Well Versed

Purim Spiel: Social Justice, Burlesque And The Whole Megillah

It all started when the puppeteer Randy Ginsburg went to Bali at the age of 22 and his orthodox Jewish friends expressed fears that he would worship pagan gods.

 From The Whole Megillah. Photo courtesy Randy Ginsburg

Carlo Ginzburg On Jewish Identity

Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg held a packed audience spellbound last Monday at the New York Public Library where he gave the Joy Gottesman Ungerleider lecture. Ginzburg, whom the New York Times has called “the preeminent Italian historian of his generation,” is best known for his pioneering work in microhistory, the study of finely delimited times and events. He turned that evening to his own microhistory with a talk entitled “Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish.”

Carlo Ginzburg, courtesy of the New York Public Library

Jews And Words: Leaving Nothing Un-debated

What is it that identifies secular Jews as a people -- be they Israeli or of the Diaspora, progressive or neo-con, early feminists or members of the Larry David fan club -- across generations and throughout the world?

Looking Anew At Holocaust Literature

Definitions can be tricky. Just try to find agreement on what qualifies (or not) as “Jewish literature.”

Photo courtesy Brandeis University Press

Squandered Gifts and Fathers in the Sky: Eleanor Antin’s Performative Art

As one of the first artists to re-introduce autobiography to the art world during the late 1960s, Eleanor Antin created an imaginary theatre interweaving personal and political narratives.

Eleanor Antin, photo courtesy of The Jewish Museum

A Seat at the Table

There’s something exquisite about the Offit Gallery on The Jewish Museum’s second floor:  It is high-ceilinged with lots of light flooding in from the windows overlooking Central Park.  In 2012, the Museum inaugurated a series of “laboratory” exhibitions in the space, once part of the Warburg family mansion. New works as well as pieces from the Museum’s collections are featured, in an effort to advance new ideas about art and culture.
 

Beth Lipman, Laid Table with Etrog Container and Pastry Molds, 2012, glass, stone, paint and glue. Courtesy of The Jewish Museum

Art, Beauty and the Shoah

Yishai Jusidman’s color palette is limited to materials connected to the Nazi gas chambers:  Prussian Blue, a pigment that appeared on the chamber walls as a by-product of the Zyklon B Gas; a silicon dioxide power used for pellets that delivered the gas to the sealed chambers; and flesh-tone colored paints, referring to the murdered millions. 
 

Bridging Divides: Words of Peace

During the run-up to the Israeli election, we heard little about peace from the right or the left. As we puzzle over the results, I wonder what drives those who truly seek peace.

Rainbow over desert near the Dead Sea by Donald Nussbaum. Photo courtesy Oxford University Press

The Tangled History of Shuls and Real Estate

Had it been two blocks south and a bit farther east, the 16th Street Synagogue would have been included in Gerard R. Wolfe’s excellent new edition of his classic work,  “The Synagogues of New York’s Lower East Side: A Retrospective and Contemporary View,” (Empire State Editions/Fordham University Press). That shul, formerly the Young Israel of Fifth Avenue, is being evicted from its building, after a long dispute with a developer.


Those interested in New York City’s building genealogy and the intertwining connections between real estate interests, immigrant history, shifting populations and synagogue life will find much of interest in Wolfe’s book, first published in 1978. He details the active synagogues (12) and the “lost” or endangered synagogues (24), and also includes a great chronological chart documenting shul mergers and breakaways in New York City, 1654 – 1875.
 

National Jewish Book Award Winners Announced

In this season of awards, the Jewish Book Council announced the winners of its 2012 National Jewish Book Awards, recognizing a range of new and established authors.

Nobel Prize winner Eric R. Kandel was named the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Columbia University professor is the author of “In Search of Memory” (Norton).
 

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