The Arty Semite

Slideshow: Kobi Levi's Fabulous Footwear Designs

By Akin Ajayi

‘Chewing Gum’ by Kobi Levi. Image Courtesy of the artist.

High heels are a great way of attracting attention — think of Carrie Bradshaw teetering on vertiginous Manolo Blahniks in “Sex and the City.” But even she might have balked at slipping on one of Kobi Levi’s more imaginative designs. There’s “Chewing Gum,” for instance, capturing the moment just after the wearer has “stepped” in a wad of gum, or “Mother and Daughter,” a cute and whimsical observation on that most basic — and complicated — of relationships. On the other hand, there’s “Blow,” which resembles a blow-up doll apparently engaged in the act of… I’ll skip the details, in deference to readers of more sensitive dispositions.

But for all this, Kobi Levi’s unique designs are not about attracting attention; rather, it is all about creative expression and enjoyment. “People should enjoy what they wear,” he insists. One-off prototypes, the designs are perhaps something of a foil for his conventional work as a professional shoe designer with a respected international portfolio.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shufla Banot, Shoes, Mark Klein, Lady Gaga, Kobi Levi, Footwear, Fashion, Born This Way, Design, Akin Ajayi

Matisyahu's Show at Tel Aviv's Zappa Club Was Nothing to Write Your Rabbi About

By Ben Shalev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Getty Images

Matisyahu’s Tuesday night show should have been a great joy, first of all because of the location. Ordinarily, the conditions at Zappa are nothing to get excited about, but just one day after Bob Dylan’s performance in the cursed expanses of the Ramat Gan Stadium, a show in a small, crowded club sounds like a great idea.

And even more so in the case of Matisyahu, who gave a mediocre show at the huge Hangar 11 when he was here at the height of his fame a few years ago. Now that the novelty of a Hasidic rapper has quieted down (and justifiably so), he has returned to smaller venues that are supposed to showcase his strong suits.

Matisyahu was so close to the audience at this performance that with just a little effort I could have tugged on his tzitzit. But nonetheless, despite the clubby intimacy, it was not a good show. It wasn’t bad either. Just mediocre: nothing to write your rabbi about.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zappa Club, Music, Matisyahu, Haaretz, Ben Shalev

Out and About: Alice Walker Sails For Gaza; Woody Allen Heads For Rome

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images
  • Novelist Alice Walker explains why she is sailing to Gaza.

  • The New York Times profiles Idan Raichel, Israel’s “musician of the decade.”

  • JWeekly profiles the Ridin’ Chai Motorcycle Club of Northern California.

  • In Souciant, The Arty Semite contributor Joel Schalit writes about Public Enemy in Arabic.

  • In Tablet, The Arty Semite contributor Shulem Deen writes about his journey from Hasid to Hipster Brooklyn.

  • Woody Allen has announced that his next film, “The Bop Decameron,” will be set in Rome and will star Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Bop Decameron, Ridin' Chai, Public Enemy, Paul LePage, Out and About, Idan Raichel, Jesse Eisenberg, Gaza, Ellen Page, Country Yossi, Alice Walker, Alec Baldwin, Woody Allen

Of Women, Comics, and Reclaiming Jewish Stereotypes

By Tahneer Oksman

While various critics have noted the strong influence that Jews have had on the creation of American comics, few have fully explored the role of Jewish women. Yet Jewish women have often been at the forefront of creative explorations in the graphic narrative form. And in many of their comics, Jewish identity is a fertile site of exploration of the unstable, contradictory, and ambiguous figurations of the self in a postmodern world.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb

In a June 23 talk at the New York Public Library in connection with the Forward-sponsored “Graphic Details” exhibit, I will discuss how Jewish identity figures in the works of various contemporary cartoonists, especially those of Aline Kominsky-Crumb. In her autobiographical comics, Kominsky-Crumb plays with long-held stereotypes about Jewish women and their bodies, about women and their bodies more generally, and about the representation of such bodies in the interface of various autobiographical modes. While her work has caused some to refer to her as “sexist and anti-Semitic,” Kominsky-Crumb does not simply reject such bodily codings in favor of new, more politically correct portrayals of Jewish women. Instead, she confronts stereotypical representations of Jewish women by recognizing how ingrained they are in her subjectivity and by portraying them as a constant and sometimes even productive influence in how she sees herself and others. Her work offers up the possibility that longstanding categorizations of the Jewish woman can become empowering, depending not only on who is making the statement (or creating the image), but also on how it is being made.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yeshiva University Museum, Vanessa Davis, Tahneer Oksman, Sarah Glidden, New York Public Library, Miss Lasko-Gross, Lectures, Graphic Details, Exhibits, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Comics

