A new tzedakah box from an old album cover


Making a tzedakah box is a fun craft activity for kids from age 8 to 80, and creating the box provides a valuable lesson in the importance of charity. This tzedakah box made from an up-cycled record album cover is eco-friendly, so it’s good for the community — and the environment. 

Of course, I don’t encourage you to sacrifice a prized record from your collection. Step away from that Beatles “White Album.” Instead, look in thrift shops and garage sales for old albums with interesting artwork. I actually found the Eydie Gorme album pictured here at an Out of the Closet thrift store. It didn’t even come with the vinyl record inside, so the clerk gave it to me for free.

And yes, because I know you’re wondering: I have made a tzedakah box from a Neil Sedaka album cover — which proves that although breaking up is hard to do, making your own tzedakah box isn’t.

What you’ll need:

  • Album cover
  • Ruler
  • Hobby knife
  • Hot glue gun
  • Duct tape

 

Follow the template available for download on jewishjournal.com in cutting the album cover. It indicates how large of a section to cut out of the album cover (11.5-by-7 inches). The black line indicates where to cut this section in half, and the red lines indicate where to score the cardboard.

Step 1

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” target=”_blank”>jonathanfongstyle.com.

Proud to be a baby boomer


Being a baby boomer is more than a statistic, it’s a state of mind. Boomers rock and everyone knows it. And by everyone I mean the baby boomers. We baby boomers tend to have a high opinion of ourselves, and there is plenty of evidence that supports that notion.

We are the majority in America — at least it feels like it — and in a democracy the majority rules. It doesn’t take a Mr. Wizard to tell you that of all the generations currently on Earth, the boomers have been the luckiest of all. Our parents, who are often referred to as the “Greatest Generation,” were born into a massive economic depression and grew up during a devastating world war. Bummer.

Boomers, on the other hand, were born into an era of great American prosperity and simplicity. A country where many families lived in the suburban splendor of two-car garages, manicured lawns and a swing set in the backyard. (And although swing set took on a whole different meaning in the ’70s, it was usually kept out of the backyard.) It was a time when people could park their cars in their driveways with the keys in the ignition and leave their front doors unlocked with nothing more to fear than having their nosy neighbor Gladys drop in at dinnertime. 

Yes, it’s quite clear as we look back on the early life and times of the baby boomers, that we are the lucky ones. One of the driving ambitions of our parents was to make the world a better place for their kids and give them everything that they didn’t have when they were children. And we, the kids, were the beneficiaries. If we wanted ice cream and candy, we got both. 

The Beatles

When our birthdays or Christmas rolled around we made long lists of toys that we saw advertised on TV during after-school or Saturday morning programming. Some of us did additional shopping from store catalogs that came in the mail from Sears, Roebuck and Co. or Montgomery Ward. Since our parents didn’t want to disappoint us they usually bought us everything we asked for even if they couldn’t afford it. Is it any wonder we developed into the “Me” generation? 

While every generation has a fondness for the pop culture of their times, there’s no arguing with a boomer that ours is the greatest. And we continue to hold on to that legacy tighter than a G.I. Joe with kung fu grip. Remember that we were the first generation to grow up with both television and rock ’n’ roll, which had a profound affect on our formative years.

Rock ’n’ roll is the official music of the baby boomers. Rooted in rhythm and blues and country music, rock ’n’ roll’s liberating joy and rebellious tone helped define our generation like no other music could. By the time each boomer was old enough to fill their teenage dance shoes, rock ’n’ roll was there to give them something to twist and shout about. 

From the early days of Elvis and Chuck Berry to the British invasion to the psychedelic daze of purple haze on through to the sound of heavy metal thunder and alt-rock, the genre has supplied the soundtrack to baby boomers’ lives. Who else but us can lay claim to growing up on the immortal sounds of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys. Or more “high”-minded musicians like the Doors, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and, for many, the Bee Gees (who were more high-pitched than minded). 

Many of us were raised on television at a time when there were only three networks and a couple of local stations, yet you could always find something good to watch. It was a time when reality TV was known as the nightly news and the stars of the show were respected journalists like Walter Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. They all had an avuncular quality that projected an image of trustworthiness. Plus, they only subjected us to the harsh reality of the news for 30 minutes. 

Wilt Chamberlain

What other generation would so fanatically embrace TV shows about talking horses, suburban housewife witches or flying nuns? Those shows tickled our imaginations and instilled in us a more frivolous attitude towards life than our parents had — like maybe when we grew up all of our problems could be solved with the twitch of a nose or a blinking genie wearing a midriff. 

