Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk died after a long battle with cancer yesterday at Ichilov Hospital, Tel Aviv. The renowned writer was 83.
Kaniuk was born in Tel Aviv on May 2, 1930. The list of people associated with his early childhood reads like a who’s who of the early days of Tel Aviv’s cultural life and society. His father, Moshe Kaniuk, was the personal secretary of Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and became the first curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His godfather was the poet Haim Nahman Bialik; his kindergarten teacher was the wife of pioneer and poet Joseph Haim Brenner; his school doctor was the poet Shaul Tchernichovsky.
In his youth, he was a member of the prestate Jewish underground Palmach, and was part of the Palyam − the Palmach’s naval force. He fought in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, a time of his life that provided much inspiration for his later work.
Read more at Haaretz.com
A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here. Translated by Ezra Glinter.
On May 18 writer, activist and longtime Forverts columnist Tsirl Steingart died in a car accident in Palm Beach, Florida. She was 97 years old.
Steingart was born March 11, 1916 in Bialystok, where she was an active participant in the Bundist children’s organization Sotsyalistishe Kinder Farband, or S.K.I.F.
In 1938 Steingart emigrated to France, where she helped found a local S.K.I.F. branch. During the Second World War she was a member of the French Resistance, helping to rescue children from Vichy and German authorities.
Following the War, in 1951, Steingart left Europe for Montreal. There she served as principal of the Avrom Reisen School before moving to New York in 1960.
Steingart began writing for the Forverts in 1964, and became a regular contributor in 1967. She edited a section titled “Eat in Good Health” under the pen name Nina Blum, and for many years authored a column about fashion.
Steingart also wrote widely about social issues, and was a pioneering journalist in the Yiddish press on subjects affecting women.
In 1969 artist Channa Horwitz got an insulting review titled “Valley Housewife Makes Pretty Drawings” for a complex show that would make history today. She was the only woman in the Art and Technology Exhibition at the Los Angles County Museum in 1971, but was confined to the catalog and not allowed to realize her piece in the exhibition. This set off a furor in the feminist community that helped fuel the movement in Los Angeles.
Horwitz died April 29 at age 80, and is going out with laurels. Her work is being featured in this summer’s Venice Biennale. She just won a Guggenheim Fellowship, and she has a show up at the Francois Ghebaly Gallery, in Los Angeles. For a woman who worked in relative isolation with no support from the art world until she was in her 70s, it is a considerable achievement.
Over her long career, Horwitz worked primarily with drawings, creating a complex body of works on paper, including her iconic “Sonakinatography” (1968-2004) series. Using a system based on eight numbers associated with eight colors, the works reinterpret the traditional minimalist grid with a sensual twist, featuring meticulous hand drawings of complex geometric patterns with alternating colors and symbols on graph-ruled Mylar.
E.L. Konigsburg, the author of more than 20 beloved children’s books, died April 19 at 83. She was a two-time winner of the Newberry Medal, and the only author to receive the Newberry Medal and the Newberry Honor in the same year.
Her best-known book, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,”published in 1967, has become a classic. School Library Journal named it one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time. It tells the fictional story of 12-year-old Claudia Kincaid (many of Konigsburg’s protagonists are 12-years-old, “Because it is at that age that the serious question of childhood is asking for an answer,” she once said), who runs away from home with her younger brother in tow. The two set up housekeeping at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and engage in a mystery having to do with an angel sculpture, possibly made by Michelangelo, purchased at auction from one reclusive Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Among Konigsburg’s other works is “About the B’nai Bagels” published in 1969, and like “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” illustrated by the author. The protagonist of this book is Mark Setzer, a boy preparing for his bar mitzvah whose life is complicated by his mother’s becoming his Little League baseball team’s manager.
Actress Bonnie Franklin, best known as a single working mother in the hit CBS comedy “One Day at a Time” in an era when U.S. television was redefining families in pop culture, died March 1 at age 69.
She died at her Los Angeles home of complications from pancreatic cancer, surrounded by relatives and friends, according to a statement issued by the CBS network on behalf of her family.
Franklin, a petite redhead, had acted on Broadway before being cast as the harried divorcee Ann Romano in “One Day at a Time,” which debuted in December 1975 and ran for nine seasons on CBS. It co-starred Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips as her two head-strong daughters.
