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Mark Rubin is a musician based out of Austin, Texas, who has played at the International Accordion Festival since 2001. His latest project is the Atomic Duo.
The International Accordion Festival is not well known outside of Texas, and that’s a shame. For a decade, the people of San Antonio have been treated, at no charge, to a well-curated collection of accordion traditions from around the world. Though it recently celebrated its 10th year, the festival enters an uncertain future, having lost much of its funding and having suffered a disastrous episode in 2009, when the event was almost rained out entirely. This year, rather than featuring three stages at the historic La Villita, just blocks away from the Alamo in downtown San Antonio, only a single stage remained.
If you hadn’t been to the festival before, however, you would never have known that anything was amiss. From October 15 to 17 a large crowd packed the impressive Arneson River Stage, where the performers are separated from the audience by the actual river of the famed “River Walk.”
The Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv is showing Andy Warhol’s Jewish portraits.
Folk legend Pete Seeger supports a financial, but not an artistic boycott of Israel.
“Hitler and the Germans,” an exhibit at Berlin’s German Historical Museum, is a huge hit.
Also a huge hit in Germany: Israeli bands.
Leah Koenig looks into the proliferation of kosher certification in America.
Steven G. Kellman goes poking around in Nicole Krauss’s “Great House.”
Philologos wonders if swearing loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic state” really means anything, anyway.
With the opening of San Francisco’s Jewish Community High School of the Bay’s (JCHS) new building on Ellis Street in 2002, the city’s organized Jewish community finally returned to the Fillmore. Only local Jewish history buffs appreciated the significance; the neighborhood in which the school is situated — now called The Western Addition — was once San Francisco’s Lower East Side, albeit on a smaller scale than the section of Manhattan to which it is compared.
It is almost impossible to imagine that in this city, where today there is no kosher butcher shop or kosher bakery, and Hebrew schools struggle to get students to attend at all, there were once two synagogues, three kosher restaurants, four Jewish bakeries, five kosher meat markets, three Jewish delicatessens, one Jewish liquor merchant, and a central Jewish afternoon Talmud Torah which students attended six days a week. All within a two-square block area, no less.
“It’s not by coincidence that we brought the ‘Jews of the Fillmore’ exhibition here,” explained Allison Green, Program Coordinator at the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education’s Jewish Community Library (JCL). The library is located at JCHS, just blocks from what was once the hub of this legendary neighborhood, during its heyday from 1906 to 1945. Jews first started moving into the area after their homes south of Market Street had been destroyed in the Great Earthquake and Fire, and began moving away even before the national post-World War II exodus from the inner cities to the suburbs.
View a slideshow from ‘Jews of the Fillmore’:
Bibliophiles, history buffs, religionists, and the plain curious will find “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” the new exhibit at the main branch of the New York Public Library, an extraordinary glimpse into the history of the Abrahamic faiths and their commonalities. Partly sponsored by the Coexist Foundation, a New York non-profit dedicated “to promote better understanding between Jews, Christians, and Muslims…through education, dialogue, and research,” the exhibit was described at a press preview by the NYPL president as the “single most important, beautiful, exquisitely designed exhibit in the modern history of the New York Public Library,” not least for its lofty interfaith raison d’etre.
Originally inspired by a similar exhibit at the British Museum in 2007, “Sacred: Discover What We Share,” NYPL’s “Three Faiths,” puts on display 200 rare Jewish, Christian and Islamic sacred texts that are drawn exclusively from the permanent holdings of the NYPL.
The stately, dimly lit exhibition hall, floored in marble and ceilinged in mahogany, is arranged intelligently and elegantly, guiding visitors back in time to the ancient roots of these three great religious traditions. The very entrance to the exhibit exudes a distinctly temple-like air, suggesting to visitors that the exhibit’s sacred contents are not to be treated with levity.
