Jewish Literary Links: Shavua Tov Edition

Normally, I post my link compilations on Friday morning, before Shabbat. But this week, I made so many worthy discoveries after I prepared the Friday post that I am compelled to present a second batch. Let’s consider it the “Shavua Tov” edition!

  • First, as mentioned here yesterday, The Forward has announced a poetry contest commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
  • Also from The Forward (via the Arty Semite blog): three poems by Alicia Ostriker.
  • And The Forward‘s Arty Semite blog has also given us this gem: an update on author Imre Kertész. NB: Benjamin Ivry’s post is in English, but if you understand Hungarian or French, you’ll also be able to appreciate the video.
  • One reason I found the Kertész post so striking is that I’ve recently finished reading Ruth Franklin’s sharp new book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, which features a chapter devoted to the Hungarian Nobel literature laureate. Franklin will be interviewed by James Young at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City on Wednesday, January 12. Details about the event can be found online.
  • Big thanks to the Jewish Women’s Archive for compiling the #JWA100, a list of more than 100 Jewish women who tweet.
  • Finally, on Twitter and elsewhere, many of us are sending healing thoughts to Debbie Friedman, the acclaimed Jewish songwriter who has been hospitalized in serious condition. See the URJ homepage for more information. And, returning to The Forward, you can read about efforts and prayers in her honor.
  • Happy Birthday, Jewish Quarterly Review

    From the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia: “The Jewish Quarterly Review is holding a conference, ‘Journals & Jewish Intellectual Life: The Jewish Quarterly Review at 100’  in honor of its 100th anniversary Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Museum.  The conference is free and open to the public.  Space is limited and registration is required.  For more information or to register, visit

    Screenings of “Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh”

    I really thought that I’d blogged about attending a screening of “Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh” last spring, but I’m not finding anything in the blog archive. Which astonishes me, because I have spent so much time thinking (and talking) about that film in all the months since. I also bought Hannah Senesh’s diary, which remains patiently waiting on my nightstand for my close attention.

    In any case, I’ve also been thinking about Senesh more recently because a new addition to my to-do list is going downtown to the Museum of Jewish Heritage to see the just-opened exhibition, “Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh.” Fortunately, I have some time: “Fire in My Heart” runs into August 2011. But I may go earlier–especially if I think I can withstand the emotional intensity of re-watching the documentary I saw last spring–because the MJHNYC is going to offer several free screenings with paid museum admission. Here are the details:

    “In conjunction with the new exhibition, Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh, the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will be offering screenings of Roberta Grossman’s award-winning film Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (2008, USA, 85 min.), a documentary about the World War II-era poet, diarist, and resistance fighter. The film, which is narrated by acclaimed actress Joan Allen, is the first documentary feature about Hannah Senesh’s extraordinary life.

    The screenings will take place at 11 a.m. and at 1 p.m. on October 31, November 21, 28, and December 19. Tickets are free with Museum admission and can be picked up at the box office on the day of the screening. For more information about the exhibition, please visit”

    One more thing: You don’t quite realize how lasting Senesh’s legacy is until you hear Israeli schoolchildren–including children of Ethiopian Jewish descent–singing Eli, Eli at the Leo Baeck Education Center’s school in Haifa. As I did less than three weeks ago.

    Next Week in NYC: Chaim Grade Symposium

    Just learned about this via a Center for Jewish History e-newsletter:

    YIVO Institute for Jewish research presents:
    Chaim Grade Memorial on the 100th Anniversary of his Birth
    4:30pm | Screening of the film The Quarrel
    6:30pm | Symposium
    On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Chaim Grade, one of the great Yiddish poets and novelists of the 20th century, Ruth Wisse will discuss Grade’s works; Allan Nadler will discuss the milieu that Grade grew up in; Jonathan Brent will describe his recent experience examining Grade’s library and papers; and recorded remarks by Curt Leviant will be shown. The symposium will be preceded at 4:30 pm by a screening of the English-language film The Quarrel (Canada, 1991) based on Grade’s story “My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner.” An exhibition of Grade’s books, manuscripts, and letters from the YIVO archives and library will be on display.
    Admission: Free, RSVP to or 917-606-8290

    Journal Editor to Speak at Museum of Jewish Heritage

    Received from NYC’s Museum of Jewish Heritage:

    On Wednesday, July 14 at 7 p.m., as part of the popular Terrace Talks series, editor Joshua Ellison will discuss his groundbreaking, Habitus: A Diaspora Journal, which Library Journal praises for its “exemplary creative and journalistic work.” Habitus is an international journal of Diaspora literature and global Jewish culture that was first published in 2005. The conversation between Ellison and author André Aciman (Eight White Nights, 2010) will focus on whether New York City —especially Manhattan —is the new Jerusalem, or if the very question is sacrilegious. This fascinating conversation will take place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

    Each issue of Habitus focuses on a different city, penetrating deep into the emotional and political substance of the urban environment. Cities that have been featured in the magazine include New Orleans, Moscow, and Buenos Aires. As Ellison wrote in the introduction to the first issue: “Habitus is not just about cataloguing distinctions. It’s a way of using the whole world as raw material for creating a more complete picture of ourselves.”

