Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Recent Jewish Studies Research

Question: Where can I find an overview of the various scholarly approaches in recent research on Jewish liturgy?

Answer: Lawrence A. Hoffman’s essay “Jewish Liturgy and Jewish Scholarship: Method and Cosmology” in The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (Oxford University Press, 2002) p. 733-755 presents a survey of research in Jewish liturgy, focusing on the attitudes and points of view of the various scholars. In addition to earlier studies, publications of the last 20 years are presented.

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies provides a similar “snapshot of the current state of research” (p. xiii) in each of 39 sub-disciplines, ranging from Biblical studies and medieval Jewish history to Jewish mysticism, Jewish music, and demography of the Jews. This handbook will help a student evaluate a particular scholar’s work against the backdrop of the accomplishments of his fellow researchers.

Most chapters include an introduction to the field, a survey of early research (19th and early/mid 20th century publications), as well as a detailed emphasis on more recent scholarship. Many essays also suggest areas that have not been well-studied, in the hope that future scholars will investigate those topics further. Each chapter concludes with a paragraph highlighting the strengths of “Suggested Reading,” and a more extensive “Bibliography.”

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies is located in the JTS Library’s Reference collection at: REF BM 70 O95 2002.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Finding Articles About the Tanakh (Part 2 - RAMBI)

Question: Where can I find articles about a specific passage in the Tanakh?

Answer: [Continued from blog posting Nov 12, 2009 which focused on ATLA/ATLAS]. Another quick way to identify scholarly articles and essays on biblical passages is via the RAMBI Index of Articles on Jewish Studies.

1. Use the SUBJECT option from the drop-down list.

2. Type the name of the Biblical book in either English or Hebrew (with the Hebrew alphabet) like this:
Genesis (Book of) or
(בראשית (ספר

For best results, do not use transliterated Hebrew book names, like “bereshit”, when using the SUBJECT option. Exceptions: KOHELTH, OVADIAH.

3. Type the chapter (or range of chapters) after the name of the book:
Ezekiel (book of): 8
יחזקאל (ספר) ח - יב

Specifying Verses: You can not specify verses using the SUBJECT option. However, if particular verses are mentioned in the title of the article, it is easy to notice those articles when you peruse the listing of article titles.

You can search for articles on specific verses using a KEYWORD SEARCH; they will be in your results list only if that chapter/verse combination happens to be in the title of the article.

General Articles:
Articles on the entire Five Books of Moses are listed under the subjects PENTATEUCH or תורה .
Articles on the entire Tanakh are listed under the subjects: BIBLE or BIBLE: EXEGESIS or מקרא . Additional general articles are listed under: PROPHETS, נביאים , כתובים

Languages: Using English search terms will retrieve a listing of articles in all European languages, including Russian. Using Hebrew will retrieve a listing of articles in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Journals and books included: RAMBI’s unique strength is its emphasis on Jewish and Israeli publications such as: Dine Israel, Dor le Dor, Hebraic Political Studies, Iberia Judaica, Jewish History, Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Niv Hamidrashia, Shdemot, and most significantly, the multitude of Hebrew language publications.

RAMBI’s wide range of European-language journals are similar to those in ATLA/ATLAS, from Journal of Biblical Studies to the Annual of the Japanese Biblical Institute. In addition, RAMBI includes articles in feschriften and other essay collections.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Name, Title, or Honorific?

I am a researcher involved in an oral history project and am dealing with an individual who is referred to as: “HaRav HaGaon, HaTzaddik, Avraham HaLevi Jungreis”. I suspect that some of these words may in fact be honorifics rather than part of the subject’s actual name. Can you help me to determine if this is so?


Here is how this mixture of name, title, and honorifics breaks down:

HaRav = the Rabbi
HaGaon = the Genius
HaTzaddik = the Righteous
Avraham = [given name]
HaLevi = the Levite [meaning: from the tribe of Levi but not a Kohen (priestly family)]
Jungreis = [family name]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finding Articles About the Tanakh

Question: Where can I find articles about a specific passage in the Tanakh?
Answer: A quick way to find scholarly articles on Biblical verses is the Scriptural Index in the ATLA/ATLAS database [access details below].

