(AJNews) – As we remain hunkered down to protect the lives of family, friends and people we’ve never even met, many of us are looking for meaningful and entertaining diversions. Here are some virtual resources you can turn to for news, entertainment, enlightenment, inspiration and good, old-fashioned boredom busting!
The list consists of my favourite picks and is by no means exhaustive. Libraries, booksellers and the internet offer countless Jewish choices. Some are better than others, so be discerning, try to avoid “fake news” from questionable sources and enjoy the journey!
Jewish News, Opinion and Culture
Alberta Jewish News – www.albertajewishnews.com (Local, regional, national and global news and perspectives)
The Forward – www.forward.com (Politics arts and culture since 1897)
The Jerusalem Post – www.jpost.com (Israel and the Jewish world)
Jewish Telegraphic Agency – www.jta.org (Global Jewish news)
Lilith Magazine – www.lilith.org (“Frankly feminist”)
Moment Magazine – www.momentmag.com (“Informed commentary on Jewish life”)
The Times of Israel – www.timesofisrael.com (Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world)
Tablet Magazine – www.tabletmag.com (Fresh perspectives on Jewish life)
Parents and Kids
Kveller – www.kveller.com Mom Advice and Community for Jewish Parenting
PJ Library Calgary – www.jewishcalgary.org/pj-library-pj-our-way-and-more
PJ Library Edmonton – https://www.jewishedmonton.org/pj-library
The Nosher – www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher
There are many choices out there. Israel Story and Unorthodox are two of my favourites. Can we Talk and The Book of Life have been on my radar, but I haven’t yet tuned in. Maybe some of you will come on those adventures with me!
Israel Story – www.israelstory.org – Insightful, inspiring and quirkily addictive!
Unorthodox – www.tabletmag.com/author/unorthodox – Edgy and fun insights into Jewish news, personalities and culture.
Can we Talk – jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk From the Jewish Women’s Archive.
The Book of Life – www.jewishbooks.blogspot.com – A podcast about Jewish Kidlit (Mostly).
TV Series and Movies
Public demand for Israeli cinema and TV has grown enormously in recent years; much of it has made its way to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. Following is a list of my recent favourites. There are a lot more out there . . .
Fauda (Netflix) – This action-packed Israeli series, currently in season 3, begins when a retired Israeli operative returns to hunt down a terrorist. It is compelling, though frequently violent entertainment.
The Hunters (Amazon) – It got mixed reviews. Its comic bookish approach to the Holocaust and portrayal of Holocaust survivors as vengeful superheroes does a disservice to sacred subject matter, in my opinion. Use discretion.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) – Funny and binge worthy, this is a perfect distraction from current woes! How can Rachel Brosnahan NOT be Jewish?
The Meyerowitz Stories (Netflix) – This star-studded movie is about a dysfunctional Jewish family. If you can withstand that theme while isolated with your own dysfunctional Jewish family, you will see a standout performance by Adam Sandler whose lead role in Uncut Gems (also streaming on Netflix) was considered by many to be Oscar-worthy.
Shtisel (Netflix) – The first two seasons of this must-see Israeli series went viral (you should excuse the expression). If you haven’t yet seen it, you must! The rest of us are suffering withdrawal symptoms as we impatiently await a third season that has been further delayed by – you guessed it – the Coronavirus.
The Spy (Netflix) – Stars Sacha Baron Cohen as Israeli spy Eli Cohen. This is a breathtaking non-comedic role for the madcap comic of Borat fame. Fair warning: Some scenes are painful to watch.
Unorthodox (Netflix) – Delivers a searing performance by Israeli actress Shira Haas (also of Shtisel fame). This four-part miniseries about a woman who flees her suffocating life in the Satmar Hasidic community of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg is based (at times loosely) on Deborah Feldman’s memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots.
There is a universe of Jewish reading out there, with something to suit every possible interest. Here are some works that I’ve recently enjoyed discovering or rereading over a quarantini.
A Tale of Love and Darkness (Amos Oz) – This is a beautiful, brilliant and literary memoir by the late, great Israeli author. This is one of the best books I have ever read but too dark if the pandemic has laid you low.
Houdini: The Elusive American (Adam Begley). While we are all trapped at home, it is hard to think of a more liberating topic than the life and times of the world’s greatest escape artist!
How to Fight Anti-Semitism (Bari Weiss) – This must-read how-to book is troubling yet empowering.
The Weight of Ink (Rachel Kadish) – A sweeping historical novel set in 17th century London and Amsterdam. Unforgettable characters.
The World that we Knew (Alice Hoffman) – Set in 1941 Berlin, this memorable novel features strong female characters and explores ethical choices in a world gone mad.
If you don’t see anything here that appeals, check out the Jewish Book Council’s website at www.jewishbookcouncil.org. You can sign up to get breaking Jewish literary news delivered to your inbox and tune in to the JBC’s online book chats. I recently enjoyed hearing journalist and author Liel Leibovitz speak about his new book Stan Lee: A Life in Comics. Leibovitz, who is the beating heart of the Unorthodox podcast, has a remarkable personal story that is well worth hearing in his own words at https://themoth.org/storytellers/liel-leibovitz. You won’t believe your ears!
So wash your hands, stay healthy, read, view, enjoy and repeat!
Maxine Fischbein is a Calgary-based freelance writer who spends an unreasonable amount of time reading, watching and listening.