The Arty Semite

A Jewish Thanksgiving in Avalon

By Harry Brod

Earlier, Harry Brod wrote about how Jews don’t have a “middle range,” speaking backwards, a couple of sayings with which he disagrees, and why he always has a valid passport. His blog posts are featured 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:


Every Thanksgiving I think of the Thanksgiving scene in the 1990 film “Avalon,” one of Barry Levinson’s semi-autobiographical Baltimore films. “Avalon” tells a multi-generational tale of a Jewish family, ranging from the immigrant generation who arrived at the start of the 20th-century to the Americanized generation of mid-century.

At the large family Thanksgiving gathering a feud develops between the two brothers of the central, transitional generation because they start the meal before the arrival of the older brother. The family tries unsuccessfully to soothe him by explaining that they waited but couldn’t delay the meal any further because the young kids were getting hungry. The two brothers end up not speaking because the older brother remains so deeply offended that they carved the turkey without him.

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Shifra Lerer, 95, Yiddish Star of Stage and Screen

By Itzik Gottesman

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here

On March 12 the Yiddish theater lost one of its most beloved stars. Shifra Lerer, an Argentine-born actress who toured the world and who later appeared in films by Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet, died in Manhattan at the age of 95.

Joan Roth

I met Shifra during my first — and last — foray as a Yiddish actor for the Yiddish National Theatre in 1980. Lerer was among the founders of the troupe, which was created to ensure the future of Yiddish theater in America. The experience was a shock for me. I was literally stupefied by the sight of 80-year-old actors screaming curses at 70-year-olds backstage. Their talents were great, but so were their egos and eccentricities. Shifra, by contrast, was an island of calm and rectitude, earning everyone’s respect.

Lerer was born in Argentina, on a Jewish colony in the Pampas, on August 30, 1915. As a child she showed a precocious talent for the theater, and was discovered at age 5 by the famous Yiddish actor Boris Thomashefsky. She soon began acting with other renowned theater figures such as Zigmund Turkov, Samuel Goldenberg and Jacob Ben-Ami, with whom she performed in dramas such as Peretz Hirschbein’s “Green Fields” and H. Leivik’s “The Poet Who Became Blind.”

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