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Andy Statman

Presented by the Jewish Cultural Studies Program at Monmouth University.

Had there been a planetarium in 19th-century Galicia, or a kosher
deli in Depression-era Kentucky, Andy Statman’s music might have been
playing in the background. Meandering through time, geography and
culture in a few passionate, organic gusts of music, neither the man nor
his inimitable hybrid sound has a very clearly defined “before” or
“after.” Statman, one of his generation’s premier
mandolinists and clarinetists, thinks of his compositions as “a
spontaneous, American-roots form of very personal, prayerful Hasidic
music, by way of avant-garde jazz.”

This modest man takes for granted that a performer might embody
several worlds in his art, and seems not to recognize that his music,
like his story, is extraordinary. It’s a story Statman rewrites with his
trio every time they perform: “We’re creating an experience between the
audience and us.” Statman performs his distinctive, unconstrained
meditations on jazz, klezmer, bluegrass and the human soul with bassist
Jim Whitney and percussionist Larry Eagle. “At a certain point, we’re
just talking, just having a threeway conversation.” This “conversation”
changes each time they have it on stage, no melody sounding quite the
same as it did before, and none bearing the definitive stamp of the
genre that spawned it. A totally unselfconscious performer, Statman does
not mind that many audiences leave slightly befuddled as to what kind
of music, exactly, they have just heard.

Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy

Director/ Producer: Haydn Reiss 

Beginning in 1994, Reiss has made a series of documentaries on writers and poets, including William Stafford & Robert Bly: A Literary Friendship and the award-winning Rumi: Poet of the Heart, which was narrated by Debra Winger. Both films aired on PBS.

In 2005, Reiss produced, How Democrats and Progressives Can Win: Solutions from George Lakoff’ Professor Lakoff, a noted expert in linguistics and political language, is showcased in a tightly knit program that explains how modern politics is waged through ideas like “framing” the debate, the way a party’s “values” influence voters and much more. At that time only the political right had made use of these cognitive techniques to gain political power and the film was made in response to that imbalance.

Reiss’ 2009 film, Every War Has Two Losers, a look at poet William Stafford’s years as a conscientious objector, was a 2011 winner at the Canadian International Film Festival and an official selection of the 2011 United National Film Festival. 

2015 brought the completion of Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy, the first feature documentary profile of the prolific and controversial poet and activist. Featuring Martin Sheen, Gary Snyder Mark Rylance, Jane Hirshfield, Philip Levine and many others from the world of art and literature. It is set for a PBS broadcast next year. 

In a previous life Haydn worked as  assistant on the psychological thriller Jacob Ladder and as assistant to the producer Alex Ho on Oliver Stone’s JFK.

Mr. Reiss has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota Film & TV, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, the Westcliff Foundation and others.

There will be a Q&A with the filmmaker, Haydn Reiss, following the screening. This event is sponsored by the Visiting Writers Series and Jewish Cultural Studies.

Jerry Zolten: We Were What We Laughed At! An American Cultural History through the Art of Stand-Up Comedy

Jerry Zolten, educator, author, musician, roots music historian and producer, also counts among his credits a stint as a stand-up comic. He will give a presentation on the history of stand up comedy that is richly illustrated with rare video performance clips. The talk will explore comedy as it relates to issues including ethnic stereotyping, freedom of speech, social injustice, and race and gender disparity.

Motivated by his love of comedy and the power of the best comedians to shake up thinking on a range of significant social issues, Zolten dug into the history of American stand-up and over the years interviewed and published profiles of luminaries including Carl Reiner, Steve Allen, Dick Gregory, George Carlin, and Woody Allen, to name a few.

His collaborations on roots music projects with noted satirists Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar have led to guest appearances on public radio’s American Routes and as a featured speaker at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame.

He is the author of Great God A’Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music (Oxford University Press), co-editor of Bruce Springsteen, Cultural Studies, and the Runaway American Dream (Ashgate), and contributor to The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (Cambridge University Press).         

Zolten contributed to two 2015 Grammy-Winning projects, The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volumes 1 & 2 (Revenant/Third Man) and The Fairfield Four’s Still Rockin’ My Soul!.

