Saturday, October 1
Ditch the stuffy fundraising dinners in favor of two benefits this weekend that actually sound fun. Today’s “Hugs for Ari” is a carnival-style dinner-dance at the Santa Monica Pier. Huge auction prizes like tickets to Pearl Jam in Buenos Aires, plus roaming magicians and clowns and free rides on the giant carousel make the event adult and kid-friendly, all while helping the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. (See Sunday’s listing for our other benefit “pick.”)
6:30 p.m. $125 (adults), $50 (children). Santa Monica Pier Carousel, Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8525.
Sunday, October 2
The Los Angeles Conservancy makes the bold attempt of “turning Los Angeles into a living museum,” starting today with “Curating the City: Wilshire Boulevard.” The one-day, self-guided architectural tour of L.A.’s historic street includes docent-led tour sites along the route, including one at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
$12.50-$35. (213) 623-2849. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Monday, October 3
A timely CD for the High Holidays recently released by the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music is an all-Leonard Bernstein recording of “Kaddish, Symphony No. 3,” a deeply personal and reflective work that is the last version of several Bernstein rewrote over the years, and “Chichester Psalms,” a setting of Psalm texts performed by chorus, boy soloist and orchestra.
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Tuesday, October 4
Your favorite red-headed “hard-knock life” orphan returns to Los Angeles for just two weeks beginning tonight. “Annie” runs through Oct. 16 at the Pantages, starring the miraculously still ticking and working Mackenzie Phillips as Lily St. Regis. The show also features a new song by original songwriters Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse, “Why Should I Change a Thing?”
$25-$68. 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 365-3500.
Wednesday, October 5
For those who never quite got what all the fuss was about with classical music, Robert Kapilow is here to answer, “What Makes It Great?” Hallowed for his Leonard Bernstein-esque ability to make classical music accessible to the masses, Kapilow dissects Mozart this evening at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, with the help of the New Hollywood String Quartet.
7:30 p.m. $18. 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (562) 916-8510. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Thursday, October 6
Jew and Latino find a meeting place at the Casa del Mexicano, a Boyle Heights synagogue-cum-Latino community center, thanks to Collage Dance Theatre’s latest production, “The Entire World Is a Narrow Bridge.” The site-specific dance performance explores the history of the Boyle Heights neighborhood.
$40. Oct. 6-9, and 21-23. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Friday, October 7
Her name is Allois+. (Yep, there’s a plus sign in there.) And as intriguing as the plus sign, for which we’ve been given no explanation, is her art, for which we have. To quote the quixotic artist on her figurative paintings, “Painting is like breathing to me, an escape from reality to my own private world. I imagine this world like a small submarine, my Nautilus, where I am captain. I stake everything on the unusual and on surpassing the real,…” “Allois, Works on Metal, Canvas and Paper” runs through Oct. 15 at Lev Moross Gallery.
962 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 512-0151.
Kingsley’s ‘Twist’ on a Dickens Thief
Spectator – A Hand in Global Harmony
The Middle Eastern fusion music on “Hamsa” is so insidiously infectious and rhythmic that you will not only be humming along but tapping your feet, as well.
“It was never intended to become an album,” said Carvin Knowles, the CD’s creator. “It was how I felt at the time. But I kept hearing from people I had given it to as a gift about how much they loved the music, so I put together this collection.”
Knowles, 41, a native of Long Beach who now lives in Hollywood, has been scoring films since 1991 — perhaps his best-known track is from the infamous pie scene in “American Pie.” His creative flair, though maybe not his name, is best known to Jewish Journal readers through the award-winning covers he designs for the publication.
Knowles, who is not Jewish but a student of Jewish culture and mysticism, wrote “Ghita” and “Taqsim,” the first of the 12 songs that would eventually make up “Hamsa,” for a documentary about Egyptian archeology that was in production prior to Sept. 11, 2001. The unique sound was an amalgamation of musical influences, such as klezmer, Egyptian pop, hip-hop and Rai (a combining of Arab classical music with R&B).
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the documentary was never released, and Knowles temporarily lost his taste for Middle Eastern music.
“For a full year I didn’t listen to Middle Eastern music at all, because I was really angry,” he said. “Working in the media, I saw images of Arabs celebrating our loss, and I was angry.”
Knowles’ anger dissipated when he started hearing from music scene friends about how many Middle Eastern artists were concerned, rather than gloating. Some artists canceled concerts to show solidarity with the victims; others used their fame to promote peace and dialogue. Newly inspired, Knowles picked up his ud (like the oud — a round backed string instrument — but smaller and Turkish) and started recording again. The result was “Hamsa,” a mostly instrumental CD.
In concert with his desires for global harmony, Knowles produced and played rhythms that borrowed from many cultures (North African, Turkish, Lebanese) — then fused them together.
He titled the CD “Hamsa” — a hand-shaped amulet, thought to represent the hand of God, which is used to banish the “evil eye.” He also designed the beautiful, filigreed, earthy-red hamsa that appears on the cover. “Part of what the hamsa means is ‘Go away Westerner. We don’t want you here,'” said Knowles. “But the hamsa is also a signpost marking where East and West touch. It is a symbol not just of the conflict, but the meeting, the cooperation.”
For more information, go to href=”http://www.carvinknowles.com” target=”_blank”>www.carvinknowles.com. To order “Hamsa,” visit
Ragen Novel Blends Intifada, Intrigue
Soothing Music Memories
When Len Lawrence was sitting shiva for his father 12 years ago, he found himself longing for some Jewish music to help soothe him through that difficult time, but he just couldn’t find the right songs.
