1) 1,525 Jews live in Idaho.
2) Idaho’s first congregation, Beth Israel, was founded in 1895.
3) Idaho’s first Jewish residents worked in mining camps.
4) The Falk family started Falk’s Wholesale Company in the early part of the 20th Century. It was later sold to Sears.
5) Moses Alexander was elected mayor of Boise in 1897. In 1914, he was elected governor of Idaho. He was only the second Jewish governor of an American state (the first was Montgomery Bartlett of California).
6) Idaho’s annual Jewish cultural festival is held in June in Boise.
7) This year, author and scholar Dr. Federica Francesconi was named The College of Idaho’s newly established Howard Berger-Ray Neilsen Chair in Judaic Studies.
8) Idaho produces one-third of the nation’s potatoes. The state harvests nearly 12 billion pounds of the spuds annually. Which makes for a lot of latkes.
Frank Wildhorn will be appearing at 54 Below this week.
For those who don’t know, 54 Below is a supper club located essentially underneath what was Studio 54 (where all the action used to take place).
For those who don’t know Frank Wildhorn, he wrote “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” a number one international hit for Whitney Houston.
He also is the most successful contemporary writer of musicals on Broadway. In 1999, he had three shows on the Great White Way simultaneously: “Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “The Civil War.” His musicals are hits all over the world.
When we spoke, he had just returned from Tokyo and Seoul, where he celebrated openings and re-openings of his work. In fact, it’s estimated that some 40,000 people attend a Wildhorn musical every day of the year. Everyone, it seems, loves Wildhorn’s work.
Except the Broadway critics. Wildhorn spoke to the Forward about the lack of love he gets from them, the Jewish project he promised his dad, and how he taught himself to play an instrument.
Curt Schleier: Critics don’t like you, do they?
In 2009, writer Glenn Kurtz was sifting through a closet in his parent’s Florida home when he discovered a reel of 16mm Kodachrome color film in a musty cardboard box that had belonged to his grandparents, David and Liza Kurtz.
As prosperous Jewish American tourists, the Kurtz’s decided to take a six-week summer vacation through Europe in July 1938. With three friends they visited several European countries where they stayed in five star hotels, shopped, strolled and explored landmarks and art galleries. Traveling across France, Belgium, Switzerland, England and passing through Germany, they made a side trip to Poland, where David’s family originated.
Like many travelers, the Kurtz’s brought along their film camera but used it for only a fraction—in this case a scant 14 minutes—of the trip. The couple recorded scenes of their ocean crossing on the Nieuw Amsterdam, from Hoboken to Plymouth, England, and David filmed Liza and friends in the Grand Place in Brussels, taking in the sun in Cannes and feeding pigeons in Paris. But what captured their grandson’s attention was the brief three minutes of their visit to Poland that momentarily but critically documented Jewish life circa 1938 in David’s hometown of Nasielsk.
Kurtz initially worked to restore the film and then began a four-year journey to find out about the town and the people in it. After donating it to the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), he discovered that his grandparents unwittingly provided history with the only surviving film of Nasielsk, whose Jewish inhabitants numbered 3,000 before the war but plunged to just 80 afterward.
Claire Barry, with her sister, Merna, on the cover of their 1961 album ‘Side by Side.’
Claire Barry, who crossed over from the world of Yiddish entertainment to global pop stardom as half of The Barry Sisters, died Monday in Aventura, Florida. She was 94.
At the height of their popularity in the 1950s and ‘60s, Claire and her sister Merna conquered television as regulars on the Ed Sullivan and Jack Paar shows.
Claire Barry’s last performance for an audience was in 2009. “I was there,” Corey Breier, a close friend of Barry’s and the longtime president of the Yiddish Artists and Friends Actors Club, told the Forward from his home in Aventura. “She was being honored by the Footlighters’ Club, which is Florida’s version of Friar’s club. She sang ‘My Yiddishe Mama.’ There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was the last time she sang publicly.”
