You're at a wedding or bar mitzvah, mingling at the bar or catching up with a distant relative, when you hear it -- the opening notes of a familiar tune that as if by some invisible force carries you and other guests to the dance floor for the rousing dance circle ritual.
For years, this leafy Chasidic village about an hour north of New York City has been a shtetl-like haven where residents could live their strictly Orthodox lifestyle far from the temptations and bustle of the nation’s largest city. Out of view of all but very few, life in this community of some 7,000 Skverer Chasidim has revolved around its spiritual leader, the Skverer rebbe, Rabbi David Twersky.
The Gaon also weighed in on tenaim plates and demanded they be ceramic, since "just as a ceramic plate cannot be repaired, so the families should be warned not to renege on their commitments."
Kirshenblatt's canvasses, together with a stunningly vivid text -- the product of four decades' worth of interviews with his daughter, noted New York University folklorist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett -- have now been reproduced in a handsome volume by the University of California Press, and the result is a marvel: With his scrupulously recalled images, Kirshenblatt has managed to do no less than create a new visual language for describing pre-war Eastern European life. In stark contrast to the black-and-white record that has made up our vision heretofore, Kirshenblatt's paintings are untainted by the horrors to come. They offer a picture not of Polish Jewish life as it was before tragedy struck, but simply as it was. If Chagall was the shtetl's mythmaker, then Kirshenblatt is his antithesis: a shtetl anthropologist.
It is not easy to evoke a lost era through television footage, but "Yiddish World" largely overcomes the difficulty.
"Great-grandma was a naughty girl," says British filmmaker Ben Hopkins, whose feature debut, "Simon Magus," is the tale of a Polish shtetl in peril.
When I was a UCLA student, some...uh...50 years ago and lived in Hollywood, I thought nothing of picking up a date in Boyle Heights, but I wouldn't even consider going out with a girl from the San Fernando Valley.
I was thinking about my friend Lillian Ross last week as I was driving over the Golden Gate Bridge on my way north to an enzyme bath and massage in an outdoor Japanese tea house in Occidental. (I was celebrating freedom after submitting my manuscript for a book on families and family life.) Lillian's the one who, when asked by her children what she wanted on her 70th birthday, told them that she always had this desire to walk across the bridge with them.