2011

The Year That Was

A look back at 2011, from Anthony Weiner to Gilad Shalit to Occupy Judaism.

12/27/2011

The following is a review of the news highlights of 2011.

January

Jews worldwide mourn the passing of Debbie Friedman, a popular singer and songwriter who is widely credited with reinvigorating synagogue music and best known for her composition “Mi Shebeirach,” a prayer for healing that is sung in many North American congregations.

Philip Glass Occupies Lincoln Center -- and His Own Opera, "Satyagraha"

Tonight is a big one for Philip Glass, the iconic Jewish composer who turns 75 next month.  It will be the last night of the Met staging of Glass' Gandhi opera, "Satyagraha," and Glass will also be there -- to protest it.  Glass announced on his website this week that he will be joining Occupy Wall Street's planned "Occupy Lincoln Center" protest outsi

The Jewish Questions Meets The Shostakovich Question

My colleague George Robinson wrote an insightful piece on the upcoming "Babi Yar" symphony being performed by the New York Philharmonic this weekend.  I've never heard the symphony in full, but I look forward to hearing it this Thursday night.

Notes from the Grave: Saul Bellow's Unpublished Jewish Lecture

“Saul Bellow: Letters” had plenty of un-read Jewish material in it when it appeared last year. But apparently it didn’t have the astounding lecture “A Jewish Writer in America,” published for the first time in the New York Review of Books this week.

Maurice Sendak: On Jews, Death, and "The Bulls--t of Innocence"

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the author of the classic, sepulchral children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” has something of a potty-mouth.  But still it feels like one.  Maurice Sendak, the 83-year-old author of “Wild Things, as well as a new children’s book, “Bumble-Ardy,” his umpteenth, gave what is to my mind one of the best interviews I’ve read in a long time. Anywhere.

"Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die" -- And Who Wrote the Greatest Prayer Ever?

Most people look forward to the "Kol Nidre" prayer as the high point of the High Holy Days.  Not me.  I'm an "Unetanah Tokef" fan, the central prayer of the Rosh Hashanah service.  You probably know it -- it's the one with lines like "Who shall live and who shall die," "Who shall perish by water and who by fire / Who by sword and who by wild beast." (I'll past the whole thing at the end of this blog.) But few people pause to consider its origins or its real meaning.  To be honest, I haven't ruminated on those things

Are Rabbis Giving Up on Israel? A Provocative New Study

The Conservative movement recently conducted a survey of hundreds of its rabbis and the results are in: on the whole, they're as committed to Israel as they've ever been, although younger rabbis have more liberal views about the state than they've used to.  The purpose behind this survey is clear: to assure anxious Jewish leaders that, contra the skeptics, Israel remains as vital a part of Jewish life as ever.

Elisabeth Badinter: The Celebrity French Intellectual Every Jew (And Feminist) Should Know

If you don't know who Bernard Henri-Levy is, don't worry.  There's a new celebrity French intellectual you should know: Elisabeth Badinter.  She's an older feminist who recently became a celebrity in France with her trenchant new book attacking other feminists' views.  And like BHL, she's Jewish.

A Tale of Two Cities: Jews vs. Hispanics and Blacks, New York City

New York magazine has a great chart comparing two adjacent New York City congressional districts in this week's issue.  One is District 14, which includes all of the Upper East Side, parts of Murray Hill, Long Island City, Astoria, and a few other less affluent places too.  The other is District 16, just north of the Upper East Side, and covers much of the South Bronx. The stats they line up are startling: the average income in District 14 is $79,385; in D-16 it's $23,073.

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