Theater Legend David Rothenberg Does Some of His Best Work Offstage
The Jewish Designer Who Taught Marc Chagall
Playing Hunger Games on the West Bank
Heading Into the 'I' of the Knaidel
Is It Last Dance for Kaveret, the 'Israeli ABBA'?
Recalling the Jews, Radicals and Rogues Who Created Greenwich Village
10 Reasons Superman Is Really Jewish
Defining Franz Kafka Proves a Kafkaesque Dilemma
Poor Heiress Pens Unorthodox Orthodox Memoir
David Nirenberg Traces The Long, Bewildering History of Anti-Semitism
So What Makes a Jewish Joke Jewish?
True History of an Unknown Hero of the French Jewish Resistance
Viewing Franz Kafka Through Lens of his Sexuality
It's a Hebrew Thing — You Get It or You Don't
The Enduring Jewish Traditions of Philanthropy and Collecting
British Comedy Legend Jonathan Lynn Brings Unique Style to Los Angeles
Gesher Theatre Explores Challenges of Dramatizing I.B. Singer's 'Enemies'
Belgium Museum Will Tell Story of Red Star Line That Carried Jews to America
Holocaust Museum, Turning 20 Years Old, Confronts 21st Century Challenges
Violence Meets Solitude at Jewish Museum's Jack Goldstein Exhibit
World War II's Unsung Heroes Get Their Due at Spruced Up Lyon Museum
How Greek Philosophy Influenced Both Christian and Jewish Theology
How a T-Shirt Made Its Way to an Exhibit About Los Angeles Jews
Gary Greenberg Psychoanalyzes Psychoanalysis
Edgar Feuchtwanger Recalls Living Across The Street From Adolf Hitler
Israel Philharmonic Makes Spectacular Debut in Its New Home
Radio Kvetcher Jonathan Goldstein Is Still Learning How To Grow Up
The 12 New (Jewish) Books For Summer
Interpreting the Holocaust Dreams of Literary Puzzle Master Georges Perec
Debut Novelist Helene Wecker Dreams of Jinnis (and Golems)
All Jewish on the Western Front
Discovering Louisa May Alcott's Jewish History on Portuguese Tour
Growing Up Jewish in Christian Suburbia
Hannah Arendt Biopic Offers Rare Onscreen View of Political Philosophy
A Very Yiddish Take on the Star Spangled Banner
Tel Aviv Exhibit About Hospitality Arrives With Some Political Baggage
Coney Island Impresario Richard Zigun Plans Comeback After Hurricane Sandy
Crusading Photographer Seeks To Save Israeli Mom-and-Pop Shops for Posterity
'Fill The Void' Offers Rare Glimpse Inside Hasidic Life
Judith Malina Joins Jewish Show Business Stars in Next Stage of Life
Could The Holy Ghost Be Jewish?
Who Was Afraid of Viviane Forrester?
The Return of Richard Foreman, Rabbi of New York's Downtown Theater Scene
The Hank Greenberg Story That '42' Forgot
Crossposted From Under The Fig Tree
For centuries, taking to the road has been the stuff of grand adventure and equally grand literature. From Benjamin of Tudela’s 12th century “Book of Travels” to Jack Kerouac’s 1957 “On the Road,” travel has been bound up with freedom and an enhanced sense of self.
But what if travel turned out to be more a matter of constraint, of diminished expectations, than of affirmation?
Consider the experience of kosher-keeping Jews in America of the early 1900s, at a time when kosher food was hard to come by. For them, traveling throughout the United States was surely no picnic.
After years of writing for the likes of Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and Bing Crosby, Kenny Solms has finally struck out on his own. The result is “It Must Be Him,” a frothy musical comedy in the well-worn tradition of shows about show business, which opened September 1 at New York’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater.
Louie Wexler (Peter Scolari), the protagonist of Solms’s transparently autobiographical tale, is a frustrated, aging writer who lives in a Beverly Hills mansion but fears that Hollywood has left him behind. Louie’s prime — like Solms’s — was in the golden age of variety television, and he now spends his unhappy days tinkering with an unfinished screenplay and bickering with his sassy Hispanic housekeeper. Worst of all, he’s desperately lonely: In lieu of a real boyfriend, Louie pines after the gorgeous 23-year-old Scott (Patrick Cummings), an aspiring actor who lives with him but sleeps in a separate bedroom.
Last week, Columbia Records announced that it will be releasing the ninth volume of Bob Dylan’s long-running Bootleg Series on October 19. Titled “The Witmark Demos, 1962 – 1964,” the new collection will consist of 47 demo recordings Dylan made for his music publisher, the eponymous M. Witmark & Sons. In addition, Columbia will release Dylan’s first eight albums in their original mono format.
