Arts & Culture


Mafia Jews: Inside a Genuine Cabal

By Lisa Keys

The Jewish people are instructed to be a “light unto the nations” — and what society could use more illumination than the underworld? So goes the story of mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, whose partnerships with Chicago gangsters led him to be named the most powerful lawyer in the world by the FBI. As part of his, er, “covenant,” he steered the mob toward a path of respectability, serving as its go-between with the white-collar world.Read More


Deconstructing Philip

By Michael Z. Wise

When the synagogue that Philip Johnson designed free of charge to atone for his antisemitic past added a canopy over its entry two decades ago, the celebrated architect complained that the vinyl overhang was a blot on his creation.Read More


Kafka, Divided and Onstage

By Dara Horn

It is mainly Jewish readers who think of Kafka as a Jewish writer. This isn’t a matter of possessiveness, the way one claims a sports hero for an ethnic group — after all, if one wanted to claim a writer to carry the Jews into world literature, would it be asking too much to pick someone, well, happier? — but rather a matter of Kafka’s work itself. Jewish readers cannot help but hear the echoes of the Dreyfus Affair in “In the Penal Colony,” or those of the blood libel in “The Trial”; such readers see in Kafka’s famous cockroach a horrifying caricature of the way others have so often seen them — and worse, the way they sometimes see themselves. Nor is this awareness mere suspicion. Though none of his published works mention it explicitly, Kafka’s private letters and diaries reveal an interest in Jewish identity verging on obsession.Read More


What’s the Right Course for the Religious Left?

By Michelle Goldberg

Christian right thinkers often argue that secularism is itself a religion. Enlightenment rationalism, they’ll say, is based on the same kind of faith as biblical literalism. In their 2005 book “Lord of All: Developing a Christian World-and-Life View,” televangelist D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe write that every worldview “is based on some kind of assumptions and presuppositions that we probably have never proved…. Scientists operate by faith. Some have had the candor to admit it; others would deny it vehemently.” Evolution, Kennedy and Newcombe insist, is a religion that “is based upon belief in the reality of the unseen — belief in fossils that cannot be produced, belief in embryological evidence that does not exist, and belief in breeding experiments that refuse to come off.” Purporting to defend absolute verities, Kennedy and his ilk push an odd kind of relativism that allows them to dismiss inconvenient truths as the tainted product of hostile ideologies. This epistemological trick has been at the heart of many a right-wing crusade against the reality-based community.Read More


The Restless Opera Company

By Alexander Gelfand

Many musicians can trace their choice of career to an act of teenage rebellion. But Eric Stern may be one of the few whose youthful bad-boy urges led him to opera — though, to be fair, his Vagabond Opera ensemble is not your standard opera company. Nor is Stern your standard opera singer.Read More


Angels & Demons

By Gabriel Sanders

On the eve of the release of Freida Lee Mock’s new documentary “Wrestling with Angels,” a glimpse into the post-9/11 world of playwright/activist Tony Kushner, the Forward’s Gabriel Sanders caught up with the writer to see what he thought of the film. One problem: Kushner can’t stand seeing himself on tape and hadn’t yet brought himself to watch it. “It’s not like I think I’m hideous or anything,” he said, “I just don’t like the way I look or sound particularly.” And so, the conversation shifted elsewhere: to spontaneity in acting, writerly solitude and the spiritual costs of the literary life. In between, the Forward told Kushner a little bit about his movie.Read More


Celebrating Steve Reich

By Raphael Mostel

Few composers in history have had the broad and diverse influence on music enjoyed by Steve Reich, whose 70th birthday this month is being celebrated literally around the globe. In his birthplace, New York City, for example, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music are collaborating to present a month of performances. Such universal acclaim and respect is coming only after a decades-long struggle to gain recognition for his unique, outside-the-box musical magic.Read More


‘Stardust Lost’

By Stefan Kanfer

On a pleasant June evening that year, Manhattan’s original odd couple strolled down Second Avenue. The tall man with black beard and dark, deep-set eyes was Jacob Gordin, now a dominant presence on the Lower East Side. With loud voice and spirited gestures, the Russian immigrant went on about his adaptations of Shakespeare and his interpretations of Tolstoy’s thought.Read More


Stage Killing

By Faith Jones

A little more than a century ago, New York’s Yiddish-speaking world was rocked by an attempted murder-suicide involving a member of one of the leading theatrical families of the day. Some 102 years later, I came across an elliptical mention of the incident but could find no more information about it in English. To figure out what really happened, I realized, I would have to delve into the archives of the era’s Yiddish newspapers.Read More


End of an Era

By Iris Blasi

Who owns history? That question has proved to be a thorny one regarding the treasure trove of archives that once lived in New York City at 31 East 7th Street. The contents of that building are the remnants of the now-defunct Hebrew Actors Union, and, with the union officially disbanded, issues of ownership of the building and the items within have been complex.Read More


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