Well Versed

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

Reissued: A Jewish, Gay Voice Of Weimar Germany And Beyond

Charlotte Wolff died in 1986 and today is little known beyond an esoteric reading public. Plunkett Lake Press has just released an electronic edition of her autobiography, “Hindsight,” first published in 1980.

Image courtesy Plunkett Lake Press

Surprises At The Sotheby’s Auctions

The results are in from last Tuesday’s auctions at Sotheby’s when the Upper East Side auction house held its annual December sales on Important Judaica and Israeli & International Art.

Untitled, Adi Nes, 1999. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s

Building A Singing Community

This past Thursday night, in the basement of Mechon Hadar on the Upper West Side, nearly sixty people gathered to sit in the round and listen and participate with the music being performed by Joey Weisenberg and several other musicians. Weisenberg, a staff member at Hadar who leads regular music and singing workshops, also teaches at JTS, Hebrew Union College, and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. An accomplished singer, guitarist, percussionist, and mandolin player, Weisenberg played mandolin and guitar on Thursday night, and was joined by the Hadar Ensemble, which featured two vocalists, a violinist, a fiddler, a stand-up bass player and a hand drummer.

Joey Weisenberg and friends. Andrew Belinfante

Have Yourself A Happy (Second) Chanukah

For many, the winter holiday season can sometime feel like elbowing for room at the family table: Chanukah, Christmas, Kawaanza, Solstice, (Festivus!)…the list goes on.

But this year, latkes came with a slice of pumpkin pie.  And while it was nice to spin the dreidel in-between bastings, for many the Festival of Lights should come with a side of snow.

Photo courtesy Metropolitan Klezmer
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