News & Notes

News & Notes

Preserving Life on the Lower East Side (March 28, 2012)

Once upon a time, Eastern European Jews settled on the Lower East Side and set about creating a home. But they did not fully abandon the world they left behind: Delancy and Hester Streets became unterzakhn.jpgsmall shtetls; 2nd Avenue was home to a thriving Yiddish Theater scene; Landsmannschaften, or mutual aid societies, were created to help soften the landing of recent immigrants in their new country.

Since 1992, the Tenement Museum (97 Orchard Street) has offered visitors a glimpse of Jewish immigrant life on the Lower East Side. On Thursday, April 5, Leela Corman discusses her new book Unterzakhn, a graphic novel about Jewish twin sisters growing up at the turn of the 20th century on the LES. Learn more about Unterzakhn and Tenement Talks.

Around the Web: Purim Edition
  • Israel_Defense_ForcesCelebrates_Purim.jpgMaking the Megillah reading more, um, "musical." [HuffPo]
  • Your typical Purim fare this is not. [Haaretz]
  • A profoundly compelling argument for why Jewish holidays and rap don't mix. [YouTube]
  • A world-famous competitive eater takes on his latest challenge: a giant hamentaschen. [JTA]
Image credit: IDF Logistics and Technology Branch Hamentaschen Baking Competition/ Wikimedia Commons
Around the Web (March 2, 2012)
  • Stephen Sondheim, perhaps the most accomplished Jew on Broadway, says he's back at work. [NYTimes]j_street_large.jpg
  • Daniel Pearl is the most recent Jew to have suffered a post-mortem Mormon baptism. [NPR]
  • The Queen Mary hosts a "Jewlicious" weekend. [Jewlicious]
  • Olmert's in the house at J Street. Say what?! [JTA]
Around the Web (February 28, 2012)
  • Athens and Jerusalem, united by the European debt crisis. [eJewishPhilanthropy]
  • Hoop dreams denied: An Orthodox Jewish High School in Texas is shut out of the state semifinals. [Forward]
  • Tablet Magazine's "Jewish Guide to the Primaries." [Tablet]
The Highs and Lows of Jews at the Oscars (February 28, 2012)

It may be a cliche to say that Jews are plentiful in Hollywood, but at the Oscars last Sunday, a number really did show up and make a statement—for better and for worse.

The Weinstein Company's sweeping victories count as a definite "high" for the Jews, which produced winners in the The Iron Lady and The Artist. It was a true triumph for Harvey Weinstein, the media mogul behind The Weinstein Company and Miramax, who produced several consecutive years of flops and forgettables, but came roaring back last year with movies like The King's Speech, The Fighter, and Blue Valentine. This year, his films tallied a total of 16 nominations.

Unfortunately, Weinstein's rally for the tribe was counterbalanced by Sacha Baron Cohen's latest stunt: attending the Oscars dressed as The Dictator. The new character is from an eponymous film set for release this summer. Cohen was warned by the Academy beforehand that the prank could earn him a rude dismissal from the ceremony, to which Cohen responded by not only showing up in costume, but also dumping the recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's "ashes" on E! host Ryan Seacrest. In case you're wondering, Cohen's antics count as a low.

Then there was also Billy Crystal's performance as host, which felt a shade passe; another loss for Israel in the Best Foreign Language Film category; and Natalie Portman's dress, which was picked as one of the night's worst. And yet, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris took Best Original Screenplay, and Ben Stiller's presentation of the award for Best Digital Effects with Emma Stone was a hoot. Like we said, the night was full of highs and lows for the Jews.

Still Trembling (February 24, 2012)

In 2001, a little documentary made a big impact among liberal and conservative Jews alike: Trembling Before G-d. Billed as "the film that's changing lives," it told the story of gay men striving to live Orthodox Jewish lives, in spite of their community's aversion to their sexuality.

