Modern education cherishes the value of “hands-on” education but Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch brings that approach to a whole new level. Deutsch created Torah Animal World a museum in the heart of Hassidic Boro Park, Brooklyn, to induct anyone and everyone into the animal kingdom as laid out in the Hebrew Bible.
No, the rabbi is not trying to compete with the Museum of Natural History. He sees his pet project as part of a bigger mission: to offer a fun, interactive experience outside the classroom.
“I thought it was important for a child to be able to walk over and touch a real lion,” he explains. “If you touch history, history touches you.”
And he doesn’t even mind when inquisitive visitors get a little rowdy. “Sometimes kids get excited — they’ll pull an ear from one of the animals or they’ll break something and we have to put it back.”
The Torah Animal World made headlines in December 2013 when the building faced foreclosure. But the unflappable Deutsch managed to overcome the financial hurdles of New York’s cruel real estate jungle. His DIY, un-Disney-fied, borderline-morbid display certainly ranks up there with the world’s weirdest collections.
No Woody Allen glasses for you!
An Orthodox Brooklyn yeshiva has decreed that thick, hipster-like frames are too trendy and modern and banned the students from wearing them, the New York Post reported.
Borough Park’s Bobover Yeshiva B’Nei Zion explained its reasoning behind the ban, in a recent letter written in Yiddish issued to parents of students. “We are asking that everyone buy simple glasses,” the letter read. “What we have to commit ourselves to is we have to stand on top of this and not tolerate the new modernism.”
Apparently the fourth through 12 graders and the older rabbinical students had taken a shine to the thick brightly colored plastic frames favored by their secular Williamsburg neighbors. Though school officials admitted to the Post that regulating glasses is difficult because of constantly evolving trends, they all agreed that these particular frames “give the child a very coarse look.”
“The good deed that accompanied the Jews in Egypt was that they didn’t change their names and clothes, and this same strength is still accompanying us and maintaining us in exile — in all generations,” the letter, posted by the blog Failed Messiah, reads.
The school forbids any child wearing these types of glasses to attend classes, and demands that parents force their kids to exchange the offending eyewear for simpler frames.
According to the Post, two Borough Park stores, Lumiere Eyewear and MS Optical, have already obliged. An employee of the latter shop told the Post that officials from the school had recently inspected the premises to make sure that the simple, acceptable glasses were displayed separately from the bold plastic ones.
“They basically said these are the Hasidic ones — and those are not,” the employee said.
This fashion advice is somewhat contrary to the one given given in Israel last year when Ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs started selling extra-thick lensed glasses to blur out immodest women who might be wandering around the neighborhood.
It was a little tricky telling who was a real Hasidic Jew and who wasn’t on 13th Avenue in Boro Park earlier this week. The CBS police drama “Blue Bloods,” starring Donnie Wahlberg, was filming there, and the extras dressed as Hasidim were throwing the real members of the tribe for a loop.
If you watch the clip that someone filmed and put on YouTube, you can see why telling the Jews from the non- would have been hard. This is one instance where the actors didn’t look like they had pasted-on fake beards and side curls. We extend kudos to the makeup and wardrobe departments.
The video is worth watching if only to see one (real) Hasidic man walking around dumbstruck at how authentic the extras look. “I can’t believe it,” he keeps on exclaiming. “It’s mindboggling. You have to watch out. You don’t know who you’re talking to.”
Performance and installation artist Helène Aylon scrutinizes the entrenched, sometimes invisible, belief systems that shape society. Since the 1970s, she has used her work as a tool for poetic dissent and constructive revisionism. Aylon’s early work contributed to the women’s movement, opposing the unrealistic imagery pedaled by magazines like Playboy. In the 1980s, her focus shifted to ecology and nuclear non-proliferation. By 1990, she turned her penetrating gaze to the religious texts that helped to define her female identity.
The Pentateuch, or Chumash, is the focus of Aylon’s exhibition “The Liberation of G-d and The Unmentionable,” now on view at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. The show is part of the Warhol’s ongoing series, “The Word of God,” which features art that addresses religion in ways intended to promote understanding between faiths. Aylon’s show follows the series’s controversial first installment, Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an.” While controversy is also central to Aylon’s exhibition, her approach is more analytical than accusatory. Aylon acknowledges this, dedicating the show, in part, to her fifth grade Hebrew teacher and a female principal, who “encouraged Boro Park girls to question.”
Tongues have been clicking in the Orthodox world about the U.S. debut of Eve Annenberg’s feature film “Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish” (which I previously wrote about for the Forward here), but the New York Jewish Film Festival screening on January 16 at Lincoln Center sold out quickly and the Hasidic dropouts-turned actors who star in the film expect a huge black hat turnout.
On the frum woman’s web site imamother.com someone who grew up in Boro Park with former Satmar beauty Malky Weisz, who plays Juliet, posted: “I think this film is going to create a huge chilull ha shem [desecration of G-d’s name], even though I have no inkling as to what the story line is.”
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