Arts & Culture

How a Biographer Repaid One of History’s Debts

By Abraham Rabinovich

In 1997, while scanning the books clamoring for attention in the literary editor’s closet at The Jerusalem Post, Haim Chertok, an occasional reviewer for that paper, noted a festshrift — a collection of commemorative essays — marking the centenary of the birth of an Anglican priest, James Parkes.Read More

Auschwitz Unlocked

By Alexa Bryn

Seeking the “lingering presence” that exists in empty spaces that once contained human life, 37-year-old photographer Simon Watson recently traveled to Auschwitz, where, after months of correspondence with museum officials, he received authorization to photograph areas that had never been seen by the public.Read More

Judeo-English, Part III

By Philologos

In response to my previous two columns on “Judeo-English,” Sarah Bunin Benor, a linguist and assistant professor of Jewish studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, has sent me a paper, not yet published, that she has written on the same subject. In it she concludes (as I did) that such a thing as Judeo-English already exists in America today among Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, and she gives some interesting examples of it that I overlooked or didn’t mention.Read More

How One Artist Found Inspiration in the Margins Of Ancient Hebrew Books

By Jeannie Rosenfeld

Doodlers, beware. Your scribbles could outlive — and outshine — you. Artist Zeva Oelbaum has found inspiration in the endpapers of 18th- and 19th-century Hebrew books, transforming doodles made by Central and Eastern European students in the bindings of their seforim into richly toned gelatin silver prints. The fragmented images are largely indecipherable, but they evoke the spirit of a faraway, lost world.Read More

What Rorty Wrought

By Gadi Taub

Richard Rorty’s death on June 8, at the age of 75, cut short a unique philosophical career. His influence on the intellectual scene of the final quarter of the 20th century can hardly be exaggerated. Rorty’s name is, indeed, known far and wide. But his influence extended far beyond the circles of those who knew anything about his work. When Americans speak of a “postmodern era,” even when they swear in the name of Michel Foucault or Jacques Derrida, they mostly speak a Rortian dialect: the belief that by giving up the idea of Objective Truth, we would become more liberal and more democratic.Read More

Hunting in Zimbabwe For Identity And Family

By James Kirchick

Last August, I visited an elderly Jewish couple at their spacious apartment in an affluent neighborhood in Johannesburg, South Africa. A distant family friend had referred to them as people who would welcome the opportunity to take me out for dinner during a long journalistic assignment in a country in which I had few acquaintances. Ronnie and Avner were not South African, however, but Zimbabwean, two of the very few Jews left in that troubled country. They lived in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, where Avner owned a clothing factory, but they frequently traveled to South Africa to escape their country’s awful state of affairs. Avner had fought in the Israeli War of Independence; he and Ronnie visited Israel frequently. I was shocked that an elderly couple with the means to move would continue to live in a country that, since the seizure of white-owned commercial farmland ordered by President Robert Mugabe in 2000, has been steeped in lawlessness, violence and poverty.Read More

Everything I Know About Being Bad I Learned in Hebrew School

By Elizabeth Rosner

Once upon a time, I thought a quintessential feature of being Jewish involved asking questions. But I learned early on that challenging the Modern Orthodox rules of my upbringing meant I would be considered a rebel and a troublemaker. Maybe I was born into the wrong tribe, or at least the wrong family, but 613 commandments just about brought me to my knees. And I was supposed to be grateful.Read More

Bridge to Bukhara

By Caroline Lagnado

On an auspicious day in the late 1980s, New York-based photographer Joan Roth decided to visit Bukhara in the former Soviet Union to photograph the centuries-old Jewish community there. The community’s relative isolation from the greater Jewish world and their constant and historic struggle against Muslim oppression had resulted in a unique set of traditions: They spoke a dialect of the Tajik language, their rituals stem from both Persian and Sephardic Jewish practices, and their clothing, silk gowns and caftans reflect the styles of their neighbors and rulers.Read More

Ravensbruck’s Famous Survivor

By Jon Kalish

Back in the 1980s, a number of Holocaust scholars and “people who should know better” told historian Rochelle Saidel that Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp located about 60 miles north of Berlin, was used for political prisoners and that “there wasn’t a Jewish story there.” Saidel proved them wrong by writing what many consider to be the definitive book on the estimated 20,000 Jewish prisoners that passed through the camp.Read More

Judeo-English, Part II

By Philologos

Last week’s column, which started with an e-mail from Irving Treitel that despaired of the possibility of a distinct American Jewish language, ended with the question of whether, considered lexically, phonetically and grammatically, there actually is already such a thing as “Judeo-English” in the sense that there were once dialects of “Judeo-Italian,” “Judeo-Arabic,” etc. With the proviso that such an answer would apply to no more than 10% or 15% of American Jewry — that is, almost entirely to its Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox sectors — I would answer: Yes, Judeo-English does already exist; if not in a full-fledged form, at least as a work in progress.Read More

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