This is a guest post from Josh “Shikl” Parshall, an oral historian on the staff of the The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), located in Jackson, Mississippi. Shikl is a old friend of mine; we sat around the same table learning Yiddish in Western Massachusetts. Shikl enjoyed dancing at my khasene.
On his Mississippi Bar Mitzvah George Copen of Tupelo, Mississippi remarks:
It wasn’t punch and cookies afterwards, it was a full-fledged dinner, and the liquor flowed. And that was during the time of prohibition, but we weren’t too worried. We took over the little café in the Hotel Tupelo—now torn down—and we weren’t too worried because we had the mayor there and the chief of police…
Stories like this one—stories of ordinary people’s attachment to Jewish identity and their seemingly unlikely experiences in the American South—are at the core of my work. I am the oral historian for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, an organization that, in addition to preserving the history of Jews in the South, provides and coordinates educational, rabbinic, and cultural resources for Jews throughout a thirteen state region.
Small congregations are closing all over the country, but especially in small cities and towns, many of which are in the South. The decline of independent retailers, the ascent of Jews into the professions, and the draw of suburban life on recent generations of American Jews have all made their mark. Helena, Arkansas; Dalton, Georgia; Brownsville, Tennessee; and Lexington, Mississippi are among many small cities where synagogues have closed or are closing. It’s easy to see that small-town Jewish life is not what it once was.
In cities like Atlanta, Nashville, and Houston, Jewish life thrives, but the number of people who remember the days of ethnic enclaves and Jewish retail steadily drops. As sunbelt expansion continues and ‘Yankee’ Jews flock to ever-more-cosmopolitan cities across the region, the Southerness of these Jewish populations is increasingly a matter of debate. For all these reasons, recording the personal, communal, and historical narratives of Southern Jews has to be the first priority of my work.
Every few months, I pack up my equipment in the ISJL minivan and have myself a little road trip. Our holdings for Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are fairly strong, so my first large trips have mostly focused on Tennessee, with stops in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia. Along the way, I get to do some sight-seeing and some good eating. I’ve stayed at the homes of friends, friends of my grandparents, friends of the ISJL, and at a number of cheap motels. Mostly, however, I spend my time with the interviewees—or, as I prefer, the consultants. We meet in their homes or offices, or at the synagogue or JCC. We chat. I set up my video camera, try to get the lighting right, hook up their microphones. Then it’s time for the interview.
I can play you a tape of Freda Stein—whose son is behind the Stein Mart chain—in which her charming southern accent is occasionally punctuated by Yiddish inflected ‘oy’s as she talks about the “foyst foreigners” or states that she is “soytain” of something. Sure these moments reflect her parents’ immigration to this country and reveal some level of syncretism, but I can’t quite tell you what to make of that.
It is with great sadness that I learned, a few days ago, of the death of the great modernist Yiddish poet Avrom Sutzkever ז”ל. Sutzkever’s immense talent as writer was matched only by his heroism as a freedom fighter. During WWII, Sutzkever fought as a partisan and famously saved Yiddish documents in Vilna from destruction at the hands of the Nazis, who killed both his mother and his son. After the war, Sutzkever immigrated to Israel, where he became editor of the Israeli Yiddish literary quarterly Di Goldene Keyt.
Sutzkever has never received his proper due among literary audiences, especially Jewish American readers, and if you have never read anything by him, I commend his understated but intensely powerful writing to your attention (yes, go ahead; buy two copies: one for you and one for the Yiddish lover in your life). Here is a poem he penned in 1948, entitled Yiddish:
Shall I start from the beginning?
Shall I, a brother,
Smash all the idols?
Shall I let myself be translated alive?
Shall I plant my tongue
Till it transforms
Into our forefathers’
Raisins and almonds?
What kind of joke
My poetry brother with whiskers,
That soon, my mother tongue will set forever?
A hundred years from now, we still may sit here
On the Jordan, and carry on this argument.
For a question
Gnaws and paws at me:
If he knows exactly in what regions
Levi Yitzhok’s prayer,
To their sunset —
Could he please show me
Where the language will go down?
May be at the Wailing Wall?
