From Jewish roots, band sprouts afro/new wave wings


Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov of Fool’s Gold are surprised they don’t have a larger Jewish fan base. Most of the songs on the band’s 2009 self-titled debut are in Hebrew, vocalist Top was born in Israel, and earlier this year the band played Jewlicious, a music festival for Jewish college students.

“We kind of thought that it might happen, and it totally didn’t happen,” lead guitarist Pesacov said.

However, the L.A.-based band has steadily raised its profile among indie music fans over the past five years. Santa Monica radio station KCRW embraced Fool’s Gold, and a variety of publications gave its Aug. 16 sophomore release, “Leave No Trace” (IAMSOUND Records), high marks for its marriage of African rhythms and new wave sounds. The band will headline the Troubadour on Sept. 29, and, starting in November, it will join the Red Hot Chili Peppers on tour in Europe.

Top says he sang primarily in Hebrew on the band’s first album because of his insecurities as a vocalist. He thought he could hide behind a language that most people can’t understand.

“It’s a little veiled, you know, the Hebrew. People don’t understand it, and there was a little bit of security in there,” Top said.

By singing primarily in English on the latest album, Top said he’s pushing himself.

“I think the idea was just, ‘Don’t hold back.’ To go all out,” he said.

Top and Pesacov, both 31, first met during high school — Top attended Cleveland High School in Reseda, and Pesacov went to Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. The pair started Fool’s Gold as a musical side project in 2006, as a way to explore their common interests in African music (Congolese, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Malian), progressive German rock and ’80s synth pop. Over the next five years, the band evolved into a collective that at one time featured 15 members. On its most recent tour, Fool’s Good was left with its current lineup: Top, Pesacov, drummer Garrett Ray, multi-instrumentalist Brad Caulkins and percussionist Salvador Placencia.

“We were five people on tour, the smallest band we’ve ever been, and we were like, ‘This kind of works.’ More people started to listen, and it sounded better than ever,” Pesacov said.

Last year, from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve, Top and Pesacov rented a house near Joshua Tree National Park, where they jammed and developed ideas for “Leave No Trace.” A four-month recording process in Los Angeles followed. The result is a more concise and radio-friendly effort, featuring the lead single, “Wild Window,” in which Top plays a funky bass and Pesacov offers a jangle pop sound.

Fool’s Gold’s sound doesn’t lend itself easily to classification.

“Some listeners have commented that their songs sound as if ’80s alternative band The Smiths were jamming with Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti,” KCRW music director Jason Bentley said in an e-mail interview.

Like Chasidic reggae star Mat-isyahu, Fool’s Gold lets Judaism inform its music rather than become its music, said Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, director of the Jewlicious festivals.

“They’re not setting out to make Jewish music in any way, shape or form. But their roots, their ethnic and religious and cultural background, influence their music,” Bookstein said.

Top, who immigrated to the United States from Israel when he was 3 years old, sings in Hebrew for one of the new album’s more uplifting songs, “Tel Aviv.” In the lyrics, Top negotiates the idea of having two homes, while craving a return to Tel Aviv, his birthplace. He sings in Hebrew, “I was born in Tel Aviv… I laid down on the sand,” and then switches to English, “I reach for you.”

“Am I Israeli? Am I American? I wanted to write a song kind of touching upon that, referencing my experiences going back to Israel and being here,” he said. “It’s pretty literally talking about being in both places.”

Top has also wrestled with his level of Jewish observance. He isn’t religious, but he said his family “had a small window where they were trying to be more Conservative and Orthodox.”

Pesacov, a native Angeleno who performs with drummer Ray in the band Foreign Born, said he grew up in an interfaith family with a Jewish father and a mother who wanted to convert to Judaism. And though he wanted to explore Judaism, his father discouraged him.

“I wanted to have a bar mitzvah as a kid and my dad’s like a hippie who did not believe in religion,” Pesacov said. “But it’s funny, because I grew up with all Jews in Los Angeles. I probably recognize myself as more Jewish than I am Christian.”

KISS reunion tour in Haifa: Gene Simmons goes home


The most well-circulated piece of trivia about Gene Simmons, former member of the band KISS, is that he was born in Haifa, Israel. For years Simmons’ birthplace and Israeli heritage were rumored to be true, but in the Digital Age it would be confirmed with Wikipedia and video interviews on YouTube.

Now there is no question that the aging rock star, who is starring in his own reality TV show, “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” traces his roots to Israel.

In back-to-back recent episodes, Simmons ventures back home to Haifa. With son Nick and soon-to-be wife Shannon Tweed, a former Playboy Playmate, along for the trip, Simmons takes an El Al jet to Tel Aviv en route to his birthplace, where he receives the City of Haifa’s Medal of Honor from the mayor.

Simmons had left Israel as an 8-year-old, moving to the United States with his mother, a survivor of Auschwitz.

In the episode appropriately titled “Blood is Thicker than Humus,” Simmons explains that he is reluctant to return to Israel, but his fiancee convinces him to go. When he arrives at his hotel, the cameras are in tow for his first experience speaking to Israelis.

Using a perfect Hebrew accent, Simmons checks into the hotel with the pseudonym Oy Vey. But it isn’t long until the memories of his childhood lead him to a very emotional moment when he proclaims, “Hashem sheli [my name is] Chaim Veitz,” using his birth name Witz and expressing that he would be nothing without his birthplace.

Simmons and his entourage get a VIP tour of the important sites in Israel, including Yad Vashem and the Western Wall. He also visits Cafe Nitza, the bakery where his mother worked. Sitting down to enjoy a pastry, the aroma from the cafe revives memories for Simmons.

On a nostalgic tour of his childhood, Simmons visits Rambam Hospital, where he was born in 1949. He returns to his childhood house in Haifa and speaks in Hebrew with Chaya Cohen, his neighbor growing up.

The most poignant segment of the two episodes is the reunion dinner secretly convened by Tweed that allows Simmons to meet his Israeli family 50 years since he left the country. He meets his half-brother and three half-sisters for the first time. Together with his half-siblings—his father’s children from subsequent marriages—Simmons visits their father’s grave and says the Kaddish memorial prayer.

Say what you will about reality TV, the Gene Simmons nostalgia tour to Haifa is must-see television before the High Holidays. If watching a former rock star tour Israel as the distant memories come back in a cloud of nostalgia doesn’t do it for you, then perhaps the message of reconnecting with family will.

As Simmons puts his father’s yarmulke on his head, he suddenly realizes how important his roots are to him.

