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Chiune Sugihara: Heroism in the Face of Evil

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 12:00am
By Lisa Hostein for Hadassah Magazine

Dalia Tzura never expected to be reminded of the tragic fate of her family while traveling with an Israeli tour group through the bucolic heartland of Japan. Yet here she was in late November, emerging from a small Holocaust memorial museum in the town of Yaotsu with tears in her eyes. “I was deeply affected,” said the 74-year-old, whose father and mother both lost their entire families to the Nazis and rarely discussed the devastation with their daughter.

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My Early Life with Arabic

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:00am
Menahem Milson for Mosaic

We were the descendants of Isaac. The Arabs, descendants of Ishmael, were therefore not only our neighbors but also our family members, our cousins.

The launch in 2015 of the online Arabic-Hebrew dictionary—a massive, fully searchable database complete with notes, examples, and expressions drawn from many historical layers of the Arabic language—capped many years of dedicated labor by Menahem Milson, professor of Arabic language and literature emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the essay below, adapted from remarks delivered on the 90th anniversary of the university’s Institute of Asian and African Studies, Milson reflects on the opening stages of his lifelong involvement with the language.

The attraction was evident from a very early age. In 1936, when I was about three, a scandalized neighbor informed my mother that her darling son had been overheard saying words that did not bear repeating. Evidently, during a quarrel with the neighbor’s son, I’d uttered phrases in colloquial Arabic containing, among others, the words for mother, father, and religion. Without going into further detail, suffice it to observe that, for the purpose of cursing, many Hebrew-speaking Israelis resort to certain Arabic formulations in which all three words figure prominently.

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Nazis in Tinseltown

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 12:00am
By LESLIE EPSTEIN for The Weekly Standard

Spies, sympathizers—and the watchful Jewish operatives who thwarted their plans.

In the late 1930s, or perhaps it was as late as 1940, my father and uncle, the screenwriters Philip and Julius Epstein, sought to join the American armed forces. The Army turned them away; it apparently considered their anti-fascism premature. That, at any rate, is family lore, and I have every reason to believe it. At that point, in the view of much of the government and the country at large, to be against Hitler was to be for Stalin; to be against fascism was to be for communism—by far the greater evil, if indeed Nazism and its ideals were considered evil at all. Add to this equation a third element, the Jews, for in much of the popular imagination the distinction between being an anti-fascist, a Communist, and a Jew did not exist. Even the horrors of World War II did not change public opinion; in one 1945 survey, two-thirds of respondents agreed with the proposition “Jews have too much power and influence in this country.”

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Brooklyn, the Most Jewish Spot on Earth

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 12:00am
By Hilary Danailova for Hadassah Magazine

A dozen years ago, I moved from a Park Slope brownstone to a rent-controlled apartment south of Kings Highway in Brooklyn. It turned out to be next door to the Ocean Avenue building where my grandmother, Shirley, had spent her first married years. “Tell me,” she demanded over the phone, her Brooklyn accent undimmed by 20 years in Florida, “is it one of those units with a sunken living room? Those were the hot ticket!”

​It was indeed. And as I unpacked my Ikea sofa into that sunken living room—60 years after Shirley snared her own—my family’s Brooklyn story had come full circle.

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He Fought Polar Bears And Nazis And Was Called ‘The Most Unique Jew Alive’

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:00am
Talya Zax for The Forward


On December 20, 1934, the New York Jewish Daily Bulletin’s Michel Kraike published an article about one Peter Freuchen: “Eight feet tall, weighing close to 330 pounds, with a head like a grizzly bear’s and a thick, square red beard.”

Born in Denmark, Freuchen held a series of professions that, to modern ears, might sound unlikely: He was an Arctic explorer who traded goods with the Eskimos, a novelist who accidentally starred in a Hollywood adaptation of his book “Eskimo,” an amateur-surgeon-by-necessity — suffering from frostbite during his time with the Eskimos, he amputated several of his own toes before eventually having his leg amputated — and a onetime governor of a Greenland colony.

