The Big Apple Circus Grand Tour is Not to be Missed

bigapplecircus2010mar074The Big Apple Circus, founded in 1976 innovates within several distinct, but interrelated, circus traditions: the classic European one-ring circus, the legacy and influence of the Pickles Family Circus (itself related to the work of the San Francisco Mime Troupe), and some versions of the American travelling circus.

Each year, a new, different show; each year, audiences are given a kind of “grand tour” of what is state of the art in circus artistry by master performers in their métier from around the world. And all of it, in one, intimate ring, beneath a tent that feels like the private performance pavilion of King Solomon’s palace, wherein, without exaggeration, every seat is a great seat.

This year’s show, The Grand Tour, evokes “the roaring 20’s” and references the traditional tour of Europe formerly taken mainly by the upper class. But this is “The People’s” Grand Tour, one that knows no distinction of class, because it is made with an imagination that is universal and for all; of course, because it is taken in the company of clowns.

The Grand Tour is playing through January 10, 2016, at Lincoln Center Plaza in New York City. The show runs 1 hour and 50 minutes including a 20-minute intermission.

The show’s narrative tableau happens in a setting of ships, trains, automobiles, and airplanes; in this setting, the acts are performed to accompaniment by the seven-piece Big Apple Circus Band playing music composed especially for the show. The show features:

  • hula hooper Chiara Anastasini (ninth-generation circus artist from Italy),
  • juggler Alexander Koblikov (internationally recognized for his innovative work; this is his first appearance in the United States),
  • the acrobat “Energy Trio” (from China’s famous Flag Circus),
  • “Wheel of Wonder” artists, the Dominguez Brothers,
  • the Zuma Zuma African Acrobats,
  • the Dosov Troupe (teeterboard), and,
  • from Moscow, Sergei Akimov (specialist of the aerial straps).

The Grand Tour achieves its particular coherence and fluidity, in performance, due to its writing and direction, in concert with the tasteful simplicity and elegance of the costumes, and with the sound design. This coherence is due, as well, to the fact that Joel Jeske, the show’s writer and creator (also one its two clowns), and Mark Lonergan, the show’s director, along with Brent McBeth (the other clown), all work closely together as members of the physical comedy troupe . In collaboration, these three give the whole show a clown’s point of view.

Speaking of a clown’s point of view, it is said that Beroka Hoza’ah, one of the characters in the Talmud, was told by Elijah the Prophet that clowns have a choice portion in “the world to come” Why? “Because they make people laugh.” And, to paraphrase a maxim of Jewish tradition, the world is sustained by the laughter and joy of children at the circus.

Jewish Community Must Join the Fight for $15 Minimum Wage

Jaq Basilis and Julie Dancis of Camp Galil and Habonim Dror calling for $15 minimum wage at rally in Rittenhouse Square.  Photo by Sophie Haeuber (April 2014).

Jaq Basilis and Julie Dancis of Camp Galil and Habonim Dror calling for $15 minimum wage at rally in Rittenhouse Square. Photo by Sophie Haeuber (April 2014).

— by Stuart Applebaum

Jewish law and tradition are clear about our duty to fight for the basic rights of all working people.

Shantel Walker makes $9 per hour at the Papa John’s restaurant in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood where she’s worked for the for the last 15 years, almost half her life. Because her wages are so low, she often has to choose between eating lunch or buying a Metrocard to get to work. She shares a one-bedroom apartment with family members, but still worries about making ends meet every month.

But Ms. Walker is not staying silent and letting her challenges get her down. She is standing up and joining with other fast-food workers across the country in calling for fairness and respect on the job. Since late 2012, fast-food workers have been walking off the job as part of regular one-day strikes and their ranks have recently been supported by home health care aides, adjunct professors, airport baggage handlers and other low-wage workers. Their demand? $15 per hour and a union.

The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is nothing close to a living wage. If someone earning the minimum wage is fortunate enough to be able to work full-time hours (and many are not), they would earn only $15,080 per year, which is under the poverty line for a family of two. At the current minimum wage, workers struggle paycheck-to-paycheck, and if they are able to pay all their bills at the end of the month, they are not able to save anything for an emergency, let alone for their retirement.

