The Arty Semite

Forward Fives: 2012 in Film

By Forward Staff

In the annual Forward Fives selection we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of our favorite films of 2012. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

COURTESY OF ALISON KLAYMAN

Alison Klayman, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”

Informed by the sensibility of its director Alison Klayman, who is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, this moving, informative, and visually arresting documentary tells of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

With a visual beauty that suggests the best work of Terence Malick without the attendant pretension or self-consciously wide-eyed innocence, first-time director Benh Zeitlin (whose father is the Jewish folklorist Steve Zeitlin) offers this eerily prescient and unforgettable, fantastical journey into a 6-year-old’s struggle to survive catastrophic circumstances.

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Forward Fives: 2012 in Fiction

By Forward Staff

In the annual Forward Fives selection we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of our favorite works of fiction of 2012. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

MICHAEL SHARKEY

Jami Attenberg, “The Middlesteins”

Deeply sympathetic yet bitterly unforgiving, Attenberg’s suburban Chicago family saga suggests more than a passing familiarity with Saul Bellow as it presents the reader with the story of Edie Middlestein née Herzen, a woman slowly yet inexorably tumbling towards self-destruction.

Nathan Englander, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”

Bouncing back from the mannered and self-consciously erudite prose of his first novel, “The Ministry of Special Cases,” Englander returns with this stunning collection that, particularly in the title story, shows the author to be a master of both empathy and ventriloquism.

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Forward Fives: 2012 in Non-Fiction

By Forward Staff

In the annual Forward Fives selection we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of our favorite works of non-fiction of 2012. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

Joy Ladin, “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders”

With “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders,” Ladin, who holds the David and Ruth Guttesman Chair in English at Stern College, has luminously expressed her situation and has become an advocate of transgender rights and issues in the Jewish world. In it, she describes in sometimes heart-wrenching detail her transition from Jay, the male English literature professor at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, to Joy, the first ever openly transgender person to teach at an Orthodox Jewish institution.

Peter Beinart, “The Crisis of Zionism”

It’s not often that the publication of a book is preceded by months of debate about its central argument. But that was the fate of Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism,” for which defenses and denunciations stretch back to 2010. For those inclined to his views, Beinart’s book made a brave argument that the Israeli government, in its treatment of the Palestinians, was quickly losing the support of the traditionally liberal American Jewish community.

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Forward Fives: 2012 in Poetry

By Jake Marmer

In the annual Forward Fives selection we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of our favorite works of poetry of 2012. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

URI NEVO

This year, among the Forward’s five notable poetry books, there are two memorable retrospective collections by Alicia Ostriker and Michael Heller, as well as three books of brand new poetry from Adeena Karasick, Hank Lazer and Rachel Tzvia Back.

It is particularly curious to juxtapose Lazer’s “N18” and Karasick’s “This Poem,” as both books engage with the timely question of the poetic medium: What does poetry look like, and how might it be read in a time when the very process of reading — and the existence of a book — is a blinking question mark. Lazer’s hand-written “shape poems” move against the current of the reflowable text trend, hearkening to poetry’s hand-written past, and also pointing to what might become a hallmark of poetry’s future — multiple points of entry into the non-linear ocean of text. Karasick’s book, however, speeds right along with the media overload, incorporating its methods and lingo, laughing with and at it, both critiquing and poeticizing. Please note that the books are arranged in alphabetic order, based on authors’ last names.

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Forward Fives: 2012 in Exhibitions

By Forward Staff

In the annual Forward Fives selection we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important Jewish exhibits of 2012. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

The Jewish Museum: “Kehinde Wiley / The World Stage: Israel”

Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley’s paintings of young, urban black men in the poses, and sometimes trappings, of famous European history paintings boldly challenge the art historical canon. For his recent exhibit, “The World Stage: Israel,” at Jewish Museum in New York, he traveled to Israel to find and photograph his models, young men he met in the streets and nightclubs, whose ethnicities range from Ethiopian to Arab Israeli.

Fowler Museum: “Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews”

At a time when Iran is ever-present in the American consciousness a major exhibition about the Jews of Iran, which originated at Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, opened at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. “Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews,” traces the 3,000 year-long history Iranian Jewry with more than 100 objects ranging from archeological artifacts to intricately made Judaica to illuminated manuscripts to contemporary photographs and art installations.

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Forward Fives: 2012 in Performance

By Forward Staff

Philip Glass, “Einstein on the Beach”

LUCIE JANSCH

Tickets to performances of a stellar revival Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music were among New York’s most coveted this September as the monumental four-and-a-half-hour conceptual opera, which originally premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1976, concluded a year-long tour in honor of the composer’s 75th birthday. Perhaps more than any other piece, “Einstein” proves that the term “minimalist” doesn’t offer an especially apt description of much of Glass’s work: In it, he applied his signature techniques of repetition and subtle variation on a truly massive scale. The result is a sprawling work that evokes a vision of the end of days as it seems to distort the passage of time itself; 36 years on, it remains as disorienting as it is exhilarating.