    Tickets are $5 and free for members. Tickets are available online at or by calling the Museum box office at 646.437.4202.

    Terrace Talks feature authors presented in one of the Museum’s beautiful spaces with stunning views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

    Live and "Virtual" Literary Events to Share

    The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York has announced its May-August programs, which feature a number of book- and literary-focused events. Participating authors include Louis Begley, Ruth Reichl, Daphne Merkin, Kai Bird, Dani Shapiro, and Judith Shulevitz (among others).

    Also announced this week: the “downloadable festival” from London’s Jewish Book Week. “All sessions are one hour long with the exception of the 8.30 pm ones which can last up to an hour and a half and the morning workshops.” An amazing lineup to enjoy and learn from at your leisure.

    Filmmaker Pierre Sauvage in NYC

    On Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend an extraordinary “double-feature” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Here’s how the two films–both from acclaimed filmmaker Pierre Sauvage–were billed:

    And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry in Marseille (USA, forthcoming in 2011, digital video)

    Sauvage presents a preview of his documentary about the most successful private American rescue effort during the Nazi era. The mission led by a New York intellectual Varian Fry helped some 2,000 people escape from France, including many scholars and artists.

    Not Idly By: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust (USA, 2009, digital video, 40 minutes)

    Post-screening discussion with Pierre Sauvage interviewed by author and Vanity Fair writer-at-large Marie Brenner.

    This film presents the challenging testimony of a militant Palestinian Jew who spent the war years in the U.S. leading a group that struggled to make saving the Jews of Europe an American objective. The controversial Peter Bergson is given his posthumous say as he castigates American Jewish leaders at the time for failing to pressure the American government to save European Jews.

    I’ve been a fan of Pierre Sauvage’s work since I saw Weapons of the Spirit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts 20 years ago. (A paper I wrote about that film and Louis Malle’s Au revoir les enfants helped convince an esteemed professor to take me on as an undergraduate thesis advisee; I am proud to still count that professor as one of my dearest friends.) And having the chance to see Marie Brenner interview him was an additional lure (and kept me going to the Museum of Jewish Heritage even when the NYC subway system seemed determined to stop me).

    The Varian Fry film is not yet complete. Fry’s story, with which I became familiar in my doctoral research on Franco-American relations during the WWII era, is one that should certainly be better known. The excerpt we saw on Sunday was great; I look forward to seeing the completed film.

    The Peter Bergson film is, in Brenner’s words, “shocking.” Yes, it can be difficult (and unfair) to judge others’ actions when separated by decades. And, as with so much else related to the war years, one is ill-advised to make categorical statements. But after seeing this film, it’s hard not to think that American Jews–particularly American Jews in high places–could have done more to save their coreligionists in Europe. Peter Bergson’s story is deeply disturbing. Screenings will continue this spring at various film festivals (Los Angeles, Toronto, Warsaw, Zagreb are currently listed). Try to see it.

    Jewish Literary Events Galore

    So many events coming up! Here’s a sampling:

    March 21, in NYC: Park Avenue Synagogue presents the book launch of The Prophet’s Wife, the unfinished novel of Milton Steinberg. Includes a symposium on March 21. See also details about Anita Diamant’s lecture on “Reimagining the Bible: Fiction, Women, and the Power of Untold Stories,” on Friday evening, March 20.

    April 9, in NYC: “New Perspectives on Jewish Writing with Gary Shteyngart and Amy Sohn,” a discussion moderated by Joshua Lambert and followed by a Shabbat dinner.

    May 23-25, in Honesdale, Pa.: This exciting workshop on Writing Jewish-Themed Children’s Books is, I hear, sold out. But you never know! If you’re interested, maybe there’s a waitlist. Even if you can’t attend, we’ll have a follow-up guest post here on My Machberet from workshop leader Barbara Krasner to give you the post-conference scoop.

    Ending June 15, in Tel Aviv: This Ha’aretz article introduces an exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum on poet, playwright, and translator Nathan Alterman.