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
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.
Back in 1997, “Buena Vista Social Club” introduced American audiences to a style of Cuban music that was popular in Havana in the 1950s. The album charmed the critics, topped the charts, spawned a documentary film, and was championed by Starbucks when the coffee behemoth decided to become a curator of world music.
Such a crossover seems unlikely with “Pastrami Bagel Social Club,” the debut album by AutorYno, a French trio who are playing in New York this week as part of the Tzadik Records Guitar Festival. With their pastiche of jazz precision, punk rock fury, and heavy metal bombast, AutorYno sounds like a funky soundtrack to the apocalypse. Along the way, they tip their hats to klezmer music and Jewish culture, most notably with a “Traditional Hora” that sounds like what might happen if you hired Metallica to play at your wedding.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Ami Brown, one of the foremost art collectors in Israel, passed away at his home in Thursday night after a long battle with cancer. He leaves his wife Gaby and their daughter, and was interred yesterday at Kibbutz Shefayim.
Brown was born in Tel Aviv in 1929, the middle of three siblings. The youngest sibling, painter and sculptor Ika Brown, was killed in a traffic accident 45 years ago.
Brown was a man of culture and of letters, a devout Zionist who had to his credit a glorious and varied career that he pursued quietly and with modesty. For the past 40 years Brown collected art; his first purchases were made in installments, before he became wealthy. He eventually became one of the most important collectors of Israeli art, with a collection numbering more than 3,000 works. In his collection were many artists regarded as pillars of Israeli art, among them Joseph Zaritsky, Aviva Uri, Arie Aroch, Moshe Kupferman, Yechiel Krize, Yair Garbuz and Moshe Gershuni.
In Poland and Hungary, one of the largest cases of Nazi art theft remains unresolved.
Jason Schwartzman loves being “Bored to Death.”
Garry Shandling’s pioneering HBO sitcom “The Larry Sanders Show” is getting a revival on DVD.
Al Pacino brings Shylock from Central Park to Broadway.
Ron Dicker goes to see “Precious Life,” a documentary that was transformed in the making from a sentimental heart-tugger to a more complicated moral maneuver.
Asaf Hanuka goes grocery shopping in “The Two States of Israel.”
Philologos talks italics.
Mark Cohen reads through all 708 of Saul Bellow’s witty and malicious letters included in a new collection.
Michael Wex is best known for his acerbic, authoritative books on Yiddish language and culture, but in this fall’s “The Frumkiss Family Business,” he has turned his attention to fiction. The sprawling novel is a farcical family saga, following three generations of a Jewish clan in Toronto’s Bathurst Manor neighborhood and questioning, in Wex’s characteristically hilarious way, the role of Jewish culture in a secular society. Recently, Wex took some time prior to his October 30 appearance at Toronto’s International Festival of Authors to speak to The Arty Semite about his new novel, the Canadian Jewish experience, and being compared to other Jewish writers.
Emily Landau: Where did the germ of this novel come from?
During a script reading at the Jewish Museum London on October 24, two writers with mortality on their minds came face to face: the bushy-eyebrowed 83-year-old East End poet and kitchen sink dramatist Bernard Kops, and the eternally 45-year-old journalist and playwright Isaac Babel.
“Some things grab you; you know what makes a play,” explained Kops on the phone the next day, reflecting on the public debut of his new work “Whatever Happened to Isaac Babel.”
Babel, a one-time protégé of the activist and publisher Maxim Gorky, was a writer held in high esteem among the Russian literary elite, widely translated as he moved between languages and lovers in Moscow and Paris. But during the 1930s, his depictions of corruption in Soviet life (not to mention an affair with the wife of the head of the NKVD), came to a head during Stalin’s Great Purge. Babel was arrested in 1939 for so-called anti-Soviet activities.
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Rodger Kamenetz introduces “Hearing News From the Temple Mount in Salt Lake City” by Jacqueline Osherow. This piece originally appeared on June 1, 2001, as part of the Forward’s Psalm 151 series. It is being published here online for the first time.