If so, I shall come there, come,
Open my mouth,
And like a lion
Garbed in fiery scarlet,
I shall swallow the language as it sets.
And wake all the generations with my roar!
Between services this Yom Kippur, I attended a talk by a revered and learned elder in my community. Michael had a number of urgent messages to share with us that day. One of them was that the biblical story of Job never actually happened. “The Job story never happened. They say so in the Talmud.” Here was a righteous man, who happened to be a Holocaust survivor, feeling the need to tell us, on Yom Kippur of all days, that the Job narrative was nothing more than a fiction with an abstract moral. He did not explain why he chose to speak of this particular subject, but it seemed as though he wished to assure us that no life could be as unbearable as Job’s.
The next week, I saw the opening of the Coen brothers’ new film A Serious Man, set in 1960s Minnesota, with many scenes filmed at our congregation in St. Louis Park, MN. Seeing Michael, in his distinct, heavy Czechoslovakian accent, call the protagonist’s young son up to the Torah in the film’s climactic bar mitzvah scene caused me to view A Serious Man in an entirely different light. I began to consider the possibility that this film, centering on the multiplying woes of an earnest, unassuming suburban Jewish mathematics professor, was a modern re-casting of the Job narrative. Both in his personal life, which included his wife’s sudden announcement that she wanted a divorce, his children’s apathy, his neighbor’s hostility, and in his professional life, where his travails included the shocking attempt of a student bribe him for a passing grade and the frustrating uncertainty of his department’s tenure review committee’s decision, Larry, his glasses eternally askew and his life a mess, is beset with anxiety and ethical crises brought on by harsh and seemingly random circumstance. Larry’s troubles are decidedly modern problems, but the questions he asks are timeless. (Curiously, Michael – my fellow congregant who appeared in this film — was the only character in the modern American part of the film–which constitutes the bulk of the film’s narrative–to speak with even a trace of an old-world accent.) The Yiddish of the opening scene gives way to an affectively flat English which dominates the heart of the film. Only in this bizarre bar mitzvah scene are we reminded of that world, for a fleeting moment.
This understated but extremely ambitious films tackles the formidably expansive subject of human suffering, but framed within a very specific moment of Jewish life in America.
Formatted like a Talmudic discussion, the film opens with a piece of visual aggadah, a symbolic prefatory anecdote, a distinctly theatrical and subtly witty Polish shtetl scene, which could have come straight from the pages of Yiddish modernist writer Sholem Asch. While the Yiddish accent of the wife in this scene was a bit off, gestural richness abounded, amply compensating for any such technical shortcomings. The dybbuk character was portrayed masterfully by Fyvush Finkel, whose facial contortions alone were enough to recall the communal soul of a people of a bygone era. This was a world inhabited by spirits, talismans, premonitions, and acceptance of harsh fates. More »
This is the fourth post in a series on Social Justice Showtunes. The series starts here with a post about the 1937 Broadway musical Pins and Needles and continues here with a post about the 1932 song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and here with a post about South Pacific’s “Carefully Taught.”
Many of the best musicals had their origins in earlier theatrical works, from Oklahoma! (based on Lynn Riggs’ Green Grow the Lilacs) to The Fantasticks (based on Edmund Rostand’s Les Romantiques) to West Side Story (based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet). Today’s entry comes from the musical version of Clifford Odets’ 1937 play Golden Boy. The original told the story of an Italian-American kid in the Depression who dreams of a career as a concert violinist, seeing a career in boxing as his only way out of the lower class.
For the musical version, Odets was recruited to adapt his own play on the strength of the new lead – multimedia sensation Sammy Davis, Jr. In the musical update, the hero’s struggle was given an added dimension in the form of an interracial love affair — still illegal in many states, and mirroring Davis’s own real-life marriage to May Britt. Odets was at a low point in his career, suffering from the blacklist and nearly broke, so despite his ambivalence towards musical theater, he was happy to be working and thrilled to have Sammy Davis, Jr. signed on.
The show was fully integrated, and it featured a kiss between the lovers, which caused quite a stir during the show’s tryouts. Davis and the rest of the company reported receiving death threats for the involvement in the show, but it was ultimately successful.
