Newsletter Issue # 26 April 18, 2012

A Connecticut condominium association has reversed their decision to ban the display of mezuzahs on the doorposts of residents’ apartments. One resident was instructed to remove her mezuzah from her doorpost or face a $50 fine per-day. Once she learned that the decision was changed. she will be permitted to display the religious artifact.

Last Sunday the world marked 100 years since the sinking of Titanic. What do we know of the Jews who were aboard that fateful ship? How did they observe the Jewish dietary laws during the voyage? A few experts dove into the research, both figuratively and literally. From the Dayton Jewish Observer by Marshall Weiss: Charles Kennell was among the nearly 700 crew members to die that night. The 30-year-old Kennell signed on to the White Star Line’s Titanic on April 4, 1912. Kennell previously served on the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic in 1911. Now he came aboard the larger, more luxurious Titanic for wages of four pounds a month. Kennell was the ship’s “Hebrew cook.” The Titanic had kosher food service.

A rare 15th century festival prayer book written in Hebrew and estimated to be worth up to $800,000 is on exhibited in New York ahead of its sale at Christie’s Books and Manuscripts auction in Paris next month. The 400-page illuminated prayer book, or Mahzor, was probably made in Florence is considered one of the finest and rarest of its kind and has never been publicly exhibited. The lavishly illustrated book on vellum, which features Renaissance motifs, contains daily prayers and blessings for Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

A small group of American Jewish tourists stood facing the statue of Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem in Russia. Not unusual since there’s a statue of Sholom Aleichem in Kiev, Ukraine. However, this took place in Siberia, in an area once called the Soviet Zion, or the first Jewish socialist (communist) city in the world, or Stalin’s answer to Zionism. Welcome to Birobidzhan  the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region.

When not memorizing Latin declensions, Nina, a graduate student of history, the author of the blog alltumbledown: a modest attempt at style, about the intersection of modesty and daily fashion. In addition to brightly colored pencil skirts and everything sequined, she is a fan of Mad Men, the quickly-disappearing Jewish Lower East Side, and the printing press. She currently calls both Philadelphia and New York home.

What can we learn from the fact that Moses put the broken tablets into the Ark along with the new tablets? We move on from our mistakes, but we also take the lessons along with us. In helping to form a new nation, Moses made many mistakes. He overreacted when he saw the people sinning before God by dancing around the Golden Calf, and he threw the tablets to the ground. Forty days of hard work were lost.

A friend of mine the other day who got into a graduate program far from any major Jewish community. He calls me up ranting and raving about how the only Jews in his town aren’t even real Jews because they’re reconstructionists. I found this odd, coming from a person who keeps nothing in the way of Judaism and doesn’t believe in God. Apparently the kollel 100 miles away, doesn’t like chabad, even though there are like 10 Jews in the entire state. Anyway, he’s what I would call someone who’s frum and off the derech.

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