The Joy of Jewish Cookbooks
Who's To Blame For the State of Today's NFL? Try Sid Luckman
Your Days Are Numbered... and So Is Just About Everything Else
From Orthodox Teen Lesbians To the Holocaust, An Author Courts Controversy
'Tis the Season For Holiday Synthesis
What Cornelius Gurlitt Could Have Learned From Monsieur Robert Klein
Stuck Inside of Greenwich Village With the Coen Brothers Blues Again
Remembering Israeli Literature's Only Nobel Laureate
In Pursuing Bob Dylan for Hate Speech, Croatian Group Denies Holocaust
Meet the Fifth (Jewish) Beatle — Manager Brian Epstein
Deconstructing an Older Sarah Silverman
Why Bambi Is the Most Jewish Deer in Disneyland
Why Thanksgivukkah Is a Portmanteau — and What That Means
The Only Jewish Kid in His Moscow Class
World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor Celebrates 110th Birthday
Hungary Designer Has a Little Dreidel (and a Menorah)
Arik Einstein, Voice of Good Old Israel, Dies at 74
How Tevye's Author Got an Oklahoma Oilfield Named After Him
8 Best Songs To Ring in Thanksgivukkah
How Hanukkah Entered American Mainstream
When George Washington Celebrated Thanksgivukkah
Imagining Life of Dona Gracia, Portuguese Jew and Richest Woman in World
Will the Real Sholem Aleichem Please Stand Up?
How an Affront to Judaism Came To Memorialize Israel's War Dead
Celebrating 200 Years of French-Jewish Composer Charles Valentin-Alkan
How 'Stars of David' Made Leap From Page to Stage
It's Not Easy Being a Jewish Artist in a Muslim Land
How a Schlumpy Kid Named Art Spiegelman Changed Pop Culture
Masada Stubbornly Gives Up Its Secrets — Lice and All — After 50 Years
My Dinner With Leonard Bernstein
In Joshua Safran's Memoir, Jack Kerouac Meets Edgar Allan Poe
Art Shavit Still Believes in a 'Promised Land'
Who Is Mystery Woman in Iconic Photo of Old Jordan Valley?
Did Adam and Eve Speak Hebrew in the Garden of Eden?
Seeking Harmony and Finding Transcendence at The Cloisters
The Best Little (Dysfunctional Jewish) Strip Club in Toronto
To Adapt a 'Book Thief'
How Nora Ephron Begat Lena Dunham (But We Forgive Her)
'South Park' and the Jewish Red Heifer Tale of Armageddon
The Secret Jewish History of Aerosmith
South African Jewish Artist William Kentridge Bends Time
Jewish Film Fests Thrive Even Amid Decline in Funding for Culture
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Temple Mount
Did Tennessee Titans Bernard Pollard Slip Up on 'Hebrew Slaves' Remark?
Israel's Most Beautiful — and Unforgettable — Redheads
Learning About Jewish Community From Manhattan's Upper West Side
Crossposted from Haaretz
After a long cinematic silence, Assi Dayan is back, directing a black comedy about a psychiatrist who rents out his apartment to patients who want to commit suicide. On the set, one of the most important Israeli filmmakers, the hero of whose new film is a very intelligent individual, describes a story of missed opportunity.
Dr. Pomerantz hangs up the telephone. He has called the police to the Tel Aviv street where he lives. Someone has jumped from his apartment, on the 12th floor, and his corpse is lying on the sidewalk. The balcony of the apartment is seen behind him. The doorbell rings. Pomerantz, his shock of hair disheveled and wearing a faded, buttoned shirt that does not manage to conceal a sloping potbelly, hastens to the front door and opens it wide.
Sotheby’s New York sale of important Judaica, an annual event featuring ceremonial metalwork, manuscripts and printed books, takes place this year on December 15. Leading the auction are a pair of Italian-made silver Torah finials belonging to Sha’ar HaShamayim, the Great Synagogue of Gibraltar. Other items such as 15th-century Torah scroll from Poland are also for auction.
Thought to be made in Turin, the finials date from 1780 to 1820, around the time of the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1782), when Spain attempted to re-conquer the peninsula from England. During the siege, many members of the congregation took refuge in Livorno (Leghorn), Italy. Similar finials, also of Torinesi make, can be found today in the Comunità Ebraica in Florence, Italy, and in New York’s Jewish Museum.
