"Fashion" and "frum" are words that don't usually go together, especially when you are talking about a traditional Orthodox man's wardrobe. The ensemble is pretty consistent: black pants, black jacket, black hat, white shirt.
But there is a hint of the slightest crack in that conservative clothing code. And it comes from, of all places, Chabad.
According to JTA, a few young, male Chabad emissaries, scattered from London's Savile Row to New York's Soho, are injecting notable elements of style into their daily garb - a splash of color here, a bow tie there, and overall outfits that are landing one or two on fashionista "best dressed" lists. Some even are designing tailored, colorfully lined versions of the classic kapota - long, black coat - worn by Hasidic men.
While some may believe these efforts fly in the face of modesty and tradition, a few of the young mavericks point to a surprising mentor: The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory.
"When he was young," one designer said, "he was a very well-groomed man. The style he wore in the '50s in France is the style many Chabadniks are now adopting." The Rebbe's biographer noted that, in his younger years, "he dressed in a much more cosmopolitan fashion, sometimes wearing a beret."
Speaking of France, the French are celebrating the 500th anniversary of their vaunted gourmet chocolate industry, and they are, at long last, giving due credit to the masters who created it - Portugal's Jews.
According to the Times of Israel, some of the Jews forced to flee the Inquisition took up residence in the region around Bayonne, France. They brought with them their recipes and chocolate-making expertise, laying the foundation for what would become the world-famed pain au chocolat.
A few decades down the road, however, after the locals had mastered the art themselves, they followed in the footsteps of the Portuguese and exiled the Jews.
Flash forward a few centuries. Preparing to mark the quincentenary, Bayonne's chocolatiers decided it was time to acknowledge the roots of their success and the Sephardi Jews who made it all possible.
As the Times of Israel story reported, "Since we are the inheritors of the Jews' savoir faire, it was our duty to thank them, but also to restore a historical truth: after they introduced chocolate in France, Bayonne Jewry was gradually evicted from the chocolate industry in the 17th century by the very people who had learned everything from them," says Jean-Michel Barate, head of the Chocolate Academy and CEO of the Bayonne-based chocolate brand Daranatz.
My Son, The Folksinger
In the 1960s, the brightest star in the long line of Jewish song parodists was a pudgy, bespectacled comedian named Allan Sherman. As is too often the case, however, funny onstage does not always translate to funny off.
In just over a decade, Sherman went from anonymity to having three hit albums, a #2 song on the Billboard charts, and a regular spot on the talk show circuit, and then saw his career nosedive before he died of a heart attack in 1973 at age 48.
During those early years, however, he carved a memorable niche in comedy history, and an indelible mark upon a generation of summer campers, virtually every one of whom can to this day still sing the refrain from Sherman's "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! (A Letter From Camp)."
Sherman is once again being recalled with the release of Mark Cohen's comprehensive biography, "Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman." Tablet Magazine comedy columnist Josh Lambert calls the book "exhaustively definitive," providing an incredible level of detail about the life that shaped Sherman and his career.
Lambert says Cohen cannily emphasizes "that what differentiated Sherman's first albums … was that most of his humor rested not on descriptions of Jews as they had been in some imagined immigrant or old country past, but as what they were becoming in America: model suburbanites." In songs ranging from "Sarah Jackman" to "Harvey and Sheila," Cohen claims that Sherman comedically portrayed Jews not in terms of where they had come from, but as what they had become in contemporary American society, anticipating the ethnic style of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Who says it sounds better in Yiddish?
There are 400 Yiddish-language students at Bar-Ilan University, 25 percent of whom are … Arab.
"My dream is to read Shalom Alechem's Tevya and his Daughters (of Fiddler on the Roof fame) in the original, says Yusuf Alakili from Kfar Kasem, currently earning a Master's in Hebrew literature.
Another enrollee, Salam Bashara, who just finished his undergraduate degree in Arabic literature, says Yiddish tales of loss and tribulation have universal appeal; the 22 year-old student from the township Tira revealed he hopes to devote his master's thesis in comparative literature to parallels between Arabic and Yiddish literature.
But a female Arab student who fell in love with Yiddish confided to the program head that there are red lines to this odd love affair: Like Tevya - devastated when one of his daughters married a non-Jew - she revealed "her father would also 'sit shiva' for her…if she fell in love with a Jew…"