Author Archives: Mark Berch

About Mark Berch

Since 2002, Mark Berch has been providing Jewishly oriented web links to members of his shul (Tifereth Israel, a small Conservative synagogue in Washington DC where his family has been members for almost 40 years). In real life, he is a Patent Examiner.

Judaism & The Arts

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Increasingly, artistic works of Judaica are being housed not in Jewish institutions or self-contained collections, but rather in mainstream institutions, such as Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Royal Ontario Museum. How’s that working out? (Tablet Magazine)

A look at Michal Rovner, who may well be the best known Israeli artist in the world, and who has a colossal new exhibition (including two stone structures and four video works) spread over three different wings of the Louvre. (Ha’aretz)

Female artists from the Israel’s religious community face numerous barriers to joining the art world, but with improved educational and supportive efforts, that is starting to change. (Ha’aretz)

What should we make of the frequent use of a crucifix in the painting of Marc Chagall? (Jewish Press)

A look at Uri Lifshitz, one of the fathers and theorists of the new painting in Israeli art, who “created unfathomable amounts of prints, drawings, etchings and sculptures over 50 years” and who had a contentious relationship with the Israelis art world. (Ha’aretz)

More than a dozen Jewish women are exhibiting an amazing diversity of design and execution in a St. Louis show, “Uncommon Visions: Jewish Textile Artists.” (American Jewish World)

Patrick Stewart talks about finding more “diversity” in the character of Shylock for the Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Merchant of Venice. (Jewish Chronicle)

Posted on May 31, 2011

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

Obama, AIPAC & Republicans

This entry was posted in History, Israel on by .

The text of President Obama’s Middle-East address. (Los Angeles Times)

Akiva Eldar: “No American president or presidential candidate has ever told this large Jewish audience of supporters of Israel the truth”–including the fact that Americans will not support Netanyahu’s demand that the IDF control Palestinian territory. (Ha’aretz)

Although the “AIPAC crowd was strikingly appreciative,” David Horovitz points out that the speech included what many Israelis will regard as a problematic formulation that “there is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations.” (Jerusalem Post)

Jewish Republicans aren’t thrilled with Palin. (Chicago Jewish News)

And the Republican Jewish Coalition seems pretty alarmed about Ron Paul too. (Jewish Week)

Meet Fred Karger, the first Jewish presidential candidate for the Republican party. (Jerusalem Post)

Posted on May 23, 2011

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Synagogues & Rabbis

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Pulpit Rabbi Marci N. Bellows talks about allowing her congregation to friend her on Facebook, finding “something close to “I-Thou” moments” in the process. (Jewish Week)

The new Reform head says that most temples rely on a “please walk in, please walk in” approach, which no longer works, and that synagogues need to serve even those Jews who are not members. (Ha’aretz)

A synagogue is used as a setting for filming a book trailer for the newly-released novel, “The Unforgotten Prayer,” about a former Nazi SS officer who goes into hiding in the United States and is befriended by a young Jewish family. (Murrieta Patch)

More rabbis in the later stages of their careers are finding themselves out of work, and that’s not the only evidence that “We’re seeing the end of the rabbinate as we know it.” (Jewish Week)

It is argued that the procedures used by Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements for placing rabbis in congregations are violations of federal antitrust law, in addition to being foolish. (TabletMag)

Newsweek‘s “50 Most Influential Rabbis in America” shows a big jump in women- to 13. (Daily Beast)

The ordination of Kaya Stern-Kaufman as “rabba” raises the question of whether creating a gender for the word ‘rabbi’ is legitimate. (Jewish Week)

Posted on May 3, 2011

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

Civilized Discourse

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Do the Zionist left and Zionist right really have to keep demonizing each other? (Forward)

Says Rabbi Reuven Hammer “I am also appalled when I hear people–Jews or non-Jews–using the term “Nazi” to describe anyone or any actions. To hear Israeli policemen castigated as Nazis, as we do all too often, is beyond the pale. To call anyone a Hitler is to show a lack of sensitivity and a lack of understanding of what Hitler stood for.” (Jerusalem Post)

Rabbis and Jewish professionals increasingly are being faced with a dilemma over discussing divisive topics–especially regarding Israel , and indeed “People fear for their jobs, their professional lives if they have these conversations.” (Jewish Week)

David Newman is increasingly concerned about that Israeli society “is losing its ability to express views in an open fashion.” (Jerusalem Post)

Even in community Jewish day schools is found “the constant disagreements about the definition of “pro-Israel”…a culture in which students and teachers were criticized, even ostracized, for their positions about how to express their support.” (Forward)

Rob Eshman points to an event which did indeed, provide a pointed, but civil discourse. Part of the solution: no questions from the audience. (Jewish Journal)

But J.J. Goldberg has some real issues with pressing other people to act civilly. (Forward)

Posted on April 29, 2011

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 Languages: What’s Trending?

