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
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
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.
We’ll probably be reaching Gary Shteyngart saturation soon, what with our recent review of “Super Sad True Love Story,” our forthcoming Yid Lit podcast, and of course, Shteyngart’s absurd little book trailer. But we would be remiss not to mention the new cartoon interview by Steve Sheinkin’s Rabbi Harvey with a cartoon version of Shteyngart, up today at JBooks.com. Editor Ken Gordon writes:
The cartoon you see here is one strange piece of online literary history. Gary Shteyngart — author of “Super Sad True Love Story” and a man whom Edmund White blithely dubs “our finest satirist” — appears in his first-ever illustrated interview. His interlocutor is Rabbi Harvey, of whom The New Republic writes: “Riding diffidently to our rescue, on pages printed in a subdued palette of sepia, mustard, sorrel, and beige, our hero appears in view, a thoroughly brilliant creation.” It’s the cartoon clergyman’s first interview as well (though he has done a few book reviews before: here and here). Read, if you dare, these 14 unusual pages and learn what happened when Harvey met Gary…Adjust your äppäräts, and enjoy!
Photographing movie stills, where the images are essentially held captive in a confined, measured space, might seem like predictable work. Not so for Inbal Abergil, whose absorbing new exhibit, “24 Frames Per Second,” opened at New York’s Miyako Yoshinaga Art Prospects in Chelsea on July 15.
To capture the eleven 33-square-inch images that make up the project, Abergil had to sneak a manual camera past security guards into movie theaters around Israel.
“To people who don’t know photography, it just looks like a box, so I never got caught, “ the Israeli artist said.
Once inside, the Columbia University School of the Arts MFA candidate and former Air Force photographer took shots of movie screens from the audience’s perspective, often from behind silhouetted rows of seats and other spectators’ heads.
Nadja Spiegelman interviews Miryam Kabakov, author of the essay collection “Keep Your Wives Away From Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires.”
Zohar Tirosh-Polk goes to see “Hapless Holigan in ‘Still Moving,’” a collaboration between cartoonist Art Spiegelman and the modern dance company Pilobolus.
Paul Buhle remembers Harvey Pekar and Tuli Kupferberg, two counter-cultural Jews who died earlier this week.
Gal Beckerman reviews “Super Sad True Love Story,” the dystopian satire from New Yorker “20 under 40” writer Gary Shteyngart.
Akin Ajayi looks at “Untaken Photographs,” an exhibit in Tel Aviv curated by photography scholar Ariella Azoulay.
Joshua Furst squirms a little, but ultimately approves of Al Pacino’s performance in “The Merchant of Venice.”
Philologos deciphers how, thanks to MIT, Hebrew can help us understand the even more ancient language of Ugaritic, and vice versa.
Harriet Hartman dissects “Tours that Bind,” a new book by sociologist Shaul Kelner that tries to figure out how Birthright Israel achieves its identity-building effect.
Henrik Eger talks to Doug Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who wrote “I Am My Own Wife” about German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.
And I discuss the life and work of Boris Lurie, a Holocaust survivor and New York artist whose work is being revisited two years after his death.
Also, in the latest from the Forverts video channel, Shmuel Perlin, a “New York Jew in China,” reports on disappearing languages in China:
In 2006, when the French Jewish author Bernard Frank dropped dead of a heart attack while dining with a cardiologist friend at a fancy Paris restaurant, readers felt it was a fitting end for this waspish gourmet with a fine talent for conviviality.
Since his death at age 77, Frank’s articles on books, gourmet food and wine, for Le Monde and other periodicals, have been regularly reprinted and avidly enjoyed by readers. Now, an affectionate new tribute has appeared by French journalist Martine de Rabaudy, “A Season with Bernard Frank,” from Les éditions Flammarion.
