At least 40,000 African Americans are practicing Jews who believe that Judaism is part of their heritage. They call themselves “Hebrew Israelites,” and their faith has been met with everything from curiosity and enthusiasm to skepticism”or even outright hostility. Eric Molinsky visited Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken, a Hebrew Israelite synagogue in Chicago, to find out from congregants and clergy how they practice their faith, and what led them to it. Featured prominently is Rabbi Capers Funnye, cousin to incoming first lady Michelle Obama. LISTEN HERE.
THE QUEENS OF BOLLYWOOD
OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES
In 2008, filmmaker Sam Hoffman had the idea of filming some of his favorite old Jews telling jokes. He created a website and posted a series of “Old Jews Telling Jokes” videos that soon attracted a devoted following. Now, at the initiative of Daniel Okrent—the first public editor for the New York Times—and writer and editor Peter Gethers, Old Jews Telling Jokes has been re-purposed as a theatrical production, complete with a narrative through-line and cabaret-style musical numbers. Eric Molinsky speaks to the cast and crew about how a collection of tall tales about rabbis, doctors, and plumbers became a night of musical theater. LISTEN HERE.
In the early 1900’s, Russian ethnographer S. Ansky ventured into shtetl territory, armed with a wax cylinder recording device and camera, to document a fading, if still vibrant, world. There he discovered the tale of the dybbuk, a wandering soul who can possess the body of a living being. Ansky went on to write a play about the dybbuk, and that play has since become a legend in its own right. Eric Molinsky speaks to TONY KUSHNER among others about why this myth continues to captivate directors, playwrights, and audiences. LISTEN HERE.
Theater-goers and makers have long wrestled with Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Even more confounding is The Jew of Malta, a play by Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe, which is near impossible to see as anything but anti-Semitic. Enter New York’s Theatre for a New Audience. Artistic director Jeffrey Horowitz has chosen to stage these two provocative plays, with F. Murray Abraham playing the lead in Merchant and Malta. It’s a bold undertaking, to say the least. So why these plays? And why now? Eric Molinsky puts these questions to F. MURRAY ABRAHAM, among others. LISTEN HERE.
Rose Ezra. Ruby Myers. Farhat Ezekiel Nadira. From the earliest years of Bollywood, these and other Jewish actresses garnered starring roles. And while they may have looked somewhat exotic to moviegoers, they came from Baghdadi Jewish families who had been living in India for decades. Reporter Eric Molinsky speaks to film scholars, as well as friends and relatives of these once-beloved but now mostly forgotten stars of Indian cinema, to find out how they became the “go-to girls” for leading female roles in the 1920s, ’30s, and beyond. LISTEN HERE.