The Arty Semite

Peter Rosenberg, Hip-Hop's Jewish Radio Star

By Seth Berkman

Courtesy Peter Rosenberg

Growing up in a kosher household in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Peter Rosenberg became enamored with hip-hop listening to tapes by rapper Big Daddy Kane and scratching records on the turntables he saved up to buy at age 14. Today, Rosenberg is a co-host of one of the nation’s most listened to morning shows, on the iconic New York City hip-hop station Hot 97. The Forward’s Seth Berkman recently talked with Rosenberg about the influence of his parents (his father, M.J. Rosenberg, is a well-known critic of Israeli policy), the relationship between Jews and blacks in hip-hop, and his die-hard fandom of professional wrestling.

Seth Berkman: Your older brother got you into hip-hop?

Peter Rosenberg: I was already like 8. The first tape that I remember having was when my dad went to a store on his way home from work one day and asked someone what he should get for his son who likes hip-hop and he got me one by Super Lover Cee and Casanova Rud, “Girls I Got ‘Em Locked.” The first summer I went to sleep-away camp at age 9, I had like eight cassettes with me. I had “Long Live the Kane” [by Big Daddy Kane] and then they all got stolen at camp, Jewish camp mind you. Evidently there was a huge contingent of hip-hop fans there.

Were your parents supportive of your interest?

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Radio, Peter Rosenberg, Music, Interviews, Hot 97, Hip-Hop

This Israeli Life

By Jon Kalish

A young Israeli grad student named Mishy holds up a cardboard sign that says “anywhere” as he hitchhikes out of Cambridge, England. He catches a ride with a Gypsy family bound for the ferry to France. In the vessel’s cafeteria Mishy meets a truck driver name Vladimir who agrees to take him to Spain. Only, when they start driving Vladimir neglects to make the turn into Belgium and informs Mishy, “No Spain, Ukraine.” At the Slovenian-Ukrainian border the two are arrested for smuggling counterfeit Barbie dolls. Sounds like it could be a story on the wildly popular public radio show “This American Life,” doesn’t it?

Courtesy Mishy Harman

It’s not. But it may end up being told — and broadcast — on “Israel Story,” a new program on Israel’s Army Radio. The similarity to “This American Life” (TAL) is no accident. Mishy Harman, the guy bound for “anywhere,” is the driving force behind the new show. And he makes no secret of the fact that he’s a huge fan of Ira Glass and company.

Harman was hipped to TAL by another Israeli, Ro’ee Gilron, who attended Brandeis University. After graduate school, Harman completed a teaching stint at Harvard and commenced a 13,000-mile road trip around the United States with his dog Neomi. He and the pooch (a Hungarian hunting dog known as a Vizsla) took along 200 episodes of TAL that Gilron downloaded for them. Harman was blown away by the TAL collection.

“It became totally clear to me that this was going to be our next project,” he told The Arty Semite.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Radio, This American Life, Mishy Harman, Jon Kalish, Israel Story, Ira Glass

Loving Look at Radio Pioneer

By Jon Kalish

Those of you who are up on your 1960s counter-culture know that the Yippies were formed, for the most part, by a group of Jewish troublemakers from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Some of those mischievous Yidden are no longer with us: Abbie Hoffman committed suicide in 1989, Jerry Rubin got hit by a car in 1994 and Stew Albert died of cancer in 2006. But Bob Fass is alive and well and living on Staten Island. Nearly a half-century after starting his late night radio program on WBAI-FM, Fass is still on the air keeping the movement alive.

Courtesy of Lost Footage Films

“Radio Unnameable” is the name of Fass’ free-wheeling live radio show and it’s also the title of a new feature length video documentary that tells its story. The night after Rosh Hashanah those who still have a bit of a freak flag flying will want to head over to Film Forum in Manhattan, where the doc begins a two-week run. On October 4 the film will open the Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film festival in Portland, Oregon (the Rose City screening is sponsored by KBOO, Portland’s version of WBAI). And just before Labor Day, Kino Lorber, Inc. announced that it had acquired North American distribution rights to the documentary, so the story of Fass and his free-form radio show will be screened in St. Louis, St. Paul and other cities in the coming months.

Full disclosure: this reporter began his radio career after being mesmerized by Fass on “Radio Unnameable” in the early 1970s. The tall Brooklyn-born broadcaster once attended a Seder at the Kalish loft where he screened a lengthy video of Abbie Hoffman making gefilte fish from scratch and TV footage of Bob Dylan performing at the Vatican. In Fass’s mind, this was totally appropriate Passover fare.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Radio, Jon Kalish, Film, Documentaries, Bob Fass, Radio Unnameable

More Than Just 'Radio Shmadio'

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Over the years, I’ve attended lots of symposia but never one that began with the ringing of chimes and concluded with a most hearty and prolonged round of applause. These two sounds, along with the sight of presenters swaying to the beat of “Yiddish Melodies in Swing” or singing the praises of the “Cohen on the Radio” vaudeville sketches with their catch-all phrase, “Radio, Shmadio,” were in full throttle at last week’s Library of Congress salute to Henry Sapoznik and the donation of his collection of Yiddish radio memorabilia.

Now a part of the American Folklife Center where, one hopes, it will receive a new lease on life, this treasure trove of auditory materials underscores the vibrancy of American Jewish life at the grass roots. Whether poking fun at “Sam the man who made the pants too long,” or rendering the familiar Campbell Soup jingle auf yidish, as in “Campbell Soup iz – um um – immer gut,” or introducing the very latest Hebrew folksongs, Yiddish radio informed, entertained and sustained audiences of the interwar years.

