Category Archives: Texts

Wise Fridays: Abolish Wars

This entry was posted in History, Texts on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“It is hard to do justice to the originality of men who, in the eighth century BCE, untutored by the horrors of two world wars with poison gas and atom bombs, and without the frightening prospect of still more fearful weapons of destruction, insisted that war is evil and must some day be abolished, and that all peoples must learn to dwell together in peace.”

Walter Kaufmann

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Posted on March 11, 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

Win a Gorgeous Jewish Cookbook!

This entry was posted in Culture, Texts on by .

Here at MJL we are very proud of our frequent contributor and generally awesome friend Leah Koenig, whose cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen is coming out on March 8th. We have a copy here in the office, so I can say with authority that the book is drop-dead gorgeous. Filled with warm photos of scrumptious recipes, part of me just wants to read it, like a picture book for food porn lovers. But then it’s also full of fantastic recipes–recipes that are easy, relaxed, creative, and perfect for anyone who loves classy, interesting, and fun Jewish food. Paging through it, here are the top five recipes I will be making post haste:
Drunken Vegetable Chili
Orzo and Pinto Bean Salad
Ginger Sesame Baked Tempeh
Brownies with Pomegranate Whipped Cream
Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins

And there are so many fantastic options to choose from.

Other wonderful things about this cookbook: It’s hardcover, and lays flat, so consulting with it while you’re cooking doesn’t mean madly fumbling for pages

Did I mention the photography? I am seriously considering eating the book.

The layout and design are beautiful, simple, and easy to follow. Each recipe is also clearly marked as dairy, meat, or pareve for easy menu planning, and a section in the back collects all of each kind of recipe, so you can easily look at all of the meat dishes and decide which one works best for you tonight. The book also contains suggested menus, ingredient sources, and a handy measurement conversion chart.

Want to win a signed copy of this amazing cookbook? Of course you do! Leave a comment on this blog post by March 9th telling us your favorite thing to cook for a weekday meal. We’ll pick one winner at random to receive this awesome prize. If you aren’t lucky enough to win, you can buy your own copy online here.

See all of Leah’s recipes on MyJewishLearning here.

Looking for a Jewish Holiday cookbook? Try The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook: Traditional Recipes from Contemporary Kosher Kitchens by Joan Nathan.

Good luck, and happy cooking!

Posted on February 28, 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

Cantillation Survey

This entry was posted in Culture, Texts on by .

If you’ve been to a few different Torah services you’ve probably noticed that everyone who chants from the Torah has their own particular way of doing it. There are standards for how things should go, but in terms of what notes people sing, and how elaborate they get, there’s an infinite amount of variation. That said, even cantillation from different parts of the world–say, Iraqi traditional trope versus Eastern European trope–has a lot in common, indicating that there was one ancestor to all of these contemporary versions.

A professor at the University of Kentucky is doing a study of the different versions of cantillation in American synagogues. Professor Jonathan Glixon and his grad students are trying to get as many people as possible to record themselves chanting the first three verses of Deuteronomy, so they can analyze the similarities and difference in cantillation. If you read Torah, I encourage you to take part in this study. Make a recording, and send it to Gregory Springer [Gregory (dot) springer (at) uky (dot) edu] as an attachment. Gregory is also happy to record you chanting over the phone, or to accept cassette tapes, if you’re rocking it old school. Email him for details.

Posted on February 10, 2011

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LimmudNY: The Responsibility of the Teacher

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When you’re attending four or five sessions a day at a conference like LimmudNY, you start to compile an internal list of what makes a good teacher. Now, a good teacher at an event like Limmud is different from a good teacher in a regular classroom, or a college lecture hall. The age range in any class is pretty wide, and so are the skill and background levels. People pay a lot of money to be here, but they don’t feel any real obligation to respect the teachers because the same teachers will be students in the next session. Also, everyone really wants to be schmoozing and eating at all times, and will do both of those things throughout every session if given the opportunity. So it takes a different kind of teacher to be really successful at Limmud. Here are my thoughts on why the good teachers are good, and what separates the good from the great

