Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Different Holiday Tradition

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

All this time, I thought cookies were meant for eating.

There is a wonderful food truck near here that serves up some amazing cookies. I’ve tried a couple of them out, but nothing, and I mean, nothing compares to their peanut butter and jelly cookie sandwich. It involves two peanut butter cookies held together by peanut butter and jelly in the middle. Greatest thing ever? Yes–it’s the greatest thing ever.

But a couple of dudes have found another reason for cookies–beyond eating them. Every December these two brothers make a gingerbread cookie house that replicates a great moment in Jewish history. This year, they made a replica of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965.

The picture to the right is the finished product. But if you press on that link above you can see pictures from the entire process. It’s pretty cool, and seems fairly eatable too.

Posted on December 23, 2010

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Women Writing Torahs

This entry was posted in Life, Texts on by .

Filmmaker Sasha Perry recently traveled to Seattle to document a historic event: the completion of the first Torah scroll written by women scribes to be commissioned.

There’s a bit of history that you need to know to clarify the situation. Kadima, a Jewish community in Washington, wanted to buy a Torah written by a woman. After making inquiries, they learned that there were no Torahs written by women. So they decided to commission six women to write one.

Since the time that this Torah was commissioned, in 2003, several women have become Torah scribes (or sofrot) is and completed the writing of a Torah on their own. (In fact, one of those is Julie Seltzer, an MJL writer who bakes a different challah for every Torah portion {here’s this week’s — not that it has anything to do with the movie; it’s just independently cool}.)

Perry explains a bit of the background:

Since the time the Women’s Torah Project began, nearly 50 women have become Torah scribes, and one woman, Jen Taylor Friedman, has written 3 sefer Torahs by herself.  Not only has Kadima created a beautiful Torah for their community, they have also opened doors for women to take their places in Judaism one step further.

Now that the community has this Torah, what are they going to do with it? The next step is, of course, decorating it — other women from the community are already starting to work on the crown, mantle and yad. But really, the next big step is Shabbat — like any other Torah, they’re going to read the eternal story of our people’s history each week.

Posted on December 23, 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

The Genesis of a Cartoon

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Earlier this week, Ken Krimstein posted about how to be a Jewish cartoonist, making it as a professional, and kvetching and wining. He is the author of Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons. He’ll be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council’s Author Blog…and, if you’re in Minneapolis, catch the “live version” of his book at the JCC’s Jewish Humor festival!

Ken Krimstein has been blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council’s Author Blog. His new book, Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons, is now available.

Posted on December 23, 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

Willow Smith–Spoofed?

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

You may not have heard of Willow Smith. She is the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. She played the little girl in I Am Legend (with her dad). And she sings the hit song “Whip My Hair.” Not too bad for someone who was born in the year 2000 (AHHHH!).”

“Whip My Hair” has been featured in a number of YouTube videos–mostly in mashups with other clips (This one is my favorite). But I have yet to see a real spoof of the song–which really is a tragedy because the song is beyond absurd.

But thankfully, the Jews have come to the rescue. Mendy Pellin, whose videos have been featured on this site in the past, brings us this really crazy video that he titled, “Whip My Beard Hair.”

This thing is all kinds of crazy. One of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been around. These eyes have seen crazy. I’m going to also post the Willow Smith music video so you have SOME context–but I think it’s much more fun if you only watch that second. After you watch Mendy, you won’t know what hit you.

Posted on December 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

Jewish Gag Cartoonists

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Earlier this week, Ken Krimstein posted about making it as a professional cartoonist and kvetching and wining. He is the author of Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons. He’ll be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council’s Author Blog…and, if you’re in Minneapolis, catch the “live version” of his book at the JCC’s Jewish Humor festival!

Come back tomorrow to read more of Ken Krimstein’s work. His new book, Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons, is now available.

Posted on December 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

Inside The Haredi World

This entry was posted in History, Israel on by .

Six Haredi educational institutions are suspected of having cheated the state out of tens of millions of shekels through the use of fake ID cards for non-existent students. (Ha’aretz)

The Yerushalyim Shel Ma’ala program “brings groups of secular Jews to hareidi-religious neighborhoods and homes, smashing stereotypes and creating new bonds among Jewish groups that drifted apart over centuries.” (Virtual Jerusalem)

Although the divide between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Israeli society is ebbing, the Haredi world is the exception, as Ashkenazi Haredim seek to stay separate from “ethnically suspect and allegedly less rigorous Sephardi brethren.” (Jewish Ideas Daily)

Haredi Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum sees criticism of Eli Yishai as just arising from anti-Haredi bias. (Jerusalem Post)

Breslov spiritual leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland returns to his Jerusalem home from his hiding place in the North after 10 years of captivity, during which he says he was little more than a marionette controlled by his son and grandson. (Jerusalem Post)

An overview of how the Haredi world is fiercely fighting attempts by the government to have taught the prescribed secular studies curriculum to its 200,000 students. (Forward)

Posted on December 21, 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

Singing and Dying

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

We love Regina Spektor — I think that’s been safely established. She has this Russian lion-in-pajamas thing going on where she’s singing playful little lyrics in a soft singsongy voice, and then the moment comes (and this moment, in all her songs, it happens) — catching you by surprise, with your pants down, just when you thought it was safe to curl up next to her — and suddenly the song is all teeth and fangs, roaring down your door, throwing a wicked metaphor or a twisted simile, rocking and thrashing violently, the way only a piano player can.

