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
Zen and the Art of Judaism Maintenance
Opera About Holocaust Survivor Premieres for 75th Anniversary of Kristallnach
Sacred and Profane History of Cherished Jewish Number 18
Putting Florence's Jewish History Into the Spotlight
Secret History of Paul McCartney, the Jewish Beatle
Dan Lewis Is Obsessed With Knowing It All
Solution to Antwerp Mystery Leads to Yet Another Mystery
The Jewish Inspiration That Guided Photographers of Magnum
Yossi Klein Halevi Delivers a Masterful Saga of Seven Israeli Paratroopers
Hitler's Willing Hollywood Collaborators
Terrifying Top 10 (Jewish) Songs for Halloween
Is there anything more reprehensible than white-collar crime? Certainly, there are any number of moral offenses that may trump the impulses of rich white men to make themselves even richer. But even the most egregious of these can be rationalized (rightly or wrongly) through psychological profiling and the ascription of some mental disorder or social disease. But piggybacking on the investments of the working people to defraud them and pay yourself a salary in the hundreds of millions of dollars? Rationalize that. Unless the DSM-IV has a listing for “jackass,” these guys are crooks, plain and simple.
As the self-appointed “Sheriff of Wall Street,” Eliot Spitzer did fine work rounding up these overpaid criminals and muscling them into the national spotlight. As New York’s Attorney General, Spitzer exceeded the call of duty, setting his sights not just on local scam and flam artists, but on all kinds of corporate and securities hucksters. He was the brash, two-fisted brawler who knew that the only way to clean up white-collar America was to bust the right skulls. He was a thorn in the side of rich white men hoping to hold themselves above the law and moral responsibility. To others, he was kind of a hero.
Then he had to go and have sex with a couple of prostitutes.
Omar Souleyman is a singer from Hasakah, Syria, who plays a techno-ish version of dabke, an Arabic folk music usually heard at weddings. He performs in a red-and-white checkered keffiyeh, dark glasses, and a moustache.
Not the most likely artist to take the American hipster-indie music scene by storm, you say? Think again. Now on his second tour of the U.S. to promote “Jazeera Nights,” his third album on Seattle’s Sublime Frequencies label, Souleyman performed Tuesday for a sizeable crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, last night at the Paramount Theatre in Boston, and he appears tonight at Purchase College, SUNY.
On Wednesday he played a show in Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s, where he made another strange connection: Opening for Souleyman was Electric Simcha, a month-old Hasidic punk outfit led by trombonist and vocalist Daniel Blacksberg. The Arty Semite spoke with Blacksberg about Electric Simcha and how it came to play for hundreds of hipsters in Fishtown with one of the Middle East’s most popular artists.
Ezra Glinter: What is Electric Simcha?
Earlier this week, Sue Fishkoff wrote about watching a goat get slaughtered and people who only keep kosher on holidays. She is the author of “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority.” 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:
The most fascinating work of kosher food manufacturing takes place in the middle of the night. That’s when factories shut down their lines for koshering, when ovens are blasted with blowtorches and boiling water is run through miles of pipes and in and out of huge stainless steel vats.
That’s when the mashgiachs, or kosher supervisors, start work in industrial kitchens and banquet halls, cleaning bugs from pounds of lettuce, celery and other fresh produce.
And that’s when the flour for Manischewitz’s kosher-for-Passover matzah begins its journey from western Pennsylvania to the company’s $15 million manufacturing facility in Newark, NJ.
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, Rachel Brodie writes about “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number” by Jacobo Timerman.
I was always a conscientious objector (aka bad sport) when teachers used the pedagogic conundrum: If you were stranded on a desert island and could take only one book… until I read Jacobo Timerman’s “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.”
I was 16 and as enamored of the low-affect nihilism of Sartre and Beckett as I was fascinated by the manic irreverence of Saturday Night Live and The Clash. At the same time, my favorite subject in school was Talmud and I fantasized about moving to Jerusalem.
Yesterday I was watching Nightly News with Brian Williams and was surprised to see that Sparky Anderson got a five-minute tribute but Jerry Bock, the beloved composer of “Fiddler on the Roof,” didn’t get a mention. I have a personal stake in this, as I write musicals and often worry about posterity. Mr. Bock leaves us 10 days after his collaborator, Joseph Stein, did, who wrote the book for “Fiddler,” based on Sholom Aleichem’s stories.
