Monthly Archives: December 2007

Here’s $100,000

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The five candidates for the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature have been announced. This year’s award is for non-fiction books.

As per the Jewish Book Council press release, the short list includes:

Ilana M. Blumberg for Houses of Study: A Jewish Woman Among Books (University of Nebraska Press) – Blumberg is Assistant Professor of Humanities at James Madison College at Michigan State University.

Eric L. Goldstein for The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race and American Identity (Princeton University Press) – Goldstein is Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Emory University.

Lucette Lagnado for The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World (Ecco) – Lagnado is a senior special writer and investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal who covers the uninsured and the elderly.

Michael Makovsky for Churchill’s Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft (Yale University Press) – Makovsky is Foreign Policy Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Haim Watzman for A Crack in the Earth: A Journey Up Israel’s Rift Valley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – Watzman is a Jerusalem based writer, translator, and journalist and is Israel correspondent for the science journal Nature.

The Rohr prize was first given out last year (to Tamar Yellin) and is one of the richest literary awards in the world.

Posted on December 6, 2007

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The Inspired Kitchen

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

Eating fried foods is one of the distinct pleasures of Hanukkah, and the tradition behind it is well-known. According to legend, after the temple was ransacked by Antiochus’ troops, a small vial of undefiled oil miraculously lasted for 8 days, until more oil could be found. More…

Posted on December 6, 2007

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Is a half a bible better than nothing?

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

I’ve never been a big fan of The View. Mostly because I’m sitting on a train every time the show airs. However, I am sad that I missed yesterday’s episode. According to New York Magazine, new host Sheri Shepherd shared her view on the events of world history:

During a discussion about the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 B.C.–270 B.C.), the following debate popped up among a lot of cross chatter:

Whoopi: Keep in mind probably when he was around there was no Jesus going on.
Sherri: No, they had Christians back then.
[Cross talk]
Sherri: They had Christians, they threw them to the lions.
[Cross talk]
Whoopi: I think this might predate that.
Joy: They believed in polytheism.
Sherri: I don’t think anything predated Christians.
Joy: No, the ancient Greeks were earlier. It went Greeks, Romans, then Christians.
Sherri: Jesus came first before them.
Whoopi: [Gently, bless her] Not on paper. (MORE)

I guess it’s possible that her copy of the bible has pages two through, let’s say, Old Testament ripped out: “In the beginning, there was…Jesus.”

Posted on December 6, 2007

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A Reformed Temple

This entry was posted in General on by .

A small plane crashed into a synagogue in Georgia last night, killing the pilot. The few people inside the synagogue were unharmed.

Yeshiva World posted the story this morning with the headline “Plane Crashes Into Reformed Temple.”

A commenter replied: “i think it is reform temple . not reformed temple. a reformed temple is a temple that did teshuva.”

Posted on December 6, 2007

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Another Autonomous Jewish State

This entry was posted in History on by .

On the heels of yesterday’s post about the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan, comes a report from YNet about another proposed autonomous Jewish region. One that might not be so good for the Jews.

In an article entitled “The Coming Earthquake,” Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe writes: “In the wake of the Annapolis Conference at which the Israeli government agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem and the defense minister’s (Ehud Barak) proposed ‘evacuation compensation’ law, many are asking themselves ‘what can I do now?’….

There is no doubt then that the only solution is to immediately declare the establishment of an autonomous Jewish state in Judea and Samaria. The time has come to seriously consider erecting a legal body that will unite the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria as a state-to-be,” Rabbi Wolpe wrote.  (MORE)

Plans for the region’s flag and national anthem are already in the works.

Posted on December 6, 2007

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Miracles, Gelt, and Hip Hop

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

-JAY MICHAELSON would like Hanukkah without supernatural miracles. (Jbooks)

-An exploration of the why, and the how-good, of chocolate Hanukkah gelt. (Jewish Journal)

-Rob Eshman sees a direct connection between Annapolis and Hanukkah. (Jewish Journal)

-But Jonathan S. Tobin says a lot of things are being loaded onto Hanukkah that have nothing to do with the holiday, and he thinks that’s a bad idea. (Jewish Exponent)

-“NPR’s annual celebration of the Jewish festival of lights continues this year with a new crop of original fiction — characters from varied walks of life find comfort and meaning in the traditions of Hanukkah. Readings by Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitzâ€? (sound files, individual stories or entire show). (NPR)

-It’s a Ladino Hanukkah with the Hip Hop Hoodios doing “Ocho Candelikas.” (YouTube)

Posted on December 6, 2007

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Jewish Autonomous Region

This entry was posted in History, Holidays on by .

