The Uncivil Servant: Ave Caesar!

by Mitchell Abidor   Discussed in this essay: The Landmark Julius Caesar, edited and translated by Kurt A. Raaflaub. Pantheon, 2017, 793 pages.   AS I WAS READING the magnificent new Landmark edition of Julius Caesar’s works, my initial instinct was to relate the Roman leader to the anti-democrats of today, starting — of course — with our […]

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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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All About Khanike-Hanukkah-Chanukah

A RESOURCE FROM JEWISH CURRENTS’ SCHAPPES CENTER FOR CULTURAL JEWISH LIFE (Sponsored, in part, by the Kurz Family Foundation. Illustration [above] from Richard Codor and Lawrence Bush’s Babushkin’s Catalogue of Jewish Inventions.)   KHANIKE (that’s the YIVO-style transliteration of the Yiddish pronunciation for Hanukkah, which we use to honor Yiddish culture) is one of the […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Ten Million Books

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell. Viking, 2017, 352 pages. THE NAZI WAR on knowledge and ideas is well-known and documented, and its image has been eternally fixed: the burning of books on May 10, 1933, a scene that opens Anders Rydell’s informative and well-written The Book Thieves. Less […]

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Citizens of Rome

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla, known simply as Caracalla, emperor of Rome from 211-217, was born on this date in 188. In 212 he declared all free residents of the Roman Empire to be citizens of Rome, including Jews, many of whom remained in the empire after the destruction wreaked by the Jewish-Roman Wars of 66-73 […]

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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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People of the Book 101

by Bennett Muraskin Discussed in this essay: The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature, by Adam Kirsch. W.W. Norton & Company, 2016, 407 pages. LITERARY CRITIC, essayist, and secular Talmudist Adam Kirsch is a 40-year-old Jewish intellectual with an extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge. He has a regular column in the […]

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September 26: Trying to Convert the Pope

Abraham Abulafia, a Spain-born mystic, kabbalist, and self-declared messiah who went to Rome in 1280 to attempt to convert Pope Nicholas III to Judaism, was released from after a month in prison on this date in that year. Hearing of Abulafia’s intention, the pope had issued orders to have him burned at the stake upon […]

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September 14: Christian Jerusalem

Helena of Constantinople, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who adopted Christianity as the state religion of Rome, identified the cross on which, she said, Jesus was crucified, and the tomb from which he emerged in his conquest of death, on this date in 326 CE. Revered as a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox […]

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The Ghetto, from Venice to Vilna to Harlem

by Dusty Sklar Discussed in this essay: Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea, by Mitchell Duneier. 2016, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 304 pages. AS MITCHELL DUNEIER, a sociology professor at Princeton,  points out in the preface to his inspired book, Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an […]

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