The Arts

‘The Passenger’ Resurrects Long-Forgotten Jewish Composer

Houston Grand Opera tackles Mieczysław Weinberg’s Shoah-tinged work in a N.Y. premiere.

07/03/2014
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Shmuel Weinberg survived the infamous pogrom at Kishinev, Moldova. His father and grandfather weren’t as lucky. In 1916 Shmuel walked to Warsaw, where he settled, and became a popular violinist and conductor of Yiddish theater music. When the Nazis invaded Poland many years later, Shmuel’s son Mieczysław Weinberg, a piano prodigy and budding classical composer, reversed his father’s path, walking east to the Soviet Union. His kid sister Esther set out with him but turned back after a day or two. It was the last time Mieczysław would see any of his family alive; they were transported to the concentration camp at Trawniki, where they were murdered by the Nazis.

Scene from Houston Grand Opera's production of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's "The Passenger." Lynne Lane

Free Book Excerpt from the Rebbe

 

Free Book Excerpt From The "Rebbe"

 
The first in a series of free books excerpts from The Jewish Week:
 

God In The African Dance Studio

Surprisingly, Jews seem over-represented in an art form that melds mind, body and spirit.

07/02/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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‘Judaism is such an intellectual religion that people sometimes turn their backs on their bodies,” said modern dancer Anna Schon, who is Modern Orthodox. “It’s a religion of action, not just learning.”

Anna Schon in Reggie Wilson’s work “Moses(es).” Courtesy of Reggie Wilson Fist & Heel

Unleashing The Atomic Era

New rock musical focuses on moral dilemma of Hungarian Jewish scientist who invented the nuclear chain reaction.

07/01/2014
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Once unleashed, some genies are almost impossible to put back in their bottles. The unsung Hungarian Jewish genius Leó Szilárd invented the nuclear chain reaction, patented the idea of a nuclear reactor and convinced Albert Einstein to endorse the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb — only to campaign unsuccessfully for it not to be dropped on Japan.

Scene from “Atomic,” which features a huge “cube matrix” metal tower meant to suggest the periodic table. Carol Rosegg

A Yellow Star In Weimar

06/24/2014
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Life is a cabaret, as the song goes, but so, for the chanteuse at the center of Alexis Fishman’s new one-woman musical, “Der Gelbe Stern” (The Yellow Star), is death. In a nightclub in Weimar Germany, a Jewish singer named Erika Stern performs her last concert before her deportation. Reprising songs from the period, “Der Gelbe Stern” runs for five performances at the upcoming New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) in Midtown.

Alexis Fishman in “Der Gelbe Stern” at Laurie Beechman Theatre. Alina Gozin’a

Boris Fishman Stakes His Claim

With an eye and an ear for Malamud, he tells a modern (and Holocaust-tinged) immigrant tale in his debut novel.

06/18/2014
Culture Editor
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Slava Gelman had the kind of grandmother who would have walked under a tank for him. 

Boris Fishman’s impressive debut novel, “A Replacement Life,” (Harper) opens on an early summer morning in 2006 when Slava picks up the phone to learn from his mother that his beloved grandmother Sofia “isn’t.” In Russian, as the narrator explains, “you didn’t need the adjective to complete the sentence, but in English you did.”

“A Replacement Life” centers on a Claims Conference-like Holocaust restitution scam in Brooklyn’s Russian community.

What Religion Will The Kid Be?

06/18/2014
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Our relationship to our religion changes at different stages in our lives. In Renee Calarco’s new play, “The Religion Thing,” a Jewish man married to a Catholic woman finds himself at both a religious and emotional crossroads when his wife wants to get pregnant. When it premiered in 2012 at Theater J in Washington, D.C., critic Peter Marks of the Washington Post said that the playwright is astute in observing that America’s “biggest taboo isn’t talking about sex … it’s talking about faith.” The New York production, with a new cast and director, began previews this week in Chelsea.

Renee Calarco’s “The Religion Thing” turns on couples’ religious inclinations.  Teresa Castracane

Editorializing Against Hitler

‘The Last Sentence’ focuses on a Swedish journalist who defied the Nazis.

06/17/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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With his latest film, “The Last Sentence,” which opens on June 20, the Swedish director Jan Troell revisits the world of his 1994 film “Hamsun,” again focusing on the reaction of the Scandinavian countries to the rise of Nazism in Germany. In a sense, one could say that “The Last Sentence” is the earlier film stood on its head: another biopic centering on a famous writer and the tensions within his personal and political lives. The difference is that Torgny Segerstedt, the protagonist of the new film, was as dedicated an anti-Fascist as Knut Hamsun was a supporter of Hitler. Otherwise, the films are strikingly similar in ways that are not altogether helpful.

Torgny Segerstedt (Jesper Christensen) and Maja Forssman (Pernilla August) in “The Last Sentence.”  Courtesy of Music Box Films

Coexistence, With Oud

06/10/2014
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With all the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway, the musical’s final scene of the shtetl-dwelling Jews being forced off their land lingers in our minds. But to visual artist and playwright Tom Block, it is not just Jews, but Arabs as well, who have suffered displacement from a cherished homeland.

Artist Tom Block’s mural serve as a backdrop for play at the 14th Street Y.  Courtesy of Tom Block

The Politician With Literary Chops

Ruth Calderon’s creative (and inclusive) journey through Talmudic literature.

06/10/2014
Culture Editor
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Even as she works toward effecting change in Israel as a member of Knesset, Ruth Calderon remains a passionate student and teacher of Talmud. After her election as a member of the Yesh Atid party in February 2013, she gained international acclaim with her debut speech in the Knesset in which she taught a Talmudic unit — as well as the respect of her haredi colleagues who recognized their style of study in her own. Now, she co-leads a weekly Talmud class in the Knesset and has just published a new book, Ilana Kurshan’s fine translation of “A Bride for One Night” (Jewish Publication Society), originally published in Hebrew in 2001, that brings her eloquent conversation about Talmud to an English-speaking audience.

Calderon’s book appears now for the first time in English.  University of Nebraska Press
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