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Jewish Life of the Month: Franz Kafka

Rebecca Keys

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Franz Kafka

Dates
1883-1924

Impact
Franz Kafka was the poet of his own disorder. Throughout his life he struggled with a pervasive sense of shame and guilt that left traces in his daily existence—in his many letters, in his extensive diaries, and especially in his fiction.

Famous Quote
"The meaning of life is that it stops."

 
Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt
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Flashback: Meet Harvey Milk

Rebecca Keys

June is LGBT Pride Month.

Watch a 1978 NBC News report introducing viewers to the newly elected and openly gay San Francisco official Harvey Milk, and learn more with Jewish Lives.

 
Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death
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Jewish Life of the Month: Moses

Rebecca Keys

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Moses

Dates
Biblical period

Impact
No figure looms larger in Jewish culture than Moses, and few have stories more enigmatic. Who was Moses? Orphan. Prince. Fugitive. Shepherd. Negotiator. Leader. But he never made it to the Promised Land.

Famous Quote
"Let my people go"

 
Moses: A Human Life
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Hooray for Love

Rebecca Keys

Spring is here and love is in the air.

Watch Barbra Streisand sing a stunning duet with Judy Garland during an episode of "The Judy Garland Show," and learn more about Streisand's iconic career with Jewish Lives.

 
 

Jewish Life of the Month: Benjamin Disraeli

Rebecca Keys

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Disraeli

Dates
1804-1881

Impact
Served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party. He is widely celebrated for his role in Jewish history but is the perception of him as a Jewish hero accurate?  

Famous Quote
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

 
Disraeli: The Novel Politician
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3 Things You Should Know About Alfred Stieglitz

Rebecca Keys

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Explore the life of the revolutionary American photographer ripe for rediscovery as a photographer and champion of other artists

Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) was an enormously influential artist and nurturer of artists even though his accomplishments are often overshadowed by his role as Georgia O’Keeffe’s husband. This new book from celebrated biographer Phyllis Rose reconsiders Stieglitz as a revolutionary force in the history of American art.

Born in New Jersey, Stieglitz at age eighteen went to study in Germany, where his father, a wool merchant and painter, insisted he would get a proper education. After returning to America, he became one of the first American photographers to achieve international fame. By the time he was sixty, he gave up photography and devoted himself to selling and promoting art. His first gallery, 291, was the first American gallery to show works by Picasso, Rodin, Matisse, and other great European modernists. His galleries were not dealerships so much as open universities, where he introduced European modern art to Americans and nurtured an appreciation of American art among American artists.


Reviews

"There is no pure white or black in photography: a great photograph captures the nuances of light and shadow that underlie perception. That is exactly what Phyllis Rose's biography of Alfred Stieglitz does. And no biographer has a sharper sense of focus for the competing narratives that underlie a marriage. This double portrait of Stieglitz and O'Keeffe is the work of a master.” —Judith Thurman, author of Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette and Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller
 
 “Rose is consistently generous, knowledgeable . . .” —Christine Smallwood, The New Yorker


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About the Author

Phyllis Rose is a literary critic and biographer. Her books include the acclaimed biography of Virginia Woolf, Woman of Letters, and her classic Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages. She divides her time between New York City and Key West, FL.

Author photograph © Sigrid Estrada

Menasseh ben Israel: Rabbi of Amsterdam

Rebecca Keys

Watch author Steven Nadler discuss the life and legacy of Menasseh ben Israel, filmed at the Park Avenue Synagogue in NYC.

This event is part of the Jewish Lives Book Club, a global reading group program where participants receive discounted books, free reading guides, and more.

 
Menasseh ben Israel: Rabbi of Amsterdam
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Jewish Life of the Month: Alfred Stieglitz

Rebecca Keys

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Alfred Stieglitz

Dates
1864-1946

Impact
Although his career as an influential photographer and art promoter is often overshadowed by his role as Georgia O’Keeffe’s husband, Stieglitz was a revolutionary force in the history of American art.

Famous Quote
"Wherever there is light, one can photograph."

 
 

Quote Corner

Rebecca Keys

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Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence
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Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel
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Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern
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Jewish Life of the Month: Martin Buber

Rebecca Keys

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Martin Buber

Dates
1878-1965

Impact
Buber’s philosophical and theological writings, most famously I and Thou, made significant contributions to religious and Jewish thought, philosophical anthropology, biblical studies, political theory, and Zionism.

Famous Quote
"A person cannot approach the divine by reaching beyond the human. To become human, is what this individual person, has been created for."

 
Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent
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The Power of Peggy Guggenheim

Rebecca Keys

Watch a clip from the Tribeca Film Festival documentary, in which Peggy Guggenheim is remembered for her success and sexuality. Learn more about her uncompromising life with Jewish Lives.

 
Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern
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Jewish Life of the Month: Ben Hecht

Rebecca Keys

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ben Hecht

Dates
1894-1964

Impact
A celebrated American screenwriter best known for Scarface,Twentieth Century, and Notorious, Hecht emerged as an outspoken crusader for the imperiled Jews of Europe and later became a fierce propagandist for pre-1948 Palestine’s Jewish terrorist underground.

Famous Quote
"Love is a hole in the heart."

 
Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures
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The Genius of Albert Einstein

Rebecca Keys

Watch a History.com documentary about the extraordinary genius of Albert Einstein and learn more about the brilliant scientist with Jewish Lives. 

 
Einstein: His Space and Times
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Jewish Life of the Month: Leonard Bernstein

Rebecca Keys

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Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician
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Leonard Bernstein

Dates
1918-1990

Impact
An internationally celebrated conductor, a skilled pianist, and brilliant composer, Bernstein is best known as the music director of the New York Philharmonic and for his music for West Side Story.

Famous Quote
"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable."

4 Questions with Judith Rosenbaum

Rebecca Keys

 
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This month, Judith Rosenbaum, PhD, executive director of the Jewish Women’s Archive, answers 4 questions about the Jewish experience.

1. In your opinion, what is the defining feature of Jewish life today?

I would say choice. Jewish life in the 21st century is voluntary, and – even for those of us for whom Jewishness is a primary identity – it is one among many commitments and affiliations.

2. What is your favorite Jewish book and why?

It’s hard to pick just one, but if forced to choose, I would have to say Grace Paley’s The Collected Stories. Her stories, which focus on women’s lives, capture how the most mundane, brief moments of everyday life (a walk with a friend, moms watching kids in the park) contain everything we need to know about people and the world. I also love the intersections of politics, family, and storytelling. No one was better than Grace Paley at making clear the political imperative, as well as the human imperative, to love people and to tell their stories. I return to these stories again and again for Paley’s deep wisdom about people, relationships, love, and justice.

3. What do you think Jewish life will look like in 100 years from now?

As a historian, I have a great deal of humility about making predictions. As in the midrash of Moses feeling lost in the beit midrash of Rabbi Akiva, I expect – and hope – that I would be surprised and perhaps confused, because Judaism should continue to evolve.

4. If you could meet any figure from Jewish history, who would it be and why?

Again, how to choose just one?? I’d love to meet the 19th century feminist Ernestine Rose and hear about how it even occurred to her to sue her rabbi father in the Polish civil court over her betrothal to a man she didn’t want to marry and the loss of her inheritance to him. I’m also fascinated by Emma Goldman and would enjoy meeting her. And I’d be interested to get Bella Abzug’s perspective on how to grapple with politics in this challenging era. Among many others.