With his odes to Italian restaurants and songs about Catholic girls, most Billy Joel fans may never have pegged the "Piano Man" for the scion of a once-thriving German-Jewish mercantile family whose fortunes were swept away in the Holocaust.
The gavel came down on impressive auctions of Judaica last month, including the record-setting sale of a rare biblical commentary dated 1457.
That Italian manuscript of writings by Solomon Ben Issac, the 11th-century French rabbi and commentator known as Rashi, eventually sold to a private buyer who phoned in the winning bid of $434,000. The Dec. 17 sale represented the highest price ever achieved by the auction house, Kestenbaum & Company, for a single lot.
The West Bank lies half a world away from the white bread setting of "The Stepford Wives." But like the robotic Connecticut housewives of the 1975 sci-fi thriller, the female protagonists of Ruth Walk's new documentary, "The Settlers," move about in blissful oblivion.
Through saccharine smiles, the women Walk profiles profess to willfully ignore the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who surround their tiny enclave at Tel Rumeida, the ancient site of biblical Hebron and home to seven settler families.
In this corner: a loose affiliation of young Jewish social activists working to transform Judaism "into a more loving, inclusive and radical culture." In this corner: a team of New York-based theater promoters and PR pros marketing merchandise and events to hip Jews and others aspiring to "kosher-style fabulosity" through a Web site called "Jewcy.com."
The stakes in this battle of attitude: legal rights to the name "Jewcy," a title both contenders claim.
Thunderous applause greeted the first proposal for rebuilding the World Trade Center site unveiled last week by seven international design teams at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.
The enthusiastic response by the victims' relatives, officials and reporters gathered under the indoor garden's palm trees might have been a collective expression of relief. The initial round of proposals, released in July, had been tossed out for lack of imagination and failure to inspire.
No tinsel, no Santa, no carols, no nog. Some Jews feel they're missing out on the fun of Christmastime. Sure, there are alternatives like Chinese-food-and-a-movie or Matzah Ball dances - the ethnic equivalent of artificial snow. These activities capture the season's festive mood without drawing on its Christian origins.
Twelve elderly Jews gather at the grave of an esteemed rabbi in Prague; they plot to consolidate their power and sow global unrest. Their words ultimately conjure up the Devil himself. The stuff of ghost stories? Perhaps, but this nefarious legend is source material for one of the most potent pieces of propaganda in the anti-Semitic arsenal, "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion."
When history touched Yonia Fain's life, it hit with gale force. For 30 years he was "dragged by the storm of events over half a world," the Brooklyn-based painter and Yiddish poet once wrote.
Between 1923 - when a 9-year-old Fain and his family fled Bolshevik Russia, and 1953 - when he settled in New York City - Fain outran Nazi troops in Poland, was imprisoned by the Soviets, escaped to Japan, was deported to China and eventually made his way to safety and artistic success in Mexico.
Some people call her film daring, others dangerous. First-time filmmaker Anat Zuria admits that "Tehora," her hour-long documentary about Jewish family purity, is meant to provoke. But she sees greater peril in keeping quiet about a subject that shapes the lives of Orthodox Jewish women.