The Arty Semite

The Lions of Zion, Chapter 10

By Ross Ufberg

What would have happened had there been a Jewish team in the Major Leagues? In an original novel serialized on The Arty Semite, Ross Ufberg imagines the trials and triumphs of The Lions of Zion, an all-Jewish team competing in the National League in 1933. Read the first nine chapters here.

Twentieth Century Limited

About a month later, the Twentieth Century Limited was cutting a line through the Midwest. We’d left Chicago at three in the afternoon, and now it was past midnight. After sweeping the series at Wrigley Field we had an 18-12 record, tied with the Giants for second place behind the Pirates. We had four games against the Boston Braves coming up, then on to Pittsburgh and, finally, back-to-back series against the Giants and the Dodgers.

On one side of the lounge car a few players were having a friendly poker game: friendly, because when Run-the-Numbers Cohen was around, nobody wanted to play for money. We learned the hard way he didn’t come by his name for nothing. The first night in Chicago he’d cleaned us all out.

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Algeria and Jamaica, By Way of Golan Heights

By Uri Zer Aviv

Crossposted from Haaretz

Yaron Kaminsky

Brothers Hasan and Rami Nakhleh, from the Golan Heights Druze village of Majdal Shams, were raised on classical music. Classical Arab music, that is. Hassan studied Oriental violin. He can play, in their considerable entirety, works made famous by singers Umm Kulthum, Fairuz and other great “roots” musicians, as he calls them. The whole family often came together in the morning to play music.

“As teenagers we started listening to Bob Marley. We liked metal too, and we were crazy about Tupac [Shakur] for a while,” Hasan said, “but after being exposed to Miles Davis’s cool jazz, our entire approach to music changed. Today our favorite groups are Tinariwen [a band of musicians from the nomadic Tuareg tribe of the Sahara Desert], and Gnawa Diffusion [a French band that combines North African music with rock, reggae and dub].


Nebuchadnezzar Becomes a Jew at the Met

By Raphael Mostel

Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
Maria Guleghina as Abigaille and Zeljko Lucic in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Nabucco.’

Just in time for the High Holy Days, the Metropolitan Opera is bringing back its production of one of the few works of music that helped change history. “Nabucco” (Nebuchadnezzar), a wildly eccentric story inspired by the biblical Lamentations of Jeremiah, was Giuseppe Verdi’s first professional breakthrough, and it helped inspire the Risorgiomento, which ended the Catholic church’s political control of Italy as well the infamous Nuremberg-like laws imposed on Jews by Pope Pius IX.

In the opera, Nabucco’s two daughters both fall madly in love with a Hebrew prince, and Nabucco himself converts to Judaism after being struck by lightning. The chorus of Hebrew slaves, “Va pensiero” (“Fly my Thoughts on Golden Wings”), has become Italy’s unofficial national anthem. It is spontaneously sung at soccer games, and all sorts of other occasions.

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Q&A: Elinor Carucci on Motherhood and Photos

By Akin Ajayi

Elinor Carucci, 'Kissing My Son,' 2007

In “Born,” a solo exhibition showing at the Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York through November 5, photographer Elinor Carucci presents intimate, at times unsettling, but always unflinchingly candid portraits of herself and her twin children. Born in Israel in 1971, Carucci started taking photographs at the age of 15. She moved to New York after graduating from Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and has since forged overlapping careers in visual art and commercial photography. Her photographs, often of herself or family members, have been exhibited across three continents (another solo exhibition, “Love In Spite,” is running at Tel Aviv’s Tavi Art Gallery through October 7); her commissions have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and Esquire, among other publications. She spoke to The Arty Semite about the self-reflective and personal nature of her work.

Akin Ajayi: “Born” presents images of motherhood very much at odds with our internalized concept of maternal bliss. Are these general statements or a meditation on personal experience?

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Monday Music: The Klezmatics at 25

By Eileen Reynolds

Courtesy of GAT publicity

The Klezmatics are 25 this year (where does the time go?), and to mark the anniversary, they’ve released “Live at Town Hall,” a two-disc recording of a performance given in New York five years ago. That concert, itself an exuberant 20th anniversary celebration, was recorded in conjunction with “The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground,” a documentary also released in honor of the band’s silver anniversary year. This is the group’s first self-produced album, and — perhaps owing to the financial struggles alluded to in the documentary — they’ve raised all the money for the promotion of the project themselves, through a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.

