Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bnei Anusim: Rediscovering Ancient Roots

Moving documentary on the Bnei Anusim from Spain and Portugal and their journey towards Jerusalem and Israel, facilitated by Shavei Israel

Monday, December 28, 2009

concert of the Columbia Klezmer Band

(1) Backwards March

(2) Fun Der Khupe

(3) Yeshivishe Nign / Beregovski #49

(4) In Velt Is Altz Git

(5) Kolomaika

(6) Bobover Nign

(7) Borscht

(8) Sarahs Khusidl

(9) Neil's Romanian Tune

(10) Odessa Bulgar

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jerusalem - Israel's eternal capital

A 4 minute history of Jerusalem - Israel's eternal capital

Micky Katz Mule Train

Mickey Katz & his Kosher Jammers - Tico Tico

Mickey Katz & his Kosher Jammers - Chlo-e

MICKEY KATZ "You`re A Doity Dog"

MICKEY KATZ "Come On - A My House"

Micky Katz Yiddish Hillbillies

Micky Katz Yiddish Square Dance

Mickey Katz - How Much Is That Pickle In The Window?

Mickey Katz - Schleppin My Baby Back Home

Mickey Katz - Hermendel's Koch-A-Lain

Mickey Katz - Kiss of Meyer

Mickey Katz (June 15, 1909 Born: Cleveland, Ohio - April 30, 1985) was a U.S. Jewish comedian and musician who received his first moments of fame in the 1940s as a member of Spike Jones and His City Slickers where he was most famous for his "glugging" vocal sound effects on tunes like "Cocktails for Two" and others. He later went on to perform his own parodic musical review and record highly popular "ethnic" comedy albums on the Capitol label where he would perform English-Yiddish parody songs. He was also recognized as a master of what would later be called Klezmer style clarinet and had several hits during his long career. Though Katz sang primarily in broken Yiddish, he is often as recognized as one of the godfathers of American song parody which would later be advanced by the likes of Allan Sherman and, in the 1980s, Weird Al Yankovic.

Katz and his group can be seen in the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie accompanying Julie Andrews as she sings a Yiddish song at a Jewish wedding.

Katz is the father of Broadway legend Joel Grey and a grandfather of the actress Jennifer Grey. In the early 1980s he told the story of his life in a biography called Papa Play for Me.

A number of famous Jewish musicians, including those with their own bands have recorded with him including Manny Klein, Ziggy Elman and Sy Zentner.

Jazz musician Don Byron recorded a tribute to Mickey Katz in 1993 entitled Don Byron Plays The Music of Mickey Katz.

The 2003 British movie Wondrous Oblivion featured Katz' "The Barber of Schlemiel" (a parody of The Barber of Seville in a scene where the Jewish main character played the record for his Jamaican neighbor. No soundtrack has been released for the film as yet.

Dona Dona

Chava Alberstein singing Dona Dona

English Version

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bob Dylan's Jewishness

With God On His Side

Knockin’ on heaven’s door: Fifty years into Dylan’s career, Seth Rogovoy’s new book explores his Jewish influences.

Knockin’ on heaven’s door: Fifty years into Dylan’s career, Seth Rogovoy’s new book explores his Jewish influences.

by Jonathan Mark
Associate EditorBob Dylan showed up in Greenwich Village in 1960 dissembling tall tales of who he was, riding in as a mystic, mythic, out of the American West, one of Woody’s children, raised by Bessie Smith or Mother Goose, now you see him, now you don’t, born in a dustbowl or on the Burlington Northern, a never-ending kaleidoscope of biographical masquerade.

And yet, no great American singer-songwriter was such a child of the Jewish 20th century. He may have been Woody’s child, but he was Anne Frank’s ornery brother who didn’t think people were good at heart: “You’ve got a lot of nerve, to say you are my friend.” He came out of the chute singing “Talkin’ Hava Negilah Blues” (introduced by Dylan as
Jewish Theological Seminary
“a foreign song I learned in Utah”), making a half-dozen song and poem references to Hitler or the Holocaust, singing, “We forgave the Germans ... though they murdered six million in the ovens,” somehow becoming a star in the process.

This was not the stuff of Tin Pan Alley, let alone Top 40; Holocaust talk was hardly heard in public, let alone sold on the Columbia Records label.

Dylan later studied art with Sholom Aleichem’s son, Norman Raeben, whom Dylan credits with influencing his poetry. Dylan named his music publishing company, “Ram’s Horn Music,” and said, “I am a Jew. It touches my poetry, my life, in ways I can’t describe.” And yet Dylan’s Jewishness has rarely, if ever, been written about at length.

Even in his memoir “Chronicles Volume 1” (the name of a book in the Hebrew Bible), Dylan devotes several pages to how he was influenced by Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson, but almost nothing about how his poetry and images were influenced by Judaism and Jewish texts. Over time, however, he admits that the political, countercultural interpretations of his lyrics bothered him: “Whatever the counterculture was, I’d seen enough of it. I was sick of the way my lyrics had been extrapolated, their meanings subverted into polemics and that I had been anointed as the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest. ... I’d have to send out deviating signals ... create some different impressions. ... I went to Jerusalem, got myself photographed at the Western Wall wearing a skullcap. The image was transmitted worldwide instantly and quickly all the great rags changed me overnight into a Zionist. This helped a little.”

And that’s just about all he’d say. Feeling protective, wounded, Dylan then retreats, to write least about what he loves most, almost nothing about his children, his parents, his religion and religious inspirations.

Now, almost 50 years into Dylan’s career, someone finally explores the last of these.

Now, almost 50 years into Dylan’s career, it finally has, in Seth Rogovoy’s fascinating new book, “Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet” (Scribner). Rogovoy, author of “The Essential Klezmer,” documents Dylan’s Jewish inspirations, lyrics directly echoing Isaiah (“All Along the Watchtower”); Leviticus (“I Pity the Poor Immigrant”); the Shabbat table (“Forever Young” is based on the Friday night blessing given to children); to “New Morning,” based on the daily service; “Time Out of Mind” (the Yom Kippur service); to the Talmud (“Idiot Wind” is based on an extended riff by Resh Lakish on sin and “ruach shtuss,” ruach meaning both wind and breathing, “Idiot wind, it’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe”).

Other writers have picked up on Dylan’s Jewish influences before, in smaller pieces. Allen Ginsberg described Dylan’s vocal technique on “One More Cup of Coffee,” as a “voice lifts in Hebraic cantillation never before heard in U.S. song,” and, indeed, it does sound like Dylan is layning Torah.

When Ronnie Gilbert of The Weavers once introduced him at a folk festival, “And here he is ... take him, you know him, he’s yours,” Dylan recoiled, he wrote in his memoir, “What a crazy thing to say. As far as I knew, I didn’t belong to anybody, then or now. ... I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of. I’d left my hometown only ten years earlier...”