This song comes about halfway through the second act, when (SPOILER ALERT!) the lovers have broken up. Soon after the show’s opening, Martin Luther King, Jr. attended the show and admired its message, citing this song as his favorite.
In his recent autobiography, Put on a Happy Face, Strouse recalled the difficulties involved in putting on this production and working with a star of Davis’s caliber. For instance, Davis’s contract gave him approval over every single song in the score, quite an unusual agreement for a Broadway production. Since Davis was performing a blockbuster club act in Vegas at the time, this meant lots of flying back and forth between New York and Vegas for the songwriters who had to audition new songs for the star at three in the morning following his “midnight matinees.”
Sammy’s only previous Broadway outing had been Mr. Wonderful, which was essentially Sammy’s club act placed within the slightest of stories. So being part of a collaborative process for the good of the dramatic work as a whole must have been new to him. Strouse wrote:
Lee and I didn’t write the pop-style, Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen songs that Sammy could metamorphose into jazz-sounding phrases, and Sammy wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t want to sing our versions of “black.”
Strouse explains at great length in his book that much of the tension between himself and Davis really revolved around Davis’ desire to swing the score in opposition to the composer’s desire to hear the score sung as written. Because jazz singing was still so closely associated with being black, Strouse fretted that his musical proclivities were being misinterpreted. He wrote:
Lee and I had wanted to write a musical true to the pain, hopes, and culture of African Americans. So, naturally, everyone involved in the writing was white and Jewish–except for Sammy, who was only Jewish… Race relations played out behind the scenes as well as on the stage. For example, if I was drinking a Coke, Sammy liked to take a sip from the same glass. He confided in me that it was really a test to see whether I liked black people. He never told me whether I passed.
Strouse and Davis eventually bonded when they traveled to Selma together for the famous march. But knowing now the way that Strouse perceived what was going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to imagine the moment when he and Lee Adams first presented this song to Davis, asking him to sing lines like “I ain’t your slave no more.”
If you’re interested in learning about a Jewish organization working on fostering a Jewish community that brings together all Jews, whether they look like Charles Strouse or Sammy Davis, Jr., check out Be’chol Lashon. As they put it in their vision statement,
Imagine a new global Judaism that transcends differences in geography, ethnicity, class, race, ritual practice, and beliefs. Discussions about “who-is-a-real-Jew” will be replaced with celebration of the rich, multi-dimensional character of the Jewish people.
This is the third post in a series on Social Justice Showtunes. The series starts here with a post about the 1937 Broadway musical Pins and Needles and continues here with a post about the 1932 song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
Today’s entry to the series is probably the most well-known of the songs we’ll be examining. “Carefully Taught” was introduced in 1949, when South Pacific premiered on Broadway. Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s show addressed racial intolerance head-on, which went on to win its own Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950.
Buy the CD!
(Performed by William Tabbert, from the Original Cast Recording.)
As a stand-alone number, the song is a strong message against racism in general, and against unquestioningly accepting the values of one’s parents more specifically. Although there wasn’t a great deal of public backlash against the song, Michener recalled that the authors had faced some pressure to drop this song from the show, but, in Michener’s words, “This number represented why they had wanted to do the play and even if it meant failure of the production it was going to stay in… Courage and determination such as this counts for something in art.”
The show holds a special place in the history of the American musical, and a special fascination for fans of the form. The show represented a big step forward in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s creation of the musical-drama (as opposed to musical comedy), and Josh Logan’s direction was produced one of the first stage plays to adopt cinematic scene transitions. The show has been filmed twice (once for cinemas, once for television), and an all-star concert was also captured for PBS. The show has become a permanent feature of the high school and community theater circuits, and in the 1999-2000 season (the 50th anniversary of the show’s premiere), I must have seen a half-dozen productions around Los Angeles.
Today, South Pacific is once again running on Broadway, in a smash-hit revival at Lincoln Center. This summer, I saw the show live again for the first time in about ten years. In context, the song is sung by a young lieutenant who has fallen in love with a native Polynesian girl. He’s singing to a older French planter whose love affair with a young nurse has fallen apart over the nurse’s disgust at discovering her planter has previously been married to a Polynesian woman.
