Posted: Sat, 11/28/2015 - 21:24 | Posted by: Gloria Kestenbaum | Well Versed
Courtesy Yale University Press

One hundred years ago this week, Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity, forever transforming the way we think about space and time. Since that time, 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? 

Posted: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 22:00 | Posted by: Gloria Kestenbaum | Well Versed
Anne Frank modeling a new coat. United States Holocaust Museum. Courtesy Eva Schloss

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.

Posted: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 19:18 | Posted by: Sharon Anstey | Well Versed
Kate Fuglei as Rachel Calof. Karen Richardson

Born in 1876 in Russia, a motherless Rachel Calof found herself at the age of 18 married to a stranger in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, “the only place colder than Russia.” The couple shared a one-room shack with her parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, a nephew, chickens and a cow. Her bed was a depression in the floor of the shack; there was neither outhouse nor latrine. Back in Russia, Rachel, the daughter of an elegant mother and a long line of Cohanim, had not been permitted to accept the hand of a butcher’s son.

Posted: Fri, 11/06/2015 - 09:35 | Posted by: Barry Lichtenberg | Well Versed
Avi Hoffman as Willy Loman (foreground) and Adam Shapiro as Howard in “Death of a Salesman.” Ronald L. Glassman

The first word in the opening scene has not yet been uttered and already you are transfixed.  The old salesman approaches the spare stage clutching two worn, oversized leather valises. At first you don’t notice him. No spotlight shines near him and he somehow seems invisible, a nobody. But there he stands, gathering up himself one more time. He winces, squints, opens and shut his eyes. Is he fending off a nightmare or trying to recapture a lost dream? 

Willy Loman is coming home.

Posted: Sat, 10/24/2015 - 21:20 | Posted by: Gloria Kestenbaum | Well Versed
Helene Aylon. From the Turnings series (2010).

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.

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