Human Rights Advocate Shulamith Koenig's Industrial Folk Sculptures

By Jenny Hendrix

Images courtesy of ET Modern

Shulamith Koenig has little reason to be humble. Well-known for her work as a human rights advocate and her role as founding president of the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, she is, with Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimmy Carter and James Grant, a recipient of the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. Besides human rights activism Koenig also works as a sculptor, and has exhibited and toured with the like of Japan’s Isamu Noguchi. But in “Industrial Evolution: From Art to Industry to Art,” a diminutive five-sculpture show at New York’s ET Modern gallery in Chelsea, the artwork offers no reflection on Koenig’s many accomplishments. Instead, it pays respectful homage to the mundane work of others, offering something like a frame for an invisible, unknown craftsman.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shulamith Koenig, United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, Sculpture, Pablo Picasso Georges Braques, People's Movement for Human Rights Learning, Jenny Hendrix, Isamu Noguchi, Industrial Folk, Exhibits, ET Modern

The Voice

By David Albahari

On Monday, David Albahari explained the motive behind the madness of one-paragraph novels. His blog 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:


I think it was Saul Bellow who once said that writers do not have tasks or duties — they only have their inspiration and that’s the only voice they should listen to. We can discuss where that voice is coming from — from our mind or our heart or that mysterious entity called the human soul — but we cannot change the fact that writers are the scribes who try to write down everything the voice of inspiration tells them. So writers do not write in order to say something to somebody; they write in order to hear and write down what that voice has to tell us. I am not trying to say that writing is an altogether mysterious, secret thing but some part of writing definitely is. The other part, written because we were told to write it, definitely is not. Most of it should be classified as propaganda — promotion of different literary, ideological, political, psychological, cultural ideas. There have always been writers who openly believed in a political system or a party, and in many cases readers and other writers have refused to deal with them. I am not saying that writers should not get involved in a political struggle but they should do it not as writers but as human beings. Unfortunately, once they are seen as human beings many writers turn out to be not very interesting creatures. In fact, they become like everybody else. Only a very small number of writers are really outstanding beings who truly understand the beauty and horror of our world.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Leeches, Jewish Book Council, David Albahari, Books, Author Blog Series, My Jewish Learning

Molekula, a Jaffa Showcase for Original and Expensive Design

By Yuval Saar

Crossposted from Haaretz

Noa Yafe

When one talks about young Israeli design, one thinks not only about innovation and improvisation but also about materials that are inexpensive and that find expression for the most part in small items of furniture that are popularly priced. Molekula, a new store that recently opened on Jaffa’s Yehuda Hayamit Street, is an exception. Spread out across 200 square meters it offers sofas, bookcases, armchairs, beds, lamps and other items whose prices climb as high as NIS 40,000.

That’s not the only thing that sets this store apart. While Israeli design usually tends to have daring colors, materials and overall aesthetics, at Molekula the items, at least at first glance, seem to be more conservative. Brown, gray, white, cream and beige abound. However, technologically-speaking, some of the items definitely display innovative design.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yuval Saar, Orly Karniel, Molekula, Jaffa, Haaretz, Design

How Ernst Kantorowicz Escaped The Nazis

By Benjamin Ivry

Courtesy of Frankfurt am Main City Archive
Ernst Kantorowicz circa 1930.

The historian Ernst Kantorowicz, born to a German Jewish family in present-day Poznań, is remembered for such magisterial studies as “The King’s Two Bodies,” still available from Princeton University Press and a study of King Frederick the Second.

