It is most unusual for me to be away from my synagogue for two consecutive weekends, but this is one of those times. Last week I was in Jerusalem, attending the Zionist Congress. This week, far away from Jerusalem, I am writing from Newport, Rhode Island, where my son-in-law Yoni, entering his final year in the Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, is receiving his commission from the United States Navy as a Navy Chaplain.
Todd Haynes’ films are about shape-shifters, people whose identities are in flux, frequently concealed, even from themselves. You could say that this is the essence of the Jewish experience in the diaspora, and Haynes, whose mother is Jewish, would undoubtedly agree. At any rate, it is the perfect description of the man at the center of Haynes’ new film, “I’m Not There,” which opens on Nov. 21.
In the cultural history of the second half of the 20th century, few figures — and no Jews — are more influential or pivotal than Bob Dylan.
No other artist bestrides so many trends and streams of Americana; Dylan merges folk, blues, gospel, country, rock and modernist poetry (with strong ties to the Symbolists and Surrealists). And in his relentless shape-shifting and self-reinvention he is an archetype for the age of mass communications.
With all of our kids in camp or working elsewhere for a good part of the summer, my wife and I stole away for a precious few days alone, and, like God said about Tuesday a long time ago, it was very good. Though our (four) children are increasingly independent and only our youngest will actually be living at home this year, your children are always your children, and coupled with the pressures of our jobs, it was wonderfully rejuvenating to be away with each other and no one else.
David Grubin’s epic documentary about Jewish life and accommodation in the United States begins and ends with scenes of the ship that brought 23 Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Brazil to safety in New Amsterdam. In between, over the six hours of "The Jewish Americans," are such staples of American-Jewish history as Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan, the immigrant experience on the Lower East Side and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
But it’s more than New York City.
The 2000-Year-Old Man tells a 350-year-old story — about Jews in the United States.
The now-classic comedy routine of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, a new PBS documentary suggests, delivers a serious moral message about Jewish identity, about Jewish self-confidence, and about how the act itself became a part of popular American culture.