Jewish Studies at Cornell Program Announcment

From Judeo-Phobia to Anti-Semitism and Back Again

Thursday, April 11th 2013 at 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM

A.D. White House, Guerlac Room 409 White Hall

image talk

Steven Englund recently retired as the NYU Distinguished Professor of History at The American University of Paris. He is the author of Napoleon: A Political Life (Scribner’s, 2004), which won the Russell Major Award as the Best Book in French History, from The American Historical Association. The book is the first American biography of Napoleon to be translated into French; it won the Grand Prix of the Fondation Napoleon (2005) and the American Historical Association’s prize for the best book in French history. Englund has been a Guggenheim Fellow (2006) and was named by the French Republic as Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (2005). He is currently writing a comparative history of political Antisemitism in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and France, 1870-1920, under contract with a French and a German publisher. He obtained his Ph.D. from Princeton University, where he studied with Arno J. Mayer and Carl E. Schorske.

In his talk at Cornell, Prof. Englund will discuss David Nirenberg’s new book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013), with a view to seeing what it says, and does not say, about the more specific phenomenon of political Antisemitism. Scholarship on Antisemitisim in the past generation has tended to study their topic as if it had completely broken from its religious past when it took the form of attacks on Jews-as-‘Christ-killers’ (deicides). After 1880, Antisemitism saw itself — and continues to be seen by scholars — as a narrowly political movement oriented around social, economic, cultural, racial, and political themes. Englund will try to show that in fact, whether as open or subdued clericalism or in a myriad of more unconscious forms of ‘the religious’ (le religieux), the religious dimension of Anti-Judaism remained very present in political Antisemitism. This, he maintains, was true in the eighteenth century as well, when ‘the politics of commerce’ was ostensibly the new cadre of Anti-Judaism.

Sponsored by The Jewish Studies Program, co-sponsored by The Religious Studies Program.



We’re deep into Chol haMoed Pesach and the fridge still harbors a mound of charoset.

Although probably nobody really needs a recipe for charoset it is always interesting to try different formulas. This year we prepared a Sefardic charoset that I learned from Abraham Hanono, with whom I attended a seder with a few years back when he was a molecular and cellular biology grad student here at Cornell. It is very simple with only a few ingredients, and quite delicious. Here is the procedure in his own words, click here for a printer-friendly version.

charoset recipe

One of the great things I realized about this charoset is that it lasts longer than the type made with grated apples. So my breakfast every day is matzah (Rakuesen’s of course), topped with charoset. The dates probably also have an added benefit of counteracting the cloying effect of a matzah-heavy diet on the digestive system.

There is so much charoset that I’m going to throw some into the freezer and maybe incorporate it into a muffin recipe or something after Pesach. This plan feels a little subversive but, as my husband pointed out, you could feel the same way about using left-over matzah as a stand in for a second challah.

Charoset is not very photogenic, but I have been told not to post to the website without a photo so here we go:



A Mixed Multitude

Now that A. is four, she is really into the holidays in a way she wasn’t at three. So she has been helping with preparations for Passover, hunting for chametz, memorizing the four questions, and looking forward to two seders, one at the home of friends, and the other at our house, with her best friend invited.

Because we didn’t have enough to do, she and I embarked on a project: finger puppets! We had already made a whole fleet of Thomas the Tank Engine and friends felt finger puppets, so it wasn’t hard to adapt the idea to Moses, Pharaoh, and the Israelites.

Start with sheets of felt from the craft store, fabric tack, googly eyes (or use bits of felt), and scissors. Depending on your child’s skill level, you can cut out the felt, or they can help. Same with the glue. You might also want to cover the table with newspaper.

Supplies for finger puppets

Felt, scissors, fabric tack

Next, create a cardboard template for yourself in the shape of the puppet. Fold the felt so both sides are cut at the same time, outline the puppet’s body, and cut. Glue the two pieces together.

Templete and felt

Templete and felt

Next, decide on the color of hair, beard, clothes, etc. I have no crafting skills at all, so I used rectangles for the clothes, with scoop or V-necks, random scraps for lips, and whatever worked for hair and beard. We also made everyone in random colors, a sort of homage to the idea of a mixed multitude. The people who left Egypt could be beige or brown or black or blue or purple. Whoever they were when they left, they would be different before their journey was over. Obviously, we weren’t going for realism, though A. decided that Moses should be off-white, so that he would be as distinct as Pharaoh. Similarly, he is the only one dressed in purple.

Moses is taking shape

Moses is taking shape


Looking more like a leader…

We decided to make Pharaoh -and only Pharaoh–green, so he would really stand out. He’s also the only one with eyebrows, which was also A.’s choice. I suggested she use something sparkly on Pharaoh’s clothes or crown, but A. decided against it. He is, she said, a bad guy, and she didn’t want to make him pretty at all. No decorations for you, Pharaoh!


Pharaoh is green, with envy, or from a plague, or something


Mean looking guy, that Pharaoh!

And so, after a couple of hours of work, discussing the Exodus story as we went, A. and I had created, together, a slightly raggedy, but completely respectable Mixed Multitude: a minyan of Israelites, and one mean Pharaoh. And A. came up with a really brilliant idea: she remembered some ribbon left over from Hanukkah, and snipped bits for the Israelites’ belts: it is now abundantly clear who is who in this grouping!

