Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Segula - A Journey Through History

A couple of weeks ago I bumped into my friend Sara Jo Ben Zvi walking down my street. In reply to my query about what she was doing in my neck of the woods, she replied that she's been working around the corner for the past three years. She then pulled out of her bag a glossy magazine which was presented to me as a gift. 

It's called Segula - A Jewish Journey Through History. (And I know the editor. :~p.) Segula means Treasure but it also has connotations of protective charms and miracles. I read it from cover to cover. Every article was a fountain of information that I didn't even know I was missing. 

The edition I was given had the theme of 'Jewish Women in the Arts.' Sure, I know about a handful of female Jewish poets and obviously some modern singers and actresses. However, I had no idea that in the last century one of Egypt's most famous actresses, Laila Mourad, was Jewish. I had no idea that the Jewish Enlightenment in Europe, 1770 - 1881, had many Hebrew speaking heroines. I had no idea that in the mid 1800s the first American Jewish novelist was called Cora Wilburn and that she traveled the world before settling in America. And there are about 10 more articles about Jewish women in history, each an informative gem.

The thing about Jewish history when you grew up in Britian, is that  unless you went out of your way to learn it, you don't necessarily know very much. Of course I know the main events - most of them. But the details, the life stories of the characters, the heroes and heroines, the legacies - not so much.  For example, I know that King Alfred was supposed to have burned the cakes, how each of King Henry Vlll's wives died (well not the last one but I assume it was old age), that Sir Frances Drake insisted on finishing his game of bowls before defeating the Spanish Armada, and I've been to Pudding Lane and know of its significance. But of Jewish history after the Bible, I know the labels on the timeline. one sentence of explanation, and that's about it. 

This is the blurb from the Segula Magazine website:
"Segula - The Jewish Journey Through History
Enter a world of fascinating articles, vibrant illustrations, timelines and maps to discover the heroes and villains who changed Jewish history. Stand at the crossroads of progress and meet the Jews who made a difference. Encounter colorful communities and learn how Judaism survives in exotic and far-flung locations. Read Segula - the bi-monthly magazine from Jerusalem that brings Jewish history to life!"

The Segula website has some featured full-length articles and also short pieces about all the people and events featured in the magazines. Each piece is positioned on a timeline so that you can read about events from a particular period or choose a topic. Reading on the website is free but you have to register. 

The magazine is printed in English and Hebrew. For an English subscription of six issues the cost is 265 shekels in Israel and $78 dollars to send abroad. it seems a bit pricey but you get 75 pages of articles written by history professors and experts in their fields. There are almost no advertisements for things you don't need or want. (The issue I read had one page about an Ecology Magazine and one about a charity to support soldiers without families.) 

Be warned Jewish friends who are approaching significant birthdays, I think I've found the perfect gift. 

Disclaimer: though I didn't pay for my copy, Sara Jo has no idea that I'm writing this review and recommending Segula. 


  1. How interesting! I had a brief look at a few of the articles. It reminds me a bit of lost women' histories - I'm always astonished when I read something or see a documentary about a female artist, or scientist or writer that I've never heard of but who contributed so much!

    1. I know, there were far more than ever got recognition. The next issue won't be about women especially but I can't remember what it's about and I already passed on the magazine to my cousin.

  2. I just read this article on the BBC site and wondered if you had seen it -

    1. No I didn't know anything about the Jews of Dominican Republic. Very interesting. Thanks.