Arts & Culture

Hitler’s Jewish Counterfeiter

By Katharina Goetze

Although life in the “golden cage” of Sachsenhausen was deceptively comfortable for Adolf Burger, he believed that the secret he shared with the Nazis was too precious for him to survive. Yet survive the Jewish printer did, and at 89 he is still around to tell his tale. Now, Austrian filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitzky has made a new movie based on Burger’s memoirs. The film, “Die Fälscher” (“The Counterfeiters”), which will come to German cinemas next month, tells the extraordinary story of the Nazi forging factory that changed the Czech printer’s life — and saved it.Read More

The Radical Rationalism of Maimonides

By Allan Nadler

Moses Maimonides (Rambam, in traditional parlance) has been widely lionized as the greatest mind in Jewish history. Even before his death in 1204, the Jews of Yemen went so far as to include his name in their version of the Kaddish, imploring that God’s kingdom be established “in our lives, in ours days, in the lives of thy children Israel and in the lifetime of our master, Moses ben Maimon.” The Jews’ reverence for Maimonides’s unmatched rabbinic learning earned him the title “the great Eagle,” just as their appreciation for his great communal leadership was reflected in his moniker, “the Mordecai of his generation.”Read More

You Don’t Have To Be Hungarian, But It Helps

By Gabriel Sanders

After the death of his 95-year-old father, Imre, and the birth of his first grandchild, Ulysse, Hungarian-born French writer Adam Biro decided to write a book about his family. He called it “Les Ancêtres d’Ulysse” (“Ulysses’s Ancestors”); fearing, however, that the American reader knows little of the glories of the Hungarian past — and worried, perhaps, that an unknowing bookstore clerk might shelve the title alongside Homer’s “Odyssey” — Biro added a new introduction to the English edition and changed the title.Read More

Journalist Profiles Nine Extraordinarily Influential Emigres

By Edward Serotta

My grandmother used to satirically refer to “Die Grossen Ungarischen Jüdischen Übermenschen,” or “The Great Hungarian Jewish Superhumans,” because this subset of Jews were always so relentless in praising their own. But though we rolled our eyes at the bias espoused by some Hungarians, Kati Marton has offered some dazzling proof that at least some of it is deserved.Read More

A Historical Novel About Ruth, Minus The Sappiness

By Elissa Strauss

Novels based on the Old Testament have become quite popular in the past 10 years. While the religious tone and the style tend to vary — some can be read as parables, others as Harlequin romances — one consistent thread has been the highly detectable feminist undercurrent. In books like Anita Diamant’s widely read “The Red Tent,” and Rebecca Kohn’s “The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther,” the writers use their creative license to surmise the female-centered universe of ancient times.Read More

The Personal And the Political

By Stephen Marche

At the beginning of Aharon Appelfeld’s new novel, “All Whom I Have Loved,” 9-year-old Paul Rosenfeld is on summer vacation with his mother, enjoying what are perhaps his last moments of undiluted happiness. He remembers, “Once she put some squares of halva-covered chocolate on her palm and said, ‘Take it my love, it’s tasty.’” That night, the nearby town celebrates a Christian festival with a mass slaughter of pigs and cattle, and Paul dreams of a sky filled with blood. The entire novel is in that juxtaposition: small moments of sweetness and light collected under the glare of oncoming horror.Read More

God on the Mind, and on the Mic

By Matthue Roth

‘God has changed since Genesis,” sings Romy Hoffman, aka Macromantics, on her new album — and then follows it up with a sly vocal wink at the listener: “Haven’t we all?”Read More

Curating Casablanca

By Eric Trager

A t first glance — given the recent history of Jews in Arab lands — the statistics for Morocco’s Jewish community are unsurprising, even if startling. A population of roughly 265,000 in 1948 has dwindled to merely 5,000, as most Moroccan Jews have immigrated to Israel, Europe and North America. Yet Morocco, almost an entire continent removed from the Arab-Israeli conflict and Gulf-based radicalism, maintains a decidedly different outlook toward Jews when compared to most other Arab states. Copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” prominent staples of any newsstand in Beirut or Amman, are not noticeably available on the streets of Rabat or Casablanca. Old Jewish quarters, virtually forgotten and replaced in Alexandria and Damascus, have been meticulously preserved in Marrakech and Fez. And synagogues — heavily guarded in Egypt, even when not in use — stand without patrols in all of Morocco’s major cities. Jewish schools and synagogues in Morocco receive government subsidies, while King Mohammed VI retains the counsel of a Jewish senior adviser — a truly remarkable gesture in this part of the world.Read More

Where the Borscht Sounds Like the Sea

By Jay Michaelson

What a great idea! Most people who know of Woody Guthrie associate him with Dust Bowl ballads of economic hardship, or with the lefty patriotism of “This Land Is Your Land” (like many such songs, its political bite has been dulled by repetition). But not many know that, from 1942 until his slow decline into Huntington’s disease in the 1950s and ’60s, Guthrie lived with his family in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, mixing with New York City’s vibrant folk and blues scene, connecting with union organizers and left-wing political activists, marrying a Jewish dancer (and daughter of one of those activists) named Marjorie Greenblatt, becoming a part of the Jewish community of 1940s Brooklyn — and writing hundreds of songs that have never been recorded.Read More

The Bloody History Of a Disastrous Libel

By Saul Austerlitz

‘It is obvious to me… that you killed him to take his blood and that that’s your custom. Don’t you know about the expulsion from Spain and other expulsions, and about the thousands of Jews killed because of this issue? And yet you stick to this custom of killing people secretly!”Read More

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.