The Arty Semite

Out and About: Woody Allen Film To Open Cannes; The Legacy of Lenny Bruce

By Ezra Glinter

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Woody Allen, Tom Tom, Tom Segev, Simon Wiesenthal, Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Peep World, Sarah Silverman, Out and About, Mindy Abovitz, Midnight in Paris, Lenny Bruce, Jewish Review of Books, Jerusalem UFO, Hannah Arandt, Grammy Awards, Gershom Scholem, Drake, Charles King, Cannes, ArtScroll, Berenice, Albéric Magnard, Abraham Yurberg

A Living Museum in Nahariya

By Yuval Saar

Crossposted from Haaretz

Near the door of Andreas Meyer’s home in Kfar Vradim hangs an old photograph of trees alongside a stream, Nahal Ga’aton, which cuts through the city of Nahariya. Opposite is a photo, from 1908, of Meyer’s grandfather and two uncles. Both images serve as a window into 90-year-old Meyer’s life and home, as well as the history of Nahariya.

Wiki Commons

Meyer immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1937, arriving directly in the northern coastal city of Nahariya, which had been founded two years earlier. He made his living as a welder, a profession he had acquired as a boy in Germany.

“It was difficult in school for Jews during that period,” he relates. “My father had a small factory and one of his workers took me on as an apprentice, even though it was forbidden to apprentice Jews. When we immigrated [here], my father was wise enough to take some of our work tools on board the ship, and when we arrived in Nahariya we had an advantage. My brothers and I later opened a welding shop.”

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kfar Vradim, Israel, Haaretz, HIstory, Andreas Meyer, Nahariya, Yuval Saar

Max Liebermann: Rediscovering a German Jewish Impressionist

By Benjamin Ivry

Turn-of-the-century German Jewish artist Max Liebermann is still not a household name despite a major 2006 Jewish Museum retrospective. Further international attention may give him the acclaim he deserves.

Liebermann was recently featured in an exhibit, “German Impressionist Landscape Painting” which after being seen at Cologne’s Wallraf-Richartz Museum from April through August, 2010, traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where it was on display from September 12 to December 5, 2010. A lavish catalogue remains, from Yale University Press, showing how hard work and love for French painters such as Manet and Millet allowed Liebermann to evolve his own visual synthesis.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jozef Israëls, Max Liebermann, Carl and Felicie Bernstein, Emile Zola

Why Is This Passover Different From All Other Passovers?

By Katelyn Manfre

Manhattan Theatre Club
Jay Wilkison and André Braugher in ‘The Whipping Man’

Each year at Passover we gather together, crack the door a bit, and break bread of the unleavened variety. It is a celebration of freedom, of tradition, and a reminder of those ties that bind.

While the Seder depicted in Matthew Lopez’s play “The Whipping Man,” which opened February 1 at New York City Center, serves its usual function, it does so in a haunting and powerful way that only America’s most tumultuous era could create.

The year is 1865 and we are in the nearly destroyed Richmond, Va. home of the wealthy DeLeon family, a setting that gives new overtones to the age-old celebration. The war has ended, the South has fallen, and just a day ago Abraham Lincoln drew his last breath at Ford’s Theater.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theater, Passover, The Whipping Man, New York City Center, Matthew Lopez, Jay Wilkison, Katelyn Manfre, Doughlas Hughes, Confederacy, Civil War, André Braugher, André Holland, Abraham Lincoln

Five Not-As-Terrible-As-You-Think Comedy Movies

By Saul Austerlitz

Saul Austerlitz is the author of “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy.” His blog posts are appearing 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:


In writing my book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” I spent a lot of time concentrating on the greatest films in the history of American comedy: your City Lights, your Shop Around the Corners, your Annie Halls. But often, the most pleasurable films I watched over the course of researching my book were the ones that were surprisingly decent. The mediocre films that turned out to be pretty funny; the supposedly terrible movies that I found myself, to my surprise, enjoying.

