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Second Vatican Council Announced

On this date in 1959, Pope John XXIII announced that he would be convening an Ecumenical Council — the first in almost a century — within the Catholic Church. The announcement of this “Second Vatican Council,” or Vatican II, shocked and disturbed the Church leadership as it implied that the Church was imperfect, thus contradicting […]

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The Artist of Loving

Humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm was born on this date in 1900 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was a student of the Talmud and used Jewish texts and imagery as touchstones for his political and psychological insights long after he had left the world of Orthodoxy at age 26. Fromm’s attachment to Judaism as a […]

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Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau, the world’s most beloved mime, was born on this date in 1923 in Strasbourg, France. Born Marcel Mangel, he took the name Marceau (an homage to French Revolutionary general François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers) to hide his Jewish identity following Germany’s occupation of France. Marceau’s father, a kosher butcher, was killed in 1944 in Auschwitz while Marcel and […]

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Eichmann and Budapest’s Judenrat

On this date in 1944, two days after occupying Hungary, the Nazis set up a Jewish Council (Judenrat or Zsidó Tanács in Hungarian) in Budapest, headed by a banker, Samu Stern. At the same time, Adolf Eichmann was meeting with Hungarian Interior Ministry officials: “That evening,” he would later write, “the fate of the Hungarian […]

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FDA OK’s AZT

On this date in 1987, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of AZT (azidothymidine, also known as Zidovudine or ZDV) to inhibit the development of HIV-AIDS. The approval period was the shortest in FDA history — twenty months. Originally created by Dr. Jerome Horwitz (1919–2012) as a cancer drug in 1964, AZT proved to […]

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Golda Meir Takes the Helm

Golda Meir (Meyerson) became prime minister of Israel on this date in 1969, after a lifetime in the Labor Zionist movement. Born in Kiev, she spent most of her childhood and teen years in Milwaukee — which helped equip her, in 1948, to raise $50 million, six times more than expected, from American Jews for […]

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Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie died on this date in 2003 when she was crushed by demolition debris pushed onto her by an Israeli military bulldozer which she believed was sent to destroy a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip’s Rafah area. Corrie (not Jewish), 23, was an American active with the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement and had been […]

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AKA “Notorious RBG”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman in history to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1933. In 1954, she was one of nine women in a class of more than 500 at Harvard Law, before graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law in 1959. […]

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“Jewish Women Call for Change”

On this date in 1972, a Jewish feminist study group, Ezrat Nashim (named for the women’s section of synagogue), submitted a manifesto to the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic arm of the movement for Conservative Judaism, at the RA’s national convention. The document, entitled “Jewish Women Call for Change,” petitioned the Conservative movement to count women in […]

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Mike Stoller

Mike Stoller, who teamed with Jerry Leiber to write dozens of popular songs that would become permanently lodged in the brains of the baby boom generation, was born in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, NY, on this date in 1933. Among the many hits written (some together with other songwriters) by Leiber and Stoller […]

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Lillian Wald and the Henry Street Settlement

Lillian Wald co-founded what would become the Henry Street Settlement House (its original name was Nurses’ Settlement) on this date in 1893 — which was also her 26th birthday. Wald, the daughter of immigrants from Germany, enjoyed a relatively affluent upbringing and, after training as a nurse, became the greatest champion of public health services in […]

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Ruth Handler and Barbie

Ruth Handler’s Barbie doll was introduced to society at the New York Toy Fair on this date in 1959. Born Ruth Marianna Mosko in 1916 in Denver, Colorado, Handler was a child of immigrant parents from Poland. Her creation of Barbie (named after her daughter, Barbara) was designed as a quantum leap in how preadolescent girls approached doll […]

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Bill Graham and Fillmore East

Promoter Bill Graham (born Wulf Wolodia Grajonca) opened the Fillmore East in New York’s East Village on this date in 1968, with a concert that featured Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin). Graham was born in Berlin in 1931. At age 8, not long after Kristallnacht, he was placed in an orphanage by his Russian immigrant […]

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“Where Are Your Guns?” A Story by Howard Fast

From the July 1948 issue of Jewish Currents (then Jewish Life), reprinted from our Sid Resnick Archive. To see a scanned copy of the article as originally published, click here. WHERE ARE YOUR GUNS? by Howard Fast IN THE LAND of the goyim, my father traded with the Indians. We traded for beaver, and my father’s word was as good as his bond, […]

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The Legacy of Emanuel Ringelblum

Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, who helped create a secret archive of documents about life and death in the Warsaw Ghetto, was executed with his family by the Nazis, amid the Ghetto’s ruins, on this date in 1944. Ringelblum had kept a descriptive diary, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto, which survived his death. He had also organized […]

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The Rosenbergs Go On Trial

The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg began on this date in 1951. Charged with conspiracy to commit atomic espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union, they would become the first civilians executed as spies in U.S. history — on June 19, 1953. Opposition to their sentence became an international cause, with Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert […]

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Danny Kaye from Brownsville

Actor/comedian Danny Kaye (David Daniel Kaminsky), a marvelous song-and-dance-and-everything man, died on this date in 1987. Kaye was born in 1911 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NY, to Ukrainian immigrant parents who called him “Duvidelleh.” After getting his start as a Borscht Belt entertainer, he would go on to star in seventeen movies, including The Secret […]

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Solomon Rabinovich, aka Sholem Aleichem

The best-known and best-loved Yiddish writer of all, Sholem Aleichem (pen-name of Solomon Rabinovich), was born on this date in 1859 (some sources say March 3rd) in the Ukraine, then controlled by tsarist Russia. Sholem Aleichem, whose works included Menahem-Mendl and Tevye the Dairyman (later adapted and commercialized as Fiddler on the Roof) wrote with shrewd humor and deep […]

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Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks

On this date in 1975, Bob Dylan’s raw and painful Blood on the Tracks, released six weeks earlier, became the number-one album on the chart compiled by Billboard magazine. It would remain at the top spot until March 15. Ranked number 16 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,” Blood on the Tracks featured […]

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Emperor Constantine and the Jews

Constantine the Great, emperor of Rome from 306 to 337 CE, and the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity (in 312, according to legend), was born on this date in 280. Constantine ceased the persecution of Christianity in the Roman Empire in his Edict of Milan (313), and built the Church of the Holy […]

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A Respite for the Jews of Persia

On this date in 1739, Nadir Quli, a former slave who had become the shah of Iran, consolidated his empire in the Battle of Karnal, defeating the Mughal emperor of India and seizing his Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-noor Diamond, among other treasures. Nadir Shah was a murderer and a despot, but under his brief […]

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Leo Hirshfield and the Tootsie Roll

According to Tootsie Roll Industries company lore, Tootsie Rolls were first offered for sale on this date in 1896 at a candy shop in New York City at a price of one penny. (For a version that disputes this accounting, click here.) The Tootsie Roll was created by Leo Hirshfield (or Hirschfeld, pictured left), an Austrian-born […]

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Edwin Land and the Instant Camera

Edwin Herbert Land, a Harvard drop-out, demonstrated the first instant camera (soon to become the Polaroid Land Camera) on this date in 1947. Land had already founded the Polaroid company in 1937 after inventing an inexpensive polarizing filter used in film, sunglasses, optical microscopes, and other gadgets. He later served as a scientific adviser under the […]

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Three Electric Guitarists

Three late, great electric guitarists were born on this date: John Geils in 1946, Walter Becker in 1950, and Randy California in 1951. Geils was the leader and only non-Jewish member of the J. Geils Band, which early on was dubbed “The Jewish Rolling Stones,” due to its sound and high-energy live shows. The band members often […]

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The 1913 Armory Show

Camille Pissarro, Paul Burlin, Elie Nadelman, Jo Davidson, Abraham Walkowitz, and William Zorach were among the Jewish artists represented at the Armory Show in New York City, which opened on this date in 1913 and introduced America to the avant-garde of the art world. Known officially as the “International Exhibition of Modern Art,” the show […]

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Senda Berenson, Mother of Women’s Basketball

Senda Berenson (Valvrojenski), the first woman inaugurated into the Basketball Hall of Fame, died on this date in 1954. Known as “The Mother of Women’s Basketball,” she was the first physical education instructor at Smith College, and in 1893 she conducted the first women’s basketball game — sophomores against freshmen. Six years later, she modified […]

