Avant-Garde Art and Yiddish Theater in Poland

In the period between the two world wars, a number of Jewish avant-garde artists—most notably Marc Chagall—designed sets for the still-thriving Yiddish theater in Europe. Alyssa Quint describes the work of some of the most prominent. (For pictures, follow the link below.)

Before creating sets for the Yiddish theater, Zygmunt Balk (1873-1941) worked at the Lwów (now Lviv) Opera House, created set designs for productions of Richard Wagner (among others), and ranked among Poland’s most important 20th-century painters. [The artist] Yosef Shlivniak (born in 1899) collaborated with the actor Zygmunt Turkow on his Yiddish-language staging of Stefan Zweig’s adaptation of Ben Jonson’s Volpone. [Another], Dina Matus, a member of the artistic-literary group Young Yiddish, conceived the Jewish folk motifs and ambience of the pioneering avant-garde director Michał Weichert’s play Trupe Tanentsap (“The Tanentsap Troupe”). . . .

Born in 1891 in Lyuvitsh (Łowicz), Poland, to ḥasidic parents, Władysław Zew (a/k/a Chaim Volf) Wajntraub was drawn to sketching and painting from a young age. Polish artists and art critics recognized Wajntraub’s raw talent, and Poland’s Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts supported his studies in France. In Paris, he met the Russian artist and set designer Leon Bakst (1866-1924) whose influence is responsible for Wajntraub’s decisive commitment to the decorative arts and theater design.

In his book, The Murdered Jewish Artists of Poland, Joseph Sandel writes of Wajntraub:“He was a fantasist, an expressionist with mystic overtones.” Wajntraub worked closely with the modernist poet Moyshe Broderzon (1890-1956) and designed the set for his legendary opera Dovid un Basheva and I.L. Peretz’s Baynakht oyfn altn mark (“Nighttime in the Old Marketplace”). Wajntraub also worked with Weichert who directed a production of Shabse Tsvi (“Sabbatai Tsvi”) in Riga, where newspapers gave equal column space to both director and set designer.

Except for Matus, every one of these artists died during World War II.

Read more at Yiddish Stage

More about: Arts & Culture, I.L. Peretz, Jewish art, Polish Jewry, Yiddish theater

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy