Author: Matthew Friedman

The Reason for the Season: Recognizing the Christ in Christmas

My old friend Nicholas wished me a “merry non-culturally-specific winter festival” on Facebook. I appreciate the gesture, and I happily returned the sentiment, but as I walked past the giant, light-up creche in front of my neighbour’s house last night, I reflected that this winter festival is very culturally-specific, indeed. There is a “reason for the season” that goes well beyond eggnog, giftwrap, and red-nosed reindeers, as the culture warriors at Fox News and subway preachers never tire of reminding us. Paula White, the prosperity pastor, and White House spiritual advisor, praised the President for “putting Christ back in...

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American Pogrom

We have been saying Kaddish all week for eleven people murdered in the sanctuary of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We have said it in our schuls, standing in the autumnal chill at candlelight vigils, contemplatively in the solitude of our homes. For many of us, it is a profound expression of faith; for others, it is a habit that has returned in a moment of horror and grief. The first Aramaic words come easily, even when we can’t remember the whole prayer: יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא, yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba… We have said these words before,...

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Letter to America

Come From Away is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway. It was nominated for seven Tony awards last year and won the prize for Best Direction of a Musical. A film adaptation is in the works. The musical tells the story of what happened when 38 airliners en-route to and from the United States were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland when American air traffic was grounded following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The people of Gander welcomed the passengers and crews – mostly Americans – with open arms. It is a story of a shared humanity, of the...

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Matthew Barlow wins prestigious book prize

The Canadian Historical Association awarded Politics/Letters Music Editor Matthew Barlow the Clio prize for his book Griffintown: Identity and Memory in an Irish Diaspora Neighbourhood, at its annual meeting in Regina, SK yesterday. The prize recognizes meritorious publications or for exceptional contributions by individuals or organizations to regional history. Barlow won for the Quebec region. Each year, the CHA awards Clios for five regions across Canada. In social media, Barlow expressed shock at the announcement. “I am in some pretty heavy-duty company,” he wrote “This award was completely unexpected and shocking. I am kinda overwhelmed.” Griffintown is a deft...

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The Memorial Project: Katyn Massacre Memorial, Exchange Place, Jersey City, NJ

Over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1940, agents of the NKVD and soldiers of the Soviet Red Army systematically murdered almost 22,000 Polish army officers, political and cultural leaders on orders from Josef Stalin and secret police chief Lavrenti Beria. Their bodies were buried in mass graves in a forest near Katyn, about 15 miles from the Russian city of Smolensk. Soviet forces had invaded Poland the previous September, pushing toward the west as the Nazi blitzkrieg drove east. It was all part of a secret plan hatched that summer, when the Soviet foreign minister...

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