Monthly Archives: January 2012

New York’s Photo League, Shut Down By McCarthyism, Revived At Jewish Museum Of New York

In 1936, a group of left-leaning, politically radical photographers in New York– many of whom were Jewish, first-generation Americans– formed The Photo League, a coterie of shutterbugs whose images drew wide acclaim until 1951, when McCarthyism dealt them a fatal blow.

Leaguers loved to focus their lenses on New York, paying special attention to the grittier sides of urban life and poverty. Before long, the group attracted some of the biggest names in photography–Richard Avedon, Robert Frank and Arthur Felig (aka Weegee, whose NYC murder photos are currently at the ICP) were all members, as were Sid Grossman, Aaron Siskind and Paul Strand.

The League, however, ran into serious trouble during the Red Scare.

With roots in the labor movement, and an illustrated journal modeled after European Communist weeklies, the FBI took notice and, according to The New York Times:

on Dec. 5, 1947, to be precise — the league appeared on a list of organizations considered “totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive” by the United States Attorney General. It responded with an open letter and a 1948 retrospective exhibition, “This is the Photo League.” But it was dealt a fatal blow during a 1949 trial of alleged Communist Party officials, when a league member turned F.B.I. informant called the Photo League a Communist front and singled out its leading teacher, Sid Grossman, as a party recruiter.Membership became too dangerous. Newspapers and magazines snubbed league-affiliated photographers; photojournalists couldn’t get passports. In 1951, the Photo League closed its doors. 

Partnering with Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, The Jewish Museum in New York is reviving the memory of The League with a large collection of their photos in an exhibit called “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951.” The exhibit opened in November and will be on display until March 25th.

Source: –    Christopher Mathias

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For Better and Worse: Jewish Marriages in the Arizona Territory

For Better and Worse:  Jewish Marriages in the Arizona Territory

Presented by Arizona Jewish Theatre Company at John Paul Theatre

January 30, 2012

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company will present the reading of a new play being created specifically for the Centennial Tales of Arizona Jewish Women Pioneers – For Better and Worse by Harriet Rochlin, author of many books on early Jewish western settlers.

Janet Arnold, Producing Director of AJTC states: “Nearly two years ago, Larry Bell of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society approached me with the idea of creating a new work for the Centennial. I thought it was a great idea and immediately contacted Harriet Rochlin, since she is a real expert on Jews of the Southwest. She too was intrigued, and we now have a general script to draw upon.”

The script includes vignette-type stories of a variety of women who helped to settle Arizona and bring some Jewish flavor to the territory. The ladies portrayed range from Rosa Katzenstein Drachman in the 1860s to Sarah Nathan Goldwater to Josephine Marcus Earp and others.

The actors presenting the reading are: Barbara Mark Dreyfuss, Barbara Goldman, Cheryl Hammerman, Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman, Barb Zemel, and Janet Arnold of the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company.


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The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter

The Portuguese Synagogue (Dutch: Portugees Synagoge) is one of the oldest Jewish attractions in Amsterdam, and it’s a wonder that this 17th-century temple has survived the trials of history. The temple was built to serve the Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam, the descendents of Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 under the Spanish Inquisition. Over a century later, the descendents of the expelled Jews arrived in Amsterdam, a city that was world-famous for its tolerance, to be able to live their lives publicly as Jews. The Sephardic community made major contributions to Dutch culture and economy, a detailed picture of which can be found at the Jewish Historical Museum just down the block.

The vision of architect Elias Bouwman, the synagogue was constructed between 1671 and 1675; inscribed above the entrance, however, is the year 1672, when the temple was intially supposed to have been completed. Restored many times over the centuries, the latest restoration came in 1992 and 1993, when the entire temple was revamped, from the foundations to the timber roof structure to the various interior adornments.

The synagogue is located in a complex that also houses several other buildings, such as the winter synagogue. It’s immediately apparent to visitors who enter the main synagogue how difficult it would have been to heat the vast space, hence the need for a winter-weather alternative equipped with heat and electricity. The complex also contains the rabbinate, the mikveh or ritual bath – which was also modernized in the most recent spate of renovations – as well as offices and archives.

As of December 20, 2011, the temple’s annexes have been reopened to the public after a nearly two-year period of renovation, which included the creation of a new treasure room. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was on hand to witness the triumphant moment that the 800-odd ritual objects were made accessible to the public once more. The delicate items will now be housed in conditions that meet museum preservation standards, in climate-controlled spaces that facilitate the preservation of this treasure trove of silver, antiques, textiles, and rare books and manuscripts.

Ets Haim – Livraria Montesinos

In the same complex is the revered Ets Haim library, the oldest Jewish library in the world, founded in 1616; it was moved to the synagogue complex when construction was completed in 1675. The immense collection specializes in 17th- and 18th-century Judaism, with an emphasis on Sephardic Jewry, but also includes a fair number of secular works from those centuries. The full name of the library, Ets Haim – Livraria Montesinos, refers to former librarian David Montesinos, who donated his personal collection to the library in 1889.

The Ets Haim collection now consists of 560 manuscripts and 30,000 printed works, more than half of which are in Hebrew, but it’s been a tortuous road for these priceless documents. In the Second World War, the collection was confiscated by Nazis and taken to Germany, but returned unharmed after the war; later, in the 1970s, the library didn’t have the funds to adequately care for its precious collection, and so it loaned the core collection to the Jewish National Library in Jerusalem. The core collection was returned to a restored, climate-controlled Ets Haim library in 2000, where it has remained ever since.

More Information

Call +31 (0)20 624 5351 or visit the Portuguese Synagogue web site1. For further information on the Ets Haim Library, call +31 (0)20 531 0398 or visit the Ets Haim web site2.


Source: – By  

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