Our friends Stereo Sinai — who we’ve gushed about on Jewniverse, and who you can pick up a free mp3 by here — have just posted a new video. It’s a love story about a pair of skates. It’s a really clever video. At first you think it’s just a random slideshow of beautiful Instagrams, but then it starts to surprise you.
This is hilarious: Imagine there’s a Jewish day school called Chagwartz. And imagine that their biggest donor, Lucius Malfoyberg, suddenly withdraws his support. What will the headmaster, Rabbi Dumbledore, do??
Here’s a brilliant take on it:
Our friend (and sometimes hilarious columnist) (sometimes-columnist, not sometimes-hilarious) Ken Gordon made this video. (And, for another take on the Harry Potter legend, check out this article I wrote about an eon ago: Chaim Potterovich and the Sorcerer’s Kiddish. Wherein I debate the real relationship between Kiddish and Quidditch, naturally…
Tuesday night is Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees. To celebrate it, our great friend and supporter Edgar Bronfman wrote about road-tripping with his brother Charles. Just the idea of the two of them on a let’s-discover-America campaign is brilliant and otherworldly, like an Easy Rider of Robin Hood-type do-gooders instead of druggies, but his essay makes some great points for American conservation — and for insisting that conservation is both (a) spiritual and (b) have some pretty strong roots in the Jewish religious tradition.
In all seriousness, it’s a great story with a great message. Check it out in the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” blog — and, while you’re there, check out my post for their blog as well, if you want to) :
When I was about to turn 21, and my brother Charles was 19, we took a road trip across the United States. As young Canadians, we were eager for an adventure through the American West. We experienced the stunning vistas of Utah, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the great redwoods of Yosemite National Park in California. It was a formative experience for me, and solidified my love of this country which I have called home for nearly my entire adult life.
It’s no coincidence that my love of America blossomed as I witnessed its natural wonders and vast open spaces. There is a deep beauty to be enjoyed in the magnificence of nature which leaves us humbled, and aware of how all life is interconnected. There is nothing more authentically spiritual for me than witnessing nature in its glory and power—when it is beautiful, and even when we are imperiled by it.
For someone whose life is writing on the Internet, Patrick Aleph still has a lot of secrets.
Aside from running the alterna-Torah site PunkTorah, the “online minyan” OneShul, the collection The G-d Project, and a bunch of other sites, Aleph is an astoundingly prolific blogger and YouTube video-maker. As a convert, his perspective on Judaism — and on Jews — is that of both an insider and outsider, and his observations on Jewish life and belief are often reflective of that. The things he loves, he loves. And the things he finds disquieting or hard to swallow — well, he doesn’t have any hesitation about making note of that, either.
If you’ve never encountered Aleph before, or if there’s too much of his stuff out in the universe for you to know where to start, here’s a great place. He’s just released — for free — an e-book collection of his writings, titled, appropriately, PunkTorah, named after both his punk do-it-yourself principles and his website. The two dozen or so essays touch on everything from the actual nuts-and-bolts of Jewish practice to the more aesthetic and eschatological wtf-nesses of belief (how weird is it that we believe in an intangible, invisible G-d who doesn’t actively interact with humanity, anyway?). And he really isn’t afraid to break boundaries or mess around with tradition: In one piece, Patrick talks about working with queer Jews, self-proclaimed Jews who’ve neither traditionally converted nor been born into the religion. And the next piece is titled “Everything I Needed To Know I Learned From Chabad.”
Actually, his essays are almost all amazingly-titled. OK, let me just give you my five favorites:
* Indie Rock Is My Shacharit Siddur
* Walgreens and Tempeh Reubens Brought Me Closer To God
* Star Wars and Andy Warhol: PunkTorah’s Non-Jewish Influences
* Diary of An Angry Convert
Full disclosure: Patrick cites me in a few of the essays. But I didn’t remember that until after I was almost finished writing this, and I still think it’s a pretty damn great book. And it’s free, so you aren’t wasting any money — or any trees, for that matter.
Hanukkah started last night, and one candlelighting, one family Hanukkah party, and one early-morning Hallel later, I’m channeling the spirit strong. And actually enjoying the Hanukkah music, which is weird. Didn’t Jewish music used to be incredibly cheesy?
