Monthly Archives: January 2010

Famous Jews You Went to Hebrew School With

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

In her last posts, Melissa Broder shared the B-Sides of her forthcoming When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Feb. 6) and conducted a “Jewish vs. Goyish litmus test” for the year in review. She is guest-blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.

jewish_authors_blog2.jpgJon Stewart
got you stoned behind the bimah.
Joe Lieberman
wouldn’t stop talking about Schindler’s List.
Kenny G.
grew misty during Oseh Shalom.
Ad-Rock
felt you up at Mike D’s parents’ house.
Gloria Steinem
took offense to the book of Genesis.
Slash
burned down the sukkah.
Rahm Emanuel
wouldn’t stop talking about Birthright.
Gene Simmons
was “very active” in youth group.
Bette Midler
aced her Torah portion.
Courtney Love
was the mean girl.
Natalie Portman
was her minyan.
Jonathon Safran Foer
wouldn’t stop talking about Elie Wiesel’s Night.
Gertrude Stein
had a “thing” for Queen Vashti.
Paula Abdul
sniffed gluesticks.
Amy Winehouse
took the teen tour by storm.
Alicia Silverstone
didn’t eat the kreplach.
Mark Chagall
wouldn’t stop talking about Mark Chagall.
Bob Dylan
ignored you.

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Melissa Broder is the author of When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother. She is the curator of the Polestar Poetry Series and the Chief Editor of La Petite Zine. She is the winner of the Jerome Lowell Dejur Award and the Stark Prize for Poetry. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and is currently in the MFA program at the CCNY. By day, she works as a literary publicist. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including: Opium, Shampoo, Conte and The Del Sol Review. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website at http://www.melissabroder.com/. She will be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.

Posted on January 27, 2010

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

How Much Do You Know About Tu Bishvat?

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

tu bishvat quiz I know 85% of everything there is to know about Tu Bishvat. Not bad. Back when I was at McGill, an 85% was an A. How do I know this? How can I quantify my knowledge about a holiday? It’s simple. I took the new MJL quiz on Tu Bishvat.

You might be thinking to yourself, how does someone who works for MyJewishLearning get 15% of the answers wrong. I think I can answer that. IT’S NOT EASY! Do you know what tree is traditionally planted when a baby boy is born? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The best part about the quiz is that you can take it over and over again. That’s right, the questions change every time you do it. Technology has come a long way people.

Enjoy and Happy Early Tu Bishvat!

Posted on January 26, 2010

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

B-Sides with Melissa Broder

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Melissa Broder, author of the forthcoming When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother (February 6th), is guest-blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council. Visit her website at www.melissabroder.com.

jewish_authors_blog2.jpgIn editing my first book, When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother, some of the poems in the first drafts inevitably got whacked. Many of the dead poems were indeed dreck, but there are two that I can’t bear to part with. I want to see them published along with their brothers and sisters.

If my book was 9 ½ Weeks, then this would be the director’s cut. If it was Curb Your Enthusiasm, these would be the outtakes. I give them to you now:

Chalk
When the New England college towns get bombed
we are writing papers on the French
cubist poets through feminist lenses.

We students always come at such moments
slantwise because we have access to books
and books, plus Ritalin and Vicodin
prescriptions that make the moments
malleable and space and time
the muckamuck of debate clubs, but now
there is one lone reality
no matter what Pierre Reverdy says.

Sirens and smoking fires, professors
sick and flailing like licorice whips.

First we think of ourselves, as we’ve
always done, and how we jabbered on
about revolution and taking
down The Man. But we are The Man,
ninny nincompoops. The revolution
is on us. This is how people get thrust
onto inward journeys they don’t want.

Still, we make vows to see all things
fresh from now on. If we make it out
we’ll show love for calculus, pop quizzes,
red meat, the country music scene,
Young Republicans, frosted lips,
estranged relatives, marketing glitz,
and near-victories in extra innings.

Sirens and smoking fires, student body
president is leaving his body.

Now we understand why men live in shacks
with cans of baked beans and skinny dogs.
This is what Montana was built for.

This is when we ask ourselves what we did
wrong. Were we truculent? Pugnacious?
Bellicose? Inimical? Martial?

We only complained about bad smells
that were our bad smells; We only got blind
drunk and schooled here; only ate the bread
and purchased the makes and models.

We only disposed of what was
disposable and then disposed of the rest.

