The Story of Jewish Life in Eastern Europe, Told through Home Movies

In the two decades before World War II, American Jews occasionally returned to their or their parents’ Polish cities and shtetls, and sometimes they recorded what they saw on film. From this footage, the Hungarian cinematographer Peter Forgács has created a video installation, Letters to Afar, now on display at the Museum of the City of New York. Spliced together, set to music, and “variously doubled, frozen, mirrored, slowed down, or staggered,” the result plays on nine different screens. J. Hoberman reviews the exhibit and reflects on its unusual medium:

Letters to Afar, which was co-commissioned by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, is also, in some ways, a belated successor to the Jewish Museum’s influential 1976 exhibit Image before My Eyes, a show that drew on YIVO’s vast collection of prewar Polish photographs. The effect, however, is different. A photograph is a memento mori; photographic motion pictures are something else. Life is not frozen but animated. The technique immerses viewers in a rich and paradoxical experience—a teeming emptiness, a pensive hubbub. Bombarded by light, one is surrounded by a multitude of phantoms massing in shtetl marketplaces, gathering in rural cemeteries, parading on Warsaw boulevards, peering out of Lodz slums, playing in open fields, and otherwise observing what the film-artist Ken Jacobs [called] the “vivacious doings of persons long dead.”

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Film, Jewish museums, Polish Jewry, Shtetl

Hamas’s Tactics of Attrition and Extortion Are Paying Off

Feb. 21 2020

In January, the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh visited Iran after promising the Egyptian government that he would not. Cairo responded by cutting exports of cooking gas and tires to the Gaza Strip. Facing a possible domestic crisis, the terrorist group recently resumed sending balloon-borne explosives into Israel, and allowed other jihadists to fire rockets. The move succeeded, despite retaliatory strikes by the IDF, writes Elior Levy:

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, Israeli Security