The inspiration for the Stuff Jews Don’t Do Tumblr, according to the person who created it : “Growing up in a Jewish TV-centered home, I often encountered many things or situations in the primetime line-up that were unfamiliar. When I asked my mother why we didn’t eat Thanksgiving in the afternoon or why my brother never had a rat’s tail, her retort was always “Jews don’t do that!”"
Some things “Jews don’t do”: Shop at JC Penney, Drive Pick Up Trucks, Buy Lottery Tickets, Eat Hamburger Helper. This is stuff that runs contrary to what some Jews recognize as being Jewish, or what might be referred to as “”goyishe.” There’s a thread that connects them-mainly that they’re commonly associated with people of a certain class. When I was a kid, we shopped at Kmart (not even a JC Penney!). This might not be true anymore, but then, shopping at Kmart was unforgivable. People would tease you about it until you died, because it meant you were poor, and worse, you were too stupid (obviously as the result of being poor) to front like you didn’t shop at Kmart. The thing was, my family was poor. And we were Jews.
Like I said, a lot of the things listed in this Tumblr have nothing to do with Judaism, they have to do with class, but in addition, there’s also the greatly overlooked fact that, believe it or not, Jews don’t all live on the East and West coasts of the United States. Jews in the South might drive pick up trucks, because in the South, people might do that. Cultural norms exist, and people take them on.
Jews might also make and eat Jello molds, (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence) because maybe they don’t know about kashrut or they don’t care about it, and they think they’re delicious. And just so I keep making it all about me, kashrut was something I didn’t know about until college, because Jewish education is expensive, and I wasn’t around a lot of observant Jews. That’s what happens when you live outside of a Jewish bubble.
Look, I’m pretty sure (I hope) that the point of this Tumblr is to poke fun at the idea that Jews don’t do certain things, but actually it should be called “Stuff Jews Who Aren’t Me or Other Jews I Know Probably Do.” (Also, I’m pretty sure a kugel qualifies as a casserole.)
Israel’s Documented Story started posting last June and it’s been an interesting read. It’s an English language blog run by The Israel State Archives. They’ve been posting and commenting on documents, including recently declassified documents in the archvies. Here are some highlights:
They have British Mandate immigration records from 1920-1947, much of which were recently put online. While some records were destroyed or removed, the remaining documents have a lot of details, including pictures–and they are indexed by family: Immigrants to the British Mandate (Record Group 11)
There’s a great series on documents relating to Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Jerusalem and the subsequent Israel/Egypt peace process. The primary documents are here and I think all posts are tagged at: israelsdocuments.blogspot.com/search/label/1977 Here are some nice segments from that series:
Principles sometimes change: They document Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan’s guiding princples to negotiating with Egypt, how much these seemingly nonnegotiable principles deviated from the final peace agreement, and why.
“Over a period of 29 years all six of Israel’s prime ministers, including myself, have stated their readiness to go anywhere and at any time to meet the Arab rulers to talk about peace. These offers have remained without response apart from certain clandestine meetings subsequently publicly denied by both sides.” Huh? Run that by me again? Never ever any meetings except for the ones we’ve all denied?
The Spook’s Report: A Mossad agent’s perspective on the then top secret meeting in Morocco of Foreign Minister, Moshe Dayan Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Hassan Tuhami.
Following is a guest post by Rabbi Rebecca Lillian, current resident of Malmo, Sweden.
In early March, when I was asked to write a column about Jewish life in Malmö, I began like this: Google “Jews in Malmö.” Most of the results will be about the rise in anti-Semitism, the hostility between Muslims and Jews, the anti-Semitic rants of the mayor, and the number of Jews who are fleeing Sweden’s third largest city.
