The Vibrant World of Haredi Children’s Culture

April 20 2022

Having been an enthusiastic reader of the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries as a child, Andrew Silow-Carroll sometimes imagined what a Jewish version of the once-popular children’s books would be like. He recently discovered such a thing indeed exists, thanks to a collection of essays tilted Artifacts of Orthodox Childhoods, edited by the scholar Dainy Bernstein:

Gemarakup (roughly, “talmudic brain”) is a children’s book series created for the ḥaredi, or fervently Orthodox, market. Its hero, according to Volume 2, loves “solving mysteries, almost as much as he love[s] studying Torah” (note that “almost”).

Artifacts of Orthodox Childhood . . . is an introduction to a world that a non-Orthodox Jew like me may only have glimpsed through the window of a Borough Park Judaica store. Its titular artifacts are an alternative universe of pop culture: Lego-like sets featuring tiny rabbis in their studies and modestly dressed moms making challah; children’s songs that rework secular genres to teach sexual restraint and the power of prayer; a coloring book in which even Adam and Eve are fully dressed in the clothing of ḥasidic Jews.

The books, toys and songs are meant to reinforce values many of the authors find stifling, including strict gender segregation, narrowly prescribed roles for boys and girls, and distrust of outsiders. . . . Examples include The B.Y. Times, a haredi version of The Babysitters Club books (“sans boyfriends,” as contributor Meira Levinson points out) and the Devora Doresh mystery series, a cross between Nancy Drew and, yes, Encyclopedia Brown.

And yet, as Levinson explains in her essay on the Devora Doresh books, (gently) subversive messages can slip past the gatekeepers: created by Carol Korb Hubner, the books “feature an Orthodox Jewish girl having adventures of the kind that were otherwise normally limited either to Orthodox Jewish boys or non-Jewish girls.”

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Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: American Jewry, Children's books, Haredim

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship