Arts & Culture


Episcopalian, By Way of Yiddish

By Peter Manseau

Confessions of a Jewish Priest: From Secular Jewish War Refugee to Physicist and Episcopal Clergyman By Gabriel Weinreich Pilgrim Press, 177 pages, $25. * * *‘Yiddish has magic,” the linguist Max Weinreich once said. “It will outwit history.” But history, it turns out, also has a few tricks up its sleeve. For evidence, look no furtherRead More


The Moses Between Egypt and Mendelssohn

By Ilan Stavans

Maimonides Sherwin B. Nuland. Schocken, 256 pages, $19.95. * * *Three Moseses have decisively shaped Jewish history. On one end is Moses the Egyptian, a lawgiver and political leader whose vision established the path for a monotheistic revolution, thus defining the spiritual boundaries of a people. On the opposite end is MosesRead More


Labor’s Loves Lost

By Paul Buhle

Paul Buhle is a senior lecturer in history and American civilization at Brown University.

A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists In New York By Tony Michels Harvard University Press, 352 pages, $27.95. * * *The tale of Jewish socialists on Manhattan’s Lower East Side offers one of those urban legends, alive with so many otherRead More


Looking for Inspiration in All The Wrong Places

By Rebecca Reich

Memoirs of a Muse By Lara Vapnyar Pantheon, 224 pages, $22.95. * * *Tanya, the heroine of Lara Vapnyar’s first novel, “Memoirs of a Muse,” and (as far as Tanya is concerned) of numerous masterpieces yet to be created, doesn’t claim to be an expert on literature, but when it comes to choosing among the 19th-century writers whose photosRead More


Curses Show Language’s Creativity

By Sarah Kricheff

Lita Epstein does not have a dirty mouth. Her pen, however, is filthy. Epstein’s forthcoming book, “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Say It in Yiddish” (Citadel Press), offers page after page of Yiddish insults and curses, some of which would make even the bawdiest of sailors blush.Read More


Offerings of the Willing Heart

By David Curzon

The second half of Exodus is largely concerned with the construction of the tabernacle. For me, the most evocative aspect of all the detailed descriptions is this: And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: Take from among you an offeringRead More


A Gem Among Giants

By Alexander Gelfand

Irving Fine: An American

Composer in His Time (Lives in Music Series No. 8) By Phillip Ramey Pendragon Press, 334 pages, $32. * * *Flip to the back of Phillip Ramey’s“Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time,” and you’ll find a clue as to why Fine, once a major figure in American art music, has been largely forgotten. ARead More


The Poetry of Mature Experience

By David Curzon

The Sights Along the Harbor: New and Collected Poems By Harvey Shapiro Wesleyan University Press, 288 pages, $29.95. * * *In his mother’s recollection, Harvey Shapiro’s first words were in Yiddish. Born in 1924 to an observant Jewish family, he lived as a child first on the Lower East Side, then high enough up on Riverside Drive for himRead More


Across the Boundaries of Language

By Joshua Cohen

Call It English: The Languages of Jewish American Literature By Hana Wirth-Nesher Princeton University Press, 256 pages, $39.50. * * *As we enter a world that will forever remain “multicultural,” the borders of our languages have become easier than ever to cross. Paradoxically, to understand all of what is said and what is written todayRead More


Reviving Jewish Ethics

By Joshua Halberstam

A Code of Jewish Ethics:

Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Harmony/Bell Tower, 576 pages, $29.95. * * *The seven deadly sins, codified most likely in the 13th century, have enjoyed sustained notoriety, both ecclesiastical and in the public imagination. What is most noteworthy about these “capital sins,” as they areRead More


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