The Arty Semite

The Tenderness of Age

By Rodger Kamenetz

Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Rodger Kamenetz introduces “The Change” by Alicia Ostriker. This piece originally appeared on August 3, 2001, as part of the Forward’s Psalm 151 series. It is being published here online for the first time.

Ms. Ostriker has published nine books of poetry, full of biblical and Jewish themes with a feminist approach. Her most recent book, “The Little Space: Poems Selected and New” (Pittsburgh, 1998), was a National Book Award finalist in 1998. “The Nakedness of the Fathers: Visions and Revisions” (Rutgers, 1994), her study of Midrash, may also be read as an autobiography.

In this suite of five poems, Ms. Ostriker touches deeply on the experience of role reversal. The simple story line is familiar: A daughter removes her aging mother from her home, sells her house and places her in a nursing home. We see the mother stripped of her familiar surroundings and of her dignities — but we see the speaker, the poet, also reverting. Ms. Ostriker’s carnal, unflinching view brings us back to the pity of the body and reminds us of our vulnerabilities and our tenderness.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Change, Rodger Kamenetz, Alicia Ostriker, Poetry, National Book Award

Running Down a Dance

By Elad Samorzik

Crossposted from Haaretz

Courtesy Janice Ross
Irina Jacobson

Leonid Jacobson bears the distinct honor of being both the only Jewish choreographer active in the Soviet Union during the Communist era and a man who won praise from Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova after they defected to the West. The search for Jacobson has brought dance historian and researcher Janice Ross to Israel.

“When I was a dance critic, I kept hearing about a Jewish choreographer whose works were amazing, but no one had ever seen them outside of Russia,” says Ross. “There was an attempt to erase him. His work was either prohibited or censored or repressed for years during his lifetime.”

In the 1980s Ross learned that in San Francisco, not far from where she lived, there was a ballet teacher called Irina Jacobson who taught technique in an unusual way. Ross found out she was the widow of the choreographer, who died in 1975.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leonid Jacobson, Janice Ross, Irina Jacobson., Haaretz, Elad Samorzik, Dance, Natalia Makarova, Russia, Soviet Union

Jewish Gag Cartoonists

By Ken Krimstein

Ken Krimstein is the author of “Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons.” In his previous posts he wrote about making it as a Jewish cartoonist and kvetching and wining. His 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:


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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ken Krimstein, Jewish Book Council, Comics, Cartoons, Books, Kvetch As Kvetch Can, Author Blog Series, My Jewish Learning

Tied in Knots

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Natasha C. Dunn

The recent announcement of the impending nuptials of David Lauren, son of the celebrated fashion designer Ralph Lauren, and Lauren Bush, George W’s niece — and, I hasten to add, a former Princeton student of mine — has set tongues wagging. Following on the heels of a slew of highly placed mixed marriages, this one appears to seal the deal: Intermarriage has become de rigueur.

At the turn of the last century, mixed marriages, especially those that crossed social as well as religious lines, also fanned the fires of the nation’s gossip sheets. One of the most infamous, even downright scandalous, of the lot took place between Rose Pastor, a recently arrived East European Jewish immigrant, and James Graham Phelps Stokes, a true-blue American, if ever there was one.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ralph Lauren, Lauren Bush, New York Times, Jenna Weissman Joselit, James Graham Phelps stokes, Intermarriage, George W. Bush, From Under the Fig Tree, David Lauren, Rose Pastor, Weddings

Kvetch and Wine

By Ken Krimstein

Ken Krimstein is the author of “Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons.” In his last post he wrote about making it as a Jewish cartoonist. His 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:


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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kvetch As Kvetch Can, Ken Krimstein, Jewish Book Council, Comics, Cartoons, Books, Author Blog Series, My Jewish Learning

No Montreal Street for Mordecai Richler

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives

He won a slew of awards, had his books translated into multiple languages, and captured the soul of Jewish Montreal in novels like “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and “Barney’s Version” — both adapted into big-budget Hollywood productions. But Mordecai Richler doesn’t merit the renaming of a street or other public place in the Plateau neighborhood of his youth, the borough’s administration has decreed.

The proposal is “misguided” and reminiscent of a “Soviet mindset…to be renaming streets after figures,” Mile End councilor Alex Norris told Montreal weekly The Suburban. The paper reported that “Norris didn’t approve of The Suburban’s suggestion to name the area in front of [legendary deli counter] Wilensky’s as ‘Carré Richler,’ because it is an open intersection and it’s ‘not a public square.’”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Quebec, Plateau, Mordecai Richler, Montreal Gazette, Montreal, Michael Kaminer, Mile End, Fairmount Avenue, Canada, Bill Brownstein, Barney's Version, The Suburban, Wilensky's Alex Norris

Cameri Theater to Receive Unclaimed Holocaust Assets

By Nir Hasson

Crossposted from Haaretz

Gerard Allon
A scene from the play “Ghetto,” put on by the Cameri Theater.