1. Choose SCRIPTURES from the blue band at the top of the screen. You will be presented with a list of Biblical books. (Clicking on any of the books will retrieve ALL the articles about that book, a list much too long to be useful)

2. Click on EXPAND to be presented with a choice of chapters within that book
3.Click on EXPAND again next to chapter of your choice, to get a choice of verses.
4. Click on the desired verse number to finally retrieve a list of relevant articles.

Note the options in the left-hand column NARROW RESULTS BY: SUBJECT (on the green bar). You will see headings specifying a range of verses in the Biblical book. For example, “Bible. Genesis 12-25”. Clicking on this heading will retrieve articles covering all those verses, as a group.

An important “subject” option is the PEER REVIEWED specification. Clicking this option will limit your results list to articles published in refereed journals. This means the articles have been screened and approved by experts in that academic discipline before publication is permitted. Although some scholars have been dissatisfied with this process, its goal is to ensure that only quality scholarship is being published.

An alternate method of retrieving peer reviewed articles is in right-hand column of the screen: LIMIT YOUR RESULTS (on the green bar). Check the SCHOLARLY (PEER REVIEWED) JOURNALS box, and then click UPDATE RESULTS (on the blue rectangle).

As always in ATLA/ATLAS, some articles will be full-text, while others will appear only as citations. Full-text articles are viewable via Adobe PDF software, and have PDF Full Text right after the citation.

Please note that ATLA/ATLAS, compiled by the American Theological Libraries Association, includes journals published by all world religions, as well as by academic institutions. For example: Jewish Bible Quarterly, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Trinity Journal, Journal of Biblical Literature, Conservative Judaism, Mennonite Quarterly Review, Anglican Theological Review. Therefore the authors’ attitudes represent a wide variety of interests and viewpoints.


ATLA/ATLAS is available via JTS campus computers from the AVAILABLE ONLINE page. JTS students and faculty can access this database remotely.

To be continued in the future with a posting on Using RAMBI to Find Articles About the Tanakh.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Checking Lettuce for Bugs - Video Tutorial

In order to properly observe the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) I want to check my lettuce for bugs before eating. I have read descriptions about how this should be done but I am still unsure how to do it. Would you, please, direct me to an online video that shows the procedure?

You may find the following video helpful: It was produced by the Star-K kashrut organization and it depicts the procedure for checking lettuce for bugs. Helpful tips for how to best do this examination are given. Other Star-K bug-checking videos are found here: Happy hunting!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Synagogue Records from Europe

Have you access to synagogue records in Europe for genealogical research?

Our Library holds a selection of "Pinkasim" or community record books (manuscripts), which usually list births, marriages and deaths, for individual towns in Eastern Europe.

You can find them listed in our catalog by doing an ADVANCED SEARCH In LIMIT SEARCH TO choose the FORMAT of manuscripts. Search the word: pinkas or פנקס

To cast a wider net, do a BASIC SEARCH. Specify SUBJECT BEGINS WITH from the drop-down menu. In the text-box, type: pinkasim .

Some of the listings you retrieve will be community record books with vital statistics.
For example:
Pinkas of the Venice synagogue (1611-1833)
Memorbuch from Mainz, Germany (1586-1837)

You will also retrieve listings of record books of various types of organizations:

Pinkas min ha-Havurah Magide Tehilim u-Gemilut Hasadim (Kiev, 1895)
[record book from the society of those who recite Psalms and perform acts of loving kindness]
Pinkas Hevrah Mishnayot (Siladi, Romania, 1907-1933)
[record book of the Mishna society]
Pinkas Ozer Dalim (Venice1641-1726)
[record book of those who help the poor]
Minute Book of the Budapest Chevra Shas (1907-1932)
Pinkas nedarim (Mantua, Italy, 1753)
[record book of vows]
Pinkas hevra kadisha (Lissa, Poland, 1833-1854)
[record book of the burial society]

