With exactly a month left to go and see this glorious exhibition, Judi Herman takes listeners on an audio tour with curator Elizabeth Selby to whet appetites. There are dresses from different decades – Edwardian, flapper and home-made wartime austerity. There are invitations, menus and even dance cards. There’s a range of ketubot (Jewish marriage certificates) from different eras and from plain to highly decorated. There’s a gallery of glamorous photo portraits of happy couples by Boris – the doyen of wedding photographers – and of course his giant camera is on display too. There’s even a chance to stand under the chupah (Jewish wedding canopy)! Judi Herman got to do just that, as she and Elizabeth Selby explored the fascinating history of weddings within the Jewish community from the 1880s to the mid-20th century. So even if you can’t make it to the exhibition, this tour will make you feel as if you too have been invited to the wedding!
The January issue of Jewish Renaissance highlighted the life and work of Czech writer Franz Werfel, who played a significant part in bringing the Armenian genocide to the notice of both Europe and America after he came across survivors living in desperate conditions in Damascus in the late 1920s. He also wrote a devastating novel, based on a defiant stand by Armenian survivors, The Forty Days of Musah Dagh. Nonetheless, a century later, the terrible massacres that began in 1915 are still not universally recognized as genocide, to stand alongside the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide in the record of atrocities inflicted by humankind on their fellows.
In New York in a bachelor pad high over the Hudson River, cousins Liam and Daphna go head-to-head over a treasured heirloom left by their beloved grandfather, Poppy. Emotions are raw as they mourn his recent death and feelings run high – sometimes shockingly so – for at stake is not just Poppy’s Chai (a neck chain with the Hebrew letter that symbolises life), but a whole set of issues about family and identity and faith. Liam’s brother Jonah and his fiançée Melody don’t just watch from the sidelines either, but enter the fray as it becomes more scabrous and the battle more physical. Thus unfurls the dangerous, yet funny debut play by Joshua Harmon, which is now enjoying its third successful run – the second in London – at the Arts Theatre. Judi Herman caught up with cast members Jenna Augen (Daphna) and Ilan Goodman (Liam) to talk about battling it out live on stage.
By Judi Herman
Bad Jews runs until Saturday 30 May. 7.30pm & 2.30pm (Thu/Sat ony). £20-£49.50. Arts Theatre, Great Newport St, WC2H 7JB; 020 7836 8463. www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk
Director Gregory Doran is in no doubt that Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is the greatest American play of the 20th Century, addressing not only the heartbreaking conflicts within a family, but also bigger issues of national values and uncritical acceptance of the American Dream.
Mahogany Opera Group’s critically-acclaimed production of Hans Krása’s Brundibár – the 1938 short children’s opera famously performed in the World War II concentration camp Terezin (German Theresienstadt) – heads to Watford Palace Theatre this weekend. So Judi Herman sat in on a rehearsal and met with the director Frederic Wake-Walker, conductor Alice Farnham and two of the 40-odd talented children recruited for these performances; nine-year-old Erin Daniels, who plays Aninku and 14-year-old Ethan George, who plays her brother Pepíček. Brundibár the evil organ grinder thwarts them in their attempt to raise money by busking to buy milk for their sick mother – until some clever animals come to their aid, enlisting the help of the town’s children. It’s a story of the triumph of the poor and powerless over the big, strong and ruthless that resonated throughout the camp – which is just as powerful today.
By Judi Herman
Brundibár runs Saturday 18 – Sunday 19 April in Watford and Sunday 28 June in Norwich.
7pm (Sat), 3pm (Sun). £10, £8 children. Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Rd, WD17 1JZ; 019 2323 5455. www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk 2pm. £10, £6 concs. Norwich Playhouse, NR3 1AB; 016 0359 8598. www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk
With the General Election now officially underway, we have politics on our minds – in all its forms – for our April issue. From the revolutionary Yiddish poets who fired up the streets of East London, to the current crop of social activists who are committed to making the world a better place today. As our pieces show, there is an irrevocable link between Jews and political activism.
We also have an essay on Jewish voting patterns by Geoffrey Alderman; a discussion on the ethics of the ‘right to offend’ by Brian Klug, and a personal reflection by associate Times editor Daniel Finkelstein on whether being Jewish really matters when it comes to casting your vote. There’s a piece from Paris three months after the terrorist attacks there by a former Le Monde senior editor, Sylvain Cypel, and a piece by Dan Carrier about his great uncle Nat – one of the first English speakers to fire a shot in the Spanish Civil War. But if you’ve had enough of politics (already!) don’t despair, there’s plenty to keep you reading.
We’re celebrating two centenaries: one with the chair of the Ben Uri museum, David Glasser, who tells us how he rose from the mean streets of Glasgow to head one of the most exciting art venues in Europe; and on the eve of the Arthur Miller centenary, we’re asking why are there no Jews in the plays of one of the 20th-century’s greatest Jewish playwrights? There’s also klezmer from Leeds boys Tantz, an interview with new Israeli novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen and a report from the place to be on a Tuesday night in Manchester: the Menorah Film Club. Plus three month’s of cultural listings for the UK and abroad. With all that going on – don’t forget to vote!
To make a nuclear bomb, you assemble enriched uranium into a supercritical mass that starts an exponentially growing chain reaction. Tom Morton-Smith’s play assembles the team building the first nuclear bomb and shows the chain reaction that ensues amongst them. And just as a bomb needs a trigger, the “Manhattan Project” needed J Robert Oppenheimer.
The different faiths are rubbing along together until politics and money get in the way and then all sides justify their actions as religious duty and malicious antisemitism provides a rationale for action. Not the Middle East today but Malta circa 1565 in Marlowe’s play, The Jew of Malta.
It is Erev Rosh Hashana, and within an hour we will have 15 people at dinner. My wife, Deborah, is assured and organised, so there’s no frenzy in our household. Until, that is, just before logging off for the evening I received an email any writer would love.