Any new release from The Klezmatics is cause for excitement, and yet one gets the sense that a lot is being recycled in this case, with the album and the film doing double duty for two major milestones. Devoted fans will also note that there’s no strictly new material on these two discs — each of the pieces has been previously recorded on one album or another.

Still, this is less a shlocky greatest-hits album than a pleasant trip down memory lane. The pieces on “Live at Town Hall” are arranged more or less chronologically, so that listening to them is a bit like hearing the band’s decades-long evolution in fast-forward. The Klezmatics’ first compositions — traditional tunes re-imagined for albums like “Shvaygn=Toyt,” (1988) “Rhythm and Jews” (1990) and “Jews With Horns” (1990) — hold up remarkably well, with the mature musicians breathing new life into what always were wonderfully creative arrangements.

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Casting Off

By Stuart Nadler

Stuart Nadler’s first book, “The Book of Life,” is now available. His posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:

For me, the year has always begun in September. I grew up near Boston, and part of this feeling, surely, is that the season changes then, that summer ends and school begins, that in the stores suddenly there are reminders of what’s to come: Halloween masks, potted burgundy chrysanthemums, pumpkins for sale in bins at the farm stands. Of course, September, in most cases, marks the beginning of the High Holidays. It falls late this year, the bulk of the Days of Awe spilling over into October. As I write this, we’re half a month away, and in New England, there is still the residual film of summer hanging over everything. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are, perhaps, the most benevolent of all our holidays, a time devoted, in part, to an introspective critique of our sins and misgivings, our failings, the grievances we carry. I took the title of my collection of short stories, “The Book of Life,” from the part of the High Holiday liturgy which has been my favorite since I was young: “On Rosh Hashanah It is Written, On Yom Kippur It is Sealed.” The stories in my book are about family — about the enduring struggle between father’s and their sons, about the difficulties between brothers. But in a large part, the stories are about the sins and errors we commit against those we love.

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Where Are the Local Composers?

By Noam Ben-Zeev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Tomer Appelbaum

Fourteen years ago the Israeli Ministry of Culture, through its music department, devised a program for boosting local concert music: It created the Israeli Music Celebration, a festival of free performances at which Israeli ensembles and soloists would give concerts consisting exclusively of works by Israeli composers. The idea was a good one: Musicians who perform Israeli concert music are at the bottom of the ladder, institutionally and socially. This music is ignored by the country’s educational institutions, from kindergarten to the universities, and neglected by orchestras and other performance bodies. The shot in the arm from the state was welcomed warmly.

Unfortunately, the implementation of the “celebration” served only to underline the sorry state of Israeli music. Only when composer Michael Wolpe was appointed artistic director of the festival that a change began to be felt. His personal stamp has been particularly evident over the past two years. This year will mark his sixth turn at the top, after which he will be succeeded as artistic director by composer Boaz Ben-Moshe. The 14th Israeli Music Celebration takes place from Saturday through Wednesday, with performances in Jerusalem, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Dimona and Tel Aviv.


Out and About: Samberg as Zuckerberg; No Shirtless Men in Iran

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images
  • Andy Samberg impersonated Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook conference last week.

  • Max Elstein Keisler talks to Kosha Dillz about being the only Zionist rapper in the room.

  • Manohla Dargis tries to sort out the mess that is Lars von Trier.

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This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter


Friday Film: The Teacher Who Gave Everything

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The visual metaphor in the opening scenes of “HaMorah Irena” (“Teacher Irena”), the Ophir Award-nominated documentary about a teacher in the poorest neighborhood of West Jerusalem, tells you everything you need to know about this exceptionally devoted educator. However, you don’t know that until you come to the end of the film.

In “Teacher Irena,” screening October 2 at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Calif., debut director Itamar Chen deftly condenses the educator’s year with her third grade class into 52 minutes. The film is short as documentary features go, but it conveys the long journey that Irena takes with her underprivileged, at-risk students.

Chen’s choice to eschew third-person narration, and never have Irena speak directly to the camera, paints a portrait of a woman who ably helps her students succeed while failing herself in important ways.

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Gertrude Stein, Fascist Love Thief?

