Well Versed

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

Meet King David At The Metropolitan Museum

 Elie Wiesel describes the Bible as “the pull of my childhood, a fascination with the vanished world, and I can find everything except that world.”

I feel much the same way, which is why the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age” so thrilled me. The premise of the exhibit isn’t Israel or the Bible.  Rather, it explores cross-cultural interaction and global communication during the Assyrian Empire from roughly 1200 – 400 BCE, the time period that many major Biblical events took place. 

"House of David" inscription, ca. 830 BCE,Israel Antiquities Authority, courtesy of The Israel Museum. Meidad Suchowolski

Lost And Found Klezmer

Whiny trills of klezmer music reverberate from the towering coffered ceiling of the Museum at Eldridge Street as five firmly concentrating Israeli musicians connect deeply to their Jewish roots through the song of klezmer. Their focused brows and eased smiles signify the technicalities and synchronous timing of their music, as well as their delight in performing it. This is 12th Night Music, a quintet of highly creative classically trained Israeli musicians.

Clarinetist Avigail Malachi accompanied by Elad Kabilio on cello. Anna Shneyderman

Closing The Circle

Why did I travel to the other end of town to see a tribute to Anna Sokolow so many decades after I last saw –  or even thought about – her work? The answer is that Anna Sokolow, an important contributor to the repertory of American modern dance for sixty years, gave me permission to dance.

Anna Sokolow at 70. Courtesy Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble

Opening The Red Tent On Screen

This Shabbat, we read the story of Dinah, the only daughter of the biblical Jacob, whose tragic tale is tucked into the narrative of parshat Vaylishlach. And on Sunday evening, Lifetime Television will air the first of a two-part mini-series based on Anita Diamant’s wildly successful 1997 novel inspired by Dinah’s  story, "The Red Tent." The confluence of these dates, according to Diamant, is “totally coincidental.”

Inside The Red Tent. Courtesy Lifetime

How Much Is It Worth?

“What do you know about it?” the first person in line is asked. The others, with grimly pursed lips, nervously await their turns to have valuables appraised.

Appraiser Helaine Fendelman examining an artistic work. Photo by Tzippy Katz

Israel’s Shmitta Year: From The Perspective of Artists

In a modest three room gallery in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood, paintings, photographs, sculptures and a video installation by Emunah College lecturers interpret the word shmot, the Biblical command to “release” the Land.  Images range from bare Israeli landscapes to a brightly colored Mandela, which you need to squint at in order to see the black forms of camels that create its arched frame.

Nir Brandt’s painting, Tel Shilo. Courtesy Emunah College

Crossing the Judeo-Persian Gulf

Among its many treasures, the JTS library holds one of the largest Judeo-Persian manuscript collections in the world. Dr. Vera Basch Moreen, a leading scholar of Judeo-Persian culture, recently completed a “Catalog of Judeo-Persian Manuscripts in The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary.” Primarily a work of reference, the catalogue is a scholarly examination of the subjects that interested Persian Jews between the 15th-19th centuries, and makes clear the extent to which these Jews were enmeshed in the literary and artistic sensibilities of their Iranian environment.

Yūsuf va Zulaykhā ; Mashad, Iran 1852-1853. Courtesy of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary

Tale From The Italian Resistance

“The Garden of Letters” is the story of a young cello student, Elodie Bertoletti –- picture Audrey Hepburn in “Love in the Afternoon” –- who gets caught up in the Italian Resistance during WWII.  There’s been much written and filmed about the French and Polish Resistance but this is my first introduction to the heroes and heroines of the Italian cause.

Courtesy Berkley Books

Rebuilding The Past

In a rich display of historical reconstruction, the Yeshiva University Museum is exhibiting “Modeling the Synagogue – From Dura to Touro.” Accompanied by artifacts, prayer scripts, artwork and documents, the exhibition demonstrates the context of these buildings – that they are representative of an era, a people and a history.

Model of the Zabludow Synagogue, Poland, 17th century. Collection of Yeshiva University Museum
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