WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE CASABLANCA
Sam is tickling the ivories, the band poised for the downbeat. The drinks are flowing and the gaming tables are full. The elegant Moorish arches, and the proprietor, looking sharp in his double-breasted white tux jacket and training a wary eye on his guests, frame a scene of cool sophistication at Rick’s Café Americain. “Casablanca” turns 75 this year and it’s interesting to note, as the issue of refugees tops our national conversation, that the unspoken subtext at Rick’s is one of Jewish refugees escaping the Nazis. The film has a deep Jewish backstory, from author Murray Burnett (who had personally smuggled Jewish relatives out of Hitler’s Europe) to producer Hal Wallis to screenwriters Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch to director Michael Curtiz to composer Max Steiner and many refugee actors (including Peter Lorre). Author Noah Isenberg, who teaches at The New School, deals with what undergirds the plot of the film in “We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie,” and he’ll talk about it with former Village Voice film critic James Hoberman. Presented by the Leo Baeck Institute. — Tuesday, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m., Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St. lbi.org. Free.
If you close your eyes, it isn’t a prime minister talking, or a nation-builder or a Rushmore figure. It’s a Jewish Everygrandfather with a voice dripping with all the Old Country inflections. In 1968, with his wife gone and surrounded by the desert he loved in out-of-the-way Sde Boker, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s primum mobile, its Founding Father, agreed to six hours’ worth of interviews in his book-lined study. The conversations never aired and now, nearly a half-century later and with Israel facing deep questions about its national character, comes “Ben-Gurion: Epilogue.” In Yariv Mozer’s film, Ben-Gurion touches on God, the Prophets, the pioneers who settled pre-state Palestine and matters of war and peace. It would be hard to find such toughness, and such sweetness, in a single individual. And it’s hard not to wonder what he would make of the country he helped birth. — March 3-14, Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St., filmforum.org. Playing on a dual program with Shimon Dotan’s “The Settlers.” A Q&A with producer-editor Yael Perlov follows the 5:45 show on March 3.
He was the ACLU lawyer to beat all ACLU lawyers, and his middle name was Moses. At a time when the ACLU lawyers camped out at JFK helping detained immigrants have become heroes to half (plus three million) of the country, the revival of Jeffrey Sweet’s play about William Kunstler hits at a particularly ripe moment. Was the fiery who defend the Chicago Seven, the American Indian Movement, the Black Panther Party and the prison rioters at Attica a radical or a fearless defender of people’s Constitutional rights? Starring Jeff McCarthy as Kunstler and Nambi E. Kelley as his legal assistant. — Through March 13 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., $35. 59e59.org.
THE DRESSMAKER’S SECRET
Nineteen-year-old Robi is eager to escape oppressive Communist Russia to forge a new life in the West, but his mother’s revelation that his father, rather than being killed in action as he’d believed, is either a Jewish teacher she hid during the war or the Hungarian soldier who persecuted him, forces Robi to decide whether to embrace his ancestry…or run from it. — Through March 5. 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th St., 59e59.org. $25 regular/$17.50 members.
IF I FORGET
In the final months before 9/11, liberal (to say the least; he’s publishing a book about forgetting the Holocaust) Jewish studies Professor Michael Fischer has reunited with this two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. Each deeply invested in their own version of family history, destructive secrets and long-held resentments bubble to the surface — with biting humor and razor-sharp insight — in this powerful tale of a family, and culture, at odds with itself. — Through April 30, The Laura Pels Theatre, 111 W. 46th St., (212) 719-1300, roundabouttheatre.org. $79.
LEAH, THE FORSAKEN
A tale of forbidden love, betrayal and redemption from master of melodrama Augustin Daly. In early 18th-century Austria, a Jewish emigrant fleeing persecution in Hungary finds love and betrayal among the good people who could be her salvation — if they would only see through their fear of the Other. — Through March 12, Metropolitan Playhouse, 220 E. Fourth St., (800) 838-3006, metropolitanplayhouse.org/leahtheforsaken. $30/$25 seniors & students/$10 children.