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Harold Arlen

Harold Arlen (Hyman Arluck), the son of a cantor and a key contributor to the Great American Songbook, was born in Buffalo, NY, on this date in 1905. In addition to composing the score for The Wizard of Oz — including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (lyrics by Yip Harburg), which was voted the best song of the […]

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Jack Benny

Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky) was born in Chicago, Illinois, on this date in 1894. His parents were immigrants from Poland and Lithuania. One of America’s favorite comedians in vaudeville, on radio and TV, and in film, Benny was married to Sadye Marks, who some say was a cousin of the Marx Brothers and who played his […]

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The Plague and the Jews of Strasbourg

On this date in 1349, the city of Strasbourg, located along today’s French-German border, arrested its Jews and charged them with poisoning wells to cause the Black Death (in reality, bubonic plague), which was sweeping through Europe and ultimately killed between one-third and sixty percent of the continent’s population. The next day, according to Jakob […]

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Stella Adler

Stella Adler was born on New York City’s Lower East Side on this date in 1902 to Sara Adler (Levitskaya) and Jacob Adler, who were luminaries of the Yiddish stage; actress Celia Adler was her half-sister. Stella Adler was a child actor by four and a star in her own right by the 1920s, before studying Stanislavsky’s […]

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Judge Polier

Activist judge Justine Wise Polier retired from New York family court on this date in 1973, after thirty-eight years of service. When, in 1935, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia appointed her to the city’s “Domestic Relations Court” (as it was then called), she was the youngest city judge in the U.S. (age 32) and the first woman […]

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“The Sound” of Jazz

Jazz tenor saxophonist Stan Getz (Stanley Gayetsky), whose warm, smooth tones would earn him the nickname “The Sound,” was born in Philadelphia on this date in 1927. His parents, Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, bought him a sax (and a clarinet) when he was 13, and he began to practice obsessively. He attended Julliard briefly before going professional […]

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Marty Reisman, Table Tennis Champ

Table tennis champion Marty Reisman was born in New York City on this date in 1930. Reisman, known as “The Needle” due to his slim build, learned to play the game in New York settlement houses, starting his career during his teen years as a ping pong “hustler” (as he referred to himself in the […]

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The Codex Theodosianus

On this date in 439 CE, the Codex Theodosianus (Code of Theodosius II) was established in the Byzantine Empire. The Codex, a compilation of the laws promulgated since the time of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor (he converted in 313 CE), systematized the process that stripped Jews of citizenship rights and repressed Judaism as a […]

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Recha Freier and Youth Aliyah

Youth Aliyah (originally called the “Committee for the Assistance of Jewish Youth”) opened its office in Berlin on this date in 1933 — the same day that Adolf Hitler took power as chancellor of Germany. “The utter senselessness of Jewish life in the Diaspora stood palpably before my eyes,” wrote Recha Freier, a poet, musician, […]

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Esther Abrahams and the First Jews in Australia

Esther Abrahams, born in 1767 (or 1771 by some sources), was one of between eight and fourteen Jews among 800 British convicts who anchored in New South Wales on this date in 1788, as part of the first fleet of British prisoners sent to colonize Australia. Abrahams, convicted of shoplifting silk lace in 1786, had given […]

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Amedeo Modigliani

Painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani died on this date in 1920. Best known for painting elongated, nude women with impassive, mask-like faces, Modigliani became a drug and alcohol abuser who lived a starving artist’s life in Paris until dying from tubercular meningitis at age 36. He was born into a Sephardic family in Livorno, Italy, […]

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Israel Declares Jerusalem Its Capital

On this date in 1950, Israel’s Knesset (pictured at its temporary location) declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel — defying the UN’s partition resolution of November 29, 1947, which had envisioned the city as a “corpus separatum [separated body] under a special international regime [to] be administered by the United Nations.” The Israeli declaration […]

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George Burns

George Burns (Naftaly — later Nathan — Birnbaum) was born in New York City on this date in 1896 to a family that had immigrated from what is now southeastern Poland. He quit school in the fourth grade to become an entertainer. Burns’ vaudeville career was floundering until he met Gracie Allen in 1923 (they would […]

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Immortalizing Joe Hill

  On this date in 1915, IWW organizer Joe Hill (not Jewish) was arrested for murder in Salt Lake City, Utah. His trial was considered a frame-up and his conviction was widely protested (by Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller, among others). A writer of labor songs and parodies, Hill was immortalized in 1930 in the […]

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The Warsaw Ghetto’s First Armed Resistance

The first armed resistance against Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto took place on this date in 1943. Jewish fighters, armed with pistols, infiltrated columns of Jews who were about to be deported to Treblinka death camp, and then broke ranks and fired upon their captors. Among the fighters was Mordecai Anielewicz, the 24-year-old who […]

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Integrating Carnegie Hall

Benny Goodman blew the lid off Carnegie Hall on this date in 1938, in a legendary jazz concert — tickets had sold out weeks in advance — that made the “uptown” (i.e., Black) music respectable among the midtown set. The “King of Swing” was joined onstage by Lionel Hampton, Lester Young, Johnny Hodges, Teddy Wilson, and other […]

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Bella Lewitzky

Bella Lewitzky, a pioneer of modern dance who founded, with Lester Horton, the Dance Theater of Los Angeles, was born on this date in L.A. in 1916. A child of Jewish Russian parents, Lewitzky spent part of her youth in a utopian socialist community in the Mojave Desert. In her teens she moved to the […]

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Stalin, Mikhoels, and the Doctors’ Plot

Solomon Mikhoels, the Soviet Union’s foremost Jewish actor and theater director, was arrested and murdered on Stalin’s orders on January 12-13 in 1948. Mikhoels was the artistic director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater and chaired the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, which had traveled widely to rally international Jewish support for the Soviet Union during World […]

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The Lawrence Textile Strike

The Lawrence, Massachusetts textile workers strike, led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies), began on this date in 1912. The strike was called after employers cut workers’ wages in response to a new state law that had reduced the maximum work week of women and children from 56 hours to 54. The […]

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He Coined the Term “Rhythm and Blues”

Jerry Wexler, who, as a reporter for Billboard Magazine in 1948, coined the term “rhythm and blues” (as a replacement for the offensive “race records”) and who later, as a music producer, recorded some of R&B’s greatest performers, was born on this date in 1917 in New York. The “acts” Wexler signed or produced included Ray […]

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Israel’s National Poet

Modern Israel’s “national poet,” Haim Nahman Bialik, was born in Ukraine on this date in 1873. By his mid-twenties, Bialik was widely acclaimed for his writings in both Yiddish and Hebrew and had translated Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and other classics of world literature into Hebrew. In 1903, Bialik went to Kishniev as part of a […]

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“Financier of the Revolutionary War”

Haym Salomon, often referred to as “the financier of the Revolutionary War,” died on this date in 1785. Born in Poland (circa 1740), but a descendant of Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition, he immigrated to New York City in 1775, became a financial broker, and joined the Sons of Liberty. Believed to have been […]

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Lincoln Kirstein

Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder with George Balanchine of the New York City Ballet, the American Ballet, and the School of American Ballet, died on this date in 1996. He served as general director of the New York City Ballet from 1948 until 1989. Kirstein also helped to found the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, the forerunner of New […]

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Dreyfus Found Guilty

On this date in 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French military was found guilty of having sold French military secrets to Germany. The verdict was based on antisemitic innuendo and paltry evidence. Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent two years in solitary confinement on Devil’s Island off the South American coast. Although evidence […]

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The Ventriloquist of the 60s

Ventriloquist and voice actor Paul Winchell (Wilchinsky) was born in New York City on this date in 1922. His grandparents had emigrated to the U.S. from Poland and Austria-Hungary. With his two dummy “sidekicks,” Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, Winchell hosted one of the most popular children’s television shows of the mid-1960s and (along with Shari Lewis) […]

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“Mendele the Book Peddler”

The birth in 1836 of Mendele Moykher-Sforim (“Mendele the Book Peddler,” pen-name of Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh), the pioneering writer of modern Yiddish literature, is traditionally marked on this date. (“[W]e Jews did not bother about [dates of birth], especially in the small towns,” Mendele wrote in a memoir, “[b]ut . . . my family decided on […]

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A Forerunner of Einstein

Albert Abraham Michelson, the first American to be awarded a Nobel Prize in any of the categories of science (1907, in Physics), was born in Strelno in Prussia (now Strzelno, a part of Poland) on this date in 1852. Using an apparatus he had designed, now known as the “Michelson interferometer,” Michelson successfully computed the speed of […]

