George Robinson

A Holocaust Documentary With A Difference

Intelligently structured, ‘Street Of Our Lady’ is a tribute to a Polish mother and daughter who saved 15 Jews

06/30/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

When the Second World War broke out, the town of Sokal, then in Poland, had a population that included 6,000 Jews. By 1944, only 30 were still alive. Fifteen of them were being hidden in an attic and a hayloft over a pigsty by Francisca Halamajowa and her daughter Helena.

Chaim Maltz reflects at the Sokal train station

Feeling Phil Spector’s Pain

New documentary sheds light on the ultimate outsider.

06/22/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Among the myriad ways in which Jews became Americans in the 20th century, one of the most felicitous was their involvement in the creation of popular music. The overwhelming presence of Jewish-Americans in the pages of the Great American Songbook is proverbial. Even a gilt-edged WASP like Cole Porter prided himself on “writing Jewish.”

Spector, currently serving a 19-year prison sentence for murder, is the focus of a new documentary by Vikram Jayanti, “The Agony

Jewish Singer Hooked On Bossa Nova

How does a rabbi’s kid from New Jersey get swept up in a Brazilian musical wave? Meet singer-songwriter Avi Wisnia.

06/18/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

If singer-songwriter Avi Wisnia’s new CD “Something New” were a tapestry, when you turn it over you would see a bright yellow-green thread running through every song, a skein of Brazilian jazz steeped in bossa nova and samba. That is a nice musical preoccupation to have under any circumstances, but as one critic asked recently, How does a rabbi’s kid from New Jersey get hooked on bossa nova? And we do mean hooked: Wisnia did his undergraduate work at NYU’s Albert Gallatin School on Brazilian music, language and culture.

Singer-songwriter Avi Wisnia

‘I Never Felt In My Place’

In ‘Let It Rain,’ filmmaker/actress Agnes Jaoui, the French-born daughter of Tunisian Jewish
immigrants, explores damaged people.

06/15/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Agnes Jaoui knows what it feels like not to fit in.

“My parents were Jews from Tunisia,” she says, sitting on the edge of the bed in a Soho hotel suite. “I was born in a suburb of Paris, but when I was 7 we moved to Paris itself. We lived in a poor and ugly block, but in a very chic arondissement [neighborhood]. So I went to very, very good schools, but it was purely by chance, because we were in this arondissement. I never felt in my place, nowhere.”

Agnes Jaoui as Agathe Villanova and Jean-Pierre Bacri in Jaoui’s “Let it Rain.”

A Rivers Runs Through It

06/08/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

In what must be one of the most peculiar assertions ever made by a major philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead once told an interlocutor that his only problem with the Jews was their lack of humor. Lack of humor?! Must have been those Anglo-Jewish academics he hung out with.

A Guitarist’s Jewish Sparks

For Tim Sparks, it’s a long way from Southern Baptist North Carolina to Tzadik records.

06/08/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

It is a cliché to say that music can change someone’s view of the world. But in the case of guitarist Tim Sparks, it’s true.

Sparks, who will be performing at The Stone on June 14, grew up in North Carolina where he was “exposed to a lot of heavy-duty Southern Baptist culture,” he said in a telephone interview last week from his home in Minneapolis. “I’ve spent most of my life trying to work my way out of that.”

His passport to a wider worldview was his guitar.

Tim Sparks’ journey has taken him from the blues to classical to  the music of the Jewish diaspora.

Israel’s ‘Minority In A Minority’

Dor Guez’s video triptych examines the complicated identities of his Arab Christian family members.

06/01/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

If you don’t think that human identity is evanescent, multilayered, poly-vocal and downright confused, you probably won’t get “The Monayer Family,” a triptych of short videos by Dor Guez currently on display at the Jewish Museum.

Guez is a provocative, gifted artist who works in a variety of disciplines and media, focusing his attention on issues of multiculturalism, ethnicity and personal identity; appropriately, his own identity is as contested and complex as it is possible to imagine. The work, unsurprisingly, is the same.

The filmmaker’s grandfather, Jacob, in scenes from “The Monayer Family.”

Jewish Songwriter Offers An Indie Take On Genesis

Wailing Wall’s Jesse Rifkin reimagines, and personalizes, the biblical story.

05/25/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Jesse Rifkin is remembering his childhood in Annapolis, Md. He began writing songs when he was 4. At that age, he loved the Beatles. He was already thinking of himself as a career musician.

“Sometimes you just know,” he says firmly.

It all came true; he has recorded an EP and two CDs with his Wailing Wall band, with the latter recordings being released through JDub Records. He will be launching his new album, “The Low Hanging Fruit,” with a gig in New York on June 4.

Songwriter Jesse Rifkin’s “Low-Hanging Fruit” CD bridges the Bible and the economic downturn.

Blame It On Rio

Not even a beautiful Mossad agent can
save the Bondian romp, ‘Lost in Rio.’

05/04/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Life was so much simpler in 1967. For a brief moment, everyone loved Israel, the plucky little country that fended off attacks from all its much larger, more powerful neighbors. With the U.S. involved in an unpopular war in Vietnam, it was comfortable for progressives to view the Israelis as a model for the Third World, a nation too tough to take crap from the big boys.

No 007: Jean Dujardin and Louise Monot in scene from “OSS 117 — Lost in Rio.”

Up Against The Wall

Tribeca Festival documentary aptly depicts all sides in a West Bank town’s peaceful struggle to reroute Israel’s security fence.

04/20/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

The immense capacity of the human animal for pointless violence that runs counter to its best interests never ceases to amaze. Or it just never ceases.

Consider the history of an independent modern India. Conceived and brought to life by the work of one of the world’s greatest advocates of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi, it is a nation that has known terrible outbursts of sectarian violence within and brutal combat without for its entire history. Could it be possible, however, to reverse this process?

A scene from "Budrus"
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