Posted by Julie Bien
In the spirit of the season, I've compiled a glossary of the most well-known ghosts, demons and monsters in Jewish mythology. So next time you catch yourself wondering whether you're possessed by a Dybbuk or an Ibbur, or you find yourself wanting to create a Golem to watch your house while you're out of town, you can refer to this handy-dandy manual.
Dybbuk: The malicious ghost of a deceased person that possesses a host body in order to do harm, both to the host, and in general. It only leaves the host once it's accomplished its goal. Although this isn't a demon, per se, it acts in a similar manner--think along the lines of the possesion in "The Exorcist."
Example of a Dybbuk being carried by an unfortunate host
Ibbur: A benevolent spirit that incubates inside a host in an attempt to help the host body along. It's usually the ghost of someone who was very righteous or holy during their lifetime. These spirits choose people they deem worthy of their help, and 'possess' (in the positive, not demonic way) the host person and help them achieve their goals. They act more as a 'spirit guide,' albeit one that the host isn't aware of, more than anything else. The Ibbur just helps the person make the best choices to achieve their goals.
Just a little gentle Ibbur-guiding
Lilith: A demon queen whose descendants, Lillin, are serpant-like/humanoid demons (with wings) who kill children in their cribs or steal them from their families. The name "lil" is Sumerian in origin and means 'screech-owl'--reflecting the ancient association bewteen owls and the demonic world.
Lilith, hanging out in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve, wrapped around that evil tree-o-knowledge
Mazzikim/Shedim: These are your run of the mill demons (rather than ghosts). They are often associated with spoiling things (especially food) at inconvenient times. The word 'shedim' means 'foreign gods' and comes from the Akkadian word for demon. They tend to live in deserts, dirty places and ruins or dilapidated/abandoned buildings. Because they also enjoy hanging out in bathrooms, they pose a special danger to uncovered food and water. I bet you never knew that Saran Wrap was protecting you from airborne bacteria AND demons.
Just a pesky demon hanging out
Golem: The Golem is a creature created by a rabbi to serve the Jewish community when the community needed to be protected. The creature is made of soil or clay and brought to life by the use of alchemical-like formulas described in holy texts. The creature is not possessed by a spirit or ghost, but driven by the ritual to follow the rabbi’s commands and serve the community until he is not needed. The Golem is then called-off and put away. The stories of 'Golems-run-amok' are tales of Golems that did not stop once they were told to, but rather continued on wreaking havoc wherever they went. The most famous story about a Golem is that of The Golem of Prague.
Doesn't he look friendly?
Instructions for making a Golem courtesy of the 'Book of Formation' as described by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan:
An initiate should not do it alone, but should always be accompanied by one or two colleagues. The Golem must be made of virgin soil, taken from a place where no man has ever dug. The soil must be kneaded with pure spring water, taken directly from the ground. If this water is placed in any kind of vessel, it can no longer be used. The people making the Golem must purify themselves totally before engaging in this activity, both physically and spiritually. While making the Golem, they must wear clean white vestments… One must not make any mistake or error in the pronunciation… no interruption whatsoever may occur.
So by chanting the appropriate letter arrangements together with the letters of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH or JHVH--Yaweh or Jehovah), the 'creator' could form a very accurate mental picture of a human being. Once the conceptual Golem was completed, the spiritual potential would be transferred to the clay form and animate it.
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October 28, 2013 | 2:59 pm
Posted by Julie Bien
I initially intended to do a music round-up of all my favorite Jewish musicians, but in light of Lou Reed's passing, at age 71, on Sunday morning (The Velvet Underground fans will understand the meta nature of that) I've decided to bring you a few of my (and my colleagues') favorite Lou Reed/The Velvet Underground songs.
If you haven't listened to Lou Reed or The Velvet Underground before, now's the time to start.