It’s hard now not to reflect a bit on this consummate Jewish musical, even if Brian Williams neglected to do so. In 2002 I served as a Steven Spielberg Fellow in Jewish Theatre Education, the goal of which, it was actually stated, was to move beyond “Fiddler on the Roof.” Ironically, I returned to the camp eight years later to direct the show. Thus I’m in the interesting position of first being sent in to destroy, and then to resurrect, “Fiddler” — not unlike Luke Skywalker with Darth Vader. And “Fiddler” was wheezing a bit when I held it this summer: My pre-teen cast didn’t know it since they hadn’t seen it on “Glee.”
In the world of beauty, Helena Rubinstein is still a legend, yet the details of the tycoon’s life, from her birth as Chaja Rubinstein in the Jewish Kazimierz district of Kraków, to her death in her mid-90s in 1965, are comparatively little-known. A new biography from Les éditions Grasset in Paris, “Helena Rubinstein: The Woman who invented Beauty” by Michèle Fitoussi, aims to correct that.
Fitoussi, a Parisian of Tunisian Jewish origin, writes for Elle Magazine, for whom she scored an exclusive interview last year with the mother of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan Jewish origin who, in 2006, was kidnapped and murdered in Paris. Fitoussi, who has also made French adaptations of plays by such Jewish Americans as Eve Ensler and Israel Horovitz, is a careful guide to Rubinstein’s complex relationship to her own Judaism.
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week Jake Marmer writes about the surrealist dialogues of Adam Shechter and Daniel Y. Harris.
The family of Jewish Surrealists and Dadaists is extensive, ranging from Dada’s founding poet Tristan Tzara, to French filmmaker Nelly Kaplan, to American media artist Man Ray. This family has now experienced a seismic shift with the inclusion of two new members — Adam Shechter and Daniel Y. Harris, whose chapbook “Paul Celan and the Messiah’s Broken Levered Tongue: An Exponential Dyad” was published by Cervena Barva Press earlier this year. The previous collaborative work of these two authors, “Seven Dead Kafkas and a Fork,” has been featured in Exquisite Corpse, the prestigious online journal of Surrealism, but this is their debut appearance in print.
The chapbook is a dialogue that exiles itself from easily identifiable goals and whose subject escapes specific plot lines. Perhaps, this work is an attempt to re-map the history of Jewish esoteric mythology, focusing on Messianic obsessions as well as a kaleidoscope of traumas — national, universal, metaphysical, and the authors’ own.
Here’s a segment, where Harris takes the voice of Paul Celan, the great Jewish poet and Holocaust survivor who committed suicide by jumping into the Seine river, while Shechter responds as the Messiah:
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, Jane Ramsey writes about “A People In Between: The Paradox of Jewish Interstitiality” by Robert J. Marx.
No book has come closer to guiding, reflecting, and transforming my Jewish journey than the yet to be published “A People In Between: The Paradox of Jewish Interstitiality” by Rabbi Robert J. Marx. This provocative book explores the concept and ramifications of the interstitiality of the Jewish people as being “between the parts,” neither the oppressor nor the oppressed, the powerful nor the powerless. Marx brings clarity to the past, present, and future of Judaism through this lens. HIs thorough and bold analysis leads to a hopeful future for Judaism and our Jewish community — if we heed his warnings and fulfill positive, rather than negative, interstitial societal roles. Implied in this conclusion is a Jewish community that actively seeks alliances that lead to a just society.
Filmmaker Josh Freed is willing to do a lot for the sake of his art, including casting himself in a negative light. His debut documentary, “Five Weddings and a Felony,” which premieres November 6 at the DOC NYC film festival, is Freed’s personal journey as a Jewish 28-year-old New York guy, trying to figure out the dance of modern romance.
As one sees in the movie, Freed is, indeed, quite a dancer — both literally, as he cuts a rug with many a wedding date, and figuratively, as he maneuvers around and away from commitment. “This film is about me making some bad decisions about relationships because of fear and insecurity,” he admits.
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2010, when Freed was editing the footage he had shot of his life and loves over four years, that he saw its narrative and unifying theme. “It’s a first person film, and I didn’t know what the story would be or how my character would end up coming across. But in this kind of film, the main character — me — has no antagonist but himself. There was no going back. The story warranted my making myself not the most sympathetic character,” he said.
