Brief Review: Communities That Support and Protect
99 Geiger Road
In this short but sweet documentary, filmmaker Donna Schatz visits a bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains where a tight-knit group of Holocaust survivors have been spending their summers for 25 years. They enjoy dancing, entertainment and communal Shabbat dinners, but question whether they can continue managing the place and think this may be their last summer together (www.99geigerroad.com).
—Sara Trappler Spielman
Each of the “little heroes” has something to overcome: Erez lost his father; Alicia, a Russian immigrant, has a mentally disabled brother who hasn’t been able to learn Hebrew; Lior is being bullied by the other kids on his kibbutz. But when they set out to rescue two injured teens, they overcome their limitations and form a team. Though Alicia’s slightly mystical powers lend a false note, the Israeli film’s suspense and theme of kindness make it suitable for preteens. Dvash (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
Brazil’s 2008 Oscar entry follows the adjustments of 12-year-old Mauro, whose left-wing parents go “on vacation” to escape persecution by the country’s military dictatorship in 1970, leaving him in the hands of some Orthodox Jewish elders. Mauro’s longing for his parents is frequently submerged in the frenzy gripping Brazil during the World Cup soccer playoffs in Cao Hamburger’s sensitive, beautifully acted film. City Lights Pictures (www.theyearmovie.com).
Visions: Bringing It Home
A stirring, inspirational mix of pop and piety with a Disney-movie sound and flavor, this live concert recording of a trio—Amy Turner, Andra London and Talia Osteen—has a hopeful message for American Jewish listeners: “Don’t give up” (the chorus of “You Are Loved”). The trio adds English lyrics to popular Hebrew songs like “Halevai” and “Yachad,” offers contemporary compositions (“My Wish”) and includes a patriotic tribute, “God Bless America.” Sam Glaser Musicworks (www.visionstrio.com).
Midnight Prayer: The Joel Rubin Ensemble
Clarinetist Joel Rubin and cimbalom (hammered dulcimer) player Kalman Balogh and their group fuse klezmer and Hasidic melodies inspired by 19th-century Russian Jewish music. The tunes range from contemplative songs sung around the table (tish niggunim such as “Zeydle Rovner,” “Volynsk” and “Yosele Tolner”) to dance music (doina improvs, freylekhs and shers) and include hints of classical music touches. Traditional Crossroads (www.traditionalcrossroads.com).
With its rich editorial content, the new www.grandparents.com aims to be the premier address for bubbes and zaydes, nannas and granddads. The site’s travel articles give suggestions for bringing grandkids along, toy reviews keep tabs on trends and advice columns discuss long-distance grandparenting and more. And there are Brag Pages, where grandparents share their grandchildrens’ achievements—and pictures—with the world.
—Leah F. Finkelshteyn
Jewish Chaplains at War: Unsung Heroes of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ 1941-1945
More than 1,000 American rabbis volunteered to serve as chaplains during World War II. Over 300 were selected to attend the wounded and provide spiritual guidance to troops and personnel of all faiths. This small exhibit, created by the American Jewish Historical Society, tells their story through photographs and objects, such as a prayer book and Seder plate. On view is a clip of a prayer service at Iwo Jima. The online exhibit on the AJHS Web site is excellent and worth a visit. Through May 4 at the Center for Jewish History, New York (www.ajhs.org).
Based on Chaim Grade’s short story, the play adaptation by David Brandes and Joseph Telushkin takes place in a Montreal park on Rosh Hashana 1948. Two old friends—Chaim, a secular writer, and Hersh, a devout rabbi—reunite after the Holocaust. They discuss their war experiences, old yeshiva days and strained friendship while debating religion and belief in God. Reuven Russell and Sam Guncler are superb as Hersh and Chaim (above, from right), respectively. This show will travel on request (973-777-9213;email@example.com).
A Tale of Two Galleries
One gallery has a 49-piece omer counter created by New York artist Tobi Kahn; the other has a space-age Torah breastplate, crown and pointer by Israeli artist Moshe Zabari. That may not be surprising until you learn that these are the only two permanent Jewish galleries located in mainstream museums in the United States.
The Harold and Mickey Smith Gallery of Jewish Art and Culture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, established in 1998 (612-870-3293;www.artsmia.org), is home not only to the omer counter and a colorfully painted metal, plywood and steel tzedaka box by Tony Berlant but 160 other ritual objects of Jewish life—candlesticks, Torah cases and Seder plates. Recent purchases include an 18th-century German havdala candleholder and a 1901 Danish pewter Art Nouveau tzedaka box. The gallery routinely displays changing exhibits.
The Judaic Art Gallery at the North Carolina Museum of Art opened in 1983 in Raleigh (919-664-6759; www.ncartmuseum.org) with 100 objects—among them an 1807 silver Torah shield from Prague and a silver and ebony Seder plate designed by Ludwig Yehuda Wolpert in 1930 (above, fabricated in 1975). When an expansion of the North Carolina museum is complete, the gallery will host traveling exhibits.
John Coffey, art director at the North Carolina Museum of Art, likened the collection’s artworks, made of precious metals and intricately embellished, to a jewel box. “We’ve got the Frank Stella and the Auguste Rodin, but so what?” Coffey said. “That doesn’t distinguish us. This gallery gives people a memorable experience.”
Howling With the Angels
Filmmaker Jean Bodon combines a tribute to his father, a Czech Jewish resistance fighter, with the tragic history of his native country—from the 1938 Munich sellout and the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, a chief architect of the Holocaust, to the liberation of Prague and Soviet domination. The film draws deserved attention to a little remembered chapter of World War II, but is poorly narrated. First Run Features (www.firstrunfeatures.com).
Hitler: A Career
This lengthy, German-made documentary on the fuehrer’s life, from cradle to suicide, is marked by careful research and some hitherto unseen footage, but holds no startling revelations. However, the film provides an overview on the horrors wrought by one man, with interesting psychological insights on the German character. First Run Features (www.firstrunfeatures.com).