Arts & Culture


A New Book Examines How Yiddish Became the Language of Aggravation

By Allan Nadler

Born To Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods By Michael Wex St. Martin’s Press, 320 pages, $24.95. * * *If you asked me whether I enjoyed Michael Wex’s hilarious and learned book, “Born To Kvetch,” I would find myself in an impossible quandary. To admit the rare pleasure I derived from reading it would beRead More


The Wacky Heart of Eastern Europe

By Saul Austerlitz

Mention Jonathan Safran Foer’s debut novel, “Everything Is Illuminated,” to readers, and the first character that springs to mind (likely with a smile) is Alex, the heavily accented master of the malapropism who serves as the protagonist’s guide through the wilds of Ukraine. Alex personifies the wacky heart and soulRead More


The Middle East, Spanish Style

By Ilan Stavans

‘Only Human” (“Seres Queridos”) is the first Spanish film to address the Middle Eastern conflict directly. Set in Madrid and designed as a comedy of errors, it is about the Dalinsky family, a neurotic Jewish clan made up of Gloria, a yiddishe mame; her absentee husband, Ernesto, and three adult children: brainy Leni; Tania, aRead More


The Sting of Divine Wrath

By Peretz Rodman

Swelling over large areas of the body, abnormal breathing, tightness in the throat or chest, dizziness, hives, fainting, nausea or vomiting, persistent pain or swelling — these are among the symptoms of a reaction to the sting of a wasp or hornet. “Seek immediate attention,” medical authorities warn us, “if you are stung in the mouthRead More


Asch’s Diamonds

By Alyssa Quint

Maybe it’s the fallacy that rewarding literature must be difficult that explains why no scholar has lingered in the literary universe of Polish-born American Yiddish novelist and playwright Sholem Asch (1880-1957). Asch, who published alongside Isaac Bashevis Singer and other luminaries in the Yiddish Forward, was considered a masterRead More


Crossing Into the Director’s Chair

By Michael Bronski

Like Leo Spivak, the character he plays in “King of the Corner,” Peter Riegert is on the road, selling his wares. But unlike the troubled Spivak, who is trapped in a job he increasingly dislikes — running focus groups for home-safety systems — as he undergoes a massive midlife crisis, Riegert is traveling across the country to dozensRead More


A Fashion Icon Reveals Her Tough Side

By Lisa Keys

“I’m pretty tough,” Diane von Furstenberg explained.No kidding. Sitting barefoot in her expansive office in Manhattan’s hip Far West Village, the princess-turned-socialite-turned-clothing-designer emits a cool vibe that is simultaneously glamorous, stern and relaxed.On a simmering summer afternoon, von Furstenberg looks flawless in white —Read More


A Theater Troupe Of One’s Own

By Sara Trappler Spielman

A few years ago, a Jewish women’s theater group from Pittsburgh performed a short piece at the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance’s fourth International Conference on Feminism and Orthodoxy in New York. Called “Dancing With the Torah,” it was about a girl who is banned from the men’s side of the synagogue on the holiday of Simchat TorahRead More


Honoring My Cousin’s Courage

By Diane Von Furstenberg

Sima Vaisman and my father, Lipa (Leon) Halfin, were first cousins. Their mothers were sisters and they lived in the same house in Kishinev, Bessarabia (now Moldova). Sima’s mother, Genia, was a widow. And my grandmother Sarah asked her husband, a well-to-do merchant, to welcome the mother and daughter to live with them. It was a large houseRead More


Comfort, Comfort

By Gary A. Rendsburg

This week’s portion, Va-Et’hanan, includes two of the most famous sections of the Bible, a second version of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-18, and the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. One could write endlessly about these crucial texts and their importance for the history of Judaism. However, I’ll focus instead on the Haftarah, IsaiahRead More





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