California Musts
All week your sister was in town and it went like this:
you setting perfect moods on too-many excursions

and her nodding: Good. A joint for Jimi Hendrix
on Haight-Ashbury, a pipe for Joni Mitchell

in Muir Woods, bong hits in the backseat at Baker Beach
with Janis Joplin. She liked it the way civilians

who are not on the run always like California,
which is to say she appreciated the landscape

but felt no compulsion to stay. Then there was you,
3000 miles from home and still on a tear

through the woods over Sutro Heights, worried she wouldn’t
see the city through your eyes, calling out to her

behind you: Here’s the thing about San Francisco!
One minute you’re in a magic forest and the next

you’re at a fine restaurant. Even when your slick flats
hit the roots of a craggy Eucalyptus and you

fell into a wet patch of flowering succulents
you did not simply lay back and watch the sky spinning

over you. There was too much thereness there to relax.
And what after? After, the sweet bud would stop working

altogether and you’d reach out for whiskey
and Xanax, in thick spindles of blackout timezone,

to calibrate your metronome with the West coast
where the ocean forces you to stop running places

and run in place. East coast you would bubble up
inside, and when it hit skin you’d twitch. You’d call

your sister on New Years Eve and say: I bet you’re lit,
this is the night for amateurs.
You’d be lit too.

when_you_say_one_thing.JPG
Melissa Broder is the author of When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother. She is the curator of the Polestar Poetry Series and the Chief Editor of La Petite Zine. She is the winner of the Jerome Lowell Dejur Award and the Stark Prize for Poetry. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and is currently in the MFA program at the CCNY. By day, she works as a literary publicist. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including: Opium, Shampoo, Conte and The Del Sol Review. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her websites at http://polestarpoetry.com/, http://lapetitezine.org/, and http://www.melissabroder.com/. She will be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.

Posted on January 26, 2010

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

Organic Kosher Cookbook: A Cookbook Review

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

A few months ago I heard some friends raving about a new Jewish cookbook, “The Organic Kosher Kitchen.” I’m a nut for good new cookbooks, and I’ve been working hard to make sure that I cook healthy and mostly organic food, so this seemed right up my alley. Aviva Allen, a nutritionist and chef in Toronto is the author of both The Organic Kosher Cookbook, and The Organic Kosher Cookbook: Holiday Edition, and she sent me a copy of the Holiday Edition to try out.

organic_kosher_cookbook.jpegThis past Shabbat I made three recipes from the cookbook for my Friday night meal. First, I made a fig and date spread from her section on Tu Bishvat. This was a huge hit–easy to make, and a really delicious spread on challah. I will definitely be making this recipe again, not just during Tu Bishvat season, but anytime I am looking for something sweet and fruity.

Then I made a leek, zucchini and potato soup. I was excited about this recipe because it seemed very similar to one of my favorite easy soup recipes and while it did have many similarities to my old standard, I found it really needed a lot more kick, so after it was done cooking I did a fair amount of seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, some garlic powder, a hint of red pepper, and some oregano. At that point it was really delicious (so much so that one of my guests asked if he could take some home).

Finally, I made some sautéed green beans with garlic and lemon juice. I love green beans but I usually steam them and then add some spices and sesame seeds (like in this easy recipe). Aviva’s take had me sautéing the beans with some garlic and lemon juice. The results were definitely yummy, but not as crunchy as I usually like my green beans. That was probably my fault, not the recipe’s, but in general I think I prefer steaming. I will definitely be using the garlic and lemon combination on my green beans in the future, though–it was a nice bright flavor.

Over all I like the cookbook for its simple recipes and innovative ideas. I also like that every recipe is dairy-free (perfect for making meat meals on Shabbat and holidays) and that the recipes are listed by holiday. I wouldn’t say this is a great beginner cookbook, because my sense was some of these recipes will need to be substantially seasoned to taste, but if you already know your way around the kitchen and are looking for some fresh new ideas featuring organic produce that will match nicely with the Jewish calendar, this is definitely the cookbook for you.

You can order your own copy at AvivaAllen.com and you can also see some sample recipes there, too. I think I’m going to try the lemon lentil soup, next. Yum!

Posted on January 25, 2010

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

Jewish vs Goyish

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Melissa Broder, author of the forthcoming When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother (February 6th), is guest-blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council. Visit her website at www.melissabroder.com.

rabbi niles goldsteinAllow me to excavate my favorite Lenny Bruce schtick — the Jewish vs. Goyish litmus test — and apply it to some of the cultural, uh, gems of our time.

Remember, in Bruce-speak, Jewish and Goyish do not depict the religion of a person, place or thing, but rather, connote an essence.

