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Here’s what Jewish New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s dreams are made of

(New York Jewish Week) — Cartoonist and writer Roz Chast is best known for her work at The New Yorker, where she’s been a contributor since 1978. But the Brooklyn native is also famously associated with the city from which the prestigious publication takes its name. 

Chast’s cartoons often explore the mundane hilarity of everyday life in the city, from the vagaries of the subway system to the anxieties of everyday New Yorkers. “I love living in Manhattan because everything is close together,” Chast told the New York Jewish Week. “There’s a kind of density and you don’t need a car — the city is so walkable. Even as an older person, you can have a rich life.”

As a creator, Chast said that New York City offers unlimited material. “There’s always so much going on,” she said. “It’s hard not to find something interesting or funny. Or aggravating.”

And yet, Chast’s focus is decidedly inward in her latest book: “I Must Be Dreaming” takes readers on a nighttime tour of her phantasmagorical mind. In its nearly 200 pages, Chast unpacks her dreams in all their technicolor glory — featuring birds in hats, animated fruits, human distortion (which she categorizes as “body horror”) and celebrity encounters — and includes dream theories from the likes of Carl Jung and Kabbalah. 

“I didn’t research it to come to conclusions,” Chast said of the book, which was published last month. “I’m interested in what others make of dreams.”

After all, in a city where a movie ticket can cost $25, dreams provide “free entertainment,” she added. 

Rosalind Chast, 68, grew up in a Jewish family in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Her parents, children of immigrants from Ukraine, Poland and Russia, spoke Yiddish to each other, their siblings and friends — but Chast never picked it up, she said, despite the occasional word or phrase that pops up in her cartoons. 

Her parents worked in the NYC school system: her mother, an assistant principal, and her dad, a Spanish/French teacher. The anxious pair would become well-known thanks to her award-winning 2014 graphic memoir, “Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” which the New York Times describes as “an instant classic of eldercare literature.”

Roz Chast’s latest graphic memoir unpacks her dreams. (Courtesy Bloomsbury)

An only child, Chast said she grew up fairly isolated, not maintaining much of a social life. In an interview with the New York Jewish Week, she recalls fondly how her parents would host friends and they would take turns telling jokes. They had a small apartment and she was not permitted to make a lot of noise, so she would retreat to her room, where her options were limited to reading, writing or drawing.

As it happens, to this day Chast still locks herself in her room alone for hours as she works. “Pretty solitary” is how she describes the life of a cartoonist, adding, “if you spend your childhood doing that, it feels more natural.”

Although she does not consider herself at all religious, Chast’s work typically reflects a Jewish sensibility, exploring Jewish mother stereotypes, for example, or feelings about gefilte fish. Growing up, her family celebrated Hanukkah and Passover, and her mother lit candles on Friday nights and she would return home from college to share Shabbat dinner with her family. 

Chast graduated Midwood High School and attended Kirkland College (sister school of Hamilton College) until she transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1977 with a BFA in painting. She did some cartooning at RISD, but her feelings ranged from “indifference to actual dislike” of the quality of her own work. She found her classmates’ artistic abilities daunting, describing them as “the most incredibly talented people.”

“Any sense that I had that I was talented or special, by the time I left RISD, I knew that not to be the case,” she said. 

Chast’s feelings of inadequacy kept her from getting her hopes up when she submitted a cartoon to The New Yorker for the first time in 1978. Although she had been contributing to the Village Voice and National Lampoon, she had no expectation of having any work accepted by the prestigious publication, especially as she was a 23-year-old non-male, and her style was very different.

“My cartoons didn’t look anything like New Yorker cartoons,” she said. 

Chast said she was flabbergasted when they accepted her “Little Things” cartoon — a black-and-white diagram of 10 fanciful household objects straight from Chast’s imagination, including a pipe-like “kellat” and a “hackeb,” which vaguely resembles a shish kebab.  

The New Yorker ultimately hired Chast, and the magazine was where she met her husband of 39 years, writer Bill Franzen. The pair bonded over shared childhood memories of joke books and a love of pet birds. Chast had a series of parakeets as a child, “because on the pet ladder it’s the highest rung I could go,” she said. Nonetheless, Chast’s love for birds has endured: Her current avian residents are Eli, an 18-year-old African grey parrot, who was presumed male until she laid an egg, and Jacky, a younger female Caique, who snuggles in her hair as evidence of her affection. Chast is proud of Eli’s vocal abilities and doesn’t seem to mind when she exclaims “vanilla ice cream!” whenever she opens the freezer for a late night snack.

