Arts & Culture


Plant Names in Yiddish

By Philologos

‘Di geviksn-velt in yidish,” or, as it is titled in English, “Plant Names in Yiddish,” is a volume of botanical terminology, in part assembled and in part newly coined by Yiddish linguist and scholar Mordkhe Schaechter, that recently has been published by New York’s YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. It is both an impressiveRead More


The Case of the Two Sleuths

By Jeffrey Fiskin

A chalk outline on the ground. An older gentleman in the worn robes of a scholar paces off the distance from the chalk outline to the nearest city. He is joined by a fellow in a houndstooth coat and deerstalker cap, a calabash meerschaum clenched tightly in his teeth.Moshe: Three hundred forty-one, three hundred forty-twoRead More


This Month at Novel Jews

For decades, Richard Stern has been acclaimed as an American master of the short story. His awards include the Medal of Merit for the Novel, given by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Heartland Prize for 1995’s best work of nonfiction.

Daniel Stolar finished two years at the Yale University School of MedicineRead More


Gornick’s ‘Attachments,’ Still Fierce

By Jonathan Lethem

This month, Farrar, Straus and Giroux will republish “Fierce Attachments.” Vivian Gornick’s 1987 memoir. Couldn’t I just say that you must read it? That I am here to insist this book become a banner in the wide world, as it is a banner already in my mind, one I march behind? Gornick’s memoir has that mad, brilliant, absolute quality thatRead More


A Little off the Top: The Controversy About Circumcision

By Jay Michaelson

Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision From Ancient Judea to Modern America By Leonard B. Glick Oxford University Press, 384 pages, $30. * * *To put it mildly, circumcision is a delicate subject. It’s almost impossible to discuss the matter without cracking a joke, probably because the ritual makes at least 49% of the population wince and crossRead More


Individuality, Indelibly Expressed

By Ariella Cohen

The Tattoo Artist By Jill Ciment Pantheon Books, 224 pages, $23. * * *The earliest recorded use of the word “tattoo” is found in descriptions of a Tahitian ritual, written by British explorer Captain James Cook during a 1769 voyage through the South Pacific. Imported into English vocabularies to describe the indelible body artRead More


Who Is That Bearded Man?

By Gal Beckerman

Have Israelis forgotten Herzl? Has the man been eclipsed by his famous black beard? Become a kind of George Washington, known but not appreciated? Little more than a street name? Just a mysterious, scowling figure whose image, plastered to the side of a water tank, young sabras pass on their way to the beach at Herzliya?A groupRead More


Dating Tefillin

‘Behold,” this week’s portion, Re’eh, begins, “I set before you this day a blessing and a curse.…” Not “or” but “and,” and we, of course, get to choose. It is the doubleness of the portion that speaks to me, for most of what we read in Re’eh is an iteration of the laws of kashrut and charity, and the regulations aboutRead More


The Sting of Divine Wrath

By Peretz Rodman

Swelling over large areas of the body, abnormal breathing, tightness in the throat or chest, dizziness, hives, fainting, nausea or vomiting, persistent pain or swelling — these are among the symptoms of a reaction to the sting of a wasp or hornet. “Seek immediate attention,” medical authorities warn us, “if you are stung in the mouthRead More


A New Book Examines How Yiddish Became the Language of Aggravation

By Allan Nadler

Born To Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods By Michael Wex St. Martin’s Press, 320 pages, $24.95. * * *If you asked me whether I enjoyed Michael Wex’s hilarious and learned book, “Born To Kvetch,” I would find myself in an impossible quandary. To admit the rare pleasure I derived from reading it would beRead More


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