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
Vladimir Nabokov and the Jews
The History of Mel Brooks, Part I
How Do You Say 'Fuhgeddaboudit' in Yiddish?
How a 1976 Exhibit Changed the Way We Think About Jewish History
Vladimir Nabokov's Son Says Famous Father 'Was Close to Jewish Culture'
14-Year-Old Author Tells Story of Holocaust in Graphic Novel
Jews of Bukhara Helped Me To Understand Personal History
The Secret Jewish History of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby'
Vera Gran's Biographer Reconsiders the Stigma of Wartime Collaboration
Ancient Tchotchkes Deepen Our Understanding of Jewish Pilgrims
What 'Girls' Could Learn From the 'Good Wife's' Wife
Man Thinks, God Laughs, a Reader Writes and a Columnist Contemplates
Francesco Lotoro's Mission To Save the Music of European Jews
David Roskies and Naomi Diamant Guide Readers Through Holocaust Literature
A Son's Journey Deep Into the Heart of Saul Bellow
Vasily Grossman's Armenian Sketchbook Finally Debuts in English
Remembering Hungarian Cello Master János Starker
Photographer Clemens Kalischer Survived Holocaust But Struggles To Adapt
The Tsarnaev Brothers Are Many Things. But Cowards? Not So Much.
Diary of Girl's Time in Concentration Camps Invites Comparisons to Anne Frank
Robert Alter Is Truly a Translator of Biblical Proportions
Jennifer Gilmore's New Novel Confronts the Mother of All Struggles
Stuart Nadler's Story of Interracial Love Explores Tensions in Jewish Families
Nothing Beat the Spa for Wealthy 19th Century Jews
Is Rise of Jewish Fundamentalism Endangering Israeli Democracy?
How Adam Kadmon Made the Leap From Kabbalah to Italian Television
Why Susan Steinberg May Be the Best Jewish Writer You've Never Read
Haifa Museum Brings Outsider Artists Inside the World of Israeli Art
Retelling Jewish American Story Through History of Cinema
Janice Steinberg Preaches Gospel of Second Chances
The Secret Jewish History of David Bowie
How Three Jewish Boys From Wilmette Became the 'Brothers Emanuel'
Yiddish Words That Punch Above Their Weight
Why Jews Are Among World's Happiest People
Harvey Fierstein Gets 'Kinky' and Discusses His Jewish Roots
Playing Jewish Geography From California to the New York Islands
Documentary Sheds Light on Andre Gregory, Star of 'My Dinner With Andre'
The historian Jean-Noël Jeanneney is mostly known as the author of “Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe” (University of Chicago Press), a 2006 attack on the search giant’s book digitization project.
But Jeanneney, who is the former president of France’s notoriously user-unfriendly Bibliothèque nationale, is also the author of many less-incendiary works, including a biography of the Jewish politician Georges Mandel (Les éditions du Seuil/Les éditions Tallandier), and a 1973 TV documentary about the socialist leader Léon Blum.
Now, Jeanneney has returned to these figures in his latest offering, “One of Us Two,” (Edizioni Portaparole), a play that takes the form of an imaginary conversation between Mandel and Blum when, during Germany’s occupation of France, both were imprisoned at Buchenwald.
The first annual New York Sephardic Jewish Book Fair on July 25th at the Center for Jewish History was a quiet success. What started as a push by the American Sephardi Federation to sell marked-down books by Sephardic authors snowballed into a day-long event featuring 11 speakers, a constant flow of about four dozen patrons, and the guests of honor: hundreds of books.
“We had both Sephardi and Ashkenazi patrons and everyone was very interested and supportive. We also learned a few things for next year: we need a larger space and more vendors,” said organizer Shelomo Alfassa, the coordinator of Special Projects for the American Sephardi Federation.
In addition to book vendors the fair featured author lectures, including a keynote speech by Marc D. Angel, the Rabbi emeritus of the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel. One of the most moving speakers of the day was Professor J. Daniel Khazzoom, who flew in from Sacramento to give an account of his flight from Iraq to Israel. Khazzoom’s newly published book “No Way Back: The Journey of a Jew from Baghdad” discusses his resentment of his family’s status as “tenth class citizens in our homeland.”
Khazzoom, the first Israeli college graduate accepted by a Harvard University graduate school, was visibly emotional at the fair. “This fair should have been put on a long time ago and the recognition is overdue. But it’s never too late, the Sephardi Jewry has a responsibility to write down our stories before we all forget and so we don’t forget,” he said.
