The Arts

‘Monuments Men’ Reignites Debate

Star-studded film steers clear of furor surrounding formation of art-focused team in ’43; Roosevelt’s priorities at time questioned by Jewish groups.

02/05/2014
Staff Writer
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The George Clooney movie that premieres Friday, “The Monuments Men,” tells the story of the 350-member team of professors, art historians and museum curators who scoured Europe for the millions of dollars worth of art looted by the Nazis. But there is a backstory worth talking about — the furor over the creation of the team in June 1943 touched off from those concerned about the fate of European Jews.

Paintings or people?  Image via teaser-trailer.com

Films Shine Light On Jewish-Polish Relationship

Best of the movies in two series touch on the tangled ties.

02/05/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

By an amusing coincidence, Polish seems to be the movie flavor of the month in February. With Lincoln Center hosting a program of “Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema” and BAMCinematek offering “Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema” anyone with even an interest in one of the most important national cinemas of the last 75 years should be satisfied.

Scene from Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s “Austeria/The Inn,” about Jews seeking refuge from Cossacks during WWI.

Wrestling With Heschel

Shai Held takes on the iconic rabbi’s theology and spirituality in new biography.

02/04/2014
Culture Editor
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When Rabbi Shai Held was a college freshman, the late Professor Isadore Twersky told his seminar class, in a moment of candor, that Maimonides had been his life companion. Rabbi Held recalls that he found the comment strange, but now, decades later, he understands. For Rabbi Held, it is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel with whom he has spent considerable time, whether reading his works, wrestling with his ideas, or teaching about him — and finding his words overwhelmingly beautiful, challenging or even infuriating.

Rabbi Shai Held says his biography of Heschel is “sympathetic and critical.”  Courtesy of Indiana University Press

Spoofing The Spy Thriller

02/04/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Whether you hail Edward Snowdon as a hero or condemn him as a traitor, the Snowdon case has brought renewed attention to the role of spies in international politics. Now comes Leonard Lehrman and Joel Shatzky’s left-wing cabaret show, “Superspy!: The S-e-c-r-e-t Musical,” a spoof of Cold War espionage thrillers. Lehrman, the composer, will be at the piano as he and his wife, Helene Williams, play all the characters in the show. Featuring songs like “The SDI Waltz,” a reference to the Strategic Defense Initiative, the show runs for three performances  over the next two weeks, beginning this Friday, at the Medicine Show Theatre in Midtown.

Helene Williams and Leonard Lehrman play all the roles in spy spoof at the Medicine Show Theatre.

Recasting The Daniel Pearl Story

01/28/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes — and all levels of wealth and education. In Dick Brukenfeld’s new play, “Blind Angels,” a Jewish journalist is taken captive in New York by a group of his former Yale classmates, who are planning a 9/11-style attack. As many liberals have done, the play questions our nation’s use of force, suggesting that American drone attacks have led to reprisals by terrorists. It premieres next week at the Theater for the New City in the East Village.

Qurrat Ann Kadwani and Scott Raker star in “Blind Angels,” at the Theater for the New City. Jonathan Slaff

Spiegelman, In Words, Images And Music

Glimpses into the graphic novelist’s unique world where pictures and text ‘Co-Mix.’

01/28/2014
Culture Editor
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As a young boy, Art Spiegelman would copy cartoon strips about Little Lulu and Donald Duck. By 14, he was illustrating his own stories with homemade comics, and at 15 he created and distributed his own satire magazine, Blasé. The magazine had edge; a young woman on the cover of a 1964 edition is asked, “What’s a nice girl like you doing on a cover like this?”

“Self-Portrait with Maus Mask,” 1989, above. Copyright © 1989 by Art Spiegelman. the artist and The Wylie Agency LLC.

'Unclean Lips:' Jews And Obscenity

New book traces role of Jews and obscenity in the pushing of societal boundaries, from Isaiah to Sarah Silverman.

01/24/2014
Jewish Week Online Columnist
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Few anti-Semitic remarks have plagued the Jewish people more than the “dirty-Jew” stereotype. “The idea of Jews as differing sexually from Christians had a long history… [I]n the ancient Mediterranean, Jews had been called an ‘obscene people,’ who were ‘prone to lust’ and ‘indisputably carnal’ by Romans,” writes Josh Lambert, academic director of the Yiddish Book Center and visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His new book, Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture, illuminates the dangerous origins of this false idea, as well as teasing out salient questions about the Jewish historical role in obscenity law throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Josh Lambert

Isaac Hertz’s ‘Life Is Strange.’

A new film offers a child’s-eye view of pre-Shoah Jewish life.

01/23/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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The red flags probably should go up during the opening credits to “Life Is Strange,” a new documentary opening on Jan. 24. Anytime a movie opens with a voiceover in which the director asks, “I’m not a filmmaker, why did I make this film,” an audience can be forgiven if it, in turn, asks why it is watching it.

The poster for “Life Is Strange.” Lookback Productions

Film As Community Building In Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Israel Film Festival at 10.

01/22/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Most film festivals exist to showcase outstanding works of cinematic art, frequently with a specific theme or to highlight a region or national cinema. The Brooklyn Israel Film Festival would, at first glance, appear to be more of the same. But Hedda Kafka, who has been curating the program for all 10 years of its existence, has something else in mind, a mission that goes beyond the festival’s programming focus.

Hedda Kafka, curator of the Brooklyn Israel Film Festival, which celebrates its 10th year this week.

What’s In A Portrait?

01/21/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Nowadays, people constantly snap photos of themselves — known as “selfies” — and post them casually on the Internet. But in earlier periods of history, portraits were carefully constructed, enduring expressions of a sitter’s self-image and sense of importance in society. In Sarah Levine Simon’s comedy, “The Portrait,” the 18th-century rendering of a Jewish ancestor leads to squabbling among his descendants over the ownership of the valuable painting. The play runs through this weekend at Theatre 54 in Midtown.

Sarah Levine Simon’s comedy “The Portrait”  ownership of a family portrait. Doug Nobiletti
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