Daniel Schifrin

The Producer

05/23/2003
Special To The Jewish Week

I'm starting to wonder if Mel Brooks' movie-cum-musical "The Producers" will become a central text for Holocaust studies.

The Anxiety Of (Religious) Influence

01/24/2003
Special To The Jewish Week

It's a cliche to say that the world's major religions have long influenced and been influenced by each other. Jesus and his followers were Jewish; Maimonides was indebted to Islamic philosophers; Mohammad saw the Koran as an extension of Jewish and Christian texts; and so on. At a time like today (when the three monotheistic faiths feel deeply defensive about their place in the world) this message bears repeating.

The Paradox Of Bruno Schulz

12/27/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

It's unusual for three first-rate contemporary Jewish writers (Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, and David Grossman) to pay homage in their fiction to a somewhat obscure literary figure. But in Ozick's novella "The Messiah of Stockholm," Grossman's novel "See Under: Love," and Roth's story "The Prague Orgy," the gossamer figure of Bruno Schulz, the extraordinary Polish Jewish writer killed by the Nazis, predominates.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

12/31/1999
Special To The Jewish Week

So much happens in the course of the riveting if somewhat jarring new production of Sholom Asch's "God of Vengeance," newly translated from the Yiddish by Caraid O'Brien, that it's hard to take it all in during one sitting. The tale of a Jewish pimp and a former prostitute who run a shtetl whorehouse while raising a perfectly respectable girl in the house upstairs is extraordinarily rich, the variety and tragedy of the characters suggesting, both in theme and quality, the novels of Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.

A Touch Of Grace

06/23/2006
Special To The Jewish Week

The New York Times Book Review's recent survey of the "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years" produced a number of interesting findings. The first was that, despite Toni Morrison's "Beloved" winning the prize, there were hardly any books by women among the multiple vote-getters. The second was that Philip Roth had far more of his books on the short list than anyone else, and if the Times had instead asked the question "Who is the best American writer of the last 25 years?" he would have won hands down.

The Miracle Of History

04/28/2006
Special To The Jewish Week

Shortly before Passover, my 4-year-old son sat on my lap as the matzah balls boiled, asking to read through the kids' Haggadah in preparation to recite (or more likely mumble) the Four Questions. The supernatural events that enthralled him (the parting of the Red Sea, the profusion of frogs on Pharaoh's nose and toes) quickly receded for me as I considered the more prosaic miracle of a generation of uninterrupted Passovers, and an exquisite moment of parent-child bonding.

Assimilation And Its Discontents

02/24/2006
Special To The Jewish Week

It sounds strange now, in the post-Soon-Yi era, but Woody Allen's classic films of the 1970s and especially the 1980s made him one of American cinema's most important moral voices. Behind the neurotic shtick and the clumsy narcissism, Allen in films such as "Zelig," "Broadway Danny Rose" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" created comic-tragic dramas highlighting the need for personal responsibility, the value of intense self-reflections, and the danger of veering from a moral compass, however personally defined.

The Silverman Effect

12/23/2005
Special To The Jewish Week

The day after Richard Pryor died, longing to be transported comedically, I went to see Sarah Silverman's concert film "Jesus is Magic." I expected to be entertained, nothing more. Instead I was overwhelmed, not just by the sharpness of Silverman's delivery but by the surprise of her material. And like Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" (who uses a Jewish sensibility to expose the emptiness of much of our social discourse) Silverman puts her Jewishness front and center as she analyzes American life today.

Brand New Judaism

10/28/2005
Special To The Jewish Week

In the 1940s, C.S. Lewis, author of the classic Chronicles of Narnia series, wrote a succession of essays later collected as "Mere Christianity," which had a galvanizing effect on Christians. A passionate and charming articulation of the central tenets of Christianity, the book is reputed to have brought more people into the fold than any other written in the last half century.

Woody And Dylan: The Jewish Chameleons

04/23/2008
Special To The Jewish Week

He’s a real nowhere man,

Sitting in his nowhere land,

Making all his nowhere plans

for nobody.

                          — The Beatles

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