View a slideshow from ‘Three Faiths’:
When I phoned Gary Lucas this week he was right in the middle of renewing his Forward subscription. “I’m a religious reader,” he punned effortlessly. He also had his cell phone pressed to his other ear, waiting to buy concert tickets. It comes as little shock that the prolific composer, songwriter, guitar legend and musical Renaissance man is a consummate multitasker.
Over the past 30 years, Lucas has collaborated with everyone from Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and Nick Cave to Bob Weir, Lou Reed, Allen Ginsberg and, perhaps most famously, avant-bluesman Captain Beefheart. His music runs the stylistic gamut from blues to country to jazz to classical. (“Each to his own taste. And I’ve got very catholic taste, in the small ‘c’ sense of the word.”) He’s been called “the thinking man’s guitar hero” by The New Yorker and “the greatest living guitar player” by cognitive psychologist and record producer Dan Levitan. In the last year alone, Lucas has performed in China, Europe, Cuba, Croatia, the Canary Islands, and all across the United States, in support of one or another of his seemingly endless array of musical projects.
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Jake Marmer introduces the work of Karen Alkalay-Gut, whose first poem appeared in the Forverts when she was 10 years old.
A remarkable Israeli poet and professor at Tel Aviv University, Karen Alkalay-Gut is the author of numerous poetry collections, including “So Far, So Good” (2004). She writes almost exclusively in English, though her writing career began in Yiddish. When she was just 10, her poem “Mein Koter” was published here – in the Forverts.
Born on the last night of the Blitz in England to a Yiddish speaking family, Karen immigrated to the United States and grew up in Rochester, NY, before moving to Israel in 1972. As she facetiously claims, her style has not changed much since “Mein Koter,” which we’re happy to feature here, in the original as well as in the author’s own translation.
Following is a more recent poem about a mystical encounter with Koter’s Israeli cousins, Tel Aviv cats, from “So Far, So Far Good,” as well as “Bathsheva” from the collection “In My Skin” (1999), and two poems that are previous unpublished. What has remained consistent in Alkalay-Gut’s writing is the depth of Jewish experience and the defiance thereof, a sense of irony, and pertinent questions about gender, which appear extensively in Alkalay-Gut’s later poems. Her air of casualness and speech-like cadences, which one may think to attribute to the influence of Williams Carlos Williams or the Beat writers, actually has its roots in this charming, talkative childhood poem.
The veteran French comedy filmmaker Francis Veber, whose “Le Dîner de cons” was recently remade in Hollywood as “Dinner for Schmucks,” is a master of spoofing painful social anxiety and feelings of exclusion. His new memoir from Les éditions Robert Laffont, “Let This be our Secret,” addresses how Veber’s Jewish roots influenced his comedic skills.
Veber’s maternal grandmother, Marguerite Bernard, was the sister of the French Jewish humorist Tristan Bernard, who was deported to Drancy after the Nazis invaded France, only to be freed after powerful friends like Jean Cocteau objected. Veber’s father, Pierre-Gilles Veber, spent the war years hiding “at the back of our apartment, wearing his pajamas, desperately awaiting the Liberation.” Veber notes: “I was born in Neuilly to a Jewish father and Armenian mother; two genocides, two ensanguined wailing walls, all just to produce a comedian.”
Crossposted from Haaretz
This year marks the 80th birthday of Stephen Sondheim, the American lyricist and composer who with his own two hands changed the face of the stage musical in the second half of the 20th century. During his more than 50 years of activity he has created a huge variety of works, in terms of both genre and supply of roles. The fact that he is still around (he is Jewish, though this is not especially evident in his work) gives producers additional incentive to put on his work.
A theater visit to London this month has turned into a Sondheim celebration for me. Concert versions of his works are underway in the city (including “Company,” featuring Adrian Lester — who already played Bobby, the bachelor who studies the lives of his married friends, in an excellent London production). And the intimate Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden — which for 17 years has consistently been putting on excellent productions that go on to conquer the West End, Broadway, Los Angeles, Australia and Brazil — is now staging a production of the musical “Passion,” which Sondheim adapted in 1984 from the film “Passione d’amore” by Italian director Ettore Scola. In honor of the production, Sondheim came to London and discussed his works before an audience in that same hall.