The marks of a good teacher:
–Has a deep knowledge of the subject at hand and demonstrates it without diverging from the topic constantly. If you’re teaching a 75 minute session you should know at least three hours worth of material.
–Can manage time effectively. If you have 75 minutes to teach and you show up with two packets that are each five pages of sources, you’re deluding yourself.
–Can deal with the stupids without allowing class to be derailed. You’re giving a class on Zionist thought among twelfth century Welsh monks and some guy in the back asks a ten minute question about Alan Dershowitz and the Shas party? If you can politely shut this guy up you are the hero to everyone else in the session.
–Actually has something interesting to say. If your point is that sometimes Moses wasn’t as good of a guy as we were told he was in Hebrew school, you are either not smart enough to be teaching, or no trying hard enough.

A great teacher
–Feels no need to be an entertainer, but is still entertaining. You’re not the MC of a circus, and cracking wise doesn’t make you seem any smarter if you’re clearly BSing. If you happen to be naturally funny, go with it. If not, don’t keep trying.
–Has a whole fresh perspective to offer, as opposed to a nice nugget of information.
–Isn’t reading entire presentation off of lecture cards, or source sheet.
–Keeps the session accessible to people with little background in the topic area, while keeping it interesting for people with high level of background in the area.

Posted on January 17, 2011

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LimmudNY: Let’s Not Muddy This Up With Jewish Texts

This entry was posted in Culture, Texts on by .

So I just went to my first session here at LimmudNY 2011. It was called Relationships and Sexuality Consumerist Culture Creating a Contemporary Sexual Ethic (I assume there are supposed to be some colons in there, but they aren’t in the program). It was a good session—an interesting discussion of the economics of relationships, hookups, sex and FWB (friends with benefits). The teacher tried to bring in some traditional sources, and at the end she read a quote from a 14th century Jewish commentator, but honestly, I don’t think any of those sources had anything particularly helpful to say in this context. It was a good discussion that didn’t really need any Jewish texts to make it great. (Also, in my opinion, it was pretty heavy on the “Kids these days with their cell phones and their facebook!” rhetoric.)

One of the amazing things I’ve found about Limmud is that there’s so many great people here that I inevitably have awesome conversations with people, in and out of sessions. But it makes me kind of sad, because some of the conversations, like the one about sexuality, or one I had last year about education and schooling, are not specific to Jews at all. I wish there was a way for me to meet lots of non-Jews and have these kinds of discussions with a wider range of people. That said, I’ll take a great weekend with smart interesting people in Hudson Valley for now.

Posted on January 14, 2011

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Wise Fridays:

This entry was posted in Life, Texts on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“Do not say, ‘Why should I lessen my own fortune by giving my money to this poor person?’ Bear in mind, rather, that the wealth we posses is but held in trust for the purpose that we might use it to perform the will of the One who deposited it with us.”

Tur Yoreh Deah 247

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Posted on January 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

Teaching Civil Rights to Jews

This entry was posted in History, Texts on by .

Many of us know that Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walked with Martin Luther King Jr. at the Selma Civil Rights March in 1965. But that’s just a tiny bit of the history of Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement. If you’re struggling to teach a civil rights lesson to your Hebrew or Sunday school class, you’re in luck!

The bombing of a Temple in Atlanta

The Jewish Women’s Archive recently launched Living the Legacy, a new online curriculum on Jews and the Civil Rights Movement, featuring stories of women and men fighting for social justice. Designed for teens, Living the Legacy offers the opportunity for young people to explore their own identities and social justice commitments and to draw connections between a history of American Jewish activism and their own lives. For instance, students marking MLK Day this year can feel connected to Jewish students who participated in the Civil Rights Movement through the letters these activists wrote home, a photograph of NFTY teens at the March on Washington, or a video of the Freedom Seder that commemorated the first anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to containing over 85 rich primary source documents like these, Living the Legacy is a full curriculum with 16 ready-to-use lesson plans designed to be used by educators working with 8th-12th graders in both formal and informal educational settings. The flexible lessons can stand alone or be taught in various combinations. It also includes 15 traditional Jewish texts, each linked to from a variety of lesson plans and paired with accompanying questions that can be applied in a range of social justice education contexts. Living the Legacy is available for free in its entirety on JWA’s website at http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy.

