The Top Three
AN ACT OF DEFIANCE
Set in apartheid South Africa, this historical thriller follows a gutsy Jewish lawyer who risks everything to defend Nelson Mandela and his inner circle. Mandela and nine other defendants, some of whom are Jewish anti-apartheid fighters, face a possible death sentence after their arrest during a raid in the summer of 1963. Sympathetic white Afrikaner lawyer Bram Fischer (Peter Paul Muller) defends the activists against charges of conspiracy to commit sabotage and treason. Along the way, Fischer attempts to hide his own ties to the resistance. Q&As with director Jean van de Velde follow the screenings. Part of the New York Jewish Film Festival. — Monday, Jan. 15, 1 p.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 16, 3:30 p.m., Film Society Of Lincoln Center – Walter Reade Theater, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, filmlinc.org. $15/$12 seniors and students.
Drawing on a close relative’s story, Daniel Najenson’s documentary investigates the institutionalization of Jewish prostitution in Argentina. In the early 20th century, thousands of Jewish women and men were lured to Argentina from Eastern Europe with promises of quick money to be made in brothels. As Jewish prostitution rings flourished in Buenos Aires, these woman and their pimps — who were also Jewish, and often their husbands — were shunned by the Jewish community, even as it reaped the financial and political benefits of their work. Q&As with Najenson follow the screenings. Part of the New York Jewish Film Festival. — Tuesday, Jan. 16, 1:15 and 6:30 p.m., Film Society Of Lincoln Center – Walter Reade Theater, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, filmlinc.org. $15/$12 seniors and students.
YOTAM BEN-OR QUARTET
The Belgian-born Toots Thielemans set a high bar for swinging on the harmonica, having translated the bebop of Charlie Parker onto an instrument more closely associated with blues licks. Now comes Yotam Ben-Or, an Israeli-American harmonicist who arrived here in 2014, leading a quartet as a leader. Inspired by Israeli folk songs and rooted in jazz, Ben-Or’s tunes are highly melodic and often wistful, an emotion the harmonica is particularly suited for. With Abriel Chakarji on piano, Alon Near on bass and Noam Israeli on drums. — Tuesday, Jan. 16, 8:30 p.m., Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen St., (212) 477-4155, rockwoodmusichall.com.
In the run-up to the first anniversary of the Women’s March, four ferocious female voices team up for some political comedy. With Jena Friedman (“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”), Aparna Nancherla (“Inside Amy Schumer”), Michelle Buteau (“Key & Peele”) and Emmy Blotnick (“The President’s Show”). Hosted by the feminist website The Betches. — Thursday, Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m., 14th Street Y, 344 E. 14th St., (212) 780-0800, 14streety.org.
OUT OF ISRAEL
The 92Y’s annual dance festival marks Israel’s 70th anniversary with a show guest-curated by Israeli-American choreographer Dana Katz, leader of Danaka Dance Collective. The two-day program includes a work by Israeli choreographers Itzik Galili and Roi Assaf performed by Israeli-American dancer Troy Ogilvie; a short solo by Roni Chadash; a new composition by the Danaka troupe; and films by Joseph Bach and Shamel Pitts. Expect intense physicality. — Friday, Jan. 12, 12 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m., 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., 92y.org. $10 in advance / $20 at the door.
DESCRIBE THE NIGHT
In 1920, Jewish-Russian writer Isaac Babel wanders the Russian countryside with the Red Cavalry. Seventy years later, a mysterious KGB agent spies on a woman in Dresden and falls in love. In 2010, an aircraft carrying most of the Polish government has a suspicious accident and crashes in the Russian city of Smolensk. Inspired by his love of Babel’s work, playwright and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Rajiv Joseph tells a three-act, three-hour historical thriller that follows the interconnected stories of seven Russian men and women over nine decades. — Atlantic Theater Co., 336 W. 20th St., (866) 811-4111, atlantictheater.org.
THE BAND’S VISIT
In the hit Israeli film, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra travels to Israel from Egypt for a concert, ending up in the wrong place and bonding with local Israelis in the process. David Yazbek’s musical of the same name and based on the film won the 2017 Obie for Best Musical. Now on Broadway after a sold-out Off-Broadway run. —Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St., telecharge.com, thebandsvisitmusical.com.
Ayad Akhtar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Disgraced,” a play about a Muslim and Jewish couple discussing identity over dinner, turns to investment banking in “Junk.” It stars Steven Pasquale as Robert Merkin, a financial kingpin of the ’80s (a la Michael Milken) who attempts to take over an iconic American manufacturing company, changing all the rules in the process. — Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, 150 W. 65th St., lct.org.
The Klezmatics kick off World Music Institute’s new Contemporary Jewish Music series with a return to The Town Hall to perform an exciting evening of music with special guests jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch and singer-songwriter and activist Holly Near, as well as a special appearance by alt-rock singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant. — Saturday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m., The Town Hall, 123 W 43rd St, Manhattan, thetownhall.org.
URI GURVICH RESIDENCE
The Israeli-born, New York-based alto saxophonist – “an adventurous voice in the post-Coltrane fashion,” says JazzTrail — performs with a rotating cast of guest musicians for a five-day residency at The Stone. — Tuesday-Sunday, Jan. 9-14, The Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, thestonenyc.com.
