Monday, April 30, 2012

Jewish songs -concert in Belarus

A Ten-Volume Look at Jewish Culture

Yale University Press and the Posen Foundation are embarking on a 10-volume anthology that covers more than 3,000 years of Jewish cultural artifacts, texts, and paintings. “This monumental project includes the best of Jewish culture in its historical and global entirety,” the editor in chief, James E. Young, a professor of English and Judaic Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a news release. “It will provide future generations with a working legacy by which to recover and comprehend Jewish culture and civilization.”
The series, called the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, is starting at the end, with Volume 10, a collection of works that date from 1973 through 2005 and include cultural figures like the writers Saul Bellow and Judy Blume, the architect Frank Gehry, the sculptor Louise Nevelson, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Harvard law professor Alan M Dershowitz. (Volume 1 will begin in the second millennium B.C.) More than 120 scholars are expected to work on the project, according to John Donatich, director of Yale University Press.
Volume 10 is scheduled for publication in November, as is a companion book titled “Jews and Words” by the Israeli author Amos Oz and his daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, a history professor.

Almonds and Wine

"Almonds and Wine" brings a Yiddish folk song to life, as the animated journey of a young bride and groom from Eastern Europe to North America is set to rollicking klezmer music. 

Fleeing the threat of war, the couple arrive in Canada, establish a new life together and hand down their traditions to the generations that follow. This film is set to a classic Yiddish folk song, Di Mamme iz Gegangen in Mark Arayn (My Mother Went to Market.) It was produced, directed and animated by Arnie Lipsey.

The animation is inspired, but the characters move through the story so fast that you'll have to watch it more than once or keep your finger on the pause button to catch all of the details and read what's written on the store signs and protest signs. 

How do we know that the couple settles in Canada and not the U.S.? Notice that the boy is running around with a hockey stick, not a baseball bat.

The depiction of the Jewish wedding ceremony is very detailed. Be sure to watch for the expression on the bride's and groom's faces when they are lifted onto chairs for the traditional handkerchief dance.

The Yiddish lyrics and English translation appear below.
Oy di mamme iz gegangen in mark arayn noch keyln,
Oy hot zi mir tzurik gebracht a meydele fun Peyln.
Oy iz dos a meydele a sheyns un a feyns,
Oy Mit di shvartse eygelach, oy ketsele du mayns.

Oy di mamme iz gegangen in mark arayn noch kreyt,
Oy hot zi mir tzurik gebracht a meydele fun beyt,
Oy iz dos a meydele a sheyns un a feyns,
Oy mit di shvartse eygelach, oy ketsele du mayns.

Oy di mamme is gegangen in mark noch a katchke
Oy hot zi mir tzurik gebracht a meydele, a tzatzke
Oy iz dos a meydele a sheyns un a feyns,
Oy mit di vayse tzeyndelach, oy ketsele du mayns.

Ich hob gegesn mandlen, ich hob getrunken vayn,
Ich hob gelibt a meydele un ken on ir nisht zayn,
Oy iz dos a meydele a sheyns un a feyns,
Oy mit di roite bekelach, oy ketsele du mayns.

My mother went to market to buy some coal,
She brought me back a lovely girl from Poland.
Oh what a girl she was, how beautiful and fine,
Ah, those black eyes of hers, ah, you kitten of mine.

My mother went to market to buy some cabbage,
She brought me back a girl just off a coach.
Oh what a girl she was, how beautiful and fine,
Ah, those black eyes of hers, ah, you kitten of mine.

My mother went to market to buy a duck,
She brought me back a girl - what a handful! 
Oh what a girl she was, how beautiful and fine,
Ah, those white teeth of hers, ah, you kitten of mine.

I have been eating almonds, I have been drinking wine,
And I have loved a lass and could not part from her.
O what a lass she was, how lovely and how fine,
Ah, those red cheeks of hers, ah, you kitten of mine.

Benzion Netanyahu, Hawkish Scholar, Dies at 102

Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the Israeli prime minister, who fought for the creation of the Jewish state by lobbying in the United States and went on to write an influential history of the Spanish Inquisition, died on Monday. He was 102.
His death was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Mr. Netanyahu was at various times a journalist, an encyclopedia editor, a professor, a historian and a lobbyist — not to mention a behind-the-scenes adviser to his son, the most powerful person in Israel. Throughout, his views were relentlessly hawkish: he argued that Jews inevitably faced discrimination that was racial and not religious, and that efforts to compromise with Arabs were futile.
In the 1940s, as the executive director of the New Zionist Organization in the United States, he met with influential policymakers like General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dean Acheson. He also wrote hard-hitting full-page advertisements that appeared in The New York Times and other newspapers.
The goal of his group, which was part of the movement known as revisionist Zionism, was to prevent dividing Palestine between Jews and Arabs to create the new Israel. The group wanted a single, bigger state that would have included present-day Jordan.
Ultimately, Israel was created as a result of the partition the revisionists opposed. Nonetheless, Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, said in a letter to The Jerusalem Post in 2005 that Mr. Netanyahu was instrumental in building American support for the smaller Israel that did emerge.
Mr. Medoff said Mr. Netanyahu persuaded the leadership of the Republican Party to put a call for a Jewish state in its 1944 platform. It was the first time a major party had done this, and the Democrats followed suit.
In his 1995 book, “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain,” Mr. Netanyahu offered a radical new way of viewing the Inquisition. Rather than seeing it as the persecution of Jews for secretly practicing their religion after pretending to convert to Roman Catholicism — which had been the predominant view — Mr. Netanyahu offered evidence that most Jews willingly became enthusiastic Catholics. Jews were thus burned at the stake, he concluded, for being perceived as an evil race rather than for anything they did or believed.
Mr. Netanyahu said this persecution was fueled by jealousy over Jews’ success in the economy and at the royal court. In his 1,384-page book, he traced what he called “Jew hatred” to ancient Egypt, long before Christianity.
The book garnered praise for its insights and criticism for ignoring standard sources and interpretations. Not a few reviewers noted that it seemed to look at long-ago cases of anti-Semitism through the rear-view mirror of the Holocaust.
Indeed, in 1998, Mr. Netanyahu said in an interview with The New Yorker that “Jewish history is a history of holocausts.” He suggested then that Hitler’s genocide was different only in scale.
Mr. Netanyahu believed Jews remain endangered in today’s Middle East. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv in 2009, he said, “The vast majority of Israeli Arabs would choose to exterminate us if they had the option to do so.”
He further said that Arabs are “an enemy by essence,” that they cannot compromise and that they respond only to force.
Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly denied that his father was a one-dimensional ideologue. He further emphasized that he himself was a different person from his father.
Benjamin has dismissed conjectures about Benzion’s influence on his decision-making as “psychobabble.” (He has, however, acknowledged that his father called to correct grammatical mistakes in his speeches.)
The author of the 1998 New Yorker article, David Remnick, reported that Israelis seemed in the dark about the extent of paternal influence on their leader. Benzion Netanyahu, he said, was “nearly a legend, a kind of secret.” But, Mr. Remnick added, using the younger Netanyahu’s nickname, “To understand Bibi, you have to understand the father.”
Benzion Mileikowsky was born on March 25, 1910, in Warsaw, then part of the Russian empire. His father, Nathan, was a rabbi who toured Europe and America making speeches supporting Zionism. After Nathan brought the family to Palestine in 1920, he changed the family name to Netanyahu, which means God-given.
The young Mr. Netanyahu studied medieval history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He became involved with the right-wing revisionist Zionists who had split from their mainstream counterparts, believing that they were too conciliatory to the British who then governed Palestine and the Arabs who lived there.
The revisionists were led by Vladimir Jabotinsky, whose belief in the necessity of an “iron wall” between Israel and its Arab neighbors has influenced Israeli politics since the 1930s. Jabotinsky is the most popular street name in Israel, and the ruling Likud party traces its roots to his movement.
In 1940, Mr. Netanyahu went to the United States to be secretary to Mr. Jabotinsky, who was building American support for his militant brand of Zionism. Mr. Jabotinsky died that same year, and Mr. Netanyahu became executive director of Mr. Jabotinsky’s New Zionists, a post he held until 1948.
When not lobbying, Mr. Netanyahu found time to earn his Ph.D. from Dropsie College in Philadelphia. He wrote his dissertation on Isaac Abrabanel, a Jewish statesman who unsuccessfully opposed the banishment of Jews from Spain.
After Israel declared its independence in 1948, Mr. Netanyahu returned to Jerusalem, where he tried without success to get into politics. He became editor of the “Encyclopedia Hebraica,” in Hebrew. During the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Netanyahu and his family lived alternately in Israel and in the United States, where he taught at Dropsie, the University of Denver and Cornell University.
In the 1960s, Mr. Netanyahu edited two more major reference books, these in English. They were the “Encyclopedia Judaica” and “The World History of the Jewish People.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s eldest son, Jonathan, commanded the spectacular rescue of more than 100 Jewish and Israeli hostages on board an Air France jet at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. He was the only Israeli soldier killed.
In addition to Benjamin, who was Israel’s prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and from 2009 to the present, Mr. Netanyahu is survived by another son, Iddo, a radiologist and writer. His wife, the former Cela Segal; died in 2000.
An early example of Mr. Netanyahu’s uncompromising spirit occurred when he was a university student and won a poetry contest with a prize of $20. When he went to claim the prize, he was given just $10.
When he protested, he was told that he wasn’t getting the full amount because his poem was short. He never wrote another.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