By Benjamin Ivry

The author who wrote “a rose is a rose is a rose” is being honored and vilified in equal parts. She is being honored by “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories” out from The University of California Press on June 22 to commemorate an exhibit at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum, which moves and opens on October 14 at Washington, D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery, where it can be seen until January 22, 2012.

In June, Yale University Press released “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” inspired by an exhibit at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which closed on September 6, to re-open at Paris’s Grand Palais on October 3, with a further 2012 stop at The Metropolitan Museum. But other publications offer cogent reasons to curb any Steinian enthusiasm.

“Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma” was published by Columbia University Press on September 1. Written by Barbara Will, a Duke University English professor, “Unlikely Collaboration” investigates how Stein and her companion Alice Toklas survived in Occupied France, protected by fascist Nazi-collaborating friends. Pablo Picasso later recalled to a mutual friend: “Gertrude was a real fascist. She always had a weakness for Franco. Imagine! For Pétain, too.”

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Looted Paintings Returned to Poland

By Lil Swanson

Lil Swanson
Recoverd at Last: Julian Falat’s ‘The Hunt’ on display at Polish Consulate in New York. The painting, which was looted by the Nazis, was recovered after a court battle.

Two oil paintings stolen by the Nazis 67 years ago from the walls of Poland’s National Museum in Warsaw were returned Thursday night to the people and government of Poland in a ceremony held at the Polish consulate in New York.

Polish artist Julian Falat painted the works, “The Hunt” and “Off to the Hunt” in the late 1800s. They were among the prize works at the Polish museum that were confiscated in August 1944 when the German S.S. took over the museum and removed its most valuable treasures.

The location of the two paintings remained unknown until 2006 when Polish government authorities discovered they were up for sale at two auction houses in New York City. It took a federal court case to win forfeiture of the paintings as stolen property so they could be returned to Poland.

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Lost and Found in Brooklyn

By Lucette Lagnado

Earlier this week, Lucette Lagnado wrote about an arrogant revolution and about mourning her Arab Spring. Her posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite, courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:

This past weekend I was lost — and found — in Brooklyn.

My Sunday began with an appearance on a panel about the Arab Spring at the chic, hipsterish Brooklyn Book Festival. It was an animated discussion, and my fellow panel-members were amiable, but I felt lonely, very much in the minority as I spoke out against the brutal attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. The attempted storming of the embassy last week was a turning point as far as I was concerned, a time to start asking tough questions about the revolution and whether it had gone seriously off-track, to demand to know what happened to the early goals of democracy and peace on Tahrir Square.

The consensus, though, was that revolutions took time to play out — one member suggested 100 years.

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In Song: Nitzavim-Vayelech

By Martin Stone


Each week The Arty Semite connects the Torah reading — however tenuously — with a classic work of rock ‘n’ roll.

In this week’s double parsha, Nitzavim-Vayelech, Moses gives his final warnings to the People of Israel about the pitfalls that await them in the Land of Israel.

Leadership of the people is ceremoniously transferred to Joshua, and Moses gives the order to gather the people to hear his final testimony and parting words.

Earlier, the mitzvah of “Hakhel” is given, wherein the nation gathers to hear the reading of the Torah by the king at the Temple once every seven years. Or, as the Fab Four might say:

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Dancing Don Quixote in the Psychiatric Ward

By Ruth Eshel

Crossposted from Haaretz

Anna Koreisheva

The Eifman Ballet is practically a regular guest in Israel; this time it brought two splendid works, “Onegin,” which played the Opera a year ago, and “Don Quixote,” performed here for the first time. Don Quixote to the music of Ludwig Minkus deals with the escape from reality toward a dream: a dream in which it is possible to realize all that cannot be had in real life. It is both a very human and relevant topic. The dance bears the stamp of Eifman’s neoclassical style, characterized by a completely professional and lavish production with virtuoso dancers. This time the narrative is steeped in humor, bypassing an excess of drama, and bursting with creativity. It is one of Eifman’s best works.

The story takes place in a psychiatric institution under the strict supervision of a doctor (Angela Farouk Verova); it looks more like a playground where the patients amuse themselves with buckets, which also serve as seats or may be worn on the head or as masks to hide behind. They also play with a ball and balloons. The patients have the bodies of adults but the souls of dreamy children at play, as long as this play is carried out in secret and hidden from the doctor. She wears a tie and her appearance causes the patents to tremble with fear until they seem like marionettes on the edge of collapse, or birds hysterically flapping their wings. Don Quixote, tall and of noble bearing, with white hair and a neat beard (Oleg Markov), has the look of a poet. He is unwilling to be distracted with games and incessantly practices guided imagery while reading Cervantes’ book.


