The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeiter Ring started more than a century ago in a tenement on the Lower East Side. It developed over the decades from a mutual-aid society for immigrants into an activist organization bristling with radical ideologies and aimed at promoting secular Jewish education. Next week, the group marks the start of its second century with a celebration of Yiddish culture at Town Hall.
Steve Hoffman sees the world in black and white — at least when he is looking through a camera lens. In 1998, Hoffman focused on the Chabad-Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, in part because he knew the community would photograph well in his preferred palette.
The chasidic sect’s spiritually infused, communal lifestyle and its distinctive look — men characteristically wear black suits and fedoras — appealed to Hoffman, who says the group has an “old-world look in a modern society.”
Museum Mile — the stretch of Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 104th — offers an intriguing paradox this fall. The Jewish Museum, at the corner of 92nd Street, is presenting a retrospective of works by a Jewish painter who eschewed Jewish imagery in his embrace of the universal. A few blocks south, the National Academy of Design exhibits the work of a painter who rejected Judaism, but uses explicitly Jewish symbols as expressions of spiritual transcendence.
Constanza Garcia was looking to book New York performances for “Klezmer en Buenos Aires” — a tango-inflected klezmer duo that she promotes. She immediately thought of Makor, the cultural center on the Upper West Side that caters to Jews in their 20s and 30s.
“I thought Makor would be the right place for klezmer,” Garcia says. But Makor passed.
Judaism can come in the most unexpected of packages. At first glance, a nearly seven-foot-tall painting of a single thick black stripe running vertically across a black canvas signifies nothing but itself: a profound meditation on color and form. Yet Barnett Newman titled his 1949 painting "Abraham," after his father, who had died two years earlier, and the Jewish patriarch.
For over 20 years, Elizabeth Swados has worked with youngsters of all backgrounds in musicals such as her '70s Broadway hit "Runaways." And she has collaborated with others to compose liturgical music like her '95 album "Bible Women." But one group was noticeably missing.
"I never worked with people who had the same background," she told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview. "I wanted to see what teenage middle-class Jewish girls had to say about sexuality, body image, relationships, and the influence of Jewish tradition."
Speaking before several dozen people munching on babaganoush and taboule and chatting away in Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish and English, the Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury invoked the hallowed name of Al-Andalus.
"And if we do not find it, we can build it in our hearts," he said at the reception for a literary event last week in the Soho studio of Iraqi-born sculptor Oded Halahmy.
Hoping to stir up a little debate on a somewhat taboo topic, art critic Max Kozloff has mounted a historical exhibition of street photography that dares to define a Jewish aesthetic. "New York: Capital of Photography," at The Jewish Museum through September, argues that there're two kinds of New York photography: Jewish and gentile.
"It's totally provocative," Kozloff says, chuckling to himself during an interview at the press opening.
At the height of their contest for Cezanne's mantle as the leader of the French avant-garde, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso agreed to swap pictures. Over the previous two years, Paris' leading provocateur Matisse had steadily ceded ground to the newcomer Picasso, until the fall of 1907, when the two men were deadlocked.