In that hometown, Hibbing, Minn., his parents kept a kosher home; his mother was president of the local Hadassah; his father was president of the local B’nai Brith; his great-grandfather (who didn’t die until Dylan was 20) regularly put on tefillin; Dylan lived in the Jewish fraternity house at the University of Minnesota, and spent summers in Camp Herzl, a religious Zionist camp, just two years before he was singing in New York.

When Dylan lived in upstate Woodstock, his mother said he always kept a Bible on a shtender, the Yiddish word for a personal bookstand, commonplace in old shuls, used for holding a siddur and Bible.
Those “hometown” years left Dylan with several lifelong Orthodox friends, who sometimes went on tour with him, and a Jewish mother who helped bring him back to his roots after a two-album detour into Christianity 30 years ago. Dylan’s Christian interest was seemingly driven by a romantic relationship with one of his African-American Christian back-up singers, after Dylan divorced the Jewish wife with whom he raised five children, several of whom were given Israeli bar mitzvahs, with one daughter known to be Orthodox as an adult.

As Rogovoy tells it, Dylan’s mother persuaded him “to visit his boyhood friend, Howard Rutman,” a dentist, “under the guise of his needing to get his teeth cleaned. As an old friend from Camp Herzl days ... Rutman was one of the few people in the world able to confront Dylan directly. ... While examining Dylan’s mouth he supposedly pointed to a cross Dylan was wearing around his neck, and asked him, ‘Bob, what’s up with this? .... Bob, you’re Jewish.”

Rutman, writes Rogovoy, who is Orthodox, “invited Dylan to his house for dinner. Dylan brought his girlfriend at the time and wound up incredibly embarrassed by the manner in which she carried on about Jesus to Rutman and his wife, who were having no truck with such talk.”

Dylan’s Christian period clearly ended with “Infidels,” without question the most right-wing Jewish album ever made by a popular singer. It was an album, writes Rogovoy, that had The Village Voice calling Dylan “the William F. Buckley of rock and roll.”

Dylan, himself, wrote in “Chronicles,” “My favorite politician was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who reminded me of Tom Mix, and there wasn’t any way to explain that to anybody.”

Rogovoy calls the centerpiece of “Infidels,” a tune called “Neighborhood Bully,” a “drippingly sarcastic overview of Jewish history and persecution through the lens of contemporary Zionism, a strongly nationalistic identification with the Jewish peoplehood. The song is saying that Judaism and Jewish nationalism are one and the same, which is a very sophisticated point of view.”

As Dylan sings of Israel: “Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized/ Old women condemned him, said he should apologize/ Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad/ The bombs were meant for him, he was supposed to feel bad/ Neighborhood bully.”

Elsewhere on that album, he took a further swipe at Israel’s critics: “You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.”

For quite some time, writes Rogovoy, the lead guitarists in his road band would introduce “All Along The Watchtower” with “a snippet” of the theme from the movie “Exodus,” thereby further associating a Dylan song “with contemporary Jewish nationalism.”

Dylan has appeared on Chabad telethons, calling Chabad “my favorite organization in the whole world.” He may have changed his name from Zimmerman to Dylan, but he never changed his Jewish name — Shabtai Zisel Ben-Avraham — with which he gets called to the Torah in Chabad shuls.

Not all of Rogovoy’s claims are completely convincing. He has Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues,” referring to Samson and the jawbone, as a “freewheeling riff on Judges 15,” without mentioning that “Samson and Delilah,” was already a classic song by Reverend Gary Davis, and went all the way back to “If I Had My Way (I Would Tear This Old Building Down)” by Blind Willie Johnson in the 1920s. One doesn’t have to be Jewish to influenced by the Hebrew Bible.

Nevertheless, Rogovoy includes this gem: Dylan gives a shout-out in “Tombstone Blues” to the 1949 movie “Samson and Delilah” that was based on the 1930 novel, “Judge And Fool,” also known as “Samson The Nazarite”; it was written by Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of the Irgun, and the political mentor to Menachem Begin, and what is now Likud, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Jabotinsky,” notes Rogovoy, “also co-wrote the treatment that was eventually turned into the film script.”

Only a story about Dylan can get Jabotinsky together with Blind Willie Johnson, and that says it all.

jewish snowman


Monday, December 21, 2009

The jewish mccartneys

From Alex Lubet
I thought it would be interesting, after all the exchanges about the Jewish Bob Dylan, to remind/inform y'all that the late Linda Eastman McCartney (Paul's wife) was Jewish and thus also their kids, one of whom, James, is a musician, due to come out with his first solo album soon. He's on some of his dad's albums. My research indicates that Linda was never religious and that their household (Paul was baptized Catholic, raised ecumenical/agnostic) had no religion, either (or as John Lennon said, "no, religion, too."

The whole McCartney clan are vegetarian or vegan (and animal rights activists), so they're sorta kosher by accident.

His pre-Linda, longtime girlfriend was Jane Asher, sister of Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon, for whom Macca wrote "World Without Love" under the pseudonym Bernard Webb. I think the Ashers are Jewish, but haven't been able to confirm.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

86-year-old masters UMSL

"I don't do facebooking or tweeting, but self-checkout I can handle," said Ken Wilde who at 86 is the oldest master's degree recipient at UMSL. Wilde, with his wife Eve, shopped at Dierberg's in preparation for a dinner party Friday night. (Robert Cohen/P-D)

Ken Wilde is not the kind of college student that professors have to nudge to talk in class. His hand is usually one of the first to go up.

History — 20th century European history, to be exact — is his forte, which is not surprising given his past. He often gives firsthand accounts to his classmates of living through Kristallnacht in pre-war Berlin, of the Kindertransport program that helped Jewish children like himself escape from Germany, and of his time serving with the British Army at the end of World War II.

And then there are the more obvious ways Wilde stands out from his classmates. He wears sweater vests. He doesn't have a Facebook page. He has seven grandchildren. And he's 86.

When he walks across the stage today at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, in his cap and gown — and a hood he has still not quite figured out — the ceremony will pause as Chancellor Thomas George will share some special words about him. Wilde will become the school's oldest graduate.

Well, actually, make that the school's oldest graduate to get a master's degree. UMSL originally thought he was the school's oldest graduate of any kind but then came upon the record of a student who was 87 when she got her bachelor's degree in 1978.

"I had my five minutes of fame," Wilde said, laughing about the e-mail he received from UMSL on Wednesday to tell him about the recent discovery.

But that's just fine with him.

His wife, Eve, would also rather people not focus so much on Wilde's age but on his accomplishments.

Not having a college degree was something that nagged him from time to time. And it didn't help that his younger brother ended up becoming a professor of Germanic studies at the University of Minnesota.

It's not that Wilde was not intellectually curious. To the contrary, he was always reading and up on current events. Their house has always been filled with books.

"I never really felt a lack of education," Wilde said. "But I never had a degree in any way."

It's just that World War II got in the way.

