Perhaps the Mona Lisa is smiling about the fact that for the first time, an Israeli exhibition is on view at the Louvre in Paris.
Visitors to the museum between now and mid-August will be able to see a 1,700 year-old mosaic floor that is believed by antiquities experts to have been part of a wealthy man’s house. The mosaic was recovered from under a garbage dump in Lod in central Israel in 1996, and was excavated by Miriam Avissar of the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2009.
It is believed that the mosaic, measuring approximately 50 by 27 feet, was laid around 300 C.E., and that it was the floor of a large reception room in a private home. At the time, Lod was known as Lydda (or by the Roman name Diospolis) and was a Roman Christian city. The mosaic was preserved by the house’s fresco-covered mud-brick walls, which had collapsed on to it.
With its depictions of colorful fish, birds and animals, the floor is highly unusual in that it shows hunting and marine scenes (including sailing vessels) without human figures.
The relic, which has been previously displayed in Israel and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is being exhibited in the Louvre’s Roman art and antiquities gallery.
Making Tel Aviv’s upcoming municipal election day even more exciting, Rihanna will be giving a public concert in the city’s Park Hayarkon as the ballots are being counted. Scheduled for October 22, the concert will be the pop star’s first public performance in Israel.
Rihanna has been to Israel before, but in a more low-key capacity. During the summer of 2010, she performed at a relatively small venue in Jaffa as part of a deal with a local cellular company. That concert was open mainly to the company’s subscribers. Although details about her upcoming concert in Tel Aviv are not yet available and tickets are not yet being sold, it is believed that tens of thousands of fans will come out to see her perform in October.
The singer’s star power has cranked up considerably since her last visit to Israel, with her “Loud” (2010), “Talk That Talk” (2011), and “Unapologetic” (2012) albums having zoomed to the top of the charts. Billboard has ranked her as one of the best-selling artists of all time, and Forbes named her the fourth most powerful celebrity or 2012 on the basis of her having earned $53 million between May 2011 and May 2012.
While many residents of metropolitan Tel Aviv are looking forward to an entertaining election day, some local authorities are somewhat less enthusiastic about the timing of Rihanna’s show. They are worried that the extra road traffic that will be generated by concertgoers will deter voters from trying to get to polling stations.
Another event has been added to Barbara Streisand’s busy schedule during her upcoming visit to Israel. In addition to singing at President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday party and giving two public concerts in Tel Aviv, she will receive an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The honor will be bestowed upon her on June 17, during the 76th Hebrew University International Board of Governors Meeting.
The honor recognizes Streisand for her professional achievements, human and civil rights leadership, philanthropy, and devotion to Israel and the Jewish people. In 1986, she established The Streisand Foundation, which is dedicated to fostering women’s equality and health, protecting human and civil rights, advancing the needs of at-risk children in society and preserving the environment. Since its inception, it has granted $25 million to more than 800 non-profit organizations around the world.
“Barbra Streisand’s transcendent talent is matched by her passionate concern for equality and opportunity for people of every gender and background. Equally important, her love of Israel and her Jewish heritage are reflected in so many aspects of her life and career. We are deeply proud to honor an individual who exemplifies these values which we at the Hebrew University share and uphold,” stated Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University.
Not everyone has Zack Galifianakis renting an apartment for them, or Renee Zellweger paying to furnish it. But then again, not everyone is Mimi.
Mimi is an 88-year-old woman who, until very recently, lived in a laundromat on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Calif. She is the subject of a film being made by Israeli actor and director Yaniv Rokah. Now entering post-production thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, “Queen Mimi” tells the story of how this feisty octogenarian, who was once a San Fernando Valley housewife, ended up living on the streets of Los Angeles for almost a decade before taking up permanent residence at Fox Laundry 18 years ago.
“When I first came to L.A. seven years ago, I would be heading every morning to work at Caffe Luxxe on Santa Monica Avenue. It was 5 a.m. and the street would be dark and empty, but I would always notice Mimi waking up in the laundromat,” Rokah recalled in a phone conversation with The Arty Semite.
“I started talking to her, and we became friends. She is such an interesting person, and I decided I’d better capture this before she’s no longer with us.”
To the dismay of guardians of Jewish heritage in Poland, a former Krakow beit midrash, or Jewish house of prayer and study, reopened as a disco this past weekend.
It was first reported in Gazeta Wyborcza, a local media outlet, that a new club called Mezcal would be opened in the Kazimierz district in a structure that was once the Chewra Thilim beit midrash. The article named the various DJ’s and bands that would perform, and described the light shows and parties that would take place in the space with valuable frescoes on its walls.
