Browsing Tag

jewish history


These Pigeons Flew for a Jewish Palestine

By On January 17, 2017

Long before city-dwellers affectionately called them “sky rats,” homing pigeons could occasionally serve a higher purpose. For one such purpose, look to the operations of Nili, the Jewish espionage network that aided… Read More


How 19th-Century Jews Appealed to President Jefferson

By On November 10, 2016

Jews have a long history of making sure our heads of state hear from us. So if you’re planning on lobbying the President-elect, you could do worse than to model your conversation on a… Read More

Saadia Gaon

The Medieval Scholar Who Made Arabic the Language of the Jews

By On February 25, 2016

  Rabbi Saadiah ben Yosef Gaon was a man of immense knowledge—and immense opinions. Born in Egypt in the 10th century, the Saadiah Gaon was the first Jew to write extensively in… Read More

The Prostitution Ring That Lured Women From the Shtetls

The Prostitution Ring That Lured Women From Their Shtetls

By On July 31, 2014

The subject of prostitution is rarely associated with the word “Yiddish.” But from the 1860’s until the cusp of WWII, a powerful sex-trafficking ring operated between the shtetls of Eastern Europe and… Read More

A New Film Asks: Was Rudolf Kasztner a Hero or Nazi Collaborator?

Rudolf Kasztner: Hero or Nazi Collaborator?

By On July 30, 2014

The Talmud says that “he who saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world.” So a person who saved 1,684 lives during the Holocaust would surely be considered… Read More

Elie Wiesel's Mysterious Mentor

Elie Wiesel’s Mysterious Mentor

By On July 29, 2014

  They say he dressed in rags. That he appeared with no warning, and disappeared just as quickly. That he was fluent in many languages, and equally so in the texts of… Read More

The Swedish Nazi Film You'll Want to See

The Swedish Nazi Film You’ll Want to See

By On June 27, 2014

In The Last Sentence, by Swedish director Jan Troell, journalist and former theologian Torgny Segerstedt asks a variation on the old question “If a tree falls and no one is around to… Read More

Groucho Marx's Favorite Boy Violinist

Groucho Marx’s Favorite Boy Violinist

By On June 19, 2014

Long considered perhaps the greatest violinist of his time, Jascha Heifetz was a virtuoso’s virtuoso. Born in Vilnius in 1901, Heifetz started young, receiving his first lessons from his father—a violin instructor—at three. By seven,… Read More

The Jewish Giant at the Freak Show

The Jewish Giant at the Freak Show

By On June 17, 2014

When you think about tall guys today, most people think of the NBA. But sixty years ago, you would have been more likely to think of the circus. And you may have thought about Eddie… Read More


How to Write to Your Long-Lost Love, In Yiddish

By On June 3, 2014

Imagine, esteemed reader: Your son has recently arrived in America from your shtetl, and you want to warn him about the temptations of the goldene medina. But how do you find the right words… Read More

Don't Kick the Redhead!

A Love Song to the Jewish Redhead

By On May 28, 2014

Whether lionized or demonized, redheads seem to hold an outsize place in the Jewish imagination. Sometimes called “Ginger Jews,” Jewish redheads have inspired a great number of origin stories, including speculation that they… Read More

Last of the Unjust

The New Film by The Man Who Brought You “Shoah”

By On February 6, 2014

In the 1970s, when Claude Lanzmann was collecting material for his masterpiece, Shoah, he conducted a set of interviews that didn’t quite fit with the rest—with ex-Judenrat elder Benjamin Murmelstein. Forty years later, Lanzmann,… Read More