Born in the Bronx to Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Kiev, Clara and Minnie Bagelman first performed as the Bagelman Sisters on a New York children’s Yiddish radio program in the 1930s.
Last year, a single promo clip — a total of 19 seconds in length — provoked a controversy over the content of the show it had been created to promote. What followed was a yearlong saga of politics, professional restructuring and grassroots marketing, as the show — an Israeli sketch comedy show called “HaYehudim Ba’im” (“The Jews Are Coming”) — languished in TV purgatory.
After the controversial promo launched online, Channel 1, the public station, had a problem. The show had already been produced, using taxpayer money; despite the controversy, it represented an investment of public funding that couldn’t be easily discarded. Channel 1 was undergoing restructuring, and the Knesset had to approve the network’s programming slate before it could air. With all these obstacles, it seemed that “The Jews Are Coming” show would never get to live up to its name.
The promo also provoked MK Ayelet Shaked (from the religious Habayit Hayehudi party) to speak out against “HaYehudim Ba’im,” pressuring Channel 1 to air a right-wing satire (a show called “Latma”) to balance it, show co-creator and writer Natalie Marcus recalls. “The presence of a satire can’t balance the presence of another satire; satire balances reality,” she said.
Sylvester Stallone as gossip blogger Gerald in ‘Reach Me.’ Image courtesy Millenium Entertainment
Emmy Award-winning writer and director John Herzfeld wrote and directed the comedy drama, “Reach Me.” It’s about a neurotic widower, Teddy Raymond (Tom Berenger), who wrote an anonymous motivational book which becomes a phenomenon that attracts devoted fans including a rapper (Nelly), a fire-starter ex-con (Kyra Sedgwick), a trigger-happy undercover detective (Thomas Jane), his hard-drinking priest (Danny Aiello), and a golf-loving gangster (Tom Sizemore).
Sylvester Stallone plays Gerald, a goateed gossip blogger who wears funny hats and paints like Jackson Pollock.
The story begins when Gerald sends reporter Roger (Kevin Connolly) to blow Teddy’s anonymity. During the mission Roger falls for Kate (Lauren Cohan from TV’s “The Walking Dead”). Meanwhile, Danny Trejo plays a hit man and Kelsey Grammer does a cameo as a stone-cold scary guy.
The Forward caught up with Herzfeld to talk about actors, moviemaking and World War II:
Dorri Olds: What inspired you to write “Reach Me”?
The book that is the granddaddy of all motivational literature, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill from 1937. It’s not really about accomplishing wealth, though. It’s about training the mind and the laws of attraction. Napoleon Hill interviewed Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, F.W. Woolworth and William Rigley. He interviewed these great entrepreneurs, and asked, “How did you overcome the odds?” He became an advisor to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In what was undoubtedly the least-attended but most-memorable concert of his career, Bob Dylan performed a four-song afternoon set for one person yesterday at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Yes, you read that correct. One person. And it was not a CEO or aristocrat. Not even, God forbid, a music journalist.
As reported by Rolling Stone, the concert’s only spectator was Fredrik Wikingsson. Wikingsson is one half of the “Filip and Fredrik podcast,” who attended as part of a Swedish film series, “Experiment Alone,” in which individuals are filmed at events that are normally reserved for a great many more people.
According to Relix, the set was comprised of cover versions, including Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat” and Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.” Wikingsson, who said he didn’t know how much Dylan had been paid for the private performance, told Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene, “”I thought some asshole would walk onstage and just laugh at me. I just couldn’t fathom that Dylan would actually do this.”
Or, as Mr. Wikingsson put it more succinctly on Twitter, “Damn!”
In the evening, Dylan went on to play a more traditional show at the same venue. No reports have come in on the exact attendance of that concert, but it seems fair to say that it attracted a better crowd than the afternoon gig.