The company charged with reinstating the heirs of Holocaust victims who had assets in Israel will provide a large chunk of its funding this year to the Cameri Theater.

The Company for Location and Restitution said that it will distribute a total of NIS 5 million this year for Holocaust commemoration and education activities. Of this sum, the Cameri will receive NIS 1.4 million to enable tens of thousands of soldiers and students to see the play “Ghetto.”

The company, which was founded in 2007, is obligated by law to allocate funds from unclaimed assets to help Holocaust survivors in need as well as to fund Holocaust memorial and education projects.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theater, Nir Hasson, Holocaust Restitution, Ghetto, Haaretz, Holocaust, Company for Location and Restitution, Cameri

Let There Be Kvetch!

By Ken Krimstein

Ken Krimstein is the author of “Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons.” His 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:


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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: My Jewish Learning, Ken Krimstein, Kvetch As Kvetch Can, Jewish Book Council, Comics, Cartoons, Books, Author Blog Series

More Dude Than Duke in Coen Brothers' 'True Grit'

By John Semley

Paramount Pictures
Jeff Bridges as federal marshal Rueben J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn in ‘True Grit.’

As with Henry Hathaway’s 1969 film, Joel and Ethan Coen’s remake of “True Grit” (which is really another, truer, adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel) follows a young girl in pursuit of her father’s killer. Played here by new recruit Hailee Steinfeld, the impossibly precocious Mattie Ross hires a surly, drunken, tough-as-nails federal marshal (Jeff Bridges) to help her track the horse thief (Josh Brolin) what gunned down her pappy. It’s a cut-and-dry revenge story, where good guys win and bad guys lose. It’s less a self-aware ode to the studio Western than an inheritor of its most simple and enduring charms. And it’s seductive. Deceptively so.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wallace Beery, The Duke, True Grit, The Dude, The Big Lebowski, Roger Deakins, Reuben J. Rooster Cogburn, Raising Arizona, Peter Stormare, No Country for Old Men, Matt Damon, Nic Cage, Mattie Ross, M. Emmet Walsh, Josh Brolin, John Wayne, John Semley, Joel Coen, Jeff Lebowski, Jeff Bridges, Javier Bardem, Henry Hathaway, Hamlet, Hailee Steinfeld, Glen Campbell, Film, Fargo, Ethan Coen, Coen Brothers, Charles Portis, Casino Jack, Blood Simple, Barry Pepper, A Serious Man

Are Classical Music Lovers Finally Becoming Cone-Heads?

By Benjamin Ivry

Photo George Pitcher; Courtesy Princeton Univ.

From January 13 to 16 at different venues in the Garden State, The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will perform alongside works by Mendelssohn and Smetana, “Dover Beach” a 1941 setting for baritone and orchestra by Edward Toner Cone, a composer and much-loved music professor at Princeton.

Cone, who died in 2004 at age 87 after open-heart surgery, was a nephew of the famed art collectors Etta and Claribel Cone, whose generosity has enriched such institutions as the Baltimore Museum of Art. Etta and Claribel were themselves the subject of 2008’s delightful “The Cone Sisters of Baltimore: Collecting at Full Tilt” from Northwestern University Press, and will be further honored with an exhibit, “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore” from May 6 to September 25, 2011 at The Jewish Museum.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Etta Cone, Edward T. Cone, Claribel Cone, George Pitcher, John Gielgud

Esperanto, the 'Worldwide Yiddish'

By Gary Shapiro

Wiki Commons
Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, inventor of Esperanto.

What do fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, Yugoslavian dictator Josip Broz Tito, Brazilian soccer star Pelé and financier George Soros have in common? They all share an interest in Esperanto, an invented language whose goal is to unite humankind.

“Nekredebla,” you might be thinking (that’s Esperanto for “incredible”). But not so quick — other well known figures have also supported the language, including Leo Tolstoy, the grand old man of European letters.

On December 15 some 70 Esperanto enthusiasts descended on a building near the United Nations for the Universal Esperanto Association’s Zamenhof Symposium 2010. The meeting drew people from a wide range of ages, religions and backgrounds. Human rights lawyer Ugoji Eze, born of a Jewish mother and Nigerian father and a member of Young Israel of West Hempstead, was not an atypical participant.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zionism, Yiddish, William Shatner, William PIckens, Universal Esperanto Association, United Nations, Ugoji Eze, Tivadar Soros, Sam Green, Ralph Dumain, Pelé, Neil Blonstein, Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, Leo Tolstoy, Language, Josip Broz Tito, J.R.R. Tolkien, Incubus, Humphrey Tonkin, Hillel, George Soros, Gary Shapiro, Esperanto, Bialystok, Elizabeth Alexander

David Broza Invites Fans To Be Part of His Self-Written Album

By Riva Gold

Crossposted from Haaretz

For the first time ever, fans of the popular Israeli musician David Broza can participate in the creative process behind his work. For about the price of a shawarma sandwich, participants can log onto Kickstarter.com to get a sneak-peek into his first self-written Hebrew album.

