The Arty Semite

Out and About: Israeli Judaica Thieves Nabbed; Rise of the Classical Mandolin

By Ezra Glinter

Grammy nominated mandolinist Avi Avital

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zackary Sholem Berger, Tuviah Friedman, True Grit, Thomas Ades, Schneerson Library, Out and About, Other Israel Film Festival, New World Symphony, Moyshe Nadir, Milan, Michael Tilson Thomas, Maus, Judaica, Joel Coen, Grammy Awards, Frank Gehry, Ethan Coen, Emanuel Vardi, Eleven Eleven, Dvoyre Fogel, Coen Brothers, Avi Avital, Art Spiegelman, Angouleme International Comics Festival

This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

  • Gabrielle Birkner watches Yossi Madmoni’s “Restoration,” the only Israeli selection at the Sundance Film Festival.

  • Pianist András Schiff talks to the Forward about growing anti-Semitism in his native Hungary.

  • Gordon Haber reflects on integration and re-segregation in his native Los Angeles.

  • Eileen Reynolds goes to see Yoav Gal’s biblically inspired space-age video opera “Mosheh.”

  • David Biale reads through the new crop of second-generation Holocaust memoirs.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: This Week in Forward Arts and Culture, The Other Woman, Sundance, Restoration, Natalie Portman, András Schiff, Yoav Gal, Yossi Madmoni

Friday Film: The Kindness of Strangers

By Paul Hiebert

Like Homer’s “Odyssey,” the film “Anita,” which screened in January at the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival and is showing until February 8 at the New York Reelabilities film festival, is the story of someone trying to find her way home. During the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires, Anita becomes separated from her family. On her voyage back, Anita doesn’t encounter any gods, nymphs, or Cyclopes, but rather a disgruntled drunk, an uptight shopkeeper, and a lonely nurse.

Anita, played by Alejandra Manzo, has Down syndrome, and therefore lacks the king of Ithaca’s cunning. She knows what a phone is, but doesn’t know how to use one; she longs to be reunited with her family, but doesn’t know her home address. Like Odysseus, however, Anita must quickly bond with strangers if she hopes to survive. And what she lacks in street smarts, she makes up for in compassion. She is patient. She is kind. She is loyal to the point of relieving herself on a woman’s couch instead of disobeying a command to stay put. Anita’s gentle devotion and humble tranquility eventually win over everyone who takes her in.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Homer, Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival, Reelabilities, Paul Hiebert, Odyssey, Marcos Carnevale, Film, Buenos Aires, Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, Argentina, Anita, Alejandra Manzo

The Ones That Missed the Cut

By Saul Austerlitz

Earlier this week, Saul Austerlitz wrote about his recent author tour and five not-as-terrible-as-you-think movies. 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:


One of the trickiest aspects of writing my book was figuring out how to structure it. After tinkering with a variety of approaches, I settled on 30 chapters, each dedicated to a single filmmaker or performer whose body of work I considered to be significant to the history of American film comedy. These 30 selections were joined by about 100 additional short entries on comic figures significant enough to deserve a mention, if not quite meritorious enough to earn a chapter of their own. 130 directors and actors seems like a lot, and I got to include most of the people I wanted, but as I expected from the outset, readers and reviewers have often been most interested in discussing the exclusions. (That is, after all, a significant part of the pleasure of assembling a list, and what is a book about film other than a bulked-up list of movie suggestions?) I’ve enjoyed the discussions, kept them in mind, and pondered who else might deserve inclusion. (Second edition, anyone?)

Here, then, are a handful of performers and directors who just missed the cut.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zach Galifianakis, Woody Allen, The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Court Jester, The Naked Gun, The Hangover, Steve Carrell, Saul Austerlitz, Robert Stack, My Jewish Learning, Michael Scott, Mel Brooks, Lloyd Bridges, Little Miss Sunshine, Leslie Nielson, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Zucker, Jewish Book Council, Howard Hawks, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Despicable Me, Dinner for Schmucks, Film, Forbidden Planet, Gary Cooper, David Zucker, Date Night, Danny Kaye, Comedy, Borscht Belt, Books, Bored to Death, Ball of Fire, Author Blog Series, Another Fine Mess, Airplane!, A Song is Born

Dancing To the Same Beat

By Ruth Eshel

Crossposted from Haaretz

The young Maria Kong dance troupe shines in its professional production of “Miss Brazil.”

It is unlike other independent dance groups, and seems more like an offshoot of the Bat Sheva Dance Company, with the same style of movement and high quality but without Ohad Naharin’s choreography.

