Editor’s Wrapup:: Transitions
The mikve has long been a place where Jews soften transitions large and small—from menstrual cycles to weddings to conversions—but most non-Ortho- dox Jews are as familiar with the mikve as they are with the taste of manna. Now there’s a mikve in suburban Boston, Mayyim Hayyim, that is honoring and challenging tradition at the same time. Women and men from all walks of Jewish life are taking to its waters to mark an expanding range of happy and sad transitions, from menopause to divorce, from adoption to retirement. Deborah Fineblum Raub reports (page 16) on the new forms of immersion.
The kibbutz, once a defining institution of Israeli communal life, has been evolving for the past generation, and though no rituals attended the changes in kibbutz life, the changes themselves dictated new rituals. The closing of kibbutz dining rooms, and the resulting necessity of families eating in their own homes, heralded a revolution in social interaction. Esther Hecht explores the transition from one era to another (page 8).
One of the most fascinating stories of transition in recent years has been the tracing of works of art the Nazis stole from Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s and, in some cases, the restoration of those works to the heirs of the original owners. The best-known case involves the Egon Schiele portrait on this month’s cover; on loan from a museum in Austria in 1998, it was recognized in New York’s Museum of Modern Art by heirs of its prewar owner and seized by New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Marilyn Henry traces the history of looted art, beginning on page 30.
In 58 years since independence, Israel has developed a culture that is rich and sometimes labyrinthine. Sherri Mandell describes some of the rituals—used with teachers, police, banks and stubborn bureaucrats—designed to transform “no” into “yes” (page 54). In a nation built on transition, such rituals come in handy.