When Handling Precious Scrolls, Torah Lifters Pray for Successful Hoist

When Handling Precious Scrolls, Torah Lifters Pray for Successful Hoist

Dropsies Have 'Dire' Consequences; After a Fall, a Long Fast for All

[TORAH] Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal
At the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, Chalom Sibony gets a hand hoisting an elaborate scroll weighing about 60 pounds.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J.—Rabbi Robert Wolkoff has a recurrent nightmare. A congregant is lifting a holy Torah scroll high up in the air when it starts to tilt toward the ground.
In the dream, the rabbi lunges forward to catch the scroll, screaming, "Watch out, watch out." Then he wakes up in a cold sweat.
Jewish congregations are struggling with the heavy weight of Torah scrolls as they look for more ways to include women and older men in the sacred act of lifting a Torah. That's prompting some to look to acquire lighter Torahs, WSJ's Lucette Lagnado reports.
It isn't all in his head.
Lifting the Torah scroll during Sabbath services—a ritual known as "Hagbah," which means to lift in Hebrew—is considered a tremendous honor. It can also be a perilous undertaking.
The average Torah scroll, which contains the Five Books of Moses, handwritten by a quill on parchment, can weigh about 25 or 30 pounds. Scrolls are mounted on long wooden poles; they are often hard to handle, and even harder to hoist. Some scrolls, encased in wood and silver, weigh 40 or 50 pounds or more.
Accidents happen, and when they do, custom calls for significant acts of contrition, including fasting. Lots of fasting.
"If you drop the Torah, the implications are dire—the shame is enormous—and traditionally one needed to fast for 40 days," says Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. The offender has plenty of company in hunger, as anyone who witnesses the Torah tumble must also refrain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

The Heft of the 'Hagbah'

Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal
Philip Welsher lifts a scroll at the B'nai Tikvah Synagogue in New Brunswick, N.J.
Many of these scrolls are older, and were made in Europe before World War II. They have profound emotional value—but to replace them is expensive, as a new lighter-weight scroll can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
These days, not too many at Rabbi Wolkoff's synagogue, Congregation B'nai Tikvah, get to lift the Torah scrolls. Women, in particular, have felt excluded. While this is a proudly egalitarian synagogue where women take part in all rituals, virtually none raise the heavier scrolls since the effort requires both skill and muscle. Most women aren't up to it.
"Some of our Torahs are so heavy, only certain people are allowed to lift them," says B'nai Tikvah member Barry Safeer. "There are people with bad backs, there are those who make the congregation nervous."
That is especially the case when there is an overzealous or "show off" Torah lifter. "I call them testosterone Hagbahs," says Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens, N.Y. "It is someone having to prove how virile they are."
Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal
A Rabbi at B'nai Tikvah, North Brunswick, N.J., shows the Ten Commandments.
Hilary Friedman, one of the few women who has "done Hagbah," twice, is a physical trainer who lifts weights and teaches Pilates. Yet when she picked up the scrolls, she says, "I was shaking. My own child told me, 'Please, I don't want to fast for 40 days!'" She says she watches older "deconditioned" men lift the scrolls high up over their heads and wonders how they do it. "I will tell you, it is their sheer faith which lets them get it up there," she says.
Rabbis tell horror stories about the time a Torah fell or tore under their watch.
Rabbi Daniel Sherbill of Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach, is still haunted by that day in 1995 when a scroll tumbled to the ground after its ornate housing, or "ark," was opened.
It was the High Holidays, and he was leading a congregation near Chicago. Dozens of members fasted for 40 days, from sunrise to sunset, he says.
Beth El-Atereth Israel, a modern Orthodox congregation in Newton, Mass., lived through its disaster in 2007 during Simchat Torah, a holiday when Jews dance with the scrolls. A congregant carrying a bulky Torah tripped and lost control.
Rabbi Gershon Segal opted for the more modest penance—one communal fast day along with prayer and charitable giving. Then he took precautionary measures. He installed a bench within easy reach so that scroll lifters overcome by the weight would have a ready refuge.
Rabbi Wolkoff has decided to take more dramatic steps. Besides being heavy and unwieldy, B'nai Tikvah's Torah scrolls are in disrepair. The synagogue concluded a new scroll was urgently needed. A committee has searched and debated for months on what to buy, from whom and for how much.
Almost everyone agrees the congregation's new Torah must be super-light, just 10 to 15 pounds. Yet when it comes to Torah scrolls, less is often more.
[TORAH] Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal
Torahs at the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation
"When you are buying a Torah, on the one hand, you are buying this commodity, like a house or a car. But it is also a sacred act," says Rabbi Wolkoff.
B'nai Tikvah's committee has been quoted a dizzying array of prices—$35,000, $40,000, $60,000, all the way up to $120,000. The lighter or smaller the Torah, the heftier the price tag, especially if a fine parchment is used. Rabbi Wolkoff says lighter scrolls can cost $10,000 more than a conventional, heavy scroll.
The reason: Torahs aren't printed like ordinary books or Bibles. Often made in Israel, they are created by scribes who toil, feather quill in hand, for up to a year to produce a single scroll. Torah "brokers" typically arrange a match between congregations and scribes. They set the price, pay the scribe—and pocket the difference.
Rabbi Shmuel Miller, a Los Angeles scribe, says he charges $40,000 to make a normal-size, 22-inch scroll. But a pint-size scroll about 12 inches tall, with elaborately styled Hebrew text, "can take a few more months of work," he says, explaining how the smaller characters require a slower, more careful hand.
Rabbi Zerach Greenfield, a broker and scribe who shuttles between New York and Israel, counters that it is no big deal to produce a light, readable scroll. Rabbi Greenfield has provided scrolls weighing five pounds to U.S. military chaplains. Nowadays, he says, some parchment can be much lighter. He is confident he can deliver a quality 12½ pound scroll for approximately $30,000.
Others think the weight issue is a bit of a tempest in a Kiddush cup.
"The issues with the weight of our Torahs have become mythic," remarks Philip Welsher, a synagogue member who is an adept Torah lifter and seems to carry even the heaviest scrolls with ease. He believes more women at B'nai Tikvah could lift them if they only tried.
"I am not a wimp," says member Bobbi Binder, who has done Hagbah once or twice with a smaller scroll, but has been loath to try again with the larger Torahs. "It is not fair" that women can't enjoy the honor of Torah-lifting, she says.
Other congregations aren't sweating the issue.
Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, a Moroccan-Jewish synagogue, has acquired some supersize Torah scrolls, encased in the tradition of some Middle Eastern Jewish communities in wooden frames. One majestic 4-foot scroll swathed in wood, blue velvet and silver weighs a staggering 58 pounds. Rabbi Raphael Benchimol isn't fazed.
"We are a young congregation," he says. "We have a bunch of guys who came out of the Israeli army."

Jack Black Really Wants To Get His Kids Into Hebrew School

Here’s Jack Black on Conan last night, explaining the lengths he went to trying to get his kids into a good school. The guy really loves the Passover song Had Gadya—he calls it the original heavy metal song.

Must see: The egyptian stamp dated may 15 1948

Must see: The egyptian stamp dated may 15 1948
By Rhonda Spivak Tue Apr 24 2012

I write these words hours before the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, the day we remember and pay tribute to all of those who have fallen in Israel's wars. It will be followed by celebrations for the State of Israel's 64th Birthday.
For my generation, which has grown up in a world where the State of Israel has always existed, it is difficult to imagine a world where this was not the case.
I happened to be on ebay yesterday in search of an Israel related document and I came across this Egyptian stamp dated May 15 1948. I paused to look at its jarring image of the forces of the Egyptian army overtaking and eliminating what was then the newly declared State of Israel. I have never seen this stamp before and I rather doubt many readers have.
A picture is worth a thousand words. This one is worth much more than a thousand.
The stamp brings history to life in a very tangible way. For a mere few dollars I bought this stamp so that I can share it with educators of the history of Israel, who can share it with their students.
Look at the image-and ask yourself what would have been left of the Jewish people had Israel's War of Independence not been won in 1948? A question to ponder as Yom Hazikaron sets in.
And then of course as I looked at the stamp again, I thought of the election results soon enough to be witnessed in Egypt. A couple of years ago very few would have considered that the peace treaty with Egypt could one day possibly collapse.
As I look at this stamp, I do wonder whether the peace treaty Israel signed with Egypt will hold forever. Indefinately?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sitting Shiva for Spot?

What To Do When Your Jewish Pet Is Dying

Mourning Peeps: Karen Iris Tucker cradles her bichon frise, Peeps. With the end nearing, Tucker wonders how to mourn her beloved pet in an appropriately Jewish way.
courtesy of karen iris tucker
Mourning Peeps: Karen Iris Tucker cradles her bichon frise, Peeps. With the end nearing, Tucker wonders how to mourn her beloved pet in an appropriately Jewish way.

By Karen Iris Tucker

As I peer down at her cotton-puff head, my sense of guilt sets in. Peeps, my bichon frise associate, has just taken a cocktail of three different medicines meant to keep her ticker ticking. Her eyes water, and her mouth turns downward, quivering slightly. It’s obvious she is not digging this new regimen. At 13, this lady has lived long enough to endure an onslaught of insults to her pot-bellied little being — epilepsy, cataracts, a successful surgery to rid her of cancer and, most recently, congestive heart failure.
Each time, Peeps mobilizes and makes room in her life for the difficulties these maladies present. Despite this nobility, I know she will someday leave this world of stealing cat food, lolling in the sun on her paw print pet bed and inhaling cooked string beans in unsalted chicken stock. (The latter is a substitute for her beloved salty pet store treats.)
In thinking about that fateful day and how to commemorate Peeps’s life, I am confronted with the fact that there is no Jewish roadmap for how to properly mourn pets, no universal law or tradition for how to close the circle of a pet’s life.
According to Ari Enkin, an Orthodox rabbi in Israel who has written several books on Jewish law, equating the loss of an animal with the loss of a human is inappropriate. Enkin recently discussed the question of whether, upon the death of a beloved pet, it is appropriate for a Jewish person to say “Baruch dayan ha’emet,” or “Blessed is the True Judge.” It is reflexively uttered by many Jews in response to death and tragedy.
Enkin said that some halachic authorities find precedence for doing so, but only in the context of financial loss; animals were often one’s only source of income in earlier times. A blind person, for example, might recite the blessing upon the passing of a guide dog, since such dogs are expensive to replace.
As a former yeshiva girl who instinctively turns to Jewish tradition for comfort in trying times, I found Enkin’s comments unsatisfying. There is, after all, a clear legacy of compassion for animals in the Torah. Deuteronomy tells us that a person is required to feed his animals before himself, and that one is obligated to relieve an animal’s suffering. The Talmud provides the precept of tza’ar ba’alei chaim — that it is prohibited to cause pain to animals. The term nefesh chaya, a living soul, was applied in Genesis to animals as well as to people.
Seeking continuity from where these laws leave off, I ultimately found that it is mostly Reform and Conservative rabbis who give more credence to the desire to mourn pets in a way that is distinctly Jewish.