I attended the show with a dear friend of mine, who happens to be Jewish and biracial, and her parents. Her parents were swept away by the show, but my friend was left with a bad taste in her mouth. You see, for all Lt. Cable’s protestations of his love for Liat, the Polynesian girl, all we’ve seen of their relationship has been strictly physical. They don’t even speak a common language. My friend, unable (or unwilling) to be swept up in the romantic idea of the white air force office rescuing the native girl from her arranged marriage to a wealthy, elderly planter, could only see a naive young girl being rescued from one kind of concubinage only to enter a different kind of love-slavery. (It doesn’t help that both relationships — the one with Cable and the one with the planter — are orchestrated by Liat’s wily mother, Bloody Mary.)
Honestly, I was sort of split on the issue – I hadn’t considered it in that light before. I was also very sleepy the night we saw the show, so I jumped at the chance to catch a matinée later in the summer, this time with my parents and brother. Again, I found the show to be a little long for my taste — director Bartlet Sher has restored a song cut from the original production and added some extra lines here and there (in part to emphasize the young nurse heroine’s racist upbringing), and if you ask me, a two-and-a-half hour show doesn’t need any lengthening. But aside from the length, I couldn’t get my friend’s criticism out of my head, and this time I could only see the relationship between Cable and Liat as exploitative (albeit exploitative in both directions).
And yet, it’s hard to deny the impact the story had on its original audiences, and that it still has on audiences today. The song itself still resonates, and artists continue to record it sixty years after its debut. One of my colleagues in the world of Jewish education keeps the lyrics framed on his office wall alongside quotes from great rabbis as a reminder of the full range of our responsibilities as educators.
As we enter the new year together, I hope we can all think about the ways we teach the next generation and renew our commitment to creating a future free from hate and fear.
If you’re interested in learning about a Jewish organization working on creating a Jewish community free from hate and fear, check out The Jewish Multiracial Network. To quote from their mission statement:
The mission of the Jewish Multiracial Network is to build a community of Jews of color and multiracial Jewish families for mutual support, learning, and empowerment. Through education and advocacy, we seek to enrich Jewish communal life by incorporating our diverse racial and ethnic heritages.
They’re doing important work. Check out their website for information on upcoming events and the resources they have to offer, and consider how you may help make your own Jewish community more inclusive of all Jews.
This is the second post in a series on Social Justice Showtunes. The series starts here with a post about the 1937 Broadway musical Pins and Needles.
When I drew up my initial list of songs to include in this series, there was no question that “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” would be included. Since its debut in the third edition of Americana in 1932, the song has captured the imagination of Americans with its poignant and painful depiction of the Depression-era life of a WWI veteran. The song has been continually recorded throughout the intervening decades by everyone from The Weavers to George Michael. (In 2001, The Harburg Foundation issued a CD with 18 different renditions across seven decades that really drove this point home.)
But the most famous recording remains Bing Crosby’s 1932 recording with the Lennie Hayton Orchestra:
I grew up when America had a dream, and its people, a hope. Whether we were struggling against the shackles of slavery or the shackles of scarcity, the hope was there. In 1930, the dream collapsed. The system fell apart. The people were not angry. They were not in revolt. This was a good country on its way to greatness. It had given our immigrant parents more freedom, more education, more opportunity than they had ever know. What happened? We were baffled, bewildered… and the bewildered, baffled man sang [these lyrics]…
Gorney is less well-known, although he is also credited with discovering Shirley Temple. His other big hit song was “You’re My Thrill.” (Here’s a Weekend Edition story on Gorney from 2006 with more information.)
Both men were active in progressive politics, which eventually landed both on the wrong side of the House Un-American Activities Committee and on the blacklist. Gorney seems to have been devastated by the blacklist. Harburg continued to work on Broadway (where the blacklist was pretty consistently defied) and branched out into poetry with Rhymes for the Irreverent, republished in this decade to support the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and organization fighting to protect the separation of church and state in America.
