October 2: Manfred Mann and the “Iron Curtain”

Manfred Mann (Lubowitz) and his eponymous band became the first Western rock and roll band to go behind the Iron Curtain by performing in Prague on this date in 1965. In both Prague and Bratislava, Czech police intervened in the concert and beat up fans. The country was nevertheless more liberal about Western music than […]

Read More

May 14: Stanley Kunitz

Two-time U.S. poet laureate Stanley Kunitz died at 100 on this date in 2006. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard in the late 1920s, served in the armed forces as a non-combatant conscientious objector during World War II, and began a teaching career afterwards that included a 22-year stint at Columbia University. […]

Read More

The Origins and Meanings of Ashkenazic Last Names

by Bennett Muraskin (Editor’s note: Corrections and updates for this article are listed at the end of it. See also Bennett Muraskin’s follow-up piece by clicking here. For a musical exploration of Ashkenazic names by Corey Weinstein, click here.) Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last […]

Read More

October 2: Photographing the Sixties

Nat Finkelstein, art director of Harper’s Bazaar and a photographer who captured some of the most iconic images of the 1960s, died on this date in 2009. He was a political radical who helped organize civil rights and anti-war demonstrations in the 1960s, and when his involvement with the Black Panthers led to a warrant […]

Read More

O My America: Lenny Bruce and the Golden Age

by Lawrence Bush LEONARD ALFRED SCHNEIDER DIED 46 years ago on August 3, age 40. He was not the kind of Jewish boy you’d want your daughter or son to date, let alone marry. A hustler, he was arrested in 1951 on charges of falsely “soliciting funds for some non-sectarian organization that had sponsored a […]

Read More

June 2: Lysergic Acid

Allen Ginsberg wrote his poem, “Lysergic Acid,” in San Francisco on this date in 1959, the day before his 33rd birthday. “Thank God I am not God!” he wrote. “Thank God I am not God!/But that I long for a Yes of Harmony to penetrate/ to every corner of the universe, under every condition whatsoever/ […]

Read More

February 17: Israeli Writers Protest

”I’m for a Palestinian state, because that is the way to life. All other roads lead to death.” These words were spoken by Amos Oz to a gathering of 800, organized by the Israeli Playwrights Association at the Tsavta Theater in Tel Aviv on this date in 1988.  Twelve leading Israeli writers spoke or read […]

Read More

October 21: The Mobe

Approximately 100,000 people marched on Washington on this date in 1967 to protest the Vietnam War, after a year-long organizing effort by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War, a coalition of some 150 groups. Among the lead organizers were several Jews, including Robert Greenblatt, a Cornell professor, Sidney Peck, a Western Reserve University […]

Read More

August 18: Ahad Ha’am

Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg), the founder of “cultural Zionism” who advocated for Israel to be “a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews,” was born in a Hasidic family near Kiev on this date in 1856. Though he broke with Orthodox Judaism, he retained a deep commitment to Judaism’s ethical ideals. As a […]

Read More