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The Kibbutz Movement

Posted on November 20th, 2017
BY RACHAEL GELFMAN SCHULTZ for myjewishlearning.com 


The proud and turbulent history of Israel's experiment in communal living.


The kibbutz — a collectively owned and run community — holds a storied place in Israeli culture, and Jews (and non-Jews) from around the world, including 2016 Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, have volunteered on them. Launched in 1909, with the founding of Degania, Israel’s first kibbutz, this unique movement has changed dramatically over its more-than-100-year history.

Degania, in northern Israel, was founded by a group of young Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They dreamed of working the land and creating a new kind of community, and a new kind of Jew — stronger, more giving, and more rooted in the land.

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Kabbalah and Mysticism 101

Posted on November 13th, 2017
myjewishlearning.com Staff


Jewish mysticism has taken many forms.


The Jewish mystical tradition is rich and diverse, and Jewish mysticism has taken many forms. Scholar Moshe Idel groups the different expressions of Jewish mysticism into two fundamental types: moderate and intensive. Moderate mysticism is intellectual in nature. It is an attempt to understand God and God’s world, and ultimately affect and change the divine realm. This type of mysticism incorporates many aspects of traditional Judaism, including Torah study and the performance of the commandments, infusing these activities with mystical significance. Intensive mysticism, on the other hand, is experiential in nature. Intensive mystics use nontraditional religious activities, including chanting and meditation, in an attempt to commune with God.

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Jews and Beer: 8 Surprising Facts

Posted on November 6th, 2017
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller for aish.com


For centuries Jews have been vital in the production and marketing of beer.


Here are 8 surprising facts about Jews and this history of this popular drink.


Ancient Origins
Beer-making dates to ancient times. Egyptian tombs depict pictures of beer brewing; Hammurabi’s Code, from 18th century BCE Mesopotamia, mentions beer; the ancient Greeks learned how to brew beer from Egyptians and brought this knowledge to Europe.

Ancient Israel, in contrast, favored wine over beer. But after the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, Jews were exiled to nearby Babylonia and adopted the Babylonian taste for beer. The Talmud records four different types of beer, brewed from barley, dates, figs and beer (Pesachim 107a). The modern usage of hops, a plant related to mulberries, in beer is also mentioned in the Talmud, which notes hops’ medicinal properties of being a preservative and antiseptic (Avodah Zarah 31b).

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Why Yiddish is Funny

Posted on October 30th, 2017
By Dara Horn for Tablet Magazine  


As demonstrated by the ‘Jewish Don Quixote,’ by S.Y. Abramovitsh, aka Mendele the Book Peddler


Those who know little about Yiddish often associate it with humor. But most Yiddish literature isn’t particularly funny except in a horrible, un-American way: comically-told plots in which people suffer terribly or die horrible deaths. Even the relentlessly upbeat Sholem Aleichem, whose Tevye stories inspired the relentlessly upbeat Fiddler on the Roof, fits this pattern: In the original, Golde and Motl both drop dead and Shprintze drowns herself, none of which made it to Broadway. Call it anti-redemptive comedy, the inverse of the Western-Christian comic storyline where winsome protagonists find love and grace. Their Yiddish counterparts instead find doom and more doom.

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Inside Ellis Island’s Immigrant Hospital

Posted on October 23rd, 2017
By Marjorie Ingall for Tablet Magazine 


An effort is underway to save old buildings crumbling into dust


A lot of us have visited the beautiful museum at Ellis Island and pondered our collective and family history. Fewer, however, know that there is an abandoned hospital complex on the island, empty since 1954—and crumbling. If you’re relatively fit, possess a pair of closed-toe shoes, and are willing to sign a waiver saying you won’t sue anyone if some debris falls on your head, you can see it.

A nonprofit called Save Ellis Island, working with the National Park Service to preserve the old buildings, raises funds in part through eerie hard-hat tours of the hospital. I went on a tour in the company of the New York Adventure Club, which gives its participants access to additional areas of the complex.

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