The Arty Semite

Out With Punk, In With 'Ounk'

By Lea Penn

Crossposted from Haaretz

Daniel Tchetchik

Man 25 considers itself a performance band in the full sense of the word. While other local indie bands save every penny in order to produce an album and release singles to be played on the radio, Man 25 views recorded materials as a calling card only. Drummer Tomer Tzur (30), guitarist and video artist Gidon Schocken (28) and soloist and text writer Orly Eitan (28) invest most of their efforts in creating an extremely loud show that combines noise, metal, post-punk, psychedelics, and in effect, “every musical genre that generates distortion walls, feedback whistles and screams.”

They describe their music as “ounk,” a genre they themselves invented. “It began with a typo,” says Tzur. “We wanted to write ‘punk’ and instead we wrote ‘ounk,’ and so we went with it. I think it’s a word that does a good job of summing up all the styles that we experiment with, and it has a good sound.”

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orly Eitan, Music, Man 25, Lea Penn, Haaretz, Gidon Schocken, Tomer Tzur

Monday Music: Wartime Songs for Gertrude Stein

By Raphael Mostel

Barbara Braun

There have been New York premieres of several noteworthy works recently, including major new violin concertos by Harrison Birtwhistle and James McMillan. But easily the most interesting was the grand finale of Lincoln Center’s Tully Scope Festival on March 18: Heiner Goebbels’s “Songs of Wars I Have Seen,” which uses passages from the remarkable book of the same name by Gertrude Stein. Despite being not only Jewish and American but also a lesbian and a modernist, Stein managed to survive Vichy-era France without too much privation, and the book is essentially a distillation of her diary from that period.

Goebbels (of no relation to the infamous Nazi Minister of Propaganda) is a German composer of substance and subtlety who creates rarified, difficult-to-categorize, large-scale works that embrace or even cross over into other art forms, and which often marshal a distinctive army of collaborators. To call Goebbels’s music eclectic is to state the obvious, but it is also misleading. He believes there are no new sounds to be discovered, and his compositions combine or reference a wide range of sources without being derivative.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wars I Have Seen, Surrogate Cities, Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Songs of Wars I Have Seen, Raphael Mostel, Morton Feldman, Matthew Locke, London Sinfonietta, Lincoln Center, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, James McMillan, Iannis Xenakis, Heiner Goebbels, Harrison Birtwhistle, Gertrude Stein, Gerard Grisey, Gavin Bryar, Classical Music, Black on White, Alistair Mackie, Alice Tully Hall

Monday Music: A Simple Jew With a Touch of Gaga

By Binyomin Ginzberg

Last month, the hugely popular Hasidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer, known simply as “Lipa,” released his latest album, “24/6,” a collection of cover songs currently popular at Hasidic weddings.

The release comes almost exactly three years after the singer’s then-largest concert was banned by many prominent rabbis in the Haredi world, and it is only the latest step in what has become an exceedingly successful career.

In early 2008, the then-rising Hasidic entertainer advertised a huge concert at Madison Square Garden dubbed “The Big Event.” Just two and a half weeks before the March 9 show, a ban was published in religious newspapers signed by many respected ultra-Orthodox rabbis. The ban resulted in the cancellation of the concert, as well as of an April show in London. The New York Times quoted Schmeltzer saying that he had no choice but to obey the decree. “I have a career, I have a wife and kids to support, I have a mortgage to pay, I have to get out of the fire.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Lipa Schmeltzer, Lady Gaga, K'naan, Hentelakh, Binyomin Ginzberg, Bad Romance, Airmont Shul, Abi M'leibt, A Poshiter Yid, Me'imka D'Lipa, Music, Non-Stop Lipa, Waving Flags

A Tenor for the People

By Noam Ben-Zeev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Tali Mayer

Without any fanfare or festivities, modestly and almost anonymously, Christoph Pregardien — one of the greatest lyric tenors of our time — landed in Israel a few days ago. It is hard to imagine a more impressive career than his: The greatest conductors conduct him, and he is hosted by the top stages and festivals around the world, as well as orchestras and recording companies. The German tenor has already recorded over 120 discs, which have won innumerable prizes.

