The Arts

Serious Summer Fare

08/17/2007
Jewish Week Book Critic

Even books with footnotes can make for great summer reading.

For those who prefer their late summer fare more substantial than breezy novels and suspense fiction, many new works of nonfiction offer compelling reading. Some are inspirational, looking toward the month of Elul with its contemplative mood beginning the process of teshuvah; some break down stereotypes and perhaps prompt readers to rethink long-held assumptions.

Memoir Of A ‘Brovender’s Girl’

06/22/2007
Jewish Week Book Critic

Houses of Study: A Jewish Woman Among Books" by Ilana M. Blumberg is a slim volume, published by the University of Nebraska Press. It’s a quiet type of book, not one that shouts for attention — a book that could easily be missed among the thousands of new titles published each year.

The Persian Queens

03/08/2007
Jewish Week Book Critic

Separated by a thousand years, Queen Esther and Scheherazade were both the second wives of betrayed and humiliated kings. Both were selected by these kings from a harem, after a thousand women came before them. And both women’s lives were hanging by a thread, yet they chose to stand up for themselves and others and save lives.

Heir To ‘Sound Of Music’

03/08/2007
Jewish Week Book Critic

Peter Melnick remembers being taken to see “The Sound of Music” on Broadway when he was a few years old. Growing up, he thought everyone’s grandfathers was like his — Richard Rodgers — and wrote wonderful musicals.

By age 6, Melnick knew that he too wanted to write musicals. At 12, he went with his grandmother to Boston to see his grandfather in rehearsals for “Two by Two,” and he found it “incredibly exciting to hang out in the back of the theater and listen.”

Shirtwaist Fire Revisited

08/03/2006

Nobody shops for shirtwaists anymore. Even those who favor women’s tailored blouses are unlikely to know their traditional name. The word shirtwaist still recalls the worst factory fire in the history of New York City, on March 11, 1911, at the Triangle Waist Factory, also known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. That day, at least 146 workers died, most of them immigrant Jewish women, many jumping through the blazing windows to their deaths. The building, at the corner of Washington and Greene Streets in Greenwich Village, still stands.

‘The Precipice Of Change’

02/02/2010

How do we respond to change? In Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s operatic musical, “Caroline, or Change,” a black maid for a Southern Jewish family is catapulted into a new reality when JFK is assassinated and the civil rights movement gathers steam. Now, Gallery Players in Brooklyn is mounting a new production of the work, just six years after it ran at the Public Theater before transferring to Broadway for a four-month run.

Jewish Professor, Black Culture

01/26/2010
Staff Writer

About five years ago, Vincent Brown, a historian at Harvard, had to teach a seminar on the birth of black studies. Though the discipline has flourished since the 1960s, its origins were not well known, so Brown, an iPod-generation professor, thought a documentary on the topic might help. He was an amateur filmmaker himself, deft with a Camcorder, and figured he might try to make one on his own.

Identity Crisis, Times Two

01/26/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Adolescence is a miserably difficult time. That’s about the time that Nicole Opper decided that she was going to be Jewish. That’s about the time that Avery Klein-Cloud, the subject of Opper’s first feature-length film, “Off and Running,” began to struggle with questions of her own identity, questions not unlike those the filmmaker had wrestled with a decade or so before, only much more complicated.

Caught On Jaffa’s Mean Streets

01/26/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

When you hear about the latest collaboration between a Palestinian filmmaker and his Israeli counterpart, the last thing you would expect to see is a gritty urban crime film. On the other hand, as Tolstoy observed that you can tell a lot about a nation by the state of its prisons, you can learn a lot about a culture by its crime fiction. After all, as the new Israeli film “Ajami” reminds us forcefully, the reasons that people enter into criminal activity speak pretty loudly about the most elemental forces at play in their daily lives.

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