The Arts

All The Rabbinic World’s A Stage

Argentine playwright Vivi Tellas’ reality-based ‘Rabbi Rabino’ previewed.
Special To The Jewish Week

Theater and religion have overlapped since ancient Greek dramas were performed at religious festivals. For the Argentine Jewish director and playwright, Vivi Tellas, synagogue-going and theater-going are still flip sides of the same coin. In her new avant-garde play, “Rabbi Rabino,” two real-life Conservative rabbis from Queens, Hyman Levine and Moses Birnbaum, expose aspects of both their professional and personal lives. Erik Piepenburg of The New York Times Artsbeat blog called the show an “irreverent mini-variety show about Judaism and modern identity.”

Two real-life Conservative rabbis from Queens, Hyman Levine and Moses Birnbaum, in a scene from "Rabbi Rabino."

Jewish Film Fest’s ‘Open Destiny’

Grace Paley documentary and Eran Riklis film top series at JCC and Walter Reade.
Special To The Jewish Week

In one of her short stories, Grace Paley writes, “Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” Such a splendid statement, the quotation turns up twice in Lilly Rivlin’s splendid new documentary on Paley’s life and work, “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts,” which plays in this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival. The sentiment behind the sentence is so open-handed and wholehearted that it could be applied to the best films in the festival, including Rivlin’s own offering.

Grace Paley and friends outside a draft board office during the Vietnam War in scene from “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts.”

King And The Jews — Beyond Heschel

The relationship was far more complicated, and testy, than one iconic image would indicate.
Staff Writer

If there is one thing that captures popular understanding of the Jewish community’s relationship to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s an image from Selma, 1965. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel links arms with a line of activists that include Rev. King, a shoulder’s breadth away, on their historic march to Montgomery. Heschel’s comments afterward have taken on a similarly iconic status: “I felt my feet were praying.”

Martin Luther King Jr., fourth from right, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, second from right, marching in Selma, Ala. Anti-Semitism

‘Vir Bist Du, Romeo?’

‘Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish’ features a cast of young dropouts from New York’s chasidic community.
Special to The Jewish Week

He was a Satmar dropout, a street kid getting by on credit card and airport baggage claim scams. She was a prodigal daughter, also from a Satmar family, knocking around as a student in Europe and Israel, asking the questions and plying the lifestyle no good chasidic girl should.

Lazer Weiss and Melissa Weisz in Yiddish retelling of star-crossed lovers tale.

Phil Ochs: No Direction Home

New documentary shows Phil Ochs caught between folk and rock.
Special To The Jewish Week

It is undoubtedly simplistic to suggest that a single incident can shape the way a person lives his entire life. Even the survivor of a catastrophic accident is more than the accumulated scars and physical deficits thus incurred. But watching Kenneth Bowser’s new documentary, “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune,” it is impossible not to register a story that the great singer-songwriter’s brother Michael recalls from their childhood in small-town Ohio.

Protest singer Ochs committed suicide at 35.

The Life And Times Of The Jewish Artist

Four NY Jewish Film Festival works explore tensions in the creative life.
Special To The Jewish Week

The price one pays for being an artist is frequently sizeable. The call to the arts is often rooted in alienation and a sense of difference. To follow that path is to risk ostracism and penury. And other than your fellow artists, who else will understand your choices?

Alma (Barbara Romaner) and Gustav Mahler (Johannes Silberschneider) in scene from “Mahler on the Couch.”

Culture Group Rebuffs Bid To Condemn Boycotts

Fight at Foundation for Jewish Culture over film content spotlights increasingly testy, and muddy, issue.
Staff Writer

In recent years David Eisner and Karen Lehmann Eisner, prominent funders of the Foundation for Jewish Culture, had become uncomfortable with the some of the films the organization helped produce.

The foundation has given grants to films like “Waltz With Bashir,” the Oscar-nominated Israeli film about the massacre of Palestinians in the 1982 Lebanon war, as well as a documentary the foundation funded this year about military tribunals in the Occupied Territories. Content like that, the Eisners felt, was beyond the pale of acceptable Israel criticism.

Theodore Bikel, renowned Jewish actor, took a stand this fall in support of the Ariel theater boycott.

The Year Of The Woman

From Yiddish tunes to alt-rock to Sephardic rhythms, female performers dominated this year.
Special To The Jewish Week

This was a year in which recorded Jewish music seems to have been dominated by women. Certainly the CDs that have stayed with me the longest in 2010 are the work of some tremendously talented female singers, songwriters, composers and instrumentalists. So here’s a list of some recordings that have haunted me and delighted me since the first time I heard them. Not exactly a top 10 list, but not a bad yardstick to go by.

 Judith Berkson: “Oylam” (ECM)

Clare Burson's Holocaust-themed album, "Silver and Ash," made a major impact in the pop world.

Funny Girls

Three Jewish women humorists bring light and lightness to the end of 2010.
Jewish Week Book Critic

This was a year of growth for the e-book and flourishing for the Jewish American novel, with fine new fiction across the generations.

Judith Viorst and Nora Ephron offer up new memories and life stories in their end-of-year memoirs.

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."
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