Arts & Culture

Using Survivor Testimony, a Scholar Fills in France’s Holocaust Story

By Peter Ephross

When it comes to Holocaust history, France gets short shrift. This is not to say that we don’t know anything about the Jewish experience in France during World War II, it’s just that scholars have mined the history of the Shoah in Germany and Poland, to name two countries, a great deal more. That there’s been no Elie Wiesel or Anne Frank to personalize the experience in France hasn’t helped.Read More

Defending Ladino

By Philologos

In response to my May 11 column on Ladino, Rachel Bortnick, who identifies herself as “a native Ladino speaker and an activist for the preservation and appreciation of that precious Jewish language,” has written a lengthy letter to protest my statement that “the Jewish texture of Ladino isn’t quite as rich or as thick” as that of Yiddish. In this letter, she makes three basic points…Read More

The Price of Milk and Honey

By Lore Segal

Among the chosen with whom, in biblical times, the Lord had conversations, Moses was special. “Your brother,” God says to the rebellious Miriam in Numbers, Chapter 12, “is a familiar within my household. With him I speak not in riddles but mouth to mouth.”Read More

Coolness is Overrated

By David Kaufmann

Let’s face it: Paul Simon, who was awarded the first George and Ira Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and was feted with a gala concert in Washington, D.C., on May 23, was never really hip. He was always just a bit too sincere, a bit too dorky, and that’s probably why his music — which has won seven Grammys and has been nominated for several more — has worn so well.Read More

Jewish Mother, R.I.P.

By Alana Newhouse

The Jewish Mother, one of the most dominating icons of 20th-century American popular culture, has died. News of her death was released, inadvertently, by Brandeis University history professor Joyce Antler in “You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother.” Mother — also known as MA!!!!! — was 90 years old, give or take.Read More

Six Days, 40 Years of Controversy

By Gal Beckerman

The weeks following the Six Day War found Israelis not sure if they were awake or dreaming. Everyone spoke of miracles, of the supernatural forces that had guided the Jewish army to such overwhelming victory. The names of the generals — Rabin, Hod, Sharon, Peled — resounded like the names of gods. The people once again felt chosen. The whole country seemed to pinch itself again and again, like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput, not quite sure that it had really so suddenly, scarily, exhilaratingly grown to three times its size.Read More

A Forgotten Writer’s Paradise Of Prose and Poetry

By Joshua Cohen

Before we begin to speak of the revolutionary work of Yiddish American writer Moishe Nadir, we should first speak of the revolution in publishing technology and arts economics that has finally allowed a translated volume of his to be read. “From Man to Man,” Nadir’s landmark 1919 collection of Yiddish prose poetry — and the first Nadir title ever to be published in English — comes to us not from a New York publishing house concerned with the canonic Judaic, but instead from the Internet-based, so-called POD (Print On Demand) Windshift Press, one of a proliferative number of do-it-yourself outlets that allow writers and translators to publish their own books without having the work or themselves subjected to the marketplace machinations often associated with a traditional imprimatur.Read More

A Mighty Pen and a Humble Heart

By Gabriel Sanders

In 1997, Saul Friedländer, a historian at the University of California, Los Angeles, published the first half of his chef-d’oeuvre, “Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939.” Writing in The New York Times Book Review, historian Fritz Stern praised the book for being at once evocative and rigorous. “He writes history with a novelist’s sense,” Stern said — high praise from a scholar who was himself considered a master stylist. Others were comparably impressed. In 1999, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded Friedländer one of its coveted “genius awards.”Read More

Dramatizing the History of Indian Jews

By Judy Bolton-Fasman

Members of the Bene Israel, the ancient Indian Jewish community, claim they are the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, that they escaped persecution in the Galilee in the second-century BCE, and that their ancestors were shipwrecked on the southern coast of India. Like many remnant communities, subsequent generations practiced dietary laws and celebrated holidays without a direct knowledge of the Torah. The first reliable reference to the Bene Israel dates back to the 11th century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that traders from Baghdad recognized them as fellow Jews and identified some of their practices — such as circumcising their sons at 8 days old — as distinctly Jewish. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Bene Israel completely identified as Jews, spoke a Judeo-Arabic and observed traditional Judaism. In fact, Jewish history in India has been marked most starkly by the absence of antisemitism. Jews practiced their religion freely throughout the centuries, without fear of persecution. Though India was always tolerant of its Jews, the establishment of Israel led to the mass exodus of a community that once numbered 20,000. Today there are fewer than 5,000 Jews in India.Read More

At 96, A Writer Is Born

By Juliet Lapidos

Walls and barriers have made front-page news lately. There’s the concrete wall going up between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and the reinforced fence along the United States-Mexico border. These recent developments make Harry Bernstein’s memoir, “The Invisible Wall,” especially pertinent.Read More

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