Brief Reviews: Living Traditions and Ancient Treasures
Lox With Black Beans & Rice: Portraits of Cuban Jews in South Florida
In 30 large-format candid images and brief oral histories, Randi Sidman-Moore captures the daily lives and holiday rituals of a community that largely left Cuba during the Castro takeover in 1959 and took up a new life, primarily in Miami. Particularly striking are pictures of Dr. Enrique Ginzburg, a trauma surgeon, trying to save the life of a shooting victim and the scene in the operating room after the unsuccessful effort. Through September 26 at the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach (www.jewishmuseum.com). —Stewart Kampel
Treasures of the Bible:The Dead Sea Scrolls and Beyond
Last fall, Azusa Pacific University, an Evangelical Christian college near Los Angeles, outbid more famous institutions to acquire five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and 40 biblical items, ranging from a 5,000-year-old cuneiform tablet to a 17th-century Torah scroll and a Gutenberg Bible leaf. All are on public display for the first time, through July 18 (www.apu.edu/deadseascrolls). —Tom Tugend
Drawing on Tradition:The Book of Esther
J.T. Waldman’s graphic novel based on Megillat Esther combines midrash, contemporary scholarship and his own exploration through Pop Art. The 51 drawings and digital enlargements contain historical details and beautiful Hebrew lettering to retell the story with a new perspective. Through August 15 at Yeshiva University Museum, New York (www.yumuseum.org). —Sara Trappler Spielman
A Journey Through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books
Swiss collector René Braginsky’s impressive collection includes illustrated manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. There are beautiful Haggadot, exquisitely decorated Italian ketubot and elaborate Esther scrolls from the Netherlands, Italy, India and Greece. Especially noteworthy are the Charlotte von Rothschild Haggadah, the only known premodern Hebrew manuscript illuminated by a woman, and a 16th-century Italian Megillat Esther written by a female scribe. Through July 11 at Yeshiva University Museum, New York (www.yumuseum.org) —S.T.S.
Keller at left, with Golda Meir at right on sofa arm.
Courtesy of the American Foundation for the blind.
Helen Keller: A Daring Adventure
This inspiring exhibit about the life and work of Helen Keller, the internationally renowned author, advocate for the disabled and goodwill ambassador (and employee of the American Foundation for the Blind for 44 years) reveals her not widely known affinity for Israel and the Jewish people. Among the 70-odd items are a photograph taken with Golda Meir during Keller’s 1952 visit to the Jewish state, when her itinerary included a tour of Hadassah installations, and a silver-covered Tanakh presented to Keller, herself deaf and blind, by the Jewish Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem. The exhibit contains Keller’s impassioned letter to the Student Body of Germany in 1933 in response to book burnings, including her own on socialism:
“Tyrants have tried to do that before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them…. Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God sleepeth not, and He will visit His Judgment upon you.”
Archival material not in this exhibit but likely to be incorporated in future ones includes Keller’s correspondence with Israeli luminaries such as Meir and David Ben-Gurion and with directors of institutions for the blind and deaf in the Jewish state. But even of more direct interest to Hadassah readers might be speeches Keller gave to chapters in the United States. During one appearance in Detroit, she called the women’s Zionist organization “the modern Deborah in the fight for human welfare.”
Through July 30 at the American Foundation for the Blind in New York (212-502-7600; www.afb.org). —Barbara Trainin Blank
Web Sighting A century ago, Israel was an ecological disaster, notes the 100 Years of Green Web site. Under Ottoman rule, millions of trees were torn down because taxes were based on the number of trees on a property; Israel is the only country that has a higher percentage of trees in relation to its size now than it did 100 years ago. The new site,www.travelgreenisrael.com, part of the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s two-year focus on the country as a green destination, celebrates Israel’s role in the environmental movement and is filled with stunning images and travel tips, from the vistas of Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Park (a converted former garbage dump) to the introduction of the Zimmerbus, a guesthouse made from abandoned vehicles. —Leah F. Finkelshteyn
About 500,000 people were gassed in Belzec (above, a rendering) between March and December 1942, but the site is not well known because the Nazis had bulldozed the camp, disinterring then burning and reburying the bodies with the rubble. Filmmaker Guillaume Moscovitz interviews locals who knew the murders were taking place; looks at extant documents; and hears testimony from a woman who, as a child, was hidden for two years in a hole in the ground outside the camp. Menemsha Films (www.menemshafilms.com).
Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss
This German documentary explores how Veit Harlan’s family is shaped by the infamous propaganda film he made against Jews under the Third Reich. Based on interviews with his relatives, banned film excerpts and archival footage, director Felix Moeller probes how progeny deal with the guilt of an ancestor’s crime. Zeitgeist Films (www.zeitgeistfilms.com). —S.T.S.
Written and acted by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein, who also directed, this film is based on the couple’s real-life experiment in breaking up incrementally so they could loosen their bonds without excessive angst. This New York Jewish couple is endearing and their resultant confusion is eased by humor, even if it is not resolved. IFC Films (www.ifcfilms.com). —Susan Adler
Based on actual events in the 1990s when unworldly Hasidim in Brooklyn were recruited to smuggle drugs from Europe to the States, the film leaps from religious Williamsburg to the red-light district of Amsterdam. Jesse Eisenberg (above, left) portrays a Hasid who rebels against a prearranged marriage and a career as rabbi to become a top smuggler under the tutelage of an Israeli drug lord, but ultimately has to face the consequences of abandoning his faith and community. A provocative, often funny film that wrestles with moral issues. First Independent Pictures (www.holyrollersfilm.com). —T.T.
The Diary of Anne Frank
This BBC rendition of the Anne Frank story, written by Deborah Moggach, introduces Ellie Kendrick (above, right) as the outspoken and charming Anne. The actions, dialogue and setting hew closely to the diary: the rush into hiding, claustrophobic living quarters, family tensions and Anne’s growing infatuation with Peter Van Daan. Despite the subject’s familiarity, this intelligent production keeps viewers watching. Well Go USA (www.wellgousa.com). —Z.S.
The Girl on the Train
In André Téchiné’s film, a carefree young woman in a Paris suburb looks for a job and moves in with a youth who becomes a go-between in drug deals. When one deal goes bad, the couple’s relationship ends, and the girl, who is not Jewish—perhaps seeking the attention given to victims—fakes an anti-Semitic attack. The bizarre turn of events is based on a true story. Emilie Dequenne as the girl and Catherine Deneuve as her attentive mother stand out. Strand Releasing. —S.A.
The Boychick Affair
This affair is far from your grandfather’s bar mitzva. Look for lesbian Rabbi Feinman; interfaith-dating father Aaron; his attitude-ridden ex-wife Cheryl and rapping young man Harry. This profoundly dysfunctional Jewish family keeps things moving and revealing under Amy Lord’s sharp direction. Dance a hora and eat a full buffet at this lively interactive simcha.
The show will be traveling to New York, Los Angeles, Florida and Pennsylvania (www.boychickaffair.com). —Jules Becker
From left: James Spader, David Alan Grier and Richard Thomas.
Photo by Robert J. Saferstein.
Is race still the most incendiary topic in America? The cynical white lawyer in David Mamet’s latest play clearly thinks so.Race, in its Broadway premiere, examines charges of rape brought against a white man by a black woman.
The play gets off to a promising start. Jack Lawson (James Spader) and his black law partner Henry Brown (David Alan Grier) question their potential client, Charles Strickland, who is married, about his relationship to his accuser. Then the young legal assistant, Susan (Kerry Washington), unexpectedly commits them to the case by accepting a retainer and directing the district attorney to send documents from the case to their firm. Why did Strickland (Richard Thomas) leave his previous lawyer, whom Lawson describes as “one smart Jew”? Mamet shrewdly keeps the lawyers and the audience guessing about the events. The instructive second act reveals contrasts between Henry and Susan, who is also black, that sheds key light on Susan’s actions through her idealistic tirades.
Meanwhile, the alleged, unseen victim tells the press that Strickland invoked the N word as part of a strange romantic endearment—thus intertwining the case’s sexual and racial aspects. Detracting from such thematic virtues, however, are underdeveloped characters. Brown comes off best as a fair-minded lawyer, Grier capturing his authority and individuality; Spader’s Lawson mixes acidity and vulnerability but spouts platitudes. The wealthy Strickland is lacking in dimension; only Thomas’s abject body language expresses his character.
Still, audiences should enjoy Mamet’s vivid depiction of lawyers more concerned with persuading juries of their scenarios than with pursuing the truth. There are memorable observations about the differences between legal and emotional crimes and insight about non-court atonement on Yom Kippur for Jews and confession for Catholics.
Some Mamet fans may find Race satisfyingly candid as it explores moral issues. Others, though, will be disappointed that compelling drama is not more in evidence, though the action is effectively paced.
In mid-June, Eddie Izzard assumes the Lawson role; Dennis Haysbert takes over Brown; and Afton C. Williamson moves into the character of Susan.