It always happens, in every song. Sometimes it’s a sudden switch of language, to French and Russian in “Apres Moi,” or the drop of a delicate Jewish metaphor that you know she wrote thinking she’d be the only one to get it, but we’re here, Regina, and we’re listening, and we get it, too. And sometimes it’s just the way she leaps into the microphone, ready to eat it, and gives the song a whole new energy.

This is Regina Spektor. Her new live CD+DVD, Live in London, was just released. It has 20 tracks, including a Guns ‘n Roses cover (!) played with her string orchestra (!!). And each of those 20 songs are loaded with that moment, the moment of the bite.

I will admit to skepticism. I’m not one to fork over needed cash for an album full of songs I already have. But, along with the new material (including the song “The Call,” a beautiful track which Spektor recorded for The Chronicles of Narnia–which made me do a doubletake; a Russian Jewish indie-rock hero recording a song for a Christian-fundamentalist fairytale adaptation made by Disney, the most massive corporation there is?–but she sells out in the most graceful and cool and still-righteous way there is, and it’s a great song, and anyway, you can buy this recording and not have to give Disney any money) and the redone classics (“Eet,” above, is electric, and “Dance Anthem of the 1980s” is awe-inspiring, especially Spektor’s beatbox) all make it worth your while.

Okay. Deep breath.

But that singular spark of Spektor’s — the bite that I was talking about before — it marks this disc especially. A few weeks after this recording, Daniel Cho, Spektor’s cellist and musical director, drowned and died. And that eerie precedence fills every moment of this concert with a loaded, creepy, and beautiful foreboding. When you’re playing a song with just a piano and some strings, there’s a delicateness to the music, a sense that, if anyone were to stop playing, the song would fall apart. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this recording and this night, but I’ve been in bands before, and I know how much you’re leaning on each other at every moment. And it feels like — this night, or this moment, or something — everyone’s ready for something to break…and everyone is ready to catch each other when it does.

Posted on December 21, 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

Kvetch and Wine

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Yesterday, Ken Krimstein, the author of Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons, posted about making it as a professional cartoonist. He’ll be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council’s Author Blog.

Come back tomorrow to read more of Ken Krimstein’s work. His new book, Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons, is now available.

Posted on December 21, 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

The Strangest Top Ten

This entry was posted in History on by .

Everyone loves Top Ten lists. They are easy to read (and write!) and generally are straight to the point. No need to beat around the bush–here are ten things that you love.

But this recent Top Ten list I found is a little bit on the weird side. Let’s just say that David Letterman won’t be reading these any time soon.

What am I talking about?

The Simon Wiesenthal Center came out with the Top Ten Anti-Semitic Slurs of 2010. I’m not exactly sure why. It just seems like a weird way to cover anti-Semitism over the past year. It’s almost as though they are reflecting on the great job their company did over the last year and this is sort of a “Best Of” compilation.

But while we’re here, we might as well take a look at who made the list.

At #1, we obviously have Helen Thomas. She can be remembered for telling the Jews to get out of Palestine and return to Poland.

At #4, they feature the Palestinian Authority Deputy Minister of Information (sounds so 1984) saying that the Jews have no historical claim to the Temple Mount.

The only one I really have a problem with is former CNN host Rick Sanchez at #7. I’m pretty sure what Rick Sanchez said about Jews in the media was dumb and he has taken it back. To say that he is anti-Semitic is a bit of a stretch and really kind of unfair to a guy who is already down.

Just my two cents.

But seriously, Simon Wiesenthal, you’re above Top Ten lists.

Posted on December 20, 2010

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The Kabbalah of Love

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

A single woman got some love advice from an Israeli Kabbalist in last weekend’s New York Times:

I might have stopped being Orthodox, but its indoctrination had left me with the sense that nearly anything — God, spiritualists, healers, psychics and witches — might be equally possible. Thus I found myself in an airless Jerusalem classroom with this old rabbi, who had a white beard so long I couldn’t see his mouth and glasses so thick I couldn’t see his eyes.

And, before reciting a mystical incantation to set her up with her beloved, the kabbalist gives her some unexpected news.

Of all the things he could have said — that I wasn’t married because I didn’t pray daily, or eat kosher food, or observe the Sabbath (not to mention my nonvirginal dating habits) — a curse was the last thing I’d expected. Who would curse me? I mean, if there were such a thing as a curse.

The rest of the story (which you can read here) is both expected and unexpected. Without spoiling it too much, the kabbalist tells her that she’ll meet someone around Hanukkah time. The holiday comes and goes, and nothing happens. A year later, she meets someone. A year after that — the Hanukkah that’s just happened — they moved in together.

biala rebbe by dan sieradskiA few months ago, we hosted a Hasidic rebbe at our house. Like the kabbalist in the story, he received people in private, talked about their lives and gave blessings. Unlike the story, though, he didn’t charge anyone money — “Money is money,” the rebbe says, “and blessings are blessings. What does one have to do with the other?”

Two Israeli girls who went in there came out satisfied, like they’d gotten the exact thing they asked for. My one stodgy, rationalist friend came out a little shaken, like the Rebbe’d pulled one of his Jedi mind-reading tricks. The person who was the most excited to go in came out crying. It sounds like a collection of riddles, or stories whose answers I’ll never know, but in the moment, it was amazing — like watching one of those grainy family videos that you shouldn’t have a right to see, but you do. It really wasn’t about fortunetelling. It was about what you boil your life down to, when you’ve only got one thing to say.

(Read the rest >>)

What do you think — is asking a rebbe about your future an act of superstitiousness? Does it matter whether it is?

money is money.

Posted on December 20, 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