The Jewish museum (Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme) in Paris greets its visitors with massive tombstones dating back to 11th century. There are also frail parchments, medieval megillot, newspaper clips of the Dreyfus trial, and dim brass ritual objects. Imagine then, the shock and delight inspired by the exhibit that landed there this spring, alien as a spaceship: Radical Jewish Culture (RJC), a show focusing largely on avant-garde musicians, many of whose works appear on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. Though these artists are diverse in style, they have one common denominator: an intense interest in redefined, subverted, and indeed radical Jewish identity.
Raphaël Sigal, scholar and music aficionado, worked for the past four years along with his two friends Mathias Dreyfuss and Gabriel Siancas to bring the history and life of the movement to French audiences. Sigal studied comparative and Yiddish literature at the Sorbonne, taught French in Israeli universities, and is currently pursing his doctorate in French literature at New York University. The Arty Semite contributor Jake Marmer asked him about how you can have a musical exhibit in a museum, what it means to display a still-living culture, and the differences between French and American Jewry.
Jake Marmer: What was the impetus of putting together the Radical Jewish Culture exhibit in Paris?
As I walked into Nancy Hwang’s art-slathered loft on another tropical day in New York City, I reminded myself that the visit was strictly “no business.” Through a serendipitous, mysterious phone call, I had somehow landed myself a promise of homemade cake and coffee at an intimate birthday celebration among the close friends of an artist whose exhibit I had just left.
Chewing my way from a spongy, decadent apple cake to a dark chocolate hazelnut crumble, while discussing physics and pole dancing with a group of eccentric strangers, I felt like I had stepped into some bizarre, yet wonderful dream. In a city where you can walk right by your own cousin without the slightest clue, is there room for impromptu tea parties at the home of a person who did not know you existed 20 minutes before?
Such is the question seven innovative artists have visited, tackled, and re-posed in the exhibit “The Absolutely Other,” curated by Miriam Katz, on view until August 7 at The Kitchen in Chelsea. Hwang was one of the featured artists along with Einat Amir, Daniel Bozhkov, Xavier Cha, eteam, Hope Hilton and Dave McKenzie, in a group exhibition that featured video, photography, installation, and performance.
There’s something special about enjoying a brilliant album alone, but there’s joy in sharing it with others. Since 2001, when Jewlia Eisenberg released “Trilectic,” I have had the former joy, but not the latter.
“Trilectic” was a brilliant concept album that set the writings of Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis to eclectic vocal compositions that ran the gamut from Meredith Monk-inspired experimentation to doo-wop and Eskimo throat chanting. Jewlia’s band, Charming Hostess, followed up “Trilectic” in 2004 with “Sarajevo Blues,” another genre-defying piece of avant-garde composition, chock-full of hooky melodies and jaw-dropping moments of unconventional beauty.
The septuagenarian Israeli novelist and poetry translator Esther Orner would hardly seem threatening to anyone. Yet Orner, who has translated Yehuda Amichai and Aharon Shabtai into French, has become the center of a frantic dispute in France.
The University of Provence, based in Aix-en-Provence and Marseilles, has just canceled a March 2011 colloquium, “Writing Today in the Mediterranean Region: Changes and Tensions,” after a group of Egyptian and Palestinian writers, whose names have been kept confidential by the University, objected to the presence of an Israeli. In response, the colloquium organizers immediately canceled Orner’s invitation.
Orner told the French newsweekly “Le Point”: “That’s the second time I’ve been boycotted; it’s becoming routine…I might add that I am particularly shocked to see foreigners dictating to a French university what it must do.” After news of their action became public on July 12, the organizers issued a press release headlined “We Never Boycotted Israel,” claiming that the colloquium was intended to mainly focus on Arab literature, so their only choice, apart from canceling the event altogether, was to disinvite the Israeli.
Orner countered that she had not known that for France, Israel is no longer a Mediterranean country. Finally, the University of Provence’s president canceled the entire colloquium.
Jake Marmer listens in on Deep Tones, an international all-bass music project devoted to peace in the Middle East.
Perplexed by the guides? Jay Michaelson advises on which Kabbalah books you can trust.
Jerome Chanes has some issues with the Jewish Publication Society’s new volume of “The Commentators’ Bible.”
Larry Grossman evaluates David Ruderman’s claim that the advent of Jewish modernity wasn’t an overnight occurrence.
Steven G. Kellman reviews Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt’s biography of writer, Holocaust victim and Jewish convert to Catholicism Irene Nemirovsky.