Rabbi Jason Miller is an entrepreneurial rabbi and blogger. He is the president of Access Computer Technology, an IT and social media marketing company in Michigan. Follow him on Twitter (@rabbijason) and at http://facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller.

Men who rock Israel’s history appear locally


Can the history of a nation be told through its music? If that nation has only been around for about 60 years, it’s conceivable.

This month it’s possible to follow Israel’s history — or at least the zeitgeist of its people — in Los Angeles through three very different sounds of rock, via artists whose music represent very different Israeli eras.

There’s the folksy, jaunty old-time tunes of Danny Sanderson, Gidi Gov and friends singing their “best of” from the 1970s and ’80s on March 11 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

From the ’80s and ’90s, there’s troubadour and man of hope David Broza, flamenco-and salsa-influenced guitarist, performing with Badi Assad March 17 at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

And finally, the boy/man who represents in song the post-Rabin “candlestick generation” — teenagers who stood vigil for months after Rabin’s assassination — Israel’s androgynous bad boy and first celebrity draft dodger, the soulful Aviv Geffen, alone on March 8 at Laemmle’s Music Hall Theatre and with his indie band Blackfield on March 10 at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood.

“I remember you/I remember you from the supermarket … I remember you from third grade” doesn’t exactly sound like a national anthem, but the upbeat, humorous sounds of Kaveret — a top 1970s band that Sanderson and Gov formed in the Israeli army — and later Gazoz, which encapsulated a more innocent time for Israel. From the Beach Boys-like “Galshan” (“Just me and my surfboard”) to “Yoya,” a dance favorite at American religious celebrations (“I got a harsh sentence, condemned to death … hoping at least to change chairs because they say, ‘change of place brings you luck'”), Kaveret’s playful songs spoke of the small-town feel of Israel.

“It’s pure nostalgia,” said Sanderson of the upcoming three-week U.S tour. “I think the audience gives meaning where it wants — it can be very personal,” he added. “I see people stand when we’re playing songs, with tears in their eyes and it can be for different reasons.”

Sanderson, one of Israel’s top songwriters, who has composed music for many of the country’s musicians, doesn’t agree that the situation in Israel has changed since then. “Israel has always had problems. These are the same problems that haven’t been solved,” he said.
But these are not problems he or his bands of the past sang about.

Although Sanderson and Co. are all active in politics and speak out, their music isn’t political. They sing mostly about love. And friendship.

“I never heard the Eagles sing about politics,” he said.

Perhaps that’s what differentiates these musicians from some of the others who followed them (and even those who were of the same era).

David Broza, for example, who sings many different styles of folk-urban rock, plays in English, Spanish and Hebrew, with a variety of influences and themes, is best known for (and can’t escape) his ever-evolving anthem, “Yihiyeh Tov” (“Things Will Be Better”):
“Children put on wings and fly away to the army/and after two years they return without an answer/people live under stress looking for a reason to breathe/and between hatred and murder/they talk about peace.”

But Broza, a peace activist and the son of the founder of Neve Shalom, the only village where Arabs and Jews live together, is still hopeful:

“We will yet learn to live together, between the groves of olive trees/children live without fear, without borders, without bomb-shelters/on graves grass will grow, for peace and love, one hundred years of war/but we have not lost hope.”

The same cannot be said of the most famous singer of the next generation, nihilist and outspoken peace activist, Aviv Geffen. Although his song “The Hope” expresses similar sentiment (“We’ll bury the guns and not the children/so let’s try until things will be good “), his hopes, and that of the young generation of hopeful peaceniks, turned sour when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered at a peace rally in 1995. That night Geffen performed what was to become the anthem for Rabin, “Forever My Brother (Cry For You).”

Geffen hit the Israeli scene in 1990 and became known for Goth-like makeup, a Mick Jagger-like snarl and an often-discordant alternarock. He sang about love, betrayal, violence, peace, the army — which he publicly refused to enter — and became one of Israel’s youngest and most outspoken critics, or peace-pusher, depending on one’s perspective.

Although Geffen often sings about love, these are no jaunty love songs, but the searing pain of a rebel with a cause. His worldview tends toward meaninglessness (“There are no angels in heaven/just hell that makes you dream that there are angels in paradise/but there is no paradise and no heaven”) and melancholy (“We’re here and then we’re gone, Memento Mori/we are all alone/We’re all dying,” he sings in “Memento Mori,” the Latin phrase for “Remember that you will die”).

Geffen donated his time to Peace Now to sing an acoustic concert here.

“It’s hard to see the future, but I think that we, the artists, must come and stand strong, to play to show it’s really important. I hope our voice can be heard strong enough,” he said.

But Geffen is primarily touring America as part of his band Blackfield, an English band he formed with Steven Wilson of the band Porcupine Tree in 2000, in honor of their second eponymous album, “Blackfield II,” released this month. Although the band is named for the black fields remaining after war, Blackfield’s sound is more mellow — and melodious — than Geffen on his own. Blackfield has been likened to Pink Floyd — lush, liquid, lulling.

But Geffen’s wrist-slitting sentiment is often apparent in songs like “Pain” or “The Hole in Me” (self-explanatory). The band has received critical acclaim and is building a fan base — Geffen thinks they can become “bigger than Coldplay,” he brags. But without the context of Israeli politics and his solo cacophonous wail, it’s just music, not the voice of a generation.

But Geffen, who left Israel because he wanted to “sell more than 2 million copies” per album, believes that he can influence the world outside Israel.

Good albums drown out naysayers’ dire predictions


All in all, 2006 was a very good year for Jewish music. Fourteen CDs won the five-star plaudit, which is certainly a hopeful sign and a pointed rejoinder to those naysayers who have been proclaiming the death of (choose one): 1) klezmer; 2) new Jewish music; 3) old Jewish music.

On the downside, however, four of those albums were the products of deceased composers/artists. But still, the Kiddush cup is better than 70 percent full.

Here are my top 10 Jewish records of the year in alphabetical order:

Morton Feldman: “String Quartet (1979)” (Naxos). From a performer’s standpoint, it would be hard to imagine a quartet piece more physically demanding than this one, which is nearly 80 minutes long, meant to be played very slowly and features some truly mind-blowing shifts in dynamics.

Feldman was one of the most creative and rigorous of Webern-influenced serialists, and his work rewards — no, demands — close attention. If you can give yourself over to this piece of music completely, you will be richly rewarded, but it is almost as tough a test for a listener as it is for a performer. This recording by the Group for Contemporary Music is masterful.

German Goldenshteyn: “A Living Tradition” (Living Traditions). This is not merely a very fine album of traditional klezmer, it is also a historical document of 20th century Jewish culture of incalculable value. Goldenshteyn, who died earlier this year at 71, was a bridge between the Jewish musicians of pre- and post-revolutionary Russia and the young musicians of the American klezmer renaissance.