Now that Lawrence is general manager of Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, he has remedied the situation for others who might feel the way he did. The result is “Scores of Memory,” a CD of traditional and contemporary compositions produced by Mount Sinai and Craig Taubman.
“What I wanted was music that touches people’s souls and hearts in many different ways in their time of need,” Lawrence said.
The CD includes songs by Taubman, Debbie Friedman and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The latter has special meaning for Rabbi Jerry Cutler of Creative Arts Temple.
“My father was an Orthodox rabbi, so we grew up in a very traditional home where we would hear such music as Carlebach’s all the time,” Cutler recalled. “For someone who has lost someone and their mind is in a state of riot, if they put the Mount Sinai music on, they can start remembering beautiful times from many years ago.”
Lawrence said many people around the country have written to thank him for the CD, which Mount Sinai offers free to both its clients and anyone who requests the music.
In the introduction to “Scores of Memory,” Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple wrote: “From the depths of our souls, we bring our grief, our joy, our doubts, our hopes, our being in music. From the moment we are born, there is something in us that responds to the cadence and rhythm of the song.”
Cutler views the use of music at a funeral or time of mourning as a very personal decision. “I always say, whatever the heart dictates.”
For more information, visit www.mt-sinai.com.
Spectator – The Geffen’s Great Escape
It’s Not Your Zayde’s Klezmer Anymore
Musician Eric Stein felt disillusioned with rock ‘n’ roll. He spent years slogging away in a band without “making it,” so he started looking for something else.
He considered being a history professor, but then, a new instrument and an old style of music changed his mind.
The instrument was a mandolin and the music klezmer.
“There was level of musical sophistication that goes with the kind of music you can play on the mandolin, and my intention was to start a new acoustic-fusion thing, with an emphasis on string and wind instruments,” said Stein, who went on to form Beyond the Pale, a klezmer-fusion band.
“I had been brought up as a secular Jew, and I didn’t know much about Jewish music except that it was dorky,” said Stein on the phone from Toronto, where his band is based. “But when klezmer got hot a few years ago, I found that the music really spoke to me on a cultural level. All the time, I was trying to play other people’s music, but this is the music of my family and my history.”
Stein’s approach to klezmer — seeing it as part of his heritage, but wanting to put an innovative, modern stamp on it, is typical of today’s klezmer revival. More and more musicians are attracted to the music, but want to move it beyond its European folk roots.
Hence, bands like Beyond the Pale fuse klezmer with reggae, jazz, ska and bluegrass music. As a result, klezmer keeps one foot in its shtetl past and another in the post-modern present.
“That’s why we called the band Beyond the Pale, because the expression means something that is unexpected and beyond the bounds,” Stein said. “[The name] refers to the Jewish roots of the band, but it also refers to the idea that we want to get outside of the rules — to pay homage to the traditions, but at the same time express ourselves.”
“Consensus” is the name of Beyond the Pale’s new CD, but while the title implies harmonic accord, even compromise, the tunes on the CD do not. Although not disharmonious, the tunes startle the listener with their complex boldness.
In “Whassat,” for instance, the 10th song on the CD, a clarinet melody starts off plaintive and wailing, only to be overlaid by a thumping base beat that builds into a rhythmic crescendo that is less “Tevye” and more jazz club.
In “Skalavaye,” Beyond the Pale gives a modern, ska-tinged rendition of a 1940s Yiddish classic, with contemporary nods to Yiddish humor. “Halevai (I only wish that) I was a keg of beer,” warbles vocalist Josh Dolgin. “So you could quench your thirst with me, my dear'”
For Stein, the CD, a live recording of a Toronto concert, epitomizes the new direction of klezmer.
“Historically, klezmer music was just about extinct by the mid-60s, for all sorts of different reasons, such as demographics and the Holocaust,” Stein said. “So for the first 15 to 20 years of the klezmer revival, [which started in the 1970s], the overriding influence was about ‘Let’s rescue what was forgotten and bring it back.’ But in the 1990s, we have the second generation of the klezmer revival, and that is when things really started to evolve. [The musicians] were marrying klezmer to jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, funk and reggae.”
Klezmer was not only becoming musically assimilated, but moving beyond the confines of the Jewish community. Stein is the only member of his five-piece band who is Jewish, and the band’s audiences have also changed.
No longer do klezmer bands attract only the bubbes and zaydes who remember the music from the old days. Now, in many venues, klezmer audiences can be primarily non-Jewish.
“People from within the Jewish community are embracing it, and using it as a way to express their own cultural heritage, but it is also having a life outside of the Jewish community altogether,” said Martin Van de Ven, Beyond the Pale’s clarinetist. “It has become [a style of music] with its own direction and way of doing things. More and more musicians are getting involved with it….”
“It is really evolving beyond just a Jewish form of music,” he said.
Beyond the Pale will perform June 1 at 9:30 p.m. at Tangier Restaurant, 2138 Hillcrest Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 666-8666. For more information on the band, visit
Strand’s ‘Roads’ Less Traveled
7 Days in the Arts
Saturday, December 18
Tis the season for cocktail parties, so why not one more. The Anti-Defamation League hosts its 2004 Los Angeles Celebration this evening, complete with dinner, dancing, martini bar and keynote speech by Harvard professor/defense attorney/Israel defender Alan Dershowitz.
6:30 p.m. $250. For location and reservations, call (310) 446-8000, ext. 260.
