CINEMATTERS: N.Y. SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM FESTIVAL
Isaac Zablocki, who heads the already impressive film program at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, is adding to his cinematic reach with a brand-new festival. This one, timed to the MLK Day commemoration on Jan. 20, throws a spotlight on issues of social justice. The N.Y. Social Justice Film Festival takes its place alongside The Other Israel festival, which highlights stories from the Jewish state’s marginalized communities; the ReelAbilities festival, which showcases films about physically and mentally challenged people; and the Israel Film Center festival, which focuses on new Israeli releases.
Zablocki told us recently that he’s interested in “the use of film as a way of engaging our community on topics that might otherwise not be easy to discuss.” The new festival, which kicks off a four-day run of films and programs on Jan. 16, touches on Dr. King’s legacy (one is a talk titled “The Talmud of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”), African-Americans and the criminal justice system, the Trump administration’s Muslim ban, the travails of transgender athletes, and more. (See Film listings for highlights.) — Jan. 16-20, Marelene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., jccmanhattan.org.
HOW MANY BUSHELS
AM I WORTH?
Hard to believe it’s been 50 years since the first wave of Jewish immigrants from the FSU arrived on these shores. Now comes the New York premiere of Kevin Olson and Soviet émigré Bena Shklyanoy’s “How Many Bushels Am I Worth?” (The title refers to the U.S.-U.S.S.R. trade deal of the 1970s that tied the exchange of American goods such as wheat to the release of Soviet Jews.) Through the lens of the Shklyanoys’ emigration, the play highlights a unique time in Jewish history: when establishment organizations and grass-roots advocacy groups coalesced to secure the release of Soviet Jews. “We didn’t know a soul, and just followed blindly,” Shklyanoy said of her immigration to Chicago with her husband and two young daughters. — Jan. 16-19, 23-26, Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center, 160 Schermerhorn St., Brooklyn, appledoesnotfall.com. $30.
Mounting plays, especially overtly political ones, by Palestinian playwrights in New York City has been a dicey proposition over the years (see “My Name is Rachel Corrie”). But the set-up for Amir Nizar Zuabi’s “Grey Rock” — a Palestinian man is so enthralled by the 1969 NASA moon landing that he begins to build a space rocket in his shed — gives it a less political and more allegorical cast. Zuabi told The New York Times that the moon landing “encapsulated all of the American values … the bravura, the nothing-is-impossible attitude, the technological superiority. It’s almost a reversal of who we are.” — Through Saturday, Jan. 19, The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. (Astor Place), publictheater.org.
MISS AMERICA’S UGLY DAUGHTER
Barra Grant stars in her two-character, one-woman autobiographical show about growing up as the un-pageant-ready daughter of Bess Meyerson, the first and so far only Jewish Miss America, and then having a daughter of her own. The Los Angeles Times calls the play “harrowing, heartbreaking, hilarious comic gold. — Through March 1, Margorie Dean Little Theater, 10 W. 64th St., missamericasuglydaughter.com. $49-$89.
CINEMATTERS: NY SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM FESTIVAL
Films, Shabbat and advocacy events, a service fair and panels and discussions (with “endless coffee” included) that cerebrate and promote tzedakah, in the social justice sense of the word. There are special events for women, young adults and other interest groups. Highlights include “Praying with My Legs” (Jan. 18), a film about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and “The Talmud of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (Jan. 17), a Shabbat dinner and conversation with Ruth Messinger and Rabbi Abigail Treu, who will use the format of sacred text to talk about ways we can fulfill MLK’s legacy. — Jan 16-20, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., jccmanhattan.org.
Jerusalem-born trauma expert Ofra Bloch, in a journey that takes her from Germany to Israel to the West Bank, confronts the complicated emotional terrain of victims and victimizers as she deals with the Holocaust and the Nakba, the term (meaning catastrophe) that Palestinians use to describe the founding of the State of Israel. Q&A with Bloch and director Jack Riccobono moderated by New York Times deputy politics editor Rachel Dry follows the opening 7 p.m. screening — Opens Friday, Jan. 10, Village East Cinema, 181-189 Second Ave., citycinemas.com.
ISLE OF KLEZBOS/METROPOLITAN KLEZMER
A double bill of klezmer revival heavyweights inaugurates The Cutting Room’s Sunday Klezmer Brunch. Both IOK and the Metropolitans have been at it for more than 20 years, two ensembles bringing Old World klez but updated with modern sensibilities to new generations. Both groups are led by the indefatigable drummer Eve Sicular. — Sunday, Jan. 12, 2 p.m. (IOK), 3 p.m. (Metropolitan Klezmer). City Winery Presents at The Cutting Room, 44 E. 32nd St., (212) 691-1900, thecuttingroomnyc.com.
As it moves from madcap to downright bluesy, klezmer seems like a hot-blooded music. But Nordic klezmer? The group, which mixes Romanian and Ukrainian music into its version of Copenhagen klez, is on a swing through the city with several upcoming stops. — Friday, Jan. 10, 11:30 p.m., Drom, 85 Ave. A, dromnyc.com; Saturday, Jan. 11, 8:30 p.m., Mehanata: Dance Party, Mehanata Bulgarian Bar, 113 Ludlow St., menhanatanyc.org; Sunday, Jan. 12, 2 p.m., Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church, 155 E. 22nd St. (212) 674-0739; Monday, Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m., Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., jccmanhattan.org.
Rudner fronted one of Israel’s most acclaimed alt-rock bands of the 1990s, Eifo HaYeled (“Where is the Child?”), as lead vocalist/songwriter and bassist. He’s here as a solo artist. — Thursday, Jan. 16, 7: 30 p.m., City Vineyard at Pier 26, Hudson River Park, 233 West St., cityvineyardnyc.com. $40.
Playwright Alfred Uhry and composer Jason Robert Brown reunite to discuss Uhry’s 1997 musical that dramatizes the 1913 murder trial and later lynching of Leo Frank in Atlanta. The sensational trial led to the formation of both the KKK and the Anti-Defamation League. — Monday, Jan. 13, 6 p.m., New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, 65th Street and Columbus Ave. Free.
RACHEL FEINSTEIN: MAIDEN, MOTHER, CRONE
The sculptor, who grew up in Miami, creates fantastical and highly sexualized wooden pieces that probe notions of “the feminine” in pop culture. This show marks the first survey of her work in the U.S. — Through March 1, The Jewish Museum, Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street, thejewishmuseum.org.
EDITH HALPERT AND THE RISE OF AMERICAN ART
Halpert (1900-1970), a Jewish immigrant, is considered the first significant female gallerist in the country. She championed American art at a time when the European avant-garde was in ascendance, and her Downtown Gallery in Greenwich Village promoted the work of modernists like Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe and Ben Shahn. — Through Feb. 9, The Jewish Museum, Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street, thejewishmuseum.org.
“Russ & Daughters, An Appetizing Story.” A history of the iconic smoked fish shop. Through Jan. 31, Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St., http://www.ajhs.org/RussandDaughtersExhibition.
“Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.” The large-scale show explores the history of the death camp and its role in the Holocaust. Extended through Aug. 30, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, mjhnyc.org.
“The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish Legacy.” Discovered in 1863, a cache of jeweled rings, brooches and coins hidden in the 14th century by a Jewish family fearing for its life is on view. Through Jan. 12, Met Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon, metmuseum.org.
“J.D. Salinger.” Did the iconic writer’s own conflicted Jewish identity inspire the teenage angst behind “The Catcher in the Rye”? This show offers a rare glimpse into Salinger’s life and work. — Through Jan. 19, NYPL, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, nypl.org.
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