Extensive evidence suggests that both of the popular “Bodies: The Exhibition” and “Body Worlds” exhibits, which tour major cities across the world, have displayed and may continue to display the plastinated remains of Chinese practitioners of the Falun Gong, a spiritual belief rooted in Buddhism. In 1999, the Chinese government arrested and imprisoned Falun Gong believers by the thousands.
Masha Savitz’s debut documentary, “Red Reign,” chronicles the efforts of David Matas, a Jewish-Canadian human rights lawyer who has fought to expose the Chinese government’s systematic imprisonment, slaughter and for-profit organ harvesting of these prisoners. In 2010 Matas was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his investigation of the Falun Gong imprisonment.
With a rabbi for a father and an artist for a mother, Savitz spent her formative years in Parsippany, New Jersey. A Boston University graduate, she taught at religious schools to earn a living before attaining a Masters in Rabbinic Studies from American Jewish University. With her background in journalism as a writer for The Epoch Times, Savitz grew interested in filmmaking, and became an important advocate for the community of spiritual practitioners who have suffered human rights abuses of the worst kind.
Courtesy of Masha Savitz
Savitz, 49, currently heads the Early Childhood and Arts programs at a Conservative synagogue, Kehillat Ma’arav in Santa Monica, California. She spoke with the Forward’s Sam Rosenthal about the role Judaism played in rallying her around this cause, why she feels that helping the Falun Gong is so important and what it was like making her first film about such a painful topic.
Sam Rosenthal: Did your Jewish identity have anything to do with your desire to make this film?
Masha Savitz: Very much. My first impulse was the connection to the Holocaust. I think my being brought up Jewish gave me an immediate and visceral response to this — I really felt it in my body. Someone needs to stand up for these people, who can’t really do it for themselves.
Don’t yell at me,
whisper: try to stop
I let him drink from me
I let him speed us up to the end
to extremes I couldn’t imagine—
(these are words
that cannot be written)
At the 7th Avenue station
drained and soiled
what any child knows by heart
I couldn’t read the signs
it was late
Where do you live, lady?
from the subway tunnel
a deep voice spoke to me
through the bars
dark, in shadows,
it should have scared me
but only an angel could have known
I was lost
I needed a ticket
he needed some change
(or was he there for another reason)
he swiped his card
guided me through the turnstile
I thanked him,
almost forgot to pay him
turned and went in the wrong direction
Where do you live, lady?
he shook his head, pointed up the stairs, across
he watched as I walked away
waited till I was safe
on the other side
From “Return From Elsewhere” (Outriders Poetry Project, 2014)
Alan Dershowitz spent 50 years on the Harvard University law faculty, including the last 20 as the Felix Frankfurter professor of law. In all that time, he didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk, too, representing a number of frequently unpopular clients — Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bülow — in frequently landmark civil rights and civil liberties cases.
He has also been a voluble defender of the State of Israel and Jews worldwide, most recently with his new book, “Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas,” his 31st tome to accompany dozens upon dozens of articles and opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines the world over.
Dershowitz spoke to the Forward about Operation Protective Edge, the terror attacks and murders at a Jerusalem synagogue, and a recent client who has yet to pay his bill.
Curt Schleier: What is the case for Israel’s war on Hamas?
Alan Dershowitz: I was in Israel in mid-June and it was arranged for me to see one of the tunnels. It was recently discovered very close to a kibbutz kindergarden with 57 Israeli children. When I saw the tunnel and how sophisticated it was, with electricity and rails, it became crystal clear to me that we would have to send the troops in. A few days later, I had dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu and I could see how reluctant he was to send in ground troops. But when Hamas used the tunnels and killed israelis he had no choice.
In the book I raised the issue: President Obama, [British Labor Leader] Ed Miliband [both of whom criticized Israel’s response], what would you have done with the tunnels? I make the case that under the law and standards of morality, Israel did the right thing. And I have some pretty strong people on my side. Gen. [Martin E.] Dempsey [chairman of the joint chiefs of staff] said Obama was wrong. Israel did everything it could to protect civilians. And Gen. Dempsey sent American troops to Israel to learn how to fight terrorists in civilian areas. President Obama ought to reconsider his views, particularly since we’re fighting ISIS using those tactics. I just wrote an article in the London Times challenging Miliband on what he would have done under the same circumstances. It’s easy to criticize. Much harder to come up with policy.