Sunday, December 19
This evening, an aural treat presents itself in the form of the Levantine Cultural Center’s “Middle East Concert for Peace.” The Naser Musa-Adam del Monte Ensemble’s sound is described as “vibrant Arab, Sephardic and Flamenco world music.”
6 p.m. (reception). 7 p.m. (concert). $12-$25. Hollywood United Methodist Church. (310) 559-5544.
Monday, December 20
Cantorial music meets West Coast jazz in trumpeter Steven Bernstein’s new album, “Diaspora Hollywood,” in a way that has many a critic raving. Have a listen live at tonight’s CD release concert at Temple Bar, where Bernstein will perform with Pablo Calogero on brass and woodwinds, DJ Bonebrake on vibraphone, David Piltch on bass and Danny Frankel on drums and percussion.
10:30 p.m. $5. 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. www.templebarlive.com.
Tuesday, December 21
Bruria Finkel has gathered newish and established area artists for Santa Monica Art Studios’ ARENA 1 inaugural exhibition, “Santa Monica Originals.” Featured in the show are pieces that have a historical or contemporary connection to Santa Monica, including works by John Baldessari, Sam Francis, Rachel Lachoicz and Frank Gehry. Interestingly, Gehry’s 1987 model for a 37-acre renovation proposal for the airport commons, which is displayed in the show, would have eliminated many artist studios around the airport, including the one housing this exhibit.
Runs through Feb. 5. 3026 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 397-7456.
Wednesday, December 22
True, Chanukah’s over, but now that you’ve collected your loot, maybe it’s appropriate to give a little back — and get a head start on next year. Hungry for Music is a nonprofit that brings music into the lives of underprivileged kids, and proceeds from their “A Chanukah Feast” CD, featuring 21 Chanukah tunes in just about every style imaginable, benefit the worthy group.
Thursday, December 23
Today, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre kicks off its latest series, a tribute to comedy teams of bygone days, “Too Much Monkey Business: The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges.” It all adds up to a lot of funny Jews, beginning with tonight’s double feature (and a half) of Groucho & Co. in “Animal Crackers,” followed by Moe, Larry and Curly in “A-Plumbing We Will Go” and ending with Bud and Lou in “Buck Privates.”
7:30 p.m. $6-$9. 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-3456.
Friday, November 24
The Fonz gets you in the holiday spirit at today’s free “45th L.A. County Holiday Celebration” at the Music Center. The six-hour performance hosted by Henry Winkler features 39 groups reflecting “the cultural mosaic of Los Angeles,” including America Chinese Dance Association, Celtic Spring Irish Step Dancing, Hollywood Klezmer, Yuval Ron Ensemble, Church of Scientology Choir, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Mariachi Sol de Mexico. Patrons are free to come and go as they please throughout the event. If you can’t make it, be sure to catch the action live on KCET.
3-9 p.m. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. www.holidaycelebration.org.
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.”
A Peek Behind the Curtain of Oz
7 Days in the Arts
The Daniel Pearl Music Day continues on this week and into November. Those paying homage today include Kehillat Israel of the Pacific Palisades, which will honor Pearl’s memory during its Shabbat service, and Madeline Felkin and Deanna France, who perform classical, baroque, Celtic fiddle and folk music at Madeline Felkin’s Fiddlefest in Palmdale – yes, seriously. Tomorrow, Emanuel Arts Center, The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles and the American Youth Symphony each participate separately. Visit the Daniel Pearl Foundation Web site for details on all events.
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Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman lends his moderating talents to two of-the-moment debates this week. Today, he heads to the University of Judaism (and so should you) to ref an “Election 2004 – The Jewish Vote” verbal sparring match between Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Larry Greenfield and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys). Then Tuesday, Eshman leads a public forum at Temple Beth Am discussing “A Jewish Perspective on Stem Cell Research.” Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Dr. Stephen Forman, Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky and Ken Bernstein, a Type 1 diabetic, will offer their religious, scientific and personal perspectives on the subject.
Oct. 17, 7:45 p.m. $10. University of Judaism, Bel Air. (310) 440-1246.
Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.
Wax nostalgic today with Counterpoint’s new CD, “When the Rabbi Danced: Songs of Jewish Life From the Shtetl to the Resistance.” The choir sings a compilation of some of the best-loved Yiddish and Hebrew music, ranging from the religious to the political to the romantic.
Dentures, cherubic dolls and iron wheels become art in the hands of collage maker Eva Kolosvary-Stupler. Her experiences as a child Holocaust survivor and later of communism have always informed her work. Her latest exhibition of assemblages, “Magical Transformations,” is on view at the Don O’Melveny Gallery through Oct. 27.
9009 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. (310) 273-7868.
Feeling Kinky? Not everyone does, but today was made for lovers – of Kinky Friedman, that is. The rabble rouser, writer and Texas gubernatorial candidate comes to Pasadena to sign his new book, “‘Scuse Me While I Whip This Out.” This time, Friedman gets personal, telling stories of his unusual life, which has intersected with that of Bill Clinton’s, George W.’s and Bob Dylan’s, among others.
7 p.m. Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 449-5320.
The intimate Black Dahlia Theatre accommodates “An Infinite Ache” this month. The David Schulner play introduces us to Charles (a Jewish guy) and Hope (an Asian girl), after their less-than-great first date. But as we are propelled forward into the future, we see the couple flourish – and fail – as they go through the emotional trials of love and marriage over a lifetime. It runs through Oct. 24.