I’ve always had a deep appreciation for bluegrass. A form of Southern mountain music in overdrive, bluegrass coalesced in the late 1940s when Kentucky mandolinist and singer Bill Monroe, who had previously played old-time country and Appalachian music in a duo with his brother Charlie, formed a band called the Blue Grass Boys. The band really took off and defined its sound — and the sound of bluegrass as a genre — when Monroe recruited guitarist and singer Lester Flatt and innovative banjo player Earl Scruggs.
My problem with bluegrass is that a large part of its repertoire is built around gospel songs that tend to preach a kind of fundamentalist Christianity. Traditional white gospel music tends to be about having one’s soul saved through Jesus. It can get pretty tedious for a nice Jewish boy like me to listen to a lot of those kinds of songs. (Traditional African-American gospel music, on the other hand, tends to be more about Bible stories, and good stories are intrinsically interesting.)
There are a number of great Jewish bluegrass musicians — including the likes of Andy Statman, Barry Mitterhoff, Mark Rubin, Bob Yellin and Eric Weissberg — and there is a fabulous band called the Klezmer Mountain Boys, led by clarinetist Margot Leverett, which blends klezmer and bluegrass. But I’ve never really heard any Jewish counterparts to bluegrass gospel songs — until now, that is.
Crossposted from Haaretz
In October 1981 Italian composer Luigi Nono was commissioned to write a piece for the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music. Those were stormy days for Poland. It was the year Wojciech Jaruzelski rose to power, imposed martial law and became a dictator; to protest his actions, the Solidarity movement was formed by Lech Walesa in the shipyards of Gdansk.
Everyone knew where Nono’s heart lay. An advocate for human rights, an anti-fascist and one of the biggest humanists of his generation — who had become one of Europe’s greatest composers of the post-World War II era by the time he died in 1990 — he composed a piece called “Quando Stanno Morendo” (When They Are Dying ) for four female voices, cello and live electronic music, a work that was entirely a protest against the oppression taking place in Poland.
Is Adam Sandler’s next movie going to be about parking cars?
Russian Jewish oligarch Roman Abramovich needs an entire island to house his art collection.
Read an exerpt of Alfred Kazin’s journals, to be published this spring by Yale University Press.
Michael Chabon has been elected director of The MacDowell Colony.
How enigmatic Israeli music icon Ofra Haza became a breakout hit on British pirate radio.
Rachel Rubinstein looks to the future of Yiddish literature in translation.
Jay Michaelson questions the intuitive power of religion.
Jenna Weissman Joselit wonders what Cyrus Adler would have thought of contemporary museum going.
Gordon Haber gets depressed by Yael Hedaya’s “Eden.”
Alexander Gelfand listens to the evolution of Jewish music at the Folksbiene.
Earlier this week, Avi Steinberg wrote about Kafka in Tel Aviv and shared a horribly embarrassing memo. His first book, “Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian,” was just released. 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:
Winter Fridays in Jewish day school were the moments that made you proud to be of Israelite stock. I speak, of course, of early dismissal. Shabbes starts early, really early, and so the school day ends up being just a class or two in the morning — and one of those classes is Hebrew, which totally doesn’t count. For the uninitiated, Hebrew class in Jewish schools, at least where I went, is taught by some churlish Israeli mom who reeks of cigarette smoke and has neither the qualification nor the slightest inclination to teach the language. Typically, she would use Friday’s early dismissal as an excuse to whip out the accordion and have a sing-a-long.
I mention this by way of introduction. While I cannot offer you an accordion sing-a-long, I will, in honor of the great Jewish tradition of early Friday dismissal, be relatively brief.
Last August, during President Obama’s visit to Martha’s Vineyard, a protest erupted over a T-shirt being sold at the SunStations shop in Oak Bluffs that portrayed Obama as Moe, Vice President Joe Biden as Larry, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Curly. The caption read: “The REAL Stooges.”
The storeowner said no malice was intended, and pointed to other shirts in the shop that praise the President. For us, however, there was no need to explain, as we see the comparison as complimentary. After all, the Three Stooges, who are being honored on December 13 at the Three Stooges Film Festival in Albany, as well as in a forthcoming Three Stooges Movie, were pioneering geniuses of comedy.
“Weimar Cinema, 1919–1933: Daydreams and Nightmares,” running at MoMA until March 7, 2011, is billed as the largest-ever retrospective of German cinema from between the Wars to be shown in the United States. The era’s defining cinematic style, expressionism, is well-represented in dozens of offerings, giving a healthy dose of the atmospheric, disturbing and downright spooky in classics like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “M,” “Nosferatu,” “Vampyr” and “Waxworks.”
