Thursday, December 31, 2015

Is it a New Year?

For me, it's definitely a New Year, 2016, though I am aware that it's not a new year for orthodox Jews, who only live within Jewish tradition. I believe that even religious Jews in the more liberal traditions think this is a New Year... not only those who see themselves as secular.


And here's a reading resolution: more poetry by Yehuda Amichai, who received a very appealing write-up in the New Yorker here:
Like a Prayer The poetry of Yehuda Amichai: by 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans' Day

For today, Veterans Day, I checked the statistics for Jewish participation in the Allied Forces during World War II, and found this:
"During the course of World War II, 550,000 Jewish men and women served in the armed forces of the United States. (Another 1 million Jews served in other Allied forces - 500,000 in the Soviet Army, 100,000 in Polish Military and 30,000 in British Army.)"
For the complete list of statistics about Jews in the war, see "World War II:Statistics on Jewish American Soldiers" at Jewish Virtual Library. According to this website, Jewish members of the US military suffered 38,338 casualties in the war. 11,000 were killed; 7,000 died in combat.

Today, Israelis honored their veterans of World War II:

"70 Years After WWII: Senior Jewish Fighters Honored: Former partisans, ghetto fighters, Soviet soldiers and volunteers in the British army among those who received special medal in memorial ceremony at Latrun"
by Ofer Aderet.

This photo from the article shows three of hundreds of surviving Israeli World War II veterans. Among those honored for Veterans' Day "were partisans, ghetto fighters, soldiers (mainly in the Soviet army) and volunteers from the pre-state Jewish community in the British army." The oldest honoree was Benzion Solomin, who is 102 years old; he spent time in a POW camp in Poland, and later fought in the Israeli Independence War.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

S. Ansky (1863-1920)

Ha'aretz today has an article titled "This Day in Jewish History, 1920 The Man Who Shook the World With 'The Dybbuk' Dies" by David Green.

S.Ansky died on November 8, 1920 at age 57. Anksy, whose birth name was Shloyme-Zanvel ben Aaron Hacohen Rappoport, is most famous for his play "The Dybbuk,"  According to the article, he was also "a champion of Yiddish, and of Jewish culture in general." As a young man he organized a Jewish literary society and journal, and he worked with the Society for Jewish Folk Music.

 In my opinion, Ansky's most amazing work was his effort to preserve Jewish culture and history. For example, he collected the minutes from synagogues throughout Russia, books where the Jews of various shtetls had written down their concerns, their quarrels, and the community events that were most important to them.

From the article:
"In 1911, cognizant of the threat that ongoing pogroms and emigration posed to the Jews of the Russian Pale and their culture, he departed on his first expedition on behalf of the Jewish Ethnographic Society, which was funded by Baron Vladimir Ginsbourg, a Kiev banker. Traveling around the provinces of Volhynia and Podolia, he and his team of researchers, intent on compiling a record of the traditions and culture of Russian Jewry, were armed with a list of some 2,500 questions for interviewees, and collected photos, folktales, music and manuscripts in the thousands."
"After the czar was overthrown, in February 1917, and Russia was led briefly by Alexander Kerensky, Ansky was elected to the new Constituent Assembly. When the Bolsheviks ousted Kerensky, Ansky fled, first to Vilna, then, in 1919, to Warsaw, where he died, on this day in 1920."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995)

Next week marks the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. I haven't yet read any of the numerous articles asking whether he could have made a difference in Israeli history should he only have survived, and asking how the shock of that event might have influenced the current violence in Israeli society. I don't mind reading counter-historical fiction, but I don't think what-ifs help in understanding real current events. All I know is that the situation in Israel and the worldwide hatred of Israel is a very sad situation, and that I'm becoming more and more pessimistic.

A moment of hope, too long ago.
Of course this is the Rabin image that remains in my mind.

