Monthly Archives: March 2008

Oy, Spitzer

This entry was posted in History on by .

What’s the Jewish angle on the Eliot Spitzer debacle? Gawker helps us out under the title “Shanda fur die Goyim”:

And he could have been the first Jewish president! Eliot Spitzer, (still) governor of New York State, is weighing his resignation following his tryst with a shiksa prostitute. Though the idea of a Jewish president is great, let’s be real: The guy was way too bald to ever make it into the Oval Office, regardless of his foreskin status. Some have blamed the Portnoy’s Complaint instinct for this mess, but honestly, if this affair shows anything, it’s that Jews are just like any other politicians, only occasionally more so.

MORE…

Posted on March 11, 2008

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

H-taschen

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

I was doing some research into Purim foods earlier today, when I came across a site addressing the etymology behind those cute little triangle cookies filled with jelly:

It is that time of the year again, when every kosher bakery and Jewish home is filled with that great Purim delicacy called the h—-tasch. As I pointed out last year, it is so absurd that we name a Purim gastronomic centerpiece after the arch villain who wanted to destroy the Jews, and for whom the obligation “timheh et zekher Amalek…” (obliterate the memory of Amalek) surely applies.

We got to this via an unfortunate error. A tasch is a pocket. The Purim pocket symbolized the essence of the Purim miracle as being of the camouflaged variety. It was a miracle cased in an unusual, intriguing, but nevertheless non-miraculous story. In Purim, what you get is much more than what you see.

In the tasch, you likewise get more than what you see. Since seeds, or “mann,” were involved in the fateful meal, filling the pockets with “mann” was not an unusual way to celebrate on Purim. These pockets were called mantaschen. In Hebrew, when referring to “the mantasch,” the word used would be “ha-mantasch.”

From this derived the mistaken reference to all taschen as hamantashen. It is a serious error, because every time we refer to this delicacy, we give undeserved, even if unintended honor to an evil person.

There is no precedent for us doing this with any other villain in Jewish history. It is a mistake that we would be well served to correct. Our bakery in Ottawa does not sell h—-taschen. But they do sell prune-taschen, man-taschen, blueberry-taschen, etc. (MORE)

Hamantaschen no more folks. It is the food that shall not be named.

Posted on March 11, 2008

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

The Holocaust in the Arts & Education

This entry was posted in History on by .

-Tony Judt argues, “We have attached the memory of the Holocaust so firmly to the defense of a single country—Israel—that we are in danger of provincializing its moral significance…But it is not just about Germans and it is not just about Jews….The problem of evil —of totalitarian evil, or genocidal evil —is a universal problem.� (The New York Review of Books)

-The Israel Museum opens two exhibitions of “orphaned” paintings and artifacts looking for owners. (The Jerusalem Post)

-Display of looted art. (Associated Press)

-A new book causes Michael Berenbaum to make “a plea. Treat your parents’ documents as potentially precious. When in doubt, don’t throw them out, but ask for help. You may have a historical treasure in your hands. …For a historical understanding of the Holocaust to be more complete, more whole, we must document the lives lived by the victims — not only the moments of crisis, but the daily life.â€? (Jewish Journal)

-David Marwell, director of New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Michael Berenbaum, who served on the board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and others discuss the difficulty of introducing children to the Holocaust. (The Jewish Week)

-And Susan Dominus interviews a variety of experts on the same topic. (New York Times)

-French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed that primary school Holocaust education include having each child identify with a Holocaust victim. The idea stirs much opposition. (Haaretz)

-Barbara Wind talks about the challenge to educators in combating Holocaust fatigue. (NJ Jewish News)

-The new Holocaust film The Counterfeiters “asks disturbing questions more commonly found in the survivor literature of Primo Levi or Bruno Bettelheimâ€? — notably, how much accommodation of evil is permitted in order to stay alive? (The Village Voice)

-And an interview with the Auschwitz inmate-turned-counterfeiter, whose story the film is based on. (NJ Jewish Standard)

-A new book considers whether Reszo Kasztner was a hero of the Holocaust or a Nazi collaborator. (Forward)

Posted on March 11, 2008

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

Exodus & Revolution

This entry was posted in Holidays, Texts on by .

MyJewishLearning.com is co-sponsoring a pre-Passover six-part class on Michael Walzer’s Exodus and Revolution along with AJWS, AVODAH, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Encounter, Uri L’Tzedek, Mechon Hadar, and JFREJ.

For those of you in New York, here’s the info:

Dates: Weekly, starting on Wednesday March 12th and ending on Wednesday, April 16th (March 12th, 19th, and 26th and April 2nd, 9th, and 16th).

Time: 7pm-9pm – Location: Hebrew Union College @ 1 W4th Street, New York NY

Exodus and Revolution, by Michael Walzer, traces the dynamics of revolution, redemption and liberation through the biblical story of the Israelites leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. It also examines later retellings of Exodus by diverse groups including classical rabbinic interpreters and political actors who used the story as the rallying point for their own revolutionary struggles – from African American resistance to slavery and Jim Crow, to the British and French Revolutions, to the guerilla liberators of various Latin American countries.

Over the course of 6 weeks together, we will unpack Exodus and Revolution through intensive learning in chevrutah (in pairs) and through facilitated discussions that will be guided by some of NYC’s leading scholars and activists.

You will have a chance to learn with and from a roster of inspiring rabbis and social justice educators, including:

Aaron Dorfman (Director of Education, American Jewish World Service)

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer (Co-Founder and Executive Director, Mechon Hadar)

Rabbi David Rosenn (Founder and Executive Director, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps)

Daniel Septimus (Editor in Chief, MyJewishLearning.com)

Dara Silverman (Executive Director, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice)

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub (Co-Founder and North American Director, Encounter)

Shmuly Yanklowitz (Co-Founder, Uri L’Tzedek)

Rabbi Brent Spodek, the Marshall T. Meyer Fellow at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, will open and close the series by teaching the introduction and conclusion. Teams of rabbis and educators (including those listed above) will teach the four chapters in between.

