Iosef’s version of a “safe space” is a filthy, unheated Jewish dorm where students occasionally die of tuberculosis, or a lecture on a random topic in a hall where he can duck in and hide while running from his attackers—for a full five minutes, until they find him and drag him out. As Iosef puts it one afternoon, “I received two punches during today’s lectures and I took eight pages of notes. Good value, for two punches.” Microaggressions, indeed.
Film icon Charlie Chaplin starred as the Jewish barber in The Great Dictator, a 1940 political satire that Chaplin wrote, produced and directed. The film, including Chaplin’s parody of Hitler, was a direct response to the Nazi Party’s false assertion that Chaplin was Jewish—and the banning of all of his films.
For pure cheesy pleasure, I’d go with The Ten Commandments, which frightened me so much as a child that I was actually taken out of the movie theater. I’m tougher now and, besides ever since taking my own kids on the Paramount Pictures tour that explained how the filmmakers used pre-CGI techniques to part the Red Sea, I’ve wanted to watch the thing through properly with lots of use of the pause button.
In Barbra Streisand’s musical Yentl, Nehemiah Persoff, a World War II veteran originally from Jerusalem, plays Rebbe Mendel. Mendel secretly gives Talmud lessons to Yentl (Streisand), a young girl living in a late 19th century Polish shtetl at a time when women are barred from religious study. Yentl ultimately disguises herself as her late brother in order to enter a religious school, where drama ensues.
Blond and rather slender for its type, a pickle barrel stands by the takeout counter of the famous Washington, DC delicatessen Wagshal’s. Lined with plastic, it may satisfy a certain nostalgia but amounts to no more than a storage unit on the bulk-bin grocery aisle—a pale iteration of the big-bellied, oak casks I remember from my childhood.
The Ottomans ruled what is now Israel for 400 years, and during that time they made some iconic contributions to the man-made landscape. Sultan Suleiman I (a.k.a. Suleiman the Magnificent) completed the current walls of Jerusalem’s Old City in 1541. The Jaffa Clocktower, finished in 1903, was built to celebrate the silver jubilee of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Over time, innumerable Ottoman buildings have been lost, replaced by those of British or Israeli design, just as they in turn had replaced those of the Crusaders, Mamluks, Byzantines, Romans, Hasmoneans, Greeks, ancient Israelites, Babylonians, Assyrians and Philistines.
Although such comparisons remain rare, for Jews and non-Jews the golem serves as a concept uniquely suited to expressing the fears and insecurities of the modern era. As Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote in 1984, “The golem story appears less obsolete today than it seemed one hundred years ago. After all, what are the computers and robots of our times if not golems?”
Israeli novelist Dorit Rabinyan was enjoying a peaceful afternoon at home on December 30, 2015, when a phone call from an old friend, Haaretz journalist Or Kashti, changed her life. “I have something to tell you,” he said. “It may be the biggest story I will ever break.” “Good for you!” replied Rabinyan. “No,” said Kashti quietly, “it is very good for you.”