Fifty years later, Yiddish radio had the same effect on the nearly 200 people in attendance at this symposium. It held us in its static-y embrace. At many a conference, it’s customary to find more participants holding impromptu conversations in the hallway than paying attention to the proceedings.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish Radio, Radio, Yiddish, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Henry Sapoznik, From Under the Fig Tree, American Folklife Center

Ira Glass on Making Movies and Sleepwalking

By Curt Schleier

Ira Glass is no Howard Stern — yet. By that we mean he isn’t the King of All Media (Stern’s self-anointed title), but at the very least he’s the crown prince and heir apparent.

Kim Madalinski
Ira Glass and Mike Birbiglia on the set of ‘Sleepwalk With Me.’

Glass, of course, is the host of Chicago Public Radio’s popular program This American Life. More recently, he’s taken on the duties of screenwriter and producer of “Sleepwalk With Me,” a film that opens in New York August 24, Los Angeles the following week and rolls out nationally in September.

“Sleepwalk With Me” is based on the life of standup comedian Mike Birbiglia, a successful performer who, as a result of pressure from his girlfriend (about marriage) and parents (about his career), developed a sleepwalking disorder. One night he even jumped out of a closed window on the second story of a motel. Birbiglia turned the experience into a successful routine, an off-Broadway play and a book. Glass heard portions of the play, did a version of it on his radio show and has now produced it as a film. Glass spoke to The Arty Semite about his Jewish background, his radio show and the film:

Curt Schleier: For people unfamiliar with the show, what is the elevator pitch for This American Life?

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: This American Life, Sleepwalk With Me, Radio, Mike Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Interviews, Film, Curt Schleier, Comedy

Radio Legend Larry Josephson Takes the Stage

By Jon Kalish

Dana Ullman

Larry Josephson’s first foray into the world of performance is titled “An Inconvenient Jew: My Life In Radio.” And the public radio legend promises that tonight’s monologue at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village won’t be his last stab at public performance.

When he was dubbed “the original bad boy of morning radio” in the New York Daily News, Josephson grumbled that “Howard Stern stole my act.” In the press release for this evening’s performance the 72-year-old curmudgeon notes that when he started doing his live morning show, “In The Beginning,” on WBAI-FM in the late 1960s, Stern “was crawling around Levittown in leather diapers.” Stern, being Stern, is loathe to admit that any of the broadcast personalities on the counter culture outlet had any influence on him, but it’s hard not to assume otherwise.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: WBAI, Theater, Radio, Pacifica Radio, Larry Josephson, Jon Kalish

The Great Media Non-Conspiracy

By Paul Buhle

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone On the Media
By Brooke Gladstone, Illustrated by Josh Neufeld
W. W. Norton & Company, 158 pages, $26.00

An icon of many a household’s Sunday listening, Brooke Gladstone and her show “On the Media,” with Bob Garfield as co-host, has for my (pledge) money the liveliest program on National Public Radio.

This book is, at any rate, the first effort to explore Gladstone’s subject in one of the most creative printed ways: comic art. It bears the stamp of comic artist Josh Neufeld, an erstwhile collaborator of the late Harvey Pekar, who has also produced a much-praised graphic novel treatment of Hurricane Katrina’s effects on New Orleans. In “The Influencing Machine,” Neufeld’s work is tinted bluish, giving it a slightly ghostly effect, offset by the directness of the caricatures. It’s a great fit.

In the advance publicity, Gladstone calls “The Influencing Machine” a “manifesto masquerading as a history.” This thought dominates the pages in more than one way. Not only does she offer her own philosophy of communication from the Stone Age onward, she also seeks to demystify the subject and to loosen the grip of conspiracy from the public’s understanding of media.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Influencing Machine, Radio, Paul Buhle, National Public Radio, On the Media, Josh Neufeld, Comics, Brooke Gladstone, Books, Bob Garfield

The Secret History of Women's Klezmer

By Jon Kalish

A new radio drama titled “The Witches of Lublin” is being offered to public radio stations as a Passover special. Written by Ellen Kushner, Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom, the hour-long production features original klezmer music by Strom and the handiwork of Long Island-based audio drama producer Sue Zizza. The cast includes the prolific audiobook narrator Barbara Rosenblat, author Neil Gaiman and Tovah Feldshuh as the protagonist Rivka, a 18th-century klezmer musician who is a single mom, a weaver of lace and a Talmudic scholar to boot.

Ilene Winn-Lederer

“We definitely approached the story from a feminist point of view,” said Schwartz, who also sings in the radio drama. She has collaborated with her klezmer musician husband Strom on films, books and musical projects since the mid-1990s.

As the story unfolds, listeners learn that Rivka and her two daughters, Leah and Sorele, have a reputation as some of the best klezmer musicians in Poland. Enter the anti-Semitic Count, who commands the women to perform at a celebration in honor of his son. It’s an untenable choice because women performing in public would be scandalous in the world of 18th-century observant Jews. But declining to perform might trigger a pogrom against the entire Jewish community of Lublin.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish, Yiddish Music, Yale Strom, Tovah Feldshuh, The Witches of Lublin, Sue Zizza, Sprocket, Slavic Soul Party, Radio Drama, Radio, Peter Stan, Passover, Neil Gaiman, Music, Klezmer, Jon Kalish, Hot Pstromi, Ellen Kushner, Elizabeth Schwartz, Barbara Rosenblat, Alexander Fedoriouk




Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.