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“Is a proclivity to violence and vengeance a gender and/or regional trait? Are the minds of men more than women and/or rural folk more than city dwellers predisposed to violent acts of revenge? Or put another way, are violence and vengeance intrinsic components of the male psyche, and if so are men more likely to resort to them in rural settings? These are the central questions posed by Israeli novelist Meir Shalev in his seventh novel Two She-Bears (in the original Hebrew Shtayim Dubim, Am Oved, 2013).” — the opening paragraph of my review in New York Journal of Books

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The Jewish Book Council's 2012 book of the year is not one book but three: the three volume box set City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York published last September by New York University Press.

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The Western Wall and Temple Mount
The Western Wall and Temple Mount

I enthusiastically recommend Brown University Judaic Studies professor Michael Satlow's series of 23 half hour long free podcasts "From Israelite to Jew," a secular academic college level history of the Second Temple period on iTunes.

Although New York offers a cornucopia of Jewish adult education programs some people who would be interested in ongoing learning cannot commit to showing up at a particular place at at specified time, while others find the fees prohibitively expensive. To them I enthusiastically recommend Brown University Judaic Studies professor Michael Satlow's series of 23 half hour long free podcasts "From Israelite to Jew" on iTunes. Professor Satlow earned his Ph.D. in Ancient Judaism at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary.

"From Israelite to Jew" is a secular academic college level history of the Second Temple period, though it starts with a brief survey of earlier Jewish history with particular attention to the final decades of the First Temple. I have a decent knowledge of Judaic studies, and the first four episodes did not tell me anything I didn't already know, but starting with the Persian period things get interesting.

Professor Satlow considers Ezra and Nehmiah complete failures who did not accomplish what they set out to achieve. Their prohibition of intermarriage between returning exiles and the native Judaeans who remained in Judah during the exile was largely ignored outside of a small elite in Jerusalem.

Also interesting is the continuation of Jewish polytheism in the Persian period. I had previously thought that the reforms initiated by King Josiah thirty years before the exile developed into the adoption of monotheism during the exile. But correspondence from the Jewish community in Egypt during the Persian period shows that polytheism persisted.

Jewish mercenaries in the Persian army stationed on Elephantine Island in the Nile River built their own Temple which the resentful native Egyptians destroyed during a rebellion. In letters the Elephantine Jews complain that they can no longer offer sacrifices not only to Yahweh but also to other deities.

In the Hellenistic period Professor Satlow teaches us that the Maccabean rebellion had as much to do with power struggles among rival priestly families as it did resistance to a Seleucid policy of compulsory assimilation. Professor Satlow's discussion of the Hasmonean and Roman periods is equally fascinating.

Give yourself an early free Hanukkah present and download and listen to "From Israelite to Jew." If you would like to compensate Professor Satlow he has a paypal "Donate" button on his blog and welcomes voluntary contributions.

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Paper Conspiracies book cover
Paper Conspiracies book cover
New York Journal of Books

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Thelittlebridebookcover

In my New York Journal of Books review I describe the book as  “. . . a plot-driven novel conveyed in crisp, descriptive, and thought-provoking prose via an engagingly intelligent third-person narrator. . . . an auspicious debut” and recommend it to both adult and precocious young adult readers.  via the late examiner.com

Former NPR correspondant Anna Solomon's debut novel, The Little Bride, is published today by Riverhead Books, a division of New York publisher Penguin USA. In my New York Journal of Books review I describe the book as “. . . a plot-driven novel conveyed in crisp, descriptive, and thought-provoking prose via an engagingly intelligent third-person narrator. . . . an auspicious debut” and recommend it to both adult and precocious young adult readers.

The title character is a late Nineteenth Century Russian-Jewish teenager who immigrates to this country as a mail-order bride and joins her new husband as a pioneer homesteader on the Great Plains. Ms. Solomon based the story on the memoirs of at least two Nineteenth Century Jewish women pioneers in the American west, but the plot and characters are the product of her imagination.