In their honor, I’d like to single out five pleasant surprises from among the ranks of American comedies. These might not be movies you’d want at the top of your Netflix queue, but you might find yourself pleasantly surprised if you happened to come across them, anyway.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Teacher's Pet, Steve Martin, Shop Around the Corner, Sherman Klump, Saul Austerlitz, Ronald Reagan, Ron Burgundy, Rock Hudson, Ricky Bobby, Razzies, Randy Newman, Norbit, Napoleon Dynamite, Nancy Kerrigan, My Jewish Learning, Martin Short, Lorne Michaels, Jon Heder, Jewish Book Council, Jerry Lewis, Hardly Working, Gordon MacRae, Gig Young, George Seaton, Film, El Guapo, Eddie Murphy, Doris Day, Comedy, Clark Gable, City Lights, Chevy Chase, Chazz Michael Michaels, Brian Robbins, Books, Bo Hooper, Blades of Glory, Author Blog Series, Another Fine Mess, Annie Hall, Three Amigos, Tony Randall, Tonya Harding

Movement for Equality

By Elad Smorzik

Crossposted from Haaretz

Abdullah Shama

On the pale parquet floor of the Rabeah Murkus Dance Studio in Kfar Yassif a few students are warming up to a backdrop of purple walls and a decorated Christmas tree. After Murkus hustles the last of the lingerers in the dressing room, samba music starts coming through the loudspeakers and the lesson in modern dance begins. Couple by couple, the youngsters bound along the length and breadth of the space, energetically carving the air.

To the onlooker it seems like this is just another dance lesson. To Murkus, however, it is the realization of a pioneering vision she has nurtured for a long time: the establishment of a dance study track for secondary school students from the Arab sector.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kfar Yassif, Israel, Haaretz, Elad Smorzik, Dance, Rabeah Murkus

The Man Who Brought Big Ideas to the Small Screen

By Gary Shapiro

The reputations of talk show hosts do not have a particularly long shelf life. How many people under the age of 40 recall Jack Paar? Who under 25 knows Johnny Carson? But Stephen Battaglio’s new biography, “David Susskind: A Televised Life,” makes the case for remembering an impresario who brought a brash exuberance to the rough-and-tumble of ideas and social issues.

The premise of Susskind’s show “Open End” was that it would last as long as the host found the talk interesting. On air, Susskind quizzed a dizzying who’s who of writers and intellectuals, including Lionel Trilling, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Preston Sturges, Tennessee Williams, Bertrand Russell and Truman Capote.

Angering executives and racking up Emmy and Peabody Awards, Susskind brought serious fare to the small screen. His plays, specials and series drew the best talent of the period, crossing the color barrier and hiring blacklisted writers. Susskind had a knack for getting corporate America to sponsor his forays into high culture; an antidote to what Federal Communications Commission chairman Newton Minow once called the “vast wasteland” of television programs.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Warner Bros., Tennessee Williams, Thurgood Marshall, Truman Capote, Television, Talk Shows, Stephen Battaglio, Preston Sturges, Plato's Retreat, Peabody Awards, Open End, Nikita Khrushchev, Newton Minow, Mel Brooks, Lionel Trilling, Johnny Carson, James Baldwin, Jack Paar, J. Edgar Hoover, Gary Shapiro, Emmy Awards, Dick Cavett, David Steinberg, David Susskind, Bertrand Russell

Painting in the Margins of German Society

By Ellie Armon Azoulay

Crossposted from Haaretz

‘Baku’ by Norbert Schwontkowski, 2007

Whether it’s Malevich’s black or white square, the figure of the collector, the cardinal or the church that appears in Norbert Schwontkowski’s paintings, central to the work will be an existential question about life and death. It reflects the basic lack of trust and faith that he experienced as a boy growing up in post-World War II Germany. Last week, he was a guest at a painters’ gathering at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.

About a year ago, at a similar gathering at the Darom Gallery for independent art in south Tel Aviv, the public met with artist spokespersons to discuss painting and its role today and how to talk about it. Passionate arguments erupted. Painter Yonatan Gold thought that an important discussion had begun, one it was very important to continue. Gold, who began this year to teach in the new art department at Shenkar, quickly joined up with Larry Abramson (also at the Darom gathering and the head of the Shenkar department), and they moved to invite international artists to expand the boundaries of the discussion.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Norbert Schwontkowski, Larry Abramson, Kazimir Malevich, Haaretz, Germany, Exhibits, Ellie Armon Azoulay, Darom Gallery, Tel Aviv, World War II, Yonatan Gold

Hersch Lauterpacht: Remembering a Humane Judge and Scholar

By Benjamin Ivry

If you doubt that a biography of an acclaimed expert in international law can be loveably endearing, then you have not read “The Life of Hersch Lauterpacht” by his son Elihu Lauterpacht, published in November by Cambridge University Press. Both Lauterpachts, father and son, were knighted for their contributions to the field, and Elihu was founder and first director of The Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, named in honor of his father.