Franklin’s performance on the series garnered her an Emmy nomination in 1982. She previously earned a Theatre World Award and a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut work in the 1970 musical “Applause,” in which she sang the title song.
During a career spanning six decades, she starred in more than 30 television series and made-for-TV movies while continuing her work in live theater. But she was best remembered for her work on the Norman Lear-produced sitcom “One Day at a Time.”
Joseph Friedenson, the founder and long-time editor of the Agudath Israel organ Dos Yiddishe Vort, passed away February 23 at his home in Manhattan, the Forverts reported. Friedenson, a survivor of the Holocaust, founded the monthly Yiddish journal in the Feldafing and Landesberg displaced persons camps in Germany, and edited it continually in New York since 1953.
Friedenson was born in Lodz in 1922. His father, Eliezer Gershon Friedenson, was one of the leaders of the Beis Yaakov school movement in Poland. After the outbreak of World War II the family fled to Warsaw where they were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. There Friedenson married his wife, Gittel Leah Zilberman, who passed away in 2006. They both survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Szydlowiec Ghetto, the Starachowice labor camp and Auschwitz, and were reunited a few months after the end of the war.
In a 2007 profile of Friedenson for the Forward, Toby Appleton Perl described him as “an avid newspaperman” who read multiple publications daily in several languages. During its heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s, Dos Yiddishe Vort boasted a readership of up to 8,000 people and published many highly regarded Yiddish writers, including Friedenson himself.
Watch Forverts editor Boris Sandler interview Joseph Friedenson in 2011:
Radio personality Isaiah Sheffer died today in New York at age 76. Sheffer was co-founder and artistic director of the performing art center Symphony Space on the upper west side of Manhattan, and was known nationally as the long time host of the public radio series “Selected Shorts,” which began in 1985. Sheffer started Symphony Space in 1978 with the conductor Alan Miller, and turned a run down theater into one of the most active cultural centers in New York. Sheffer stepped down from the post in 2009.
Isaiah Sheffer was born in the Bronx and was a child actor in the Yiddish theater. He had a lifelong connection to both Yiddish and English radio. His uncle was the noted actor and Yiddish radio personality Zvi Scooler. Starting as a young man in the 1960s, Sheffer’s sonorous voice could be heard on radio station WEVD, the station of the Jewish Daily Forward, where he was the English language host and newscaster. Sheffer was also the author of numerous plays and musicals including “Yiddle with a Fiddle,” “The Rise of David Levinsky” and “Dreamers and Demons: The Three Worlds of Isaac Bashevis Singer.”
Iconic comic book artist and writer Joe Kubert spent most of his life drawing brawny super heroes, lionhearted jungle men and rampaging dinosaurs. But at age 75, Kubert began a journey back to his roots that led him to illustrate Warsaw Ghetto fighters, Holocaust survivors, and ethical mini-lessons for the Chabad-Lubavitch hasidic movement. Kubert, who passed away August 12 in New Jersey at age 85, left behind an enormous fan base in the comic book world as well as a growing audience of admirers in the Jewish community.
“I’ve known and interviewed many older comic book artists, and I usually find that their abilities diminish after a certain age,” noted comics historian and publisher Craig Yoe. “But the amazing thing about Joe was that in his 70s and 80s he was at the top of his game, still constantly and passionately drawing new comics and graphic novels of the highest caliber.”
Kubert’s most recent phase was his immersion in his Jewish roots. While keeping up a heavy schedule of comic book illustration he began making time for a number of Jewish projects. He helped design “Cartoonists Against the Holocaust” for the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, a traveling exhibit of 1940s political cartoons from American newspapers about the Jews in Nazi Europe, and served as a judge in a student cartooning contest. For the Lubavitch magazine “Moshiach Times” he drew a series of two-page adventures with moral lessons called “The Adventures of Yaakov and Isaac.” He also wrote and illustrated “Jew Gangster,” a graphic novel about the Jewish underworld figures of yesteryear.
I can think of three popular ideas about what God actually looks like: the bearded man wearing a white robe who sits on a cloud deciding when to make earthquakes and who sometimes shows up in a burning bush; George Burns in “Oh God!” and, long before he actually played God in “Bruce Almighty,” many of us believed that when we left this mortal coil it would indeed be the voice of Morgan Freeman welcoming us to the afterlife. But I’m of the very tiny minority that believes that when God speaks, he sounds just like David Rakoff did.
