Arts & Culture

Defining the ‘WikiJew’

By Zackary Sholem Berger

Who is a Jew? Let’s see what Wikipedia says about it. Or, rather, what the Wikipedias say, since the online encyclopedia is available in more than 100 languages. The answer to our question in English neither offends nor omits anyone: “[A] follower of Judaism, or [a member] of the Jewish people, an ethno-religious group descended from the ancient Israelites and from converts who joined their religion. The term also includes those who have undergone an officially recognized formal process of conversion to Judaism.” The Hebrew version (“Jews are an ethnic group of Semitic origin, in which membership is based on the Jewish religion”) is clearer, with a refreshing Israeli directness, but one will look in vain for the word “convert” — it isn’t mentioned in the article. And in Yiddish: “A Jew is a person who belongs to the Jewish people.” QED.Read More

The Iconic Blue Box Gets a Makeover

By Malka Percal

When Yael Golan’s mother was a girl in Uruguay, she’d drop a few coins into the Keren Kayemet box every Friday at her Jewish day school and sing a little song: “Dunam by dunam, shekel by shekel, building the land of Israel.” Recently, 35 years after immigrating to Israel, Golan’s mother sang that song again, when Golan told her she was curating an art exhibition based on the blue box.Read More

Probing Brown’s Dark History

By Amy Sohn

Last month, Brown University released the results of a three-year study of its historical relationship to slavery and the slave trade, and suggested several steps to inform the public about this dark chapter in its past, including the creation in Rhode Island of a memorial to the slave trade. Surprisingly, although the report has a section titled “Confronting Historical Injustice: Comparative Perspectives,” it includes no mention of the history of another form of hateful bigotry: Jewish quotas in its admissions from the 1920s to 1940s.Read More

Reinventing Politics, With Language

By David Kaufmann

‘This is the time for political invention,” writes Benjamin Hollander halfway through “Rituals of Truce and the Other Israeli,” his imaginative meditation on the impasse between the Israelis and Palestinians: “There is no other time.” Look at the way the last sentence is phrased and you will see that he is right. For us there is no time but the present. This is our time, our only time. What shall we make of it?Read More

Gershwin’s American ‘Rhapsody’

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Once upon a time, Harry Von Tilzer, Irving Berlin, Sophie Tucker, Sid Caesar, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Billy Rose, Marcus Loew and “Mr. Television” himself, Milton Berle, were the reigning kings and queens of American popular culture. The sons and daughters of Jewish immigrants or, in many instances, recent immigrants themselves, they changed the way Americans laughed, danced and pursued pleasure.Read More

The Jewish Sylvia Plath?

By Jessica George Firger

Oscar Wilde adored her, calling the young writer “a girl of genius,” while modern critics, in their flippancy and an attempt to articulate who this virtually unknown Victorian author was, have coined Amy Levy the “Jewish Sylvia Plath,” referring to both her precocious talent and her early, tragic demise (Levy committed suicide by charcoal asphyxiation at the age of 27). And yet, to most of her readers her life and work remain unknown.Read More

Munich Redux

By Gavriel Rosenfeld

On November 9, Jews throughout Germany will mark the 68th anniversary of the notorious Nazi pogrom, Kristallnacht, with solemn commemorative ceremonies and with vows of “Never again.” Yet in Munich, the very city where the pogrom was first unleashed, a more hopeful tone will pervade the commemorative events: That same day, Munich will dedicate a major new synagogue that symbolizes the city’s ongoing effort to realize the elusive goal of “normalcy” in its relationship with the Jewish community.Read More

‘The O.C.’ Mystique

By Adam Wilson

Here’s a confession: I grew up in deep East Coast suburbia, with a song in my heart and a synagogue on every corner. As expected, I furthered my education at a local, semi-prestigious private university with a bunch of wannabe dentists who were bitter about not getting into Harvard. As an aspiring writer with a Raymond Carver obsession, these were not the humble beginnings for which I longed — beginnings that would inevitably lead to a romantic life of manual labor, alcoholism, domestic violence and transcendent minimalist prose. So after college, I decided to shed my suburban skin and move to Texas to be isolated and poor.Read More

Two Lawyers, Three Opinions

By Jay Michaelson

Lawyers: Are they good for the Jews? It doesn’t take a statistician to observe that there are a lot of Jews in the legal profession, and even more in the legal academy. But why are there so many Jews in the American legal world, and what significance, if any, do the numbers have?Read More

Left Out?

By Rebecca Spence

Over a seven-month period in the fall of 2004, filmmakers and activists Konnie Chameides and Irit Reinheimer crisscrossed America, crashed on people’s couches and interviewed more than 60 of their fellow Jewish social activists working outside of the mainstream. The resulting documentary, “Young, Jewish and Left,” explores the intersections between race, gender, sexuality, Zionism and Judaism. Chronicling the struggles and ultimate triumphs of their subjects — 25 of whom made it into the final cut — Chameides, 27, and Reinheimer, 28, posit today’s activists as the progeny of the old Jewish left: a new generation of organizers working at a time when progressive politics are often relegated to the margins. Chameides spoke with the Forward’s Rebecca Spence.Read More

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