Well Versed

Remembering Oliver Sacks

One thing I’ll never forget about my 1997 interview with Oliver Sacks was that, after trying for weeks to get to see him, I neglected to turn on the tape recorder. When I left his Greenwich Village apartment and tried to play back the tape, I realized it was blank. And his voice was so soft-spoken and gripping that I barely took notes. I felt like a character out of one of his studies: The Reporter Who Mistook Her Finger for a Microphone.

Oliver Sacks. Photo by Elena Seibert

An Old Vitality, Renewed

It was doubly fitting that Asa Zuskin Perelman, visiting from her home in Israel, spoke earlier this month at the Center for Jewish History. Her talk, co-sponsored by YIVO, was on her father, the famed Russian-Jewish actor Benjamin Zuskin, and the book she has written about his life and art, “The Travels of Benjamin Zuskin" (Syracuse University Press).

Asa Zuskin Perelman at the Center for Jewish History

An Island Of Creativity

On a gorgeous August afternoon, I had a seven-minute sabbatical on Governor’s Island. It was spiritual, uplifting and unforgettable.

Shira Dicker and David Chack leading "Seven Minutes Between Heaven and Earth"

Firsthand Memories Of Janusz Korczak

This week marks the 73rd anniversary of Janusz Korczak’s fatal march with the children of his Warsaw orphanage. While supporters arranged a path to freedom from the Nazis for him, the writer, educator and physician chose instead to stand by his children, and marched with nearly 200 of them to the train that would take all of them to their deaths in Treblinka. Some say that the children sang, but that might be legend. What’s known is that they walked in dignity, carrying the flag of their orphanage, with its emblem on one side and the Star of David on the other; they felt safe in Korczak’s presence.

Courtesy Marcia Talmadge Schneider

Dancing To A Different Beat

Noga, Israel’s first modern dance company to give the stage to religious women performers, brings to life the dance between Jewish spirituality and contemporary choreography.

Courtesy Noga Dance Company

The Book of Doctorow

E.L Doctorow was often described as a writer of historical fiction, but he disliked that term and preferred to say that he was “an American novelist writing about my country.”

E.L. Doctorow. Courtesy Random House

Inside Israeli’s Sapir Prize

Nudging aside Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and the shenanigans of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in the news of the day in late May was the tarorom over the awarding of Israel’s Sapir Prize—Israel’s premier literary award — to Israeli author Reuven Namdar for his stunning novel “The House That Was Destroyed,” which chronicles a year in the life of a New York academic. 

Namdar

A Kaleidoscope Of Jewish Identity

Cuban, Moroccan, Turkish, Libyan, Israeli, Puerto Rican, British and American influences swirl through the very Jewish stories presented in Vanessa Hidary’s “Kaleidoscope” at the 14th St Y.

Ahuva in “Kaleidoscope.” Jonathan Pillot

Estonian Story

These days, Estonia, bordered by Finland, Latvia and Russia, is known for its staunch democracy, wired technologies and as the birthplace of the founder of Skype. Unfortunately, it has endured a chequered and difficult history mainly due to its proximity to Russia.

Courtesy Alfred A. Knopf

Back-to-Back Jewish Ghosts

My reading list is usually determined by a certain serendipity of deadlines, recommendations, book covers that jump out of the pile and the lure of whatever arrives in the mail that day.  Yes, I receive new books almost every day.

Courtesy Harper Books
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