He was a walking encyclopedia of klezmer tunes, carrying in his head more than 800 songs, almost none of them known here. Fortunately, he imparted them to those younger musicians, and they are being published posthumously.

Equally fortunate, he was recorded in December 2005 at KlezKamp so that we have an auditory record of his playing to go along with the notated one. He was a superb clarinetist, with a bedrock sense of time and a deep, throaty tone.
The band that backs him is excellent, and the sound is remarkably good, given that this session was rather off the cuff. A must for anyone who cares seriously about klezmer. Available from www.livingtraditions.org.

The Klezmatics: “Wonder Wheel” (JMG). This CD continues the Klezmatics’ collaborations with the Woody Guthrie Archives, which is looking like a very fruitful pairing. Drawing a wide range of moods and tones from the archives collection of previously unset lyrics, the band gets to show off its considerable range, from a funky faux-Latin “Mermaid Avenue” to a lovely Calpyso-ish lullaby, “Headdy Down,” to a weirdly Asiatic/alt.country “Pass Away” to a klezmer “Goin’ Away to Sea.”

One of the surprises of the set is how profoundly spiritual some of the Guthrie lyrics are; one expects the good-natured progressivism of something like “Come When I Call You” and “Heaven,” but the deeply felt religious feeling of “Holy Ground” is unexpected and moving.

David Krakauer and Socalled w/Klezmer Madness!: “Bubbemeises: Lies My Gramma Told Me” (Label Bleu). This is by far the most interesting synthesis of hip-hop and klezmer attempted to date. It helps that Krakauer and Socalled are on the same page; that Socalled’s beats give a deliciously herky-jerky underpinning to Krakauer’s natural affinity for eccentric rhythms, and that the band is one of the best in this music. If you come for Krakauer’s clarinet playing, you won’t be disappointed. He’s in fine form here.

For the most part, the hip-hop elements won’t put off the true believer, although the bizarre, dirge-like “Rumania, Rumania” may prove hard for some to swallow. But it is precisely in the synthesis, the mix of phat beats and klezmer, the use of sampling and cut-and-mix, that this CD represents a significant step forward.

Ljova: “Vjola: World on Four Strings” (Kapustnik). After hearing this extraordinary album, you’ll never tell another viola joke again. Ljova, a Russian émigré now living in New York, is a superb player and composer, and this set, mostly of originals, ranges in emotion and colors across the globe.

Multitracked alongside accordionist Michael Bregman, Ljova is a virtuosic violist who can make the instrument do just about anything, and the set runs gracefully from the poignant to the jolly. This brilliant debut is available from www.kapustnik.com.

Jeremiah Lockwood: “American Primitive” (Vee-Ron). Lockwood got his start playing straight-ahead acoustic blues, and this fascinating recording draws on that part of his background. But “American Primitive” is anything but straight-ahead.
Imagine Captain Beefheart “unplugged,” and you have some idea of what this set sounds like. Dark and brooding variations on delta blues and the darker currents of bluegrass, filled with jangling guitar riffs and strangulated vocals. Not to all tastes, but a brilliant calling card from Lockwood.

Frank London: “Hazanos” (Tzadik). Since I acquired this, a week hasn’t passed in which I haven’t listened to it at least a couple of times. That is, to say the least, not usual for me, but it tells you how much I love this record.

Working with a brilliant rhythm section (David Chevan on bass, Anthony Coleman on keyboards, Gerald Cleaver on drums), several other superb musicians and several brilliant voices — most notably cantors Jack Mendelson and Simon Spiro — London has crafted the single-most compelling fusion of jazz and Jewish traditional liturgical music that I have heard to date. This is simply one of the best records I have heard in 10 years. Go buy it right now. Period.

Roy Nathanson: “Sotto Voce” (AUM Fidelity). From the start, this is clearly a very different Nathanson album, with human beatbox Napoleon Maddox supplying the rhythms and Nathanson coming up with a lot of the words. The result is a very satisfying, frequently funny and always witty jazz excursion, anchored by Nathanson’s superlative sax playing and fellow Jazz Passenger Curtis Fowlkes offering his usual trombone ingenuity.

The album runs the gamut from a vaguely satirical but surprisingly deeply felt “Sunrise Sunset” to a funk combustible “Sunny.” And all five band members contribute nicely judged vocals.

Thirty Years of Carlebach Rock


Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s musical legacy has taken many forms, from the
dozens of minyanim whose worship uses his music to the excellent recordings
made by his daughter, Neshama. But the most enduring and unexpected
offspring from Carlebach’s folkie neo-Chasidism is the number of jam bands
performing his music. If that seems incongruous, you only need to hear the
Moshav Band to realize how natural it really is.

Moshav Band, which was founded as a direct result of Carlebach’s influence,
just released its first English only album — “Misplaced.”

Reb Shlomo and a group of his followers had created a musical moshav in
Israel in 1977 in the hills between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a community
called Moshav Meor Modi’im. Yehuda (vocals), Dovid (guitar), Meir (guitar,
mandolin) and Yosef Solomon (bass), the sons of one of the original members
of that community, are the core of the group, joined by drummer David
Swirsky. Like Inasense and Soulfarm, two other Carlebach-spawned jam bands,
they melded his musical influence with that of the rock groups they heard as
kids — most obviously, The Dead, Dylan, Neil Young — in a splendid blend
of sacred and secular.

The Moshav Band has long been one of the most popular of Jewish-oriented
rock groups, but sometime at the end of the millennium that distinction
ceased to satisfy the group. Perhaps the band had always intended to try
hurdling the wall that generally separates openly Jewish music from rest of
the entertainment world; for Christians that wall has been more of a
semipermeable membrane, as any country-music fan will tell you. Whatever
their motivation, in 2000 the band members relocated to Los Angeles to
launch their assault on rest of the pop/rock world.

“Higher and Higher: The Best of the Moshav Band,” which the Jewish Music
Group released earlier this year, is a canny attempt to straddle the gap
between the moshav and the mosh pit. The set has more English-language songs
than its previous recordings, and it is long on anthemic rockers like
“Waiting for the Calling” that would not be out of place on an album by U2
or Pearl Jam, two bands to which it bears more than a slight resemblance.
But even the straighthead rockers and love songs can be easily read as calls
to God, rather than your usual pop invocations of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’
roll. In truth, the bands it most resembles are ones that are firmly
grounded in the soil of a homeland and its political struggles, bands like
The Levellers or The Pogues (if you sobered them up).