Kantorowicz’s dramatic life has also attracted attention, from service in World War I to his escape from the Nazis, as recounted in Alain Boureau’s “Histoires d’un historien: Kantorowicz” from Les editions Gallimard, published in English translation in 2001 from The Johns Hopkins University Press as “Kantorowicz: Stories of a Historian.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Alain Boureau, Ernst Kantorowicz, Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra, Ralph E. Giesey

New Novel Charts a Haredi Woman’s Struggle With Identity in Pre-War Palestine

By Daniella Wexler

Jerusalem Maiden
Talia Carner
Harper Paperbacks, 464 pages, $14.99

Those craving a fix of Jewish pulp might enjoy “Jerusalem Maiden,” the latest novel by Talia Carner, women’s activist and former publisher of Savvy Women’s Magazine. Set in early 20th century Palestine during the decline of Ottoman rule, the novel follows Esther Kaminsky — a heroine inspired by the author’s grandmother — whose ultra-Orthodox lifestyle stifles her artistic and romantic urges. Will she reconcile her appetite for adventure with her deep-seated faith before it’s too late? And, perhaps more importantly: How much stilted dialogue and clunky imagery (“The iron felt heavier than a barrel of pickles”) will readers have to weather before they find out?

Carner presents a caricatured view of Haredi culture and the characters — excepting the heroine — are fairly one-dimensional. In Esther’s community, women spit superstitiously (“tfoo, tfoo, tfoo!”), bear children and sanctimoniously pronounce judgment on others at every opportunity.

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Perach Adom Performs Greek-Turkish Music, Israeli Style

By Benjamin Ivry

Courtesy of Perach Adom

The death, earlier this year, of the famed Greek singer/songwriter Manolis Rassoulis at age 65 was a loss for Mediterranean music in general, particularly in Israel, where Rassoulis has performed to acclaim with the skilled ensemble Perach Adom (Red Flower).

Founded in 2001 by Tomer Katz, a graduate of Jerusalem’s Rubin Academy for Music and Dance, Perach Adom performs Rebetiko music, a Greek-Turkish genre marked by longing, and the possibility of expressing beauty even in moments of grief. Its quintessential performer, known as The Queen of Rebetiko, was Roza Eskenazi, born Sarah Skinazi to a Sephardic Jewish family in Istanbul. Although Eskenazi died in 1980, her singing is still treasured on recently reissued CDs.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tomer Katz, Roza Eskenazi, Quentin Tarantino, Perach Adom, Manolis Rassoulis, Yair Dalal

Gabrielle Giffords Memoir in the Works

By Forward Staff

Getty Images
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) poses for a photo in May, just after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour but before she had her cranioplasty surgery.

It has no title or publication date yet, but you might want to add this book to your reading list now. Mark Kelly, NASA astronaut and husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, announced today that he and his wife are working on a memoir about their life together, before and after Giffords was shot January 8 in Tucson, Ariz.

“After thinking about it, and talking about it, we decided it was the right thing to do to put our words and our voices on paper and tell our story from our point of view,” Kelly told The Associated Press.

Besides the inherent interest in the couple’s story, there is every indication that the book will be a publishing phenomenon. Although Kelly — and to a lesser extent, Giffords — will collaborate on content, the book will be written by Jeffrey Zaslow, who worked with Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch on the best-selling “The Last Lecture,” as well as on Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s “Highest Duty.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Susan Moldow, Scribner, Nan Graham, Memoir, Jeffrey Zaslow, Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords, Books

Q&A: Photographer Maya Barkai's Walking and Working Worldwide Icons

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Photo by Dan Keinan. Courtesy of Maya Barkai.

In Downtown Manhattan, an international city where pedestrians clog the sidewalks, photographer Maya Barkai’s “Walking Men” fits right in. At the same time, these 99 life-size representations of “walk” signals from around the globe definitely stand out.

“Walking Men 99,” an art installation stretching 500 feet around Church Street in Lower Manhattan, was originally launched by the Downtown Alliance in January 2010 and curated by Artea Projects. Last month, the project was updated with an influx of additional photos contributed by the public through Barkai’s website. In addition, a 77-figure version of the installation was commissioned last summer by PERMM, a contemporary art museum in Perm, Russia.

