Maps real and imagined explore identity, immigration, heritage, history and home through the work of 35 contemporary artists in paintings, collages, layered papercuts, board games, spice boxes and more. Doug Beube’s globe stuck through with matches (above) is a potential cartographic tinderbox; Karen Gunderson’s black-on-black map of constellations of the night of October 1, 1943, records the escape of Danish Jews to Sweden. Through June 26 at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York (www.huc.edu). —Rahel MusleahArbit Blatas:
A Centennial Celebration
Lithuanian-born, Paris-trained Blatas created joyous paintings of Venice and Paris, vibrant opera scenes and portraits and bronzes of artists from Marcel Marceau to Chaim Soutine. In contrast stand his anguished paintings and epic sculptures memorializing the Holocaust, which he escaped, though his parents did not. Until July 6 at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York (www.huc.edu). —R.M.
The last-known photograph of young Holocaust victim Judith Sternchuss shows her cuddling her doll (below). That image, and Sternchuss’s name (which means shooting star), inspired and gave title to the current exhibition. Along with photos from Yad Vashem and other original artwork, the display examines how beloved dolls and stuffed animals brought comfort to Jewish children during the Holocaust. Through March 31 at Temple Judea Museum in Congregation Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania (www.kenesethisrael.org). —Barbara Trainin Blank
As Meyer Lansky—played with charisma and power by veteran actor Mike Burstyn (above)— waits for the response to his application for Israeli citizenship, the mobster and financial whiz reviews his life and his unheralded contributions to the state’s survival. The one-man play, directed by Joseph Bologna, is at St. Luke’s Theatre, New York (212-239-6200). —Zelda Shluker
The Singing Forest
Veteran actor Olympia Dukakis headlines Craig Lucas’s new play about the impact of the Holocaust on a contemporary American family. The Riemans have not spoken to each other in decades, their relationship severed by secrets from the Holocaust. The story begins in the pop-culture-filled States, moving to Vienna, then Paris after World War II. April 7 to May 17 at the Public Theater, New York (212-967-7555; www.publictheater.org). —Beth Herstein
Understanding the poetry of ancient Jewish texts—without the crutch of English translations—has become easier. At the Israeli Web site eTeacher, www.eteachergroup.com, courses in modern and biblical Hebrew are conveniently available online. Lessons are taught via live videoconferencing with synchronized classes that simulate the schoolroom experience. According to the site, interest in the courses in biblical Hebrew is growing: hazak, hazak ve-nithazek. —Leah F. Finkelshteyn
A vibrant spirit of catharsis animates the felicitous documentary about a flamenco class for seniors in Tel Aviv. Like flamenco itself, it’s about love and death and pain and solitude. Its star, a Sefardic immigrant with a soul like Anthony Quinn and a face like Lee Marvin, dances his way through sorrow and joy, laughing and weeping but, like the Gypsies—like flamenco itself—without ever giving up and never, ever giving in. Heymann Brothers Films (www.heymann-films.com). —Judith Gelman Myers
The Baader-Meinhof Complex
Germany’s Oscar entry this year depicts the murderous rampage of the West German Red Army faction during the 1960s. The film offers lots of explosions and considerable nudity, but little to probe the gang’s motivation in battling American and Israeli “imperialists.” The only comic relief in the high-tension docudrama comes when Yasser Arafat’s men in Jordan try to train and impose a minimum of discipline on the unruly German gang. Constantin Film (www.thebaadermeinhofcomplex.com). —Tom Tugend
Swimming in Auschwitz: Survival Stories of Six Women
Using interviews and archival footage, director Jon Kean describes how six Los Angeles-area female survivors created moments of normalcy in the hell of Auschwitz. From wearing scarfs to cover their shaven heads to sharing recipes, these women appear to have developed different strategies than male prisoners to cope and support each other. Bala Cynwyd Productions. Airing on PBS in April (www.pbs.org; www.swimminginauschwitz.com). —Aaron Howard
Center of the World
This special gives an overview of four millennia of Jerusalem history, with emphasis on the Holy City’s numerous disasters and its profound significance to three faiths. Narrator Ray Suarez introduces the main players, from Abraham to Moses, Jesus to Mohammed, and conquerors from the Babylonians, Persians and Romans to the Turks and British. The presentation is solid on factual data, chronology and visual impact but could use a bit more soul. Airing on April 1 on PBS (www.pbs.org). —T.T.