UPDATE: What Haaretz said:
"The past 15 years have been everything but peaceful, particularly in this part of the world. There is no reason to believe that solving the Palestinian issue would have been any easier than any of the other intractable messes blighting the Middle East. Clinging to the notion that if only Rabin had survived, we would be living in a better place now, is just an excuse not to acknowledge how hard this is to solve and avoid re-examining tired formulas." -- Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Daniel Thompson, Inventor of the Bagel Machine

A fascinating obituary, including a history of how bagels became mainstream:

Daniel Thompson Dies; Invented Bagel Machine

Daniel Thompson with his father in a wonderful kitchen, 1970, from the NYT.
(Aside: I still have a step-stool just like the one at right, only mine is red.)
Quotes from the article:
"Mr. Thompson’s machine proved to be a mirror of midcentury American history. For bound up in the story of its introduction is the story of Jewish assimilation, gastronomic homogenization, the decline of trade unionism, the rise of franchise retailing and the perennial tension between tradition and innovation. ...
"The tough, round heart of North American Jewish cuisine, with European roots reaching back hundreds of years, the bagel was until the mid-1960s available only in cities with thriving Jewish neighborhoods, most emblematically New York. Its shape — which sprang from dough that was rolled by hand, coiled into rings and boiled in a kettle before being baked in a wood- or coal-fired oven — was said to symbolize the circle of life. 
"Such bagels, prized by purists but increasingly difficult to find now, were known for an earthy taste, an elastic crumb and a glossy, dauntingly hard crust born of their turn in the kettle."

Jewish Rye Bread and Wonder Bread (from my food blog)

"Whole -grain bread has been enjoying something of a renaissance. Actually, that renaissance got a first, false start during the 1960s, when the counterculture, steeped in romantic ideas about 'natural food,' seized on white bread as a symbol of all that was wrong with modern civilization. Brown bread, being less processed than white, was clearly what nature intended us to eat. They probably should have stopped there, but did not, alas. Baking and eating brown bread also became a political act: a way to express one's solidarity with the world's brown peoples (seriously), and to protest the 'white bread' values of one's parents, who likely served Wonder Bread at home. These ideals resulted in the production of some uncompromising and notably bricklike loaves of dark, seedy bread, which probably set back the revival of whole-grain baking a generation." -- (Cooked, p. 263)
In Cooked Michael Pollan writes about his efforts to learn to bake delicious, crusty, naturally-leavened bread, as well as about barbecuing and braising meat, fermenting vegetables, and about cooking in general. He discusses the history of white bread in America, and mentions that Wonder Bread and its competitors dominated the diet of Americans in the 1950s, as well as this interesting observation about 1960's "hippie texture" bread, which I remember with no pleasure at all.

In our family, Wonder Bread was the children’s bread. My sister, brother, and I, as we grew up in the fifties, ate Wonder Bread toasted for breakfast, and our bag lunches always contained sandwiches: peanut butter, tuna, sliced meat, yellow cheese or maybe cream cheese with walnuts on Wonder Bread. At dinner we ate bread too – my parents felt that bread was an essential part of every meal. I sometimes ate the slightly rubbery brownish Wonder crusts first and then squeezed and rolled the soft white center into a solid ball, which had an interesting texture in my mouth.

Even the wrappers of Wonder Bread, which constantly boasted of higher numbers of ways it “built strong bodies,” were for children. When I was in kindergarten or first grade, my friend Judy took one of the brightly colored Wonder Bread wax-paper wrappings to the playground at school and slid down the sliding board with it under her bottom. The wax made the slide really slippery – surprising the other kids when they slid down. Or maybe she just told me she wanted to do this, and didn’t really do it. I don’t know.
For our parents, Wonder Bread was at best unappealing, and I seriously doubt that they believed all its claims to foster growth in their children. Once or twice a week my father went to a Jewish bakery called Pratzel’s, which was a few blocks from our home in University City, MO. He always bought rye bread, which was what he liked to eat. He had several slices of rye bread with breakfast and dinner. I have no memory at all of what he ate for lunch most days, though corned beef on rye with a half-sour pickle might have been his Saturday choice.

This bakery rye was the closest to the bread of his childhood when rye bread was the main food, or even the only food, for almost all meals. Even for Passover, my radical father bought several loaves and kept them in the freezer so he wouldn’t have to resort to Wonder Bread, or for that matter, to matzoh.

Pratzel's made a number of other baked goods, which we ate as occasional treats: pumpernickel, a white bread called “buttercrust,” jelly donuts, bagels, kaiser rolls with a crisp crust, challah, cylindrical cinnamon bread made from a challah-like dough, cheese or jelly-filled Danish, and coffee cake or stollen. But rye bread was most important among all these choices.

