Arts & Culture


Hannah and Her Brothers

By Leah Hochbaum

If “The First Time I Was 20” teaches viewers anything, it’s that teenage boys in the 1960s were sophisticated enough to recognize that beauty is only skin deep, and antisemitic classmates can become best pals if only they get to know the real you. In short, Lorraine Levy’s wisp of a movie, in French with English subtitles and showingRead More


Spinoza: Hero, Infidel, Celebrity

By Daniel B. Schwartz

Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity By Rebecca Goldstein Nextbook/Schocken, 304 pages, $19.95. * * *Betrayal haunts the image of 17th-century philosopher Baruch (Benedictus) Spinoza like no other Jewish historical celebrity. For centuries, the name of this radical pantheist, pioneering biblical critic and defectorRead More


...and Muse

By Joshua Cohen

Conversation With Spinoza: A Cobweb Novel By Goce SmilevskiTranslated by Filip Korzenski Northwestern University Press, 152 pages, $16.95. * * *A few centuries too late, it seems that Spinoza’s time has finally come. In a world in which many Jews are yet again attempting to assert a secular identity as the dialectic antipode of extremism,Read More


A Painter on Earth Whose Brush Reaches the Heavens

By Menachem Wecker

‘I cannot imagine German culture without Judaism,” painter Anselm Kiefer said. “One thing is that Germans committed the immense crime of killing Jews. The other is that they amputated themselves. They took half of German culture and killed it.” As a result, Kiefer, who was born to Catholic parents in Donaueschingen, Germany, during theRead More


Love and Hate In Wartime Italy

By Peter Orner

The Water Door By Rosetta LoyTranslated by Gregory Conti Other Press, 120 pages, $11.95. * * *The 5-year-old narrator of Rosetta Loy’s brief, death-haunted novel “The Water Door” is, to borrow Henry James’s graceful phrase, a girl upon whom nothing is lost. To read this book is to become immersed in the intensity of childhood as it isRead More


What We Know, and Don’t, About Eichmann

By Mindy Aloff

Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, And Trial of a ‘Desk Murderer’ By David Cesarani Da Capo Press, 464 pages, $27.50. * * *Most of what we know – or think we know – about Adolf Eichmann, a notorious Nazi functionary, may be wrong. Or so readers will surmise from “Becoming Eichmann,” David Cesarani’sRead More


Klezmer in the East Looks to the West for Guidance

By Joshua Yaffa

Midway through its hauntingly minimalist performance on the opening night of Moscow’s second-annual klezmer festival, the vocal quartet Ashkenazim took a dramatically long pause to introduce the song “Dem Shokhens Meydl.” The group’s tenor, Alina Ivakh, explained that song is an allegorical tale of two young pioneer girls — theRead More


Jewish Mobsters Amble From Text to the Panel

By Eddy Portnoy

With 8 million stories in the Jewish naked city, artists Joe Kubert, Neil Kleid and Jake Allen have given us two riveting ones. With the growing interest in graphic novels and the pictorial evocation of historical events, it’s not surprising that more and more Jewish tales are ending up in panels instead of in type. The latest motif to be pickedRead More


Immersion in Reality

By Miriam Udel-Lambert

The mikveh attendant in a town where I often visit but do not live was always the same: towheaded, horsy wig, vast muumuu, thick accent and brusque, brusque, brusque. Her job was to assist women preparing for ritual immersion in observance of the ambitiously named Laws of Family Purity. Assistance is necessary because these laws, developedRead More


Reconnoitering Translations

By Leonard Greenspoon

In the view of many biblical scholars, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, the fact-finding expedition narrated in Numbers 13-14 is a composite account from several sources. In the first, Caleb is among the scouts sent by Moses to the Promised Land, but only as far north as Hebron; Caleb alone remains loyal to God when hisRead More


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