Eighteen Solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Caroline Lagnado

How many ways are there to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Given that none so far have definitively worked, the number doesn’t seem high. But in a new anthology, “United States of Palestine — Israel” (Sternberg Press, 2011) a group of Israeli, Palestinian and European left-wing writers and artists present no less than 18 solutions to the conflict.

On September 17 Joshua Simon, an Israeli writer, curator, filmmaker and editor of the collection, held a talk at the New Museum in New York together along Ohad Meromi, an Israeli writer, and Ingo Niermann, a German artist. Niermann is also the editor of the “Solutions” series for the Sternberg Press, a German publishing house that has tackled the problems of places such as the U.S., Japan, Scotland and Dubai.

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'Footnote' to Represent Israel at the Oscars

By Nathan Burstein

‘Footnote’ director Joseph Cedar arrives at Cannes Film Festival in May. Courtesy of Getty Images.

After sitting out the Academy Awards in February, Israel is hoping for its fourth nomination in five years with “Footnote,” a drama that combines the worlds of academia and Talmudic study.

The film won top honors tonight at the Ophirs, the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars, automatically becoming Israel’s submission in the foreign-language category at Hollywood’s Academy Awards. While Oscar nominations won’t be announced until January, “Footnote” can already be considered a front-runner, having been nominated for a Palme d’Or and taking home the best screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

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Leonard Cohen's Yiddish Song

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images

We were remiss in not wishing Leonard Cohen a happy birthday yesterday, but the 77-year-old Montreal poet, novelist and singer-songwriter has other consolations.

On October 11, Legacy Recordings will re-release 17 discs of Cohen’s back catalogue as a box set, including all of his studio albums and a few live ones, as well. The “Complete Albums Collection” will also include a 36-page booklet containing a 1,300 word essay by Pico Iyer.

As a personal tribute, though, I’d like to quote my favorite Leonard Cohen anecdote, about the 1972 “Songs of Love and Hate” tour, which comes from Ira Nadel’s 1998 biography, “Various Positions”:

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Bob Holman's Poem for Rosh Hashanah

By Jake Marmer

Bob Holman is one of New York’s poetry legends. He pioneered the performance poetry scene a few decades ago, opened and is still running his world-renowned Bowery Poetry Club, is a professor, publisher, lecturer and much more.

‘Rain, 1954’ by Arthur Leipzig

Today, in the spirit of the upcoming holidays, The Arty Semite is featuring Holman’s 1994 poem “A Jew in New York.” The author points to a wonderful connection between the mood of the High Holy Days and the New York weather: “Moody and gray, with dashes of absolute / Clarity.”

There’s also something quintessentially New York about the way Holman’s meditation on his Jewishness is intertwined with references to other identities — a Latina friend, the Chinese new year, and his own “coalminer” lineage. Holman’s mode of introspection, in the spirit of the upcoming holidays, lies in the openness and receptivity to his own history and the free-associations that come as he recounts it.

Bob Holman’s most recent book is “Picasso in Barcelona” (Paper Kite Press).

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How Felix Lembersky Smuggled Jewish Motifs Into Soviet Art

By Ori Z. Soltes

Felix Lembersky ‘Building After Gun Fire,’ Leningrad, 1959.

The Ukrainian Jewish painter Felix Lembersky (1913-70), whose works are currently on view through December 23 at the Rubin-Frankel Gallery at Boston University, offers ideas and issues to contemporary viewers aside from the simple beauty of his work.

As I will explain in a lecture this evening, Lembersky came of age and spent his career in the Soviet World of Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, in which, with the exception of a few moments of “thaw,” visual art was frozen by the Stalinist dictum of Soviet socialist realism. Photo-perfect representation of smiling, healthy young people engaged in the noble work of building the Soviet state or enjoying the produce of its sweeping countryside was the only acceptable form of aesthetic expression. Soviet artists typically had to choose: They could create art acceptable to the regime or be ignored — if not persecuted — for inappropriately avant-garde or socio-politically critical work.

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