As he got older, he took classes here and there through a local university or community education program, but he never had time to really focus on it with a demanding career and a family to raise.


Wilde grew up in Berlin, where his father ran a clothing store. When he was 15, he fled to London via the Kindertransport, through which thousands of Jewish children escaped concentration camps.

After the war, he reunited with his parents and younger brother in St. Louis. He was 22 years old and needed to find a job. His first stop was Stix, Baer & Fuller (now Dillard's). He was hired. It didn't matter then that he didn't have a college degree, or even a high school degree, for that matter.

He went on to have a 42-year career with the company, eventually traveling around the world as a buyer for the book department, then for custom jewelry and stationery. He retired in 1989.

But he continued to keep busy afterward, working for the United Way and helping to lead a reading group that still meets every other week at a church in University City to discuss the literary heavyweights such as Hemmingway and Fitzgerald.

He volunteered— and continues to do so — as a tutor through the literary council and delivering meals to the needy through Meals on Wheels.

It was his wife who finally persuaded him to take some classes with her at St. Louis Community College at Meramec in 1993. He did it just for fun at first, but then a supportive instructor encouraged him to go all the way to get his degree.

At Meramec, he wrote papers for the first time in decades, learning about run-on sentences and ins-and-outs of grammar rules. And he trudged through college algebra.

"Not my strong suit," he says, still wincing today at those miserable days. "I was lucky to get a C."

With his associate's degree under his belt, he moved on to UMSL, where he was a straight-A student, save for a lone A-minus in a Civil War history class. He laughs about it now, noting how he even went to the Library of Congress in Washington to research a paper for that class.

It was his intellectual curiosity that kept him going. He threw himself into research papers. For one paper, he looked into the lynching of a German miner in Collinsville around the time of World War I, visiting the man's grave in south St. Louis.

While it was not as unusual to see retirees in his classes at Meramec, he was more of an anomaly at UMSL. He worried on the first day of class that people would think he was the professor.

But he was heartened to discover that no one — not the professors and not his fellow classmates — made him feel out of place.

"Nobody ever made me feel I was a square peg in a round hole," he said,

Andrew Hurley, chairman of the UMSL history department, said it's not unheard of to have people in their 60s or 70s in his classes. But Wilde stood out in other ways — mainly his life experiences that added to classroom discussions. Wilde quickly emerged as a leader in the classroom.

"He was very diligent," Hurley said. "He always did all of the reading."

Now, 155 credit hours later, Wilde's time as a college student has finally come to an end. He has no desire to get a PhD.

"I think there comes a time when you say enough is enough," he said. "I'm not going to sit down to write a 500-page thesis. Who has that time?"

Still, he hopes to audit a class or two now and then if a topic piques his interest.

His three grown children and six of his seven grandchildren will be in the audience today when he gets his master's degree in history. But in some way, it will be a bittersweet day. An end of sorts to his formal identity as a college student. No more research papers to write. No more UMSL library card.

"And no more frat parties," quipped his son, Larry, an attorney who came from Washington to see his father graduate.

"No more frat parties," Wilde agreed, nodding his head with a straight face.

Back to Jerusalem - Idan Raichel

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What’s Jewish about Jewish food?

by Josh Lipowsky
Walk into any New Jersey diner these days and among the fettuccine, burgers, and fried fish on the menu you will likely also find matzoh balls, blintzes, and maybe even a pastrami sandwich.

These foods, which used to be solely the domain of Lower East Side Jewish delis, have gained popularity in non-kosher restaurants and turned Jewish cuisine into its own subset of American dining culture. Jewish food is everywhere now, but if a blintz is listed on the same menu as a shrimp cocktail, is it still Jewish?

What is it that makes these specialty foods Jewish? And are Jews still eating the traditional dishes of their immigrant ancestors or has the Jewish culinary experience transmogrified into something else altogether?

Jewish food through the ages

According to cookbook author Joan Nathan, there is no such thing as traditional Jewish food.

“It’s the dietary laws that make Jewish cooking what it is,” said the author of “Jewish Cooking in America” in an interview with The Jewish Standard. “And even if people don’t follow the dietary laws, they understand what they are. That’s the essential core of Jewish cooking through the ages. Dishes are geographical,” she added.

Rabbi Gil Marks, author of kosher cookbooks “The World of Jewish Cooking” and “Olive Trees and Honey,” agreed.

“Today more Jews probably eat lasagna and hamburgers and pizza than what one would call traditional Jewish food,” he told the Standard. “In one sense, traditional Jewish food is what Jews eat. But in another sense, certain foods are almost sanctified by their usage beyond the norm.”

So if Jewish food is just food that Jews eat, why are there so many restaurants and companies advertising Jewish rye bread, Jewish matzoh ball soup, and Jewish blintzes? Something has tied these foods to the Jewish consciousness through the years and the connection has become a useful marketing tool, as well.
From pastrami to tandoori, Jewish food is constantly evolving. josh lipowsky

The answer can be found by looking at what’s hot on the American food scene right now.

Foodies point out that the No. 1 condiment in America today is not ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise, but salsa. As Hispanic immigrants came to America and prospered, the food they brought with them prospered, too. It’s an old story, and Hispanics are only the latest group to travel the culinary wagon train that Jews seemingly perfected throughout history.

“Jews don’t traditionally create a lot of dishes,” Marks said. “The main Jewish role in the past 2,000 years in food has been transporting items from one culture to another.”

A prime example is corned beef. While many will paint themselves green on St. Patrick’s Day, haul out the Irish Harp, and sit down to a traditional Irish dish of corned beef and cabbage, there’s actually nothing Irish about the pickled meat.

Corned beef originated in Germany — adapted from a more jerky-like British version. When large waves of German Jews began immigrating to America in the 1880s, they brought their versions of German cuisine with them, including corned beef.

Jews from Romania brought pastrami, and matzoh ball soup has been around since the Middle Ages. Together, these foods became the basis for the Jewish deli, which gained gastronomic glory during the early 20th century.

Marks noted that the majority of the Jewish immigrants of the late 19th century were single men who left their families behind to find work. When there were women around, they would sell sandwiches from their apartments, and then in stores that later became the first Jewish delis of New York.

Jews weren’t the only immigrants moving to the area, though. Also beginning in the early 20th century, large numbers of Irish immigrants settled in New York. There, they encountered the Jewish deli and its food appealed to the new Americans. Thus the Irish association with corned beef was born.

The advent of artificial refrigeration further popularized the dish, making it easier to store with less salt. Technological advances usually accompany geographic shifts when foods move from one culture to another, Marks said.

The German dishes that eventually became the classic American hot dog and hamburger evolved largely because of the German wave of immigration in the 19th century and the later invention of the electric meat grinder, which lowered the cost of production.

The original Slavic word “kasha” means any cooked cereal. The Yiddish word, however, refers specifically to cooked buckwheat. And since it was Jews who transported the food to America, kasha means buckwheat to Americans.

