JBuzz News April 30, 2012: Benzion Netanyahu: Noted historian father of Israel’s prime minister, dies at 102

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Noted historian Benzion Netanyahu, father of Israel’s prime minister, dies at 102

Source: JTA, 4-30-12

Benzion Netanyahu, a noted Jewish historian and Zionist thinker, and the father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has died.

Netanyahu died early Monday morning at his home in Jerusalem. He was 102.

Benjamin Netanyahu visited his father for the last time on Sunday evening, according to a statement issued Monday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu was born Benzion Mileikowsky in Warsaw in 1910, and immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1920.

Netanyahu studied at the David Yellin Teachers’ College and later at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His research focused on the history of the medieval Spanish Jewish community and the history of Zionism. Among his books are a biography of Don Isaac Abravanel; a history of the Spanish Marranos; and his major work, “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain.” He also authored “The Founding Fathers of Zionism,” about the lives of the founders of political Zionism — Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Netanyahu was the editor in chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia for more than a decade beginning in the 1950s. He served as a professor of Jewish studies at various universities in the United States, concluding his academic career as professor emeritus at Cornell University.

From his time as a student in Jerusalem, he was involved in public Zionist activities. Netanyahu was a supporter of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and edited a newspaper that also featured Joseph Klausner and poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg on its staff…READ MORE

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JBuzz News April 30, 2012: Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization: A Ten-Volume Look at Jewish Culture

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A Ten-Volume Look at Jewish Culture

Source: NYT, 4-30-12

Yale University Press and the Posen Foundation are embarking on a 10-volume anthology that covers more than 3,000 years of Jewish cultural artifacts, texts and paintings. “This monumental project includes the best of Jewish culture in its historical and global entirety,” the editor in chief, James E. Young, a professor of English and Judaic Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a news release. “It will provide future generations with a working legacy by which to recover and comprehend Jewish culture and civilization.”

The series, called the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, is starting at the end, with Volume 10, a collection of works that date from 1973 through 2005 and include cultural figures like the writers Saul Bellow and Judy Blume, the architect Frank Gehry, the sculptor Louise Nevelson, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Harvard law professor Alan M Dershowitz. (Volume 1 will begin in the second millennium B.C.) More than 120 scholars are expected to work on the project, according to John Donatich, director of Yale University Press.

Volume 10 is scheduled for publication in November, as is a companion book titled “Jews and Words” by the Israeli author Amos Oz and his daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, a history professor.

JBuzz News April 23, 2012: Todd Endelman: Holocaust victims remembered through music, reflection

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ANN ARBOR: Holocaust victims remembered through music, reflection

Source: Ann Arbor Journal, 4-23-12

Holocaust survivor Henry Brysk shares a photo of his family and the story of an aunt who was killed during World War II. Photo by Chris Nelson.

View and purchase photos

Victims of the Holocaust were remembered through prayer, reflection and music on April 19 at the Jewish Community Center in Ann Arbor.

The memorial service, the first of its kind in the Ann Arbor area, was created by a group of Holocaust survivors as a way to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

University of Michigan Professor of Judaic Studies, Todd Endelman, gave a keynote address about how the Holocaust is remembered and its effects, so far, on Jewish culture.

Endelman said there are two factions of thought behind Holocaust remembrance. The first is that it is not talked about enough and the second is that it’s talked about too much and has morphed Jewish identity and definition into one of suffering.

The effect of the Holocaust, Endelman said, might be unknown still.

“We don’t know the impact of the Holocaust,” he said. “Maybe because not enough time has passed. Sometimes things are so large, are so horrific, are so transcendent of existing categories of thinking, are so out of the ordinary that it takes a long time for the whole impact to be made.”

Regardless, Endelman said, the important thing for people to do is to be aware.

“I want us to remain, particularly those of my generation and younger, attentive, listening to whatever new themes or emphasis arise,” he said. “Because we want to hear them clearly when they make their appearance and we want to absorb what they have to say to us.”…READ MORE

JBuzz Reviews April 20, 2012: Jonathan Sarna: Jewish vote in elections past and present

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Jewish vote in elections past and present

Source: Brandeis Hoot, 4-20-12

Professor of American Jewish History Jonathan Sarna (NEJS) recently published his new book “When General Grant Expelled the Jews,” discussing the election of 1868 in comparison to today’s political climate.

During the election of 1868, Jewish voters faced a daunting choice. Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant was the man who had issued Order 11 on Dec. 17, 1862, expelling the Jewish people from Grant’s war zone. While it was eventually exposed that Grant issued his order for partially personal reasons related to his father, it was still viewed as a harsh act. The order was revoked on Jan. 4, 1863, upon reaching the desk of President Abraham Lincoln. It held consequences for the Jewish people both psychologically and physically, as some of them were mistreated in the process of relocating.

As Sarna argues, the election of 1868 presented a dilemma for Jewish liberals. “Domestic policies of the republicans during that time period were very much to their liking, but how could they vote for a man who had expelled Jews from his far zone, in what was the single most anti-Semitic act in the United States,” Sarna said.

Sarna describes this choice for the Jewish liberals as an internal one, a question of whether a person should “vote for a party bad for the country in order to avoid voting for a man who is bad for the Jews.”

Sarna wants to get across that Jewish liberals at this time were in turmoil, trying to measure out the “percent of yourself as an American and sense of self as a Jew” and which percent would overcome the other.

He draws a direct parallel to the 2012 elections, arguing that today, there is a “sense on the part of many Jews that Obama is not as supportive of Israel as his predecessors.” If Jewish liberals do not wish to vote for Obama because they question the strength of his support for Israel, their other choice is to vote for the Romney, whose platform goes against what many liberals believe politically.

Sarna believes that “lots of Jews in both cases will find their situation very parallel to the election of 1868.”

Like the election of 1868, Jewish voters have to consider their obligations as Americans as well as their obligations to the Jewish community. Sarna discussed whether a person can forget they are Jewish in a voting booth, or whether that is an identity that cannot be left outside the voting polls. Making connections to further back in history, Sarna even related the election of 1868 to the Federalist papers—their “concern over factions” and “putting the needs of country first regardless of group interest.”

Sarna does admit that the impact of the Jewish vote in both the election of 1868 and today may be over-exaggerated. Grant won the election of 1868, yet it may have been more because of black voters who approved of his efforts to improve their lives and grant them rights. Indeed, Sarna believes that the “power of the Jewish vote was exaggerated by four to five times,” and that people believed there were more voters than actually existed.

At the time, the media was concerned with the ramifications of Order 11, so the Jewish vote came to the forefront despite the fact that the number of Jewish voters was not as large as imagined.

JBuzz Quotes April 20, 2012: Deborah Lipstadt: New Jersey Holocaust Commemoration Serves as Reminder to ‘Never Forget’

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Holocaust Commemoration Serves as Reminder to ‘Never Forget’

Annual event at Teaneck High School featured author, professor and historian Deborah Lipstadt

Source: Patch.com, 4-20-12

At Thursday’s 32nd Annual Holocaust Commemoration, family, friends and members of the community repeated a promise to the Holocaust survivors in attendance that they would never let the world forget about the murder of 6 million Jews.

The Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, a division of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck, hosted the event, which featured a candle-lighting ceremony with survivors, their children and grandchildren, and the reading of the names of those who perished in the Holocaust.

Committee officials describe their event as the largest in Bergen County because it attracts about 1,000 people….

MASTERMIND BEHIND THE DEPORTATIONS

The main speaker for the night was internationally recognized author, professor and historian Deborah Lipstadt, who is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of “The Eichmann Trial,” and other books that focus on the topic of Holocaust denial.

