Text Context

Let My People In

Is the Jewish community changing its attitude and actions toward people with disabilities?


‘I am disability incarnate,” she states in her self-described, “cerebral palsy accent,” whose honeyed, faintly plaintive tone belies her blunt proclamation. She gets around in a motorized wheelchair. She frets about Access-A-Ride’s frequently unreliable pickup times.

But Sharon Shapiro-Lacks doesn’t want your chesed.

Israel Day Parade, 2011. PHOTO: Michael datikash

Jews of Many Colors

Intermarriage, conversion and adoption are creating an ever more racially diverse Tribe.


At the end of the 19th century, members of the Jewish establishment in America — mostly Jews of central European origin — took aim in the pages of the Jewish press at another group of Jews who had more recently arrived on the scene and whose appearance, customs and habits seemed totally foreign to their Jewish sensibilities.

Religious studies. Yemen, 1992. Courtesy of the  American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

’A Nation Unto Themselves’

The ’othering’ of women has left its mark on contemporary Judaism.


In the feminist classic, “The Second Sex,” Simone de Beauvoir, the French feminist writer, opined that men cast women in the role of the Other. That “othering” emphasized the differences between men and women who might otherwise be categorized simply as “human.” Since “othering” is a means of constituting self-identity, it generally results in one seeing oneself as the norm and the Other as deviant. Thus for de Beauvoir, women would always be the deviant “second sex” as long as “male” was the norm.

From Elisha Ben Abuyah To Morris, The Golfer

Hearing the voice of the Other.


As I checked in to the Florida hotel the day before Rosh HaShanah, the manager looked suspiciously at the large, spiral shofar in my bag. I explained what it was, told him I was a rabbinical student there to lead High Holy Day services at the local temple and mentioned that I would need to practice. He was quick to suggest that I use the golf course behind the hotel. Maimonides teaches that the shofar is intended as an alarm, to wake us from the slumber of our sins. For the hotel manager, though, this wasn’t quite the wake-up call he had in mind for his other guests.

Bette Alexander Human Condition #1, 2010, oil stick and oil paint on paper, 24” x 30”.

Editor’s Note


For those who prefer their summer reading to be provocative, we chose to wrestle with some challenging questions. We look at how those Jews who may not be like everyone else, who are considered “other” for any number of reasons, are viewed by the community, and we also explore their self-perceptions.

HARRIETT FINCK. Summer, 2006, paint on paper  collage, 14” x 10”

Lighting A Candle For Sammy Davis Jr.

A half-century after the black singer’s conversion, the post-ethnic Judaism by choice he represented is in full flower.


Late in the spring of 2010, just about the time of his yahrzeit, Sammy Davis Jr.’s menorah went up for auction. It was a silver menorah, given to Davis in 1965 by the Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation in New York. The owner, a collector of Judaica, had set a bidding floor of $10,000. Yet when the day of the auction arrived, only two potential buyers pursued it, and the highest offer came in at $8,500. So the menorah headed back into a safe-deposit box, and the whole episode took on a pathetic cast.

ISAAC PETERSON Hymn, 2000, enamel and mixed media on canvas, 96”x 72”.

Text Context July 2011

This month, our contributors address some challenging questions about how the Jewish community relates to those among us who might be considered other, or different, whether Jews of color or with disabilities, gay and lesbian, converts, nonbelievers or wo

Text Context July 2011

Journal Watch


The Jewish place of worship: shul, beit knesset, the Reform “temple,” the Karaite kenesa, beit tefilah — and the synagogue. Whence this odd-sounding word? Vaguely Greek? Not “vaguely” at all. The Greek word synagogé means “assembly,” and the word indeed reflects what has been a central function of the Jewish house of worship for centuries, if not millennia.

Mushroom Synagogues

A brief history of shul competition, money, political lobbying and the High Holy Days.


On Aug. 17, 1930 the Jewish Daily Bulletin announced that the rabbis of New York City were declaring war. Their enemy was not anti-Semites, nor assimilation, nor any of the other typical suspects for rabbinic enmity. The object of their campaign was “the mushroom synagogue.”

ANDREA STRONGWATER,  Lvov, The Temple (built 1884-45), 2008, painting.

Paned Expressions

Though a bit tarnished, the Abstract Expressionist windows at Brooklyn’s Kingsway Jewish Center still glimmer.


There is no shortage of synagogues in Brooklyn. Many are beautiful and some are unusual, but most are unknown except to their congregants. In order to help protect this heritage of often aging religious buildings, the New York Landmarks Conservancy embarked in 2006 on a project to survey them.

PHOTO by Samuel D. Gruber www.samgrubersjewishartmonuments. blogspot.com
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