A long time has passed since the sound "d'jew" could be heard in a conversation between characters played by Tony Roberts and Woody Allen in a Woody Allen movie. In his latest romantic tragedy, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," Allen's Judaism is so distant, it is a presence in absence. In a string of films, magic, chance, the playful machinations of the Greek gods supplant conventional religion, and in Tall Dark Stranger, a character's fate is in the hands of a fortuneteller. The auteur may be through with God, but suffering, now that's another story. At a recent press conference, he explained that he'd had a debate with Billy Graham about believing in God and Graham insisted that he would have a better life, even if Graham's belief were wrong. Allen said, he preferred work as a distraction to morbidity. "I can control work problems like what should I do if Josh Brolin can't do my movie?" Brolin, seated nearby chuckled loudly.
At ninety-nine, photojournalist Ruth Gruber is sharp as the proverbial tack. At a special screening of a new documentary about her life,Ahead of Time, she told a rapt audience about going below on the Exodus and shooting the squalid conditions of the refugees huddled in the famed embargoed boat hoping to make their way to Israel. At a delicious dinner hosted by the film's co-producer Patti Kennerat her Park Avenue home, and prepared under the auspices of another producer, Doris Schechter whose cookbook, "My Most Favorite Dessert Company Cookbook" is like a Bible to me, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Tovah Feldshuh, Marie Brenner, and many others celebrated with Gruber and directorBob Richman. Among the most "heimish" of women in New York, Kenner and Schecter can invite me anytime.
Another heimish woman, Gertrude Berg, a pioneer in the world of television sit-coms, is back. After a thrilling year in theatrical release, Aviva Kempner's excellent documentary, "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" is now on DVD with extras: Berg's guest appearances with Edward R. Murrow and on Ed Sullivan, her recipe for chicken in the pot with kneidlach. Yum!
Gershon David Hundert, editor in chief of the indispensable Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe has now succeeded in creating a superb all-inclusive website: see www.yivoencyclopedia.org.
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