The Arty Semite

Scandal and Self-Correction in Kosher Food

By Timothy D. Lytton

Earlier this week Timothy D. Lytton wrote about organized crime and kosher food certification. His blog posts are featured 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:


This past March, the owner of Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market, Los Angeles’s largest purveyor of kosher meat, was discovered smuggling repackaged meat of unknown provenance through the back door of his butcher shop. The mashgiach (kosher supervisor), had unlocked the door for deliveries and then, against kosher protocol, left the premises to attend to personal business, leaving the market unsupervised. Erupting the day before the start of the Passover holiday, the scandal cast doubt on the status of thousands of briskets roasting in ovens throughout the city. An emergency council of rabbinic authorities held just in time for Passover seder that consumers could presume that meat previously purchased from Doheny was kosher.

The Rabbinical Council of California (RCC), which provided supervision to Doheny’s came under fire for the misfeasance of its mashgiach.

As a result of the scandal, the RCC’s reputation suffered. Several restaurants under RCC supervision switched to a rival certification agency, Kehilla Kosher. To stem the damage, the RCC called in the nation’s largest kosher certifier, the Orthodox Union (OU), to audit its supervision at three L.A. restaurants and reassure the public of its reliability. According to coverage by L.A.’s Jewish Journal:

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Why Kids Love Scary Stories

By Matthue Roth

Matthue Roth’s newest book is “My First Kafka: Runaways, Rodents, and Giant Bugs.” He lives in Brookyn with his family and keeps a secret diary at www.matthue.com. His blog posts are featured 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:


My parents are getting ready to move, to abandon the house I’ve lived in since I was born, and we traveled down to Philadelphia to help them. (No, that’s a lie: We traveled down because I had a reading for my new picture book, “My First Kafka,” and school is out, and we were getting ready to dump the kids with them for a week.) Everything is in boxes. If there’s one thing my kids are good at (there’s a million things), it’s causing chaos. They promptly set to work unpacking the remains of my parents’ life.

My 5-year-old daughter promptly uncovered “Treasure Island.” Yes, the book. It was an illustrated — though uncut — edition. “Read it,” she demanded.

Hey, what kind of father would I be to deny classic literature to my next of kin? I read.

We reached the first death — a gristly scene where Billy Bones, an old seaman, gorges himself on rum, stabs an old fellow pirate, then collapses dead on the floor. “Are you sure you want me to keep going?” I asked her.

“Read,” she urged me.

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Kosher Food and Organized Crime

By Timothy D. Lytton

Timothy D. Lytton is the author of the recently published “Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food” (Harvard University Press). His blog posts are featured 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:


The Toronto Star recently reported that several firebombings of kosher restaurants in Quebec may not be the work of anti-Semites but rather part of “a kosher restaurant war in the predominantly Jewish west-end neighborhood of Hampstead.” The Star described the latest bombing in a June 15 article:

Around closing time last weekend two men walked into Montreal’s Chops Resto-Bar, tossed a flaming Molotov cocktail toward the bar and escaped on foot, though not before a security camera picked them up.

The damage was limited to a scorched section of the restaurant’s wall and shock among the 20-odd diners wrapping up their meal shortly after midnight Saturday. But there was clearly something nefarious at play. This was the third time since 2011 that Chops, a kosher establishment that serves Asian fusion cuisine, had been targeted with a flaming bottle.

While shocking, this kind of violence is not new in the kosher world.

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Younger Than That Now

By Kathy Ebel

Earlier this week, Kathy Ebel wrote about her German-Jewish family and Nice Jewish Girl protagonists from New York City. Her first novel, “Claudia Silver to the Rescue” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), is now available. Her blog posts are featured 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:


Memorial Day, 2007. I’ve drifted away from a Santa Monica beach party to gaze out at the Pacific Ocean, plus my navel, when an unfamiliar woman approaches. We chat a bit—she’s a literary agent based in New York, the sister of the hostess—and then she asks the dreaded question. “So…what are you working on these days?” I pause to consider before answering. You know when people say to cute, charismatic single women, “You’re so fabulous—I just can’t believe you’re single!” and they want to punch them in the face and then kill themselves? This was a work version of that.