One of the special collections in the JTS Archives is the French Jewish Communities Record Group, including documents from 1648-1946. This collection holds many record books, such as a Taxes roll of the Jews in the district of Metz in 1785.
This collection is described in An Inventory to the French Jewish Communities Record Group (1648-1946) by Roger S. Kohn (1991) Z6373 F7 Y47 1997

Holocaust survivors from many European towns have published memorial books which include local histories, lists of former residents who were killed, and lists of those who survived. The JTS Library holds many such memorial books. The New York Public Library has a collection of digitized yizkor books.

Other resources for Eastern European genealogical documentation are:
The Genealogy Institue at the Center for Jewish History

Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova; Pages From the Past and Archival Inventories, by Miriam Wiener et. al. (1999) DS 135 U4 W45 1999

Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages From the Past and Archival Inventories, by Miriam Wiener et. al. (1997) CS877 J4 W45 1997

Some Archival Sources for Ukrainian-Jewish Genealogy, compiled by Aleksander Kronik and Sallyann A. Sack (1997) DS135 U4 K76 1997

Sources on Polish Jewry at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. Compiled by Hanna Volovici, et. al. (2004) Z6373 P7 S68 2004

New DVDs in the JTS Library

In this season of film festivals, enjoy your own, personal Jewish and Israeli film festival by viewing the following newly arrived DVD’s in the JTS Library Collection. All DVDs are located in the Asher Audio-Visual Library and circulate for one week. They can also be viewed on our in-house DVD players.

Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (2008)-Directed by Roberta Grossman. In English, Hebrew and Hungarian with subtitles in English. The first documentary feature about Hannah Senesh, Blessed Is the Match tells the life story of the Hungarian-born poet and Holocaust heroine, who was only 22 when she parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe in 1944 as part of a rescue mission to save the Jews of Hungary, the only outside rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust. Hannah parachuted behind enemy lines, was captured, tortured and ultimately executed by the Nazis. Dramatizations, interviews, photographs, newsreel footage, letters, and diary entries are used to illuminate Senesh's early years, her immigration to Palestine and her involvement in the perilous rescue mission.With unprecedented access to the Senesh family archive, this powerful story unfolds through the writings and photographs of Hannah and her mother, Catherine Senesh. (DVD 153)

Defiance (2008)-Directed by Edward Zwick and starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. The deep forests of Poland and Belorussia are the domain of the occupying Germans during World War II. Four Jewish brothers, the Bielskis, go into these forests after the murder of their parents by local authorities working with the German invaders. They undertake the impossible task of foraging for food, weapons and survival, not just for themselves but for a large mass of Jews fleeing from the German war machine. The brothers, living with the fear of discovery, must contend with neighboring Soviet partisans and deciding whom to trust. They take on the responsibility of guardians and motivate hundreds of women, men, children and elderly to join their fight against the Nazi regime while hiding in makeshift homes in the dark, cold, unforgiving forest. At the same time, the brothers turn a band of war defectors into powerful freedom fighters. At the war’s end, 1200 members of the Bielski group survived. Their children and grandchildren number in the tens of thousands. Based on the book “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans” by Nechama Tec. (DVD 150)

Hatunah Me’uheret/Late Marriage (2001)-Written and directed by Dover Kasashvili and starring Lior Ashkenazi and Ronit Elkabetz. In Georgian and Hebrew with English subtitles. Zaza is a 31-year-old bachelor Georgian/Israeli Ph.D. student at Tel Aviv University whose family is trying to arrange a marriage for him. Unknown to them, he is secretly dating a 34-year-old divorcée, Judith, who has a 6-year-old daughter. Zaza must choose between his family traditions or his love in this comedy/melodrama. (DVD 149)