After the well-deserved hosannas of praise for the centenary, and subsequent dignified mourning for the demise, of the great French Jewish anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, a backlash seemed inevitable. On October 7, “Claude Lévi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory,” by Patrick Wilcken, presented as the “definitive account of the life, work, and legacy,” was published by The Penguin Press.
Wilcken trained as an anthropologist in the UK, and currently works defending indigenous populations in Brazil for Amnesty International, although he has also published on Israeli politics. Despite this wide range of authorial interests, “Claude Lévi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory,” is gallingly clueless about Lévi-Strauss the man.
It surrounds us, we can’t exist without it; but can the ineffable essence of air be captured in a photograph? The new Israeli photojournalism center DocuClub thinks it’s worth a try. A new exhibition titled simply “Air” features photographic interpretations of the theme from around the world. The imagery on view is striking, with photographs ranging from the abstract to the bleakly concrete. Some present themselves as documentation, others concentrate on aesthetics. Each photograph tells an individual story, but all remain true to the overarching theme.
“Air” is the second exhibition to be staged by DocuClub, which opened in Tel Aviv’s bohemian Florentine neighbourhood last summer. DocuClub was founded by Oded Balilty, Sebastian Scheiner and Dan Balilty. All three are experienced photojournalists with the Associated Press; Oded Balilty won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in 2007, for his photograph of a single woman resisting the evacuation of an illegal settlement in the West Bank.
Beauty, confrontation, solitude, change: these are some of the things that make us feel strong emotions, and “Blush,” a 55-minute work from New York’s Gallim Dance, has them all. The desire to feel deeply is what motivated artistic director Andrea Miller to create the piece, which marked the company’s Portland, Ore., debut this month in the White Bird Dance series.
The Utah-born Miller knows what change is. Growing up, she experienced a series of culture shocks, moving from the West Coast to the East Coast and from training in early 20th-century dance technique to the work of living choreographers as a Juilliard student. By the time she moved from New York to Tel Aviv in 2004 to work with the Batsheva Dance Company, she was used to making adjustments. “I felt like I was moving home in a weird way,” she said of her pivotal two-year relocation. “I felt connected to the country, the people, the rhythm, the craziness.”
Crossposted from Haaretz
“Who the f—k is Arik?” That’s what designer Arik Levy says his exhibition opening at the Alon Segev gallery in Tel Aviv this week could have been called, as the world-famous designer forays into the art world.
“Everyone in Israel knows Arik the designer, but they don’t know Arik the artist at all,” Levy says over the phone from his studio in Paris. “In the end I understood that it may be a title for an article, but not the name of an exhibition, and therefore I decided to call it ‘Natural Disorder,’ because the exhibition is not about an artist but about an artist’s work. That’s the point, and there is often confusion. My art, or design, or that of anyone else, although they originate with me, they stand on their own.”
Levy, one of the most famous and successful commercial designers in the world, moves back and forth between fields, between artistic creation and commercial exhibitions, between personal projects and mass produced items. He doesn’t seem to be overly preoccupied with the question of “who the f—k is Arik.”
On October 12, Paris’s Cité de la Musique opened a new exhibit, “Lenin, Stalin, and Music” which includes much fascinating material about the fate, and often the plight, of Russian Jewish musicians.
With the benefit of hindsight it’s difficult to see why any Jews stayed in Soviet Russia. However, a brilliantly concise and well-illustrated exhibition catalog published by Les éditions Fayard accompanies the show, explaining why some gifted Jewish composers such as Maximilian Steinberg and the pianist/composer Samuil Feinberg, at first embraced the opportunities afforded them to create new music in post-Revolutionary Russia.
Earlier this month, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University formally opened its 2010-2011 season with two new exhibits: “Regarding Painting” and “WaterWays.” The museum has been the subject of much negative media controversy over the past few years. Between rumors of its closing and lawsuits over artwork being sold, one of the university’s gems had been buried in bad press. Now, all of that is about to change.
