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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 17, 2012 At one-tilm-a-year pace, Woody Allen not slowing down By Robert Gluck JNS.org Funny, serious, and con- troversial, Woody Allen's films evoke many emotions--but his Jewish upbringing sticks out in them like a matzo ball in chicken soup. With Allen's new movie, "To Rome With Love," opening this summer and his "Bullets Over Broadway" set for a musical the- ateradaptation, this 76-year-old American filmmaker is not slowing down and remains at the top of his game. According to Leonard Quart, professor emeritus ofcinemaat the City University of New York Grad Center and contribut- ing editor of Cineaste, Allen's comic style and vision differ significantly from other Jewish filmmakers like Mel Brooks. "Allen, in his middle period, was the more controlled, stylis- tically rich, and gifted director," Quart told JNS.org. "His works then seamlessly combined the comic and pathetic, with char- acters who had internal lives, and weren't merely cartoons. Brooks is the more manic and anarchic, and he can provoke belly laughs that Allen rarely does. Both engage in social criticism, though Brooks' use of pop culture makes his work broader and less subtle. For a time, these two Brooklyn prod- ucts, who did stand-up come@ and wrote for Sid Caesar, were, albeit in different ways, the two best American directors of comedy." BornAllan Konigsbergin the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn (the son ofNettie, abookkeeper ather family's delicgtessen, and Martin Konigsberg, a jewelry engraver and waiter), Allen's parents were born and raised on the lower east side of Man- hattan and his grandparents were German immigrants who spoke Yiddish. He pays homage to New York City in many of his films, including the criti- cally acclaimed "Annie Hall," "Manhattan" and "Hannah and Her Sisters." Bespeckled, diminutive, and neurotic, Allen makes many short lists of the most important comedy directors of all time. A writing, acting and directing triple threat, he has received 15 nominations for Academy Awards, winning three. For years, Allen has man- aged to release one film annu- ally, oscillating between brainy comedies and stark dramas, full of funny wordplay and incisive characterizations.Accordingto Foster Hirsch, author of Love, Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life: The Films of Woody Allen, Allen carved out a unique place for himselfinAmerican movies, becoming our national auteur aswellas the mostprolific direc- tor in the country, and:reating a singular world with each film released since his first in 1969. Hirsch said he was.drawn to Allen's filmswhen he saw"Annie Hall." "Something about that filmstruckanerve,"he told JNS. org. "In my work I usually avoid come@ but something about his New York Jewish humor I respond to. It's very fresh." Allen's Jewish background has a total impact on his work, Hirsch said. "Everything he writes and acts and films has direct roots in a New York Jewish sensibility, which he presents to the world, and he then becomes an ambas- sador ofthatsensibility," Hirsch said. "In litei'ature Philip Roth would be a good equivalent. What does that mean? There are a litany of complaints, grievances, family trauma, the over-possessive mother and the distant father, the feelings of exclusion and inferiority. All of the angst associated with being Jewish is transformed in Woody Allen and lit by his radiant humor." Allen is typically inspired by European filmmakers. When By Jonathan Kirsch Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles "To Rome With Love" opened in June, he told Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times how profoundly Italian filmmakers influenced him. "They invented a method of telling a story, and suddenly for us lesser mortals it becomes all right to tell a story that way," Allen told Itzkoff. "We do our versions of them, never as shockingly innovative or brilliant as when the masters did them." Always serious about his art but never self-involved, Allen's best work, like the masters he idolizes, touches deep human issues. Although rooted in a Jewish sensibility, his subjects are universal. For example, in Hirsch's favorite film, "Crimes and Misdemeanors," the uni- versal issue of serf-forgiveness resonates. "It's about a person forgiv- ing himself for committing a horrendous crime," Hirsch told JNS.org. "This is the one film of his that has continuing resonance for me. I cannot get the Martin Landau character out of my mind." Additionally, Allen's "schle- miel" character--the outsider, apparent loser, underdog, and person notpartofthe dominant culture--is indeed imprinted on our collective conscious- ness. "With his figure of the schle- miel, Woody Allen has made a permanent contribution to the history of American film," Hirsch said. "His artistry is in- separable from his Jewishness." How Jewish is relativity? stein quipped in 1922. "Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew." Steven Gimbel, author of "Einstein's Jewish Sci- ence: Physics at the Intersec- tion of Politics and Religion" "If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that ! am a citizen oftheworld,"Albert Ein- SEND YOUR NEW YEAR GREETINGS TO YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES WITHOUT LICKING A STAMP If you're like most people, you'll probably wait until the last minute to send your annual Jewish New Year greetings. And, like most people, you will probably truly regret having waited so long. However, once a year, prior to Rosh Hashanah, you have the opportunity to wish your family and friends and the Jewish community "A Happy and Healthy New Year" through the Special Rosh Hashanah Edition of HERITAGE. No Postage -- No Problems -- No Excuses! Having your personal New Year Greeting appear in the HERITAGE Special Rosh Hasha- nah Edition, shortly before the holiday begins, will save you