Polish Film ‘Ida’ Shortlisted for Oscar

Pawel Pawlikowski’s bracing film up for Foreign Language Academy Award

Ida/Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) and Wanda (Agata Kulesza) in 'Ida.' (Courtesy of Music Box Films)

Ida, the newest film by Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, has been shortlisted for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The film tells the story of Ida, a 1960s Polish teenager just weeks away from taking her vows and becoming a nun. She is sent to meet her only living relative, a tough, grizzled aunt, who informs her that she’s Jewish, and her parents were killed during the Holocaust. It’s a lot to take on, and Pawlikowski, known for films like Last Resort (2000) and My Summer of Love (2004), manages deftly. J. Hoberman, writing about the film upon its April release, called it “bracing, beautifully wrought, and provocative.”

Ida is thus a kind of investigatory road film in which, driving through rural Poland, the cloistered novice learns more about life’s cruelties and her country’s recent past than she would surely ever want to know—while her aunt, whose belief in her own secular faith has long since eroded, is forced to re-experience the trauma she would prefer had remained buried,” Hoberman wrote. (more…)

Dov Charney Down To Last Six Figures

Claim: The former American Apparel CEO “has 100k to his name”

Dov Charney rings the closing bell at the NASDAQ Stock Market on September 15, 2006 in New York City. (Mat Szwajkos/Getty Images)

It looks as if Dov Charney could use a bit of tzedakahThe founder and former CEO of American Apparel, who earlier this month was fired by his own company, is down to his last six figures.

“He’s only got a hundred thousand dollars to his name,” reported Bloomberg TV’s Trish Regan.


Previous: Dov Charney Booted From American Apparel

The Thin Red-and-Green Line

For a Jewish convert, how much Christmas is too much?


A few years ago, shortly before getting married, I converted to Judaism. Never much of a practicing Episcopalian, most of the time I have little trouble feeling Jewish. I can bake a challah that would make any bubbe proud. I know my way around brises and bar mitzvahs. I can hora with the best of them.

But this most wonderful time of year gives me trouble; I still love Christmas. (more…)

India Considers Pro-Israel Stance at the U.N.

The latest sign of deepening ties under India’s new prime minister

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on December 11, 2014. (FINDLAY KEMBER/AFP/Getty Images)

India is weighing the prospect of ending its reflexive support of the Palestinian cause in the United Nations, in what The Hindu calls a potential “tectonic shift in the country’s foreign policy.” Several sources within the current government have leaked to the Indian media that the country may switch its U.N. vote on Israel/Palestine issues to an abstention. In the past, by contrast, India has consistently voted against Israel in the global body, dating back to its rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan and support for the notorious 1975 “Zionism is racism” resolution. More recently, even as trade and bilateral ties with Israel have blossomed, India has continued to side with its opponents internationally, and just this past June voted to launch a U.N. Human Rights Council inquiry into Israel’s conduct in Gaza, despite the fact that the mandate failed to mention Hamas and was rejected by the U.S. and European Union.

But under new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, signs of change have emerged. The India-Israel relationship is gradually being brought out of the closet. In September, Modi met with Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, in the first such encounter between Israeli and Indian premiers in 11 years. (Modi did not meet with Palestinian President Abbas.) Following that, the Modi government green-lighted several big ticket arms deals with the Jewish state, including one that had been delayed since 2006, and another for which India snubbed a competing offer from the United States. And now, these burgeoning ties may have borne geopolitical fruit at the United Nations. (more…)

Umbrian Olive Harvest Needs Hanukkah Miracle

Climate change imperils a Jewish tradition

Olive press in Tuscany. (Shutterstock)

The news that archaeologists found traces of 8,000-year-old olive oil on prehistoric potsherds in northern Israel may have seemed like something of a modern “Hanukkah miracle.”

