Glossary of people, papers and terms

Edward Alexander: Professor of English, conservative.

Aliyah: To go up. Can mean to move to Israel or to be called to the Torah to recite a blessing.

Assur: Forbidden.

Baal Ha Baatim: Constituents, congregants, laity.

Beit Midrash: Study hall.

Michael Berenbaum: Holocaust scholar. Liberal.

Sally Berkovic: Australian-born Orthodox feminist author now living in London.

James Besser: Weekly Jewish columnist out of Washington D.C.

Bima: Pulpit. Usually at the front of a congregation or in the middle.

Stephen Bloom: Author of Postville, blistering critique of Lubavitchers taking over a small town in Iowa.

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Editor of New Jersey Jewish News.

Chabad: Lubavitch. A sect of Hasidic Judaism that reaches out to non-religious Jews.

Challah: Braided bread used for Shabbat dinner.

Charedi: Fervently Orthodox.

Chumrah: Strict interpretration of Jewish Law, usually meant in the sense of forbidding something Orthodox moderates regard as permitted.

Chuppah: Canopy used at weddings.

Chutzpah: Arrogance.

Cohen, Benyamin: Editor of Jewsweek.com, creater of Jewishcontent.com.

Debra Nussbaum Cohen: Wrote for JTA for almost a decade, now at The Jewish Week.

Ami Eden: National editor of the Forward.

Rob Eshman: Gentle bemused liberal editor of Jewish Journal. Beloved by his writers. Has an unusual ability to listen to criticism.

Larry Cohler-Esses: Jewish journalism's premiere investigative reporter.

Farbrengen: "In Yiddish, the word farbrengen means “spending time together.” It has come to describe an earnest and brotherly gathering of chassidim, punctuated by song and talk. When the Rebbe leads a farbrengen, it takes on a more formal atmosphere as he addresses his assembled followers, communicating his Torah thoughts and his messages for the Jewish world at large."

Sue Fishkoff: Author of The Rebbe's Army, a glowing portrait of Lubavitch emissaries.


Strengths: Fearless, plucky. Superior political and cultural coverage.

Weaknesses: Lack of scene-by-scene construction and the tools of New Journalism to put the reader in the vortex of a story. Religion and education coverage weak.

Samuel Freedman: Author of Jew vs Jew, an acclaimed book on Jewish conflicts.

Stephen Fried: Author of several acclaimed books including The New Rabbi, the most hard-hitting book on American Jewish religious life in recent memory.

Galut: Diaspora, life outside of Israel.

Gan Eden: World to come.

Gedolei Torah: Giants of Torah.

Goldberg, J.J.: Blunt left-of-center editor of the Forward, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of modern American Jewish history.

Ari Goldman: Orthodox Jew, author of three books, former religion reporter for The New York Times.

Goyim: Non-Jews.

Ha'aretz: Left-of-center Israeli paper with an online English edition.

Hadassah Magazine: Easy to read, rarely challenging, monthly.

HaKodesh Barchu: God

Halacah: Jewish Law. Orthodox and traditional Conservative Jews profess to live their lives by it.

Yossi Klein Halevi: Author of two compelling books as well as dozens of moving articles probing the deepest parts of the Jewish soul.

Hashgacha: Kosher certification

Havadallah: Ritual that marks the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the secular week.

Havurah: Hebrew for fellowship.

Hillel: First Century sage. The name of a college campus organization.

Malcolm Hoenlein: Vice-Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, who always wears a yarmulke and claims to be Orthodox.

J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California:

Strengths: Superior community coverage. Was California's best Jewish paper, or at least the biggest, until the dotcom crash of 2000 cut ads and therefore editorial pages. Terrific editor in Marc S. Klein who coaxes the best out of his three regular reporters.

Jewish Journal:

Strengths: Good looking paper. Occasionally lively singles columns (Teresa Strasser is the star). Usually there's an article or two that will interest most any reader. Competent news coverage. Good cover stories. Youngest readership of any Jewish weekly.

