Focusing on the Jewish Story of the New Testament

December 30, 2011

by Mark Oppenheimer

SAN FRANCISCO — Growing up Jewish in North Dartmouth, Mass., Amy-Jill Levine loved Christianity.

Her neighborhood “was almost entirely Portuguese and Roman Catholic,” Dr. Levine said last Sunday at her book party here during the annual American Academy of Religion conference. “My introduction to Christianity was ethnic Roman Catholicism, and I loved it. I used to practice giving communion to Barbie. Church was like the synagogue: guys in robes speaking languages I didn’t understand. My favorite movie was ‘The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.’ ”

Christianity might have stayed just a fascination, but for an unfortunate episode in second grade: “When I was 7 years old, one girl said to me on the school bus, Read the rest of this entry »

Urim Publications Summer 2011 Catalog

December 28, 2011

Click the image above or Urim Publications Summer 2011 catalog for the catalog now available in PDF format.

I Give Thanks

December 25, 2011

Excerpt from And You Shall Tell Your Children by Ida Akerman:


I’m no longer in the camp

delivered up to the wicked

and cohabiting

with all and sundry.

I’m no longer shut away

separated from my father,

sleeping on straw

In the midst of a shambles.

I’m no longer down there

in the huts in winter

with rats and lice

running hither and thither,

floundering in the mud

and tearing my little summer dress

trying to cross

the barbed-wire barrier.

I no longer have

to go walking on the jetty

in the cold and wind

with the waves of the sea

splashing against me

and drenching my light canvas shoes.

I’m no longer dying of hunger

running after scraps of bread

or have holes in the ground

for performing my elementary needs.

I no longer read suffering

anxiety and despair

on the faces of all these people

reduced to helpless misery.

I run in Read the rest of this entry »

Bus-stop books – Israel’s newest public library

December 23, 2011

by Karin Kloosterman

Imagine a library where there are no due dates and no librarians telling you to be quiet. Israeli artists have developed a new model for the urban library: a free bus-stop library for commuters and travelers of all ages.

Daniel Shoshan, an installation artist and lecturer at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, along with Technion graduate Amit Matalon, started this new public library concept figuring that people sometimes have long wait times for buses.

Their motto: You may take, you may return, you may add.

The duo built a series of bookshelves at bus stops throughout Israeli cities. The idea is that anyone may take a book from the shelf, read it at the station or take it on the bus and return it when done.

No due dates, no late fees, no rules.

At first they did an experiment to see if the dynamics would work. Would the shelves refill? Would people participate? Read the rest of this entry »

Local scholars plumb ‘Prophets’ – New commentaries focus on the “other” Shabbat reading

December 22, 2011

by Abigail Klein Leichman

The haftarah, the bane of every bar mitzvah kid, is making a comeback.

Not that it ever disappeared from the synagogue service, in which the weekly Torah portion is always followed by a short relevant passage from the books of the prophets (the word “haftarah” signifies conclusion in Hebrew).

It is just that the average synagogue-goer does not pay much attention to this reading. Some new books of commentary on the weekly haftarot (the plural of haftarah) are putting the prophets back in the spotlight, however.

The newest tome is Read the rest of this entry »

Jewish Telegraph on Martin Stern and A Time to Speak – Controversial Essays that Can Change Your Life

December 21, 2011

AUTHOR Martin Stern – a forceful defender of orthodoxy – says he partly owes his writing ability to the Jewish Telegraph.

He recently published A Time to Speak – Controversial Essays that Can Change Your Life.

Mr Stern revealed that he was provoked in 1985 into becoming a frequent Jewish Telegraph correspondent by a JT column by the late Rabbi E S Rabinowitz.

According to Mr Stern, it “gave an altogether far too lenient ruling on family planning, at least in the context of a paper aiming at the not particularly observant public”.

He went on: “The rabbi’s view was that the man can’t Read the rest of this entry »

Review of Journey to Heaven

December 20, 2011

by Israel Drazin

Journey to Heaven
Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife
By Leila Leah Bronner
Urim Publications, 2011, 207 pages
ISBN 978-965-524-047-4

Many scholars take the position that no book of the Hebrew Bible, with the possible exception of the late second century BCE Daniel 12:2-3, speaks about life after death, and are convinced that the various ideas about the after-life were taken from pagan notions.  Daniel states that “those who sleep in the dust will awake.” This may refer to the people as a whole who will be able to defeat their Syrian Greek oppressors and be a free nation again. Be this as it may, the second century BCE was the first time that this concept entered Judaism as a view of the Pharisees, and it was strongly objected to by the more conservative Sadducees.

Dr. Bronner, a professor at several prominent universities, takes an opposite view. She sees frequent references to an afterlife in the early biblical books, including the Five Books of Moses, and she details, with full quotes, what these sources say.  She describes the growth of these beliefs in post-biblical discussions about life after death, the world to come, heaven, hell, judgment, resurrection, and reincarnation. She introduces readers to books such as the apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha. She discusses the views of rabbis, philosophers, and mystics.

She feels that the Torah is speaking about an afterlife when it mentions “Sheol” some sixty five times and when it uses synonyms like “the pit” and “the hidden place,” although others define these terms as the grave. She sees phrases like “gathered to one’s people” and “sleeping with his fathers” as a “belief in some kind of existence after death,” while others read them as beautiful metaphors for “he died.” She also reads the belief in life after death in six verbs, Read the rest of this entry »