Gloria Kestenbaum's blog

A Fresh Look At Einstein

One hundred years ago this week, Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity, forever transforming the way we think about space and time. Since then, so many scores of books have been written about this great scientific luminary that you might well ask—why the need for another biography of Einstein? 

Courtesy Yale University Press

A New Chapter In Anne Frank’s Story

Anne Frank has become a metonymy, both a symbol and a shorthand for the Holocaust. Her youthful diary, hopeful, funny, frightened but stalwart, has been a source of inspiration to millions of readers worldwide. Still, after viewing the new film, “No Asylum: The Untold Chapter of Anne Frank's Story,” and hearing the details of her post-diary life and eventual death in the camps, I wonder: If Anne Frank had survived, would her subsequent writings more closely mirror the darkness of Elie Wiesel’s “Night” than the hopefulness of her diary.

Anne Frank modeling a new coat. United States Holocaust Museum. Courtesy Eva Schloss

Searching For Roots

Walking along East Broadway towards the Educational Alliance, I surrender to early culinary memories of the Lower East Side — sweet treats at Uncle Shia’s (Susswein’s) bakery and pizza at Noah’s Ark at a time when kosher pizza was still an exotic treat. The Forward building still dominates, an elegant reminder of the Lower East Side’s once bustling Jewish community but the old Educational Alliance building, which shares the street, is happily unrecognizable after a recent gut renovation: The Manny Cantor Center, part of the Educational Alliance network, is now a sparkling new, open and airy modern space but with the same warm feeling my Aunt Pola described when she worked there decades ago.

Helene Aylon. From the Turnings series (2010).

The Art Of Forgiveness

Remembrance is always part of the Jewish consciousness; our calendar is linked throughout the year to events long past, to ancient rites, to ancient wrongs and to how our ancestors either succeeded or failed in their observance or existence. The High Holidays, though, are not only about remembrance; they are also about forgiving and forgetting — about conjuring up the past year, weighing the good and bad, of others perhaps, but especially of our selves, of letting go and hoping that our sins and misdemeanors of omission and commission, are let go as well.

Alex Mendoza, Untitled, from the series “Time and Place,” 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

The Book of Doctorow

E.L Doctorow was often described as a writer of historical fiction, but he disliked that term and preferred to say that he was “an American novelist writing about my country.”

E.L. Doctorow. Courtesy Random House

Estonian Story

These days, Estonia, bordered by Finland, Latvia and Russia, is known for its staunch democracy, wired technologies and as the birthplace of the founder of Skype. Unfortunately, it has endured a chequered and difficult history mainly due to its proximity to Russia.

Courtesy Alfred A. Knopf

Our Selfies, Our Selves

My mother, when asked to identify herself, would say, “What can I tell you — I’m just a lady from Poland." This, despite the fact that she left Poland, post-war, at 12, and spent the next 66 years of her life in New York. And, of course, when she finally went back to visit Poland, she was seen as the Jew from America. Identities are by their very nature, fluid and relative. How we describe ourselves versus how others perceive us is always up for grabs.

Courtesy of Genesis Philanthropy Group

This Week: Rare Judaica At Rare Prices

Bibliophiles and collectors of Jewish texts have been prowling the precincts of Kestenbaum & Company these past days, covetously eyeing and reverently handling the rare items now on display and scheduled for auction on Thursday, June 25. Dubbed the “Singular Collection,” the provenance for this remarkable grouping of early printed Hebrew books, and Biblical and Rabbinic manuscripts remains undisclosed.

Autograph manuscript, Melecheth Shlomo by Solomon ben Joshua Adani, 1589-1623. Courtesy Kestenbaum & Company

An Israeli Photographer Looks Back

If you’re like me, you may remember an older Israel — a dusty Levantine backwater of unpaved sidewalks and peeling stucco walls — with a mixture of nostalgia and relief. Today, Israel is a sparkling, Westernized techno-power with gleaming high-rises and computer ads lighting every corner; Igael Shemtov’s photos, “The Photo Album 1979-1980,” now showing at the Andrea Meislin Gallery, summon up a slower, hazier era.

Igael Shemtov, “The Photo Album, Volume II, #77, 1978-1980.” Courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery

Can’t Get Enough Klimt

For Klimt lovers, now is a perfect storm of Klimt-o-mania. With “The Lady in Gold” now playing in theatres, fascinated viewers are snaking round the block of the Neue Galerie, waiting patiently to see and learn more about Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch.”

Gustav Klimt, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, 1907. Courtesy Neue Galerie, New York
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