8 p.m. (Wed.-Sat.), 7 p.m. (Sun.). $20. 5453 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (866) 468-3399.
The theatrical obsession with gravediggers shows up again in Art Shulman’s new play, “The Rabbi and the Gravedigger.” A “semisequel” to Shulman’s “The Rabbi and the Shiksa,” this one opens to find the rabbi laying to rest his non-Jewish love, Teresa. It plays at Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre through Dec. 11.
8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 2 p.m. (Sun.). $14-$16. 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 769-7529.
SPECTATORby Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer
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The roots of Broadway as we know it can be traced not to the streets of New York, but to the streets of Eastern Europe, where Jewish lyricists and composers like Irving Berlin (ne Izzy Ballin) took the music of their religion, added rich colorful lyrics and brought it to the masses.
Musicals took audiences away from sadness, depression and war, and transported them to a cornfield in Oklahoma, an opera house in Paris or the jungles of Africa.
“Musicals sell optimism,” said Mel Brooks, creator of the Tony Award-winning “The Producers.”
For three nights, beginning Oct. 19, theater lovers will have the chance to remember – and relive – 100 years of optimism with “Broadway: The American Musical,” hosted by Julie Andrews. The six-part PBS documentary tells the story of the place “where the American dream is realized eight times a week,” producer Michael Kantor said.
The series begins with the “Ziegfeld Follies” (and the comedy of Fanny Brice) and ends with a look at the opening night of Stephen Schwartz’s Tony Award-winning blockbuster, “Wicked.”
However, Broadway couldn’t escape from the real world completely. Some shows raised a few eyebrows for tackling some controversial topics such as domestic abuse in “Carousel,” homosexuality in “La Cage Aux Folles” and the AIDS epidemic in “Rent,” which hit close to home in the Broadway community after it lost many of its members to the disease.
After Sept. 11, when New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said “the show must go on,” the companies of every show on Broadway came together in Times Square to sing John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “New York, New York,” reminding the city that “it’s up to you, New York” – and that Broadway was ready and waiting.
In 100 years there will be new “Lullabies of Broadway,” but someone somewhere will be still humming “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”
“Broadway: The American Musical” will air on PBS Oct. 19-21, 9 p.m. For more information on the show, visit
My Seder With Brando
7 Days In Arts
Billy Joel goes uptown again, but this time it’s Twyla, not Christie, he’s crooning for. Pop and high culture fuse the backbone of “Movin’ Out,” the musical that merges Joel’s music with Twyla Tharp’s modern dance choreography, and word on the New York streets is this marriage might last. It arrives this week at the Pantages.Through Oct. 31. 8 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.), 2 p.m. (Sat.), 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sun.). $55.50-$80.50. 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (213) 365-3500.
From “Movin’ Out” to “Take Me Out,” L.A. theater continues to impress today at the Geffen Playhouse’s Brentwood Theatre. The Richard Greenberg Tony Award-winner examines the repercussions of a celebrity baseball player’s decision to out himself publicly, and in the process, the larger cultural context of what it means to be a gay athlete in America.Through Oct. 24. $28-$46. 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Bldg. 211, Los Angeles.(310) 208-5454.
And speaking of coming out, you can now own the CD “Willand Grace: Let the Music Out.” The compilation includes old favorites by pastguest stars including Cher and Jennifer Lopez, as well as two duets: Carly Simonand Megan Mullally sing Simon’s “The Right Thing To Do,” and Barry Manilow andEric McCormack sing a song they wrote together especially for the album, “LivingWith Grace.” Fans of the show will also appreciate the homage to Kevin Bacon.Continuing where his guest-starring episode, “Bacon and Eggs” left off, includedamong the 15 tracks is a new rendition of the song “Footloose” sung by the BaconBrothers. $13.99. www.amazon.com.
Going once, going twice and gone by next week are themore than 100 telephones enjoying second incarnations as works of art. TheZimmer Children’s Museum and GOTTA HAVE IT! Auctions have united to create anonline auction of telephones decorated by celebrities, community leaders,students and everyday heroes to benefit youTHink, the museum’s art educationoutreach program. Bid on sculptures by Mischa Barton, Elizabeth Taylor and DianeSawyer for the worthy cause. www.gottahavit.com.
‘Tis the season for deep thinking and introspection, andPBS encourages just such behavior tonight. “The Question of God: C.S. Lewis andSigmund Freud With Dr. Armand Nicholi” presents Nicholi and a panel gettingphilosophical and placing Freud’s and Lewis’ opposing theories of God underscrutiny. 9-11 p.m. www.kcet.org.
Youth programs and art converge again today. The Anti-Defamation League’s “Dream Dialogue” brings together high school students of different backgrounds to connect across ethnic lines. On display is the fruit of their recent efforts: the “Faces of L.A.” photographic exhibition, which depicts the diversity of the Los Angeles community through the eyes of its teenagers. It’s on display at the Pico Rivera Centre for the Arts through Oct. 16.1-5 p.m. (Tuesdays and Thursdays), 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (Wednesdays), 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Saturdays). Free. 9200 Mines Ave., Pico Rivera. (310) 446-8000, ext. 232.
Your o.c.d. tendencies work to your advantage this morning, and you’ve actually got time to kill before warming up the pre-Kol Nidre dinner. Why not head to the University of Judaism for some quiet time with a good book — or a few? The Platt and Borstein Galleries presents “Transformations: Artists’ Books and Collages.” The exhibition by seven artist bookmakers stretches the boundaries of size, shape and material, reimagining and pushing the envelope on the very concept of what makes a book a book.Through Nov. 24. Open today from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777, ext. 201.