Weaknesses: Rarely breaks stories. Dull why-can't-we-all-get-along-or-at-least-listen-to-each-other liberal columns every week by either the editor Rob Eshman or the managing editor Amy Klein. Entertainment writer Naomi Pfefferman never criticizes a celebrity unless they're dead or disgraced. The JJ never publishes a negative book review. Inferior community coverage. The paper has no eye for telling details and scene-by-scene construction. Religion coverage, like the paper as a whole, is fair, comprehensive and dull.

Jewish Theological Seminary: Oldest seminary for ordaining Conservative rabbis. More conservative than its West Coast competitor the University of Judaism.

The Jewish Week (New York):

Establishment Jewish weekly subsidized and influenced by the Federation. Edited by a Modern Orthodox Jew for a Modern Orthodox audience. Occasionally breaks courageous stories such as the Orthodox Union's cover-ups of Rabbi Baruch Lanner's sexual abuse of kids.

Strengths: Deep and varied reporting staff. Thoughtful analysis by editor-in-chief Gary Rosenblatt. Beautiful writing by Jonathan Mark.

Weaknesses: Uncritical cultural coverage by Sandee Brawarski. Bland by-the-numbers he-said she-said news reporting. The paper cut the balls off Jewry's leading investigative reporter Larry Cohler for six years until he quit in disgust and moved to the New York Daily News. Bends to establishment interests. Little of value in the paper for anyone who doesn't live in New York.

JSPS: Jewish Student Press Service. It was founded by Jewish antiwar activists in the late '60s to be a Jewish students' forum. J.J. Goldberg, Lisa Schiffren (the woman who wrote Dan Quayle's speech about Murphy Brown), Aron Hirt-Manheimer (the woman who edits Reform Judaism magazine), Yossi Klein Halevi, Larry Yudelson worked there.

JTA: Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "Yesterday's news tomorrow" says Yori Yanover. JTA writes the stuff that fills most Jewish papers. JTA's largest single funder is the Federation, which gets what it pays for.

Kaddish: Prayer said by mourners.

Eve Kessler: Best American Judaism reporter in recent memory.

Kiddush: Specifically, a blessing over wine on a holy day. Generically it means snacks.

Amy Klein: Managing editor of the Jewish Journal. Liberal. Raised Orthodox.

Marc S. Klein: editor of J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, one of America's five best Jewish papers.

Kipa: Head covering usually worn by men to show respect for God.

Kishkes: Guts

Kollel: A Talmudic academy for married men. They usually receive a stipend (about $40,000 a year in Los Angeles).

Kosher: Fit. Permitted.

Lashon hara: Evil speech. Hurtful gossip. It's usually the first term to come to the lips of those Jews receiving unwanted journalistic scrutiny.

Lisa S. Lenkiewicz: Managing editor of Connecticut Jewish Ledger.

Gene Lichtenstein: Founding editor of the Jewish Journal.

Lilith Magazine: Feminist quarterly which publishes a lot of investigative journalism, including exposes of oral sex at bar mitzvahs and sexual abuse by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

Jerome Lippman: Editor/publisher of Long Island Jewish World, long known as a writer's paper. Jerry's a screamer.

Lubavitch: Chabad. A form of Hasidic Judaism that reaches out to other Jews to raise their level of observance of Jewish Law.

Macher: Big shot.

Mares eyin: Don't act publicly in a way that could lead others into sin.

Mark, Jonathan: Associate editor of The Jewish Week

Menorah: Many-headed candlestick. One for Chanukkah has eight heads.

Meshuganah: Crazy

Messiah: In traditional Jewish belief, one annointed by God who brings healing to this world so that the lamb lies down with the lion and gets up in the morning.

Messianism: If used for a group within Jewish life, it means those who believe in the late Lubavitcher rebbe as the Messiah. Otherwise, it means Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah and, usually, God.

Minyan: Prayer quorum. Traditionally has required ten men.

Mishegos: Craziness.

Moment Magazine: Occasionally interesting monthly.

Motzei Shabbos: After the Sabbath.