(Reuters) — Few directors have moved between Broadway and Hollywood as easily as Mike Nichols. Here are six facts about Nichols, who died on Wednesday.
1) A bad reaction to a whooping-cough vaccine at age 4 left Nichols permanently hairless, according to the New Yorker magazine. Later he would come to rely on wigs and fake eyebrows.
2) Nichols told the New York Times that when he came to the United States from Germany in 1939 at age 7 as Michael Igor Peschkowsky, he knew only two English sentences: “I do not speak English” and “Please, do not kiss me.”
3) Nichols met ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer in 1986 in a Paris airport lounge as they waited for a Concorde flight to New York. He said he approached Sawyer and told her that she was his hero and she responded by saying he was her hero. In 1998 Sawyer became Nichols’ fourth wife.
4) Nichols and Buck Henry were boyhood schoolmates in New York. Later Henry would write the screenplays for Nichols’ movies “The Graduate,” “Catch-22” and “The Day of the Dolphin.”
5) When not directing, Nichols often concentrated on breeding prize-winning Arabian horses.
6) During a tribute to Nichols at the 2003 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, Meryl Streep and Candice Bergen read Nichols’ “Five Rules for Filmmaking”: 1: The careful application of terror is an important form of communication. 2: Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for. 3: There’s absolutely no substitute for genuine lack of preparation. 4: If you think there’s good in everybody, you haven’t met everybody. 5: Friends may come and go but enemies will certainly become studio heads.
All images courtesy Sarah Lazarovic
Equal parts autobiography, treatise, art project, and social commentary, Sarah Lazarovic’s “A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy” (Penguin Books) chronicles a year in which the author sublimated consumer urges by drawing things instead of purchasing them.
But the book’s much more than a visual diary. Lazarovic’s elegant, witty illustrations, and her gimlet-eyed text treatments, offer a delightful take on what it’s like to try to think for oneself in a society where we’re programmed to consume from birth.
An acclaimed illustrator, cartoonist and teacher, Lazarovic has also written about pop culture for Canadian newspapers like The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. (Lazarovic is also one of the artists in “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women,” which I co-curated and the Forward sponsors).
“I didn’t want to write a stunt book about my year of not shopping,” she told the Forward from her home in Toronto, where she lives with her husband, National Post features editor Ben Errett, and their daughter Plum. “I wanted to examine how I got to that place. It’s my personal journey from voracious consumer to more thoughtful non-acquirer. The book is frothy and light, but underneath, there’s a secret covert message about not consuming so much.”
Michael Kaminer: Based on responses I’ve seen online, the book’s struck a chord. Why do you think people are reacting so strongly?
Reuven Namdar in New York. Photo by Beth Kissileff.
In a time when the famed British Man Booker Prize has been opened to writers in English from all countries, Israel too has achieved a milestone. For the first time in its 14 years, the Sapir Prize, given by Mif’al Ha-Payis (Israel’s national lottery), has on its long list of 12 novels one by New York based writer Reuven Namdar.
Though it is in part a meditation on the service of a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem, Namdar’s novel, “The Ruined House,” takes place entirely in New York City, and is based in locales like the Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside Heights and Wave Hill in the Bronx (called View Hill in the book). This unprecedented level of recognition for Hebrew writers living and working outside of Israel speaks to a different side of Israeli literature and an awareness of how it is widening.
The rest of the list also indicates a sense of wide horizons. It includes past nominee and the author of over 20 books Lea Aini, for “Daughter of the Place”; veteran writer Galit Distel Etebaryan for “Peacock on the Steps”; Celine Assayag for “Overturned Cry”; Nir Baram for “World Shadow,” and Hagit Grossman for “Lila and Louis.”