But alongside these seminal works, the 75-film retrospective — created with assistance from the F.W. Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden and the German Kinematek in Berlin — also highlights lesser-known and in some cases downright impossible-to-find fare, such as the surviving early comedies to which Billy Wilder lent his talents as screenwriter (see the 1930 ménage à trois musical “A Blonde’s Dream”).
On December 13, the museum will screen the impossible-to-find silent version of “Fräulein Else,” adapted from the revolutionary novella by Arthur Schnizler and directed by Paul Czinner. Schnitzler’s slim volume, written in a breathless interior monologue, tells of a young woman who consents to appear naked before the benefactor who is willing to save her father from financial ruin.
Crossposted from Haaretz
For a moment it seemed that the Bezalel Art Academy had decided to back down: shelving a plan to build a new campus in the center of Jerusalem, developed by an international team of architects which won a design competition five years ago.
For a moment it seemed possible to believe that the academy understood that returning to the city center and merging with the so-called urban fabric did not necessarily automatically mean that they needed to construct a new building, and certainly not to hide behind a project such as the one that won the bid.
But now it has emerged they are still open to such an endeavor. After they managed to sell their quarters on Mount Scopus, the academy is returning to the large project, which has since undergone changes, including reducing its height at the request of the city planning committee.
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Rodger Kamenetz introduces his poem “Allen Ginsberg Forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews.” This piece originally appeared on December 7, 2001, as part of the Forward’s Psalm 151 series. It is being published here online for the first time.
Celebrating one year of editing Psalm 151 for the Forward, I hope readers will forgive me if I add a poem of my own to the mix. “Allen Ginsberg Forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews” is a verse essay, a form that allows the exploration of ideas and associations as well as the use of documentary material. The stepping off point for the poem is a 1992 interview I did with Allen Ginsberg while writing “The Jew in the Lotus,” when Ginsberg made very clear his deep Jewish roots, but also his strong criticism of conventional Jewish American views. (For instance, Ginsberg affirmed that he agreed that “Zionism is racism.”)
I’ve always considered Ginsberg one of my poetic fathers, but at the same time, one incident in particular bothered me greatly: that he went to Venice and accepted Ezra Pound’s apology for his anti-Semitism. I always thought that took chutzpah. Especially because the Pound people later waved it like a flag to show that their master really didn’t hate Jews. The truth is that he did, and so did many of his followers and associates.
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
Those who, for one reason or another, stand outside the frame of Yuletide cheer often find their voices muted come Christmas. The singing of “Silent Night” leaves us, well, silent.
Not so for the protagonist of “The Loudest Voice,” one of the most celebrated of Grace Paley’s many singular contributions to American arts and letters.
In this short story, the young Shirley Abramowitz is recruited to play the voice of Jesus in her public school’s annual Christmas pageant. “They told me you had a particularly loud, clear voice and read with lots of expression. Could that be true?” inquires Mr. Hilton, who is in search of a “child with a strong voice, lots of stamina.” Flattered, Shirley agrees eagerly to become Jesus, if only for an afternoon. (“It was a long story, it was a sad story…. Sorrowful and loud, I declaimed about love and God and Man.”)
Crossposted from Haaretz
When he bought the house in Neve Tzedek four years ago, Boaz Monos knew Marie Antoinette’s palace would be the inspiration for its interior design.
“I was very attracted to her image and she very quickly became a personal passion for me,” he says. “I read everything about her and visited every place she went. I even read her biography. It was important to me to know every little thing about her.”
And it’s hard to remain indifferent to the results: a masterpiece of period restoration and a meticulous approach to detail that will impress even the most cynical visitors — that is, those who see it as total kitsch. It’s also hard to believe the house is located on Amzaleg Street, one of the first streets in Tel Aviv, and not in a classic European capital.
A longer version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.
The son of a Jewish shoe store owner, Gustav Landauer became famous and was killed as a Jewish-German anarchist, having abandoned religion in his youth. Born in 1870, in Karlsruhe, Germany, Landauer’s interests were political and literary, not religious. By the early 20th century, however, he was reading about pantheistic, neoplatonic and Kabbalah-inspired varieties of Christian mysticism. Shortly after, he became friends with Martin Buber and his interest in mysticism brought him to Hasidic and Kabbalistic ideas.
A new translation of Landauer’s “Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader” by Gabriel Kuhn (interviewed here) brings his highly influential texts to an English-speaking audience and shows how he exerted a profound influence over both Jewish and non-Jewish thinkers alike.