After starting out his literary career in the 1950s by writing a handful of novels, Frank devoted himself to the genres of memoir and literary chronicle, offering mercilessly funny pen portraits of some self-involved French men of letters. Of the academician Jean d’Ormesson, Frank said: “He’s always joyful, always so self-satisfied that it would seem churlish to ruin his delight in being himself.” When French writer Patrick Modiano published a book of conversations with the elderly French Jewish author Emmanuel Berl, Frank wisecracked that Modiano’s “passion for old duffers is such that it almost reaches the level of indecent assault.”
Fans of photography are discovering that a “slender, soft-spoken unobtrusive, curly-haired Midwestern Jewish girl,” as journalist Melissa Fay Greene calls Esther Bubley, was one of America’s most sensitive camera artists from the 1940s onward.
Greene’s “The Photographs of Esther Bubley” from D. Giles Limited tells how Bubley was born in Wisconsin in 1921 to a father from Dvinsk (today Daugavpils, Latvia), and a mother from Lazdijai, Lithuania.
When still a teenager, Bubley went to Washington, D.C., to work at the Office of War Information (OWI), an organization for whom she eventually took some of her most unforgettably humane photos. Bubley’s images captured evolving social mores, like her photo of African American women on Memorial Day, “Decorating a soldier’s grave…May 1943,” which was a pointed reminder that African American military personnel were dying in defense of a country which did not yet extend to them full civil rights.
Poet, singer-songwriter, revolutionary, publisher, street vendor, historian, mentor, sage, wise man and wise guy, forward-thinking artist, activist, intellectual, pacifist, anarchist, teacher, dreamer and dear friend Tuli Kupferberg has gone on to wherever one goes.
Born Norman (or in Hebrew, Naphtali, hence his nickname), on September 28, 1923, Tuli passed away on Monday at New York Downtown Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 86, after suffering two debilitating strokes.
Tuli became something of celebrity when he was mentioned in Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” as the one who “jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge” and then walked away “unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown.” It was actually the Manhattan Bridge, but the Brooklyn Bridge seemed more romantic and Tuli didn’t walk away but was brought to Gouverneur Hospital with a spinal fracture.
This summer’s upcoming International Keyboard Institute and Festival (IKIF) at New York’s Mannes College offers many prospective delights, not least being the scheduled July 22 recital by the brilliant young Israeli pianist Einav Yarden.
Piano buffs will also be thrilled to know that one of the deans of American music, pianist Gary Graffman, will be honored at a “Master’s series” event on July 25. Graffman, who will be 82 in October, is the author of a delicious and sadly out of print 1981 memoir, “I Really Should Be Practicing,” from Doubleday Publishers. Used copies of the book, or its 1982 Avon paperback edition, are worth hunting down online, as it is one of the most enchanting autobiographies ever penned by a musician, and urgently merits reprinting.
Graffman’s IKIF appearance in Manhattan coincides with new releases on CD from ArkivMusic.com of four of his long-unavailable recordings from the late 1950s and 1960s, featuring invigorating concertos by Brahms and Chopin conducted by Charles Munch, as well as more decorous solo discs of Chopin and Liszt. These CDs complement already-available, zesty recordings of Prokofiev Piano Concertos conducted by George Szell on Sony Masterworks.
Frankfurt’s now-destroyed Jew’s Alley, or Judengasse, was the city’s Jewish ghetto from 1462 until 1796, a crowded home to Germany’s largest Jewish community. A new book from Vallentine-Mitchell Publishers “The Frankfurt Judengasse” further explores the ghetto’s lore, presenting research from a 2004 academic conference co-sponsored by Frankfurt’s Goethe University, The Frankfurt Jewish Museum, the Judengasse Museum and Jerusalem’s Leo Baeck Institute.
Heinrich Heine’s novel “The Rabbi of Bacharach” describes a medieval Judengasse whose residents are “pressed together like sardines and thereby crippled in body and soul.” Heine describes an apostate Spanish Jew named Don Isaak Abarbanel who revisits the Judengasse merely to taste Jewish dishes like “carp with brown raisin sauce” and “steamed mutton with garlic and horseradish.”