Upon giving donations, participants are also invited to contribute their opinions to album artwork, the order in which the songs will be listed, and other aspects of the creative process.

“The internet allows us to create an interactive, enduring experience of music from its creation,” Broza writes on Kickstarter.

“For many years, I wrote music, played, sang and recorded to the beautiful words of many well-known poets from around the world,” Broza writes.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Riva Gold, Music, Kickstarter, David Broza, Haaretz

Fundraising With Flowers

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

I don’t know about you, but these days, when my mailbox bulges with solicitations from just about every non-profit organization known to man, I can’t help but wonder whether there might be another way to go about it.

JNF box, collection of Avraham Goren.

The history of fundraising, after all, is the history of innovation. Think pink — pink ribbons, that is; or pledge cards with their turn-down flaps, each flap designating a specific dollar amount. And how about the Christmas and Easter seal, silent auctions, Las Vegas night?

The repertoire of fundraising devices is a capacious and imaginative one. Heading the list, at least for me, is Flower Day, a little known JNF initiative of the interwar years. Most of us associate JNF with the little blue tin collection box and the purchase and planting of trees, but flowers were also pressed into service.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Woody Allen, Radio Days, Jewish National Fund, JNF, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Fundraising, From Under the Fig Tree, Flower Day, Zionism

Theresienstadt Drama Keeps the Evil Underneath

By Rebecca Schischa

Chris McMullan

“What did you expect? Walking skeletons in striped pajamas and yellow stars?” says the Nazi Commandant to his Red Cross visitors in dramatist Juan Mayorga’s haunting play “Way to Heaven” (“Himmelweg”), now playing at the Repertorio Espanol-Gramercy Arts Theater through January 27.

Well, yes, that was exactly what I expected, knowing that the play’s central theme is Theresienstadt, the notorious Nazi transit camp in Czechoslovakia.

In fact, it is the absence of Jewish “skeletons,” barbed wire, guard dogs and death — all the usual motifs of Nazi barbarity — that makes “Way to Heaven” so compelling.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Way to Heaven, Theresienstadt, Theater, Repertorio Espanol, Red Cross, Rebecca Schischa, Mark Farr, Holocaust, Himmelweg, Gramercy Arts Theater, Gershom Gottfried, Francisco Reyes

Monday Music: A Festival for the Righteous

By Ben Shalev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Omer Klein

Here’s an idea for a wonderful festival of new Israeli jazz: Bring together under one roof all (or most) of the local musicians who have put out albums in recent years under the New York label Tzadik Records. In the past 10 years, Tzadik — the company owned by avant-garde composer/musician John Zorn, high priest of the fascinating downtown Manhattan jazz scene — has recorded several of Israel’s most creative musicians.

The imaginary festival, which could be called Tzadikim and would hopefully take place in Tel Aviv rather than New York, would feature performances by saxophonist Daniel Zamir (who helped arouse Zorn’s enthusiasm for Israeli music more than a decade ago), singer Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, guitarist Eyal Maoz, the band Pisuk Rahav (which performed last week in Tel Aviv, and gave people a taste of its complex/wild potential), guitarist Ori Dakari, saxophonist Uri Gurvich and pianist Alon Nechushtan. Zorn himself would, of course, be a guest performer on saxophone; maybe he’d even bring with him to Israel some of the wonderful musicians who regularly play with him and who left an indelible impression when they played in Tel Aviv three years ago.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Music, John Zorn, Jazz, Haaretz, Eyal Maoz, Daniel Zamir, Ben Shalev, Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Alon Nechushtan, Ori Dakari, Pisuk Rahav, Tzadik Records, Uri Gurvich

Out and About: Jewish Hong Kong; Festivus in Orange County

By Ezra Glinter

Wiki Commons
Jean Epstein
  • The Arty Semite contributor Christopher DeWolf profiles Hong Kong’s Rabbi Asher Oser and looks at the city’s Jewish history.

  • The Jewish Chronicle talks to actor Elliott Gould.

  • VICE Magazine talks to author Sam Lipsyte.

  • “Lipstikka,” an already-controversial film by Israeli director Jonathan Sagall, will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.

