Growing up was never easy for copper-skinned Rebecca Walker, the trophy baby of a new America. Born in 1969, the “Movement Child” of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and activist Alice Walker and civil rights lawyer Mel Leventhal, Walker spent the first two decades of her life failing to fit into a country that still assumes fixed racial categories.
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.
Israel’s nationwide teachers’ strike is in its sixth week, and the situation is outrageous and embarrassing. It should be intolerable for a government to allow 400,000 students to still be home in December. But the walkout is indicative of the crisis in the country’s once proud education system, now given failing grades by experts.
Underpaid teachers are demanding smaller classes and a 20 percent increase in salary. At present, 40 students or more are often squeezed into classrooms with only one teacher.
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.
The story of a teenager in this country nine or 10 years sharing a cramped apartment with her mother, sister and two boarders sounds like it could have taken place a century ago, when the Lower East Side teemed with newly arrived Jewish immigrants.
Twenty students from a tough, inner-city school walked through parts of a museum last week devoted to the Holocaust and other genocides. They also met with a Holocaust survivor, the leader of their tour, and wrote about their impressions afterward.
Their tour could easily have been a scene in “Freedom Writers,” the new movie about a teacher in Long Beach, Calif., who connects with her tough, inner-city students by discussing the pain and trauma other children have suffered, including those who experienced the Holocaust.
He’s been receiving threats and insults during the last 10 weeks for his defense of Cesar Rodriguez, charged with the abuse and murder of his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Nixzmary Brown. And in the Jewish community, his name has cropped up as the lawyer representing Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a former teacher at Midwood’s Yeshiva Torah Temimah now facing trial for allegedly molesting three students.
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.
When Florence Greenglass and Sol Dubner converted from Judaism to Catholicism during World War II, it was as though a gate banged shut; neither looked back. Embracing Catholicism zealously, they broke with their families as well as their religion; Dubner’s father sat shiva. The pair met and married after each had converted independently; they became Veronica and Paul Dubner. Decades later, their son Stephen, the youngest of their eight children, unlocked the gate, opening to a renewed Jewish future.