The Harburg Foundation continues to support progressive causes in the spirit of Yip’s own politics, including
projects that (a) work toward world peace, (b) work to end economic and social discrimination and exploitation, racial/ethnic conflicts, and civil injustices; (b) provide educational opportunities to low-income and minority students through scholarship organizations; (c) advance and promote new works of American political art, especially efforts involving cultural and societal issues; (d) preserve and enhance the legacy of E.Y. Harburg through new projects or revivals of his standard works in all media.
And what of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” itself? Unfortunately, it has never been as timely as it is today. Once again we have veterans returning home to the worst unemployment statistics of our generation, laborers whose industries have nearly shut down, a national debate about how to provide for our needy, and many Americans questioning whether there ever was an agreement as to what the American Dream is.
Listening to the song today, it’s the very last line that really kills me, when the singer switches from addressing the listener as “brother” to “buddy.”
Whether you think it’s up to the government or the populace (or some combination thereof) to solve the various messes we’re in — the economy, health care, etc. — this song speaks to us all. The real question is whether any of us are really listening.
If you’re interested in learning more about a Jewish organization working on issues of economic justice, check out Jews For Racial & Economic Justice. Right now, their mission is centered on New York City, but if you live outside of NY, JFREJ provides an interesting model to consider bringing to your own city.
This summer, I attended my first National Havurah Committee Summer Institute. Part of each day at the Institute is devoted to workshops, one-hour sessions created by anyone attending who wants to share something they care about with the other attendees. I was strongly encouraged to offer a workshop or two… the workshop coordinator happened to be sleeping on my couch while putting together the schedule. I flippantly offered to offer a workshop on the subject about which I know the most: showtunes. And because I’m a wise-ass, I said, “Let’s call it ‘Social Justice Showtunes.’” I imagined the Institute crowd would eat that shit up.
Turns out, I was right. Not only did people flock to the workshop, my Facebook friends were also interested in hearing more. So, over the next several weeks, I will be presenting here a series on Social Justice Showtunes, featuring songs from the musical stage, written by Jews, about social justice issues.
(Performed here by Rose Marie Jun, from the 25th Anniversary Recording.)
Today is Labor Day in the United States of America. Apparently, in Canada, Bermuda. and elsewhere, today is Labour Day. While Labor Day may be no more a Jewish holiday than, say, Yom Yerushalayim, both holidays are alike in their origins, growing out of political movements spearheaded by secular Jews.
(Yes, it’s an oversimplification to call the Labor Movement a political movement spearheaded by secular Jews. However, the Jewish Labor Committee has an extensive bibliography about the history of Jews in the Labor Movement if you’d like to learn more.)
At any rate, I certainly learned about the Jewish involvement in the labor movement and union organizing way back when in my synagogue’safternoon Hebrew School. By the time of my Bar Mitzvah, I knew more about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire than I did about anything that happened in the Tanakh between Sampson and King David.
But as with many other subjects in the world, I’ve learned even more about the Labor Movement through showtunes than I ever did in Hebrew School. Much of that knowledge comes from my familiarity with a musical called Pins and Needles .
In the mid-1930s, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union had grown so large that the union invested in forming a Cultural Division charged with spreading the union’s values to its members through the arts. Pins and Needles was a revue, a collection of songs and scenes, that grew from this effort. It was so popular that it moved to Broadway and ran for years, even getting updated as headlines changed. This show was particularly special because all the performers in the original production were members of the ILGWU. Dressmakers, cutters, embroiderers, et al took a break from the factories to sing and dance on the Broadway stage. Harold Rome, the composer & lyricist, later reflected, “I didn’t realize that the big attraction was that the garment workers themselves were doing the show and singing to the audience, creating a rapport which is very rare in the theater.”
The song “Sing Me A Song With Social Significance,” which you can hear if you click on the icon above, was the opening number of the show. Although there had been topical revues prior to this one, this song announced a new kind of topicality. Pins and Needles wouldn’t just take pot-shots at the news and events of the day. This was a show with purpose.
In 1937, the original cast album hadn’t been invented yet. (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first musical film to issue a soundtrack album, in 1937. Oklahoma was the first original cast album in the contemporary sense, although there were earlier albums that captured songs from musicals sung by the performers who introduced them. But I digress…) A few singles from the score were recorded, but only one got any significant airplay. In the words of Rome, “‘Social Significance’ in those days was not for our airwaves.” (He wrote that in the early 1960s, when Social Significance was definitely on the airwaves. How sad that we’ve since regressed.)
