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
Jordana Horn checks out the Other Israel Film Festival.
Benjamin Ivry appreciates Russian Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg.
Sherwin Kaufman remembers arriving at Ellis Island almost 90 years ago.
Yelena Akhtiorskaya takes a poetry lesson from Andrei Codrescu.
Jacob Silverman reviews “Dolly City” by Orly Castel-Bloom.
It takes a midnight downpour to force a mutiny and forge a temporary unit from the misfits on Israel Defence Force Training Base 4, nearly three-quarters of the way through Georgian-Israeli director Dover Kosashvili’s new film.
“Where did they find such a group of losers?” mutters the troop commander, as they stubbornly shuffle together like a heard of defiant cows.
The answer is from North African immigrants, Holocaust survivors, idealistic kibbutzniks, rich Jerusalemites and the sons of their maids. But first and foremost, from a list of applicants medically unfit for regular service.
Set in 1956, “Infiltration” is Kosashvili’s fourth picture, an adaptation of Yehoshua Kenaz’s 1986 novel of the same name. Debuting earlier this year at the Jerusalem Film Festival and picking up six nominations at the Israeli Film Academy Awards, “Infiltration” recently screened at the BFI Film Festival in London and opened in wide release in Israeli theaters.
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, Dave Weinberg writes about “The House of Rothschild” by Niall Ferguson.
Five years ago, I spent a weekend perusing through my recently passed father’s library, an immense collection of historical treasures. With every passing year, I am constantly reminded and impressed by the detail at which he could recall dates, theories and placement of each book within our wall-to-wall, categorized library which my father grew over his entire life.
Among the dozens of books I chose that day was “The House of Rothschild” by Niall Ferguson, a two volume biography covering the now three century long historical entirety of the financially prophetic dynasty. Not exactly a quick or light read — yet the underlying themes and stories paint a truly remarkable story of Jewish leadership.
Human rights lawyers who spend their lives defending unpopular clients like Vietnam War draft resisters and free speech advocates can expect mostly indirect posthumous tributes. Such is the lesson of a friendly new volume, “Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford” by Leslie Brody, an English professor at the University of Redlands, out in October from Counterpoint Press.
“Irrepressible” is in part a dual biography of Mitford and her second husband, the radical lawyer Robert Treuhaft, for decades the bane of right-wingers and bigots across the land and abroad. Mitford and Treuhaft, who were married from 1943 until her death in 1996, formed a true partnership, and her famous exposé of the funeral industry, 1963’s “The American Way of Death,” still available in an updated edition from Vintage Books, was co-written by Treuhaft.
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week Jake Marmer writes about “Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture.”
Last year’s excellent anthology “Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture,” a comprehensive collection of writings from leading Jewish poets and critics such as Charles Bernstein, Jerome Rothenberg, Marjorie Perloff, and many others, has not received the acclaim it surely deserves.
The book has sparked intriguing conversations and collaborations, however, the latest of which took place on November 11 at New York’s Poets House. Four of the anthology’s contributors — Hank Lazer, Maria Damon, Stephen Paul Miller and Alicia Ostriker — gathered to read and discuss their contributions to the volume and the subject of Jewish cultural and poetic identity in general.
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, Will Schneider writes about “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy.
One of the seminal moments in the formation of my Jewish identity was when the Dodgers’ ace pitcher Sandy Koufax elected to skip the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. Since I wouldn’t be born for another 16 years, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jane Leavy’s biography of Koufax, “A Lefty’s Legacy,” which I read when I was in my early 20s at the height of an identity crisis.
I had been struggling alone with my Judaism, trying to balance what I thought were the conflicting realities of self-identifying as Jewish while steering clear of anything that felt observant. Leavy makes it clear that the non-observant Koufax, who didn’t go to services that day, didn’t intend to make one of the most influential statements of the 20th century about Judaism in secular society. Still, his skipping game one resonated with me 40 years later. I later learned that I was not alone, and realized that there are more options than being traditionally observant or nothing at all.
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
As just about everyone knows by now, the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia has opened a spanking new, $150 million facility where, say its supporters, the “American Jewish dream has been fulfilled.”
Meanwhile, the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., has just debuted a number of imaginative and thoughtful, if small-scale, exhibitions of its own. They run the gamut from a salute to Yiddish children’s literature to “Shalom Bayes: Reflections on the American Jewish Home,” which I had the good fortune to curate.
These two institutions couldn’t be more different from one another. The National Museum of American Jewish History proudly takes its place within the urban landscape of downtown Philadelphia; the National Yiddish Book Center is nestled amidst a New England apple orchard.
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, Cheryl Weiner writes about the Torah.
Every week, as we read the Torah, we have the opportunity to confront aspects of our identity in the narrative. As we grow, so does the Torah. It is a living book where the outline of a story has been filled in over generations. As a publisher, my Torah was filled with the politics of leadership. As I grew with the feminist movement, so did the women of the Torah. Now as a rabbi, I look through the light of Torah to examine my values, to sustain my sense of integrity and authenticity as a Jew and as an American.
