Clockwise from top left: One Little Chicken, A Hen for Izzy Pipik, The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah, When the Chickens Went on Strike, The Rooster Prince of Breslov, and Beautiful Yetta, the Yiddish Chicken. (Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Shutterstock)
We Jews have a special bond with chicken. It is hard to describe and even harder to analyze. As Debra Messingput it on Will and Grace, “I don’t know what to tell you, man. Jews and chicken. It’s real and it’s deep.”
Why are we so passionate about poultry? I believe our people’s chicken love is tripartite: It is culinary, historical, and literary.
Asked about chicken’s appeal, Joan Nathan, the doyenne of Jewish cooking, told me: “Chicken reminds us of home and well-being. I didn’t grow up in a religious family, but we always had roast chicken every Friday night. It was a ritual. And there’s a reason for all those jokes about Jewish mothers and their chicken soup—chicken soup is so soothing.” Leah Koenig, author of The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook and the forthcomingModern Jewish Cooking added, “The basis of Eastern European Jewish cuisine—the food we revere as central to who we are as a people—is literally swimming in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat). Schmaltz, of course, comes from chickens. So, chickens equal home, comfort, nourishment, mama, family meals, coziness, tradition, and all other good things.”
Indeed, our people’s history is trussed up—like the pale, plucked legs of an uncooked fowl—with chicken. Back in the 12th century, philosopher-physician Maimonides was a big fan. In his book On the Cause of Symptoms, he prescribed chicken soup to cure asthma and leprosy and to “neutralize body constitution.” Chickens weren’t just a curative foodstuff, though; they were part of our people’s daily lives. If you couldn’t afford or have space for a herd of cows, you could still raise chickens. Proximity to chickens inspires affection—and this has been true long before the backyard chicken owners of Park Slope and Marin County began singing the praises of the artisanal coop. As Koenig put it, “In the shtetl, egg-laying chickens were essentially useful pets. Chickens have lots of personality, so if a family kept chickens for laying, and went out to feed them and collect eggs every day, it makes sense that they’d grow attached. Chickens were part of the Eastern European Jewish family, in a way … until it came time to eat them, of course.”
Chickens are vulnerable, physically awkward, and funny. Much like Jews. I think that’s part of why chickens play an outsized role in Jewish children’s picture books. But I think there’s something more at play: They’re also an easy shorthand link to a Jewish “feeling” or emotional state that evokes Jewishness without having to deal explicitly with religion or ritual. I’ve been known to complain about the portrayals of bubbes in Jewish picture books—so many Old-World-y, soup-making, white-haired, bun-sporting, glasses-wearing, chubby old women and so few bubbes who look like the actual bubbes of Jewish toddlers today: dark-haired or chicly streaked blonde, young-looking, gym-going, gainfully employed women! Like these one-dimensional elderly bubbes, picture-book chickens can serve as an instant callback to a pastel-washed, Chagall-esque world, a time when life was harder but Jewishness was less complicated. Chickens are easy; modern Jewish childhood identity, in all its complexity and nebulousness, is hard.
I’m not saying that all Old-World-invoking Jewish children’s chicken books are bad or simplistic. Some are fabulous. The Rooster Prince of Breslov, by Ann Stampler, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, retells an old folktale attributed to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov; it’s weird and funny, with quirky, spiky art. Can Hens Give Milk?, by Joan Betty Stuchner, illustrated by Joe Weissmann, (newly out in paperback this year) is a new Chelm story about a man called Shlomo who schemes about how to get milk and butter without owning a cow. This addition to the canon has all the delicious deadpan of the old tales, as well as their familiar population of hilarious idiots. Literary idiots make powerless little readers feel powerful, and smart.