Lipstadt said she attends many Holocaust Commemoration events across the U.S. “But I know of no other community that does it as well and has such a response and such a turnout and a cross-community representation as you do here in Teaneck,” she said.

Lipstadt spoke about the captivating trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, whom she described as the chief operating officer in charge of the deportation of Jews from all of Western Europe.

“And then in the final year of the war when it was clear that the Germans had lost, he personally oversees the decimation, the destruction, the murder of much of Hungarian Jewry, and in approximately 7 to 8 weeks time, the murder of 400,000 Jews at Auschwitz,” Lipstadt explained. “He is in charge of organizing the deportations, getting them out of their homes, moving them into the camps, distributing their possessions; he is the mastermind.”

Sometime after the war, Eichmann eventually ends up in Argentina. He is later found, transported to Israel, charged with “crimes against the Jews and crimes against humanity,” and is found guilty and executed in 1962.

Lipstadt said the most striking thing about the trial was that Holocaust survivors were allowed to be witnesses.

“They told the story of the “Final Solution” in its entirety,” she said. “These people speaking in the first person singular told their story one after another after another.”…READ MORE

JBuzz April 18, 2012: Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2012

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Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2012

Source: Israel Embassy, 4-18-12

Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah in Hebrew) is a national day of commemoration in Israel, on which the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust are memorialised. It is a solemn day, beginning at sunset on the 27th of the month of Nisan (April 18, 2012) and ending the following evening, according to the traditional Jewish custom of marking a day. Places of entertainment are closed and memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country.

The central ceremonies, in the evening and the following morning, are held at Yad Vashem and are broadcast on the television. Marking the start of the day – in the presence of the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister, dignitaries, survivors, children of survivors and their families, gather together with the general public to take part in the memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem in which six torches, representing the six million murdered Jews, are lit.

 

The following morning, the ceremony at Yad Vashem begins with the sounding of a siren for two minutes throughout the entire country. For the duration of the sounding, work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention in reverence to the victims of the Holocaust. Afterward, the focus of the ceremony at Yad Vashem is the laying of wreaths at the foot of the six torches, by dignitaries and the representatives of survivor groups and institutions. Other sites of remembrance in Israel, such as the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, also host memorial ceremonies, as do schools, military bases, municipalities and places of work.

Central theme for this year: My Brother’s Keeper – Jewish Solidarity During the Holocaust

Documents and testimonies from the Shoah indicate that within the impossible reality into which Jews were thrust, mutual help and a commitment to the other were quite common. The individual had little chance of survival without the sense of togetherness, and this Jewish unity is what carried people and helped them endure another day.

“Unto Every Person There is a Name”

Six million Jews, among them 1.5 million children, were murdered in the Shoah while the world remained silent. The worldwide Holocaust memorial project “Unto Every Person There is a Name” is a unique project designed to perpetuate their memory as individuals and restore their identity and dignity, through the public recitation of their names on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. By personalising the individual tragedies of the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators, this project counters persistent efforts by enemies of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to deny the reality of the Holocaust and cast it as history’s seminal hoax.

“Everyone has a name” – Poem by Zelda
[translated from Hebrew]

Everyone has a name given to him by God and given to him by his parents.
Everyone has a name given to him by his stature and the way he smiles and given to him by his clothing.
Everyone has a name given to him by the mountains and given to him by the walls.
Everyone has a name given to him by the stars and given to him by his neighbors.
Everyone has a name given to him by his sins and given to him by his longing. Everyone has a name given to him by his enemies and given to him by his love. Everyone has a name given to him by his holidays and given to him by his work.
Everyone has a name given to him by the seasons and given to him by his blindness.
Everyone has a name given to him by the sea and given to him by his death.

“Unto Every Person There is a Name” is conducted around the world in hundreds of Jewish communities through the efforts of four major Jewish organisations: B’nai B’rith International, Nativ, the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organisation. The project is coordinated by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, in consultation with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and enjoys the official auspices of the President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres. In Israel, “Unto Every Person There is a Name” has become an integral part of the official Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremonies, with the central events held at the Knesset and at Yad Vashem with the participation of elected officials, as well as events throughout the country.

Lists of names

Architecture of Murder: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints

Auschwitz is universally recognised as the ultimate symbol of evil the worlds largest death factory. It is estimated that approximately 1.1 million people were murdered there, of whom a million were Jews. From a single camp in 1940, Auschwitz was transformed into a massive complex, including 3 main camps and 40 sub-camps. The establishment of the Auschwitz complex was a project that lasted years, and was never completed. In the course of the planning phase, SS draftsmen prepared hundreds of drawings and plans of the construction sites and the various buildings. These included detailed drawings of the gas chambers and the crematoria.

Over 4 million names in Central Database of Shoah Victims

The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names is a unique international undertaking led by Yad Vashem. It is the endeavor to recover the names and reconstruct the life stories of each individual Jew murdered in the Shoah. It is our moral duty to respect their last behest and remember them. We estimate that the number of Jews commemorated in the database to date is 4 million. The database is comprised of Pages of Testimony, historical documentation and additional sources.

Millions of names that appear in historical documents have not yet been identified or recorded in the database; many additional names still linger in the memories of survivors or in their family folklore. Building the database is a work in progress.

The Names’ Database enables visitors to search for the names of any of the over 4 million Shoah victims recorded to date. In addition, it allows users to submit new Pages of Testimony – special forms containing biographical details of individual victims – for those victims as yet unrecorded. About half of the names in the Database were obtained from the more than 2.5 million Pages of Testimony submitted to Yad Vashem over the past 50 years, nearly all of which have now been digitised. Other names have been gleaned from additional computerized lists, including deportation, camp and ghetto records.

Holocaust Remembrance Day Books

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) begins in the evening of Wednesday, April 18, 2012, and ends in the evening of Thursday, April 19, 2012 


Defiance

 

JBuzz News April 18, 2012: Historians race clock to collect Holocaust survivor stories

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Historians race clock to collect Holocaust survivor stories

Source: USA Today, 4-18-12

The annual remembrance was observed in Poland and other nations as well, and it took on special meaning this year to historians who are trying urgently to collect the remaining testimonies of eyewitnesses as their numbers dwindle.

One survivor dies in Israel every hour, according to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, a non-profit group based in Tel Aviv that helps care for needy survivors. Today, there are 198,000 survivors in Israel; 88% are 75 or older.

Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial contains the largest archive in the world of historic material related to the Holocaust — or Shoah, as it is known in Hebrew — and it has been intensifying its campaign to record the accounts of survivors. Teams of historians have been dispatched to interview elderly survivors in their homes and collect artifacts.

“We are really racing against the clock to find every survivor and get their stories told before they die,” said Cynthia Wroclawski, manager of the Shoah Names Recovery Project.

Since its establishment in 1953, Yad Vashem, an Israeli governmental authority, has collected 400,000 photographs, recorded roughly 110,000 victims’ video testimonies and amassed 138 million pages of documents on the Nazis’ genocide of Jews in Europe. It was after the Holocaust that the United Nations approved in 1947 what many Jews had sought for decades: a permanent homeland in what is now modern Israel….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 15, 2012: Richard Stamps: Archaeological dig is dusty history lesson at Khirbet Qeiyafa

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Archaeological dig is dusty history lesson

Early starts, hard work are rewarding, but not for those accustomed to cushy vacations

Source: Detroit Free Press, 4-14-12

[+] Enlarge. (3 pictures)   

A volunteer unearths an Iron Age vessel at Khirbet Qeiyafa, which is 18 miles west of Jerusalem. Such dig sites are often in need of volunteers and provide an adventurous vacation.