  • Anselm Kiefer’s latest exhibit carries a special message for Jews.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shemspeed, Sam Lipsyte, Paul Goodman, Mendy Pellin, Orange County, Lipstikka, Jean Epstein, Jonathan Sagall, Hong Kong, Festivus, Elliott Gould, Ezra Glinter, Christopher DeWolf, Berlin International Film Festival, Anselm Kiefer, The Jewish Chronicle, VICE

This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

RICHARD TERMINE
  • “Casino Jack,” the Jack Abramoff biopic starring Kevin Spacey, opens today. Read our review from the Toronto International Film Festival here.

  • Joshua Furst bugs out at an Icelandic adaptation of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” featuring music by Nick Cave.

  • Jo-Ann Mort reads through two of the Arab world’s pre-eminent poets.

  • Gordon Haber investigates one of New York’s biggest wheeler-dealers.

  • Philologos tests the waters.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Toronto International Film Festival, Nick Cave, The Metamorphosis, Meijer de Haan, Kevin Spacey, Franz Kafka, Casino Jack, China, Aharon Shabtai

Friday Film: Chinese Animation Takes On the Holocaust

By Christopher DeWolf

With stadium seating and the scent of fresh popcorn in the air, the November 21 screening of “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” could have taken place in any shopping mall cinema in the world. But there was nothing ordinary about the film itself, which is China’s first homegrown Jewish movie, and an animated one at that.

Go2Films

“Other Jewish film festivals are avoiding this like the plague,” said Howard Elias, the founder of the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival, which screened the movie as part of its 11th edition. “I’m showing it for the novelty. It’s not anti-Semitic — in fact, it’s pro-Semitic, in its own perverse way.”

Directed by Wang Genfa and Zhang Zhenhui, and based on a graphic novel by Wu Lin, “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” is set during World War II. It tells the story of two children, Rena and Mishailli, who flee Europe after their father goes missing and their mother is abducted by Nazis. They find their way to Shanghai, which at the time was one of the few places in the world that would accept Jewish refugees, despite being occupied by the Nazi-allied Japanese.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zhang Zhenhui, Wu Lin, Wang Genfa, Howard Elias, Kaifeng, Shanghai, Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival, Hong Kong, Holocaust, China, Christopher DeWolf, Erica Lyons, Film, Harbin, Asian Jewish Life, Animation, Anti-Semitism, A Jewish Girl in Shanghai

Learning From the Big Fish

By Ezra Glinter

On the Yiddish Song of the Week blog, Forverts associate editor Itzik Gottesman writes about “Di fishelekh in vaser” (“The Fish in Water”) by Isaac Rymer:

Picture of Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

“Di fishelekh in vaser” (“The Fish in Water”) was one of Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer‘s most beloved songs to perform (for more on Rymer see the previous posting on “Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher”). The performer Michael Alpert learned it from him (Alpert was present at this recording, done at a zingeray, or singing session, at our dining room table) and then taught others the song at KlezKamp and other festivals and workshops. The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Shtreiml have recorded Rymer‘s version.

The song itself is a typical Yiddish mother-daughter folksong (see Robert Rothstein “The Mother-Daughter Dialogue in the Yiddish Folk Song: Wandering Motifs in Time and Space,” New York Folklore 15 (1989), 1-2:51-65.) But the couplet “I am a girl with understanding, common sense and ideas/I sought to fall in love (or have a love affair), but cannot attain it” is unique to this song.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish, Yiddish Song of the Week, Music, Michael Alpert, Itzik Gottesman, Isaac Rymer

Films on Susan Sontag, Joann Sfar Receive Hefty Grant

By Katherine Clarke

Getty Images

In a bid to shape which Jewish documentaries find an audience, the Foundation for Jewish Culture announced the recipients of the Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Documentary Film on December 15. The $140,000 grant (split between five recipients) enables filmmakers, considered to be expanding the understanding of Jewish experience, to reach a wider audience.

This year’s winners included Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s “The Law in These Parts,” a chronicle of Israel’s 43-year-long military legal system in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Nancy D. Kates’s “Regarding Susan Sontag,” an examination of a revered thinker through archival images and interviews; “Joann Sfar Draws From Memory,” Sam Ball’s portrait of the celebrated graphic novelist; “Numbered,” directed by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai, addressing the internal and external scars of Holocaust survivors; and “The Hangman,” directed by Netalie Braun and Avigail Sperber, the story of Israel from the perspective of a marginalized Yemeni prison warden.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Walter Benjamin, Uriel Sinai, The Law in These Parts, The Hangman, Susan Sontag, Sam Ball, Regarding Susan Sontag, Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Documentary Film, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Nancy D. Kates, Netalie Braun, Katherine Clarke, Joann Sfar, Joann Sfar Draws From Memory, Graphic Novels, Foundation for Jewish Culture, Film, Documentaries, Dana Doron, Comics, Comic Books, Avigail Sperber



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