Arts & Culture


A Hip-Hop Hitmaker, Straight Outta Shaker Heights

By Allison Hoffman

The young guys who stop Jerry Heller in the street these days never ask if he can make them into pop icons like Elton John, or legends like Creedence Clearwater Revival. The young guys who stop Jerry Heller don’t even want to be latter-day Marvin Gayes.Read More


Eyeing the Headlines, From the Ivory Tower

By Gabriel Sanders

In the field of Jewish studies, academic conferences aren’t exactly known for their timeliness. But one panel at last month’s Association for Jewish Studies conference — the largest annual gathering of scholars in the field — proved remarkable for its topicality.Read More


Haven in the Hollows

By Glenn C. Altschuler

Neither religion nor Yiddishkeit played a significant role in the life of young Harry Schwachter. A prosperous merchant in Williamson, W.Va., during the early 20th century, Schwachter ate fried apples and country-cured ham every Sunday morning. He “crashed the society set” by giving dancing lessons, and he appeared in amateur theatricals in an act called “Schwachter and Crank.” But, like more than a few others, Schwachter’s sense of Jewish identity received a big boost from a little persecution: In the mid-1920s, a friend heard him speak in his native Hungarian and “apologized,” because “I allus thought you was a damn Jew!” Hurt and stunned, Schwachter threw himself into a campaign to build a synagogue for Williamson’s 130 Jews. When the cornerstone was laid, he told the gentiles in the crowd that the temple proved that “we did not come for the purpose of filling our bags and baggage, but rather to live with you, work with you, and serve with you to the end of time. A handful of Jewish people have found a veritable haven in this community.”Read More


Rembrandt Revised

By Beth Schwartzapfel

As Jewish devotees of Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn are fond of noting, he lived and worked in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter during the “Golden Age” of the 17th century. He painted dozens of portraits of Jews and had a relationship with at least one prominent Jewish figure — Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel. As conventional wisdom goes, he must have had a deep connection to his Israelite neighbors.Read More


Abe’s World: Rereading ‘The Rise of David Levinsky’

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

It’s not often that I get the chance to reread a novel, especially a big, sprawling novel like “The Rise of David Levinsky,” a cautionary tale about the immigrant experience that Abraham Cahan, longtime editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, had published, to much acclaim, way back in 1917. But thanks to an initiative of the Downtown Kehillah, an organization designed to strengthen Jewish life for those New Yorkers who live and work below 14th Street, hundreds of people were invited to delve deeply into the book and to share their opinions of it with one another on a wintry Saturday evening in December. Most of the participants were new to “Levinsky,” as the book is commonly called; a few others, among them Marshall Berman, the distinguished CUNY professor; J.J. Goldberg, this paper’s editor, and me, had met up with the book and its characters years before, but in preparation for the evening’s give-and-take we were giving it a second look.Read More


Varian Fry’s Mission of Mercy

By Iris Blasi

Varian Fry arrived in France in 1940 with $3,000 taped to his leg and a list containing the names of 200 European intellectuals believed to be wanted by the Nazis. He planned on staying three weeks. He left 13 months later, having tested his own resourcefulness, befriending like-minded activists and saving the lives of thousands in the process.Read More


Forgetting the Past In a City of the Future

By Adina Lopatin

‘Every city develops a kind of imagined sense of itself alongside the actual structure of the city,” said Barbara Mann, professor of literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. “But Tel Aviv is an extreme case.”Read More


A Life in Search of Meaning: Heschel at 100

By Or N. Rose

The 1965 photograph of Abraham Joshua Heschel walking arm in arm with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Alabama in support of African American civil rights is a source of great pride in the Jewish community. It represents a shining moment in our recent history, when thousands of young Jews, along with a smaller number of prominent religious leaders, participated in the most celebrated liberation movement of the 20th century.Read More


The Portable Legacy

By Gabriel Sanders

Lubavitch Hasidim may be torn over the earthly status of their erstwhile rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, but if there is a matter on which the movement’s adherents can find common ground, it is the sacredness of the sect’s world headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.Read More


A South-of-the-Border Search for Identity

By Ilan Stavans

In my view, complaints about a film misrepresenting the source on which it is based miss the point. Once a writer sells the material and agrees to no longer be involved, the product is beyond his domain. He might as well sit back and enjoy the show, just like any other spectator.Read More


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