(New York Jewish Week) – On a mild Thursday evening in late March, some 100 people gathered at Kistuné, a hip café and bar in the West Village that’s associated with the French-Japanese “lifestyle brand” of the same name.
Sipping on custom-designed cocktails — like the Refusenik, a Moscow mule with a “resilient mix of vodka, ginger beer and lime” or the Tamar Collinsky, a Tom Collins reimagined and given “very possibly the name of someone you went to summer camp with” — guests mingled, discussing topics as varied as college classes, career choices and their favorite poetry.
Nearly everyone in the room was a Jewish artist or writer; the gathering was to celebrate the launch of “Verklempt!”, a new quarterly print magazine that bills itself as “The Magazine of Jewish Art and Literature.” The 75-page first issue is filled with paintings, photographs, drawings, poetry and fiction solicited from more than 30 Jewish artists around the country.
“We see the Jewish community as a place where people want to engage with fiction and poetry more seriously,” editor-in-chief Yoni Gutenmacher, a 24-year-old creative writing MFA candidate at Brooklyn College, told the crowd, which included two of his brothers and his parents. “This is a personal dream of mine so I’m very happy that it’s real.”
The aim of “Verklempt!” (Yiddish-English slang for “overcome with emotion”) is to publish and amplify art and literature with a specifically Jewish lens — hopefully in a way that encourages pursuing art as part of a spiritual journey, Gutenmacher explained. A painting of a man praying with tefillin and tallit; a poem about Leopold Bloom, the Jewish anti-hero of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and a collage of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and a drawing of a half-drunk bottle of Kedem grape juice all grace the pages of the first issue, whose theme is, fittingly, “On Creation.”
“I write fiction and I have a whole friend group and community in New York who aren’t Jewish, and if they are, they’re not really interested in religious or communal Jewish life,” Gutenmacher told the New York Jewish Week. “Then I have my Jewish life on the Upper West Side and all my friends from summer camp and school and everything else who are not really interested in engaging with high quality literature and art. At certain points in my life, I felt like I kind of have to choose.”
By working on “Verklempt!” he’s come to understand that those choices shouldn’t have to be so mutually exclusive, he said.
The journal is a project of Havurah (Hebrew for “fellowship”), an organization founded by two Modern Orthodox sophomores at NYU whose lofty but determined vision is to be the “bearer of a new Jewish renaissance” for young Jews in New York, according to their impressively designed website.
Founded by Daniella Messer and Eitan Gutenmacher (Yoni’s younger brother), Havurah aims to create a gathering place, a “kehila (community) of frum Jewish creatives” — both virtual and IRL — where Jewish artists can meet and mingle, make art, perform and share ideas about how all of those endeavors connect them to religious life. One of their goals, according to the “manifesto” on their website, is to “invigorate a generation of young Jews and restore the Jewish artistic impulse.”
While “Verklempt!” has wide-reaching aspirations — the artists they hope to publish can come from anywhere and be of any age — Havurah was founded to appeal to a hyper-specific community: young New York artists who are dedicated to being Jewish and Jews who are dedicated to being artists.
The idea arose during Gutenmacher and Messer’s freshman year of college in the winter of 2022. “I remember going to Israel over winter break, experiencing such an obvious realization that art and creativity is so integral to religious lifestyles,” Eitan Gutemacher, who is studying studio art at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, told the New York Jewish Week. “But [at NYU] for example, in a lot of the artistic programs, if you’re a religious Jew, you are usually the only religious Jew in the classroom, and, more often than not, the only one in the department.”
“Daniella and I wanted to create a community of lively Judaism expressed in any artistic and creative way,” he added.
With funding from the Next Gen Inc., “a start-up style incubator” that’s a project of the World Jewish Congress and World Union of Jewish Students, Havurah pursues their vision through a variety of avenues, including real-life events and performances, such as art fairs, concerts and Torah study conversations held at bars, cafés, apartments and synagogues.
In addition to the physical journal, the organization’s high-design web site publishes essays, interviews, criticism, reviews and Torah commentaries, as well as “Sessions” for musicians, which are professionally mixed video tapings of live music performances similar to NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concerts.”
“When Eitan and Daniella approached us and told us about Havurah, we knew instantly they would be a great fit for our incubator,” Yoni Hammerman, senior manager of the NextGen, told the New York Jewish Week via email. “Their work, to build a university student-run art community, perfectly aligns with NextGen’s mission of amplifying and supporting the voice and the work of Jewish student leaders.”
The Havurah staff — all eight of them are volunteers — believe that their offerings are the first time people who are both deeply involved in their Jewish communities and in their artistic pursuits have had a definable place to gather and collaborate that celebrate both.
“It’s so simple that you’d think it would already exist,” said Yosef Itzkowitz, a 24-year-old artist and poet who has three drawings in the first edition of “Verklempt!” “Jews love writing and art, and love talking about writing and art,” so why not make it happen?” Itzkowitz got involved, he said, after Eitan Gutenmacher reached out via Instagram.
Of course, similar initiatives have and do exist — for example, the fiction journal JewishFiction.net publishes original and in translation work from Jewish writers around the globe, while CANVAS matches emerging Jewish multimedia artists with funders and grants. The Jewish Book Council puts out their literary journal “Paper Brigade” with art, interviews, essays and fiction, once a year.
On Tuesday, the inaugural Jewish Writers’ Initiative Digital Storytellers Lab showcased works by creators taking part in an eight-month fellowship supported by the Maimonides Fund. The work shown at Manhattan’s Rubin Museum included animation for Jewish kids, pop songs about women in the Bible and a podcast about the gay Jewish dating scene in Los Angeles.
According to Yona Verwer, founder of the Jewish Arts Salon — “a global network for Jewish visual art” that does regular programming in New York — while what the group is doing may not be “new,” one of the most exciting things about Havurah is how young its members are and how dedicated they are to the cause.
“Being geared specifically towards people in their 20s” attracts people who have to be “very enthusiastic and very into it,” Verwer said.
“It’s interesting to see this immense interest in Jewish arts” from younger generations, added Verwer, who started the salon in 2008 and now serves as an advisor for Havurah. “When I started the salon, it was something that a lot of people were not interested in. Things have really changed over the years and it’s great to see people so dedicated.”
As of now, contributors are unpaid, though there are hopes that the cover price of “Verklempt!” ($10) may help change that. “There’s a lot of places I see where you submit completely unpaid and it is completely not worth my time,” said Kim Kyne, a 32-year-old painter and sculptor from Los Angeles whose painting was in the first edition of the journal.
“What felt different about this is it feels like everyone’s all in it together,” she added. “Yoni and his brother are super humble and super young. What was really attractive to me about it is being connected with all these other Jewish artists in a way that I haven’t been before.”
Messer and the Gutenmacher brothers understand that the media and literary magazine worlds are very crowded spaces, especially in New York. But for now, they are embracing the heimish vibe and say they’ve seen, first-hand, just how many Jewish artists were looking for a space exactly like this. Submissions are already arriving for the next edition of “Verklempt!”, which is set to be published this summer, and according to Gutenmacher, he doesn’t recognize any of the names — meaning no repeats of last time, and no friends submitting as a favor.
“Of course, there are Jewish artists all over the world. But it feels different because it has more of a modern take and the younger feel,” Kyne said. “It feels like the beginning of a movement.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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