If there is one thing that captures popular understanding of the Jewish community’s relationship to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s an image from Selma, 1965. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel links arms with a line of activists that include Rev. King, a shoulder’s breadth away, on their historic march to Montgomery. Heschel’s comments afterward have taken on a similarly iconic status: “I felt my feet were praying.”
In 1960, the film “Exodus” was nominated for three Academy Awards. Based on Leon Uris’ novel about the founding of Israel, it seems hard to believe that such a film, drenched in Jewish military heroism and suffused with Holocaust imagery and Arab aggression, could have such broad and unambiguous appeal. But it did. It not only won an Oscar, it also starred a Hollywood icon, Paul Newman, as the heroic Jewish fighter, and even made a commendable showing at Cannes.
But almost a half-century later, a very different film about Israel won an Oscar nomination. “Waltz With Bashir,” (2008) directed by the Israeli Ari Folman, put a spotlight on the massacres at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps during the first Lebanon War.
A few things immediately come to mind when you think, “Passover seder”: matzah, maror, charoset, four glasses of wine. But in “Seder.Table,” a cool, stark and fascinating new photography exhibit at the 92nd Street Y, none of that matters. In fact, the artist, Galia Gur Zeev, while showing several plates, people around them, and a large wooden table, doesn’t even show a crumb of food.
In recent years, Jewish intellectuals have sometimes bemoaned the anti-Zionist views heard on college campuses, and among liberal intellectuals generally, but have failed to do much about it. But that may be changing.
Last month, the chair of the Jewish studies department at Indiana University in Bloomington, Alvin Rosenfeld, announced the foundation of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism. His goal is to study, in a dispassionate, scholarly way, what he thinks is just a new version of a very old kind of hate: anti-Semitism.