Do Jewish Men Postpone Death Until After Passover?
April 15, 2014

dwindling number of American Jews will bother attending a Passover Seder this year—but some may postpone their own deaths to take part in one.

Religion Only Works When It Appeals to the Senses
April 09, 2014

“To learn about religion we have to come to our senses.”

From the Stacks: 'Toy Goy'
April 26, 1993
March 29, 2013

On Passover 1993, then–senior editor Michael Lewis found himself alone in an empty New Republic office.

Kosher-for-Passover Coke: It's Not Just for Jews Anymore
An Unscientific Taste Test
March 25, 2013

Why is this cola different from all other colas? Because it is made without high-fructose corn syrup—which explains why foodies stock up on Coke every Passover.

The Age of Comparison
July 28, 2011

The Book that Changed Europe: Picart & Bernard’s “Religious Ceremonies of the World” By Lynn Hunt, Margaret C. Jacob, and Wijnand Mijnhardt (Harvard University Press, 383 pp., $32.95) A New Science: The Discovery of Religion in the Age of Reason By Guy G. Stroumsa (Harvard University Press, 223 pp., $35) The scene is familiar. A family is sitting around a table, in a well-appointed eighteenthcentury dining space. Only if you look closely, and only if you know what to look for, do you realize that this is a Passover seder.

Why Are There No Great Easter Songs?
April 22, 2011

Although I don’t have time to count them, since life expectancy in the United States is only 78.2 years, I suspect that the number of winter holiday songs—and I refer ecumenically not only to Christmas music but to tunes broadly celebrating the wintery season—must be around a zillion kazillion. From the morning after Halloween until New Year’s Day, they are inescapable, and singers in innumerable styles (and of varying religious and cultural backgrounds) keep making CDs of songs still widely thought of as Christmas music.

Mr. President: Do Not Listen to the Rabbi.
April 20, 2011

The two chief rabbis of Israel—one Ashkenazi, the other Sephardi—plus both their theological underlings and detractors can't stay out of the nation's politics. They also won't keep their clammy hands (forgive the non-kosher metaphor) off its exchequer. But they should be able to stay out of the American relationship to the Jewish state. In fact, they endanger it and at no time more than now. It's not exactly about high matters of state. It's actually a piece of rabbinical shulpolitik.

Beyond Comparison
January 27, 2011

On February 13, 1903, a peasant in the Russian town of Dubossary found the body of a 14-year-old boy, Mikhail Rybachenko, in a garden by the Dniester River. Rybachenko had disappeared the Sunday before, after attending church with his grandparents. His corpse was strikingly thin and pale. The body bore multiple bruises and stab wounds; holes appeared by the main arteries. Quickly, a rumor spread that someone had systematically drained his blood.

The Patriarch
July 01, 2010

Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero By Abigail Green (Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) In 1827, an upright, well-to-do English gentleman, traveling through the Levant with his lady wife, ran into some dirty weather en route from Alexandria to Malta. But this particular gentleman was called Moses and his notion of calming the sea was to throw the afikoman half of the middle matzoh of the Passover seder into the churning waters. Apparently, as Abigail Green tells it, in some Sephardi traditions the breaking of the afikoman symbolizes the parting of the Red Sea.

Does Obama Really Think He Can Micromanage American Jews?
April 22, 2010

There are signs that he thinks he can. Barak Ravid reports in yesterday’s Ha’aretz that a high-level but unnamed U.S. official has complained about American Jews speaking up about how they feel and what they think about U.S. policy towards Jerusalem. I don’t particularly agree with what I’ve discerned as Ravid’s political views. But he is certainly a reliable journalist. He did not make this up. It’s one thing, however unbecoming, for the Obami to lecture Israel about its capital. Still, truth be told, the U.S.