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I’ve seen several asks float across my dashboard for Jewish novels that aren’t Holocaust-based. If you are one of those seekers, I totally recommend The Weight of Ink. I particularly recommend it if you are interested in Jewish history and the pursuit of scholarly knowledge.

The book has a couple of different settings - the first being at a university in London at the turn of the 21st century, and the second being 1660s London, with a brief sojourn in Israel shortly after its founding in the mid-20th century. The modern protagonists - a young American man named Aaron Levy and an older English woman named Helen Watts - are trying to uncover the past from a trove of previously undiscovered documents found in a to-be-renovated house. The 17th century protagonist, Ester Velasquez, is a young woman of some learning who has become a scribe for a blind rabbi out of necessity. The book weaves together the two plots, leaving the reader to wonder what Aaron and Helen will discover or how Ester will arrive at a particular point they uncover before her plot arrives there.

There is also a brief sojourn in Israel in the 50’s, where a young Helen volunteers in the nascent nation and is confronted with the zealotry of Holocaust survivor soldiers. An utterly unforgettable plot involving Aaron’s would-be girlfriend rounds out the novel.

The coolest thing about this novel was its interaction with history - Ester begins a correspondence with various philosophers, one of which is a well known Jewish heretic. The central question of the book - faith vs. survival - is also a very Jewish one. While I am confident that anyone who enjoys historical fiction would love this book, I definitely feel that my background enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of it.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is Jewish, loves Jewish history, or is generally a history nerd.

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In essence, you are your own Torah. As you encounter the world, you record the critical events of your life on the parchment of your very soul. You tell and retell your stories to others and yourself, knowing for certain what occurred in your life, because it happened to you! The power of our shared Torah rests partly in its ability as sacred literature to articulate your stories better than you can. So at any given moment in which you engage in the study of Torah, you might emote; you may feel angry or sad, curious or content, elated or frustrated. Why? Because the point of intersection between the scroll of your own life and the Torah of the Jewish people is ripe with opportunities for growth.

By living your life consciously as a member of a Jewish community, you can tell your stories, come into contact with the Torah of the Jewish people, and, in doing so, learn a great deal about the meaning of your own life. It is with others that we best come to understand why the Torah was conceived and received in a wild, pure place. It was the silence of the desert that inspired the awe and respect of our ancient relatives. Get out, take a hike, explore the Torah of your soul …

Rabbi Philip “Flip” Rice

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oh i forgot to mention!! the rabbi im doing a judaism course with was on the news the other day and he was Extremely Good. for context theres a whole Thing in australia right now where a famous footy player (whose name is israel but is.. a christian) got his multi million dollar contract terminated for making homophobic social media posts and the christian right is Losing It Once More about it threatening their Religious Freedom and the rabbi went on the news in a rainbow kippah and tallis and was basically like ‘thats bullshit my dudes being penalised for being publicly homophobic isnt threatening anyone’s religious freedom get outta here’. g-d hes iconic

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So we drove up to a bigger synagogue for the Beit Din and mikvah. I had the first time slot for the Beit Din in the morning—my friend and I met for breakfast at 7 and left at 8 to be up there by 9—and it was surprisingly easy. I knew two of the rabbis—the Rabbi from my synagogue, the one I first talked to about converting, and the one attached to that synagogue. They asked why I was choosing this, what first made me follow this path, what I wanted to continue learning, made sure I understood I was joining an oppressed people, and that was mostly it. I hung around looking at the rather impressive collection of for sale judaica, and the amazing stained glass—a display of biblical women, one of holidays, and one of biblical history.

We had a couple hours while the others met with the Beit Din and the mikvah filled, so we went to the library and read. When we came back, we all took turns in the mikvah. I was honestly pretty anxious and thought it wouldn’t feel like much, that the Beit Din would feel like the conclusion and this an added ceremony. But it really did feel like a ritual marking a huge shift, which I suppose is the point. I’m surprised I didn’t cry.

And now I’m Jewish!!! This is my life and no one can change that!!

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if you have to rely on antisemitic jokes to be funny, you’re not funny

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The value of peace flows directly from that of difference. For peace in the Judaic sense will come out not when all nations are conquered or concerted but when, under G-d’s sacred canopy, different nations and faiths make space for one another. No other religion and shared this idea, of a single G-d with many names, who had set His image on each of us, but with whom we talk, each faith in its own language, each in its own way.

It remains difficult to fully comprehend the vision at the heart of the Hebrew Bible, namely that religious truth is not universal, not relative, but covenants. G-d reaches out to each people, faith and culture, asking it to be true to itself while recognizing that it is not the exclusive possessor of truth.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks A Letter in the Scroll

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are you shomer negiah? if so, why/why not?

I am not, primarily because I am genderfluid and my gender literally changes every day. It’s hard to keep up with. On top of that, I’m easily touch starved. I can’t afford to be too picky about who I touch. In addition, I’m pansexual, which makes the sexual aspect to Negiah rather moot. And, finally, I have irregular af periods, because PCOS.

So literally every line of reasoning behind shomer negiah would leave me never touching anyone at all… or an exception. So I just choose to ignore it (since I ascribe to the informed choice model of Judaism, this is a valid choice for me).

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Kinda like a cross between Queer Eye and Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.

Each episode, the hosts go into the participant’s kitchen to talk about how to re-organize everything, practice, cleaning, how to “re-kosherify” any utensil for different food group use, and so on. It doesn’t really talk much about kosher recipes because there are a gazillion blogs and books for that.

 The participants would have to be a diverse group that includes converts, reclaimants, inter-faith families, inter-denominational Jewish families, families with small children, singles, retirees, families where some members want to be more observant without infringing on the other household members, etc. Each episode’s participants would have different understandings of what kosher “means” to them and how that meaning is embodied in the space of their kitchen. And it couldn’t be too easy on the hosts – the participants should be people who can’t afford or don’t want two dishwashers or two fridges, preferably have limited space and lots of financial restrictions. The more creative the suggestions the better. (”Just put the utensils for the meat in a small laundry bin on the bookshelf in the apartment living room”).

Each episode has a Phone a Rabbi section in which different rabbis offer (preferably conflicting) advice and suggestions. At the end of the episode, the participant gives their reasoning for accepting some advice over others, just like  how in an episode of House Hunters the participants explain their reasoning for why they picked one house over another. The main “point” is not to codify a “right’ or “wrong” way to practice kosher dietary rules, but to explore the diversity in different ways of Jewish living.

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As the sun of a unique solar system, the Torah spawned a vast array of strikingly different planets.

Ismar Schorsch

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