As for our sports heroes — think Mickey Mantle, Wilt Chamberlain and Johnny Unitas — they became legends based solely on their athletic abilities with no additional “chemical enhancements” other than Wheaties or Yoo-Hoo. They were the real thing, and it didn’t cost our fathers a week’s pay to take us to see them play.

But it wasn’t just the simplicity of the times or the quality of the entertainment and sports figures that make being a boomer great. We pride ourselves on bringing about change. During the ’60s and ’70s, many boomers joined the protest generation. They marched, chanted and carried signs railing against war, prejudice and injustice and fought for peace, love and equality for all. The boomers embraced their parents’ dream of giving their children a better world and they ran with it, even if it meant rebelling against them to do so. Whether they were burning their draft cards or their bras, they put themselves on the line for what they believed in. 

Walter Cronkite

No matter how fondly we flash back on those happy days through our rose-colored granny glasses, growing up a boomer was not one big Fluffernutter and Fizzies party. There was the dark side of the boom. 

The ’60s were buckshot with political assassinations, an escalating war in Vietnam and a divisive battle between the generations. The ’70s became a breeding ground for excessive drug abuse, a presidential resignation and — perhaps worst of all — leisure suits. And for the later boomers, the ’80s morphed into the ’70s-on-steroids decade, only with bigger hair and less streaking.

Somehow we survived it all and are now comfortably entrenched in the 21st century, striving to remain a vital force in the world and vigorously continuing down the winding road on our long, strange trip.

In retrospect, on the surface the boomers appear to be a frivolous lot living in a perpetual state of prolonged adolescence clinging to the things that connected them to their youth, like their classic rock music, silly television shows and weird fads. Perhaps our fixation with the past is what keeps us young at heart and inspires us to defy time and age so we can, as we used to say, “Keep on Truckin’.” 

Sure, sometimes our actions were misguided, and we often lost our way taking dark roads of excess that lead to pain, ruin and some monstrously horrible fashions. But for a time, we stood together as one and discovered the power of unity — and for better or worse, changed the status quo. 

And while some may argue with our generation’s grandiose view of itself, others will join us in saluting our cherished legacy with our ostentatious cry, “Say it loud: I’m a boomer and I’m proud!


Pat Sierchio is a freelance writer and co-writer/co-producer of the stage comedy “Boomermania: The Musical About the Baby Boomers.”

McCartney attends Yom Kippur Services, Marries Next Day


Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney reportedly spent the night before his wedding at Yom Kippur services.

McCartney married Jewish-American heiress Nancy Shevell in London on Oct. 9. They reportedly attended Yom Kippur services and a break-fast at a local London synagogue, where Shevell, 51, received a blessing in honor of her upcoming marriage.

The couple married in a civil ceremony at London’s Marylebone Register Office, followed by a small reception at McCartney’s north London home.

McCartney’s first wife, Linda Eastman, also was Jewish. She died in 1998 after a battle with breast cancer.

A Beatles Passover


Last night my family and I went out with some friends to the Pantages Theatre, where we took a musical journey back in time. For over two hours, the Broadway production of “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” took us through the tumultuous 1960’s and the great Beatles songs that came to define that decade. From the innocence of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to the provocative “Revolution” and the contemplative “Let It Be,” we danced, laughed, cried and “Twisted and Shouted” to the sounds and sights of a unique era in time.

Throughout the show, I could not help but reflect on the depth and meaning of the Beatles lyrics, and how relevant they still are in our generation. Themes like “All You Need Is Love” and “Give Peace A Chance” are not limited to the 1960’s, but are relevant to all people at any time who seek a life filled with love and peace. To put it in Beatles terminology, the themes and lyrics of Beatle’s songs are not just about “Yesterday,” but they are also about “today and tomorrow.”

So, too, with the upcoming Passover holiday and the Seder that we sit down to with our families this coming Monday night. The themes of Passover – freedom from slavery and oppression, faith in God through thick and thin, and the power of storytelling – are meaningful and relevant to all generations of Jews everywhere in the world. Recounting the Exodus from Egypt is not limited to the “Magical Mystery Tour” of the Ten Plagues and the Crossing of the Red Sea from our Egyptian past. It’s also about “The Long and Winding Road” of Jewish history – from Medieval Spain through 18th Century Poland, and from Nazi Germany to the Rise of Modern Israel – where we have experienced “Slavery and Freedom” again and again. We use the Exodus story as a framework for a narrative to tell and re-tell our collective history and our own stories to our children, hoping to inspire them to carry our traditions, ideas and values into the future.