Aroeste Gives New Life to Ladino Tunes
Purists were skeptical when Sarah Aroeste debuted her Ladino rock ‘n’ roll band back in 2001. Most artists singing in the fading Sephardic language were traditionalists, performing classical versions of songs dating to the Jews’ expulsion from Spain in 1492.
But here was Aroeste, mixing rock and jazz with the flamenco and Middle Eastern-tinged music of her ancestors, singing those same lush romances accompanied by electric guitar as well as oud. And, the New York press noted, she was doing so while performing with a bare midriff and gyrating hips — moves that led several publications to label her “The Jewish Shakira.”
During a recent phone interview from her Manhattan apartment, the 28-year-old singer expressed distaste for the “Shakira” label.
“People tend to harp on that, as if I’m being deliberately exploitative,” she said with a sigh. “But why shy away from the sensuality that is actually in this culture?”
Yet, when she quit her day job to found the band, “people thought I was nuts,” she said. “I mean, a Ladino rock group — who had ever heard of that? So I was charting new territory. I was afraid of the critics, and I struggled to find a balance I hoped would work.”
Mission apparently accomplished. Aroeste’s 2003 CD, “A La Una — In the Beginning,” sold out its initial run and now shares shelf space with CDs by classical Sephardic artists, such as Isabel Ganz. Her band regularly performs not just at nightclubs but at Jewish venues across the United States.
In Los Angeles this week, she played at the Temple Bar, a rock nightclub, and Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel; tonight she’ll appear at Sinai Temple’s young adult service, Friday Night Live.
Observers have noted her crossover appeal: “I am stunned … at how successfully Aroeste has succeeded in setting this music in a way that makes it contemporary, without losing the very traditional feel of the music and the music’s roots,” Ari Davidow wrote in Klezmer Shack magazine. “Until [‘A La Una’], I don’t think I could have pointed to a sharp, contemporary, danceable Sephardic music album. Until I heard this particular album, I don’t think it would have occurred to me that the category was necessary.”
“Sarah has really cornered the market on Ladino rock,” said Randee Friedman of Sounds Write Productions Inc., a distributer of her CD. “A lot of Ladino comes across my desk, but it’s old-style, and Sarah is really hip. She’s reaching out to the younger generation, and I think she’s been very successful at that.”
If Aroeste has successfully conveyed her enthusiasm for Sephardic music, it’s virtually in her blood. She grew up in a “big, fat Jewish Greek family” in Princeton, N.J., where Ladino songs graced the record player and the Shabbat dinner table. The Yale-educated soprano further fell in love with the ancient art form while studying at a Tel Aviv opera summer program eight years ago.
But when she organized a new Jewish music project for the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in 1999, Aroeste grew “frustrated and disappointed” by the dearth of novel Sephardic fare. The klezmer-fusion renaissance was thriving in Ashkenazi circles, courtesy of artists such as Frank London and John Zorn, “but there was nothing Sephardic that I could relate to as a modern, American woman,” she said.
“I felt, this music is in danger of disappearing within a generation unless we do something to reach new people,” the performer continued. “And that became my mission.”
To reach as wide an audience as possible, Aroeste focused her Sephardic fusion on secular, rather than liturgical songs. “The themes are totally universal and contemporary, like bad breakups, blinddating, crushes, long-distance relationships,” she said. “In fact, if you walked into one of my shows, you might not even realize it’s Jewish music, because it doesn’t sound the way most people think of Jewish music, meaning klezmer.”
“Yo M’enamori” (“Moon Trick”), for example, is more reminiscent of contemporary rock; Aroeste’s trance remix of “Hija Mia” (“The One I Want”) sounds practically psychedelic.
Yet all her songs are grounded in the original, ancient melodies and lyrics, which has apparently satisfied would-be critics.
“At first, people wanted to see if I was going to completely change and popularize the music, but they’ve seen that’s not the case,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to maintain the integrity of the music and to use my work to preserve and revitalize the tradition.”
Sarah Aroeste will perform Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m. at SinaiTemple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. For more information, visit www.saraharoeste.com .
Robbo to Sing at Center Gala
Songwriter and performer Robb Zelonky tangos to the lyrical subject of cleaning up a messy room and morphs into an Elvis impersonation when he sings, "Don’t Wanna Share My Toys."
Zelonky, known to kids as Robbo, brings his family-oriented songfest to the stage as part of the Irvine Jewish Community Center’s grand opening events on Aug. 17.
"I was a theater major. My show is very visual and theatrical and participatory," Zelonky said. "Even dads like it, which is saying something."
Zelonky is scheduled to appear in Irvine after a two-month tour of California, bringing a special show with songs tailored to Jewish culture. He has also produced four secular CDs.
His most recent recording, "Kid’s Life," features celebrity voices including Teri Garr, Linda Gray, Steve Harris, Henry Winkler and Vanna White. Zelonky puts his own stamp on classic Jewish songs in his 1997 CD titled "A Part of a Chain."
Zelonky started entertaining through concerts for kids in 1990, making appearances at Jewish camps and school music programs in more than 70 cities. He has performed at the White House and the Cincinnati Folk Music Festival. His CDs earned Parent’s Choice gold awards for both 2000 and 2002.
After 32 years of guitar playing, Zelonky samples from a variety of musical styles to create his original mix of music and positive messages that inevitably have his audience singing and dancing along.
"I perform 80 shows or so a year, half Jewish, half secular," Zelonky said. "No Christian music though. Just stuff about monsters and owies."