1. Sunday Morning (1970)
2. Pale Blue Eyes (1968)
3. Lady Day (1973)
4/5. Caroline Says I and II (1973)
6. Who Loves the Sun (1970)
7. Take a Walk on the Wild Side (1972)
8. The Murder Mystery (1968) *Make sure you listen to this one in stereo
October 23, 2013 | 3:45 pm
Posted by Julie Bien
Ladies and gents, guys and ghouls--in the spirit of Halloween, I'd like to present you with a guide to some of the best ghost-infested locales in the LA area. Although a few of these haunts are hardly hidden, most are not mainstream enough to draw a crowd--perfect for those of you who wish to mingle with the misty apparitions by yourself.
1. The Haunt: Brand Park, Glendale
The Ghost Story: The ghost of Leslie C. Brand, one of the founders and developers of Glendale, is said to roam the halls of the Brand Library at Brand Park. The spirirt of Brand, who is buried on the grounds under a pyramid at the family cemetery plot, can be seen walking up the stairs of the library, speaking to employees and visitors, and hanging about the tower, once Brand's private boudoir.
2. The Haunt: Suicide Bridge/Arroyo Seco Riverbed, Pasadena
The Ghost Story: Built in Pasadena back in 1912, the bridge gained the tragic reputation as a perfect place to commit suicide.The first of dozens of suicides was committed in 1919. With well-over 100 suicides since then, ghost sightings along the bridge and in the dry riverbed below have become common. Several spirits haunt the bridge regularly, including a man with wire rimmed glasses and a woman in a long flowing robe who is often seen throwing herself off of one of the bridge parapets. In the riverbed, which is also a park, people report hearing strange cries and unearthly sounds and seeing misty human forms glide by.
3. The Haunt: Gamble House, Pasadena
The Ghost Story: The Gamble House, perhaps the most well-known craftsman-style house in the country, was once home to the Gamble family (of Proctor and Gamble fame.) Aunt Julia [Huggins] was Mrs. Gamble’s sister who lived with the Gamble family in the house until her death in 1943 – long after Mr. & Mrs. Gamble passed away in 1923 and 1929 respectively. The Gamble House was designed in 1908 by the architectural firm of brothers Charles and Henry Greene. To this day, architecture students can live at the house as apprentices in preservation. Many have stories of late-night encounters with the ghost of Aunt Julia – a benign spirit that can be seen standing by her old bedroom upstairs.
4. The Haunt: Cobb Estate/Echo Mountain Resort Ruins, Altadena
The Ghost Story: Around the turn of the 20th century, Charles Cobb purchased the land and built a summer retreat in the mountains above the estate. The resort had a chalet, a 70 room hotel, casino, and zoo (among other attractions). A number of fires and landslides eventually destroyed the resort, but not the main house below. Cobb, who was an active Mason during his life, left the home at the base of the mountain to be used, after his death in 1939, as a Masonic Home. It was then was used as a retreat by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In the 1950s, the Marx Brothers purchased the estate and the main house was torn down by 1960--turning the land into a public park. People report negative feelings, being “watched” or even touched, strange lights, laughter, screams, along with tales of Satanic rituals and KKK gatherings in the "haunted forest" of the estate. The ruins of both the main estate and the old resort are accessible to hikers.
5. The Haunt: Santa Anita Race Track, Arcadia
The Ghost Story: The ghost of jockey George Woolf is said to haunt the world-famous racetrack. Woolf was known as the Iceman during his racing days because of his collected and stone cold demeanor before races. He rode some of the most celebrated horses of all time, including Seabiscuit and Whirlaway. Tragically, Woolf also met his demise at the track when he fainted--probably due to having untreated Type I diabetes-- and fell off his horse, suffering a severe head injury. He eventually died in the hospital. Riders, trainers, and visitors claim to have seen him wandering around the stables--unable to say goodbye to the place he loved.
6. The Haunt: The Hollywood Sign, Hollywood
The Ghost Story: In 1932, distraught actress Peg Entwistle, a resident of Beachwood Drive, jumped to her death from the H in the Hollywoodland sign. People who visit the sign after dark have reported seeing a young woman jumping from the H, and vanishing before hitting the ground. A mysterious woman matching her description, which includes wearing period clothes, has also been seen wandering along the Griffith Park trails, as well as walking up the path between the sign and her former home. The smell of gardenia, the perfume she wore, has been reported to linger near the places she appears.
