Well Versed

Mendelssohn’s Unifying Voices

Carnegie Hall on a Sunday afternoon.  A young child sits next to an old man, while a young couple slides in next to a pair of stately aficionados. There are a few out of town visitors, but this afternoon’s presentation by the New York City Choral Society of Mendelssohn’s rarely performed “Saint Paul” is for us: the citizens of this great, and diverse city.

David Hayes conducts the New York Choral Society.  Courtesy Dan Dutcher Public Relations

Holocaust Generations

I try to avoid books about the Holocaust, especially those about children of survivors. As a member of the latter group, I find the books either too painful and too familiar or insufficiently painful and somehow not enough.

Courtesy Jewish Lights Publishing

Ancient Master Of Glass

Long before the acclaimed Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly exhibited his colorfully light-infused work in a highly popular installation in Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in 1999, another master glass blower was well-known in the ancient city: Ennion, who lived and worked in the coastal region of Phoenicia in the  early part of the first century C.E. 

Two-handled jug (amphora) signed by Ennion. Roman, 1st half of 1st century A.D. Ardon Bar-Hama

Young Jews Through A Russian-Speaking Lens

Chabad on the Bowery recently played host to a group of young Jews, some wearing kippot or long skirts, others less clearly Jewish-affiliated. What made this event singular was that most of its attendees were speaking Russian or Russian-tinged English.

Men's evening learning program in Makarov Kollel. Anna Chana Demidova

Susan Reimer-Torn’s Soaring Spiritual Memoir

In the many communal conversations about shifting Jewish identities and trends -– swelling ultra-Orthodoxy, burgeoning indie-groups, religious escapees, religious returnees, denominational switching and more –- one of the missing narratives is of those who leave religion but then come back in another way. It’s a version of Jewish identity that requires years or decades to truly understand and appreciate, and may apply to thousands of Jews, though we wouldn’t know because such a trajectory does not (yet) have a name. It’s a story about those who leave their religious lives because of abuse or tyranny or a need for freedom and independence, yet still cling to aspects of the heritage that they never really intended to leave behind. It is a story of longing and pain that holds up a mirror to the complexity of Jewish life

Courtesy of Blue Thread Communications

The Other Marx

Although Karl Marx is frequently recalled today, both to his credit and discredit, as the founder of Communism, his youngest daughter Eleanor has mostly been forgotten. But in her time, Eleanor was a figure of world renown, respected both as the primary editor and expounder of her father’s works, and in her own right as a social activist, leader of the burgeoning trade unions, a pioneering feminist, and translator and proponent of such defining works of the 19th century as Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and Ibsen’s entire oeuvre. Her story is finally given the attention it deserves in Rachel Holmes’ exhaustive biography, “Eleanor Marx:  A Life” (Bloomsbury Publishing).

Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing

Honoring The Literary Legacy Of Food Historian Gil Marks

“Walking encyclopedia” may have been the idiom that appeared most often in tributes to culinary historian Gil Marks, who died in Jerusalem on December 5, 2014, after a courageous three-year battle with (nonsmoker’s) lung cancer. A memorial gathering of family and friends will be held in Jerusalem on January 5 and will be streamed.

Gil Marks. Photo by Elli Schorr

Parsing The Unseen

Born in the United States, artist and teacher Leah Raab has twice gone on aliyah for extended periods, and twice returned to the U.S. Nevertheless, life in Israel, its landscape, religion and history, both past and present, remains a recurring theme in her work.

Leah Raab. “Monster Slide lll,” 2014.

Defiant Joy: The Music Of Shlomo Carlebach On Broadway

In “Soul Doctor,” the new musical inspired by the life of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, there’s a moment of transcendence in the first ten minutes.

Hayden Wall and Anthony Laciura in "Soul Doctor"

Last Chance: Hirshbein's Drama, Now In English

“On the Other Side of the River” opens promisingly: eerie bell-like music plays softly, and the set, three flats covered with stiffened, rippling gray gauze, seems to suggest a cave receding in the distance – until the lights come up, transforming them into a river, in a beautiful union of lighting and scenic design. 

Jane Cortney as Mir’l. Courtesy New Worlds Theater Project. Hunter Canning
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