It’s 4 a.m. My eyes feel heavy. Today is my second day of digging.

I’m in Israel for a weeklong archaeological dig – not your regular vacation, but one that brought fulfillment and surprisingly more rest than I’ve gotten sitting on the beach.

Richard Stamps, a professor of anthropology, and Mike Pytlik, a special lecturer of archaeology and Jewish studies at Michigan’s Oakland University, each year lead a group of students on a three-week archaeological dig and tour of Israel.

Pytlik invited me to go along as a volunteer for a week.

Pytlik explained that this vacation wouldn’t have much relaxing, sightseeing or downtime. It would be dusty and messy, and accommodations wouldn’t include the boutique hotels I normally favor.

The sense of adventure and the chance to learn was enough for me to sign on. I filled out an application, included a $50 check and sent it to professor Yosef Garkinfel of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a renowned archeologist and director of the Khirbet Qeiyafa site, our destination.

It sits above the Elah Valley, the same valley where the Bible says David and Goliath met on the battlefield. It is believed to be the ancient city of Sha’arayim, an Israelite walled city that was part of the kingdom of David….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 15, 2012: Germany’s Federal government to fund new centre for Jewish studies in Berlin

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Germany’s Federal government to fund new centre for Jewish studies in Berlin

Source: University World News, 4-15-12

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, or BMBF, is to provide funding for a new Jewish studies centre in Berlin. Several institutions in the Berlin area are supporting the centre, which was launched last autumn.

The BMBF will be supporting Berlin’s three largest institutions – Humboldt University, Free University and the Technical University – as well as the University of Potsdam, Abraham Geiger College and the Moses Mendelssohn Centre for European-Jewish Studies with a total of €6.9 million (US$9 million) over an initial period of five years to establish the Berlin-Brandenburg Centre for Jewish Studies.

“The centre is going to have an impact way beyond Germany,” Education Minister Annette Schavan said. “It follows the great tradition of Jewish scholarship in Berlin.”

The centre is meant to link up and concentrate academic activities in the field of Jewish studies. Also, via visiting professorships and fellowships, it is to boost international exchange with scholars, in particular from the US, Israel, the UK, France and the Commonwealth of Independent States countries. In addition, research posts are to be created for junior scholars.

The centre can count on a suitable environment for interdisciplinary activities.

History and civilisation studies approaches are featured at Humboldt University, while Free University Berlin has a Jewish studies bachelor programme and also runs a masters in conjunction with Berlin’s Touro College, a Jewish-sponsored independent institution of higher and professional education.

Bachelor and masters courses in Jewish studies at the University of Potsdam, just outside Berlin in Brandenburg, focus on religion, history and literature.

Technical University Berlin has a Centre for Research on Antisemitism, which was founded in 1982 to examine not only antisemitism but also, at a more general level, xenophobia and racism.

The Moses Mendelssohn Centre, meanwhile, conducts historical and philosophical surveys and research in literature, religion and the social sciences. Finally, Abraham Geiger College is a rabbinic seminary that was founded at the University of Potsdam in 1999.

The centre is in line with recommendations on theology and religion-related disciplines issued by the Science Council, Germany’s chief advisory body on research policy.

“What is particularly promising is cooperation between non-denominational scholars, for example from civilisation studies and social sciences, with denominationally bound colleagues at the Abraham Geiger College,” Schavan said.

JBuzz News April 9, 2012: Kenneth Libo: Historian of Jewish immigration, dies at 74

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Kenneth Libo, historian of Jewish immigration, dies at 74

Source: NYT, 4-9-12

Kenneth Libo, a historian of Jewish immigration who, as a graduate student working for Irving Howe in the 1960s and ’70s, unearthed historical documentation that informed and shaped “World of Our Fathers,” Howe’s landmark 1976 history of the East European Jewish immigration to the United States, died on March 29 in New York. He was 74.

The cause was complications from an infection, said Michael Skakun, a friend and fellow historian.

Libo’s contribution was acknowledged by Howe and the publishers of “World of Our Fathers,” who listed his name beneath the author’s on the cover of the book: “With the Assistance of Kenneth Libo.”

Scholars familiar with his archival work credit Libo with adding a level of emotional detail, and a view of everyday life in the teeming tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York, that the book might have lacked without his six years of work. “I don’t think ‘World of Our Fathers’ could have been written without the spade work done by Ken Libo,” said Jeffrey S. Gurock, a professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. “He had a certain researching genius, a feel for visceral detail.”

Libo worked with Howe on two more books and shared billing on both as co-author — “How We Lived,” a 1979 anthology of pictures and documentary accounts of Jewish life in New York between 1880 and 1930; and “We Lived There, Too,” an illustrated collection of first-person accounts by Jewish immigrant pioneers who moved on from New York to settle in far-flung outpostsaround the country, like New Orleans; Abilene, Kan.; and Keokuk, Iowa, between 1630 and 1930.

He became the first English-language editor of The Jewish Daily Forward in 1980, lectured widely, taught literature and history at Hunter College, and later in life helped several wealthy Jewish New York families research and write their self-published family histories.

But throughout his life, Libo was known best for his involvement in “World of Our Fathers,” a best-seller that Howe, a socialist and public intellectual, once described in part as an effort to reclaim the fading memory of Jewish immigration from the clutches of sentimental myth, Alexander Portnoy and generations of Jewish mother jokes.

The book was a large canvas — depicting a lost world of tenements, sweatshops and political utopianism — written with elegiac lyricism.

By most accounts Howe gave the book its vision, its voice and its intellectual legs. Libo gave it people and their stories.

He mined archives of Yiddish newspapers like The Forward, Der Tog and Freheit; the case records of social service organizations like the Henry Street Settlement House; the letters of activists like Lillian Wald and Rose Schneiderman; memoirs by forgotten people whose books he found in the 5-cent bins of used bookstores. He interviewed old vaudevillians like Joe Smith of Smith and Dale (the models for Neil Simon’s “Sunshine Boys”) for the story of Yiddish theater.

In an essay about the book, published in 2000 in the journal of the American Jewish Historical Society, Libo wrote that in the summer months “Irving did the bulk of the writing while I remained in New York with an assistant to run down facts.”

Kenneth Harold Libo was born Dec. 4, 1937, in Norwich, Conn., one of two sons of Asher and Annette Libo. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, his mother American-born. His parents operated a chicken farm, friends said.

He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1959, served in the Navy and taught English at Hunter College of the City University until he began work on “World of Our Fathers” in 1968 with Howe, who died in 1993.

He received his Ph.D. in English literature from the City University of New York in 1974. He never married and no immediate family members remain.

JBuzz News April 14, 2012: Tougaloo College: Freedom Seder combines traditions Overlap of Jewish, black histories is remembered

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Seder combines traditions Overlap of Jewish, black histories is remembered.

Source: The Columbia Daily Tribune, AP, 4-14-12

Jewish Professor Ernst Borinski fled Nazi Germany in 1938, when discriminatory laws foreshadowed darker times to come. Borinski came to the American South of the Jim Crow era to work at historically black Tougaloo College in 1947, at a time when few universities would offer Jewish refugees employment. Soon, the school became his home and civil rights his cause.

On Thursday, Tougaloo College held a Passover Seder inspired by Borinski’s efforts to build bridges between Mississippi’s black and Jewish communities. Borinski is prominently featured in the exhibit “From Swastika to Jim Crow,” which is currently on display at the college. The film is based on a PBS documentary of the same title that profiled Jewish refugees who taught at black colleges during the Holocaust.