Inspired by “Working Men,” the Bat Yam Biennale of Landscape Urbanism in Israel invited Barkai to create “Men at Work,” an exhibition featuring 59 life-size “working men” (and “working women”) signs from around the world. It went up around a construction site in the city south of Tel Aviv last September and is still on view.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Working Men, Walking Men, Walking Men 99, Visual Art, Renee Ghert-Zand, Maya Barkai, Interview, Bat Yam Biennale, Exhibit

Video: My Father's Polish Rescuer

By Paul Zakrzewski


It was a memoir I’d been trying to write for three years without much success. I’d been wanting to tell the story of how, in the summer of 2008, I’d traveled to Warsaw, Poland, for a week with my wife and my 13-month-old son, Noah. Mornings we were tourists, while every afternoon was spent hanging out in the apartment of Genia Olczak, who fed us endlessly and kept me running to the Polish-English dictionary every few minutes. The trip marked the second time I’d been to Warsaw in the four years since my dad died. What, I wondered, drew me back there?

One answer was Genia herself: Ninety-five at the time, still cogent and solid, she lived not far from an apartment building where, beginning in 1942, she’d risked her life creating hiding places for my grandmother, great-uncle and aunt, while my father (then 7) hid out in the open, as her son out-of-wedlock. Another answer, it turned out, had less to do with the Holocaust and a good deal more to do with my father and me, our challenging and sometimes distant relationship, and the ways we’d both hidden in our lives. The result of this investigation is “A Wrinkle in Time,” my first “digital story,” or three-minute narrated visual essay that I created with the help of The Center for Digital Storytelling, in Washington, D.C.

Watch ‘A Wrinkle in Time’:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Righteous Gentiles, Paul Zakrzewski, Holocaust, Video, Genia Olczak

Bob Dylan Proves He's Still Got It in Tel Aviv

By Ben Shalev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Getty Images

Those who cast doubt on Bob Dylan’s ability to perform were forced to eat their words after his excellent performance Monday night.

What hasn’t been said about the old-timer’s performance skills? They said that he was tired, they warned that his voice has gone, they predicted a catastrophe similar to his 1987 performance, but all their warnings were unfounded.

It was not a perfect performance, but it exceeded the expectations of the most optimistic of Dylan’s fans. Whoever left the stadium disappointed arrived initially with unrealistic expectations.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Music, Haaretz, Bob Dylan, Ben Shalev

Two Old Jews Squabbling About Art at the Met's 'The Old Masters'

By Benjamin Ivry

T. Charles Erickson
Sam Waterston as Bernard Berenson in the Long Wharf Theater production of “The Old Masters” from January 2011.

Devotees of the fine arts and even finer acting will hurry to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tonight or on June 27 for a staged reading of Simon Gray’s 2004 play “The Old Masters.” Gray’s opus portrays a stormy encounter between two Jewish art experts, Bernard Berenson (born Bernhard Valvrojenski in present-day Lithuania) and the dealer Joseph Duveen, of Dutch Jewish origin.

As readers of S.N. Behrman’s tasty “Duveen,” reprinted in 2003 by NYRB Classics; Meryle Secrest’s 2004 “Duveen: A Life in Art” from University Of Chicago Press, and John Brewer’s 2009 “The American Leonardo: A Tale of Obsession, Art and Money” from Oxford University Press know, Duveen was burdened by few scruples in his fierce hondling.

From 1907 and for three decades afterward, the refined, highly accomplished connoisseur Berenson profited by taking a percentage from Duveen’s sales for which his authoritative opinion was used to convince prospective buyers, a source of income that today would be looked on askance in the art world.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sam Waterston, Joseph Duveen, Bernard Berenson

Monday Music: Sephardic Rock for the Hour and the Age

By Abby Margulies

Courtesy of JDub Records

Over the past decade world music has made a veritable comeback, trickling into the mainstream and infusing the indie and alternative rock scene with eclectic and unexpected rhythms. From the emergence of bands like Golgol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box to the return of Brazilian psychedelic rockers Os Mutantes, world music has become more popular, with bands borrowing from the traditional music of their own heritages and others, peppering their music with ancient sounds and lively beats.

