Arts & Culture

We welcome you to send us any news you might have regarding the vibrant arts and culture scene here in Philadelphia. If you have books to review, theatre productions, music, or museum exhibits please feel free to contact Art & Culture Editor Lisa Grunberger at

The Cat, The fish, and the Waiter: a Trilingual Book

51hli3lI8qL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_Marianna Bergues, a a 17-year old Narberth native, has published a whimsical children’s book in English, Hebrew, and French. The Cat, the Fish, and the Waiter is a retelling of a French bedtime story that her father tucked her into bed with throughout her childhood.

It is a story of a French waiter who works in a café in Paris. He makes many friends while doing his job, and agrees to take care of some of their pets while they are away.

The charming illustrations, executed by Christian Bergues, convey what café life in Paris is like. The cat and the fish take the reader on a wonderful tour of Paris.

Ms. Bergues gives her readers a glimpse of what it is like to grow up in a multicultural and multilingual home. As the people move around more, many more families are becoming more international. Readers of all ages will enjoy this delightful story, and perhaps improve their Hebrew or French.

Spanning the Globe in Cinema

By Laurel Fairworth

2017 LogoThis year the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia is all over the map in a theatrical way. Now in its 21st year the festival kicks off on Saturday, March 4, 2017, with the critically acclaimed movie Mr. Predictable about a man who dramatically changes his outlook when he thinks he only has a few weeks to live.

The month long film extravaganza, which runs through April 2, 2017, takes place in venues around our area including the Perelman at the Kimmel Center, the Ritz, and the International House and in Bryn Mawr. Mindy Chriqui, Artistic Director of the IFF of Philadelphia says, “We are always excited about each year’s festival, but we feel this is the best, most diverse and most controversial yet. The films run the gamut from historical documentaries to searing dramas to laugh out loud come-dies from points all over the world.”

For the first time, the 2017 lineup features a picture geared for kids, with free ad-mission to those dressing up for the Purim holiday. My Special Brother is a poignant and timely look at siblings born with disabilities. Other featured films are David Ben Gurion, a documentary about one of history’s greatest leaders with never heard before audio from the Prime Minister himself, Operation Wedding, a daring escape plot hatched 45 years ago by a group of Soviet Jewish dissidents, Aida’s Secret, dealing with a 70 year old mystery starting in a displaced person’s camp following the Holocaust, and Nancy Speilberg’s latest masterpiece On the Map. The movie is an inspiring look inside the 1977 Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team that took on the heavily favored Russian Red Army squad and won. Similar to the American’s Miracle on Ice this film will tickle sports fan and those who root for the underdog. Nurit Yaron, IFF Executive Director, commented, “This movie is a grabber. Well-known players including Bill Walton and former Commissioner Daniel Stern give their perspective on the team and the atmosphere in the aftermath of the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics.”

Former All-American and All-Big Ten star and Maccabi guard Tal Brody once again steals the show. Nicknamed Mr Basketball and drafted 12th, the Trenton, NJ native passed up the opportunity to play in the NBA. Instead he chose to compete for the new Jewish homeland. He will be in Philadelphia to talk about that once-in-a-lifetime experience and the making of this movie.

Closing out the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia on Sunday, April 2, 2017, is fan favorite Past Life, a moving drama about the haunting power of the past and the healing power of the truth.

You may get more information, a complete schedule, and purchase tickets here or call 484 904 5421.

Lantern Theater’s “Informed Consent” Raises Deep Issues, But Lacks Subtlety

The Lantern Theater Company’s Informed Consent is a play that is not afraid to tackle big ethical and scientific questions: Are our identities defined by biology or culture? If genetic testing can provide us with insight into our biology and diseases, then is it our responsibility to acquire this insight? Is not knowing an evasion of our ethical responsibility? Is knowledge always power? [Read more…]

Academy Ball a Huge Success

Adele Schaeffer with Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf

Adele Schaeffer with Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf

The Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball, which benefits both the Academy and The Philadelphia Orchestra, always takes place on the last Saturday in January. In 2016, two feet of snow forced the last-minute cancellation of the entire event. But this year was a banner year, and the turnout for the Academy’s 160th anniversary was overwhelming. About 2,000 celebrants enjoyed a memorable evening of music, food, entertainment and fun. [Read more…]

Writers Resist Restrictions on Free Expression

Independence Hall. Photo: Wikipedia

Independence Hall. Photo: Wikipedia

Over 35 prominent Philadelphia authors, journalists and poets will read for hundreds of members of the literary community and concerned citizens at Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty on Sunday, January 15 at 2 PM to protest the potential erosion of cherished American rights such as free expression in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election. The event will be held at the National Museum of Jewish History and is free and open to the public.