“Jews did not invent falafel or hummus or any of these things, but Jews helped in the popularization of them outside their native areas,” Marks said.

Even foods that many view as Jewish, such as hummus and falafel, are borrowed from other cultures. Hummus itself is an Arabic word that means chickpeas, although the dish’s origins likely extend back beyond Arab culture.

“The modern form of hummus is an Arabic dish that the Jews picked up early in their move to Israel,” Marks said. “It was inexpensive, it was useful, it was long lasting and now it’s ubiquitous in Israel.”

Arab immigrants are also playing a large part in popularizing Middle Eastern food, but Marks credits Jews for beginning the trend in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“If you go to [New York] in the last few years, all of a sudden you see these hummus restaurants popping up,” Marks said. “Most [owners] are Israelis or people who were in Israel a while.”

In Adam Sandler’s summer comedy “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan,” the Jewish comedian played an Israeli commando who moves to New York to become a hair stylist. Throughout his adventures, he’s seen using hummus to brush his teeth, put out fires, and spread on everything.

Probably one of the best-known Jewish foods is the bagel. Now one of the most popular breakfast breads in America, the bagel was almost unknown outside Jewish circles during the 1950s and ‘60s. The modern bagel would be unrecognizable in the Europe of its origins, though. Through the past 50 years, the bagel has grown bigger while the hole has gotten smaller. Traditionally bagels were boiled before they’re baked, but now many purveyors just steam them a little — if at all — before baking. And then there are all those flavors such as cinnamon raisin, blueberry, and sun-dried tomato.

“Just as Jews adapted food to the kosher laws, non-Jews adapt it to their own likes and needs,” Marks said. “McDonald’s sells bagels with ham and cheese and that’s almost sacrilegious.”

Is matzoh ball soup still just Jewish penicillin?

Perhaps the most famous example of the marketing of traditionally Jewish food came during the 1960s. Levy’s Rye Bread unveiled an advertising campaign called “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s,” which featured an assortment of ethnic types munching on the bread. Some of these posters still adorn restaurant walls, demonstrating how traditional Jewish foods have crossed culinary and cultural boundaries.
Sushi has become a new staple of kosher restaurants in recent years. Josh Lipowsky

“You go into a Greek diner, you’re going to find a matzoh ball soup on the menu,” Sandy Levine, founder of New York’s Carnegie Deli, told the Standard. “The main items that are affiliated with Jewish cuisine are in a lot of restaurants.”

Carnegie Deli is one of the best-known non-kosher Jewish-style delis in the country. With Ashkenazi classics such as kreplach, chopped liver, and cholent mixed among ham sandwiches and shrimp, it serves a clientele that is 90 percent non-Jewish and has been successful with that demographic because Jewish food has become an international cuisine, Levine said.

“You go around to diners, coffee shops — pretty much that’s the replacement of the Jewish deli,” he said. “Most of them have the matzoh ball soup, the pastrami, the corned beef, the knishes. It’s just one of the things on their menu [but] not predominant.”

Levine, who grew up in Brooklyn, remembers a time when there were delis practically on every street corner.

“Today it’s non-existent but the food lingers on,” he said.

Delis still attract kosher consumers who won’t patronize the non-kosher competitors, but even there internationalization has taken over. With a wide range of kosher restaurants and cuisines available — Japanese, Mexican, and Indian to name just a few — Yosi Mizrahi, owner of Foster Village Kosher Delicatessen in Bergenfield, doesn’t see people turning to delis they way they used to. But the restaurant still has its niche that other cuisines just can’t fill.

“When it comes to holidays, people want to go back to their roots,” he said. “A holiday sticks with tradition. It’s still matzoh balls and the chicken soup and the chopped liver.”

Traditional delis are still dishing out sandwiches in areas with large Jewish populations such as Bergen County, home to such pastrami-slingers as Ma’adan, Noah’s Ark, and Harold’s.

It’s the ability of delis to branch out that has kept them alive, Mizrahi added. Menus now resemble the eclectic hodgepodge typically associated with the diner. They offer a little bit of everything from traditional cold cuts to burgers and steaks to pastas.

The deli hasn’t forgotten its roots, though. Essential Bergen magazine named Foster Village Kosher Deli the home of the best pastrami sandwich in the county earlier this year. His traditional steamed version, Mizrahi said, is unique to Jewish delis. But, he added, he serves an assortment of Israeli salads and will make whatever customers ask for.

“The deli today didn’t just stay what it is,” Mizrahi said. “We go all over the place. If somebody wants Asian stuff, we’ll make Asian stuff. That’s the kosher tradition. We move on to more stuff because you cannot stay with the same thing.”

What are Jews eating now?

So if Jewish food is just culinary creations borrowed from the Jewish travelogue, what are the kosher restaurants serving?

The traditional deli is all but dead, according to Nathan. Falafel has long been a mainstay in kosher cuisine, while more Israelis restaurants are serving up shwarma — a Middle Eastern version of the gyro — as a quick meal on the go. And pizza will forever remain popular with children and families looking for an easy meal. But what’s going to be the next big thing to hit the kosher crowd?

According to Marks, steakhouses are popular now “partially because a lot of Jews still just want a big piece of meat and potatoes.”

International kosher restaurants, Nathan predicted, will begin serving more pan-Asian delicacies, rather than just straight Chinese food.

“Jewish food is following everybody else’s food,” Nathan said. “We’re trying whatever’s new.”
Shalom Bombay owners Michael Phulwani and Alan Cohnen, and chef Paul Singh, middle, hope that Indian food will be the next big trend in kosher dining. Josh Lipowsky

Restaurateur Alan Cohnen is a partner in Shalom Bombay, a kosher Indian restaurant that opened in Teaneck earlier this week. While there are a slew of kosher vegetarian Indian restaurants in New York, Cohnen said his restaurant is the first kosher meat Indian restaurant in the country.

“It’s something that’s never been done before,” Cohnen said during a tasting at the restaurant a few days before the grand opening. “We felt it’s a niche, and in this economy the only way to be successful is finding niche businesses.”

Indian is one of the fastest growing cuisines in non-kosher markets, according to Cohnen. Meanwhile, consumers are “getting bored” by the lack of variety in kosher ethnic cuisine, he added.

“There’s only really been two: Japanese and Chinese,” he said. “Indian right now is where sushi was seven years ago. We’re at the cutting edge of something that’s about to explode.”

Cohnen isn’t slighting sushi, though. His brother, Kevin Cohnen, owns Eden Wok in New York and he believes sushi is still trendy among the kosher crowd.

“People like it as a healthy alternative to the heavy meat that is so prevalent in restaurants,” Kevin Cohnen said during last week’s Kosherfest showcase at the Meadowlands.

Sushi’s popularity within the Jewish community has burgeoned in recent years, with several kosher Japanese restaurants popping up around the area, as well as non-Japanese restaurants adding sushi bars. In Brooklyn, Jewish weddings seem almost incomplete without a sushi bar, Marks said.

