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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



What Will We Do if Trump Is the Next President?

Apr8

by: on April 8th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Dorothy Thompson in 1920

In late 1931, Dorothy Thompson, then one of the US’s most respected foreign correspondents, interviewed Adolf Hitler. She spoke of “the startling insignificance of this man.” Although she could foresee the possibility that he would create a coalition government with centrist politicians, she nonetheless said: “it is highly improbable that in this case he will succeed in putting through any of his more radical plans.” Within a year of the article’s publication, he began doing exactly that. In 1934, after writing many articles against Hitler and exposing the reign of terror he instituted, she was the first foreign correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany.[Source]

In 1922, when Italy’s king reluctantly invited Mussolini to form a government after the liberal prime minister resigned, he didn’t imagine that Mussolini would dismantle democratic institutions and establish a dictatorship that would last about twelve years. He and his advisors apparently were hoping that Mussolini’s popularity within the military might support them in their attempt to “restore law and order in the country, but failed to foresee the danger of a totalitarian evolution.”[Source]

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Agenda 21 for Culture

Apr8

by: on April 8th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Ed Carroll, a friend in Europe, sent me a query:”How come there was not one mayor in the USA that was prompted to submit an application to the Agenda 21 for culture? … The absence on the Map is quite extraordinary.”

My reply? “What a good question!”

“The map” is a graphic on the international award page for cities and regional and local governments that have adopted cultural policies “linking the values of culture (heritage, diversity, creativity and transmission of knowledge) with democratic governance, citizen participation and sustainable development.”

This time around, 83 cities and local governments submitted proposals.As you will see when you click on the map, not a single one came from the United States.

You could say this is unsurprising, since no U.S.-based local government association takes part in the sponsoring organization, the committee on culture of the world association of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), “the global platform of cities, organizations and networks to learn, to cooperate and to launch policies and programmes on the role of culture in sustainable development.” Its mission is “to promote culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development through the international dissemination and the local implementation of Agenda 21 for culture.”

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Fiddler on My Mind

Apr5

by: Roslyn Bernstein on April 5th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Theatre Marquis. Photo: Shael Shapiro

Fiddler on the Roof has been on my mind these days, the plaintive strains of the violinist leading me uptown to the New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), then midtown to experience the current revival of the musical on Broadway starring Danny Burstein, and finally back to the MCNY on March 28th to hear a lively panel on Reimagining Fiddler.

The lights dimmed and the actors who play Tevye’s rebellious daughters, Chava, Tzeitel and Hudel, appeared on stage, belting out Matchmaker, as the warm-up act for a panel moderated by the exhibit’s guest curator, Edna Nahshon, a Professor of Jewish Theater and Drama at The Jewish Theological Seminary. The lyrics were perfect, Sheldon Harnick at his best, with clever rhymes—”I’ll bring the veil, you bring the groom, slender and pale”—and puns at the end. The audience smiled when the sisters delivered the line: “Playing with matches a girl can get hurt.”

My memory flashed back to 1965 when I saw the original musical, one year after it opened in 1964, with Zero Mostel commanding the stage. Fiddler broke records and ran for over 3,000 performances.

The big question of the evening: Why was Fiddler such a sensation?

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The UC Regents and Anti-Semitism: A Q&A with Judith Butler

Apr4

by: Ben Rowen on April 4th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

There has been a lot of discussion, and furor, about a recent statement approved by the University of California Board of Regents.

The original statement of “principles against intolerance” contained language both condemning anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the UC system.

“Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California,” the proposed statement read.

The language asserting anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and discrimination became the center of debate about free speech and the suppression of political viewpoints. Jewish Voice for Peace, California Scholars for Academic Freedom, and activist Judith Butler, among many others, all voiced opposition to the clause.

The UC Board of Regents eventually approved a revised draft of the statement. The language about anti-Zionism was changed to: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

Tikkun reached out to Butler to discuss the revised statement, free speech, and anti-Semitism on UC campuses. Below is our Q & A.

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After the Delegation

Mar31

by: Talia Bornstein on March 31st, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Al-Quds University (Source: Keleti, Transferred from he.wikipedia)

The first time I went to Israel, I was two. Since then I have returned for various different reasons. But it wasn’t until my gap year that I realized that Israel, a place I had the privilege of traveling to over six times, was at the center of a conflict I knew almost nothing about. On my gap year I took classes on the conflict, traveled to the West Bank, visited Israeli settlements, and learned about the complexities within Israeli society regarding ethnicity and religion. I returned from my year in Israel with the intention and determination to advocate for a two state solution, voice the reality of Palestinians’ lack of human rights, and fight for Israel’s tarnishing image.