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

“Yeshivish” is a normal form of discourse for many Orthodox Jews in America–but could it become a new language? (Forward)

Daven is the Yiddish word meaning to pray, and there’s no end of theories on where the word came from. (On the Main Line)

Says Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: “When I speak to God, I speak to him in Yiddish, because that’s how I heard God-talk from my grandmother.” (Jerusalem Post)

A look at “Zubi!: The Real Hebrew You Were Never Taught in School,” the new phrase book of Israeli slang for English speakers. (Forward)

Israel’s Hebrew Language Academy is looking for Hebrew words for terms like “compost” and “composter” and other environmental terminology. (Ha’aretz)

Type designer Scott-Martin Kosofsky explains the creation of Le Bé, his new digitization of a beautiful 16th-century Hebrew typeface. (Tablet)

Do Israelis Speak Hebrew or Israeli? (New English Review)

Posted on March 2, 2011

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

Egypt & Israel

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Rob Eshman challenges the standard Jewish response of  “full-throated pessimism” to the events of Egypt, noting “I worry that fear and pessimism have become our go-to reaction, the birthright of every self-proclaimed Jewish “realist.”–and not just with Egypt. (Jewish Journal)

A new poll of Egyptians finds more support for, than opposition to, the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. (RealClearWorld)

Isi Leibler says Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are “soul brothers…They are identical” but Larry Derfner, thinks “Muslim Brotherhood is probably not going to take over Egypt…the movement in Egypt is dominated by democrats.” (VOA News)

Bradley Burston asks why “many of the same people on the Israeli and world Jewish right who for 30 years had derided, dismissed, and did their best to deny the peace with Egypt, suddenly voiced fears that this same peace was in danger, that it might be lost in the course of the Tahrir revolution?” (Ha’aretz)

Caroline Glick says that Obama not only has ignored the dangers posed by the Muslim Brotherhood, but even issued orders “to curtail programs aimed at developing liberal alternatives to authoritarianism and the Muslim Brotherhood,” and indeed, the “administration’s ideologically driven strategic ineptitude is evident everywhere”–notably Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)

Thomas L. Friedman reports that the White House was “thoroughly disgusted” with the “out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven [Israeli] cabinet” approach to this crisis, which was “using the opportunity to score propaganda points” and urging continued support to Mubarak. (New York Times)

Gina Nahai, herself from Iran, sees a lot of Iran in what is happening in Egypt. (Jewish Journal)

Leon Wieseltier says “the Netanyahu-Barak government has displayed gross historical irresponsibility in recent years. It has, in its relations with the Palestinians, desired only stasis and the status quo”–so now it has to deal with change in Egypt without having resolved the Palestinian matter. (New Republic)

Posted on February 14, 2011

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

Business in Israel

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Israeli companies are starting to outsource work to Palestinians.  (Ha’aretz)

“Going beyond Israel’s “Start-Up Nation” model will not be easy. The country’s business culture focuses more on dealmaking than on company-building.” (The Economist)

Israel’s economy is expected to have expanded by 4.5% in 2010, better than any estimate, and topping the OECD average of 2.7% (Ha’aretz)

Government support is being provided for a push in the “clean-tech” sector. (Ha’aretz)

Is Israel on the path of unrestrained wage increases? (Ha’aretz)

MediaMind may be the most successful Israeli company you’ve never heard of. (Israel 21C)

Posted on January 10, 2011

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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

The World of Jewish Music

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

A look at Jish, a mixed Jewish-Arab group of songsters. (Ha’aretz)

An extensive profile of Subliminal, Israel’s biggest hip-hop star. (Tablet)

Why are so many jazz musicians from Israel these days? (National Public Radio)

Patrick Jarenwattananon talks about the path some Israeli musicians have taken to Jazz in “Standout Jazz, Straight Outta Tel Aviv.” (National Public Radio)

Adrienne Cooper’s new album, “Enchanted: A New Generation of Yiddishsong” “consists entirely of material that is either brand new or significantly re-imagined Yiddish songs.” (Jewish Week)

Posted on December 7, 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 Generation Gap in American Jewry

This entry was posted in History on by .

At this year’s General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America, clear signs of the “tricky terrain” between the generations–and some efforts to bridge it. (Forward)

But Rabbi Elie Kaunfer thinks that this pitting of the “older establishment” against the “younger non-establishment” oversimplifies a more complex dynamic, in part because “it assumes that the “establishment” is a monolithic entity to be accepted or rejected.” (Jewish Week)

But are the generations able to “collude” to keep the American Jewish enterprise going? Can they, like Abraham and Isaac, walk together toward a common goal? (NJ Jewish News)

Federations are looking to use social service projects as a way to connect with youth. (Forward)

When young Jewish leaders form their own start-up groups and/or alternative prayer services, “are they rejecting the organized community, or seeking to strengthen it?” (Jewish Week)

Posted on November 15, 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