Arts & Culture

When Vegetarians Were Rare

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Now that “green” has gone mainstream, affecting the cars we drive, the homes we live in and, most especially, the determinedly pure, meatless food we put into our mouths, many Americans have taken to patting themselves on their backs for their eco-consciousness. To put things in healthy perspective, I’d like to suggest that we take a moment to reflect on a time, not so long ago, when vegetarians were on the margins, rather than at the center, of American culture. In a society that celebrated predation and dominion over nature, a society where the carved wood dining room sideboards of the middle class commonly featured dead stags, hunting dogs and menacing eagles, those who preferred roughage to roast beef were widely seen as curiosities.Read More

Hebrew vs. Jewish

By Philologos

Bert Horwitz from Asheville, N.C., writes: “Recently, while listening to Prokofiev’s ‘Overture on Hebrew Themes,’ which is music with decidedly Yiddish refrains, it struck me that the difference between ‘Hebrew’ and ‘Jewish’ needs illuminating. Can the intellectual de-legitimization of Israel be due to the mistaken notion that, because a Jew is a follower of Judaism, the determination to establish a ‘Jewish’ state is really a desire to establish a theocracy? The word ‘Jew’ automatically suggests a religious component that can only be ruled out by saying ‘secular Jew,’ whereas there is no need to say ‘secular Hebrew,’ because ‘Hebrew’ is not a religious term to begin with. Wouldn’t calling Israel a Hebrew state emphasize its secular nature more? Separating the two branches of ‘Jewish,’ religious and secular, by two distinct words could clarify the difference.”Read More

Kissinger, Unearthed

By Gal Beckerman

Henry Kissinger is probably going to regret the day in 1979 when he said this: “The convictions that leaders have formed before reaching high office are the intellectual capital they will consume as long as they continue in office.” It’s not a particularly earth-shattering observation. The implication being, of course, that a leader’s past — his family background, the socioeconomic and political realities that shaped his formative years — offers a key to understanding why he acts in a certain way, and ultimately to why he holds one worldview as opposed to another. But coming out of the mouth of Kissinger, someone who has always self-consciously wrapped his past in enigma, denying that his Jewishness, his German-ness, his status as an immigrant in America ever had anything to do with the formation of his famously idiosyncratic and influential foreign policy views, it is a rare invitation — and one from a man who has always loved attention, but not scrutiny.Read More

The Mongrel’s Lament

By Joshua Cohen

I recently exchanged e-mails with the outspokenly funny Piperno, asking after his many causes célèbres: the press scandal caused by a book about Italian Jews that doesn’t deal with the Holocaust, his wildly debated take on the contemporary cream of Roman Jewry in all its wealth and identity trauma, and the deeper feelings occasioned by the theft of a woman’s stockings — let’s just say, “for personal use.”Read More

New Restitution Claim Emerges in Sweden

By Marilyn Henry

Sweden’s museum of modern art is facing its first claim for Nazi-era displaced art: an Emil Nolde painting that went missing when a Frankfurt businessman tried to ship his artworks from Germany in 1939. The government recently decided that the Moderna Museet in Stockholm must resolve the claim for the painting it bought 40 years ago.Read More

The Outsiders

By Raphael Mostel

Few great writers have been as lionized and as vilified as Oscar Wilde. An Irishman who sought to be embraced by English society, he quickly became one of England’s most in-demand celebrities and one of the world’s most-produced and most-translated writers, only to be sentenced to prison for homosexuality — or, more correctly, bisexuality — and shunned by that society whose favor he had so fervently courted.Read More

‘The Ethiopian Jews of Israel’

By Alexa Bryn

‘The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land” (Jewish Lights Publishing), a new book of interviews conducted by Len Lyons and containing photographs by Ilan Ossendryver, explores the complexities of the modern Ethiopian-Israeli experience. For years, thousands of Ethiopians waited to be airlifted to a land of milk and honey, only to learn that Israel’s milk is sometimes spoiled, its honey bittersweet. Now, students, professionals, kessim (high priests), artists and soldiers speak of leaving behind an ancient life of farming and shepherding, and of being thrust into bustling modernity. Though they broach painful issues — second-class status, illiteracy, professional integration and the search for acceptance — the book celebrates their achievements. Most remarkably, even after encountering disapproval of their kessim and rituals, Ethiopians feel a deep love for Israel, where they can be openly Jewish, have choice in matters of religion and are presented with better professional opportunities. Lyons feels that Ethiopians, in this land that has both saved and rejected them, are “undergoing a tug of war internally,” as they try to reconcile their worlds of old and new.Read More

A Legend Looks Back: A Visit With Kirk Douglas

By Rebecca Spence

Over the course of an illustrious Hollywood career spanning more than five decades, Kirk Douglas has played many parts: Vincent Van Gogh, Spartacus and boxer Midge Kelly, to name just a formidable few. But the one character he has never played — to his deep regret, he now says — was that of Issur Danielovitch, his own former self.Read More

Comic Artist Remembers, Sort of

By Paul Buhle

Every Forward reader, it is safe to say, knows Ben Katchor’s work, and almost as many would recognize the contributions of Art Spiegelman. Since the 2000 publication of Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” the in-house story of Jewish predominance in the comic book trade has become part of literary folklore. The rise of comic art to respectability has brought new interest toward what should be considered an artistic genre all of itself, with veteran artist Peter Kuper smack dab in the Jewish American corner.Read More

In the Presence of Genius

By Rodger Kamenetz

What is there to say? Prodigious, brilliant, David Shapiro has lived in many worlds of art, including music and painting. Shapiro is also the author of four books of criticism: on poet John Ashbery, and on artists Jim Dine, Jasper Johns and Piet Mondrian. In total, there are 20 books to his name, including translations, editions, and collaborations with painters and poets and philosophers and aestheticians. But poetry is at the center of his work — not poetry simply as a formal activity, but as a way of thinking and a way of feeling, and even of being. This new collection is a chance to look back at the published work of the past 40 years, since it includes a selection from his previous nine books, and a sheaf of new poems.Read More

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