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Hebrew’s Reviver

The man who almost single-handedly invented modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (born Eliezer Yitzhak Perlman, 1858), died on this date in Jerusalem in 1922. In 1881, he emigrated to Palestine, where he, his wife Dvora Jonas, and their son Ben-Zion are widely considered to be the first modern family to speak the language full-time. In addition […]

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Robert Spitzer, the APA, and Homosexuality

On this date in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (with Jews making up about 30 percent of its membership) declared that “by itself, homosexuality does not meet the criteria for being a psychiatric disorder” and removed it from the second edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II). Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, […]

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The Rambam

Maimonides (aka “the Rambam,” the Hebrew acronym derived from his full name, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon) died on this date in 1204, at age 69. His Guide for the Perplexed helped bring Judaism into contact with science and Aristotelian philosophy and greatly fortified the intellectual integrity of Jewish philosophy. Born in Muslim-ruled Spain toward the end of a period […]

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Shabbtai Zvi, Would-Be Messiah

On this date in 1665, Shabbtai Zvi (born 1626), who was widely embraced as the messiah by Jews across Europe and the Middle East, led followers into a synagogue in his hometown of Izmir, Turkey, where rabbinical authorities had threatened him with excommunication. At the synagogue, he ran a heretical Torah service (calling women to […]

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The American Federation of Labor

The American Federation of Labor was founded by 26 craft unions on this date in 1886. Samuel Gompers, a Dutch-born Jew and head of the Cigar Makers’ International Union, was elected its president. The AFL was a breakaway movement, established by union activists who had grown disgruntled with the Knights of Labor (K of L), a […]

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Liberating Alcatraz on Hanukkah

On this date in 1969, Reform Rabbi Roger Herst (second from right) and members of the American Jewish Congress brought badly needed food and blankets, as well as a khanike menorah, to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to celebrate the liberation holiday with 400 Native Americans who had been occupying the island since November 20. […]

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Bette Midler

Singer, songwriter, actress Bette Midler was born in Honolulu on this date in 1945. Her mother was a seamstress and her father a house painter. From 1966 to 1969, Midler appeared on Broadway as Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tsaytl, in Fiddler on the Roof, shortly before developing her persona as “the Divine Miss M” at the Continental […]

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Allan Sherman, “Folksinger”

Song parodist Allan Sherman (born Allan Copelon — he took his mother’s birth name after his parents’ divorce), was born in Chicago on this date in 1924. His 1962 debut song-parody record, My Son, the Folksinger, became the fastest-selling album until that time. Sherman’s strength was in setting silly lyrics to classical music (as in “Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, here […]

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The International Jew vs. White Nationalists

GUILTY (AND PROUD) AS CHARGED An Editorial from the Autumn 2017 issue of Jewish Currents   ON THE DAY after Christmas, 1919, baseball slugger Babe Ruth was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees. The deal was sealed for $100,000 by a theater impresario, Harry Frazee, who had owned the Red Sox […]

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Columbus’ Converso Crewmates

Among Christopher Columbus’ crew members who made landfall for the first time in the “New World” (the Bahamas) on this date in 1492, six were Jewish conversos, including the doctor, the navigator, and the translator, Luis de Torres. De Torres had converted to Catholicism only the day before the expedition departed in order to avoid the […]

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Seeking Volunteers for Conference and Bookfair

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) is holding its 2018 AWP Conference & Bookfair at the Tampa Convention Center & Marriott Tampa Waterside on March 7–10, 2018. The largest literary conference in North America, AWP typically draws about 12,000 attendees to 500 readings, panels, and craft lectures. The book fair hosts more than 800 […]

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Zero as Tevye

Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway on this date in 1964 and ran for 3,242 performances. The show rescued Zero Mostel from McCarthyism’s blacklist, which had plagued him since his refusal in 1955 to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities. To achieve this rescue, Mostel had to work closely with Jerome Robbins, who […]

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Leonard Cohen

Poet, songwriter, and performer Leonard Cohen was born on this date in Montreal in 1934. He is an inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. His best-known, widely covered songs include “Bird on a Wire,” “Suzanne,” […]

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Auto-da-fé

The Portuguese Inquisition’s first auto-da-fé (“act of faith”) was held in Lisbon on this date in 1540; the last in Portugal took place on this date in 1761. This grim, public ritual consisted of a Catholic Mass, a procession of heretics and apostates (many of them marranos, or secret Jews), and their torture and execution […]

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What Were American Police Learning at an Israeli Counter-Terror Convention?

by Joshua Leifer   IN RECENT MONTHS, activists have drawn attention to the ties between Israeli counter-terrorism forces and U.S. law enforcement agencies. Jewish Voice for Peace’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign, for example, has focused specifically on Jewish communal institutions, such as the Anti-Defamation League, that sponsor various programs that bring American police to Israel and, in […]

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What The Conservative Movement Didn’t Teach Me

By Dr. Hilary Lustick   AS AN EDUCATOR and researcher of adolescent learning, I can tell you that teenagers learn best when they feel good. It’s why Birthright, the United Synagogue Youth movement, and so many other organizations bring Jewish American young people to Israel at little to no cost. The hope is that if you […]

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Varian Fry in Vichy France

Varian Fry, an American journalist who helped more than 2,000 Jewish and anti-Nazi refugees escape the Holocaust through Vichy France, died on this date in 1967 at age 59. As a Harvard freshman, Fry was a founder of Hound & Horn, a literary quarterly, which he co-edited with Lincoln Kirstein. When Fry visited Berlin in 1935, he […]

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In Solidarity with Monument-Topplers

FROM NORTH CAROLINA TO PALESTINE by Jewish Voice for Peace — Triangle NC   JVP-TRIANGLE stands in solidarity with those who have been arrested, harassed, and targeted following the community-led removal of the Confederate monument at the Old Durham Courthouse on August 14th. If Takiyah Thompson and other freedom fighters in Durham had not taken down […]

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The Attack

Notwithstanding widespread rumors in the Arab world that the Israeli Mossad was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and that Jews had received “advance warning,” between 300 and 400 Jews were among the nearly 3,000 victims of Al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center in New York on this date in 2001. Some 60 Muslims […]

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German Reparations

The Luxembourg reparations agreement between West Germany and Israel was signed on this date in 1952, following lengthy negotiations between Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and very fierce debate in the young state of Israel. Under the Agreement, West Germany paid reparations for its crimes against the Jewish people […]

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Mutual Recognition

The Palestine Liberation Organization officially recognized the right of Israel to exist “in peace and security” on this date in 1993, and Israel, in turn, recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. In a letter to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat affirmed the Oslo Accords as a “historic event, […]

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Befriending Nazis Won’t Stop Fascism

by Mike Isaacson   NEO-NAZIS AND OTHER HATE GROUPS are taking to the streets, yet establishment Democrats and centrist think tanks are taking aim at the only force offering any material opposition: antifa. Politicians like Democratic Mayor Jesse Arreguin and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi have fallen in line with their fascist counterparts, calling for law enforcement […]

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David Bernstein’s JCPA Sides With A Monied Minority Against the Rest of Us

by “Ellie Kauder”   THIS WEEK, journalist Josh Nathan-Kazis published in the Forward emails that showed Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) President David Bernstein urged fellow communal leaders not to attack members of the Trump administration for their ties to white supremacists. While doing this, Bernstein and others used our fear of the violent Charlottesville “Unite […]

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What Secretary John Kerry Said

SAVING THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION I WANT TO SHARE candid thoughts about an issue that for decades has animated the foreign policy dialogue here and around the world -– the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout his administration, President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security, and that commitment has guided his pursuit of peace in […]

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Kinderlekh (Children)

Our Winter 2016-17 Arts Calendar Editorial THIS YEAR’S Jewish Currents Arts Calendar is built upon the theme, “Kinderlekh” (the Yiddish diminutive for children) to express our hopes for a thriving and inclusive future for our children and our grandchildren — and for their children and grandchildren. But what hopes for the future can we cling […]

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Calling on the Electoral College . . .

by Lauren Shapiro “The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to […]

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Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews

by Rabbi Aaron Spiegel May you sell everything and retire to Florida just as global warming makes it uninhabitable. May you live to a hundred and twenty without Social Security or Medicare. May you make a fortune, and lose it all in one of Sheldon Adelson’s casinos. May you live to a ripe old age, […]

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JFREJ’s Evolution: A Conversation with Dove Kent

From the Autumn 2016 issue of Jewish Currents. JFREJ’s Marshall Meyer Risk-Taker Awards event is on December 7th in New York City. Click here for more information. JFREJ, or Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, has been a vibrant presence in New York social struggles for the past quarter of a century, in coalition with […]

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Going Mad

AND GETTING MAD ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT from the Autumn 2016 issue of Jewish Currents by Anonymous   LIKE TOO MANY other people, I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t been bullied. I’ve always been the weird, uncool, socially awkward girl. In middle school, I was made fun of for being […]

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Organize, Don’t Celebrate

DEFEATING TRUMP IS ONLY A FIRST STEP An Editorial from the Autumn, 2016 issue of Jewish Currents ON JANUARY 20TH, we expect to see Hillary Clinton inaugurated as the first woman president of the United States. On January 19th, we believe the American left should take to the streets of Washington, DC to present our […]

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What Am I, Chopped Liver?

