Jewish life

Outside the Mikveh

For this husband, the mikveh is all about waiting

Special to the Jewish Week
09/08/2010

I sat waiting for her on a bench on a traffic island situated between the northbound and southbound lanes of Broadway, about a block away from the Upper West Side mikveh. Wearing my Shabbat clothes, with a yarmulke on my head, I felt self-conscious, acutely aware of the questions I would ask if I saw someone like me, openly Orthodox, sitting and watching the traffic at the onset of Shabbat when I should have been in shul davening.

New Bath House, built by JDC. Sochaczew, Poland. 1921–1923. PHOTO: AMERICAN JEWISH JOINT DISTRIBUTION COMMITTEE

Standing on One Foot

The Talmudic sage Hillel was more radical and welcoming than many realize.

Special to the Jewish Week
09/08/2010

I was sitting with a rabbinic friend swapping stories about our lives and our work. He started talking about an encounter he had recently had: “A Jewish man, probably in his early 30s, and his non-Jewish girlfriend came to speak with me. They want to marry, but his parents are dead-set against their only son marrying a gentile.

Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein

Renewing Judaism: Rabbi Telushkin on Hillel

09/08/2010

TEXT/CONTEXT: According to the sages, Hillel died exactly 2,000 years ago, in the year 10. In what sense do you see him as a figure of the future as well as the past?

A Theology of Rain

Facing the uncertainty of water.

Special to the Jewish Week
09/08/2010

I never gave much thought to the significance of rain until I moved to Miami. Rabbis in Miami face the High Holiday season with more than the usual rabbinic anxiety. In South Florida, the High Holiday season coincides with hurricane season. In the last three years of Florida living, I have reflected often on the ways in which Judaism invests rain with religious meaning. Prayers for rain mark the culmination of the High Holiday season.

Jewish refugee aboard the S.S. Serpa Pinto, en route to New York from Portugal, c1943. PHOTO: AMERICAN JEWISH JOINT DISTRIBUTION

Oasis Fruit

Jujubes once took center stage at Algerian Rosh HaShanah celebrations.

Special to the Jewish Week
09/08/2010

The French-Algerian author Albert Bensoussan remembered a clear moment from his childhood during Rosh HaShanah. His mother, busily shopping in the Arab marketplace, let go of his hand for a brief moment. Little Albert was lost, with a cone-shaped news-paper filled with jujubes (pronounced juJOOB) in hand. To the young Algerian boy, jujubes were equivalent with Jews, right down to the alphabetical resonance.

Grosser, Krivoi Rog district, Ukraine, c. 1930. PHOTO: AMERICAN JEWISH JOINT DISTRIBUTION COMMITTEE

Bread and Water

The ritual of Tashlich brings together all kinds of Jews and all kinds of sins.

Special to the Jewish Week
09/08/2010

It’s a glorious late summer/early fall evening in Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The setting sun smiles like in a 6-year-old’s art-work, dappling the surface of the lazily flowing Hudson. Cottony clouds slowly turn crimson. And the park promenade is thronged four and five deep—with Jews.

Tashlich, Šiauliai, 1930s. FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE YIVO INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH RESEARCH, NEW YORK.

H2Blow

in producing Jewish music, trombonist Rafi Malkiel found inspiration in water.

Special to the Jewish Week
09/08/2010

When John Zorn invited the Israeli trombonist and composer Rafi Malkiel to record an album exploring his Jewish roots for Zorn’s Tzadik label, Malkiel was delighted. He was also stumped. “I don’t know how to do Jewish music,” Malkiel told me; which is ironic, because he seems to know how to do everything else, from straight-ahead jazz to Middle Eastern music and salsa.

Being Ruth Gruber

The pioneering, nonagenarian Jewish journalist is a perfect documentary subject; fortunately, the film landed the perfect director as well.

09/08/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Ruth Gruber, the subject of a wonderfully economical and crisp documentary, "Ahead of Time," is a magnificent one-of-a-kind figure in 20th-century Jewish history. Gruber is the product of, she recounts with a grin, "a shtetl called Brooklyn. … Everybody there was Jewish." She was a prodigy who entered New York University at 15 and earned a doctorate from the University of Cologne at 20. But the attractions of the academy couldn't compete with the turmoil of worldwide economic depression, the New Deal at home and the rise of Fascism in Europe.

Ruth Gruber

Editor’s Note

Editor
09/08/2010

I write this with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the roar of the waves breaking at the shore. It’s a soothing sound, even as it hints of danger. Water is both gentle and fierce, creative and destructive, as we’ve seen with this summer’s flooding in the Indus Valley of Pakistan, washing away precious lives and displacing millions of people.

JILL NATHANSON. In Our Image, by Our Likeness, Courtesy of Messineo Art Projects/Wyman Contemporary

Reeling In Brooklyn’s Sabras

Park Slope Reform temple is first in area to target reticent Israelis with outreach effort.

09/07/2010
Staff Writer

In a Brooklyn coffeehouse one day this summer, Isabel Burton, a 30-year-old native of London, discussed local social activism opportunities with a 40something Jewish woman who lives in the borough. What issues move you, “what keeps you up at night?” Burton asked.

Beth Elohim’s Rabbi Andy Bachman: “So much Israeliness we have not tapped.”
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