RSVP: Audrey Sasson at 212.792.2871 or asasson@ajws.org or asasson@avodah.net.

Posted on March 10, 2008

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

Third Intifada?

This entry was posted in History on by .

This article from The Christian Science Monitor, asks whether a Third Intifada is brewing?

Which caused me to ask, when did the Second one end?

According to the article, in 2004. Any one else heard of this?

Wikipedia says it’s still going strong, and I think the events of the Middle East pretty much back up that claim.

Posted on March 10, 2008

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

Judy Blume

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

For multiple generations now, adolescent girls have sought the guidance of author Judy Blume in navigating the world of becoming a teenager.

There was a time when every seemingly every bat mitzvah speech began with “Are You There God, It’s Me (Fill in your name)?”

This month, Moment speaks with the author about her accomplishments and her Judaism.

Posted on March 7, 2008

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

What to Do About Hamas

This entry was posted in History on by .

-Nahum Barnea says Israel has only two options, both “dreadful …either reoccupy Gaza or talk with Hamas.� (Ynet)

-The former CIA R. James Woolsey, Jr., right, explains why “The chances that Israel and the Palestinians will reach an agreement are close to nil.� (The Canadian Jewish News)

-Gershon Baskin, Nehemia Shtrasler, Jerome M. Segal, and Alex Sinclair respectively make the case for negotiating with Hamas. (Haaretz & The Jerusalem Post)

-Which is better — keeping tabs on terrorist leaders, or killing them? (Haaretz)

-Vanity Fair reports “confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials� show that shortly after Hamas’s election victory, Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams “backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza …Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.� (Vanity Fair)

-A look at the report of a Palestinian Authority investigative committee, which investigated the capture of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007, and what it implies for “answering the practical question today of whether to conduct negotiations with Hamas.� (Haaretz)

-Edward Walker, a former ambassador to Israel and to Egypt, makes the case that a “properly constructed U.N. force could take the pressure off Egypt, talk directly with Hamas and relieve the economic pressure on all Gazans at the same time as it reduced the threat of more sophisticated arms� trickling into Gaza. (Forward)

-And IDF officials are also pushing the idea of a multinational force in the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz)

Posted on March 7, 2008

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

Terror strikes Jerusalem

This entry was posted in History on by .

This story is just starting to make its way into the American news headlines. I’m sure there will be more to come:

While Israel’s eyes were focused on the security threat from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, terrorism struck in the heart of the Jewish state.

A gunman stormed into the Yeshivat Mercaz Harav complex in west Jerusalem late Thursday, mowing down students who had gathered in the dining room for the traditionally intensive pre-Shabbat classes.

Medical officials put the death toll at eight, with at dozens wounded, several critically. (MORE)

Posted on March 6, 2008

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

Synagogues & Rabbis

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

-Rabbis find they need to choose their political roles, if any, with care. (Washington Jewish Week)

-A look at the varied paths that brought 4 people to become cantors. (The Jewish Week)

-The new Reform siddur Mishkan T’filah seems to be going over well in San Francisco Temples — even though it contains no directions whatsoever. (J.)

-For Rabbi Berl Lazar, chief rabbi of Russia, who “enjoys President Vladimir Putin’s trust and “is backed by billionaire Lev Leviev … these are good times.â€? But there are delicate issues for him to deal with, and there is resentment about his monopoly. (Haaretz)

Posted on March 6, 2008

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

Fake Memoirs

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

Fake memoirs are all the rage. James Frey was never was alone, and he’s gotten more company recently.

Margaret B. Jones’ Love and Consequences, which was published last week and supposedly described the author’s experiences as a foster child living the gang life in Los Angeles was just revealed to be the work of Margaret Seltzer who was raised by her natural parents in relatively well-off Sherman Oaks.

This on the heals of a much more disturbing revelation: Misha Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years supposedly written by a Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent the war years wandering through Europe with a pack of wolves was actually written by Monique De Wael a non-Jewish Belgian woman who spent the war years in relative safety (though her parents were, indeed, killed by the Nazis).

Blake Eskin has an excellent article in Slate about why it took so long to refute Defonseca’s story, and Eskin was the right man to write the piece. He wrote a book about Binjamin Wilkomirski’s Fragments, perhaps the most famous fake Holocaust memoir.

Of course, given the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, fake Holocaust memoirs are particularly troubling, as they lend support to the revisionists.

In light of the most recent revelations, the LA Times has published a list of memorable literary hoaxes and, interestingly, it includes another controversial Holocaust book: Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird.

Kosinski, one of the most fascinating literary figures of the second half of the 20th century, actually published The Painted Bird as a novel, but he did imply that it was based on his Holocaust-era experiences.

A few years ago I wrote an article about the strange case of Kosinski’s book:

Grumblings about Kosinski’s strange behavior — including possible sexual misbehavior — and charges of plagiarism had swirled around Kosinski for years, but in 1982, the Village Voice published an expose revealing that The Painted Bird did not authentically reflect Kosinski’s experiences during the war. The Voice also publicized the research of Barbara Tepa, whose doctoral dissertation showed that extensive sections of Kosinski’s work were taken from Polish sources unlikely to be encountered by English-speaking readers. Kosinski was also charged with hiring uncredited editors to write much of his books. Most of these findings were confirmed by James Park Sloan in his 1996 biography of Kosinski, though the writer’s disgrace and despair was by this time long consummated.

Kosinski committed suicide in 1991 at the age of 58.

You can find the rest of the article here.

Posted on March 5, 2008

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

Privacy Policy