MICHAEL WEX CHEWS ON JEWISH CULINARY CULTURE By Naomi Rothberg From the Summer 2016 issue of Jewish Currents Discussed in this essay: Rhapsody in Schmaltz: Yiddish Food and Why We Can’t Stop Eating It, by Michael Wex. St. Martin’s Press, 2016, 320 pages. THE WORD ‘RHAPSODY’ has several meanings. All of them apply to Michael […]

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Making the Minyan

Discussed in this essay: The Tenth Man, a film by Daniel Burman by Tony Wohlfarth IN THE OPENING SCENE, Ariel (played by Alan Sabbagh) talks on his cell phone, getting last minute instructions prior to catching his flight from JFK to Buenos Aries. The voice on the other end of the line is his father […]

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Trump’s Second Amendment Call is a Turning Point

by Alan Elsner Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made most American Jewish leaders, both secular and religious, deeply uncomfortable during his campaign for the White House. However, until now, many have stayed publicly silent on his candidacy. Trump’s intemperate talk against Muslims, women, immigrants, bereaved military families and others, as well as his campaign’s use […]

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Resisting Authority

A Personal Account of the Milgram Obedience Experiments by Joe Dimow WHEN IS IT PROPER to refuse to obey authority figures, even if they have been democratically chosen for their positions? In 1961, I participated in a famous experimental study about obedience and authority — although I and other participants were led to believe it […]

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The Legacy of Hannah Senesh

A SOCIALIST ZIONIST HEROINE by Isabel Pearlman Published in Jewish Currents in 1974; republished in Autumn 2015 HANNAH SENESH, born July 17, 1921, was Hungarian, Jewish, gifted, and attractive, with an exceptionally appealing personality. She lived in a large house in Budapest “that’s in a wonderful position, and has a beautiful big garden.” So she […]

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Anti-Semitism: It’s Back!

PROGRESSIVES HAD BETTER DEAL WITH IT An Editorial from the Summer 2016 issue of Jewish Currents THERE IS OFTEN a reluctance on the part of the left, even among progressive Jews, to “make a big deal” out of anti-Semitism, particularly when we see the issue exploited by conservatives to blunt or censor criticism of Israel, […]

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The Ethical Challenges Teachers Face

A Speech to New Teachers in a Test-Driven System by Richard Rothstein From the Spring 2016 issue of Jewish Currents FOR SEVERAL DECADES NOW, a bipartisan coalition of policymakers in both government and business have attempted to make public education and its teachers into scapegoats for racial and economic inequality. These self-styled education reformers have […]

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What Bernie Would Have Said at AIPAC

The following is a speech that Bernie Sanders says he would have given at AIPAC had he not been scheduled to speak, instead, at a school in Utah — where he delivered it. Thanks to The Shalom Center for posting it widely. I WAS INVITED along with other presidential candidates to be at the AIPAC […]

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Comrade Mordecai

A Memoir from the Warsaw Ghetto by Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, translated by Yuri Suhl From the Autumn 2015 special issue of Jewish Currents on the theme, “Honoring the Jewish Resistance.” Originally translated and published in 1962. IN THE LATTER HALF of 1943, the famous Warsaw Ghetto historian, Emanuel Ringelblum, a Left Poale Zionist, while hiding […]

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Reclaiming Kurt Lewin

A Father of Modern Social Psychology by Robert Kleiner and Gerry Kane From the Summer 2015 issue of Jewish Currents IF YOU GOOGLE “Kurt Zadek Lewin” (1890-1947), you will quickly learn that he is often referred to as the father of modern social psychology — and if you are in the habit of Googling people […]

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Seder in a Song

The Y-Studs, Jewish a capella singers from Yeshiva University, take you through all the traditional steps of Passover seder observance in a parody of Michael Jackson’s THRILLER.

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The Sheep Were Legend, the Wolves Were Real

A Fighter in the Minsk Ghetto Recounts the Resistance by Hirsh Smoliar Translated from the Yiddish by Hershl Hartman From the Autumn 2015 special issue of Jewish Currents on the theme, “Honoring the Jewish Resistance.” Originally published in 1959. I CAN REMEMBER it clearly: It was that wonderfully good person and great writer, Der Nister […]

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The World Goes Backwards: A Screenplay by Sholem Aleichem

For a Silent Movie, written in 1913 Translated by Mickey Hartman Flacks   Reb Avremele Veirach Blesses the Khanike Candles On the screen: a rich house in an old-fashioned style. Old-fashioned — but expensive: furniture; old-fashioned pictures including Napoleon I, Tsar Alexander, also old Jewish heroes and sages; sconces on the walls with candles. Through […]

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I Owe My Life to My Attacker

by Rabbi Arik Ascherman Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the founder of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) in Israel and a very courageous activist on behalf of Israeli-Palestinian peace, was recently attacked by a masked settler while investigating the destruction of fruit trees on the West Bank. The following is his account of the event. Donations can […]

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Marek Edelman, the Heroic Anti-Hero

“I am the Guardian of the Jewish Graves” by Itzhak Luden Translated from the Yiddish by Barnett Zumoff; published in the Yiddish Forverts, 10/5/2009 In principle, the most important thing is — life. And when there is life, the most important thing is freedom. And after that, one gives his life for freedom. Then one […]

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Bernie’s Campaign: What Good Is It?

A Conversation About Leftwing Electoral Campaigns between Mitchell Abidor and Nicholas Jahr MITCHELL ABIDOR: So I support Bernie and you’re considerably less enamored of him than I. Let me tell you why I think he needs to be supported. In the first place, there’s never been nor will there be a candidate whose platform is […]

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Staughton Lynd on Abidor’s Anarchists Never Surrender

Our contributing writer and Uncivil Servant Mitchell Abidor‘s translation of 20th-century revolutionary Victor Serge’s writing, Anarchists Never Surrender, was recently published by PM Press. Now Counterpunch has a deeply considered review of the collection by none other than Staughton Lynd, who writes that: “Anarchists Never Surrender offers precious documentation of Serge’s early career.” Lynd takes […]

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Marc Jampole’s “Hashmal”

Earlier this summer, editorial board member and frequent Blog-Shmog contributor Marc Jampole’s short story “Hashmal” was published by the Jewish Literary Journal. A voyage through “the long, narrow, tenebrous breach from the light outside the door to the light at the end of the hall,” it’s a reflection on ways of knowing and the kabbalistic […]

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Megaphone: Fighting Khasidic Control in Upstate New York

An Interview with Robert Rhodes and Anita Altman From the Summer 2015 issue of Jewish Currents PRIOR TO 2013, Robert Rhodes had never voted for a Republican. A nephew of our magazine’s long-time writer and associate Annette T. Rubinstein, Rhodes had been raised amid the Jewish Currents and Monthly Review crowd, and often held his […]

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First Cousins — A Visit to Israel in Verse

by Marc Kaminsky From the Autumn, 2014 issue of Jewish Currents YOU’VE COME to the Land of Israel late — you’re nearly seventy — what took you so long? And you think you know something about us? You crossed the great distance between your own life and ours on a direct flight in a pressure-controlled […]

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Postcard

by Dania Rajendra IT IS JUST as decadent as You imagine, sitting As you are, in a wintery mix. I lounge on a white chaise under Shadows of undulating coconut palm fronds. Skimpy Speedos are back In fashion.  All the gay Boy vacationers sport them, Twisting their torsos in fitted Tee shirts as they strut […]

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Stirring the Pot: Is “Organic” Only for the Elite?

by Nancy Romer From the Autumn, 2014 issue of Jewish Currents THERE IS A SNARKY ATTITUDE in much of the mass media about organic and locally sourced food, a tendency to portray it as a “lifestyle” fad of the liberal elite. Even within that subculture, in fact, the rising visibility of organic food at first […]

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Wish I Was Here: A Nod to Religious Authority?