Dan Fishback, “The Material World”

What’s your socialist bubbe got to do with the Queen of Pop? That’s the question at the heart of Dan Fishback’s musical “The Material World.” The setting for the show is a dream-world 1920s Bronx boarding house where a family of Russian Jewish socialists lives with Madonna, Britney Spears and a gay teenager plotting a Facebook revolution. Even if Kabbalah and communism aren’t your cup of tea, the show had plenty to recommend it, including Fishback’s songwriting talents.

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Forward Fives: 2012 in Music

By Forward Staff

In the annual Forward Fives selection we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of our favorite Jewish music releases of 2012. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

Sarah Aroeste, “Gracia”

Courtesy Sarah Aroeste

The term “cross-over artist” usually has negative connotations, referring to a classical or jazz musician pandering to popular tastes. But when it comes to Sarah Aroeste, the designation is high praise. For her latest album, “Gracia,” the Ladino songstress developed a style that borrows liberally from genres ranging from dream-pop to gothic metal.

The Other Europeans, “Splendor”

Before World War II it was common for Jewish and Roma musicians to play together, and to combine both klezmer and lautar music. Sadly, those collaborations were never recorded, but The Other Europeans project, headed by pianist, accordionist and scholar Alan Bern, imagines what they might have sounded like. On their live album, “Splendor,” the Jewish and Roma musicians created historically precise interpretations while bringing them into the living present.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Film

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important films of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“Footnote”
Directed by Joseph Cedar

Director Joseph Cedar, known for his Oscar-nominated “Beaufort,” emerged this year with another breakout film, “Footnote.” Winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes International Film Festival, “Footnote” also took home the top prize at Israel’s Ophir Awards, making it the country’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award. Unlike Cedar’s previous film, which addressed the conflict in Lebanon, “Footnote” tells a more personal story of a father-son academic rivalry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Footnote’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Fiction

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important works of fiction of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

”Life on Sandpaper”
By Yoram Kaniuk, translated by Anthony Berris

Yoram Kaniuk rates among the most popular Israeli writers, although few of his books in translation are still in print. Which is why it was such good news when Dalkey Archive Press published his semi-autobiographical novel “Life on Sandpaper” as part of its Hebrew Literature Series. The novel provides an account of Kaniuk’s life in New York City in the 1950s. “Compared with so much anemic contemporary American fiction,” writes Forward reviewer Todd Hasak-Lowy, “’Life on Sandpaper’ overflows with enough impossible situations and memorable characters for a few dozen novels.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Life on Sandpaper’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Poetry

By Jake Marmer

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important poetry books of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

2011 has been a memorable year for poetry. We managed to highlight some of the great recent books both in the arts and culture section of the Forward and on The Arty Semite. Here are the five that resonated most intensely. Because this isn’t a hit parade, the list is not arranged hierarchically, but chronologically, in order of publication. Along with these triumphs, it also seems appropriate to mention the loss the world of poetry suffered with the passing of the great and largely unrecognized American master, Samuel Menashe.

“Coming To Life”
By Joy Ladin

In her poetry, Ladin does not merely recount her story of being a transgender Jewish poet, professor and father of two, with all of the tangled emotional and physiological complexities that involves, but opens, to the reader, the metaphysical depth of the experience. I would recommend reading this collection side by side with Ladin’s previous book, “Transmigration Poems,” published in 2009 — there’s a fascinating continuity between the two.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Coming to Life’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Nonfiction

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important nonfiction books of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

”The Eichmann Trial”
By Deborah E. Lipstadt

Though 50 years have passed since the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the most famous, and most controversial account of the trial is still Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” In “The Eichmann Trial,” Deborah Lipstadt uses historical to refute Arendt’s arguments about the culpability of the Jewish councils, as well as the overall significance of the trial. “Drawing on the empirical work of other scholars,” writes Forward reviewer Michelle Sieff, “she argues that, by allowing victims to tell their stories publicly, the trial changed the perception and status of Holocaust victims in Israeli society.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘The Eichmann Trial’ here and Deborah Lipstadt’s blog posts for The Arty Semite here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Exhibitions

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important exhibits of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“The Sota Project”

