Jewish Arts

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Three Israeli real estate brokers, developers, and property managers based in Brooklyn were in the heart of the real estate boom prior to the big bust of 2008. They were buying dilapidated properties, renovating them, and then reselling them—usually to people who could only obtain loans through the controversial government-backed programs that encouraged property ownership even for those who could not afford it. What they saw were greedy mortgage brokers, shady developers, and likely inept or corrupted appraisers, and they witnessed firsthand the dealmaking on the ground to get these properties sold. It inspired them to write a screenplay and develop a story to share with the world—the 2015 movie “The Closer.” Eli Hershko, Isaac Broyn, and Victor Baranes have elevated themselves from unknown real estate entrepreneurs to the competitive world of Hollywood and the indie film market, writes film reviewer George Bishai.

There’s no one label for the deep, spiritual, funky, fun, and eclectic tunes of one of the hottest new Hassidic funk bands, Zusha. “What are we? What are you?” asks band member and guitarist Zachary Goldschmiedt, 24, over coffee in Jerusalem. Yes, they’re Jewish and Orthodox, with long beards and soulful eyes, but that’s where the labels stop. Zusha’s music is tough to define. Some call it hipster, others dub it Hassidic soul. It’s probably a combination of both of those genres. The band is in the midst of an international tour, celebrating its latest and second album, “Kavana,” which means intention in Hebrew. 

“What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site of the Jerusalem Biennale, as part of an installation called “Betrothal.” With exhibits taking over seven of the city’s most interesting public spaces, the Biennale adds a fresh dimension of culture and innovation to the city’s more traditional Sukkot activities.

These are Israeli folk songs as you’ve never heard them before. And that’s exactly the point: Los Angeles-based cantor Elisa Waltzman’s debut album seeks to bridge a gap between traditional Hebrew music sung by her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, and the musical sensibilities of her kids growing up in the United States. Set to a jazz ensemble, it combines verses remembered by children of the Holocaust with a modern sound familiar to Jews in the English-speaking world. But besides spanning generations, “Reinvented: Hebrew Songs for Families” is a family affair.

The 94th installment of Harvey Rachlin's comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

The 93rd installment of Harvey Rachlin's comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

The 92nd installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

In July 2014 in Jerusalem, sirens over the city at the beginning of the 50-day Gaza war forced the cancellation of the outdoor opening event of the Jerusalem International Film Festival. The festival went on despite several schedule changes and film celebrities who were last-minute no-shows, but the usual festive atmosphere was distinctly muted. This year, the July 9-19 festival was not without controversy, but bore none of last year’s tensions, with both the opening and closing events drawing large crowds at the Sultan’s Pool venue just below the walls of the Old City. This year’s most controversial film was “Beyond The Fear,” a documentary about the personal life of Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence in prison for the assassination of former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. 

The 91st installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

The 90th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

When Shahar Dori left his Haifa home at age 17 and made a 6,500-mile trip to Montgomery, Ala., to attend a summer ballet program, he was pursuing a dream. But he had no idea where it would lead. Dori, now 23, is the first Israeli ballet dancer to join the Houston Ballet, where he is earning recognition as a rising talent in the fiercely competitive ballet world. His journey from one port city, Haifa, to another, Houston, is a story of hard work, sacrifice, and the generosity and closeness of the Jewish community.

The 89th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters. Best-known for his slapstick humor, Lewis has made arguably as significant of a mark in philanthropy. As former national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he raised more than $2 billion and hosted a Labor Day l telethon for more than 40 years. “I think many people in later years associated [Lewis] much more with the telethon than with his comedy. This work makes a perfect companion to his work as a comedian and shows that laughs by themselves are not enough in life,” said Lawrence Epstein, author of “The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America.”

The 88th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

The 87th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

The 86th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

The 85th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

The 84th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

Eighty-one years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (May 8) formats of his latest album, “Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour,” which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Sharon Robinson, a background singer for decades with Cohen and author of the book “On Tour with Leonard Cohen,” calls Cohen “a thoughtful individual whose Jewish background is very much intact.” 

The 83rd installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.