The Mickey Katz Project: A few minutes with Peter Sokolow

Peter Sokolow a/k/a Klezmer Fats talks a bit about Mickey Katz for the upcoming documentary, Mickey Katz: The Man Who Became Too Jewish.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Have Another Shot of Slivovitz

Much-Maligned Plum Brandy Wins Over New Fans

Variety: Slivovitz, like whiskey, varies from bottle to bottle. More than 70 types are now available.
Karl Gary Photography
Variety: Slivovitz, like whiskey, varies from bottle to bottle. More than 70 types are now available.

By Ezra Glinter

The comedian Myron Cohen once said of slivovitz that it makes Canadian Club taste like vanilla soda. It’s been compared to paint thinner, lighter fluid and jet fuel, and has been pressed into service as a home cough remedy. In an air disaster scenario it might serve to disinfect a wound, or sterilize makeshift surgical tools.
But for many North American drinkers, slivovitz is a liqueur associated with holidays, family tradition and life-cycle events. Many Jews drink it on Passover, because it contains no grain and a number of varieties are certified kosher for Passover. The late Israeli wine critic Daniel Rogov recommended pairing it with traditional Ashkenazi foods like gefilte fish, or matjes herring. In Croatian, Romanian, and Serbian families it might be consumed at a wedding or anniversary, and perhaps as an after-dinner digestif. And for some seasoned drinkers, the Eastern European plum brandy is an occasion all its own.
Check out some of Ezra Glinter’s favorite slivovitz cocktails
“Whether you call it slivovitz, or slivovica, it’s one of those seminal attractions that East European folks have enjoyed for many, many years,” said Gian Cossa, a self-professed slivophile who organizes a slivovitz festival each September in Lanham, Md. By day Cossa works at the District Department of the Environment in Washington, D.C., but in his non-professional capacity he’s part of a small cadre of slivovitz fans who believe that the oft-maligned liqueur is worth a second taste.
While slivovitz is usually associated with a squat green bottle kept at the back of a grandparent’s liquor cabinet, it has, in recent years, seen a small surge in popularity. In Tel Aviv you can find it on the menus of several Balkan and Bulgarian-style restaurants, while in the U.S. high quality brands are increasingly available. According to the International Slivovitz Drinkers Association, there are more than 70 types of commercially distilled slivovitz on the market. And though all slivovitz has a distinctive (and some might say, overpowering) flavor, there are many differences among the brands, both subtle and pronounced.
His Honor: Gian Cossa, a Master Slivovitz Judge, will host the eighth Slivovitz Festival, which will be held in Lanham, Md., in September.
Karl Gary Photography
His Honor: Gian Cossa, a Master Slivovitz Judge, will host the eighth Slivovitz Festival, which will be held in Lanham, Md., in September.
Slivovitz is typically made from Damson plums, though other varieties, such as Quetsch or Italian prune plums, are also used. Depending on whether the slivovitz is aged in glass or in wooden barrels, it will be clear or have an amber color, like whiskey. Factors such as batch size, fermentation length, alcohol content and other subtleties of the distillation process create their own differences. “It’s just like there’s different types of music, there are different types of slivovitz,” Cossa enthused. “You gotta have them all.”
Unlike many slivophiles, Cossa didn’t grow up with slivovitz, though his father, Dominic Cossa, a singer who performed with the Metropolitan Opera, made his own wine. Cossa remembers buying grapes from Italian fruit sellers at the farmers market in Paterson, N.J. He and his father would crush the grapes with another opera singer, William Ledbetter, using a press that had belonged to Cossa’s grandfather.
Slivovitz was a later discovery. Cossa was introduced to it by Bill Radosevich, a lead contamination specialist from Minneapolis whom he met at an environmental trade show in 2002, and whom he credits as “the foundation for slivovitz in this country.” Radosevich, founder of the International Slivovitz Drinkers Association and the U.S. Slivovitz Festival in Two Harbors, Minn., helped Cossa develop his slivovitz palate, and in 2009 Radosevich sponsored Cossa’s application to become a Grand Master Slivovitz Judge. Though Cossa was reluctant to divulge the Drinkers Association’s precise procedures for naming judges, he did say that “every journeyman’s path is different, and customized to their distinct needs in traversing towards slivovitz enlightenment.”
Radosevich did come from a slivovitz drinking family. “When we were kids, if we were sick my dad would give us a tablespoon of slivovitz,” recalled one of his brothers, Pete, an attorney from Duluth, Minn. “All the Croatians in North Minnesota had a bottle of slivovitz in the cupboard over the refrigerator.”
For almost 40 years, until 2010, the Radosevich family owned the Earthwood Inn, a bar in Two Harbors, on the north shore of Lake Superior. One day in the spring of 2004, after his father retired, Pete was kicking around ideas with his brothers for a summer festival at the Inn. “Typically, rural bars will get a bunch of bands and a bunch of kegs of beer. But we’re intellectuals, we’re nerds, we wanted to do something different,” he said. “Three days later my brother Bill called me up and had the whole thing planned out from A to Z.”
The U.S. Slivovitz Festival includes music, food and a Miss Slivovitz pageant. But the main event is always the slivovitz competition. To evaluate slivovitz, Master Judges use a six-variable testing model that considers visual and aromatic qualities, taste, aftertaste and alcohol content, as well as a characteristic called “mouthfeel.” All of these criteria are laid out by “Radosevich’s Slivovitz Festival Competition Score Sheet,” which gives directions for tasting and judging entries. Judges are instructed to determine if the slivovitz tastes like old socks or a chemical waste dump, and whether or not it makes the tongue go numb. More favorably, it might taste smoky, or have hints of oak. If the plums weren’t stripped of leaves before fermenting it might have an herbal flavor. Judges are also expected to spit after each tasting, “albeit reluctantly.” According to the score sheet, it is mandatory to make a toast before each round.
Since its inception, the U.S. Slivovitz festival has drawn 400 to 600 people each year, and led to satellite festivals, such as a one-off New York Slivovitz Klezmer Festival in 2006. Its slivovitz awards have become so coveted by distillers that in 2005 the then-Polish consul general in Chicago, Franciszek Adamczyk, used his diplomatic pouch to transport bottles of slivovitz from Poland that would otherwise have been impossible to import. Cossa’s festival in Maryland, entering its eighth year, attracts upward of 50 people and a number of NASA scientists from the nearby Goddard Space Flight Center have become regular attendees. Though the Radosevich family no longer owns the Earthwood Inn, the U.S. Slivovitz Festival continues this year at the Northeastern Hotel and Saloon on Dunlap Island, just outside of Cloquet, Minn.
The Slivovitz Drinkers Association has a motto: “Having fun taking Slivovitz seriously!” And why not? As Cossa put it, “When you come together and enjoy something like slivovitz, it’s communal and it breaks down walls. That’s what it’s all about — trying to identify that one thing we all have in common.” Now that sounds like something we can all raise a glass to — if the slivovitz doesn’t kill us first.