Muttur: Permitted.

Narischeit: Foolishness.

NCSY: Modern Orthodox high school group.

Neo-Conservative: An American political movement started by Irving Kristol in the 1940s (then championed by such other Jews such as Norman Podhoretz, former editor of Commentary magazine) that subscribes to largely conservative means to achieve liberal goals such as racial integration and the diminishment of poverty.

Neshama: Soul.

New Jersey Jewish News: Plucky Federation weekly edited by the thoughtful Andrew Silow-Carroll.

Alana Newhouse: Arts and Culture editor of the Forward.

Noahide Laws: Seven laws Judaism requires of Gentiles, such as don't murder, don't be cruel to animals, no incest or adultery or homosexuality, don't deny God's existence publicly, don't worship idols publicly, don't kidnap, set up courts of law.

Nudnik: Nut.

Oneg: Snacks, treat, party.

OU: Orthodox Union. Provides kashrut certification and represents the modern end of the Orthodox spectrum.

Pikuah Nefesh: To save a life in Judaism, you are allowed to violate all its laws but three (against sexual immorality, public idol worship and murder).

Poskim: Deciders of Jewish Law.

Protocols: www.protocols.blogspot.com

Psak: Legal ruling.

Rachmones: Mercy.

Reform Judaism Magazine: Fun to read quarterly.

Rosh Hashanah: New year, ushers in ten days of repentance climaxed by Yom Kippur.

Gary Rosenblatt: Mr. Jewish Journalism. Modern Orthodox editor of The Jewish Week and most talked about figure in Jewish journalism, the most feared, and the most desired friend by other Jewish journalists (none of whom wanted to say anything bad about him on the record).

Rosh Yeshiva: Head of the yeshiva.

Jennie Rothenberg: Freelance Jewish writer with a sensitive touch.

Douglas Rushkoff: Author of Nothing Sacred, which received the most diametrical reviews of any Jewish book in my memory.

Jonathan Sarna: Professor of American Jewish history.

Semicha: Rabbinic ordination.

Shabbat, Shabbos: The Sabbath, from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night. According to the Fourth Commandment, it is a holy day where no secular work is permitted.

Rabbi Avi Shafran: Spokesman for Agudath Israel, a fervently Orthodox coalition.

Shaliach: Emissary

Shanda: Scandal

Shaygetz: Gentile man. Often used perjoratively.

Shiksa: Gentile woman. Literally means gentile abomination. Often used in a non-perjorative sense.

Shiva: Mourning rituals for a death.

Shlichim: Emissaries

Shochet: Ritual slaughterer.

Shtible: Tiny congregation. One room Hasidic synagogues.

Shvartze: Yiddish word for black, often used perjoratively.

Allison Kaplan-Sommer: American Jewish journalist now living in Israel.

Tehillim: Psalms.

Sheldon Teitelbaum: Freelance Jewish writer.

Tikkun Olam: Seeking justice.

Jonathan Tobin: Editor of the Jewish Exponent out of Philadelphia, one of American Jewry's five best weeklies.

Trafe: not kosher.

Tsures: Trouble.

David Twersky: Veteran Jewish journalist, co-founder of the Jewish Student Press Service.

UJ: University of Judaism.

UJC: United Jewish Communities represents 155 Jewish Federations and 400 Jewish communities across North America.

University of Judaism: A Los Angeles university and seminary affiliated with Conservative Judaism.

Steven Weiss: Pioneering Orthodox blogger.

Paul Wilkes: Roman Catholic author of And They Shall Be My People: An American Rabbi and His Congregation.

Yori Yanover: Stand-up comic in Israel turned American journalist.

Yarmulke: Head covering worn (traditionally by men only) to show respect to God.

Yasher Koach - Congratulations. More strength to you.

Yeshiva: Talmudic academy.

Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement.

Yordim: Jewish immigrants from Israel.

Larry Yudelson: A Jewish journalism visionary. Too creative for the establishment Jewish press.

Zt'l: May his memory be a blessing.