A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here
Like all actors attempting to break into the notoriously difficult profession, Michael Levi Harris is seeking to stand out. Luckily, Harris has a talent that is almost unique: he has an exceptional knack for languages. Not only can Harris speak many tongues but he also has a rare aptitude for accents and can, with a little practice, perfectly mimic the sounds of languages that he doesn’t know.
Harris’s linguistic skills are highlighted in the new short film “The Hyperglot,” a romantic comedy in which the main character, Jake, a talented polyglot played by Harris, tries to locate a woman with whom he has instantly fallen in love after seeing her on the subway.
Because she left behind a book in Maltese, Jake begins to learn the rare language in case he ever meets her again. While Jake looks for the pretty Maltese woman, he stumbles into a series of comical incidents in which he has the opportunity to speak many languages. By the end of the film Harris’s character speaks Arabic, Icelandic, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, Norwegian, both American and British sign-language and finally, Yiddish. Watching Jake, the audience soon learns that although the hyperglot can speak at least 11 languages, he can’t properly flirt with girls in any of them.
Courtesy David Broza
David Broza is likely Israel’s most famous singer-songwriter. With a throaty Leonard Cohen sound and earthy Bruce Springsteen lyrics, Broza has recorded platinum albums and toured the world to great acclaim.
He is also among the nation’s most recognized peace advocates, a fact that fueled his most recent activities — an album, “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” (S-Curve Records), and an accompanying documentary of the same name.
The film recently aired at the Other Israel Film Festival in New York, and at the ABC Foundation Conference in Miami. It is essentially a making-of-the-album film, but also focuses on Broza’s efforts to use music to bridge the gap between Israelis and Arabs.
The concept was simple. Broza rented time at the Sabreen studio in East Jerusalem, a center of the Palestinian music scene. He gave himself eight days and eight nights to record 13 tracks heavy on a peace motif. On each he is complemented by a number of Israeli and Palestinian musicians and singers, including Mira Awad. To add a bit of American flavor he brought in Steve Greenberg and Steve Earle to produce.
All Photos: Liam Hoare
The histories of the Jews of Europe can often best be gleaned not from monographs, museums, or synagogues, but from cemeteries. The details of the matzevot, or tombstones — the size and shape, location, condition, detailing, symbolism, text and language of the inscriptions — can be decoded to reveal not only something about the deceased, but also about the community itself.
But what can be surmised of a community from its cemeteries when all the matzevot are gone?
Paweł Bysko, an official from the Jewish Community of Warsaw, recently unlocked the gates to the Bródno cemetery for me, in the Bródno district on the east bank of the Vistula river. It was a cold afternoon in late October, and as we traversed the central way that ran from one end of the graveyard to the other, the final hours of daylight sliced through the trees that today forest this defunct, desecrated site where the absence of tombs and stones say as much about the fate of Polish Jewry as if they were present.
Founded by Józef Samuel Jakubowicz in the late 18th century, Bródno cemetery officially opened on July 26, 1780, and was used as a regular burial site (in addition to the main cemetery on Okopowa Street on the other side of Warsaw) up until the Nazi occupation of Poland in September 1939. Prior to the beginning of the Second World War, there were around 300,000 marked graves within the walls of the cemetery.
