The language of the Hallel prayers, part of the biblical Psalms, is nothing if not musical: “When Israel went out of Egypt … The sea saw and fled … The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like young lambs. … Who turns the rock into a pond of water, the flint into a flowing fountain.” The fusion group Yemen Blues puts the alliterative Hallel lyrics to music, blending Yemenite Jewish and ancient Arabic music with Afro-funk. When Yemen Blues frontman Ravid Kahalani joined with the Israeli bassist Omer Avital in 2017 in Jerusalem, the prayers were sung over a propulsive, enchanting Middle Eastern groove, as the group reached for what Stevie Wonder called “higher ground.” — Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m., Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, (212) 864-5400, symphonyspace.org.
MARK TWAIN AND THE HOLY LAND
In his “New Pilgrims’ Progress” (or “The Innocents Abroad”), Mark Twain’s 1869 travelogue that took him to the Middle East, the great humorist wasn’t beyond kvetching. He griped about the size of the grapes, modest rivulets near the Sea of Galilee that were dubbed “fountains” and the smallness of Jerusalem. But there were moments of loveliness in the dispatches that were originally published in a San Francisco newspaper. Near where the prophet Samuel was born, under the shade of a lemon tree at the base of Mt. Hermon, he writes, “One is apt to overestimate beauty when it is rare, but to me this grove seemed very beautiful.” On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the travelogue’s publication, this exhibition explores Twain’s “perceptions of the Holy Land in the postbellum era.” — Opens Friday, Oct. 25 (through Feb. 2, 2020), New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th Street), nyhistory.org.
HELLO GORGEOUS: THE MUSIC OF BARBRA STREISAND
That voice! Those politics! (Her new Grammy-contending CD, “Walls,” has some choice words for the president.) This show features Broadway stars doing their best Babs belting on “The Way We Were,” “Second Hand Rose,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and more Streisand classics. With Maxine Linehan, Jillian Louis, Kristen Dausch, Meaghan Sands Lianne M. Dobbs and Steven Brinberg (aka Simply Barbra). — Monday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m., Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, 1 E. 65th St., emanuelstreickernyc.org. $45, $99 (reserved).
A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY
Tony Kushner’s 1985 cautionary tale about the possible rise of authoritarianism in America gets a revival at the Public Theater. The play centers on a group of progressive friends in Weimar Germany as they worry about Hitler’s rise to power, but a Jewish-American character interrupts the action to comment on what she sees as the cruelties of the Reagan administration. A tale for these times if there ever was one. — Opens Oct. 29 (through Dec. 16) at the Public Theater (Anspacher Theater), 425 Lafayette St. (Astor Place), publictheater.org.
London storyteller-musician Daniel Cainer is back with his one-man show about English Jews, a deeply moving set of tales that feature feuding tailors, a naughty rabbi, some family fables … and many foibles. He told The Jewish Week in 2015, British Jews “still keep their heads below the parapet. We’re constantly looking over our shoulders, no matter how cosmopolitan our environment may be.” Playing alongside “Games,” about Jewish athletes in the 1936 Summer Olympics. — Opened Thursday, Oct. 17 (through Nov. 9), Huron Club at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., (Sixth Avenue and Varick Street), sohoplayhouse.com.
WICKED CITY BLUES
An original 1940s film noir-style mystery/musical comedy featuring songs from the Golden Age of Jazz. — Wednesdays through Oct. 31, The Actors’ Temple, 339 W. 47th St., (917) 359-1249, firstname.lastname@example.org, the actorstemple.org.
NYC SKETCHFEST 2019
NYC Sketchfest 2019 presents a headlining performance, “God Should Not Have Chosen Us,” which features a team of Jewish writers and performers that creates original and thought-provoking sketches skewering all walks of the millennial Jewish experience. They’ll be sharing the stage with Sisterwives Sketch at this popular comedic show, produced by Zoe Yellen. — Sunday, Oct. 27, 6 p.m., The Peoples Improv Theater, 123 E. 24th St., thepit-nyc.com. $15 online/$20 door.
“Fiddler on the Roof” (A Fidler Afn Kakh) in Yiddish continues its Off-Broadway run. Directed by the acclaimed Joel Grey, a rich Yiddish translation by the late Shraga Friedman adds new depth to the iconic musical. With English and Russian supertitles. — Stage 42, 422 W. 42nd St., (212) 239-6200, broadway.com.