You see, I’ve been living in Los Angeles for seven years, having left my native New York City to seek my fortune as a screenwriter with a soap opera credit and a fresh pile of TV spec scripts in my kit bag, but the steady ascent I’ve pictured, and that I’ve seen other people achieve, hasn’t happened. I’ve been working so damn hard for so long and I feel like I’m nowhere, other than crushed. How could that be, when I’ve done everything I’ve seen other people doing—and what my various agents have told me to do?

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When You’re a Jew You Stay a Jew

By Kathy Ebel

Earlier this week, Kathy Ebel wrote about Nice Jewish Girl protagonists from New York City. Her first novel, “Claudia Silver to the Rescue” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), is now available. Her blog posts are featured 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:


“Ashkenazi.” “Sephardi.” As a kid, wandering around the kiddish reception at our shul collecting cellophane ruffle-topped toothpicks in a plastic cup, I heard these terms bandied far above my head by adults and had no idea what they meant. Were these languages? Politicians? Street gangs, like in West Side Story?

As a first-generation American and the daughter of German-Jewish refugees, I was pretty sure these mysterious terms didn’t have anything to do with me. We were Jews who kept kosher and went to shul, but we didn’t eat or do the things that seemed officially Jewy, like, Fiddler on the Roof-Jewy. My single mother didn’t bake kugel, or encircle the flames of the Shabbat candles with her hands when she made her brachot, or bobby pin a white nylon doily to the back of her head for services (nor would she have dreamed of wearing a kippah like some of her friends from her Consciousness Raising group). My mother used no Yiddishims in her speech, other than “shul” and “shlep” and, while cursing other drivers, “schmuck.” I wasn’t sent to Jewish sleepaway camp to meet my future spouse or bridesmaids or employers. And on Christmas Day, we did not go to the movies or eat Chinese food.

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Nice Jewish Girls Finish Whole

By Kathy Ebel

Kathy Ebel, a first-generation American, was born in Manhattan. Her blog, Fatherland: There’s No Place Like Home, or How and Why a Nice Jewish Girl Asked Germany to Take Her Back, chronicles her quest to have her German citizenship restored. Kathy considers Brooklyn her hometown and currently lives with her family in Los Angeles. “Claudia Silver to the Rescue” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is her first novel. Her blog posts are featured 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:


I think of Claudia Silver, the eponymous heroine of my debut novel, “Claudia Silver to the Rescue,” as one in an anxious, spirited line of Nice Jewish Girl protagonists from New York City. This lineage starts with Lily Bart, Edith Wharton’s A-list flibbertigibbet in “The House of Mirth,” then moves on to Herman Wouk’s “Marjorie Morningstar” (who put up with that scoundrel Noel Airman’s hijinks for about 100 riveting pages too long), Gail Parent’s Sheila Levine (if only 30 had been the new 20 in 1972), Erica Jong’s Isadora Wing, and Melissa Bank’s Jane Rosenal. Yes, I know that Lily Bart wasn’t Jewish. But if only she’d married Simon Rosedale! (Sob! Gnashing of teeth! She could’ve given him a make-under!)

Claudia Silver possesses some key traits that connect her to her literary sisters. She’s got a loud speaking voice and wobbly self-worth, she finds comfort in self-destructive habits and relationships, and she’s paralyzed by her own ambivalence. She’s helpful and selfish, fierce and vulnerable. She’s got a keen sense of class and caste, ranking herself ruthlessly in any given social situation. She knows how to dance, and how to accessorize. But unlike Lily and Marjorie, whom I adore, but let’s face it, whether it’s in the back of a hat shop or lower Westchester, they both die from denial, Claudia wakes up. And she does so along a particularly Jewish continuum.

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Author Blog: Crossing Delancey

By Royal Young

Earlier this week, Royal Young discussed his decision to change his name, interviewed his grandparents, and wrote about his parents’ reaction to his debut memoir, “Fame Shark.” His blog posts are featured 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:


My father’s artwork was always how I made sense of the world around me. The sometimes scary, ghetto Lower East Side I grew up in was beautiful, interesting and safe when shaded by his paints. His devotion to his artwork, but also creative, compassionate parenting, inspired me early on to pursue my own artistic passions. I would sit in Dad’s sun drenched studio dictating stories about suicidal whales before I could write.