Six weeks later, you can skip the Google search. The Jewish media have their eye on Malmö, thanks to the most recent spewing of idiotic, anti-Semitic rants by mayor Ilmar Reepalu. This time, he tried to claim that the Jewish community of Malmö had allowed itself to be infiltrated by the white supremacist Sweden Democrat party in order to attack Muslims. When confronted, Reepalu admitted that his accusation was baseless. Dominos have begun to fall since then. The leader of his Social Democrat party scolded the mayor, and word has it that Reeplu might even be open to hearing from Jewish citizens. It remains unclear whether there will be any real impact on Reeplalu’s mayorship.
Yet, although Malmö’s Jews do face anti-Semitism from some hateful, even violent neighbors as well as from the mayor, things have changed since 2010, when the Forward published an article titled, “For Jews, Swedish City is a Place to Move Away From.” In fact, last month I used that title as a foil, declaring Malmö to be a delightful place to move to. The Jewish community here is undergoing a true renaissance and, on this Yom Hashoah, many members look toward the future with hope.
Hey, y’all. It’s been a while. I’ve been busy having a real job instead of blogging here or at my personal blog. Anyway, this has been crossposted to my new blog at davidamwilensky.com, which you should all go check out.
I tip my hat to Philologos, the pseudonymous author of the Forward’s language column, for two reasons:
In a recent column, he cited a column he wrote in 1998 about an incident in which an Arab Israeli member of the national soccer team declined to sing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem. In ’98, he wrote that it sucks for Arab Israelis and that he understood their reluctance to sing it. But in ’98 he concluded that there was no way around it. In this more recent column, he admits that he was wrong and….
In this one he reacts to the recent silence of Salim Joubran during the singing of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” by going further than the other commentaries I’ve read on the incident; Philologos went so far as to make specific suggestions about how the song could be changed.
So bravo to you, Philologos for admitting you were wrong and for making some nicely conceived suggestions for rectifying the problem of “Hatikvah.”
And with that, let me explain why he’s still wrong this time. As identified by Philologos, the basic problem with “Hatikvah” is contained in this rhetorical: “How, really, can one expect an Israeli Arab to sing about a Jew’s soul stirring for his country?” But I’d go one step further: How can one expect a group with an equally valid claim on the land to sing a national anthem that is a clearly not just an Israeli song, but a Jewish song?
He concludes that “Hativkah” should not “be abandoned for another anthem, or sung to the same tune with new words” because “there’s not point in accommodating the feelings of Arabs by trampling on the feelings of Jews.” Again, I’d go even further, but we’ll come back to that. First, Philologos’ specific problems with “Hatikvah”: More »
If you’re in New York this week, you should check out the “Other Zions” exhibit, currently on display at YIVO. Curated by Krysia Fisher, this absolutely fascinating exhibit showcases the impressive ambitions and efforts of three related Yiddish organisations, all committed to establishing a Jewish homeland within the Diaspora, documenting an oft-neglected chapter in the history of modern Jewish settlement. The exhibit marks the 70th anniversary of the all-Yiddish publication Afn Shvel, the 30th anniversary of the League for Yiddish, and 75 years since the establishment of the Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonization.
In July, YIVO hosted an opening for the exhibit, featuring acclaimed Yiddishists, both young and old. The evening centered on the accomplishments and ideological legacies of prominent figures in the Yiddish-speaking world, such as Abraham Rosin, the first editor of the Yiddish literary-cultural journal Afn Shvel; Dr. Mordekhe Schaechter, Yiddish linguist and third editor of Afn Shvel, and founder of Yugntruf; I.N. Steinberg, exiled religious, leftist Freeland activist; and other members of the Freeland movement. Several of the speakers and performers, children and grandchildren of the aforementioned figures, spoke first-hand about the legacy of their forbearers.
To get a schmeck of the history of the Jewish Freeland League, you can watch “No Land Without Heaven: I.N. Steinberg and the Freeland League,” featuring Dr. Adam Rovner (University of Denver), here and learn about the little-known history of the Freeland League, which included attempts to establish Yiddish-speaking Jewish settlements in such places as SW Tasmania, Surinam, and NW Australia. These efforts were ultimately thwarted, most notably by the establishment of the modern state of Israel, and perhaps that is why these stories are seldom related in standard histories of Jewish settlement.
