Secular Category

whenever i start to get bored with the idea of staying vocal as one of the surprisingly few non-closeted secularists in most of the electronic jewish spaces i frequent, something like this comes up. ruth messinger, former manhattan borough president, american jewish world service president, and makher-in-chief of the current (and problematic as well as […]

one. i’ve been meaning to write something about the destruction of temples, and whether it’s something to mourn. partly because i have a soft spot for some aspects of tisha b’av despite my secularism, and partly inspired by a friend’s experience being told by a progressive jewish organization that a drash she wrote for them […]

for poetry month (why april, by the way? ‘the cruelest month’? ‘with his shoures soote’? please.), here’s the text of a talk by irena klepfisz – a fantastic poet in yiddish, english, and both at once, as well as an insightful essayist and deeply committed radical – from a 2006 conference at barnard college called “Jewish Women Changing America: Cross-Generational Conversations”. at the bottom is a poem from one of klepfisz’s books. a complete transcript of the “Changing Culture” panel that klepfisz spoke on (and the rest of the conference) is available online here.

Queer Yiddishkeit Indeed

In: LGBTQ, Music, Queer Culture, Secular, Yiddishkeit

Kudos to The Forward’s Kathleen Peratis for getting this right–the profound infusion and long history of queer culture within Yiddishkeit. While Rokhl talked about the importance of the Klezmatic’s winning a Grammy award on a personal level, what interests me more is how The Forward really penetrated what is often the story left untold–the silencing […]

The arrangement reached with the police and the ultra-orthodox is not a compromise but a surrender. There is no difference between ‘don’t march’ and ‘do what you want, but in your houses behind closed shutters’. In both cases we are banished from the streets into a space that is fenced-in, policed and worst of all […]

Ephraim Oakes is an oysterlisher* yid, proud golesnik, and aspiring writer of Yiddish punk songs. He’s still recovering from the culture shock of moving from a commune in rural Virginia to the small New England city where he currently resides. He used to make cheese and hammocks for a living, though at the moment, his […]

I posed a few questions on Jewish identity and community to people from a variety of different Jewish backgrounds, and will be publishing them in their entirety here on JVoices in the coming days. In today’s installment, Felix Thomson, who is half Jewish and a mother of two kids, responds to my queries. IB of […]

the calendar has come around again to the time of one of the many proud jewish traditions that has gone out of practice in recent years, though not one that gets mentioned very often.

in ashkenazi communities from nyu-york and buenos (aires) to varshe and london (and i assume to durban and sydney), each fall, on the 10th of tishrey, radical jews – mainly anarchists, though also bundists, communists, and other socialists – held a celebration. the community would turn out in full force, dressed in their best clothes, and pack the hall, sometimes spilling out into the street. they would generally begin by sitting down to a banquet, followed by a musical program that would lead into dancing until the late hours of the night. the event would be held in a hall as close as possible to the official center of the jewish community, the synagogue.

the yom kippur ball drifted out of common practice as the first half of the twentieth century waned. radical jews’ inclination to confront the religious authorities declined as those authorities wielded less and less practical power; their impulse to acknowledge the date of atonement for halakhic transgressions declined as the secular jewish culture they created grew stronger. so why, every year at about this time, do i – three generations of secular radical jewish life past that era – have an urge to throw a really rowdy party?


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