This is Maria Kong’s second program and it is even better than its first. Meanwhile, the company is still searching for its own path and its artistic potential has yet to be exploited.

In the first piece, “Miss,” the dancers look like the remnants of an apocalypse, figures that have undergone a metamorphosis and built a new life. A lovely metal construction sits in the middle of the stage, in this case at the Suzanne Dellal Center, a sort of moving sculpture that folds and unfolds into apartment-like spaces, of which only the metal remains. Avi-Yona Bueno’s beautiful lighting colors the structure and creates a magical atmosphere.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ohad Naharin, Maria Kong, Haaretz, Dance, Bat Sheva, Avi-Yona Bueno, Ruth Eshel, Suzanne Dellal

Reimagining Eve: Two Poems by Eve Grubin

By Jake Marmer

Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Jake Marmer introduces two poems by Eve Grubin.

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness,” writes Eve Grubin in one of the poems published in her 2005 debut collection “Morning Prayer.” Both uncertainty and holiness are key ingredients in her writing, intertwining co-dependents, often sharing the space of a poem’s single line. As the book’s title implies, prayer — or failed attempts at it — is among Grubin’s chief concerns, and morning is the recurring setting for it, where leftover bits of dreams are lifted against the morning light in a moment of encounter with the divine. Writing is also an extension of the poet’s prayer, a religious practice of persistent observation of the life of the soul. Moments of piety often mingle with the voice of desire, yet the work is not about sensationalist juxtapositions or paradoxes — it is more about quiet meditation on the totality of human experience. It is religious poetry at its best.

This week, we’re featuring two of Grubin’s works from “Morning Prayer,” both of them re-imagining the poet’s biblical namesake, Eve. Although the first poem explicitly references verses from the Tanach, it is hardly hermeneutics or even midrash, but rather a mythic, archetypal mirror held up against the poet’s deeply personal inner world. The second poem achieves its poignancy in the two final lines, where amnesia meets the unspoken and yearning ripens into frankness.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Poetry, Morning Prayer, Jake Marmer, Bowery Poetry Club, Eve Grubin

After Ten Years, a Jewish Poetry Journal Bids Farewell

By Hila Ratzabi

Those of us who have participated in the Jewish poetry scene in New York City over the last decade might argue that the journal Mima’amakim invented it. Though Jewish women and men have been performing and publishing poetry for many decades as part of a thriving New York poetry scene, Mima’amakim established the first readings and performances that featured not only poetry written by Jews, but also poetry with specifically Jewish content. On February 5 at the Sixth Street Synagogue, Mima’amakim will hold a publication party celebrating its last issue and 10 years of publishing innovative Jewish poetry.

Meaning “from the depths,” Mima’amakim took its name from Psalm 130: “From out of the depths I called to You, God,” and was initially positioned as a forum for publishing Jewish poetry and art with a religious orientation. Founded by Chaim Strauchler in 2000 at Yeshiva University, the journal arose out of an Orthodox milieu that envisioned the artistic process as a culmination of the divine act of creation. Its first mission statement narrowly defined the journal’s purpose as a place for “creative artistic expression of the Jewish religious experience within the confines of Halachah,” even limiting the content to exclude “profanities and sexually explicit materials.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yeshiva University, Steve Dalachinsky, Sixth Street Synagogue, Sarmad, Samuel Menashe, Poetry, Mima'amakim, Karen Alkalay-Gut, Jake Marmer, Hila Ratzabi, Aaron Roller, Chaim Strauchler, Dena Weiss

Out and About: Woody Allen Film To Open Cannes; The Legacy of Lenny Bruce

By Ezra Glinter

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Woody Allen, Tom Tom, Tom Segev, Simon Wiesenthal, Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Peep World, Sarah Silverman, Out and About, Mindy Abovitz, Midnight in Paris, Lenny Bruce, Jewish Review of Books, Jerusalem UFO, Hannah Arandt, Grammy Awards, Gershom Scholem, Drake, Charles King, Cannes, ArtScroll, Berenice, Albéric Magnard, Abraham Yurberg

A Living Museum in Nahariya

By Yuval Saar

Crossposted from Haaretz

Near the door of Andreas Meyer’s home in Kfar Vradim hangs an old photograph of trees alongside a stream, Nahal Ga’aton, which cuts through the city of Nahariya. Opposite is a photo, from 1908, of Meyer’s grandfather and two uncles. Both images serve as a window into 90-year-old Meyer’s life and home, as well as the history of Nahariya.

Wiki Commons

Meyer immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1937, arriving directly in the northern coastal city of Nahariya, which had been founded two years earlier. He made his living as a welder, a profession he had acquired as a boy in Germany.

“It was difficult in school for Jews during that period,” he relates. “My father had a small factory and one of his workers took me on as an apprentice, even though it was forbidden to apprentice Jews. When we immigrated [here], my father was wise enough to take some of our work tools on board the ship, and when we arrived in Nahariya we had an advantage. My brothers and I later opened a welding shop.”

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kfar Vradim, Israel, Haaretz, HIstory, Andreas Meyer, Nahariya, Yuval Saar

Max Liebermann: Rediscovering a German Jewish Impressionist

By Benjamin Ivry

Turn-of-the-century German Jewish artist Max Liebermann is still not a household name despite a major 2006 Jewish Museum retrospective. Further international attention may give him the acclaim he deserves.

Liebermann was recently featured in an exhibit, “German Impressionist Landscape Painting” which after being seen at Cologne’s Wallraf-Richartz Museum from April through August, 2010, traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where it was on display from September 12 to December 5, 2010. A lavish catalogue remains, from Yale University Press, showing how hard work and love for French painters such as Manet and Millet allowed Liebermann to evolve his own visual synthesis.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jozef Israëls, Max Liebermann, Carl and Felicie Bernstein, Emile Zola

Why Is This Passover Different From All Other Passovers?

By Katelyn Manfre

Manhattan Theatre Club
Jay Wilkison and André Braugher in ‘The Whipping Man’

Each year at Passover we gather together, crack the door a bit, and break bread of the unleavened variety. It is a celebration of freedom, of tradition, and a reminder of those ties that bind.

While the Seder depicted in Matthew Lopez’s play “The Whipping Man,” which opened February 1 at New York City Center, serves its usual function, it does so in a haunting and powerful way that only America’s most tumultuous era could create.

The year is 1865 and we are in the nearly destroyed Richmond, Va. home of the wealthy DeLeon family, a setting that gives new overtones to the age-old celebration. The war has ended, the South has fallen, and just a day ago Abraham Lincoln drew his last breath at Ford’s Theater.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theater, Passover, The Whipping Man, New York City Center, Matthew Lopez, Jay Wilkison, Katelyn Manfre, Doughlas Hughes, Confederacy, Civil War, André Braugher, André Holland, Abraham Lincoln

Five Not-As-Terrible-As-You-Think Comedy Movies

By Saul Austerlitz

Saul Austerlitz is the author of “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy.” His blog posts are appearing 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:


In writing my book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” I spent a lot of time concentrating on the greatest films in the history of American comedy: your City Lights, your Shop Around the Corners, your Annie Halls. But often, the most pleasurable films I watched over the course of researching my book were the ones that were surprisingly decent. The mediocre films that turned out to be pretty funny; the supposedly terrible movies that I found myself, to my surprise, enjoying.

In their honor, I’d like to single out five pleasant surprises from among the ranks of American comedies. These might not be movies you’d want at the top of your Netflix queue, but you might find yourself pleasantly surprised if you happened to come across them, anyway.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Teacher's Pet, Steve Martin, Shop Around the Corner, Sherman Klump, Saul Austerlitz, Ronald Reagan, Ron Burgundy, Rock Hudson, Ricky Bobby, Razzies, Randy Newman, Norbit, Napoleon Dynamite, Nancy Kerrigan, My Jewish Learning, Martin Short, Lorne Michaels, Jon Heder, Jewish Book Council, Jerry Lewis, Hardly Working, Gordon MacRae, Gig Young, George Seaton, Film, El Guapo, Eddie Murphy, Doris Day, Comedy, Clark Gable, City Lights, Chevy Chase, Chazz Michael Michaels, Brian Robbins, Books, Bo Hooper, Blades of Glory, Author Blog Series, Another Fine Mess, Annie Hall, Three Amigos, Tony Randall, Tonya Harding

Movement for Equality

By Elad Smorzik

Crossposted from Haaretz

Abdullah Shama

On the pale parquet floor of the Rabeah Murkus Dance Studio in Kfar Yassif a few students are warming up to a backdrop of purple walls and a decorated Christmas tree. After Murkus hustles the last of the lingerers in the dressing room, samba music starts coming through the loudspeakers and the lesson in modern dance begins. Couple by couple, the youngsters bound along the length and breadth of the space, energetically carving the air.

To the onlooker it seems like this is just another dance lesson. To Murkus, however, it is the realization of a pioneering vision she has nurtured for a long time: the establishment of a dance study track for secondary school students from the Arab sector.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kfar Yassif, Israel, Haaretz, Elad Smorzik, Dance, Rabeah Murkus

The Man Who Brought Big Ideas to the Small Screen

By Gary Shapiro

The reputations of talk show hosts do not have a particularly long shelf life. How many people under the age of 40 recall Jack Paar? Who under 25 knows Johnny Carson? But Stephen Battaglio’s new biography, “David Susskind: A Televised Life,” makes the case for remembering an impresario who brought a brash exuberance to the rough-and-tumble of ideas and social issues.