Dad encouraged my taste for tragedy and drama by reading me bedtime stories beyond my years. With me in the cozy crook of his flannel arm, under soft yellow lamps he turned the pages and read 10-year-old me Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham, Dickens’s “Great Expectations” and “Mildred Pierce” by James M. Cain. These guilty, lonely, decadent, sexual stories were a dazzling escape from the Lower East Side of the early ‘90s. They infuse my writing to this day.

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A Jewish Tradition of Changing Names

By Royal Young

Earlier this week, Royal Young interviewed his grandparents and wrote about his parents’ reaction to his debut memoir “Fame Shark.” His blog posts are featured 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:


I changed my name from Hazak Brozgold to Royal Young when I was 20 years old. I was a drunk college drop-out who had moved back into my parent’s Lower East Side apartment with big, unrealistic dreams and a drinking habit too large for my childhood bedroom. Getting rid of my hard to pronounce Hebrew name felt like a step toward escaping my youth and my disapproving Jewish parents. My moniker had set me apart in classrooms and the ghetto downtown streets I’d grown up in. The Lower East Side of my youth was broken glass on uneven sidewalks, fast domino games, sneakers hanging from streetlights, Hip Hop blasting bass heavy from car windows. My grandparent’s days, when the neighborhood was an Eastern European shtetl transplant, were long gone. My parents had literally missed the boat.

They named me Hazak Brozgold to make up for it. Hazak means “strong” in Hebrew. But I always felt weak. A shy, quiet bookworm I shrank from the rough streets around me, finding escape in making my neuropsychologist mom administer me Rorsach tests instead of going on play dates, or painting crude canvasses with my artist/social worker father in his cluttered studio.

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An Interview With My Babbi and Zayde

By Royal Young

Earlier this week, Royal Young wrote about his parents’ reaction to his debut memoir, “Fame Shark.” His blog posts are featured 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:


My maternal grandmother fought to escape her Lower East Side. My Babbi was born in 1932 and raised on Pitt Street and Houston, a few blocks from where I would grow up years later. She was the daughter of Orthodox Austrian immigrants who came through Ellis Island in 1919 with thousands of other displaced Jews, gazing in awe at the Statue of Liberty from the steerage deck of a third-class freighter.

The Lower East Side of the ’30s was an Eastern European shtetl transplant, an unruly Jewish village struggling through the end of the Depression. Its tenements teemed with immigrants who practiced wild customs — matchmaking, interpreting prophesies from dreams — that they’d imported with silver menorahs hidden under rags during the ocean passage.

My handsome grandfather had a bachelor pad on Henry Street before he was a Zayde. They met when he taught my Babbi art and their hearts filled over many hours developing photographs in dim darkrooms. Images of her from that time are coy and striking, he bold and laughing. Their eyes gleam for adventure, conquest, love, glory, knowledge.

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My Family’s Reaction to 'Fame Shark'

By Royal Young

Royal Young’s debut memoir “Fame Shark” will be released June 2013 from Heliotrope Books. Young contributes to Interview Magazine, New York Post, BOMB Magazine and The Lo Down. His blog posts are featured 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:


“I sound like a cheap, mean kyke,” my father raged. “I sound like an idiot, a complete non-entity,” my mother was furious too. I had been nervous about them reading my first memoir, “Fame Shark,” but none of my jitters had prepared me for this ballistic reaction. We were sitting down to breakfast at Castillo, a Dominican restaurant in New York’s Lower East Side where I had grown up eating delicious homefries colored orange from Sofrito. Now they stuck in my throat.

For me, the book was a monument to the obvious: I was in love with both my parents. But raised by two Jews who were brilliant psychoanalysts, my love had a darkness, a depth, an introspection I’d learned from them. Wasn’t that a good thing? Wasn’t that flattering?