Critics have greeted the news enthusiastically. Writing for The Daily Beast, Sean Wilentz argued that these recordings represent a seminal moment in American music history, when the old Tin Pan Alley model of commercial songwriting gave way to a more individualist ethos. Whatever larger cultural phenomenon these recordings might be said to exemplify, however, taken on their own merits, they are not that exciting.
On Monday, Stacey Ballis wrote about Rosh Hashanah cooking. Her newest book, “Good Enough to Eat,” will be available September 7. Her 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:
As I mentioned before, my Judaism, while deeply rooted and very important to me, is something that falls more on the side of culture and tradition and less specifically on the side of religion or spirituality. But there are certain aspects of every holiday that resonate for me, and one of the things I appreciate about being Jewish, is that I can feel free to cherry pick the pieces I like and leave the rest behind.
As we look towards the High Holidays, I thought I would share some of my traditions with you, and some of my traditional recipes.
Fifty-five years ago today, union activist and thespian Philip Loeb checked himself into the Taft Hotel in Midtown Manhattan under a false name and took a fatal dose of sleeping pills. Targeted by the insidious blacklist, Loeb could no longer find work in his beloved acting profession and had reached rock bottom.
Tonight, a panel of those who knew or have studied Loeb — including myself — will commemorate his career at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Loeb’s suicide was especially devastating considering how greatly he had fallen. Known as an actor’s actor, Leob taught his craft to the likes of Kirk Douglas, Rosalind Russell and Don Rickles. He also performed in such Broadway hits as “Room Service” with the Marx Brothers, and directed its signature food delivery scene.
Crossposted from Haaretz
His father is the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. His mother is the pianist Elena Bashkirova, and the force behind the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival. His grandfather, Dmitri Bashkirov, is also a pianist, as are his paternal grandparents.
“I started studying piano at age four,” says Michael Barenboim. “After two years, we moved from France to Berlin, but they just couldn’t find a suitable teacher for me. That’s how I got to the violin, an instrument I’ve loved for as long as I can remember.” (Only his maternal grandmother, Vera Bashkirov, is a violinist.)
Michael Barenboim followed the classic route (unlike his older brother David, who is now studying jazz in New York ) while studying violin. He also managed to study philosophy for two years at the Sorbonne (“I found it very interesting, but stopped because of the musical overload” ).
When Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad first hit the road seven years ago, Susannah Perlman and her troop of comediennes shocked audiences, some into laughter and others into walking out of the theater. The burlesque-inspired show came complete with Star of David pasties, bat mitzvah gags, and the age old question: “What’s in the gefilte fish?” Today, NJGGB is still going strong with new tour dates on the West Coast and fresh new numbers that include a Lady Gaga song and break dancing.
Perlman, the show’s mastermind Jewess, received coverage during the 2008 Presidential election when she hosted shows supporting Barack Obama, who Perlman believed was “earnest with dreams of grandeur.” While some in the Jewish community have lost faith in Obama, Perlman still supports the man she said is trying to make everyone happy. “I had a joke that I went to the inauguration on January 20, I wanted to be out of Iraq on the 21, and have health care on the 22,” Perlman said.
Perlman’s latest endeavor, Bar Mitzvah Jones, premiering in New York City on September 1, is a variety mash-up together with with Royce Peterson from The Heavy Metal Bees Gees Tribute Band. After the show’s premier there will be a short tour on the East Coast.
Crossposted From Under The Fig Tree
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes a document or a song or a photograph or a book that greatly enlarges your frame of reference and ratchets up your appreciation for the cultural patrimony of the Jews.
This happened to me the other day when I came across Masa ha-dag, a children’s book of the 1920s that recounted in Hebrew the far-flung adventures of a fish (pictured).
One of the treasures of George Washington University’s Kiev Collection, it had what my grandmother would call, in Yiddish, ale mayles — all the right virtues or perquisites.
Canada is home to less than three percent of the world’s Jewish population, but every other year, Jewish artists from around the world congregate in Toronto for the Ashkenaz Festival, which returns this year from August 31 to September 6 at the city’s Harbourfront Centre.
The festival was created in 1995 as a forum for klezmer and Yiddish music, but has since developed beyond its original Ashkenazic mandate. It now includes Sephardic and Mizrahi artists, and has become a mecca for cross-cultural fusion and experimentation.
This year’s festival features more Sephardic and Mizrahi artists than ever before, said Ashkenaz artistic director Eric Stein, who recognizes the elasticity of any of these categories. He cites festival performer Gerard Edery, a Moroccan-Jewish musician, as representing the fluidity of Sephardic traditions. Edery’s travelogue takes audiences on a lively musical tour through Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Crossposted from Haaretz
“We want to take our music to a place where no Israeli band has gone before.” This Star Trek-like sentence was uttered with complete confidence by soloist Asaf Sandhaus about Sandhaus, his eponymous band.
