The Weird and Wondrous World of Jews and Magic

The first time I came face-to-face with Jewish magic was when I moved to Israel in my early 20s. It was the fall of 1995 and Jerusalem was beginning a 15-month celebration marking the 3,000 years since King David conquered the city and proclaimed it the capital of the Jewish people. Bright banners emblazoned with “3000” hung from street lamps throughout the municipality and the mood was festive. Along with countless others, I watched the opening ceremonies outside the Knesset and listened, enthralled, as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told of leading the Israeli Army into the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1967 War and then spoke about how the real message of the last 3,000 years was the need for tolerance between religions and love between peoples. At the end of the speech, an...

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ringelblum archive

Visual Moment | The Ringelblum Archive

Even before the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto (1940-1943) knew of the “Final Solution,” they understood that their story needed to be preserved. Under the leadership of Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum, a clandestine organization of about 60 researchers with the code name Oyneg Shabes (“the joy of Shabbat”) compiled and documented the experiences of the Jews of Warsaw under Nazi occupation. “It was an extraordinary act of civil resistance,” says historian Samuel Kassow, author of Who Will Write Our History: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto. “The Jews knew that the Germans wanted to control and determine how they would be remembered. They were determined to write their own history.” Their goals evolved over time. When the project began in 1940, the researchers—a group that included historians, writers, artists, rabbis and social workers—simply...

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