Hersch Lauterpacht, born in Żółkiew in Eastern Galicia (today’s Zhovkva in western Ukraine) was raised in an ardent Zionist family and was drawn to his future wife Rachel in part because she was born in Palestine (two of Rachel’s sisters married Abba Eban and Chaim Herzog). Almost all of Lauterpacht’s family was slaughtered in Poland during World War II, and before December 7, 1941, he tirelessly crisscrossed America lecturing on a “more liberal interpretation of the Neutrality Act,” as Elihu terms it, to counter U. S. isolationism.

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Berlin New Music Festival Honors Avant-Garde Composer Alexander Goehr

By A.J. Goldmann

For over half a century, Alexander Goehr has been one of England’s most important composers, an avant-garde musician whose varied (and often challenging) body of work has been championed by luminaries including Pierre Boulez, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline de Pré.

Getty Images

Goehr’s manuscripts have recently been acquired by the music archive of Berlin’s Akademie der Künste. On January 26, Ultraschall, Berlin’s festival for new music (which ran this year from January 21 to 30) feted him with a composer portrait.

Goehr was born in 1932 into a remarkably musical Jewish Berlin family. His father, the conductor Walter Goehr, championed the music of Monteverdi and Messiaen and also wrote the score to David Lean’s “Great Expectations” and conducted for several of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s films. Both Walter and his brother, Rudolph, a composer of popular music in Paris, took master classes in Berlin with Arnold Schoenberg at the Prussian Academy of Arts. Alexander’s mother, Laelia, was a classically trained pianist. (The family’s accomplishments continue with Goehr’s daughter Lydia, a philosophy professor at Columbia University, who writes extensively about philosophy and music.)

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Warngedichte, Walter Goehr, Since Brass Nor Stone, Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Music, Peter Maxwell Davies, Monteverdi, Michael Powell, Messiaen, Lydia Goehr, John Ogdon, Jacqueline de Pré, Harrison Birtwhistle, Hamburg State Opera, Great Expectations, Franz Kafka, Erich Fried, Emeric Pressburger, David Lean, Das Gesetz der Quadrille, Daniel Barenboim, Classical Music, Berlin, Arnold Schoenberg, Arden Muss Sterben, Arden Must Die, Alexander Goehr, Akademie der Künste, Aaron Copland, A.J. Goldmann

Messing Around on Tour

By Saul Austerlitz

Saul Austerlitz is the author of “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy.” His blog posts are appearing 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:


Being on tour for a book is simultaneously an exhilarating and a terrifying experience. Exhilarating because, after toiling so lengthily in the mines of authorial solitude, it is a pleasure of no small import to emerge to the surface, book in hand, and talk about it with friends, family, and total strangers. Terrifying because, as all authors who have ever done a book tour can attest to, the midnight panic that occasionally bubbles up, convinced you’ll give a reading and no one — literally not a single person — will show up.

Thankfully, that did not happen to me during my tour for my new book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I occasionally broke out into a cold sweat at the prospect of.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Hangover, Comedy, Film, Jewish Book Council, Jews for Jesus, My Jewish Learning, Preston Sturges, Saul Austerlitz, Schindler's List, Charlie Chaplin, Books, Bill Murray, Author Blog Series, Another Fine Mess, Tyler Perry

Monday Music: Banned in Tel Aviv, Monotonix Tours Stateside

By Mordechai Shinefield

Courtesy Monotonix

Though they hail from Tel Aviv, punk outfit Monotonix sounds like 1970s New York punk by way of Los Angeles rockabilly garage heroes like X, The Germs and Alice Bag. On their new album, the speedy half hour long “Not Yet,” lead singer Ami Shalev expectorates, clears his throat and howls through 10 fast-paced tracks. As the second track, “Everything That I See,” opens, Shalev hacks (“ooo-cha-cha”) and then croaks, “Slide my arms to shipping my faith / Shout so strong but not be afraid.” Without Shalev’s garbling Israeli-accent and bizarre syntactical delivery they’re emo lyrics. With them they’re simply surreal.

Though they formed in 2005, it wasn’t until they were banned from most Tel Aviv venues that they took their show on the road. (Monotonix is currently touring the U.S. with upcoming shows in New Orleans, Nashville and New York, among other places.) At Austin music festival South by Southwest last year, Shalev crowd surfed in a green plastic trashcan while the rest of the band decamped from the stage to play amidst the audience. Shalev has the touring band’s equivalent of war wounds; a blow he suffered to his leg at a Tel Aviv show in 2008 was exacerbated in Florida last year when he broke it stage diving.

