Culture View

10/07/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

Midway through its three-hour running time, there is a scene in Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary, “In Jackson Heights,” in which we see a few minutes of a typical workday in the office of Councilman Daniel Dromm. Two members of Dromm’s staff are fielding irate calls from constituents. We hear only their side of the conversations, so it takes a moment before it becomes clear what very local issue the callers are discussing. But it is impossible to miss the interplay of exasperation, concern and slowly eroding patience in the faces of Dromm’s long-suffering staffers.

09/24/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

09/18/2015 | | Special To the Jewish Week | Culture View

I can tell you from tedious first-hand experience that the Israeli film industry had a long, hard climb to its current exalted stature as a reliable source of intelligent, creative and provocative cinema, winners of golden bears, leopards, palms and other gilded flora and fauna, not to mention numerous Oscar nominations. Recently, though, the new Israeli government has shown a willingness to trade the prestige — and hard currency — provided by these triumphs for an unprecedented and sinister level of control.

08/25/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

When Cantor Seymour Rockoff of Kesher Israel Synagogue in Harrisburg, Pa., died last month, it was truly the end of an era. Rockoff had been the last chazzan standing in any of the five synagogues in my community, most of which had boasted full-time cantors for decades. Cantor Sherwood Goffin of Lincoln Square Synagogue eulogized his colleague as being equally at home belting out prayers in shul and performing in the Catskills; he noted that Cantor Rockoff’s own musical compositions ranged from an anthem of the Soviet Jewry movement, “Am Yisrael Chai” (“The People of Israel Lives”), to Allan Sherman-style parodies of classic songs, such as “Cold Chopped Liver” (sung to the tune of Jerome Kern’s “Ol’ Man River”) and “Boro Park” (sung to the tune of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “New York, New York.”)

07/28/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

Last week YIVO sent out a very special e-mail. It contained a link to Theodore Bikel’s last public performance, at the organization’s 13th Annual Heritage Luncheon on June 18. Bikel was the principle honoree, recipient of YIVO’s lifetime achievement award, and in a video clip (which can be seen on YouTube) he sits very erect in his wheelchair, guitar on his lap, singing “Di zun vet aruntergeyn/The Sun Soon Will Be Setting.” The song is a collaboration between the great Yiddish poet Moishe Leib Halpern and composer Ben Yomen, but the English adaptation is by Bikel himself, who sings at one point, “we’ll fly/Leaving earth far below/To a land where all longing does go.”

07/21/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

In one-woman shows like “Fires in the Mirror,” about the Crown Heights riots, and “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” about the violence following the Rodney King affair, Anna Deavere Smith helped create a new kind of theater. Playing dozens of characters, all based on extensive interviews with real people, Smith provoked an unusual level of audience empathy, in part because she literally embodied those peoples’ stories. The violence she chronicled — which is at base a failure of empathy — was reversed in the telling of the story.