Arts & Culture


Spies Like Us: The Jews’ Answer to Bond

By Eddy Friedfeld

Mounted on the dashboard of my black convertible there are two plastic switches, “Grenade Launcher” and “Ejector Seat.” They amuse friends and concern wary parking lot attendants. I own high-tech gadgets ranging from a big-screen television that can do virtually everything except hover, to an IBM laptop with a Celeron processor, to the George Foreman Grill, which can broil a steak in eight minutes. But I have never disarmed a thermonuclear device with seven seconds left to detonation and I have never killed or otherwise disabled a dozen enemy agents while skiing backward down the Swiss Alps. I have never devised a creative escape from a windowless room as two spike-laden walls closed in on me, and I have never enjoyed even one archenemy with plans for world conquest.Read More


The Hidden and The Manifest

By Jay Michaelson

Scholars, like artists, need community — people who see the world in ways similar enough to be supportive but different enough to provoke thought, controversy and inspiration. For me, Rabbi Jill Hammer has long played all those roles. When we teach together, she always seems to “get it,” and to come up with insights or rituals that I would never have dreamed of. Last week, for example, I was asked to create a Jewish component for an interfaith Halloween service. Jewish Halloween? But I sent Jill an e-mail, and within minutes came the perfect response, drawing on Sukkot’s ushpizin ritual, integrating the harvest elements of the original Halloween holidayRead More


Redefining What Makes A Jewish Story

By Emily Hauser

On a recent fall evening, a bunch of Jews got together to tell some stories for a Chicago audience. Most of them were Jews, at any rate. Except the Palestinian. And one of the African Americans. The other African American, National Public Radio commentator Aaron Freeman, converted to Judaism years ago.Read More


Golem Meets ‘Taxi Driver’ in New Novel

By Saul Austerlitz

For Rabbi Loew, the legendary maker of the original Prague-based golem, his creation was a photographic negative of the studious, passive Jew: muscular rather than atrophied; doltish rather than learned; a man of action, not of words. For Alan Krieger, antihero of Marc Estrin’s novel “Golem Song,” the rabbi is indeed a role model. But rather than craft a helper out of clay, Alan’s goal is to turn himself into a golem of sorts, defending his town (New York City) from the onslaught of Jew haters and potential killers stalking the streets. That no one has asked him to do so, and that most of the threats seem to emerge from within the folds of his own tattered psyche, is beside the point.Read More


Return of the European Jew

By Aaron Hamburger

In 1946, Robert Welsch, a German Jewish journalist who had fled to Palestine during World War II, went back to Berlin. “It smells of corpses here, of gas chambers and torture chambers,” he wrote. “The remnant of Jewish settlements in Germany must be liquidated as quickly as possible. Germany is no soil for Jews.”Read More


New York Theater Teems With Jewish Fare

By Cara Joy David

Looking to see a show that has a Jewish slant? Well, here’s some good news. Four off-Broadway comedies have taken the guesswork out of the selection process for you. “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy,” “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn” and “Jewtopia” all wisely advertise their orientation within their titles.Read More


Purim Gets a Spinal Tap

By Wayne Hoffman

The 2007 Academy Awards are scheduled for February 25, exactly one week before Purim. Coincidence? Maybe not. If Christopher Guest’s new film, “For Your Consideration,” is any indication, Purim might be Oscar’s new favorite holiday.Read More


Arrested Development?

By Chanan Tigay

For Americans of a certain age, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was formative: It’s by now axiomatic that most will never forget where they were at the time they received word of the shooting. Similarly, though probably less axiomatically, there’s a legion of Jewish males who will never forget where they were sitting (or lying) when they read the scene in Philip Roth’s masterpiece “Portnoy’s Complaint,” in which our young hero, um, makes love to a piece of liver that his family’s about to eat for dinner. (As I write this, 37 years after the book’s publication in 1969, I still fear that even this euphemistic characterization will not make it past my editors.) It’s not that it was the first or the last literary instance in which perishables were used as sexual aids. Nor was it the first — or last — time a character engaged in strange sexual congress with himself. But a nice Jewish boy? And for all the world to see?Read More


The Big Chill

By Alisa Solomon

Last month, in an unusual show of unity around “the fundamental principle of debate in a democracy,” some 113 scholars and intellectuals with a wide range of passionate opinions about the Middle East signed a letter to the New York Review of Books in objection to the abrupt cancellation of a planned October 3 talk on “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” to have been given by New York University historian Tony Judt. The signatories — among them, more than a few hawkish Zionists — rebuked Jewish organizations for producing “a climate of intimidation” that stifles open debate on Israel.Read More


The Reel Deal

By Saul Austerlitz

Annette Insdorf can hardly believe it has been 20 years since she launched her popular cinematic interview series, “Reel Pieces,” and so she is consequently in the mood to reminisce. For the Columbia University professor who is also a film scholar and a master interviewer, the occasion of her series’ anniversary offers the opportunity to reflect on its legacy, and on the nature of her longstanding association with its host, New York City’s 92nd Street Y.Read More


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