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George Eliot, Judaism, and Mary Anne Evans, Bicentennial

In this lecture, eminent Eliot scholar and internationally renowned literary critic William Baker takes audiences on a multimedia celebration of Jewish author George Eliot’s life and times. Of special note will be the 200th anniversary of her epic novel Middlemarch.

About the speaker:
William Baker is Emeritus Professor of English and University Libraries at Northern Illinois University. He has authored more than 30 books, including numerous studies of George Eliot and nineteenth-century British literature.

My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy!

Starring the author and Broadway star of the show, Steve Solomon. This show has now become one of the longest running one-man comedies in history! The show just celebrated its four thousandth performance.

In My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy! – using dialects, accents and sound effect, Steve brings to the stage dozens of wild characters we all relate to; all brought to life by Steve’s comedy magic. His four shows have had audiences in three countries guffawing since 2003. Almost one million people have seen his shows. The audience follows along on this wonderfully funny journey about growing up, mixed marriages, ex-wives, dogs, cats, dieting, and dozens of other side-splitting situations we can all relate to.

You don’t have to be Italian or Jewish to love Steve Solomon — all you need to know is what it’s like to leave a family dinner with heartburn and a headache. Prepare to laugh until you cry as Steve brings to life over twenty wacky characters in a show that’s one part lasagna, one part kreplach and two parts Prozac.

Jacob Landau: Exploring the Colors

An exhibition of works exploring the world of colors created by the American artist, humanist, and teacher Jacob Landau. Born in Philadelphia in 1917, Jacob Landau launched his career as an illustrator, winning national prizes at age 16 and a scholarship to the Philadelphia College of Art. He had over sixty one-person shows and was the recipient of many awards, including Guggenheim and National Arts Council grants. Many of his works are featured in permanent collections, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A master teacher, he retired as professor emeritus at New York’s Pratt Institute. In 1996, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by Monmouth University.

For Jacob Landau “art enables us to see the world whole and undivided.” As a humanist his art was devoted to the unity of the imagination. And at its center lies Landau’s desire for justice in the world. In the current exhibit his celebration of our love of color, shared across so many cultures, is inseparable from his humanist conviction. Color and drawing, Landau once declared, are the “twin fundaments of my style.” And he has been praised by fellow artists and critics as a colorist. His dazzling palette and expressive line exhilarate us. We find ourselves transported by their exuberant life, colors that rise up and sing for us in a work titled Flight. And yet his love affair with color does not blind him to the world of injustice.

On the one hand, his red and orange and yellow, and green and blue watercolors of gorgeous promise, so exquisitely handled in a radically imagined portrait of Isaiah dazzle us with life. But by the same token, Landau by these colors insists on the social justice that Isaiah declaimed. Justice, the artist makes clear in his beautiful and unsettling riot of forms, that he expects of us.

Uniquely, his canvass of many colors dazzles and disturbs. His understated colors in Apocalypsis fill us with foreboding, and he asks, “Whose apocalypse is it anyway ours or God’s?” Just like Landau to leave us with an uncomfortable question in the language of subtle colors. At the same time, we see a bold backdrop of brilliant yellow across the way in his Oracle 1, dramatizing the hope that resides in the human heart. A yellow we can’t shake as we walk away.

The exhibition features a selection of some twenty-one works. All are from Monmouth University’s extensive collection of Jacob Landau’s work, comprising over 300 prints, drawings and paintings. The collection was gifted to Monmouth University in 2008 by the Jacob Landau Institute of Roosevelt, NJ. This exhibit is co-sponsored by the Jewish Culture Studies Program and the Honors School of Monmouth University.

Docent tours are available (for times, contact Professor Noel Belinski 732-263-5425; email:  nbelinsk@monmouth.edu).

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
internationally.