There are chicken-lit influences even older than Chelm, like One Little Chicken, by Elka Weber, illustrated by Elisa Kleven. It’s a retelling of a Talmud story about the 1st-century rabbi Chanina ben Dosa, who walked the walk dictated by Deuteronomy 22: 2-3; he found a lost chicken and grew it into an entire flock, and when the original chicken’s owner returned, gave him all the chickens instead of just the one. In this version, a little girl named Leora finds a chicken, which her family eventually turns into a whole menagerie, and everybody’s super-menschy and ethical but also arch and kvetchy (Leora’s mom) and/or sighingly resigned (Leora’s dad). Very Jewish. A Hen for Izzy Pippik, by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Marie Lafrance, tells the same story (Davis says there’s an Islamic version, too); in Davis’version, a little girl named Shaina insists that Izzy Pippik, the lost chicken’s owner, will eventually come back and defends the chicken and its lively offspring from her annoyed co-villagers. The Pippik chickens are particularly well-drawn. My librarian friend Paula Willeygave a thumbs-up to the bootstrapping element to the story: “The town is impoverished, and the hens, with their natural fecundity, bring prosperity. I’d say chickens are symbolic, but in fact they are quite literal. Tons of microloans start with a dozen chicks.” (Which reminds me of One Hen, the best children’s picture book ever about microloans. Not really aboutchickens, though. And not Jewish: Ghanaian. Still, menschy.)
And let’s not forget When the Chickens Went on Strike, by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Matthew Trueman, a funny and nuanced story about chickens objecting to the Yom Kippur tradition of kapparot. Understandably, the chickens in this tale do not wish to be avian scapegoats. The book cleverly invokes Jewish labor history, brings up serious ethical questions, and acknowledges that traditions can change over time. (Too bad it has that aforementioned gentle, stately, painterly look I find unengaging.)
These books all evoke a Russian-Jewish shtetl world, but there are also modern-day Jewish chicken books. Beautiful Yetta, the Yiddish Chicken, by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater, is a contemporary Brooklyn love story about diverse communities. Pinkwater apparently has something of a chicken obsession, having also written a bunch of middle-grade novels, starting with The Hoboken Chicken Emergency about Henrietta, a 266-pound chicken. The Henrietta books have Jewish comedic rhythms but are not explicitly Jewish. Yetta, on the other hand, speaks Yiddish: The book renders her lines in both Hebrew lettering and transliteration. When her crate falls off Mr. Flegleman’s organic chicken ranch truck, she winds up befriending Eduardo, a Spanish-speaking parrot from another part of Brooklyn. Your kids might also enjoy The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah, a Jewish version of the classic (non-Jewish) European tale about lazy jerk farm animals who want a free ride. It could be set anywhere—the Jewishness, along with a bissel Yiddish, is superimposed over the traditional tale. (At least in this version the Little Red Hen gets to put her feet up after all her hard work while the other animals wash the Passover dishes. Apologizing for being lazy is fine, but doing post-Seder cleanup is better.)
I’m not arguing that Jewish children have a monopoly on chicken books. Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken, by Kate DiCamillo and Chickens to the Rescue, by John Himmelman, are two hilarious not-Jewish picture books about noble poultry. (Interesting, though, both feature heroic fowl rather than nebbish-y fowl.) But I think chickens have a proportionally outsize presence in Jewish picture books, and that’s because they’re specific stand-in for all kinds of positive feelings about being Jewish. We’re winsome in spite of (because of?) our collective vulnerability and dorkiness. We’re funny in a good way. We’re nurturers. And like Yetta, we are survivors: We will not be soup.
Linda Sarsour (right). Photo: Screenshot.
Anti-Defamation League National Director CEO Jonathan Greenblatt slammed The New School on Monday over the Manhattan-based institution’s upcoming hosting of a panel discussion on antisemitism that will feature several prominent anti-Israel activists.
Participants in the Nov. 28 event — titled “Antisemitism and the Struggle for Justice” — will include Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson.
“Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism,” Greenblatt tweeted on Monday. “These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.”
Mexico’s Sec. of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso, thanked the IDF team for their work to help the people of Mexico during the earthquakes. (IDF Spokesperson)
Mexico has reportedly announced that it will change its voting strategy at the United Nations and other international bodies by stopping to vote in favor of the Palestinians.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Figari contacted Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Yoni Pelad and told him of the shift in strategy for all upcoming voting procedures related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Perpetuating the romance of the Bolshevik regime, whose ‘good intentions’ cannot mask the horrors imposed in its name
This was written not in the Soviet Union or one of its satellites, but in New York in 1947 by Robert Warshow in Commentary magazine about the American culture of the previous decade. While slightly hyperbolic (the Southern Agrarians, the American Scholar, etc.?) it faithfully describes American Jewish culture of the time, emphatically including its Yiddish branch. At the extreme of this movement were people like Julius Rosenberg, George Koval, and Mark Zborowski, who actively spied for the Soviet Union. At the same time, editors of Communist publications, Hollywood and union activists, party writers and institutional leaders were all directed by Moscow and were joined by rank-and-file members in promoting the virtues of Stalinism over the evils of American constitutional democracy.