Translated by Rachel Tzvia Back
1 Bound on Her Boulders
Bound on her boulders a burnt offering
in flames trampled by light of the daily sacrifice
this teeming city, longing
in its walls within walls
grey wind of the olives
torn among the hills yearned-for city of wings
from her red thicket eternity
in gates straying at day’s end
to open and open
She is marked by a branding-iron in the Angel’s black hand
2 Stones Want to Flow
Stones want to flow
The olive tree wants to be stone
Churches long to fly
A cloud sits on the Temple Mount
Suns wandered on her outskirts, became thorns
Wars passed through and became dreams
Shadows walk around with bright faces
Her silence is bells and bells
Her stones flow
The olive tree is stone
He who sleeps and his heart is awake knows how at night
this heavy city ascends to walk with the moon
3 Day Like Night Like
Day like night like
like voiceless cries this city where
we live in a dream like sown lights
freezing the stones eternal stones
like rock-eternity this city
caves or homes like
ruins like gravel like unending wind-thin dust
as though we were here
day or night
as though voiceless as in a dream we were really
here wandering through this city remnants
of muted cries like a dark entryway an alley
sunken in the alley wait
wait don’t vanish just one moment one more moment like
4 Quiet and Open Skies
Quiet and open skies
above a City God’s treasured possession
above a City that was God-possessed
above a City that was possessed
above a City that was
open and quiet skies
From “In the Illuminated Dark: Selected poems of Tuvia Ruebner” (Hebrew Union College Press, in collaboration with University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
Gael Garcia Bernal in ‘Rosewater’
“Listen, Jews do a lot of things out of guilt. Generally it has to do with visiting people, not making movies.” That was everyone’s favorite Jon Stewart (née Jonathan Stuart Leibovitz) talking to New York Magazine last month.
Stewart, 51, writer, producer and award-winning host of the satirical “The Daily Show” was referring to his latest project, which is also his first excursion into filmmaking: The full-length feature film “Rosewater” opens in cinemas nationwide on Friday. It’s based on the autobiography of Iranian-born, London-based journalist Maziar Bahari, who went to Iran to cover the Iranian presidential elections and the protests that followed. Voters believed that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory against the moderate Mir-Hossein Moussavi was due to election fraud in 2009.
Shortly after being interviewed by “Daily Show” correspondent Jason Jones in Tehran, a scene that is reenacted in the film, Bahari is arrested, and spends 118 days in Evin prison, accused of being a spy for America. Bahari is tortured and interrogated by a so-called “specialist” whose perfume preferences are reflected in the title of the film.
No question, “Rosewater” is a solid movie. There is some fine acting, with Gael Garcia Bernal as Bahari, and Kim Bodnia as Rosewater. There are enough light-hearted moments, sophisticated editing and strong imagery to make the 103 minutes go by fairly fast. And the narrative has just the right amount of sadness and despair to make it feel serious, but not overly sentimental.
In contemporary cinema the representation of Jews is not so unusual. However, ex-Orthodox Jewish characters are portrayed far less often. Nonetheless, their role is significant and in some cases, iconic. (See my recent piece about Anna Wexler and Nadja Oertelt’s documentary ‘Unorthodox’ for one of the most recent examples.) Here are six of the best.
Famous for being the first film with synchronized dialogue, this classic talkie stars Al Jolson as Jakie Rabinowitz, the son of a cantor who defies the traditions of his Orthodox parents because of his desire to pursue a career as a jazz singer. Following punishment by his father, Jakie runs away from home, but many years later his professional success comes into direct conflict with his religious and family responsibilities.
The film was remade twice — in 1952 (directed by Michael Curtiz) and again in 1980 (directed by Richard Fleischer and Sidney J. Furie), the latter starring Neil Diamond and Lawrence Olivier.
Courtesy Anna Wexler
At 8 years old, Anna Wexler wanted to be a great Torah scholar. At 12 she started to question her faith, and by 16 she was an atheist. It was at this point that Wexler decided to break away from her Modern Orthodox, New Jersey upbringing, to live a life with no rules and no limits.
Gravitating towards others like her, she says they went “pretty wild.’” But during their gap year, a significant change occurred. While she was travelling in Kathmandu, her rebellious friends had “flipped out” in Israel. Having gone to yeshiva, they had become religious, and exchanged their former lifestyle for one of modest dress and Torah study. It led Wexler to question why, and forms the subject of her debut documentary, “Unorthodox.”
The film has had several successful U.S. film festival screenings, including at the Boston Jewish Film Festival and DOC NYC. It will receive its U.K. premiere later this month during the U.K. Jewish Film Festival.