Arts & Culture

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

Inspired by Henson — and Schneerson

By Sara Trappler Spielman

Dovid Taub has two main inspirations: Jim Henson and the Lubavitcher rebbe. Through his ability to knit threads of holiness and ancient kabbalistic wisdom into the fabric of his puppetry, Taub has created a comedy sitcom to which fellow Hasidim return every week. The “Itche Kadoozy Show” features a Hasidic rabbi and his troublemaking young neighbor who poke lots of fun at each other and see the world through very different eyes, yet ultimately learn life’s mystical lessons from each other. Through these opposing characters, Taub brings a new dimension to his genre — secularism and sacredness mingled into one — leaving all types of fans begging for more.Read More

Paying Tribute to a Living Legend

By Joshua Cohen

Novelist, story-writer and memoirist Jakov Lind turns 80 on February 10. No longer a refugee and no longer writing, for the past decade he’s been unwillingly rooted in London, slowly dying from a motor neuron disease. He is scandalously under-read in his native Austria, and ignobly neglected, too, in the countries of his second written language, which is English; his birthday will be marked most notably with silence. Which would be unfortunate if his were a lesser talent. As it is, such silence is unforgivable. “Never forget” has literary implications, as well: Jakov Lind is the greatest living writer of Jewish Europe.Read More

The Jewish McLuhan

By Menachem Wecker

As a wakeup call to “an indifferent world” and “Jews with their heads in the sand,” Mel Alexenberg designed a Holocaust memorial to honor the 6 million Jews in Israel “incinerated by an Iranian nuclear bomb that is Iran’s prelude to global conquest in the service of a mad ideology.”Read More

A Historian-Soldier Bridges His Identities

By Gal Beckerman

Sitting on a stage in a mahogany-paneled study of the townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that contains the venerable Council on Foreign Relations, Michael Oren, the historian, was getting frustrated with the questions the standing room-only audience was lobbing at him. He had come to talk about his new book, a history of America’s relationship with the Middle East from 1776 to the present, but all anybody wanted to ask him about was evangelicals.Read More

Bible Wars

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Now that Christmas has come and gone, we’re apt to think that pitched discussions about religion in the public square (all those crèches and Christmas trees and menorahs and overwrought television commentators like you-know-who) are a seasonal affair. But if history teaches anything, it’s that these discussions are always with us. I’d even go a step further and say they are endemic to modern American culture. Take, for instance, the so-called Cincinnati Bible War of 1869-70 in which the local public school board’s decision to prohibit “whatever savored of religion” — the daily reading of the Bible, say, or the singing of Protestant hymns or the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer — resulted in a brouhaha of immense proportions, so immense, in fact, that it made its way from one end of the judicial system to another, ending up in the Ohio Supreme Court.Read More

Free Speech at City College

By Gabriel Sanders

In early October 2001, the City College of New York’s faculty union, alarmed by what it saw as a wave of jingoism unleashed by the 9/11 attacks, decided to stage a teach in. Titled “Threats of War, Challenges of Peace,” the session was seen in some quarters as unpatriotic, seditious even. The New York Post lambasted what it called the CCNY faculty’s “moral myopia.” University trustees drafted a statement calling statements made at the event “un-American.”Read More

Jewish Book Award Winners

The following are the winners of the 2006 National Jewish Book Awards, announced last week by the Jewish Book CouncilRead More

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