Equally appetizing are the idyllic paintings of domestic scenes in the Judengasse by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Heine’s contemporary. With undue optimism, Oppenheim sought to demonstrate how even “before civic equality, during the period of their oppression, the Jews had already possessed the values of the new middle class.”
Paula Jacques, the Cairo-born French novelist of Egyptian Jewish descent, has long been a lively presence on the Paris literary scene.
Born Paula Abadi in 1949, she moved to France as a teenager, after rebelling against the “regimentation” of a “Marxist kibbutz” in Israel during a short stay there. Less regimented, although doubtless just as rigorous, France’s literary world has made Jacques into a hard-working guest on frequent radio and TV programs, and reserves for her an honored place on the jury of the prestigious literary award, le prix Femina.
Jacques’s novels, of which “Light of My Eye” appeared last year in English translation from Holmes & Meier Publishers, tend to focus on the Egyptian Jewish milieu of her childhood. Jacques’ new novel, “Kayro Jacobi: on the Brink of Oblivion,” just published by Les éditions Mercure de France, is no exception.
The Strasbourg-born French Jewish novelist Eliette Abécassis has been inspired by themes from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Shoah. Yet Abécassis, daughter of the noted Morocco-born French historian of philosophy Armand Abécassis, seemed to switch subject matter in 2008 when she wrote “Mother and Daughter: a Novel” (Les éditions Albin Michel) about the fashion superstar mother-and-daughter team, Sonia and Nathalie Rykiel. This too, however, turned out to be a story filled with Yiddishkeit, after all.
Based on a year spent observing the Rykiels at their fashion company, from which Sonia, born in 1930, just retired, Abécassis produced what she called an “elaboration” rather than biography of the two women. Now Nathalie Rykiel offers her own viewpoint in “You Will be a Woman, my Daughter” from Les éditions Calmann-Lévy, a compelling family memoir.
As much maternal as daughterly, Nathalie Rykiel, whose book’s title is addressed to her own young offspring, is very much the Jewish mother, even offering remedies for migraine. She expresses admiration for Jewish singers like Monique Andrée Serf, known as Barbara, and Leonard Cohen, especially the latter’s song “In My Secret Life.”
In 1964, the first French woman to be honored by the Yad Vashem commission with the title “Righteous among the Nations” was a math teacher at a girls’ school in a remote town in France’s mountainous Auvergne region.
Alice Ferrières of Murat was a Protestant whose family was affected by 1685’s revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which abolished Protestants’ civil rights and sent them fleeing France.
In 1941, when Nazi occupiers seized French Jewish businesses, Ferrières began helping Jews in any way she could, eventually rescuing around 50 adults and children, despite having no special power, financial resources, or influence. Ferrières kept full records of her correspondence and other documents from this era, which have only now been published as “Dear Miss: Alice Ferrières and the children of Murat, 1941-1944” by Les éditions Calmann-Lévy.
Fans of comic books and graphic novels are mourning the death of Harvey Pekar, who died today in his Cleveland home at the age of 70. Pekar was mainly known for authoring the autobiographical series “American Splendor,” which documented his lower-middle class Jewish upbringing in Ohio. Pekar also wrote “Our Cancer Year,” after being diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990, and more recently, “The Beats,” a graphic history of the Beat generation.
Even after Pekar’s death, however, there are things to look forward to in the world of Jewish comic books and graphic novels. On September 25, “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women” opens at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum. The Forward is an official media sponsor for the show, which will travel in April 2011 to Toronto’s Koffler Centre for the Arts, and which features such prominent artists as Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Sarah Glidden, Miriam Katin and Ilana Zeffren.