An Anthem for All? Neshama Carlebach performs Hatikvah

There are times when beautiful, soulful music can transport us to a new and challenging place, a place we might never have visited were we not swept along with song. Neshama Carlebach performs that sort of music — when, for instance, she mixes ancient Jewish tropes with the pulsating rhythms of an African American Baptist choir, creatively pushing the boundaries of expectation.
The Forward thought there was no better artist to launch a musical conversation about whether and, if so, how the words of “Hatikvah” could be altered to include all Israel’s citizens.
We recognize that any suggestion of tampering with a national anthem is fraught and must be approached with sensitivity, and “Hatikvah” is more than an ordinary, patriotic song. Its haunting melody and lyric act as a spiritual connector throughout the Diaspora, an expression of solidarity and yearning. It is sung at synagogue assemblies and at the end of Passover Seders. Sometimes, it takes on the mantle of prayer.
But that is how we, as American Jews, relate to the song. It is not how Arab Israelis, one-fifth of the population, hear the words — which is why this sizable minority often stands in silence when the anthem is sung, as Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran did at a recent public ceremony. As Philologos, our language columnist, wrote afterward: “How, really, can one expect an Israeli Arab to sing about a Jew’s soul stirring for his country?”

“The successful integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli life, on which the country’s future depends, has to have its symbolic expression, too,” Philologos continued. “It’s unacceptable to have an anthem that can’t be sung by 20% of a population. Permitting it to stand mutely while others sing is no solution.”
So he proposed a solution, a careful adjustment of a few problematic words and phrases. In the opening stanza, “nefesh yehudi” becomes “nefesh yisra’eli”, the soul of a Jew becoming the soul of an Israeli. And the eye that “looks for Zion” (“le-tsiyon”) can be altered to yearn “for our country” (“l’artseynu.”)
Then in the closing stanza, he suggested a skillful blend of the current language with the words of the original poem from which the national anthem was taken: “Od lo avda tikvateynu, / ha-tikvah ha-noshana, / lihiyot am hofshi b’eretz avoteynu, / b’ir ba david, David hana.” That is, “We have still not lost our hope, / our ancient hope, / to be a free people in the land of our fathers, / in the city in which David, in which David encamped.”
When Carlebach volunteered to record these words, beautifully accompanied by piano, bass, guitar and drums, she transformed the lyric again, singing the alternative version with a new ending and with the current one, reflecting her own sensibility. And then she offered her rendition of “Hatikvah” as it is sung now.
Only by hearing the words can we fully comprehend both the magnitude of the change and its inherent possibility. This recording is but one example of how music can travel through time, accomodating to new circumstances while maintaining its grasp on history and heritage.
Although “Hatikvah” is sung by Jews the world over, the anthem belongs to Israelis, and ultimately, any change must come from within. While some Israelis berated Joubran for his silence, many others supported him, and still others argued for change. As Merav Michaeli wrote in Haaretz just before Independence Day: “[I]n the rest of the world an anthem is not holy. But in Israel apparently it is, and because of that it has still not been able in its 64 years to understand that its soul is not only Jewish.”
The conversation, like the song, belongs to all of us. No one should be under any illusion that modifying a few words will instantly bring trust and understanding to the anxious Arab minority of a Jewish state still working through its experiment with democracy. As one Forward reader commented, “Let’s solve the conflict, then we can agree on what to sing together.”
But never underestimate the power of music to bind a nation, express its loftiest values and embrace its aspirations. Does “Hatikvah” do that now? And if not, should it?

How Lewis Black Almost Became a Rabbi

By Curt Schleier

Clay McBride
Lewis Black is a bundle of apoplectic fury on stage. His fingers shake and his voice is raised in rage as he throws thunderbolts of indignation at the audience.
Consider his concert at Carnegie Hall a few years ago. It was recorded for posterity (not to mention profit) and ultimately earned him his first Grammy Award. In it, he recalled his first Yom Kippur services. Words cannot describe his reaction as a five-year-old to hearing the rabbi discuss the prospect of being placed in the Book of Life.
Or the Book of Death.
Actually words can describe it. Black does it in his act. It’s just that many of those words cannot be used in a family newspaper (or website).
“Only the Jews could come up with a holiday that is so depressing,” he said. “The only people who’ve taken this a step further are the Muslims, who take chains and actually beat themselves.”
“I’m surprised the Jews didn’t think of that. But we don’t work well with tools.”
Black won a second Grammy in February for his CD “Stark Raving Black,” and has a new movie role as the narrator of “Peep World,” a film about a dysfunctional Jewish family starring Sarah Silverman, Michael C. Hall and Rainn Wilson. These are remarkable achievement under any circumstances, but even more so considering that comedy was not his first career choice.
Black’s mother, of course, wanted him to be a doctor. When that proved unlikely, her second choice was to have him at least marry a doctor. But young Lewis was headed on a different path. He wanted, albeit briefly, to be a rabbi. Those familiar with Black’s style, from his regular appearances on The Daily Show or elsewhere, may contend that his decision to enter comedy saved the Jewish people considerable tsuris.
On the phone from his tour bus, he conceded: “I probably would have gotten into trouble. But I think I would have been all right. It would have been interesting, but it’s probably better that I’m doing comedy.”
Black seemed to have a natural affinity for the job. “Not to toot my own horn, but I was really good at Hebrew.”
His interest in the rabbinate lasted about two years, from age 13 to 15. “I thought it was a good gig. You basically get up once a week and tell people what you think. You read the portion of the Torah, take that and go off on what ever you want.”
That he was at all captivated by the idea, even temporarily, was in large part a tribute to the rabbi at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., the famed Balfour Brickner. “He was one of the great rabbis,” Black said. “He left to take another job and I guess the new guy — well, I lost interest.”
Black was raised in a Reform household. “My parents weren’t very religious, but they did pay attention. My mother would go to the memorial service for Yom Kippur and we did the holidays.”
Though his family is a frequent foil for his humor — mom took being a Jewish mother “to a dark place” — he was very close to both his parents. He is particularly proud of his father, who he said “is the only man I know who sat down during the Vietnam war and read the Geneva Accords and said there is nothing here that legitimizes what we did.”
Black’s father worked for the Department of the Navy and resigned at the age of 55 as a matter of conscience. “That certainly whacked into his pension and at the time I was in college and my brother was just entering school.”
Black is convinced his Jewish upbringing played a key role in the way he turned out. “Being separated from the dominant culture you learn a great deal about being the underdog and get a real sense of what it’s like to be separate,” he said.
“It gives you a greater sense of empathy with those who are different. Because you’re not involved, it allows you to take a look at that culture with a different eye. It gave me as much as I have one a decent moral compass.”
Black has since “drifted” from active practice of Judaism, though he considers it “an important part of who I am.” And he is not afraid to show it.
At a special performance for the Armed Forces at the Grand Ole Opry, which will be broadcast on Country Music Television, he started his act this way:
“I’m really thrilled to be here, because I believe I am the first Jew appearing on Country Music Television. I find that surprising, because I thought we owned it.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Maya Plisetskaya The Dying Swan