His most recent work includes an article on the centennial of the iconic Martin Dreadnought Guitar for the C.F. Martin Guitar Company’s Martin Journal of the Acoustic Guitar along with a featured on-screen appearance in the documentary film “The Ballad of the Dreadnought” produced by C.F. Martin & Co. 

The Mitzvah

The Mitzvah (“The Good Deed”) is a one-person play that dramatically explores one of the most shocking stories of the Second World War. More than a hundred thousand German men — classified as “mischlinge” (the derogatory term the Nazis used to describe those descended from one or two Jewish grandparents) — fought in the German armed forces. After the play there will be a post-performance lecture and audience discussion led by Grunwald.

The story of one such mischling is at the center of The Mitzvah and actor (and child of survivor) Roger Grunwald seamlessly transforms himself into an array of characters to tell that story. In addition to Christoph (the “mischling”), other characters include Schmuel, a Polish Jew from Bialystok and the play’s Chorus who offers edgy commentary that probes the boundary between the absurd and the horrific. The Mitzvah is a touching and tragic tale told in a powerful one-act solo performance created by Grunwald and Broadway veteran Annie McGreevey.

The Mitzvah adds to the historical narratives about The Holocaust at a time when few survivors remain to tell their stories to younger generations and was inspired by the lives of Grunwald’s mother and aunt, survivors of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, respectively. It premiered at the Emerging Artists Theatre’s “Illuminating Artists: One Man Talking” festival in New York City and is currently being presented in theaters, universities and Jewish organizations around the country.

Through one soldier’s story, The Mitzvah reveals the startling history of tens of thousands of “partial Jews” who served in Hitler’s military, most of whom were discharged in 1940. Nearly all were sent to forced labor camps — or worse. However, a few thousand who had an “Aryan appearance” and who were deemed by the Reich to be “valuable to the war effort,” were exempted from the Nazi race laws. A “Declaration of German Blood” (a Deutschblütigkeitserklärung) — signed by Hitler himself — allowed these select few thousand mischlinge to fight for the Nazi cause. Most died in battle.

“… The Mitzvah is an important piece of cultural discourse as well as a marvelous piece of theater… by a gifted and versatile playwright and performer.”
– Rabbi Shalom M. Paltiel, Chabad of Port Washington

American-Israeli relations in the Trump era: A Lecture by Michael Tuchfeld

The positions that president Trump expressed in his campaign regarding Israel and the Middle East conflict were sometimes inconsistent or contradictory.  Nevertheless, some characteristics show that he will act to roll back most of former president Obama’s ideas and policies of how to promote peace in the area. It is obvious that new terminologies have been formed and reached the gates of the region. What are they and what do they indicate? Many Israelis feel relieved, others – worried. What are P.M. Netanyahu’s expectations in the new era? What are the Israeli cabinet ministers’ expectations and do they expect the same things?  The questions of settlements, annexation of territories conquered in 1967, the two-state solution and the settlement regulation law will be raised as well as the policy towards Iran, Egypt and other players on the political field

Is the defeat of the American political establishment a positive development for Israel?
What mistakes should both sides avoid?

These questions and others will be raised in the lecture….
Michael Tuchfeld is a journalist, currently working for Maariv-Makor
Rishon and NRG 360 News website as a political analyst and correspondent. He was the
parliamentary correspondent of Kol-Israel, IBA, and the host of the
daily talk show on The Knesset Channel – Channel 2 News. He also has a
weekly talk show on Galey Israel. He has an M.A. degree from Bar Ilan
University in Communications and Political Sciences.

This event sponsored by The Jewish Cultural Studies Program at Monmouth University

Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker is a poet and critic, author of seventeen collections of poetry, most recently The Book of Seventy (winner of the National Jewish book Award), The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog, and Waiting for the Light.  She has received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and has been twice nominated for the National Book Award, among other honors.    As a critic she is the author of Stealing the Language; the Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, and other books on poetry and on the Bible.  She is distinguished Professor Emerita of Rutgers University, teaches in the low-residency Poetry MFA program at Drew university, and is currently a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. This event is part of the Jewish Cultural Studies Program.

