Culture View

Decluttering Judaism

02/23/2016 - 12:16
Special To The Jewish Week

It may be sacrilegious to admit it, but my favorite day of the week is not Saturday.

Ted Merwin

Madoff, The Tragic Hero?

02/09/2016 - 11:31
Special To The Jewish Week

Something strange happened to me. I went to sleep one evening and woke up in a parallel universe in which Bernard Madoff was considered a tragic hero.

George Robinson

Too Many Holocaust Books?

01/28/2016 - 15:07
Special To The Jewish Week

Those who forget the past, George Santayana famously said, are doomed to repeat it. But is it possible to go overboard in terms of the history of the Holocaust? On last check, out of the 100 titles on Amazon’s list of bestselling Jewish history books, no fewer than 92 are related to the Shoah. A book on Jewish history, for the vast majority of both Jewish and non-Jewish readers, is a Holocaust book.

Ted Merwin

Where Movies Matter

01/12/2016 - 16:17
Special To The Jewish Week

Watching “Cinema: A Public Affair,” a new documentary by the German-Russian filmmaker Tatiana Brandrup that is playing in the New York Jewish Film Festival, I was reminded immediately of something that Aviva Weintraub, the festival director, said in an interview with this newspaper two weeks ago.

George Robinson

A Jewish Ring Cycle

12/07/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Given the turbulence on the front pages in the past seven days, you can be forgiven if you missed the following item on the sports pages this weekend: Yuri Foreman quietly and successfully resumed his boxing career with a victory over the mellifluously named Lenwood Dozier on the undercard at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, easily winning an eight-round unanimous decision.

George Robinson

Gratitude Rising

11/23/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Several years ago, I asked a rabbi who teaches at my children’s day school in Harrisburg, Pa., if he was planning to have a lot of guests for Thanksgiving dinner. “We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving,” he told me. “We don’t need to. We express our gratitude to God all the time through our prayers.” I subsequently learned that charedi Jews are commanded not to observe Thanksgiving (nor even to eat a turkey sandwich on that day) on the grounds that it is centered on recognizing the bounty provided by God in a way that is not exclusively Jewish; it thus smacks, for them, of idol worship.

Ted Merwin

Jews, Blacks And Deli

10/19/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

When the Anglo-Jewish playwright Israel Zangwill, in his popular 1908 drama, “The Melting Pot,” invented the term that became a major metaphor for how we view the ethnic life of New York, he wasn’t talking about food. Zangwill’s idea was that Old World European immigrants were being amalgamated with other immigrants in a divine “crucible” to form a sturdier, more self-reliant kind of person. But the reality, then as today, is that cultures do meet through food; Americans (beginning with the colonists and the Native Americans, as we celebrate at Thanksgiving) liberally sample each other’s dishes, often adopting them as their own.

Ted Merwin

Democracy, Jackson Heights Style

10/06/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Midway through its three-hour running time, there is a scene in Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary, “In Jackson Heights,” in which we see a few minutes of a typical workday in the office of Councilman Daniel Dromm. Two members of Dromm’s staff are fielding irate calls from constituents. We hear only their side of the conversations, so it takes a moment before it becomes clear what very local issue the callers are discussing. But it is impossible to miss the interplay of exasperation, concern and slowly eroding patience in the faces of Dromm’s long-suffering staffers.

George Robinson

Hunger Pangs

09/23/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Ted Merwin

An Assault On Israeli Film

09/17/2015 - 20:00
Special To the Jewish Week

I can tell you from tedious first-hand experience that the Israeli film industry had a long, hard climb to its current exalted stature as a reliable source of intelligent, creative and provocative cinema, winners of golden bears, leopards, palms and other gilded flora and fauna, not to mention numerous Oscar nominations. Recently, though, the new Israeli government has shown a willingness to trade the prestige — and hard currency — provided by these triumphs for an unprecedented and sinister level of control.

George Robinson
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