Arts & Culture

Judaism and the Culture of Outburst

By Jay Michaelson

It feels like we’re “Falling Down” again. Fourteen years ago, Michael Douglas’s badly coiffed Everyman captured a cultural moment of impotent white rage: Furious at downsizing, outsourcing and the increasing falseness of American life, but powerless to stop any of it, Douglas’s character finally snaps — and we watched, mostly sympathetically. That year, 1993, came the dawn of both globalization and true multiculturalism in America, and so, on both Left and Right there was a sense of something spiraling out of control.Read More

An Oracle of Humanism’s Survival

By Joshua Cohen

If the number, variety and talent of a country’s writers should be apportioned to that country’s population or size, then small Hungary is operating at an incredible surplus. But if the number, variety and talent of a country’s writers should be apportioned, instead, to the trauma suffered by that country — adjusted to the number and variety of its national wounds, as inflicted by wars and passing regimes — then Hungary’s modern writing wealth seems justified. Living and writing today, Hungary can count Nobel laureate Imre Kertész, Péter Esterházy, Péter Nádas and György Dalos among its internationally greatest, alongside the witty and devastatingly intelligent György Konrád, who in English publishes under the nom-de-cognatus George.Read More

A Series Defies Easy Answers to Inquisition’s Questions

By Michael Bronski

When Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19, 2005, becoming Benedict XVI, his promotion elevated him from his position as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Critics of the archconservative, and highly controversial, cardinal were quick to point out that, since the CDF is the modern moniker for the Holy Office of the Inquisition, Ratzinger essentially spent 24 years as the Roman Catholic church’s grand inquisitor.Read More

Israeli Artists Zoom In on Commercial Success

By Toby Appleton Perl

With three major photography exhibits currently on view in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, an upcoming one-man show slated for Israeli marvel Barry Frydlender at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art this month and a major survey of Israeli photographers currently at New York’s Jewish Museum, Israeli video and photo artists are on display as never before. Indeed, lens-based art has become the hot new medium for many homegrown Israeli artists, allowing them to reach unprecedented creative — and commercial — heights on the international scene.Read More

After a 150-Year Intermission, Biblical-Themed Opera Reappears in Russia

By Sana Krasikov

The birth of Giuseppe Verdi’s third opera, “Nabucco,” came about almost by accident. In 1841, the 28-year-old Verdi, paralyzed by depression following the death of his wife and children, and the failure of his second opera, vowed never to compose again. Receiving a libretto from Bartolomeo Merelli, the impresario of Milan’s La Scala Theater, Verdi threw the manuscript violently on the table, causing it to fall open on the words of Hebrew slaves: “Va pensiero, sull’ali dorate,” translated to mean, “Fly, thought, on golden wings.” Inspired by this paraphrase from the Bible, Verdi decided to write a drama made for a great chorus, composing an opera whose popularity would turn his fate around.Read More

Breaking The Silence Of Sefirah –– Sort of

By Matthue Roth

The hip-hop artist Kosha Dillz recently scheduled a stop on his Midwest tour at Mike’s Place, a monthly party in Chicago. It seemed like a great match: Mike’s Place — which caters to young, single Jews in their 20s and 30s — is held at a club in Lakeview, an up-and-coming Modern Orthodox community that is home to many baalei teshuva, or newly Orthodox people. And Dillz is himself increasingly religiously observant. Born in Israel and raised in New Jersey, he fell into substance abuse and did time in jail before he “sought out rabbis and studied Talmud in yeshivot,” according to his Web site.Read More

An Offering To the Priests Of Yiddish

By Joshua Cohen

At the end of “White Challah,” one of 16 stories included in Lamed Shapiro’s posthumous and definitive “The Cross, and Other Jewish Stories,” the aftermath of a pogrom is described in the following manner: “Pillars of smoke and pillars of flame rose to the sky from the entire city. Beautiful was the fire on the great altar. The cries of the victims — long-drawn-out, endless cries — were sweet in the ears of a god as eternal as the Eternal God. And the tender parts, the thighs and the breasts, were the portion of the priest.”Read More

Jewish Jesus Conference Asks, ‘Who Invited You?’

By Gabriel Sanders

This past Sunday, the Web-based culture organization Nextbook sponsored a daylong conference in New York devoted to a subject not often explored in Jewish circles: the life and legacy of Jesus Christ. The novelty of the choice came through already in the program’s impish title: “What’s He Doing Here? Jesus in Jewish Culture.” Sure, Jesus was a Jew, perhaps even history’s most famous one, but he nevertheless represents something else, too, something profoundly, essentially un-Jewish. And so, with an impressive roster of thinkers from disciplines ranging from literature and history to music and art, Nextbook set out to ask: Who was Jesus and what place, if any, does he have in the Jewish tradition?Read More

Kosher Tech

By Jenna WeIssman Joselit

A few months back, one of my columns explored the ways in which the introduction of electricity in late-19th- and early-20th-century America affected religious ritual — unquestionably for the better. The impact of the very latest technology, from the Internet to third-generation cell phones, on American Jewish life of the 21st-century appears to be far more complicated, especially for those deeply pious American Jews determined to hold the outside world at bay. The relationship between the two is so complicated, in fact, that “kosher cell phones” have recently come on the market, catering to the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, consumer.Read More

More Arms Than Shiva

By Marina Harss

Barely a quarter of the way through “The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein,” Martin Duberman’s voluminous new biography of the arts patron who, through his partnership with choreographer George Balanchine, transformed American ballet, the subject has undertaken — with varying degrees of success — more projects, met more fascinating people and had more lovers than most of his contemporaries, or most anyone else for that matter, would in a lifetime.Read More

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