Rethinking the Exodus Story

A Curmudgeonly, Skeptical Look by Bennett Muraskin   THE PASSOVER HAGODE celebrates the liberation of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt, but provides few details. Its source document is the Book of Exodus — which on this holiday deserves a closer look. Because Pharaoh fears that the burgeoning Israelite population will become a threat to his rule, he […]

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Arthur Szyk, a “Soldier in Art”

by Bennett Muraskin   ALTHOUGH ARTHUR SZYK (1894-1951) is best known today for his Illuminated Hagaddah (1940), still widely used at Passover seders, he was in many ways a political artist, a self-described “soldier in art,” who used his talents to attack fascism, call for the rescue to European Jewry from Nazi-occupied Europe, promote the American war effort and make […]

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Jewish Heretics and Heretical Jews

by Bennett Muraskin   A JEWISH HERETIC, in Yiddish and Hebrew, is an apikoyris –– a reference to the 3rd-century BCE Greek philosopher Epicurus, who taught that the gods have no interest in human affairs and that people would be better off if we did not believe in divine rewards and punishment. (It is not surprising […]

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In Memoriam: Julius Lester

by Bennett Muraskin   JULIUS LESTER  (January 29, 1939-January 18, 2018) embodied the historic Black-Jewish bond in America, as well as Black-Jewish tensions, in his work as a prolific writer, folk musician, folklorist, and public intellectual — and in the very fabric of his identity. The son of a Black minister, he grew up in the upper South, graduated  […]

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In Memoriam: The Woman Who Popularized “Ms.”

by Bennett Muraskin   ALTHOUGH Ms. magazine is most identified with Gloria Steinem, the woman who most popularized the term “Ms.” was Sheila Michaels (1939-2017). The word enabled women to be identified as their own persons, rather than according to their marital status (Mrs. or Miss). Michaels’ career included a variety of jobs including cabdriver, technical editor, co-owner […]

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The UN Partition Plan, Seventy Years Later

by Bennett Muraskin   The United Nations Partition Plan of November 29, 1947 would have established an Arab state in about 45 percent of the British Mandate, with 55 percent allotted to a Jewish state. The two states were to form an economic union, and  Jerusalem was to be the capital of neither. but to be placed under UN control. I submit that the […]

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Nir Baram’s Search for an Israeli-Palestinian Solution

by Bennett Muraskin Discussed in this essay: A Land Without Borders: My Journey Around East Jerusalem and the West Bank, by Nir Baram, translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen. Text Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, 2017, 284 pages.   FOR DECADES, Jewish Currents and others on the left have beat the drum for a two-state solution to the […]

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Aaron Lansky and the Gospel of Yiddish

by Bennett Muraskin   IS THERE A FUTURE for yidishkayt in North America? Aaron Lansky thinks so and offers as a model his National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. I just heard him speak at a synagogue in Livingston, New Jersey. Anyone who read his outstanding memoir, Outwitting History, would have been familiar with the first […]

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