Jacqueline Osherow, an English professor at the University of Utah, is part of the strange Diaspora of American Jewish poets in recent times, a by-product of the reality that many poets earn their bread through college teaching. On the other hand, the scattering produces fresh glints of light — as here the poet, perhaps hearing the news of Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount and the events that followed, reflects and refracts in Mormon country, where Jews are “Gentiles.” Ms. Osherow’s mordant humor and casual diction gives her work a relaxed feel but underlying the humor is a shrewd drash on Jacob’s character — and on our own.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Artists from across the world descended on the Arab-Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa last week to take part in the 10th annual Sha’ar International Poetry Festival. The festival, which took place October 21 to 23, featured film screenings, live music, dance, and of course, poetry.
The theme of this year’s showcase, titled “Sex, Lies and God,” was The Ten Commandments. “What we find in the Decalogue — sex, lies, and God — that’s what occupies our minds; what every mortal deals with,” explains artistic director Amir Or. Poets from across the world were invited to expose modern-day golden calves, self-imposed commandments and ethical traps. At intermission, audience members were asked to contribute an 11th commandment in poetry or prose.
Yet a self-annotated volume of his lyrics due out October 29 from Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, “Finishing the Hat,” still seethes with resentment. The book’s subtitle, “Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes,” should have the words “grudges” and “whines” printed in boldface capitals.
Reviews from decades ago still gall Sondheim, who attacks such now-venerable critics as Robert Brustein (dismissed as “condescending”) and Arlene Croce, with the latter accused of displaying “willful bitchery or natural stupidity” in a review of “Follies” (1971). Even more surprising is Sondheim’s contempt for past great lyricists, such as Ira Gershwin, “too often convoluted and [Lorenz] Hart too often sloppy.” Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics, according to Sondheim, “lack energy and flavor and passion.”
He was a proud Russian, a renegade Orthodox Jew, an ardent advocate of Jewish autonomy, and the man who pioneered the field of Jewish historiography at the turn of the 20th century. Yet Simon Dubnow continues to inspire Jewish scholarship today, as evidenced by a day-long conference at the YIVO institute for Jewish Research on October 24, marking the 150th anniversary of Dubnow’s birth.
Scholars at the conference presented talks on the many facets of this legendary and complex thinker, examining Dubnow’s scholarship on Hasidism, his reaction to Russian anti-Semitism, his attitude towards the Haskalah movement, and his relationship with YIVO.
For Dubnow, who had broken with the “Old Judaism” of his youth by the time he had reached bar mitzvah age, traditional Judaism never entirely lost its appeal. Instead of utterly abandoning the religious observance he had been raised with, he sought an “integration of the soul” as professor Robert Seltzer put it, which would amalgamate the “Old Judaism” with secular, European and especially Russian thinking to create a “New Judaism.”
The Moroccan-born Israeli historian Michel Abitbol is a possibly surprising source for savvy perspectives on the strained relations between Jews and France. Up until now he has produced cogent, concise works about North Africa such as “The Jews of North Africa during the Second World War” from Wayne State University Press as well as others so far untranslated into English. Now an emeritus Humanities professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Abitbol has just produced a revised edition of his 1989 study, “Two Promised Lands: France’s Jews and Zionism,” from Les éditions Perrin.
Before the Dreyfus Affair, most French Jews took little or no interest in moving to the Holy Land, and the only Frenchmen who actively argued for it were anti-Semites like the 19th century author Édouard Drumont. Even the Dreyfus Case did not change the minds of many Gallic observers. In 1909, one French journalist, sent to cover the Ninth Zionist Congress in Hamburg, reported back that the whole notion of Zionism seemed a Germanic thing, born in Germany and Austria, inherently “contrary to French thinking.”
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
Who among us doesn’t have a relative whose name was changed at Ellis Island?
Rare, indeed, is the American Jew whose surname is the same as that of his or her European and Israeli cousins. Normative rather than exceptional, the immigrant’s acquisition of a new name seems to be as American a phenomenon as, well, apple pie.
