May You Be Inscribed for a Good Laugh
MEIR Y. SOLOVEICHIK for Commentary
Laughter,” writes the the essayist Jim Holt in his book Stop Me If You’ve Heard This, “is our characteristic response to the aesthetic category of the humorous, the comical, or the funny. What is it about the humorous situation that evokes this response? Why should a certain kind of cerebral activity issue in such a peculiar behavioral reflex?”
This is not only a question that is raised every time you watch the Marx Brothers; it is also, you will be surprised to hear, at the very heart of Judaism. Laughter is a central theme on one of Judaism’s most serious days, a fact that makes it clear that for Jews, laughter is no laughing matter.
On Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Awe that begins each new year, we read the passage in the Torah about the miraculous birth of a son to the elderly Sarah, then 90 years of age. This son’s Hebrew name, Yitzchak, means “he will laugh.” This, the Bible informs us, is linked to the laughter that his birth to Sarah provoked: “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age . . . . And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”
A Captivating Tour of Jewish Life at the Moment before the Holocaust and Israel
By Michel Gurfinkiel for Mosaic
Translated into English for the first time, The Wandering Jew Has Arrived captures the breadth of Jewish life from London to Eastern Europe to Palestine just before it all changed.
If you’ve always longed to read a book capturing that very special moment in history when the European Diaspora still was the Jewish people, even as the state of Israel was looming on the far horizon—a book explaining, from within, that moment of incipient transition into two Jewish identities—it has existed since 1930. The problem is that it was written in French, and by a Gentile at that, and for decades nobody bothered introducing it to the English-speaking public.
But now the situation has been rectified. Albert Londres’ masterpiece, The Wandering Jew Has Arrived, has recently been published in a superb translation by Helga Abraham, an Egyptian-born graduate of Edinburgh University who now lives in Jerusalem. In her foreword, Abraham goes so far as to compare Londres with “such great documentarians as Mark Twain and George Orwell.” I couldn’t agree more.
In Omaha, Three Faiths Share One Big Idea
By Jonathan Zalman for Tablet Magazine
The Tri-Faith Initiative brings together a synagogue, a church, and a mosque, with a promise to build bridges between them
A new kind of “neighborhood” is nearing completion in West Omaha, Nebraska—a place where Jews, Muslims, and Christians will share spaces, food, ideas, joy, and pain.
Over 10 years ago, a group of Omaha’s religious and lay leaders hatched an idea: Build three, brand-new houses of worship—a temple, a mosque, and a church—located close together on the same plot of land; ensure that the design scheme feels borderless, flowing, and inviting of interaction; encourage communication between communities—promoting, among other things, cross-religious education and, well, understanding; put into place the right leaders to foster these activities; have plentiful parking; coexist; shock the world.
The Last Jews Of Kolkata | Unique Stories From India
From ASI (American Sephardi Federation)
"If it is our fate to be the last flicker of the Jewish candle in Kolkata, then so be it."
Everyone agrees that Kolkata is one of India's most beautiful cities. But not many know that a majority of the landmarks in the city were built not by the British, but by members of the Jewish community. Once a community several thousands strong, they are now down to just over 20 members.
Despite their diminished numbers, the Jews of Kolkata still own three Synagogues, three schools and a cemetary in Narkedanga. Members of the community are now reaching out to Jewish communities in Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States, to see if they would help to manage Jewish affairs in the city. Members of the community are resigned to the fact that they may be the last generation of Jews in Kolkata. The way they see it, it's the city's loss.
A 1938 Family Film Uncovers a Lost Polish Jewish World
BY AVISHAY ARTSY for Jewniverse
It’s rare that vacation photos elicit more than a yawn, and it’s certainly unusual to find anything as riveting as the 16mm reel Glenn Kurtz uncovered while sifting through a cardboard box at his parents’ house in Florida.
His grandfather’s home-movie footage included three minutes of Kodachrome color film shot in 1938 during a visit to the small Polish town of Nasielsk. Fewer than 100 of the town’s 3,000 inhabitants survived the Holocaust, and David Kurtz, a Jewish tourist from New York, captured the only surviving moving images of the town. Today, December 3, marks the 75th anniversary of the deportation of Nasielsk’s Jewish population.