators who over decades would painstakingly bring forth the modern Hebrew language. Among the questions they had to settle was how, exactly, to pronounce it. The decision was to...
The Religious Kibbutz The Religious Kibbutz
Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Alongside the centennial of the kibbutz movement, another, humbler jubilee is being marked: the 80th anniversary of Ha-kibbutz Ha-dati, the religious-kibbutz movement.  A unique blend of nationalism, socialism, and religion, it has generated a legacy whose significance reaches well beyond its sixteen member communes. The kibbutz movement as a whole was, from its inception, deeply committed to religion—that is, the Tolstoyan religion of labor. The religious kibbutzim strove to wed this new religion with the old one, and thus to remake both. The aim was a return to the land that would at once revitalize the ancient moral-religious energies of the Torah and issue a...
Kibbutz Kibbutz
Thursday, April 8, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Passover marks the anniversary of humanity's longest-running experiment in freedom. Another celebrated experiment—the kibbutz—kicked off its centennial on the first day of the holiday.  In the hundred years since ten men and two women obtained land from the Jewish National Fund for their commune, Degania, kibbutzim have been the scene of sacrifice, achievement, heartbreak, decline, and attempted renewal. All aspects are central to the story of Israel and Zionism. Kibbutzim never accounted for more than a fraction of Israel's population; their significance lay in the leaders they produced, their central role in the ruling Labor Zionist movement, and their sharp ideological...
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Editors' Picks
Look Out Bellow! Evan Hughes, Awl. After Saul Bellow was cuckolded, he was murderously angry and spoke of getting a gun. Instead, he got to work—and the result in no small way helped him win the Nobel Prize.
Wine Jewish Ideas Daily. On Purim, Jews are commanded, among other things, to drink. While all manner of intoxicants will do, pride of place has always gone to wine, humanity's favored escape from consciousness since the dawn of recorded time.
Purimspiel Jasminka Domaš, Jewish Fiction. "After some time she said her name was Soumia . . . she made her way straight to the kitchen, and by the evening she had baked ten trays of cakes, and told everyone, offering them in the ashram, to help themselves to the hamantaschen." (Short story; translated from the Croatian by Iskra Pavlović)
Raising Cane Benjamin of Tudela, Mostly Kosher. How did the story of a debtor hiding gold inside a walking cane (both to deceive his creditor and to avoid technically lying under oath) make its way from the Talmud to Don Quixote?
On the Record eJewish Philanthropy. Which organization brought the first John Deere tractor to Ukraine? What killer disease was eradicated in Ottoman Palestine by a Jewish doctor? A unique chronicle of Jewish life abroad comes to the web.
"Meh" Generation Ben Zimmer, Boston Globe. The now-ubiquitous utterance likely began as a Yiddish idiom of world-weariness. But it was "The Simpsons" that brought meh to the masses.
Behind the Times Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward. Entering a crowded field of English-language publications in Israel, the founders of the Times of Israel hope that their unapologetic defense of the Jewish state will set their paper apart.
Vanished Vienna Giles MacDonogh, Standpoint. For all its dryness, Georg Gaugusch's extraordinary new tome captures the meteoric rise of Jews into Austrian high society and their precipitous fall.
Brag, Brag, Brag Greg B. Smith, Daily News. "I've been a thief all my life," said Julius Bernstein, a/k/a Spike, the Jewish mobster who spent decades extorting money from businesses, unions, and even medical clinics—and never spent a day in jail.
Courting Change Mati Wagner, Times of Israel. As chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch brought the judiciary into the thick of public debate. Her successor, Asher Grunis, will favor a new era of judicial restraint.