New York Times Nonsense

posted by Pearl Abraham

I don’t usually read Wednesday’s New York Times Dining and Wine section, but a piece titled “Kugel Unraveled,” was brought to my attention by a friend. n the way that most articles on Hasidism or Yiddish (see Walter Grimes, “To Provoke in Yiddish, Try `How Are You’,” also published in the Times on Wednesday) usually are, this piece, too, is sentimentally nostalgic and centered on nonsensical inaccuracies. Desperate to entertain, Joan Nathan quotes Professor Allan Nadler, who should know better, saying that, “According to Hasidic interpretations of Kabbalah mysticism, kugel has special powers.”

Though Nadler may have attended what’s known as a Rebbe’s tish (or table), he misinterpreted the ritual, because he goes on to say, “Clearly the spiritual high point of the meal is the offering of the kugel… At that moment the rabbi has the power to bestow health and food, and even to help couples conceive.”

The FACTS: When during the meal, the rabbi passes food to a guest, especially when he does so by name, whether it is a piece of gefilte fish or challah or kugel, the honor is in the regard for that person, in the rabbi’s remembering him in this special way. These individualized honors are often followed by a more general one, in which the rabbi offers a larger piece of, say, bread, and those near enough to reach it, tear off a bite for themselves and pass the rest on to others. The food itself is treasured only for what it is: a gift from the holy rebbe himself.

More on the sloppiness of NY Times reporting and reporters: If I were a psychotherapist, I might be tempted to write a paper on the psychology of Judith Miller, in other words, her need to accept punishment and go to jail even after, read again, AFTER, her source had let her off the hook a year ago, according to said source. Her sin? Misleading articles about long-absent weapons of mass destruction that cited as reliable sources close to, and often paid by, the Bush administration.

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30 September 2005 | uncategorized |

Hello, I Must Be Going…

Yes, no sooner have I unpacked my vacation suitcase than I’m packing up my business valise to speak at the James River Writers conference in Richmond, Virginia. Friday morning I get to talk about book reviewing with Dan Neman, Melissa Ruggieri, and Jeff Lodge, and on Saturday afternoon I discuss the literary blogging scene with Reb Livingston and Caroline Kettlewell.

The one downside of this travel is that it once again puts me out of the city when exciting things are going on. Packing last night kept me from the Happy Ending reading with various contributors to The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt, but at least I’ll be able to see some of them in October. I won’t get that lucky with the launch party for Tracy Quan’s Diary of a Married Call Girl, or tonight’s McNally Robinson appearance by former Litblog Co-op finalist Michael Turner, who’ll be reading from The Pornographer’s Poem. Or the Books of Wonder event with Allen Kurzweil, Julia Donaldson, and Dale Peck…or the Bloomingdale’s appearance by Barrie Dolnick, who I met recently while researching an article on the changing New Age market for Publishers Weekly.

29 September 2005 | events |

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