The premise of Susskind’s show “Open End” was that it would last as long as the host found the talk interesting. On air, Susskind quizzed a dizzying who’s who of writers and intellectuals, including Lionel Trilling, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Preston Sturges, Tennessee Williams, Bertrand Russell and Truman Capote.

Angering executives and racking up Emmy and Peabody Awards, Susskind brought serious fare to the small screen. His plays, specials and series drew the best talent of the period, crossing the color barrier and hiring blacklisted writers. Susskind had a knack for getting corporate America to sponsor his forays into high culture; an antidote to what Federal Communications Commission chairman Newton Minow once called the “vast wasteland” of television programs.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Warner Bros., Tennessee Williams, Thurgood Marshall, Truman Capote, Television, Talk Shows, Stephen Battaglio, Preston Sturges, Plato's Retreat, Peabody Awards, Open End, Nikita Khrushchev, Newton Minow, Mel Brooks, Lionel Trilling, Johnny Carson, James Baldwin, Jack Paar, J. Edgar Hoover, Gary Shapiro, Emmy Awards, Dick Cavett, David Steinberg, David Susskind, Bertrand Russell

Painting in the Margins of German Society

By Ellie Armon Azoulay

Crossposted from Haaretz

‘Baku’ by Norbert Schwontkowski, 2007

Whether it’s Malevich’s black or white square, the figure of the collector, the cardinal or the church that appears in Norbert Schwontkowski’s paintings, central to the work will be an existential question about life and death. It reflects the basic lack of trust and faith that he experienced as a boy growing up in post-World War II Germany. Last week, he was a guest at a painters’ gathering at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.

About a year ago, at a similar gathering at the Darom Gallery for independent art in south Tel Aviv, the public met with artist spokespersons to discuss painting and its role today and how to talk about it. Passionate arguments erupted. Painter Yonatan Gold thought that an important discussion had begun, one it was very important to continue. Gold, who began this year to teach in the new art department at Shenkar, quickly joined up with Larry Abramson (also at the Darom gathering and the head of the Shenkar department), and they moved to invite international artists to expand the boundaries of the discussion.

Read more at Haaretz.com


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Norbert Schwontkowski, Larry Abramson, Kazimir Malevich, Haaretz, Germany, Exhibits, Ellie Armon Azoulay, Darom Gallery, Tel Aviv, World War II, Yonatan Gold

Hersch Lauterpacht: Remembering a Humane Judge and Scholar

By Benjamin Ivry

If you doubt that a biography of an acclaimed expert in international law can be loveably endearing, then you have not read “The Life of Hersch Lauterpacht” by his son Elihu Lauterpacht, published in November by Cambridge University Press. Both Lauterpachts, father and son, were knighted for their contributions to the field, and Elihu was founder and first director of The Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, named in honor of his father.

Hersch Lauterpacht, born in Żółkiew in Eastern Galicia (today’s Zhovkva in western Ukraine) was raised in an ardent Zionist family and was drawn to his future wife Rachel in part because she was born in Palestine (two of Rachel’s sisters married Abba Eban and Chaim Herzog). Almost all of Lauterpacht’s family was slaughtered in Poland during World War II, and before December 7, 1941, he tirelessly crisscrossed America lecturing on a “more liberal interpretation of the Neutrality Act,” as Elihu terms it, to counter U. S. isolationism.

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Berlin New Music Festival Honors Avant-Garde Composer Alexander Goehr

By A.J. Goldmann

For over half a century, Alexander Goehr has been one of England’s most important composers, an avant-garde musician whose varied (and often challenging) body of work has been championed by luminaries including Pierre Boulez, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline de Pré.

Getty Images

Goehr’s manuscripts have recently been acquired by the music archive of Berlin’s Akademie der Künste. On January 26, Ultraschall, Berlin’s festival for new music (which ran this year from January 21 to 30) feted him with a composer portrait.

Goehr was born in 1932 into a remarkably musical Jewish Berlin family. His father, the conductor Walter Goehr, championed the music of Monteverdi and Messiaen and also wrote the score to David Lean’s “Great Expectations” and conducted for several of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s films. Both Walter and his brother, Rudolph, a composer of popular music in Paris, took master classes in Berlin with Arnold Schoenberg at the Prussian Academy of Arts. Alexander’s mother, Laelia, was a classically trained pianist. (The family’s accomplishments continue with Goehr’s daughter Lydia, a philosophy professor at Columbia University, who writes extensively about philosophy and music.)

