Welcome to Muse & Schmooze, JewishBoston.com’s brand-new weekly arts and culture column! I’m Laura Conrad Mandel, director of New Center NOW, and I’ll be blogging every week about Jewishly-inspired arts and culture in Boston. Who am I to be blogging on this topic, you ask? Well, my husband has to literally stop me from taking pictures of every piece of street art I encounter; I love a good meal (cooking and eating); and I spent a few years making installation art at Carnegie Mellon University. All of that, combined with years at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston, Camp Tevya in New Hampshire and Hillel makes me as much a maven of Jewish arts and culture as anyone I know. I’ll be sharing what I know, and sometimes I may just mention a New Center NOW happening, because, after all, I work there!

From food to music to painting, dance, film and sculpture, I love exploring Boston, and I have a tendency to always “see the Jewish.” So I’ll be schmoozing with artists and checking out happenings in the city to muse for you on what’s good and what’s Jewish. I hope you’ll visit this column every Friday to find out what’s hot at the moment and what each weekend has in store for exploring (like The Network’s “Arts & Culture Open House: Jazz Havdallah” event tomorrow night, for example!). Have something to share? Please feel free to email me with any tips and suggestions. I’m always on the hunt!

Here are some fun pictures I’ve snapped around town recently:

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Israeli artist Yair Engel’s vision of the world includes bamba bags and hamsa cookie cutters at the sculpture exhibit “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet” around Boston last summer.

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This piano, a public homage to Jewish musicians, was one of 75 pianos placed around Boston in the fall as part of “Play Me, I’m Yours.”

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The Guy Mendilow Ensemble brought together Israeli, Palestinian and other worldly musicians to re-energize the Ladino musical tradition at last summer’s Outside the Box, a free music and performing arts festival.

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Chef Josh Lewin of Beacon Hill Bistro created monkfish “gefilte fish” and local haloumi (cheese) with za’atar (a Middle Eastern herb and spice mixture) at the first Kitchen Kibitz, an adventurous, Jewishly-inspired supper club.

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Composer Matti Kovler’s “Bittersweet Cabaret” mixed Yiddish and modern Hebrew tunes for a packed house.

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The Let’s Talk About Food Festival at Copley Square featured a conversation between Israeli food TV star Gil Hovav and local chef Michael Leviton.