My father didn’t just prefer Pratzel’s bread to grocery-store bread. He vastly preferred their baked goods to those from other Jewish bakeries. Each loaf of Pratzel’s rye bread had a Union Label on the heel of the bread, which I remember in a sort of schematic way; it was red and blue. It wouldn’t surprise me if some kind of union politics, not only taste, played a role in my father’s bakery preference. He had a lot of politics in his background. 

As we grew a little older, our taste in bread moved much closer to our parents’ taste, and we began eating the same bread that they did. I think by the time we were teenagers, the flamboyant red, blue, and yellow bubbles on the Wonder Bread package no longer appeared in the white metal flower-decorated Bread Box in my mother’s pantry. Just the white paper bags – or later plastic bags – containing real Jewish rye and other real bread. As a result, I didn't experience the sixties bread folly in anything like the same way that a lot of people did!

In Pollan's long and very readable narrative about bread in Cooked, he visited a Wonder Bread factory and several small-scale artisan bakeries, but he never visited any old-style ethnic bakeries like Pratzel's, though it would have been possible for him to do so. As it happens, Pratzel's Bakery remained in business until the fall of 2012, closing after almost 100 years of baking. Wonder Bread, a brand founded in 1921, was owned by several baking companies in its long history. When the Hostess corporation went out of business, coincidentally also in the fall of 2012, Wonder Bread was one of the brands that disappeared from supermarket and convenience store shelves -- but it came back around a year later.

I've written about some of our family food choices, including bread, before. Other blog posts on Wonder Bread and bread history:

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Dora Bruder" by Patrick Modiano

View of the accommodation block at Drancy with French gendarme on guard
-- from Wikipedia article "Drancy internment camp."
Memory and forgetting are the topics of the book Dora Bruder by recent Nobelist Patrick Modiano. Dora Bruder, born in 1926, ran away and disappeared from her Catholic school, disappeared from her family, disappeared finally into transit camps in France and then into the Holocaust, eventually disappeared from the memories of possible schoolmates, of possible teachers, of anyone possible at all.

Years after the war ended, Modiano had seen a Paris newspaper ad from 1941 asking for news of Dora. She had run away from her school; he became curious and over a period of years, he tried to find out about her life as a Jewish child, a French citizen, daughter of an Austrian-Jewish man and a Hungarian-Jewish woman living legally in a hotel on a particular street in Paris. He searched for information about her life as a runaway or about her life as a child perhaps being hidden by nuns in a Catholic school. He searched for people that had known her, but finds only people whose experiences were simultaneous and parallel.

As Modiano searched, we learn from the book, he visited the streets where she lived and walked, streets already familiar to him because he'd lived his life in the same neighborhood. Exact locations in Paris are so important that one needs Paris street maps. Two small maps, along with a few photos of Dora, illustrate the book.

Modiano, who was born in 1945, writes of his own life -- in safer times -- as he writes about his effort to reconstruct the life of Dora Bruder. She's gone, he finds: disappeared. Of course the idea is that a vast community of lives were not only lost, but their memories completely erased; vast numbers of people disappeared as did this one in particular. 

In writing, Modiano manages to make this point with discretion and subtlety, without being melodramatic. He matter-of-factly describes his search for information about Dora and where she had run to, and where she ended up. He forces the reader to ask the hard questions.

Here's an example. Modiano describes a film, a trivial film, titled Premier rendez-vous that showed in Paris in 1941: "a harmless comedy." He had seen the film decades later. Had Dora seen it? He wondered. The film seemed to have a "peculiar luminosity... Every image seemed veiled in an arctic whiteness that accentuated the contrasts and sometimes obliterated them. The lighting was at once too bright and too dim, either stifling the voices or making their timbre louder, more disturbing." (p. 65)

Modiano speculated:
"Suddenly, I realized that this film was impregnated with the gaze of moviegoers from the time of the Occupation -- people from all walks of life, most of whom would not have survived the war.They had been taken out of themselves after having seen this film one Saturday night, their night out. While it lasted, you forgot the war and the menacing world outside. Huddled together in the dark of a cinema, you were caught up in the flow of images on the screen, and nothing more could happen to you. And by some kind of chemical process, this combined gaze had materially altered the actual film, the lighting, the voices of the actors. This is what I had sensed, thinking of Dora Bruder and faced with the ostemsibly trival images of Premier rendez-vous." (p. 66)
Obviously reading this book is an extremely painful experience, and obviously it must have been even more painful to write. With the world today full of refugees, full of death as they try to find anywhere that they can live, it's even more painful than when Modiano wrote it around 20 years ago. Painful. Impossible.