Eleven years later, Orthodoxy's attitude towards homosexuality is still being hashed out in the media. It all began when Chaim Levin, an Orthodox Jew from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, contributed to the YouTube channel of It Gets Better, a non-profit that offers support to youths struggling with their sexuality. Levin's video, which was first uploaded in November 2010, was subsequently discovered and harshly criticized in The Jewish Press by a doctoral student at Yeshiva University. Speaking this past week with Jacques Berlinerblau of the Faith Complex series, Levin defends his video and shares more about his personal story.


Around the Web (February 17, 2012)
  • Looks like the LDS has some 'splainin' to do. [JTA]cow.jpg
  • Israeli author Etgar Keret talks film, readers, and getting lost in translation. [Heeb]
  • The cow that wasn't kosher...for Israeli TV. [Haaretz]
  • The "Angry Jewish Tweeter": now officially a Jewish stereotype. [Tablet]
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Around the Web: Tu B'Shevat (February 8, 2012)

  • Jewish leaders institutionalize tree-hugging. Well, not exactly. [JTA]
  • Apparently, Jews have their own spin on everything. Even ecology (read: Jewcology). [eJewish Philanthropy]
  • It's the New Year of the Trees, and the Grammy-award winning band Ozomatli wants to rock your body in celebration. [JJ]
  • A Tu B'Shevat enthusiast's inventory of ways to get creative with the holiday. [Tablet]
Image credit: Jan Tik, "Cannibal Tree"/Wikimedia Commons


The "Koshergate" That Wasn't (February 1, 2012)


With the Florida primary over and the victor decided (Romney), the scandal known as "Koshergate" now seems like a non-scandal, a shameless Gingrichian stunt, a plea—or perhaps a ploy—for attention.


What was the hullabaloo about? Apparently Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, tried to cut government funding for kosher meal programs in nursing homes. According to Fox News, Gingrich suggested Romney's move was "a secular state assault on people of faith." (If you think that was bit much, check out his campaign's robocall.)

On the other hand, can you really blame the guy for trying to get some free advertising? With Romney outspending him by an order of magnitude, Gingrich needed to do something to keep himself relevant. And when you're trying to do that in a state known for its population of Jewish grandparents, it makes sense to go for the gut: accusing your opponent of being anti-Jewish in a nursing home. It may not be a traditional line of attack. But then again, part of Gingrich's resurgent popularity is that he insists on playing by his own rules.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons 
Around the Web (January 30, 2012)
  • Joe Paterno: a zadie par excellence? [Chronicle of Higher Ed]Drew_Barrymore_by_David_Shankbone.jpg
  • A new home for the Magnes Museum, the nation's third largest collection of Judaica. [NYTimes]
  • Looks like Drew Barrymore might join the club of shiksa goddesses turned Nice Jewish Girls. (Along with Isla Fisher, Ivanka Trump, and Marilyn Monroe.) [Heeb]
  • A new caucus in the Knesset deliberates the Israeli-American Jewish divide. [eJewishPhilanthropy]
Image credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons
Women's International Zionist Organization in 140 Characters or Less (January 24, 2012)

Imagine a WIZO meeting, and you might picture grandmothers playing mahjongg, nibbling rugelach, and pairing up their eligible grandkids. If there might have been some truth to this, know that WIZO is now dipping its toe into the twenty-first century. "We have twitter and other new technologies," WIZO’s newly elected president, Tova Ben-Dov, reported to Haaretz a little over a week ago. Ben-Dov, it so happens, is a 74-year old grandmother of six, but she and her associates are out to give WIZO's reputation a makeover. "Ours is a new, relevant and contemporary face," said Laurienne Baitz of South Africa, who is a little less than half of Ben-Dov's age and is part of a new class of younger recruits. WIZO may not be re-inventing social media, but they are using what's out there to their advantage. 

