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


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

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

Something for Every Night

dec 61Two Jews, three opinions…In this case there are two.  Two rabbis, Shammai and Hillel, who lived a little more than 2000 years ago, frequently argued about procedural issues.  When it came to Hanukkah, they could not agree on the correct way to light the Hanukkah menorah.

Should the lights be lit one day at a time, ADDING one each night until on the eighth night the entire lamp is glowing?  Or should all the light be lit on the first night with one being REMOVED each night until on the eighth night only one light is lit?

You all know how we do it- Hillel’s way. Hillel felt that adding a light each night showed increasing holiness. Continue reading

New Books on the Shelf

newbooks1Let’s take a break from the dysfunctional first family of Judaism and take a look at books new to the Lampert Library.

You’ll find a truly diverse selection. Remember that both children and adults may borrow books from the Lampert Library. It’s always here for you.

Here they are in alphabetical order by author. J means that the book is for younger readers; YA indicates a book for middle school and up. Some of these make great reads for adults, too. Continue reading

A Love Song to America

BerlinElections are over. Maybe we will be able to settle down to some bi-partisanship  and enjoy the blessings of democracy.

Ironically 2018 marks the 100th birthday of the writing of an iconic patriotic American song. Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” was written in 1918 while Berlin was a soldier at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York.

Berlin who came to America at aged five with his family was newly naturalized in February 2018. Soon after, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.  Already a successful song writer, he wrote “God Bless America” for an Army show. The song did not appear in that show but as war loomed in Europe in 1938, Berlin revised the song and asked Kate Smith to sing it. Continue reading

We Can Get Along

Pittsburgh1George Washington in his 1790 letter to the Newport Jewish Community wrote” It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support…

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Continue reading