Daniel Schifrin

Chumash As Cognitive Dissonance

04/26/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

Is the Torah true? Does the God of Exodus really exist? And if the answer is no, is it a theological catastrophe or business as usual?

These existential questions underlie the striking range of newspaper commentaries on the Conservative movement's impressive new Chumash, Etz Chaim, its first new publication of the Torah and Haftorah readings since the 1930s.

The Art of Tikkun Olam

06/25/2008
Special To The Jewish Week

It’s not often that one visits a contemporary art installation, opens up the comment book, and reads the following: “First of all, I am a broken vessel, a victim of abuse, and I am in the process of healing.” Or: “Today, June 8, makes 7 years since I lost my wife.” Other entries include promises to help woman held in sexual bondage, or work with local schools to improve the quality of education.

A Tale Of Two Fictions

08/23/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

Israelis live a bifurcated existence. On the one hand they wearily read the morning paper, always knowing someone who is affected by a bomb, or the closing of businesses caused by the bomb. On the other hand, they go to bed dreaming of childhoods in Toronto or Paris or Arad, worrying about unfinished paintings, or remembering a first kiss behind the chicken coop near the abandoned kibbutz.

Reading New York City

07/26/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

Probably my favorite subgenre of literature is that of "the walker in the city," books in which people saunter or stroll through New York City, experiencing themselves changing and growing as they come to understand the physical and metaphysical infrastructure of New York. Among my favorites of these books are Henry Roth's "Call it Sleep," Alfred Kazin's "A Walker in the City," and the collected comic strips of Ben Katchor.

Soccer And Sabras

06/28/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

I began playing soccer with my Israeli father when I was 5, just after the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Perhaps it was just coincidence, my physical coordination having then reached the point of being able to kick a ball the size of my torso around a patch of grass. But at some point I began to link my father's insistence on his son's physical self-sufficiency with his existential dread of what might happen to Israel.

Calling All Jewish Superheroes

05/24/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

I recently experienced the Hollywood blockbuster "Spider-Man," and was delighted to see mild-mannered Queens high school student Peter Parker turn himself into a crime-fighting superhero. Jews invented the modern superhero 60 years ago, developing the concept of a well-intentioned but unempowered person transformed through accident into a powerhouse. Their creations (Superman, Spiderman and the like) are descendents of the golem, which was created to protect Jews from pogroms.

Chumash As Cognitive Dissonance

04/26/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

Is the Torah true? Does the God of Exodus really exist? And if the answer is no, is it a theological catastrophe or business as usual?

These existential questions underlie the striking range of newspaper commentaries on the Conservative movement's impressive new Chumash, Etz Chaim, its first new publication of the Torah and Haftorah readings since the 1930s.

The Gift Of Stories

10/24/2003
Special To The Jewish Week

Just after Yom Kippur, I sat down with acclaimed storyteller Joel ben Izzy to talk about his new memoir, "The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness" (Algonquin). At the heart of his riveting book is the story of how he lost his voice due to complications from throat surgery. Assuming his muteness to be permanent, ben Izzy sees his life's work coming to an end, and visits his mentor, Lenny, a cantankerous recluse, to find some answers. Lenny, to ben Izzy's astonishment, sees his affliction as a blessing.

The Lessons Of Chagall

08/22/2003
Special To The Jewish Week

Floating above the earth now like one of his weightless figures, Marc Chagall might look kindly on the recent renaissance of American Jewish culture. The mixing of Jewish motifs and secular styles; the combination of biblical themes and contemporary events; the use of playfulness to recover, even after last century's tragedy, the joie de vivre of the Jewish folk: the Russian painter's colorful, surreal, shtetl-inspired work is a model for Jews now creating inspiring Jewish lives while still being firmly connected to secular culture.

Writing From The Edge

07/25/2003
Special To The Jewish Week

Several years ago, when Philip Roth's novel "Portnoy's Complaint" turned 25, I spent a few days in the New York Public Library researching the Jewish community's reaction to the book. I discovered that the response to it (as well as to the stories in "Goodbye, Columbus," which appeared a few years earlier) was a combination of rage and puzzlement. The level of shock and hurt expressed by community leaders was less surprising to me, though, than the unanimity of response.

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