Danny Berlin has been making his living off sushi for more than a decade. One of the owners of Sushi Metsuyan, a franchise with a Teaneck presence, Berlin said that sushi appeals to the health-conscious, which is where many kosher-eaters are heading these days. More than that, kosher restaurants can’t rely on captive audiences and have to produce quality in order to survive.

“Even though you have a committed kosher-eating population, it’s more than just kosher,” he said. “They have to provide fresh high-quality ingredients. The kosher consumer wants value. There’s an ambience that people want.”

Kosher restaurants tend to be a few years behind when it comes to the latest culinary trends, according to Marks. But eventually they do catch up, he said.

“It’s always had a mix of traditional and international,” Kevin Cohnen said of the kosher restaurant scene. “Now sushi seems to be the hotter thing, but it’s already been a few years since sushi has really become more mainstream and they’re always looking for the next hot international cuisine.”

The Latkes Platter Patter

The Latkes Platter Patter © 2009
Lyrics: L. Lippitz Music: Sir Arthur Sullivan
Each Hanukkah we celebrate
A joyous situation
In a gastronomic quest to make
A festival occasion.
We embark upon a mission
With potatoes and a grater
Adding onions, eggs and matzo meal
Till, several hours later,
The neighborhood is fragrant
With a heavenly aroma
As the family anticipates
Inevitable coma.
The edges get all crispy
And the dishes clitter-clatter,
All the relatives are coming—
Give them latkes on a platter!
Give them latkes on a platter (platter x4)
Never mind the grease is flying
As they sputter and they splatter,
All the relatives are coming—
Give them latkes on a platter!
If I were self-restrainable,
I’d take a little nibble
And then just demur on any more
Without a sigh or quibble.
But if you’ve seen a car get hit
And airbags are inflating,
Then you’ll visualize the aftermath
Of what I am debating:
If I eat one little latke
I will soon be snarfing twenty,
Till the profile on my Facebook wall
Resembles Humpty-Dumpty.
If in oil spray I bake them
Would it make them somewhat flatter?
I would honor the tradition
But I’m really getting fatter!
Yes I’m really getting fatter
Yes, she’s really getting fatter!
As they get all brown and crispy
See my resolution shatter—
I would honor the tradition
But I’m really getting fatter!
The Rabbis in their wisdom
Sought to teach the generations
Of the struggles of the Maccabees
To save the Hebrew nation
But they knew the recitation
Of these lessons wasn’t gripping
So they poured their message furtively
On latkes they were flipping.
To substitute a pickle
For this culinary beauty
Would be nothing less than fickle
To religious sense of duty!
This particularly fatty
Crispy tater fritter batter
Isn’t generally served
So, once a year, it doesn’t matter!
Once a year it doesn’t matter (x4)
This particularly fatty
Crispy tater fritter batter
Isn’t generally served
So, once a year it doesn’t matter
Matter, matter, matter, matter

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dario Moreno and Sephardic Cosmopolitanism


Dario Moreno (1921-1968), a Jewish singer who took the world stage as a popular artist and film star in the late 1950s and 1960s, perhaps best encapsulates the new role of Sephardic Jewry in the mid-20th century. Moreno symbolized a kind of pan-Mediterranean cosmopolitanism, not unknown in the earlier Ottoman centuries, but generalized in a secular way beyond parochial concerns and local interests. Like the famous elevator, the asansör, in his native Izmir, built by Nesim Levi in 1907, Moreno to his Turkish countrymen became a symbol of modernity, Europeanization, and progress. Yet, he always acknowledged both his Turkish and Jewish identities, never renouncing or hiding his nationality and ethnicity despite reinventing himself in France, the epicenter of his career.

Born David Arugete, Moreno was a cabaret singer and film actor who played Sancho Panza to Jacques Brel’s Don Quixote. He danced with Brigitte Bardot and rode the wave of new entertainment technologies in the mid-20th century. These were impressive achievements for a man who spent his early years in an orphanage. Later, reunited with his mother, he attended Jewish communal schools and clerked in a lawyer’s office, while studying French at night at the public library. Acquiring a guitar, he played at bar mitzvah parties, and further honed his musical skills while doing military service in the Turkish army, where officers noticed his abilities and encouraged his musical talent. The Turkish Army served as a springboard to Moreno’s career. He became adept as a polyglot singer in Turkish, Greek, French, Italian, and Spanish. He served as a soloist in military clubs in Turkey’s major cities, and soon was singing jazz for American forces stationed during the Cold War in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Traveling to Athens, Alexandria, and Istanbul, he performed popular songs like the theme from the film, Never on Sunday, and the French-Arabic, Mustafa. It wasn’t long until an impresario telegraphed from France, and Moreno’s career moved to Cannes and Paris.

In France, Moreno continued to work in resort hotels, nightclubs, cabarets, and to experiment with new forms of entertainment. He was featured on the Scopitone, a machine that showed film clips, perhaps the earliest type of music videos. He became a supporting actor in 32 films, even winning the French César Award in the film, Oeil pour Oeil (Eye for an Eye). Other awards included France’s Grand prix du disque (1958) for one of his many albums, and special recognition from the Turkish Cultural and Tourism Board (1962).

Dario Moreno’s repertoire was indeed cosmopolitan. It mixed song genres from Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, and Brazil. None of the songs for which Moreno was famous were “Jewish.” They were secular, cosmopolitan, and commercially produced. Most of the songs were love songs, film themes, nightclub anthems, and nostalgic glimpses into the Mediterranean lifestyle. He would often sing the same song in several translations. Moreno became a specialist in Latin American and French songs. His “Istanbul/Constantinople,” a song later made famous by the rock band They Might Be Giants, was sung in French with jazzy breaks and stereotypical Turkish riffs. The nightclub anthems, “Vodka, Raki, Sharap,” and “Ni Na Nai Nai” were Greek-Turkish mixed language songs that shared musical elements.

Dario Moreno’s life and work was a kind of reversal of Jules Dassin’s character in the 1960s hit film, Never On Sunday. Unlike Dassin’s American writer who traveled to Greece, befriended the kindly prostitute played by Melina Mercouri, and attempted to understand the mysterious “Oriental” or Eastern qualities of Greek life, Moreno traveled West to France. Moreno not only understood the mysteries of European life, but he successfully emulated them, perfected his French so that there was no accent, learned the latest and most fashionable dance steps, and became fluent in so many, divergent popular song genres. His records and films were popular throughout the world.

Moreno embodied success and acceptance. He was popular in France. He had achieved what Sephardic Jews in Turkey had dreamed about in the late 19th century. French was seen as a vehicle for modernity and success. Families who aspired to the middle class fell so in love with French language and culture that they spoke French as their first language at home in the early 20th century, leaving behind their native Judeo-Spanish. Moreno’s name embodied this kind of pan-Mediterranean identity: “Dario” could be French or Italian; “Moreno” was definitely Spanish. In Turkey, both Jews and non-Jews, those of Muslim and Christian origin, saw themselves as citizens of a secular, Turkish state. Members of the middle class also looked West in the 1950s and 1960s.