When a Jewish newspaper appears unexpectedly at the front door of one Robert Klein (Alain Delon), this taut and stylish psychological drama set in occupied Paris takes off. There is (not to give too much away) another Robert Klein, which leads to an exploration of Jewish identity in a fraught time. Directed by the blacklisted Joseph Losey. The 1976 film, which sold out a run last month, is back. — Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St., filmforum.org.
A lot of children have imaginary friends. But summoning a slapstick Adolf Hitler as your fantasy buddy? That’s the set-up of Taika Waititi’s dark comedy, “Jojo Rabbit.” Jojo’s in the Hitler Youth, but a secret undoes him: His single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. It forces Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) to confront his National Socialist ideology. — Regal Union Square, 850 Broadway, regmovies.com; and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Downtown Brooklyn, 445 Albee Sq. West, drafthouse.com.
WHO WILL WRITE OUR HISTORY
With a wealth of archival footage and detailed re-enactments, this film recounts the story of Emanuel Ringelblum, who secretly led a team of writers and intellectuals to preserve a vibrant Jewish culture in the Warsaw Ghetto shortly after the Nazis took over. What resulted was a startlingly deep and diverse portrait of European Jewish life. Based on the book by Samuel Kassow. — Monday, Oct. 28, 7 p.m., Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St.,cjh.org.
Yuval Hadadi’s 2019 feature debut, shot in contemporary Tel Aviv, centers on a gay couple thinking about adoption, but it widens to explore the pressures on Israel’s LGBT community. Part of NewFest 2019, New York’s LGBT film festival. — Sunday, Oct. 27, 9:15 p.m., Cinepolis Chelsea, 260 W. 23rd St., newfest.org/
THE KOMINSKY METHOD
Michael Douglas, as acting coach Sandy Kominsky, and Alan Arkin, as his best friend Norman Newlander, are priceless as they navigate the choppy waters of growing old. The show won Golden Globes for best comedy and best actor (Douglas). Season 2 begins this week. — Friday, Oct. 25, Netflix.
THE OLD RAZZLE DAZZLE: AN EVENING OF LIES, LYING AND LIARS
In his critically acclaimed musical solo work, pianist-singer Mark Nadler — “an immensely talented latter-day Al Jolson,” according to The New York Times — employs the dark, desperate humor of Weimar Kabaret (and some of its songs) to confront a zeitgeist of which we’re ashamedly aware: a reality in which the truth is elusive, abused and discarded. — Through Wednesday, Oct. 30, Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 W. 42nd St., (212) 695-6909, westbankcafe.com/laurie-beechman-theatre.
JOHN ZORN’S NEW MASADA QUARTET
The pioneering alto saxophonist and Downtown scene impresario brings his “radical Jewish music”/free jazz project, inspired by Ornette Coleman, into jazz’s hallowed ground for a week of exploratory improvisations. — Tuesday, Oct. 29-Sunday, Nov. 3, Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Ave. South, villagevanguard.com.
HASIDIM ON THE BEACH
The Brooklyn-born Judy Mauer’s striking photos of chasidic Jews “enjoying their Sabbath on the sand” in Sea Gate. The images are at once ordinary — just families at the beach — but also poignant, given Maurer’s statement that she is “photographing them as a testament to all we have lost in the Holocaust, and as a celebration of community in all forms.” The Bed-Stuy gallery has a noble mission — “using these works as a tool to bridge the gap between cultures.” Through Nov. 2, The Bishop Gallery, 916 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, bishoponbedford.com. Saturdays only. (See review here.)
That’s Jerome David, if you’re keeping score Jewishly. The reclusive Salinger grew up Orthodox and his conflicted Jewish identity (he found out after his bar mitzvah that his mother was actually Irish Catholic) may have inspired the teenage angst in his most memorable character, Holden Caulfield from “Catcher in the Rye.” This New York Public Library show offers a rare glimpse into Salinger’s life and work through manuscripts, letters, photographs, books and personal effects drawn exclusively from the author’s archive. This will be the first time these items — on loan from the J.D. Salinger Literary Trust — have ever been shared with the public. Opened Friday, Oct. 18 ,through Jan. 19, 2020, NYPL, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, nypl.org.
RUSS & DAUGHTERS, AN APPETIZING STORY
Russ & Daughters, the 109-year-old, family-owned appetizing shop on the Lower East Side (and an uptown outpost of late at The Jewish Museum), has already been immortalized in a documentary (“The Sturgeon Queens”) and a book (“Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built”). Now, the store can add a photo exhibit to its legacy. — Through Jan. 31, 2020, Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St., ajhs.org.
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