If You’re Coming to See Regina Spektor or Anything Else at Israel@60 on the National Mall

Then stop by the Washington DCJCC’s Israeli Culture Pavillion (tent #3 on your map). The schedule of events includes:

12:15–Israeli Literature in Translation (read by Joel Snyder)

  • “At The Outset of the Day” by S.Y. Agnon
  • “An Autobiographical Note” by Amos Oz
  • excerpt from “The Lover” by A.B. Yehoshua

12:45–Short Films from the Best of the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem (Program Aleph)

  • Personal Goals by Ran Carmeli
  • Home by David Ofek
  • The Substitute by Talya Lavie

Continue reading

WJMF Sound Byte: Soulico Crew

Soulico CrewThe Washington Jewish Music Festival kick-off parties have a tremendous track record for picking hot up-and-coming artists, setting them in a cool DC club and then opening the doors for a slammin’ night of music and dancing. In the past the Kick-Off party has featured the likes of Y-Love, Yuri Lane and dj handler. Keeping with that hip-hop vibe, the Festival hosts its kick-off party this Saturday night, May 31 with DJ Crew Soulico at Station 9.

There isn’t a more interesting sub-genre of Jewish music right now than what’s happening in hip-hop, and Soulico’s DJ skills hit the trifecta of massive beats mixed with classic urban rhymes set against a host of middle eastern and Jewish melodies. It is the kind of music custom made for a warm Saturday night in late spring with a Tel Aviv nightclub vibe (complete with a 10pm start time) combined in a cool DC setting that can match anything else on the after-hours scene. It’s time to get your party on.

For a taste of what I’m talking about, check out the clip below, “Rock and Roll Bump” a mix of the classic 80s Israeli rock group T-Slam and Philadelphia hip-hop outfit Spank Rock.

WJMF Sound Byte: Ayelet Rose Gottlieb–How Beautiful You Are

Ayelet Rose GottliebWhenever you set out to compose and perform a song cycle set to “the erotic Biblical love poem of Song of Songs,” you better bring a voice equipped for the task. It is clear from a even a quick listen that Ayelet Rose Gottlieb has the chops to pull off such an endeavor when she performs on Sunday evening, June 1 at Bohemian Caverns as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival. 

Because of its biblical origins, Song of Songs often gets kid-glove treatment, especially when it comes to some of its steamier sequences. I’ve always been a fan of those who are able to incorporate the sensuality inherent in the text without either de-sexing it or erring in the other direction and making it sound like a letter to Penthouse forum. Rose Gottlieb’s pipes and the accompanying instrumentation seem to do the trick and while the clip below isn’t from her album Mayim Rabim, it does show off the expressiveness of her voice. The clip is What’s Done is Done off her 2004 album Internal-External.


WJMF Sound Byte: Davka and The Golem

Daniel Hoffman and Davka perform their live score for The GolemI remember shortly around the time I graduated from college I started hearing from friends about how if you turned the volume off while watching the movie The Wizard of Oz and substituted Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon as the soundtrack, the two lined up with amazing results. The resulting phenomenon has been alternately called The Wizard of Floyd and Dark Side of the Rainbow.

It blew our minds that it worked so well–a movie from 1939 reinterpreted thanks to an album released in 1973 which we enjoyed at the height of our slackerdom in the early 1990s. It taught me a powerful lesson of how music can heighten the sensation of film watching.

Better however, than hearing canned music accompanying a DVD, is the visceral experience of hearing a live ensemble accompanying a film projected through celluloid onto a cinema screen. That’s what Daniel Hoffman and Davka will be doing when they perform their live score to the silent movie classic The Golem at the Washington Jewish Music Festival on Tuesday, June 3.

The GolemIt is another opportunity to appreciate the musical genius that is Daniel Hoffman’s, who is also the composer of David in Shadow and Light and currently performing five times a week in the band accompanying the show (I’d call it the pit orchestra except that they perform on a platform above the stage). Click below for a little taste of what you’ll hear as Daniel is reunited with his longtime band members from Davka. The clip is “Florian’s Theme” from their live soundtrack for The Golem.

Shabbat Surfing: One Week To Go

There was a lot of hubub this week about how the National Mall is a disgrace. Like this blogger, we couldn’t disagree more. And with next week’s enormous Israel @ 60 Capital Celebration on the Mall featuring Regina Spektor, Mandy Patinkin, Mashina and characters from Sesame Street, we hope to restore the proud reputation of the Mall. Oh, and note to self, good choice not including Jackie Mason.

The news that Israel is in negotiations for a peace treaty with Syria adds an ironic postscript to President Bush’s comments to the Israeli Knesset last week about “appeasement” and make this guy look even dumber.