Maya Plisetskaya was born in Moscow into a prominent Jewish family.[1] She went to school in Spitzbergen, where her father worked as an engineer and mine director.
In 1938, her father, Michael Plisetski was executed during the Stalinist purges, possibly because he had hired a friend who had been a secretary to Leon Trotsky. Her mother Rachel Messerer-Plisetskaya (aka Ra Messerer), a silent-film actress, was arrested and sent to a labor camp (Gulag) in Kazakhstan,[2] together with Maya’s seven-month old baby brother.[3] Thereupon Maya was adopted by her maternal aunt, the ballerina Sulamith Messerer, until her mother was released in 1941.[4]
Maya studied under the great ballerina of imperial school, Elizaveta Gerdt. She first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre when she had just turned 11 years of age. In 1943, she graduated from the choreographic school and joined the Bolshoi Ballet,[4] where she would perform until 1990.

'התפילה לשלום המדינה' - The Prayer for the State of Israel

Tonight at sundown marks the start of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's 64th Independence Day. It's a day filled with ceremonies and festive celebrations.

The major State Ceremony for Yom HaAtzmaut takes place tonight at Mount Herzl, Israel’s National Ceremony in Jerusalem. This event marks the end of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s memorial day, which falls immediately before), and the beginning of the celebration for Yom HaAtzmaut. The ceremony involves performances, speeches, and a ceremonial lighting of twelve torches which symbolizes the Twelve tribes of Israel by twelve citizens who have made a great impact upon the country.  At the same time, towns and cities across the country have parties and firework displays.

Tomorrow, parades and events take place across Israel including military fly-pasts, parades, a famous International Bible Competition, and the ceremony for the Israel Prize which is Israel’s highest award and honor. The Israel Prize is given each year to about 10-15 people in the presence of the presence of the President, Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the Supreme Court president.

Yom HaAtzmaut is a real family day, and Israelis flock to Israel’s National Parks, hiking trails, and beauty spots, for barbecues and picnics.

It's also a day when the Prayer for the State of Israel, said on Shabbat in most synagogues around the world, will be sung as part of the ceremonies and celebrations. Here is a video of the prayer being sung by Shai Abramson, Chief Cantor of the Israel Defense Forces (How many other countries have a chief cantor?) The video includes film clips from the 64 years of Israel's existence, from David Ben-Gurion to the Six Day War to the release of Gilad Schalit last year.

The Hebrew prayer and its English translation from the Sim Shalom siddur appear below the video. Chag Sameach!Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel; Bless the State of Israel, with its promise of redemption. Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Guide its leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth. Help them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land. Deliver them; crown their efforts with triumph. Bless the land with peace, and its inhabitants with lasting joy. And let us say: Amen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Who was Manny?


Pierre didn't know where it came from, he only knew that it came and
it helped in oh-so-many ways. The money always arrived with a small
short note that simply said, "Keep up the great cause, we will
prevail," and was simply signed, "Manny."

Pierre didn't know who Manny was - nobody did! Not then anyway, we do
now. But this was during World War II when the Black Horror was
sweeping Europe .That's what Manny called it, The Black Horror, & of
course he was referring to the Nazi plague that was taking over most
of the continent. Pierre was a leader of the French Resistance,
commonly called the underground. He fought with groups of French
citizens in the best way he could, by living within main society and
leading bands of armed resistance against the Germans in clandestine
activities. They would ambush German patrols, blow up German
installations and sabotage Nazi operations in any way they could.

The Allies were good at providing arms and weapons, but the
underground also needed money. That was a commodity that was very hard
to come by during the war, especially when your country is completely
occupied by an invading military force.

And that's where Manny came in. He sent money, and he sent a lot of
it. Manny was Emmanuel Goldenberg, born a Romanian Jew, who was now
living in America . Manny had done very well in his life and he knew
only too well what kinds of horrors were going on in his native
Romania & the rest of Europe . Jews and others were being gassed and
killed by the millions and he had to do something.

One thing he could do was use his good fortune to help the war
effort. He had tried to join the Armed Forces, but he didn't qualify,
so he did what he could. He sent money to where it was needed the most
- to the resistance as I said, Pierre was one of the leaders of the
resistance. There were many, but Pierre controlled the action around
the area of Normandy . He and his people were very instrumental in
assisting the Allied invasion on D-Day by sabotaging redirecting many
Nazi forces moments before the actual invasion. Much of this was
possible because of the money that arrived every month. Month after
month for two years money arrived for Pierre and his cause from Manny.
It never failed! It literally saved the day. No, Pierre never knew
who Manny was, only that he sent money for food, clothes, gasoline and
many other important things.

But years later, we know who Manny was, that silent guardian angel of
the French underground. So do you He was one of the biggest stars in
Hollywood , and a fine gentleman. It's a Little Known Fact that a very
important part of the success of the French underground came from a
source they never knew: Emmanuel Goldenberg, or as you knew him, the
very fine actor Edward G. Robinson.

P.S. Not many know that he was a famous actor in the Yiddish theater
before he became a movie star

"Thirst," from "Jewish Music from Oy to Vey"

Regina Resnik, a dominant mezzo-soprano with the Metropolitan and other operas from the 1940s throgh the 1970s, has also had a career as an actress and director. Together with her son, Michael Philip Davis, she recently produced Colors of the Diaspora, a compilation of three full-length concerts offering a kaleidoscope of Jewish classical song and operatic excerpts.

The collection, in addition to many musical compositions, includes a comic dialogue between Resnik and Davis called "Thirst," in which they act out dramatically what amounts to a very old Jewish joke.