Pregardien’s tremendous range begins with Monteverdi and Schutz at the dawn of Baroque, through Purcell, Bach and Handel, all the classical and romantic composers, up to Britten and contemporary German composers. He arrived in Israel to sing Schubert’s “Winterreise” (“Winter Journey” ) cycle (at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center this past Saturday, and tonight at the Jerusalem YMCA, at 8:30 PM), with which he continuously fills concert halls all over the world. Just last week he sang it in Germany and Belgium, and the upcoming months are already filled with performance dates too.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, Noam Ben-Zeev, Haaretz, Music, Cristoph Pregardien

Out and About: Talking Jewish in Livorno; Anselm Kiefer's Apocalyptic Vision

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images
‘The seven heavenly palaces’ by Anselm Kiefer at the Hangar Bicocca Contemporary Art Museum.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Wolverine, South by Southwest, Out and About, Jack Garfein, J.D. Salinger, Isreal Festival, Darren Aronofsky, Clare Burson, Bagitto, Anselm Keifer

This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

Sarah Silverman in ‘Peep World.’
  • Curt Schleier goes to see “Peep World,” where Jews finally attain the dysfunctional status of WASPs.

  • Philologos noses around with exasperation.

  • Michelle Sieff adjudicates Deborah Lipstadt’s arguments with Hannah Arendt in “The Eichmann Trial.”

  • Katherine Clarke looks into Southeastern Europe’s first Holocaust Museum in Skopje, Macedonia.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: This Week in Forward Arts and Culture, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Peep World, Roger Waters, Morton Feldman, Kobi Oz, Doborah Lipstadt, Hannah Arendt, Eichmann Trial

Catherine Clément: a French Author of Memory and Understanding

By Benjamin Ivry

Wiki Commons

On January 21, French author Catherine Clément, whose Jewish mother Rivka was portrayed onscreen by Jeanne Moreau in Amos Gitai’s 2008 film One Day You’ll Understand, published an open letter in the weekly Le Nouvel Observateur. Clement announced her resignation from France’s High Commission for National Commemorations (Le Haut comité des Célébrations nationales) after Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterand scheduled celebrations of the ferociously anti-Semitic author Louis-Ferdinand Céline for the upcoming 50th anniversary of his death in 1961.

Noted Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld had expressed objections the previous day, which led to Clément’s resignation in “solidarity” with Klarsfeld’s view that since Céline had, during the German occupation of France, published several lengthy books — still banned for republication in France today — urging that Jews be killed, he was not someone to celebrate. In her open letter, Clément explains: “The name of Céline having revolted me for over fifty years” she could not approve of honoring anyone so marked by the “virulence of his racism.” Then Clément offered a quote from her mother Rivka: “So long as only 20 percent of French people are anti-Semites, that’s okay;” in Clément’s view, today France’s younger generation rarely hate Jews, but among septuagenarians like herself (Clément was born in 1939) “latent anti-Semitism creeps up until it reaches the unconscious.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Frédéric Mitterand, Clement, Claude Lévi-Strauss

Turkish Coffee for the Crown Prince

By Reyna Simnegar

Earlier this week, Reyna Simnegar, the author of “Persian Food from the Non-persian Bride: And Other Sephardic Kosher Recipes You Will Love,” wrote about Miss Venezela Material and Sephardim Strike Back! Her blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


Wiki Commons
Reza Cyrus Pahlavi, the last crown prince of the former Imperial State of Iran.

It was a regular morning at my home, dishes to wash, laundry to fold, when I got a phone call from my husband. “Reyna, I am coming this afternoon with Reza Pahlavi.” Thinking it was a work colleague, I casually asked him, “At what time? Do you guys want to have dinner here?” That’s when he finally explained to me this “Reza Pahlavi” was not any “Pahlavi,” he was His Imperial Highness Crowned Prince Reza Pahlavi of Iran!

