Once haunted by memories of the Holocaust, Berlin has become one of the most Jewish-friendly places on the planet. The German capital boasts an annual Jewish film festival and Jewish culture festival, while performances of Jewish plays attract regular audiences at the Bamah Jewish Theater. Visitors can view exhibits on emigration at the Jewish Museum; the music-minded can take in klezmer concerts performed by the Berlin Philharmonic.
Germans are also studying the history of their country's Jews. But it's not all about the Holocaust. "Students want to learn about the empty [cultural] space once occupied by Jews in German society," says Michael Brenner, a professor of Jewish studies at Munich University. "Not about the destruction itself, but about what was destroyed."
Feeling more at home than ever before, American Jews are now moving en masse to the hip German capital. (Estimates show that between 10 and 20 percent of the 12,000 Americans living in Berlin are Jewish.) Even U.S. novelist Jonathan Safran Foer is there, writing a new English version of the Haggadah, the ancient Jewish text on the Exodus. "I like the way the city feels," he says. Evidently, he's not the only one.
'Fuel' For Film
Jhumpa lahiri's book "The Namesake" followed the Ganguli family as they moved from Calcutta to New York. Now, as Mira Nair's film version of the novel hits screens worldwide, a third incarnation emerges as a group photo show, "Namesake/Inspiration," at the Sepia International gallery in Manhattan. Photographs of trains, trams, bridges, airports and railway stations by contemporary photographers such as Derry Moore, Raghu Rai, Raghubir Singh and Dayanita Singh depict the border crossings that today's émigrés must experience as well as their yearning for the homeland left behind. Men sleeping on the pavement evoke Calcutta; snow-laden streets and empty, alienating spaces represent New York. It was these photos—and a black and white shot of a pensive princess on a Calcutta balcony that became the model for the movie's heroine—that inspired Nair as she translated Lahiri's book into film. "Every film I make is fueled by photographs. [They] help me crystallize the visual style of my film," she says. "If it weren't for photography, I wouldn't be a filmmaker."
Health advocates have long argued that antidepressants and weight-loss pills are for human consumption only. But it appears pharmaceutical drugs could also benefit pets.
Prozac, steroids—you name it, Americans are prescribing it to their dogs and cats. Pharmaceutical companies are taking note. In January, Pfizer received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for two new drugs for dogs: Slentrol to treat obesity, and Cerenia for vomiting and motion sickness. The company has earmarked $270 million a year to develop new medicines for "companion animals," and according to the Animal Health Institute, 60 percent of the $5 billion annual animal-medication industry is now devoted to domestic pets, up 20 percent from a decade ago. The reason, according to an AHI spokesman, is that a more intense "human-animal bond" has developed in recent years. Closeness comes at a cost, of course, but many major companies now offer veterinary insurance to cover it.
Turns out the U.S. Freedom of Information Act has produced mainly talk, not action. Ten years after Congress sought to throw open unnecessarily locked doors to official information, a new study shows that many federal agencies have failed to hand over the keys. Only 36 percent have posted indexes to agency records on their Web sites; a mere 26 percent of government agencies have even developed a Web-based form allowing citizens to request information, as Congress mandated.