Rakoff, who passed away last night at the age of 47 after a battle with cancer, had a distinctly clever voice in his writing and his speech. He was the sort of writer who didn’t need to try and be funny; instead, it came out in his essays like quick flashes of color — albeit dark colors, since his humor could be described as “black.” He didn’t dwell on how witty or intelligent he was, he just kept producing works that proved he had these qualities in spades.
Ulrike Hessler, the first woman to be appointed intendant of the historic, four-century old Saxon State Opera in Dresden, popularly known as the Semper Opera, died July 30 in Munich, after a 19-month battle with cancer. She was 57.
I first met Hessler eight years ago, when she was the director of the press office of the Bavarian State Opera for its then-intendant, Peter Jonas, and about to become intendant there herself. She worked her way up after being hired in 1984 by General Director Wolfgang Sawallisch as a press assistant. An extremely tall, friendly woman with an irrepressible sense of excitement and good humor, Hessler was thrilled by everything about opera, and loved sharing her enthusiasms.
On that first visit to Munich’s historic National Theater, I was stunned to see what they were doing with Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” (the opera which, incidentally, inspired Theodor Herzl’s Zionism). It was a nightmarishly confrontational production by David Alden, the last act of which was set in the ruins of a concentration camp instead of in the valley of Wartburg as Wagner originally intended. In the very theater where Wagner himself had introduced so many of his operas, and the city which was the “cradle” of the Nazi movement, here was a production which deliberately and successfully reversed the way in which the Nazi machine propagandized with Wagner’s work.
My Facebook feed blew up last night with appreciative status updates in tribute to Nora Ephron. The burst of activity made me wonder whether everyone’s Facebook feed was full of Ephron’s urbane wit, or if things were quieter in places where people prefer NASCAR to Zabar’s.
Today, the day after her untimely death from illness at age 71, Nora Ephron will be eulogized by many, many appreciative people. They will write heartfelt tributes to the writer, journalist and filmmaker who gave the world films like “When Harry Met Sally…” and books like “Heartburn.”
But no one will write a tribute as well as Ephron would have written it herself. And that is the true depth of our loss.
Screenwriter, film director, essayist, novelist and cultural figure Nora Ephron has died at age 71, The New York Times reports. The cause of death was pneumonia brought on by myeloid leukemia, a blood disorder from which she had been suffering for six years.
Ephron, best known for films like “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) and “You’ve Got Mail” (1998), was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to playwrights Henry and Phoebe Ephron. She was raised in Beverly Hills, Calif., before attending Wellesley college, where she got her start writing for the school newspaper.
After college Ephron worked for five years as a general assignment reporter at the New York Post before beginning a freelance career writing for magazines like New York and Esquire. Her pieces focused on cultural and feminist issues and were collected in books such as “Wallflower at the Orgy” (1970) and “Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women” (1975).
Maurice Sendak, author of beloved children’s books such as “Where the Wild Things Are” and “In the Night Kitchen,” died May 8 at age 83 of complications from a stroke.
Sendak, who was born in Brooklyn to Jewish immigrants from Poland, broke the conventions of children’s literature with his dark and psychologically acute early books. “Where the Wild Things Are” was published to acclaim and controversy in 1963, and received the Caldecott Medal in 1964. In 1966 Sendak published an illustrated version of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s children’s story “Zlateh the Goat,” which received the Newbery Medal.
Though Sendak produced few children’s books since “Outside Over There,” which was published in 1981, his latest work, titled “Bumble-Ardy,” came out in September 2011. According to The New York Times, a posthumous book titled “My Brother’s Book,” inspired by Sendak’s late brother Jack, is set to be published in February 2013.
In recent years Sendak enjoyed a renewed popularity that included a 2009 film version of “Where the Wild Things Are,” directed by Spike Jonze, and exhibits of his work at museums such as the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library. He also curated an exhibit of Hanukkah lamps at The Jewish Museum in New York and in January made an appearance on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.
Adam Yauch, a member of the seminal hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died at age 47. Yauch, also known as MCA, had been treated for cancer since 2009.
Brooklyn-born Yauch founded the Beastie Boys in 1979 with Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz. They achieved fame in 1986 with their first full-length album, “Licenced to Ill.”
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, though Yauch was unable to attend due to illness.
“Rip Adam Yauch,” the Beastie Boys’ first manager and Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons wrote on Twitter today. On his website, globalgrind.com, he added: “Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist who I loved dearly. I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us.”