The Prince was visiting Boston and somehow my husband (if you know him, you know this is right up his alley) had convinced His Imperial Highness to come have dessert and tea at our house! My legs were shaking. “The crowned prince — here? In this messy house? I am going to kill Sammy!” I immediately recruited a cleaning lady and set off for a hunt to buy Persian desserts. As I was pulling off the driveway, I noticed the secret service searching the vicinity of my house making sure it was a safe place for the prince.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Turkish Coffee, Reza Pahlavi, Reyna Simnegar, My Jewish Learning, Iran, Jewish Book Council, Food, Books, Author Blog Series

Friday Film: Stalking Grace

By Tahneer Oksman

Karl Bissinger

In a 2007 obituary for Grace Paley published in the New York Times, Margalit Fox wrote that “Ms. Paley was among the earliest American writers to explore the lives of women — mostly Jewish, mostly New Yorkers — in all their dailiness.” Lilly Rivlin’s recent documentary, “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts,” screening March 27 at the Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival, brings together a chorus of voices from friends, family and colleagues to Paley herself, to convey a powerful portrait of an artist, poet, teacher and political figure whose depictions of the everyday lives of women had, and continue to have, a deep and powerful impact.

Paley was born in 1922 to Russian parents who were “kid socialists,” as she calls them in one of many interviews interspersed throughout the film. She explains that her parents “were part of a generation of Russians who hoped they could be Russian.” Of course, in Russia at the time, they were seen primarily as Jews, a legacy that Paley examines throughout her oeuvre. Her stories, poems, and essays continually explore questions of identity, and through her writing we witness an author attempting to account for diversity even as she celebrates the mundane but meaningful rituals and experiences that people share: spats between loved ones, the humor of everyday life, the solace and beauty that can be found in art and literature and language.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tahneer Oksman, New York Jewish Film Festival, Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival, Margalit Fox, Lilly Rivlin, Grace Paley, Film

Psychiatry, Poetry and the Bible

By Susie Davidson

Interpreters of Genesis 22:1-19, which details Abraham’s near sacrifice of his only son on Mount Moriah, usually focus on the awesome loyalty and faith of our forefather. But Isaac’s role also invites analysis.

Psychiatrist and poet Freddy Frankel sees Isaac as a compassionate, perhaps older man who deems his father’s dilemma quite possibly unsound, yet empathetically calls him “my pious executioner.”

“In my conception, Isaac even suspected that his father perhaps heard voices in his head,” Frankel explained from his home in Newton, Mass.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wrestling Angels, Susie Davidson, Poetry, South Africa, Freddy Frankel

Poetics of Fasting

By Jake Marmer

Each Thursday The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week Jake Marmer introduces “Aggadic Guidelines to Ta’anit Esther.”

Wiki Commons
‘Esther and Mordecai’ by Aert de Gelder, 1685.

It is perhaps not surprising that most Jewish holiday poetry out there is either about the High Holidays or Passover. The extensive liturgy and introspection in the case of the former and the mythic storytelling cannon of the latter lend themselves to metaphors and color our language with their musicality. Yet, as Kafka has shown, there’s nothing quite like the poetry of the lesser known occasion, the undesired calendar date. On that note, I would like to introduce a piece of my own, which addresses Ta’anit Esther — the fast of Esther that preceedes Purim.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ta'anit Esther, Purim, Poetry, Jake Marmer

Out and About: Midrash and the Megillah; Einstein's Archives Unleashed

By Ezra Glinter

Poet Itzik Manger

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Lou Reed, Itzik Manger, Leo Steinberg, Imagining Madoff, Adrienne Rich, Hebrew University, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein

Power Company to the People

By Noam Dvir

Crossposted from Haaretz

Legendary city engineer Yitzhak Ben Sira planned Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu area to be a neighborhood of public housing with an industrial area at its northern edge.

Israel Architecture Archive

Beginning at the end of the 1940s, high-quality housing projects were constructed alongside public buildings, including arts and recreation centers. Some of them, like the Yad Eliahu Nokia sports arena (planned by the Milstein-Singer engineering office), and the Golden Age Home (Arieh and Eldar Sharon), are icons of Israeli modernist architecture.

But the industrial area has some architectural gems of its own. There is, for example, the Cinerama Theater, which is now slated for demolition, and the Israel Electric Corporation’s technical center, inaugurated in 1966, and which the company uses to this day.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Milstein-Singer, Yitzhak Ben Sira, Tel Aviv, Yad Eliyahu, Noam Dvir, Israel Electric Corporation, Israel, Eldar Sharon, Haaretz, Cinerama Theater, Arieh Sharon, Architecture

April Classical Concerts Turn Cruelest into Coolest Month

By Benjamin Ivry

Jonathan Nimerfroh

A notoriously anti-Semitic poet claimed that April is the cruelest month; all the more reason for Manhattanites to sweeten it with delightful classical concerts redolent with Yiddishkeit. On March 29, the Israeli-American violinist Yuval Waldman will perform “Music Forgotten and Remembered” at Merkin Concert Hall, including such rarities as Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 1952 “Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes,” and works by two Czech Jewish composers: Gideon Klein, who was murdered at Auschwitz, and “Colloque Sentimentale” (A Chat about Feelings) by Jaromir Weinberger.

