BERLIN (JTA) -- It isn't easy facing the cold stare of a Nazi perpetrator, even in a photo. Increasingly, however, memorial sites in Germany are making the confrontation possible, opening a door that long has been sealed.
A new exhibit at the former Ravensbrueck women's concentration camp in the ex-East German state of Brandenburg is the latest example.
Miriam Harary used to scour New York City bookstores in search of Hebrew textbooks for her students at Hillel High School in Ocean, N.J.Until recently, Hebrew language instruction at Hillel, like dozens of other Jewish day schools, depended largely on the initiative of individual teachers. Yet even the most ambitious instructors often were discouraged by the lack of formal curricula and age-appropriate materials for teaching modern Hebrew to teens.
In the aftermath of last week’s deadly terror attack, all eyes focused on the fervent rescue effort in Lower Manhattan. With thousands of people buried under mountains of steel and concrete, cultural enterprise suddenly seemed frivolous and art openings, lectures, parties and awards ceremonies nationwide were canceled or postponed.
Its creative ranks include recluses, the insane and former prison inmates, but "Outsider Art" is hardly the exclusive domain of social misfits.
A tour through the American Museum of Folk Art or any number of galleries specializing in what is also known as "self-taught art" exposes viewers to a rich field of artists - including a notable number of Jewish painters - who, while untrained, display a talent for visual expression appreciated by connoisseurs and common folk alike.
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.
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.
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.
Floating above the earth now like one of his weightless figures, Marc Chagall might look kindly on the recent renaissance of American Jewish culture. The mixing of Jewish motifs and secular styles; the combination of biblical themes and contemporary events; the use of playfulness to recover, even after last century's tragedy, the joie de vivre of the Jewish folk: the Russian painter's colorful, surreal, shtetl-inspired work is a model for Jews now creating inspiring Jewish lives while still being firmly connected to secular culture.