Today, Mordekhe Schaechter’s grandson (and one of the speakers at the “Other Zions” opening this summer), Naftali Ejdelman, is working to achieve his grandfather’s vision with the establishment of Yiddish Farm in Goshen, NY. Naftali spoke of his grandfather’s attempts in the 1950’s to found a Yiddish-speaking colony on farmland in Roosevelt, New Jersey. Yiddish Farm opened its ‘doors’ to the public this summer with its first annual Golus Festival, an outdoor Jewish culture camping festival with live entertainment. Schaechter’s project unites secular and religious Jews through common love of Yiddish language and agricultural work. On a more micro level, other Schaechter progeny are discussing the establishment of a Yiddish-speaking Moishe House in New York City. If you are potentially interested either in working on the Yiddish Farm or living in a Yiddish Moishe House in NYC, please feel free to contact Naftali at email@example.com …and maybe you can live in “another Zion.”
Today, June 1st, is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, marking the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967. This is both an Israeli state holiday and a rabbinically mandated minor religious holiday, which means it’s celebrated both with parades and liturgy.
I’ll admit that this mixing of politics and religion makes me deeply uncomfortable. Attributing military and political victories to God is a step further down the slippery slope of political demagoguery than I’d like to take. It makes it easy for politicians, generals, and their supporters to confuse luck, skill, and power for divine right. It’s not surprising that the term demagoguery originates in Ancient Greece — that’s also where the habit of proclaiming religious holidays for military victories started. Perhaps you’ve heard of Chanukah?
I’m not alone in my discomfort with this conflation. The sages of the Talmud were so uncomfortable with Chanukah as a military holiday, they wrote a new backstory for it… you know, the bit about the oil? The rabbis thought we’d be better off with a fairy tale invented 600 years after the events of the holiday instead of celebrating the military victory. One might wonder whether the hindsight knowledge that the victory came at the price of quite a bit of Jew-on-Jew violence and resulted in a corrupt Hasmoean dynasty that further consolodated the roles of high priest, king, and general into one person and eventually lost Israel to Rome.
Have a Beautiful Purim with a Righteous Heart from all of your Comrades at Jewschool.
Children in Purim Costume (pictured above), at the S.M. Gurewicz high school in Vilna, 1933. Note the two Native Americans complete with headdress and bow and arrow, two Gypsy girls complete with timbrels and beads and various other ethnographic costumes. Who are you dressing up as?
Here is the cover image of the May 1932 issue of Der Hammer דער האמער, illustrated by Jewish artist William Gropper Der Hammer, an interwar socialist daily with strong communist leanings, fashioned itself as the magazine of the Jewish Worker. It’s here as a reminder to all those in current struggles for justice and peace, and also to honor the upcoming anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and to honor the struggle of Chinese workers contracted to Apple Computers for a safe and healthy working environment free from chemicals that cause neurological damage.
My mother remembers when Devon was a classy street with quality merchant stores, but that was in the 50′s. Since I can remember it from the mid-70′s it was always a bit run down, heavily ethnic (it is the most diverse mile of pavement in all of Chicago) but not without its charm. The Indo-Pak part of the street is now far more dense, lively and even clean.
Jewishly speaking, the locus of W. Rogers Park has been rapidly shifting North toward Touhy and even Howard. The Russian immigrants who once kept the shift at bay have moved to the burbs. In the last five years we’ve seen several new shuls open on Touhy, including Sharei Tzedek (aka Bais Barnaby’s), Mkor Hayyim, Sephardic Ohel Shalom and the new Adas Jeshurun. These are joined by Or Menorah and the Egal Minyan in the Temple Menorah building closer to Howard, where a ‘Kosher’ jewel opened 5 years back.