7. The Haunt: Griffith Park Paco Feliz Adobe, Hollywood
The Ghost Story: The most well known ghost of Griffith Park is that of Doña Petronilla, often appearing as a young woman in a white dress who is sometimes riding a white horse. She often appears at midnight in the Paco Feliz Adobe. Doña Petronilla is said to have placed a curse on the land in 1863 after learning her uncle, a wealthy land baron, had left her nothing in his will. She swore that every new owner of the land would be cursed. Many locals involved with the land have met brutal ends. C.V. Howard, who negotiated sale of the land’s water rights, was shot dead in a local saloon. The next owner was killed by bandits on a trip to Mexico. In 1891, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, the namesake of the park, managed to survive after a business rival shot him with a shotgun outside of a cemetery. Fearing that the curse would catch up with him, Griffith began giving large parcels of the land to the citizens of Los Angeles for free in 1896. Then, in 1903, Griffith shot his wife at a Santa Monica hotel. She survived, but Griffith was sentenced to San Quentin for assault with a deadly weapon. There, the once mighty man died of liver disease in 1919.
8. The Haunt: HMS Bounty, Koreatown, Los Angeles
The Ghost Story: The HMS Bounty, a nautical-themed bar, is on the ground floor of the Gaylord Apartments which was built in 1921 by millionaire, Gaylord Wilshire. Wilshire purchased the original city dump (and surrounding swampy area) at a low price and converted it into what is now known as the Miracle Mile. Before Wilshire gentrified this then-remote section of the city, it's been said that it was a popular spot to hide the bodies of murder victims. Tenants of this apartment building (both businesses and private residences) have complained of strange knocks on their windows and phantom footsteps in the empty halls. Most notably, there is a ghost that haunts the ladies’ room in the lobby of the building. Women claim to feel an invisible hand touch them, as well as see the reflection of a leering man in the mirror, only to turn around and discover they’re alone.
9. The Haunt: The Pioneer Cemetery, Sylmar
The Ghost Story: Located on a 3.8 acre site at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Bledsoe Street, the Pioneer Cemetery was originally a 10 acre burial ground. The cemetery was established in the mid-19th century and used until 1939. The cemetery is the oldest non-sectarian cemetery in the San Fernando Valley. Over 740 residents were buried there between 1892 and 1939. After the cemetery was determined to be legally abandoned in 1959, it was acquired by the Native Daughters of the Golden West, San Fernando Mission Chapter, and maintained as a pioneer memorial park. Only 13 headstones remain at the cemetery, despite the hundreds of unidentified bodies buried there. The spirits of the unnamed have reportedly been summoned in seances conducted to communicate with the former residents of the town.
10. The Haunt: The Abandoned Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, Downey
The Ghost Story: Founded in 1888 as the County Poor Farm, this hospital was a safe haven for the city’s poor and mentally ill. It sat on hundreds of acres of property that also included a farm, a dairy, a zoo and a pauper’s graveyard. In the late '50s, the farm, dairy and mental health wards were closed down, although no one knows why they were abandoned so suddenly. Old office furniture, files and even mummified body parts have been found in the abandoned buildings. In October 2006, U.S. Marines, who were using the buildings for drills, found a freezer in the morgue containing legs, feet and brain bits. Although the parts were probably from medical procedures like amputations, it was a disturbing find nonetheless. To add to the creep factor, even during daylight hours, the winding rooms in the complex are pitch black and the flooring is faulty.
*Note to readers: Please be aware that trespassing is illegal. Visiting any place that is closed to the public may result in legal action being taken against you by the owners of the property. As far as I know, the only place on this list that you cannot legally visit is the abandoned hospital in Downey. But just double check. Cool? Cool.
October 15, 2013 | 10:06 am
Posted by Julie Bien
Before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge that tattoos are a controversial subject--not only because they are forbidden under religious law, but mostly because of the weight they carry as signifiers of the Holocaust. This article does not in any way aim to diminish the very real suffering of millions of people. However, because tattoos are a large part of youth culture, both here and in Israel, I felt it was appropriate to cover it as just that--commentary on a cultural trend.