LAVENDER SONGS: A QUEER WEIMAR BERLIN CABARET
In a bald reminder that our times bear a striking resemblance to Weimar Germany, restaurant-theater hybrid Pangea uses Inauguration Day to debut “Lavender Songs,” an award-winning, risqué and gender-bending show starring Jeremy Lawrence — or, more aptly, his cabaret alter ego “Tante Fritzy” — and incorporating music by queer composers from the Berlin underground during Nazi Germany. — Through April 8, 7 p.m., Pangea, 178 Second Ave. (bet. 11th & 12th), (212) 995-0900, pangeanyc.com. $20, plus $20 food/beverage minimum.
NOT THAT JEWISH
Written by and starring the Emmy Award-winning and Golden Globe nominated writer, actress and comedian Monica Piper, this has been lauded as a hilarious and heartfelt autobiographical tale of a Jew-“ish” woman’s life. — Through April 30, New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., (212) 239-6200, notthatjewish.com. From $49.
LOVE & TAXES
In this first-ever pro-tax romantic comedy, by the Kornbluth Brothers, “Love & Taxes” tells the story of legal secretary Josh, who has gone seven uneventful years without filing his tax returns. But when his boss, a prominent tax attorney, demands that he get back into “The System,” and his neurotic girlfriend Sara gets pregnant and just as adamantly delivers him an ultimatum to solve his tax problems before the birth or else, Josh is forced into embarking on a comically taxing journey where he must confront his antipathy toward “The Man.” — Opens in select theaters Friday, March 3. movietimes.io/films/love-and-taxes.
For the launch of nonprofit art space Sla307’s “Gentle Thursday,” attend this screening of the 1989 film, followed by a Q&A and guest speaker Dr. Doe Lang. On the eve of his 50th birthday, yippie dissident and activist Abbie Hoffman breaks bagel and lox with a hippie dreamer who tries to figure out the man behind the flag shirt. Directed by Nancy Cohen. — Thursday, March 2, 6:30 p.m., Sla307, 307 W. 30th St., (917) 584-0579, email@example.com.
This moving film focuses on women who came to Israel from North Africa and Poland in the 1950s and ’60s and were sent to Dimona, a newly established town in the desert. They talk about leaving their homes, poverty, adjusting to a new homeland and creating meaningful lives, with intimate conversations interwoven with stunning archival footage and music of the time. Screening followed by Q&A. Directed by Michael Aviad, the film won best documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Dir. Michael Aviad. 70 min. runtime. — Tuesday, Feb. 28, 7:30-9:30 p.m., JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., (646) 505-4444, firstname.lastname@example.org. $12 public/$9 members.
Directed by Shimon Dotan, this documentary takes on the controversial Israeli settlement movement, beginning with its history, and affording insight into its philosophy and the range of personalities who have militantly supported and vehemently opposed its growth. — Friday, March 3-Tuesday, March 14, Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St., (212) 727-8110, filmforum.org. (See story on page 24.)
OVERCONNECTED, INTERWEBBED (OR HOW MY CELLPHONE HIJACKED
The Museum at Eldridge Street’s beautiful and historic sanctuary will be a fitting venue for its first Story Slam, an event that harkens back to an earlier time, pre-smartphone, to help folks reboot their analog selves. Share your stories about emails you wish you’d never sent, the sunset they you experienced sans cellphone and other tales of digital addiction. Beer will flow, and the best storyteller will get a jar of pickles from the nearby Pickle Guys. – Thursday, March 2, 7 p.m., Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St. RSVP to (212) 219-0888 x205 or eldridgestreet.org. $15 (includes a beer).
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION, BOBKA RECEPTION
The collection of oral histories of those who have lived and worked on the Lower East Side and a family of artists who re-purposed a 135-year-old synagogue will be the focus of a roundtable discussion of Jewish New York. Panelists will be Niki Russ Federman, co-owner of Russ & Daughters, Alexandra Kelly, manager of the New York Public Library’s Lower East Side Oral History Project and filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski. Paul Kaplan, author of the guidebook “Jewish New York,” will moderate, exploring three people who have brought innovation to traditional Jewish spaces on the LES and beyond. A reception featuring kosher babka from Russ & Daughters will follow. — Sunday, Feb. 26, 2 p.m., Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St. (bet. Canal and Division Sts), (212) 219-0888 x205, eldridgestreet.org. $14 adults/$10 students and seniors (includes Museum admission).
AGAINST ALL ODDS: HOW ONE JEW STOOD UP TO THE KGB
An inspirational talk by famed former Prisoner for Zion, Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich. – Sunday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Congregation Ohab Zedek, 118 W. 95th St., (212) 749-5150. Free.
