Arts & Culture


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


Techniques Of Understanding

By David Curzon

What are we to make of the sacrifices central to the Israelite cult described in Leviticus in such detail? The offering of “an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering” to God can be dismissed in our mind as un-troubling, but the slaughter of animals as part of a religious ritual is much more disturbing: “In the place where theyRead More


Episcopalian, By Way of Yiddish

By Peter Manseau

Confessions of a Jewish Priest: From Secular Jewish War Refugee to Physicist and Episcopal Clergyman By Gabriel Weinreich Pilgrim Press, 177 pages, $25. * * *‘Yiddish has magic,” the linguist Max Weinreich once said. “It will outwit history.” But history, it turns out, also has a few tricks up its sleeve. For evidence, look no furtherRead More


Labor’s Loves Lost

By Paul Buhle

Paul Buhle is a senior lecturer in history and American civilization at Brown University.

A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists In New York By Tony Michels Harvard University Press, 352 pages, $27.95. * * *The tale of Jewish socialists on Manhattan’s Lower East Side offers one of those urban legends, alive with so many otherRead More


Looking for Inspiration in All The Wrong Places

By Rebecca Reich

Memoirs of a Muse By Lara Vapnyar Pantheon, 224 pages, $22.95. * * *Tanya, the heroine of Lara Vapnyar’s first novel, “Memoirs of a Muse,” and (as far as Tanya is concerned) of numerous masterpieces yet to be created, doesn’t claim to be an expert on literature, but when it comes to choosing among the 19th-century writers whose photosRead More


Curses Show Language’s Creativity

By Sarah Kricheff

Lita Epstein does not have a dirty mouth. Her pen, however, is filthy. Epstein’s forthcoming book, “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Say It in Yiddish” (Citadel Press), offers page after page of Yiddish insults and curses, some of which would make even the bawdiest of sailors blush.Read More


Offerings of the Willing Heart

By David Curzon

The second half of Exodus is largely concerned with the construction of the tabernacle. For me, the most evocative aspect of all the detailed descriptions is this: And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: Take from among you an offeringRead More


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