An Unusually Jewish Film Explores Secularism and Spirituality by Elliot B. Gertel IN WISH I WAS HERE, Aidan (Zach Braff) is a struggling actor who is determined to save his energy for the rare audition call. But he is no responsibility-free bachelor. He is married to Sarah (Kate Hudson) and they have two children. Sarah […]

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June 20, 1953

by Michael Kaufman We’re at Aunt Sadye and Uncle Joe’s house in Far Rockaway. A lot of the other uncles and aunts on my father’s side are there. The grownups all have serious looks on their faces. I can’t hear most of what they’re saying because they are talking more quietly than usual… but every […]

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A Progressive Zionist Challenge to the Israeli Government

The following statement was made on June 9th by Ameinu, a progressive Zionist organization that supports Habonim Dror, the Labor Zionist youth movement, and manages the Kibbutz Program Center, which sends hundreds of young adults on unique Israel experiential journeys every year. Ameinu, the largest grassroots progressive Zionist organization in North America, today issued the […]

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Poverty and Older Women

Basic Solutions to a Shameful Situation by Louise Cooper From the Spring 2014 issue of Jewish Currents Poverty among American women 65 and older is no longer just a problem, but a crisis. As of 2012, there were more than 733,000 elderly women living on $15 per day, or less than $5,500 annually — an […]

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Two Cents and a Corned Beef Sandwich

by Harold Ticktin No, this is not about 2¢ plain; that’s New York, this is Cleveland, about Sam and me walking to school together when we were 8 years old in 1935. There was such a year and believe me it was just as grim as you may have heard. We’re talking here about two […]

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Jewish Journeys: The Religious Nutcase

by Nancy Slonim Aronie On my way in to visit my son Dan at the hospital, I always felt compelled to look into the room right before his. Maybe it was because the boy inside was young like my boy, maybe it was that he had a mass of dark hair just like Dan’s, or […]

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People of the Book 101: Reuben Iceland and Di Yunge

by Murray Citron Reviewed in this essay: From Our Springtime, Literary Memoirs and Portraits of Yiddish New York, by Reuben Iceland, translated from Yiddish by Gerald Marcus. Syracuse University Press, 2013, 263 pages.   In the first ten years of the 20th century, a number of young Yiddish poets and other writers, born in Eastern […]

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Channel Esther: The Clara Lemlich Awards

by Esther Cohen Lemlich Award photos by Emily Holzknecht Every year, for one reason or another, I find myself at far too many events to count, to remember, or even to record. Many of these events are worthy. Most are not memorable. An exception, these last four years, is one of my favorite nights: The […]

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Adoption and Anti-Semitism

by Janet Ruth Falon The families referred to us as “those people.” My husband and I were about to adopt a newborn boy, but the extended family of the biological father convinced him to keep the baby, in part, we learned, because we’re Jews. They grilled us at a very tense meeting in a Chinese restaurant. When […]

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Sumayl — Tel Aviv’s Shadow Village

by Laurie Winestock After so many years I am here once again. Every year I visit my family, and I am faced with an indelible image that is somehow buried in the heart of Tel Aviv. As a young woman I thought it a strange curiosity: wedged between skyscrapers and three-story apartment houses, a ramshackle […]

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The Genius and the Gentiles: Chagall’s American Odyssey

by Gary Ferdman It may have been surprising to many to learn that Pope Francis’s two favorite artists are Caravaggio and Marc Chagall, and that the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion-member Catholic church, with its long and inglorious history of anti-Semitism, considers Chagall’s “White Crucifixion” (at right, copyright 2014 Artist Rights Society [ARS], New […]

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People of the Book 101: Alfred Kazin

by Marek Breiger “There was no family saga, no great background to attach themselves to. Mine were intensely humble people, totally without yikhes — family pride and prestige . . .” –Alfred Kazin, Jews In Alfred Kazin’s second memoir, Starting Out in the 1930s, the young Kazin, barely 20, meets William Saroyan in Manhattan. Kazin […]

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The View from J Street: For Bibi, the Time for Talk Is Past

by Alan Elsner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the AIPAC Policy Conference was another rhetorical tour-de-force by this most silvered-tongued of Israeli leaders. There were applause lines for almost everyone. Once again, Netanyahu promised to defend Israel against an Iranian nuclear threat and to be beholden to no other nation in his zeal to […]

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When Harold Ramis Spoke Yiddish

by Hershl Hartman While the late Harold Ramis has been rightly eulogized as a comic screenwriter (thirty-six credits, according to IMDb), it was for his acting work (twenty-three credits) that I assisted for all of ten hours — coaching him in Yiddish. I found him to be a very friendly, studiously attentive listener, though he […]

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Pete Seeger and Yiddish Song

by David A. Jaffe Pete Seeger, who died last month, was more than a musician, more than an activist, more then a folklorist. He was a purveyor of hope in the darkest of times. In the McCarthy era, when he was blacklisted, he sang, defiantly, “Wasn’t that a time?” and taught music to children. In […]

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An Enemy with Outposts in Our Head

Women and Internalized Anti-Semitism by Liz Manlin Reviewed in this Essay: Hope Into Practice: Jewish Women Choosing Justice Despite Our Fears by Penny Rosenwasser. Pennyrosenwasser.com, 2013, 417 pages. Although many books have been written about the legacy of anti-Semitism — its various historical manifestations, its manipulation for political ends, and its pervasive staying power — […]

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From Orthodoxy to Bacon in Five Uneasy Steps

by Judith Bernstein STEP ONE: INTERMARRY       My father Nahum and his ten siblings grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His parents had emigrated from Russia in the late 19th century, and my father, the youngest, was born in 1908. His father Charles ran a restaurant in the neighborhood. When […]

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Max Raabe Revives Weimar-Era “Schlager”

Holocaust Memory in Germany Politics and Culture by Leo Treitler From the Winter 2013-2014 issue of Jewish Currents   TWO RHYMES BROUGHT AS BAGGAGE FROM GERMANY at the time of my emigration in 1938, at age 7: Jude Itzik  Nase spitzig  Arschloch dreckig  Kopf viereckig Jew Izzy pointy nose, dirty asshole, square head Hundert nackte […]

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The View from J Street: A Challenge to AIPAC

by Alan Elsner Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative is at a critical moment. Within the next five or six weeks, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be asked to accept a U.S.-drafted framework setting out in considerable details the principles on which a final peace treaty will be negotiated. The […]

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Bird Migrations and Human Migrations

Life in Israel’s Hula Valley by Rabbi Amy Klein From the Winter 2013-2014 issue of Jewish Currents WHEN I MOVED THREE YEARS AGO from Harel, a kibbutz located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, to Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan in the Hula Valley of northern Israel, I discovered that even native Israelis have no idea where the […]

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Channel Esther: Protestants

by Esther Cohen Although my job path was askew, the word crooked doesn’t do it justice, and neither does meandering. Although I could not tell you with a great deal of certainty where I worked and when, the 1970s and even some of the ’80s brought an unusual number of jobs to me. Some were […]

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Shirley Temple and Me

by Florence Breiger Many years ago, almost too long to remember, when I was a little girl, my parents, my baby brother, and I lived in a tiny apartment on Rice Street in Chicago. When I say tiny, I mean the apartment consisted of one large room with a big picture window and a sunny alcove […]

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Muriel: In Memoriam

by Helen Engelhardt 1. You left us in February You left us two days before Valentine’s. In the morning I heard myself say, “No more. Do not call me anymore.” I listened to your lifetime.