In that respect, the Moshav Band’s heart and soul are still linked tightly
to the hills outside Jerusalem and, fittingly, to the musical and spiritual
legacy of Rabbi Carlebach.

George Robinson is the film and music critic for Jewish Week. His book, “Essential Torah,” will be published by Shocken Books in fall 2006.

Fundraiser to Benefit Storm Victims


This Sunday, September 18th!

LALA & MOE’S

Jewish Experience & The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Present:

LA Jewish Katrina Benefit

All Proceeds To Benefit Jewish Federation’s Hurricane Relief Fund

Featuring:

The Moshav Band

Comic Relief by:

Edgar Fox
Avi Leiberman
Plus Special Guests

Silent Auction, Special Prize Drawing, Kosher Food, And More!

Sunday September 18th 2005
3:00 – 7:00 PM
Westside Jewish Community Center
5870 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles Ca, 90036

$25 Adults
$15 Students & Families
Space is Limited

For More information Contact:

Danwitz@LMJE.org

Community Sponsors Include:

Anti-Defamation League
Aish Ha-Torah
Ashreinu
Congregation Beth Jacob
Congregation B’nei David Judea
Congregation Mogen David
Isralight
Jewish big brothers
Jflicks
Los Angeles Hillel Council
The Chai Center
The Westwood Kehilla
Young Israel of Century City
And Many More

 

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, June 4

Today, galerie yoramgil launches “introductions,” a three-month endeavor to present six new artists to the public. View the diverse works of painters Zeev Ben-Dor, Yuri Katz, Nona Orbach, Paul Abbott and Mary Leipziger, and the bronze sculptures of Immi Storrs in mini solo shows throughout the large gallery.

Through Sept. .5. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.). 462 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-2641.

Sunday, June 5

Storyteller and actress Vicki Juditz is used to infusing heart and humor into difficult subjects like infertility and anti-Semitism. Today she performs her highly praised monologue, “Teshuva, Return,” for Child Survivors of the Holocaust in a private Beverlywood residence.

2 p.m. $25. For more information, call (310) 836-0779.

Monday, June 6

It’s a hodgepodge of celebrities and wannabes at tonight’s annual Vista Del Mar and Family Services’ Sports Sweepstakes Dinner. Comedian Paul Rodriguez and Olympian Mitch Gaylord co-emcee the event that includes an appearance by the Playboy Bunnies but not Hef himself. Tommy Lasorda will be honored, cocktails will be drunk and thousands of dollars will be raised for troubled and at-risk youth. Drop a cool 1K to do your part.

5:30 p.m. $1,000. Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-1223, ext. 225.

Tuesday, June 7

Israeli group Mashina has had a long and, sometimes, rocky past. But the band is now back together, touring to promote their 12th album. For the first time in a long time, they’re back in Los Angeles for one night only. Catch them tonight at the Avalon while you can.

8 p.m. (310) 273-2824.

Thursday, June 9

Laughing for charity sounds like a pretty good deal. Tonight, StandWithUs and Pups for Peace co-sponsor “LaughWithUs,” a comedy night featuring funnymen Wayne Federman (“Legally Blonde,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Lenny Schmidt (“Joe Dirt”) and plenty of others. Proceeds will help send comedians to Israel for comic relief and also benefit Israeli charities.

7:30 p.m. $75 (includes 2 drinks). Improv Theater, 8162 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-6140.

Jason Alexander becomes the latest star to try his hand at children’s book writing with his new release “Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy?” (Which would perhaps be better titled, “Dad, Since When Are You a Writer?”) Still, we’ll grant you Alexander’s a pretty funny guy, and you can size up his literary talents for yourself tonight. He reads from his book and signs it at Barnes and Noble at the Grove.

7:30 p.m. 189 Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-2070

Friday, June 10

Author Maggie Anton does the book tour circuit in Los Angeles this week, promoting her new work of historical fiction, “Rashi’s Daughters.” The book explores the stories of Jewish scholar Rashi’s daughters, who, unlike his sons, were largely ignored. She appears at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles on June 8, and as scholar-in-residence at Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills this weekend.

Jewish Community Library: (323) 761-8644. Shomrei Torah: (818) 346-0811.

Spend Chanukah Barenaked


 

While naming your holiday album “Barenaked for the Holidays” is a pretty catchy way to get some attention, for the quirky pop band that calls itself the Barenaked Ladies, it made sense — about as much sense as getting naked on “The Sharon Osbourne Show” last year, anyway. Apparently, stripping down’s just part of the offbeat Canadians’ sense of fun. So it follows that anyone expecting the Ladies’ holiday album to be anything less than silly would be, well, silly.

The new CD offers up revamped Christmas, Chanukah and New Year’s classics, as well as a few original tunes, including one called “Hanukkah Blessings,” written by Jewish band member Steven Page. The reinterpreted songs include a version of “Jingle Bells” that has “the extra lines you remember from being a kid,” Page recently told rollingstone.com.

Another song, titled, “Deck the Stills,” is a variation on “Deck the Halls” that functions as a bizarre homage to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, wherein the band’s name, sung repeatedly to the melody of “Deck the Halls” makes up the entirety of the song.

Two Chanukah standards also make it onto the album: “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” and “I Have a Little Dreidel,” both redone in traditional — if a little peppier — style.

While the Ladies might not seem bent on tradition, there is at least one that it’s said they stick to. The band is known for always recording at least one song per album completely nude. Which song that is remains a mystery, although for the sake of Sarah McLachlan, their collaborator on the recording,”God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” we hope it wasn’t that one.

And while in typical, unpredictable style, the Ladies released their holiday CD way back in October, Page was quick to mockingly defend the choice on the band’s official blog, noting its release was “just in time for the holidays. Well, by holidays I mean Ramadan and Canadian Thanksgiving.” Still, he added, “It might be early for a stocking stuffer, but it’s perfect as a turkey stuffer.”

 

What’s in a Name?


Eric, Matt and Chris are three musicians who refuse to give away their last names. But if you guessed it was out of a lack of ethnic pride, you’d be wrong.

"I’m a pretty high-profile Jew, whether I like it or not," says singer-songwriter Eric. "It’s hard to hide when you’re in a band called JEW."

Priding itself on its pop rock, JEW has been generating some buzz with its name and its music. "Don’t Speak French" got some alternative rock station rotation this year. In May, JEW scared up good press while performing at Las Vegas’ EAT’M Festival.

The unsigned band was working out of a Hollywood studio with a producer on the then-untitled tune, "Threw Your Love Away," when The Journal caught up with them earlier this year. Their demo’s other tracks include the brooding, Nirvana-esque "Notice Me" and the 1980s pop-influenced "12/31" and "Sugarfly."