The seder traditionally celebrates the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt. Tougaloo’s “freedom seder” emphasized common themes in the histories of both communities and featured Southern black cuisine prepared according to kosher rules.

The first freedom seder was held in 1969 in the basement of a black church on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our focus was intertwining the stories of liberation from pharaoh and liberation from racism in America,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who wrote the Haggadah, a text that guides Passover rituals, for the first freedom seder and directs the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, Pa….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-ed April 6, 2012: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: 8 things you need to know about Passover 2012

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8 things you need to know about Passover 2012

Source: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, Fox News, 4-6-12

Passover is the holiday which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the next stage in the unfolding biblical story of the Children of Israel. In 2012 it begins on Friday night, April 6.

Here are eight things you may want to know about it:

1.What is Passover and is it the same as Pesach?

Passover and Pesach are the same thing. One is simply English and the other is Hebrew. In either case, it is the holiday which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the next stage in the unfolding biblical story of the Children of Israel.

After centuries of slavery, Passover celebrates the passage into freedom for an entire people. The specific “passing over” for which the holiday is named refers to the way in which God passed over, or protected, the homes of the Israelites during the night they prepared to leave Egypt, as the last of the Ten Plagues was being visited upon the Egyptians.

2.When does Passover begin and how long does it last?

Passover 2012 begins at sundown on Friday, April 6. That is the date according to the Gregorian calendar. According to the Jewish calendar, Passover always begins on the 15th of Nissan, which is, according to the Hebrew Bible, the first month in the ancient Israelite calendar.

The holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel and 8 days everywhere else, reflecting a long-held custom honoring the fact that maintaining an accurate liturgical calendar far from Israel, where Jewish religious authority was centered in ancient times, was not so simple before people had modern communication technology.

3.What’s the deal with Matzah?

Matzah is the flat, cracker-like, unleavened bread which has become the central symbol of Passover, especially since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the end of the Paschal sacrifice.

The Bible specifically commands eating Matzah on the first night of Passover, and prohibits all leavened products the entire week of the holiday.

Like most great and durable symbols, Matzah invites multiple, and even contradictory interpretations. Sometimes referred to as “bread of poverty”, Matzah recalls the food that the Israelites ate when they were slaves. It also recalls the rapid liberation of the Israelites, which happened so fast that they did not even have time to allow the bread for the journey to rise before setting out from Egypt.

4.What does the word Egypt mean and how can knowing that help you?

Egypt, is not “Egypt” in the Bible. In the original Hebrew, it is called “Mitzrayim”, which means tight places, or in narrow straights. To be in Mitzrayim/Egypt is not simply to be a slave in a story from long ago.

It is the paradigmatic experience of being stuck between a rock and a hard place – an experience which virtually all people have at some point in their lives. Passover reminds all people that while getting jammed up can, and likely will, happen to each of us, there is always the possibility of redemption and release.

Whoever you are, and whatever faith you follow, Passover invites us to take stock of where we are stuck, and seek the help we need to get un-stuck.

5.Why is Passover the most widely celebrated ritual among American Jews?

American Jews, not to mention increasing numbers of others, celebrate Passover because it just works.

To put it simply, Passover is about freedom, family, and food. At least that is how it works for most people, and what more could one ask for in a holiday?

But it’s more than that.

Nowhere, and at no time, in 3,000 years of Jewish history have Jews known the kind of centuries-long freedom and security which are the American Jewish experience. The Passover story of freedom — of the journey from oppression to opportunity — is also the American story at its best, not just for Jews but for all people, and it rings deeply true when it is told at Seder tables across this nation. It makes perfect sense that this holiday has “won,” at least for now.

6.How is Passover celebrated, or, What’s a Seder?

Seder is the Hebrew word for ‘order’ and it refers to the carefully ordered Passover dinner party/symposium, typically held at home, which brings people together to experience the move from slavery to freedom in story, song, and conversation – especially the raising of questions about what it means to go free and to be free.

The evening is anchored by rituals including drinking, over the course of the evening, four cups of wine recalling the four times when the Israelites are described as being redeemed, eating the Matzah, and also bitter herbs, meant to evoke the bitterness of slavery. Those bitter herbs are dipped in a bit of sweet apple or date relish, reminding those gathered of the sweetness that can be found at even the most difficult of times, and of the promise of even greater sweetness to come.

7.Was the Last Supper a Seder?

The Last Supper is often explained, based on readings of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, as having been a Passover Seder. Certainly the time of year at which Jesus came to Jerusalem fits, and the communal meal at which he gathered his disciples is suggestive of something like a Seder, with ritualized eating, drinking and teaching through conversation. Of course, those are also regular features of any classically Jewish meal of religious import. Also, according to the Book of John, the Last Supper was the day before Passover. Scholars can continue to fight this out, but one thing is clear: both the Last Supper and the Seder point to power of celebrating ones most deeply held values in the presence of those about whom we care, in the context of a freely offered table.

8.How are Passover and Easter related?

While the tradition of calculating the date of Easter based on the date of Passover ended many centuries ago, the holidays share some very deep truths of which all people can avail themselves. Who doesn’t need to be reminded that however dark and cold the winter has been, the promise of spring — of rebirth and renewal is always there? Whether discovered in the story of a nation that goes from freedom to slavery and back to freedom again, or in the story of one who lives, dies and is born again, we must all locate how to celebrate that life holds more possibility and potential than we first imagine — that there is reason for hope, and that in celebrating triumphs of hope from the past, we can unleash new stories of hope in the present and in the future.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is the author of “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism,” and president of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

JBuzz April 5, 2012: Passover Guide 2012: Holiday Preparations, Laws, Haggadahs, Seder Rules, Recipes & The Exodus Story

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AISH Passover Resource Guide

Source: Aish.com

Themes

Haggadah

Seder

Crash Course on the Ten Plagues

A fascinating overview of the significance of the plagues.

Crafts

Games and Tips for the Seder

Spice up your Passover Seder!

Recipes

Passover Foods Around the World

Fresh, intensely flavorful Passover recipes from different Jewish communities.

Laws

Passover Cleaning Made Easy

By knowing what and how to clean, Passover cleaning needn’t be a chore.

Aish.com’s Passover Primer

An inspiring and thought-provoking compendium of articles that will transform your Seder experience.

Want to deepen your understanding of Passover, make them more exciting, meaningful and inspiring?

Aish.com’s Passover Primer is just for you. An inspiring, thougth-provoking compendium of articles that will transform your Seder experience.

Download it now, share it with your family and friends and take it with you to your Seder.

Click here to download.(It may take a minute to complete the download.)http://media.aish.com/documents/Aishcom-Passover-Primer.pdf

(To save the file to your computer: Right click on the file link, then select “Save target as”. )

Crash Course on Passover

Source: Aish

A fascinating overview capturing the meaning and joy of the holiday.

The 5 Most Important Things to Know About Passover

Our greatest contributions to the world summarized in five words: memory, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Source: Aish

Scholars have long wondered why Jews who number less than one quarter of one percent of the world – as Milton Himmelfarb memorably put it, “The total population of the Jewish people is less than a statistical error in the annual birth rate of the Chinese people” – have had such a profound influence on almost every field of human endeavor.

What accounts for the remarkable fact that in the 20th century, Jews, more than any other minority, have been recipients of the Nobel Prize, with almost one-fifth of all Nobel laureates being Jewish?

Perhaps it all goes back to the very beginning of the birth of our people and the Passover holiday that we will shortly be celebrating.