Sammy Loren profiles Claude Berger, a 74-year-old flutist, polemicist, dentist and Parisian Yiddish restaurateur.
In this week’s Yid Lit podcast, Allison Gaudet Yarrow talks to Jon Papernick, author of the short story collections “The Ascent of Eli Israel” and “There is No Other.”
And at the Forverts Video Channel, Dr. Max Kohn goes to visit a production of Sholom Aleichem’s “The Great Lottery” in Paris:
On July 6, the New York-born screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas celebrated her 110th birthday in La Mesa, California.
Maas was born into a family of Russian Jewish immigrants named Zagorsky — anglicized to Sagor at Ellis Island — who placed a solid emphasis on culture, despite their humble social status. In addition to subsidizing the young Frederica’s lessons with Russian Jewish pianist Jacques Danielson, Maas’s parents also paid for concert tickets so that she could hear such noted Jewish pianists as Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler.
While still a teenager Maas landed a job as an assistant story editor at Universal Pictures and soon moved to Los Angeles, where she wrote the screenplay for 1925’s “The Plastic Age,” a silent screen portrayal of modern “flaming” youth starring Clara Bow.
On July 1, the Israel Film Center — housed at The JCC in Manhattan — launched the Israeli Film Database for public access. Conceived two years ago, the database has served primarily as a tool for Israeli film professionals to document and market their work. Now, anyone can view profiles for over 3000 Israeli films from the early 1960s to the present day.
While many of the titles will be unfamiliar even to those with an extensive knowledge of Israeli film (late 1990’s student films, anyone?), displaying the country’s cinematic history is just the point, said IFC director Isaac Zablocki, who also served as a filmmaker in the Israel Defense Forces. The Arty Semite contributor Josh Tapper spoke with Zablocki about IFC’s ambition to create a platform that will jointly serve industry types and boost Israeli cinema’s American profile.
Josh Tapper: Why create the Israeli Film Database?
Isaac Zablocki: We felt there was a need. A lot of people were trying to access Israeli films and it wasn’t always easy. We wanted to create a tool that would connect the community with the industry. There is no one platform for Israeli cinema. Many industries — Germany, for example — have programs for their films that promote them to the world. Before us, the official place to go was the Israeli consulate. But a national film resource shouldn’t be a government-run organization. The Israeli Film Database will be that international platform for Israeli films. Anybody looking for great world cinema will see this as an access point.
I was pleased to see a profile in the New York Times on July 20 of the unusual cantorial-music-aficionado-turned-audiophile-sound-engineer Mendel Werdyger. Werdyger is the proprietor of Mostly Music, one of the last bastions of old school Jewish culture in New York City. While you can certainly buy the standard schlock recordings of Hasidic boys choirs there, the shop is also rich with reissues of powerful cantorial records and classics of Yiddish theater and Hasidic music.
My cousin Cantor Zachary Konigsberg and I have long been fans of Mostly Music. Zachary first introduced me to the shop when he was living in Kensington, a stone’s throw from Boro Park’s heavily populated Jewish enclave and specialty shops. We would go there partly because we got a kick out of seeing our grandfather, Cantor Jacob Konigsberg’s cassette on the shelves alongside the pantheon of cantorial greats. Here we had the opportunity to buy cassettes by many of the classic names in hazanus: Pierre Pinchik, Leib Glantz, Zavel Kwartin and more. We chatted with Werdyger on a few occasions. I was always struck by his warm and open presence and his obvious scholarship in the field of cantorial music.
Over at the Yiddish Song of the Week blog, Forverts managing editor Itzik Gottesman introduces the children’s folksong “Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder” with a look back at the 1980’s Yiddish cultural scene in the Bronx:
I recorded “Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?” (“What Did You Learn My Child in Cheder?”) at a zingeray/song gathering in the Bronx in 1983, at the home of Merke (Mary) and Tuvia Levine, on Gun Hill Road. I cannot recall the singer‘s full name — Harris was his last name…
Harris, Merke and Tevye Levine were part of the linke (leftist) Yiddish cultural scene that did not usually mix with Arbeter-Ring members or Zionists. Our “scene‟ from the Sholem-Aleichem Folk Institute played down politics and emphasized the cultural aspects, so we mingled fine. By the late 1970s, the Yiddish world was so depleted that the walls between left, center and right were falling down on behalf of Yiddish culture, so the Levines became prominent members of the Sholem-Aleichem Folkshul on Bainbridge Avenue. Thirty years earlier they were active in their own linke shuln, but by the 1970s, those folkshuln no longer existed. Our zingerays included them more and more. That older generation of linke Yiddishists is gone; Itche Goldberg, who died recently at 102, was perhaps the last of them, and I cannot think of anyone who is alive anymore to even ask about the singer‘s — Mr. Harris‘s — first name.