Dario Moreno’s life was cut short by a stroke in Istanbul when he was only 47, but his legacy lives on today on the Internet, on many websites: YouTube, MySpace, and tribute pages posted by Turkish musicians. Turks point to him with great pride as a famous son of Izmir. Sephardic Jews see him as an emblem of their integration, acculturation, and success: the heritage of polyglot, non-Muslim minority cultural traditions in Eastern Mediterranean port cities; the benefits of mastering French language; the ultimate in sophistication in mid-20th century popular culture; their pride in the State of Israel where Dario Moreno is at rest in Holon’s municipal cemetery.

























Friday, December 11, 2009

Just in time for Hanukkah: Tootsie Rolls now kosher!

Just in time for Hanukkah, the Orthodox Union has added Chicago-made Tootsie Rolls to the compendium of kosher confections that children can consume during the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights.

The ubiquitous candy's certification has sweeping implications for Jewish children everywhere who now can enjoy the chewy, chocolaty treat with no guilt.

"For years, consumers have been banging down the doors of the Orthodox Union asking when will Tootsie Rolls become certified," said Rabbi Eliyahu Safran of the Orthodox Union, the world's largest kosher certification agency. The certification covers Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Fruit Rolls, Frooties and DOTS.

Ellen Gordon, president of Tootsie Roll Industries, said the only thing that changes is the packaging, which will carry the stamp of approval next year. "All our Tootsie Rolls have always been kosher, but we've never had them certified," Gordon said.

Happy Hanukkah from Jib Jab

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

The Jewish Wedding Video

The most wild Chabad Lubavitch Wedding. This is an Orthodox Jewish wedding. The wedding took place in Brooklyn, NY on May 26, 2005. For all those that were waiting, here it is!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eight Days of Hanukkah

Tablet Magazine is proud to present the first-ever Hanukkah song written by the senior Senator from Utah: "Eight Days of Hanukkah," lyrics by Senator Orrin Hatch.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nefesh B'Nefesh Hanukkah Flash Mob

Handel - Judas Maccabaeus

Handel - Judas Maccabaeus, HWV 63 - See the conqu'ring hero comes!

"Rejoice O Judah" G. F. Handel: Judas Maccabaeus

Handel Judas Maccabaeus O lovely peace

Handel: Judas Maccabeus Overture

Judas Maccabaeus - Handel - 3 Chorales

Judas Maccabeus - Handel - Oh! Never never bow we down

Handel Judas Maccabaeus From mighty kings

Judas Maccabaeus - Handel - Air Priest "Father of Heav'n!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Buenos Aires, Argentina >> Focus on Kosher McDonalds

This is the only Kosher McDonalds in the world outside of Israel. Buenos Aires is known for it’s meat and the McDonald’s does not disappoint. Totally different flavors than what we’re used to in the U.S., but the kosher McDonalds is definitely worth the visit.

What’s crazy about this place is that the Abasto Mall is open super late just for the restaurants. The kosher McDonalds is open until 2am. I love it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is Groundhog Day a Religious Movie? - Harold Ramis

Actor / director Harold Ramis explains the potential religious connotations of the 1993 Bill Murray comedy "Groundhog Day." Ramis describes how Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and psychoanalysts alike find meaning in the film.

Shleptops are taking over the internetz

Jerusalem - Reports of its death are greatly exaggerated. The European-Jewish language Yiddish, the demise of which has been forecast for years, will not become extinct for at least the next hundred years, according to a conference to be held next week in Jerusalem. There are at present around two to three million Yiddish speakers in the world, a number, say the experts, which ensures that the language can survive for the next century.

Research to be presented at the "Century of Yiddish 1908 - 2008 " conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem next week shows that only languages spoken by approximately 1000 people can become extinct in the next hundreds or so years.

Not only is Yiddish not dead, but its vocabulary is growing as it attempts to keep pace with the 20th century. Among the new words to be introduced to the conference are "shleptop" for laptop, a highly- appropriate choice, as anyone who's ever had to carry a laptop around can attest, "blitzmail" for e-mail, and "internetz" for internet.

"Until recently, Yiddish was thought of as a channel for jokes. But in the last decade we have witnesses a renewed interest in Yiddish language and culture among young people and adults," said Professor Yechiel Szeintuch, Professor at Yiddish at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Yiddish is a hybrid language derived mainly from medieval German, but also containing some Hebrew. It was once the language of Jews of European origin, and at its height around 100 years ago was understood by 11 million of the world's 18 million Jews.

It had its own specific and highly-visible culture - some 1,700 national and local Yiddish newspapers were published in Poland alone during World Wars I and II - which was virtually wiped out during the Holocaust.

At present the language is spoken mainly by ultra-Orthodox Jews, and by enthusiasts who are determined to revive the language and bring it back into mainstream Jewish life.

However, many Yiddish words have entered mainstream English, mainly, but not exclusively, in the United States - "shlep" (to carry or drag a load), "chutzpah" (audacity), "kvetch" (to whine, complain), "nebbish" (a simpleton, a weakling) being just a few.

Other Yiddish words which have entered the language cannot, sadly, be included in an article for a mainstream news agency.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rounding the Bases To America

Why do we idolize Jewish baseball players?
By Bradford R. Pilcher

It's difficult to say which was the more significant event: when Detroit Tiger's star Hank Greenberg sat out a game on Yom Kippur during a heated 1934 pennant race, or when Edgar Guest penned a famous rhyme to commemorate the occurrence.

As Greenberg wrote in his autobiography, he was "probably the only batter in the lineup who was not in a slump" at the time. The Detroit Tigers had gone a quarter century since their last pennant, and fans grumbled when Hammerin' Hank declared he would not play on Rosh Hashanah. After consulting with his rabbi, who ruled that Rosh Hashanah was a "festive holiday" and playing would be permitted, Greenberg relented and suited up. He hit two home runs that day, including one in the ninth inning that won the game, but he stuck to his guns when it came to Yom Kippur.

"Suppose I stay out of the game and we lost the pennant by one game," quipped the slugger. It was not a small act on the part of a Jewish player in an era when Jews faced rampant anti-Semitism, and to say the pride of Jewish fans across the country swelled would be an understatement.