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Hany Abu-Asad, Director of “Omar”

A Jewish Currents Interview by Esther Cohen In the middle of yesterday’s snowstorm on the East Coast, I had a conversation with the great Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Asad, director of Omar, who was on his way to the Academy Awards, where Omar is one of the five nominees for best foreign film. This is Abu-Asad’s […]

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The View from J Street: Time for the Peace Talks to Get Serious

by Alan Elsner There are only weeks to go until critical decisions are to be made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative. The outcome of Kerry’s bold effort hangs in the balance, and both leaders need to stop political posturing and […]

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The Hardliner Who Ended Otherwise

Ariel Sharon, 1928-2014 by Thomas G. Mitchell and Ralph Seliger AFTER ALMOST EXACTLY EIGHT YEARS IN A COMA, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon finally succumbed on January 11th. Known for bold, even reckless moves both as a career military officer and as a politician, he was reviled by the left as a hawk and […]

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Channel Esther: Going to the Gym

by Esther Cohen I’m not gymish. The gym in all its forms is not one of my skills. It does not make me feel better or happier, the way hearing a good story does, or eating pistachio nuts, or watching any Fellini movie. But when the Jewish Community Center opened its doors in spitting distance […]

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NAMEN: Where Do Jews Get All These Names?

A Song about Jewish Names by Corey Weinstein MP3 File of Core Weinstein’s “Namen” (Names) Namen, Namen, oy vey Namen, where do Jews get all these names? Epstein, Einstein, Bernstein, Weinstein, why are they so much the same? In the Pale we Jews had our names given on from one to next. Names that spoke […]

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Ancient Jews and Modern Muslims

by Steve Sklar MODERN CONFLICTS SOMETIMES MIRROR ancient struggles. The United States and Muslims of the Middle East seem to be living out a tragedy that Romans and Jews suffered some 2,000 years ago. The United States helped Muslims drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. A group of Muslim theological students, aided by Pakistan, […]

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People of the Book 101: Joseph Landis and Daniel Waldman

by Jules Chametzky Some years back I served with the late Kenneth Libo (1937-2012), who did wonderful work as chief researcher and contributor to Irving Howe’s magisterial and indispensable World of Our Fathers, on an advisory committee for a projected documentary on Abraham Cahan, the fabled editor for fifty years of the Yiddish Forverts. As part […]

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From “How Jewish Are You” to “How Are You Jewish?

Responding Creatively to the Pew Survey by Rabbi Richard Hirsh illustrations by Sarah Glidden When the Pew Research Center released its new study, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” observers looking at the same data arrived at often opposite conclusions as to whether the “news” was good or bad, cause for hope or despair, confirming of […]

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Kleztival Brazil, 2013

How an International Klezmer Festival Came to Sao Paulo by Richard Simas Photographs by Edy Borger “I am an idealist,” Kleztival director Nicole Borger admits. “That’s why I do this.” Promoting Jewish music in all its facets connects her long-standing youthful idealism and musical love to a powerful commitment to Hazbara, promoting the cause of […]

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Does Judaism Have Essential Beliefs?

by Rabbi Reba Carmel Discussed in this essay: The Basic Beliefs of Judaism: A Twenty first Century Guide to a Timeless Tradition, by Lawrence J. Epstein, Jason Aronson, 2013, 226 pages, and Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle with the Torah, edited By Roger Bennett, Workman Publishers, 2013, 384 pages.   In 12th-century Egypt, the […]

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O My America: Letter from a Prisoner in Solitary Confinement

by J.B., incarcerated in Florida Jewish Currents HAS A LONG HISTORY of giving free subscriptions to prisoners who ask for them, through our “Distress Fund” (which also enables us to extend the subscriptions of people who have fallen on economic hard times). This history is rooted in our long-time editor Morris U. Schappes’ experience of […]

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Sephardic Jewry: Not Built in a Day

by Jane Mushabac from the Autumn 2013 issue of Jewish Currents Discussed in this essay: After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry, by Jonathan Ray. New York University Press, 2013, 224 pages. The story of the Jews of the Iberian peninsula is well-known and dramatic. They lived on the peninsula for over a thousand […]

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Jewish Journeys: The “Customer Man” — A Love Story

by Violet Snow “When things were bad, my dad would say, ‘A klog tzu Columbusen‘ — ‘A curse on Columbus,’ remembers my father-in-law, Jack Gorelick, whose parents arrived in the U.S. from White Russia in the early 1900s. “When things were good, he’d say ‘Die goldene medina‘—’The golden country.’” Jack’s father, Avram Gorelick, grew up […]

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Nelly Sachs and the “Hubris of Pain”

How the Poet Became a Symbol of the Holocaust by Zelda Gamson From our Autumn 2012 issue Discussed in this essay: Nelly Sachs, Flight and Metamorphosis, An Illustrated Biography by Aris Fioretos, translated from the Swedish by Tomas Tranaeus, Stanford University Press, 2011, 320 pages. O the night of the weeping children! O the night […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Art Spiegelman at the Jewish Museum

by Mitchell Abidor MORE THAN FORTY YEARS have passed since the first incarnation of Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust-themed graphic novel Maus appeared in 1972, in Funny Animals. Later, when he embarked on the two-volume work we’ve come to know, he said that he wanted to make “a very long comic book that needs a bookmark and […]

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The 75th Anniversary of Japan’s Stand Against Anti-Semitism

by Dennis Listort It’s been a fascinating journey, both of the historical and the literary sort, raking through over three hundred faded, typewritten pages authored by Ingelore Rothschild, my deceased mother-in-law — her notes and reminiscences, left behind in a tattered cardboard box, of her journey from Berlin to Kobe, Japan. She undertook this in […]

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South African Jews as the Silent Minority

by Richard Weiner Discussed in this essay: The Jews in South Africa: An Illustrated History, by Richard Mendelsohn and Milton Shain. Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2008, 276 pages. As an 18-year-old draftee in the South African Navy in the 1970s, I was one of only two Jews on my destroyer. I was called “Jewboy” by my […]

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The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Labor Bund

Nazism and Stalinism Delivered Blows; Ideology Did the Rest by Philip Mendes From the Autumn, 2013 issue of Jewish Currents The Jewish Labor Bund was one of the most important leftwing Jewish political organizations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It played a key role in the formation of the Russian Social Democratic […]

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Netanyahu Should Remember: Obama Is a Friend

by Alan Elsner, J Street While the United States and five other powers worked to reach a diplomatic agreement with Iran to halt its nuclear program in exchange for allowing Tehran access to a few billion dollars in frozen Iranian assets, Israeli officials and their U.S. allies have railed against the deal using almost apocalyptic […]

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History, Herstory, Ourstory: Choosing Sides in New York, 1776

by Leo Hershkowitz Whig or Tory, radical or conservative, which side do you choose? This was a basic question facing the residents of New York City during the time of crisis, 1763-1776, when ties with Great Britain were being tested and, eventually, unwound. The city’s small Jewish population, perhaps 400 of some 30,000 total, faced […]

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People of the Book 101: In the Classroom with Ernest Samuels

Overcoming Academic Elitism by David Bittner Lionel Trilling (1905-1975), the American literary lion who along with his wife Diana belonged to the famous group of “New York Intellectuals” and frequent Partisan Review contributors, is usually remembered as being the first Jewish full professor of English at a major American university, Columbia, in New York. In […]

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Saving Bulgaria’s Jews: Church, State, and Citizens United

by Jeremiah Lockwood Once I met a Bulgarian sailor in a bar.  Our conversation began with that most delicious of vulnerability-provoking questions: “You a Jew?” The overall suggestion of aggression in his bearing brought out the undertone of violence that lies in the casual probing into the definition of one’s identity by a stranger. There was […]

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November 15: Émile Durkheim

Émile Durkheim, one of the founders (with Karl Marx and Max Weber, separately) of the academic discipline of sociology, died in Paris at 59 on this date in 1917, two years after the devastating loss of his son in World War I. Himself the son, grandson, and great-grandson of French rabbis, Durkheim decided at a […]

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Politics and Sex: What’s Really at Stake?

by Myriam Miedzian and Gary Ferdman ON NOVEMBER 5th, CONSPICUOUS BY THEIR ABSENCES on the New York City ballot were Eliot Spitzer, defeated in his bid to be the Democratic candidate for City Comptroller, and Anthony Wiener, who garnered only 5 percent of the primary vote for mayor. Meanwhile, across the country in San Diego, […]

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A Prisoner Release instead of a Settlement Freeze

by Alan Elsner Even the firmest supporters of a two state-solution to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could be forgiven for holding their noses when reading about this week’s release of twenty-six Palestinian prisoners, all of whom had been convicted of murdering Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended this release — the […]

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History, Herstory, Ourstory: Twelve Jewish Jurors

by Leo Hershkowitz IN EARLY AUGUST, 1816, AARON MOSES, ORIGINALLY FROM LONDON, COMMITTED SUICIDE — the first such instance by a Jewish resident of New York in which there was an inquest conducted by the Coroner and a jury. Interestingly, in this case all twelve members of the jury were Jewish, the only such instance […]