Rabbi Mordechai Rackover of Beth Shalom Congregation in Potomac begins a guest blogging gig at the Jew and the Carrot by lamenting the kosher dining scene in the area as “kosher culinary hell.” He’s on a quest for “deeper flavor profiles and ecstatic moments with well-crafted sausages and cheeses (just not at the same time) and really amazing wine.”

Finally, annoy a theater critic. Go see David In Shadow and Light.

Passing Marks–Getting Beyond Critics in a One-Daily Town

Part of the deal of presenting arts in a city with only one widely-read daily newspaper is that your fortunes become inextricably tied to your coverage in that paper. This cuts both ways. When the coverage is good we prosper, praise the generous and wise coverage bestowed upon us and send links to the positive press in mass emails. When the coverage is not so good, which is to say either critically negative or non-existent, we suffer. We curse the folly of investing so much authority in one publication. We snidely remind ourselves that newspapers are a dying medium anyway with steeply declining circulations, ad revenues and prospects. But we don’t argue the call. Not publicly anyway. To do so is an implicit violation of the deal. Peeing in the well from which you’ll eventually need a drink.

The situation meets its absurd (il)logical end in the theater, where the voice of one critic in particular, hugely impacts the success of a show. Following the jubilation of the great feature article on Sunday, came today’s harsh reality and a heavily negative review from Peter Marks for David in Shadow and Light. He calls it “a ponderous mishmash.” He derides the music as “meandering” and “atonal,” the lyrics as “doggerel” and the production in general as “turgid.” It was a pretty harsh review, as these things go–especially harsh when you consider this was a new work with (I think) a lot of merit. And so, with all due respect to Mr. Marks, we disagree.

The music Marks found meandering and atonal, I actually find quite melodic and complex. Daniel Hoffman’s music draws on middle eastern rhythms that are built differently than the chord, chorus and tonal structure of your average, western musical. To call it “atonal” brings to mind Schoenberg’s critique of the term that, “it is on a par with calling flying ‘the art of not falling,’ or swimming ‘the art of not drowning.'” Which is to say that the review judges the music for what it is not without ever investing a serious consideration of what it is. The critic has every right to consider and reject, but where was the consideration? Continue reading

Waiting on David…

While we’re all on tenterhooks waiting for the Washington Post review of David In Shadow and Light we can enjoy this feature piece from yesterday’s Post.

As this might suggest, the narrative approach is epic — scratch that, cosmic — in scope. Hyman and Hoffman think only a wide canvas can capture what is most intriguing about David, namely his inconsistencies: the machismo and the artistry (David played the harp); the piety and the sin (after seducing Bathsheba, he engineered her husband’s death); the power and the vulnerability; the shadow and light.

“Essentially he’s a murderer, and yet he’s our great hero,” Hyman concurs.

“He embodies the best and worst of humanity,” says the Tel Aviv-based Hoffman, who performed in Theater J’s “God’s Donkey” and “Shlemiel the First.”

Read the full article here

This Week at the 16th Street J

A sampling of program highlights from the upcoming week at the 16th Street J:

Monday, May 19

About The Body7:30 pm–The Screening Room presents: About The Body. When a terrorist attack occurs, the dead are mourned, the calls for vengeance are issued and eventually, the news cycle churns on. But what of those whose lives, whose physical bodies have been forever changed by the trauma? How does a young woman regain a sense of comfort and joy in her damaged body? This extraordinary documentary follows 12 such young women, recovering from injuries sustained in attacks, participating in a movement workshop run by Israeli Prize winning dancer Ohad Naharin. Following the screening will be a discussion with Steve Shafarman, creator of FlexAware™ for movement and healing.

Tuesday, May 20

7:30 pm–Nextbook presents: Amy Bloom. The National Book Award finalist (for her premiere book of stories, Come To Me) and psychoanalyst reads from her most recent novel Away. The final Nextbook event of the season.

Wednesday, May 21

7:30 pm–Introduction to Judaism. One of our most popular classes begins a new 6-week session covering the basics of Jewish ethics, philosophy and observances. If Wednesdays don’t work for you consider the Thursday night session beginning June 5.

Thursday, May 22

6:00 pm–Step-N-Sculpt with Lynda. Memorial Day is around the corner. The beach beckons. Are you ready?

Sunday, May 25

7:30 pm–The Chaim Kempner Author Series Presents: Jewish Major Leaguers. Who have they been? What have they accomplished? And why do we care so much? Featuring: Mark Lerner, Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals, Stan Kasten, President of the Washington Nationals, Dr. Martin Abramowitz, President of Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc., and Aviva Kempner, director of the award-winning documentary The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.

Will Elder z”l

Little Annie FannyHe was a crucial founding contributor to the greatest magazine ever.