Fifteen songs from the show were eventually recorded in 1962 for a twenty-fifth anniversary recording. Two singles recorded by members of the original cast were released on CD as part of a boxed set a dozen years ago (that now appears to be out of print). And Rome himself some of the songs in the 1950s. It is from one of those collections, A Touch of Rome that I draw the song I want to leave you all with for Labor Day:
It’s interesting to me the difference between songs like this and the more straightforward and earnest protest songs of the 1960s. However, RubyK tells me that this song in particular fits in with the tradition of union organizing songs from the turn of the century, which makes sense given the circumstances of the creation of this show. It’s also interesting to me how racy the song is. We tend to imagine the ’30s as a more innocent time, but this song doesn’t really mince words in describing the sex life of the sweet little sewing machine girl. It’s interesting that the version recorded for the twenty-fifth anniversary recording whitewashed some of the lyrics. Who would have thought the version from the 60s would be cleaned up, while the version from the 30s was more explicit? History and memory are funny things.
As we look at other Social Justice Showtunes in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to consider the techniques the songwriters use to get their messages across in the context of the times they were writing. Stay tuned.
NYT reports that your favorite scam artist and mine, Bernie Madoff, has been given the maximum sentence for his gigantic ponzi scheme that left many broke, did irreparable damage to Jewish non-profits and gave immense amounts of ammo to “Jews control the money” variety anti-Semites.
Mr. Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison, despite claiming remorse. The Judge responded, in turn, deeming Madoff’s crimes “exceptionally evil.” A fair characterization in my opinion.
Of himself, Madoff said: “I live in a tormented state now, knowing all of the pain and suffering that I’ve created. I’ve left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren.” Something tells me this was probably too little, too late.
By most, Mr. Madoff’s name will one day be forgotten, probably long before he dies behind bars for the 20 years of fraud perpetrated in the name of greed. Yet, this case highlights so much of what is wrong in the culture of money-making. One man lies, hundreds suffer, and the entire financial industries trembles. Amazing.
While many of the victims of Madoff’s crimes were famous, wealthy people, the saddest victims are clearly the individuals who went from riches to rags, over night, and perhaps more so the non-profits who lost so much and will struggle for years to recover from this loss.
News outlets have been buzzing about Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court as the first Hispanic nominee to this position. But who counts as Hispanic? Turns out, this question is just as tricky as who counts as a Jew, and as NPR pointed out yesterday, these two debates converge around the figure of Justice Benjamin Cardozo, a Sephardic Jew whose family came to the US from Holland, although they likely ended up there following the expulsion of Jews from Portugal. Was he the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice?
I can already hear the chorus of “who cares?” bubbling up in the comments, and to a certain extent, it doesn’t really matter at all. We certainly don’t want to take any ounce of honor away from Sonia Sotomayor. But I can also imagine that rethinking Cardozo as a Jew of color could create a very powerful role model for kids who don’t often see Jews like themselves represented on their Hebrew School classroom walls.
In honor of the 83 year and 10 month anniversary of the so-called Scopes monkey trial (conceived as a publicity ploy by the city elders of Dayton, Tennessee and ending up as a film polemicizing against the McCarthy witchhunts) I bring you the all-important Jewish connection.
One aspect of the defense strategy was to produce expert witnesses who argued that there was no contradiction between the biblical accounts of creation and the theory of evolution. Although the judge ultimately agreed to the prosecution’s motion to not allow the experts to testify, their testimony was read into the record (and became a part of the mythical trial in the form of “Clarence Darrow’s” [=Spencer Tracy's] cross examination of William Jennings Bryan [=Frederic March]). One of the experts on Bible who made the argument that all the problems stem not from the bible but from the King James translation, was none other than Rabbi Herman Rosenwasser (HUC ordainee, 1908; MA from the Western Reserve University of Cleveland in semitics and philosophy). He contributed the following to the defense:
In the first chapter of Genesis, the word ‘Adam’ is used. The word Adam means a living organism containing blood. If we are descended from Adam we are descended from a lower order—a living, purely organism containing blood. If that is a lower order of animal, then Genesis itself teaches that man is descended from a lower order of animals.