Listen to Monotonix’s ‘Give Me More’:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Germs, Sex Pistols, South by Southwest, SXSW, Punk, Not Yet, Music, Monotonix, Mordechai Shinefield, Israeli Music, Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Ami Shalev, Alice Bag, X

American Cradle

By Itzik Gottesman

On the Yiddish Song of the Week blog, Forverts associate editor Itzik Gottesman writes about “Mayn shifl” (“My Cradle”) by poet Leah Kapilowitz Hofman, as sung by Nitsa Ranz:

Nitsa Ranz was born in Poland in 1922 and emigrated to America in 1950. Mayn shifl (My Cradle) was recorded at an event that I produced called Generations of Yiddish Song: A Concert of Mostly Unaccompanied Rarely Heard Yiddish Songs at the club Tonic on New York City’s Lower East Side on January 9th, 2001.

The other singers that day were Michael Alpert, Janet Leuchter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Paula Teitelbuam, Joshua Waletzky, and Jeff Warschauer. Ranz had a unique singing style, and though the song turned out to be American in origin, as I later found out when I discovered the song sheet (see below), she sings with much of the traditional style in her voice.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tonic, Pinchos Jassinowsky, Paula Teitelbaum, My Cracle, Nitsa Ranz, Music, Michael Alpert, Mayn shifl, Leah Kapilowitz Hofman, Jeff Warschauer, Joshua Waletzky, Janet Leuchter, Itzik Gottesman, Der kremer, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, A. Leissin, Yiddish, Yiddish Music, Yiddish Song of the Week

Out and About: Israeli Winners at Sundance; Ian McEwan Defends Jerusalem Prize Acceptance

By Ezra Glinter

Israeli filmmaker Talya Lavie, whose ‘Zero Motivation’ won the Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Two Israeli films, “Restoration” by Yossi Madmony and “Zero Motivation” by Talya Lavie, picked up prizes at Sundance.

  • The Egyptian Museum was hit by looters, but it could have been worse.

  • Israeli filmmakers have received death threats over their film on the Gaza war.

  • Ian McEwan has defended his decision to accept the Jerusalem Prize, telling his critics, “I’m for finding out for myself, and for dialogue, engagement, and looking of ways in which literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zero Motivation, Yossi Madmony, Talya Lavie, Sundance, Seth Rogen, Saturday Night Live, SNL, Restoration, Mark Zuckerberg, My Mother's Curse, Out and About, Macy Gray, Looters, Jesse Eisenberg, Jerusalem Prize, Ian McEwan, Henry Meyer, Gaza, Egyptian Museum, Egypt, Barbra Streisand

This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yehoshua November, This Week in Forward Arts and Culture, Philip Guston, Sarah Palin, Joan Rosenbaum, Jewish Museum, Blood Libel, Chinese New Year

Friday Film: Q&A With Sundance Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Filmmaker, Internet pioneer and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain believes that “when you speak your truth, you speak the universal.” This seems to be the case, given the buzz surrounding her new, partially autobiographical film, which premiered January 21 at the Sundance Film Festival.

Best known among American Jews for ““The Tribe,” a 2006 short film that explores American Jewish identity through the history of the Barbie doll, Shlain, 40, was in Park City, Utah for the first public screenings of her first feature length documentary, “Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death and Technology.” The film, which explores concepts of interconnectedness and interdependence, is part visual collage and part tribute to her late father, surgeon and author Dr. Leonard Shlain. Shlain’s short film “Yelp,” a riff on Allen Ginsberg’s classic 1956 poem “Howl,” was also selected for Sundance this year. Shlain took time out of her schedule to talk to The Arty Semite about her methods and goals as a filmmaker.

Renee Ghert-Zand: Your film is titled “Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death and Technology,” but you had originally planned to call it “Connected: A Declaration of Interdependence.” Why did you change it?

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yelp, Sundance, Sundance Film Festival, The Tribe, Tiffany Shlain, Webby Awards, Renee Ghert-Zand, Stefan Nadelman, Park City, Ken Goldberg, Howl, Film, Allen Ginsberg, Barbie, Carlton Evans, Connected

Friday Film: Lost Weimar Classic Resurfaces at MoMA

By A.J. Goldmann

As part of its epic retrospective of Weimar Cinema, “Daydreams and Nightmares,” New York’s Museum of Modern Art will screen Werner Hochbaum’s 1932 film “Razzia in St. Pauli” on January 29 and February 2, an early German sound film long thought lost.

