Well Versed

The Art Of The Donkey

According to the kabbalists, on Isru Chag, the day after the holidays of Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot, some of the light of the holiday lingers, so the sanctity is extended.

So it was with post-holiday eyes that I visited The Jewish Museum on Wednesday, following the season of holidays ending with Sukkot and saw Izhar Patkin’s installation “The Messiah’s glAss.”

Izhar Patkin's installation at The Jewish Museum is beautiful, and also politically pointed.

Stitching Women's Lives

Jacqueline Nicholls is an artist deeply informed by Jewish teaching and text, but her message — expressed in mediums as diverse as embroidery, corsetry, clothing, paper-cuts and print — is both subtly and explosively subversive.

From Jacqueline Nicholls’ “The Kittel Collection.”

Kafka for the Holidays?

Timing is everything: Given this year’s High Holy Days schedule, along with the renewed rush that arrives after Labor Day, coordinating a Sunday evening in September for our first synagogue Book Group meeting of the season proved more challenging than choosing what we would read, which we’d discussed before our summer break. Thus it happened that the only Sunday available was the one that fell between the Ten Days, after Rosh HaShanah and two evenings prior to Yom Kippur. Our reading selection: “Metamorphosis” and other stories by Franz Kafka.  

Kafka's Metamorphosis is surprisingly appropriate reading during the High Holiday season.

All She Wrote: Signing Off from The Jewish Week

Eventually, this day had to come, the day when I wrote my last blog for The Jewish Week. In the fall I'll be starting a Ph.D. program in U.S. history at Columbia, which means I'll no longer be able to hold this job.  But the good news is that I'll be able to freelance, so you can expect to see my by-line somewhere in The Jewish Week in the coming months.  

Jews and Affirmative Action: What the CUNY Diversity Plan Gets Wrong

The logic that recently led CUNY to carve a specific category for Jewish faculty members—“White/Jewish”—for its new Diversity Actions Plan makes sense.  Apparently many Jewish faculty members felt that “White/Caucasian” didn’t adequately define their sense of ethnic affiliation.  But in the past two weeks since the news broke—the New York Post, true to from, put it on everyone’s agenda with its klieg-lit

Was Vatican II All That Good For The Jews? A Berkeley Historian Takes Up the Issue

Vatican II—the Catholic Church’s commission that liberalized many Catholic practices—was a watershed for Jews, too.  The most famous Jewish-related doctrine to come out of it, “Nostra Aetate,” bluntly denounced anti-Semitism, and perhaps most significantly, said that Jews today, and throughout history, should not be held responsible for Jesus’ death.  Most often, Vatican II is celebrated by Jews as a great turning-point for Catholics, and something of a mea culpa for the Church’s problematic relationship with the Nazis.  But

Obama on Jews and American History: A Speech Worth Remembering

Shame on me for not knowing that May was Jewish American Heritage Month.  To be sure, it lacks the profile of Black History Month, but apparently in Washington it’s a big deal.  I was reminded of that when I read about Obama’s closing remarks at the White House on Wednesday, when he took pains to highlight the central anecdote of historian Jonathan Sarna’s new book, “When General Grant Expelled the Jews.”

Caligula and the Jews

The tales of Caligula’s reign over Rome are so rich with gore, sadism and opulence that few bother even to check if they’re true.  That blithe disregard for factual accuracy is hard not to excuse, what with stories like this: one contemporary, writing in the first century A.D., wrote that the Caligula once had the father of a man he was executing watch his son die. Then, he had the father eat with him at dinner.  Other contemporary sources tell of Caligula’s alleged madness: he is said to have talked to horses, and insist that his own be installed in the Senate.

Hofesh Shechter Takes on New York: Israeli Choreography and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

Hofesh Shechter often gets annoyed when people only see Jewish or Israeli references in his choreography. “It’s a very interesting, conflicted way the world sees Jews,” he told me a while back. “People [in England] refer to me as Jewish rather than Israeli. There’s this pigeonhole, this file that says ‘Jewish’ on it.” 

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