The building, designed by Nachman Kopald, was built at the corner of Meisels and Bozego Ciala streets in 1896. It was utilized as a dance studio after World War II, but was restituted to the Krakow Jewish community in 2001. The building had reportedly been vacant and unmaintained since 2006.
Members of the Managing Jewish Immovable Heritage conference visited the site last month after the president of Beit Krakow, the city’s small reform congregation, informed conference organizers that she had heard that the property would be turned into a restaurant. Her congregation had been hoping to use the space for its own needs.
It’s hard not to notice that many of the prizewinners at the 2013 Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival focus on women, be they pole dancers, supermarket cashiers or pioneers in pre-state Israel. Not all of DocAviv’s nods went to films about females, but the trend is hard to ignore.
The Best Israeli Film Award went to “Pole, Dancer and a Movie,” a film by Isri Halpern about Neta Lee Levy, the founder of Israel’s first pole dancing studio. Special Jury Mention went to “Super Women,” a documentary by Yael Kipper and Ronen Zaretsky chronicling the lives of five women who all work the same shift at an Israeli supermarket. Avigail Sperber won the Best Cinematography Award for the film.
“Women/Pioneers,” a film about the young women who came to the Land of Israel to be pioneers and develop a model for “the new woman,” received the Best Research Award. “Handa Handa 4” got a Special Jury Mention for the story it tells about a young couple of Bukharan descent that refuse to follow the conventional marriage traditions of their community.
The Best Editing Award went not to a film about women, but rather to one about children. “Dancing in Jaffa,” a film by Hilla Medalia that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows ballroom dancing expert Pierre Dulaine as he returns to his native Jaffa to implement a social development program with Palestinian and Jewish children similar to the ones he has run in New York and other North American cities.
Philadelphia’s classical music-loving community is coming together on May 11 at Centennial Hall in Haverford, Pennsylvania to pay tribute to the achievements of Nelly Berman, a Russian-Jewish immigrant who has touched the lives of hundreds of young music students over the past 30 years.
Jonathan Adler, who has been studying piano at the Nelly Berman School of Music for a decade, describes its formidable director as a drill sergeant and loving grandmother rolled into one. Off to Yale in the fall, where he hopes to continue studying music, Adler told The Arty Semite, “NBS has taught me the importance not only of learning and loving classical music, but of performing the music as well.”
Berman’s daughter, Elena Berman Gantard and others in the school’s community have organized a gala concert, in which 24 pianists will play 24 preludes by Chopin and more than 30 other students will showcase their skills on violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, trumpet, voice and chamber music. The elder Berman, 74 and suffering from ill health, is making the trip to Philadelphia from Florida to be at the celebration.
“They told me to go do my thing,” said Avner Dorman about a 2011 commission by pianist Orli Shaham, violinist Gil Shaham and the 92nd Street Y to write a composition for their Hebrew Melodies project. “They wanted something related to their project, but they didn’t want to impose any specific idea on me.”
The 38-year-old composer did indeed go off and do his thing, with “Nigunim,” the title track on the Shahams’ new “Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies” album as the result. The piece, with four movements, is inspired by traditional Jewish music, but not in the usual way. “It’s not the weepy Eastern European, Ashkenazi thing you’d expect,” Dorman said.
Instead, the composition is inspired by the intervals and modes that Dorman found through ethnomusicology research on Jewish music from all over the world. The first movement is inspired by North African, specifically Tunisian and Libyan, cantillation. The second is inspired by Georgian wedding music, the third by “sort of” Western music, and the fourth by Balkan dances.
Although none of the movements sound like a nigun, their melodies are circular, like those of traditional Jewish songs. “All the melodies start and end with the same note, so in that sense they work like the tunes one hears in the synagogue or at the Passover seder,” Dorman said. “The rhetoric of the nigun is in there. I guess you could call it a shadow of a nigun, many generations removed from the source.”
Two Jewish-themed films fared well at the 2013 German Film Awards (known as the Lolas) April 26 in Berlin.
“Hannah Arendt,” famed German director Margarethe von Tratta’s film focusing on four years (1960-1964) in the political theorist’s life, won the Silver Lola for best film. The film deals with the period during which Arendt, a German-Jewish refugee, went to Jerusalem to cover Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann’s trial for The New Yorker. Her articles were followed in 1963 by the controversial book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
The film has enjoyed positive reviews for von Tratta’s direction, and especially for German actress Barbara Sukowa’s portrayal of Arendt, which won her the Lola for best actress.
Beatles fans in London have Abbey Road, to cross. Now, admirers of the late Amy Winehouse might also have somewhere special for walking.
