From a Jewish point of view, the Oscar nominees announced this week gave a lot to be excited about. There was Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar’s nomination for best foreign film, with “Footnote,” about an intellectual feud between father and son, both Talmudic scholars. There was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel about 9/11. And there was “In Darkness,” another nomination for best
A couple of months ago, I wrote a story about the excellent and horrifying exhibit “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” now on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. It describes how Nazi Germany took the pseudo-science of eugenics—or “racial hygiene”; attempting to create a purer race through breeding, sterilization, and eventually murder—to its extreme. Jews would eventually suffer the brunt of these policies, from sterilization programs to outright death in gas chambers. But many Germans with simple disabilities like mental retardation or epilepsy had their share of racial cleansing too.
In our secular, liberal age, the Bible and the classics often get a bad rap. The Bible represents everything modernity is not—free inquiry, divested of hoary beliefs—while the classics are often snidely dismissed as the hubristic fantasies of aging, if not already dead white males.
It’s probably impossible to count the number of film reviews that attack kitschy takes on the Holocaust like this: “an impossible movie that has no reason for being other than as another pop-culture palliative for a trauma it can’t bear to face.”
Or like this: “This is how kitsch works. It exploits familiar images, be they puppies or babies …and tries to make us feel good, even virtuous, simply about feeling.”
I’m sure Christopher Hitchens would have no problem with me, an admirer, taking him to task for a shoddy piece he wrote about Chanukah a few years ago in Slate. Hitchens, the eloquent atheist and polemicist, who died last week, at 62, had no problem with criticism.
I recently started reading Eric Foner’s “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery,” which won a Pulitzer this year. It’s a subtle yet fast-moving narrative about Lincoln’s evolution from a man merely averse to slavery to the one who would abolish the institution forever in America. Slavery in America is inexhaustible topic for historians, but a subject harder to come by is Jews in America, at least before the late 19th century.
The culture wars in Israel these days makes you pine for the ones we had here, in the States, some 15 years ago. In America, it all seemed like grand theater--Giuliani, for instance, catering to hard-core Christians aghast at a painting of the Virgin Mary covered in feces. But in Israel the state has a far stronger hand in culture. So when the current Likud Culture Minister, Limor Livnat, threatened to withhold money to artists who refused to perform in the Ariel performing center, in the occupied West Bank, it meant something.
In February, Nathan Englander's much awaited short story collection will be released. But this week, The New Yorker gets privileged access, publishing a new short story titled "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank." That's also the title of the upcoming collection, and if the story is any indication of what's in store, readers are in for a major treat. The story had me riveted, not least because of the communal Jewish d
Tonight is a big one for Philip Glass, the iconic Jewish composer who turns 75 next month. It will be the last night of the Met staging of Glass' Gandhi opera, "Satyagraha," and Glass will also be there -- to protest it. Glass announced on his website this week that he will be joining Occupy Wall Street's planned "Occupy Lincoln Center" protest outsi