CAROLYN DORFMAN DANCE: The Legacy Project: A Dance Of Hope

The Legacy Project: A Dance of Hope

Acclaimed choreographer and
storyteller Carolyn Dorfman has created an exultant “dance-theatre” trilogy
that connects us through our common human experience. Told through the lens of
a child of Holocaust survivors, dances illustrate the devastation, yet inspires
hope as immigrants’ journey to a new land that promises new beginnings! Our
deepest desires for peace, freedom and family are illuminated in this
triumphant work that will make you cry, laugh, think and celebrate the capacity
of the human spirit to rise above all circumstance. 

Described by critics as
“ingenious” (The Star-Ledger) and “emotionally resonant” (The New York Times),
the dances in the Legacy Project bring together Dorfman’s family stories, Jewish
history, and a universal struggle for identity. Through this combination,
Dorfman inspires in her audience feelings of familiarity and unity, creating
dances that serve as metaphors for the greater truths of the human experience,
“In her works, visual images become still photographs that capture and
freeze certain universal truths…both reflect[ing] and engender[ing] a
profound humanity. Because her dances are about people and life experience,
often moving from the autobiographical to the universal, they hold immediate
appeal” (The New York Times).

About Carolyn Dorfman Dance 
Carolyn Dorfman Dance
connects life and dance in bold, athletic and dramatic works by Carolyn Dorfman
and nationally renowned choreographers. 
The company’s ten multi-ethnic and stunning dancers tap their unique
talents to present high-energy and technically demanding dance that unleashes
the powerful storytelling and imagery of its visionary creator. This
distinctive combination takes audiences on intellectual and emotional journeys
that ultimately illuminate and celebrate the human experience. This is
contemporary dance that moves you to think, feel, laugh, cry and engage. The
highly acclaimed ensemble is known for emotional resonance and artistic
excellence both in performance and in its interactions with audiences, students
and the community. Sharing art and process is the hallmark of this
company.  Celebrating 35 years, Carolyn
Dorfman Dance continues to impact audiences at major theaters, dance festivals,
universities, schools, museums and galleries regionally, nationally and


ON THE MAP tells the against-all-odds story of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 1977 European Championship, which took place at a time when the Middle East was still reeling from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1972 Olympic massacre at Munich, and the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv. Through the lens of sports, ON THE MAP presents a much broader story of how one team captured the heart of a nation amidst domestic turmoil and the global machinations of the Cold War.

The film recounts how an underdog Israeli basketball team prevailed over a series of European basketball powers, including CSKA Moscow (known in the West as “Red Army”), a team that repeatedly refused to compete against Israeli competitors. Moments after this highly charged and historic win, Israeli-American basketball hero Tal Brody became an indelible part of a young country’s history when he famously said, “Israel is ON THE MAP, not just in sport, but in everything.”

Told through the eyes of six American basketball players who joined Maccabi and helped the club defeat top teams from Spain, Italy and the Soviet Union, the film features interviews with basketball icon Bill Walton (who had a unique personal connection to Brody) and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.  ON THE MAP combines the pulse-pounding action of a high-stakes thriller with an incendiary political backdrop to deliver a film that will mesmerize basketball fans and captures the spirit of a nation triumphant against all odds.

ON THE MAP also features incisive interviews with, among others, Michael Oren, Israel’s former Ambassador to the United States, and Natan Sharansky, a notable Israeli politician who spent years imprisoned in Soviet jails.

CANCELLED – Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird

Detroit-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter, polyglot poet, translator and activist Daniel Kahn concocts furious, tender, electrifying and revolutionary Alienation Klezmer. With the Painted Bird, he presents a variety of passionate songs inspired in part by the struggles of Jewish revolutionaries at the turn of the century, and in part by his own intense desire for a better world. The Painted Bird has brought “Yiddish Punk Cabaret” to rock clubs, festivals and shtetls, from Berlin to Boston, Leningrad to Louisiana. The band has been referred to as “The Yiddish Pogues,” and Kahn was once described as “someone between Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits – but yiddish.” Fittingly, his Yiddish cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – coincidentally released a few days before the passing of the great musician – has gone viral, with over 700,000 views.

Kahn also leads The Brothers Nazaroff , which revives the lost repertoire of Nathan “Prince” Nazaroff, the master tumbler of the 50s in whose mad howl can be heard the alleys of Odessa, the cacophony of Coney Island, and the mountain air of the Catskills. With access to the Smithsonian Folkways vault, The Brothers Nazaroff have restored a piece of a cultural heritage thought lost to the world.