The Arty Semite

Yeshiva Museum Goes Back to School

By Forward Staff

Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Yeshiva University Museum has received a grant of $135,900 to expand its Re-Imagining Jewish Education Through Art program. The grant comes from The Covenant Foundation, and is part of the $1.2 million in grants approved by the foundation in January. The foundation plans to distribute a total of $1.7 million this year.

According to a press release issued by YUM, the program follows a model of “creative aesthetic education” created by the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts and applies it to Jewish education. The museum will partner with the Lincoln Center Institute to train teachers in New York and elsewhere.

YUM has already run the program in three New York high schools — Heschel High School, SAR High School, and Yeshiva University’s Marsha Stern Academy (MTA) — as well as at the Kings Bay YM-YWHA. The museum plans to expand the program to at least six Jewish day schools. Gabriel Goldstein, a project director and independent curator, and Ilana Benson, a museum educator, will administer the program.

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Slideshow: Departures, Experiments and 'Degenerate' Art

By Rebecca Schischa

Gert Wollheim, ‘Head of an Old Man’

Among the Nazis’ persecuted minorities were Jewish and non-Jewish artists, musicians and writers branded “degenerate” by the regime.

“Radical Departures: The Modernist Experiment,” an exhibition currently showing at the Leo Baeck Institute/Center for Jewish History in New York, gathers together work by these “degenerate” artists, including Georg Stahl, Samson Schames, David Ludwig Bloch and others.

Although compact, the exhibit presents a whistlestop tour through the major European art movements from the turn of the 20th century, taking in German Expressionism and Weimar Modernism, through to the Second World War period, and the Surrealism and Abstract art of the postwar era.

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Hannah Arendt and the Eichmann Trial

By Deborah Lipstadt

On Wednesday, Deborah Lipstadt wrote about eerie anniversaries. She is the author of the new book “The Eichmann Trial.” Her 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:


I have spent much of the past few weeks talking about my new book, “The Eichmann Trial.” I don’t want to make this blog entry about the book. (To be blunt, I’d rather have folks read the book.) But something has struck me in the talks and interviews I have conducted.

For so many people the issue of the Eichmann trial remains Hannah Arendt. They seem to have a hard time conceiving of the Eichmann trial independent of Arendt’s “analysis.” I am speaking of who abhor what she said as well as of those who espouse her views.

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Making Home Movies in Interwar Poland

By Shoshana Olidort

“Greetings from Home,” by Sam Auerbach and Heshel Shorr, (1926). Poster designed by Leib Kadison. Courtesy of American Jewish Historical Society, Kanof American Yiddish Theater Poster Collection (Reproduction).

When the anti-immigration laws of the early 1920s effectively sealed the gates of the United States to would-be immigrants, the Jews of Eastern Europe who had arrived en masse between 1880 and 1920 could no longer hope to see their loved ones join them in America. Instead, those who could afford to traveled abroad, visiting the cities and towns they had left behind. Often, they brought with them amateur film cameras, which were increasingly popular in the 1920s, to capture the world of their childhoods.

These films are the subject of “16mm Postcards: Home Movies of American Jewish Visitors to 1930s Poland,” a new exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum in collaboration with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which will have its opening on Tuesday November 9 at New York’s Center for Jewish History.

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The Big Life of a Small Woman

By Maya Klausner

Tearful laughter, raunchy story telling, and punchy witticisms are not the typical ingredients one expects to find in a tribute to a late literary legend. Then again, Grace Paley and ‘typical’ never met.

Last Tuesday the Center for Jewish History and Jewish Women’s Archive paid homage to the poet, short story writer and political activist, who passed away in her Vermont home in August 2007. The evening consisted of a panel discussion with excerpts from Lilly Rivlin’s new film, “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts.” The film, which premiered at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in July, will be shown at a selection of upcoming festivals on the East Coast, including the New York Jewish Film Festival in January.

Inspired by Paley’s vast collection of short stories, Rivlin’s film tells the tale of a woman whom a colleague described as “a very small woman who was a giantess.” Rivlin, a writer and political activist herself, shared her experience creating the film: “The challenge about making a film about Grace Paley is that she was a political animal and I saw her everywhere, and the challenge was to make a film about someone who did it all.”

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For Gypsy Travelers, All Roads Lead to Budapest

By Itzik Gottesman

A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

Bob Cohen

For musicians traveling through Eastern Europe in search of the authentic Gypsy experience, all roads lead to Bob Cohen in Budapest. A fiddler, scholar and gracious host, Cohen could tell you in which Transylvanian town you can still find an old-time band, or just a lone fiddler. Heck, he could tell you where a fiddler used to live 50 years ago.

This week Cohen arrived in New York to participate in the annual New York World Festival, whose the theme this year was “Music Around the Black Sea,” featuring artists from Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine, as well as immigrant musicians from those ethnic communities.

On Monday, Cohen spoke at the Center for Jewish History about “The Hidden Musical Treasures of Romania,‟ and on September 25 he will introduce a band that he cannot stop raving about at the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant — “Tecsoi Banda,‟ which is making its U.S. debut. The group is a family band from Tyaciv, Ukraine, in the Carpathians, and plays a diverse range of East European folk music, including Jewish music.

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The Night of the Murdered Poets

By Maia Efrem

Forward Association
Peretz Markish, following his arrest by Soviet authorities.

On August 12, over 100 people gathered at New York’s Center for Jewish History to mark the 58th anniversary of the Night of the Murdered Poets, commemorating the Stalin-ordered execution of 13 prominent Soviet Jews, including five Yiddish writers.

Among those murdered were novelist David Bergelson and poet Peretz Markish, who was awarded the Stalin Prize just six years before his death by firing squad. The other victims included poets Leib Kvitko, David Hofshtein and Itzik Feffer. All of the writers had been members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee during World War II, which supported the Soviet war effort against Nazi Germany.

From the moment news of the execution came out in 1952, the Yiddish cultural world has held memorial services for the writers and, symbolically, for the oppression, and subsequent destruction, of Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union.

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Giving Sephardic Literature Its Due

By Maia Efrem

Shelomo Alfassa (ASF)
Professor J. Daniel Khazzoom speaks to Sara Maimon about his recently published book ‘No Way Back: The Journey of a Jew from Baghdad.’

The first annual New York Sephardic Jewish Book Fair on July 25th at the Center for Jewish History was a quiet success. What started as a push by the American Sephardi Federation to sell marked-down books by Sephardic authors snowballed into a day-long event featuring 11 speakers, a constant flow of about four dozen patrons, and the guests of honor: hundreds of books.

“We had both Sephardi and Ashkenazi patrons and everyone was very interested and supportive. We also learned a few things for next year: we need a larger space and more vendors,” said organizer Shelomo Alfassa, the coordinator of Special Projects for the American Sephardi Federation.

In addition to book vendors the fair featured author lectures, including a keynote speech by Marc D. Angel, the Rabbi emeritus of the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel. One of the most moving speakers of the day was Professor J. Daniel Khazzoom, who flew in from Sacramento to give an account of his flight from Iraq to Israel. Khazzoom’s newly published book “No Way Back: The Journey of a Jew from Baghdad” discusses his resentment of his family’s status as “tenth class citizens in our homeland.”

Khazzoom, the first Israeli college graduate accepted by a Harvard University graduate school, was visibly emotional at the fair. “This fair should have been put on a long time ago and the recognition is overdue. But it’s never too late, the Sephardi Jewry has a responsibility to write down our stories before we all forget and so we don’t forget,” he said.

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