“In Every Generation” – these words appear all over the place in the Haggadah. They are the “tagline” to the whole Seder experience, conveying the relevance of the Passover story for all Jews at all times.

“In every generation one is obligated to see oneself as if one had gone out of Egypt” – In this instance, the Haggadah seeks to include everyone seated around the table, openly declaring that the Passover story belongs to all Jews, irrespective of background or age group. It belongs to my ancestors that I have never met, it belongs to my parents, it belongs to my children, and it belongs to me – today, at the age of 46, and even 18 years from now, “When I’m 64.”

“In every generation our enemies try and destroy us, but the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from them” – This grim reality is a testimony to our survival. It’s a tribute to our willingness to overcome our enemies, even under the most extreme of circumstances. As my good friend Amos Oz pu it, “The Jewish people have survived for thousands of years because millions of Jews, over dozens of generations, have made personal decisions to uphold their identity. It’s also a reminder that we have gotten by with “a little help from Hashem.”

Chag Pesach Kasher V’Sameach

Purim Calendar


MARCH 19

Spotlight: Purim museum tour
Sat. 1 p.m. and Sun 1 p.m. Free (does not include museum admission). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

Purim Pandemonium 2011
Sat. 4:30-10 p.m.  $25 (children’s wristband), $20 (adults, includes two drink tickets). University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. unisyn.org.

Westside Shpiel, a Purim parody of “Westside Story.”
Sat. 5 p.m. Free. Temple Emanuel, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-3737. tebh.org.

Celebrate Purim in psychedelic Beatles fashion with Rabbi Ed Feinstein during Sgt. Feinstein’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Megillah Reading.
Sat. 6:30 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6600. vbs.org.

Purim for Adults Only party, featuring Megillah reading, “Purim Film Fest” and live music.
Sat. 7 p.m. $20. Leo Baeck Temple, 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 476-2861. leobaecktemple.org.

Adult Purim Carnival, featuring an open bar, inflatable sports games and more for young professionals (21-39).
Presented by Valley Ruach. Sat. 8-11:45 p.m. $20 (advance), $25 (door). Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 835-2139. valleyruach.org.

Cirque du Purim, featuring Megilla rap, dancing, DJ and live performance by the Shimmy Sisters.
Presented by Young Leadership Division of Jewish Federation & Family Service of Orange County. Sat. 8:30 p.m. (Megillah rap), 9:15 p.m. (dancing and entertainment). Andrei’s, 2607 Main St., Irvine. (949) 435-3484. yldoc.org.

What Happens in Shushan Stays in Shushan
IKAR’s adults-only Purim Justice Carnival. Sat. 8:15 p.m. (Megillah and shpiel), 10 p.m. (carnival). $20 (IKAR members), 25 (general). Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870. ikar-la.org.

Purimpalooza VIII: Purim Confidential.
Sponsored by ATID-LA, JconnectLA, Birthright NEXT, Jewish Federation and the W Group. Sat. 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. $30 (advance), $36 (door). Music Box Theatre, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (310) 481-3244. atidla.com.

Purim in the City adults-only party.
Sponsored by Kesher and SOLA. Sat. 10 p.m.-4 a.m. $10. Chabad of SOLA, 1627 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. thepurimafterparty2011. eventbrite.com.


MARCH 20

Rock ’N’ Roll Purim shpiel and carnival.
Sun. 10-11 a.m. (shpiel). 11 a.m.-2 p.m (carnival). Free. Beth Shir Shalom, 1827 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 453-3361. bethshirshalom.org.

Temple Judea’s Purim Carnival, featuring food truck festival.
Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $20 (10 ride tickets), $25 (presale wristbands, good for all rides). Carnival at former Michael’s parking lot, corner of Lindley Avenue and Ventura Boulevard. (818) 758-3800. templejudea.com.

Purim Carnival
10 a.m.- 5 p.m. $45. Temple Aliyah, 6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 346-3545. templealiyah.org.

Wise Purim Carnival.
Sun. 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. $40 (kids, ages 3 and over, includes all rides and attractions), free (adults). Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 889-2234. wisela.org/purim.

Purim Carnival
Sun. 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. $40 (unlimited rides). Temple Beth Hillel, 12326 Riverside Drive, Los Valley Village. (818) 763-9148. tbhla.org.

Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center’s Purim Carnival.
Noon-3 p.m. Free (not including rides, games or food tickets). Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, 1434 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. (626) 798-1161. pjtc.net.