Listen to “Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?” here.
During her lifetime, even personal friends were unaware that film star Hedy Lamarr was Jewish. Now two new biographies — “Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr” by Stephen Michael Shearer, due out in September from St Martin’s Press and “Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film” by Ruth Barton, just out from The University Press of Kentucky — both detail how Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna to a Jewish family, her mother originally from Budapest, and her father from Lvov.
Of the two new books, by far the better written one is by Barton, a Lecturer in Film Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. Shearer, a Las Vegas-based former actor, journalist, and friend/biographer of Patricia Neal, absent-mindedly describes the first marriage of one of Lamarr’s husbands in this amusingly redundant way: “They were married by a Jewish rabbi.”
Lamarr’s earliest work was in Berlin with the Russian Jewish director Alexis Granowsky, whose 1925 silent hit “Jewish Luck,” an adaptation of Sholom Aleichem with titles by Isaak Babel, starred the great Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels.
Penguin Modern Classics has recently reissued “My Happy Days in Hell,” an autobiographical novel by Hungarian Jewish writer György Faludy, to mark the centenary of the author’s birth on September 22.
First published in 1962, “My Happy Days in Hell” is an essential document of the 20th century by a writer whose stature is comparable to poets such as W.H. Auden, Federico García Lorca, Rainer Maria Rilke and William Butler Yeats.
Born in Budapest, Faludy traveled to Paris in 1938, and then to the United States, where he served in the American Armed Forces while more than half a million other Hungarian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. In his poem, “Refugee, 1940,” Faludy proffered a prophetic response to the cynical treatment meted out by the French to Jewish refugees during the early years of the war (translations are my own):
In the salsa world, they call him El Judio Maravilloso, the Amazing Jew. And when the legendary pianist Larry Harlow — born Lawrence Ira Kahn — joined the funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma on stage last night at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, he delivered on his nickname.
It was a moment of generational fusion. Harlow, 71, produced more than 250 albums for Fania records, and recently won a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Grupo Fantasma consists of 10 young musicians, mostly Latinos from Texas, whose sound channels the salsa and cumbia styles popular in Harlow’s heyday.
From February 10 through May 23, “Unexposed: Munich Photographers in Exile,” a compelling exhibit at Munich’s Jewish Museum, focused on the art and fate of three photographers who fled Germany for Palestine in the 1930s, thereby remaining mostly unknown in their native land.
Alfons Himmelreich (1904-1993), Efrem Ilani (1910-1999), and Jakob Rosner (1902-1950) all became pioneering photographers in Israel, as the exhibit’s lavish catalog from Kehrer Verlag demonstrates. The trio proved, as Rosner wrote in 1944, that “more than any other medium, photography has the power to give expression to the psychological or artistic value of a deed.”
In this case, the deed was the founding of the state of Israel. Rosner took photographs for the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL), including the iconic image, “Child with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Collection Box, c. 1945.” Honored with a 1944 exhibit of his photographs at the Bezalel Museum, the tragically short-lived Rosner left behind a still-unpublished book-length photo essay, “Homecoming from Arabia,” showing the 1949 exodus of Yemenite Jews to Israel during the so-called Operation Magic Carpet.
Unlike many practitioners of Jewish music, percussionist and composer Roberto Rodriguez doesn’t view Jewishness as a simple war chest of traditions and musical idioms to draw from. Instead, Rodriguez’s Cuban-Jewish All Stars project is a more strict interpretation of what a particular moment in Jewish history must have sounded like.
The era is pre-revolutionary Cuba, where a sizable community of both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews contributed to a vibrant multi-ethnic cultural mosaic. And if Rodriguez’s July 15 concert at the The Jewish Museum of New York was any indicator, they enjoyed an incredible nightlife.
Rodriguez, who has performed in Joe Jackson’s band and for guitarist Marc Ribot’s Los Cubanos Postizos, was initially goaded into the Cuban-Jewish All Stars project by avant-garde jazz polymath and fellow New York musician John Zorn, who asked Rodriguez to make a “Jewish album” for his Tzadik record label. The result was 2001’s “El Danzon de Moises,” followed by “Baila! Gitano Baila!” in 2004 and “Timba Talmud” in 2009. Echoing the titles of these albums, his Thursday show was similarly billed as “a unique Latin klezmer sound that echoes Cuban roots dance music and traditional Jewish klezmer.”
