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
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.
Not many pop-rock artists are inspired by Franz Rosenzweig’s “Star of Redemption” or “Totality and Infinity” by Emmanuel Levinas, but then again, Ruth Gerson is not your usual singer-songwriter.
“Most often, I start writing a song because of something I am reading,” Gerson said. Given her academic background (she studied Jewish existentialism at Princeton), she likes to read ethically focused material, which “spurs the kinds of questions to write about,” she explained. “People ask if I am talking to a guy in my songs. I tell them, ‘No, I’m talking to God.’”
Gerson, who has seven albums to her credit, has opened for artists such as Dave Matthews, Suzanne Vega, Steven Wright and Roger McGuinn, and has appeared at The Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and South by Southwest, among other festivals. She has also made appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Craig Ferguson Show.
Avi Steinberg’s first book, “Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian,” is now available. 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 was on a roll with my manuscript, a prison library memoir, of all things, and then Kafka rolled into my life. Or rather, I rolled into his. At about the time I was finishing up my final edits for “Running the Books” — my fledgling first book — my life fell into the abyss described by the good Dr. Kafka:
“What are you building?” asks the man.
“I want to dig a subterranean passage,” the second man shouts back. And continues, “Some progress must be made. My station up there is way too high. We are digging the Pit of Babel.”
Directly under every proud edifice, under every act of creative ambition, is a pit that will — that must! — take the mission in precisely the opposite direction. My pit was, appropriately, located in Tel Aviv.
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
In this season of good will and holiday cheer, Howard Jacobson, the Booker Prize-winning author of “The Finkler Question” and a guest last term of George Washington’s English Department, has made mincemeat of Hanukkah. Taking to The New York Times to make his case, he suggests that this Jewish holiday has outlived its usefulness — if, in fact, it had any in the first place.
Hanukkah, argues the British novelist in a cascading procession of paragraphs, simply fails to engage the contemporary imagination. Nothing about it — the food, the ritual, the music — can hold a candle to Christmas. “The cruel truth is that Hanukkah is a seasonal festival of light in search of a pretext,” he writes, sidestepping history in favor of sociology. The best Jacobson can say of the holiday is that its name is “lovely.” Really now.
A new book fails to exonerate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
What accounts for the enduring fame of Walter Benjamin?
And why isn’t Moses Mendelssohn similarly remembered?
John Semley goes behind the scenes of “Barney’s Version.”
I profile musician, filmmaker, photographer and folk revivalist John Cohen.
Glenn C. Altschuler reviews a new book about Harry Gold, a “disciplined, smart, lonely, pathetic and oddly appealing” Soviet spy.
Benjamin Ivry takes a fresh look at the polarizing French philosopher Jacques Derrida.
Philologos elucidates the possible Biblical allusions in the Stuxnet computer virus.
It is safe to wager that New York City has seen it all when an art rave fashion show spirals into an impromptu hora on an open, desolate warehouse block. These men’s dancing feet may have been inspired by a sudden spiritual impulse to be closer to God. But the sudden shakedown also could have been a reaction to the recent display of Jewish girls strutting down a catwalk wearing little more than their grandfather’s tallis.
On December 1, in a 20,000-square-foot loft in Brooklyn, Hanukkah was promoted from the festival of lights to the festival of art, music, and fashion. The event kicked off the sixth annual Sephardic Music Festival, which has been throwing light on Sephardic culture for the last six years through diverse artistic events in venues around the city. With a sumptuous arsenal of musical and artistic talent, the Sephardic Music Festival strives to revitalize a spiritually thrilling aspect of Jewish history.
Isaac Zablocki is the director of film programs at The JCC in Manhattan.
“Five Hours From Paris” is an Israeli film, inspired by classic French New Wave cinema, that tells the story of a taxi driver with a fear of flying and a Russian immigrant who is planning to move to Toronto. When “Five Hours From Paris” screened on November 2 at The JCC in Manhattan, the sold out audiance asked director Leonid Prudovsky, “why does this film not have an American distributor?” Prudovsky explained that the reason might be because the film is not political. But in a war-stricken region, it is refreshing to have an occasional glimpse of daily life and true humanity. I took the opportunity to talk to Prudovsky about his love of French movies, the reaction to “Five Hours From Paris” in Israel, and the film’s inadvertent politicization in the wake of last June’s flotilla incident. “Five Hours From Paris” next screens on December 9 at the Washington Jewish Film Festival.
