Arts & Culture


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


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


Women Trailblazers Honored

By Masha Leon

“I am convinced that there is a place in hell for women who do not help each other,” honoree Madeleine Korbel Albright said at the September 7 Women Who Changed the Landscape for Women dinner. The event was held at The Waldorf-Astoria and was sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Women. “When I was ambassador to the U.N.Read More


Illuminating the Big Screen

By Saul Austerlitz

Okay, class, here’s a question: You’re watching a movie that stars Elijah Wood, and one of the characters in the film says to him, “The ring is not here because of us. We are here because of the ring.” What movie is it?If you answered “The Lord of the Rings,” two demerits; turns out this line makes its appearance in “EverythingRead More


What Melting Pot?

By Ilan Stavans

Name a Woody Allen movie that has a leading black actor in its cast. Now, mention a “Seinfeld” episode in which Elaine, Jerry, George and Kramer socialize in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with some Korean friends. How about a story with Cuban Americans, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer?Movies, television andRead More


An Author’s Story, Fleshed Out in Flesh

By Joshua Cohen

My Body in Nine Parts By Raymond Federman Starcherone Books, 136 pages, $16. * * *The marketing departments that run America’s publishing houses now dictate to most the definition of literature. Even in the Jewish community, one of the last remaining “focus groups” of avid readers, we have let significant writersRead More


Imagining Life as A Black Woman –– In the Bible

By Ariella Cohen

In a recent meeting with the Forward at the Hotel Plaza Athenee on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side, French novelist Marek Halter sketched one stone tablet, then its twin. He fashioned an ark around them and announced, “The Ten Commandments came from Moses.” He paused, popped a wasabi pea in his mouth and set his napkin artworkRead More


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