2008 Program

Jewish America in the 20th Century

presented by the Jewish Repertory Theatre 

Be part of an entertaining kaffee klatsch discussing the Jewish experience in the U.S. during the last 100 years. The three plays of the JRT season are a springboard for our talks.

From Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson to Madonna and Borat; see how stereotypes thrived… even among Jews. Laugh at the best of Jewish humor… but consider if the same joke is funny told by non-Jews. When mainstream culture borrows from Jews, should we be honored or upset? Do Jews benefit from cultural assimilation or do they fade away? And just what is a Jewish play? Theater, music, literature, film, comedy and art from each era are our textbooks as we trace this fabulous journey… featuring local experts, JRT artists and you.

  • October 5 The Ellis Island Generation To The Jazz Age
  • October 12 In The Depression Were We Depressed? (The World Of “Awake And Sing!”)
  • October 19 Our Crowd: Moving To The Head Of The Leisure Class
  • October 26 Look, Ma! I’m On TV! (Allan Sherman, “Hello Muddah!” And The Mass Media)
  • November 2 Post-Assimilation Blues: Regaining Jewishness
  • November 9 The Thin Line Between Art And Fact:
    “Collected Stories” And The Right To Tell Your Own Tale


Barry Lack

Executive Director of the Stillman-Lack Foundation

Ary Stillman:
From Impressionism
to Abstract Expressionism

This lavishly illustrated volume traces the artist’s development from his early impressionist and representational painting to his striking post-war Abstract Expressionist works.

Seven essays by international scholars, edited by James Wechsler, address the different artistic strategies Stillman engaged to navigate his identities: as a Russian-Jewish émigré to the Midwest, as an expatriate in Paris between the wars, as a Jewish liberal intellectual in Depression-era New York, and as a post-Holocaust international humanist. Today 43 museums hold Stillman’s work in their collections.

Sponsored by the Samuel and Sophie Weinstein Memorial Lecture Fund

Introduction by Dr. Douglas Dreishpoon, Chief Curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and consulting curator to “Action/Abstraction,” an exhibition that will open at the Albright-Knox in February, 2009.

Diance Ackerman

Author of the best-selling A Natural History of the the Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story

This is the true story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who, with extraordinary courage, compassion, and calm under pressure, managed to save hundreds of people from Nazi hands.

With her inimitable blend of lyricism and insight into the natural world, Ackerman reveals in this book how empathy for nature can, occasionally, allow us to triumph over the worst in human nature. A story of profound hope, humor, and humanity, The Zookeeper’s Wife speaks powerfully to us across the decades as we confront our own ideas of heroism and our complex relationships to the natural world today.

“Ackerman’s writing is viscerally evocative… a suspenseful beautifully crafted story.” – Publishers Weekly

Introduction by award winning journalist and news anchor Rich Kellman
Sponsored by People of the Book Endowment Fund
Co-sponsored by The Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo & Greater Buffalo Chapter of Hadassah
Reception sponsored by the Rubin & Luba Literman Fund of the Holocaust Resource Center

Theodore L. Steinberg

Distinguished English Professor at SUNY Fredonia and author of Reading the Middle Ages
Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages

Despite popular opinion today, medieval Jewish life consisted of far more than persecution and suffering. Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages examines Jewish accomplishments in the fields of biblical commentary, literature, philosophy, and mysticism and demonstrates that Jewish life, while often difficult, had its creative and glorious side.

In clear and accessible language, Steinberg describes the everyday life of medieval Jews in both Christian and Muslim environments, looks at the causes of medieval anti-Semitism and the persecution of medieval Jews. Many of the intellectual, moral, artistic, and cultural accomplishments of Jews in the Middle Ages continue to evolve and influence our modern faith and understanding of Judaism.

“A well-researched, scholarly yet highly accessible overview of medieval Jewry, this book fills a significant gap in the literature of the field…” – Library Journal

– Sponsored by People of the Book Endowment Fund
– Reception sponsored by Temple Sinai


In honor and memory of Kristallnach Words & Music

Synergy’s seventy-five minute program consists of three parts: One People Then And Now – words and music from the Golden Age of Jewish Culture in Spain and contemporary America; Words For The Unspeakable focuses on Kristallnacht and the Holocaust; and To Life which focuses on Israel, from terrorism to peace.

Synergy constructs powerful and memorable “sound sculptures” of poetry, music and emotion. The effects continue long after the concert ends. This afternoon program of poetry and chamber music showcases some of Western New York’s finest string musicians led by distinguished former Buffalo Philharmonic flutist, Laurence Trott.

– Program and reception co-sponsored by The Holocaust Resource Center,
Jewish Community Center, Temple Beth Am and Temple Beth Zion

Laura Manischewitz Alpern

The Making of an American Jewish Icon

Laura grew up with stories of her great-grandfather Dov Behr, founder of the Manischewitz Company
Manischewitz, the Matzo Family. In this highly readable volume, we travel back to the European roots of a family who crossed the ocean from Lithuania with little baggage but their religious faith and a young man’s ambitions. “I’m going to bake matzos this year…We’ll see how it goes,” said Behr Manischewitz.

Soon the ambitious, young, Talmudic scholar had a burgeoning bakery and was on his way to success. As the years go by, the growing family remains united by bonds of kinship as well as a firm allegiance to the Jewish people. It was these shared ties that kept the business in the family for 103 years. Enjoy this entertaining saga of the Manischewitz family and the company that brought us matzo and impossibly sweet kosher wine.