Is Devon dying? Of course it is. But it has been dying for three decades now. Someday I’ll drive my kids through the neighborhood and show them what once was, just as last week I drove through N. Lawndale, where my grandfather grew up a century ago. There too are the shells of shuls by the dozen, now Baptist churches. Undoubtedly the Sentinel or Forward back in the 50′s decried the “Demise of Douglas Boulevard.” And fifty years from now, my grandchildren will read a post on their iPads about the “Downfall of Dundee,” around which there is now another great cluster of Jewish life.
I’m constantly amazed at the sheer creativity that shows up, looking for a handout, on Kickstarter.com, the fundraising web site I used to finance the first printing of The Comic Torah. (In case you’re wondering, the book is at the printer’s, waiting to be bound.)
Three new projects with a Jewish angle. A Jewish cartoonist whose humor shaped two generations of Jews. A Palestinian art project with Israeli collaboration. And an iPhone app for one of New York’s most Jewish neighborhoods.
Like most of their Kickstarter peers, offer ample rewards and thanks for two-figure donors. So check them out.
Lawrence Bush’s daily Jewdayo email reminds us that
Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) was fatally wounded by an assassin in Mexico on this date in 1940. After years of activism and imprisonment, Trotsky helped to lead the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and was the founder and commander of the Red Army, which was victorious in the civil war that followed the revolution. After the death of V.I. Lenin, Trotsky lost a lengthy power struggle with Joseph Stalin and ended up in exile, pursued by Stalin’s agents, one of whom finally buried an ice axe in his head. Trotsky founded the Fourth International in 1938 as an international communist alternative to Stalin’s Comintern. By then Trotsky was the world’s best-known leftwing critic of Stalinism and had his name invoked by the Soviet dictator throughout the Moscow Trials and other purges as the shadowy source of treachery and sabotage.
“I have followed too closely all the stages of the degeneration of the revolution . . . I have sought too stubbornly and meticulously the explanation for these phenomena in objective conditions for me to concentrate my thoughts and feelings on one specific person. . . I have never rated Stalin so highly as to be able to hate him.” —Leon Trotsky
Celebrate the Yarzheit with David Ives’ comic meditation on what it means to take 36 hours to die after being stabbed in the head with an icepick.
With one month to go until Yom Kippur, The Shalom Center and Jewish Currents have teamed up to create a video celebrating 10 contemporary martyrs who were killed in the past 50 years “because they were affirming profound Jewish values of peace, justice, truth, and healing of the Earth.”
Jeeze, a guy gets busy for a few weeks and you turn this site into all Israel, all the time! (Okay, all Israel plus Kyrgyzstan and a touch of Talmud.)
Anyway, while I’ve been gone, I’ve been busy. I mentioned that I graduated from Hebrew College. I was incredibly honored to be asked to speak at graduation, so I naturally took the opportunity to get on my soap box and told the older folks in the room “Don’t Tell Me I’m Next.” Ironically, despite giving a speech against always asking “what’s next,” I was getting ready to embark on my own next adventure: becoming editor of JewishBoston.com. Having been liberated from eight years of (part-time) academia and (full-time) employment as a Jewish educator, I started my new job the following day. And now, here I am, blogging at you from the former chapel of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in downtown Boston. (Seriously, they ripped out the aron kodesh to make me an office. I’ll leave it to the rest of you to interpret that how you will.)
So now that I’m something of a professional blogger, I will probably be spending less time around these here parts except for the occasional cross-post or when the mood takes me to write something that doesn’t fit at my primary residence on the web.
But today I did want to share one of those cross-posts, because this weekend we have a big holiday coming up, and I don’t mean Father’s Day.
June 19th is celebrated across the United States and around the world as Juneteenth, the anniversary of African-American emancipation in this country. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in September and went into effect in January, many slaveholders in the south simply ignored it. The date of Juneteenth commemorates the June 18th and 19th taking of the state of Texas by the Union army under General Gordon Granger, who publicly announced the end of slavery, inspiring public celebrations among the newly freed slaves. Three years ago, Massachusetts became the 25th state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday; 11 more have since followed suit.