“So, it’s basically fiction,” Mom said,”a lot of this stuff never happened.” It was true that I had purposefully pandered to a modern American culture that had the attention span of meth addicts. I’d cut all the “boring” bits out of my life in this telling. But fiction? No way. It had been hard, terrifying and humbling to write truths about myself: I had been bullied to the point of molestation as a kid, I had later exchanged sex for money and movie roles, cultivated friendships with drug dealers, sunk to supreme unhappiness at the altar of celebrity worship. I had begun writing “Fame Shark” still half in the throes of an idiotic, unoriginal fantasy that the book itself would lift me into celebrity. Only the therapeutic writing of it had helped take me out of my own narcissism/self-hatred (a diagnosis my parents had once agreed with, in our darkest conflicts).

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Thinking in Aramaic, Writing in English

By Janice Weizman

Earlier this week, Janice Weizman wrote about writing historical fiction and the bildungsroman and the Jewish woman. Her blog posts are featured 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:


“Many artists are ‘underground’,” a writing instructor of mine once remarked, “but no one is more underground than writers.” To that I would add that no one is more underground than writers who don’t write in the language of the place they live. It amounts to a sort of double life. On the outside, you function in the same language as everyone around you. But then you have this other world, where you think and create in the tongue of a stranger. Your boss, the next-door neighbors, the mother of your child’s best friend and Moshe from the makolet might be aware that you are working on a novel, but you know, from the very first word you write, that they will probably never read it.

While I was writing “The Wayward Moon,” a novel which takes place in the 9th century Middle East, the situation was even more confusing. I was constantly alert to the fact that rather than Hebrew or English, my characters would have spoken something that sounds like Ha lachma anya di achalu avtania, and dizabin abah bitrei zuzei. If, like me, these phrases from the Haggadah are all the Aramaic you know, then you understand the difficulty.

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Writing a Novel About Writing a Novel

By David Samuel Levinson

Earlier this week, David Samuel Levinson wrote about the beautiful catastrophe that is New York City and dedicating his first novel, “Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence” (Algonquin Books). His blog posts are featured 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:


I’m sitting on the back porch of my temporary lodgings in Atlanta, while two spiders go at it, the smaller invading the larger’s web. (Why? Who knows. Maybe he or she is lonely.) Larger lunges at smaller, until smaller retreats, and both settle down again to await the arrival of an unsuspecting fly. Watching them, I am reminded of “Charlotte’s Web,” which I read when I was boy, and how caught up I became in the struggles of Charlotte and Wilbur and how I never wanted the story to end. Unfortunately, it did, yet fortunately for me I found many other stories to get tangled up in — Encyclopedia Brown, The Westing Game, The Tales of Narnia, and Bridge to Terabithia.

Back then, I read only for pleasure and escape and erroneously imagined these books I so loved to be handed down through a series of magic tricks to end up in my favorite bookstore. I had no idea they were written by real people, who sat at real desks and typed them out on real typewriters, arduous page after arduous page. These books, these authors, changed the way I saw the world, but more than this they changed the way I interacted with it. I learned about sleuthing, betrayal, love, and death by falling headfirst into these created universes, which matched the reality of my own only insofar as they resembled the familiar — houses, trees, the sun and moon, stars, streets, etc. Other than this, they were as fantastical as they were absorbing; I couldn’t wait to flip the page to find out what happened next.

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I Was Born a Rambling Man

By David Samuel Levinson

On Tuesday, David Samuel Levinson wrote about dedicating his first novel, “Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence” (Algonquin Books). His blog posts are featured 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:


When someone asks me where I’m from, I never hesitate to say that I’m from New York City. Then, a little ashamed, I often confess that I’m not really from New York, that I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. While I did not spend my formative years in the city, I have always considered myself a New Yorker, which probably has to do with all those summers I spent on Long Island with my mother’s parents. The day trips to Jones Beach and into the city to see a play or wander around Macy’s! Some of my favorite memories still involve being stopped between stations on the subway or the Long Island Railroad. And then our slow approach into Penn Station and the skyscrapers obliterating the sky and my mother leading my brother and me up into the beautiful, congested fray that is Manhattan.