“… a ‘memorial’ to a family business that for generations symbolized American kosher food.”
– New Jersey Jewish News

– Sponsored by the Samuel and Sophie Weinstein Memorial Lecture Fund

Maggie Anton

Award winning author of Rashi’s Daughters, Book I: Joheved and Book II: Miriam
Three Novels of LIFE, Love and Talmud

In Medieval France

Anton’s most recent novel, Rashi’s Daughter, Secret Scholar, set in 11th-century Troyes, France, tells the story of Joheved, eldest daughter of Salomon ben Isaac (known as Rashi), one of the great medieval Jewish Bible commentators.

At a time when women traditionally were barred from studying Jewish texts, Rashi secretly teaches first Joheved, then her sister Miriam. As she nears marriageable age, Joheved finds her mind and spirit awakened by religious study, but she must keep her passion for learning and prayer hidden. Will she fulfill the expected role of a Jewish woman or pursue a path of Jewish learning? The book is for ages 10-15.

“The writing successfully captures the pace of medieval life and pulls the reader into the details of the characters’ lives.” – Jewish Times News

– A “High Tea” reception is co-sponsored by area temple sisterhoods and women’s groups,
– People of the Book Endowment Fund and Temple Beth Zion

Ms. Anton will speak on “My love affair with Talmud” at Temple Beth Zion’s Erev Shabbat service on Friday, November 14 at 7:30 pm at the 805 Delaware Avenue location. An Oneg Shabbat will follow. No charge.

Roger Bennett

A board member of the Academy of the Recent Past
Three books on the Joys of Jewish Culture

Roger Bennett is the lead author of a series of entertaining and fascinating books about Jewish culture in the United States. The most recent, And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Past as Told by the Records We Have Loved and Lost (with Josh Kun) is an illustrated history of Jewish culture in America through music, amazingly kitschy album covers and insightful essays. Camp Camp: Where Fantasy Island Meets Lord of the Flies (with Jules Shell) is a love letter to the magical world of freedom, friendship and fun that is summer camp. Bar Mitzvah Disco: The Music May Have Stopped, but the Party’s Never Over (with Nick Kroll, Jules Shell) is a journey back to a time when style, music, and lust went hand in hand; an irresistible journey, two parts Fantasy Island to one part Vegas.

– Sponsored by People of the Book Endowment Fund
– Reception sponsored by Temple Sinai

You are encouraged to dress for the occasion in your favorite outfit (such as your camp T-shirt) and bring along your memorabilia from this amazing era.

Jeffrey Zaslow

Columnist for The Wall Street Journal

The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

Some professors give a final talk titled “The Last Lecture” in which they reflect on what matters most to them. When computer science professor Randy Pausch, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment.

It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe told with humor, inspiration and intelligence. His last lecture became a global phenomenon. Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008.

More information on Jeffrey Zaslow available at:http://www.caaspeakers.com
For more on The Last Lecture and Randy Pausch see:http://www.thelastlecture.com

“Pausch’s shimmering volume is as bracingly pragmatic as it is inspiring.” – People

– Introduction by award winning senior correspondent for News 4 Buffalo, Rich Newberg
– Program and reception sponsored by the Legacies Book of Life Program of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies
– Co-sponsored by Hillel of Buffalo

Sisters of Sheynville

Debut CD, “Sheynville Express” Klezmer Swing!

This Toronto-based high-energy, all-female swing/klezmer band presents upbeat English, Yiddish and original material with stunning three-part harmonies as well as foot-stomping instrumentals. The band’s original music and arrangements of both traditional and jazz material combine serious musicianship, complexity and intricate musical thought with a fun approach to performance.

They bring to life Yiddish swing and klezmer inspired by the Barry Sisters of the 1930s-40s old-time radio era. No Yiddish required to enjoy! The Sisters of Sheynville’s superb playing and humor provide cross-generational appeal. FREE, no tickets necessary

Learn more about THE SISTERS OF SHEYNVILLE and hear some of their music at: http://www.sistersofsheynville.ca

“Klezmer takes up swing, or vice versa, in the person of the Sisters of Sheynville, a band of six Jewish women reinterpreting ‘30s and ‘40s jazz.” – Toronto Star

“… unique music, which is influenced by Eastern European Yiddish traditions, Czech musical theatre and American country blues.” – Toronto Sun

– Sponsored by The Shuman Family Foundation
– Reception sponsored by Hillel of Buffalo

Dr. Aliza Lavie

A lecturer of Political Science at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, presenter and editor of television programs on Jewish culture

A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book is a beautiful and moving one-of-a-kind collection that draws from a variety of Jewish traditions to commemorate every occasion and every passage in the cycle of life, from the mundane to the extraordinary.

This elegant, inspiring volume includes special prayers for the Sabbath and holidays and important dates of the Jewish year; prayers to mark celebratory milestones, such as bat mitzvah, marriage, pregnancy, and childbirth; and prayers for comfort and understanding in times of tragedy and loss. Each prayer is presented in Hebrew and in English translation, along with fascinating commentary on its origins and allusions.

Visit her website at: http://www.alizalavie.com

– Sponsored by the People of the Book Endowment Fund in Memory of Sylvia Small, the first Book Fair Coordinator
– Reception sponsored by Young Israel of Greater Buffalo

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