Jazz from Holy Land meets Torah with a Texas twang by James Besser

The biographical sketches offer a fascinating glimpse of Israel's diversity. There are native kibbutzniks, former Soviet Jews and even an ex-Californian in the ensemble.

The best thing about the site: a collection of short, tantalizing sound clips, including a rocking "Sweet Georgia Brown" and some jazz tunes with a distinctly Jewish sound. Click on a title to hear a snippet over your computer's speakers.

Nothing fancy here, just a new site that will please jazz buffs and intrigue visitors interested in Israel's rich and wide-ranging culture. Check it out at http://sky.aquanet.Co.Il/jjb/ JJB.htm

Oy, Kimosabe

OK, there are about a zillion Torah and Talmud sites on the Web, but the House of Jews is…well, different.

A self-confessed "Texas Jewboy" runs the site, offering measured doses of Jewish learning overlaid with a few splashes of quirky humor.

In a biographical aside, "Dr. Benton" — he gives no first name — describes himself as descended from a Jewish great-grandmother and a Choctaw great-grandfather. "Oy, Kimosabe," he writes.

He claims to have danced in a musical with Ginger Rogers and dated a Miss America. But Jewish learning, not offbeat biography, is the real point here, and Benton dishes it up in digestible, entertaining nuggets.

The first section, "The Texas Talmud," includes text and commentary for 18 passages "guaranteed to help any Jewish cowboy (or cowgirl) lead a good and righteous life."

After a passage about gossip, he offers commonsense interpretation. "Personally, I don't control my own tongue to perfection, but as I get older, I do become increasingly aware of the thoughtlessness of some of my words," he writes. "Hence, if you accomplish nothing else, at least learn to control your tongue!"

In "The Lone Star Kabbalah" and "Cool Zohar" sections, he does the same for Jewish mysticism. A "Jewish Wisdom Desk Calendar" offers a nugget of Jewish wisdom every day. And a "random Talmud server" loads a different short passage every time you load the page — or hit "refresh" on your browser.

Is this a comprehensive Jewish learning site? Of course not. It is, however, entertaining and informative — just the thing to fill idle cyber-moments with something more meaningful than auctions and those endless Internet joke sites. Check it out at http://web.wt.net/ ~cbenton/hoj.htm

Sholom Aleichem

The attractive, easy-to-navigate home page offers a decent, accessible introduction to the life and writings of the famed chronicler of Eastern European Jewish life — born Solomon Rabinovitch in Ukraine in the middle of the 19th century.

Sholom Alei-chem, who died in New York in 1916, offered a poignant, humorous glimpse into the world of the shtetl. His stories about Tevya the Dairyman (Tevye der Milchiger) were the basis for the hit musical "Fiddler on the Roof."

The author's descendants set up the site, which includes letters from Aleichem to his children, reminiscences by family members and stories and excerpts from his novels.

A recent addition to the site offers a translation of the story "If I Were Rothschild" and a bulletin board/discussion area. The latter is filled with announcements of events in the world of Yiddish literature and chatter about Sholom Aleichem and the lost world he depicts.

Even better is an online shop where you can purchase Sholom Aleichem's books without leaving home.

Every Jew should experience the joys of this great literature. The Sholom Aleichem home page makes it easier than ever to get started.

Check it out at www.sholom-aleichem.org/

James D. Besser is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected]