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Channel Esther: Bobst XX (The End – For Now)

by Esther Cohen To read previous installments, search “BOBST” in our search box, or click here. Dear Jewish Currents Readers, Last week’s Bobst installment was the story’s secret ending, for now. Here’s another one, a wrap-up. What happens next will be another story. Esther Cohen RIVKA CAME to America. Like many, she found herself in the […]

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Channel Esther: Bobst XIX

by Esther Cohen To read previous installments, search “BOBST” at right.   RIVKA WAS RAISED to think about her family. Family always came first. Over and over her parents repeated variations of this unalterable dictum. Family family family. That was their life and their world. Of course grandparents were included, all those uncles and all those […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XVIII

by Esther Cohen To read previous installments, search “BOBST” at right.   FIVE WOMEN from the meeting walked home in the same direction. They all lived on the Lower East Side,  near one another, in crowded tenements full of immigrants, young people and old.  Many spoke Yiddish. Bella, the oldest, a married mother, spoke to Rivka gently. “I’m sure […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST XVII

by Esther Cohen To read earlier installments, search “Bobst” in search engine at right.   RIVKA WENT TO A MEETING organized by a woman named Clara, from the factory. She’d never been to a meeting before.  Her family in Romania had been religious, and all she knew of groups were family members eating, or in the synagogue. […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XVI

by Esther Cohen To read earlier installments, search “Bobst” in search engine at right.   ON A COLD October night, more winter than fall, windy and dark by 6 o’clock, the women met in Clara’s Aunt Thea’s apartment, bigger than some, on the corner of Rivington and Essex. The year was 1909. The boroughs had become one consolidated city only […]

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CHANNEL ESTHER: BOBST, A SERIAL NOVEL, PART XV

by Esther Cohen To read earlier installments, search “BOBST” at right. The women working together grow closer. Clara presents Rivka with a choice.   “IF YOU ORGANIZE, you’ll be fired,” Mr. G. said to Clara. He repeated this more than once. “You will lose your job,” he said, more annoyed than angry that she wouldn’t just do what […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XIV

by Esther Cohen To read earlier installments, search “BOBST” at right.   A young Jewish girl named Rivka comes to New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. She meets a woman named Clara at the garment factory where she works. CLARA, eight years older than Rivka, Clara, soon after immigrating to the United […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XIII

by Esther Cohen To read earlier installments, search “BOBST” at right.   Uncle Label takes his young niece Rivka to see people in New York.    “COME,” LABEL SHOUTED. “Come with me.” He grabbed Rivka’s small thin hand, her white hand that was so much a girl’s, a hand that had hardly been touched. Her instinct was to […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XII

by Esther Cohen To read earlier installments, search “Bobst’ at right.   Rivka, living on Orchard Street, only 14, is in America from Lithuania. She is with her cousin Label and his family, working in a garment shop, beginning a new life, trying to understand what that new life might be. What would her life look like in […]

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Channel Esther: Books, Bread, and Roses

by Esther Cohen IN THE LATE 1970s and early ’80s when life was younger when my life was younger when the world I lived in was a very bright orange I ended up working for an unlikely man, a Protestant minister, high-minded, theologically versed, the kind of man who led Marches and gave speeches you wanted to write […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XI

by Esther Cohen To read the earlier installments of BOBST, search at right under “Bobst.” Shmuel Feigenbaum wrote to Rivka from South Africa. Both from Bobst, in Lithuania, they met briefly in Rivka’s uncle’s lending office. She was 14 and he was 11 years older. The year was 1903. Shmuel was working in a clothing […]

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Channel Esther: Bobst, a Serial Novel, Part IX

by Esther Cohen To read parts I-VIII, please search at right under “Bobst” NEW YORK was difficult for Rivka. Nothing looked or felt familiar. Especially smells. When she walked on the street to the subway, when she was on the subway itself, she didn’t know the words to say. Confused was probably closest. She was always confused. […]

