How is a Haggadah like a Pocketbook?

IMG_0003_3aFor most of my adult life, I’ve been searching for the perfect pocketbook. There were the huge satchels I carried in college and the next few years at the beginning of my teaching career.

Then I went through backpacks, large and small, designed to hold all the baby and small child detritus.

As I got older, the bags seemed to get a little small: they no longer had to hold pacifiers, a container of Cheerios, and an extra diaper.  The books were replaced by a Kindle and then a phone.

Did I need all my credit cards? Maybe a slimmed down wallet would do.

The right number of pockets was essential to be able to find things quickly.

I’m still searching as my lifestyle changes.

Just as there seems to be no perfect pocketbook, there is no perfect Haggadah. Continue reading

Best Books 2019

2019awards22019awards3Every year librarians and readers wait with bated breath for the announcements of the year’s award winning books.

The American Library Association (ALA) youth announcements come at 8 o’clock in the morning no matter where the announcement is made. Continue reading

She Opens her Mouth with Wisdom

purimwomen1Purim is quickly approaching. Kids love the holiday as they can be as loud as they want in the sometimes too rigid atmosphere of the synagogue.

Adults love the holiday, too. They can be as silly as they want and who doesn’t like a good party?

However, underneath this levity is a serious story of courage and creative thinking. Continue reading

Joyful Noise Around Us

music 3The Psalmist said, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” and “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!”

The Talmud tells us “Three things soften a man’s heart: a pleasant melody, a pleasant scene, and a fragrant odor.” and “Song is obligatory in the ritual of the sanctuary.”

Hasidic master Nachman of Bratslav stated that “Nature is saturated with melody; heaven and earth are full of song.” Continue reading

Stuck Inside Reading

winter readingIt may be a beautiful winter day today, but it’s still winter and there are many more opportunities for enforced days at home.

Those days are great for catching up on movies, binge-watching TV shows you may have missed, making a big pot of soup, and curling up with a good book. So much more enjoyable than straightening the sock drawer. Continue reading

Time to Travel

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Winter is upon us, yet again. Although everyone seems always to be scurrying and hurrying, it’s important to find time to escape our hectic lives.

Unfortunately we can’t always go off to some exotic place. But winter is a fine time to settle into that comfy chair and escape through the magic of reading.

Books will take you anywhere if you let them-even to places that don’t exist. Continue reading

Tu B’Shevat is Coming

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There may be a wind chill below freezing and perhaps some snow in the forecast, but inside our homes and synagogues it’s spring like as we celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees.

In Israel the month of Shevat marks the beginning of the growing season when the trees bud and flower. It’s a perfect time for planting.

So there is a lot of pretending in far colder New Jersey, but isn’t it nice to imagine?

While Tu B’Shevat also had a very serious side to it as one of the financial landmarks of the year, it’s often treated as a holiday just for kids in modern America and has also taken on the identity of an ecological holiday as  Jewish Earth Day.
Continue reading

Yiddish is Alive and Well

yiddish3Yiddish rules!  The year 2018 saw some great highlights in the modern history of Yiddish.

Debra Caplan published her excellent study:  Yiddish Empire: the Vilna Troupe, Jewish Theater, and the Art of Itinerancy.

Yiddish theater itself made a huge comeback with the staging of Fiddler on the Roof in an almost universally acclaimed totally Yiddish version. With outstanding actors and a very human approach to the iconic figure of Tevye, this Fiddler could become the classic version.  Just as you didn’t need to be Jewish to love Levy’s Rye, theater goers needed no knowledge of Yiddish to appreciate this Fiddler. Supertitles helped, but the acting carried the show with which so many people are already familiar. (See: Tradition or Traditsye, Aug 1, 2018) Continue reading

The Bible in Translation: Challenge and Triumph

alter4What book – or parts of – has been translated into 3312 languages?

If you guessed the Bible, you are correct. Parts of the Bible – both Jewish and Christian versions – have been translated into more than 3000 languages.  The New Testament has been translated into more than 1500 languages; the entire Bible including the New Testament has appeared in at least 670 languages; there are more than 450 English translations of various parts of the Bible, including several notable translations of the TANAKH.

However, The TANAKH – the Hebrew Bible – has had far fewer translations as Jews tended to study the Bible in its original language or in bilingual editions. Continue reading

Painful History

anti1The other night I watched a lecture streamed from the Jewish Theological Seminary. The speakers were Dr. Mary C. Boys, Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Dean, and Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology, Union Theological Seminary and Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Provost, and Irving Lehrman Research Associate Professor of American Jewish History, The Jewish Theological Seminary. These two heavy hitters, scholars, teachers and friends, shared the stage in a conversation on “Anti-Semitism in America: How did we get here and how can we move forward?” Continue reading