When Disaster Strikes By R. Miriam Berkowitz


One Saturday night in November, 1995, I was making havdala with JTS rabbinical students spending a year in Israel Matt Berkowitz, Matt Eisenfeld z”l and Shai Held in their apartment in Rehavia. The calmness of the evening broke down when an urgent announcement of the tragic and unexpected murder of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was made on the radio.

How Do We Establish Memory? Professor Doron Bar on the Creation of Yad Vashem


Memory or heroism? Victims or heroes? What should a museum commemorate? Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, shares insights into how Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum, was established. He focuses on the Hall of Remembrance, a less frequented site in the Yad Vashem complex, and its meaning to him and to his students.

Jerusalem of Skyscrapers? Professor Doron Bar on the City's Changing Population


Sunday, the 28th of Iyyar, marks the 51st anniversary of Jerusalem’s unification. Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and a 7th generation Jerusalemite, tells the story of Jerusalem’s changing population through the lens of his family history. How has Israel’s largest city evolved from a a small group living within the Old City walls to an expansive metropolis?

Light in the Darkness? Hanukkah and its Possible Pagan Origins


What are the cultural-evolutionary origins of our Holiday of Lights? To be sure, the rabbis of the Talmud tell us in Tractate Shabbat 21a that the miracle of Hanukkah is what we teach our children, and perhaps why we eat latkes and jelly doughnuts, all laden with (way too much) oil. However other accounts of the story, including one other rabbinic source – the Al Ha’Nissim paragraph added to the Amida and Birkat Hamazon during the holiday – make no mention of this miracle.

A Research Journey: From the Père Lachaise Cemetery to the Waddesdon Manor to Ramat Hanadiv


In my book Ideology and Landscape, which is about reinterring Zionist leaders in the homeland, I devoted a chapter to the reburial of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Ramat Hanadiv. He and his wife Ada (Adelheid) were reinterred there in April 1954 in an imposing public ceremony. An Israeli battleship brought the coffins from Marseille to Haifa, and from there they were transported to the majestic burial estate south of the Carmel.

Tisha B’Av’s Place in Contemporary Society


Every year camp counselors confront a dilemma: what content is appropriate for Tisha B’Av when this fast day occurs during the camp season. Should the campers be expected to fast? The counselors? In many cases, commemorating Tisha B’Av is reduced to cancelling swimming or programming an activity related to the rabbinic midrash of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza on the destruction of the Temple. What indeed is Tisha B’Av’s place in contemporary society?