Passover conveys five major concepts that became our mantras for how to lead successful and productive lives. They are the five most important things to know about Passover, and to incorporate into every day of the rest of the year. Because we’ve absorbed them into our national psyche for the thousands of years since the Exodus, we’ve been privileged to fulfill in great measure our prophetically mandated role to become a light unto the nations.

They are our greatest contributions to the world and can be summarized in five words: memory, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.

The Importance of Memory

The Irish Catholic writer Thomas Cahill was so overwhelmed by how the Jewish people literally transformed the world that he authored what proved to become an international bestseller, The Gifts of the Jews. One of the major gifts he credits to Jewish genius is the invention of the idea of history.

“Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “Remember that the Lord took you out of the bondage of slavery.” Remember is a biblical mandate that had never seemed important to anyone else before the Jewish people came on the scene. It was the Passover story that initiated a commitment to memory.

Henry Ford was famous for his belief that “history is bunk.” The Ford motor company is also famous for producing the Edsel. And both were probably equally stupid blunders. History is the only way we can learn from the past. History allows us to grow by standing on the shoulders of giants. Make a mistake once, and you’re human. Never learn from what happened before, and you’re brainless. That’s why it’s so important to heed the famous words of George Santayana that “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Memory links our past to our future. It turns history into destiny.

We know how horrible it can be to live without a personal memory of events that preceded. For an individual we have a name for it that fills us with terror: Alzheimer’s. It is a disease we fear perhaps even more than death because it leaves us living corpses. Strangely enough, we don’t have a similar word for the condition that describes ignorance of our collective past. Knowing what came before is almost as important in an historic sense as it is in a personal one. Only by being aware of our past as a people can our lives become filled with purpose and meaning.

Memory links our past to our future. It turns history into destiny. Learning to treasure it was the first step in our climb up the ladder of greatness.

The Importance of Optimism

To study the Passover story in depth is to recognize that the most difficult task Moses had to perform was not to get the Jews out of Egypt, but to get Egypt out of the Jews. They had become so habituated to their status as slaves, they lost all hope that they could ever improve their lot.

Without hope they would have been lost.

The true miracle of Passover and its relevance for the ages is the message that with God’s help, no difficulty is insurmountable. A tyrant like Pharaoh could be overthrown. A nation as powerful as Egypt could be defeated. Slaves could become freemen. The oppressed could break the shackles of their captivity. Anything is possible, if only we dare to dream the impossible dream.

In the story of America’s Great Seal, a particularly relevant chapter is the imagery suggested by Benjamin Franklin in August 1776. He chose the dramatic scene described in Exodus, where people confronted a tyrant in order to gain their freedom.

“Pharaoh sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his head and a Sword in his hand, passing through the divided Waters of the Red Sea in Pursuit of the Israelites: Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Cloud, expressive of the Divine Presence and Command, beaming on Moses who stands on the shore and extending his hand over the Sea causes it to overwhelm Pharaoh.”

The motto he suggested, words based on the Passover story, inspired George Washington and the founding fathers of the American colonies to rebel against their British oppressors: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

It was the biblical record of the Exodus that enabled the spirit of optimism to prevail for the followers of Martin Luther King in their quest for equal rights, because they were stirred by the vision of Moses leading his people to the Promised Land. It was the hope engendered by recalling how God redeemed our ancestors that allowed even Jews incarcerated in Auschwitz to furtively celebrate the Festival of Freedom and believe in the possibility of their own liberation.

That optimistic spirit, based on our own miraculous history, is the second great gift we have given to mankind and defines our identity.

The Importance of Faith

A pessimist, it’s been said, is someone who has no invisible means of support.

Jewish optimism is rooted in a contrary notion, a firmly held belief that we are blessed with support from above by a caring God. And that faith in a personal God gives us faith in ourselves, in our future and in our ability to help change the world

The God of Sinai didn’t say “I am the Lord your God who created the heavens and the earth.” Instead, he announced, “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.” The God of creation could theoretically have forsaken the world once he completed his task. The God of the Exodus made clear He is constantly involved in our history and has a commitment to our survival.

The Passover story conveys that history is not happenstance. It follows a Divine master plan.

Thomas Cahill credits the Jews not only for monotheism but for this additional groundbreaking idea of a Divine being with Whom we share a personal relationship. This, he points out, is key to Western civilization’s concept of personal accountability, conscience and culpability for ourselves and the rest of the world.

The Passover story conveys that history is not happenstance. It follows a Divine master plan. It has a predestined order. “Order” in Hebrew is “Seder” – and that is why the major ritual of Passover is identified by that name. Coincidence is not a Jewish concept. Coincidence is just God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.

Faith gives us the certainty that whatever our present-day problems, history moves in the direction of the final messianic redemption. That is what has always motivated us to believe in progress and to participate in tikkun olam, efforts to improve the world.

The Importance of Family

Passover taught us yet another major truth: the way to perfect the world is to begin with our own families.

God built his nation by commanding not a collective gathering of hundreds of thousands in a public square but by asking Jews to turn their homes into places of family worship at a Seder devoted primarily to answering the questions of children.

It seems all too obvious. Children are our future. They are the ones who most require our attention. The home is where we first form our identities and discover our values.

More even than the synagogue, it is in our homes that we sow the seeds of the future and ensure our continuity. No wonder then that commentators point out the very first letter of the Torah is a bet, the letter whose meaning is house. All of the Torah follows only after we understand the primacy of family.

The world may mock Jewish parents for their over-protectiveness and their child-centered way of life, but they are the ones chiefly responsible for the extraordinary achievements of their progeny.

At the Seder table, the children are encouraged to be the stars and their questions are treated with respect. And that is the first step to developing Jewish genius.

The Importance of Responsibility to Others

One serious question begs to be asked as we celebrate our Divine deliverance from the slavery of Egypt. We thank God for getting us out, but why did God allow us to become victims of such terrible mistreatment in the first place?

A remarkable answer becomes evident in numerous Torah texts. We were slaves in Egypt – and so we have to have empathy for the downtrodden in every generation. We were slaves in Egypt –  and so we have to be concerned with the rights of the strangers, the homeless and the impoverished. We experienced oppression –  and so we must understand more than anyone else the pain of the oppressed.

The tragedy of our encounter with injustice was in no small measure meant to prepare us to serve throughout all future generations as spokesman for those with whose pain we can personally identify.

The purpose of our suffering was to turn us into a people committed to righting the wrongs of the world, to become partners with God in making the world worthy of final redemption.

We begin the Seder by inviting the hungry and the homeless to join with us. We conclude the Seder by opening the door for Elijah. It is our acceptance of responsibility to others that is the key to hastening the arrival of Messiah.

From earliest childhood every Jew identifies with these five powerful ideas that are at the heart of Passover and its message. And precisely because memory, optimism, faith, family and responsibility have become such vital characteristics of our people, we have been able to achieve far beyond what anyone might have considered possible.

Chabad Passover Resources

Source: Chabad

Pesach (Passover): April 6–14, 2012

Seder Guide   |   Passover Calendar

Haggadah | Passover Seder | Matzah | Passover Recipes | Maror | Passover Calendar

 

Passover Greeting Cards

Behrman House Passover Resource

Source: Behrman House

Passover Menu

Online Passover Haggadahs – Download and Print Haggadot for Pesach

Source: Judaism About.com

Haggadahs (Haggadot) contain the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and are read each year at the Passover Seder meal. Download and print an online Passover Haggadah.

