Arts & Culture


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


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


A Gem Among Giants

By Alexander Gelfand

Irving Fine: An American

Composer in His Time (Lives in Music Series No. 8) By Phillip Ramey Pendragon Press, 334 pages, $32. * * *Flip to the back of Phillip Ramey’s“Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time,” and you’ll find a clue as to why Fine, once a major figure in American art music, has been largely forgotten. ARead More


The Poetry of Mature Experience

By David Curzon

The Sights Along the Harbor: New and Collected Poems By Harvey Shapiro Wesleyan University Press, 288 pages, $29.95. * * *In his mother’s recollection, Harvey Shapiro’s first words were in Yiddish. Born in 1924 to an observant Jewish family, he lived as a child first on the Lower East Side, then high enough up on Riverside Drive for himRead More


Across the Boundaries of Language

By Joshua Cohen

Call It English: The Languages of Jewish American Literature By Hana Wirth-Nesher Princeton University Press, 256 pages, $39.50. * * *As we enter a world that will forever remain “multicultural,” the borders of our languages have become easier than ever to cross. Paradoxically, to understand all of what is said and what is written todayRead More


Reviving Jewish Ethics

By Joshua Halberstam

A Code of Jewish Ethics:

Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Harmony/Bell Tower, 576 pages, $29.95. * * *The seven deadly sins, codified most likely in the 13th century, have enjoyed sustained notoriety, both ecclesiastical and in the public imagination. What is most noteworthy about these “capital sins,” as they areRead More


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