While Rodriguez is clearly inspired by klezmer, however, those looking for Cuban interpretations of klezmer tunes, like those performed by David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana ensemble, will be surprised. Though Rodriguez is certainly aware of the klezmer motifs that he uses, they are little more than broad inspirations.
A scrum of Israeli lawyers and Swiss bank clerks crowded a Zurich bank vault recently, after a Tel Aviv family court ordered the opening of four safe deposit boxes belonging to the heirs of Max Brod’s secretary containing manuscripts by Franz Kafka.
A similar crowd had already visited safe deposit boxes in a Tel Aviv bank vault with the same mission. Among the inspectors was a Swiss-born Israeli literary scholar, Itta Shedletzky, who has been reductively described in the world media as a “Kafka specialist.” Shedletzky, who moved to Israel as a teenager in 1962, is that and much more.
After earning a Ph.D. in German Jewish literature and history at Hebrew University, Shedletzky worked as research assistant for the eminent scholars Jacob Katz, author of the classic “Tradition and Crisis: Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages,” available from NYU Press, and Uriel Tal, author of “Religion, Politics and Ideology in the Third Reich: Selected Essays” from Routledge Books.
The year is 1943. The place is Warsaw. The ghetto uprising has been crushed, but one man, a Hasid by the name of Yosl Rakover, is still alive, and he is busy recording his sordid tale for posterity. After recounting the events of the last few years — the deaths of his children and grandchildren, the hunger that pervades his every bone, the sense of despair all around him — he insists: “If I were unable to believe that God had marked us for His chosen people, I would still believe that we were chosen to be so by our sufferings.”
A crowd of more than 60 people packed a makeshift theater at the Sixth Street Community Synagogue on Sunday, where David Mandelbaum, founder and director of the New Yiddish Rep theater company, staged his one-man performance of “Yosl Rakover Speaks to God.” Mandelbaum has been performing this show for more than two years now, but this staging came at a particularly auspicious time, just ahead of Tisha B’Av, which began last night at sunset.
France’s Frédéric Chouraki is one of Europe’s most frivolous and insouciant young Jewish novelists. Chouraki’s 2008 “Ginsberg and Me” (“Ginsberg et moi”), from Les Éditions du Seuil, is a fictional jape about Simon Glückmann, an observant young French Jew who meets and seduces the elderly American poet Allen Ginsberg in a Paris gay sauna. Hijinks ensue, with Ginsberg depicted in the unflattering guise, as one reviewer put it, of a “libidinous old goat.”
Chouraki’s equally irreverent new novel, “The Kippur Conflict,” (“La Guerre de Kippour”) has just appeared from Editions le Dilettante, a small literary press which explains that the author, born in 1972, is “keen on women’s tennis, Jewish mysticism, and Anglo-Saxon literature.”
Chouraki’s novel has nothing to do with Israel’s tragic 1973 Yom Kippur War, but alludes instead to the well-known phenomenon of “Kippur Jews” — unobservant people who go to synagogue only once a year, on Yom Kippur. Chouraki’s mordant satire describes the family strife caused when a bisexual young French Jew, Frédéric Bronstein, brings his non-Jewish girlfriend home to meet his parents in the Paris suburbs.
Alain Elkann, born in 1950, is perhaps best known for his “Life of Moravia,” in which he was the chosen interlocutor of the famed novelist Alberto Moravia.The Jewish Italian author and journalist has also published two books of conversations with the chief rabbi emeritus of Italy, Elio Toaff, “To Be A Jew” and “The Messiah and the Jews,” both from Edizioni Bompiani.
Unfortunately, few of Elkann’s books are available in English, aside from a few short novels published by Pushkin Press. Such is also the case with Elkann’s new memoir, “Grandma Carla,” also from Bompiani, a moving elegy to his late mother which certainly merits translation.
In 1938, Elkann’s mother Carla Ovazza fled wartime fascism to Manhattan with her husband Jean-Paul Elkann, a banker and the longtime president of Paris’s Consistoire council, a leading French Jewish organization. Returning to her native Turin after the war, Ovazza renewed friendships with Primo Levi, Rabbi Toaff, and Tullia Zevi, the remarkable nonagenarian who served as president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.
You've successfully signed up!
Thank you for subscribing.
Please provide the following optional information to enable us to serve you better.
The Forward will not sell or share your personal information with any other party.
Thank you for signing up.Close