Jack Polak states the situation quite succinctly at the outset of Michele Ohayon’s new documentary, “Steal a Pencil for Me.” The engaging nonagenarian, who is one of the film’s central figures, smiles slyly at the camera and says, “I’m a very special Holocaust survivor. I was in the camps with my wife and my girlfriend and, believe me, it wasn’t easy.”
Most of us need to be reminded — frequently — that only 80 percent of the population of Israel consists of Jews. The other 20 percent is defined collectively as Arab Citizens of Israel. Most of them are Muslim or Christian, and they come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds such as Druze and Bedouin. Their voices are not heard very often here in the United States, but, as The Other Israel Film Festival powerfully affirms, they bring a lot to the cultural table.
Imagine yourself onstage with a hard-rocking, all-star klezmer ensemble. You’re singing Yiddish classics with great voices like Adrienne Cooper, Basya Schechter and Debbie Friedman, and 500 people are cheering.
Sounds exhilarating, nu? Or maybe a little scary?
Would it help if the 500 people were singing along with you?
“Well, a conservative estimate would say that between 60 and 70 percent of the people were singing,” says Zalmen Mlotek.
In the cultural history of the second half of the 20th century, few figures — and no Jews — are more influential or pivotal than Bob Dylan.
No other artist bestrides so many trends and streams of Americana; Dylan merges folk, blues, gospel, country, rock and modernist poetry (with strong ties to the Symbolists and Surrealists). And in his relentless shape-shifting and self-reinvention he is an archetype for the age of mass communications.
It is a commonplace notion that historical fictions are not about the period in which they are set but, rather, the period in which they are created. Elie Chouraqui’s new film, “O Jerusalem,” which opens Oct. 17, is a case in point.
"Not another book on the Holocaust,” a friend of author Anne Michaels lamented, as he came across a new book on the subject, unaware that the first novel Michaels was then working on had a Holocaust theme. “That galvanized me in an important way,” she tells The Jewish Week. “What kind of book could I write that would reach that reader, who felt like he had read it all?” It was a question that Michaels asked herself repeatedly in the 10 years it took her to complete Fugitive Pieces (Knopf).
Ted Solotaroff wanted to name his memoir “Rachmones.” He was certain that there wasn’t a Jewish reader who wouldn’t understand the word Leo Rosten defines as pity, compassion in “The Joys of Yiddish,” but his editor, and a random sampling of younger Jews, convinced him otherwise. “It’s what this book finally is about,” the 70-year old distinguished editor, essayist, critic and now memoirist tells The Jewish Week.
Indiana U. launches contemporary anti-Semitism center, the second major academic institution of its kind. Will politics compromise its mission?
In recent years, Jewish intellectuals have sometimes bemoaned the anti-Zionist views heard on college campuses, and among liberal intellectuals generally, but have failed to do much about it. But that may be changing.
Last month, the chair of the Jewish studies department at Indiana University in Bloomington, Alvin Rosenfeld, announced the foundation of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism. His goal is to study, in a dispassionate, scholarly way, what he thinks is just a new version of a very old kind of hate: anti-Semitism.