There’s a lively contradiction at work in Basya Schechter’s music. On the one hand, as the singer-songwriter and leader of Pharaoh’s Daughter says, “I love the pentatonic scales; they’re sweet and mournful and yearning.” On the other hand, as her excellent new album, “Dumiyah” (Magenta), reminds a listener, one of the great strengths of her music is the clarity, poise and above all, the simplicity with which she sings, a vocal sound that is stripped of ornamentation and the fake emotion that mars much contemporary music.
On the eve of 5775, more than 50 Jewish thought leaders and communal activists from around the country gathered at a retreat near Baltimore last week for 48 hours to talk about whatever was on their mind. Not surprisingly, their frank discussions covered a wide range of themes and interests. But bottom-line, the common thread was a deep concern about Jewish unity — more precisely, the lack of it — over the policies of the State of Israel, and the denominational divides that underscore the dearth of religious and communal leadership at home.
Premier of 10 new plays expands conversation on Jewish identity.
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The 2013 Pew Research's Center's "Portrait of Jewish Americans" painted a rather gloomy picture, reporting 22 percent of Jews describe themselves as having "no religion." However, PEW-ish, an unusual new project designed to expand the conversation about Jewish identity, has decided to take a more proactive approach--on the stage.
Two opposing trends can be discerned within today’s American Jewish community. The first is the move to precisely define the borders and boundaries between various Jewish denominations and religious groups. On the pages of this newspaper and elsewhere, there are debates about what precisely constitutes Open, Modern, or Ultra Orthodoxy, and where exactly the boundary is between Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. On social media, this splintering and boundary-setting is even more pronounced as quasi-denominational labels like Egalitarian Traditional, Left-Wing Conservative and Modern Ultra-Orthodox proliferate.
On the coldest day this month, I stepped onto Brighton Beach and contemplated my identity. I am not a member of the Polar Bear Club. I hate being cold! Rather, I was participating in a “Casual Conversation” in the warmth of the lobby of the JCC in Manhattan.
A few weeks ago, my husband passed me the New York Times and said, "You should definitely read this article on page 11." I saw the headline, "Poll Shows Major Shift in Identity of U.S. Jews," and my heart sank. I knew which direction it was going. Down. That was my first reaction, before I read everyone’s responses to the study; the reactions fell into the “mea culpa” camp.
New York author spends 18 months exploring, here and in Israel, the meaning of Jewish identity.
At first glance, a children’s book about Crypto-Jews in the Southwest, which tells the story of descendants of Spanish Inquisition survivors who clandestinely pass along some Jewish traditions within the religious freedom of the United States, would seem to have little in common with the adult life of Theodore Ross, a Jewish New Yorker.
If I were hard-pressed to describe the state of American Jewish life today in 10 words or less, I surely couldn’t top Steven M. Cohen’s assessment: “We are demographically distressed and culturally creative.”