He lampooned the shiksa goddess in the very pages that made her an icon.

He had a sense of humor that was vulgar, subversive and knew the value of “schmaltz.”

May his memory be a perverse blessing.


By Adam Bernstein

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 17, 2008; Page B06

Will Elder, 86, an early cartoonist for Mad magazine who spent 25 years illustrating Playboy’s “Little Annie Fanny” strip, which parodied the magazine’s fetish for buxom women, died May 15 at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, N.J. He had Parkinson’s disease.

Started in 1952, Mad magazine became a popular antidote to conformity and good taste. With humor ranging from wry to blasphemous, Mad was credited with inspiring generations of satirists, including the Zucker Brothers, creators of the parody “Airplane!” and cartoonist Robert Crumb. It also paved the way for television programs such as “Saturday Night Live.”

William Gaines, the first publisher of Mad, once described Mr. Elder as “our only contributor who lived a life as crazy as our magazine.”

He was a graduate of Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art and helped make maps for the Normandy invasion during World War II. But more important, he had a well-established reputation as an inspired joker.

Among the pranks that earned the young Mr. Elder renown: putting clothes on cattle carcasses from a meat-processing factory, placing them at railroad crossings and screaming to horrified passersby that his friend “Moshe” had been killed.

Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman, a high school classmate of the artist, had tapped Mr. Elder as one of the first staff illustrators. Among a certain set, Mr. Elder became a household name along with Dave Berg, Al Jaffee, Mort Drucker and Don Martin.

Mr. Elder’s contributions to the comic books included a memorable series of panels featuring the hapless prisoner Melvin Mole. He uses a spoon, a toothpick and finally a nasal hair (“Dig! Dig!”) before his inevitable recapture.

Critic J. Hoberman of the Village Voice praised Mr. Elder as the “master of vulgar modernism” and pointed to the artist’s mind-bending sight gags that ignored panel boundaries and other rules of the craft.

Mr. Elder skewered everything from comics such as Archie (renamed “Starchie”) to Norman Rockwell’s depictions of a cheery hearth.

Visual puns were another specialty, such as the red, white and blue beanie he placed atop Wonder Woman’s costume in a parody. Mr. Elder called such touches “chicken fat art,” explaining, “It’s the part of the chicken soup that’s bad for you, yet gives the soup its delicious flavor.”

The son of Polish immigrants, Wolf William Eisenberg was born Sept. 22, 1921, in Bronx, N.Y.

Over the radio, he grew up admiring the Jewish humor of Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor and George Burns and Gracie Allen. He used humor to disarm neighborhood bullies and command attention as the youngest of five children.

Relatives nicknamed him “Meshugganah Villy,” Yiddish for “Crazy Willy.” He once blackened the soles of his father’s shoes and used a broomstick to “walk” them across the ceiling of his home. Another time, he thwarted an annoying visitor by painting a realistic door and fastening a doorknob, and the woman thrashed away helplessly at the knob.

Shabbat Surfing–Holy Cow!

Israel celebrated its 60th this week with a giant gab fest hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres that featured not only President Bush, but many prominent Jewish intellectuals, philanthropists, writers and policy makers. Two blog entries had markedly different reactions to a panel on Jewish identity that featured Leon Wieseltier. Mixed Multitudes appreciated Wieseltier’s comments on Jewish identity for which he drew on Pirkei Avot and stated, “Jewish identity is precisely what is not inherited.” Meanwhile, Mobius, the Orthodox Anarchist reacted to the (presumably) same panel, calling it “infuriating” and that it “further concretized my belief that Jewish leadership is completely out of touch with the greater Jewish public.” I am curious if there is audio or video from this panel discussion anywhere online?

Meanwhile, the fur is still flying in Postville, IA where the big kosher slaughterhouse was raided earlier this week. Rabbi Moses Weissmandel, the supervising Rabbi at the plant reached out to the JTA’s blog to tamp down rumors that workers at the plant were producing drugs and that other rabbis on-site were abusing the workers. The Jew & the Carrot posted information and an appeal to help the families of the detained workers who are suddenly without means of support. They make the case for helping quite clear, “Anyone who has ever eaten kosher meat in this country has benefited from the hard, poorly compensated work these people have done, and now that they are in desperate need it is our turn to help.”

On the much lighter side, Jeffrey Goldberg followed up his very serious interview with Barack Obama with a riff on one of the more curious comments that Obama made:

I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and writers, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my sensibility, or some of the more popular writers like Leon Uris.

Goldberg challenged readers of his blog to write a short, 100 word-piece of what a Roth-influenced Obama Presidency would look like. The results are fairly hilarious.

Finally, a call has been put out for essays and scholarly articles from queer Jewish women about the interesection of their queer-Jewish identity.

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