The sketch runs about seven minutes in length, but we think it's worth watching to see the punch line coming. And we don't have to warn you about the punch line, because unlike the punch lines of other Jewish jokes, it is very family-friendly.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nathan Englander: Assimilating Thoughts Into Stories

February 15, 2012
The stories in Nathan Englander's new collection are based largely on his experiences growing up as a modern Orthodox Jew with an overprotective mother.
In What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, Englander writes about his own faith — and what it means to be Jewish — in stories that explore religious tension, Israeli-American relations and the Holocaust.
In the title story — a riff on Raymond Carver's classic What We Talk About When We Talk about Love — a Hasidic couple and a secular Jewish couple play a morbid game called "Righteous Gentile," in which they debate who would hide them during an imaginary second Holocaust. Englander says that though he calls it a game in the story, it's not really a game — and that's the point.
"I call it a game," he says, "because it makes it easier to talk about as a game — but it's something we play with dead seriousness in my family — we would wonder who would hide us in the Holocaust."
Englander, a fourth- or fifth-generation American, says despite his family's longstanding roots in the United States, they frequently played the mind exercise when he was little.
"We really were raised with the idea of a looming second Holocaust, and we would play this game wondering who would hide us," he says. "I remember my sister saying about a couple we knew, 'He would hide us, and she would turn us in.' And it struck me so deeply, and I just couldn't shake that thought for all these years, because it's true."
Englander grew up on Long Island in the mid-1970s, where he and his sister both attended a religious day school. The rabbis at the school would tell them graphic stories about the Holocaust and the Inquisition. At home, his mom wasn't much better.
Nathan Englander grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family. He now splits his time between New York and Madison, Wis.
Juliana Sohn Nathan Englander grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family. He now splits his time between New York and Madison, Wis.
"My mother raised me very clearly that if you cross the street, you will die," he says. "If you go outside, you will die. If you play sports, you will likely die. That's what I was getting at home."
Meanwhile, anti-Semitic graffiti popping up around his town was reinforcing all of his fears. Looking back, Englander says his paranoia and fears of nonexistent threats made him want to explore his roots further.
"I think that's why I had to live in Jerusalem all those years," he says. "There's a reason ... I spend my childhood in America feeling Jewish and not American. And it's only in Israel — it was those years there — where I got to be an American because everyone's a Jew."
Personal Discoveries In Jerusalem
Englander's time in Jerusalem overlapped with a period of brutal violence in the city. He says the constant real threat of violence actually made him more comfortable living his daily life.

"That was a huge discovery," he says. "If you're paranoid and you put yourself in a place of real existential threat, then you're not paranoid anymore. It was a huge relief for me on that front. It was like living in Catch-22. ... The state of panic — I didn't stick out in a crowd anymore — the cold sweat was just general."
While living in Jerusalem, Englander also examined his own religious beliefs.
"It was the first time I saw ... deeply secular atheistic Jews who I could identify with," he says. "The first week there was when I gave up organized religion. My first Shabbat in Israel was when I broke [being Orthodox] after 19 years."
Englander remembers thinking that week that God would smite a bus he was riding on the Sabbath. When that didn't happen, he says, "it felt like I wanted a cheeseburger."
Eating a cheeseburger would have broken the Jewish law forbidding the mixture of milk and meat products. Still, Englander wanted one, he says.
"It was pretty hard to break that rule," he says. "I had to wait months to find one. My buddy and I had flown to London. I literally got out at Victoria Station and went up the stairs into Burger King and had me a Whopper."
He calls the process he went through an "active irreligiousity."
"I was trying to think of every rule that I could possibly break till I checked them all off," he says. "Because that's what a young person is going to do when they swing in the other direction. I'm 42 now; if I was complaining about something in high school, it would be time to let it go. But then, it was large and electric and active."

Why does Rosh Hodesh fall on two days sometimes and one day at other times?

The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle. Since a lunar month is approximately 29 days and twelve hours, we alternate months — one month is twenty-nine days and the next month is thirty. When the Sanhedrin (Rabbinical Supreme Court) was convened, the months were determined by witnesses who testified that they saw the crescent new-moon. The Sanhedrin would assemble on the thirtieth of each month, for perhaps witnesses would come and this day would be designated Rosh Chodesh ("Head of the Month") of the upcoming month (rendering the previous month a 29 day month).
Since the thirtieth day of the month was always potentially Rosh Chodesh, whenever a month has thirty days, the thirtieth day is observed as Rosh Chodesh together with the next day, the first of the following month.
However, if a month has only twenty-nine days, then the Rosh Chodesh of the following month will be only one day--the first of the month.
The following months always have two days of Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the month plus the last day of the previous month): Cheshvan, Adar (and Adar II), Iyar, Tammuz, and Elul.
The following months always have one day of Rosh Chodesh: Tishre(Not celebrated due to Rosh Hashanah), Shevat, Nisan, Sivan, and Av.
The months of Kislev and Tevet fluctuate; some years they both have one day of Rosh Chodesh, some years both have two days, and some years Kislev has one day and Tevet has two days Rosh Chodesh.
by Naftali Silberberg

The Thomashefskys: Stars Of The Yiddish Stage

The names Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky may not sound familiar today, but at the height of their fame in the 1920s and '30s, the Thomashefskys were one of the most famous couples in New York City's burgeoning Yiddish theater scene.
Their story is chronicled in The Thomashefskys: Music & Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater, a documentary written, hosted and conducted by their grandson, Michael Tilson Thomas. Thomas also serves as music director of the San Francisco Symphony and artistic director of the New World Symphony.
In The Thomashefskys, which will air on PBS's Great Performances on March 29, Tilson Thomas details how his grandparents rose through the Yiddish theater community, eventually owning several theaters while starring in scores of productions.
Boris played heroic, adventurous roles; Bess found her fame in comic parts and created roles that championed the suffragette movement. They put on lavish musicals with equally elaborate scenery, and adapted everything from classical works of Shakespeare to vaudevillian numbers from the Yiddish stage. In 1939, when Boris died, The New York Times reported that 30,000 people lined the streets of the Lower East Side for his funeral.
On Wednesday's Fresh Air, Tilson Thomas talks about his own career in classical music and explains what lessons he took away as he researched the history of his grandparents' careers in Yiddish theater.
"Their theater was entirely a theater of social consciousness," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Their great concern was for the audience, and they wanted to open up the worlds beyond the ghetto experiences of their audiences. They wanted to introduce them to the full possibilities of what freedom could mean in the United States through the plays they presented, through the music they gave the public and also through the kinds of topics their plays addressed."
Among the topics: labor issues, reproductive rights, child labor issues, assimilation and women's rights. Bessie Thomashefsky often played women disguised as men to bring attention to issues affecting women.
"[It was] a little bit like the story of Yentl is," he says. "Where a woman disguises herself as a man in order to gain the advantages of education or whatever that a man can have."
Tilson Thomas says he remembers hearing his grandmother talk about getting arrested for performing in theater productions on Sundays, which was prohibited by law at the time.
"At one point, when Theodore Roosevelt was police commissioner of New York, he and his men raided one of the Thomashefsky theaters," Tilson Thomas says. "And he saw Bessie, who was very young and looked much younger than she was always, and he said, 'Look out little girl.' And she said, 'Little girl, my ass. If anyone's being taken in, it's me.' That's exactly the way she told me the story."
Michael Tilson Thomas is currently touring the country with the San Francisco Symphony as part of a month-long American Mavericks festival.
Courtesy of the artist Michael Tilson Thomas is currently touring the country with the San Francisco Symphony as part of a month-long American Mavericks festival.
Bessie often sang for Tilson Thomas in the living room. He says they would frequently perform scenes together for other family members and friends: "She once said, 'Your parents are very lovely people, but terribly conventional. You're like me. You're an adventurer. You'll have to prove something.'"
Tilson Thomas says he took that lesson to heart, despite not knowing exactly what it meant.
"As I listened to her tell all these stories about her life and childhood through her stardom, and even her reflections on the way fashions changed and the way she was in her late life a quite lonely person, I took it all in," he says. "And what I kind of understood from her was that it had been a very interesting ride. She was really proud of what had been accomplished. And when she saw somebody who was a very successful entertainer coming up, she was very proud of it, recognized them and appreciated them."
He says he's remembered much of what she taught him while working as a musician and conductor.
"My way of expressing what she said to me is, 'What is it like for people beyond the sixth row?' We play in such big halls in classical music, and they're halls designed to be very rich ... but to get the sound to be distinct is difficult," he says. "And I sometimes tell my students that playing classical music is like making an announcement in an airport. ... You're trying to make every moment completely distinct."