Mixed Multitude

Mixed Multitude

Chag Sameach!


Matzah in the mail

An impressive pallet of matzah on sale at Wegmans.

matzah WegmansWegmans stocks Osem, Manischewitz, Yehudah and Streit’s brands of matzah.

There is even a stand with free Maxwell House Haggadot, one of the loveliest acts of corporate generosity (Kraft foods) and one that definitely snags its intended target; for my part, I am a loyal consumer of Maxwell House products.

free haggadot

However, all is not perfect in the Wegmans world of Matzah. There is one brand of matzah missing from the Wegmans line-up, Rakusen’s.

Rakusen’s is the Jewish claim to fame of my hometown in Leeds, UK. We would drive past the matzah factory every day on our way to school. The Rakusen’s matzahs are very thin and crispy, quite different to any other brand of matzah. Once you have tasted Rakusen’s, eating the other kind is like chomping your way through corrugated cardboard. Plus these matzot come wrapped in a plastic wrapper inside the box which seems a lot more hygenic and tamper-resistant than stuffing the matzot straight into the cardboard container.

In past years, Wegmans has stocked Rakusen’s matzah at its flagship store in Rochester and once even in the Ithaca store. But not this year. I contacted Wegmans customer services online requesting them to stock this brand and received a standard “Thank you for your comments” response.

Thinking that this would be the last I heard about this as my comment disappeared into the interwebs I was surprised a few days later when a letter arrived at my house containing the following reply:


Pretty prompt and courteous customer service!

But, dear reader, this left yours truly with a dilema. Where to obtain Rakuen’s matzah?

It turned out that a grocery chain named ShopRite is stocking Rakusen’s matzah. Unsurprisingly, this option was hampered by a feasibility issue, namely:

ShopRite locationor, as the ShopRite store locator put it:

0 stores

So we turned to Amazon. Not without trepidation, would our order arrive in time for Pesach? Happily, only a couple of days later, this box arrived on our doorstep:

matzah package

Rakusen’s matzah definitely makes the tedious chametz-free days of Pesach a little more gastronomically pleasant and I was really happy to be able to acquire some.

matzah packageֻ unpack

Perhaps some of you will feel like adding your voice and also requesting this product from Wegmans in the future.

Until then I can recommend that Matzah in the mail is the way to go!


Life and Hebrew

I am thrilled and delighted to welcome a new contributor to TBEmavens who has very kindly agreed to share insights into Hebrew language topics.


As every Hebrew student knows, most Hebrew words are based on three letters. And with a slight change of one or more vowels, these three letters can form related meanings that often provide a whole philosophy of life.

Take for example the famous phrase from the Pesach Haggadah – מַה נִשׁתָנָה …, ma nishtanah … How is it different…?

The three main letters of the term נִשׁתָנָה  are ש ,נ  and ה shin, nun and hey.  This has three basic meanings.  First, there is the meaning ‘to learn’, as Hillel famously declared,  “Do not say, ‘If I have free time, I will learn (אֶשׁנֶה)’ – perhaps you’ll never have free time!”

Secondly, there is the meaning ‘to repeat’, perhaps most famous for its Aramaic equivalent in the form תנה, Tanna, the name given to the professional learners, the Jewish sages who, perhaps from the time of Moses, committed to memory the precious Jewish texts and transmitted them orally through the generations, until they were eventually written down at the end of the second century CE.

The third meaning ‘to be different’ appears in the famous question in the Haggadah mentioned above.

What then is the connection between these three meanings, which seem totally unconnected in English thought?   Well, by repeating we learn, and we learn by repeating. In this way we become different and are changed.  Knowledge changes and empowers.

With a slight adjustment of the vowels – ‘e’ to ‘a’, but otherwise exactly the same letters, we could also ask at the Seder  נִשׁתָנֶה …, ma nishtaneh … How shall we be changed?  How shall we be different?  –  what have we learnt after yet repeating this amazing Haggadah?


 ה׳ בניסן תשע״ג

16th March 2013

Thank you for a wonderful article and we look forward to many more!


Jew Hatred on Twitter

Tablet Magazine has an article on the escalation of Jew hatred in Europe, and in France specifically, mirrored (or perhaps incited) by Twitter feeds with tags like #UnBonJuif (#AGoodJew). The feeds contain anti-Jewish hate speech.

This brings up a few issues for me, as a parent. The world feels like a less safe place for my child, and that will no doubt cause me more than one sleepless night. But it also means that social media, already an area fraught with issues, is even less safe. At what age will my daughter run across Jew hatred on Twitter, or Tumblr, or Instagram, or whatever the “It” app is? How will we prepare her for it, and how will we talk about it? I need to think about this now.



Huge Hunk ‘o חריין

This is quite a specimen weighing in at 1.5 lbs (that’s ~700g for our international readers).

It’s going to be a real tear-jerker. For the time being I’m admiring its magnificent ugliness before we get up close and pungent.


I anticipate I’ll have way more than we need so please drop me a line if you would like to share a portion of this zesty root.