"If you put us in a mix tape with songs of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, we fit right in," Eric says of his relationship-obsessed songs.

Not bad for a band whose guitarist had no musicianship several years ago.

"I couldn’t even hold a guitar," says Eric, a former personal trainer who was taught an unorthodox technique by Guitar World editor-in-chief Brad Tolinski in exchange for some fitness instruction.

"He told me, ‘You’ll literally be able to play in two weeks,’" Eric says.

"Nobody plays guitar the way I play. I couldn’t play a bar chord if you put a gun to my chest. Subsequently that’s what makes our sound so different."

"I’ve always been enamored by his drive and his naivete," says JEW’s drummer, Chris. "He’ll walk into a room and ask a musician, ‘What chord is that?’ and they’ll give him this look. Eric never has that kind of guard. It catches people off guard and it’s very disarming."

Eric grew up in Farmington, Maine, where he says he was the only Jew in school.

"[My parents] had this mutual dream of living in the woods in Maine. It was a great upbringing, but the one thing that I missed was any strong Jewish culture experience."

Oddly enough, Chris — the obvious non-Jew of JEW — had a mirror-image upbringing.

"In Potomac, Md., I was one of three goys in the neighborhood," Chris says. "When I was 13, I went to bar mitzvahs all [the] time. I knew how to make hamantaschen and I sang ‘Hava Nagila.’"

In 1995, Eric and Chris met in New York and formed an early version of JEW. By 1998, they found themselves in Los Angeles, where Chris has become something of a polyhyphenate — acting on TV series such as "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Homicide" playing "rednecks and yuppies," and getting three screenplays optioned, including one with Danny DeVito’s Jersey Films. Eric and Chris later met up with Matt, an old friend from their New York days who describes himself as "a total Jersey suburb Jewish kid." Shortly before New Year’s 2001, JEW — with Matt on bass — was born again as an L.A. band with a Viper Room show.

One of the band’s key attractions is its name, which JEW’s non-Jew has no problem with.

"People who will normally breeze by the name, get more involved with it," Chris says.

Eric adds, "I came up with it because the word is bold and powerful. In certain cases it’s a drawback, and in certain cases it’s been a positive. One [record company executive] told me, ‘I’ve had a hundred demos and the only reason I chose it was because it had the word JEW on it.’ But I also got a call two days ago from a high-powered manager who felt that the music was great, but was unwilling to work with us unless we changed our name."

"If we do," Eric continues, "it loses its fun and edge. We have no intention of changing it. JEW is here to stay."

7 Days in the Arts


25/SATURDAY

The band is called JEW and blatant Jew pride is reason enough for a shout-out. But these guys also have a show tonight. Their sound is best described as alt-rock, and they name the Police and Nirvana as strong influences. Support the tribe and check out their show, at midnight at The Joint. $7. 8771 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 275-2619.

26/SUNDAY

Be prepared for an irreverent take on the Bible in Venice Mootney Company’s play, “Meat: a Bible Tragi-comedy.” This version includes a gay-male love triangle and plenty of feminist and media-critical commentary. And by the way, they’ve turned the sacred Temple into a barbecue pit. Confused? Intrigued? We’re pretty sure that’s the point. See it today at a special Memorial Day Sunday Barbecue-Benefit preview. Runs Sundays through June. 7 p.m. $12.50 (general), $10 (seniors and groups of ten). Hopkins House Studio, 11736 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles. For reservations, call (310) 586-0114.

Maybe you know him as the creator of the Comedy Store or maybe as Pauly Shore’s dad. Either way, Sammy Shore’s name is synonymous with comedy. His show “…But First, Sammy Shore!” is extended through Sept. 1, but why wait? Take in some laughs at 5:30 p.m. Sundays only. $17.50 (general), discounts available for students, teachers, seniors and groups of 16 or more. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. For reservations, call (310) 394-9779, ext. 1.

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27/MONDAY

It’s your moral duty to make the most of this glorious, no-work, sunshiny Monday. So pile the kids into the SUV and get your tuchus to the Old Pasadena Summer Fest. They’ve got art exhibits, a Playboy Jazz festival, food from various local restaurants and an interactive Sports Zone. Just leave the picnic and dog at home–they’re not allowed. Free. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Central Park, Fair Oak Avenue (two blocks south of Colorado Boulevard), Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 797-6803.

28/TUESDAY

Mark Rothko, Piet Mondrian, Paul Cézanne and Willem de Kooning’s contributions to the world of art are undeniable. Attend a panel and open discussion on these artists’ reflections at the end of their careers, with Getty Museum Director Thomas Crow, USC professor Nancy Troy and University of Texas professor Richard Shiff. 7 p.m. Free. J. Paul Getty Museum, Harold M. Williams Auditorium, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. For reservations, call (310) 440-7300.

They’ve given you fair warning to lock up your bunnies again. Penn and Teller are back in town, prepared to entertain you with more of their comedic magic. But better grab those tickets before they disappear — the odd couple is only around for one week this time. Runs May 28-June 2. 8 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday), 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (Sunday). $42-$52. Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. For reservations, call (213) 365-3500.

29/WEDNESDAY

If you think Beethoven is yawn-inducing or stale, consider the Ojai Music Festival, where classical works annually get freshened up. This year, the festival is built around two contemporary forces: the Emerson String Quartet and pianist Marino Formenti. The Emersons will link the final quartets of Shostakovich with those of Beethoven, while Formenti plans on three performances that will include music composed by Jewish prisoners in Nazi camps. Continues through Sunday, June 2. For more information, call (805) 646-2094

30/THURSDAY

God and some contemporary literary works have inspired Greenway Art Alliance’s two-part, one-act series, “Acts of Love and Redemption.” Series A consists of adaptations of Philip Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews,” Flannery O’Connor’s “The River” and Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” All three explore our sometimes peculiar relationships with the Almighty. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays through June 7. $15. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. For reservations, call (323) 655-4402.

31/FRIDAY

Margaret Handwerker (aptly named) really does spin tales. Working on a large loom using hand-dyed and hand-spun wools, Handwerker creates colorful tapestries that incorporate biblical images and stories. Two of her works, “Six Days of Creation” and “Noah’s Ark,” will be displayed through Aug. 25 at the Skirball Cultural Center. noon-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Sunday). $8 (general), $6 (seniors and students), free (members and children under 12). 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 440-4500.

