A chance encounter at a Parisian cocktail party brought novelist Sara Houghteling together with the woman whose family would serve as the subject of her first novel. Chatting with a lawyer, Houghteling mentioned her work in progress, which would study the efforts of a prominent French family of art dealers to recover works of art looted by the Nazis. She was told the story sounded a great deal like that of a friend’s family. The 31-year-old Jewish novelist was introduced to Marianne Rosenberg, whose grandfather, Paul, had been one of the most prominent dealers of modern art in pre-World War II Paris, serving as the exclusive dealer for Picasso, Braque and Matisse, among others. Houghteling already had been fascinated by the heroic efforts of the curator of the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris, Rose Valland, who had taken great risks to document Nazi looting. Bringing together the two strands — dealer and curator, Jew and non-Jew — Houghteling’s debut novel, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” was born.
Among those who raised money for Chabad in response to the murder of the group’s Mumbai representatives last month during the terrorist attack on that city, Patrick A.’s appeal was probably unique.
The look I received from the proprietor of Heichal Judaica, A bookstore in Brooklyn’s heavily Orthodox Midwood district, was understandably puzzled, bordering on suspicious. After all, my yarmulke may have said yes-yes, but my jeans and sneakers said no-no. As it turns out, I was in the market for some frum Jewish entertainment and wanted to find out what Orthodox teenagers, some of whom might not be allowed to listen to secular music, were watching and bopping their heads to these days. The musical selections available at the store leaned toward hazanut, or cantorial music, with sensitive bearded men gazing out soulfully from the covers of pastel-print albums.
The era of Jewish boxers — tough guys from the ghettos, like Benny Leonard and Barney Ross — is over. For that matter, the era of boxing itself, once king of all American sports, has passed, as well. In that regard, Dmitriy Salita is doubly a throwback, being both Jewish and a boxer, with an added twist: As a practicing Orthodox Jew, he does not fight on the Sabbath. What normally might be a potentially fatal limitation for a boxer (many fights are scheduled for weekend nights) has proved to be a public relations bonanza for this undefeated junior welterweight, now the star of Jason Hutt’s documentary film “Orthodox Stance,” opening January 25 in New York and April 11 in Los Angeles.
A man awakes one morning to discover he has become an insect — hideous, despised and hunted. The world around him looks much the same as it ever has, but he can tell by the piteous looks of those around him that he himself has changed, and can never again be who he once was.
If a country’s movies are a barometer of its emotions (and they often are), the 59th year of the State of Israel has been a bummer. In the aftermath of a disastrous incursion into Lebanon, saddled with a do-nothing government, Israelis of all stripes are dismayed by their current state of affairs. And the movies that have been delivered to New York for the 22nd Israel Film Festival, and the first Other Israel Film Festival, accurately reflect the country’s hangover. The American audiences watching these movies will get to see Israel as a squabbling, miserable family — bitter, fed by long-held grudges, held together with masking tape and the last remaining shreds of a previous generation’s ideological fervor.
For Zionists of a certain age and temperament, no home was complete without a prominently placed copy of Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s “O Jerusalem!” A secular Bible of sorts, Collins and Lapierre’s popular-historical chronicle of the founding of the State of Israel testified to the essential rightness of the Jewish cause, even as it gestured toward a fuller-bodied understanding of both sides of the struggle. Some 35 years later, after Collins’s death in 2005, that most logical of next steps — the big-screen adaptation — has been granted to “O Jerusalem!” and the results are both disappointing and illuminating.