Arts & Culture

The Go-Between

By Rebecca Spence

Between 2002 and 2006, photographer Gillian Laub made more than a dozen trips to Israel and the Palestinian territories to shoot portraits of everyday people going about their lives. Those lives, often interrupted by violence and bearing the scars of the conflict, are explored in her new book, “Testimony” (Aperture). The Forward’s Rebecca Spence spoke with Laub about the process of making the book.Read More

The Ivy’s Barbed Embrace

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Thousands of American Jewish households were on edge this month awaiting a special guest. No, it wasn’t Elijah the Prophet. It was the college admissions office. Will Chloe and Jonah be headed for Princeton next fall? Or have they set their sights on Harvard? Yale? The University of Michigan, or is it Wellesley? What about Bowdoin? Bowdoin?!Read More

Taking Parnassus by Sheer Force of Wit

By David Kaufmann

Kenneth Koch has not received his due, in part because his Harvard classmates and close friends, John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara, have overshadowed him, and in part because he could be rambunctiously funny. Poetry, after all, is serious business, and we have never really known what to do with comic poets beyond relegating them to the seventh circle of “light verse.” But Koch deserves better. As Ron Padgett’s handsome selection of Koch’s poems shows, the man aspired to take Parnassus by sheer force of his wit.Read More

Now 95, a Journalist Finally Looks Back

By Stephen J. Lyons

In a photograph that still haunts me weeks after I first saw it, a young girl, perhaps 7 years old, faces the camera, clutching a toy. An older boy — 9 or 10 — holds the girl’s wrist and smiles bravely. The girl does not smile. Her eyes look past Ruth Gruber’s camera into a place that holds terror and heartbreak.Read More

Primo Levi’s Second Language

By Gabriel Sanders

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Primo Levi’s death. To commemorate the occasion, W.W. Norton & Company is releasing “A Tranquil Star,” a selection of the author’s previously untranslated short stories. Though clearly a tribute, the book is also being touted as a kind of reintroduction to the Italian master: Not only was Levi the great chronicler of the horrors of Auschwitz, but he was also a satirist and stylist — a writer whose imaginative powers were as keen as his reporter’s eye.Read More

The Ghost Exhibition

By Marilyn Henry

When Max Stern, owner of the Dominion Gallery in Montreal, died in 1987, he was one of the most important art dealers in Canada. As his estate was liquidating the 5,000 works held at Dominion, representatives came across evidence of another, less voluntary liquidation: Fifty years earlier, Stern’s original gallery — Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf— had sold its artwork at a forced auction. Representatives of the Stern estate became determined to restore the legacy of the persecuted Düsseldorf dealer and to locate and recover more than 200 objects that he was compelled to sell in 1937.Read More

A Perfect Pairing Of Worker and Work

By Alexander Gelfand

Duke Ellington once said that there are only two kinds of music: good music, and the other kind. It follows that the good stuff ought to come in a variety of forms. To name but a few: There’s the stuff that lives on the page, crafted by a particularly inspired composer; there’s the stuff that lives in the moment, as performed by a particularly inspired musician, and there’s the stuff that is both of those things rolled into one.Read More

Family Circle Drawn Tighter by Tragedy

By Martin Gilbert

Victor Erlich, born in 1914, was the offspring of two giants of the Jewish intellectual stage: Simon Dubnow, his grandfather, and Henryk Erlich, his father. In his new memoir, “Child of a Turbulent Century,” Erlich brings us into his heady family circle and to the interwar flourishing of Jewish literary and political creativity. And hard though it is for readers, and more for the writer, to forget the ending of grandfather and father — Dubnow, the famed Jewish historian, was killed by a Nazi bullet in Riga in 1941, and Erlich, a leading figure in the Polish Bund, took his own life in one of Stalin’s prisons in 1942 — it is the vigorous, warm, hopeful world that dominates these pages.Read More

Speaks British, Acts Yiddish

By Joshua Cohen

Tabula rasa — meaning a blank slate, or a clean start — is, both as term and as concept, irreparably Latin, foreign and so forbidden to us, whether by God, history… or British novelist Howard Jacobson.Read More

Israeli Scholar Trains an Eye on the Emerald Isle

By Gabriel Sanders

As a student at Tel Aviv University in the mid 1990s, Jerusalem native Guy Beiner became interested in what the French call l’histoire des mentalités, history that takes into account how a people perceived itself and its world. In particular, Beiner began to consider folklore and oral traditions — sources often ignored by historians — as valuable tools in studying how a community lived and understood its moment in time.Read More

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