If you doubt that the life of a molecular biologist and geneticist can make for delightful reading, then you have not yet seen “Sydney Brenner: a Biography” by Dr. Errol C. Friedberg from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Friedberg, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, explains how Brenner, honored with the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was born in 1927 into a South African Jewish family of Latvian/Lithuanian origin. Brenner’s small hometown, Germiston, once had a thriving Jewish community, now dispersed. As Brenner recalled his school days:
I suppose that my sense of humor came from the gestalt of being a member of a Jewish family. I’ve always thought that whereas most people’s lives consist of drama on one hand and comedy on the other, for Jews life consists primarily of melodrama and farce. Everything is exaggerated!
On Monday, Avi Steinberg wrote about Kafka in Tel Aviv. His first book, “Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian,” was just released. 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:
It certainly has been a monumental few weeks in the history of humiliation. With the help of Wikileaks, we’re learning so many new things about our friends and neighbors. Who knew CNN’s Anderson Cooper dyed his hair white? Actually, to be honest, I had suspicions. All the signs were there. But still, there’s something startling about hearing him admit, and so bluntly, that he also uses a mirror to practice that signature move of his, the purposeful sidelong squint — and all of this preening just so he can look more like “serious newsman.” Anderson, you’re boyishly handsome. Just own it, babe.
But I don’t judge. I’ve got my own Wikileak grief. I present the following Wikileaked document, which involves, well, me. It catches me saying some things that I’m frankly not too proud of. Since it’s going to be circulating out there anyway, especially among Hasidic bloggers, I figure you might as well hear it from me first. It’s a memo from me to my book’s publicist. Oy, so embarrassing. Here it goes…
On the Yiddish Song of the Week blog, Forverts associate editor Itzik Gottesman writes about “If I Were to Have the Emperor’s Treasures,” as sung by Ita Taub:
This recording of Ita Taub was done in our dining room in our Bronx home in the 1980s after a meal, as you can hear from the clanging of dishes. For biographical information on Taub see the earlier post on “Oy vey mame.”
“Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres” (If I were to have the Emperor’s Treasures) was written by Mikhl Gordon (1823 – 1890). According to Chana and Joseph Mlotek in their Yiddish-language work “Perl fun der yidisher poezye,” 1974 (now available in English), this song is was originally called “Shlof mayn kind” and included in his first collection printed in 1868.
On October 2, BearManor Media issued a Kindle Edition of 2009’s “Acting Foolish,” an unjustly overlooked memoir by actor Lewis J. Stadlen. Born in Brooklyn in 1947, Stadlen famously appeared on TV’s “The Sopranos” as Dr. Ira Fried, a wittily dour specialist in erectile dysfunction.
Yet Stadlen is basically a stage animal, as student of two Jewish theatrical teaching legends, Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler. Stadlen was attracted to Adler, who in her 60s “looked like the queen mother of a country whose major export was sex,” as opposed to Meisner’s “cruelty.”
Scion of a liberal Jewish family, Stadlen recalls: “That reactionary rag, the Daily News, was allowed in our home only once when [Senator Joseph] McCarthy died of liver cancer, so the family could rejoice at the block letter headline SENATOR JOE, DEAD AT 57!”
This year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist featured two authors who write about groups not often represented in British literature. Howard Jacobson, author of “The Finkler Question,” has made a career crafting a literary image of the English Jew, while Andrea Levy, shortlisted for “The Long Song,” has documented the black British experience in her five novels, most recently focusing on colonial slaves in nineteenth-century Jamaica. While Jacobson ultimately took the prize, “The Long Song” thrust its author back into the spotlight — in October, Levy was a guest at the Vancouver International Writers Festival and Toronto’s International Festival of Authors.
Both Jews and blacks fall outside of the traditional stiff upper-lip of the English novel; in a way, Levy’s novels about black Britons echo many of the issues of identity shared by Jews in both Britain and North America. And, coincidentally or not, Judaism is one of the missing pieces of Levy’s own identity puzzle.
Crossposted from Haaretz
On Friday morning, the ninth-grade students in the jazz program at the Thelma Yellin High School for Arts were learning about the history of jazz with their beloved teacher, Amit Golan. That same day there was a test. The questions were about Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and other early jazz giants, whom Golan had taught his students to love. Because the test finished early, and there remained another hour of the double lesson, Golan suggested to his class that they go down to the yard and play basketball. He, too, joined the game.
“We went downstairs, started playing and after a few minutes I saw that Amit was getting tired and breathing heavily,” said one of the students, Eyal Tzur. A few minutes later Golan collapsed. A Magen David Adom crew summoned to the school was unable to revive him. He died of a heart attack, at the age of 46.
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