The Arts

Broadway’s Very Jewish Year

From Shylock to Sondheim, a rich year on the boards.

Special To The Jewish Week

In a year of great theater, both on and off Broadway, many of the most memorable performances were turned in by actors in Jewish plays. Herewith, in no particular order, are the Jewish Week’s top five Jewish plays of 2010, three of which are still running into 2011. 

‘The Merchant of Venice’

Al Pacino has three weeks left in his role as the Jewish moneylender Shylock in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

The Year Of Myth-Busting

The best films of 2010 were assaults on conventional genres and archetypal characters.

Special To The Jewish Week

The schlemiel is dead. A beloved figure in post-World War II Jewish-American fiction, drama and film, he suffered a spectacular death by vivisection over the course of a couple of fascinating years of films that re-imagined him in a rather less affectionate light.

Fernando Lujan looks for a suitable place to bury his dead ex-wife in “Nora's Will.”

Hannah Senesh And The Case For Moral Courage

‘Fire in My Heart’ show reveals her bravery and her vivid writings.

Staff Writer

There is no reason to think that a wealthy girl in Europe, enrolled in a fine private school, would give it all up to live in a hot and fetid desert. But this was Hungary in 1939. The Nazis were sitting on its border, and that privileged girl was a Jew. More important, she was Hannah Senesh, a precocious teenager whose breathtaking facility with words was matched only by her profound moral courage.

Hannah Senesh in Budapest, circa 1936.

The Music Of Change

As Greg Wall adapts to new demographics at his shul, its second annual Radical Jewish Music Festival is on tap.

Special To The Jewish Week

It hasn’t been what he expected. Which suits Rabbi Greg Wall just fine, thank you.

Rabbi and tenor saxophonist Greg Wall

The Trouble They’ve Seen


Are the Holocaust and slavery comparable? In Veronica Page’s new Off-Broadway play, “Prayers for the Ghetto,” a Jewish girl (Linda Wartenweiler) and two black girls (Ta’ Donna Nagle and Thais Francis) grapple with the legacy of the crimes perpetrated against their peoples — and, by extension, against all of humanity. The play moves from a Nazi-occupied ghetto during the Second World War to a drug and prostitute-afflicted Crown Heights in the 1980s, asking probing questions about forgiveness and faith.

Scene from “Prayers for the Ghetto,” which touches on the Holocaust and slavery.

Putting The Jewish In The Jewish Museum

Joan Rosenbaum, who is retiring after 30 years, put her stamp
on the institution and never shied away from controversy.

Staff Writer

During the 1960s, The Jewish Museum was at the vanguard of the contemporary art world, mounting career-defining shows for artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. In those days many in the emerging art world were Jews — artists like Mark Rothko and Diane Arbus, the dealer Leo Castelli, the critic Clement Greenberg (though not Rauschenberg and Johns) — and the museum made it its mission to champion their work.

Rosenbaum has been widely praised for mounting shows that are intellectually serious, entertaining and sometimes controversial.

Answering The Call

PBS documentary ‘The Calling’ follows seven young men and women studying for the clergy.

Special To The Jewish Week

Albert Maltz, blacklisted screenwriter, novelist and one of the Hollywood Ten, once said that the trouble with America was that “everyone has a job when what they’re really seeking is a calling.” But how many of us would recognize a calling if we heard it? And what would it mean to be called?

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, top, and Father Steven Gamez are two of the seven seminarians profiled in “The Calling.”

The Chabad Scribe

Yehoshua November’s award-winning debut poetry collection brings the divine presence to everyday life.

Jewish Week Book Critic

‘Sometimes you see them/in the dressing area/of the ritual bath,” Yehoshua November begins his poem, “Baal Teshuvas at the Mikvah.

God's Optimism

Of Rabbits And Mourning

Two short documentaries about German history complement each other surprisingly well.

Special To The Jewish Week

Sometimes all it takes to make a short film work is a strong central metaphor. Consider the fascinating pairing of short documentaries about German history, “Rabbit a la Berlin” and “Loss,” opening at Film Forum on Dec. 8. Each is structured around a single overriding conceit and both rise or fall on the strength of that spine. Happily, both films are pretty effective and as a pair they complement one another surprisingly well despite a wild disparity in tone.

Rabbit a la Berlin

Sleepless In Seattle

Documentary explores the manic life of
Steven Jesse Bernstein, father of ‘grunge’ and outsider artist.

Special To The Jewish Week

Steven Jesse Bernstein only lived 40 years, but to judge from the new documentary about him, “I Am Secretly an Important Man,” which opens on Dec. 15, his four decades were a whirlwind that encompassed enough writing, performing, sex, drugs and alcohol for a small army, and ended with an inexplicable but unsurprising suicide. That makes it all the more surprising that his advice to other poets, performance artists, musicians and, most of all, to himself was six simple words: “Just go and do your job.”

Bernstein, above, who eventually settled in Seattle, as pursued by demons.
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