You might recognize the the Szyk Haggadah — it’s been used at thousands of Seders since the 1930’s. Now, the stunning paintings are on display.
Jacob Gordin once predicted that ‘Jewish theater in America has no future.’ But he was wrong, and his own drama still has a role to play in that legacy.
From the Shtetl to the Stage: The Odyssey of a Wandering Actor
By Alexander Granach, with a new introduction by Herbert S. Lewis
Transaction Publishers, 304 pages, $29.95
Camille Pissarro was renowned as an Impressionist landscape painter. A new exhibit explores the lesser-known sides of this Caribbean-born Jew and anarchist.
San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum is paying tribute to the expatriate writer Gertrude Stein with an exhibit of photographs, paintings and sculptures that focuses more on her friendships, her celebrity and legacy than on her poetry or novels.
Three hundred of Charlotte Salomon’s beautiful expressionist paintings illustrating a young German Jewish women’s self-discovery can be seen at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum until July 31. The same week that the San Francisco exhibit opened, an enormous comic book convention nearby attracted thousands of young readers searching for their latest superhero (Green Lantern this year) and his predecessors. I would like to report that all the comic book readers paraded a few blocks across town to pay homage to Salomon’s landmark project, “Life? or Theatre?,” after hearing that her gouaches painted in 1942 anticipated contemporary graphic novels and the films based on them.
To see the splendid new exhibit of caricatures and miniature drawings by Polish-born Jewish illustrator Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), on view until March 27 at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, you first have to walk through several galleries of religious paintings devoted to Christian saints, Madonnas with child, and Christ on the cross. Szyk’s pictures also introduce religious themes, but his portraits of martyrs and Jewish heroes are often less reverential than those in the museum’s adjoining rooms.
Was Bernard Zakheim the Jewish Diego Rivera? A new exhibit, “Zakheim: The Art of Prophetic Justice,” at San Francisco’s Jazz Heritage Center and the adjacent Lush Life Gallery until December 30, celebrates the life and painting of Bernard Zakheim (1896-1985). Through panels that recount the artist’s achievements and a display of his paintings, the San Francisco show, curated by Fred Rosenbaum and Rosanna Sun, gives Zakheim the recognition and honor withheld during his lifetime for his achievements as a visionary, politically engaged Jewish muralist and sculptor.
On April 8, 1935, congressional legislation created the Works Progress Administration, which developed millions of jobs for the unemployed. WPA agencies placed 8.5 million Americans on the federal payroll, including hundreds of Yiddish actors, writers, scene designers and theater directors hired for the administration’s Federal Theatre Project. On the 75th anniversary of the WPA and the FTP, unemployment is too high once again, and the benefits provided by the 1930s relief programs deserve reconsideration, as well as a tribute.
The United States government bankrolled some of the most innovative Yiddish stage productions in the 20th century when it paid the salaries of actors, writers and directors under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. One of the first plays funded by the WPA can still be seen on film almost 75 years later. The 1935 production of prominent Yiddish playwright Jacob Gordin’s 1892 play “The Yiddish King Lear” will be screened in Manhattan at CUNY’s Martin E. Segal Theatre Center on December 15.