I had never really contemplated Juneteenth from a Jewish perspective before this year. A few months ago, my friend Ingrid phoned me excitedly from her home in LA. “Juneteenth falls on Shabbat this year,” she told me, “so I’m going to host a Jewnteenth seder!” As someone who is both Jewish and African-American, Ingrid was thrilled to carve some space into the calendar that spoke to both elements of her identity. Modeling her Shabbat dinner after the Passover seder seemed natural, since both Passover and Juneteenth celebrate freedom from slavery.
So whether you’re part of an organized celebration or not, this weekend is a great opportunity to reflect on the freedoms we share as well as the work still left to do to ensure equal rights for all. And if you’re not already familiar with the racial diversity within the Jewish community, you can check out the work done by such organizations as The Jewish Multiracial Network and Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue).
Jewish educators on Twitter who want to be part of a bigger conversation know the hashtag of choice is #JEd21. This hashtag was created by Phil Brodsky (yes, hashtags do have creators!) when he was the Hornstein Intern at Darim Online. Much of the conversation tagged with #JEd21 involves the application of technology to Jewish education, because after all, what is the 21st century if not the Information Age?
Longtime Jewschool readers (or dlevy groupies) might remember that I’ve been working part-time (for eight years!) on my masters degree at Hebrew College. I’m pleased to let you all know that this coming Sunday, I will be graduating with two degrees — an MA in Jewish studies and a Masters of Jewish Education. Since so much of my life has straddled the worlds of Jewish education and the internet, I set out to take a hard look at what Jewish education really does look like in the 21st century, and what it could look like if we all put our heads together.
Once my research started, I quickly realized I’d need to limit my inquiry a bit — this isn’t a doctoral dissertation, after all. So, I decided to stick with what I know best (and is dearest to my heart), supplementary Jewish education for teens. Below is the fruit of my labor. I don’t know how interesting it will be to any of you, but here you go.
Eagle-eyed readers will note that two other Jewschoolers make it into my citations.
Have you ever wanted to see how the newly-founded State of Israel looked in colour? Now you can.
During the first few decades of the State, Fred Monosson, a well-healed American Zionist, attempted to capture the everyday life in the newly minted State of Israel and the joie de vivre of the early pioneers on colour film stock. The footage (sampled in this video) also includes images from the ruins of post-war Europe.
The recent recovery of this rare footage—very nearly trashed after being discovered in the attic of the deceased Monosson’s Boston home—constitutes a story in its own right. Thanks to Israeli filmmakers Avishai Kfir and Itzik Rubin, the film and the story of its recovery has been immortalized in a fascinating documentary,אני הייתי שם בצבע, I Was There in Color, which premiered this April in the US.
As producer Itzik Rubin suggests in the video, it is always fascinating how our collective memory of a particular historic period is irrevocably coloured and shaped by the media with which we associate it. We tend to imagine certain periods in the past as eternally “black and white,” with the somber, formal quality of standard history textbook illustrations. Part of the shock and beauty of this footage is precisely the everydayness of the images it offers.
On the other hand, these images are not exactly random or everyday: we see some of the state’s most celebrated political and military figures gracing Monosson’s lens, and the crowd scenes he captures are exuberantly happy—all this during a period of great suffering and struggle.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this clip happens at about 11 minutes in, as current Israeli President Shimon Peres recalls a warmer, less materialistic Israel of a bygone era. Peres’ bittersweet comment about the old mentality, while it may also gloss on the social realities of the times, at least nods to what is not being said elsewhere here, namely, the shifting of attitudes and values in today’s Israel.
Does Monosson’s footage then filter early Israel through rose-coloured glasses?
Perhaps, but this is still some rather remarkable footage certainly worth watching.
“…makes you think all the world’s a sunny day”
(Hat tip to Dr. Grace Cohen Grossman, who brought this footage to my attention.)