Classical Klezmer


What do you do when your symphony season hinges on a theme of celebration, but your country is still reeling from terrorism? When your opening concert features a piece called "Suite for Klezmer Band and Orchestra," and the klezmer band cancels?

If you are Noreen Green, artistic director, conductor and founder of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony (LAJS), you find another band and you put on the show. "I think it’s important we get on with our lives," she says. "Jews are no strangers to tragedy. Our music has reflected our hopes, our dreams and our tragedies."

When the Swiss klezmer band Kol Simcha canceled after the Sept. 11 attacks, Green called up the spirited three-piece Hollywood Klezmer, longtime friends of the symphony. And on with the show.

On Dec. 2, Green’s dedication to Jewish orchestral music bears fruit once again in the LAJS’ eighth season opening concert, featuring the eclectic range of composers and musical styles for which the symphony is known. For the first half of the "Celebrate Joy" concert, LAJS offers a musical Chanukah, with Peter Yarrow’s "Light One Candle," Zamir Bavel’s "Hanukkah Rhapsody" and selections from Aminadav Aloni’s "Or Ha-am."

Then the symphony really gets cooking with Hollywood Klezmer, playing Sid Robinovitch’s "Suite," blending klezmer with elements of burlesque and even tango, for a little extra holiday spice.

Not a Jewish music expert? Not to worry, Green is that rare conductor who interacts with listeners and explains the music, "so the audience isn’t walking into a vacuum," she says. "And they walk out feeling not only did they hear great music, but their spirits have been lifted, and they learned something. And people are hungry for that."

"Celebrate Joy" concert Sunday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. $25-$45. K.L. Peters Auditorium, Beverly Hills High School, 241 Moreno Ave., Beverly Hills. For tickets, call (818) 753-6681.

Strike Up the Klezmer


This is not your grandmother’s halftime show. Unless of course, Grandma grew up in a kibbutz or shtetl with a 145-piece marching band in residence.

Santa Monica High School’s Viking Marching Band and Color Guard performs at halftime during the school football team’s home games. Band members from the school, which is familiarly known as Samohi, also travel en masse to field competitions throughout Southern California.

Under the direction of Terry Sakow, past Samohi field shows have been built around tunes from Broadway shows like "Phantom of the Opera" and from the classical music repertoire. For the just-concluded 2001 season, the band stepped outside the norm to present "Shirim" (the Hebrew word for "songs"), a field show dedicated to Israeli and klezmer music.

Assistant director of bands Carl Hammer, the product of a Mormon upbringing, took charge of arranging such familiar Jewish numbers as "Zemer Atik," "Hava Nagila," and "Jerusalem of Gold" for the marching band.

Among the musicians, Matt Leonard — who happens to be Jewish — has won special acclaim for his schmaltzy solo clarinet work. But the Samohi band, which prides itself on its ethnic diversity, attracts members from a multitude of backgrounds. At the last competition of 2001, Muslim band members performed while fasting because of the onset of Ramadan.

Judges have strongly praised the Samohi show for the originality of its concept. Band members have walked off with numerous honors, including a Grand Champion Sweepstakes trophy. The reaction from Samohi students and parents has been equally positive. Doug Campbell, a Christian parent of a band member, relates, "Klezmer music is not something I’d heard before. It’s a very pleasant sound. I’m thinking of buying a recording."

Ari Rosmarin, a featured clarinetist, says the show’s high point always comes when the musicians, along with a color guard waving blue-and-white banners, arrange themselves in a Star of David formation. The star, Rosmarin says, "usually gets applause … even in Orange County." Rosmarin is hardly inclined to see the applause as a manifestation of the onlookers’ Jewish pride. "I think it’s a recognizable shape, and they appreciate that."

Zen Cowboy


There’s a new singing cowboy in town, and his name is Ken Kunin.

“I’ve been in this crazy industry for about 10 years,” says the lead vocalist/songwriter. And he’s about to turn up the heat.

His band, davis waits, has been receiving radio airplay , including on local outlets KLOS and KTTC; and a cross-country tour in support of their new album, “the evolution of…,” will follow after the New Year.

Comprised of 14 tracks of jangly American pop, “the evolution of…” covers some introspective terra firma — love and life, with the occasional social commentary — including “my dear kate,” a valentine to his wife of five years, Kathryn Sharp; “transit,” which, in Kunin’s words, charts “the dilemma of winding up in a different city, where’s my values today…”; and “senorita,” the plight of an immigrant worker trying to make ends meet with dignity. Three producers helped breathe life into “the evolution of…,” including newcomer Jon Griffin and John Philip Shenale, who produced Jane’s Addiction’s last real album, 1989’s “Ritual de la Habitual.”

Kunin — who does all of the band’s songwriting and considers it the best part of the musical process — says that his music draws from his spiritual side.

“My Judaism has been a little more internal, not as community oriented,” says Kunin. “But it still plays a definitely important part of my life, my family life.”

Originally from Tarzana, Kunin is a former teacher of martial arts, yoga, and tai chi. He is also the brother of Rabbi Gordon Bernard-Kunin, a religious studies director at Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus and founder of the Pico-Robertson-based Makor program. The erstwhile University of Arizona Eastern Studies major now lives in Van Nuys, where he runs his own label, Underhill Recordings, with Sharp.

“I’m pretty lucky in a sense that a lot of people my age, they’re still searching for their soulmate,” says the 31-year-old musician of his spouse.

Together, the Kunin and Sharp are also producing other artists, including singer/songwriter Leslie King; and an album by davis waits’ guitarist/keyboardist, Brazilian jazz artist Angelo Metz.

Kunin, who grew up blasting Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan on his stereo, also has an acoustic solo CD coming out in February. “The Return of Number Six” (a reference to the number on the baseball jersey he wore when he was eight) will reflect the spiritual inroads he has made. One song, “Grace to Fall From,” will be his take on spirituality and religion; another tune, “Don’t Make It Anything More,” mocks the shallowness of celebrity worship.

So what sets davis waits from the contemporaries? According to Kunin, it’s passion.

“How many times have you been to a show where you’re watching a band and there’s no passion… where you say, ‘Come on I’m not buying it, it’s not real!'”

Passion is a big part of Kunin’s life and art. It is what drives him to handle his own producing and distribution. And it is what he tries to infuse in every live appearance.

“So much of our generation is stuck in front of the television,” says Kunin. “What affects me most on a high holiday is when the rabbi is telling a story. He’s not preaching, he’s telling a tale. I like storytelling.”

Perhaps we are witnessing “the evolution of…” another rabbi in the Kunin clan.

Join davis waits at the Joint on Jan. 15, 10 p.m. For more information on davis waits and upcoming local appearances, check out the band’s official home page at www.daviswaits.com.

