August ’10 Spotlight

Internationally-acclaimed Israeli author Etgar Keret, who just received the Chevalier medallion of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, returns to the Midwest August 22 to begin a two-week stint as “artist-in-residence” in the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, supported in part through the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s Israel Studies Project.

His trip to UIUC also includes a long weekend of public and private appearances in metro Chicago, including a lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on Thurs Aug 26 (also co-sponsored by the Israel Studies Project), and a luncheon in the Loop on Friday, August 27. Keret will be accompanied by his wife, Shira Geffen, with whom he co-directed Jellyfish (recipient of the Golden Camera award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival).

The August 26 lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6pm in the SAIC Auditorium. (Use the Art Institute’s “back” entrance at Columbus and Adams). The August 27 luncheon, sponsored by American Associates of Ben Gurion University, begins at 11:45 am , is also free, but reservations must be made in advance. For details, contact Judy Rosen at (847) 325-5009.

Special Summer Screenings Continue

The Chicago YIVO Society will present two screenings of the new documentary In the Name of Their Mothers: The Irena Sendler Story as part of their 2010 Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture. Sendler was a Polish social worker who helped rescue over 2,000 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Even more remarkable, she kept detailed records, which enabled her to reunite families after WWII. In 1965, she was named “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. Filmmaker Mary Skinner taped extensive interviews with Sendler before she died in 2008 at the age of 98.

Screenings are at 12:15 pm on August 25 at Skokie Public Library and at 6:30 pm on August 25 at Harold Washington Library Center, on State and Congress in Chicago. I will conduct a Q&A session after the Skokie screening. Chicago attorney Michael Traison, who knew Sendler personally, will conduct a Q&A session after the Loop screening (co-sponsored by International Women Associates). Both screenings are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.ChicagoYivoBlog.com.

Four Seasons Lodge is an award-winning documentary about survivors who spend every summer at a Catskills bungalow colony. In over 25 years together, they have created an extended family structure that substitutes for, but never replaces, parents and siblings lost during the Holocaust. Filmmaker Andrew Jacobs blends clips from home movies with bucolic new footage shot under the direction of Albert Maysles. Four Seasons Lodge will screen three times August 8-11at the Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street. For tickets, visit: www.SiskelFilmCenter.org.

Finally, Todd Solondz’ new film Life During Wartime opens August 6 at the Music Box Theatre on Southport. Solondz is an “edgy” filmmaker, and I found his first three films rewarding, but this time my reaction is more mixed. He definitely gives us food for thought, but if you go, expect to see negative stereotypes of Jewish women and hostile references to the role Israel plays in contemporary Jewish-American consciousness.

Curtain Call

I heard Rebecca Janowitz lecture last month about her new book Culture of Opportunity (with the long, unwieldy subtitle Obama’s Chicago—the people, politics, and ideas of Hyde Park). More than anything else, this well-researched book is a personal account of a unique partnership between Jewish-Americans and African-Americans living and working together for decades in the shadow of the University of Chicago.

Who knew, for example, that the original funding for Powell’s (now an internationally known used book giant) came from Rebecca’s father, Sociologist Morris Janowitz, partnering with his Jewish colleagues Saul Bellow and Edward Shils? David Axelrod, now Obama’s top political advisor, makes familiar appearances as the University of Chicago alumnus who helped elect Harold Washington, but how many of us remember that early support from Alan and Lois Dobry (who cut their teeth campaigning for Jewish alderman Leon Despres) helped vault Obama to state and then national prominence?

“Great emphasis has been placed on Obama’s choice of a black wife and a black church. This is seen as an attempt to distance himself from his mother’s world. But Hyde Park is his mother’s world.” Something to think about as the 2010 campaign season heats up.

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