What Are Tena’im? Originally Published March 20-21, 2020.

Defined as an English word by Merriam-Webster – without saying whether it is singular or plural – as “1. formal prenuptial conditions or agreement made at a Jewish betrothal ceremony, 2. a Jewish social function announcing an engagement,” tena’im  are “conditions.”  The term refers to prenuptial agreement to wed – officially and Jewishly. Based on Read More…

What’s With the Yellow Candles? Originally Published March 13-14, 2020.

The Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) created the Yellow Candle program in 1981.  The purpose is to keep alive the memory of the Six Million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.  (Your correspondent also remembers the additional six or seven million Romani, gays, Catholics, and other targets of prejudice who were slaughtered.) Twenty-four-hour memorial Read More…

What Are Those Thingy-Dos in that Abbreviation? Originally Published March 6-7, 2020.

If only “Thingy-Do” were a technical term!*  This doo-hickey comes with fingers wiggling in the air.  There are a few different items we find in Hebrew that are double strokes.  And as near as we can tell, they are all called gershayim. In an abbreviation, as on the gravestone seen in the image, we use Read More…

The Curious Tale of the Mishpatim Haftarah. Originally Published February 28-29, 2020.

A couple weeks ago, your humble correspondent was offered to learn and deliver the haftarah for Parashat Mishpatim.  The request came just nine days in advance (a Thursday), which seemed precious little time (for me) to learn it.  Looking it up, though, on the spot, it carries such wonderful cantillations that it was hard to Read More…

What Are All These Dots, Then? Part 3. Originally Published February 21-22, 2020.

Well.  We have pierced enough letters with dagesh kal and hazak.  But we still see dots before our eyes!  Last week we mentioned the schwa.  As Mrs. Gallagher taught us in fourth grade and our parents before us, a schwa is written thus:  ǝ.  Did she know that the original word is שְׁוָא which derives Read More…

What Are All These Dots, Then? Part 2. Originally Published February 14-15, 2020.

Last week we discussed the dagesh kal.  To review a bit, a dot in the middle of a Hebrew letter (and we are talking for the most part Biblical Hebrew for the moment) is called a dagesh (דָּגֵשׁ).  In fact, the dot inside the “ד” is one.  “Dagesh” means “piercing.”  There is another sort of Read More…

What Are All These Dots, Then? Part 1. Originally Published February 7-8, 2020.

A dot in the middle of a Hebrew letter (and we are talking for the most part Biblical Hebrew for the moment) is called a dagesh (דָּגֵשׁ).  In fact, the dot inside that “ד” is one.  “Dagesh” means “piercing.”  There are six letters which take a dot to produce a hardened tonal quality when pronounced: Read More…

Who Is Preserving Our Media? Originally Published January 31 – February 1, 2020.

We Jews have been extremely meticulous in preserving and conserving our books and writings:  for instance, each Sefer Torah is copied by hand in special ink on parchment made from kosher animal skins with special formatting.  But what about our popular media?  What about those creative work products that are specifically Jewish in nature?  Read Read More…

What Was the Jewish Influence in the Algonquin Round Table? Originally Published January 24-25, 2020.

The Algonquin Round Table was literally a big round table in the restaurant of the Algonquin Hotel at 59 West 44th Street in New York.  But its legend goes much further than furniture.  A little over 100 years ago, the literati of New York began lunching together.  It began as a welcome home to theatre Read More…

What Did Ida Cohen Rosenthal Do of Note? Originally Published on January 17-18, 2020.

The Jewish Women’s Archive reminded us to celebrate on Jan. 9 the birth in 1886 near Minsk in Russia of Ida Kaganovitch (later Cohen).  At age 16 Ida went off to Warsaw to work as a dressmaker and study math and Russian in the evenings.  At age 18, she immigrated to New Jersey with her Read More…