On April 4 at Weill Recital Hall, “A Fine Romance: Songs by Jerome Kern is presented by The New York Festival of Song, featuring Joseph Kaiser and Kelli O’Hara in Kern’s suave melodies. For more fiery temperament, on April 5 at Merkin Hall violinist Elena Urioste will perform “Carmen: fantasie brillante” by the Hungarian Jewish composer Jenö Hubay with pianist Michael Brown. And, on the same day, a series of concert performances (continuing through April 9) of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company begin at Avery Fisher Hall starring Neil Patrick Harris.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yo-Yo Ma, Yuval Waldman, Victor Garber, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Michael Brown, Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenoweth, Mendelssohn, Leif Ove Andsnes, Jerome Kern, Jenö Hubay, Jaromir Weinberger, Gershwin, Gideon Klein, Christian Tetzlaff, Emanuel Ax, Audra McDonald. Gil Shaham, Ann Hampton Callaway

Shifra Lerer, 95, Yiddish Star of Stage and Screen

By Itzik Gottesman

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here

On March 12 the Yiddish theater lost one of its most beloved stars. Shifra Lerer, an Argentine-born actress who toured the world and who later appeared in films by Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet, died in Manhattan at the age of 95.

Joan Roth

I met Shifra during my first — and last — foray as a Yiddish actor for the Yiddish National Theatre in 1980. Lerer was among the founders of the troupe, which was created to ensure the future of Yiddish theater in America. The experience was a shock for me. I was literally stupefied by the sight of 80-year-old actors screaming curses at 70-year-olds backstage. Their talents were great, but so were their egos and eccentricities. Shifra, by contrast, was an island of calm and rectitude, earning everyone’s respect.

Lerer was born in Argentina, on a Jewish colony in the Pampas, on August 30, 1915. As a child she showed a precocious talent for the theater, and was discovered at age 5 by the famous Yiddish actor Boris Thomashefsky. She soon began acting with other renowned theater figures such as Zigmund Turkov, Samuel Goldenberg and Jacob Ben-Ami, with whom she performed in dramas such as Peretz Hirschbein’s “Green Fields” and H. Leivik’s “The Poet Who Became Blind.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zigmund Turkov, Yiddish Theater, Yiddish, Woody Allen, Theater, Sidney Lumet, Shifra Lerer, Samuel Goldenberg, Peretz Herschbein, Michael Michalovic, Obituaries, Maurice Schwartz, Leon Kobrin, Joseph Seiden, Jacob Gordin, Jacob Ben-Ami, Itzik Gottesman, Hannah Senesh, Hebrew Actors Union, H. Leivik, God Man and Devil, Forverts, Forverts Hour, Deconstructing Harry, Congress for Jewish Culture, Chana Pollack, Boris Thomashefsky, Ben-Zion Witler, Barry Levinson, Avalon, Argentina, A Stranger Among Us

Miss Venezuela Material

By Reyna Simnegar

On Monday, Reyna Simnegar, the author of “Persian Food from the Non-persian Bride: And Other Sephardic Kosher Recipes You Will Love,” wrote about Sephardim Strike Back! Her blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


It had been nine years since I had not seen my beautiful cousin Isha. She lives a busy life in Florida working in the restaurant industry and going to school. It was my turn to feed her, and I decided to invite her for Shabbat dinner. After all, is there a better time than Shabbat to impress anyone with delectable dishes?

