Arts & Culture


State of Emergency: The Demise of Secularism

By Pearl Abraham

The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously By Jacques Berlinerblau Cambridge University Press, 232 pages, $19.99. * * *God, it turns out, is not dead, but secularism might be — unless it deigns to take another look at itself, at God and at God’s book, and seeks to study and know what it professes not toRead More


From the Stage To the Page

By Ethan Kanfer

Nine Contemporary Jewish Plays Edited by Ellen Schiff and Michael PosnickForeword by Theodore Bikel University of Texas Press, 587 pages, $24.95. * * *Published plays — especially those in anthologies — tend to be dismissed by the casual browser as specialty items, of interest only to students of theater history or to actors in searchRead More


A Lebanese Writer’s Palestinian Story

By Jo-Ann Mort

Elias Khoury has enough to deal with in his hometown. The editor in chief of the weekly literary supplement of An Nahar, the secular, leftist Beirut daily, recently lost two colleagues: columnist Samir Kassir and publisher Gebran Tueni, both of whom were presumably murdered by the Syrian government. “Everybody like me — intellectuals who areRead More


A ‘Matzo’ Mystery

By Philologos

We’re all eating it this week — in some cases, more than we’d like to — but why on earth do we spell it “matzo,” or “matzoh”? What Jew says, or ever did say, “mah-tso,” pronouncing the last syllable to rhyme with “oh” or “glow”? Ashkenazic Jews always have said “MAH-tse,” with the last syllable like the “e” inRead More


Is God Just?

By David Curzon

The portion read on the intermediate Shabbat of Pesach, Exodus 33:12-34:26, contains some of the most extraordinary passages in the Torah. Moses asks God to “show me now Thy ways, that I may know Thee” (Exodus 33:13) and gets the comforting response, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” But five versesRead More


The Essential Louis Zukofsky

By David Kaufmann

Selected Poems By Louis Zukofsky, edited by Charles Bernstein Library of America, 191 pages, $20. * * *Louis Zukofsky, born into a pious, Yiddish-speaking household on New York City’s Lower East Side in 1904, seems to have jumped fully formed into American poetry. In 1928, when he was 24, his mentor and intellectual sparring partner,Read More


A Road Trip Through the Mideast Conflict

By Steven Zeitchik

When he’s at his best, Israeli auteur Amos Gitai captures the peculiar pain, and paradox, of individuals filled with national yearning. What a person needs from a country and what a country needs from a person should not on its face have reason to overlap, and Gitai is obsessed with why — and what happens when — people assume the twoRead More


Sweet’N Lowdown

Benjamin Eisenstadt’s obituary in The New York Times called him “a sweetener of lives,” for he invented not only the individual sugar packet but also the zero-calorie cash cow Sweet’N Low. In his new book, “Sweet and Low: A Family Story” (to be published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Eisenstadt’s grandson, Rich Cohen —Read More


Greener Pastures; or How The Israelites Found God

By Josie Glausiusz

The Natural History of the Bible:

An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures By Daniel Hillel Columbia University Press, 376 pages, $32.50. * * *As an idyll of pastoral serenity, the 23rd Psalm has few peers. It begins with familiar and comforting words: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie downRead More


The Goddess Matriarchy

By Philologos

Barry Dancis writes:“I recently began reading the book ‘When God Was a Women’ by Merlin Stone, written some 30 years ago. In it she points out that Near Eastern societies from 9000 BCE or thereabouts to 2500 BCE or somewhat later revered a supreme female deity or goddess (Astarte, Isis, etc.), and that the last of the goddess templesRead More





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  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
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  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
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