Taste of KlezMex


In spite of thunder, lightning, pouring rain and occasional gusts of unchecked sentimentalism, the Viva Klezmer-L’Khayim Mariachi concert at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Sunday, July 11, was a high-energy, crowd-pleaser that mostly delivered on its promise to explore the intersection of the two forms.

Staged as an unlikely battle-of-the-bands, with Mariachi Sol de America de Juan José Almaguer arranged neatly on the left, and Barry Fisher’s Ellis Island and Friends Klezmer band in casual disarray on the right, the concert was a back-and-forth tennis game of related tunes. It began with a smoldering doyna spotlighting virtuosic improvisation from clarinetist Zinovy Goro, which led into the Sol de America performance of Jesus y Los Angeles, followed closely by “And the Angels Sing” performed by Ellis Island.

The show was at its best during the combined group numbers that meshed both styles like the “Que Viva Zacatecas March” and the Spanish Civil War song, “Traige Mi Cuarenta Cinco” (Bring Me My .45) with Violinist/Singer Aaron Shiffrin clowning his way through Spanish and Yiddish lyrics, while Mariachi Adam Ramirez clowned back from the opposite end. Other high points included Oudist Jon Bilezekjian performing a pair of flamenco-inflected Sephardic songs of intricate beauty that held the audience spellbound.

In contrast, both bands were guilty of schmaltz (or I suppose that would be “lard” from the Mariachis) and occasional bits of cheap sentimentalism that stopped just short of embarrassing. Luckily, that wasn’t the only common ground between the two styles, and the concert always bounced back with the renewed energy of this improbable combination, closing with a rendition of “La Bamba” that showcased strong instrumental solos from both sides of the stage.


The Return of Poogy


The fabled Poogy, Israel’s most celebrated rock band, is reuniting in the United States next month for a three-city tour, billed as their “final reunion.” It’s worth watching the reviews to see how they’re received. The results will offer data on the state of Jewish identity and Israel-Diaspora relations. Israel’s soul will be on display. Will American Jews come listen?

The last time they toured here was 1976, shortly before they broke up.

“We played 20 cities, and every concert was sold out,” says the band’s drummer, Meir “Poogy” Fenigstein, now a Los Angeles-based impresario. “Every place we performed, from Winnipeg to Phoenix, audiences knew the words and sang along. And it wasn’t Israelis. It was American Jews.”

“I don’t know how they learned it. Maybe because we came out at the time of the Yom Kippur War, when American Jews were closer to Israel. A lot of American kibbutz volunteers probably heard Poogy on the radio, and brought back the memories. I think we became a sort of bond between them and Israel.”

Zen Rabbi


There’s a new singing cowboy in town, and his name is Ken Kunin.

“I’ve been in this crazy industry for about 10 years,” says the lead vocalist/songwriter. And he’s about to turn up the heat.

His band, davis waits, has been receiving radio airplay , including on local outlets KLOS and KTTC; and a cross-country tour in support of their new album, “the evolution of…,” will follow after the New Year.

Comprised of 14 tracks of jangly American pop, “the evolution of…” covers some introspective terra firma — love and life, with the occasional social commentary — including “my dear kate,” a valentine to his wife of five years, Kathryn Sharp; “transit,” which, in Kunin’s words, charts “the dilemma of winding up in a different city, where’s my values today…”; and “senorita,” the plight of an immigrant worker trying to make ends meet with dignity. Three producers helped breathe life into “the evolution of…,” including newcomer Jon Griffin and John Philip Shenale, who produced Jane’s Addiction’s last real album, 1989’s “Ritual de la Habitual.”

Kunin — who does all of the band’s songwriting and considers it the best part of the musical process — says that his music draws from his spiritual side.

“My Judaism has been a little more internal, not as community oriented,” says Kunin. “But it still plays a definitely important part of my life, my family life.”

Originally from Tarzana, Kunin is a former teacher of martial arts, yoga, and tai chi. He is also the brother of Rabbi Gordon Bernard-Kunin, a religious studies director at Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus and founder of the Pico-Robertson-based Makor program. The erstwhile University of Arizona Eastern Studies major now lives in Van Nuys, where he runs his own label, Underhill Recordings, with Sharp.

“I’m pretty lucky in a sense that a lot of people my age, they’re still searching for their soulmate,” says the 31-year-old musician of his spouse.

Together, the Kunin and Sharp are also producing other artists, including singer/songwriter Leslie King; and an album by davis waits’ guitarist/keyboardist, Brazilian jazz artist Angelo Metz.

Kunin, who grew up blasting Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan on his stereo, also has an acoustic solo CD coming out in February. “The Return of Number Six” (a reference to the number on the baseball jersey he wore when he was eight) will reflect the spiritual inroads he has made. One song, “Grace to Fall From,” will be his take on spirituality and religion; another tune, “Don’t Make It Anything More,” mocks the shallowness of celebrity worship.

So what sets davis waits from the contemporaries? According to Kunin, it’s passion.

“How many times have you been to a show where you’re watching a band and there’s no passion… where you say, ‘Come on I’m not buying it, it’s not real!'”

Passion is a big part of Kunin’s life and art. It is what drives him to handle his own producing and distribution. And it is what he tries to infuse in every live appearance.

“So much of our generation is stuck in front of the television,” says Kunin. “What affects me most on a high holiday is when the rabbi is telling a story. He’s not preaching, he’s telling a tale. I like storytelling.”

Perhaps we are witnessing “the evolution of…” another rabbi in the Kunin clan.

Join davis waits at the Joint on Jan. 15, 10 p.m. For more information on davis waits and upcoming local appearances, check out the band’s official home page at www.daviswaits.com.

Soulful Sounds


The sounds of heaven and earth merge when David De’or and Shlomo Bar, two internationally acclaimed Israeli artists, combine their musical talents.

De’or captivates his listeners with an astounding vocal range that covers 3 1/2 octaves. His voice, which plunges to the depths of a rich baritone only to ascend to the celestial melody of a contra-tenor, has captured the attention of music critics, the media and state leaders the world over, including the Vatican, the Italian press, the King and Queen of Sweden, various symphony orchestras and the Library of Congress — where he will perform on Oct. 22 together with Bar and his band, Habrera Hativ’it (Natural Band).

Bar lends a different yet complimentary musical flavor to De’or’s signature sounds. Influenced by the Sephardic and Middle Eastern musical heritage, Bar and his band create earthy and ethnic rhythms by combining Eastern and Western instruments such as the conga, bongo, tambura (a classical Indian string instrument) and flute. Bar weaves within the music, lyrics taken from a variety of sources such as the Bible, Israeli poets and hymns from Spain’s golden age.

