This year’s edition of the New York Jewish Film Festival has been an instructive experience. Even a program as large as this one cannot claim to be representative; there are simply too many Jewish filmmakers working in too many different political, socioeconomic and even geographical contexts to be given voice. However, a few tentative conclusions can be drawn, with the final handful of movies serving nicely to underline our findings.
David Marwell, director of New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, is among that small, but notable, group of historians and scholars whose career focus is on examining the Holocaust, making some sense of it, and conveying its lessons more than 60 years later.
But learned as Marwell is in the field, he avoided introducing his own children to the full horror of the Holocaust until he considered them old enough to absorb it.
Indiana U. launches contemporary anti-Semitism center, the second major academic institution of its kind. Will politics compromise its mission?
In recent years, Jewish intellectuals have sometimes bemoaned the anti-Zionist views heard on college campuses, and among liberal intellectuals generally, but have failed to do much about it. But that may be changing.
Last month, the chair of the Jewish studies department at Indiana University in Bloomington, Alvin Rosenfeld, announced the foundation of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism. His goal is to study, in a dispassionate, scholarly way, what he thinks is just a new version of a very old kind of hate: anti-Semitism.
One of the most striking exhibits in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., is the three towers of photographs taken in Eishyshok, documenting that shtetl’s Jewish life before it was destroyed by the Nazis. Viewers are encircled by 1,600 photographs collected by Dr. Yaffa Eliach, a professor at Brooklyn College who was born in Eishyshok. Now, Eliach has published a book that links together the moments captured in the photographs, presenting a full and textured description of the once vital community: It is a work about one town, with clues to many pasts.
Olga Glebova identifies herself as part of a distinguished and highly regarded class in Russia, hailing, she says, from “a very old, noble Russian family.” Like much of the country, she’s also Russian Orthodox, a faith whose leaders have often been at odds with Russian Jewry.
But Glebova, an English teacher in Moscow, tries to discuss the Holocaust as much as possible at the high school in which she works.
It’s not unusual for strangers to tell Helen Epstein that she changed their lives. They’re referring to her 1979 book, “Children of the Holocaust,” which identified and described an experience that many sons and daughters of survivors shared but few discussed in public. After 18 years, that book — her first — remains in print, still selling.
Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian Jew who is this year’s Nobel laureate in literature, often says that he’s a medium of the Holocaust. “Auschwitz speaks through his stories,” a friend of his, the Israeli literary critic and author Shmuel Thomas Huppert, tells The Jewish Week. “His main theme is Auschwitz. He stresses the fact that first of all he’s a writer. He didn’t become a writer because he was in Auschwitz but, by being in Auschwitz, he found his major theme.”
Max Apple’s people are the folks you might see having lunch at a local diner. There’s Sidney Goodman, the carwash king of Las Vegas, and Jerome Feldman, the outgoing president of the Ohio Association of Independent Pharmacists, along with others who sell scrap metal, industrial tools and trinkets. Apple has somehow eavesdropped over the leatherette booths and followed them out and into their lives, dreams and hearts.
Even books with footnotes can make for great summer reading.
For those who prefer their late summer fare more substantial than breezy novels and suspense fiction, many new works of nonfiction offer compelling reading. Some are inspirational, looking toward the month of Elul with its contemplative mood beginning the process of teshuvah; some break down stereotypes and perhaps prompt readers to rethink long-held assumptions.