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Whattheysavedbookcover

What happens when a New York Jewish pack-rat daughter inherits her New York Jewish pack-rat father's belongings? She embarks on a Jewish genealogical search for her and her dad's long lost relatives. Nancy K. Miller's What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past, published today by University of Nebraska Press, is the story of that search, a story that focuses more on the process of the search than on its results. In my New York Journal of Books review I quote Ms. Miller, “Every new piece of information keeps me on the road to the ever-expanding possibility of the quest, a quest that in the end will still yield only partial knowledge—and will never give me, return to me, those past lives.” Ms. Miller, a retired CUNY Graduate Center English and Comparative Literature professor, is an appealing prose stylist, but because of its focus on the genalogical search process this book will mostly appeal to genealogy buffs in general and Jewish genealogy buffs in particular.

For more info: David Cooper

This article first appeared on the late Examiner.com

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via 972mag.com Photo: Future president of Israel Chaim Weizmann and Emir Faisal of Greater Syria, 1918. 

"We could continue to stick with what are considered the foundations of our perceptions of the self or the Jewish other. We could go on and call Zionism and Israel a considerable variety of names. But what we must to do is move on, refresh the concepts of the Palestinian question so that they are capable of conversing with the inextricably intertwined Jewish question, and create new outlooks that will open horizons for reconciliation between the two nations."

 

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NY Times film critic A.O. Scott will give four lectures with illustrative film clips on The Holocaust in Film on consecutive Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 PM starting this Sunday March 20, 2010 at Park Slope Jewish Center (where Mr. Scott is a member) located at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Brooklyn.

Continue reading on Examiner.com: NY Times film critic A.O. Scott to teach Holocaust in film class - New York NY | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/ny-in-new-york/ny-times-film-critic-a-o-scott-to-teach-holocaust-film-class#ixzz1Go4Grzcm


 

 

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President Abraham Lincoln and Leadership

Nov 18, 2002

Lincoln Forum

Mr. Perret talked about President Lincoln as a leader, and compared Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and John F. Kennedy. Following prepared remarks, he responded to questions from the audience. This portion of the Lincoln Forum also featured a reading of the Gettysburg Address by .. Read More
Mr. Perret talked about President Lincoln as a leader, and compared Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and John F. Kennedy. Following prepared remarks, he responded to questions from the audience. This portion of the Lincoln Forum also featured a reading of the Gettysburg Address by Lincoln impersonator James Getty.

59 minutes | 111 Views

View Event Timeline (3 Programs)

Fascinating talk: Geoffrey Perret compared Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and John F. Kennedy. All four were writers who loved poetry (MacArthur as commandant of West Point made cadets read and write poetry). Just under an hour.

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My latest NYJB review is of an epic work of poetry and great humanity that may appeal to history buffs as well as poetry readers.

 

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The New Leader, a liberal anti-communist little magazine that was the product of New York's Jewish intellectual milieu is folding after 86 years, Jewish Ideas Daily reports.

The following is an excerpt from Yehuda Mirsky's Jewish Ideas Daily article:

After eighty-six years, eighty-two in print and the last few in cyberspace, the New Leader, a quintessential American "little magazine," is folding.

Under Sol Levitas's editorship, during years when the much-higher-circulation Nation and New Republic often ran acrobatic apologies for Stalin, the New Leader became a bi-weekly platform for what was then known as liberal anti-Communism.

Officially non-sectarian, the New Leader was unmistakably a creature of New York's Jewish intellectual milieu, not only in articles discussing Israel, Jewish affairs, or the Holocaust but in its mix of intellectual seriousness, skepticism, moral purpose, and endless reckonings with the meanings and consequences of the failed Revolution on which so many Jews had staked so much.



This article first appeared on the late examiner.com

When I was growing up my parents subscribed to The New Leader.

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The New Leader, a liberal anti-communist little magazine that was the product of New York's Jewish intellectual milieu is folding after 86 years, Jewish Ideas Daily reports.

Read the article on examiner.com

When I was growing up my parents subscribed to The New Leader.