“We’d like to be as big as Arcade Fire,” he said when asked about his wildest dream. “That’s our goal, and we’ve reached it in music and performance; the rest is a matter of good management. I think if you don’t dream of [going] far, you don’t get anywhere.”
“I would say it’s not a matter of dreaming, but more of defining your goal,” added guitarist Ran Cohen. “We see what there is in the field and it doesn’t seem like just a daydream, but like something we can achieve. We want to be in music’s big league — to tour for an entire year with a large staff that enables us to rehearse all the time and perform all over the world with the best equipment. And mainly, we want to be able to focus just on this and not have to do all kinds of other things at the same time.”
Stacey Ballis’s newest book, “Good Enough to Eat,” will be available September 7. Her 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:
When people ask me what I love most about being Jewish, the images flash before my eyes.
Succulent slices of slow cooked brisket, moist with rich tomato-y gravy. Latkes, crisp on the outside, melting in the middle, with applesauce and sour cream. Light as air matzo balls, floating in a pool of golden chicken soup, dense sweet noodle kugel.
Oh to be a freshman once again! To run down to the dining hall for some afternoon munchies, to study long into the night, to be young and reckless and unfamiliar with everything! Were we ever that naive? Were we ever that unprepared? Were we ever that confused?
Yes, we were. And thanks to the Elissa Lerner’s play “Abraham’s Daughters,” which wrapped up its run at the New York Fringe Festival on August 28, all the memories of that hapless year came streaming back. This contemporary drama tells the story of three girls — one Jewish, one Christian, one Muslim — who become friends in college and must deal with their disparate faiths. Unfortunately, a weak script and lack of any real character development leaves these daughters of Abraham stranded in the desert.
Montreal is a city with a packed music calendar. From the Montreal International Jazz Festival to Pop Montreal to Francofolies, the city has something for every kind of fan. While Jewish bands and artists have cropped up at all of these events, until now the city has been missing its own full-fledged Jewish music festival.
Recently, however, the city’s Jewish music scene has been coming into its own. Last year, the Ghetto Shul, a student-oriented synagogue in downtown Montreal, started its “Nights at the Ghetto Shul” series in collaboration with the Jazz Festival and KlezKanada. This year, that event is joined by the first ever Montreal Jewish Music Festival, which runs from August 29 to September 2. Sponsored by KlezKanada and organized by harmonica maestro and Shtreiml bandleader Jason Rosenblatt, the festival’s lineup ranges from Montreal stalwart SoCalled to Moroccan cantor Aaron Bensoussan to Israeli jammers the Moshav Band. The Arty Semite talked to Rosenblatt about why it took so long for Montreal to get a Jewish music festival and what this event adds to the city’s festival line-up.
It seems like this festival has been a long time coming. Have you been working on it for a while?
Benjamin Ivry retrospects to the work of surrealist painter Felix Nussbaum.
Philologos unpacks the reference to Cordoba in “Cordoba House.”
Joel Schalit sends a letter from Berlin about living in “Eurabia.”
Jerome A. Chanes reads Robert Alter’s reading of the King James Bible.
Forward Editor Jane Eisner reviews Sharon Pomerantz’s debut novel “Rich Boy,” a book about Philadelphia Jews from the wrong side of the tracks.
The 51st yahrzeit of Dr. Raphael Lemkin, the international lawyer who created the United Nations Genocide Convention, will doubtless pass unnoticed on August 28, just as his 50th did last year. This is not unexpected: Lemkin — who coined, conceptualized and defined genocide and who worked tirelessly inside and outside the U.N. to make its prevention and prosecution part of international law — does not have a street anywhere named after him, or a memorial of him at the U.N. Nor was he awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for which he was unsuccessfully nominated five times.
Dr. Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), raised on a farm 50 miles from Bialystok in then-Czarist Poland, was painfully conscious from his youth of the enormity of crimes against people considered “different.” At the beginning of the Holocaust he escaped to Sweden, then to the United States, and served as an adviser to the prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.
Crossposted from Haaretz
New cottage neighborhoods in west Rishon Letzion symbolize the suburbanization of Israel. The process can be found in stretches between Hadera and Ashdod, where middle-class residents chase their dream of a high quality of life near cities. The most visible traits of this phenomenon are conformism and uniformity: the same furnishings, the same anonymous grass lawns. The mix of middle-class comforts, strong public institutions and shopping centers is supposed to guarantee a high standard of living. This part of the country is based on a rigid geographic principle: Each site must be identical.
