Historians of Southern Jewish culture fit roughly into two camps: those who believe that the Jewish experience in the South was fundamentally different from the Jewish experience in the North, and those who argue that similarities overwhelm differences. The Forward interviewed one representative from each camp. Mark I. Greenberg, co-editor of “Jewish Roots in Southern Soil” (Brandeis University Press, 2006) thinks that, for scholarly purposes, it’s more fruitful to explore the differences between Southern and Northern Jews. On the opposing side is Mark Bauman, editor of “Dixie Diaspora” (University of Alabama Press, 2006). Greenberg and Bauman were interviewed separately, but their answers are printed side by side.
In April 1913, 14-year-old Mary Phagan was found raped and murdered in the basement of an Atlanta pencil factory. The police botched the initial forensic investigation and were casting about for leads when suspicion fell upon the Jewish factory manager, Leo Frank. Local journalists, who practiced Hearst-style yellow journalism, sensationalized the ensuing trial. A mob outside the courtroom chanted “Hang the Jew,” and Frank was convicted solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence. When the Georgia governor commuted Frank’s death sentence to life imprisonment, an antisemitic mob of prominent citizens kidnapped and lynched the alleged murderer.
Walls and barriers have made front-page news lately. There’s the concrete wall going up between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and the reinforced fence along the United States-Mexico border. These recent developments make Harry Bernstein’s memoir, “The Invisible Wall,” especially pertinent.
Five years ago, the Royal Society of Chemistry bestowed an honorary fellowship upon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. According to the fellowship citation, Holmes was “the first detective to exploit chemical science as a means of detection.” The citation might seem flippant, but several weeks ago the Mystery Writers of America honored a book that justifies the Royal Society’s choice.
Coaches, take heart: Sports may promote peace. During the famous “Christmas Truce” of 1914, British and German soldiers called an unofficial cease-fire and played a game of soccer. In 1971, China and the United States came together over a game of table tennis. For the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, North and South Korean athletes competed for the same team.
The words “spring” and “break,” innocuous when separate, become volatile when joined together. “Spring break” typically evokes the Bahamas and the debauchery of Girls Gone Wild. In the past few years, however, a new spring break movement has been gaining traction. Most noticeably since Hurricane Katrina, college students have organized alternative spring break trips that emphasize community service and multicultural understanding.
Madonna, the Queen of Pop, is gracing the gossip pages again. She’s not announcing a new album. And no, she’s not performing her classic ballad “Live To Tell” while suspended from a giant mirrored cross, as she did during the summer of 2006.
When the Columbia space shuttle exploded in February 2003, there was a drawing on board — a moonscape by a young Auschwitz victim named Petr Ginz. In the aftermath of the explosion, news reports mentioning the Ginz drawing reached the Czech Republic, where a Prague resident made a significant discovery: He was in possession of Ginz’s pre-Auschwitz wartime diary. Apparently, it had been collecting dust in his attic for decades. Now, more than 60 years after 16-year-old Ginz died in a gas chamber, his sister — a survivor — is publishing the diary.
Last week, the Jewish Book Council announced that Tamar Yellin, author of “The Genizah at the House of Shepher” (Toby Press, 2005), is the first recipient of the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Rohr, who currently lives in Miami, spent his early years in Europe before moving to Bogotá, Colombia, where he made his fortunate as a real estate developer. His children and grandchildren established the eponymous prize to encourage and promote writing of Jewish interest.
‘The rich are different than you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald reportedly told Ernest Hemingway.