But now, in an article published by Dara Horn in Azure magazine, we’re told that the changing-of-the-name is itself a bube mayse, an urban legend, a fabrication of the immigrant mind. It simply didn’t happen, or, if it did, these flights of onomastic invention took place well before Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe even came to the New World. By Horn’s lights, name change had little, if anything, to do with tone deaf inspectors at Ellis Island.
“Ariel Sharon” lies propped up in a hospital bed, the frailty of the figure belying the larger-than-life dimensions that its namesake once personified. Sightless eyes stare ahead impassively; its chest rises and falls slowly as it ‘breathes’ unaided. Visitors are only permitted to view it in smalls groups of three, at most; the overall tone is sepulchral. The experience recalls that of visiting an infirm relative in a hospital ward, but at the same time echoes something more disconcerting; it is not entirely dissimilar to that of gawping at a monument, at an artifact of cultural importance. The emphasis is on an ‘artifact’ — what one sees is a relic, a reminder of what once was but no longer is.
“Ariel Sharon,” Noam Braslavsky’s solo exhibition at Tel Aviv’s Kishon Gallery (which is run by Renana Kishon, daughter of the much beloved satirist Ephraim Kishon), features the prone simulacrum of Ariel Sharon, warrior and statesman. The most significant and controversial personage of the Israeli political landscape over the last 30 years, Sharon has lain in a coma since suffering a stroke in 2006. Braslavsky’s solitary representation of the ailing former Prime Minister in his hospital bed is the subject of the exhibit.
A star-studded panel discussion officially launched “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women” at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum on Thursday, October 21. But not everyone on the panel agreed that the exhibit’s theme even made sense. Trina Robbins, one of the leading lights in comics and a noted “herstorian” and author, questioned why the show focused solely on Jewish cartoonists, noting that some of her favorite fellow artists — including the acclaimed Alison Bechdel and Phoebe Gloeckner — were overlooked because of their non-Semitic origins.
Despite the fact that “Graphic Details” also includes two of her own autobiographical works, “Out of the Closet and Into the Frying Pan” and “Big Sister Little Sister,” Robbins insisted she prefers telling stories about subjects other than herself— and even took younger artists to task for neglecting material of politics, fiction and history in favor of their own lives. Vanessa Davis, one of the newer stars of the medium, disagreed, arguing — compellingly — that as much craft, process and emotion goes into autobiographical work as into other genres. She did, however, take issue with the show’s “confessional” tag; the word, she said, implies that the artists want to share something lurid, when much of her own work illuminates the absurdity and hidden meaning of day-to-day experience.
On September 30, the 25th anniversary of the death of beautiful French actress Simone Signoret, Les éditions Michel Lafon paid homage by publishing an augmented edition of an acclaimed biography by Emmanuelle Guilcher, “Signoret: a Life.” Signoret’s own two memoirs have just been reprinted by Les éditions du Seuil: “Nostalgia Isn’t What it Used to Be” and “The Next Day, She was Smiling.”
In the former, Signoret explains: “I am the daughter of a non-Jewish lady who married a Jewish gentleman.” Born Simone Kaminker in 1921, her father André Kaminker had roots in Poland and Austria. When Germany invaded France, Signoret was a lycée student in the city of Vannes, where one of her teachers was Lucie Aubrac, a Resistance hero alongside her husband, Raymond Aubrac (still busy traveling the world at age 96).
Though about half of the 16 artists in the current show at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C., are Jewish, curators Eloise Corr Danch and David Zuckerman unabashedly admit there is nothing Jewish about the exhibit, beyond the Jewish venue.
In the catalog to “I’ve Gone Looking for that Feeling Everywhere: An Exhibition of Emerging Artists,” which hangs through Nov. 2, the curators identify “an insistent urge to examine and discover” as a thematic tie-that-binds.
“This exhibition celebrates the idea of art as the product of (or byproduct) of that curiosity, of the artists’ need to engage their surroundings and indulge their fascinations,” they write, insisting the art is “visceral, emotional, curious, playful,” rather than “steeped in concept or theory.”
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