  • Chabad.org: Complete English Haggadah Chabad.org offers this free, complete Haggadah in English, published by Kehot Publication Society. It contains the whole service, from Kadesh to Nirtzah, with text and instructions.
  • Chabad.org: Complete Hebrew Haggadah Chabad.org offers this free, complete Haggadah in Hebrew. As a 23-page PDF file, it is ready to print and use at your Seder table.
  • Charles Finn: Modern English Haggadah This Haggadah aims to be a clear, practical Haggadah that everyone at a big family Seder can follow together. It is 16 pages of text with interesting illustrations. It is best to use this Haggadah as a companion along side a more complete Haggadah.
  • JewishFreeware.org: Free Downloadable Family Haggadah for Passover The Foundation for Family Education offers a variety of online Haggadot written by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner: Very Brief Haggadah, Family Haggadah for Almost Novices, Family Haggadah for Novice. In addition, the site offers a Seder Supplement, Passover Guide, and even a Haroset Workshop.
  • Rabbi Blank’s Internet Haggadah Rabbi Bill Blank offers a downloadable Haggadah for $18. Reviews say Blank’s Internet Haggadah contains clear instructions and understandable translations. They also say it is designed well so that it is pleasant to use and read.
  • The Sephardi Connection: Passover Haggadah This Sephardic Haggadah reveals some interesting Sephardic Seder customs, such as putting charoset near the entrance to the house at the end of the Seder for good luck.
  • Uncle Eli’s Most Fun Ever Haggadah for Kids This Haggadah is not traditional, but it is very fun. Uncle Eli’s Special-for-Kids Most Fun Ever Under-the-Table Passover Haggadah is written in Dr. Seuss style. Enjoy!
  • Virtual Cantor: Vocalized Haggadah Listen to the entire Passover Seder service. Virtual Cantor has vocalized the entire Haggadah in an effort to help those who are far removed from synagogues or ill. This vocalization is also helpful to those who want to become comfortable and independent with the liturgy.

JBuzz Features April 5, 2012: Passover Seders: 18 Haggadahs To Retell The Exodus Story

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Passover Seders: 18 Haggadahs To Retell The Exodus Story

Source: Huff Post, 4-5-12

Haggadah Passover

Why is this book different from all other books?

The Haggadah — a Jewish ritual book used on the holiday of Passover to tell the story of the biblical Exodus from Egypt — has some 7,000 iterations, reprinted and retranslated perhaps more than any other Jewish book.

This year, Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander published their “New American Haggadah” (as editor and translator, respectively) hoping to set the new standard for “intellectually and aesthetically satisfying” Haggadahs. The art, commentaries and new translation are remarkable, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the New American Haggadah is the timeline that runs across the top of each page, telling the history of the Jewish affair with this text.

The timeline — just like the Exodus from slavery — doesn’t end. Someday, there will be a New New American Haggadah. For now, though, there are thousands of versions to choose from. Here is a round up of some of the most interesting.

Birds’ Head Haggadah (1200s)

The earliest known illustrated Ashkenazi Haggadah, the Birds’ Head Haggadah gets its name from the fascinating depictions of humans with birds heads, thought to be a result of strict compliance to the Jewish prohibition against graven images.
The earliest known illustrated Ashkenazi Haggadah, the Birds’ Head Haggadah gets its name from the fascinating depictions of humans with birds heads, thought to be a result of strict compliance to the Jewish prohibition against graven images.

JBuzz Reviews April 5, 2012: Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander’s ‘New American Haggadah’

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Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander on their ‘New American Haggadah’

Source: The Takeaway, 4-5-12

The Haggadah, the Jewish religious text read at Passover, is 3,000 years old. It has been translated more than any Jewish book, from ancient times, to 14th-century Sarajevo, to the just-published “New American Haggadah.” The new version, edited by Jonathan Safran Foer and translated by Nathan Englander, began as a personal project for Jonathan. He started to realize how little he truly understood about his own belief system, and that many American Jews feel like immigrants to their own religion. “I went to Hebrew school, I was bar mitzvah’d, I’ve been to Israel a number of times, but as I started to work on this book, I realized that I really had to confront my ignorance, my lack of Jewish literacy.”

Nine years after the project began, Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander have constructed a new Haggadah, religious, yet modern, for the American Jews of their generation.

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Opinion

Why a Haggadah?

Oded Ezer, from “The New American Haggadah” (Little, Brown and Company, 2012)
By JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER

Source: NYT, 4-1-12

I SPENT much of the last several years working on a new Haggadah — the guidebook for the prayers, rituals and songs of the Seder — and am often asked why I would want to take time away from my own writing to invest myself in such a project.

All my life, my parents have hosted the Seder on the first night of Passover. As our family expanded, and as our definition of family expanded, we moved the ritual dinner from our dining room to our more spacious, mildewed basement. One table became many table-like surfaces pushed awkwardly together. I always knew Passover was approaching when my father would ask me to take the net off the ping-pong table. All were covered in once matching, stained tablecloths.

At each setting was a Haggadah that my parents had assembled by photocopying favorite passages from other Haggadot and, when the Foers finally got Internet access, by printing online sources. Why is this night different from all others? Because on this night copyright doesn’t apply.

In the absence of a stable homeland, Jews have made their home in books, and the Haggadah — whose core is the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt — has been translated more widely, and revised more often, than any other Jewish book. Everywhere Jews have wandered, there have been Haggadot — from the 14th-century Sarajevo Haggadah (which is said to have survived World War II under the floorboards of a mosque, and the siege of Sarajevo in a bank vault), to those made by Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses.

But of the 7,000 known versions, not to mention the countless homemade editions, there is one that is used more than all others combined. Since 1932, the Maxwell House Haggadah — as in the coffee company — has dominated American Jewish ritual….READ MORE

Jonathan Safran Foer is a novelist and editor of “New American Haggadah.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 1, 2012, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Why a Haggadah?.

Two Novelists Take on the Haggadah

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Nathan Englander, left, translated the liturgical text for the “New American Haggadah,” which Jonathan Safran Foer edited. Four writers contributed commentary.

Source: NYT, 3-9-12

AFTER a lengthy interview with President Obama in the Oval Office two weeks ago, Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the Atlantic, had one more question, and it had nothing to do with Iran.

Related

Jake Guevara/The New York Times

The new version of the text for the Seder liturgy.

The latest version courtesy of Maxwell House.

“I know this is cheesy …” Mr. Goldberg started, but before he could finish, the president interrupted him. “What, you have a book?” Mr. Obama asked. Turns out, Mr. Goldberg did, but “it’s not just any book,” he replied.

Mr. Goldberg reached into his briefcase and handed the president an advance copy of the “New American Haggadah,” a new translation of the Passover liturgy that was edited by Jonathan Safran Foer and contains commentary by Mr. Goldberg and other contemporary writers.

After thumbing through the sleek hardcover book, Mr. Obama looked up and asked wryly, “Does this mean that we can’t use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?”

Mr. Goldberg was impressed. “Way to deploy the inside-Jewish joke,” he later said. Since the 1930s, Maxwell House has printed more than 50 millions copies of its pamphlet-style version of the Haggadah. It has been the go-to choice at the Obamas’ White House Seders, though Mr. Goldberg hoped the president would consider using their version this time around.

In the end, the White House decided to stick with the Maxwell House next month. But the book’s advance buzz is an unlikely triumph for a version of a ritualistic text that was spearheaded by two lauded experimental novelists from Brooklyn, Mr. Foer and Nathan Englander.

“The Haggadah is the user’s manual for the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday, Passover, ” Mr. Foer said on “The Colbert Report” last Tuesday. “It’s one of the oldest continually told stories, and one of the most well-known across cultures.”…

One might assume that Mr. Foer’s version would end up being almost unrecognizably postmodern. A critical darling since his mid-20s, Mr. Foer, 35, has been celebrated and excoriated for his use of avant-garde literary devices in novels like “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” which ends with a 14-page flip book.

