Arts & Culture


‘Shuckle Rock’ Puts the Pray

By Leah Hochbaum

On a recent evening, Daniel Seliger leaned against the rickety steps of a graffiti-covered loft building in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, his left hand wrapped around a crumpled paper bag from which the mangled pop-top of a once-frosty Heineken peeked out. Like anyone who has been in the music industry for more than a decade, the 33-year-old has that jaded, been-there-done-that look down to an indifferent science. But Seliger is not like anyone else who’s been in the music industry for so long. An Orthodox Jew since birth, he dons a yarmulke and tzitzit in a business that mocks religion and its values, and is awfully sure that the next big thing will be a little-known phenomenon he calls “shuckle music.”Read More


Lyrics Sparkle in Yiddish ‘Pirates of Penzance’

By Alexander Gelfand

Poetry, Robert Frost wrote, is what gets lost in translation. Or not, as the case may be. Witness the work of Al Grand, the man behind the Yiddish version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” which was presented recently by the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene. Grand’s “Di Yam Gazlonim!” which ran until November 12 at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, under the direction of Allan Lewis Rickman, succeeded in part because Grand made no pretense whatsoever of attempting a literal translation of William S. Gilbert’s lyrics. Instead, he sacrificed accuracy for the higher virtue of wit, seeking, above all, to maintain the humor and scansion of the original verse.Read More


One Man’s Collection of Jewish Art Finds New Home

By Vanessa Silberman

Shortly after graduating from Williams College, Sigmund Balka moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the Kennedy administration and decided to collect art. While his collecting interests ranged from modernist prints to Inuit art, Balka was especially drawn to the work of Jewish artists. Even at this young age, Balka perceived the collection of works by Jewish artists as a way to chronicle Jewish life and history.Read More


Dancing with Demons

By Marina Harss

By all accounts, Jerome Robbins, the man behind “Fancy Free,” “Dances at a Gathering,” “West Side Story” and “Fiddler on the Roof” — and, for many years, George Balanchine’s number two at the New York City Ballet — was a perfectionist, an obsessive tinkerer, an uncompromising taskmaster and, generally speaking, a pain in the neck. He was described variously by collaborators as an “agony” to work with, “venomous,” and “crushing” to the psyches of his dancers. All this is known, and yet somehow still comes as something of a surprise when one thinks of the deep humanity, and empathy, that comes through in his works. And there is no doubt about Robbins’s central place in the world of American ballet. Eight years after his death, his works are in the repertory of most of the major ballet companies in the United States; just this past season, the American Ballet Theatre performed two of his works, and New York City Ballet will be presenting eight — including a major revival — in its upcoming winter season.Read More


After Years of Decline, Cantorial Music Gets a Second Act

By Gabriel Sanders

This past Sunday, a concert featuring a Hasidic cantor and 64 members of the New York Philharmonic drew 4,000 listeners to a sold-out Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Tickets went for as much as $250, and those on the waiting list numbered more than 1,000.Read More


Tiny Ninja Talmudists

It doesn’t even start out like a normal puppet show. The puppeteer — yes, there is a puppeteer — stands behind the table. He lays out a clock, a prayerbook, a pair of smiley-face finger puppets (yes, there are puppets, at least), and a plate of, uh, plastic food and chattering teeth.Read More


An Eastern European ‘Exodus’

By Irina Reyn

‘I think our ghosts are everywhere, all the time,” a young Polish man tells a visiting American Jew in Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum’s deeply heartfelt first novel. “The past does not leave us. And we do not leave the past.” “A Day of Small Beginnings” loosely revisits the story of Exodus through the lives of three generations of Polish Americans, and tells of the ghost who longs to reunite them with their Jewish identities. But the novel’s destination is less a concrete place than an internal state — a spiritual spark, lodged within us, that can be ignited by returning to and confronting a very unfinished past.Read More


Remembering the Y.U. of Yore

By Jerome A. Chanes

With all the hoopla surrounding last year’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Yeshiva College, the most interesting retrospective came about through the efforts of two recent graduates of Yeshiva University, the central institution of Modern Orthodoxy. Menachem Butler and Zev Nagel pulled together a tour de force of 64 short essays (originally published in the student newspaper The Commentator) in which former students, teachers and administrators share their reminiscences. The result is a highly idiosyncratic, often moving, frequently provocative collection illuminating an institution that has been both hyped and hissed over the years.Read More


Back to Berlin

By Cara Joy David

What would happen if, in our time, a German chancellor urged 6 million Jews to relocate to Germany? That is the question posed by Israel Horovitz’s play “Lebensraum,” which will enjoy a limited engagement at off-Broadway’s Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row from December 13 through December 30.Read More


Absurdity Returns to Chelm

By Rukhl Schaechter

Because Jewish folk humor depicts Chelm as a town inhabited by naive fools, few people realize that Chelm is actually a real town in Eastern Poland that was once home to 18,000 Jews and was highly regarded as a center of Torah study.Read More


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