Much of Chast’s work is loosely autobiographical, drawing upon her experiences as a daughter, wife and mother. “When I started, graphic storytelling was not a thing,” Chast said, describing how graphic novels and memoirs evolved into an innovative “way to tell stories.”

“They weren’t just, ‘here are the words and now I’m illustrating the words,’” she said. “It was this other different art form, and that was a real breakthrough for people, for cartoonists, for publishing and now it’s kind of exploded.”

Her unique style has become recognizable to many — so much so that on the back cover of “I Must Be Dreaming,” fellow acclaimed cartoonist Alison Bechdel (“Fun Home”) describes the book as “Roz Chast at her Chastiest.” 

Her drawing has been described as “scratchy” or deploying “shaky, anxious lines.” Chast maintains that that is just how she draws — whether it’s classically acceptable or not, adding she’s not good at all at uniformity. “One thing I like about cartooning is there’s no strict rule,” she said. 

When she isn’t working, Chast loves to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Zabar’s and the various trimming stores in the Garment District. “I just like walking around,” she said. 

Chast and her husband lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when their oldest child, Ian, was young. At 2 ½, he explained to his mother how her job worked, telling her “you go on the train and show your pictures to men.” Soon thereafter they moved to the suburban oasis of Ridgefield, Connecticut.

These days, Ian, 36, is a web developer, and Peter, 32, is a therapist. Chast and Franzen maintain a pied-a-terre on the Upper West Side, not far from where she lived as a young writer for nine years, when she cooked using a hot plate.

“When you live out of New York and hate to drive there’s a bit of a handicapped feeling,” she said of her time in the suburbs, adding she has “a feeling of being a complete person” when she’s back in the city.  

In recent years, she has pursued her love of painting Ukrainian pysanky eggs, and working on hook rugs, embroidery and book binding. But sharp-witted Chast gives no indication she will be putting her feet up anytime soon. 

“I do feel that things are OK right now, but I think it’s a combination of actually being realistic and maybe just an anxious person, that’s all I can commit to,” she said. “I imagine this tall stack of chairs: One thing goes wrong and the whole thing falls to the ground.”

The post Here’s what Jewish New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s dreams are made of appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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White House Calls Netanyahu’s Comments on US Weapons Deliveries ‘Perplexing,’ ‘Disappointing’

US White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, June 17, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The White House expressed “deep disappointment” over criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the United States on Thursday amid tensions between the two allies over Israel‘s war in Gaza.

“It was perplexing to say the least, certainly disappointing, especially given that no other country is doing more to help Israel defend itself against the threat by Hamas,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

The White House response came as national security adviser Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned meetings with Netanyahu’s two top aides to discuss the Gaza conflict.

Netanyahu on Tuesday issued an English-language video in which he said Blinken had assured him that the Biden administration was working to lift restrictions on arms deliveries to Israel, an exchange the top US diplomat declined to confirm.

In a rare account of normally private diplomatic conversations, Netanyahu also said he told Blinken that it was “inconceivable” that in the past few months Washington was withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.

Kirby addressed the comments in a briefing with reporters, saying the US had directly expressed displeasure to Israel.

“I think we’ve made it abundantly clear to our Israeli counterparts through various vehicles our deep disappointment in the statements expressed in that video and our concerns over the accuracy in the statements made,” Kirby said.

“The idea that we had somehow stopped helping Israel with their self-defense needs is absolutely not accurate,” he said.

Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, Israel‘s minister for strategic affairs, will speak with Sullivan as a larger, more formal “strategic dialogue” meeting was being rescheduled, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Blinken will meet with the Israelis at 3 pm, according to a senior State Department official.

Blinken said weapons shipments — with the exception of one with 2,000-pound bombs — were moving as usual given Israel faced security threats beyond Gaza, including from Hezbollah and Iran. He declined to comment on his private exchange with Netanyahu during a news conference on Tuesday.

The United States in May paused a shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs due to concern over the impact they could have in densely populated areas but Israel was still due to get billions of dollars worth of US weaponry.

Scrutiny on Israel‘s conduct in its military operation in Gaza has increased as the Palestinian death toll from the war in the Hamas-run enclave has increased. Israeli officials argue they have gone to unprecedented lengths to try and avoid civilian casualties, noting Hamas terrorists embed themselves within the larger population and use civilian sites as military operation centers.

