Culture View

Seeking Higher Ground On The Holy Days

09/20/2011
Staff Writer

In the new film “Higher Ground,” there’s a scene where Vera Farmiga, the film’s director and star, fitfully tries to pray in her bathroom. She’s trying out a method — speaking in tongues — that she recently saw performed by her close friend. Like the friend, Farmiga’s character is an oddity in their Christian fundamentalist group: a free-spirited iconoclast with a highly inquisitive mind.

Eric Herschthal

Playing Games With Jewish Education

08/23/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

You can’t avoid it anymore.

Computer-based games like Farmville or Angry Birds or Grand Theft Auto, available on laptops and phones and game consoles, have become almost as ubiquitous as social media sites like Facebook.

Whether you are a teacher or principal, a parent or grandparent, a marketer or consumer, a smartphone user or a paperback-reading commuter, you can’t help but notice how these games fill the downtime minutes of millions of people, and increasingly are the first thing they connect to when they boot up their machines.

Daniel Schifrin

Does Arts Reporting Matter?

07/19/2011
Staff Writer

If you’re an arts journalist these days, it’s hard not to feel a pang of envy at your colleagues covering the media and politics. For the past few weeks, the media beat has basked in the glory of taking down one of journalists’ favorite villains, Rupert Murdoch, after the relentless pursuit of The News of the World’s phone-hacking scandal.

Eric Herschthal

Israel Zangwill's "Melting Pot" and Europe's Anti-Muslim Problem: Lessons from Two Struggles

It doesn't matter if you're liberal or conservative--if you're European, "mutliculturalism" has become a dirty word.  The New York Times ran an op-ed today by a British writer attacking multiculturalism as form of public policy.

Lessons From A ‘Holy Junk Heap’

06/28/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

I recently inhaled Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole’s new book Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza. Part of the Jewish Encounters series from Schocken and Nextbook, this headlong excavation into one of the greatest literary finds in Jewish history opened my eyes to the complex drama behind the sudden “appearance” of this storehouse of medieval Hebrew documents.

The "sacred trash" from the Cairo geniza throws our own piles of papers into new perspective.

Von Trier And The Conscience Of Cannes

05/24/2011
Staff Writer

It often seems that we’ve become emotionally numb to talk about Nazis and Hitler. We toss around the word “Nazi” with such impunity these days that the essential meaning of who Hitler was and what the Nazis represent appears entirely lost.

Some worry that ignorance and latent anti-Semitism lurks behind our lax standards, but many suggest otherwise: it’s Holocaust fatigue, they say, a culture saturated not with too little knowledge about Nazis, but rather, too much.

Lars Von Trier

Next Question…

04/18/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

The other day I interviewed writer Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” as part of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s 100th anniversary celebration.

Dan Schifrin

Illuminating A Jewish Story

03/22/2011
Staff Writer

Here’s a dirty secret about Jewish journalism: a number of the stories we write aren’t really Jewish in nature. A story may be about a Jew, but other than that, there often isn’t much else of Jewish substance in many of the stories we print.

Editors hate it when you pitch a story whose sole qualification for being published is that your subject is Jewish. But the reality is that mainstream Jewish publications would not exist if we didn’t run these stories.

An illustration from Maira Kelman's show at The Jewish Museum

My Dinner With Johnny (Mathis)

02/22/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

Last week I had dinner with Johnny Mathis.

That’s right, Johnny Mathis. The third best-selling recording artist of all time, whose open-hearted, sultry voice animated our car rides to Lake Tahoe when I was 10, the eight-track cassette seemingly invented just so my sister and I could say, yet again, “Go back to ‘Chances Are’!”

Johnny Mathis

Ballet Values, Jewish Values

01/25/2011
Staff Writer

The New York City Ballet began its winter season last week and, as a ballet fan, I tried, as I do each year, to come up with a Jewish story about it. Alas, I always come up short.

Sure, there are stories you could write about Jewish dancers and the occasional choreographer, and I’ve done my share. But let’s be honest, there is a conspicuous absence of serious Jewish content in ballet. And it’s interesting to consider why.

Natalie Portman in 'Black Swan'
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