The Jewish Advocate: Spiegelman draws his comic view of world events for a local audience; Author of ‘Maus’ books brings ‘raw’ message to Peabody Essex Museum

Originally published in The Jewish Advocate.

SALEM – Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist best known for his Holocaust “Maus” books, drew a sold-out crowd to the Peabody Essex Museum Tuesday night as part of the museum’s month-long look at artistic responses to another horrific event in history, Sept. 11, 2001.

Spiegelman, 57, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, not long after the end of World War II, the child of Holocaust survivors Vladek and Anja. His parents dreamed of him becoming a dentist, but when he discovered Mad magazine, the course of his life changed. “I studied Mad the way some kids studied the Talmud,” he told Tuesday’s audience.

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The Jewish Advocate: Adherents of Humanism putting down local roots; In sign of movement’s local growth, Boston to host biennial conference

Originally published in The Jewish Advocate.

NEWTON – Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Newton, known as Kahal B’raira, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Its name means “Community of Choice,” which also happens to sum up the core philosophy of Humanistic Judaism, which adherents describe as “nontheistic” Judaism. In the absence of a supernatural authority commanding people how to be Jewish, Humanistic Jews rely on the choices of human beings and focus on pursuing the ethical choices in their lives.

Kahal B’raira does not yet have a rabbi, although recently the congregation took its first steps at professionalizing its operation by creating three part-time positions. And while its administrator, Sunday School principal, and youth director are surely working hard, a glimpse around the room at the dozens of volunteers at the congregation’s open house last Sunday proved that the communal spirit in which the group was founded runs strong.

“They’re one of our oldest affiliates,” said Rabbi Miriam Jerris, Community Development Coordinator for the Society for Humanistic Judaism, the national organization linking Humanistic Jewish congregations, communities and havurot in the United States. “KB came out of the ’60s and relies very strongly on volunteerism and consensus decision making. They have a huge spirit.”  Continue reading

The Jewish Advocate: Old B&B record striking a chord with young Jews

Originally published in The Jewish Advocate.

Bagels and BongosA record cut more than 40 years ago in Boston is at the center of a new nonprofit organization’s efforts to grab the attention of young Jewish adults. “Bagels and Bongos” was a hit for the Irving Fields Trio in 1959; now, a group of community-minded individuals are hoping “Bagels and Bongos” will strike a chord with unaffiliated Jews in their 20s and 30s.

The folks behind the record launch are Reboot Stereophonics, a division of Reboot, a nonprofit described by Jules Shell, one of its founders, as “starting an open space for conversation … about identity, about who we are.”

Fields is still active at age 90, playing six nights a week at Nino’s Tuscany in midtown Manhattan. Last week, he spoke with The Jewish Advocate by phone to reminisce about the Boston roots of “Bagels and Bongos.”  Continue reading