The editors at ZEEK recently came out with a poetry manifesto. Since the journal devotes significant space to poetry, and there are precious few publications which consider Jewish poetry in a serious way, I looked forward to their treatment of the subject. I glanced at the last paragraph and saw that the authors wanted to “blast open the possibility of what Jewish poetry can be” — certainly an ambitious goal. I hoped that the manifesto would tell us how.
For selfish reasons, too, I was cheered up at the prospect of some practical poetical advice. After all, I have only so much time. If I’m reading or — worse still — writing the wrong kind of poetry, I’d like to find out before I waste another minute.
But from the very first sentence I was confused. “No more kiddush wine poems, no more challah, no more herring!,” the manifesto says. Herring and challah taste good, and they are much better with wine. So this must be meant prescriptively. Herring poems are bad if, like bad herring, they stink. Similarly, challah poems are bad if the challah is stale, though then you could have French toast poems on Sunday morning.
For a musicologist born in 1921, Michał Bristiger is going great guns. With two new books out and an evening of vocal and keyboard music in his honor on October 23 at the Warsaw Opera, Bristiger enjoys unusual cultural resonance.
Born to a Polish Jewish family in the small shtetl of Jagielnica in Ukraine, Bristiger (whose father Nathan was an ardent Zionist), began medical studies in Lvov, which were interrupted when the Nazis invaded the city in 1941. He escaped to Italy, where he spent the rest of the war studying both medicine and music.
On Monday, Sue Fishkoff wrote about people who only keep kosher on holidays. She is the author of “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority.” 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:
The first time I had my hands inside a still-warm turkey, I wondered just how far I was willing to take this business of getting up close and personal with my food.
I was at an organic turkey farm an hour and a half north of San Francisco with two dozen other volunteers on a wet, cold winter morning in December 2008, preparing what would become the main entrée for the Hazon Food Conference’s Shabbat dinner later that week. We stomped around in the drizzle and fog, as organizer Roger Studley explained what we were about to do.
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, Marcella Kanfer Rollnick writes about “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children” by Wendy Mogel.
I am a Jew. Have been my whole life, though my understanding of what that means has been evolving ever since I became aware of the fact that we construct our identity and its expression. Six years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, Meyer Paz, I began exploring a new identity: that of a mother. And, while I was aware that how my husband Josh and I lived our lives Jewishly would shape our children’s Jewish trajectory, I didn’t knit together these two aspects of myself — mother and Jew — into one seamless identity. Then I read Dr. Wendy Mogel’s “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.” It’s a practical, highly accessible book that teaches a profound lesson: becoming a Jewish mother can lead to an ever richer, more activated relationship with Judaism and our children. Mogel’s book is less a parenting how-to and more a survey of some of the best Jewish concepts reminding us who we are when we are at our best as Jewish mothers (and fathers).
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
Many moons ago, when I was a graduate student in Jewish history happily spending my days doing little else but reading, one of the most intriguing books I encountered was not Maimonides’ “Guide to the Perplexed,” or “Transactions of the Paris Sanhedrin” or, for that matter, Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” but Werner Sombart’s “The Jews and Economic Life.”
Published in German in 1911, this work sought to account for why, time and again throughout history, the Jews were to be found on one side, and one side only, of the ledger book — the side that placed a premium on money, on matters mercantile, rather than on agriculture and the production of organic matter. How was it, Sombart asked, that the Jews seemed characterologically drawn to capitalism?
In 1982, musician, composer and writer Raphael Mostel was walking down Lexington Avenue, when a sweater in the window of a Himalayan gift shop caught his eye. Going inside for a closer look, Mostel heard a sound, unlike anything he’d heard before, that quickly chased all thoughts of the sweater from his mind. It was a Tibetan singing bowl, an instrument almost completely unknown in the West. It was, Mostel said, a wild kind of sound that became connected for him with shamanic magic and healing. At a lecture and performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sunday, Mostel gave some insight into the way this magic works scientifically.
The subject, “The Mysteries of the Tibetan Singing Bowl,” was appropriate for a Halloween afternoon. “The world is just as full of magic as it has always been,” Mostel began, rubbing the edge of a large singing bowl to produce an eerie ring. He demonstrated what he meant with a brief explanation of the history and science of musical vibration. Using instruments from the museum’s collection, Mostel showed the sonic difference between gongs and bells, which resonate from the center and the edge respectively. He played a video of rice moving on a vibrating plate to show the physical effect vibration has in the real world. The images of the rice shifting into a series of mandala-like shapes as the vibration changed pitch proved Mostel’s point about magic almost single-handedly.