Robbo’s Concert for Kids takes the JCC stage Aug. 17, 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. l
‘Flicks’ for Generation Y
Music Makes the Service Go ‘Round
Since distributing a CD of hymns to members of Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel, the Conservative synagogue’s cantor, Marcia Tilchin, and congregant Carl Cedar, a veteran musician, no longer sing alone in the sparsely filled sanctuary on Friday night.
“The house was rocking,” said Cedar, who last summer first began accompanying Tilchin on an acoustic guitar during “kabbalat,” a less formal preface to the mandatory Friday evening Shabbat service.
“The congregants were drowning us out. It’s very different then it was even a month ago,” he said.
Both musical innovations reflect a cultural shift by the county’s youngest Conservative congregation and reveals the challenge facing Conservative Judaism.
Since an organist was welcomed in Reform pulpits as early as 1817, the addition of a guitar player is sure to strike some observers as a tempest in a theological teapot. But playing sacred music remains a forbidden Sabbath activity in most Conservative synagogues, though organ music was sanctioned after the State of Israel was established. The exception remains the West, where even 10 years ago half the congregations enlivened worship with instruments, a percentage far higher than elsewhere in the country.
So local Conservative congregations are latecomers, experimenting with instruments only in the last two years. But what is welcomed by some congregants alienates others, who feel compelled to worship now in Orthodox settings, said Rabbi David Eliezrie, who said his Yorba Linda Chabad has seen a small influx from Conservative congregations.
Other leaders say music is too powerful a spiritual engine to forego.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Stuart Altshuler, rabbi of Mission Viejo’s Congregation Eilat, where once a month piano, guitar and mandolin are included in a service that is better attended than most. “It makes the whole experience more meaningful.”
Doris Jacobson, president of Anaheim’s Temple Beth Emet, hired Craig Taubman this year to lead four abridged Saturday services, where he played guitar and led congregants singing prayers in a smooth-jazz style. Four-hundred seats were filled instead of the normal 75.
“There is a joy to it,” she said, absent from liturgy sung to melodies that are generations old. “We have to change as times change. It doesn’t mean our values are devalued. It’s like freeze-dried coffee. Why drink it when you can go to Starbucks and have so many choices?”
Aside from the human voice, musical instruments historically were banned because their use could lead to violating prohibited Sabbath activities, such as public carrying and fixing, and out of mourning for the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
“Rabbis say they’re willing to accommodate because of the payoff both in numbers and quality,” said Dr. Jack Wertheimer, provost of New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative movement’s flagship academy. “Synagogue renewal regards the use of music as a critical force for positive change, and getting them involved, and enhancing their religious experience. This is very much in the air,” he said.
Yet, contemporary issues, such as music and same-sex marriage, create tension within the Judaism’s centrist denomination, whose mission is to integrate modernity with devout religious observance. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the movement’s congregational arm, claims 760 congregations with 1.5 million members. But the number of self-described Conservatives declined 10 percent over a decade according to two population surveys, though survey questions about affiliation were not exactly comparable.
Conservative leaders like Tilchin consider music an invaluable hook to engage a constituency lacking fluency in Hebrew and whose allegiance is based on relationships rather than ideology. Even clergy steadfast in their opposition to instruments nevertheless feel pressure from lay governing boards trying to encourage adherence to Jewish laws while still reaching out to the unaffiliated and disengaged.
“You have to meet people where they are,” said Tilchin, who joined B’nai Israel two years ago. She estimated half of its 495 families read Hebrew.
“I’m trying to teach my congregation to daven,” she said, describing “Shalom Aleichem: The Music of Kabbalat Shabbat,” as a “beautifully produced learning tool.”
The CD cost $10,000 to produce and was distributed in December.
Tilchin’s selections blend Ashkenazi sacred melodies with more contemporary ones that also previously were paired with prayers. Cedar, after familiarizing himself with popular Jewish music stars, contributed his professional talents by recording, arranging and performing separate tracks for guitar, percussion, bass and clarinet.
“In theory, you could do this style for every service,” Tilchin said. “It’s a fantasy.”
In the meantime, she is working on a fully transliterated Friday night prayer book as a companion guide to the CD. She hopes to complete it this month and distribute one to each congregant.
“Now, when they come, they’ll be able to participate,” Tilchin said.
Elie Spitz, B’nai Israel’s spiritual leader, lifted the instrument ban after researching technical issues and determining that musical accompaniment enhanced rather than distracted from religious experience.
“The guitar helped people sing along,” he said. “A capella is sufficient if you know the music.”
Spitz and Rabbi Elliot Dorff, a philosophy professor at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, are members of the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which decides issues of Jewish law. They are co-authors of a recently submitted “responsa,” their explanation of permissible use of music on Shabbat. Their arguments must win the approval of six of the panel’s 25 rabbinical members to be considered a valid opinion. Opinions are not binding, though acceptance could influence broader use of music within the Conservative movement. The panel isn’t expected to consider their responsa for another year or more.
Dorff said the responsa explains the rationale behind the historical music ban and under what circumstances an instrument circumvents Shabbat prohibitions about creative activity.
Eliezrie, the Chabad rabbi in Yorba Linda who is president of the all-Orthodox Rabbinic Council of Orange County, is dismissive of such explanations. He cited an instrument ban from the Mishnah, oral explications of Torah recorded around the year 200 C.E.
“In an effort to market Judaism, do we loose the essence of Judaism? When you cross the line,” Eliezrie said, “you lose your raison d’etre.”
