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VICTOR WISHNA

Letter From New York: At The Gates

February 7th, 2005

Oy. Perhaps you’ve been following the latest adventure of those mono-monikered artistes, Christo and Jeanne-Claude (she of the bright-orange hair), the ones who like to wrap things like bridges and islands and German parliament buildings in fabric, if only for a few days at a time. In 1978, they hit Kansas City, covering almost three miles of jogging paths in Loose Park with an orange-ish nylon fabric — the same material that is making headlines again. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: A Solid Foundation

January 8th, 2005

A few months before architect Daniel Libeskind was chosen as the master planner to rebuild Ground Zero, he stood in the pit of the World Trade Center site, before the “slurry wall” - the gigantic concrete barrier holding back the Hudson River- and pressed his hand against its cold, rough face.

“It was a revelatory experience,” he explains, “because in that moment I could read the wall, and I understood its message. In refusing to fall it seemed to attest, perhaps as eloquently as the Constitution, to the unshakable foundations of democracy and the value of human life and liberty.”

As he reads aloud these words, from his new memoir, Breaking Ground, it’s clear from the nods and half-smiles that many of the 20 other people in the room understand, and are perhaps drawing a connection to another retaining wall, another foundation, some 6,000 miles (and 2,000 years) removed, that had also refused to fall. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: Blue State Blues

November 8th, 2004

The restaurant was eerily quiet, considering it was almost full.

This wasn’t one of those prim French restaurants we liberals so famously prefer when we’ve finished our lattes. No, it was a boisterous Italian joint known for cheap red wine and loud waiters, who on this night were just as sullen as the seven people sitting around my table.

Ours was one of thousands of quiet dinners of consolation in New York that Wednesday evening. We chatted about movies and funny things our friends had done and even the comatose Arafat’s travel plans. But nobody was talking about the - ahem - elephant in the room. Just below the surface the feeling of defeat lingered, it pulsated, this sense of us-versus-them-and-them-beat-us, a feeling that we had made it back to the playoffs only to lose decisively and there wasn’t going to be a next year, not for four more years. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: A View from the Balcony

October 8th, 2004

To prepare for a performance, some actors rely on vocal warm-ups, movement exercises, or simple, quiet meditation. Tovah Feldshuh takes another approach.

“I bathe myself in blood,” says the star and only cast member of Golda’s Balcony, which this month becomes the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: The Elephant in the Room

September 8th, 2004

It was an act of Jewish solidarity the likes of which I had never seen.

“Tom! Tom! Tom!” they chanted as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay stepped onto the stage. More than a thousand of them. All Jews. All Republicans.

When the Republicans invaded heavily Democratic New York City for their national convention last week (perhaps on the notion they’d be welcomed as liberators), their Jewish brigades rode at the forefront. The GOP was careful to keep its conservative conclaves closed to the press and to pepper its primetime speaking slots with party moderates and Democrats who’ve flipped (Zell Miller) and flopped (Ron Silver). But when the Republican Jewish Coalition sponsored a rally at the Plaza Hotel, party leaders couldn’t line up fast enough for a turn at the podium. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: Bad Girls

August 8th, 2004

Down two flights of stairs, through a narrow hallway, and past the kitchen of the restaurant above, you’ll find a dimly lit, low-ceilinged room lined with long tables facing a small stage. This is Fez, a trendy downtown New York nightspot known for avant-garde music acts and the occasional burlesque show.

So…what’s a nice Jewish girl doing in a place like this?

Well, first of all, that’s girls - and if you have to ask, you obviously didn’t see the sign outside: Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: Shmear Genius

May 8th, 2004

Alan Batt knows a lot about New York City icons. For years, the Brooklyn-born “Battman” has served as the lead photographer for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Times Square New Year’s Eve Celebration, and the annual FDNY Firefighters Calendar. His photo greeting cards - featuring twilight shots of the Manhattan skyline - are sold all over the city.

But in his latest endeavor, he has attempted to capture a symbol that dominates New York more mightily than any skyscraper. “I don’t know whether I was walking down the street or I woke up in the middle of the night when the idea popped into my head,” he says. “But there it was: Bagels and Lox.” Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: Breaking Tradition

March 8th, 2004

By the time Broadway’s latest revival of Fiddler on the Roof opened on February 26, the “trouble” had already started. In a Los Angeles Times essay, author Thane Rosenbaum had proclaimed “an absence of Jewish soul” in the new production, which stars Alfred Molina, the talented British actor of Spanish-Italian heritage, as Tevye. “The sensation is as if you’re sampling something that tastes great and looks Jewish but isn’t entirely kosher,” he wrote. The line was reprinted and amplified by New York Post columnist Michael Riedel, who started a war of words with the show’s director, Tony-winner David Leveaux, culminating in an opening-night scuffle that left Riedel on the floor.

Sounds crazy, no? Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: Beyond Babylon and Baghdad

January 8th, 2004

Unsmiling figures with long beards and head scarves greet any visitor walking through the unmarked door at 85-34 Midland Parkway. These portraits - rabbis who lived in a faraway land centuries before it was known as “Iraq” - are a reminder that the Babylonian exile continues here, albeit comfortably, in a converted brick ranch house in Queens.

In New York City, there are perhaps a few thousand Iraqi-born immigrants. Most of them are Jews, and most of them, about 400 families, are on the mailing list of Congregation Bene Naharayim (”Children of the Two Rivers,” a reference to the Tigris and the Euphrates), which was founded in suburban Jamaica Estates in 1984. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter From New York: Look, up in the sky! It’s…Menorah Man?

December 8th, 2003

On a secret island somewhere in the Pacific, an army of evil androids is about to launch a massive robot missile with a chip on its shoulder - the Forget-Me-Chip - that will destroy Jewish memories and identities worldwide. The countdown has already begun. Can evil be stopped before it’s too late? This looks like a job for…

Superman? Feh.

Never send an ordinary superhero to do a Jewish superhero’s job. Read the rest of this entry »