What I Learned from Being a Christmas-and-Easter Jew

'Tis the season. I went to my first Easter morning Mass ever this year, and holy cats, was it packed! Yikes. Just wall-to-wall Catholics in all phases of forward- and backsliding. It got me thinking about what I learned from being intermittently Jewish as a kid--taken to High Holy Days services a few times, once? twice? to Purim, sometimes to Passover seders. I honestly don't remember how often we did any of this. But somewhat to my surprise, I think most of the lessons I learned from this … [Read more...]

“The Novel of Belief and Jewish-American Demography”

Two of my obsessions together at last! ...The most compelling characters in Zoe Heller’s The Believers (2009) and Joshua Henkin’s The World Without You (2012) are daughters Rosa and Noelle, each a ba’ala teshuva who “converts” from the secular Judaism of her youth to Orthodoxy. The Believers, as its title indicates, is about belief of all kinds—of what, if not the religious, we will put our faith in. Henkin’s first novel, Swimming Across the Hudson, takes up a related theme as its protagonist gr … [Read more...]


YES. Via Ratty. … [Read more...]

“Ancient Prescriptions for New Prisons”

This article is heavily filtered through multiple stages of observation and interpretation. And it's hard to draw policy prescriptions from broad comparisons between different countries--we're often told that we should adopt wholesale the policies of France or Sweden, or in this case Israel, and these prescriptions usually ignore at least some of the reasons we haven't done that already. But I hope Rabbi Adlerstein's article helps expand what we think is possible and desirable in prisons: Can … [Read more...]

“Someday you may be a refugee”

lyrics by Tony Kushner; link via AC: … [Read more...]

“Shanghai revisits its forgotten Jewish past”

LA Times (via Ratty): ...During World War II, 20,000 European Jews fled to Shanghai, one of the few places in the world they could go without a visa, and one of the few that put no limit on the number of Jews it would accept. Under Japanese occupation, they were squeezed into one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, living cheek by jowl with working-class Chinese such as Wang."They were good friends. They lived together. They played together. They suffered together under the Japanese … [Read more...]

“Pushkin Becomes a Little Girl’s Passport”

I review the children's book Letters from Rifka, at Acculturated. Thanks to NJMKW for suggesting it! … [Read more...]