Reading the Torah in its entirety is an extraordinary endeavor. Year after year, I discover stories for the first time and encounter old friends. For example, with each reading, the parashah Toldot has manifested many “me’s.” As a social justice activist, I am the Rebecca who persuades others to manifest her mission. As a chaplain, I am the Rebecca who provides comfort to Isaac at the death of Sarah and the Rebecca who asks God for the meaning of suffering in child-bearing. At my core, I am the fiery red-headed outsider crying for blessing with Esau and I am also Jacob the God wrestler. As I age, I am the Isaac filled with loss. Every exploration, expansion, and extrapolation from the ancient Torah informs the Torah of my identity in transformation.
In Portugal in 1943, shortly before his plane was shot down during a wartime propaganda mission, the actor Leslie Howard replied smilingly when he was described as a quintessential Englishman (he even seemed British in “Gone With the Wind”): “I suppose we do not have to tell them that I began as a Hungarian.”
Born Leslie Howard Steiner in London to Ferdinand Steiner, a Hungarian Jewish financier, and Lillian Blumberg, of East Prussian Jewish origin, little Leslie moved with his family at age five to Vienna, where he spent five formative years. Ambient anti-Semitism made the Steiners return definitively to England in 1903. A new biography, “Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor” by Estel Eforgan from Vallentine Mitchell Publishers, explains that Leslie was ordered to forget Teutonic culture, even punished if he dared speak German by being forced to “eat a piece of toast spread with mustard.”
Comedy, explained Aristotle, has a vague history, because at first no one took it seriously. We cannot know for certain if Aristotle was deadpanning, but his observation would amuse Saul Austerlitz. According to Austerlitz, American film comedy has not been taken seriously, either. In fact, the author quips, it is American film’s “bastard stepchild.” With his latest book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” Austerlitz gives us a broad survey of the genre, hoping to spark debate.
There were few Jewish comedians in Aristotle’s day, but in American comedy, Austerlitz notes, Jews are “the only minority group overrepresented.” The title of his book is taken from a catch phrase by the gentile comic geniuses Laurel and Hardy, but on the cover of the book, it is Jewish comedians, The Marx Brothers, who are making a mess. For Austerlitz, the Marx Brothers are the embodiment of Jewish humor — “anarchic, absurdist, and ebullient” — existing in the face of a hostile or dismissive power structure.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Singing was a necessity and inevitability for Claudia Nurit Henig. Born in Argentina, her mother tongue is Ladino, a language that seems to encompass infinite musical riches. Even the transition as a child from Buenos Aires to Arad, after losing her parents one after the next, did not dull Henig’s passion for song or damage her natural singing ability.
“I sing with the voice I was born with,” she says. Even though her Israeli guardian didn’t approve, Henig insisted on studying music and arrived at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance without a penny to her name, without any knowledge of theory and without any support. She won scholarships for excellence in singing year after year, which is what enabled her to complete her studies at the academy. Memories of her teacher in Argentina, Juliet Madioni, nourished her singing as she underwent training for opera.
In “Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art pulls from its own collection to present the work of three heavyweights of American photography: Alfred Stieglitz, founder of the influential 291 gallery, and two of his protégés, Edward Steichen and Paul Strand. The show, on through April 10, 2011, gives each photographer his own room, accentuating their individual styles and obsessions, while allowing a closer look at the cross-pollination that took place in the early part of the 20th century.
A son of Jewish immigrants, Stieglitz grew up in Manhattan but spent his early adulthood soaking up European culture in Germany, the homeland of his parents. By 1900, Stieglitz was a force in American photography, and the granddaddy of the Photo-Secession, a group of artists who broke with the establishment and sought to fashion photography into an independent art form.
The Met credits Stieglitz with the foundation of its photography collection; in 1928 he donated 22 of his own works to the museum — the first to enter the collection as pieces of art. Stieglitz’s images play with ideas that are now fixtures of modern photography: subjects close at hand, a concentration on light, shadow and form, and a desire to create an emotional reaction in the viewer.
View a slideshow from ‘Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand’:
Crossposted from Haaretz
A wall is covered with images. A little girl splashes in gray-scale puddles in the street, her image fuzzy in the moving shot. Framed nearby, a baker lifts hot flat bread out of the oven. A merry-go-round with three girls in headscarves swoops past the camera lens.
Welcome to the West Bank city of Nablus, as seen through the photographic lens of children.
“Suwarna” (Our Pictures) is an exhibition of images captured by the participants of a youth photography project led by Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO), a Nablus-based non-governmental organization. The exhibit has been on display in Nablus and Ramallah for the last week.
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, Shifra Bronznick writes about “Preparing for the Sabbath” by Nessa Rapoport.
Many of the most heartfelt experiences I have enjoyed over the years took place on Shabbat — long lasting meals and lively conversations, birthday celebrations and graduations, encounters with guests I knew only superficially who became intertwined with my life. So many people filled my table; at so many tables, I found a place.