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Warngedichte, Walter Goehr, Since Brass Nor Stone, Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Music, Peter Maxwell Davies, Monteverdi, Michael Powell, Messiaen, Lydia Goehr, John Ogdon, Jacqueline de Pré, Harrison Birtwhistle, Hamburg State Opera, Great Expectations, Franz Kafka, Erich Fried, Emeric Pressburger, David Lean, Das Gesetz der Quadrille, Daniel Barenboim, Classical Music, Berlin, Arnold Schoenberg, Arden Muss Sterben, Arden Must Die, Alexander Goehr, Akademie der Künste, Aaron Copland, A.J. Goldmann

Messing Around on Tour

By Saul Austerlitz

Saul Austerlitz is the author of “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy.” His blog posts are appearing 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:


Being on tour for a book is simultaneously an exhilarating and a terrifying experience. Exhilarating because, after toiling so lengthily in the mines of authorial solitude, it is a pleasure of no small import to emerge to the surface, book in hand, and talk about it with friends, family, and total strangers. Terrifying because, as all authors who have ever done a book tour can attest to, the midnight panic that occasionally bubbles up, convinced you’ll give a reading and no one — literally not a single person — will show up.

Thankfully, that did not happen to me during my tour for my new book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I occasionally broke out into a cold sweat at the prospect of.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Hangover, Comedy, Film, Jewish Book Council, Jews for Jesus, My Jewish Learning, Preston Sturges, Saul Austerlitz, Schindler's List, Charlie Chaplin, Books, Bill Murray, Author Blog Series, Another Fine Mess, Tyler Perry

Monday Music: Banned in Tel Aviv, Monotonix Tours Stateside

By Mordechai Shinefield

Courtesy Monotonix

Though they hail from Tel Aviv, punk outfit Monotonix sounds like 1970s New York punk by way of Los Angeles rockabilly garage heroes like X, The Germs and Alice Bag. On their new album, the speedy half hour long “Not Yet,” lead singer Ami Shalev expectorates, clears his throat and howls through 10 fast-paced tracks. As the second track, “Everything That I See,” opens, Shalev hacks (“ooo-cha-cha”) and then croaks, “Slide my arms to shipping my faith / Shout so strong but not be afraid.” Without Shalev’s garbling Israeli-accent and bizarre syntactical delivery they’re emo lyrics. With them they’re simply surreal.

Though they formed in 2005, it wasn’t until they were banned from most Tel Aviv venues that they took their show on the road. (Monotonix is currently touring the U.S. with upcoming shows in New Orleans, Nashville and New York, among other places.) At Austin music festival South by Southwest last year, Shalev crowd surfed in a green plastic trashcan while the rest of the band decamped from the stage to play amidst the audience. Shalev has the touring band’s equivalent of war wounds; a blow he suffered to his leg at a Tel Aviv show in 2008 was exacerbated in Florida last year when he broke it stage diving.

Listen to Monotonix’s ‘Give Me More’:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Germs, Sex Pistols, South by Southwest, SXSW, Punk, Not Yet, Music, Monotonix, Mordechai Shinefield, Israeli Music, Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Ami Shalev, Alice Bag, X

American Cradle

By Itzik Gottesman

On the Yiddish Song of the Week blog, Forverts associate editor Itzik Gottesman writes about “Mayn shifl” (“My Cradle”) by poet Leah Kapilowitz Hofman, as sung by Nitsa Ranz:

Nitsa Ranz was born in Poland in 1922 and emigrated to America in 1950. Mayn shifl (My Cradle) was recorded at an event that I produced called Generations of Yiddish Song: A Concert of Mostly Unaccompanied Rarely Heard Yiddish Songs at the club Tonic on New York City’s Lower East Side on January 9th, 2001.

The other singers that day were Michael Alpert, Janet Leuchter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Paula Teitelbuam, Joshua Waletzky, and Jeff Warschauer. Ranz had a unique singing style, and though the song turned out to be American in origin, as I later found out when I discovered the song sheet (see below), she sings with much of the traditional style in her voice.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tonic, Pinchos Jassinowsky, Paula Teitelbaum, My Cracle, Nitsa Ranz, Music, Michael Alpert, Mayn shifl, Leah Kapilowitz Hofman, Jeff Warschauer, Joshua Waletzky, Janet Leuchter, Itzik Gottesman, Der kremer, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, A. Leissin, Yiddish, Yiddish Music, Yiddish Song of the Week



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