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DNA and the Origin of the Jews

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:00am
Prof. Steven J. Weitzman for TheTorah.com

Is there a genetic marker for cohanim (priests)? Are Ashkenazi Jews descended from Khazars? Why is there such a close genetic connection between Samaritans and Jews, especially cohanim?  A look at what genetic testing can tell us about Jews.

In premodern times, the question of where Jews come from had an obvious answer: The Bible tells the story of Israel’s origins beginning with the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, moving on to Moses and the exodus from Egypt, and continuing on the conquest of Canaan, the judges, the monarchy, the exile, and so on. Modern scholars have come to challenge that narrative, however, just as scientists began to challenge the creation story in Genesis, looking beyond the biblical account for an explanation for how the Jews came to be.

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Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Prophet’s Prophet

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:00am
BY ROBERT M. SELTZER for myjewishlearning.com 

Heschel aimed, through his writing and teaching, to shock modern people out of complacency and into a spiritual dimension

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), a descendant of two important Hasidic dynasties, was born in Warsaw. After receiving a thorough Jewish education in Poland, Heschel entered the University of Berlin, where in 1934 he received his doctorate for a study of the biblical prophets… . In 1937 Heschel became Martin Buber’s successor at the Judisches Lehrhaus in Frankfurt and head of adult Jewish education in Germany, but the following year, he and other Polish Jews were deported by the Nazis. [Martin Buber (1878-1965) was a German-Jewish social and religious philosopher. The Frankfurt Lehrhaus, an experimental center for adult Jewish education, aimed to teach marginal, acculturated Jews about Judaism.]

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Regina Jonas

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 12:00am
BY RABBI ELISA KLAPHECK for myjewishlearning.com 

The first female rabbi and how she was almost forgotten.

If I confess what motivated me, a woman, to become a rabbi, two things come to mind. My belief in God’s calling and my love of humans. God planted in our heart skills and a vocation without asking about gender. Therefore, it is the duty of men and women alike to work and create according to the skills given by God. — Regina Jonas, C.-V.-Zeitung, June 23, 1938.

Regina Jonas, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi, was killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. From 1942-1944 she performed rabbinical functions in Theresienstadt (also known as Terezin). She would probably have been completely forgotten, had she not left traces both in Theresienstadt and in her native city, Berlin. None of her male colleagues, among them Rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956) and the psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), ever mentioned her after the Holocaust.

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The Kurdish Immigrants Who Built Israel

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:00am
By Lauren S. Marcus for The Forward

In Israel, there is often a singular narrative told about immigration and the creation of the Jewish state: Ashkenazi pioneers came from Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century and built the country. They established kibbutzim, moshavim, and cities like Rishon LeTzion, and created pre-IDF militias. Streets in every city in Israel bear their names: Jabotinsky, Trumpeldor, Weizmann.

The Mizrahim came later, the narrative explains, in massive waves in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Refugees arriving long after the establishment of the state, they languished in ma’abarot and development towns.

But the story of one Kurdish Jewish family disrupts this narrative.

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Why Many American Jews Are Becoming Indifferent or Even Hostile to Israel

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 12:00am
By Daniel Gordis for Mosaic

It’s not about what Israel does. It’s about what, to their minds, Israel is.

All told, the two Jewish communities of the United States and Israel constitute some 85 percent of the world’s Jews. Although other communities around the globe remain significant for their size or other qualities, the future of world Jewry will likely be shaped by the two largest populations—and by the relationship between them. For that reason alone, the waning of attachment to Israel among American Jews, especially but not exclusively younger American Jews, has rightly become a central focus of concern for religious and communal leaders, thinkers, and planners in both countries.

True, other concerns have lately encroached: concerns in both countries, for instance, over the Trump administration’s still-developing stance toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict and, in the U.S., over a seemingly homegrown series of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism and bomb threats against Jewish institutions (most of the latter exposed as the work of a disturbed Israeli Jewish youth). But the larger worry—American Jewish disaffection from Israel—remains very much in place, and its reverberating implications were underscored during the waning days of the Obama administration, when by far the greater portion of American Jews stayed faithful to the president and his party even after his decision to allow passage of an undeniably anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations.

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Whose Jerusalem?