The Sun reports that there are efforts underway to have a street named after the singer, who died in 2011 at age 27. A new area in King’s Cross is being redeveloped for housing, and locals are being asked to suggest street names for the new neighborhood. Winehouse’s former home is in Camden, which borders King’s Cross.
The singer’s fans, with full support from the Winehouse’s family, are lobbying for one of the roads to be named Winehouse Street. It’s been suggested that Winehouse Way might have more of a ring to it.
Mitch Winehouse, the late singer’s father, who has been busy helming the Amy Winehouse Foundation, said he’d be very proud to have the family name immortalized in this way.
“To think that our surname would be indelibly linked with London through the naming of a street after Amy is remarkable,” he said. “We’re a London family through and through and it would be a tremendous honor if we do become a literal part of the fabric of this great city.”
Washington D.C.’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim by winning a coveted Partners in Preservation grant to repair its century-old stained glass windows.
Sixth & I has been chosen to be among 24 finalists competing for a portion of $1 million. Since 2006, Partners in Preservation has disbursed $9 million in grants to historical sites in seven major U.S. cities. This is the first time that the Washington, D.C. metro area is the focus of the effort.
Through online voting, the public has a say in how the funds will be allocated. The synagogue, which is asking for $100,000 and is the only Jewish institution being considered, is currently in 3rd place behind the National Cathedral and Mount Vernon. Sixth & I is up against other major historical sites, such as the Marine Corps War Memorial, the Congressional Cemetery, and Clara Barton’s Missing Soldier Office. The voting continues until May 10.
In the meantime, the public can get a behind-the-scenes tour of the synagogue on Sunday, May 5, as part of a weekend-long community celebration of the competing landmarks. Visitors will get a first-hand look at the sanctuary’s nearly one-dozen historic stained glass windows, many of which have not been touched since their installation 105 years ago, and are therefore in need of repair, cleaning, re-building, restoration and re-leading.
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.
Was the 2006 kidnapping, 24-day long torture, and murder of 23-year-old French-Jewish cell phone salesman Ilan Halimi by a suburban Paris gang fueled by anti-Semitism? In the new documentary film, “Jews & Money,” there’s no doubt about the answer.
In the film we see lawyers arguing over the validity of anti-Semitic hate crime charges, but filmmaker Lewis Cohen’s starting point is obvious. The story of Halimi’s murder and its aftermath serves as a springboard for the history and development of Western anti-Semitis, and the adoption of its elements by Islamists and others opposed to the State of Israel.
In particular, it is the gang leader’s admission that Halimi was targeted because of the belief that all Jews are rich, which sets the stage for the filmmaker’s investigation of this invidious canard.
Cohen told an audience at the first screening of the film’s final cut on April 17 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco that it was the topic of Jews and money, and not the Halimi case specifically, that first interested him. He said he hadn’t thought much about the origin of the stereotype until he took an extended trip to Europe about five years ago. He decided he wanted to focus on the subject, and when someone told him about Halimi, he realized the crime was an excellent framing device.
Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, is a somber one. Families and friends visit the graves of deceased loved ones, sad music plays all day on the radio, and special programming replaces regularly scheduled television shows. It doesn’t seem like the kind of day to be animated.
But Beit AVI CHAI, a cultural and social center in Jerusalem established by the AVI CHAI Foundation, is doing the unexpected. In a new project called “Panim. Yom. Zikaron,” (Face. Day. Remembrance) it is capturing memories of fallen soldiers in short animated videos. Families submit recollections of fallen loved ones, and young animators are commissioned to create short videos based on them.
There are currently nine videos posted on a special section of Beit AVI CHAI’s website, and it has put out a call out to animators, asking them to participate in the project, and to the public to submit stories. The videos and information are in Hebrew only, but you can understand the gist of the stories without knowing the language.
America can’t seem to get enough of Adam Mansbach’s “Go the F**k to Sleep,” the picture book for adults that took the country by storm when it was published in 2011.
Deadline.com reports that husband-wife writing team Ken Marino and Erica Oyama Marino have been hired by Fox 2000 to adapt the book, which was illustrated by Ricardo Cortes, for the screen.
Cosmetics tycoon and philanthropist Leonard A. Lauder has donated his $1 billion collection of Cubist art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection includes 78 Cubist paintings, as well as drawing and sculptures by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braques, Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, many of them signature and historically significant works.
Lauder, 80, is a longtime and influential New York art collector. Unlike other art aficionados with diverse and changing interests, Lauder has focused his acquisitions primarily on Cubism from his early collecting days. “I liked the aesthetic,” he told The New York Times. “Back then,” he said, “a lot was still available, because nobody really wanted it.”