Chabad of the Conejo’s Purim Carnival.
Sun. 1-4 p.m. Free. Conejo Jewish Academy, Willow Elementary School. 29026 Laro Drive, Agoura Hills. (805) 494-7217. chabadconejo.com.

Merry Masks of Purim: Mask making and food drive at the Zimmer Children’s Museum
Sun. 2:30-4 p.m. Free (members), $3 (general, not including $8 entrance fee for adults, $5 entrance fee for children). Goldsmith Jewish Federation Building, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. zimmermuseum.org. (323) 761-8998.

Purim Under the Sea, feast and concert for families with special-needs children.
Sponsored by Friendship Circle. Sun. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Free. Bais Chaya Mushka, 9051 W. Pico Blvd, Fourth Floor. (310) 277-3252. fcla.org.

For more Purim events, visit jewishjournal.com/community_calendar.

Shabbat in Liverpool: New CD adapts Beatles’ tunes for services


When is it kosher to listen to the Beatles on the Sabbath?

When your chazan adapts the Kabbalat Shabbat Friday night service to the melodies of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Lenny Solomon, the founder of the song-parody group Shlock Rock, employed “nusach Liverpool” for a service in late December at the Young Israel of Hollywood, an Orthodox synagogue in South Florida.

“I’ve never had more pride in anything else that I have ever performed,” said Solomon, who has been in the Jewish music business for 25 years. “I had created something new that could be sung in the shul. This is something that I had never done, and I was beaming by the time the services ended.”

The service was the culmination of a years-long project for Solomon that has included the release of a CD with 21 Beatles’ songs set to various parts of Shabbat services and liturgy.

On the CD, “Shalom Aleichem” is sung to the tune of “With a Little Help from My Friends”; the “V’Shamru” portion of kiddush is set to “The Long and Winding Road”; “Ein Keloheinu” sounds like “Let it Be”; and the Havdalah service is set to “Imagine.”

The story of the CD began in 2004 when a friend and neighbor asked Solomon, who lives in Israel, for the 40th birthday gift of a CD of the songs of Kabbalat Shabbat set to Beatles music. Solomon was skeptical but the neighbor, Allen Krasna, sent him an Excel spreadsheet with the Beatles’ songs in one column and the prayers and songs of the Shabbat service on the left.

Solomon went to work.

Working on and off, he needed nine months to take the 35 tunes and incorporate the melodies to the words of the Shabbat prayers.

Solomon recorded the CD, “A Shabbat in Liverpool,” in 2005, but it took another five years to obtain the proper licensing to release the project. The collection finally was released publicly last November as a 21-song CD, which is available for sale at Amazon and other retailers. (Samples of the collection are available at shlockrock.com.) Solomon was in the United States promoting the CD.

Dec. 24 marked the first time that Solomon actually used the songs in a real service. The reaction at the Young Israel of Hollywood seemed to be mostly positive.

“I enjoyed it and sang along with Lenny,” said congregant Avi Frier. “I think it will take awhile, though, for something like this to really catch on and became mainstream, like the Carlebach minyanim.”

It was hardly the first time Jewish services have been set to secular music. Some of the most popular Shabbat tunes originally were secular songs, such as “Erev Shel Shoshanim” (“Evening of Lilies”), a Hebrew love song written in 1957 by Yaffa Yarkoni.

“Every song that comes into this world has a holy spark,” Solomon said. “It is the obligation of the Jewish musician to take the best melodies of the secular world and bring them from the side of darkness to the side of light. This will cause the Jewish people to get closer to God and hasten the redemption.”

Krasna, whose request spawned the creation of the CD, agrees.

“I’m in favor of anything that is done in the service that elevates one’s spirituality,” said Krasna, a lifelong Beatles fan. “Certainly, Conservative and Reform synagogues may embrace this kind of thing more easily, since they always look for ideas to make their services more relevant to the times. But I believe there is a place for these tunes even at Orthodox synagogues.”

Solomon sees the Beatles service as a work in progress.

“My first effort at leading the service was not perfect,” he said. “I do hope I’ll have the opportunity to do this again, so that other congregants can learn the service and appreciate the rich Shabbat liturgy in a brand-new way.

“I’m also convinced that there are many people who ordinarily do not attend a synagogue but who can be introduced to the holy words of our Shabbat prayers through this music.”

John Lennon’s Jewish lawyer


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Passages, a periodic publication of HIAS. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Inc.

Leon Wildes sits in a polished conference room on Madison Avenue, where the walls are festooned with news articles and enlarged photographs of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and…Leon Wildes. He may not be the fifth Beatle, but it was the legal artistry of this HIAS board member that masterfully secured Lennon’s U.S. residency back in 1976.

