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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.