JTA reports: “Officials in the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan in Siberia claim to have built the world’s largest menorah.”

Which leads me to report: Holy sh**t! There’s something called the “Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan.”

flag.gif Not only that.

This so-called JARB has a website.

Plus, its flag is similar to those I see waving from many windows in Park Slope, which indicates that this is one progressive autonomous region!

Posted on December 5, 2007

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A Letter to the Conservative Movement

This entry was posted in History on by .

Dear Conservative Movement,

I have figured out why you are dying, as many of your own leaders have lamented. The answer is simple. Just look at the findings from the 2007 Spiritual Communities Study done by the S3K Synagogue Studies Institute and Mechon Hadar:

The presence of alumni of the Conservative educational system (Schechter, Camp Ramah, USY, Nativ, JTS & Ziegler) in the more visible leadership of emergent communities has prompted many observers to see the movement as drawing primarily from the Conservative demographic heartland. Indeed, more than 40% of the respondents in this sample report Conservative upbringing in their childhood years, more than any other denomination. (MORE)

These cute little diagrams on page 15 of the report show that 46% of those in independent minyanim were raised as Conservative Jews. It’s clear. They are trying to recapture the lay-lead, inspirational services they found at Camp Ramah, USY, etc. Your own synagogues are not working for them.

Surprised? Don’t be. Walk into services at Hadar on New York’s Upper West Side, the archetype for independent minyanim, and you’ll think you’ve stepped back in time to USY International Convention 1990-something or any Ramah camp around the same time. Where do you think your own JTS rabbinical students daven on Saturday mornings? Surely not at one of your own affiliated synagogues. There are so many of them there, you’d think they were having school-sponsored classes.

So movement (if I may call you that), perhaps instead of whining about your decay, passing seemingly-contradictory papers, or overlooking lay leaders, you should pay attention to what’s going on right under your own nose. Maybe you could even think about ways in which your own programs, services, and synagogues could retain these young leaders.

Just a thought.

Love,
Meredith

Posted on December 5, 2007

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Being Cool and Jewish

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility has a new feature on its website that is a little quirky but very enlightening. “Reflecting on Cool” is a monthly column that is mean “to explore society’s fascination with “coolâ€? and how Judaism—as a religious and cultural tradition—intersects with it.”

My favorite essay so far is that of writer and editor Ruth Andrew Ellenson. She begins her piece:

Let me begin by pointing out the irony of my authorship of this article. Really folks: is there anything that ensures your status as a geek more than writing an article on Jewish coolness for Sh’ma? (MORE)

This sets the tone for a smart and dead-on analysis of the attempts to be Jewish and cool. For example, she describes the events of Jewish hipsters in way that validates the movement without over-hyping its influence:

People flocked to these events with a compelling need to find a place where it didn’t feel like a contradiction to be who they were and Jewish. Being left out of Jewish milestones and communities in their young adult life, they didn’t fit into the mold of Hebrew school/marriage/kids. In those ten nebulous years when adult selves are forming and they were living lives outside t he Jewish world, they wanted to be part of a community larger than themselves but one that didn’t compromise their individuality.

Also, let’s admit it: the gatherings were fun while still being substantive. Hence the Jewish hipster movement was born. Most importantly it was grassroots and chosen by the taker, not dictated from above. It was a choice for the chosen. And that made it cool.

The creation of this column by Sh’ma is a welcome addition to world of Jewish thought and analysis. It admits that the events of the last few years are perhaps not part of a fleeting trend, and gives a legitimate voice to those who were part of its creation.

Posted on December 4, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Rupert Murdoch Believes

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Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Entertainment Group announced today that it’s signed a deal to buy the religion and spirituality website Beliefnet.

But no need to worry, guys. MyJewishLearning.com is not joining the News Corp family.

(Though you should all feel free to pass my number on to Mr. Murdoch if he asks.)

Posted on December 4, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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