Instead of looking at Jewish music videos as a competition — which one will score more hits, the new Jon Stewart video or our own beloved Mayim’s beloved Maccabeats — I’ve just decided to look at the whole YouTube results page for “Hanukkah” as a playlist made for me by the entire universe. (And, of course, the plethora of free Hanukkah music would be like a stocking stuffer from the universe.) But here are some of our favorite late-arriving videos:
“8 Nights,” by Naomi Less and Glenn Grossman (and visual artist Andrea Ausztrics)
Danny Raphael’s clever, tricky comic-book (excuse us, “graphic novel”)-styled rendition of the Hanukkah story:
And, just to kick the old-school jam, here’s Bible Raps & MyJewishLearning’s collaboration, “Light Is In the Air”:
If you’re getting ready for Hanukkah — lighting candles? doing seasonal meditation? throwing a party? — and you need the perfect soundtrack, please let me be the first to encourage you to check out our collection of free holiday mp3s!
That said, sometimes you just need some original music. Partly to combat all the Christmas songs that the radio’s playing, and partly just because this is a really awesome holiday that gets all the wrong kind of press. Here are a few:
This really sweet duet from The Wellspring is a Hanukkah song without actually being a Hanukkah song. It’s really cute, but it’s also thoughtful and clever, and its lyrics hug the boundary between “aw, cute winter song” and “oh! I know they’re secretly talking about Hanukkah.” (The track costs 99 cents to download…but, once you do, you can download their whole debut album for free, so it’s really a bargain. And cool.)
Our friends at G-dcast have another free mp3, the soundtrack to their Hanukkah episode, by the band DeLeon. First watch the movie. Then go and download it from G-dcast’s page (at the bottom, click the “mp3″ box).
And then there’s my band, Chibi Vision. Here’s our Hanukkah single:
And then Raymond Simonson, one of the geniuses behind Limmud UK, wrote this plea on his Facebook wall. (Warning to my editor: There is British spelling.)
Please please please, before you go and post any ‘hilarious’ Channukah parody video clips, watch this and ask yourself, ‘is the clip I’m about to post even close to being as funny and brilliant as this?” If the answer is “NO”* please do me a huge favour and don’t post it!
And this is the clip he posted:
Do you have any favorite Hanukkah songs? Anything we left out? Let us know!
What’s your way of giving tzedakah?
* What are the recipients ?
* Why are these places a priority for us?
* How do we contribute to their tzedakah — monetarily, in volunteering, or are there other ways?
Just in time for Hanukkah, AJWS is launching a related campaign, Got Gelt? It’s geared for middle school students, but adaptable for most ages including adults. Got Gelt? is fire for discussions for families and Jewish educators during a time of year when many people are focused on material gifts — and it helps us keep the focus on what’s important.
It’s that time of year — MyJewishLearning.com is conducting our annual campaign. We have a bit of an unusual request: We only want two bucks. Of course, if you can give more, that’s fine (and splendid! and awesome!).
Here’s the deal.
If everyone contributed who’s used a recipe or found a new favorite Jewish band or discovered some amazing Jewish teaching on our site, then we’d be swimming in $2 bills. Enough bills to keep providing you said recipes, culture, and teachings.
We’re a non-profit, so we rely on support like yours every year.
So, please — open your hearts, reach into your pocketbooks, and give! You don’t have to reach deep. Because even two bucks will help — and, together, all of your $2s will keep MyJewishLearning bringing you all your favorite Jewish things.
So yesterday was Halloween, a holiday that causes me no end of consternation.
You know how the Official Jewish Community is always talking about being Jewish on Christmas, and feeling peer pressure, and not knowing how to deal with it? Well, Christmas is easy to ignore — all my non-Jewish friends are non-Christian anticapitalist anarchists of the Occupy Wall Street variety, anyway — but Halloween is not. Creepy music! Costumes! The macabre! Back before I was religious, it was a religious holiday.
Yesterday, the Kveller staff asked me for any Jewish-related Halloween memories. I started writing something. Then I changed my mind and drew it as a cartoon instead. You can read the whole thing over at their blog, if you want. Can I recommend that you do? I’m pretty proud of it.
Besides being one of our our favorite guest bloggers, Lavie Tidhar is a great science fiction author. His books hop the realm between thoughtfully philosophical and totally bizarre. He also captures — maddeningly, hilariously well — a provocative secular Israeli‘s take on religious culture (did I mention he was Israeli?). And, with a little bit of the science fiction, a little bit of the irreverent, and more than a little tongue-in-cheekness, Mr. Tidhar just sent us the cover to his latest book, Jesus and the Eightfold Path:
I kind of can’t believe this actually exists. That it’s a book (with words inside! pages! chapters!) and not a joke. Or maybe it’s that, too. But it’s just been released, and apparently, it is real. Wow. That’s all I can say. And, maybe, “Jesus!”