“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty” will take place in sight of Independence Hall. It will feature Beth Kephart, Liz Moore, Thomas Devaney, Nathaniel Popkin, Herman Beavers, Lorene Cary, Carmen Machado, Fran Wilde, former Philly Poet Laureate Frank Sherlock, and dozens of other members of the local literary community. Many of them will be reading seminal Philadelphia freedom texts from the American Revolution to the 21st century.

It’s one of 50 simultaneous Writers Resist events around the US, which will include readings and speeches by authors like Cheryl Strayed, Alexander Chee, and Mary Karr, former U.S. Poet Laureates Robert Pinsky and Rita Dove, and journalist Amy Goodman.

“Writers Resist” was conceived by poet and literary activist Erin Bilieu. She became concerned during the recent Presidential campaign about public cynicism and the disdain for truthfulness that have eroded democratic ideals.

“Writers are acutely aware when the uses of language are empty,” she said. “Whether you live in a red or blue state, or another country that cares deeply about the American experiment, there is no more important battle than our right to truth.”

“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty” is being organized by local authors Nathaniel Popkin, Alicia Askenase, and Stephanie Feldman.

“We’re bringing together writers at the birthplace of American freedoms, and we’ll be reading from historic texts to remind us of the legacy we all need to protect,” says Popkin. “We’re coming together because as writers we must speak up for the First Amendment, for dignity and truth.”

“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty” Facebook page #WritersResist. “Writers Resist” is a national network of writers driven to #WriteOurDemocracy by defending the ideals of a free, just and compassionate democratic society.

“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty”
Sunday January 15, 2017
National Museum of American Jewish History, Dell Auditorium
5th and Market Streets
2-5 PM
Free and open to the public.

Rocking and Rapping the Hanukkah Story With the Musical Group Six 13

Tonight we offer a double musical treat for Hanukkah from Six 13, a nationally renowned, all-male Jewish a capella group. An internet sensation, the group has also performed on national TV and radio, and in venues across the country and around the world. As described on their website, their music is “fueled by thumping beatbox, intricate arrangements, and soulful harmonies” with the goal of “connect[ing] Jews around the globe with their heritage through music.” The lyrics in Six 13’s Hanukkah videos below are impressively creative and thoroughly entertaining.

Here is their 2014 parody of the Taylor Swift song “Shake It Off”:

Six 13’s most recent Hanukkah song, which they performed at the White House for the president and the first lady, is a parody of the show “Hamilton”:

Light Up Your Night With the Fountainheads

Our selected Hanukkah suggestion for tonight is the catchy “Light Up the Night” by the Fountainheads. As described on their website, the Fountainheads are “an all-volunteer, student-led artistic project, led by young Israeli singers, dancers, and musicians, all students of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, who have joined forces to create new Jewish artistic content for today’s Jewish world.” Ein Prat is a beit midrash for young Israeli adults. Its mission is to help these 20-somethings “grapple with major questions regarding their Jewish identity, their allegiance to country, and their goals for adulthood.”

Here are the Fountainheads and “Light Up the Night.” Enjoy!

Hanukkah Book-Buying Ideas

For the book lovers on your Hanukkah gift list, reviewers Rabbi Goldie Milgram and E. Bub offer the following suggestions:

dreidels-on-the-brainGive Dreidels on the Brain by Joel ben Izzy on the first night of Hanukkah, and then discuss it on the eighth night. A delightful short volume based in the lifetime of most living grandparents. It’s perfect for grandchildren and grandparents as a shared experience. Through this story, they will love and get to know each other – and Hanukkah – in new and delightful ways. -Rabbi Goldie Milgram

mathematicians-shivaA simultaneously delightful and poignant novel, The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer pulls the curtain back on the competitive nature of academia. Discover how a prominent, fictional female mathematician gets the last laugh in a field of envious male colleagues. The Jewish mourning practice, known as shiva, which ensures those in mourning are softly supported and not isolated, serves as the backdrop for the shenanigans in this spicy offering. -Rabbi Goldie Milgram

cover 08122014New Mitzvah Stories for the Whole Family, edited by Goldie Milgram and Ellen Frankel, inspires good Jewish values across the generations through contemporary stories by over 40 authors. The book covers the full spectrum of Jewish life, personal orientation and family structure. Each tale is paired with a stimulating guide for reflection, discussion and action. -E. Bub