From the midtown law firm that bears his name, Wildes explains that in 1972 a law school classmate asked him to look into the U.S. government’s case against the former Beatle, who was facing deportation stemming from a “cannabis” charge back in England. Yoko, who was seeking to gain custody of her daughter from a previous marriage, was having immigration problems of her own.

“I wasn’t very familiar with the Beatles,” says Wildes, an opera fan from a small Pennsylvania town. “The night I met the Lennons to discuss their legal situation, I went home and told my wife that I had met with Jack Lemmon and Yoko Moto.” His wife instantly – and exuberantly – corrected him.

By the time Wildes agreed to represent the couple, the Lennons had two weeks to prepare for John’s deportation hearing. Thus began a five-year bureaucratic odyssey, during which Wildes battled the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, won four rounds of federal court, and vanquished a goliath called the Nixon Administration.

The year 1972, Wildes explains, was the first time that 18 year olds could vote in a U.S. election. John Lennon, a voice of the anti-Vietnam War movement, was an influential figure to millions of newly minted, draft-eligible voters.

“He called Vietnam an immoral war, and young people flocked to him to hear what he had to say,” Wildes remembers. When President Nixon learned from Senator Strom Thurmond that the former Beatle could possibly be a problem for the re-election, Nixon took swift action to make the Lennon “problem” go away, Wildes explains.

As Wildes fought for Lennon’s residency, wading deeper into a sea of legal complexities, he encountered obstacles indicative of the paranoia of the times. Petitions that he had filed would be hidden away, so that they could not be adjudicated. The U.S. government would serve successive rounds of papers to the Lennons, with impractical deadlines.

“The Nixon administration wanted to move the Lennons out of the country quickly,” he says. And then there was the matter of surveillance.

“Yoko advised me that if I heard a screeching sound on my telephone, it was a sign that my line was being tapped,” he remembers. Sure enough, Wildes would hear the distinctive wiretap noises in his office during the day, and on his home phone line at nights and on weekends.

“I used to call my father in Pennsylvania and speak to him Yiddish,” he says. “I’d joke with him that some nice, older Yiddish- speaking gentleman would probably be hired by the government to translate what we’re saying. Then I’d toss something in about the First Amendment.” 

Finally, after a five-year strategy of intricate and exhausting appeals, Wildes emerged victorious in the precedent-setting Lennon v. United States decision, and John was permitted to remain in the country. (Yoko’s application had been approved earlier in the process.) 

“There’s a lot of ‘law’ to be gained from the Lennon matter,” says Wildes, who has been teaching at Cordozo School of Law for 31 years and gives an annual lecture about the case. “Students wander in from other classes to listen to the discussion because I’m likely to reveal unpublished aspects of the material as my memory is jogged.”

Even before the landmark decision, Wildes explains, he was always fascinated with immigration – dating back to his pre-rabbinic studies at Yeshiva University.

“Historically, Jews have been chased from one place to another. But they always had some form of involvement in their own resettlement. It was essential to their survival.” Wildes did some jumping around on his own. He followed his interests into law school and beyond, taking his first real “establishment job” working for HIAS for a year. After starting his own practice, he promised himself that when he grew older, he’d serve on the board of directors. Wildes, now in his ninth year as a board member, sees the role of HIAS as more vital than ever.

“HIAS can handle an immigration emergency anywhere in the world,” he says, pointing to how the organization is resettling Jews, Christians, and Bahai from Iran. “It’s important that if we ever need representation in the future, we have HIAS’ expertise and facilities internationally.”

But right here in the United States, Wildes notes, we’re facing a new era of controversial immigration policies that would have incensed his famous client, the Arizona initiative to curtail undocumented residents, a case in point.

“Lennon would have been outraged by the treatment of illegal aliens and how they’re used as political footballs,” he notes. The press, he explains, would have eaten it up. “Lennon had a way of expressing himself that appealed to the way the average person feels about unfairness in the system.”

Closer to home – namely, in the states of New York and New Jersey – Wildes continues to enjoy a busy immigration practice, which he shares with son, Michael. (His other son, Mark, is also a lawyer as well as a rabbi.) And while Wildes’ work – through his law firm and HIAS – is guiding immigrants and refugees through legal hurdles, he often thinks about his client and friend.

“John was brilliant,” he says, adding that he still keeps in touch with Yoko. “It’s a tragedy that we don’t have him around to speak up respectfully against the injustices of immigration law or the way it’s carried out. He had that gift.”