PARNUSE: A JEWISH MUSICAL LEGACY CONCERT
Parnuse, an ensemble led by the acclaimed Naum Goldenshteyn, that will be performing a selection of rare klezmer melodies originally covered and transcribed by the clarinetist’s legendary great-uncle, German Goldenshteyn. Part of the Museum’s Lost and Found Music Series. – Sunday, March 5, 3 p.m., Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge Street. RSVP at (212) 219-0888 x205, eldridgestreet.org. $25 adults/$15 students and seniors.
GRAND OPENING: HEBREW TABERNACLE’S GOLD WING EXHIBIT
In celebration of Hebrew Tabernacle’s 111th year, featuring works by artist and calligrapher Judith Joseph, with poetry by Kate Hogan, decorations by Amy Schindler, photography by Caroline Brown and curated by Regina Gradess. Opening reception following 10 a.m. Sabbath services. — Saturday, March 4, Noon-2 p.m., Through April 24, Hebrew Tabernacle, 551 Ft. Washington Ave. at 185th St., (212) 568-8304, hebrewtabernacle.org. Free.
HEROES OF THE KNISH
The lowly, salt-of-the-Pale-of-Settlement-earth staple gets the high-brow treatment with a month-long museum show at The City Reliquary. The chronicler-queen of the knish, Laura Silver, author of the 2014 “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food” (Brandeis), curates the just-opened show, whose aptly stuffed title is “Heroes of the Knish: Making a Living and Making a Life.” It features a history of the potato pie, from the Old Country to the sidewalk carts of the Lower East Side to the pricey delis of Midtown, and documents the lives of the men and women who made the crusty-chewy delicacy. — City Reliquary Museum, 370 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn. Through May 7. $5. Cityreliquary.org.
SHABBAT: INSIDE AND OUT
With the cessation of the workday routine on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, relationships and the spirit are revitalized as families share precious time at festive meals. The objects on display highlight two aspects of this holy day: the private/domestic and the communal/ceremonial. — Through May 11, Yeshiva University Museum, 15 W. 16th St., (212) 294-8330, email@example.com. Members and children under 5 free/$6 seniors and students/$8 adults.
THE JEWISH GHETTO IN POSTCARDS
Postcards from the Balatnik Archive chronicle Jewish life from Eastern Europe to the Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century, offering unique pictorial perspectives on the history of immigration. — Through March 8, Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St., (212) 219-0302, eldridgestreet.org.
THE FIRST JEWISH AMERICANS
How did Jewish settlers come to inhabit—and change—the New World? In this ground-breaking exhibition, rare portraits, drawings, maps, documents and ritual objects illuminate how 18th- and 19th-century Jewish artists, writers and activists adopted American ideals while struggling to remain distinct and socially cohesive amidst the birth of a new Jewish American tradition. — Through March 12, New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, (212) 873-3400, nyhistory.org.
HUGH MESIBOV’S BOOK OF JOB MURAL
In 1969, Temple Beth El in Spring Valley commissioned a huge mural illustrating the biblical account of the suffering and redemption of Job, now on view. — Through March 12, Yeshiva University Museum, 15 W. 16th St., (212) 294-8330, firstname.lastname@example.org. For hours and admission rates: yumuseum.org/visit.
Our ancestors used clothing and textiles to beautify their synagogues, their tables and themselves on Shabbat and holidays as well as important lifecycle events. Many of these were preserved, with highlights including a sumptuous 18th-century lecturn cover that belonged to a former Chief Rabbi of Izmir, a 19th-century dress and a 1950 custom-made lace wedding gown. — Through April 29, Yeshiva University Museum, 15 W. 16th St., (212) 294-8330, email@example.com. For hours and admission rates: yumuseum.org/visit.
In celebration of Purim, The Laurie M. Tisch Gallery is pleased to exhibit the stunning, large-scale illuminated Scroll of Ester created by the well-known Israeli painter Avner Moriah. The ancient story of Esther is told by mixing Persian, Indian and Islamic art, miniature-style painting with Italian Renaissance styling and contemporary humor, politics and sensibilities. — Through March. 29, 8 a.m.-11 p.m., JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. (at 76th St.), (646) 505-4444, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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