Well Versed

A Fresh Look At Einstein

One hundred years ago this week, Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity, forever transforming the way we think about space and time. Since that time, so many scores of books have been written about this great scientific luminary that you might well ask—why the need for another biography of Einstein? 

Courtesy Yale University Press

A New Chapter In Anne Frank’s Story

Anne Frank has become a metonymy, both a symbol and a shorthand for the Holocaust. Her youthful diary, hopeful, funny, frightened but stalwart, has been a source of inspiration to millions of readers worldwide. Still, after viewing the new film, “No Asylum: The Untold Chapter of Anne Frank's Story,” and hearing the details of her post-diary life and eventual death in the camps, I wonder: If Anne Frank had survived, would her subsequent writings more closely mirror the darkness of Elie Wiesel’s “Night” than the hopefulness of her diary.

Anne Frank modeling a new coat. United States Holocaust Museum. Courtesy Eva Schloss

One Room On The Prairie

Born in 1876 in Russia, a motherless Rachel Calof found herself at the age of 18 married to a stranger in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, “the only place colder than Russia.” The couple shared a one-room shack with her parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, a nephew, chickens and a cow. Her bed was a depression in the floor of the shack; there was neither outhouse nor latrine. Back in Russia, Rachel, the daughter of an elegant mother and a long line of Cohanim, had not been permitted to accept the hand of a butcher’s son.

Kate Fuglei as Rachel Calof. Karen Richardson

Willy Loman’s Alter Heym

The first word in the opening scene has not yet been uttered and already you are transfixed.  The old salesman approaches the spare stage clutching two worn, oversized leather valises. At first you don’t notice him. No spotlight shines near him and he somehow seems invisible, a nobody. But there he stands, gathering up himself one more time. He winces, squints, opens and shut his eyes. Is he fending off a nightmare or trying to recapture a lost dream? 

Willy Loman is coming home.

Avi Hoffman as Willy Loman (foreground) and Adam Shapiro as Howard in “Death of a Salesman.” Ronald L. Glassman

Searching For Roots

Walking along East Broadway towards the Educational Alliance, I surrender to early culinary memories of the Lower East Side — sweet treats at Uncle Shia’s (Susswein’s) bakery and pizza at Noah’s Ark at a time when kosher pizza was still an exotic treat. The Forward building still dominates, an elegant reminder of the Lower East Side’s once bustling Jewish community but the old Educational Alliance building, which shares the street, is happily unrecognizable after a recent gut renovation: The Manny Cantor Center, part of the Educational Alliance network, is now a sparkling new, open and airy modern space but with the same warm feeling my Aunt Pola described when she worked there decades ago.

Helene Aylon. From the Turnings series (2010).

A New York Night With Idan Raichel

Over the sound of clinking wine glasses and hushed conversation in Hebrew, Idan Raichel performed a solo show at City Winery in Tribeca this past Friday night.

Idan Raichel. Courtesy City Winery

A Taste Of Beauty Threatened

There is a sense that our current cultural climate does not lend itself to nuance. Reflecting this, the Israeli-American artist Andi Arnovitz’s new exhibit of original work at the Yeshiva University Museum, titled “Threatened Beauty,” is straightforward, though no less thought-provoking for its directness.

Canaries, 2015. Watercolor and collage. Courtesy of Yeshiva University Museum at Center for Jewish History

Sex And The City Deli

Who knew that the delicatessen was actually a man cave, one filled to overflowing with potent symbols of male virility?

Courtesy NYU Press

Truth And Non-Fiction From Etgar Keret

Israeli writer Etgar Keret has published his new memoir in Japanese, Persian, Turkish, Slovakian and English. But as he explained at Columbia University’s Kraft Center earlier this week, he decided not to publish the book in Hebrew out of sensitivity for those he writes about.

Etgar Keret at Columbia University’s Kraft Center.

Breathing Into A Language Of Dance

It all begins with a circular movement as the dancers' heads, torsos, then whole bodies spiral. The fluid movements seem to arise from within, reminiscent of the ocean's motion in their crescendo and dip. The short excerpt from the Israeli company Vertigo's "Birth of the Phoenix" is born on the breath, so much so, that when founder/choreographer Noa Wertheim, appears alone on stage to address the audience, she invites the onlookers to breathe along with her.

From “Vertigo: A Night of Movement and Conversation.” Koon
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