The last paragraph of the book:
"I shall never know how she spent her days, where she hid, in whose company she passed the winter months of her first escape, or the few weeks of spring when seh escaped for the second time. That is her secret. A poor and precious secret that not even the executioners, the decrees, the occupying authorities, the Depot, the barracks, the camps, History, time -- everything that defiles and destroys you -- have been able to take away from her." (p. 119)
This also appears at

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks is now writing about his last days. I have always found his insights to be fascinating. Recently in the New York Times, he wrote an op-ed titled "Sabbath" where he describes his lifelong feelings about his Jewish identity -- as an adult and as a public figure, he's always been a secular Jew.

He begins with his early years, growing up in an Orthodox family in England, his separation from all Jewish practice after his Bar Mitzvah, and his current thoughts on his Jewish identity. He wrote:
I chanted my bar mitzvah portion in 1946 to a relatively full synagogue, including several dozen of my relatives, but this, for me, was the end of formal Jewish practice. I did not embrace the ritual duties of a Jewish adult — praying every day, putting on tefillin before prayer each weekday morning — and I gradually became more indifferent to the beliefs and habits of my parents, though there was no particular point of rupture until I was 18. It was then that my father, inquiring into my sexual feelings, compelled me to admit that I liked boys.
His family were totally unaccepting, especially his mother, and he cut himself off from them, mostly.

He moved from England to the US in 1960. Eventually: "Almost unconsciously, I became a storyteller at a time when medical narrative was almost extinct. This did not dissuade me, for I felt my roots lay in the great neurological case histories of the 19th century ... . It was a lonely but deeply satisfying, almost monkish existence that I was to lead for many years." 

Under the influence of a religious relative, he maintained a certain amount of Jewish consciousness as the years past. In 2014, he describes, he traveled to Israel, where he had last been 60 years before. He wrote: 

I had felt a little fearful visiting my Orthodox family with my lover, Billy — my mother’s words still echoed in my mind — but Billy, too, was warmly received. How profoundly attitudes had changed, even among the Orthodox, was made clear by Robert John when he invited Billy and me to join him and his family at their opening Sabbath meal.  
The peace of the Sabbath, of a stopped world, a time outside time, was palpable, infused everything, and I found myself drenched with a wistfulness, something akin to nostalgia, wondering what if: What if A and B and C had been different? What sort of person might I have been? What sort of a life might I have lived?

In conclusion:
And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.

UPDATE: Oliver Sacks died August 30: NYT Obituary here.

Friday, April 24, 2015

To Remember the Armenian Genocide

"Armenia, on Day of Rain and Sorrow, Observes 100th Anniversary of Genocide" in the New York Times today describes the commemoration of the terrible events which began 100 years ago today.

The article quotes the speech of President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia.The killing,  he said, was “unprecedented in terms of volume and ramifications” at that point in history.
"'The western part of the Armenian people, who for millenniums had lived in their homeland, in the cradle of their civilization, were displaced and annihilated under a state-devised plan,' Mr. Sargsyan said, 'with direct participation of the army, police, other state institutions, and gangs comprising criminals released from the prisons specifically for this purpose.' 
"'Around 1.5 million human beings were slaughtered merely for being Armenian,' he said."
From a NYT article published August 18, 1915:

How shameful that the Turkish president and its official policy still deny these facts of history!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Passover: Hardships of the Past

"My Father's Shtetl Passover Table" by Chaim Goldberg (1917-2004)
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. 
On Passover I think about our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and all the work they did to prepare for the festival, especially during the early years when Jews were new immigrants to the US. Women cleaned their houses compulsively. They put away every-day tableware, cookware, and dishes and washed and prepared their Passover equipment. They had to learn or invent recipes that followed the special added dietary laws of Passover in addition to the rules of kosher food they followed the rest of the year. Often, they were already struggling to feed and care for large families living in poverty. Obviously, some Jewish women still observe all of the dietary laws on Passover and every day; they still struggle with poverty; and so on, but I think the past was really more difficult.

