Gloria Kestenbaum's blog

Anita Diamant’s American Everywoman

Anita Diamant, best known for her best-selling novel, “The Red Tent,” based on the biblical story of Dinah, has published another historical page-turner, this one set closer to our own time. 

Anita Diamant. Photo by Gretje Fergeson

Holocaust Generations

I try to avoid books about the Holocaust, especially those about children of survivors. As a member of the latter group, I find the books either too painful and too familiar or insufficiently painful and somehow not enough.

Courtesy Jewish Lights Publishing

Young Jews Through A Russian-Speaking Lens

Chabad on the Bowery recently played host to a group of young Jews, some wearing kippot or long skirts, others less clearly Jewish-affiliated. What made this event singular was that most of its attendees were speaking Russian or Russian-tinged English.

Men's evening learning program in Makarov Kollel. Anna Chana Demidova

The Other Marx

Although Karl Marx is frequently recalled today, both to his credit and discredit, as the founder of Communism, his youngest daughter Eleanor has mostly been forgotten. But in her time, Eleanor was a figure of world renown, respected both as the primary editor and expounder of her father’s works, and in her own right as a social activist, leader of the burgeoning trade unions, a pioneering feminist, and translator and proponent of such defining works of the 19th century as Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and Ibsen’s entire oeuvre. Her story is finally given the attention it deserves in Rachel Holmes’ exhaustive biography, “Eleanor Marx:  A Life” (Bloomsbury Publishing).

Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing

Parsing The Unseen

Born in the United States, artist and teacher Leah Raab has twice gone on aliyah for extended periods, and twice returned to the U.S. Nevertheless, life in Israel, its landscape, religion and history, both past and present, remains a recurring theme in her work.

Leah Raab. “Monster Slide lll,” 2014.

Crossing the Judeo-Persian Gulf

Among its many treasures, the JTS library holds one of the largest Judeo-Persian manuscript collections in the world. Dr. Vera Basch Moreen, a leading scholar of Judeo-Persian culture, recently completed a “Catalog of Judeo-Persian Manuscripts in The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary.” Primarily a work of reference, the catalogue is a scholarly examination of the subjects that interested Persian Jews between the 15th-19th centuries, and makes clear the extent to which these Jews were enmeshed in the literary and artistic sensibilities of their Iranian environment.

Yūsuf va Zulaykhā ; Mashad, Iran 1852-1853. Courtesy of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary

Tale From The Italian Resistance

“The Garden of Letters” is the story of a young cello student, Elodie Bertoletti –- picture Audrey Hepburn in “Love in the Afternoon” –- who gets caught up in the Italian Resistance during WWII.  There’s been much written and filmed about the French and Polish Resistance but this is my first introduction to the heroes and heroines of the Italian cause.

Courtesy Berkley Books

An Illustrated Saga Of The Diaspora

Mark Podwal is once again the subject of a documentary by Czech Television. In the most recent film, the producers focused on the creative process behind the artist’s latest portfolio of works, “All This Has Come Upon Us,” a series of 42 paintings and drawings created for and displayed at the Terezin Ghetto Museum earlier this year. The works provide an illustrated history of Jewish tragedies and, according to the artist, offer “a disturbing reminder of how Europe’s extensive history of ‘Jew-Hatred’ laid the groundwork for Terezin and Auschwitz.”

Mark Podwal. “Terezin.” Courtesy of the artist

Psalmic Muse

Keeping in mind the Chasidic custom of reciting Psalms during the days leading to Yom Kippur, now would be a perfect time to head up to the scenic Derfner Judaica Museum for Archie Rand’s visual renditions of Psalm 68. 

Archie Rand, Psalm 68:30. Courtesy of the Derfner Judaica Museum

A Novella Sparked By Conflict

The Jerusalem Lover," a novella by Shira Dicker, is a prescient and courageous look at the ongoing battle between Israel's staunch defenders and her harsh critics. The work was actually written seven years ago, as Dicker struggled with the “casual anti-Semitism (she)…confronted nearly daily” while living in England during 2004.

"Bathsheba" by Bruce Murray
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