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Read the article on examiner.com

"A Film Unfinished first emerged out of my theoretical preoccupation with the notion of the 'archive', and the unique nature of the witnessing it bears." - Yael Hersonski

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Read the article on examiner.com

"A Film Unfinished first emerged out of my theoretical preoccupation with the notion of the 'archive', and the unique nature of the witnessing it bears." - Yael Hersonski

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Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day for the custom of cleaning the graves of Civil War soldiers, but the location of a New York Jewish Civil War hero's grave is uncertain. In 1861 22 year old Leopold Charles Newman, a  Columbia University alumnus who wrote poetry and fiction and read French and German literature, was a promising young lawyer and founder of Brooklyn's Young Men's Democratic Association who was engaged to be married and resided at 177 Court Street in what is today Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Unlike the Manhattan Democrats who opposed the war and held southern sympathies the Brooklyn Democrats whose editorial voice was none other than Walt Whitman were pro-Union. When Fort Sumter was attacked Newman, following the example of his father who served in the Mexican War, left his legal practice, political and oratory career, postponed his wedding and with two friends organized New York's 31st Regiment of volunteers in which he enlisted as a lieutenant. (Much of what follows is adapted from Judith Greenwald's 2006 article.)

The 31st fought at Fairfax Court House, BIackburn’s Ford, Bull Run, Munson’s Hill, Springfield Station, West Point, Gaines Mill, Garnett and GoIding’s Farm, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Burke’s Station, Fredericksburg, and Mary’s Heights and Salem Church in Virginia and at Crampton’s Pass and Antietam in Maryland. Newman saw action in all of these battles winning promotions for valor to the rank of Lt. Colonel. In 1863 with one week left in his enlistment Newman was home visiting family when the War Department called him back to duty. “I’II be home in a week father,” he said as he returned to Virginia for battle at Fredericksburg.

There, General Sedgwick ordered the 31st to carry Maryse’ Heights, saying “You may lose all your men, but you will save the corps.” Newman, turning to his men cried, “Now gentlemen, over with you” and with banner in one hand and sword in the other he dashed into battle. The effort was successful, with the 31st Regiment making two of the most brilliant charges of the entire campaign and its flag the first to reach the rebels’ works, but Newman suffered a severe grape shot wound in his left foot. The shot broke several bones. At that time such an injury required amputation. The pain of surgery could be ameliorated only by surgical speed, for there was never enough chloroform to go around. With skill a leg could be removed in twelve seconds, an arm in nine. [See, E. L. Doctorow, The March, p. 58.] It is not clear if Newman was operated on in the field or at the National Hotel, in Washington D. C. to which he was evacuated. His died there on June 7th. President Abraham Lincoln arrived at Newman’s bedside either as he lay dying or just after he died and reportedly delivered to him his commission as a Brigadier-General.

Newman's family belonged to Congregation Baith Israel (which in 1905 would merge with Congregation Anshe Emes to form what is today Kane Street Synagogue) which owned cemetery plots in what was then called Union Field in Cypress Hills, and there Brig. General Newman was buried with military honors in a graveside funeral attended by the 28th Regiment with band and drum corps, together with numerous citizens and many discharged and furloughed soldiers. His tombstone read “He fought for his Country with the Army of the Potomac in every battle from Bull Run to that in which he fell leading his regiment in the storming of Morys Heights.”

Today we do not know in what part of the sprawling necropolis that abuts the Jackie Robinson Parkway Union Field was located or which of the many graves is that of Brig. General Newman. There are several cemeteries named Union Field in Cypress Hills. None of the cemeteries bearing the name Union Field has records of Newman’s interment. Many unsuccessful trips have been made to Cypress Hills to find the grave. The area is vast and the oldest stones, which are made of soft sand stone, are illegible. For example, the grave of Leopold Newman’s father, Charles, who died in 1885, is located in Kane Street Synagogue's ground at Machpelah Cemetery in Cypress Hills. When first located in 1981 it was legible, but by 2006, it was not. Fortunately, through Rabbi Israel Goldfarb’s written histories and the preservation of records and documents by the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs and the National Archives, the heroism of our remarkable Jewish New Yorker Leopold C. Newman is preserved. As stated in one of his obituaries on file with the 31st Regiment New York Volunteers Civil War Newspaper Clippings, he was “a loving and dutiful son, a kind brother, a warm friend, an iron-hearted soldier .... ”

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