Isha is half Venezuelan and half American. She is the perfect combination of Latin American charm and American beauty. As we were reminiscing about the past (over a slice of my favorite dessert, Persian Roulade), it was impossible not to talk about how much we suffered starving together in the name of our modeling careers. You see, both Isha and I were part of a Venezuelan modeling agency that recruited girls for the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Reyna Simnegar, My Jewish Learning, Miss Venezuela, Jewish Book Council, Food, Author Blog Series, Books

Living Letters From the Past

By Len Abram

Before the telephone and the Internet, those separated from each other by great distances depended on letters to communicate. Although gifted writers have brought the form to the level of high art, for many people, the letter served more essential purposes. With it, they shared ideas, expressed feelings, collaborated on plans, and communicated information both trivial and vital.

In “36 Letters: One Family’s Story,” Author Joan Sohn describes finding one such bag of letters from her grandparents, their families and their friends. When she had them translated, mostly from Yiddish, Sohn discovered the people behind her childhood memories and old photographs. The book is based on 36 of these letters, many dating from 1904 to 1906, and centers around the courtship and immigration of her grandparents, Yente and Chaim, or as she knew them, Yetta and Hyman Korman.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yetta Korman, Len Abram, Joan Sohn, Hyman Korman, Books, 36 Letters

Rappaport Prize Awarded to Artists Asaf Ben Zvi and Michael Halak

By Daniel Rauchwerger

Crossposted from Haaretz

Self portrait by Michael Halak.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art announced the selection of painters Asaf Ben Zvi and Michael Halak as the winners of the 2011 Rappaport Prize. This is the sixth prize awarded since its establishment in 2006 in honor of Ruth and Baruch Rappaport. The prize is awarded annually to two painters, an established painter (Ben Zvi) and a young painter (Halak). Beyond the monetary sum given to the painters, the prize funds two solo exhibitions at the museum as well as the production of the catalogs accompanying the exhibitions.

The official announcement of the prize, scheduled for next Tuesday at the museum, will coincide with the opening of the exhibition by artist Sharon Poliakine and painter Oren Eliav, last year’s recipients of the prize. The exhibitions of works by Ben Zvi and Halak will open at the museum in March 2012.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Sharon Poliakine, Rappaport Prize, Prizes, Oren Eliav, Michael Halak, Haaretz, Exhibits, Asaf Ben Zvi, Daniel Rauchwerger

How the Violin Became the 'Jewish National Instrument'

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Courtesy of University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Department

Just the other night, amidst the glorious surroundings of the Music Room of The Phillips Collection, whose walls are bedecked with one masterpiece after another, over 100 people gathered together under the aegis of George Washington University’s Program in Judaic Studies to hear Professor James Loeffler of the University of Virginia incisively discuss how it came to pass that the violin became known as the “Jewish national instrument.”

I suspect this was the very first time that the Music Room rang with explicit talk of the storied relationship between the Jews and classical music. But it’s hardly the first time that the nation’s capitol engaged in such a discussion. Many years before, Israel Zangwill’s potboiler of a play, “The Melting Pot,” debuted in D.C. Applauded enthusiastically by Teddy Roosevelt, the country’s president at the time, the four-act drama centered on music.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: From Under the Fig Tree, Israel Zangwill, James Loeffler, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Music, Sinfonia Americana, The Melting Pot, The Phillips Collection, Theodore Roosevelt

From Broadcast to 'G-dcast'

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Courtesy of Sarah Lefton

Where would you go to learn Torah, not only from famous rabbis like Lawrence Kushner, but also feminist rapper Hesta Prynn and legal pundit Dahlia Lithwick? It wouldn’t be to any synagogue, JCC or school. In fact, you wouldn’t even have to leave your home. G-dcast, created by Jewish educational entrepreneur Sarah Lefton and writer Matthue Roth, brings commentary on the weekly Torah portion by Jewish artists, writers and public personalities directly to your computer via animated short films streamed on the Internet.

G-dcast, supported by funders including ROI, Natan, Righteous Persons Foundation, UpStart and the Joshua Venture Fellowship, has recently released a DVD of all 55 of its Torah portion videos (“the offline version of the online hit”), accompanied by a book of creative lessons written by educator Emily Shapiro Katz. In addition, an iPad and iPod G-dcast app is in development.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Vanessa Hidary, Sarah Lefton, Renee Ghert-Zand, Lawrence Kushner, Matthue Roth, Jeanne Stern, Internet, Hesta Prynn, G-dcast, Dahlia Lithwick, Emily Shapiro Katz, Education



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