Michael Bronski

A Series Defies Easy Answers to Inquisition’s Questions

When Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19, 2005, becoming Benedict XVI, his promotion elevated him from his position as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Critics of the archconservative, and highly controversial, cardinal were quick to point out that, since the CDF is the modern moniker for the Holy Office of the Inquisition, Ratzinger essentially spent 24 years as the Roman Catholic church’s grand inquisitor.

From the Yiddish Songbook to the American Canon

There is a shocking, gloriously transcendent moment that occurs nine minutes into “From Shtetl to Swing,” an hour-long documentary about the influence of Yiddish culture on American music. The program is presented October 5 as part of PBS’s “Great Performances.” Until this point in the show, we only have been told

Crossing Into the Director’s Chair

Like Leo Spivak, the character he plays in “King of the Corner,” Peter Riegert is on the road, selling his wares. But unlike the troubled Spivak, who is trapped in a job he increasingly dislikes — running focus groups for home-safety systems — as he undergoes a massive midlife crisis, Riegert is traveling across the country to dozens

He Played the Jew, Perhaps a Little Too Well

There are many reasons to celebrate The Turner Classic Movies restoration of Edward F. Cline’s charming 1925 ethnic comedy “The Rag Man.” Not least, it offers a chance for audiences to finally watch a full-scale, feature-length performance by the famed but mostly forgotten Jewish performer Max Davidson. He was exceedingly popular early

Searching for Couches Real and Metaphoric

Furniture, vital in everyday life, hardly ever plays a large role in art. Henry James’s “The Spoils of Poynton” comes to mind, in which the characters’ inner lives are manifested in their dreadful fight over inherited furnishings, as do stories by Anzia Yezierska, in which the meager possessions of immigrant Jews on the Lower East Side

Stiller Waters Should Run Deeper

Ben Stiller is one of the most talented performers, writers and directors working today. Which is why it’s so hard for this viewer to be presented with “Along Came Polly,” a sometimes funny but mostly unpleasant romantic comedy, the benighted love child of the comic coarseness of “There’s Something About Mary” and the

Hammer Time

The brilliance of “The Hebrew Hammer,” an edgy, often shocking jewploitation action film, is not just that it will do anything to get laughs, but that it often doesn’t seem to know how far it is actually going.Any film that begins with the dedication “To all my Jewish brothers and sisters who have had enough of gentiles” is obviously

Rewriting the Script on Reagan: Why the President Ignored AIDS

For the last two months I’ve been teaching a course titled “Plagues and Politics: The Impact of AIDS on U.S. Culture” at Dartmouth College, and have spent an enormous amount of time thinking about the AIDS pandemic. So when the political flap over the historical accuracy of “The Reagans” — the CBS miniseries

Death and Disaster in Georgia

And the Dead Shall Rise:

The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank By Steve Oney Pantheon Books, 742 pages, $35. * * *|On August 16, 1915, Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman from the North who had been living and working in Atlanta, was snatched from a jail cell by 25 vigilantes, taken to a neighboring rural town and

What It Feels Like for a Boy

Sadness mixed with an audible sigh of relief in the reviews of Woody Allen’s latest film, “Anything Else.” While most critics agreed that this new romantic comedy — featuring “American Pie” star Jason Biggs in the traditional Woody Allen role — was nowhere near as disastrous as “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” or “Hollywood