As one walks up the stairs and past the copper re-sourcing pool designed by artist Michael Dowling, one is instantly put in mind of water. All the more so after walking into the museum’s “WaterWays” exhibit, which explores the idea of water as a life source, an abstraction, and a social influence. The exhibit contains four parts: “Evocation of Water” (the abstract interpretation of water through the fluid watery properties of paint), “Waterscapes,” “Water Stories” and the film “Tide Table” (2003) by William Kentridge.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Walking through the streets of Tel Aviv can be a culturally enriching experience: Colorful carousel horses have invaded the city walls and other public spaces, accompanied by the message “always keep moving.” The horses are the imprints of DEDE, a street artist from Tel Aviv. And along with fellow artists from Philadelphia, Paris, London, Hamburg and Milan, his work is being show at this year’s “Inspiration Art Festival” at the newly restored Ottoman era train station in Tel Aviv.
“What inspires you?” is the motto of the exhibition which runs until October 21. Among the displayed objects is the first draft of DEDE’s horses, before it made it to the streets. He was 14 when he started decorating walls, a mere “act of vandalism”, he says. After finding an aerosol can he went on his first secret mission: breaking into his school to decorate a wall with the solar system, in blue.
In the high-ceilinged atrium of the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen gave a free concert Saturday in a forest of palm trees. The show was part of Daniel Pearl World Music Days, an international network of concerts honoring the slain American journalist. For the project’s mission of reaffirming a commitment to tolerance and humanity, there was no better choice than Cohen.
Cohen was born in Israel in 1970 to a musical family. Inspired by legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius, he took up electric bass as a child. After serving in an Israel Defense Forces army band, Cohen moved to New York, where he lived for 12 years, working with artists in the city’s Latin jazz community, and playing alongside pianist and composer Chick Corea. After releasing four albums with Corea, Cohen launched a solo career on his own label, Razdaz Recordz. Now based in Tel Aviv, Cohen is back in the United States in support of his latest album, “Aurora.” Cohen’s 11th release, “Aurora” is the first to showcase his vocals, and includes songs in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Ladino, the language of Cohen’s Sephardic roots.
On October 14 at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, California, at a performance for 400 middle school students from six different Bay Area Jewish day schools, the members of the Beta Dance Troupe seemed to defy the laws of human kinetics. Their shoulders pulsed, their heads bobbed and their elbows flapped, while their lower extremities jumped, glided and leaped in fluid motion.
Coinciding with the recent 25th anniversary of Operation Moses and the upcoming holiday of Sigd, which Ethiopian Jews observe 50 days after Yom Kippur to celebrate the acceptance of the Torah, the performance was part of a current U.S. tour with stops in New York, Connecticut, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. The seven dancers’ seemingly impossible combination of movements, melding traditional Ethiopian shoulder dancing (Eskesta) and contemporary, innovative choreography, expressed the unique identity of young Ethiopian immigrants in Israel, illustrating the sense of both displacement and possibility that Ethiopian Jews experienced as they were absorbed into Israeli society.
The once-seedy Tel Aviv suburb of Holon has become a major tourist destination thanks to its arts scene.
The Milken Archive of Jewish Music has launched a virtual museum.
A Jewish big band in New York’s East Village is attracting jazz talent from all over the Tri-State Region.
British Jewish filmmaker Mike Leigh has canceled a trip to Israel on account of the loyalty oath.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, in contrast, is celebrating its 70th anniversary in Tel Aviv.
Michael Goldfarb celebrates the Man Booker Prize win by English Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences plans on giving an honorary Oscar to Jean-Luc Godard. But will they be honoring an anti-Semite? Benjamin Ivry investigates.
Fifty years after his initial rise to fame, novelty songwriter Allan Sherman is as popular as ever. Mark Cohen explains why.
Ilan Stavans goes to see “Nora’s Will,” a Mexican film that won seven Ariel awards.
Gordon Haber critiques a documentary about March of the Living.
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