All of which is why the poem by Edgar Guest may be more significant than Greenberg's actual decision not to play. Edgar Albert Guest had come to the United States in 1891, at the age of 10, and by the age of 17 was publishing his poetry in the Detroit Free Press. He'd become known as "The People's Poet," penning some 11,000 poems before his death. So it was a great gesture for American Jews when Guest penned the following:

"Came Yom Kippur--holy fast day world wide over to the Jew / And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true / Spent the day among his people and he didn't come to play. / Said Murphy to Mulrooney, 'We shall lose the game today! / We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat / But he's true to his religion--and I honor him for that!'"
Stepping Onto the Social Ladder

The question of why American Jews have been so enamored of Jewish sports figures, particularly Jewish baseball players, can begin to be answered in that final verse. Guest was not entirely unlike the masses of American Jews who cheered Greenberg--and later Sandy Koufax, Art Shamsky, Shawn Green, and so many others. He was an immigrant, coming to the shores of America looking for a better life, but whereas Guest found himself part of the larger religious majority, a white man from England, Jewish Americans faced a more uncertain place in the religious and ethnic landscape.

It had not been long before Greenberg's emergence as a star player that the Ku Klux Klan had reorganized in the wake of the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, and he was hardly the only Jew who faced violent anti-Semitism in that era. A few years before Frank was dragged from his jail cell, an anti-Semitic police riot broke out in New York with uniformed officers shouting "Kill those Sheenies [Jews]! Club them right and left!"

In the 1920s, just a few miles from where Greenberg would bring fans, Jewish and gentile alike, to their feet in the 1930s, American icon Henry Ford published his deeply anti-Semitic Dearborn Independent. It was shut down in 1927 after a libel lawsuit, but Ford remained an influential figure in American life.

In the face of such attitudes, it's less than surprising that American Jews would flock to those figures who found acceptance in mainstream American circles. Before Greenberg stepped foot in the batter's box, American Jews were celebrating the ascendance of legal scholar Louis Brandeis, for example.

In a sense, whenever a Jew climbs to the heights of society, it shows that any Jew can be just as American as their next door neighbor. It's that much better when a Jew does it and stays true to their faith, better still when mainstream America applauds that devotion.
Pride and Heroics

Of course, while Jews are proud of successful figures in law, politics, medicine, and scholarship, they hold a different appreciation for Jewish entertainers and sports figures. Brandeis evoked pride. So did Joe Lieberman when he became the first Jewish American on a major presidential ticket in 2000. Yet neither man approached the lasting mystique and popularity attached to Jewish sports heroes.

Jewish major leaguers have received their own special baseball cards, courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society, and it's no one-time deal. They've been updated annually, and the sellout success of the 2003 edition prompted a weekend seminar on Jewish players at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

It's further telling that in the summer of 2007 Israel inaugurated its own baseball league with legends of the Jewish baseball world at the helm. The aforementioned Art Shamsky was named manager of the Modi'in Miracle, while Ken Holtzman--holder of the most career wins by a Jewish pitcher in the majors--managed the Pioneers of Petach Tikva.

Ron Blomberg, the Jewish Yankee who made history as the first designated hitter in the major leagues, led the Blue Sox of Bet Shemesh. In his autobiography, he told of his first arrival in New York to an entourage of yarmulke-donning Jews. He was nothing more than a rookie prospect, but he got fan mail by the sack: "Every Jewish mother in the world wanted to introduce me to her daughter, and each letter included a photograph," Blomberg wrote. "Jewish girls were writing to me, saying they wanted to come to the stadium to meet me."

Jews are proud of their ballplayers; sometimes treating them like modern variants of biblical icons, heroes in their community, legendary for their talents. Why?

It would be easy to attribute this to the nebbish stereotype attributed to Jewish men. When one of them picks up a bat and clocks a ball into the upper decks, it is kind of like the spirit of Woody Allen just got knocked out along with the ball. Yet there was a time when Jews were pegged with athletic stereotypes. From the mid-1920s to the end of the 1940s, Philadelphia's pro-basketball team was called the SPHAs, short for South Philadelphia Hebrew Association. Their team was made up primarily of Jewish players, but they weren’t the only such team. Jews filled the ranks of pro basketball all over the country. Pundits referred to the "chosen" players' natural dexterity and sense of rhythm as well as their more intrinsic athletic ability.

American writer Paul Gallico even went so far as to say basketball was a premiere sport for Jews because, "the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind." Such praise, if you want to call it that, was a far cry from Guest's ode to Greenberg, but it did reflect a time when Jews were seen in much the same way minority and immigrant athletes were in later decades. Sports became a venue for poor, disenfranchised segments of the American population, such as Jews, blacks, and immigrants, to achieve a degree of upward social mobility.
Adopting the "American Religion"

The athlete as refutation of the weakling stereotype may have something to do with Jewish sports fandom today, but it probably isn't at the core of why Jews flock to Jewish sports stars. For that answer, you should look at what sports represents in American culture. It has been called a democratizing force or "the American religion." There is no doubt that for immigrants eager to assimilate into their adopted society, finding a connection to the American pastime seemed as sure a ticket as any other.

An English professor in San Francisco, Eric Solomon, made a similar observation in 1998, when he told The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, "Their families came to this country from Eastern Europe and they had to get a substitute for what they left behind, the shul and the shtetl. So what they found in major-league baseball was a community, a way of becoming American and yet retaining their identity as Jews."

He went on to point out the voluminous number of Jewish authors who wrote about baseball: Bernard Malamud's The Natural or The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg, for example. It was Roger Kahn who wrote The Boys of Summer, arguably the greatest baseball book ever written.

Nevertheless, the connection between Jews and baseball has always been strongest at those moments when great players have put their Jewish identity ahead of their performance on the field. It's hard not to look at Sandy Koufax in 1965, when he pulled a "Greenberg" and sat out the first game of the World Series, and see an American Jew reminding his people of the freedom and acceptance they enjoy in this country. Two decades removed from the Holocaust with the Civil Rights movement in full bloom, ethnic and religious minorities faced prejudice that seemed to boil over just as it was being confronted more forcefully than at any time in American history. Yet there was Koufax, steadfastly refusing to play in one of the most important games of his career.

It should be remembered that Koufax came back and pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5. Two days later, on short rest, the Jewish legend retook the mound for the decisive seventh game. In arthritic pain, he beat the Twins. Then he collected his World Series MVP award and was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

There is, of course, no single moment when the collective mass of Jewish citizens in this country became accepted as Americans. The waves of anti-Semitism have been reduced to ebbs and flows, and the affluence enjoyed by American Jewry dwarfs that of any time in the 3,000 year history of our people. There is not one day that marked that turning point, but many would look back at October 6, 1965 and see who wasn't standing on the mound.

Jewish sports fans certainly recall that day, and when they cheer for today's Jewish stars-- Kevin Youkilis, Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus, and others--they do so as accepted Americans. Jewish baseball played its part in that.

Basketball and the Jews

A street game goes professional.
By Ari Sclar

On March 3, 1934, a group of young Jewish men helped change basketball history. On that night, fans in New York City watched with anticipation for the winner of a game between New York University (NYU) and City College of New York (CCNY).