Around the Web (January 20, 2012)
  • It's Schindler's List all over again. Only this time people have sex in sewers. [Reuters]New_York_Times.jpg
  • Did Bibi, or did Bibi not say that the New York Times and Haaretz were Israel's main enemies? [Forward]
  • The Jewish kid from Brooklyn who puts Tom Brady to shame. [Tablet]
Image credit: Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs/ Wikimedia Commons 
Making Sweet Music (January 19, 2012)

The author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and the writer behind the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally will team up for a conversation at New York City's Symphony Space next Wednesday, January 25. It's not Nathan Englander and Nora Ephron's first rendezvous. They've been friends and creative colleagues for some time. The event's website on Jewcy, which  is sponsoring the event, even describes Ephron as Englander's "mentor." If you'd like to see what the duo have to say to one another this time, though, best bet is to reserve tickets now.
Around the Web (January 17, 2012)
  • A Jew is accused of harassing neighbors with antisemitic remarks and vandalism. Talk about self-hatred. [NY Daily News]Mattweiner.jpg
  • As the winner of the Sapir Prize for Literature this year, Haggai Linik will receive NIS 150,000 and his book will be translated into Arabic and another language of his choice. (Does anyone not choose English?) [Haartez]
  • AMC's favorite Jew, Matthew Weiner, will return with his beloved series Mad Men on March 25. [NYTimes]
  • Just another reason Republicans in the primary race might want to fly down to Florida and start schmoozing with the Jews. [Haaretz]
Image credit: Matthew Weiner/ MAD MEN/ Wikimedia Commons
Jews on Film

The legacy of Jews and cinema may be long and storied, but it's getting an injection of fresh blood this month at the 21st annual New York Jewish Film Festival. The Festival began yesterday (January 11) and will continue through January 26, showcasing films that venture to make a statement about what it means to be Jewish.

But as Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator and Director of the NY Jewish Film Festival can tell you, that's not always easy. In an article published by Haaretz, Weintraub explained that "the term 'Jewish film' is confusing and fluid," and selecting works that deal with Jewishness and Jewish identity difficult when both of those ideas are, at best, "vague" (as Weintraub put it).

Perhaps Jewish film's loose definition--and the even looser definition of "Jewish" itself--explain why NYJFF's features are so seemingly disparate in theme, genre, and tone. Dramas from Germany, documentaries from Israel--even restored classics that haven't been out of the vault in ages will grace the Festival's screens.

For those who choose to go, then, the best advice is to let go of what you think a Jewish film is supposed to be. Because whatever you see, among this lot, there are plenty that are likely to challenge your expectations.

The New York Jewish Film Festival is presented by The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, from January 11-26.
Around the Web (January 12, 2012)
  • It looks like Brad Pitt's role in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds has had an effect on his best bromancer, because George Clooney has just signed on to a quasi-Nazi hunt for his next picture: A dramatized account of The Rape of Europa. [LATimes]
  • Archaeologists in Israel are getting out the big guns in a controversy over--wait for it--an unearthed coin. [Haaretz]
  • A war on Jews in New Jersey. [Fox]
  • You gotta fight for your rights--if you're a Jew living in DC. [Legal Times]

Around the Web (January 10, 2012)theHobbit.jpg

  • Jewish voters are in a tizzy over Rick Santorum. But they can't decide: Is he for Jesus [HuffPo] or the Jews [JTA]?
  • Tolkien's Hobbit and how to make the most of three years as a POW. [JPost]
  • Israel's hippies on the hilltop prove they're hardly non-violent. [NPR]
  • Another Jewish advisor. [Forward]

Around the Web (January 5, 2011)

  • Jews may have hit it big in TV, but Jewish television is hardly a hit. [JTA]Rick_Santorum_official_photo.jpg
  • Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was indicted today on corruption charges. [Haaretz]
  • Relatively Speaking will close on Broadway at the end of the month after 153 performances. Geh gezindt! [NYTimes]
  • Eric Cantor thinks that Tikkun Olam and the Republican Party go together like Santorum and the Evangelical vote. [JTA]

Around the Web (January 4, 2012) 

  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel give new meaning to the term "Jew camp." [CNN]Meyer_Lansky.jpg
  • It's "Jewltide season" in D.C. [WaPo]
  •  J-Grit is a new website all about history's toughest, most brazen Jews. Damn it feels good to be a "Jangsta'." [J-Grit]
  • Union for Reform Judaism: Where have all the young Jews gone? [JTA]
Image credit: Meyer Lansky at 54 St. police station, New York City, being booked for vagrancy/Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

News & Notes 2011

News & Notes 2010

News & Notes 2009