Culture View

Reading Kafka On Shavuot

05/19/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

We don’t know where the Torah was given, we don’t know when the Torah was given, we don’t know if the Torah was given.”

Dan Schifrin

Time For A Comedy Of Terrors?

04/21/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

Although I have a beard, mustache and a Semitic cast to my face, only twice in my life have I been mistaken for a terrorist. The first time was on an Alitalia flight from JFK to Milan when I was 13, my very secular parents having decided that we would take a family vacation to Europe in lieu of a bar mitzvah. As we settled into our seats, a representative for the airline rushed onto the plane and approached my father. “Mr. Meerwin, your luggage is teeking,” he blurted out. My face fell; I had bought an alarm called a “panic button,” which you could hang on the back of your hotel door and it would go off if someone tried to open the door in the middle of the night. The man took us to a hangar filled with baggage, and, indeed, it was my suitcase that was, if not ticking, then certainly ringing with loud whoops. I disarmed the device, and we were on our way.

Ted Merwin

Where Art And Politics Are Intertwined

02/24/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

When I was first invited, along with 30 other Hillel directors (mostly from North America, but also from Germany, Russia and Israel) to travel around Israel this winter, I assumed that the trip’s purpose was to help us to deal with the mushrooming BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, and to empower us to advocate on campus for the Jewish state. But because many of my colleagues on the trip had visited Israel dozens of times, largely through staffing Birthright trips, the idea behind the trip was broader; it was to expose us to elements of Israeli society that we had not encountered before. Thus, the bulk of our time was spent learning not as much about Israeli politics as about Israeli culture. Yet by the end of the trip, I was to discover that Israeli politics and culture are so interwoven as to be almost impossible to separate.

Ted Merwin

Hacking Jewish Tradition

01/20/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

The timing was pretty good, as the Sony hacking scandal continued to be front-page news; Britain and the U.S. had just announced new cyber war games; and The New York Times had just profiled a new website offering “hackers for hire,” available for everything from breaking into your ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page to changing the rent on your apartment’s website.

Daniel Schifrin

Spiritual Muscle For The New Year: A Body And Soul Workout

01/06/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

AVAILABLE NOW, FOR AN UNLIMITED TIME ONLY!  THE REMARKABLE NEW ROUTINE FOR BODY AND SOUL:  SPIRITUALITY THROUGH STRENGTH TRAINING!

Diane Cole

Can Mohels Still Cut Up?

12/23/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

By the time young Jews from my hometown of Harrisburg, Pa., marry and have children, most have already relocated to larger urban areas and joined other Jewish communities. So it was with particular pride and pleasure that I recently attended the bris of the son of one of my former students who grew up in my neighborhood and has now settled just a few houses away from me. Representatives of all the local synagogues were there, the buffet tables groaned with food, and the mood was joyful and uplifting. There was only one thing missing; the mohel, who was imported from Baltimore for the occasion, missed almost every opportunity for humor.

Ted Merwin

Atheists For Religion

11/25/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Richard Dawkins, world-class scientist and staunch atheist, is surrounded by admirers and skeptics at the home of Andres Roemer, the Mexican consul general in San Francisco. They are assembled to learn more about the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, which supports science education as an antidote to religious fundamentalism, broadly defined. Roemer, a Jewish atheist representing a mostly Catholic country, had invited Dawkins into conversation as part of his lifelong quest for truth in public discourse.

Daniel Schifrin

If I Had A Hammer…

10/21/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Seders during my childhood in Great Neck invariably began with the same unintentional ritual. My father knocked over his brimming glass of wine, sending crimson rivulets speeding across the starched white tablecloth, like the Israelites scurrying across the desert. We spent most of the first half of the seder mopping up the mess; by the time we got to the description of the cascade of blood that was visited on the Egyptians, we were just about ready, like Pharaoh, to throw in the towel.

Ted Merwin

Rock Of Ages

09/24/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

There is an old story, a kind of midrash, in which the wanderings of the Jewish people are compared to the journey of a stone. Brought back to life by the mysterious modern commentator known as the Draschba, this story begins with the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, which we read during Rosh HaShanah. In the Draschba’s telling, the rock on which Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac was split open when the ram was substituted for the man. Those flints, impregnated with the joy of life affirmed, floated downstream into human history, distributed randomly in every direction, bubbling to the surface every time a text is split open, and its holy power ignited and revealed.

Daniel Schifrin

The End Of Jewish Liberalism?

08/26/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Registering minority voters, campaigning for stricter environmental laws, performing agit-prop theater against economic inequality — much of my free time in graduate school in New York in the 1990s was spent working with activist Jewish groups like Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). When I moved to Central Pennsylvania a decade and a half ago, I assumed that the Jewish community here would be similar, in its political orientation, to the one that I had left behind on the Upper West Side.

Ted Merwin
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