I also think about how lucky these ancestors were to get to America, and how glad I am to live here. Scarcities of food in early spring were a yearly burden to Jews in rural Europe. Passover came at the most difficult moment of the year for people living close to the land. Around the Equinox (that is, at Passover), months have gone by since the fall harvests. Markets offer no fresh vegetables, as none are yet growing. A household larder might still have a small store of produce that was carefully put by last fall, like dried fruit and root vegetables. In early spring, there would also be fewer eggs available, as most hens probably hadn't started laying. Meat would also be seasonally expensive, though for people living on the edge it's virtually always unaffordable.

With all these scarcities, Passover requires Jews to give up bread, which for most people in poor villages such as shtetls provided most of their nutrition. So Passover in the past demanded a very stringent commitment to abstain, not like anything we do now with our supermarkets full of special products that are created for the holiday -- if we decide to abstain at all. Needless to say, the social and communal pressure to remain faithful to dietary laws was also far stronger in the shtetl than in most modern communities. The consequence of deviation from the rules could be overwhelming.

In Eastern Europe, Jewish people experienced all these difficulties. Furthermore, Christian antisemitism and government persecution threatened them more at Easter time. Christian belief was that Jews killed Jesus, and Christians in earlier times often identified the Jews that were alive and living in their neighborhoods as responsible for this atrocity. Since the crucifixion was the central theme of Easter, and Easter and Passover almost always fell during the same week, the worst attacks of antisemitic violence often took place at Passover. Sometimes attacks were fueled by the false accusation that Jews used Christian blood to make matzo.

As a result, Passover in Europe became a season of fear and worry that a pogrom would break out or that any Jewish individual could become the target of accusations and violence. The "blood libel" and other anti-Jewish customs associated with Holy Week and Easter throughout European history are the subject of much research and many books; I've only done a very brief summary here.

Negative experiences from our Jewish past rarely come to the surface during modern Passover celebrations. We do think about the Holocaust, and we think about the many dangers to surviving Jews in modern Europe and Arab countries, and about rising antisemitism in many parts of the world. However, most of us happily ignore the real hardship of giving up bread if it was your main food. We may never have known of the old seasonal scarcity of food, and would rather forget the old season of violence that our ancestors endured.

Chagall: The Exodus
Remembering these things is an important part of my identity as a secular Jew. For me, the idea that all Jews stood at Mount Sinai when Moses gave them the Ten Commandments, that all Jews suffered in the Holocaust, that all Jews have a common past, has a symbolic value even if I do not have a strong religious sense to go with this symbolism.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New in the World of Golems

I've been reading about the history of golem stories in fiction and popular culture. Besides looking into some serious literary history and criticism, I have checked for recent publications in popular lit including some sort of golem. Science fiction, thrillers, literary rehashes of the Golem legends, and more are being written all the time.

Below is some information about a selection of these works. There are many more, including iPhone covers, music, jewelry, and so on.

Clay Lord: Master of Golems,
Volume 1, April 21, 2015
by Jun Suzumoto.
It appears that some type of golems have a role in Japanese manga and games. Clay Lord: Master of Golems is described thus:
"An all new manga series about alchemy and adventure for fans of Full Metal Alchemist. The young and impressionable Clay is nothing short of enthralled by the outside world. Finding interest in the most mundane of details, Clay is a young man with a mysterious past and an awesome power to boot: he has the ability to create and shape golems."

There's evidently a Pokemon character of a golem, as reflected in the trading card above.

About Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman's thriller The Golem of Hollywood, Steven King blurbed:
“An extraordinary work of detection, suspense, and supernatural mystery. I spent three days totally lost in the world Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman have created. This is brilliant, page-turning fiction with mythic underpinnings that give it a special resonance; a rare collaboration where the sum is truly greater than the parts. The book is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It sort of took my breath away.”
The two Kellermans have also written a sequel to this titled The Golem of Paris, which is scheduled for publication next November.

