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8 BEST (AND ONLY) HANUKKAH MOVIES AND TV SPECIALS
Remembering the Great Czech Jewish Harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková
Mark Glanville for Mosaic
Růžičková, who died in September, survived both Hitler and Stalin to become a brilliant interpreter of J.S. Bach—and the only person to commit his entire keyboard oeuvre to disc.
I was loaded on a wagon. My mother was left behind. A gust of wind came and took this piece of paper from my hand. And my mother, who knew how much it meant to me, started to run after this piece of paper and the other girls took her hand and pulled her up into the wagon where I was.
The words are those of the great Czech Jewish harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková, who died on September 27 at the age of ninety. The episode recounted here is one among many riveting moments in a recently released documentary film, Zuzana: Music is Life. Hers was an adolescence and young adulthood that encompassed the full horror of the Holocaust, followed in turn by the brutal oppression of Soviet Communism, followed in the inspiring fullness of time by personal and musical vindication hard won and thrillingly deserved.
And the “piece of paper” that was so precious to her? It was a fragment of the Sarabande in E Flat Minor from the English Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach. The teenage piano student had kept it close during her internment at Theresienstadt, where her father had died of typhus. The wagon onto which her mother was hauled and thereby reunited with her daughter was carrying its transport in the direction of Auschwitz.
Music Man: A Talk With Benj Pasek
By Rahel Musleah for Hadassah Magazine
As part of the award-winning songwriting team Pasek and Paul, Benj Pasek’s star has risen high this year. The duo won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “City of Stars,” from the film La La Land, and six Tony Awards (including Best Musical and Best Original Score) for Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, the story of a high school’s reaction to a suicide. Next up, The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, opens in movie theaters on December 25. Pasek, 32, is now working on Disney’s live-action film adaptations of the animated classics Aladdin and Snow White. A resident of Manhattan, Pasek grew up in Ardmore, Pa., and met his collaborator, Justin Paul, at the University of Michigan, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater. His father, Jeff Pasek, is an attorney, and his mother, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, is a developmental psychologist who loves music. She was his date at the Academy Awards.
The Parashot in Watercolor
By Gabriela Geselowitz for Jewcy
Starr Weems is a Jewish teacher and artist in Alabama who’s taken on the mission of creating a piece of art for every parsha of the year. These watercolors are dreamlike and ethereal (and a little bit psychedelic), visual midrashim, of sorts.
“This project started two years ago with my personal sketchbook,” Weems told Jewcy. “I had decided to spend time studying the parsha each week and translating it into my own visual language. It was sometimes a challenge to keep up with it on top of my regular painting and illustration jobs, but I managed to get through the cycle of an entire year… I had been wanting to rework my sketchbook ideas into finished pieces for a while, and when a venue contacted me to book a spring exhibit, I decided that now is a good time.”
Straight Outta Satmar: Hear the Biggest Hasidic Hit of Right Now
By Liel Leibovitz for Tablet Magazine
Go ahead, I dare you not to dance to Meilech Kohn’s ‘Ve’Uhavtu’
Growing up, Meilech Kohn didn’t like it in the Yeshiva. He was the quiet kid who liked to daydream and hum nice tunes, and his fellow students were so miffed by his strange ways that they shunned him altogether, refusing to speak to the awkward child. Increasingly distraught, he retreated into his inner world, which was increasingly consumed by writing songs and melodies. Eventually, he decided to drop out.
Much to the chagrin of his parents, Meilech left the fold of his tightly-knit Hasidic community. He moved to Los Angeles, then Puerto Rico, then Texas. He listened to any kind of music he could find, and continued to teach himself his craft. By the time he was ready to return home and recommit himself to religious life, he contained multitudes.
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