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In Memoriam: Julius Lester

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

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The Messiah’s Prophet

Nathan Ghazzati, known as Nathan of Gaza (1643-1680), the leading prophet of Shabbatai Zvi, the self-proclaimed (and widely embraced) messiah of 17th-century Judaism, was excommunicated by the Rabbinical Council of Constantinople on this date in 1666, three months after his master converted to Islam rather than be executed by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV. Nathan of […]

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June Levine and Irish Feminism

June Levine, an Irish journalist and writer who helped to found the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement in 1970-71, died at 76 on this date in 2008. Levine wrote two bestselling books, Sisters, a memoir about the feminist movement, and Lyn: A Story of Prostitution, which she co-authored with its subject. Levine had a Catholic mother and Jewish father […]

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January 9: Heine’s Baptism

“I regret very deeply that I had myself baptized,” wrote German poet, memoirist, and essayist Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) on this date in 1826. “I do not see that I have been the better for it since. On the contrary, I have known nothing but misfortunes and mischances.” Famous as a lyric poet (many of whose […]

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Kvetching about Judaism in “Café Society”

by Elliot B. Gertel WHILE WOODY ALLEN’S movies can be formulaic, this has rarely prevented him from telling a good story and providing interesting characters. But except for the fine cast and the enchanting luster provided by new production partner cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, Café Society comes across simply as a checklist for many a Woody […]

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April 17: Robert of Reading

Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton convened a provincial council that ordered the immediate execution, on this date in 1222, of a Christian deacon who had circumcised himself and married a Jewish woman. This case is commonly conflated with that of Robert of Reading, half a century later. Robert was a Dominican friar and a student […]

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May 25: Jamaica Kincaid

Antiguan-American novelist Jamaica Kincaid (Elaine Potter Richardson), a convert to Judaism in 1993 and a professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard since 1992, was born in St. John’s, Antigua, a land colonized by Great Britain, on this date in 1949. Kincaid was sent to the U.S. by her mother as an au pair […]

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May 6: Martha Nussbaum and Moral Psychology

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, a pioneering woman in academia and a convert to Judaism in the early 1970s, was born into what she describes as an “East Coast WASP elite” family in New York on this date in 1947. A professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago and a widely published writer on […]

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