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J Street and the Berkeley Jewish Student Union

By Alan Elsner Nearly four decades ago, when I was a field organizer for the Union of Jewish Students in Britain, I fought against attempts by far left groups to ban Jewish societies from campuses — so I’m particularly saddened by what’s been happening recently at the University of California, Berkeley. Back then, the National […]

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Working and Organizing at Walmart

Low-Wage Workers Across the Country Take Action by Ben Lorber The work is grueling, tiresome and repetitive: loading nondescript boxes of all shapes, sizes and weights onto flatbed trucks to be shipped to Walmart retail stores here in Illinois and across the country. Alone or in pairs, we move in and out of the dark […]

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Once Removed: Discovering an Israeli Cousin

by David Laskin The man who greeted me at the door to the tract house was a large, awkward stranger, barrel-chested, 60, with a thick accent and a gruff manner.  I shook his hand and looked around at the cramped living room, spotless but drab. I scanned his face for signs of family resemblance and […]

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Letter from Birzeit, #1: Orientation

by Maya Rose Goldman Maya Rose Goldman is a third-year student at the University of Chicago, where she studies Human Rights, Anthropology, and Arabic. After a visit to Palestine in the Spring of 2012, she became passionate about understanding the situation in the Occupied Territories and the relationship between Israel and Palestine. In August, she […]

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History, Herstory, Ourstory: Asser Levy in New Amsterdam

by Leo Hershkowitz Who were the first Jews to arrive in New Amsterdam (New York)? The answer, repeated endlessly and deeply embedded in history, is that twenty-three individuals, “big and little” having been forced to leave Brazil after the Portuguese conquest in 1654,found their way to the Dutch settlement and so “established” the first Jewish […]

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Ivan Klima’s Memoir: Where Are the Jews?

by Elaine Margolin Discussed in this essay: My Crazy Century by Ivan Klima. Grove Press, November, 2013, 576 pages. Upon first glance, 83-year-old Czech author and former political dissident Ivan Klima seems a bundle of contradictions. He has been known to be both feisty and impish in interviews, but also cynical and introspective and sometimes […]

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For the Sin of Racism

by Rabbi Jonathan Kligler The Vidui, the communal confession of sins that we chant on Yom Kippur, is actually an elaborate acrostic. The ancient litany makes its creative way through the entire Hebrew alphabet, enumerating all of the ways that we have missed the mark, from Aleph to Tav, the Hebrew A to Z. The […]

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East Toledo, 2012

by Mermer Blakeslee Photographs © 2012 by Margot McLean In 2008 Margot McLean and I canvassed for Obama in Ohio, the tugboat state capable of pulling the big ship across. We ended up in Toledo, a place where we both felt very much at home. In 2012 we went back. A lot of it was […]

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A Socialist in Congress: My Great Uncle, Meyer London

by Rosalyn Baxandall Discussed in this essay: Meyer London, A Biography of the Socialist New York Congressman, 1871-1926, by Gordon Goldberg. McFarland and Co., 2013, 328 pages. Meyer London (1871-1926), the first Russian-Jewish immigrant in the House of Representatives and the first socialist from the East Coast (Victor Berger, the other Jewish socialist in Congress, […]

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“Three Score and Ten Our Years May Number . . .”

by Deborah Shelkan Remis Four times a year, during Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah and Shavuot, Jews in synagogue recite Yizkor, the traditional memorial service to honor the lives of our loved ones. One of the passages we read is: “Three score and ten our years may number/ four score years if granted the vigor.” […]

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A Day in the Life

by Richard Klin Discussed in this essay: The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies. 2012, Little, Brown, 400 pages. . . . I’m bringing myself down thinking about what a thoughtless bastard I seem to be . . . I really  feel like crying . . . —letter to his ex-wife, Cynthia, 1965 The […]

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Leftists and the Civil Rights Movement

Communist and Socialist Jews and Blacks by Cheryl Lynn Greenberg ON MANY ISSUES we now identify with modern liberalism, communists and socialists were there first. They opposed war, organized the unorganized, and challenged racial barriers in American life. They demanded fair wages and working conditions, government action to protect labor, and free speech. Virtually all […]

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In the Krakow Ghetto: Code-Name “Justyna”

by Fred Skolnik Gusta (Tova) Davidson Draenger, code-name Justyna, died at 26, in the prime of life. I discovered her in a group photo, taken in 1940. Aharon “Dolek” Liebeskind, the chief of the Akiba resistance group in the Krakow Ghetto, is on the far right, and Gusta is on the left, beside her husband, […]

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An Unsettled Peace Process

by Alan Elsner Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is annoyed. Before meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday in Jerusalem, Netanyahu complained about a recent European Union decision to stop EU grants, prizes and loans from going to Israeli entities located in the occupied territories or that conduct activities there. “I have to say,” Netanyahu […]

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Food Prices and Food Justice

Lessons from the New York Kosher Meat Boycott of 1902 by Nicholas Freudenberg In the past few years, rising food prices have triggered demonstrations, riots, and even the overthrow of governments. Hikes in food prices played an important role in the removal of Tunisian President Ben Ali and his cohort in 2011, and in other […]

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Israel’s Problems with Richard Wagner

His Music and Philosophy Should Not Be Conflated by Robert Levine There is no denying the greatness of Richard Wagner (1813-1883) as a composer, regardless of his operas being seen by many as too long, too “heavy” (whatever that means), or too German, i.e., lacking in Italianate tunes. There is also no denying his anti-Semitism. […]

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In Peace Talks, Watch What Bibi Does

by Alan Elsner In Israel’s history, hawkish leaders have often ended up advocating tough concessions for the sake of peace. Think Menachem Begin at Camp David, Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo Accords, and Ariel Sharon, who at the end of his career found himself mulling a withdrawal from the West Bank. Add Moshe Dayan and […]

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Jews and the Elephant Question

by Aviva Cantor It was 1944 and the Holocaust was raging in all its gruesome fury. In Slovakia, Jews from the countryside were herded to rail stations and forced into box cars headed to death camps. A Jew named Itzik Rosenberg was being shoved into a boxcar, with his neighbors watching the scene,  laughing and […]

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Debating the Necessity of Nuclear Power

The Case for Nuclear Power: A Critical Tool for Slowing Climate Change by Alan McGowan Of all of the technologies for war, peace, and industry, nuclear power is uniquely feared by many and loved by few. Yet it may be a critical tool for slowing and delaying global climate change and all of its destructive […]

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How Varian Fry Rescued My Elders

by David Meyerhof Both of my parents escaped Nazi Germany and survived the Holocaust. My grandparents, too, managed to escape and survive. Their stories deserve to be told separately, though there are connections among them. My father, Walter Meyerhof, was a professor of physics at Stanford University for forty-three years. He passed away seven years […]

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June 19th in Soho: Celebrate Our Summer Supplement

The Jewish Currents Summer Supplement, now on press, is a 32-page booklet of art, poetry and prose about marriage and relationships entitled 2  the Art of Marriage. Help us celebrate its publication by attending the event on June 19th. It’s free, it’s in a beautiful Soho gallery, and it’s going to be fabulous. 2  the Art […]

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In the Genizah of Dying Languages

A Jewish Ethnographer Pursues Linguistic Diversity in China by Ross Perlin “There are things than cannot ever occur with any precision. They are too big and too magnificent to be contained in mere facts. They are merely trying to occur, they are checking whether the ground of reality can carry them. And they quickly withdraw, […]

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Why I Became Vegetarian at Age 86

It’s Never Too Late to Change the World by Sherrey Reim Glickman I want people to know who I was! Born in 1924 into a Jewish immigrant household in Brooklyn, I was raised on chicken soup, meatloaf, pot roast, gefilte fish, hamburgers, hot dogs, and steak. I loved them all, never questioning what the source […]

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Why the BDS Movement Is Effective and Right

by Donna Nevel and Dorothy M. Zellner As Jewish activists working to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, we take exception to Philip Mendes’ criticism of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in “Why BDS is Ineffective and Worse: But the Issue of Palestinian National Rights Will Not Go Away” (Summer, 2012). Mendes says not a […]

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Why the BDS Campaign Is Worse than Ineffective

