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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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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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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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The Third Crusade

On this day in 1189, King Philip of France, Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire, and King Henry II of England — soon to be succeeded by his son, Richard the Lionheart — began assembling armies for the Third Crusade. Their goal, backed by Pope Gregory VIII, was to reconquer Palestine from Saladin, the Muslim […]

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Fantasyland vs. The Counterculture

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, by Kurt Andersen. Random House, 2017, 462 pages.   WHEN MY SON Jonah was about 8, he articulated his first generalization about human beings, based on his perceptions of our none-too-diverse community in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York. “Dad,” he said, “I think there […]

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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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The Uncivil Servant: Protestantism at 500

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in the essay: Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet, by Lyndal Roper. Random House, 2017, 540 pages.   WHEN ON NOVEMBER 7 we observe the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution, which died a slow, ugly death after a life of barely seventy-five years, we should not forget the far greater revolution celebrating its 500th […]

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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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Thursday Night Poetry: Hillel’s Disciple

by Anna Bat-Chai Wrobel I He washed the beggar’s feet you know the paintings seated low long back yielding to an angle of service his head bowed enough for the poor man to look down both humbled not humiliated each in awe of the humanity of the other II He fed the multitudes you know […]

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March 16: Jericho

Israel ceded administrative control of the city of Jericho to the Palestinian Authority on this date in 1994. The city had been occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967, then by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. Jericho is the city with the oldest known protective wall in the world and among the oldest stone […]

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