The war started when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage.

Biden in April warned Israel that the US would stop supplying it weapons if Israeli forces launch a large-scale offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that is considered the last major bastion of Hamas.

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Israeli Actress Shira Haas Wins Award for Role in Upcoming TV Series ‘Night Therapy’

Shira Haas on the set of “Night Therapy.” Photo: Nati Levi

Israeli actress Shira Haas was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Monte Carlo Television Festival on Tuesday night for her role in an upcoming Israeli television series titled “Night Therapy” that will premiere later this month.

Haas stars in the 10-part psychological drama alongside Yousef Sweid (“Munich Games,” “Game of Thrones”), as well as Lucy Ayoub, Yaakov Zada Daniel, and Firas Nassar, all of whom have starred in the popular Israeli series “Fauda.”

Haas, who accepted her award from the Monte Carlo Television Festival via video because she was in the United States filming, took to Instagram to thank the festival for her award.

“This is such a special project for me, a personal and genuinely (ongoing) healing one, and I can’t wait for you all to meet Yasmin very soon,” she wrote, referencing her character’s name in the show.

Written and created by Raanan Caspi, “Night Therapy” is about an Arab-Israeli psychologist named Louie (Sweid) who struggles to raise his two children after his Jewish-Israeli wife commits suicide. To be more present for his children during the day and to better balance his work and home life, Louie decides to shift his practice so he sees patients at night. Haas plays one of his patients — a computer genius named Yasmin who rarely leaves her home and prefers to spend her time in the virtual world instead of the real one.

“Through the gateway and magic of the late clinic hours, and flashback scenes where Louie acts as an unseen observer to their problems, the series depicts refreshing points of view on life, which often require unusual treatments,” according to a synopsis provided by Yes Studios, which is distributing the show. “Combining absorbing therapy sessions — written with the input of practicing psychologists — with storylines and characters from Louie’s personal life, ‘Night Therapy’ is a touching, emotional and sexy new drama series.”

The show premieres on Yes TV in Israel on June 30 and is being sold internationally by Yes Studios. The series is directed by Gabriel Bibliowicz and produced by Dafna Danenberg, Aviram Avraham, and Benny Menache at Eight Productions.

Haas previously had starring roles in the hit Israeli television series “Shtisel” as well as the film “Unorthodox,” for which she won an award. She also became the first Israeli television actress nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in “Unorthodox.” Haas Tribeca Film Festival for starring in “Asia,” in which she played a terminally ill character, and additionally won two best supporting actress awards at the Israeli Academy Awards. She is reportedly scheduled to appear in Marvel’s upcoming film “Captain America: Brave New World” as an Israeli superhero named Sabra.

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Swiss Museum Sells Monet Painting in Settlement With Heirs of Former Jewish Owner Forced to Sell Artwork During WWII

A partial view of Monet’s “L’Homme à l’ombrelle.” Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich via Wikimedia Commons

The largest art museum in Switzerland announced on Wednesday that it is selling a painting by Claude Monet as part of an agreement with heirs of the artwork’s original Jewish owner, who was forced to sell it during World War II when he fled Nazi Germany.

The Kunsthaus Zürich said it reached a “fair and just solution” and “amicable settlement” with the heirs of Jewish entrepreneur Carl Sachs regarding the painting “L’Homme à l’ombrelle” (“Man with a Parasol”) from the late 19th century. Proceeds from the sale will be allocated between the museum and Sachs’ family.

Sachs and his wife fled Nazi persecution in Germany and moved to Switzerland in 1939. He was forced to sell “L’Homme à l’ombrelle,” and several other pieces from his art collection, to the Kunsthaus Zürich in order to make a living. “The sale of Monet’s ‘L’Homme à l’ombrelle’ to the Kunsthaus Zürich was the first work that Sachs had to sell due to the acute financial emergency just a few weeks after fleeing Nazi Germany to Switzerland,” the museum explained.

“A swift sale was needed to provide the couple with money to live on, and he was therefore acting under duress,” the Kunsthaus Zürich said. Sachs died shortly afterward in December 1943 and by that point he had sold 13 artworks from his collection.

Philipp Hildebrand, the chair of Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, said: “Of course we regret that this wonderful painting will leave the Kunsthaus. At the same time, this step underpins the seriousness of our provenance strategy and our fundamental attitude towards a transparent and solution-oriented approach to works in our collection in which there are substantiated references to Nazis [or] there is a situation of a persecution-related predicament.”

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