I bought this graphic novel. It's
very disappointing.
An unofficial Minecraft book:
Diary of a Mincraft Golem.
A Minecraft
Golem Action Figure
Not to mention the Minecraft Golem tee shirt!
And finally: a Golem Game for PC
My pick for strangest item: a golem on a pillowcase. I guess it would be good for a kid who wants to have nightmares:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Paul Erdos (March 26, 1913)

Haaretz today commemorated the birthday of Paul Erdos: "This Day in Jewish History / An eccentric mathematician who spent a lifetime crashing with friends is born: A friend, on Paul Erdos: ‘A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.’" by David B. Green.

From the article: Erdos with Terrence Tao in 1985.
A little more about Erdos, who was born in Hungary, and lived an eccentric nomadic life, despite offers of permanent jobs in mathematics:
"In 1984, when he won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Mathematics, he used nearly all of the $50,000 award to endow a prize in memory of his parents, which is presented by the Israel Mathematical Union. 
"Although Erdos lacked many social graces, he had an innocence and generosity that brought him countless friends and collaborators – more than 500 different people co-authored papers with him. Hence arose the concept of an “Erdos number,” by which people denote the degree of separation between them and Erdos, beginning with one degree for those who actually worked directly with him. Some 200,000 mathematicians are said to have assigned themselves Erdos numbers." -- from the article.

Monday, March 23, 2015

S.Y.Agnon (July 17, 1888)

I don't know how I missed S.Y.Agnon in my list of heroes! He won the Nobel Prize in 1966 for a lifetime of writing fiction.

From the Nobel Prize Committee website:
Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970) was born in Buczacz, Eastern Galicia. Raised in a mixed cultural atmosphere, in which Yiddish was the language of the home, and Hebrew the language of the Bible and the Talmud which he studied formally until the age of nine, Agnon also acquired a knowledge of German literature from his mother, and of the teachings of Maimonides and of the Hassidim from his father. In 1907 he left home and made his way to Palestine, where, except for an extended stay in Germany from 1913 to 1924, he has remained to this day. 
At an early age, Agnon began writing the stories which form a chronicle of the decline of Jewry in Galicia. Included among these is his first major publication,Hakhnasat Kalah (The Bridal Canopy), 1922, which re-creates the golden age of Hassidism, and his apocalyptic novel, Oreach Nata Lalun (A Guest for the Night), 1939, which vividly depicts the ruin of Galicia after the First World War. Nearly all of his other writings are set in his adopted Palestine and deal with the replacement of the early Jewish settlement of that country by the more organized Zionist movement after the Second World War. The early pioneer immigrants are portrayed in his epic Temol Shilshom (Only Yesterday), 1945, considered his greatest work, and also in the nightmarish stories of Sefer Hamaasim (The Book of Deeds), 1932.
While these and other works such as Pat Shlema (A Whole Loaf), 1933, andShevuat Emunim (Two Tales), 1943, are enough to assure his stature as the greatest living Hebrew writer, Agnon has also occupied himself with commentaries on the Jewish High Festival, Yamin Noraim (Days of Awe), 1938, on the giving of the Torah, Atem Reitem (Ye Have Seen), 1959, and on the gathering of Hassidic lore, Sifreihem Shel Tzadikim (Books of the Tzadikim), 1960-1961.

Recent Golem Reading

  • Benjamin Ivry, "How the Golem Got Hist Groove Back," Forward, Mach 5, 2015.
  • Elizabeth R. Baer, The Golem Redux, Detroit, 2012.
  • Cathy S. Gelbin, The Golem Returns, Ann Arbor, 2014
  • Gershom Scholem, "The Idea of the Golem" in  On The Kabbalah and Its Symbolism," New York 1965.
  • S.Y.Agnon, To This Day, Transl. Hillel Halkin, New Milford CT, 2009. (Original publication in Hebrew, 1952)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Secular Family Values

A report on 2012 study by the Pew Research Center and additional research by the author of the article describes the values that secular, or non-religious, families impart to their children. Quote:
"Nonreligious family life is replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical precepts. Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a spirit of 'questioning everything' and, far above all, empathy. 
"For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated. It is an ancient, universal ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs. As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: 'The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy ... how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it's like to be on the other end of their actions. And I don't see any need for God in that.'" -- L.A.Times, "How secular family values stack up" by Phil Zuckerman