Episode 25: The False Lens of History

How has our understanding of history been curated by the choices of photographers, journalists and historians? This episode features curator at the International Center for Photography in New York Maya Benton talking about the photos of Roman Vichniac, and Yiddish scholar Eddy Portnoy discussing what he calls "The Jewish OJ trial of the 1870s” from his book, Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange But True Stories from the Yiddish Press.


Maya Benton is a curator at the International Center of Photography in New York, where she has worked since 2008. She has curated numerous traveling exhibitions, lectures widely, and is a frequent contributor to magazines and museum catalogs, where she writes about museums, photography, Israeli art, and Jewish visual and material culture.

Maya’s 2013 exhibition, Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, is traveling internationally through 2022. The show was heralded as a “revelation” by The New Yorker, ARTnews, TIME, The Financial Times and the Economist, and was praised in more than 300 international press outlets. The catalogue was named Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and the Krauszna-Krause Book Award, Europe’s top prize for photography books. She is also the author of the French monograph, Roman Vishniac. Her 2011 exhibition, Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist, is traveling through 2018.

Maya is currently organizing Southern Rites, a traveling exhibition of photographer Gillian Laub’s contemporary images of racially segregated proms and homecoming rituals in the American South. Southern Rites examines the legacy of segregation and racially motivated violence through the experiences of African American teenagers. Her next book will be an anthology of seminal texts on Jews and Photography published by Aperture. 

She is a graduate of Brown University, Harvard University and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. 

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Edward Portnoy (@eddyportnoy) is Senior Researcher and Director of Exhibitions at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.  Eddy received his Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His dissertation was on cartoons of the Yiddish press. He also holds an M.A in Yiddish Studies from Columbia, having written on artists/writers Zuni Maud and Yosl Cutler. His articles on Jewish popular culture phenomena have appeared in The Drama Review, Polin, and The International Journal of Comic Art. In addition to speaking on Jewish popular culture throughout Europe and North America, he has consulted on museum exhibits at the Museum of the City of New York, Musée d'art et d'histoire du judaïsme in Paris, and the Joods Historisch Museum in Amsterdam.

His new book, Bad Rabbi, And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press is now available here.


Dan Crane (@dancranehere) is a journalist, musician, Jew (lax, loves lox) and retired professional air-guitarist.

He writes about culture and travel for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, California SundaySlate, and numerous other publications. 

He’s the author of “To Air is Human” and stars in the documentary, Air Guitar Nation.





Jessica Chaffin (@jessicachaffin) is an American actress, comedian, and writer perhaps best known as Ronna of the comedy duo "Ronna & Beverly." Other credits include VeepSpyThe Heat, the animated show Big Mouth out on Netflix 9/29, and the upcoming season of Search Party.