Watch an interview with Leonid Prudovsky:
Once upon a time William G. Scheele, who was the equipment/stage manager for The Band and Bob Dylan from 1969 to 1976 and a photographer whose work is on exhibit at the 14th Street Y’s Forward-sponsored December event, Bob Dylan and The Band: What Kind of Love Is this?, snapped a red-tinted picture of Dylan and The Band jamming with, of all people, Cher. Cher! It was an extremely arresting photograph — were they playing a wedding gig in Hell? — and, as the founder of the improvisational-writing website QuickMuse and the editor of JBooks, I thought it would make for a great session of improvisation. So I sent it to novelist Rick Moody, and asked him to improvise a written response.
Excepting the Coen brothers’ “True Grit” remake, or Disney’s blockbusting, multidimensional sequel to “Tron,” is there any film more anticipated this awards season than Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”? Let’s rephrase that, for the sake of brevity. Is there any non-Jeff Bridges film more anticipated this awards’ season than “Black Swan”? Probably not.
Ever since the first trailer was released this summer, in advance of premieres in Venice and Toronto, “Black Swan” has been drumming up a whole mess of hype. And with good reason. In the wake of 2008’s near-unanimously praised “The Wrestler,” Aronofsky has carved out a space for himself as a filmmaker who can handle material with a more delicate touch than the whip-bang sensationalism of other of his films, such as “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Fountain.” But “Black Swan” is far from delicate, despite dealing with waifish dancers working at a New York City ballet company. Though it has at its core the pressures sport impresses upon already-fractured psyches, any connections to “The Wrestler” end there. With “Black Swan,” Aronofsky is back to whip-bang. And then some.
In celebration of Jewish Book Month, The Arty Semite has partnered with the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) and the Jewish Book Council to present “30 Days, 30 Texts,” a series of reflections by community leaders on the books that influenced their Jewish journeys. Today, Jewish Book Council director Carolyn Starman Hessel concludes the series.
What Jewish book has had its greatest influence on me? I believe the first step is to address the much discussed question: “what is a Jewish book?” A Jewish book is either one with overt Jewish content regardless of the author’s background, or one with no obvious Jewish content but written by a Jewish author. Being a writer is such a personal endeavor: a Jewish person sees the world through Jewish eyes and writes with a Jewish pen.
What is the Jewish book that most influenced my life? It must be the Tanach, for it is from this that Jewish life and literature emerged. In addition, all books of Jewish interest were born here. The Jewish teachings and values we hold dear and that reflect on all of our writings come from this one source.
The friendship between the great kabbalist Gershom Scholem and the political scientist Hannah Arendt famously foundered in the 1960s after a disagreement over Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” an account, of the trial of the Nazi war criminal.
Scholem reproached Arendt for a lack of “ahavath Yisrael,” to which Arendt readily concurred that she lacked “ahavath” for any national or political group per se, a stance which Scholem could not abide. Happily, the collected correspondence of Scholem and Arendt, out on October 11 from Suhrkamp Verlag (Hannah Arendt / Gershom Scholem: Der Briefwechsel, 1939-1964), offers welcome background and amplification of the lengthy relationship between these two brilliant minds.
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Rodger Kamenetz introduces “Glass” by Robert Pinsky. This piece originally appeared on October 5, 2001, as part of the Forward’s Psalm 151 series. It is being published here online for the first time.
Robert Pinsky, poet and translator, has done more than teach us that American poetry belongs to all Americans. In April 1997, when the Library of Congress named Mr. Pinsky the 39th poet laureate, he created the Favorite Poem Project as his special undertaking. He began by recording ordinary Americans reading their favorite poems and ended up with more than 18,000 submissions, a video project, a Web site and a book, “Americans’ Favorite Poems” (Norton, 1999), or which he’s co-editor.