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 12:00am
BY LILI KALISH GERSCH for myjewishlearning.com 

A history of Jerusalem since Israel's establishment.

Following the 1948 War of Independence, the Israelis declared military control over West Jerusalem, extending the law of Israel to the territory for purposes of administration. Palestinian notables called on King Abdullah of Transjordan to annex eastern Jerusalem, and meetings with the Israelis were arranged in order to discuss the terms of the truce and perhaps plan for a peace agreement. While a peace agreement was not reached, Israel and Transjordan did sign an armistice agreement in April of 1949, freezing the borders of Jerusalem and formalizing the partition of the city.

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The Sulzberger family: A complicated Jewish legacy at The New York Times

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 12:00am
By Josefin Dolsten for JTA

On Thursday, The New York Times announced that its publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., 66, is stepping down at the end of the year and will be succeeded by his son, 37-year-old Arthur Gregg (A.G.) Sulzberger.

The familial exchange of power wasn’t unexpected. The younger Sulzberger is the sixth member of the Ochs Sulzberger clan to serve as publisher of the prominent New York newspaper. He is a fifth-generation descendant of Adolph S. Ochs, who bought the newspaper in 1896 as it was facing bankruptcy.

The family’s Jewish history — Adolph Ochs was the child of German Jewish immigrants — has often been the subject of fascination and scrutiny, especially during and after World War II, when the paper was accused of turning a blind eye to atrocities against Jews.

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The Little-Known Story That Changed How Jews View the Path to the Redemption

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:00am
From IsraelvideoNetwork

Jews have been integrated into their various societies in the exile for thousands of years.

Thousands of Jews were more willing to die than convert out of Judaism, and they continued to pray for the redemption.

The idea of Jews working and trying to speed up the bringing of the redemption came and went over the generations.

Major debates occurred concerning the dawning of the messianic age.

This video is but one of many fascinating stories that dot Jewish history over the centuries.

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Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:00am

Different estimates show the number of Jews living in the world between 14.4 and 17.5 million – about half in Israel and more than half of the rest in the United States. But the bond to Judaism is not about strength in numbers.Here are five small and distant Jewish communities in the far corners of the Jewish world.

Iquitos, Northern Peru

The city of Iquitos, in northern Peru, is tucked deep in the rainforest. It is the largest city in the world inaccessible by road; people and supplies arrive by air or by boats on treacherous Amazon.

The first Jew to arrive in this remote area was Alfredo Coblentz, who moved from Germany to the nearby town of Yurimaguas in 1880 to work in the Amazon’s booming rubber industry. Five years later, three brothers – Moises, Abraham and Jaime Pinto – moved to Iquitos to work in the rubber field. They only stayed a few years, but others followed. Jews from Morocco soon arrived to try their luck in rubber trading.


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Hanukkah FAQ

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:00am
MJL Staff


Want more great Hanukkah ideas? Find articles, crafts, and recipes in our Hanukkah Guide.

From pronunciation to scheduling, questions and answers about the Festival of Lights.

How do you pronounce Hanukkah?

Is there a correct way to spell Hanukkah?

Why does Hanukkah last eight days?

What is Hanukkah about?

Is it OK to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas?

Why does Hanukkah fall on a different date each year?

Is the candelabra lit on Hanukkah called a menorah or a hanukkiah?

Why do Jews play dreidel on Hanukkah?

Do Jews traditionally exchange gifts on all eight nights of Hanukkah?

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Learning To Take a ‘Soulfie’ at Hanukkah

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:00am
By Naomi Levy for Hadassah Magazine

Want more great Hanukkah ideas? Find articles, crafts, and recipes in Jvillage's Hanukkah Guide.

What would Hanukkah be without the burning candles reminding us of God’s miracles in the time of the Maccabees and in our own days? But the candles we kindle on the holiday—which begins the evening of December 12—can also teach us about the miracle shining within each of us. As Proverbs 20:27 reminds us: “God’s candle is the human soul.” We are carrying God’s light within us. It burns like a pilot light, always available to help us and guide us. It’s our responsibility to honor and tend that light, to keep sharing it and spreading it.

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