Well Versed

Farklempt At The White House

Yiddish was in the air last week in the nation’s capital as the Yiddish Book Center received the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service in a White House ceremony. “Nachas” and “kvelling” were the words that most immediately came to mind for Aaron Lansky, the founder and president of the Center, one of ten U.S. institutions to win the honor.

Peter Manseau, Aaron Lansky and Michelle Obama at the White House. Courtesy Institute of Museum and Library Services

'Little Stories' In Yiddish

One important feature in the historical works of “ma’asalech” (little stories), written in Yiddish for children, is a practice of “Juda-izing” popular stories. Instead of translating children’s stories into Yiddish, translators would often adapt stories to reflect Jewish society and values. For example, in 1913, a Yiddish version of a Hans Christian Anderson story was “translated” into Yiddish and titled “Big Fievel and Little Fievel.” In this remade version, the main characters were Jewish boys.

El Lissitzky. Illustration for "The Hen Who Wanted a Comb", 1919.  WiKiPaintings

Remembering Jabotinsky On Yom Ha’Atzmaut

I am alive because of Vladimir Jabotinsky. True, I was born nearly two decades after the Revisionist Zionist leader's death, but that is a mere technicality, a wrinkle in time. 

Courtesy of Yale University Press

Unorthodox Orthodoxy

For the committed or observant Jewish artist, creating art that is meaningful, that stays within the bounds of the second commandment prohibition against graven images and yet avoids kitsch or dogmatism is a daunting challenge. Meeting this challenge head-on with serious humor is “Off Label: Ceremonial Objects Imagined,” an exhibit on view at the JCC in Manhattan that respectfully turns ritual and tradition on its head.

“Tower of Books.” Courtesy of Ken Goldman

Painting On The Walls

It’s not often that an artist would invite members of the public to participate in his exhibit or that a respected museum would allow visitors to draw and paint on its walls.

Installation at the New Museum by Pawel Althamer. Courtesy of Susan Hoffman Fishman

His History, Her Story, Their Movie

As Yom HaShoah approaches, Jews all over the world wrestle with how best to remember, retrieve and relay. Gyongji Mago, the catalyst for Gabor Kalman’s documentary “There was Once” has much to teach us. A high school teacher fascinated by local history, she came to realize that many of her students had no idea that Jews had ever lived in Kolocsa, a small town in southern Hungary. A Catholic, she too had had limited exposure to Jews.

Gabor Kalman

A Communal Exploration Of Mental Illness

For three consecutive Wednesday evenings, beginning April 30th, the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education will partner with Congregation B’nai Jeshurun to co-host a groundbreaking series of experiential workshops and lectures, “Confronting Mental Illness.”

Devora Steinmetz. Courtesy of Drisha Institute

Waiting For The End Of The World

Keep an eye out for future productions of Noémi Schlosser’s wry theater piece "Traktorfabrik."  I was lucky enough to catch a staged reading of part of it recently as part of the Emerging Artists Theatre’s New Works Series.

Poster for “Traktorfabrik.” Courtesy of Noemi Schlosser

Celebrating 1960s Global Minimalism In Style

To celebrate its new exhibit on global minimalist sculpture, “Other Primary Structures,”  The Jewish Museum opened its galleries and hosted a dance party for revelers last week.

Installation view of "Other Primary Structures" at The Jewish Museum, New York. David Heald/The Jewish Museum

Returning Anew To Minimalist Sculpture

“Other Primary Structures” at The Jewish Museum can be seen as a nod to the institution’s past. The museum staged a major exhibit of minimalist sculpture called “Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors” in 1966.

Installation view of "Other Primary Structures" at The Jewish Museum, New York. Courtesy of David Heald/The Jewish Museum
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