11/02/2010 | | Lens

When word began to spread that she was organizing a workshop involving snakes, tolerance and Jewish values, the idea sounded wonderful to some people and terrible to others, says Vivian Stadlin, whose event took place Sunday at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.

“Snakes play a role in many of our stories,” beginning with Genesis, she notes, adding that they’re often the source of trouble and symbolize evil speech.

10/26/2010 | | Lens

If someone in Israel were to ask why this knight was not like all other knights last week, the answer was simple: the knights of Alik Gershon, a Ukrainian-born grandmaster chess player, were joined over 18 hours by hundreds of fellow chess pieces. Including 1,050 other knights, 525 kings and 4,200 pawns.

10/19/2010 | | Lens

Usually, it takes about a year to write a Torah scroll.

Usually, it costs in the neighborhood of $10,000-$30,000 to write a Torah scroll.

Usually, a Torah scroll is written by a single scribe.

Usually, that scribe is a male.

The ceremony that dedicated and welcomed a new sefer Torah last week at Kadima Reconstructionist Community, a worship group in Seattle, was not usual.

10/12/2010 | | Lens

In Jewish lore, Hadrian, a Roman emperor 20 centuries ago, was bad news. He built a large temple to the goddess Venus in Jerusalem, and another one dedicated to the worship of Jupiter on the ruins of the destroyed Second Temple. He abolished circumcision and brutally quashed the Bar Kochba revolt, continuing to persecute Jews and Judaism.

Last week the name Hadrian was good news.

10/05/2010 | | Lens

‘No monument stands over Babi Yar.”

So starts Yevgeni Yevtushenko’s epic 1961 poem about the then-unknown killing field near Kiev.

The world largely did not know that the Nazis, aided by compliant Ukrainian police, slaughtered 33,771 Jews in a ravine during two days at the end of September 1941, the largest number of Jews who lost their lives in a single Final Solution operation.

09/28/2010 | | Lens

On Sukkot this week, if you were looking for a standard sukkah, the place to go was Union Square. Chabad Loft, which serves part of downtown Manhattan, put up a 500-square-foot wooden hut, above, with cedar branches atop, where volunteers from the Lubavitch chasidic movement provided meals and snacks and the chance to shake the Four Species.