Well Versed

Eye On The Lower East Side

Think photos of the Lower East Side and you might well conjure up Jacob Riis’ grainy black and white images, Hebrew signs hanging from stoop steps, pushcarts lining crowded streets.  Or perhaps you’re remembering more recent images ‒ burnt-out buildings, gangs and cigarette butts hanging from slack mouths during the ’70s. Maybe for you, the Lower East Side is all about discount Sunday shopping in the ‘80s. But it’s not the old neighborhood anymore, as Sally Davies’ “Photographs of the Lower East Side” -- now on view on 57th Street -- at the Bernarducci  Meisel Gallery make clear.

"Rearview Snowstorm," 2010. ©Sally Davies

On View: The Story of Esther’s Children

The story of Esther, who courageously foiled a plot to exterminate the Jews of ancient Persia (modern-day Iran), is the keystone of the Purim tradition and Iranian Jews have always strongly identified with that singular Jewish heroine.  Even today, Iran’s remaining 25,000 Jews go to pray at the tomb of Esther and Mordechai ‒ yes, there is such a place ‒ and the Jewish queen is remembered on a daily basis through amulets seeking her protection and beautifully illustrated renderings of the megillah (scroll) telling her story.  No surprise that modern Iranian Jews are occasionally referred to as Esther’s children. 

Painted Doors; Iran, 19th century; wood, pigment. Collection of Miriam Kove, New York. Photo courtesy Beit Hatfutsot – The M

Mixed Media And Mothers At LABA

When was the last time you thought about – or stopped thinking about – this: “It’s not so simple to love your mommy.” Israeli novelist and philosopher Ruby Namdar surprises his audience at the 14th St. Y’s LABAlive performance with that deceptively simple  - - yet highly provocative - - opening line in his introduction to the evening’s performance.

Tom Block, “Valencia”

Russian Classic, Jewish Holiday

Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" does not seem like a natural partner for the Jewish holiday of Tu b'Shvat. But 24/6: A Jewish Theater Company paired the two, presenting an insightful, if rather nihilistic celebration of the holiday.

Chekhov for the holiday: the cast of 24/6's “TuBishVanya.” Toby Schechter

Slamming The Sermon

Ever wondered what would happen if you take dozens of hyper-literate Jews and give them a microphone and five minutes on a stage to riff on the weekly Torah portion? Look no further than SermonSlam, a succinctly self-described “poetry slam, but for sermons,” which will be making its New York debut at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope on Thursday night, January 22.

SermonSlam in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy SermonSlam

Two Worlds, Plus A Few More: Benjy Fox-Rosen’s "Tsvey Veltn"

The phrase “Two Worlds” comes from the late Mordechai Gebirtig’s poem of the same name. It refers not, as you might expect, to the old world and the new, but to those of the living and the dead.

Benjy Fox-Rosen and his bass. Peter Blacksberg

Anne Frank And Her Disciples

With apologies to Nathan Englander, what should we look at when we look at Anne Frank?  Faith & Form, the new exhibit at The Anne Frank Center USA provides some answers.  Aligned with the Center’s mission of using the diary and spirit of Anne Frank as tools to educate about the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination, the exhibit features multi-media work by 21 artists, all members of the Jewish Art Salon, addressing those issues in a range of styles and expression. 

Ash Fitzgerald, Passing Through (A Golem's Journey).

National Jewish Book Awards Announced

Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Like Dreamers” was named the 2013 Jewish Book of the Year by the Jewish Book Council. The National Jewish Book Awards were announced in 17 categories, with Klein and other Israelis winning key prizes.

A Virtual Tour Of Tel Aviv Architecture

A graphic artist’s search for a new apartment in Tel Aviv has resulted in a spectacular new website documenting some of the White City’s most distinctive buildings.

Avner Gicelter, 44 Balfour Street.

Devarim At Downton

Like many New Yorkers looking to escape the cold, I settled down the other night with my hottest cuppa tea and delved into the world of Downton Abbey.

A world full of good old English values, a world where the introduction of a modern electric mixing bowl is greeted with alarm—and a world that would likely go into an apoplectic shock at the very thought of peyot and phylacteries.

Robert, Duchess of Yeovil, Mary; "Downton Abbey, Season 4: Part Two." Photo courtesy PBS
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