And starting out, that was the direction in which its creators were leaning. As Mr. Englander, who grew up in an Orthodox house on Long Island, put it, “I originally thought we’d be making some sort of hipster Haggadah.”

Indeed. The book’s minimalist design, by Oded Ezer, looks like a catalog for a MoMA typography exhibition, and the text is rendered both vertically (for the Exodus story) and horizontally (for commentary and a timeline). In place of storybook illustrations of Moses are abstract watercolor illustrations based on Hebrew typography.

The idea was to draw readers into the story and invite them to linger, since “the Haggadah must be the most skimmed book of all,” Mr. Foer said. After a pause, he added, “maybe Stephen Hawking’s ‘Brief History of Time’ beats it.”…READ MORE

A version of this article appeared in print on March 11, 2012, on page ST10 of the New York edition with the headline: Two Novelists Take On the Haggadah.

JBuzz Features April 4, 2012: Haggadah Guide: From the classic to the newfangled: haggadahs for Seders of every shape, size, and stripe

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On the Bookshelf

From the classic to the newfangled: haggadahs for Seders of every shape, size, and stripe

Source: Tablet Mag, 4-11-11

With thousands of haggadahs having been produced throughout history, and hundreds currently in print, how do you possibly choose? On the Bookshelf offers the following non-exhaustive primer.

Most refreshingly upfront about its goals: Robert Kopman’s 30 Minute Seder: The Haggadah That Blends Brevity With Tradition (30 Minute Seder, 2011). Who needs all that blah blah blah about Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah and Rabbi Tarfon? This haggadah isn’t appropriate, though, if your guests are the types to say, “What? It’s time to eat already? Can’t we please spend more time discussing whether there were 50, 200, or 250 plagues at the Red Sea?”

Least appropriate for a Seder in Lilongwe, Malawi: Yehuda Berg’s The Kabbalah Haggadah: Pesach Decoded (Kabbalah Publishing, 2009) would, it seems, be something of a faux pas over there this year.

Perfect if you find yourself in a Brewster’s Millions situation: For $18,000, the Premier Edition of The Szyk Haggadah gives you Arthur Szyk’s signature embossed in gilt on the cover, plus “22 carat gold tooling” throughout. Guaranteed to match your gold-plated karpas! For the non-insane, there are reasonably priced editions of Szyk’s 1930s anti-fascist allegorical masterpiece, such as The Szyk Haggadah: Freedom Illuminated (Abrams, 2011).

If your guests don’t like all these newfangled Seder elements: Take them back to the 15th century with The Washington Haggadah (Harvard, 2011), which offers a full-color reproduction of a manuscript illuminated in 1478 by a scribe named Joel ben Simeon (and which is named for its contemporary home, at the Library of Congress in D.C.).

The haggadah we’re still waiting for: When, when will Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander deliver that hipster haggadah they’ve promised? It tarries, but according to Amazon.com, it will finally arrive in October 2011: just in time for Thanksgiving! Next year in Park Slope, then?

Likely to disappoint the Shakespearean actors at the table: The intrepid Sue Fishkoff reports that the new edition of the Maxwell House Haggadah—the haggadah of choice of the Obama White House—includes, for the first time since 1934, an updated translation that has removed all those fusty faux-Renaissance linguistic touches we’ve all gotten used to, like “thee” and “thou.” Alas, alack! How art we supposed to worshippeth our Lord in just plain American English?

If you believe that the Holocaust should be invoked at every Jewish public event: A Passover Haggadah (Simon & Schuster, 1993) features Mark Podwal’s drawings and Elie Wiesel’s commentary and poems, which link the ritual to recent historical trauma: “A camp./ An inmate. … It is night,/ The first night of Passover. … The parable of Had Gadya is misleading:/ God will not come/ To slay the slaughterer.”

For big families who don’t understand the idea of economy of scale: If all you want is the traditional, Orthodox text, Artscroll’s Family Haggadah (Artscroll, 1981) is a bargain: only $3.59 a copy, bound in sumptuous-sounding leatherette (or $2.24 with a laminated paper cover). But it seems that somebody’s tam son must be responsible for the price on the slipcovered, leatherette set of eight, which costs $33.29 (that is, $4.16 per copy), as if to punish those who buy in bulk.

Good for fans of chanting: Eliahu Klein’s A Mystical Haggadah: Passover Meditations, Teachings, and Tales (North Atlantic Books, 2008) includes “a mystical meditation” before most of the rituals, drawn from the Zohar or from such gurus as the Rashash. These, along with anecdotes about the Hassidic masters and a dash of playful gematria, help Seder-goers in “achieving cosmic consciousness.”

For those who actually do want to tell the story of the Exodus, over and over, until the break of dawn: A Passover Haggadah: Go Forth and Learn (JPS, 2011) comes equipped with the extensive commentaries of Rabbi David Silber. The founder of the Drisha Institute in New York, Silber knows a thing or two about Jewish textual study and offers enough textual readings to keep you talking until the sun comes up.

Looks sharpest in your NPR tote bag: Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families (HarperCollins, March) allows you to greet Elijah alongside Cokie and Steven Roberts. The book comes to you straight from the D.C. intelligentsia, and brims with optimistic religious pluralism: as its authors told Vox Tablet a couple weeks back, Passover is by far the most Jesus-friendly of the Jewish holidays (blood libels notwithstanding).

For the tikkun olam crowd: Last year’s In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah (Devora Publishing, 2010) features a forward by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin praising the Joint Distribution Committee for its outreach to threatened Jews all over the world, plus commentaries by Ari Goldman—but it’s the photographs of Seders across the globe, from Yemen to Lithuania, that make an impression.

If you have a favorite Orthodox superstar rabbi: Then he has a haggadah for you, whether it’s Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Haggadah (Contiuum, 2007), or Norman Lamm’s The Royal Table (Orthodox Union, 2010), or The Carlebach Haggadah: Seder Night With Reb Shlomo (Urim, 2001), or Seder Night: An Exalted Evening (Orthodox Union, 2009), which includes “commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.”

Closest you’ll get to a Family Circus or Marmaduke haggadah: Richard Codor’s Joyous Haggadah (Loose Line Productions, 2008) features an energetic comic strip retelling of the Exodus—nothing cries out for the Sunday Funnies treatment like the Death of the Firstborn, right?—plus, charmingly, the Four Sons as performed by the Marx Brothers.

Most appropriate for a Seder fueled by psychotropic drugs: Newly available for shipping to the United States, Asher Kalderon’s Haggadah (Urim, 2011) features the artist’s lush, gradient-shaded images, which have all the trippy verve of 1960s rock posters.

Josh Lambert, a Tablet Magazine contributing editor and comedy columnist, is the academic director of the National Yiddish Book Center and Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

JBuzz News April 3, 2012: Elon University: New Jewish studies minor unites courses into comprehensive study of culture

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Elon University: New Jewish studies minor unites courses into comprehensive study of culture

Source: Elon Pendulum, 4-3-12

It was during his first semester on campus that sophomore Mason Sklut discovered his interest in Jewish history and culture. Now, with the addition of a new program in Jewish studies, Sklut will graduate with a minor in the topic he loves.

Professor Geoffrey Claussen has been instrumental in the creation of the Jewish Studies Program. File photo by Julia Sayers.

