Jewish Culture and History
Below is a compilation of interesting articles that will both enlighten and educate.
A New Project of Survivors’ Stories in Drawings, Letters, and Video Interviews
by: Leah Falk
(JTA) - In the wake of #badderthantaylor, we can probably all think of a few elder Jewish women (and men) whose life stories could be a book or a feature film. Like Gerta, whose nightmarish life in Theresienstadt gave way to a career with the Red Cross. Or Molly Applebaum, who as a 12-year-old in hiding underground “in a grave” turned to her diary for company. Or Felix, whose life as a runner for the Polish Underground made him an accomplice to a plot to blow up the A...
Meet the 1970s Jewish Artist Whose Medium Was the Bagel
by: Zachary Soloman
(JTA) - “Lowly Bagel Transformed by an Artist,” reads the 1974 New York Times headline. Around these parts, we don’t tend to think of bagels as lowly to begin with—but what a young woman named Judy Blau did to bagels was decidedly elevating.
For a time in the seventies, the Blau family bathtub in Eastchester, New York, was positively filled with bagels that were drying out for the sake of art. Blau’s grandfather, a Russian-born bagel maker, used to talk to his ba...
The Anthem for Russian Jewry that Mobilized the Masses
by: Paula Jacobs
(JTA) - In 1977, Natan (Anatole) Sharansky was arrested for treason against the Soviet Union. When Cantor Robbie Solomon heard how courageously the long-time refusenik and human rights activist stood up to his accusers, he was inspired to stay up all night and compose a song. “I tried to put myself in Sharansky’s place,” Solomon told Jewniverse. “It was an out-of-body experience that seemed to come to me from somewhere else.”
Twenty-four hours later Solomon and hi...
When a Yiddish Theater Starlet Surprised U.S. Troops in Korea for Hanukkah
by: Charlotte Bonnelli
(JTA) - In 1951, Yiddish theater star Molly Picon, together with Jacob Kalich, her husband and fellow entertainer, and Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman, the Vicar General of the United States Armed Forces, headed to Korea with a USO Christmas troupe. But as soon as Picon and Kalich stepped off the plane, a U.S. Army Chaplain ran up and asked if they could join 400 “boys” for Hanukkah.
“Of course after flying 48 hours, we didn’t say no,” Kalich recalled in their 19...
How Jacob Cohen Became Rodney Dangerfield and Got Himself Some Respect
by: Zachary Soloman
(JTA) - Rodney Dangerfield got no respect. When he was born, the doctor told his mother, “I did all I could, but he pulled through anyway.” Just listen to the guy: When he was a kid, too—no respect. His parents got divorced. They had a custody fight over him. No one showed up.
Dangerfield was a master of the one-liner, a big-eyed comedic genius, tugging at his collar, squirming in his suit, his mind racing. A breakaway hit from his first appearance on The Ed Sull...
A Portuguese-Spanish Jewish Thanksgiving Service Going Back to 1789
by: Nicolas Soloman
(JTA) - When George Washington announced the first national Thanksgiving in 1789, he called for all Americans to gather in their houses of worship, and to thank God for Independence. A group of Jewish New Yorkers heeded that call and gathered at Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue that stood on Manhattan’s Mill Street, in today’s financial district, where they held history’s first Jewish Thanksgiving service.
Gershom Mendes Seixas, t...
Amsterdam’s Jaw-Dropping 17th-Century Jewish Library
by: Abby Sher
(JTA) - In 1639, Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam—many of whom had fled religious oppression in their home countries of Spain and Portugal—founded a school and meeting place that was a testament to their newfound religious freedom. Today, Ets Haim (Hebrew for “Tree of Life”), is the oldest functional Jewish library in the world. And it’s visually stunning.
In 1675, the library moved to the Esnoga, the Portuguese Synagogue complex in Amsterdam. And in 1889, David Monte...