How the grandparents of today’s Christian victims of ISIS were also butchered by Muslims.
Editor’s Note: The following review was written by Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The book reviewed is Year of the Sword: The Assyrian Christian Genocide, a History (published by the Oxford University Press, 2016), by Joseph Yacoub, an Honorary Professor of Political Science at Catholic University of Lyon. A significantly shorter version of this review first appeared in the Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2017.
This important contribution to genocide studies documents how the world’s oldest Christian communities—variously referred to as Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Arameans, but best known as Assyrians—were, along with the Armenians, “victims of the [Ottoman] plan for exterminating Christianity, root and branch,” to quote Lord Bryce, circa. 1920. In fact, as half of the Assyrian population was massacred—going from 600,000 to 300,000 in 1915-18—relative to their numbers, no other Christian group, including the Armenians, suffered as much under the Ottomans.
Three non-Jewish men and one non-Jewish woman went up to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, on Thursday morning, and took part in a ceremony in which they received upon themselves the responsibility of adhering to the seven Noahide laws and were officially accepted by a rabbinic tribunal.
The seven Noahides went up to the Temple Mount accompanied by a group of rabbis. One rabbi explained to them the significance of the place and how the Temple was intended as a House of Prayer for all Nations, that benefits the entire world. The rabbis then discussed the laws pertinent to a non-Jewish resident of Israel, righteous gentiles, and the commandments incumbent upon them.
Allahu Akbar. You hear it everywhere these days.
Special agent Scott Wickland said that he heard cries of “Allahu Akbar” before the Benghazi attack. And then the guards ran for their guns.
In Nice, France, the Islamic terrorist who killed 86 people and wounded over 400 by running them over with a truck, shouted, “Allahu Akbar”. In New York, the Islamic terrorist who was trying to imitate him, also shouted, “Allahu Akbar.” The 9/11 hijackers had the same message, “Allahu Akbar”.
With so many investigations and promised indictments, why is the prime minister’s popularity still so high? Part of it is certainly the convoluted nature of the allegations. The more closely one examines them, the more unbelievable they become.For all the differences between Israeli and American Jews, one thing is uncannily similar: the daily headlines lambasting their current political leader.
Normally, we’re allowed to discuss everything, even the salaries of senior judges and police officers. And if we want, we can even demand a pay raise for the prime minister.
There’s no taboo. Everything can and should be on the table. Even a law granting the prime minister immunity from police investigations, in a slightly more reasonable version, is an appropriate subject for a public debate.
But these are not normal times. We are in the midst of a dangerous campaign against the heads of the law enforcement system. They are not immune to criticism. But in the past few months, something completely different has been happening. of the campaign.
There has always been a debate about the “loyalty” of Israeli Arabs. Meaning, of course, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, apart from those living in the West Bank/Judea-Samaria.
Now, a new poll bolsters the argument that these Palestinians are a sort of Fifth Column within the Jewish state.
Not loyal at all.
According to a report in the Times of Israel:
“Two-thirds of Arab Israelis believe Israel has ‘no right’ to define itself as the Jewish nation state, while a majority of Jewish Israelis (58 percent) say those who reject that definition of Israel should have their citizenship revoked, according to a new poll underlining deep divisions between the two communities.
A report on Channel 10—a known stronghold of Bibi-animosity—claims that
senior law enforcement officials have concluded there is sufficient evidence to file an indictment against [Prime Minister Netanyahu] on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust…. The report quoted an unofficial police opinion according to which the evidence that has accumulated against Netanyahu is robust…. The State Attorney’s Office, Channel 10 reported, was also coming to the opinion that there are grounds to file an indictment on bribery, but was not as sure as the police.
Most of the latest purported information—once again leaked by the police, guardians of virtue in the Bibi-hunt who have leaked ruthlessly and systematically throughout this affair—concerns Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have done favors for his longtime friend, businessman and movie mogul Arnon Milchan, in return for gifts of cigars and champagne.