But the Issue of Palestinian National Rights Will Not Go Away by Philip Mendes The international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel was a by-product of the second Palestinian Intifada and the collapse of the Oslo Peace Process. In April and May, 2002, groups of academics in Europe and Australia urged a boycott […]

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The Old Left, the New Left, and the Jews

by Henry Srebrnik This past May, I attended a conference on “Jews and the Left” held at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York. Some 240 participants, from as far away as Chile, England, Israel and Lithuania, came to hear papers dealing with Jews in both the old and new lefts of the […]

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Eden: Van Cortlandt Park, 1946

by Alice Rosenthal I AM STANDING ON RISING GROUND overlooking a large expanse of green that blankets this corner of the northwest Bronx. I’ve come back to revisit this distinct patch of time and place from almost a lifetime away and a distance of 3,000 miles. I’ve come to honor it — and to grieve […]

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The State of American Unemployment

by Philip Ehrensaft TAKE ALL 25 MILLION American adults currently counted in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most comprehensive U.S. unemployment data as of this writing — the “U6” or “real” unemployment rate, estimated at 16.2 percent in January, 2012. (The standard “U3” or “official” rate, 8.3 percent, doesn’t count people working part-time for lack […]

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Edward Engelberg: More on “Mona Lisa” and Kristallnacht

by Edward Engelberg “What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare’s Prospero famously said in The Tempest, and I can’t think of a better way to begin. On November 7th, 2011, this website published my memories of an event both past and present, “Our Mona Lisa and Kristallnacht.” That memoir concerned the fate of two paintings by the […]

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People of the Book 101: Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in February, 1973 — and made his last public appearance as a special guest at the NYU Poetry Slam on February 20, 1997. We honor this pioneering poet and activist with this 1st of February remembrance. by Jules Chametzky Drawing by Marty Carey […]

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The Israeli Spring in Kiryat Shemona

120 Protest Camps throughout the Land by Rabbi Amy Klein When I arrive at the protest camp in Kiryat Shemona, fifteen minutes down the road from Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan, my home since a year ago, something is awkwardly wrong. I am too old. I don’t smoke. My clothes aren’t torn in the right places. Each […]

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My Grandfather’s Lover

For Father’s Day By Helen Engelhardt “Remember the days of old. Remember the years of many generations. Ask thy father and he will answer thee. Ask thy elders and they will tell thee.  It is self-understood and also natural to know one’s self. To know one’s own family and family origins have to be considered […]

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For the Triangle Fire Centennial, March 25th

For a new translation by Mickey Flacks of Morris Rosenfeld’s Yiddish poem about the Triangle Fire, “The Crimson Terror,” click here. Chalking Back Through Time: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire by Elissa Sampson Crossing the threshold to leave my building on a bleary March 25th morning, I felt that I had been suddenly pulled back from […]

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Ocean Hill-Brownsville Reexamined

When Black Power Collided with the Teachers’ Union by Jane Anna Gordon ON SEPTEMBER 9th, 1968, outside of a junior high school in the northern tip of Manhattan, two lines of students formed, one mostly African-American, the other entirely white. The white students were waiting for escorts to take them to a nearby synagogue where […]

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Blitspostn, Vebzaytlekh, Veblogs: The Rise of Yiddish Online

by Ross Perlin If Max Weinreich were here to add a chapter to his magisterial History of the Yiddish Language, what would he say about YouTube videos of mameloshn hip hop, haredi chatrooms, and the instant accessibility of so much of the Yiddish literary canon on the Internet? Every few days, for example, Zackary Sholem […]

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Global Development and the United Nations

Women’s Empowerment as a Key to Alleviating Poverty by Nora Simpson With civil wars, ethnic wars and terrorist and anti-terrorist campaigns bloodying our planet, international peacekeeping has become, in many critics’ eyes, the United Nations’ most compelling mandate — and most singular failure. UN peacekeeping forces have inadequate resources, inadequate military power, and ineffectual rules […]

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A Conversation with Daniel Libeskind

by Stephen Yablon DANIEL LIBESKIND BECAME A HOUSEHOLD NAME last year when he won the competition for the World Trade Center Design Study, but he was already a tremendously influential figure in architecture and urban design. Libeskind designed the Jewish Museum Berlin, which opened to wide acclaim in September, 2001, and has been celebrated and […]

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When I First Met Sh. Ansky

by Khayim Zhitlovsky Translated from the Yiddish by Max Rosenfeld Originally published in the December, 1990 issue of Jewish Currents; Translated from an essay first published in 1940 IT WAS ON THE MORNING of my bar mitzva, in the spring of 1878, that I first met Shloyme Zanvl Rapaport, who later became famous as Sh. […]

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African-Americans & Jewish-Americans: A New Agenda for an Old Alliance

by Mayor David N. Dinkins Originally published in the July-August, 1990 issue of Jewish Currents This address was delivered April 3 at the opening of an important photographic exhibit, “Blacks and Jews: The American Experience, 1654—1989” at the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. The exhibit was sponsored by the American Jewish […]

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Kindertransport Reunion

London, June 20-21, 1989 by Olga Drucker Originally published in the December, 1989 issue of Jewish Currents HALF A CENTURY HAS PASSED since the ships crossed the English Channel from Hook of Holland to Harwich (pronounced Harrich), England. They steamed across in the dark of night. Their cargo: children — a few hundred at a […]

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Jews in Latin America: Past and Present

Facing Problems of Social Transformation by Paul Horowitz Originally published in the September, 1981 issue of Jewish Currents Reviewed in this Essay: Jews of the Latin American Republics, by Judith Laikin Elkin. University of North Carolina Press, 1980, 313 pages. IN THE EARLY 1970S THE EARLY CHILEAN RIGHT Tried to focus middle-class and elite anger, unleashed […]

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Is There A Future For Jewish Secularism?

by Marc Lowenthal Originally published in the January, 1976 issue of Jewish Currents THERE IS A CRISIS TODAY FACED BY JEWISH SECULARISM. It is not a problem that is going to go away and it may well determine the composition of Jewish progressives in the next generation. If there is going to be a future […]

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Reparations to Jews By Lutherans?

From Lutheran Forum (New York), June-July, 1971, column by Editor Glenn C. Stone, “What If…” Originally published in the October, 1971 issue of Jewish Currents A RECENT VOLUME OF LUTHER’S WORKS, the last in a series on the Christian in society, prompts us to wonder what would have happened if Martin Luther had died before […]

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Jews & Negroes: Unity from Collision

by Coretta Scott King Originally published in the January, 1969 issue of Jewish Currents This address was delivered by Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr., at the Presidential Inaugural Spiritual Service at Brandeis University, October 4, 1968. THE QUESTION, “CAN THERE BE ONE AMERICA?” is one which requires careful thought and analysis. This is essentially a […]

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A Secular View of Bar Mitzva

by Hershl Harris Originally published in the June, 1964 issue of Jewish Currents ONE OF THE MANY ASPECTS of Jewish education on which secularists tend to disagree is the question of bar mitzva. To some, the very idea of a bar mitzva ceremony as part of secular Jewish education is a fatal compromise with religious […]

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A Blighted Passover

A Reminisence by Sam Liptzin, translated from the Yiddish by Max Rosenfeld Originally published in the April, 1961 issue of Jewish Currents IT WAS THE DAY BEFORE Passover, 1910 or 1911. I was working on Mangin Street on the lower East Side in New York, in a shop that belonged to two partners, Goldstein and […]

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Women Unite for Desegregation

Washington Conference of National Organizations Plans Action for Equality by Billie Portnow Originally published in the May, 1960 issue of Jewish Currents The sit-down demonstrations by Negro students against discriminatory lunch counters which began Feb. 1st in Greensboro, N.C., were spreading rapidly throughout the South when a historic conference dealing with the same basic issue […]

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Parents' Corner: Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur

Originally published in the September, 1958 of Jewish Currents A READER, RUTH SIMON, WRITES: Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur have always posed a difficult problem to Jews with a progressive, secular approach to Jewish living. These holidays have been essentially religious in ritual, centered in the synagogue and unrelated to any major historic event in […]

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Pilgrimage to Atlanta

Negro & White Women, United, Travel to Petition Governor Talmadge to Free Mrs. Rosa Lee Ingram, Victim of Oppression Originally published in the February, 1954 issue of Jewish Life   IT WAS A COLD DECEMBER MORNING when 23 of us, white and Negro women, marched onto the train at New York’s Penn Station with our banner, […]

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