Arts & Culture

A Different Kind of Kosher

By Rebecca Reich

In the opening pages of her new book, “Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939,” Anna Shternshis introduces us to Sara F., an elderly Soviet Jewish émigré living in Brooklyn. Born in the Ukraine around 1917, Sara loves Yiddish songs and Yiddish theater, trembles at the thought that her 25-year-old American grandson might marry a gentile and judges all current events according to the question, “Is it good or bad for the Jews?” At the same time, she celebrates Soviet holidays rather than Jewish ones, considers a religious education “fanatical” and insists that, contrary to the religious taboo on pig, making pork “kosher” is actually quite simple: All it takes is a cook with a “Jewish soul.”Read More

On Auction: A Bookbinder’s Private Collection of Rare Hebrew Books

On September 12, the New York-based auction house Kestenbaum & Company will open its fall 2006 season with a sale of intricately bound Hebrew books dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The items are from the personal library of Berlin-born Joseph Gradenwitz, who immigrated to London after fleeing Germany to escape World War II. In addition to collecting, Gradenwitz learned the craft of bookbinding, and later he personally bound and restored nearly all the books in his own collection (as well as those of some of his fellow collectors).Read More

Dictionary Writers Hope Words Can Heal

By Claudia Z. Carlin

In the south of France, two religious leaders are taking steps to heal the rifts between Jews and Muslims in their country. Rabbi Haïm Harboun and Habib S. Kaaniche, an imam, are planning to launch an unusual dictionary in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and French, followed by biographical sketches of great figures of Judaism and Islam.Read More

Border Crossing and Cross-dressing

By Saul Austerlitz

In Tomer Heymann’s new documentary, “Paper Dolls,” opening September 6 at New York’s Film Forum, viewers are introduced to a group of transvestite Filipino workers in Tel Aviv, who perform in a cross-dressing group called the Paper Dolls. But the real cross-dresser here may be Heymann, who garbs his film in one set of clothing, only to strip it off without warning and then reveal something far starker, and more affecting.Read More

Greek Tragedy

By Sarah Abrevaya Stein

The German occupation of Greece, begun in April 1941, was accompanied by organized plunder, rampant inflation and a famine in Athens in the winter of 1941 to 1942 that claimed at least 300,000 lives — all before the deportations of Greek Jews to the Nazi death camps had even begun.Read More

New Book Reveals Darker Chapters In Hasidic History

By Allan Nadler

Of all the literary genres to emerge from the 19th-century Haskala, or Hebrew Enlightenment, one of the most popular was anti-Hasidic satire. And the most notorious of these parodies was “Megaleh Temirin” (“Revealer of Secrets,” Vienna 1819), a ribald lampoon written by Joseph Perl that recounts a series of desperate, bungled attempts by fanatic Hasidim to seize and suppress a dangerous anti-Hasidic German book that they feared had the potential to inflict great harm on their revered rebbe and their sect.Read More

The Strange Journey Taken by Two Paintings

By Sara Rubin

In 2002, an unusual advertisement in this newspaper caught subscriber Jack Nusan Porter’s eye: Two mysterious paintings, rendered by an unknown artist “at least 210 years” ago, were for sale. The paintings — which, as Porter later learned, were owned by a Ukrainian Jew named Alexander Goykham — had survived two centuries of anti-Jewish persecution, the Holocaust and finally the move with the Goykhams to their present-day home in Philadelphia. They were selling the sentimental pieces to help cover the cost of medical procedures.Read More

Fiction About Israel

Two weeks ago, we asked readers to help us create a list of the best novels and short stories about Israel written by diaspora authors. The purpose was to push fiction as a complement to the newspaper, the television and the Internet in our quest for information and understanding about Israel. Here are your suggestions, along with a few of our own:Read More

Mozart’s Librettist Gets the Stage

By Robert Hilferty

An even better Mozart-motivated movie than “Amadeus” has yet to be made. The subject: Wolfgang’s magnificent collaborator, Lorenzo Da Ponte, the libertine librettist of “The Marriage of Figaro,” “Don Giovanni” and “Così fan tutte” — arguably Mozart’s greatest works, and watersheds in the history of music and theater, not to mention humanity. The episodic cinematic epic might be called “The Menace From Venice.”Read More

An Old Warsaw Paper In the News Again

By Hindi Diamond

A chance meeting at Village Shalom in Kansas between volunteer teacher Bob Becker and Yadviga Finkelstein, a 93-year-old student, sparked the beginning of a monumental project.Read More

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