Well Versed

Our Selfies, Our Selves

My mother, when asked to identify herself, would say, “What can I tell you — I’m just a lady from Poland." This, despite the fact that she left Poland, post-war, at 12, and spent the next 66 years of her life in New York. And, of course, when she finally went back to visit Poland, she was seen as the Jew from America. Identities are by their very nature, fluid and relative. How we describe ourselves versus how others perceive us is always up for grabs.

Courtesy of Genesis Philanthropy Group

This Week: Rare Judaica At Rare Prices

Bibliophiles and collectors of Jewish texts have been prowling the precincts of Kestenbaum & Company these past days, covetously eyeing and reverently handling the rare items now on display and scheduled for auction on Thursday, June 25. Dubbed the “Singular Collection,” the provenance for this remarkable grouping of early printed Hebrew books, and Biblical and Rabbinic manuscripts remains undisclosed.

Autograph manuscript, Melecheth Shlomo by Solomon ben Joshua Adani, 1589-1623. Courtesy Kestenbaum & Company

Another Tale Of Love And Darkness

Claire Hajaj is the daughter of a Jewish mother born in England and a Muslim father born in Jaffa.  In her first novel, “Ishmael’s Oranges" (Oneworld), she makes use of her uncommon background to convey the feelings of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs with nuance and understanding.

Courtesy Oneworld

Sara Levy’s World: Music, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin

An exceptional musical program last month at the Center for Jewish History under the auspices of the Leo Baeck Institute and the American Society for Jewish Music's Jewish Music Forum, was broadcast on the Classical Network, wwfm.org. The program celebrated the legacy of Sara Levy (1761 – 1854 ), a philanthropist, saloniere, patron, musician and music collector. Every piece on the program, introduced by Christoph Wolff, was associated with her, and displayed the breadth and depth of her taste.

Premiering This Weekend: A Heschel Documentary On ABC-TV

If the child is the father of the man, what then is the young adult? In the case of theologian Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, his poetry in Yiddish – penned in his early 20s –- provides the first glimpse of his greatness.

Courtesy Diva Communications

Books To Watch For

One standout among the many featured authors at this year’s Book Expo America at the Javits Center last week was the late Italian chemist and writer Primo Levi, who died in 1987 and is best known for his memoirs of surviving Auschwitz, “If This Is a Man” and “The Periodic Table.”

Courtesy Liveright Publishing

The Art Of Observance

“Coming to a stop is not easy in this frenetic world. But it is essential for being watchful –and for making art,” explains Rochelle Rubinstein, guest curator of Yeshiva University Museum’s sixth annual group exhibition, “Stop. Watch.”

View of "Stop. Watch." Aimee Rubensteen

An Israeli Photographer Looks Back

If you’re like me, you may remember an older Israel — a dusty Levantine backwater of unpaved sidewalks and peeling stucco walls — with a mixture of nostalgia and relief. Today, Israel is a sparkling, Westernized techno-power with gleaming high-rises and computer ads lighting every corner; Igael Shemtov’s photos, “The Photo Album 1979-1980,” now showing at the Andrea Meislin Gallery, summon up a slower, hazier era.

Igael Shemtov, “The Photo Album, Volume II, #77, 1978-1980.” Courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery
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