New York

Day Schools Facing New Dilemma

Associate Editor

With Jewish day schools reeling from a statewide test revealing that more than half of their fourth-graders failed to meet state reading standards, Jewish schools are now being confronted by a new test ó but only for principals and with only one question:Will the strategy be to improve academically, or to simply exclude those students who might drag down the scores?That question was posed by Rabbi Martin Schloss, director of school services for the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York.ìMy great fear is that some of schools that didnít do well will become overly

The Last Kaddish

Staff Writer

An ethereal chasidic melody is sung in a small room by a minyan waiting for evening prayer. Yakov B., having led the afternoon prayer as mourners will, and having said the final Kaddish of his mournful year, now sits in a pew, closing his eyes. On waves of the wordless tune, his soul slips from earthly mooring; he has an inner vision: He is at a family simcha, the end of something. His father, for whom Yakov was saying Kaddish, looked young, beatific, in the middle of a circle dance.

The Velvet Inquisition

Staff Writer

An urban legend going around the community says that a major rabbi placed a curse upon the Kennedy family, unto the end of generations, because Ambassador Joseph Kennedy was not a hard-liner about Hitler. Kennedyís son died fighting Hitler, but no matter: the curse was on. To many Jews, this eternal curse makes perfect sense.Other Jews refuse to say a kind word about Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Holocaust. He led the war against Hitler?

The Search For Meaning

Associate Editor

The existential problems of synagogue worship, let alone the more terrestrial problems of religious illiteracy, alienation, displeasure with sermons, and annoyance with cantors, has basically been solved by American Jews: 89 percent simply stay away.But on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur there is no avoiding the culture clash: Nearly 60 percent of American Jewry jam into pews across the land, an influx of nearly three million Jews who would otherwise be gone.

An Evolving Coexistence

Associate Editor

Philip Roth, in the 1950s, wrote a story about Ozzie, a Jewish kid who knew, just knew, that if God could make the heaven and the earth in six days, God could do anything. Ozzie would say, ìthe light especially, thatís what always gets me, that he could make the light. ... Making fish and animals, thatís pretty good ó but making light ... and He could pick the six days he wanted right out of nowhere.îThat sense of wonder is one of the gifts of Jewish childhood.

Donít Know Much About History?

Staff Writer

Israel is currently engaged in an intellectual civil war between historians who see Zionism as a heroic enterprise and post-Zionist historians who say that Jewish schoolchildren ought to know the family secret: Israel wasnít immaculately conceived but born of ìinfamy and sin,î as Haíaretz reports (Sept. 16).

Old Klezmer In New Bottles

Staff Writer

Up in an attic are faded photos of old Joe Kushner ó young and dashing Joe Kushner in the picture ó on a wide, sloping Catskill lawn, near tall flowers by the casino porch. It is a 1930s August. You can feel the heat, the languor, the clockless afternoon of a hotel summer. Kushner, in light jacket and white ducks, stands behind his drum kit, hair slicked, sticks in hand.In another photo, heís with his klezmer band on that same lawn.

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