But once I settled back into my apartment in New York, I realized that the in-depth global experience I had in Israel was not quite as well-rounded as I thought it was. I left Israel without ever having had an intentional conversation with a Palestinian. How was it possible that I lived in West Jerusalem for a year yet never even stepped foot in Palestinian East Jerusalem?

I was eager to begin my freshman year at Brandeis, where the conversation on Israel and Palestine dominates campus politics. But once I got here, I was disappointed to learn that I would not have the opportunity to engage with Palestinians’ narratives as I would have had several years earlier, before the suspension of Brandeis’ partnership with Palestinian Al-Quds University. Without this partnership, Palestinian narratives are scarcely represented at Brandeis.

In 2013, President Lawrence suspended Brandeis’ ties with Al-Quds in response to an Islamic-Jihad affiliated political rally held on the Al-Quds campus by a small group of students. Despite the Al-Quds administration’s condemnation of the protest, Brandeis suspended its ties indefinitely. Though Brandeis’ administration is unwilling to restore contact with Al-Quds, students from each school have maintained this valuable relationship for two and half years. The Brandeis-Al-Quds Student Dialogue Initiative (B-AQU SDI) is comprised of students from each university, working to take steps toward renewing our universities’ relations. 

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What Can We Learn from the Presidential Race?

Mar23

by: Michael Nagler on March 23rd, 2016 | 2 Comments »

I have never voted Republican, but I stand with those Republicans today who are aghast at what Donald Trump has done to the level of political discourse in this country and the future of their party.  I also stand with the smaller number – but I will have more to say on this in a second – who realize that Mr. Trump did not spring from nowhere but is in fact the logical extension of the direction in which this party has been going for some time.  After all, as Rosalyn Carter said astutely of then-Governor Reagan when her husband was running against him, “The trouble with that man is that he makes us feel good about our prejudices.”  Is this not exactly what Mr. Trump is doing?  The only thing different now is the greater openness of the appeal to egotism and prejudice.  And therein lies its value as a teaching moment.  A number of people, most recently the President of Mexico (of whom I’m not otherwise an admirer) have compared Mr. Trump to Hitler.  Well, to use an important term in the field of peace studies and nonviolence, Hitler inadvertently did one useful thing: he delegitimized racism by carrying it out on such a scale that the world was shocked.  To delegitimize is not necessarily to eliminate – that takes a bit more work; but the possibility here, if we would only make use of it, is that this year’s campaign could delegitimize prejudice, vulgarity, and incivility (they’re closely connected).  As conservative columnist E.R. Dionne writes (March 7, 2016), “the crudest, most vulgar, and most thoroughly disgusting campaign in our nation’s history.”  It has therefore created an opportunity for us to restore some dignity to our political culture.

To do that, however, we have to get deeper into what is driving this race to the bottom that has made this year’s campaign a national disgrace.

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A Third Party the Dems and GOP Can Get Behind: Alzheimer’s Party

Mar22

by: Trish Vradenburg on March 22nd, 2016 | Comments Off

My role in life has been to cancel my husband’s vote. George grew up in Colorado – God’s country as he calls it – where being a Republican is served with mother’s milk.  I, on the other hand, was raised in New Jersey, the Garden State, populated with people who, after hearing both sides of every argument, chose to be Democrats.

And then we met each other and, well, somehow in the heat of passion I forgot to ask about party affiliation. Not that it would have been a deal breaker since I assumed that once we married I could break George’s silly habit of voting with the elephants. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This was particularly mystifying since we generally share the same values.

But then we found our true purpose in life. In 2010 we started UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, a nonprofit devoted to stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s by 2020. This is what our goal is and we are making progress.  And, happily, that goal has solved our split party problem as well.

Alzheimer’s disease is a problem expected to grow in the years ahead.

Now we are neither Democrats nor Republicans. Now we are The Alzheimer’s Party.  Just as this disease is equal opportunity: Ds or Rs; rich or poor; male or female, African-American, Latino or white — we all are at risk.

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Philip Roth’s Warning About US Fascism

Mar22

by: Arthur J. Magida on March 22nd, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Cover of Roth's "The Plot Against America"

Slightly more than a decade ago, Philip Roth warned how fascism would come to America – legally, of course, since we’re a nation of laws, and attached to a hero, a legend, a star: the aviator ex machina himself, Charles Lindbergh, since Roth was writing about the U.S. in the late 30’s and early 40s, the years when Lucky Lindy’s popularity peaked.

