Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

3,000 Years of Persian-Jewish History

October 24, 2012

This piece was first published on The Arty Semite blog at The Forward.

David and Leora Nissan in Purim costumes, Tehran, Iran, 1964 (Courtesy of David Nissan).

At a time when Iran is in the American consciousness thanks to both Washington and Hollywood, a major exhibition about the Jews of Iran has opened in Los Angeles. “Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews,” which originated at Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, is at the Fowler Museum at UCLA until March 10, 2013.

The show, the first ever in the United States on Iranian Jews, traces the 3,000 year-long history of Iranian Jewry with more than 100 objects ranging from archeological artifacts to intricately made Judaica to illuminated manuscripts to contemporary photographs and art installations. According to Smadar Keren, Beit Hatfutsot’s curatorial department director, it took two years to collect the various objects and mount the exhibition, which ran in Israel for most of 2011 and was a huge success.

Moti Schwartz, Beit Hatfutsot’s director noted that “Light and Shadows” represented a major turning point for his museum, which does not have its own artifact collection, save for a few items. Based on the positive response to the exhibition, the museum is now set to open one on the Jews of Bukhara, with exhibits on other Jewish communities in the works, as well.

Click here to read more.

© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

A Burning Question

July 19, 2012

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Sybil Sage’s personalized mosaic urn. (photo credit: Courtesy)

PALO ALTO, California — When Elizabeth Stone’s mother Ann died last year in San Mateo, California, attendants from the University of California-San Francisco Medical School came quickly to pick up her body. The same thing had happened 11 years earlier when her father Daniel died.

“They came to take the bodies immediately and sent a thank you letter saying that their bodies would be cremated at some point within several years, but that there would be no notification and no possibility of claiming the ashes,” she said.

While her parents’ decision to be cremated, in addition to donating their bodies to science, might have shocked some Jewish daughters, Stone was unfazed. Her German-immigrant grandparents had been cremated, and she herself plans to follow the family custom.

A 20-minute drive south, one can see the cremated remains of Sandra Slater’s deceased parents and sister stored in wooden boxes in Slater’s home in Palo Alto. Some of her sister’s ashes were also scattered in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and put into a sculpture that Slater made of her.

“My mother, father, and sister were cremated,” she said. “There was really never any question that that’s what would happen.” Slater, an environmental consultant, plans on also choosing cremation (or perhaps liquefaction, should the technology be properly developed) when her time comes. Burial just doesn’t appeal to her. “My dead grandfather was in a closed coffin,” she recalled. To her, “that was creepy.”

To the surprise and disdain of many Jews, less than 70 years post-Holocaust, cremation appears to be a new Jewish family tradition. Increasing numbers of American Jews are choosing — contrary to age-old Jewish practice — to have their remains burned, rather than buried. In many cases, once one family member opts for cremation, it becomes an acceptable choice for many, if not all, of the others.

Lest one think that this is only something happening in the historically more liberal, less affiliated Jewish community in Northern California, Doron Kornbluth, a Canadian-born Israeli educator and speaker, provides some staggering statistics in his new book, “Cremation or Burial? A Jewish View”(Mosaica Press, 2012). According to Kornbluth, a full one-third of American Jews are now opting for cremation.

Click here to read more.

© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

For Jewish Brighton Beach, It’s Memoir Time

June 12, 2012

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

If you’ve seen movies set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn such as “Little Odessa” and “Two Lovers”, you would think that the neighborhood is inhabited almost exclusively by Jews from the Former Soviet Union.

If today were the 1990s, you’d be right. But a group of Columbia University graduate students has produced a short video, called “The Changing Face of Brighton Beach,” documenting how the population of Brighton Beach has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Hint: You’ll still hear a whole lot of Russian in the streets, but you can’t assume its speakers are Jewish.

Click here to read more and watch the video.
© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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