In “The Sota Project,” which appeared this year at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn before traveling to Rothschild 69 in Tel Aviv, artist Ofri Cnaani used a 22-minute video installation to examine the depiction of adulteresses in biblical and rabbinic literature. Though Cnaani’s work used hi-tech means, it also drew on traditions of fresco and tableau vivant to tell the story of a woman who is accused of adultery by her husband and is subsequently protected by her sister. As Forward reviewer Cheryl Kaplan writes, “Cnaani’s installation, at times overly complex, ultimately delivers an exquisite corpse that is visually and conceptually rare.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘The Sota Project’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Performance

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important performances of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“Return to Haifa”

Washington D.C.’s Theater J has become renowned over the years (or notorious, depending on your point of view) for its boundary pushing, politically edgy productions. This year, the company presented “Return to Haifa” as the centerpiece of its “Voices From a Changing Middle East” festival. The play is based on a novella by Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, about a Palestinian couple who fled Haifa in 1948 and Jewish Holcaust survivors who moved into their unoccupied house.

Read the Forward’s coverage of “Return to Haifa” here and here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Music

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important Jewish music releases of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“Songs of Wonder”
By Basya Schechter

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is lovingly remembered for his spiritual teachings and social activism, but he is less known for his Yiddish poetry, which he wrote in his younger years. Singer and composer Basya Schecheter sets out to rectify that omission on “Songs of Wonder,” a collection of Heschel’s poetry set to her own original compositions. It isn’t just the album’s unique provenance that is important, however. As Forward writer Alexander Gelfand argues, Schechter’s music is “a coherent statement from an artist who has figures out how to use all the tools at her disposal to sculpt a distinctive sound.”

Read the Forward’s review of “Songs of Wonder” here.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Afro-Semitic Experience, Yemen Blues, Ravid Kahalani, Pitom, Music, Forward Fives 2011, Forward Fives, DAvid Chevan, Benjy Fox-Rosen, Basya Shechter, Yoshie Fruchter

Forward Fives: 2010 in Performance

By Forward Staff

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish performances of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

Hapless Hooligan in ‘Still Moving’

What happens when you put a prominent modern dance company in a room with one of the great innovators of the graphic novel? The answer in this case was “Hapless Hooligan,” a collaboration between Pilobolus Dance Theater and Art Spiegelman, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” series. Premiering this past July at the Joyce Theater, the vaudeville-esque piece included an animated sequence based on Spiegelman’s drawings, which was projected onto a backdrop for the dancers to interact with. Though somewhat unorthodox, “Hapless Hooligan” was a creative gamble that paid off.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Hapless Hooligan in Still Moving’ here.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theater J, Theater, Sid Silver, Shakespeare in the Park, Public Theater, Pilobolus, Performances, Nick Cave, Next Wave, Meyer Levin, Metamorphosis, Maus, Merchant of Venice, Mandy Patinkin, Kafka, Imagining Madoff, Hapless Hooligan, Gregor Samsa, Forward Fives 2010, Forward Fives, Deborah Margolin, Bernard Madoff, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance, Compulsion, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Art Spiegelman, Anne Frank, Al Pacino, Yale Repertory Theater

Forward Fives: 2010 in Exhibitions

By Forward Staff

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish exhibitions of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism

Like any good retrospective, the Jewish Museum’s display of 32 pieces of art from the past 50 years makes an argument for their continued relevance. Instead of focusing on a single artist, however, “Shifting the Gaze” shows how the entire question of Jewish gender identity and its artistic expression is still very much with us. Featuring works by artists such as Judy Chicago, Joan Semmel and Deborah Kass, the exhibit illustrates how feminist ideas have challenged conventions in the art world and have resulted in thought-provoking new works.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Shifting the Gaze’ here.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Union Square, Sukkah City, South Africa, Skirball Center, Shifting the Gaze, Maira Kalman, Judy Chicago, Joshua Foer, Joan Semmel, Jewish Museum, Independence Mall, Institute of Contemporary Art, Exhibits, Forward Fives, Forward Fives 2010, Deborah Kass, David Goldblatt, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Apartheid

Forward Fives: 2010 in Poetry

By Forward Staff

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish poetry books of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

JEMIMAH KUHFELD

All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems
By Charles Bernstein
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages, $26

Co-founder of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, Charles Bernstein has long been recognized as one of the key avant-garde figures on the contemporary poetry scene. Until now, however, most of his work has been published by university or indie presses. This handsome sampling of his oeuvre presented by FSG is a reason for celebration, yet it is bittersweet, for doesn’t it imply a shift toward the mainstream? Or is it vice versa, and we have all become, in a sense, avant-garde? The Jewish angle in Bernstein’s work is complex, fraught with ambiguity and tension, though thankfully, also with humor. It is discussed in further detail in last year’s “Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture” (University of Alabama Press) which, aside from Bernstein’s work, contains the poetics of many of his excellent colleagues.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘All the Whiskey in Heaven’ here.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tanya Reinhart, Poetry, Peter Cole, Paul Celan, Joy Ladin, James Franco, Howl, Forward Fives 2010, Forward Fives, Eric Drooker, Daniel Y. Harris, City Lights, Charles Bernstein, Books, All the Whiskey in Heaven, Allen Ginsberg, Aharon Shabtai, Adam Shechter, 2010 in Books

