Arts & Culture


A Babel Biographer Chases His Moving Target

By Ilan Stavans

Savage Shorthand: The Life and Death of Isaac Babel By Jerome Charyn Random House, 224 pages, $24.95. * * *Isaac Babel was an iconoclast whose small, mysterious oeuvre, delivered in a deft, compact Russian shaped at a time of revolution, becomes more alluring with the passage of time. As Jerome Charyn puts it in his meditationRead More


A Writer, a Woman And a Jew

By Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Feminist writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin discusses the secret to unlocking one’s creative voice, which, she says, lies in owning the particularities of your identity. In this personal essay from our archives, she discusses finding her voice as a woman, a writer, and a Jew.Read More


Love Iranian-American Style

By Steven Zeitchik

In “Love Iranian-American Style,” director Tanaz Eshaghian tackles the subject of marriage in the Persian-American community, where she interrogates, challenges and otherwise needles her relatives over their views on coupling. The Eshaghians fled the ayatollah’s brutal regime after the 1979 revolution, but the totalitarians they leftRead More


Best Sister

The charms of Ira Wohl’s family documentary, “Best Sister,” sneak up on you in the manner of a good deli sandwich, which may sound weird but for the fact that the film devotes key scenes to the pursuit of fine cured meats and other (deceptively important) banalities.The film is the final in a trilogy that focuses on Fran Reiss of JewelRead More


Pork and Milk

By Steven Zeitchik

Breaks from tradition also weigh on the mind of Valérie Mréjen, director of the pleasingly low-key French documentary “Pork and Milk.” Through a series of interviews, Mréjen throws a light on a number of young Israeli men who also happen to be have left the fold of ultra-Orthodoxy: a chef, a cantor with the radical sect Neturei Karta, aRead More


Language Lover Gets Back to His Roots

By Jerome A. Chanes

HebrewTalk: 101 Hebrew Roots and the Stories They Tell By Joseph Lowin EKS Publishing Company, 220 pages, $27.95. * * *Joseph Lowin comes from a long line of lovers of the Hebrew language — from medieval grammarians Menahem ben Saruk, Dunash Ben Librat, ben Hayujj and ibn Janakh, who invented Hebrew grammar, and the early modern HebrewRead More


The Second Tragedy at Bergen-Belsen

By Josie Glausiusz

After Daybreak: The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen, 1945By Ben ShephardSchocken Books, 288 pages, $25.* * *Schocken Books, 288 pages, $25.In the middle of the night, when my father cannot sleep, he will pick up the phone in London and call me in New York, where he knows it is still evening, to talk about a topic that torments him. My fatherRead More


Jacob’s Finale

By Deidre Levinson

This final portion of Genesis is chiefly concerned with Jacob’s preparations for his approaching death. These occupy three successive scenes. In the first he has Joseph, in private, swear to bury him, not in Egypt where he will die, but in the burial place of his fathers in Canaan. In the second, again in private audience with Joseph, heRead More


La Petite Jerusalem

By Saul Austerlitz

Religious practice, especially of the Jewish kind, is often an iffy matter on screen. As dramatized in such recent films as “A Stranger Among Us” and “A Price Above Rubies,” Orthodox Judaism is rendered tantalizingly foreign. When the modern world intrudes in these films, as it inevitably does, the result is a clash of matter andRead More


The Chosen People

By Steven Zeitchik

Give Igal Hecht credit for trying. Making a movie about theology is tricky enough; making one about a fringe theology requires a miracle. In his ambitious but frustrating documentary, the Canadian filmmaker has taken on that perpetual urban curiosity, Jews for Jesus. By the choice of subject, one expects a flurry of proselytizing and street-sideRead More





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