Courtesy Marion Behr
Gina Falckenberg as Ballhaus-Else in ‘Razzia in St. Pauli’

An atmospheric slice-of-life look at the Hamburg underworld of pimps, prostitutes and criminals (many portrayed by extras who actually held such professions), the film was a box office smash. Once the Nazis came to power, however, they banned the film for its uncritical portrayal of small time prostitution and its socialist-smacking glorification of the working class.

Justin Rosenfeld, the film’s producer and owner of Orbis Film, was forced to take on a Nazi co-owner. The company continued to release films until 1938, when Rosenfeld was briefly arrested. He then fled with his family to the United States. Rosenfeld died in Rochester, NY of heart failure in 1947.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Werner Hochbaum, Weimar Cinema, Weimar, Third Reich, Reichsfilmkammer, Orbis Films, Razzia in St. Pauli, Nazis, Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, Julius Rosenfeld, Hans Feld, Germany, Film Kurier, Film, Deutsche Kinemathek, Daydreams and Nightmares

Holy Land as Theme Park

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Courtesy Holy Land Experience

Word from on high is that the Walt Disney Company is planning to open a theme park in Israel. Talk about bringing coals to Newcastle!

For years, religiously-minded Americans had created facsimiles of the Holy Land on American soil. As early as 1881, a “miniature representation in relief and color” of Jerusalem graced Ocean Grove, N.J., a Methodist summer colony.

The organizers of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis did the residents of Ocean Grove one better. “Jerusalem comes to you,” they proclaimed, replicating the Jaffa Gate, the Dome of the Rock, the Tower of David and the so-called Wailing Wall on the grounds of the fair and importing 1,000 honest-to-goodness inhabitants of Palestine to populate the site.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tower of David, Wailing Wall, Theme Park, Palestine, Ocean Grove, Joan R. Branham, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Jaffa Gate, Israel, Holy Land Experience, From Under the Fig Tree, Dome of the Rock, Disney Land Israel, Disney Land, Bible Storyland, Walt Disney, World's Fair

A Visionary From Heel to Toe

By Shachar Atwan

Crossposted from Haaretz

For Yotam Raz-Friedman, 21, shoe design is intuitive. He began to acquire his skills at age 12 in Haifa. He would take apart his family’s shoes and put them back together again, and he diligently studied shoemakers at work.

Tali Mayer
Yotam Raz-Friedman and some of his shoes.

At 16, he had already customized sneakers for clients. Two years later, he created the label Nouveau Riche Dog with Maoz Dahan. The two used black or white pairs of sneakers made by Nike, Adidas and Reebok and colored them with special leather dyes, removed parts and sewed them back in new places, tore out tongues and linings and added panels and strips of Velcro.

“When I was 4-years-old, I saw the movie ‘Bambi’ with my mother, and I asked her how animals knew when they were supposed to reproduce or run from fire. She told me they inherited instincts. That’s how it is with me and shoes. It comes to me naturally,” he says.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nouveau Riche Dog, Nike, Naoz Dahan, Haaretz, Fashion, Design, Bambi, Adidas, Shachar Atwan, Shoes, Yotam Raz-Friedman

Morris Rosenfeld's Sweatshop Songs

By Ezra Glinter

Forward Association

Each Thursday, the Arty Semite features reviews and excerpts of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, however, the poet and poem are contemporary in spirit, if not in fact.

Morris Rosenfeld, born in 1862 in Russian Poland, became famous in the early 20th century as one of the Yiddish “sweatshop poets” of New York. When the Triangle Waist Company fire killed 146 workers on March 25, 1911, Rosenfeld responded with a poem printed on the front page of the Forward. (To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the fire, the Forward is sponsoring a poetry contest — see here for details.)

It didn’t take a tragedy, however, to prompt Rosenfeld to lament the poor labor conditions that characterized the lives of many immigrants. In another poem titled simply “The Sweatshop,” translated by Forward Association Vice President Barnett Zumoff and published in “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry,” Rosenfeld described the drudgery of menial labor and the constricting effect it had on the life of mind and spirit. While the world of Lower East Side garment factories is now part of history, sweatshop labor has far from disappeared.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish Poetry, Yiddish, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Poetry, Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Labor, Morris Rosenfeld, Forward Association, Barnett Zumoff



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