Jewish

The Oscars and Me: On "Pina" and Other Hopefuls

From a Jewish point of view, the Oscar nominees announced this week gave a lot to be excited about.  There was Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar’s nomination for best foreign film, with “Footnote,” about an intellectual feud between father and son, both Talmudic scholars.  There was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel about 9/11.  And there was “In Darkness,” another nomination for best

Mahler's Ninth at 100: The New York Phil Gives It Its Due

Gustav Mahler was Jewish though not religious.  Yet he was superstitious.  When he began composing his ninth symphony, in 1908, he refused to name it by its number.  Many of his artistic heroes—Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner—died before they could finish their ninth symphonies, so Mahler thought he would out-do fate and simply call it by another name.  He dubbed it “Das Lied von der Erde,” and its one of his best.

Athens and Jerusalem: The Case for Knowing the Classics

In our secular, liberal age, the Bible and the classics often get a bad rap.  The Bible represents everything modernity is not—free inquiry, divested of hoary beliefs—while the classics are often snidely dismissed as the hubristic fantasies of aging, if not already dead white males.

How Do You Spell Hanukkah?

The #1 question during Hanukkah is: What is the correct way to spell the name of this holiday? As I blogged about last year, "Since it's a Hebrew word that is transliterated into English, there are several acceptable spellings. But people still want to know if there is a consensus."

There are so many spellings of Hanukkah. Which one's the most common?

Have Yourself a Hitchensonian Chanukah

I’m sure Christopher Hitchens would have no problem with me, an admirer, taking him to task for a shoddy piece he wrote about Chanukah a few years ago in Slate.  Hitchens, the eloquent atheist and polemicist, who died last week, at 62, had no problem with criticism.

The Military and Me: Or, How Jews Changed the Army and the Civil War

I recently started reading Eric Foner’s “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery,” which won a Pulitzer this year.  It’s a subtle yet fast-moving narrative about Lincoln’s evolution from a man merely averse to slavery to the one who would abolish the institution forever in America. Slavery in America is inexhaustible topic for historians, but a subject harder to come by is Jews in America, at least before the late 19th century.

The Ravitch Switch: Searching for Answers to the Radical Transformation of Education Critic Diane Ravitch

Ever since her fierce polemic against the school reform movement, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” which came out last year, Diane Ravitch has become a ubiquitous voice in the raging education debate.  It is not only because her writing is so cogent and ostensibly fact-driven, but also because her striking transformation—from one-time school reform champion, to sudden critic—that she has turned many heads.

The Ravitch Switch: Searching for Answers to the Radical Transformation of Education Critic Diane Ravitch

Ever since her fierce polemic against the school reform movement, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” which came out last year, Diane Ravitch has become an ubiquitous voice in the raging education debate.  It is not only because her writing is so cogent and ostensibly fact-driven, but also because her striking transformation—from one-time school reform champion, to sudden critic—that she has turned many heads.

The Nazis and Spielberg: The Coming Storm

Nothing quite gets the public going like a Spielberg movie.  Even if you hate his movies (not that I do), it's hard to avoid the excitement they engender. Especially come Christmas.  This year, Spielberg's big holiday release, you may have heard, is "The Adventures of Tintin," an animated 3D film about the legendary children's book.  And this year, I'm predicting a minor controversy about it.

Jewish Day Schools and Technology: Trying to Strike the Right Balance

I still remember the time in 1st grade when my father brought our Apple II Plus into the classroom in an effort to show my classmates the wonders of Turtle Graphics. It was 1982 and each little 1st grader waited in line to get a chance to touch the odd looking keyboard and try to make the little turtle move. My father beamed with pride as he watched each child get their three-minute opportunity to try to program the blinking green turtle cursor to move across the black screen.

Technology in the schools has advanced from blackboards and graphing paper to SMART Boards and tablets.
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