Rising wages will allow millions of people across the country to lift their heads up and look towards the future with hope. But it will also benefit our economy at-large. A $15 per hour minimum wage will inject billions of dollars into local economies as many are finally able to buy new clothing for their children and other basic necessities. It will also ease state budgets, as millions who currently rely on state assistance will finally be able to afford groceries and rent.

The history of American Jewry demands that we join with workers in their struggle for justice. When many of our ancestors first came to the United States, they worked low-wage jobs in the garment sector and other industries. Their experiences of struggle and pain encouraged many to organize and form unions that then fought for and won many of the basic wage and safety standards that we now take for granted. These gains enabled our families to raise their standards of living to where they are now, but we must never forget what it took to get here.
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Summer Encounters With New York’s Theatrical Jewish Culture

This summer theater lovers will have an opportunity to participate in Tent: Theater, New York City. This is a seminar about Jews and the performing arts that lasts for one week. Participants will be able to meet playwrights, directors, and actors. The group will go to several Off-Broadway productions. The influence of Jewish performers on American theater will be examined. One of the highlights of the visit will be a Q and A session with Tony Kushner, Pulitzer prize winning author of Angels in America. Applications are due March 4.

Heroines of the Lower East Side: A Historic Walking Tour

New York, NY — The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy will present Heroines of the Lower East Side: A Historic Walking Tour on Sunday, November 11th at 10:45 AM.  Participants will meet at Straus Square on Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 10:45 AM.

Led by historian, preservationist and author Joyce Mendelsohn, this two hour walking tour celebrates the lives of nine inspiring women who played leading social, political and artistic roles on the Lower East Side in the early 20th century. The tour of the famed Manhattan neighborhood, being offered for the first time ever, will examine how the nine women lived and how they each came to effect change in New York City and beyond. Heroines of the Lower East Side will highlight the careers of:

  • The founder of Henry Street Settlement and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Lillian D. Wald, an early leader in the movements for public health, education and labor reform, improved housing and civil rights.
  • Anarchist and self-styled revolutionary Emma Goldman, whose writings and fiery speeches advocated for workers’ rights, free speech, birth control and atheism before she was deported to Russia in 1917.
  • “Red Cinderella” Rose Pastor Stokes, a one-time cigar maker turned journalist who married a wealthy uptown man and began travelling the country speaking at rallies in support of social justice and economic equality.
  • Belle Moskowitz, political strategist and top advisor to New York Governor Alfred E. Smith.
  • Union leader Clara Lemlich, a shirtwaist maker who led a strike of sweatshop workers known as the “Uprising of the 20,000.”
  • Author Anzia Yezierska, whose novels, short stories and semi-fictional autobiographical writing vividly depict immigrant life on the Lower East Side and the struggles of women of her generation assimilating to life in America.
  • Sisters Alice and Irene Lewisohn, two theatrical educators and innovators who volunteered at the Henry Street Settlement to teach classes in drama and dance to children and later established the Neighborhood Playhouse on Grand Street.
  • Costume and set designer Aline Bernstein who rose to great acclaim designing for the Broadway stage and became one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

Participants will also enjoy a rare visit to the historic dining room at Henry Street Settlement, where Lillian D. Wald hosted distinguished guests ranging from President Theodore Roosevelt to W.E.B. Du Bois and delegates of National Negro Conference (after several New York City restaurants refused to accommodate the interracial group).

The walking tour will conclude with a visit to the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy’s Kling & Niman Family Visitor Center for a view of a special photography exhibit and refreshments.

More after the jump.
This tour will be led by Joyce Mendelsohn.  Joyce Mendelsohn is the author of The Lower East Side Remembered & Revisited. She is widely known for her walking tours and lectures on the history, culture and architecture of New York City neighborhoods. She serves on the Board of the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy and created docent training programs of synagogues and other historic neighborhood sites for the Conservancy.