Forward Fives: 2010 in Non-Fiction

By Gal Beckerman

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish non-fiction books of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

As Forward readers surely know by now, my own book, “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” was published this year. I’ve been lucky to find it mentioned on two end-of-year lists — The New Yorker’s and the Washington Post’s. For this, I am very grateful. And partly by way of passing on the favor, I was happy to choose the Forward’s five best non-fiction books of the year. These are all books that sparked conversations and that were, more importantly, great reads.

LUIGI CAPUTO

Simon Wiesenthal
By Tom Segev
Doubleday, 448 pages, $32.50

Who was Simon Wiesenthal? Tom Segev takes as his most recent subject a man whose reputation as Jewish avenger completely overshadowed all else about him. Segev brings Wisenthal back down to human size. He shows us the Nazi-hunting operation for what it was — both impressive and more slapdash than we knew — and explores controversies like Wiesenthal’s friendship with Kurt Waldheim and his work for the Israeli Mossad. It was a life, as Segev shows, that was forever linked to the great 20th century cataclysm. The horror never let him go.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Simon Wiesenthal’ here.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: When They Come for Us We'll Be Gone, Washington Post, Tom Segev, Timothy Snyder, The Rebbe, The Sabbath World, Simon Wiesenthal, Samuel Heilman, New Yorker, Menachem Friedman, Meachem Mendel Schneerson, Lubavitch, Judith Shulevitz, Gal Beckerman, Forward Fives 2010, Forward Fives, Books, Bloodlands, 2010 in Books

Forward Fives: 2010 in Fiction

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish novels of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

JOYCE RAVID

It’s been some year for Jewish fiction, though we continue to scream about, ponder and dissect what that even means. It is produced by Jewish writers, certainly, but not always. It centers on otherness, our history and culture, the nature of family and whatever we call god. It’s set in Israel or in Europe before or after the war, in New York City, England and America’s heartland. Its heroes are bold, men-children, revolutionists or the inward-looking. And like we’re boarding Noah’s ark, much of the fiction we loved this year can be discussed in pairs.

There were the young men who wrote big books that tinkered with language and form while winking at their readers. Joshua Cohen mellifluously skewers capitalism in “Witz” as he writes about the last Jew on earth. With less hubris, Adam Levin’s “The Instructions” spurred difficult conversations about religion and terrorism by tunneling into the mind of a puckish Day School student.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yann Martel, Witz, To the End of the Land, There Is No Other, The Invisible Bridge, The Instructions, The Finkler Question, The Escape, The Ambassadors, Super Sad True Love Story, Philip Roth, Justin Taylor, Nicole Krauss, Nemesis, Julie Orringer, Joshua Cohen, Jon Papernick, Howard Jacobson, Henry James, Great House, Forward Fives 2010, Gary Shteyngart, Forward Fives, Foreign Bodies, Fiction, David Grossman, Cynthia Ozick, Books, Blooms of Darkness, Aharon Appelfeld, Beatrice and Virgil, Allison Gaudet Yarrow, Adam Thirlwell, 2010 in Books, Adam Levin

Forward Fives: 2010 in Music

By Forward Staff

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish music releases of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

The Bowls Project
By Charming Hostess

Charming Hostess

Jewlia Eisenberg has been something of a hidden treasure since the release of her 2001 album “Trilectic,” a conceptual exploration of the writings of Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis, and her 2004 follow-up, “Sarajevo Blues.” With Eisenberg’s latest album, created with her band Charming Hostess, she may finally be getting the credit that is her due. Inspired by ancient Babylonian mysticism and featuring a mix of Hebrew lyrics and American-style rock ‘n’ roll, “The Bowls Project” is another counter-intuitive combination by this talented avant-pop composer.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘The Bowls Project’ here.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Trilectic, Walter Benjamin, The Shondes, The Naming, The Bowls Project, Socalled, Silver and Ash, Sarajevo Blues, My Dear One, Music, McGarrigle Sisters, Harlem, Jewlia Eisenberg, Gillian Welch, Galeet Dardashti, Fred Wesley, Forward Fives 2010, Forward Fives, Divahn, David Krakauer, Clare Burson, Charming Hostess, Asja Lacis, Apollo Theater, Abraham Inc. Tweet Tweet




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