Roth cautioned about all this in his 2004 novel, The Plot Against America — an almost plausible schematic of a Nazi takeover of the United States. We foolishly paid no heed to Roth’s prophecy because we’re supposedly too smart, too wedded to democracy, too cynical of salesmen pitching quickie panaceas, and too… well, too gosh darn decent to let that Nazi stuff sully our certainty that we’re a beacon for the world, a gleaming city on a hill. No way, we crowed, thumping our chests in pride: it can’t happen here.

But if a “beautiful wall” is built along the Rio Grande, and Muslims are barred from coming here, and white supremacists set up camp in the Oval Office, and libel laws make it criminal to criticize the government, and female dignity is dialed back decades, and journalists and minorities are roughed up daily, then it can happen here. At that point, our homeland, as one of Roth’s characters says, “will be nothing more than our birthplace” – our sweet land not of liberty, but of fear and dread and constant, around the clock, never-ending apprehension. There’ll be no pursuit of happiness. Only a pursuit for the hills so we can get away from the madness ignited, as another character laments, by a “goyische idiot.”

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Review: From the Bowery to Broadway

Mar22

by: Roslyn Bernstein on March 22nd, 2016 | Comments Off

Edna Nahshon in front of blowup picture: Frank Sinatra and his agent pose with posters of Yiddish Stars Menasha Skulnik and Miriam Kressyn outside The Second Avenue Theater, c.1943 Original photograph, Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Mrs. Menasha Skulnik

Donald Trump and Yiddish Theater? An unlikely duo. But, in 1970, as a wannabe Broadway producer, Trump did back “Paris Is Out!,” a comedy featuring American-born Molly Picon, the iconic actress of the Yiddish stage whose slim, agile physique often resulted in gender-bending, with her playing young boys, though, she always was revealed as a woman and got her man.

While Trump’s Broadway backing was a flop, one of many failed ventures, Picon was very much a star, beloved by Yiddish speaking audiences who first crowded the theaters in the Bowery and later, after moving uptown, theaters in the Jewish Rialto, the Second Avenue Entertainment Center, to see plays that were written here about there. A new exhibit up at the Museum of the City of New York, New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway, guest curated by Edna Nahshon, an author and Professor of Jewish Theatre and Drama at The Jewish Theological Seminary, tells this story in an engaging way, relying on both a chronological and thematic design.

“Yiddish theater is an immigrant theater, where playwrights construct a conversation with their memories,” Nahshon explained as she walked through the show. Beginning in Rumania in 1876 when Abraham Goldfaden wrote a little story to accompany two singers who were performing in a wine garden, the genre became immediately popular. Goldfaden soon started his own successful traveling theater company.

Six years later, the new entertainment form arrived in New York, settling in the Bowery, accompanied by an avalanche of immigrants, many of them talented actors. Both the audience and the actors of Goldfaden’s The Witch, the first Yiddish production in New York (and in America) were recent arrivals from the czarist empire. It was a moment when peoples’ lives were difficult and they craved amusement. There was no radio, or movies until the early 1900′s and certainly no TV. The earliest Yiddish stage productions were designed to play upon people’s emotions; poignant melodramas that tugged at the heart strings.

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All Disasters Are Miracles

Mar21

by: Rabbi Eliahu Klein on March 21st, 2016 | Comments Off

(A work of fiction)

Fifteen inmates showed up for today’s Jewish services. Seven inmates were Jewish, seven were a mixture of African American and seven were Latino. I, Jewish Chaplain Weitz, talked about the history of the Jews as it relates to the miraculous and enigmatic Purim story.

“Has anybody ready the Book of Esther in the Bible?” I announced to the attendees in the prison chapel. There were no hands today; I began to introduce the history of King Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem. How tens of thousands of Jews were sent into exile and were forced to live in Babylon. And how the story of Purim took place right before the return of the Jews under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. McAllister, a black inmate, yelled out:

“Rabbi, with all due respect, this sounds like one more ancient story. I don’t want to hear another sob story. What’s the real meaning of the story Purim?”

I turned to him. “That’s a great question,” I said, “I believe it’s a narrative that shows how God manifests in many ways. In Biblical times people believed in miracles that broke the rules of nature. These revealed miracles manifested as clear as day; a miracle manifested and the rules of nature were broken.  There are other miracles, whereby one can’t tell that there was a miracle; however, one knows that a miracle did happen. This is called a concealed miracle. There is God revealed and God concealed.  God revealed is God revealing Himself as it were, to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God concealed is God during the Holocaust.”

As I was speaking I looked around the room and tried to gauge how my guys were taking all this in. I could tell something was missing. I could feel they weren’t getting what I was saying. There was silence. The dead silence of no understanding. The silence of dead souls yearning to be awakened.

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