The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving, sharing and celebrating the Jewish heritage of the Lower East Side. The Conservancy aims to raise public awareness of the Lower East Side’s distinct cultural identity through innovative public walking tours and other programs, while supporting the neighborhood’s community of living synagogues and other historic structures. Private customized tours are available by appointment. For more information about the LESJC, please call 212-374-4100 or visit their website or Facebook page.

The tour is a special fundraising event for the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy. Admission is a $36 contribution. For a contribution of $54, participants will receive tour admission and a signed copy of Joyce Mendelsohn’s book, The Lower East Side Remembered & Revisited.  For a contribution of $100, participants receive both of the above and two free passes to any other LESJC public tour.  Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for the tour by Thursday, November 8.

Remembering the Victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

— David Karp

Susan Harris of Los Angeles visits the grave of her great uncle, Jacob Bernstein, on March 25, 2011, at Mount Richmond Cemetery in Staten Island, New York. Bernstein was among the 146 people who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, and the Hebrew Free Burial Association held a memorial ceremony to honor the 22 victims of the fire it buried at the cemetery 100 years ago. The Hebrew Free Burial Association provides Jewish burial rites and a final resting place for impoverished Jews. The fire led to major changes in workplace labor and fire safety laws. (Photo/David Karp)

We Are #1

The Daily Beast ranked American cities according to their yiddishkeit, as determined by their Jewish population, synagogues per capital, and number of Kosher restaurants. New York City took the top honors with 9.6% Jews and 504 Kosher restaurants. However, New York City only ranks #4 in terms of Synagogues per capita.

Who has the most synagogues per capita?


A Mosque near Ground Zero?

The Anti-Defamation League has a record of sticking up for religious freedom, but they are speaking out against the “Ground Zero Mosque”. Various Jewish groups are praising or condemning the ADL for this stand. In joining forces with the right-wing ,is the ADL taking a stand against terrorism or selling out their long held principles?  

The ADL issued the following statement regarding the proposed Corboda Islamic Center in Manhattan:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site.  We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.  

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.  Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.  These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming.  But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam.  The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong.  But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right.  In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

Nate Silver actually scouted out the construction site to see what was up. He reports:

There’s not going to be some huge, ostentatious mosque with some minaret or some giant crescent located “at” Ground Zero, nor within clear sight of it, nor even on the way (in terms of virtually all natural paths a commuter or tourist might take) to Ground Zero. Rather, there’s going to be a mixed-use retail building that contains some kind of reformist mosque, located somewhere in its general vicinity — as there already is now. It would not impose upon or offend anyone unless they were going out of their way to be imposed upon or offended.

Does the ADL argue that Ground Zero is sacred ground and a mosque in Lower Manhattan would be a sacrilege? Actually there is already a mosque in the neighborhood, along with strip clubs, straight and gay bars, sex stores and escort services.

The ADL describes itself as “the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry,” yet they oppose the construction of a place of worship because of the faith they adhere to. As Adam Serwer writes in The American Prospect:

It is inconceivable that the ADL would argue such a position if the building in question happened to be a synagogue, and the builders happened to be Jews.

Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.

As the grandson of a holocaust survivor, Jed Lewison writes How to surrender the moral highground in one easy step:

Even if you have no intention of ever setting foot inside such a center, you should still stand up against the campaign of irrational fear-mongering being waged against the facility — especially if you are part of a group whose mission is to fight all forms of bigotry. Whether or not the proposed Islamic Center is politically popular is besides the point: the bottom-line is that you can’t put an asterisk next to tolerance.

Finally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg concludes as follows:

If somebody wants to build a religious house of worship, they should do it and we shouldn’t be in the business of picking which religions can and which religions can’t. I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try to on that piece of property build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it too. What is great about America and particularly New York is we welcome everybody and I just- you know, if we are so afraid of something like this, what does it say about us? Democracy is stronger than this. You know, the ability to practice your religion is the- was one of the real reasons America was founded. And for us to say no is just, I think, not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it.