Arts & Culture


Crafting Modern Midrash in the Form of Fiction

By Peter Manseau

Fallen By David Maine St. Martin’s Press, 256 pages, $23.95. * * *In this strange time when even ideas about the beginning of the world have become a political battleground, it seems there is no story that so sharply divides as the biblical account of creation. When Arizona Christians lobby to install verses from scripture at the local zooRead More


The Match Heard ’Round the World

In June 1938, 60 million people — half of the American public — tuned their radios to a boxing match in Yankee Stadium. The heavyweight championship pitted Joe Louis, a black American, against Max Schmeling, a German, and the fight served as an undercard of sorts for World War II. Schmeling and Louis had fought before, in 1936,Read More


From the Yiddish Songbook to the American Canon

By Michael Bronski

There is a shocking, gloriously transcendent moment that occurs nine minutes into “From Shtetl to Swing,” an hour-long documentary about the influence of Yiddish culture on American music. The program is presented October 5 as part of PBS’s “Great Performances.” Until this point in the show, we only have been toldRead More


Writing a Rarity: The Happy Love Story

By Jenifer Berman

Accidents By Yael Hedaya Metropolitan Books, 464 pages, $28.00. * * *In Yael Hedaya’s world, relationships don’t often work out. “Housebroken,” her first book translated into English (Metropolitan Books, 2001), was chockfull of disastrous interactions — a man and woman try to save their broken union by adopting a stray dog; a youngRead More


Singer and Poet Gets Capitol Honor

By Ellen Cassedy

The nation’s top honor for folk art went to a Yiddish singer, songwriter and poet from the Bronx last week. Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman was one of 12 honorees to receive a National Heritage Fellowship at a September 22 ceremony on Capitol Hill.“She is a master of Yiddish song and poetry,” said Dana Gioia, chairman of theRead More


A Blessing On Your Head

By Daniel M. Jaffe

Rabbi Katz pats his stiff hand on a yellowing translation of the Torah. “My boy, we read this very week, in Nitzavim, that in order for us as a people to receive the Almighty’s blessings, we must obey His laws. So, what you’re requesting is obviously impossible. Nothing personal.”“Nothing personal?” Matt — thin, 27, wavy brown hairRead More


Whither Utopia?

By David Kaufmann

Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought For an Anti-Utopian Age By Russell Jacoby Columbia University Press, 240 pages, $24.95. * * *Utopianism has gotten a bad rap over the past 50 years. The desire to secure happiness through the basic transformation of social institutions has been blamed for most of the past century’s carnage, from Hitler’sRead More


A Novelist Defends Zion’s Idealists

By Benjamin Balint

Mandrakes From the Holy Land By Aharon MeggedTranslated by Sondra Silverston Toby Press, 220 pages, $22.95. * * *In an impassioned 1994 article in Ha’aretz, Aharon Megged, one of Israel’s most accomplished novelists, suddenly permitted himself to address in his own voice the disdain with which many of his colleagues are given toRead More


Rashanim Offers a Series of Surprises

By Alexander Gelfand

Nothing ages faster than the avant-garde. In music, in dance and in the visual arts, yesterday’s innovation quickly becomes today’s commonplace — all of which makes saxophonist and composer John Zorn’s achievements in Jewish music all the more remarkable.Zorn began his explorations of radical Jewish culture in the early 1990s. ByRead More


Merry Wonderer of the Night

By Daniel M. Jaffe

Marla’s Catholic husband, Billy, sometimes reads the Torah to understand her values. And now, just as they’re slipping into bed, he mentions this week’s portion, Ki Tavo. “It just sounds so… so Christian,” he says. “I figured the Jewish version would be different from what I was taught, but it’s the same: If the Hebrews disobey theRead More


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