The New York Times stated that the 20th annual meeting between the two schools had "never before … aroused such widespread interest," as both teams entered the contest undefeated. The demand for tickets was such that promoters began a series of doubleheaders at Madison Square Garden the following season and turned New York City into the center of the basketball world.

The next year Newsweek ran a story on basketball's rise to prominence and declared the sport was one "at which Jews excel."

basketballs and the jewsBoth the NYU-CCNY game, in which nine of the 10 starters were Jewish, and the Newsweek article occurred during the peak of Jewish prominence in basketball. Yet, the story of Jewish basketball is more than either a single game or article. Centered in New York, Jews were crucial to the development of college and professional basketball during the first half of the 20th century.
A New Sport Gains Popularity

Invented by Dr. James Naismith at a Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in 1891, basketball quickly became a popular sport that expanded into the broader society. As industrialization, immigration, and urbanization drastically transformed America at the turn of the 20th century, many Americans saw basketball as an ideal sport since it taught teamwork, cooperation, discipline, and obedience.

During the Progressive era, the popularization of basketball among Jewish youth in urban areas primarily occurred both in settlement houses and at communal institutions. Jewish youth on New York's Lower East Side played basketball on playgrounds and at schoolyards. The formation of the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) in the early 1900s allowed players to gain experience in organized, competitive settings.

By the middle of the decade, CCNY established a basketball team full of local Jewish men. Players such as Barney Sedran, Ira Streusand, and Harry Brill honed their skills at City College and upon graduating, began to play in the various professional leagues in eastern cities.

At the time, the definitions of "amateur" and "professional" constantly changed. Even college basketball, which had roughly 200 teams by 1910, remained relatively disorganized and was certainly not a national sport in the same sense as college football. These chaotic conditions allowed Jewish players to find a niche in the game, as neither college nor professional teams seemed interested in restricting Jews from participating.

Much of American society viewed professional basketball as a dirty and rough sport. Professionals played in cages made of rope or chicken wire in order to protect the players from unruly fans and to keep the ball in continuous play. There were no standards for the size of the court or the size of the ball, and contracts were nonexistent. Players jumped from team to team for better pay, sometimes even between games.

Jewish players led teams that won championships in numerous East Coast leagues. Yet the players themselves were relatively anonymous. But after World War I, basketball became more stable, starring a new generation of Jewish players.
Moving to the National Scene

In the early 1920s, Jewish basketball spread throughout the country. As neighborhoods stabilized due to immigration restriction, American-born children began to assimilate and embraced America's sporting culture. Jewish players often played at YMHAs, synagogues, and community centers before and after their college or professional careers. But Jews were not always welcome in athletics outside of their own leagues.

The decade also saw anti-Jewish attacks intensify. When Harvard University 's president openly declared the need for quotas because Jewish students did not "fit in," he was in part referring to the university's athletic culture. In the midst of the controversy, as other schools such as Columbia, Yale, and Syracuse considered quotas, Yale University alumni demanded their coaches end discriminatory practices against Jewish basketball players in order to field a winning team. The American Hebrew newspaper wrote that Yale's recognition of Jewish players proved that sports could help Jews receive acceptance on campus and facilitate integration.

Jewish prominence in basketball also helped the game itself spread. Nat Holman, who coached at CCNY, also played professionally for the Original Celtics, a former settlement house team that had Jewish, German, and Irish players. Holman and the Celtics have been credited for popularizing basketball throughout the country in the 1920s. During their long barnstorming trips to play teams in the South and the Midwest, the Celtics wowed local audiences with their strategies, skills, and showmanship. They played more than 100 games per year and often lost fewer than ten.

The popularity of the Celtics convinced promoters of basketball's commercial appeal and led to the development of a national league called the American Basketball League (ABL) in 1925. Holman and other Jews played in the league until it folded due to financial problems caused by the Depression.

In the 1930s, Jewish entrepreneurs established independent teams such as the New York Hakoahs (From the Hebrew word for strength) and the Philadelphia Sphas (an acronym for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association). Jewish players were prominent in a new ABL that formed in the early 1930s, but the professional game remained limited as a semi-professional and regional sport. Teams played in urban neighborhoods in the Northeast and players often both lived and worked close to their fans.
The Rise and Fall of Jewish Basketball

While professional basketball remained a marginal sport during the Depression, college basketball became one of the most popular sports in the country. At Madison Square Garden, Jewish players filled the rosters of New York schools such as NYU, CCNY, Long Island University, and St. John's University that hosted teams from around the country.

The mainstream press began to focus on a specific playing style of New York schools based on constant motion, quick passing, and deliberate cuts to the basket. Both Jewish and non-Jewish commentators connected this style to the mental acuity and lack of size of Jews. This style challenged Western teams who played with the more open, fast-breaking style. The doubleheaders became testing grounds for regional supremacy.

From the late 1930s to the early 1950s, the Garden also hosted the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) and the NCAA Tournament. Teams with prominent Jewish players won five of the first seven NITs. In 1950, Holman's CCNY team, with primarily Jewish players, won both tournaments. Called the "Grand Slam," the accomplishment was never repeated.

Along with schools such as Kentucky and NYU, however, the CCNY team was embroiled in a point shaving scandal in the early 1950s. Players accepted money from gamblers to either lose games on purpose or win by less than the point spread. The scandal almost destroyed college basketball and led to the demise of New York college basketball, which diminished a centralized Jewish playing presence in the sport.

The scandal was not the only reason for Jewish basketball's downfall. A formal league called the Basketball Association of America (BAA) had been established in 1946, and was renamed the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1950. Jewish players at the time typically had other jobs during the season and were accustomed to playing semi-professionally. Few remained in the league, as basketball could not support their families.

Socio-economic success also contributed to the decline of Jews in basketball. Moving to the suburbs created more opportunities to succeed in mainstream society. Sports became less important and though Jews continued to play basketball, they did so in a different environment than the urban street culture of the heyday of Jewish basketball.

There were still a few Jewish players who made it to the top of the game such as Lennie Rosenbluth and Art Heyman in the 1950s and 1960s. But since the early 1970s, Jews have been primarily coaches, general managers, and owners in college and professional basketball. Among the most prominent are Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, NBA commissioner David Stern, Dallas Mavericks owners Mark Cuban, and Washington Wizards general manager and former player Ernie Grunfeld.

The rise of Jewish basketball reflected American Jews' larger story during the first half of the 20th century. From immigrant neighborhoods, Jews sought out opportunities to join the mainstream. Success in basketball is just one story of achievement during a time of adjustment, stress, and occasional anti-Semitism. At the same time, Jews made a lasting contribution to the game. While few Jews played at the highest levels, the sport owes its development to its roots with the Jewish neighborhoods teams.

Ari Sclar is a PhD candidate in history at Stony Brook University and an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College. His doctoral dissertation examines basketball's impact on American Jewish culture and identity in the first half of the 20th Century. He previously directed content for the Jews in Sports web site, first at NYU and then the American Jewish Historical Society.