eric herschthal

The Tao of Terrence: Or, Is "The Tree of Life" a Jewish Film?

It's too bad Lars Von Trier stole the show at Cannes last week because the news would have otherwise been, well, the film that won the highest prize.  That honor went to the reclusive American director Terrence Malick's new film, "The Tree of Life," which stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and opens tomorrow.  

Kiddush Cups, Haggadahs Suddenly Chic? Major Museums Get Into Judaica

For years Jewish art museums have looked upon traditional Judaica with something approaching disdain.  The rising profile of venues like The Jewish Museum and the San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum's have premised their ascension on their embrace of modern and contemporary fine art--paintings by Rothko; sculpture by Nevelson--and their simultaneous downgrading of what used to be consider the only Jewish art--elaborately decorated Torah scrolls and pulchritudinous Kiddush cups; or in a word, Judaica.

Lars Von Trier and Holocaust Fatigue

The Cannes Film Festival's board of directors did the right thing in expelling Lars von Trier from the festival today.  The decision came only a day after Von Trier, a Danish director who was raised an atheist, though told that his father was Jewish, made outrageous comments about Hitler. 

Great Souls of Israel and Palestine: Or, Today's Gandhis

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a profile of Joseph Lelyveld, author of the much-discussed new Gandhi biography titled "Great Soul."  I focused on the parts of the book that focused on Gandhi's association with Jews--from the possible homosexual relationship he had with a Jewish architect, to his tenuous position on a Jewish state.  But in the new issue of Harper's, the courageous liberal Israeli journalist David Shulman writes the kind of review I wish I had: he highlights the real-life Gandhian figures i

The Jewish King Lear: Thoughts on BAM

I saw BAM's staging of "King Lear" this weekend and thought this blog would be about the titular role.  Lear is the play's cynosure, but Shakespeare spreads his talents liberally--no character goes without his quotient of richly rendered language or keen moral insight.  Even the immortal lines of the play's chief villain, Edmund, have just as much truth as anything mouthed by Lear:

Tony, Toni, Tone: An Intelligent Guide to the Kushner Affair

It isn't the best week for Tony Kushner. Earlier this week he was waylaid CUNY's board of trustees, after a right-wing Israel supporter who sits on the board convinced the school to rescind an honorary degree because of the playwright's criticism of Israel (first, I say with admittedly churlish pride, reported by my Jewish Week colleague, Doug Chandler). 

Goodbye Galassi!

I couldn't help but be saddened by the snippet of art-world news I read today: long-time MoMA photography curator Peter Galassi announced his retirement.  He's not exactly old--he's 60--but he's been at the MoMA for more than three decades and has been an tremendous boon for contemporary photography.  One of my favorite shows in recent memory, at any New York City museum, and in any medium, was the Jeff Wall retropsecive in 2007.  But

Kvelling Over Obama: Kwame Anthony Appiah on the President's Roots

I knew Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Princeton philosopher, was smart. But I didn't realize he knew so much about Judaism--or at least about the etymology of the Yiddish word "kvelling."  Do you know it?

Nathan Englander: Thespian?

Jewish fiction is alive and well in America, and holding up a large pike in the tent is Nathan Englander. The Orthodox day school drop-out, born in 1970 on Long Island, has never made his affinity for Jews a secret: "The Ministry of Special Cases," his 2007 best-seller, focused on Jews who disappeared during Argentina's "dirty war." And his first collection of short stories, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges" (2000), was riddled with Jewish-themed works.

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