The Arts

Jewish Songwriter Offers An Indie Take On Genesis

Wailing Wall’s Jesse Rifkin reimagines, and personalizes, the biblical story.

05/25/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Jesse Rifkin is remembering his childhood in Annapolis, Md. He began writing songs when he was 4. At that age, he loved the Beatles. He was already thinking of himself as a career musician.

“Sometimes you just know,” he says firmly.

It all came true; he has recorded an EP and two CDs with his Wailing Wall band, with the latter recordings being released through JDub Records. He will be launching his new album, “The Low Hanging Fruit,” with a gig in New York on June 4.

Songwriter Jesse Rifkin’s “Low-Hanging Fruit” CD bridges the Bible and the economic downturn.

Israeli Authors Lost In Translation as Few Hebrew-language Books Published in English

New subsidized publishing venture holds out hope for greater literary visibility here.

05/25/2010
Staff Writer

Last year, a scandal erupted in Israel over the winner of the Sapir Prize, the country’s top literary award. The honor went to a book by Alon Hilu, 39, one of the country’s most promising young writers. Titled “The House of Rajani,” it focused on the complex relationship between an early Zionist from Russia who, in 1895, immigrates to Jaffa and falls in love with the Arab woman whose land he hopes to acquire.

Pianist Judith Berkson: A Journey Across Genres

05/21/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

If genetics count for anything, Judith Berkson’s career choice was foreordained. Her father is a cantor, her mother a pianist and, with her two sisters and one brother, the entire family formed a band that entertained at synagogues and JCCs in the Chicago area as she was growing up.

Pianist-singer Judith Berkson moves easily between cantorial music, classical and cutting-edge jazz.

Israel, Caught In All Its Complexities

Rina Castelnuovo’s photos, at the Meislin Gallery.

05/21/2010
Staff Writer

 On Tuesday, Andrea Meislin, an art dealer in New York, was on her way to Washington. Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, had asked her to help decorate his new home, knowing that she represented some of Israel’s most prominent photographers. But Meislin, unsure of Oren’s politics and his artistic tastes, was packing light. She was bringing only her laptop for this trip, she said, which contained images of all her artwork, instead of carrying just a few select prints. She did not want to offend him with any of her own choices.

“Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron, 2010,” by Rina Castelnuovo.

Jew vs. Jew, The Musical

05/21/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Which poses the greater threat to the survival of the Jewish people — internal division or external violence? For retired Cantor Harold Lerner, whose new play with music, “Kimber Road” will be performed in a free staged reading with a cast of ten at the 92nd Street Y next week, the answer is definitely the former.

And On The Seventh Day...

Judith Shulevitz’s ‘Sabbath World’ offers a thorough examination of Judaism’s weekly ritual.

05/18/2010
Jewish Week Book Critic

In New York City, we have neither the siren that sounds in Israel on late Friday afternoons, nor the town criers who would yell “Shabbos” adamantly into the streets of Eastern European towns. But there’s a certain quality of light, the glow before twilight, which signals — confirmed by a glance at a clock — the onset of Shabbat, no matter the season.

Shulevitz shifts from Kierkegaard to the prophet Nehemia to the Gospel of Mark in “The Sabbath World.”

Israel, Caught In All Its Complexities

Rina Castelnuovo’s photos, at the Meislin Gallery.

05/13/2010
Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Andrea Meislin, an art dealer in New York, was on her way to Washington. Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, asked her to help decorate his new home, knowing that she represented some of Israel’s most prominent photographers. But Meislin, unsure of Oren’s politics and his artistic tastes, was packing light. She was bringing only her laptop for this trip, she said, which contained images of all her artwork, instead of carrying just a few select prints. She did not want to offend him with any of her own choices.

Beth Haran, West Bank ("Harvesting"), 2009.

Giving The Rebbe A Biography

‘The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson’
humanizes the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but is its premise flawed?

05/11/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

‘The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson” by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman (Princeton University Press) fills a considerable void in the biography of one of the towering religious figures of the 20th century. But on reading it, one wonders whether the object of the biography is the same Lubavitcher Rebbe the world came to know and admire for pioneering Jewish outreach in the modern age and for being arguably the figure most responsible for the global resurgence in Jewish affiliation.

The authors of a biography of late leader of the Lubavitch movement make no effort to explain his scholarly works.

Woody Allen’s Grandson, Jerry Seinfeld’s Son

Josh and Benny Safdie’s ‘Daddy Longlegs’ offers a darkly humorous update
on the neurotic Manhattan Jew.

05/11/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Lenny Sokol’s life is a barely controlled chaos. He has custody of his two sons for two weeks, his work life is insane, he’s juggling girlfriends and, well, Lenny (Ronald Bronstein) is a chaotic kind of a guy. He’s the reduction ad absurdum of the prototypical nebbish hero, version 3.0, the grandson of Woody Allen, the son of Jerry Seinfeld, a charming narcissist writ large.

The parent trap: Ronald Bronstein as the nebbishy hero Lenny Sokol, who has custody of his two sons.

Love And Theft

Donald Margulies’
‘Collected Stories’ gets a revival.

05/11/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Every piece of writing is, according to the literary critic Harold Bloom, a mixture of homage and betrayal, an attempt by the writer to be freed from the long shadow of the writers of the past. What Bloom famously dubbed the “anxiety of influence” is one of the most salient themes of Donald Margulies’ “Collected Stories,” now receiving a solid revival at the Manhattan Theatre Club starring Linda Lavin and Sarah Paulson.

Linda Lavin,  left, and Sarah Paulson as mentor and student in “Collected Stories.”
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