A Tour Through Poland as Seen in ‘Ida’

Fans of the Oscar-winning film should start in the central Polish city of Lodz

Ida/Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) and Wanda (Agata Kulesza) in Ida. (Courtesy of Music Box Films)

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List is largely credited with revitalizing Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Krakow, in which many of the movie’s iconic scenes were filmed. Krzysztof Bielawski, who runs Virtual Shtetl, the impressive website from Warsaw’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews, asks whether Pawel Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning Holocaust film Ida could have a similar effect on the places it features. (more…)

A Family Says Goodbye to Leonard Nimoy

Star Trek, and especially Mr. Spock, loomed large in our mythology

(Photo courtesy of the author)

Leonard Nimoy, who died today of chronic pulmonary disease at the age of 83, was almost like a family member to me. For as long as I can remember, his grave visage, sometimes with his pointy ears and sometimes without, festooned my father’s study in posters and figurines and Pez dispensers (the above photo is the Spock I knitted for him one Hanukkah, after my own design. It made him happier than anything else I have ever given him.)

Star Trek in general, and Mr. Spock in particular, loomed large in the mythology of our family. (more…)

Leonard Nimoy on Spock, Yiddish Theater, and the Vulcan Symbol’s Jewish Inspiration

An excerpt from Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish

Leonard Nimoy on May 14, 2013. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

In 2005, Abigail Pogrebin published Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish. The following is an excerpt from the chapter about Leonard Nimoy, the beloved actor best known for portraying Mr. Spock in the Star Trek TV series and films, who died today at 83.

“‘JEW BASTARD’ was something I heard a lot,” says actor Leonard Nimoy, who grew up in an Orthodox family in Boston. We’re sitting in his serene, beige and cream living room overlooking the Museum of Natural History, decorated with some of the art photographs he’s taken—a hobby that has morphed into an obsession over the years. (more…)

Michael Oren Films ‘House of Cards’ Themed Election Ad

But the story behind it is even better than the ad


Today, Netflix released the third season of its acclaimed political drama House of Cards, headlined by Kevin Spacey as corrupt President Frank Underwood. Last night, Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States and current candidate for the Knesset, took advantage of the cultural moment to post his own House of Cards-themed political ad. He even took a stab at imitating Underwood’s Southern drawl. (more…)

Madonna: France Today is like ‘Nazi Germany’

Tells Europe 1 interviewer ‘anti-Semitism is at an all-time high’

Madonna at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2015. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Madonna, the outspoken singer whose lithe performance at last month’s Grammy Awards makes it hard to believe exactly how long she’s been an outspoken singer, gave an interview to Europe 1 in which she doubled down against France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, onto whose face the Material Girl projected a (backwards) swastika during concerts a few years back. (Le Pen threatened to sue). Madonna also condemned the current climate in France, saying “anti-Semitism is at an all-time high.” (more…)

Argentinian Judge Throws Out Nisman Charges

Rules dead prosecutor’s case against president insufficient to investigate

A police officer in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace on February 19, 2015 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

An Argentinian judge has dismissed prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s accusations against Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Nisman, who was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head last month hours before he was to present controversial findings before a Congressional Committee, accused Kirchner of conspiring with Iran to obstruct a probe into the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center. In an allegation he filed before his death, Nisman also found that Kirchner had directed her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Héctor Timerman, to remove Iran from the case in hope that it would strengthen trade of Argentinian grain for Iranian oil. (more…)

Is Your Kosher Marijuana Ethically Grown?

Kashrut—even for pot—should involve morality as well as ritual


At 12:01 a.m. today, marijuana became legal (well, kinda-sorta) in Washington, D.C. It’s been decriminalized in Colorado, Washington state and Alaska; Oregon passed an initiative that takes effect in July; five more states face upcoming ballot initiatives on legalization. In 24 states, medical marijuana is legal.

So with pot becoming increasingly accepted and available (57 percent of Americans live in states that have decriminalized possession and/or allow medical marijuana, and 86 percent of all Americans support medical marijuana), the Orthodox Union announced earlier this week that it would be willing to offer its kosher certification to qualified medical marijuana products. (Hey, there’s gold in them thar ills.) (more…)

Bidding Farewell to ‘The Daily Show’ From Berlin

Jon Stewart isn’t just a comedian, entertainer, or newsman—he’s a lifeline

Jon Stewart of 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' covers the Midterm on October 28, 2014. (Rick Kern/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

When you’re an American living abroad, you get used to the fear of bad news from home. When the phone rings bearing an unfamiliar American number, you wonder if someone is in the hospital. As your email loads in the morning, you imagine that something disastrous has happened overnight.

But nothing could prepare me for the punch in the gut I felt when I heard that Jon Stewart’s Daily Show reign was coming to an end. In saying goodbye to him, I wouldn’t just be losing a beloved decade-long tradition, I’d be bidding farewell to what had become my lifeline: a quick, easy, and casual way to keep in touch with family and, as a Jew living in Germany, to remember where I had come from. (more…)

Katy Perry Visits Auschwitz

Pop star shares emotional message from the former concentration camp

Entrance gates to the former Auschwitz concentration camp. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pop star Katy Perry, in Europe for her ‘Prismatic World Tour,’ visited Auschwitz yesterday after her concert in Krakow. She posted an Instagram photo from the former concentration camp, with an emotional message for her 15 million followers. (more…)

An Easy Way to Prevent Childhood Allergies?

Maybe Bamba-loving Israeli parents were right all along


This week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study indicating that giving babies peanut products can prevent peanut allergy by as much as 81 percent.

One of the authors, Gideon Lack, is a professor of pediatric allergy at Kings College, London who’d already published a study in 2008 showing that the rate of peanut allergy in Israeli Jewish kids is only about a tenth that of British Jewish kids.

Why? Bamba. (more…)

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