Well Versed

A Sense Of Place

The large-scale photographs in Sharon Ya’ari’s first solo exhibit at the Andrea Meislin Gallery beg for explanation. Why, for instance, is there a smoky haze in the two images called “Rashi Street, Tel Aviv?”

Sharon Ya'ari, "Rashi Street, Tel Aviv," 2008. Courtesy of Andrea Meislin Gallery and Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery

Literature On The Lower East Side

Must Jewish literature written by a Jew? How about a book that focuses on a Jewish concern, or characters with a recognizably Jewish neurosis? Is contemporary Hebrew-language literature necessarily Jewish?

Jonathan Rosen, Tova Mirvis and Josh Lambert at the Museum at Eldridge Street.  Sharna Brzycki

Abstracting The Shoah

As Theodor Adorno famously said shortly after World War II, "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” That challenge continues to confront artists who attempt to depict the Holocaust.

Charles Goldstein, “Le poids des ombres” (The weight of shadows). Mixed media on canvas. Courtesy of Agora Gallery

Prayer Songs

When I was younger, I strived to emulate my two older brothers. I did so in many ways, but I particularly wanted to mimic their passion for playing an instrument. Others told me that I was too young and should wait a year or two to begin. Then Rebecca Teplow took one look at my fingers, after her piano lesson with my eldest brother, and told me that now was a perfect time to begin. I was thrilled.

Rebecca Teplow. Photo courtesy Hoebermann Studio

From Nachlaot To New York

Rav Raz Hartman is usually found in a crowded shul in Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood, reached by a steep staircase. His shul fuses music and mysticism, attracting Jews across the denominational and sartorial spectrum. A Jerusalem hipster may be swaying next to someone dressed in a flowing white robe.

Rav Raz Hartman at Mechon Hadar. Courtesy of Mechon Hadar

When A Paranormal Romance Meets Holocaust Literature

Just when you think every possible angle of the Holocaust has been explored in literature, ad infinitum, along comes “The Color of Light” (Stony Creek Press) by Helen Maryles Shankman, a tale of art school, the Holocaust, and yes—vampires.

Via helenmarylesshankman.com

Philomena’s Jewish Moment

"Philomena" may be the come-from-behind winner in Sunday night’s Academy Awards presentations. The outstanding film –based on a true story -- about an Irish Catholic woman searching for the son she was forced to give up as a teenager when she was sent to a convent has been nominated for four Oscars, including Best Film.

Judy Dench  and Steve Coogan in “Philomena.” Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company

A Life Of Music, Forgiveness And Optimism

The opening showing of my pre-Oscar night nominated shorts marathon was 10:35 Sunday morning. I was one of half-a-dozen people nestled in IFC’s coziest screening room to view "The Lady in No.6," which enhanced my experience falling in love with the documentary’s then 109 year-old subject, Alice Herz-Sommer.

Alice Herz-Sommer, from the film “The Lady in No.6."  Via nickreedent.com

Zusha And Its Niggunim

The name Zusha is most commonly associated with an 18th century chasidic rebbe from the town of Anipoli in southeast Poland. Reb Zusha was a student of the Maggid of Mezritch, a main disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, and was known for his great piety, scholarship and penchant for bursting out in spontaneous joy.

Fans at Zusha concert. Orli Major

From The Jewish Feminist Frontier

The Jewish feminist movement has brought about remarkable changes in religious community life. But not everyone welcomes these shifts. More than one influential blogger has pointed to the “feminization” of Judaism, particularly in the more liberal sectors, as a contributing factor to the worrisome decline highlighted by the recent Pew report.

Judith Plaskow and Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses. Photo courtesy JCC in Manhattan
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