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Channel Esther: Bobst, a Serial Novel, Part VIII

To read parts I-VII, please search at right under “Bobst” by Esther Cohen AN IMMIGRANT GIRL like so many others, entirely inexperienced with life outside her village, Rivka began to live in New York, leaving behind her small village, a family, and a man named Shmulik whom she met just once at her uncle’s lending office. She left […]

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Channel Esther: Bobst, a Serial Novel, Part VI

by Esther Cohen To read Part V, click here.   SHMUEL FEIGENBAUM, sixteen years older than Rivka, met her only once. It was on the High Holy Days when Rivka’s family visited Kaunas to see her uncle Mendel. Mendel was a little more prosperous than the rest. As a result, he had a different sort of wife, […]

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Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel

by Esther Cohen The Story Begins MANY OF US believe we know what happened: how people went from there to here. This country in particular is full of stories, stories of departures and then arrivals. Bobst is where my own story begins. In the late 19th century. Let’s say 1883. Before my grandmother Rivka was born. Her parents […]

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Levinsky Park — on African Refugees in Tel Aviv

AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR BETH TONI KRUVANT AND EDITOR CINDY KAPLAN ROONEY ABOUT THE FILM, LEVINSKY PARK (2016) by Esther Cohen SOUTH TEL AVIV is home to one of Israel’s underserved populations, Sephardic Jews, some barely earning a living. In the midst of this neighborhood, home since 2005 also to more than 60,000 African refugees from Sudan, Eritrea, […]

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Channel Esther: Henry’s Tribute Last Night

by Esther Cohen I HAVEN’T been to the penthouse in years. Not since I left my job. And although I’d ordered drinks a week ago to avoid any problems they weren’t there and the man named Irving on the phone at Google Express couldn’t explain why. But the posters I worked on for years were […]

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Channel Esther: Leaving Israel. Davka

by Esther Cohen Discussed in this essay: P.S. Jerusalem, a documentary film by Danae Elon. 2017, 90 minutes. I AM IRRESISTIBLY drawn to books, films, dance, theater pieces about Israel and Israelis, even though in so many ways this might seem counterintuitive, given my politics, my New York loyalties, my interest in mixing up many […]

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Commemorating the Fire

by Esther Cohen RUTH SERGEL is a deeply original visual and performance artist and filmmaker, the author of See You in the Streets: Art, Action, and Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, published last year by the University of Iowa Press. The book, she says, “is a chronicle of how I learned to be an […]

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Channel Esther: The Last Laugh

by Esther Cohen Discussed in this essay: The Last Laugh, documentary film directed, photographed and edited by Ferne Pearlstein, with jokes by Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman, Robert Clary, Rob Reiner, Louie C.K., Susie Essman, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey Ross, Alan Zweibel, Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Gold, Larry Charles, David Steinberg, Abe Foxman, Lisa Lampenelli and […]

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Channel Esther: Manny Kirchheimer’s Films at MoMA

by Esther Cohen STARTING FEBRUARY 3, New York’s Museum of Modern Art will hold a retrospective of films by longtime Jewish Currents subscriber Manny Kirchheimer. Featured films include, among others, 1) Claw, 1968, which juxtaposes Manhattan’s old facades and gargoyles with “the restless compulsion of the modern city to rise ever upwards, the jowls of […]

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Channel Esther: Is That You?

AN INTERVIEW WITH DANI MENKIN, DIRECTOR OF THE NEW FILM, IS THAT YOU? by Esther Cohen IS THAT YOU?, a new film by award-winning Israeli director Dani Menkin, tells the story of an appealing 60-year-old man named Ronnie who has lost his long-time job as a film projectionist. As a parting gift, he receives a ticket to the […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicle #12

by Esther Cohen INDEPENDENCE DAY IN SOUTH AFRICA Six hundred people home of US Ambassador Patrick Gaspard we both worked for the hospital workers union he’s a true visionary real sense of humor I was down the hall Patrick went to work for Obama he greeted all 600 0f us as his friends real party […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicle #11

by Esther Cohen SOWETO We spent the day with Percy Ndaba with his family in Soweto. We visited sites: Mandala’s house Desmond Tutu’s Hector Pieterson rebellion park. Percy’s Aunt Doris raised him and four other kids small three room house she was a school teacher Moses her husband a bike messenger sixteen people came to […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicle #10

by Esther Cohen MISJUDGING First night in our game lodge we sat in a forced semi-circle around a fire with guide Carl awkward man, maybe happiest in his jeep, Family of five small town Americans talked too loudly too cheerfully about why Walmart is good for the Akron economy. I did not say anything, though […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicles #9

by Esther Cohen Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge Or: Who’s in the Jeep and What We Learn Eight of us in a jeep with Hamilton and Doctor they are actually named Hamilton and Doctor from birth Doctor’s mother wanted one Hamilton has no interest in the Broadway show two young Germans exactly alike blonde and blonde

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicles #8

by Esther Cohen WE ARE LEAVING CAPE TOWN IN THE MORNING Tomorrow we are going to Kruger National Park. To see animals. And then, to Johannesburg where we will visit the street where my grandfather lived when he left Lithuania so many years ago. 1 I have never felt so white before. Even though of […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicle #7

by Esther Cohen WHAT WE SEE (REDUX) Table Mountain right in front of us. Does that mean we should climb up? Last night in a restaurant I might have seen Matthew McConaughey. We see what we think we know. Homeless woman followed us two nights in a row. I don’t want money she said. What […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicles #6

by Esther Cohen AHAVA turned ONE today so we decided we’d celebrate parents grandparents wine tasting at Solms Delta they call them wine farms here one of the most beautiful places on this earth I am not just Saying That Ahava’s relatives drank glass after glass after glass toasting her we tried them all she […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicles #5

by Esther Cohen UNBUNTU Because color one of the Big Issues in South Africa you have to be Inside to understand color schemes yesterday because color so much a part of everything this is not a new idea terrible old one now though everyone can go everywhere at least by law and even though there […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicles #4

by Esther Cohen ANOTHER DAY IN CAPE TOWN SISTER GRACE People like tourist sites museums official explanations here’s what happened signs. Yesterday we went to lunch at DaVinci’s Restaurant with Chesray’s relatives. Her family’s called colored here. Most of them ordered Cape Town combination: fried calamari with ribs. Sister Grace a big big woman she […]

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Channel Esther: South Africa Chronicles #3

AUNTIE CILLA How old are you asked Auntie Cilla and when she heard the answer how old I really am she thought it was a joke at first I couldn’t be that old and then she said but you look like you are still going to discos. Maybe it’s the sunglasses my daughter in law […]

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Dough Rises

by Esther Cohen I ACTUALLY didn’t think I would like Dough, a British movie directed by John Goldschmidt and starring Jonathan Pryce, which is opening around the country on April 29th. It’s full of clichés, yet in the end I enjoyed watching. Even though viewers could predict what would happen, almost completely, the movie was […]

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Channel Esther: Forgiving Our Mothers

by Esther Cohen Years ago, although I am not a filmmaker, I went to the Maine Jewish Film Festival to discuss a short film about the labor cultural program, Bread and Roses, and its founder at 1199, Moe Foner. I spoke on a panel about Jewish subject matter with Gayle Kirschenbaum and her mother, Mildred. […]

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Channel Esther: The Triangle Fire

by Esther Cohen Some stories we can’t tell enough. March 25, 1911 (honoring this story today) 146 people died, jumping falling factory on 23-29 Washington Place NYU now owners locked the doors preventing workers from taking breaks stealing merchandise Fire changed our laws, starting International Ladies Garment Workers (ILGWU) there are still fires still people […]