Live and Become (2008)-Written and directed by Radu Mihaileanu and starring Moshe Agazai, Mosche Abebe, Sirak M. Sabahat, Yael Abecassis and Roschdy Zem. In French, Hebrew and Amharic with English subtitles. The story begins in 1985 when, in a wrenching opening scene set in a squalid refugee camp in the Sudan, a mother forces her weeping 9 year old son to leave her side and join the transport of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the secret Israeli airlift code-named Operation Moses. The boy, too young to understand that his mother is probably saving his life, is substituted for Solomon, the dead son of a Falasha woman, who agrees to take him. Under the provisions of Israel’s Law of Return, those Ethiopian refugees with Jewish parents and grandparents could settle in Israel and become citizens; thousands emigrated. The enigmatic final words of the boy’s mother, “Live and become,” resonate through the rest of the film. Based on real events. (DVD 145)

Waltz with Bashir (2008)-Written and directed by Ari Folman. In Hebrew with English subtitles. An animated film about a real person and real events. After not being able to recall the time he spent on an Israeli Army mission during the Lebanon War, Ari attempts to unravel the mystery by traveling around the world to interview old friends and comrades. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, his memory begins to return in illustrations that are surreal. At the end of the animated film, a very short part of the film shows real people. The film includes disturbing images of atrocities and violence as well as brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content. Winner of the Israeli Film Academy’s award for the best film of 2008, and the USA’s Golden Globe for best foreign language film of 2008. (DVD 151)

Watermarks (2004)-Written and directed by Yaron Zilberman. In English, Hebrew and German with subtitles in English. The story of the champion women swimmers of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna. Hakoah was founded in 1909 in response to the notorious Aryan Paragraph, which forbade Austrian sports clubs from accepting Jewish athletes. Its founders were eager to popularize sport among a community renowned for such great minds as Freud, Mahler and Zweig, but traditionally alien to physical recreation. Hakoah rapidly grew into one of Europe's biggest athletic clubs, while achieving astonishing success in many diverse sports. In the 1930s Hakoah's best-known triumphs came from its women swimmers, who dominated national competitions in Austria. After the Anschluss, in 1938, the Nazis shut down the club, but the swimmers all managed to flee the country before the war broke out, thanks to an escape operation initiated by Hakoah's functionaries. Sixty-five years later, director Yaron Zilberman meets the members of the swimming team in their homes around the world, and arranges for them to have a reunion in their old swimming pool in Vienna, a journey that evokes memories of youth, femininity, and strengthens lifelong bonds. Told by the swimmers, now in their eighties. (DVD 148)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jews in Sports

In honor of the World Series –

Would you suggest a few books that discuss Jewish participation in sports, especially in the United States?

Here are some books that might interest you:

Gurock, Jeffrey S.
Judaism's encounter with American sports.
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c2005
GV709.6 .G87 2005 [CIRC]

Mendelsohn, Ezra.
Jews and the sporting life.
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008
GV709.6 .J47 2008 [CIRC]

Ribalow, Harold Uriel.
The Jew in American sports.
New York : Hippocrene Books, 1985
GV697.A1 R5 1985 [CIRC]

Riess, Steven A.
Sports and the American Jew.
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 1997
GV709.6 .S76 1997 [CIRC]

Siegman, Joseph.
Jewish sports legends : the international Jewish sports Hall of Fame.
Washington : Brassey's, c1997
OVR GV697.A1 S4797 1997 [CIRC]

Silverman, B. P. Robert Stephen.
The 100 greatest Jews in sports : ranked according to achievement.
Lanham, Md. ; Oxford : Scarecrow Press, 2003
GV697.A1 S522 2003 [CIRC]

Wechsler, Bob.
Day by day in Jewish sports history.
Jersey City, NJ : KTAV ; [New York] : in association with the American Jewish Historical Society, c2008
GV709.6 .W43 2008 [CIRC]