“My first semester, I took Jewish Traditions with Michael Pregill, where I learned about how Judaism has become what it is today,” Sklut said. “Going back thousands of years in this class and discovering the ancient roots of my religion was an incredible experience for me.”

Sklut has taken multiple additional courses about Judaism and said he is fascinated with the diversity of the religion. The new program offers students an interdisciplinary minor tracing the culture and history of the religion.

“In many courses, it’s seeing how the community, generally throughout history, functioning as a minority group, related to other surrounding communities,” said Geoffrey Claussen, assistant professor of religious studies. “Being able to trace the very diverse experiences of the community through very different times and places is what the minor seeks to encourage.”

Claussen, who arrived at the university in the fall and has been instrumental in the formation of the program, said it seeks to unite a range of courses — including religious studies, foreign language, philosophy and sociology, among others — to illustrate the complexity and diversity of the Jewish communities.

Students interested in obtaining the minor must complete 20 credit hours, four in Jewish Traditions and the others from a selection of more than 35 course offerings.

Claussen said he has already spoken to some students who have fulfilled some of the requirements for the minor.

It is important for all students at Elon to have the opportunity to be exposed to religious diversity, and to explore further into traditions that they may be unfamiliar with.
– Junior Diana Abrahams

“Some students have had in mind over the last year that this was probably coming up, and they have planned ahead to some degree,” he said. “Or, just because of their own academic interests, some students have ended up taking many of the required courses.”

Junior Diana Abrahams will have completed all 20 credits by the end of the spring based on courses she was already enrolled in. Abrahams, who is Jewish, said she enjoys engaging in conversation about her religion.

“It is important for all students at Elon to have the opportunity to be exposed to religious diversity, and to explore further into traditions that they may be unfamiliar with,” she said.

Academic interest in Jewish studies has increased in North America in recent years, Claussen said, and the creation of such a program at Elon is beneficial to the university.

“Jewish families considering Elon have asked in recent years about whether there will be a Jewish studies program, and this program helps to make Elon attractive to that whole group of students,” Claussen said. “And this includes students who may not necessarily choose to minor in Jewish studies, but who want to know that the college supports taking the Jewish experience seriously as part of the liberal arts education.”

JBuzz News April 2, 2012: Magnes Collection for Jewish Art and Life Merger with UC Berkeley Has Its Costs

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Magnes Merger Has Its Costs

Source: NY Jewish Week, 4-2-12

The Magnes Collection, founded 50 years ago, has the largest 
collection of archives of Jews in the American West.

The Magnes Collection, founded 50 years ago, has the largest collection of archives of Jews in the American West.

Partnership with UC-Berkeley seen mostly as a boon but questions linger about prized collection’s independence.

The new home of the Magnes Collection for Jewish Art and Life, a Bay Area institution renowned for its archives of material relating to Jews in the American West, displays all the museum’s ambition.

Prominently situated just off the main campus of UC-Berkeley, with which it merged in 2010, it has all the hallmarks of a cutting-edge building: sleek wooden displays made from local re-salvaged elm; floor-to-ceiling glass walls allowing glimpses into the museum’s vast collection of Judaica, the third largest in North America; and a spacious hall for lectures and functions, as well dance, theater and art.

“In the museum model, this accessibility was much harder to achieve,” said Alla Efimova, the Magnes’ director, referring to the collection’s past focus on being more of an art museum than a research and educational facility, as it now primarily sees itself. “The new design was about making the collection accessible and encouraging work with the collection,” she said.

Few doubt that the Magnes’ merger and new home will vastly increase its use, but museum watchers agree that the move comes with some significant costs. Already, Berkeley classes for Jewish studies courses are held weekly in its building. Scholars like Jeffrey Shandler, a professor at Rutgers, are planning not only to use the Magnes’ enormous archives for research, but also to create innovate exhibits based on them.

Not long ago, Shandler began talking with the Magnes’ chief curator, Francesco Spagnolo, about using the archives for a project — likely a book or article — on the Jewish fascination with list making. “He said, ‘This would make a great exhibit,’” Shandler recounted. Now, with the Magnes’ new home having a centrally located gallery, that exhibit is underway, set to open some time later this year.

The new building has been a boon for artists like Emmanuel Witzhum, an Israeli artist-in-residence at Berkeley. He had no plans for an exhibit at the Magnes when he applied to Berkeley, but the museum approached him about exhibiting work. “It was perfect,” he said, “They immediately got the idea.”

Founded 50 years ago by the Bronx-born Jewish educator, Seymour Fromer, the Magnes’ ambitions always exceeded the realities of being a small Jewish museum. Over the years, Fromer and his wife, Rebecca Camhi Fromer, amassed not only the largest archive of Jewish American Western history, but also a treasure trove of exotic Judaica.

Some of the highlights are on view at the Magnes’ inaugural exhibit, titled “The Magnes Effect: Five Decades of Collection.” There is a 19th-century purple velvet wedding dress from Rhodes; a sword given by the Ottoman rulers of Palestine to the Jewish developer, who, in 1892, financed the road connecting Jaffa to Jerusalem; even a century-old ketubah from the Jewish community in Kochi, India.

All these holdings were hard to display in its former home, a cramped residential house in Berkeley, where the museum had been since 1966. “Even Google maps had a hard time giving directions on how to get there,” said Spagnolo, the Magnes’ chief curator.

The Magnes’ new building, along with its merger with Berkeley, has been widely praised by scholars, fundraisers and museum directors alike. As an independent institution until its merger in 2010, the Magnes had limited staff and hours, and found it difficult to preserve and organize its archives. Now that the heart of its collection — the documents of the Jewish American West — sit in the Bancroft Library on campus, accessing them will be considerably easier for scholars.

Moreover, the renovated new building — at 25,000 square feet, roughly three times the size of the collection’s former home — enables it to house 80 percent of its exotic collection of Judaica in-house, not, as it had in the past, in an off-site storage facility. By taking over administrative costs, Berkeley has also cut the Magnes’ annual operating budget in half. Instead of roughly $2 million a year to operate, it will now cost just under $1 million.

But the changes come at a price. Merging the Magnes with a much larger, and secular, institution like Berkeley was never part of Fromer’s vision. He died in 2009, before the decision was made. And the merger only highlights the mishaps and difficult choices the Magnes has had to make simply in order to survive.

“In an ideal situation, it could have remained independent,” said Fred Rosenbaum, another leading scholar of the Jewish American and the West. While acknowledging the ultimate benefits of the merger, he couldn’t help but lament the decision.

“Just a minor caveat,” he said: “There was something wonderful about the old Magnes. There was a kind of feeling in the air of being a part of something special. Now it will be highly efficient, but it won’t have the warmth, the intangible, of being a highly creative independent Jewish institution.”

Perhaps the most important sacrifice Magnes made was the relinquishment of the central item that made it famous in the first place: its collection of Jewish archives of the West. The include the papers of the Haas family, an original owner of Levi Strauss and Company, and many founders of the Bay Area’s Jewish community. All of those documents have been moved to the Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, itself a renowned institution with one of the largest collections of materials relating to the American West.

Many scholars of Jewish history think this is good for Jewish scholarship.

“I think it’s great — it’s better than good,” said Marc Dollinger, chair of the Jewish studies department at San Francisco State University and a leading scholar of Jews in the American West. “It’s better to house [the Jewish West documents] at a research library; it’s more accessible to a wider audience.”

But few deny that the merger was one made out of dire need. A series of inopportune choices, including a hasty merger with the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in 2002 (that ended a year later), and the purchase of two new buildings — one just before the dot-com crash in 2000, another before the 2008 recession — left the Magnes badly damaged….READ MORE