To me, though, it represented the cruelest of ironies. (more…)

Israeli Photographer Navigates Cambodian Roots

Tomer Kep explores his unusual legacy through haunting images

"Untitled," 2006. (Courtesy of Tomer Kep)

One of Tel Aviv photographer Tomer Kep’s most telling photographs is a black-and-white shot of two different rooms. The left side of the frame features a wall in his mother’s living room in Jerusalem, and the right side another wall and a corridor, this one in his aunt’s apartment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Drained of color and visually alike, they look like they could be images from the same house. That’s kind of the point. Kep, a 36-year-old photographer and film librarian, has a Cambodian father and a Moroccan mother, and one of the more improbable backstories in Israel and Cambodia, two nations certainly not wanting for improbable backstories. (more…)

Manhattan’s Biggest Menorah Mystery, Solved

The story behind the massive Hanukkiah atop a Fifth Avenue building

William Goldberg's Fifth Avenue Menorah. (William Goldberg)

Ever wonder about that massive menorah perched on an office building terrace at Fifth Avenue and 48th Street during Hanukkah? You can see it from the street; the Hanukkiah sits on the 14th floor of 589 Fifth Avenue, overlooking one of the busiest stretches of Manhattan.

To the family it belongs to, though, the menorah is simply a longtime tradition, not a diamond district beacon.

“We don’t realize that all the cars driving down Fifth Avenue can see it,” admits Saul Goldberg, whose father, diamond macher William Goldberg, first put up the menorah nearly two decades ago on the terrace of his eponymous company’s Fifth Avenue offices. (more…)

New Orleans Pelicans Waive Gal Mekel

The NBA’s second Israeli player is left without a team once again

Gal Mekel, formerly of the Dallas Mavericks, on November 29, 2013. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Gal Mekel, the second Israeli to play in the NBA, is once again without a team. Dropped by the Dallas Mavericks after only one season at the end of October, the Tel Aviv-born point guard seemed to still have a few promising options. In early November, though, his deal with the Indiana Pacers fell through at the eleventh hour because of a visa technicality, and he was once again a free agent. Earlier this month, though, he was signed by the New Orleans Pelicans, and it looked like Mekel was finally getting settled in the NBA. Today, though, the Pelicans announced they had waived Mekel, just two weeks after he joined the team.

As Raphael Gellar wrote in October, after Mekel’s departure from Dallas, going back to Israel and playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv—or even Hapoel Jerusalem, the team part-owned by New York Knick Amar’e Stoudemire—remained a possible fallback plan. (more…)

Former Nazis to Stop Receiving Social Security

Obama closes legislative loophole, ending controversial longtime practice

U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Following an Associated Press report that revealed dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals were receiving Social Security payments long after agreeing to leave the country, President Obama signed legislation officially ending the practice. The bill moved quickly, getting unanimously approved by the House earlier this month and passed by the Senate two days later.

The new law targets suspected former Nazis who snuck into the U.S. after World War II and were stripped of their American citizenship when the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations discovered them. Most elected to quietly leave before they faced deportation, a deal sweetened by the promise of continued Social Security payouts. (more…)

Soccer Star Suspended Over Instagram Post

Mario Balotelli faces one-game ban and fine over Super Mario post

Mario Balotelli on December 14, 2014. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Liverpool striker player Mario Balotelli was suspended for one game and fined £25,000 (roughly $40,000) over a controversial image the Italian soccer posted on Instagram. The footballer, whose nickname is Super Mario, reposted a picture of the video game character along with some text. “Don’t be racist,” the message read, “be like Mario: He’s an Italian plumber created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican, jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.”

My colleague Liel Leibovitz brushed off the post’s seriousness or significance. “It’s dumb,” he wrote, “but it’s not overt racism”—which is something, Leibovitz pointed out, that Balotelli has had to deal with often throughout his professional career. “It’s particularly tedious, then, to have to defend Balotelli against charges of racism,” Leibovitz continued. “And it’s equally absurd to think that the player, adopted at a young age by the Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors, is guilty of even a whiff of anti-Semitism.” (more…)

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