As the ringleader of the ragtag group of professional hedonists, acid-eating Buddhists, and scribbling loners known as the Beats, Allen Ginsberg played many roles. Though Ginsberg is best known as a progenitor of 1950s and ’60s counterculture, when he whipped bookstore readings into frenzies with “Howl” and negotiated with the Hell’s Angels to ensure the safety of anti-war rallies, he was also one of its best chroniclers, both through his biography-riddled poetry and, less famously, through his photography.
Ginsberg began snapping pictures of his fellow beats with a used camera in the early 1950s, capturing his group of intimates as they lounged, smoked, and bopped around Manhattan. This summer, Ginsberg as photographer is getting his first major exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., coinciding with the publication of “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg,” a collection edited by the NGA’s head of photography.
Paul Berger looks at the photography of Chris Stein, a founding member of the New York new wave band Blondie.
Philologos parses the etymology of the three rivers Yar — Yarden, Yarmuk and Yarkon.
Jenna Weissman Joselit reminds us of the Yemenite influence on Israeli fashion.
Josh Lambert scrutinizes the state of American Jewish Studies.
Laura Hodes reviews Joshua Braff’s sophomore novel “Peep Show,” a coming of age story set in the Times Square porn industry and the Brooklyn Hasidic community.
Gavriel Rosenfeld explores the glass façade of Philadelphia’s new National Museum of American Jewish History.
Allison Gaudet Yarrow talks to New Yorker editor Ben Greenman about his new collection of short stories, “What He’s Poised To Do,” for this week’s Yid Lit podcast.
And last week the Forverts officially launched its new video channel! Check out Forverts editor Boris Sandler talking to actor Mike Burstyn about his lead role in the Folksbiene Theater’s production of “The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer” below, and more videos here.
As shvitzing New Yorkers are glued to the weather forecast, tracking the minute movements (and long-awaited departure) of the heat wave, Israeli poet Ronny Someck divines a different sort of a forecast for us in his poem “Sun Sonnet.”
An Iraqi-born poet, Someck is a recipient of the Prime Minister Award and Yehuda Amichai Award, among other honors. His work has been translated into 39 languages, from Arabic to Yiddish, but in truth he himself is a translator par excellence, interpreting the notoriously difficult, rough, laconic and irony-clad Israeli psyche into neat lines of poetry.
However obsessed the country may be with news from the political arena, weather reports are far from moot. Given the perpetual shortage of water and decades of drought, rain and sun are reclaiming the mythic proportions they had thousands of years ago. In this poem, it is as if the sun gradually scorches the poem’s imagery, ripening it into a culminating burst of dry humor, both dark and hilarious.
Read “Sun Sonnet” after the jump:
Danielle Cohen-Levinas, married to Michaël Levinas, the composer-pianist son of French Jewish philosopher Emanuel Levinas, is ideally placed to evaluate the Jewish inspiration of the composer Arnold Schoenberg. A professor of aesthetics at the University of Paris IV–Sorbonne, Cohen-Levinas has just produced a groundbreaking study, “Schoenberg’s Century” for Les éditions Hermann. In addition to editing the volume, Cohen-Levinas also contributed several cogent essays, as well as an affectionate interview with the composer’s daughter Nuria Schoenberg Nono.
Other contributors to “Schoenberg’s Century” include the Bulgarian-born Israeli composer Yizhak Sadaï, who was awarded the Emet Prize in 2008 from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. Sadaï notes how, shortly before Schoenberg’s death in 1951, the composer fervently accepted the honorary presidency of Tel Aviv’s Rubin Academy of Music, as offered in a letter by its then-director, Ödön Pártos. Schoenberg’s letter to Pártos states: “Just as in Israel, God chose the people whose duty is to safeguard the pure monotheism of Moses, so the duty of Israeli musicians is to serve in an exemplary way for the entire world…”
In one chapter, “Towards a Musical Messianism,” Cohen-Levinas explains how in 1938, Schoenberg, outraged by the “exacerbated sentimentality” of Max Bruch’s beloved “Kol Nidrei,” composed his own “Kol Nidre, for narrator, chorus and orchestra.”
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