Fusing Ladino, Hebrew and English, the band DeLeon has joined their ranks, successfully establishing itself as a viable contender on the ever-burgeoning indie-meets-world-music scene. Formed in 2006, the band — which takes its name from the 12th-century kabbalist and philosopher Moses De Léon — released their first eponymous album in 2008, following up with “Casata” this month. Consisting of front-man Daniel Saks and bandmates Kevin Snider, Justin Riddle, Amy Crawford and Andrew Oom, the group sings a mix of folk and what they call “Sephardic rock.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sephardic Music, Music, Kevin Snider, Justin Riddle, JDub Records, DeLeon, Daniel Saks, Casata, Andrew Oom, Abby Margulies, Amy Crawfod

One-Paragraph Novels

By David Albahari

David Albahari is the Serbian-born Canadian author, most recently, of the novel “Leeches.” The book is a feat of magic, an existential philosophical novel that’s also funny and with enough mysteries to keep the reader guessing. It’s also one long paragraph — that’s right, a 300-page-long paragraph. Here, Albahari explains the motive behind his madness. His blog 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:


There are several reasons why I write my novels in one long paragraph. First of all, I simply like it, I like when black words completely cover the whiteness of paper. Secondly, I feel that when I write in a long paragraph, I am paying hommage to the writers who influenced me with their own long sentences and paragraphs — William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard. And finally, I write like that because I believe that a story or a novel is created in the joint effort between the writer and the reader through the act of reading. The long paragraph is like a dark labyrinth through which they have to find their way. Unfortunately, many readers would rather read books written in short sentences than a novel or a collection of short stories trying to explore new possibilities in the world of fiction. Perhaps they have had enough of postmodern and metafictional literature and believe they deserve a break? That might be why many of them recoil when they are faced with a novel written in a 300-page-long paragraph, convinced that it is more difficult to read than a regular novel. That presumption is wrong because a one-paragraph novel also has its dialogues, descriptions, new paragraphs, and even new chapters. True, they are not so marked but any attentive reader will recognize them in the process of reading. Reading should always be fun, I agree, but it should also be for learning and understanding.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: My Jewish Learning, Leeches, Jewish Book Council, David Albahari, Books, Author Blog Series

A Less-Than-Perfect Marriage at Givatayim's FestiJazz Festival

By Ben Shalev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Daniel Tchetchik

Toward the end of their performance, the quartet of Anat Fort and Abate Barihun played an arrangement of a popular Ethiopian passage called “Gadaye.” “What’s ‘Gadaye?’” Fort asked Barihun on stage, and the saxophonist became a little confused and in the end said “It’s a wedding song.”

The encounter between Barihun and Fort, which concluded the jazz festival at the Givatayim Theater this weekend, reflected an attempt to conduct a creative marriage between two wonderful musicians who are very different from one another in both style and sound. Barihun brings the heady sound of Ethiopian music, as incorporated in his expressive playing and moving vocals; pianist-composer Fort’s “dowry” is delicate and lyrical chamber jazz, with very subtle echoes of classical music and free jazz.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Givatayim Theater, Gadaye, Anat Fort, Ben Shalev, Abate Barihun, Haaretz, Music

Out and About: Darren Aronofsky's New Pilot; Oskar Schindler's Art Museum

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images
  • On Killing the Buddha, The Arty Semite contributor Gordon Haber adds a personal reflection to the circumcision debate in California.

  • Bucharest is getting its very first Jewish Film Festival.

  • Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow has been turned into a contemporary art museum.

  • Meet Xu Long, a Chinese chef with a passion for ancient Jewish coins.

  • Darren Aronofsky is signed on to direct “Hobgolin,” a pilot for HBO written by husband and wife team Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman about con men and magicians who battle Nazis during World War II.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Xu Long, George Weiss, Nadav Samin, Out and About

This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

MATTHEW SPENCER
  • Dan Friedman goes to see “Queen of the Sun,” a film about the potentially-catastrophic plight of North American bees.

  • Nathan Jeffay looks into the controversy surrounding the first Jerusalem performance of “Jérusalem,” the Verdi opera about the Crusades.

  • Yevgeniya Traps reviews “You Must Go and Win,” a memoir about trying to make it in the music business by Aline Simone, an immigrant from the Former Soviet Union.

  • Lawrence L. Langer reviews “The End of the Holocaust” by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, a book about how popular culture has influenced Holocaust awareness.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: This Week in Forward Arts and Culture



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