Poland’s Jews: Under a New Roof

Shelley Salamensky

Czarek Sokolowski/AP Images

Jews are famously scattered around the world. So, it seems in recent years, are Jewish museums: in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, as well as cities from Dnipropetrovsk to Shanghai, Caracas to Casablanca. Yet Warsaw—capital of the nation that once held more Jews than any other—was conspicuously absent from the list, until a few weeks ago.

A Weapon for Readers

Tim Parks

Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas

We have too much respect for the printed word, too little awareness of the power words hold over us. We allow worlds to be conjured up for us with very little concern for the implications. We overlook glaring incongruities. Learning to read with pens in our hands would bring huge benefits.

A Thieves’ Thanksgiving

Charles Simic

Joseph Keppler

It ought to be obvious by now that if we ever become a genuine police state, it will not arise from an authoritarian ideology necessarily, but as the end result of that insatiable greed for profit that has already affected every aspect of American life from health care to the way college students are forced into debt. No doubt about it, in the coming holiday season our crooks will have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to celebrate.

The Firing of Chuck Hagel

Elizabeth Drew

Kristoffer Tripplaar/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

The White House is stuck in a policy that has very little chance of working, putting the president and his national security aides in real peril. And Chuck Hagel, who watched all this with dismay, became the odd man out.

Tamburlaine’s Seductive Terror

Geoffrey O’Brien

Gerry Goodstein/TFANA

The career of Christopher Marlowe’s world-conquering Tamburlaine, performed by John Douglas Thompson at Theatre for a New Audience, progresses like a river in flood, rising steadily and irresistibly and spilling over into actions of spectacular destruction, sparing nothing that stands in opposition. Thompson has created a unified person of the most extreme contradictions.

Picasso: The View from Florence

Ingrid D. Rowland

Collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

A show on Pablo Picasso may seem an odd occurrence in Florence, but the exhibition Picasso and Spanish Modernism at Palazzo Strozzi makes a cogent case for its location. After succinctly opening with Picasso in his studio, the exhibition presents the artist in all his infinite variety, spanning more than fifty years, from 1909 to 1963, and various forms of media.

Ransoms: The Real Cost

Graeme Wood

Aris Messinis/Getty Images

The Obama administration’s announcement that it is reviewing US hostage policy has brought fresh attention to what Simon Critchley has called “The Case for Paying Ransoms.” But the brutal executions of US and UK hostages should compel us to the opposite conclusion: that ransoms are a terrible idea, and that by contemplating paying them we are risking a kidnapping pandemic.

Flight MH17: Will Russia Get Away With It?

Amy Knight

Alexander Ermochenko/epa/Corbis

Western leaders have until now avoided directly confronting Russia about its part in the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. But a growing number of unofficial investigations show unambiguously that a Russian missile system was used to down the passenger jet, killing all 298 people on board.

The Opera Stalin Hated

Geoffrey O’Brien

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The Met’s notes describe it as “towering tragedy,” but Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is equally a grotesque vaudeville, and Graham Vick’s intensely inventive production (which premiered in 1994 and is now revived for the first time in fourteen years) pays due attention to the grotesque component.