*This post is brought to you by the 'Oy Vey' Meter: 0% is kosher. 100% is OY VEY.
**This post is also brought to you by a Jew with two tattoos. I'm a veritable expert.
Kosher Pig: I actually think this one is kind of funny. I mean if you're going to go for some kashrut commentary, you might as well go all the way. Babe would approve. (Photo courtesy "Tattoo Jew")
Oy Vey Meter: 40%
Military Pride: Perhaps not the most original, but neither are military tattoos in the US. Kind of boring, but not bizarre.
Oy Vey Meter: 20%
Seeing Stars: Is it me, or do these look like badly placed pasties? I just...I can't get on board with these. (Photo courtesy "Tattoo Jew")
Oy Vey Meter: 75%
Hebrew for You: I actually think this one is pretty badass. The design, the eye, the sheer size of it--it's a winner.
Oy Vey Meter: 5%
The Menorah: This is what happens when you lose a bet.
Oy Vey Meter: 95%
Chai and a Star of David: It's a little cliché and a little boring. 'Meh' is about the highest ranking I can give it.
Oy Vey Meter: 30%
Mystical Ink: This tattoo gets points for being unique and nicely executed. It's not my aesthetic, but I absolutely think it's worthy of respect.
Oy Vey Meter: 15%
Chasidic Boy: WHY?????? This is so bad on SO many levels.
Oy Vey Meter: 100%
Gam Zeh Ya'avor: Simple. Delicate. To the point. The placement is a bit, uh, sensitive, but then again, if you're getting words inked onto your wrist or forearm (like myself) you've thought about that already. I dig it.
Oy Vey Meter: 10%
Eye See You: I'm also the proud owner of a hamsa, so I'm a bit biased. This is pretty cool. The red details are unique, and the eye is pretty realistic and disturbing. My mom would not approve.
Oy Vey Meter: 5%
Hamsa Chic: I love this. I want it on my back. NOW. The colors, the design, the placement--it's just lovely.
Oy Vey Meter: 1%
Don't Kotel on Me: The idea is unique--the execution is questionable. Those blurry red boxes behind the Star of David are supposed to be the stones of the Western Wall. I WANT to like this. But have you seen the Kotel? It's not red. White ink exists (I know because it's been used on me.) I just wish the artist had utilized it a bit more.
Oy Vey Meter: 35%
Holocaust Commemoration: I'm not sure that getting a backpiece is the best way to commemorate the worst genocide of modern times. However, I can't begrudge this human canvas credit for dedication. (Photo courtesy "Tattoo Jew")
Oy Vey Meter: 80%
October 9, 2013 | 11:55 am
Posted by Julie Bien
Members of the Tribe are winning Nobel Prizes left and right. Although Jews make up only 0.2 percent of the world's population, they win an astonishing 22 percent of Nobel Prizes. In fact, six have won so far this year.
This year's crop of Jewish winners includes:
- All three scientists who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Arieh Warshel, Michael Levitt and Martin Karplus
- Francois Englert who was half of the team that won the Nobel Prize in Physics
- James E. Rothman and Randy W. Schekman who were two of the three scientists awarded the Nobel prize in Medicine
We'd like to offer 5 possible explanations (in no particular order) for why Jews win so many Nobel Prizes.
Reason #1: The David v. Goliath Syndrome
What it means: As an oft-repressed group, we Jews have always had to try harder to come out on top. Obviously, the sheer numbers of our population aren't going to sustain us. And despite the early Israeli Kibbutznik identity of being the 'New Jew' (tanned, strong, physically-gifted rather than simply intellectual) our brute strength is far from our strong suit. So, as a whole, we are out to prove something.
Reason #2: Social Capital
What it means: How many times has the tired joke come up about Jewish mothers wanting their children to grow up to be doctors and lawyers? Or at the very least marry a doctor or lawyer? Well, there's some truth to the pressure of growing up in a household where not going to college is not an option. If success within the education system is expected and demanded, then you're going to have a lot more people (out of fear of failure and dishonoring their families) entering the medical and law fields, and succeeding, gosh darn it, because Jewish guilt is hardcore.
