Museum Mile — the stretch of Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 104th — offers an intriguing paradox this fall. The Jewish Museum, at the corner of 92nd Street, is presenting a retrospective of works by a Jewish painter who eschewed Jewish imagery in his embrace of the universal. A few blocks south, the National Academy of Design exhibits the work of a painter who rejected Judaism, but uses explicitly Jewish symbols as expressions of spiritual transcendence.
Last Sunday’s New York Times declared that Jewish life on the Lower East Side was in its death throes. Meanwhile, a gathering at the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue proved that, at least in some corners, the neighborhood’s Jewish activity was not yet gone, just showing its age.
A group of about a dozen poets aged 65 and older, and an audience twice their number, had gathered in the 115-year-old sanctuary that mellow morning for the Eldridge Street Project’s second annual Poetry Slam for Seniors.
The careers of stage-and-screen star Mae West, moral crusader Anthony Comstock and birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger are intimately bound up in the history of sexuality in America. So, too, are those of burlesque queen Ida Mencken, publisher Samuel Roth and condom-maker Julius Schmidt. Their enterprising exploits will be on display when the Museum of Sex opens this week.
Probably my favorite subgenre of literature is that of "the walker in the city," books in which people saunter or stroll through New York City, experiencing themselves changing and growing as they come to understand the physical and metaphysical infrastructure of New York. Among my favorites of these books are Henry Roth's "Call it Sleep," Alfred Kazin's "A Walker in the City," and the collected comic strips of Ben Katchor.
The story of a teenager in this country nine or 10 years sharing a cramped apartment with her mother, sister and two boarders sounds like it could have taken place a century ago, when the Lower East Side teemed with newly arrived Jewish immigrants.
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series connected to the 90th anniversary of UJA-Federation of New York. The differences between the American Jewish community of the early 1900s and today’s American Jewry are vast and notable. Volumes have been written about the ethnic division that marked the earlier community, between the well-established, often wealthy German Jews, who began arriving in the 1840s and ‘50s, and the more than two million new arrivals from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, many of them mired in poverty and “Old World” ways.
Moshe and Adina Tyberg, Flatbush residents in their mid-30s, are living in a two-bedroom apartment with five young children.
“As you can imagine,” the father says, the atmosphere “isn’t very conducive to raising kids,” but he and his wife are unable to afford a larger home in Brooklyn. As a result, both Moshe, a human-resources professional, and Adina, an occupational therapist, are ready to move beyond the New York area, where they hope to find a better quality of life.
The death this month of Emanual Muravchik, a lifelong socialist and the onetime leader of the Jewish Labor Committee, highlighted a world that no longer exists — much of it recalled at a memorial service at the JLC last Friday. It also put into sharp relief a contrast between two generations of American Jews.
"Not another book on the Holocaust,” a friend of author Anne Michaels lamented, as he came across a new book on the subject, unaware that the first novel Michaels was then working on had a Holocaust theme. “That galvanized me in an important way,” she tells The Jewish Week. “What kind of book could I write that would reach that reader, who felt like he had read it all?” It was a question that Michaels asked herself repeatedly in the 10 years it took her to complete Fugitive Pieces (Knopf).