Crossposted from Haaretz
“The issue of refugees is not foreign to us; not to Jews, and not to the State of Israel,” says award-winning filmmaker Shai Carmeli-Polak. Shai’s documentary, “Ha’plitim,” (The refugees) seeks to expose the moral and legal questions underlying refugee status in Israel.
The film follows African asylum-seekers as they cross the Egypt-Israel border to escape life-threatening conditions, and won the Bronze Olive Award at the Montenegro International TV Festival in 2009. Shai captures their arrival and detention in Israel, interspersed with scenes of parliamentary debates surrounding Israel’s policies on refugees.
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, Tobin Belzer writes about “Fighting to Become Americans: Assimilation and the Trouble between Jewish Women and Jewish Men” by Riv-Ellen Prell.
As a graduate student of women’s studies and sociology whose research focused on Jewish identity, I frequently read scholarship that helped me to make sense of my own life. None did this more powerfully than Riv-Ellen Prell’s book “Fighting to Become Americans: Assimilations and the Trouble between Jewish Women and Jewish Men.” Her anthropological study explores how gender, class and the process of acculturation proved a toxic combination for relations between Jewish men and women. She analyzes the images of the over-bearing Jewish mother, the Jewish American Princess, and the Jewish men who resent them, providing the socio-historic framework out of which these stereotypes emerged.
Crossposted from Frontier Psychiatrist
While many new indie bands are busy recycling the sounds of the 1980s, the Xylopholks look deeper into the past. With a blend of earnestness and irony, their zany music draws from ragtime and jazz from the Roaring ’20s and features the xylophone, an instrument now more prevalent in elementary school classrooms than in pop music. And because they always perform in furry animal suits, the Xylopholks didn’t even need to buy costumes to play on Halloween.
The star of the quartet is Jonathan “Skunky” Singer, a No-H Jon whose dexterity, speed, and precision on the xylophone are matched only by the casualness of his stage presence. At a Halloween party in Brooklyn on Saturday, Singer pounded his instrument at a breakneck pace while dressed in a skunk costume with a pink scarf and matching sunglasses. Meanwhile, the other Xylopholks accompanied him on banjo, acoustic bass, and drums, dressed as a chicken, floppy eared dog, and a giant banana, who attracted attention from a quartet of costumed gorillas lumbering on the dance floor.
Listen to the Xylopholks’ ‘The Moon, My Gun, My Baby’:
The Fox camera kept returning to Jon Daniels, the Texas Rangers’ Jewish General Manager, during Game Two of the World Series last Thursday. Texas’s bullpen was collapsing in spectacular fashion for the second time this postseason, and Daniels was struggling to stay expressionless. Struggling, but you could see him suffering the frustration that comes from having your worldview confirmed.
Like many GMs, Daniels is known for using sabermetrics, a data-driven approach to baseball. Sabermetricians believe that reserving the team’s best reliever for the ninth inning is ludicrous. Yes, the game technically ends in the ninth, but more often the crucial moment comes with runners on and few outs in the seventh, or eighth; the team should use its best reliever then to shut the opposing team down instead of waiting until the game is essentially decided. These two Rangers’ postseason games could easily be exhibits A and B in the case against the closer.
Jews have always been interested in baseball, playing it and aestheticizing it through literature. But what’s different about the work of GMs like Daniels, Theo Epstein of the Red Sox, and Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro is that their approach to the sport is driven by a vibrant intellectualism that emphasizes debate and developing new methodologies.
Sue Fishkoff is the author of “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority.” 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 I’m invited to a Shabbat or holiday meal in a Jewish home, I always bring kosher wine. Not just that, I try to make it Israeli.
It’s not because I keep kosher. And it’s not because the people I’m visiting necessarily keep kosher either.
If wine by any other name smells as sweet, why bother?
I know I’m not alone — plenty of Jews who ordinarily ignore the laws of kashrut buy kosher wine for Shabbat, stock their pantries with kosher-for-Passover food every spring, and pay extra for kosher catering at their simchas.
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