Every step I took along those overpopulated sidewalks, every museum and bookstore I wandered through, every salty pretzel I pulled apart and devoured—all of it was leading me closer to my future self. At the time, I had little idea that years later I’d live in and among those crowds, museums, bookstores, and pretzel carts, though I should’ve suspected as much, given my early fondness for the city. When I was a boy, I fell head over heels in love with the city, yet it wasn’t until I finally moved there as a young adult that I came to really believe what Le Corbusier meant when he said, “A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe and 50 times: It is a beautiful catastrophe.”

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Writing What You’ve Never Seen

By Janice Weizman

Earlier this week, Janice Weizman wrote about the bildungsroman and the Jewish woman. Her blog posts are featured 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:


All fiction writers have a streak of audacity. To make up something and then ask readers to suspend their disbelief and give themselves over to your vision is, well, a little outrageous. Among the most audacious are the writers of historical fiction. How can anyone presume to know what it was like to live and work and raise a family in a time other than their own? How can one comprehend the hopes, the limitations, and the challenges of people who lived their lives in historical periods with radically different circumstances and assumptions?

Logic says that it’s impossible. Yet the imagination insists that it’s not. It insists that, with a little bit of help, it can transcend space and time and understand something beyond the here and now.

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Talking About Book Dedications

By David Samuel Levinson

David Samuel Levinson’s stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, West Branch, and the Brooklyn Review, among others. He lives in New York City. “Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence” is his first novel. His blog posts are featured 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:


I knew I was going to dedicate my first novel, “Antonia Lively Breaks The Silence,” to my maternal grandparents long before I ever set out to write it. Or let me rephrase that: until I was tasked with dedicating the novel, I had no idea just how clear it had been that I would dedicate it to them. During the years it took me to write the novel, I never thought about the dedication, nor did I think much about my dearly departed grandparents, though in retrospect they were always with me, whispering their story into my ear.

No, the novel isn’t about them, not literally anyway, but it does touch upon certain themes — displacement, trauma, assimilation, ambition — which I would never have plumbed had I not known the intimate details of their struggles. Marianne and Stephan—Mimi and Steve to their friends—were both born in Vienna, where they met and married. Both full-blooded Jews, their Jewishness never played a significant role in their upbringing. They were Jewish, just not religious, and rarely attended shul.

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The Bildungsroman and the Jewish Woman

By Janice Weizman

Janice Weizman was born in Toronto, and moved to Israel at the age of nineteen. She is a graduate of the Creative Writing program at Bar-Ilan University, where she initiated and serves as managing editor of The Ilanot Review, an online literary journal. Janice’s fiction has appeared in various literary journals including Lilith, Jewish Fiction, and Scribblers on the Roof. “The Wayward Moon” is her first novel. Her blog posts are featured 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:


A young man leaves his home and sets out on a journey. He is impressionable, sensitive, and inexperienced in the ways of the world. Because he is young, everything is new, surprising, a revelation. He is awkward, but also hopeful. He knows little, but he is eager to learn. He is betrayed by those he trusts, and happily surprised by people he thought were his enemies. So it goes as he journeys in and out of chance meetings, mishaps, and adventures. And ultimately, after feeling the full weight of his experiences in his soul, he comes to understand a truth about himself, about the world, and his place in it.

The literary term for this sort of novel is the bildungsroman. In English, we might call it a novel of self-discovery and it is a classic genre in both Western and world literature. Our literary canon is full of such tales of self-realization. Tom Jones and David Copperfield are examples of the genre as are Catcher in the Rye, On the Road, and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Though works involving a heroine are few, Jane Eyre comes to mind as a rare exception. But generally, women, and particularly Jewish women, are absent from the genre.

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Introducing Inspector Avraham Avraham

By D. A. Mishani

Today D. A. Mishani continues with his series “The Mystery of the Hebrew Detective,” where he has been investigating why it’s so difficult to write a detective in Israel. His first detective novel, “The Missing File,” was published by Harper. The second novel in the series, “A Possibility of Violence,” will be published in the U.S. in 2014. His blog posts are featured 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:


I can honestly say I was concerned by this “Mystery of the Hebrew Detective,” mainly before and after writing the first installment in my literary detective series, “The Missing File.”