Read our review of the Beastie Boys’ most recent album, “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two,” here.
In Yiddish there are some professions or positions that use the diminutive form of a name as a sign of popular endearment. These include Hasidic rebbes, cantors, thieves and actors.
This was true of the beloved Yiddish actress Chayele Ash-Furman, who died on March 8 in Northern California at the age of 90. According to family legend, she was actually born onstage as her family’s theater troupe was on tour through Besserabia and Poland. The troupe wandered from town in a covered wagon, as true “wandering stars,‟ to use Sholem Aleichem‘s term for Yiddish actors of the period.
When Ash was 3 years old she began to act on stage and continued to perform until the Soviet army occupied Bessarabia at the beginning of World War II. During the war, the family was sent to Uzbekistan where her father died in a labor camp. There, Ash met the Polish Yiddish actor Peysakh Ziskind, whom she later married and with whom she had two children.
Crossposted from Haaretz
One of the Haredi community’s most veteran leaders passed away overnight Tuesday in Bnei Brak. Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, the head of the Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty and president of Agudath Israel’s Council of Torah Sages, died aged 95. His funeral will be held on Wednesday afternoon, and is expected to draw mass crowds.
With the rabbi’s passing, a day of mourning was declared for tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and abroad.
Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager was the fifth Admor of Vizhnitz, the Hasidic community that started in Romania and was revived in Israel following the state’s establishment. The rabbi was appointed Admor in 1972. During his time as a religious leader he expanded and strengthened Hasidic Judaism. Today there are some 5,000 Vizhnitz Hasidic families, and it is the second largest Hasidic community in Israel.
Poet, filmmaker, mystic, photographer and publisher Ira Cohen, who died last April, can still fill a room with energy. With the aid of Cohen’s address book, friends gathered this month at the Living Theatre on New York’s Lower East Side to celebrate the life of the Bronx-born countercultural figure who spent years mixing it up with the avant-garde on more than three continents. “It’s clear,” said Timothy Baum, a Surrealist expert, “that Ira is still alive.”
Cohen had a knack for participating in the avant-garde zeitgeist while remaining independent of it. He photographed Jimi Hendrix, published beat figures like William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg, and filmed ecstatic Hindu rituals. His New York loft became a site for experimental art.
Poet Valery Oisteanu described Cohen with the following anecdote: Cohen had once asked fellow writer, Allan Graubard, “Do you think I’m a surrealist poet?” Graubard laughed and replied, “Ira, poetry has nothing to do with this. You live a surrealist life.”
Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, Senior Scholar at Holy Blossom Temple, died February 8 in Toronto at the age of 99. Holy Blossom, a Reform Synagogue, is the oldest congregation in Canada’s largest city. Rabbi Plaut was the longtime senior rabbi there, from 1961 to 1977.
Plaut was born in Munster, Germany, the son of Jonas and Selma Plaut. After earning a law degree in 1935, he fled the Nazis and went to the United States, where he was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1939. After serving as a chaplain in the American military during World War II, Plaut took pulpits in Chicago and St. Paul before moving to Canada.
The late rabbi’s name is most familiar as the author of “The Torah: A Modern Commentary” the Chumash used widely by Reform congregations.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Yaffa Yarkoni, one of Israel’s greatest and best-loved singers, passed away January 1 in Tel Aviv at the age of 86, following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Lyricist Avi Koren, a close friend of the singer’s for 45 years, recalled yesterday that Yarkoni, an Israel Prize laureate, once said to him: “Look how I am fooling the entire world — after all, I have no voice.”
“She may not have had a voice, but she was the voice of the country. My mother listened to Yaffa Yarkoni; my grandson listens to Yaffa Yarkoni; and she accompanied us, the members of my generation, all our lives,” Koren said yesterday.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Israeli Arab poet and journalist Salem Jubran died Sunday at his home in Nazareth at the age of 71. He was laid to rest in his hometown yesterday.
Born in 1941 in the Galilee village of Peki’in, Jubran published three books of poetry, the last of which appeared about 30 years ago. Poet Marwan Makhoul said Jubran’s poetry was the most important ever published by an Israeli Arab author.
In his later years, Jubran held various jobs in fields as diverse as journalism, politics and education. His writing appeared in Haaretz, Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv in addition to the Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar.
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