Arts & Culture

What’s in a Home?

By Elissa Strauss

Many of our contemporary Jewish writers use comfort to provide tension, creating characters who are often crippled, and sometimes haunted, by the relative ease of their lives. They live under the shadow of comfort’s flipside — apathy — and grapple almost exclusively with creating significance from their easygoing existences.Read More

Dylan’s Religious Revival: Modern Times and the Timeless

By Jay Michaelson

What would happen if Bob Dylan released a politically potent sequel to “The Times They Are a-Changin’” complete with blistering attacks on the War on Terror, the government’s creeping encroachment upon civil liberties, and the persistence of prejudice and discrimination?Read More

Northern Exposure: Mameloshn’s Unexpected Fate – in Sweden

By Rukhl Schaechter

In the weeks leading up to Sweden’s national election this month, the government put out public service announcements in the press, encouraging its citizens to vote. But one feature was hardly standard issue: The bulletins informed the readers how to get voting instructions in Yiddish.Read More

Unrest Brews at Rebbe’s Resting Place

By Nathaniel Popper

On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the dirt roads on the northern edge of this central Ukrainian town had Jewish worshippers at every turn, transforming the site of a historic massacre into a place of dancing and prayer.Read More

America’s First Cultural Jew

By David Kaufmann

Emma Lazarus has been having a good run recently. Eighteen months ago — some 117 years after her early death from Hodgkin’s disease — John Hollander’s judicious selection of her poetry demonstrated that she was one of the most talented American poets of the 19th century, and far and away the best Jewish one. And now, Esther Schor’s intelligent, passionate and deeply sympathetic literary biography argues that Lazarus is a vitally important — even prophetic — writer, “more of our time than her own.”Read More

Walking Away From Icons

By Menachem Wecker

Although artist Lazar (El) Markovich Lissitzky flirted with numerous movements — including Suprematism, the Bauhaus, De Stijl and Constructivism — to some he will always be doomed to remain the artist whose work resembles that of Marc Chagall.Read More

Speakeasy Jews

By Ethan Kanfer

With its irresistible blend of innocence and envelope-pushing, the Jazz Age — an era of bootleggers, flappers and silent-movie stars — still holds a mythical fascination for today’s audiences. To this end, Ted Merwin, an assistant professor at Dickinson College and chief theater critic for the New York Jewish Week, has written “In Their Own Image: New York Jews in Jazz Age Popular Culture.” As suggested by the title, Merwin’s new book chronicles the increasing visibility of Jewish creative talent in the dynamic America of the 1920s. Impressively researched and entertainingly presented, this lively volume shows how the twin forces of immigrant acculturation and the quickening social pace of the Jazz Age helped put Jewish entertainers at the center of the new popular culture.Read More

France’s 900-page Cause Célèbre

By Joshua Cohen

Parisians are all in a fury, they’re reading in the streets. The newest cause célèbre of the French fall publishing season? A 900-page novel about the Holocaust, written in French by an expatriate Jewish American, 38-year-old Jonathan Littell.Read More

Matzo on the Merchandise Table

By Ben Levisohn

Ira Kaplan doth protest too much. The guitarist for indie rock band Yo La Tengo — a New Jersey trio known for their encyclopedic knowledge of pop music and for their jazzlike interplay — demurs when asked about his ties to Jewish tradition.Read More

Soldier GirI

By Karen Iris Tucker

In the comic-book frame, we can see the heroine: a squat, somewhat disheveled contrast to the smooth, self-possessed Israeli soldiers by whom she is surrounded. Her eyes, etched with a couple of ink dashes, nevertheless betray both vulnerability and alienation. Peering out of a pouchy Ashkenazic face, they seek out friendship, sex and acceptance from her Sephardic companions.Read More

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