The Uncivil Servant: Where the Hell Did We Come From?

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: The Origin of the Jews, by Steven Weitzman. Princeton University Press, 2017, 408 pages.   AT THE END of Steven Weitzman’s Origin of the Jews, a scholarly but eminently accessible account of the search for the origin of the Jews (which we should not confuse with their beginnings), the […]

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Radiant Science, Dark Politics

Martin Kamen, a physicist who in 1940 co-discovered, with Sam Ruben, the isotope carbon-14, a crucial dating tool for biochemistry, was born in Toronto on this date in 1913. Three years after their discovery, Kamen was assigned to work on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 1945 he was accused of leaking nuclear weapons secrets […]

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Queen Esther’s Tomb in Iran

Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld was born in Hanover Province, Germany on this date in 1879. He was deeply involved in archaeological excavations in Iran during the early 20th century and helped prompt the creation of the Persian law of antiquities, which protected some of humankind’s most ancient artifacts. Herzfeld also identified a shrine in Hamadan in the Kurdish region of Iran, […]

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Was the Last Supper a Seder?

The great Italian Catholic painter and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci was born in Tuscany on this date in 1452. Among his masterworks is “The Last Supper,” a painting nearly thirty feet wide by fifteen feet high, in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It shows Jesus and his disciples at a meal, […]

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Jewish Berlin, Within and Beyond the Cemetery

by Marty Roth Discussed in this essay: Berlin For Jews, by Leonard Barkan. University of Chicago Press, 2017, 191 pages. LEONARD BARKAN is a Jew who loves Berlin, particularly Jewish Berlin, and he offers his reader a deft and charming prose style, an eye for ambiguity, paradox and irony, and a wealth of research (both on […]

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January 28: Nahman Avigad in the Old City

Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad, who excavated the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and discovered remnants of the Jewish revolt against Rome that was crushed by Titus, as described in the work of Josephus, died at 86 on this date in 1992. Avigad also worked on excavating Masada as well as the caves […]

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June 28: Yigael Yadin

Yigael Yadin, who was David Ben Gurion’s Head of Operations during the Israeli War of Independence and then Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 1949 to 1952, died in Jerusalem at 67 on this date in 1984. Son of archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik and women’s rights activist Hasya Sukenik-Feinsod, Yadin became an archaeologist […]

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December 19: Hetty Goldman and Ancient Greece

Hetty Goldman, an archaeologist who was the first woman appointed as professor at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies, was born in New York on this date in 1881. (One grandfather was Marcus Goldman, a founder of Goldman Sachs; another was the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El.) She studied archaeology at Bryn Mawr and Radcliffe before becoming […]

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The Bible as (Not!) History

by Bennett Muraskin PEOPLE OFTEN CLAIM that the history of the Jews dates back 4,000 years. Actually, it is closer to 3,000 years, but that’s still a long time, in human terms. Certainly, few non-fundamentalists take the Adam and Eve or Noah stories literally, but many people do insist, on no firmer historical basis, that […]

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August 12: Eleazar Sukenik and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik, who helped establish the Department of Archaeology at Hebrew University and identified the antiquity of the Dead Sea Scrolls while convincing the Israeli government to acquire them, was born in Bialystok on this date in 1889. Sukenik was director of the Museum of Jewish Antiquities and made several important discoveries in […]

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