featured-articles

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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THE WORLD’S MOST ISOLATED JEWISH COMMUNITIES

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:00am
BY IVANA MITROVIC FOR BEIT HATFUTSOT 


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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Who Saved Israel in 1947?

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 12:00am

Martin Kramer for Mosaic


The usual answer is Truman—but it could just as easily be Stalin. In fact, thanks to Zionist diplomacy, it was both; and therein lies a lesson for the Jewish state today.


November 29 marks the 70th anniversary of UN General Assembly resolution 181, recommending the partition of Mandate Palestine into two separate Jewish and Arab states. On that day in 1947, millions of listeners sat glued to their radio sets to follow the voting. The outcome set off spontaneous celebrations among Zionists everywhere, for it constituted the first formal international endorsement of a Jewish state.

To celebrate the anniversary, Israel’s embassy to the United Nations is restoring the hall in Flushing Meadows, New York—today the main gallery of the Queens Museum, then the meeting place of the General Assembly—to its appearance in 1947. The announced plan is to reenact the vote, with the current ambassadors of member states that voted “yes” recasting their ballots.

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The Kibbutz Movement

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 12:00am
BY RACHAEL GELFMAN SCHULTZ for myjewishlearning.com 


The proud and turbulent history of Israel's experiment in communal living.


The kibbutz — a collectively owned and run community — holds a storied place in Israeli culture, and Jews (and non-Jews) from around the world, including 2016 Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, have volunteered on them. Launched in 1909, with the founding of Degania, Israel’s first kibbutz, this unique movement has changed dramatically over its more-than-100-year history.

Degania, in northern Israel, was founded by a group of young Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They dreamed of working the land and creating a new kind of community, and a new kind of Jew — stronger, more giving, and more rooted in the land.

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Kabbalah and Mysticism 101

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:00am
myjewishlearning.com Staff


Jewish mysticism has taken many forms.


The Jewish mystical tradition is rich and diverse, and Jewish mysticism has taken many forms. Scholar Moshe Idel groups the different expressions of Jewish mysticism into two fundamental types: moderate and intensive. Moderate mysticism is intellectual in nature. It is an attempt to understand God and God’s world, and ultimately affect and change the divine realm. This type of mysticism incorporates many aspects of traditional Judaism, including Torah study and the performance of the commandments, infusing these activities with mystical significance. Intensive mysticism, on the other hand, is experiential in nature. Intensive mystics use nontraditional religious activities, including chanting and meditation, in an attempt to commune with God.

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Jews and Beer: 8 Surprising Facts

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 12:00am
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller for aish.com


For centuries Jews have been vital in the production and marketing of beer.


Here are 8 surprising facts about Jews and this history of this popular drink.


Ancient Origins
Beer-making dates to ancient times. Egyptian tombs depict pictures of beer brewing; Hammurabi’s Code, from 18th century BCE Mesopotamia, mentions beer; the ancient Greeks learned how to brew beer from Egyptians and brought this knowledge to Europe.

Ancient Israel, in contrast, favored wine over beer. But after the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, Jews were exiled to nearby Babylonia and adopted the Babylonian taste for beer. The Talmud records four different types of beer, brewed from barley, dates, figs and beer (Pesachim 107a). The modern usage of hops, a plant related to mulberries, in beer is also mentioned in the Talmud, which notes hops’ medicinal properties of being a preservative and antiseptic (Avodah Zarah 31b).

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