All apologies Mr. Bruce.

Conan is Goyish and Jay Leno is Jewish.
Gossip Girl is Goyish (save for Dan Humphrey and Henri Bendel—they’re big-time Jewish).
Mad Men? Goyish. (Though Burt Cooper is Jewish.)
Dancing with the Stars? Jewish.
Idol? Goysville.
MTV’s Jersey Shore must be taken piecemeal. Snooki, Sammi “Sweetheart” and The Situation are Jewish. J-WOWW, Ronnie and Vinny are Goyish. Pauly D is Goyish, but his haircare is Jewish.
The Biggest Loser is very, very Jewish.
Twitter and Facebook are both Jewish.
The Kindle is Goyish.
iPhone? Goyish.
Blackberry? Jewish.
BPA-free water bottles are Goyish.
The Underwear Bomber is Goyish (but his underwear are Jewish).
Healthcare Reform is Jewish. (Sorry Lieberman.)
Bailouts are also Jewish.
John and Kate are both Goyish.
The Octomom is Jewish.
Brangelina is Goyish (but her lips are Jewish).
Brittany Murphy was Jewish in Clueless, but turned Goyish with Ashton and the weight loss. Simon Monjack, however, is Jewish.
Charlie Sheen is Jewish. Brooke Burke is Goyish (though technically Jewish).
Bernie Madoff is Jewish, but his sons are Goyish.
Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren are a pair of golfin’ Goys.
Taylor Swift? Goyish.
Carrie Underwood? Goyoyoy.
Lady Gaga? Jewish.
Beyonce and Jay-Z make a nice Jewish couple.
Rihanna, yeah, I was basically Bat Mitzvahed with her.
Twilight series? Goyish.
The Hangover? Jewish.
Julie and Julia is Jewish as a kreplach.
Avatar is Goyish.
Michael Jackson is — discuss.

when_you_say_one_thing.JPG
Melissa Broder is the author of When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother. She is the curator of the Polestar Poetry Series and the Chief Editor of La Petite Zine. She is the winner of the Jerome Lowell Dejur Award and the Stark Prize for Poetry. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and is currently in the MFA program at the CCNY. By day, she works as a literary publicist. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including: Opium, Shampoo, Conte and The Del Sol Review. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website at http://www.melissabroder.com/. She will be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.

Posted on January 25, 2010

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

Putting God Back into Schools: Artists & Musicians for Israel

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

There’s a new type of kiruv going on in Israel. Kiruv, which literally means “bringing something close,” refers to religious outreach. It usually calls to mind pictures of dancing rabbis pouring out of vans, putting tefillin on people’s arms and giving out Shabbat candles.

Yehuda Katz and the people behind Artists and Musicians for Israel, have something different in mind. For one thing, they’re all creatives — Katz himself, the founder of AMI, is a guitarist and singer for the hippie-religious-rock band Reva l’Sheva. Other AMI leaders include kabbalistic photographer Eliyahu Alpern, Torah scribe Shoshana Gugenheim, and a bunch of different artists. Their stated goal is to engage the next generation — that is, classes of kids and show them, from a personal level, why Israel and Judaism are cool.

All the A’s and M’s of AMI are Israeli, and most of their work is done in Israeli schools, but they’ve just started running programs in the United States as well — curiously enough, in schools and synagogues of all denominations. We spoke to Katz about his programs, his coworkers, rock and roll and religion, and what it’s like to inspire kids … both on the stage and off.

yehuda katz of reva l'sheva

MJL: When did the big transition away from religious education in Israeli secular schools begin? I remember even in the early ’90s, they were teaching Tanakh in schools…

Yehuda Katz: I have had the zchut [merit] to live in Eretz Yisrael since mid-1993. I specifically remember a time within a few years after our arrival that there was a clear cut move away from require Tanach and other Jewish content matter from the school curriculum. I can not specify the extent of the drawback. I do know that I have read numerous articles about the lack of knowledge of Tanach with today’s Israeli teens, as opposed to people who are today in their 40s and older, where something written in Torah was seen as an indelible part of “our” history.

Is your program designed more to bring music to kids who are already up on their Judaism, or to bring Judaism to kids who already like music? Does kiruv ever happen in the other direction?

Our program is designed to bring an identity with a specific lesson and character in Judaism to the less-knowledgeable student by using music and art as means of touching their hearts — which, in turn, asks them to look inside their souls and try to understand how and why they connect to the message.
We do so using creative tasks that allow the student to express themselves as Jews through the creation of new art forms such as lyric writing, composition, drawing, and dramatic presentations.

