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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Small things considered

By Andrew Silow-Carroll


The author's Sholem Aleichem bobblehead



Sure, sometimes a shofar is just a shofar. But the things Jews touch, make, cook, build, and wear can often be as significant as the ideas they write about, pray for, argue over, and meditate on



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | If my Sholem Aleichem bobblehead could talk, what would he say? The six-inch model of the great Yiddish writer sits on the windowsill in my office, not far from my JNF tzedaka box, my Rutgers Hillel Frisbee, and a framed quote from Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers (more on that in a bit).

I ordered the bobblehead from Jewish Currents magazine partly because I love Jewish kitsch, and partly because it makes me happy to say the words “Sholem Aleichem bobblehead.”

Of course, it’s the rare object or souvenir that doesn’t say something about its owner. I suppose I keep the great humorist and stylist near my keyboard as a talisman, the way Schroeder parks a bust of Beethoven on his toy piano. I don’t read Yiddish, but I appreciate the genius of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye and “Railroad” stories. The bobblehead is also a memorial object, I suppose, a mini-monument to the immigrant ferment and progressive secular Judaism that has faded since the last century.

That’s a lot to put on a toy, but I wouldn’t be the first to invest a lot of meaning in everyday objects. When I worked for CLAL, Vanessa Ochs introduced me to the discipline of “material culture” — stuff, essentially, and what it says about its owners and collectors. In an essay, What Makes a Jewish Home Jewish?, Vanessa inventoried the home of a “past president of a Conservative synagogue in suburban New Jersey,” and tallied her various objets d’art and tchotchkes, from the framed Israeli art on her walls to the jars of borscht in her pantry. “In Judaism and, I imagine, most other faith traditions, the spiritual is material,” wrote Vanessa, a member of the University of Virginia faculty. “Things denote one’s belonging, one’s participation, possibly one’s convictions.”


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When I was at the Forward we started a feature about people’s various Jewish objects — little essays in which writers described their favorite Jewish knick-knacks and what they meant to them. (This was a few years before The New York Times Style section began its similar “Possessed” column.) We also brought in as a columnist Jenna Weissman Joselit of George Washington University. Jenna has made a career of studying Jewish clothing, objects, and kitsch, reminding us that “the stuff of history — Jewish history, most especially — comes in all manner of containers: elaborately illuminated manuscripts preserved in their entirety and hastily scribbled ‘to do’ lists; lofty Torah arks and humble calendar art; fine silver and junk.”

My office has more junk than fine silver. But each object tells a story. I got my coin bank in the shape of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick after giving a speech there; I think I got a laugh when I said, “But it’s empty!” I thought the JNF box was just an example of iconic Judaica until just a few weeks ago, when some bloggers noticed that the map of Israel on its side makes no distinction between Israel proper and the West Bank (not unlike a Palestinian textbook). Suddenly, the “little blue box” became a political argument.


My most cherished object is a marble paperweight commemorating the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Once sold by The New York Times, it features an engraved replica of the front page from March 27, 1979, showing Sadat, Begin, and Carter in a happy handshake. It celebrates another, more private reconciliation as well: It was a gift from my dad. Soon after college I started becoming more observant, spent long stretches in Israel, and then went into Jewish journalism as a profession. I think these moves baffled my dad, who is proudly Jewish but objects to the way religion often divides people. When he gave me the paperweight a few years later, I felt he was acknowledging my career choices and letting me know that he appreciated what Israel and the synagogue meant to me.

Sure, you can overdo this deep analysis of stuff; sometimes a shofar is just a shofar. But the things Jews touch, make, cook, build, and wear can often be as significant as the ideas they write about, pray for, argue over, and meditate on. Again, Vanessa Ochs: “Without things, in all their thingness, there is no Passover, only an idea of Passover; and a faint and fuzzy idea it would be, like honor, loyalty, and remorse — like, perhaps, God, and, more surely, monotheism.”

That’s where the Irving Howe quote comes in. In writing about The Yiddish Daily Forward in its heyday, Howe wrote, “The single greatest journalistic quality of the Forward was the sustained curiosity it brought to the life of its own people.” It wanted to know if kids were taking piano lessons, how people were making a living, what women were wearing as they climbed the social ladder. “Nothing seemed too mundane for the Forward staff,” wrote Howe.

Sitting on my shelf in a gold frame, that passage reminds me of an essential truth: When it comes to the stories we tell about ourselves and others, stuff matters.

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JWR contributor Andrew Silow-Carroll is the editor in chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, where this article first appeared.

© 2012, Andrew Silow-Carroll