Of all the holidays in the Jewish calendar, Purim is the most theatrical. Throughout the ages, Jewish communities worldwide have naturally performed the story in different ways, in accordance with their own native theatrical traditions. In 18th-century Prague, since itinerant puppeteers provided much of the entertainment seen by the common people, a marionette version of “Queen Esther” was one of the hits of the day.
Mass gatherings of Israeli youth known as "raves," may bring to mind a besotted Bacchanalia, but a proponent of the popular celebrations says present a spiritual side of Israeli life that can combat the negative images being broadcast from the region.
Franz Kafka displayed theatrical flair from an early age, composing plays for his three younger sisters to perform. Cabarets and other popular entertainment fascinated him as a young man, and Kafka was especially influenced by the Yiddish theater, an emerging art form in prewar Prague: where he spent most of his short life.
For those who were spared the horrors of the Holocaust, the events that made up the Nazis' Final Solution persist as a collage of black-and-white images: documentary photographs taken by the Nazis to record their horrific achievements or film footage taken by the Allies as evidence of the tragedy they encountered at liberation. Even Steven Spielberg's cinematic rendering, "Schindler's List," preserved the duotone palette of historical Holocaust memory.
Twelve elderly Jews gather at the grave of an esteemed rabbi in Prague; they plot to consolidate their power and sow global unrest. Their words ultimately conjure up the Devil himself. The stuff of ghost stories? Perhaps, but this nefarious legend is source material for one of the most potent pieces of propaganda in the anti-Semitic arsenal, "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion."
In 1971, Ronald Brown visited Prague for the first time and was disturbed by what he saw at the famous 500-year-old Charles Bridge: a centuries-old crucifixion statue framed by one of Judaism's most sacred prayers. The then-25-year-old rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College was upset by the symbolism of the Hebrew inscription in relation to the cross. The quote was taken from the prophet Isaiah ("Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts") which the angels chant to praise God, according to Jewish tradition.
The return of Jewish property in Europe seized by the Nazis made progress on two fronts this week, in Poland and in the Czech Republic.
In the Czech Republic, a bill to return Jewish property and art confiscated during the Nazi occupation awaits the signature of the president after being approved by the Senate last week.
Under the measure, land holdings and buildings seized between Sept. 29, 1938 and May 8, 1945 now owned by the state would be returned to Jews or their heirs.
Prague, Czech Republic — Pavel Dostal could hardly contain his anger. The nattily attired Czech minister of culture sat in his conference room, arms folded and jaw tight, as he explained how he felt betrayed by the Jewish community he was trying to help.
Dostal, bearing a resemblance to Kurt Vonnegut and dressed in gray bow tie, matching silk shirt and jacket, spoke with reserved bitterness last week while relating through a translator how he had become the victim of a worldwide misinformation campaign by the haredi and Orthodox Jewish communities.
Prague, Czech Republic — Under gray, rainy skies, dozens of curious onlookers huddled together Wednesday to watch the unveiling of a new addition to the gleaming centuries-old crucifixion statue overlooking the historic Charles Bridge — the first in more than 300 years.
And some hope it could signal improved relations between the city’s Christians and its small, struggling Jewish community.
Hers was a busy home while Hadassah Freilich was growing up in Gardener, Mass. With her father the rabbi of an Orthodox synagogue and her mother busy in the community, young Hadassah grew up with a sure sense that Jews took care of others. That if someone was hungry, you fed him.