If the Hebrew Bible was properly translated and understood, one would not find any conflict with the theory of evolution which would prevent him from accepting both. [creation and evolution]
(His full testimony is available here at page 227.)
While both of these claims (the former even more than the latter) are, you know… hooey, they did make for good cinema.
Happy Scopes week!
This article suggests that Mugabe has stolen the Aron Habrit from it’s spot resting in a museum.
The decayed wooden object lying neglected on a shelf in a museum storeroom didn’t look like anything too exciting. But Tudor Parfitt, Professor of Jewish Studies at London’s School of African and Oriental Studies… was convinced that the object, which resembled a damaged, ancient African drum, was in fact the lost Ark of the Covenant.
One of the most holy objects in existence, the Ark, thought to have dated back to around 1200 BC, is described in the Bible as a form of container that once held the tablets on which were inscribed God’s Ten Commandments.
This is wild stuff. The theory rests on a few assumptions.
1) The Lemba of South Africa and Zimbabwer descend from the Ancient Israelites.
This claim has been largely accepted once the evidence came to light that their priestly caste, the Buba, carry the genetic Cohen marker sometimes called the Cohen Modal Haplotype.
2) Rashi and other were correct that there were two Arks, one wooden, and one gilded.
This is very hard to demonstrate but has decent backing in the mythology.
3) The wood object is of the correct age to be the first of the arks.
It has been carbon dated to 1350, when the Lemba say it was rebuilt. This is not conclusive for or against.
There is lots more. Definitely read this article examining the claims and intrigue surrounding the ark and Mugabe.
Tel Aviv is celebrating its centennial this year. When in Israel I am often struck by a sense that the histories of the land, or rather the various narrative strands emphasized different groups, are almost visibly overlaid. Like overlapping stencils.
In some places, such as Jerusalem, this is more visible and well known. In others, like Tel Aviv, the prior history of the place is far more submerged under the modern city. More »
Upon arriving in the New World in 1904, folklorist Yehuda Leib Cahan could barely contain his enthusiasm for the vibrancy and color of local Jewish life. “Here folklore can be scooped up by the handfuls,” he exclaimed. The decades that followed Cahan’s visit witnessed a continues efflorescence of Jewish cultural ingenuity and inventiveness that even he would have had difficulty imagining… the likes of plastic dreidels, chocolate-covered matzohs, “yahrtzeit memorandums,” Chanukah bushes, tie clips in the shape of the Ten Commandments, floral Torah crowns, elaborate bar mitzvahs, kosher-style cuisine, and overwrought funerary monuments.
… Jews accumulates a great many things, filling their armoires and attics with silver shabbos candlesticks, chromium Chanukah menorahs, colored-glass Passover dishes, and souvenirs of the Holy Land. Whether a priceless family heirloom brought over from the Old Country or a decorative trifle brought in the New–a tshatshke–objects inhabited and elivened the lived of thousands of American Jewish families, rendering Jewishness tangible.
How delightful. It seems the American Jewry’s great contribution to the world is kitsch. And I think I’m okay with that.
Chillul Who? posted a summary of Gershom Gorenberg’s presentation at DC’s Sixth & I Synagogue but here is the full presentation in video. It’s really worth your own viewing. I saw Gorenberg in NYC a few weeks ago and felt he was a gust of fresh air — someone who lived Israel politics in a world of well-researched history free of the ongoing myths about Israel and the conflict. Personally, the man is a luminary for being something simple: a well-researched journalist.
I’m more than a little bummed that Waltz with Bashir did not win the Oscar. Not that I’ve seen the film that won, but it’s a break from the typical Jewish films up for Oscars which are always about the Holocaust. Seriously, it’s time to find another good-vs-evil setting in which we can inspire ourselves that We Westerners did a Good Job.
Whoa! But hang on a minute. Bradley Burston has not done his homework. Apparently this clip of Winslet was on the HBO show Extra and she’s satirizing herself and her lack of Oscar trophies despite thrice-over nominations — and three years ago at that. More »