Reason #3: Religion is about Knowledge
What it means: Across the board, Judaism stresses learning and anlysis -- not just rote memorization of doctrine. The stereotype of 'two Jews, three opinions' is deeply ingrained in our culture. We accept nothing at face value and yearn to know the 'why' and 'how' of every situation life throws our way. We value analysis. Other religions value dogma.
Reason #4: Survival Mechanism
What it means: After the destruction of the Second Temple (the center of Jewish religion and ritual), Jews needed to become literate to continue to study and practice Judaism. Literacy is what helped the religion survive and kept us from becoming assimilated into the surrounding cultures. Literacy also happens to be a skill necessary for economic development. This became an advantage for the Jewish population from the Middle Ages onward.
Reason #5: We're Outsiders
What it means: As perpetual outsiders--especially ones that are constant targets of hate crimes, Jews have learned to be cautious, even distrustful of others, and have no problem questioning authority and the status quo. The perennial side-eye that Jews give to the world allows us to see things through a unique lens. If you're comfortable questioning what is seen as 'truth,' and pushing the boundaries of analysis, then you're probably going to stumble upon discoveries a bit more frequently, and be more open to trying something un-orthodox (no pun intended.)
October 8, 2013 | 3:04 pm
Posted by Julie Bien
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the cuisine offered at your local deli is not the gold standard of healthy fare. Between the salt content and the saturated fat, every time you eat at a deli you are one meal closer to dying. But then again, who wants to live in a world without lox and halvah? No one. That's who.
1) Offender: The Pastrami Reuben
Why it will kill you: The average reuben clocks in at over 12 grams of saturated fat--more than 60% of your daily intake. Can I get that with extra Russian dressing? And bypass surgery?
2) Offender: Halvah
Why it will kill you: This dense dessert is a calorie-bomb. A 3.5oz serving has nearly 500 calories--that's almost 25% of your daily caloric intake. It would take an obscene number of hours of prancercise to burn that off.
3) Offender: Knish
Why it will kill you: The seemingly harmless potato knish provides roughly 20% of your daily cholesterol and has no redeeming nutritional value. However, the knish's redeeming emotional value on a rainy day is well worth the cholesterol.
4) Offender: Pickle Assortment
Why it will kill you: Salt. So. Much. Salt. One dill pickle has nearly 50% of your daily sodium allotment. And who has just one pickle while waiting for their corned beef sandwich?
5) Offender: Cheese Blintzes
Why it will kill you: The cheese part of the blintz is loaded with artery-clogging goodness. Two blintzes (not including the black raspberry preserves and sour cream that you smother them in) help you reach half of your daily cholesterol limit.
6) Offender: Lox and Bagels
Why it will kill you: Lox and bagels are the holy trinity of heart-stopping food. The lox and capers are loaded with salt, the bagel is loaded with empty carbs, and the cream cheese is loaded with fat. Then again, your great grandma ate this every weekend and lived to be 95. How bad could it be?
7) Offender: Chocolate Rugelach
Why it will kill you: You can't eat just one. Clocking in at 100 calories per piece, rugelach, although lacking in nutritional value, is not intrinsically terrible. What makes this pastry dangerous is how well it goes with coffee. And one rugelach will not get you through a cup of coffee.
8) Offender: Sweet Noodle Kugel
Why it will kill you: The main ingredients are butter, sugar, cream cheese, noodles and eggs. Did I mention sugar? The 25 grams per serving is equivalent to 100% of your daily sugar allowance. Pancreas, be warned. Taste buds, rejoice!
9) Offender: Corned Beef on a Kaiser Roll
Why it will kill you: If you eat the entire sandwich (and unless you're one of those diligent doggy-baggers, you will) you will also eat more than one day's worth of sodium.
10) Offender: Kishka
Why it will kill you: Here is a description of how it's made-- a beef intestine is stuffed with flour, schmaltz (chicken fat), salt and spices. Then it's sliced, fried and served with gravy. 'Nuff said. It tastes like happiness and hedonism--my two favorite things.