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People & Places

The Return of Peoplehood The Return of Peoplehood
Friday, July 9, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Among the various attempts over time to articulate a common, all-embracing sense of identity and direction for the Jews—that sprawling, fractious, and diverse group—the notion of peoplehood has been experiencing something of a revival. The Jewish Agency, for one, has announced that peoplehood will henceforth be the focus of its programming, and Israel will of course play a central role in this effort. But does a central role for Israel actually comport with the broadly inclusive tent that the "peoplehood" rubric seeks to establish? Some say no.
Waiting for the (Political) Messiah Waiting for the (Political) Messiah
Thursday, July 8, 2010 by Elliot Jager | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Israelis are not scheduled to go to the polls until October 2013, but no one would be astonished if some political upheaval forced earlier elections. Several high-profile contenders are already letting it be known that they could be enticed to provide the deliverance Israelis habitually crave, either by starting new parties or by taking leadership roles in existing ones. The saviors waiting in the wings include the photogenic television personality Yair Lapid, who promises to stand up to the "settlers" and the "ultra-Orthodox." Then there is the magnetic Aryeh Deri, once the top vote-getter of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party,...
Tradition and Its Discontents Tradition and Its Discontents
Wednesday, July 7, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Judaism teaches the unity of body and soul. The soul has received most of the ink, but in recent decades historians have made an effort to give the body its say by uncovering and interpreting the material circumstances that, together with the learning and the spirituality, have comprised the weave of Jewish life. Prominent among these historians is the Hebrew University's Shaul Stampfer, whose new book, Families, Rabbis, and Education, explores the diverse currents coursing through the nineteenth-century Jewish heartlands of Eastern Europe.
Retrieving American Jewish Fiction: Myron Brinig Retrieving American Jewish Fiction: Myron Brinig
Friday, July 2, 2010 by D.G. Myers | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"For Jews," the historian Jerry Z. Muller said recently, "Jewish economic success has long been a source of both pride and embarrassment." Very few Jewish writers have risen to even this level of ambivalence. The ground note of Jewish fiction has been hostility to business—the prooftext is The Rise of David Levinsky—and the story of Jewish success in establishing banks, department stores, and clothing lines has fallen to strangers (including anti-Semites) to tell.
An Umbrella for British Jewry An Umbrella for British Jewry
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 by Elliot Jager | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, now celebrating its 250th anniversary, is almost certainly the oldest continuously functioning representative body of Jewry in the world. Its first meeting, held at London's Bevis Marks Synagogue in 1760, was recorded in Portuguese, the language of its Sephardi founders. The first complete history of the Board, by Raphael Langham, has just been published—at a moment when neither the Board nor the community it represents is in robust health.
Photographic Memory Photographic Memory
Friday, June 18, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Several months ago, an article in the New York Times revealed that a much-venerated collection of images of pre-war East European Jewry, shot in the 1930's by the photographer Roman Vishniac, constituted a tendentious slice out of a much larger and more variegated body of work. In a 1947 book and later in the 1983 album A Vanished World, Vishniac himself, it seems, selected and captioned his images in such a way as to put forward a highly sentimentalized picture, retroactively suppressing the rich human diversity of his subjects and depicting them instead as uniformly poor, pious, and persecuted.
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.
Psychoanalysis:  A Jewish Science? Psychoanalysis: A Jewish Science?
Friday, June 11, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

How Jewish was your childhood home? To this query, Anna Freud responded: "more than people think, and less than I remember."  Her quip does double duty: illustrating the porous boundaries of memory, fact, and interpretation that psychoanalysis has sought to clarify and disturb, and highlighting a question surrounding the enterprise since its inception. How Jewish is it?
The Rebbe The Rebbe
Thursday, June 10, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The story of Lubavitcher Hasidism in our time is nothing short of astounding. Here is an ultra-Orthodox sect, deployed all over the world, exuberantly engaged with non-observant Jews and with non-Jews, availing itself of every imaginable form of contemporary communications technology. What was, for generations, the most intellectual and scholastic-minded hasidic dynasty—its other name, Chabad, is an acronym for "Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge"—has become an ecstatic mass movement. At the heart of it all is the seventh and last Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994), who died childless—and whom some substantial number of his followers forthrightly regard as the messiah.
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.
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Editors' Picks
Cyberwar Eli Lake, Daily Beast. The Arab-Israeli conflict is normally fought with Katyusha rockets and Merkava tanks, but the conflict's latest weapon is a botnet.
Kosher Jesus Gil Student, Torah Musings. Shmuley Boteach's strategy is a familiar one—reject the Gospels and strip Christianity of its beliefs. It is, in fact, an old form of polemic. (And Boteach's reaction to media coverage of his book is telling.)      
Are Jews Trending Republican? Shmuel Rosner, Jewish Journal. Conservatives have often tried to convince the public that a new wave of Jewish Republicans was just around the corner. So far, they've only been disappointed—but should now watch the independents.
Debate-Changer Adam Kirsch, Tablet. Judging from a recent spate of articles in some of the country's most respectable mainstream publications, it seems that while Walt and Mearsheimer lost the policy battle, they are winning the war of ideas.
Changes Fred MacDowell, On the Main Line. On Orthodox liturgical reform during the 19th century, and the case of one British synagogue.
After Tal Jerusalem Post. The "melting pot" ethos, which aimed to resocialize young soldiers, has been replaced by a softer, multicultural approach—as a result of which, more Haredim have been integrated into the IDF, and more are joining.
Land of the Rising Zun Ross Perlin, Forward. It was a stray reference to Kafka's obsession with Yiddish theater that started Kazuo Ueda down the path that led to his creation of an implausible opus: the world's first Yiddish-Japanese dictionary.
How Fruitful? Shmuel Rosner, New York Times. By funding IVF for women in their fifties and now requiring women who want to give birth at home to prove their sanity, is Israel taking its involvement in procreation a little too far?
Who's on First? James Kirchick, Haaretz. So-called progressives should stop mimicking the far Right and refrain from using terms like "Israel-firster" that question the allegiance of their fellow Americans.
Literature for Litvaks Gil Student, Torah Musings. A newly-translated volume of stories gives voice to an anti-Hasidic point of view—in some stories more subtly than in others.