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Jewish Nation: An Enigma for so many non-Jewish Nations

"Indeed it is difficult for all other nations of the world to live in the presence of the Jews. It is irritating and most uncomfortable. The Jews embarrass the world as they have done things which are beyond the imaginable. They have become moral strangers since the day their forefather, Abraham, introduced the world to high ethical standards and to the fear of Heaven. They brought the world the Ten Commandments, which many nations prefer to defy. They violated the rules of history by staying alive, totally at odds with common sense and historical evidence. They outlived all their former enemies, including vast empires such as the Romans and the Greeks. They angered the world with their return to their homeland after 2000 years of exile and after the murder of six million of their brothers and sisters.
They aggravated mankind by building, in the wink of an eye, a democratic State which others were not able to create in even hundreds of years. They built living monuments such as the duty to be holy and the privilege to serve one's fellow men.
They had their hands in every human progressive endeavour, whether in science, medicine, psychology or any other discipline, while totally out of proportion to their actual numbers They gave the world the Bible and even their "savior."
Jews taught the world not to accept the world as it is, but to transform it, yet only a few nations wanted to listen. Moreover, the Jews introduced the world to one God, yet only a minority wanted to draw the moral consequences. So the nations of the world realize that they would have been lost without the Jews... And while their subconscious tries to remind them of how much of Western civilization is framed in terms of concepts first articulated by the Jews, they do anything to suppress it.
They deny that Jews remind them of a higher purpose of life and the need to be honourable, and do anything to escape its consequences... It is simply too much to handle for them, too embarrassing to admit, and above all, too difficult to live by.
So the nations of the world decided once again to go out of 'their' way in order to find a stick to hit the Jews. The goal: to prove that Jews are as immoral and guilty of massacre and genocide as some of they themselves are.
All this in order to hide and justify their own failure to even protest when six million Jews were brought to the slaughterhouses of Auschwitz and Dachau; so as to wipe out the moral conscience of which the Jews remind them, and they found a stick.
Nothing could be more gratifying for them than to find the Jews in a struggle with another people (who are completely terrorized by their own leaders) against whom the Jews, against their best wishes, have to defend themselves in order to survive. With great satisfaction, the world allows and initiates the rewriting of history so as to fuel the rage of yet another people against the Jews. This in spite of the fact that the nations understand very well that peace between the parties could have come a long time ago, if only the Jews would have had a fair chance. Instead, they happily jumped on the wagon of hate so as to justify their jealousy of the Jews and their incompetence to deal with their own moral issues.
When Jews look at the bizarre play taking place in The Hague , they can only smile as this artificial game once more proves how the world paradoxically admits the Jews' uniqueness. It is in their need to undermine the Jews that they actually raise them.
The study of history of Europe during the past centuries teaches us one uniform lesson: That the nations which received and in any way dealt fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered; and that the nations that have tortured and oppressed them have written out their own curse."

Lekhah Dodi sung to welcome the Sabbath, has mystical origins.

Lekhah Dodi ('Come my friend') is the hymn sung during the synagogue service on Friday night to welcome the Sabbath. The opening stanza reads: 'Come my friend, to meet the bride; let us welcome the presence of the Sabbath'; and the other stanzas are in praise of the Sabbath and expressions of hope for the restoration of Zion and the Messianic redemption.
cantor leading song in synagogueThe practice of welcoming the Sabbath as Israel's bride is mentioned in the Talmud, and on the basis of this the sixteenth-century Kabbalists in Safed developed an elaborate ritual in which they would go out into the fields dressed in white garments to welcome the Sabbath, identified by them with the Shekhinah.
Solomon Alkabetz, the author of the Lekhah Dodi, was a member of this mystic brotherhood and composed the hymn especially for the ritual. The consecutive stanzas begin with the letters of his name to form the nominal acrostic, Shelomo Ha-Levi, 'Solomon the Levite'.
Lekhah Dodi is now recited in all Jewish congregations and various melodies have been composed with which to accompany it. The final stanza reads: 'Come in peace, thou crown of thy husband, with rejoicing and with cheerfulness, in the midst of the faithful of the chosen people; come, O bride, come, O bride.'
Very few modern writers appreciate that, for the Kabbalists, the 'husband' for whom the Sabbath is the crown is, following the doctrine of the Sefirot, the Sefirah Tiferet, the spouse of the Shekhinah.
The hymn is now sung, however, with no awareness of the original Kabbalistic nuances. It is the universal custom to turn towards the door when this stanza is sung and bow to welcome the Sabbath.
Rabbi Louis Jacobs Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.
M.S, adds:
 couple of adjustments to the explanation.
1.    lecha dodi should translate as "go my friend" and not "come my friend"
dodi could also be "my beloved".  myriad mistranslation abound on this phrase - lecha dodi.
2.    the mystical guy who started going out into the field to welcome shabbat was the Ari and Solomon Alkabetz was one of his contemporaries.
maybe it was Alkabetz who started the going out into the field.  he was the older one.  but who knows....buried in the sands of time.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jewish films 1910-1926, demo

RE-EMERGING: The Jews of Nigeria

Over the years there have been reports of thousands of Africans living in Nigeria and practicing Judaism. 

Several years ago, the Internet was introduced into the more rural parts of southeast Nigeria. As it has done for so many people around the world, it opened the eyes of a few young Igbo people and began answering some difficult questions of identity. For Shmuel (who was then called Sam), the nagging question he wanted answered was whether there was any truth to the long-told lore that the Igbo people were once Jews. 

He began by comparing Hebrew traditions to Igbo traditions, and what he found astounded him. The similarities were so convincing that it sent him off on a journey in the quest to find other Igbo who might be practicing Judaism.

RE-EMERGING: The Jews of Nigeria is a documentary journey into the heart of Igboland and into the lives and culture of the Igbo people. The film introduces the world to the many synagogues that dot the land, and a handful of passionate, committed, and diverse characters -- each striving to fulfill their historical legacy with few resources and unbeknownst to most of the world.

 Here's a preview of the film. Enjoy!