Tilchin, for one, is looking beyond theological lines.
“More people are singing than ever before,” she said. “Music is a universal language for people who feel distant from the idiom of the liturgy.”
A Superhero Dreams
Shoah Book Brings Museum Experience
"A Promise to Remember: The Holocaust in the Words and Voices of Its Survivors," by Michael Berenbaum. (Bulfinch Press. $29.95.)
You don’t find an index or bibliography in a museum. You go there for images, for impressions, to be moved, as well as educated — so, too, with "A Promise to Remember."
Michael Berenbaum, a first-rate scholar and writer, who was founding director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., has produced, in effect, a traveling museum, or in barely more than two score pages, a traveling museum exhibit.
More than a catalogue of a museum exhibition, Berenbaum, now director of the University of Judaism’s Sigi Ziering Institute, presents a total museum experience. Instead of walking down aisles and reading information panels, you hold the artifacts in your hands.
Through words (his own and interviews with a small number of Holocaust survivors), photos (mostly sepia, with some in color), reproduced documents (copies of a wartime rabbi’s sermon from Berlin and a politician’s letter from Bulgaria, etc.) and an accompanying CD (audio to complement the visual), Berenbaum emphasizes, subjectively but accurately, some of the most important elements of the Shoah experience.
These Shoah elements include: the background of the Final Solution, ghetto life, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the participants and bystanders, rescue by sympathetic non-Jews and, finally, liberation.
This book is clearly for the novice, for someone uninitiated in the terror that gripped the world in the mid-20th century — for the individual who isn’t likely to enter an actual Holocaust museum. The book is a tactile, sensual experience. Only the sense of smell is missing.
In the introduction, Berenbaum writes, "Nothing this brief could possibly do justice to an event as vast as the Holocaust, which evolved over 12 years and enveloped the entire continent of Europe; which consumed some 6 million dead; and whose implications are seen in headlines and images that have entered the conscious and unconscious of all humanity."
He offers nothing new in these pages, no new facts or novel interpretations, but the totality of the familiar, presented in an unfamiliar way, is striking and unsettling. The product, part coffee table book, part reference guide, is a beautifully designed masterpiece. You read the chapter on "The Decision to Kill the Jews," and you look on the same page into the austere eyes of Richard Heydrich and his fellow henchmen in genocide and you feel a chill.
He offers no footnotes or bibliography — no scholarly sources beyond the identifications that describe the interviewees. They aren’t needed; anyone affected by the book, whose interest is whetted, can contact the institutions cited in the acknowledgments.
The book isn’t meant to be read in one reading. Each chapter, to be absorbed and understood adequately, should be read separately. It will take the careful reader a few hours to go through "A Promise to Remember."
Just the length of time it takes to walk through a museum.
Shlock Rock ‘n’ Roll
Etan G — A Nice Jewish Homeboy
"Yo, welcome to my crib."
It’s a greeting one might expect, say, in a hip-hop movie, but is slightly jarring from this friendly, compact boychick wearing a knitted yarmulke in the doorway of his Pico-Robertson apartment.
The boychick is Etan G, who calls himself The Jewish Rapper and whose CD, "South Side of the Synagogue," features songs such as "Yo Yo Yarmulke" and "Hava Na Wha?" Even so, it’s startling when he ushers a visitor into a living room that appears to be decorated by the set dressers from both "Yentl" and "Shaft."
Across from the Shabbos candlesticks is a chocolate-colored velvet couch draped with fluffy white furs. There’s a "davening station" heaped with tallitot, tefillin and yarmulkes knitted by Etan’s "honeybabies … my girls," the 30ish G says. There’s the "pimpass" outfit he wore to the Grammys (rust bell bottoms, Navy polyester shirt) where he refrained from eating the non-kosher food.
"While I’m an observant Jew, I’m definitely the coolest pimp out there, ah-ite," he says, using a hipster term for all right. "I’m the man who brings the house down."
G plans to do just that in a Chabad of Irvine Purim concert March 6, when he’ll rap, breakdance and sing backup vocals with Shlock Rock, a band he’s been performing with since he was a teenager. The show will include tunes from Shlock’s 23 albums, such as the original rap song, "Be Good, Be Cool, Be Jewish."
G and Shlock’s Lenny Solomon — a kind of Jewish Weird Al Yankovic — are a study in contrasts. The earnest, 43-year-old Solomon looks like exactly what he is: a nice Jewish ex-accountant from Queens, "white-bread Orthodox," as he puts it. Yet the singer and keyboardist has achieved acclaim in Jewish circles for clever parodies of pop hits such as The Beach Boys’ "Help Me Rhonda" ("Help Me Rambam") and the Village People’s "Macho Man" ("Matza Man"). He’s also released CDs of original and children’s music and says his "whole being is devoted to spreading Jewish identity."
G, meanwhile, is flashy, garrulous, extroverted, a natural schmoozer and storyteller. He colorfully describes appearing on the Howard Stern show, prompting the shock jock to joke, "I can see why Jews aren’t in the rap business."
In 2002, Hits magazine lauded G for helping to expand "the rise of Hebe-Hop" and "the notion of ethnic flava originally essayed by the likes of the Beastie Boys and M.O.T."
But in person, G seems more focused on presenting the kind of cocky, macho image proffered by mainstream rappers such as Dr. Dre. Like that artist, he plays down his married status, citing his "girls," until a reporter opens a photo album and sees a beaming G in his wedding kittel. The busted G blushes, laughs and politely requests that this detail, and his impending fatherhood, is omitted from the article. (Sorry, Etan.)