In this age where people record everything in delicious and sometimes agonizing detail, my most powerful cumulative memories are stored in my “Shabbat camera.” Since I do not use a real camera on Shabbat, I instead click my fingers together, and imprint memories on my heart, keep tastes on my tongue, and narrate stories in my soul.
Although they aren’t nearly as dysfunctional as the narrator and the old man with the “vulture eye” in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” or Allie and Hedy in “Single White Female,” Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar make up a lousy pair of roommates in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.
But however rave the reviews are of Theater J’s version of the play — and some have seriously gushed — they all, like the note from Theater J Artistic Director Ari Roth in the playbill, avoid altogether the question of “The Odd Couple”’s Jewishness (or lack thereof).
“We don’t get too much straight male-bonding on our stages these days,” Roth writes. “Not with this degree of hilarity. So welcome back to Friday Night Poker and Neil Simon’s Original Men’s Club.” The closest Roth gets to a Jewish take on the play is a reference to restoring faith, but he means the play’s ability to restore faith in “our collective imperfectability,” adding that we are all “wonderful snobs and persnickety control freaks.”
Rarely has the presence of the Divine Being been so radically affirmed by the actions of a Wired magazine columnist. Having decided that our own created universe was getting perilously close to extinction, Jargon Watch writer Jonathon Keats set up an altar designed to stimulate the Ineffable One into further acts of creation.
The title “Pornography for God” recalls his equal opportunity 2007 piece “Pornography for Plants” (also known as “Cinema Botanica”) which projects explicit images of plants being pollinated onto plants on the floor in the gallery. From November 12, both pieces will be hosted at alternative arts space Louis V E.S.P. Located on an upper floor of a walkup in Williamsburg, Louis V E.S.P. is at the perfect nexus of belief and hipsterdom.
Rather than the prurient delights of pollination, though, this new installation displays images from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The two LHC tunnels, Alice and Atlas, have live online graphic feeds of the experiments where they replicate the Big Bang, and these glow through a ghostly altar in front of which votive candles, incense, flowers and other objects are offered. In the tradition of pornographic exhibitions, the show is intended to excite the Creator by showing acts of creation. “I felt sorry for God,” Keats told me, “monotheism must be lonely.”
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, Adam Stein writes about the Talmud.
Is it cheating to name a huge, multi-volume work when asked to choose one book? Could one even refer to the Talmud as a “book” when, even in the extra-tiny print version on my bookshelf, it spans 20 volumes? Well, maybe it’s cheating, and maybe it’s not a book, but influential, bottomless, and foundational it is.
In rabbinical school, we all looked forward (with dread, that is) to something called the “daf exam.” An oral exam given by three professors, for which we prepared by learning and reviewing 50 pages (front and back) of Talmud over the course of a summer.
I spent that summer studying with several good friends in chevruta, study partners. Three hours with her, three hours with him, a few hours in a small group, and so on: seven, eight, nine hours a day.
If you’re a singer-songwriter, it’s difficult to imagine having a father-in-law more intimidating than Bob Dylan. But Peter Himmelman hasn’t let his marriage to Dylan’s daughter stop him from making music. Over three decades as a journeyman, Himmelman has recorded 18 albums, including five for kids, and scored soundtracks for film and television shows such as “Bones.” And if Dylan’s relationship to Judaism is ambiguous at best, Himmelman identifies himself as “the first highly recognized Observant Jew since Sandy Koufax.”
Like his father-in-law, Himmelman is a Minnesota native with a penchant for Americana. On his latest record, “The Mystery and the Hum,” Himmelman plays a middle-aged mix of rock, folk, blues, and country music that you might hear at a bar in Middle America — or at New York’s City Winery, where he celebrated the album’s release November 14. Backed by guitars, bass, piano, and drums, his raspy voice recalls the growl of Tom Waits, the plaintiveness of Cat Stevens, and the twang of John Hiatt. While his songs are packed with pain, there are also glimpses of joy. Taken as a whole, “The Mystery and the Hum” comes across as a dialogue between melancholy and hope.
Crossposted from Haaretz
A few moments before the show, when the Jerusalem Theater auditorium was nearly full, a young man called out to an older woman: “Grandma, I’m here!” In another row, a young woman helped her grandmother to her seat.
They weren’t the only ones. The homage to singer Nazem al-Ghazali drew at least three generations of Israelis, most of them of Iraqi descent. And when the evening’s musical director, Yair Dalal, noted that although al-Ghazali had died almost 50 years ago, his songs remain etched in the memories of Iraqi Jews, many grandparents in the audience nodded in agreement.
Al-Ghazali, who died at 42 in 1963, was one of the great Iraqi vocalists of the mid-20th century. Although he’s not as well-known as his counterparts in Egypt and Lebanon, the festival organizers deserve credit for aiming the footlights at him and his work.
Meet Morris Schutt, the Mennonite “Herzog.”
David Samuels interviews Noam Chomsky.
The Arc Project for Palestine, a plan for a future Palestinian State, was named “Future Project of the Year” at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona.
“Weimar Cinema, 1919-1933: Daydreams and Nightmares” opens this week at the Museum of Modern Art.
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