C'mon, the Polish Carpathians are at least as beautiful as the Judean Hills!
The recent Forward article entitled “Why Poland’s Jews Mourn Their President” seems to be answering the elephant-sized question that many have been silently asking themselves: Why are so many Jewish organizations (including March of the Living) and The State of Israel voicing such an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy for Poles in a time of their most terrible loss? Could it be an indication that Jewish communities and organizations are finally looking at the Poles as more than the ambivalent caretakers of their most sacred graveyard? Is it simply a sign that the established Jewish community can reach out their hands even to those they perceive as perpetrators of a most grave crime?
Kaczynski’s politics were not more popular among Poland’s Jewish community of 8,000 than among Poles at large. But the Jews had real reason to mourn a leader who had shown sympathy and support both to them and to the State of Israel, from the day when, soon after winning the 2005 presidential election, he compared himself to Ariel Sharon.
Indeed, there are analogies between the political philosophies of the two. Both were conservative leaders with strong nationalist feelings and were at the helm of countries they considered threatened by neighbors. (Kaczynski took a dim view not only of the past, but also of the present policies of Germany and Russia.) Both were impatient with what they considered liberal indifference to their respective national traditions and values. And both strongly believed in the fundamental role of the state as the nation’s most valuable institution. Both tended to look at what they believed history’s judgment would be, rather than at public opinion polls.
Kaczynski was far from being the only conservative European politician in power today. Yet it would be difficult to imagine any other European leader comparing himself to Sharon; the public-opinion fallout would be devastating. But Kaczynski had no such qualms. To him, the Israeli prime minister was an inspiration, and Israel a friendly state. Much of Polish public opinion tended to agree with him. No criticism followed his Sharon remarks.
That’s right, a top Polish politician was into THE BULLDOZER. In this intricate web of official condolence calls and mixed feelings, Gebert articulates too well that the contemporary Polish-Jewish relationship can be understood through the perceived political affinities between two right-wing nationalists who became intensely unpopular during their lifetimes. It goes to show that as Jewish cultural revival continues throughout the Polish lands, the elite descendants of Polish Jewry living in America and Israel largely see their relationship to Poland through a Zionist, not Ashkenazi, lens. This seems to imply that, at least on an official level, the development of Polish-Jewish reconciliation has largely been achieved through the work of politicians, not through the work of grassroots activists who spend so much time investing in a future for Jewish culture and memory in Poland. I never would have thought that March of the Living, an organization that has been repeatedly criticized for portraying Poland as a bloody, smoldering launching pad for the Zionist future, would require a moment of silence for victims of the crash as it toured its participants through Auschwitz. Do our leaders really feel sympathy for the Poles, or are we just trying to maintain alliances in a Europe increasingly critical of Israeli policy? A mixture of both?
His (Kaczynski’s) Jewish sympathies earned him the scorn of antisemitic extremists, who accused him of being Jewish himself (his “true” name supposedly was Kalkstein); somehow, his brother escaped being thus tainted. Rydzyk brutally attacked the Polish president during a lecture in 2007, accusing him of giving in to Jews, both by allocating land for the museum and supposedly ignoring the alleged threat of Jewish reparation demands. In contrast with his brother, Lech Kaczynski never granted the fundamentalist station an interview. But he had to pay the price for tolerating Jarosław’s alliances. At the funeral last year of Marek Edelman, deputy commander of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and a hero to the president, Kaczynski stood in silence and alone: The family refused him the right to speak, as Edelman had bitterly criticized the twin brothers’ policies…
…Alive, Kaczynski was a divisive and increasingly unpopular figure because of his authoritarian views, with approval ratings recently as low as 32%. But his tragic death has transformed him into a national icon, with all of Poland united in mourning. Polish Jews shared that pain with all other Polish citizens: A memorial service held in Warsaw’s only synagogue was packed full the day after the plane crash.