Arts & Culture

A Haunting Tale of a Lost World

By Mindy Aloff

Some of you will know the name Isaac Metzker (1900-1984). He was a teacher for the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring who also served for decades as a journalist for the Jewish Daily Forward, where he edited “A Bintel Brief,” the popular advice column for new immigrants to America. Metzker, a passionate advocate of Yiddish culture, came to the United States in 1924 from his native Eastern Galicia (now Ukraine) by way of Bremen, where he stowed himself away on a ship to get here. His haunting book, “Grandfather’s Acres,” now available in English, is set in Galicia between the 1880s and 1922. It is called a historical novel, but its authoritative detail and precision about topics ranging from the position of a pear tree to the cut of a man’s suit jacket give it the authority of an eyewitness report.Read More

This (Televised) American Life

By Beth Schwartzapfel

Perhaps it’s a stretch to describe any public radio personality as a superstar. But if there were such a thing, Ira Glass, host of the weekly radio show “This American Life,” would be it. Glass, 47, is nerdy in a hip kind of way, and he unselfconsciously professes his love, in equal measures, for radio shock jock Howard Stern, the now-defunct television drama “The O. C.” and fellow National Public Radio personality Terry Gross.Read More

The Jewish Roots of a Feminist Icon

By Vanessa Silberman

In recent weeks, feminist artist Judy Chicago has been the subject of considerable attention, much of it revolving around the news that her seminal work, “The Dinner Party,” (1974-79), has finally found a permanent home as the centerpiece of the Brooklyn Museum’s newly constructed Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, opening later this month. This development coincides with the recent resurgence of interest in feminist art, occasioned by the establishment of the Sackler Center as well as several new museum exhibits exploring the subject.Read More

Biblical Heroes in Dire Straits

By Caroline Lagnado

Israeli photographer Adi Nes began his latest series, Biblical Stories, at a moment of crisis in his own life. “I just ended a long-term relationship; I was alone with no money, no apartment, no job. The economic situation was very bad in Israel; most of my friends were unemployed. Also, my father passed away,” he said in an interview with the Forward. “I chose the Bible as a framework for this series because, at a time when everything was breaking apart, I was looking for my roots.”Read More

Is He or Isn’t He?

By A.J. Goldmann

In the concluding scene of Richard Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” which will be performed at the Metropolitan Opera this month, the opera’s hero delivers a powerful monologue extolling the virtues of “Holy German Art” in the face of foreign influences. At the 1924 Bayreuth Festival — the first since the outbreak of World War I — the audience leaped to its feet and chanted the first three verses of “Deutschland über Alles.” In response to this interruption, Karl Singer, a conductor who attended the performance, wrote that “a hidden hand has ensured that the aura of the Festival shifts from the artistic to the political.”Read More

Anne Frank on the Reservation

By Gabriel Sanders

The recent discovery of a trove of letters from Otto Frank to American officials may have returned attention to the wartime plight of the Frank family, but, as an exhibition set to open in the American Southwest next month shows, Anne Frank has never really strayed far from the collective imagination — and not only for Jews.Read More

Gilding the Lily –– and the Thistle

By Malka Percal

Ironically, Barbara Wolff was driven back in time to the laborious techniques of medieval illumination by nothing less than today’s icon of modernity: the computer. When the accomplished botanical illustrator, who would spend days drawing a flower perspective, saw that the same thing could be done instantly with computer-aided design, she knew her craft was about to change. At a career crossroads six years ago, she decided to take a four-day workshop in medieval manuscript illumination. The result was, so to speak, golden.Read More

Bruno Schulz on Stage

By Ilan Stavans

‘Double Edge,” the inventive and free-spirited experimental theater troupe based in Ashfield, Mass., turns 25 this year. To celebrate the improbable journey, Stacy Klein, its director, is adapting for the stage the work of Bruno Schulz, running through March 18 at La MaMa in Manhattan. Under the title “Republic of Dreams,” the performance is a lesson in artistic courage.Read More

Urban Portraits

By Juliet Lapidos

Born to a Jewish family in New York City, Serge J-F. Levy worked as a photojournalist for 10 years, publishing his work in such magazines as Harper’s, ESPN and Life before turning to the art world. His first major solo exhibition in the United States, In Private, which is showing at Gallery 339 in Philadelphia, is anchored in the traditions of street photography. Levy’s candid photographs of strangers in the urban landscape capture flickers of emotion that burst out of people in moments of intense passion. These flickers make private thoughts visible and hint at broad internal dialogues.Read More

The Unlikely Hipster

By David Kaufmann

In 1959, 10 of the songs that Doc Pomus wrote with Mort Schuman — including “Teenager in Love” (which the lead singer thought sounded “faggy”) — made it to the upper reaches of the pop charts. In that age of Connie Francis (Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero), Dion (Dion DiMucci), Fabian (Fabian Forte) and Bobby Darin (Walden Robert Cassotto), Pomus and Schuman were, in Alex Halberstadt’s fine phrase, “the reigning masters of Italian American radio operetta.”Read More

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