Book Review: Aaron Lansky “Outwitting History”; Dovid Katz “Words on Fire”

lansky

Is Yiddish the new rock’n’roll – at least as far as Jewish culture is concerned? Is Yiddish the new black? If it is, then one of the people responsible is undoubtedly Aaron Lansky, the founder of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachussetts. (more…)

Patrick Wright’s “Iron Curtain: from Stage to Cold War”

iron curtainEvery now and then, a public speaker uses a phrase which perfectly sums up the mood of the time – “the People’s Princess”, for instance, or maybe, who knows, “Bottler Brown”. In 1946, when Churchill made his famous remark in Fulton, Missouri that an iron curtain had descended across Europe, he may have been slightly ahead of his time. No longer prime minister, his remarks about a recent ally were initially tactfully condemned by both the British government and President Truman. But the metaphor was a good one and it stuck. So much so that I remember as a child insisting to my classmates that the Iron Curtain was the only man-made structure visible from outer space. It’s a miracle the Great Wall of China never sued. (more…)

Greengrocer War

greengrocersI am at war with my greengrocer. It’s a low-level conflict – there’s no deliberate bruising of produce, no sneaky foreign coin slipped in with my change – but war it is.

You see my greengrocer is triumphantly old-fashioned. None of this modern New Age hippy stuff like “helping yourself”. No, he does all the picking for you. This I like. His rival across the road allows you to choose your own things but stands there watching, arms folded belligerently, as if daring you to reject any of his produce as unsatisfactory. We’re talking about a man with a 5-inch scar across his face which I don’t think he got from handling cucumbers. Wilting under this hard-man stare, I inevitably leave his shop laden with fruit and veg that’s as brown and wrinkled as a Sicilian grandma. (more…)

Rabbi David Schneider’s Weekly Words of Wisdom 6: Tetzaveh

tetzaveh(Exodus 27:20-30:10)

What a wonderful week! “Happy are they that dwell in Thy house! They will ever be praising Thee!” And who are “they”?

“They” are not the editor of the Jewish Chronicle who insists I make it clear that I haven’t been receiving letters of support from Nelson Mandela. OK, oshamnu bogadnu, I made a mistake. On closer examination they’re from a man with terrible handwriting called Nathan Mandelbaum.  But they still count. (more…)

Rabbi David Schneider’s Weekly Words of Wisdom 7: Ki Sisa

ki sisa(Exodus 30:11 – 34:35)

It’s easy to criticize, to tell someone  “you’re no good”, “you smell like a drain”, “if your column doesn’t sort itself out in the next two weeks, I’m axing it, end-of-story”. But people who say such things, especially the last thing, should look at this week’s parsha, which deals with the Golden Calf.

Yes, I have occasionally lost focus in earlier columns, and yes, sometimes I have moved away from more traditional interpretations in favour of vicious name-calling and savage personal attacks, (more…)

The Church of Michael Jackson

Here’s a thing we did on the Friday Night Armistice. Bear in mind it was in 1995 when, from the look of us, we were still about 2 years away from our GCSEs…

The Day Today Newsdance

I like to think it was seeing the Newsdance that inspired Madonna to make her Vogue video. 4 years earlier.

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