De’or and Bar offer more than just technical mastery of their musical genres. Their performances evoke a sense of prayer, soul and expression that stir the heart. Audiences who do know Hebrew understand the importance of the lyrics by watching and hearing the artists’ soulful expressions.

De’or and Bar, who have also performed and produced albums individually, will tour the United States this October and November. They will perform at the University of Judaism’s Gindi Auditorium on Nov. 1. For more information and tickets, contact Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble, the tour’s producer, at (818) 784-0344.

Up Front


The Jerusalem Jazz Band
At the Dixieland Jubilee in Sacramento, the annual super bowl of jazz, the band that got the most ecstatic reception a couple of years ago was cradled a few thousand miles east of New Orleans.

It was the Jerusalem Jazz Band, whose members hail each other by such fine old Southern names as Boris, Mika, Shmulik, Stanislav and Aaron.

“This band is hot, confident and slick, without losing an interpretive freshness,” wrote the jazz critic for the Sacramento Union. “[Band leader Boris] Gammer can scat sing like Louis Armstrong, but he’s best at jamming, freilach style, on the clarinet. There are hints of Klezmer in the tunes, which make them special. But this group could probably play the telephone book, and people would want to get up and dance.”

After this Memorial Day weekend’s Sacramento festival, the Jerusalem Jazz Band will stop over for a one-night stand in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, May 27, performing at the Veterans Wadsworth Theatre.

All proceeds will go to the Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa and the Habonim leadership program in Israel.

As to the group’s enthusiastic reception in Sacramento, Aaron Chankin, who plays the tenor sax and is a native Angeleno, said, “First, we got a lot of attention because we were considered sort of exotic, but they came back because of the quality of our playing.”

He describes the group’s special sound as “Dixie-freilach,” which lends a distinctive Yiddish inflection of their rendition of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and a dose of Dixie to “Rabbi Elimelech.”

Gammer, the band’s leader, arranger, clarinet and saxophone player, was a musical prodigy in his native Riga, Latvia, and formed a prize-winning combo at age 17. He went on to win 18 Soviet and international jazz awards before emigrating to Israel.

He has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea and Michael Brecker, and also teaches at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem.

Three other band members are from the former Soviet Union, two are Israeli sabras, with Chankin as the only American.

The May 27 event is co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts and the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, himself a Habonim alumnus, is the honorary chair.

Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and the UCLA Central Ticket Office, at (310) 825-2101. For further information, call the Habonim office at (213) 655-6576. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


Tolerance, Please

Can’t we all just get along? We don’t mean Jews and African-Americans, or Jews and Christians, or Jews and Arabs. We’re talking about Jews and Jews. From the political and religious extremists in Israel to the Chassids in New York who decided a majority of us don’t practice real Judaism, the Tribe seems more and more like Jung’s tail-eating serpent, minus the regeneration. We’re just attacking ourselves to death.

Anyway, here in Los Angeles, three upcoming events are slated to deal head-on with the issues of tolerance and diversity within Judaism.

* Sunday, May 25: Nine rabbis — three Reform, three Conservative and three Orthodox– will meet at Beverly Hills High School for a “Day of Healing and Learning.” The idea is to bring the movements together through the study of our tradition. (Hmm, tell that to the Reconstructionists.) Scheduled to participate are rabbis Richard Levy, Harvey Fields, Harold Schulweis, Abner Weiss, Levi Meier, Yossi Kanefsky and two more Conservative rabbis. The event is co-sponsored by the three movements and the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles. For more information, call (213) 388-2401.

* Monday, June 2: The UCLA Hillel Council will present a town meeting entitled “Who Is a Jew? Who Is a Rabbi? In Pursuit of Jewish Unity.” Honoring the memory of Jerry Weber, the panel discussion will feature Rabbis Yosef Kanefsky (Orthodox), Ed Feinstein (Conservative) and Richard Levy (Reform). Arriving early for tickets and a good seat is recommended — issues don’t get much more heated, or topical, than this. For more information, call UCLA Hillel at (310) 208-3081.

* Tuesday, June 3: The Chazak Circle and the Maimonides Society of the Valley Alliance/Jewish Federation will present a talk and response on “American and Israeli Jews: A Shared History, a Shared Future?” with Avraham Infeld, founding director of the Melitz Institute for Zionist Education, and Yoav Ben Horin, associate director of the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Studies. The event will take place at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus. For information, call (818) 587-3200.


Goodbye Bronze, Hello Iron

According to Jerry Berman, no period in human history is as dramatic or important as the 50-year span between 1225 and 1175 B.C.E.

We know that’s hard to believe, considering that the last two years alone have brought such cataclysmic events as O.J. Simpson’s acquittal and The Jewish Journal’s format change, but consider Berman’s proof text: the Torah itself.

“If you want to understand the context of the biblical world, you have to understand the end of the Bronze age,” says Berman, who is executive director of the California Museum of Ancient Art.

The world that emerged at the end of the Bronze Age produced the Bible, he says, and you can’t understand the latter without understanding the former.

In that short 50-year blink of human history, virtually all established city states and empires were wiped out. Goodbye, Hatzor; so long, Ugarit, Knossos and Troy. Egypt suffered a devastating attack, and the Hittite empire collapsed. Why? Was it famine, earthquake or sudden changes in the technology of warfare that did in these empires?

Around the same time, in the lithic hills of Judea and Samaria, a certain people begin settling down, developing their own style of housing and pottery. Archaeologists call these ancestors of Einstein, Spielberg and you “proto-Israelites.” In 1207, the first extra-biblical mention is made of “Israel” on a stele commemorating Israel’s defeat in battle.

Where did the proto-Israelites come from? Were they displaced Canaanites, part of an agrarian social-reform movement, as some scholars believe? Were they a distinct ethnic group at all?

And what of those other post-Bronze Age people, the Philistines, who themselves would figure in the biblical narrative? Were they Philistine, as popular belief would have it, or the sophisticated creators of an artful and urbane civilization?

You can learn the answers to these questions from two of the world’s leading experts on the subject. On Tuesday, May 27, Dr. William Dever of the University of Arizona will speak on the origins of early Israel. On June 3, Tammi Schneider, associate professor of Old Testament Studies at Claremont Graduate School, will speak on the development of Philistine culture. Both lectures, part of a series on the end of the Bronze Age sponsored by the museum, will take place at the Gallery Theatre in Barnsdall Park, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets for the lectures are $18 for non-museum members. Call (818) 762-5500 for more information. n