DOUBLE KLEZ BRUNCH
Metropolitan Klezmer, which will hit the 25-year mark in 2019, and Isle of Klezbos, which marks 20 years in ’18, bring their rollicking neo-trad sound, with forays into downtown, classical and world music, to the City Winery’s Sunday klezmer brunch. It’s an Old-World groove brought to Soho. — Sunday, Jan. 14, doors 10 a.m., concert 11 a.m., City Winery, 155 Varick St., (212) 608-0555, citywinery.com. $10.
YOTAM SILBERSTEIN QUARTET
The jazz guitarist and Tel Aviv native has an “unadorned hollow-body guitar work [that] freely invites comparison to releases from the heyday of Blue Note Records,” raves About Jazz. Silberstein teams with Sam Yahel on piano, Matt Penman on bass and Ofri Nehemya on drums. — Friday, Jan. 12, 8:30 p.m., Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia St., (212) 989-9319, corneliastreetcafe.com.
Led by Israeli frontman and singer Ravid Kahalani, the explosive music of Yemen Blues transplants traditional Yemenite prayers and melodies into the world of funk, soul, blues and jazz. — Through Wednesday, Jan. 17, on select dates and times, Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St., (212) 539-8778, publictheater.org.
SOUL TO SOUL
Songs of freedom, from both blacks and Jews and in Yiddish and English, are part of this MLK Day show. It features Lisa Fishman (“The Golden Bride”), Cantor Magda Fishman (Temple Beth El in Stamford, Conn.), Elmore James (Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast”) and Tony Perry (“Five Guys Named Moe”). Conceived with musical direction by Zalmen Mlotek, the Folksbiene’s artistic director. — Monday, Jan. 15, 2 p.m., Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, (646) 437-4202, mjhnyc.org.
BENNY GOODMAN: KING OF SWING
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra celebrates a landmark performance: Benny Goodman’s legendary 1938 debut at Carnegie Hall. Performing pieces from the debut are top-flight clarinetists Anat Cohen, Janelle Reichman and Ken Peplowski and saxophonist Ted Nash and more. — Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 11-13, 8 p.m., Jazz at Lincoln Center, 10 Columbus Circle, (212) 258-9800, jazz.org.
Sam Hoffman, the creative force behind the book series, web series and Off-Broadway hit “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” makes his film debut with “Humor Me.” Jemaine Clement stars as Nate, a once-acclaimed New York playwright, struggling to finish his new play when his wife (Maria Dizzia) leaves him and takes their son. The broken and broke Nate begrudgingly moves in with his widowed father Bob (Elliott Gould) at a New Jersey retirement golf community. — In wide release.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (1984)
From the turn of the last century to Prohibition and back again, Sergio Leone’s crime saga follows the diverging paths of Jewish gangsters played by Robert De Niro and James Woods as they build an empire and lose themselves in the process. — Monday, Jan. 15, 5 p.m., Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St., (212) 255-2243, quadcinema.com.
THE JEWISH REVIEW OF BOOKS
The Jewish Review of Books’ third annual conference features panels on issues of the day with the likes of Ruth Wisse, Daniel Gordis, Deborah Lipstadt, former Israeli Air Force Gen. Amos Yadlin, Elliott Abrams and others. — Sunday, Jan. 14, 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, (646) 437-4202, jewishreviewofbooks.com/annual-conference/.
MOMENT MAGAZINE AWARD CEREMONY
Tova Mirvis (the Memphis-set “The Ladies Auxiliary”) has a new, and revelatory, memoir about leaving Orthodoxy (“The Book of Separation”). Dani Shapiro is the author of five novels and the best-selling memoir, “Slow Motion and Devotion.” The two will discuss their works as part of Moment’s award ceremony for short fiction. — Tuesday, Jan. 16, 7 p.m., Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, 1 E. 65th St., (212) 507-9580, emanuelstreickernyc.org.
In a rich new biography, “Lioness,” Francine Klagsbrun, a Jewish Week columnist, charts the long arc of Golda Meir’s remarkable life. She guides readers through her own journey to understand this important, often contradictory, and frequently opaque figure in Israel’s history. Moderated by Tablet editor Alana Newhouse. — Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, (646) 437-4202, mjhnyc.org.
ISRAELI CINEMA AND TELEVISION GET RELIGION
How did the world of Israeli cinema and TV transition from a male-dominated, secular, Tel Aviv-centered scene to the multicultural landscape it is today? Cinephiles and husband-and-wife team Hedva and Gilad Goldsmith discuss the transformation. — Thursday, Jan. 18, 7-9 p.m., Lincoln Square Synagogue, 180 Amsterdam Ave., lss.org.
GLASS MOUNTAINS AND SABRA TRACES
Israeli photographer Oded Balilty (the first and only Israeli photographer to receive the Pulitzer Prize, for breaking news) presents two aesthetically bold and thoroughly Israeli photo series in his New York solo debut.— Through March 1, Laurie M. Tisch Gallery, JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., (646) 505-4444. jccmanhattan.org.
Reflecting upon personal experiences, historical and contemporary events and the universal human condition, HOME(less) features the mixed-media works of seventy international artists exploring the meaning of home, and the loss of it. — Through June 29, Hebrew Union College Museum, 1 W. Fourth St., (212) 824-2218, huc.edu/homeless.
This Jewish Museum exhibit features early drawings by famous Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani, who died in 1920. The drawings, which were acquired directly from the artist by Dr. Paul Alexandre — his close friend and first patron — illuminate how Modigliani’s heritage as an Italian Sephardic Jew is pivotal to understanding his artistic output. Many of these works are being shown for the first time in the U.S. — Through Feb. 4, The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave., (212) 423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org
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