EXHIBITSTraces of Sepharad
More than 40 black-and-white etchings by self-taught Sefardic artist Marc Shanker compress pithy, humorous and thought-provoking Ladino proverbs into simple visual images. Ponder these: “Raise crows and they will pick your eyes out”; “Into a closed mouth flies cannot enter”; or “All roads are not straight.” Through August 31 at the American Sephardi Federation in New York (www.americansephardifederation.org). —R.M.Roman Vishniac: Selections From the Vanished World
Between 1935 and 1939, Roman Vishniac (below) chronicled life in the Jewish villages of Central and Eastern Europe, documenting the impact of harsh economic life. He took photographs of men, women and children at work in fields and knitting factories, leaving the synagogue after prayers, selling their wares on the streets of Warsaw or in hiding. The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, recently acquired the Vishniac portfolio of 2,000 images that reached the United States, and is displaying 12 black-and-white images from it through July 26 (www.norton.org). —Stewart KampelTestimony and Memory:
Contemporary Miniature Torah Mantles Carole Smollan’s woven-textile fragments, lace and trimming on photographs and documents form 56 stunning miniature Torah mantles. They recount her artistic and family history, including relatives lost in the Holocaust. The artist uses an original bleeding-silk technique, detailed stitching and artificially aged objects. Until July 26 at Yeshiva University Museum, New York (www.yumuseum.org). —Sara Trappler Spielman
Joseph, the Bull and the Rose
Mexican Jewish physician and artist Anette Pier reinterprets a biblical narrative using her country’s cultural tradition of bullfighting and midrashic allegory. A bull (Joseph), matador (his brothers) and arena (the pit) in 20 exotic, mixed-media paintings open a world of drama. Until August 30 at Yeshiva University Museum, New York (www.yumuseum.org). —S.T.S.
Final Mourner’s Kaddish: 333 Days in Paintings by Max Miller
Fifty watercolors of synagogues in New York, Florida, Ohio and Vermont that Miller visited during his year of mourning for his father represent a journey of reflection, prayer and identity. Each stop was a place of healing and spirituality, captured by magical details. Until August 16 at the Yeshiva University Museum, New York (www.yumuseum.org). —S.T.S.
Within My Walls: The Idan Raichel Project
Idan Raichel’s greatest hit was “Mi’ma’amakim,” the title track of his 2005 platinum CD. On his latest album, he is still exploring the depths of human feeling as a composer, arranger and performer. Going beyond the fusion of Hebrew, Arabic and Ethiopian sounds, his new collection includes artists singing in Swahili, Spanish and Cape Verdean Creole. With a wide artistic net, Raichel has built a house of world music with a distinctly Israeli influence. Cumbancha (www.cumbancha.com).
—Alan M. Tigay
Ta’am Latino: The Latin American Shabbat
The irrepressible Latin American beat makes for a toe-tapping Shabbat experience as sung by Argentinian-born Cantor Gaston Bogomolni. Each prayer is set to a different rhythm that reflects its spirit, from a catchy ÒShalom Alechem (Murga) to a salsa-fied ÒAdon Olam (www.gbogo.net). — Rahel Musleah
With humor, faith and sympathy, Tovah Feldshuh portrays Polish Catholic Irena Gut Opdyke (at left, holding baby), a student nurse who suffered during World War II first under Russian occupiers, then under the Nazis. In Dan Gordon’s play, Irena becomes the housekeeper of a German major and risks her life to hide and sustain 12 Jews in his villa for two years. Her saga of selfless love is inspirational. Walter Kerr Theatre in New York (www.irenasvow.com). —Zelda Shluker
Fiddler on the Roof
Fiddler proves as enduring as Jewish tradition—especially with the return of Topol as Tevye. This may be his farewell tour, but the veteran Israeli performer is as vocally robust and winningly definitive as ever as the shtetl’s Jewish Everyman. Director Sammy Dallas Bayes has richly reproduced the original Jerome Robbins choreography, particularly in the standout “To Life” and “Wedding Dance.” The tour (which began at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island) ends in January 2010; it is currently in Houston until June 7; Chicago, June 9 to 28; San Diego, July 14 to 19; Los Angeles, July 21 to August 9 (www.ticketmaster.com). —Jules Becker
One at a time, young Jews who have participated in Taglit-Birthright Israel trips confront their identity. The short, poetic and humorous performances—surprisingly deep and poignant—reflect the diverse ways the twentysomething generation connects to Judaism. Daliya climbs Masada by hoisting herself while sitting backward, inspired by her father who has cerebral palsy. Lauren discovers spirituality after her boyfriend dies. In an openended run at the Triad Theatre in New York; also traveling to Florida, Illinois and New Jersey (next.birthrightisrael.com). —S.T.S.
The Powder and the Glory
This fascinating documentary explores the lives of the Jewish Helena Rubinstein and the non-Jewish Elizabeth Arden, successful pioneers and bitter rivals in the beauty industry. Starting as poor immigrants, they made make-up acceptable and accessible, paving the way for other women entrepreneurs and influencing the fashion, art and advertising worlds. Polish- born Rubinstein, in particular, rose above American anti-Semitic policies; when refused an apartment on Park Avenue, she bought the building. Powderglory Productions (www.powderandglory.com). —S.T.S.