From early on, Lauder decided that he was working on a museum-worthy collection. “Whenever I considered buying anything, I would step back and ask myself, does this make the cut?” he reflected about his approach to acquiring pieces the collections of Gertrude Stein, the Swiss banker Raoul La Roche and the British art historian Douglas Cooper.
Lauder was able to obtain works that date back to the advent of Cubism in the first decade of the 20th century, when artists such as Picasso, Braque, Léger and Gris pioneered the movement. Among these are Braque’s “Terrace at the Hotel Mistral” (1907), and “Trees at L’Estaque” (1908), and Picasso’s “Oil Mill” (1909), “Then Fan” (1911) and “Woman in an Armchair (Eva)” (1913-1914).
Portrait artist Kalman Aron has captured the essence of hundreds of people on canvas over the course of his long career. But he has allowed only one of those individuals to truly know the complex and tragic forces behind his creative output.
Little did Susan Beilby Magee know that the new immigrant to the U.S. who painted her 6-year-old likeness in 1951 would, five decades later, entrust her with telling his painful Holocaust story.
On April 10, Magee will speak about her book, “Into the Light: The Healing Art of Kalman Aron” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The event will also include a discussion with Magee and with Aron’s son, artist David Aron, moderated by Jean Rosensaft, Assistant Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Director of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York.
“He decided to throw a veil over his past and made a conscious decision to live a life apart from the survivor community,” noted Rosensaft of the artist. “The trauma of loss was intensified for him because of this self-imposed isolation.”
Two Jewish-themed films fared well at the 2013 German Film Awards, known as the Lolas were handed out April 26 in Berlin.
“Hannah Arendt,” famed German director Margarethe von Tratta’s film focusing on four years (1960-1964) in the political theorist’s life, won the Silver Lola for best film. The film deals with the period during which Arendt, a German-Jewish refugee, went to Jerusalem to cover Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann’s trial for The New Yorker. Her articles were followed by the highly controversial “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” in 1963.
The film has enjoyed positive reviews for von Tratta’s direction, and especially for German actress Barbara Sukowa’s portrayal of Arendt, which won her the Lola for best actress.
The Lola for the best film for youth went to “Kaddish for a Friend,” a production in German and Arabic about a 14-year-old boy named Ali who moves from a Palestinian refugee camp to Berlin. There, he tries to gain the acceptance of the local teens by breaking into the apartment of an elderly Russian Jewish war veteran. Ali gets into serious trouble when the other youths vandalize the apartment and Ali gets reported to the police. The only way he can avoid prosecution and deportation is to seek the forgiveness of the Jewish man, his supposed enemy.
Watch the trailer for ‘Kaddish for a Friend’:
It was interesting timing. While Sandberg’s book sparked debate across the nation about working mothers in white-collar settings, Weissman’s film highlighted the very different challenges of struggling female indie musicians trying to raise families.
“Rock N Roll Mamas,” which was screened March 7 at the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival, follows three women of different ages, backgrounds and family situations. They are all trying to make their livings as rock musicians, and they all pay a price for staying true to their art while raising children. But it seems as though they may not perceive the costs of their decisions as well as the film’s viewers do.
Weissman started working on “Rock N Roll Mamas,” her third film, in 2003. A New York-native with an Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia College in Chicago who was living Portland, she became interested in the lives of indie musician moms after reading an article on the topic. “I saw a real similarity between them and me, as I was a freelance filmmaker and a new mom at the time. It resonated for me — all the juggling and hard work and the low pay.”
“This Is the End,” Seth Rogen’s co-directorial debut with Evan Goldberg, won’t be out in theaters for another three months, but the pair has already signed on to co-direct and co-produce another movie titled “The Interview.” Rogen will also star in the film.
As we wait for “This Is the End,” to arrive in theatres June 14 so we can watch James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson act outrageously (funny) as cataclysmic events ravage Los Angeles, Rogen and Goldberg are already working with Columbia to get “The Interview” into production. James Franco is being eyed to co-star with Rogen, but talks with the super-busy actor haven’t commenced yet.
The movie’s plot deals with a good-looking talk show host (the role Franco would potentially play) and his producer (Rogen) who somehow get involved in a plot to assassinate North Korea’s prime minister. The screenplay is based on a story written by Goldberg, Rogen and Dan Sterling.
Goldberg and Rogen are childhood friends (the grew up together in Vancouver) and longtime creative collaborators. They’ve worked together on numerous movies including “Knocked Up,” “Pineapple Express,” “Funny People” and “The Green Hornet.”
Watch the trailer for ‘This Is the End’:
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