As I come from a family of Mizrahi origins, and since I admire the literary tradition of the realistic police-procedural, I chose not to back down. My protagonist, Inspector Avraham Avraham, is a peripheral character, from Mizrahi origins, like police officers in Israel usually are, and certainly like they are in Israeli culture.

He works in Holon, my home town, which is an urban, lower-middle-class, suburb of Tel Aviv. He didn’t grow up in a kibbutz, he doesn’t work for the Mossad, and the cases he’s investigating don’t have any national importance. He doesn’t chase old hiding Nazi criminals and not even Muslim terrorists. In “The Missing File,” he’s just looking for a 16-year-old boy, as unimportant as him, who went missing.

Still, I tried to address the problem of writing a detective in Israel in some ways.

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Can a Policeman Be an Israeli Hero?

By D. A. Mishani

Today D. A. Mishani continues with his series “The Mystery of the Hebrew Detective,” where he has been investigating why it’s so difficult to write a detective in Israel. His first detective novel, “The Missing File,” was published by Harper. His blog posts are featured 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:


I’ll try to summarize the new problem of writing a detective in Hebrew in a simple way. The biography of the typical hero of Israeli canonical literature, from its beginnings, is more or less this: he’s a man; he was born in Europe, or in later periods to a family of European origins; he has survived the Holocaust, or was born to a family of survivors. He grew up in a kibbutz, joined the army and served in one of the elitist units, was maybe even injured in 1967 or 1973, and sometime later on joined the Mossad.

Unfortunately, the protagonist of the realistic crime novel set in Israel cannot have this biography. The Israeli police force, from its early days until today, is composed mainly of Mizrahim (Israelis coming to Israel from Arab or Muslim countries) and those who grew up in the social and cultural peripheries of Israel.

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When 50 Happens to Good People: Part Two

By Annabelle Gurwitch

Actress, author, and activist Annabelle Gurwitch is the author of two books — “You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up” and “Fired!” — and the e-book single “Autumn Leaves” (available from Zola Books), a chapter from her comedic memoir for Blue Rider imprint at Penguin, to be published in Spring 2014. Her blog posts are featured 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:


Ok, so I hadn’t done time in prison, I’d just spent one day there.

I’d just covered what was believed to be the first Bat Mitzvah in an American women’s prison for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. It was the only time I’d been in a temple where the person sitting next to me was tattooed with the words “Suicidal Freak.” There’s a saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes,” but it should amended to, “and in penitentiaries.” If I am ever incarcerated you can bet I’ll be signing up for every form of religious education available as they serve snacks and the non-denominational chapel at Chino is air-conditioned. (In fact, there is a relatively new organization, Atheists in Foxholes, that does great work in the field, not sure about the quality of their snacks, though.) I figured if that rabbi could handle prisoners, he could do just fine with my son whose teenage years were starting to feel like a hostage situation.

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Detective Fiction and the Zionist Cultural Revolution

By D. A. Mishani

Today D. A. Mishani continues with his series “The Mystery of the Hebrew Detective,” where he has been investigating why it’s so difficult to write a detective in Israel. Read installment one here and installment two here. His first detective novel, “The Missing File,” was published by Harper. His blog posts are featured 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:


Here is, for example, an important piece of evidence I found during my investigation: a fierce article written on detective fiction in a Hebrew newspaper in Palestine in the 1930s, when the first translations of detective fiction to Hebrew were made (mainly to Sherlock Holmes stories) and the first original detective stories in Hebrew were written:

Who is it that poisons the soul of our children with this so-called literature – arouses in them the most savage and hideous feelings? All over the Diaspora, songs are being sung for the children of the Land of Israel (Palestine) and their complete, healthy souls – and who is this that dares to damage them, to damage the pure and the innocent within them? And why isn’t there any public punishment for them? Aren’t we going to finally put an end to this filthy commerce, commerce in the souls of our children?

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