In this contemporary Russian version of the classic American film 12 Angry Men, Moscow jurors ponder the fate of a Chechen youth charged with murdering his stepfather, a Russian army officer. What starts as a clear-cut murder case slowly unravels, revealing virulent prejudices against both Chechens and against a Jewish juror, a Holocaust survivor who votes for acquittal. The superb film by director Nikita Mikhalkov reveals much that is corrupt—and much that is decent—in Russian society. Sony Pictures Classics (www.sonyclassics.com/12). —Tom Tugend
Over 10,000 Yiddish works, poetry, dramas, folktales and nonfiction are now available online. After a decade of researching and scanning, the National Yiddish Book Center’s Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library has gone live, thanks to a joint venture between the center and the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. The collection, which can be read or downloaded free of charge at www.yiddishbook center.org, is estimated to include about half the published works in the language. The digitalization project, and the library’s new greater accessibility, ensure that the collection with its many fragile and out-of-print works is preserved and available to both scholars and the growing numbers of people interested in Yiddish culture. —Leah F. Finkelshteyn
Danae Elon researches the cultural, religious and medical reasons for circumcision after regretting her first son’s bris. While expecting her second son, she travels to Italy, England, Turkey and Israel, hoping to decide about circumcision by tracing its origins and questioning its widespread use. This well-crafted documentary centers on her quest for meaning and whether she’s prepared to compromise her marriage and Jewish identity. Filmoption International (www.partlyprivate-thefilm.com).
The Name My Mother Gave Me
A group of Israeli adolescents—mostly Ethiopian with a handful of Russians—are taking a pre-Army trip to Ethiopia. The visits are personal: One boy goes to see his mother, from whom he’s been separated for 14 years; the group stops at an abandoned synagogue, which bolsters their feelings of Jewish authenticity; their native Amharic becomes more fluent. The trip helps the Ethiopians reconcile their Israeli and Ethiopian identities and makes them better accept their Ethiopian heritage. It also leads to greater amity and understanding between the Ethiopians and Russians. Eli Tal-El’s documentary is released by Ruth Diskin Films (www.ruthfilms.com).
Salt of This Sea
A young Brooklyn-born woman of Palestinian descent learns that her grandfather left a small bank account in Jaffa when he abandoned his home in 1948, and she embarks on a quest to reclaim her monetary and ethnic legacy. And while there are no scenes of outright Israeli brutality, the various obstacles she encounters convey the Palestinians’ sense of humiliation during airport interrogations and at roadblocks. Directed by award-winning Annemarie Jacir. Augustus Film (www.augustusfilm.com). —T.T.
Praying With Lior
This award-winning documentary by Ilana Trachtman follows Lior Liebling, who has Down’s syndrome, and his family as he trains for his bar mitzvah. The DVD has family updates, bonus scenes and educational resources. (Free study guide atwww.prayingwithlior.com; www.firstrunfeatures.com.) —Susan Adler
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler
Anna Paquin beautifully portrays Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker during World War II who rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto, hiding them in Polish homes. The film focuses on Sendler’s key relationships, including a Jewish lover she hides in her mother’s house. Even after brutal interrogation by the Gestapo and a fortunate escape, Sendler cries to her mother, “So many that I could not save.” Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions (www.hallmark.com). —S.T.S.
Surreptitiously visiting the ghetto where Jews found a rare refuge from the Nazi horror in the late 1930s, Dana Janklowicz-Mann and Amir Mann revisit the experience of Jewish refugees through interviews with survivors and historians, archival letters and photos. Narrated by Martin Landau. Rebel Child Productions (www.shanghaighetto.com). —Z.S.
Partisans of Vilna: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance
During World War II This two-disc set not only tells the stories of Jewish resistance fighters but includes a bonus songbook with lyrics in English and Yiddish, a study guide and other features. By Josh Waletzky and Aviva Kempner for the Ciesla Foundation (www.docurama.com; www.jhvc.org). —S.A.
Aviva My Love
Aviva is a part-time cook who wants to be a writer. But it is not easy for her to pursue her dreams when her family’s needs—and those of her professor- mentor—are dragging her down. This award-winning Israeli film by Shemi Zarhin speaks to all overworked women who are struggling to get ahead (www.israel-catalog.com). —S.A.
Live and Become
A young non-Jewish African boy is substituted for the dead son of a Falasha woman and taken to Israel. Over the years, the boy—now Schlomo—who is torn by living a lie, assimilates into Israeli Jewish life while keeping his secret. Most heartwarming is how much the “mothers” in his life—his birth mother, his Jewish Ethiopian mother, his adoptive Israeli mother and his wife—love him. Directed by Radu Mihaileanu; written (in Amharic, Hebrew and French, with English subtitles) by Mihaileanu and Alain-Michel Blanc (www.menemshafilms.com). —S.A.
This three-disc anniversary edition of the epic miniseries stars Meryl Streep, James Woods and Michael Moriarty. Holocaust follows the tragedy and triumph of the Weiss family of Berlin from the 1930s to 1945 and intertwines their fate as European Jews with the story of a German family, the Dorfs, whose members include a high-ranking Nazi officer. CBS (www.paramount.com). —Z.S.
There are seven episodes remaining in Michael Green’s contemporary reimagination of the biblical story of Saul and David. The show, which resumes June 13 on NBC, has not been renewed for next year. Nevertheless, catch the remaining episodes to see how Saul—here called King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa—becomes a hardened politician and ruler. Other familiar, though contemporary, personalities are the idealistic auto mechanic-turned-soldier (David Shepherd); a spiritual leader (Reverend Ephram Samuels); and the king’s son (Jack). Sunday nights (www.nbc.com/kings). —S.A.