Arise! New Jewish Music
Sy Kushner has been a leading figure on accordion and as a writer of original Jewish music since his days with the Mark 3 Orchestra in the ’60s. On 15 instrumentals, he showcases high-powered soloists, notably Ken Maltz on clarinet and Jeremy Brown on violin and mandolin. The predominant feel of tunes like “Merengklez,” with its faux-Latin beat, or a plaintive ballad like “The Bronx Waltz,” is of a highly intelligent reimagination of Borscht Belt dance schmaltz, transforming comfortingly familiar dross into highly refined musical gold. This winning set is sparked by tasty writing. Nulite (https://nulitemusic.com). —George Robinson
Shababa with Karina: Shabbat Songs for the Entire Family
This tot-friendly Shabbat celebration led by Karina Zilberman is mostly in English with a smattering of Hebrew phrases and one Yiddish song (“Oyfn Pripitchik”). The 13 selections include the finger-snapping “Shababa” and the tale “The Shabbat Secret,” retold by storyteller Peninah Schram (www.92Y.org). —R.M.
While there are still many unknown rescuers, four recent films bring to light heroes who saved Jewish children in the 20th century.
Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good
Nicholas Winston was a 28-year-old British stockbroker vacationing in Prague in the fall of 1938 when he undertook to save the lives of 669 at-risk Jewish children, organizing transports to England. The educational film by Matej Minac, author of Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life (American Friends of the Czech Republic), is available with a study guide from the Gelman Educational Foundation (https://www.powerofgood.net). An earlier book on Winton is Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation by Muriel Emanuel and Vera Gissing (Vallentine Mitchell). Winton’s deeds remained unknown until a scrapbook he kept was discovered in the 1980s. —Zelda Shluker
This brief film by Academy Award-winning director Jon Blair describes how Isaac Ochberg, a self-made wealthy Russian émigré, raised funds to save, in 1921, about 200 Jewish orphans from war, disease, famine and pogroms in what is today Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. He brought the children to South Africa where they were able to start life anew; he also funded an orphanage in Odessa. The Cinema Guild (www.cinemaguild.com). —Z.S.
The House on August Street
Ayelet Bargur tells the remarkable story of her great-aunt, nurse Beate Berger, and the Beith Ahawah Kinderheim she ran in Berlin for Jewish children. Foreseeing the coming storm, she raised funds to build a new home in Palestine and secretly transferred 100 children there between 1934 and 1939. Eventually, she brought 300 children from Czecoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Austria and Italy to the orphanage in Haifa, which is still open today. Bargur’s documentary weaves together rare archival film materials and interviews with Berger’s aged “children”; a reenactment of Berger reading her letters helps bring her to life. Eden Productions. Distributed by the National Center for Jewish Film, Brandeis University (www.jewishfilm.org). —Z.S.
Secret Courage: The Walter Suskind Story
After the Germans marched into Amsterdam, Jews were separated from the rest of the population. They were squeezed into the Jewish Theater, the main deportation site in the country. Jewish children, however, were placed in a child-care center, which shared a backyard with a school of higher education. Using historical film and interviews, producers Tim and Karen Morse identify secret hero Walter Suskind—a soft-spoken businessman and actor—who, with the assistance of the school head and the resistance, helped spirit nearly 1,000 children out of the country to safety. M&M Films (www.morsephotography.com). —Z.S.
The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost
Based on Alan Dershowitz’s best seller of the same name, this documentary offers an appreciation of what Israel is up against and its fortitude against the odds. Here, the superstar lawyer talks with Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Michael Oren, Phyllis Chesler and Dennis Ross while film clips—the bloody aftermath of a bus bombing, the liberation of a concentration camp, children in Sderot running for safety from Qassam rockets—bring their observations to life. Doc Emet Productions (www.thecaseforisrael.com). —Deborah Fineblum Raub
A successful American businessman, Richie Rakowski is also the son of a Holocaust survivor named Sam. This strange documentary cross-cuts between Richie describing the horrors inflicted on him by Sam, and Sam describing the horrors inflicted on him by the Nazis. Mercifully, there’s a surprise ending that makes it all worthwhile. Stolen Time Productions (www.mrrakowski.com). —Judith Gelman Myers
Steal a Pencil for Me
Jack and Ina met at a party in 1943 Nazi-occupied Holland. Jack was married and 10 years older, but fate brought them to the same barracks in Westerbork concentration camp. Michele Ohayon’s sweet, sad documentary recounts their remarkable journey: They were both transported to Bergen-Belsen, where they wrote letters to each other, and were reunited after the war in Amsterdam. Airing May 26 on PBS. Available on DVD from Diamond Lane Films (www.stealapencil.com). —Sara Trappler Spielman
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