time, money, inconvenience and worry about whether or not your cards were delivered. You won't leave anyone out, because your family and friends will be among the thousands of members of the Jewish community reading this special edition. Deadline for Greetings is September 14, 2011. L'Shana Tova Tikatevu (Or your personal message) YOUR NAME B $39.40 31/4"X 2" A $19.70 llrZ"x 2" "C $59.10 31/4"x 3" D $78.80 31/4"X 4" BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY NEW YEAR ', mes,eg)  YOUR NAME May you be ins&/bed in the Booko/z00fi for a HilpPy and Heathy Year (or your personal message) YOUR NAME May the New Year be ever joyous You andYour Family (or your ipersonal message) YOUR NAME E DATE OF ISSUE: $98.50 31/4"X5" September 23, 2011 REETINGS AND BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY NEW YEAR (Or your personal message) YOUR NAME Mail to: HERITAGE GREETING, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730 Please run my greeting inyour holiday issue. I would like ad (circle one) A B C D E. I am enclosing a check in the amount of $ (all ads must be paid for in advance). Or please bill my credit card (check one): Visa Master Card: Card No. Expiration Date Signature Name Address I CityStateZip Name(s) on greeting should read: L If you have any questions, call HERITAGE at 407-834-8787. (Johns Hopkins University Press, $24.95), puts Einstein's self-effacing joke in context: "Sometimes even the cynics aren't cynical enough." Thus begins Gimbel's lively, inten- tionally provocative andwholly compelling inquiry into the Jewishness of Einstein him- self and the world-changing scientific revolution that he set in motion. Einstein's theory, of course. was proved to be correct long before Hiroshima and Naga- saki, but the Nazis and their supporters in the German sci- entific establishment dismissed itas"Jewish science." Scientific truth, as they saw it, belonged exclusively to the master race: "In reality, as with everything that man creates," wrote the German physicist Philipp Lena- rd, who won a Nobel of his own in 1905, "science is determined by race and blood." But Gimbel, a professor of humanities and philosophy at Gettysburg College, is not preparedtowrite offsuchasser- tionsas"sociopathicnonsense." Rather, he reminds us that Ein- stein himselfarguedthatJewish scholars can be discerned by the "Jewish heritage in their intel- lectual work," and he dares to entertain avolatile idea: "Maybe relativity is 'Jewish science' after all," Gimbel writes. "In fact the question, 'What is 'Jewish sci- ence'?' turns out to be a very Jewish question." Gimbel, in fact, is out to tweak Jewish .sensibilities by writing provocatively about the single most celebrated Jew of the 20th century, a man so iconic in the Jewish world that he was offered the presidency of Israel. "There is great delight in pointing out that Dinah Shore, Abe Fortas, William Shatner, Marc Chagall, Felix Frankfurter, not to mention both Simon and Garfunkel, all three Stooges, and all four Marx Brothers are Jewish," he writes. "But among famous Jews, Einstein is in a category unto himself." The author is even willing to question inwhatsense Einstein can be regarded as a Jew since he was raised in asecular home, at- tended a Catholic school in Mu- nich, andwas more interested in mathematics and science than "the God of Abraham" as pre- sented in the Torah. ,'I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures," Einstein famously wrote, "or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves." Still, Gimbelfinds himself compelled to conclude that Einstein might not have been "an observant or theistic Jew, but he clearly was a cultural Jew" because, among other things, "[hie lovedYiddish humor'and embraced Zionism. Yet Gimbei presses the point. "Judaism seems to me to be concerned almost exclusively with the moral attitude in life." Einstein declared. But Gimbel insists on cutting through what he calls "Einstein-speak" in order to scrutinize the great man's private life. He concludes that Einstein was "a terrible husband and father, distant, moody and at times cruel," and a serial adulterer "who often served his own needs and de- sires before those of the people who cared for him." Above all, Gimbel insists that Einstein's Jewishness,whatever it amounted to, did not shape his science in the way the reli- gious backgrounds of Newton and Descartes influenced their work."[N]oneoftheintellectual ammunition Einstein fired had come from Jewish suppliers," he writes. "The content of Einstein's work was in no way influenced by Torah, Talmud or anything Judaic at all." In that sense, "the Nazis were wrong." Yet Gimbel finally concludes that there is a "Jewish style" in Einstein's work, an approach that he likens to the traditions of talmudic study and disputa- tion. "The heart of the talmudic view is that there is an absolute truth, but this truth is not directly and completely avail- able to us," he explains. "In our search for deeper meaning, we must try to understand how that limited view of the truth fits together with seemingly contrasting views of the truth from other different perspec- tives and contexts. It turns out that exactly the same style Of thinking occurs in the relativity theory...." Significantly, Gimbel is not himself a scientist, but he pos- sesses a gift for hot-wiring hard science to the moral, cultural and political environment in which it is practiced. He reaches all the way back to Plato for his points of reference, and draws readily on 20 centuries of West- ern intellectual history, but he could not have chosen a more appropriate case study than Albert Einstein. And he rewards the reader of"Einstein's Jewish Science" witJa a new way of see- ing Einstein himselfandwhere he fits into the Jewish world. Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of The Jewish Journal. He blogs at jewish journal. com/twelvetwelve and can be reached at books@jewish jour- nal.com.