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Channel Esther: An Interview about “Colliding Dreams”

by Esther Cohen Reviewed in this article: Colliding Dreams, a documentary film by Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky. International Film Circuitm 2015, 134 minutes. IT’S HARD just to say the word ‘Zionism’ without generating a heated conversation. Yet the terms of that conversation have dramatically changed in recent years, with the entrenchment of rightwing leadership […]

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Channel Esther: Invisible Threads from Stage to Seats

by Esther Cohen LAST WEEK I took Khanysile Ndaba, my daughter-in-law’s 15-year-old niece from Capetown, to the theater to a production of a new musical in previews (and therefore, with reasonably priced tickets), Invisible Thread, which is based on a true story and stars the author, Griffin Matthews. The year is 2005. Griffin is a […]

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Channel Esther: Labor Day

by Esther Cohen Labor Day We are all of us workers When we see what that means there is no I in workers when we understand how we need one another when we know union isn’t just a word it’s all of us all.

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Channel Esther: Bad Grandparenting

by Esther Cohen SATURDAY night we invited our neighbors down the hall for some champagne they are young they are blond they have two boys sixteen months apart in October they’ll have a third boy we like them a lot they are elevator friends I wanted them to tell us what their parents did right […]

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Channel Esther: Where To Begin

by Esther Cohen Last week I taught a writing class (my classes are all called GOOD STORIES, a title that fits every class) in a place called a Half Way Shelter. People were transitioning from homeless shelters, and given studio apartments and services. Over 300 people, men and women, live in the building right on […]

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Channel Esther: Poems from Vietnam

by Esther Cohen PROFESSOR LE Historian, 81 My family was rich for 24 generations. We became Marxist Leninists. I am a Protestant too. Pastor Smith taught me English when I was a boy. We are a 4000 year old civilization. I have published many books and sat in world gatherings. My home is small. I […]

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Channel Esther: What It Takes to Get a Gett

by Esther Cohen GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM is a 2014 Israeli-French drama film directed by a brother and sister, Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz. The film was selected as the Israeli entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards (this February 22nd), but was not nominated by the Academy of […]

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Channel Esther: What Life Looks Like

by Esther Cohen YESTERDAY I was sitting in a meeting for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire commemoration meeting if all meetings could be like theirs I would go to more meetings yesterday I was thinking about all the young girls who died in that fire and what life is my phone pinged (most people say […]

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Channel Esther: I Am Going Away

by Esther Cohen “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” —Kurt Vonnegut I AM GOING away on my own away from my thousands of possessions books papers my button collection my grandmother collected buttons too I have chosen ten earrings ten days I couldn’t take blue ones I am trying to be unencumbered I […]

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Channel Esther: Will I Write a Sentence in 2015?

by Esther Cohen Photographs by Saul Robbins, from his series, “Found” — from the Jewish Currents art calendar THIS TIME OF YEAR every year around this same week because there is a new year which is one of those reality illusion things is January first any different from December first how is forty nine different […]

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Channel Esther: Judgment

by Esther Cohen JUDGMENT I grew up in a judging family. Life was not a matter of relativity. There was bad and fair and best. No category was one of apathy. A was better than B and B was never good enough. This method was called Values. If we did not do well enough if […]

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Channel Esther: Infinite Possibilities

By Esther Cohen I AM THE EMBODIMENT OF INFINITE POSSIBLITIES (First Corinthian Baptist Church) A few thousand people (yes) wait in line for the third service of the morning, at the Black Church in Harlem where my South African daughter in law Chesray Dolpha, attends most Sundays. I am not a stranger to religious institutions […]

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Channel Esther: “$10,000 for One Poem”

My Life in Books by Esther Cohen From the Spring 2014 issue of Jewish Currents Well, much happened this year involving words, but my most unexpected experience began last summer, the way many things do, with innocence and unintention. I’ve been writing a novel for years, the same novel, about upstate New York, about class […]

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