I’ve had a chance to look through some of the curricula and they really are fantastic resources for teachers. They’re also adaptable for informal settings–you can browse the primary sources separately, or by keyword. I particularly like the Power, Privilege and Responsibility lesson. Great for starting a conversation with teens about these important issues.

Posted on January 11, 2011

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Debbie Friedman, Bringing Communities Together

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NPR did a nice piece about the death this weekend of Debbie Friedman, a musician whose music impacted thousands and thousands of Jews around the world, and how her most famous piece, Mi Sheberach, was sung at the  healing service for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, held at Giffords’s synagogue, Congregation Chaverim in Tuscon.

I’ve heard a lot of people mention Mi Sheberach in the wake of Debbie’s illness and subsequent death, but I think the song of hers that has become most ubiquitous is actually her havdalah. (This video isn’t Debbie singing, but it’s someone else singing the melody she wrote.)

I have to be honest here in saying that Debbie Friedman’s music is not my favorite. I’ve always respected her work and the passion others feel for it, but to me her music felt too sing alongy, which isn’t what I want at shul.

That said, I’ve been really impressed at the way her music blanketed the Jewish world, from the Reform world that she came from, to the Orthodox world. I will never forget the first time I heard an Orthodox synagogue leading havdalah using Debbie Friedman’s melody. To me, what was so amazing about her work was its ability to transcend borders you wouldn’t have thought were at all porous. The loss of Debbie Friedman is really a loss of a bridge that connected communities that didn’t always want to be connected.

Posted on January 11, 2011

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Don’t Steal Torahs

This entry was posted in Texts on by .

If you’re thinking that’s pretty obvious, good for you. If you’re thinking, “Hey, why the heck not?” you’re a lot like a corrupt rabbi in Elad who apparently worked with an Arab gang. The gang jacked the Torahs from synagogues around Israel, and the rabbi bought them, sometimes for “just dozens of shekels for each scroll”, and then sold them at huge profit to various congregations and communities.

According to Ynet:

In calls recorded by the police it became clear that the rabbi was aware of the fact that the gang he was in contact with was stealing the scrolls from synagogues but was apparently unconcerned with the fact.

So, is this like how good drug dealers are never supposed to use their own supply to get high? A good Torah thief never reads the Torahs he steals. If he did, he might realize he’s not quite following the letter of the law…

Posted on January 3, 2011

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A Stay at the Talmud Hotel in Taiwan

This entry was posted in Culture, Texts on by .

Way back in 2007 I wrote a blog post about the weird Chinese trend of loving all things Jewish. Kind of the reverse of Jewish girls getting yin-yang tattoos is Chinese people buying books called The Eight Most Valuable Business Secrets of the Jewish. I ended that blog post with the following sentence: Am I crazy or does it seem like the Chinese are doing pretty well figuring out how to “be the best and make a huge company” without the help of me and my silly old Talmud?

Well now it’s time for me to eat my words, because it turns out they DO love the Talmud in China (well, Taiwan, anyway). They love it so much, they made a Talmud Hotel.


Talmud Business Hotel Taichung Provides A Unique Travel Experience For Both Business and Leisure Visitors.
Talmud Business Hotel Taichung is a Business hotel that is named after a holy book contains a collection of ancient rabbinic writings on Jewish law and traditions. The word Talmud has the following meanings: “Instruction, Learning, Teach and Study”. Inspired by the Talmud theory, the owner uses red interior to add a splash of fashion and professionalism. In each room, there’s also a copy of “Talmud-Business Success Bible” for anyone who would like to experience the Talmud way of becoming successful.

If I was going to make a Talmud-inspired hotel (and I really can’t imagine a situation where I would do that, but just go with me here) I’m pretty sure the décor would be a lot more blacks and browns. There would be a constant stream of people arguing with each other in the lobby, and you would worry about whether Rabbi Eliezer was going to show up and mess up the hot water. And you wouldn’t get a complete set of Talmud for staying there, because you could never fit it in your suitcase.

Posted on December 30, 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