June 8, 2015

Storytelling, the Jewish Legal System, and "The Jazz Singer"

Levi Cooper, Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law, is publishing Jewish Law, Hasidic Lore, and Hollywood Legend: The Cantor, the Mystic, and the Jurist in volume 2 of Critical Analysis of Law (Fall 2015). Here is the abstract.
Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt (1882-1933) was offered an opportunity that would make any performer swoon: a star role in the ground-breaking film The Jazz Singer (1927). Yet Rosenblatt refused this artistic opportunity of the lifetime. This paper contextualises Rosenblatt’s baffling decision, by exploring one possible relationship between art and law; in this case – the art of storytelling and the Jewish legal system. The study demonstrates where the two pursuits tread separate, unlinked paths to a common end. This vector is refracted through the lens of performance of prayers outside of the religious synagogue service; specifically the propriety of cantorial concerts that presented prayers from the High Holy Day liturgy. This issue appears in Jewish legal writing and in storytelling – each modality using its own tools to tackle the trend. It is noted that legal systems without effective enforcement mechanisms – such as Jewish law in the late modern period – could use arts as compensatory media for achieving societal order. More significantly, however, arts are not umbilically connected to law; each cultural creation independently strives to fashion society.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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