In this context, Rishon Letzion’s Villa Nobel neighborhood, designed by architect Ilan Pivko with 72 houses, offers a critique of Israeli suburbanization and the typical “build-your-own-house” neighborhood. The new neighborhood offers white, boxy Bauhaus dwellings instead of tiled roofs. The neighborhood’s design implicitly criticizes the mess that characterizes private-home architecture in Israel.
My musically sophisticated Orthodox friends often tell me that they are not interested in Jewish music. It’s not hard to see why. If you take the material produced by the Orthodox pop industry, it’s often just the frum equivalent of Justin Timberlake, or over-produced boys choirs backed up by obnoxious electronics and phony string arrangements.
The tragedy is, that underneath the schmaltz there are sometimes very beautiful melodies. These are often best appreciated in situ, as it were — at a Hasidic tisch or other religious celebration. In many cases, however, it is easy to hear the potential such pieces could have in the hands of truly creative artists.
Here at the Forward, artist-in-residence Jeremiah Lockwood has been doing exactly that kind of work with The Nigun Project, taking traditional melodies and casting them in innovative musical settings. Binyomin Ginzberg, the keyboardist, vocalist, vibrandoneon virtuoso and leader of the Breslov Bar Band, has mined similar territory on his new album, “Have No Fear,” which was launched last night at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory.
The Central Yiddish Culture Organization (CYCO), a Manhattan based non-for-profit outfit dedicated to the promotion and development of Yiddish literature, is in trouble. CYCO, and its inventory of 55,000 Yiddish books is being kicked out of its current home. Given that the income from book sales could not possibly pay market rent on a new space, it looks like the last bookstore in Manhattan dedicated to Yiddish language and (mostly) secular literature is in need of a miracle. CYCO has already seen one miracle of sorts — a write up of their crisis in the New York Times, here.
So how come I’m not kvelling, shepping nakhes, plotzing or any of the other folksy Yiddishisms journalists like to sprinkle over these kinds of stories? Isn’t a story in the Times, vi me zogt (as they say), good for the Jews?
The author of the piece, Joseph Berger, has covered the Yiddish beat for the Times (in addition to writing for the Forward) for decades and no doubt sincerely wants to help CYCO find a patron and avert its impending homelessness. The problem is that he conflates what he sees as the demise of Yiddish in America with the crisis at CYCO. His focus on the ‘terminal’ state of Yiddish comes at the expense of any detail about what CYCO is and why a hypothetical benefactor would pour money into such a seemingly hapless, ill-run organization with negligible clientele and a “decidedly uncatchy” name. Having spent some time in the non-profit world, I know that for funders, guilt alone is not a compelling mission statement.
Before Beaver Cleaver introduced television watchers to his suburban boyhood, before Lucy and Desi’s domestic misadventures became ingrained in the consciousness of the American household, and before the world had even heard of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Gertrude Berg was the queen of the American sitcom.
As the head writer, producer and leading actress of the radio show “The Rise of the Goldbergs” and the subsequent sitcom, “The Goldbergs,” Berg pioneered the vocabulary of the modern television comedy show: the squabbling but loving couple and their scrappy, curious youngsters; the nosy neighbors; and the well-meaning but somewhat befuddled uncle.
Above all, the Goldbergs had the indomitable, gossiping, malapropism-spewing matriarch Molly Goldberg, Berg’s singular creation. Molly Goldberg was once a household name, and Berg a media queen on par with Martha Stewart. Today, she and her creator have fallen into television marginalia. Last year, director Aviva Kempner took steps to revive the Goldberg legacy with her documentary “Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg,” released on DVD August 24.
Earlier this week, I began my coverage of the New York International Fringe Festival by introducing the solo performances of three young women grappling with their faith. With the second week came more solo shows, but this time the performances were about larger stories, and involved more characters than just the individual actors. Taking in larger world views, each of these shows incorporated multiple faiths, races, and lives.
From the mind and mouth of Gabrielle Maisels comes “Two Girls,” the story of two children, one Jewish and one black, growing up together in South Africa under apartheid. After witnessing the birth of Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, the two girls eventually travel to Obama’s America. By juxtaposing the two elections and allowing her characters to bear witness to both, Maisels proves just how similar we constantly forget we are. “It’s like Mandela,” one remarks at Obama’s inauguration. “The Americans took back their country today.”
The granddaughter of Israel Aaron Maisels — leader of the defense team responsible for freeing Mandela in 1990 — Maisels uses her South African childhood as the basis for a truly moving tale of politics, friendship and family. She plays all eight characters — mothers, boyfriends, husbands, and the girls themselves — with incredible clarity and humor.
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