What does a regular workshop look like? Do you initially call up a school, or do schools come to you?

A number of Mechinot have contacted us. Their staff, while very strong at teaching challenging and inspiring intellectual Jewish content, have felt at a loss to touch the neshamot [souls] of their students. We try to fill that role for them. We try to help students answer the question, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about who I really am?”

We work with school staff to choose the workshops that should be most appropriate for their student body. All of our workshops in high schools are built around Jewish holiday s tot offer a different perspective of the Jewish calendar then what non-dati [religious] students are accustomed to.

A workshop includes both contact and creativity where the student is challenged to look inside himself and to offer a forum for self-expression where there are no wrong answers.


Are chilonim ever skeptical to or hostile about your programs? Do people worry about you guys making their kids religious?

The bottom line for us is to really care about each student that we come in contact with, and to talk to them, to the place where they are. Both the music and art pieces are utilized in a similar way — as means for students to express themselves artistically after they have discussed content that may be totally new to them as Jews and Israelis.

As we are not trying to make kids religious, people are less skeptical because they don’t detect a hidden agenda, which obviously, does not exist.

On a whole we have found a tremendous desire among young Israeli students who are seeking answers to questions like, who are we? Why did our parents commit to life in Israel? Why does one segment of the population seem to have a monopoly on Jewish literary treasures like the Torah? How can I be a part of helping make our country and society more truthful and honest?

Artists and Musicians for Israel is currently booking for schools. You can find out more about them at Artists.org.il.

Posted on January 25, 2010

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

Best of the Week

This entry was posted in General on by .

Yeah!!! The week is over! Party at my apartment! DJ Pauly D will be spinning house tunes all night long!

(I wish.)

I’m happy to report that I really like the newest episode of The Adventures of Todd & God. I especially like the beginning, middle, and end. How about you?

Tu Bishvat is the holiday of the hippies. Dirty, dirty hippies. Don’t ever have a Tu Bishvat Seder. Ever. Okay, I’m lying. It isn’t just for hippies (and hippies aren’t necessarily dirty). And this new article shows that the seder can be fun for anyone. Seriously.

Finally, we have two new articles about the Jews in Morocco and Rome. That’s two separate communities. But I propose someone writes an article about Roman Jews living in Morocco. Or Moroccan Jews living in Rome. Or, Moroccan who speak Italian. Or! Oh, I’m being cut off.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted on January 22, 2010

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

In the Dark

This entry was posted in Texts on by .

Tomorrow at shul we’re going to read about the final three plagues: locust, darkness, and the death of the firstborn.

While the death of the firstborn is obviously horrific, darkness has always been the most fascinating plague to me. It’s such a simple thing, and yes it’s easy to understand how terrifying it would be to be thrust into utter darkness for days at a time.

Rashi says two interesting things: first that the darkness was like a heavy blanket that went over everything in Egypt, freezing people in their places, and second, that the darkness was really an excuse for God to kill off all the Israelites who didn’t deserve to get out of Egypt. Why kill them during the darkness? So the Egyptians wouldn’t see Israelites dying and think to themselves, “They’re suffering just like us.”

There’s a lot to say and think about this, and it’s been covered pretty comprehensively by Biblical commentators of all stripes, so I’ll just leave you with Nina Simone.

Posted on January 22, 2010

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

Wise Fridays: To Say or Not to Say

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the reception on your WiFri

Just as you are commanded to say something that will be obeyed, you are commanded not to say anything when you know you will not be obeyed. –Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 65b

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on January 22, 2010

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

Adventures of Todd & God: How to Go Green

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

When we last saw Todd & God, they were throwing down some cool house tunes while putting up a mezuzah. But if you thought that was the last you saw of that crazy odd couple, you were wrong. Dead wrong.

In this episode of Todd & God, God appears before Todd in the form of former Vice President Al Gore to teach Todd the Jewish values of being environmentally conscious. Which brings me up to another point before you go on and watch the video. In the Bible, when God appears before his prophets, it is usually in the form of a dream. The main exception to this rule was, of course, Moses whom God spoke with directly.

Do you see where I’m going? Is Todd the reincarnation of Moses? Is Todd a prophet? Will Todd lead us to redemption? Will the next episode feature Todd hitting a rock while complaining about his followers? Did I just blow your mind?

No? Well, watch the video anyways.

Posted on January 22, 2010

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