He himself has published six books of poetry. “The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996” was awarded the Lenore Marshall Prize in Poetry. His translation of “The Inferno of Dante” received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. He teaches in the writing program at Boston University.
“Glass” is part of a series of poems, “First Things to Hand.” “Each poem,” he told the Forward, “starts from an ordinary object I touch.”
Sometimes we listen to CDs for their artistry, sometimes simply to relish individual voices, and few voices are as heartening and as reaffirming about human values as the rich, exquisitely cultured speaking tones of Albert Einstein, to be heard on a reprint from British Library Publishing. In original recordings from 1930 to 1947, in English mostly but also in German, Einstein addresses audiences for the benefit of Jewish war refugees with moving simplicity and grace. This is a must-hear, unforgettable item.
Other voices have other aims; Salim Halali, born into a North African Jewish family in Annaba, Algeria in 1920, expresses love of home on a CD from Buda Musique, featuring a blazing version of “My Yiddishe Momme” which makes Sophie Tucker sound positively reticent by comparison.
In celebration of Jewish Book Month, The Arty Semite is partnering with the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) and the Jewish Book Council to present “30 Days, 30 Texts,” a series of reflections by community leaders on the books that influenced their Jewish journeys. Today, Michael Miloff writes about “The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays” by Irving Greenberg.
I grew up loving the joyous sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Jewish holidays. Although my sense of Jewish identity stayed strong, as I grew older, I grew farther from Jewish institutions and literacy until, late, in life I had children, provoking an interest in the meanings of Judaism beneath the holiday surfaces.
Around this time, my uncle passed the mantle of our extended family Seder leadership to me, thus occasioning a foray into Jewish writing about Passover. Among the many wonderful books, I found Yitz Greenberg’s “The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays” to be an invaluable source of wisdom, inspiration and critical support for my new role.
Based on first impressions alone, it would be tempting to dismiss Or Even Tov and Miri Segal’s video exhibit “Future Perfect,” on view until December 11 at Tel Aviv’s Dvir Gallery, as clever if somewhat overstated satire. Taking its cues from the realm of technological-scientific progress, one immediately discerns tropes from science fiction, specifically the specter of omnipotent control. The short film starts with a lone figure surveying a panoramic landscape before turning to address his Internet audience, tens of millions from across the world.
The benevolent overlord is Sergey B, co-founder and president of Gooble Inc. (sound familiar?); the purpose of his public address, on 28th March 2013, is to announce the launch of the revolutionary Gmind, a wearable computer activated by users’ thoughts. A small headset equipped with a minute camera and projector, it captures the wearer’s thoughts by reading EEG patterns, and projects search engine associations onto the user’s pupil. Through thought command, it can also film all that the wearer sees, to be archived and made accessible at will. Sergey B describes this innovation as the democratization of knowledge. “Within our lifetime, everyone can have tools of equal power,” he purrs soothingly.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Rivka Michaeli gives an impressive performance in the title role of “Nechama,” a film directed by Edit Sheratzki in which she plays an elderly woman who wakes up one morning knowing that it is her last day on earth. She has to deal with the people around her, who are either too busy with their own affairs or who brush her off scornfully and refuse to allow her to take leave of them and leave of herself the way she wants. In a world in which wrinkles shrink or disappear, in which signs of age are pushed off the screen in favor of taut skin, Michaeli faces the camera courageously, directly and proudly.
In “Nechama,” which will be screened this month at the Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem cinematheques, not only are the marks of time on her body not blurred, they are even emphasized. The part requires this and the actress makes it possible.
The married painters Nancy Spero and Leon Golub fascinated their contemporaries by interweaving political themes into expressive artworks. As an individual creator, Spero finally received her full due in Christopher Lyon’s “Nancy Spero: The Work,” a lavish book out in October from Prestel Publishing.
Lyon’s introduction explains the symbolic importance to Spero of texts such as “The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype,” still available from Princeton University Press, by the German Jewish psychologist Erich Neumann, a longtime Tel Aviv resident. Spero’s own archetypes began in Cleveland in 1926, where she was born into a family of Russian /German Jewish descent.
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