Unlike Solomon, he’s hoping to cross over into the mainstream music business.
Despite their differences, the rapper and the shlocker have co-written songs and toured the Jewish circuit together, at times in beat-up cars crowded with musicians and equipment. They’ve eaten whatever kosher food they could find on the road: "Sometimes a meal would be chocolate and potato chips from 7-11," Solomon recalls. "But we never compromised. It was always the letter of the law."
Their music also shares a message: "It’s Be Good, Be Cool, Be Jewish," Solomon says.
While G’s "crib" is in the Jewish hood of Pico-Robertson, Solomon’s is in Beit Shemesh, Israel, where the Zionist musician relocated in 1996. After a band rehearsal late one Tuesday night, he spoke to The Journal by phone to describe the roots of his shlock ‘n’ roll.
The Jewish part is genetic, he says. He’s descended from generations of cantors and grew up listening to his father, who was also an IRS agent, sing the signature pieces of famed chantors such as Moshe Koussevitzky. Solomon discovered the Beatles and Billy Joel courtesy of his friends; at 21, he formed his own Jewish rock group.
Although he majored in accounting as a practical measure at Queens College, Solomon had given that up by the time his band, Shlock Rock, and released a 1986 album of parodies composed for youth conventions.
It was behind the bandstand of a National Conference of Synagogue Youth concert in Baltimore that he met the then-13-year-old Etan G (né Goldman) in the early 1980s. The energetic teen seemed to have his boom box, a bar mitzvah gift, permanently glued to his shoulder.
"We’d be onstage performing and Etan would be down on the ground, breakdancing," Solomon recalls. "Gradually, he became part of the band."
Shlock’s 1987 "Purim Torah" album features two parodies penned by the 15-year-old Etan, including a Purim spoof of Falco’s "Rock Me Amadeus" called "Achashverosh."
As incense wafts in his bright yellow living room, G reflects that Shlock gave him "a forum, a place to fit in. He had felt himself to be a genetic "fluke" in his family of doctors, accountants, and Ivy League graduates. And he hadn’t felt particularly welcome at the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, where he was frequently marched to the principal’s office for stunts such as wearing fake tzizit and davening with a "Grease" movie book hidden in his siddur.
"The teachers were always, ‘You need to do this my way,’ but their way was not my way," says G, who now has a master’s in education from Loyola Marymount.
After the first of several suspensions from yeshiva, the sixth-grade G landed in a predominantly African American public school where he discovered rhythm and blues. He began drawing graffiti art, listening to musicians such as Grandmaster Flash and practicing his own rap skills with Shlock Rock. He says he connected with black music because of the rhythm, the storytelling and the "underdog mentality."
But not everyone connected with G. At a party several years ago, a guest scoffed, "Who is this idiot and where does he think he’s from, the south side of the synagogue?" G recalls.
The Jewish rapper defiantly turned the insult into his 2002 album, in which the titular shul represents a fictitious place where iconoclasts like himself fit in.
At times he’s still dissed, he says — not by blacks, but by Jews who insist a Jewish rapper "isn’t legit."
Solomon, who’s faced criticism that Shlock’s parodies are sacrilegious, disagrees. "Jews have always borrowed from their musical environment," he says. "If a song has a Jewish message, it’s Jewish."
As an interview winds down in Pico-Robertson late one afternoon, G describes his next album, "Bringing Down the House," which is "about the party" but also about the legendary Third Temple.
"They say [it’s] gonna come down from the heavens, and a brother like me has the ability to assist in that bringing down," he says.
He sounds even more incongruous while extending his arms for a good-bye hug in his mezzuzahed doorway.
"Gimme some love," he says. "Everybody’s gotta give a brothah love."
Shlock Rock, with Etan G, will appear Sat., March 6, 7:30 p.m. at the Lake View Senior Center, 20 Lake Road, Irvine. For information and tickets, $18, call (949) 786-5000.
Curtain to Rise on Women’s Conflicts
7 Days In Art
Shhh! Today and tomorrow, the Silent Movie Theatre presents “The Silent Picture Show.” Legendary 91-year-old theater organist Bob Mitchell and singer and ukulele player Janet Klein provide the sounds, while Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, the Little Rascals and Felix the Cat provide classic visuals.$10-$15. 8 p.m. (Dec. 26, 27 and 28), 2 p.m. (Dec. 28). 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Hollywood. (323) 655-2520.
Keep the kids’ brains working during winter break today. The Zimmer Children’s Museum’s Bubbie’s Bookstore welcomes an experienced storyteller this afternoon, for some Jewish wintery “Once Upon a Times.”2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Free (members), $3 (nonmembers). 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8989
New Year’s resolution time, a.k.a: time to commit thatscreenplay idea to paper. Those daunted by their distinct lack of funny get noexcuses. Brad Schreiber’s latest comedy-writing-for-dummies type book is titled,”What Are You Laughing At? How to Write Funny Screenplays, Stories and More.”Think of it: finally, the confidence of knowing they’re laughing with you.$14.96. www.mwp.com
‘Tis the season for celebrating. Do it Jewish-style withthe Ultimate Jewish Music Collection. The four-CD set from Craig Taubman’s”Celebrate Series” contains “Celebrate Hanukkah,” “Celebrate Shabbat,””Celebrate Passover” and special bonus CD, “Celebrate Kids.” Included are 55holiday tracks of songs by Theodore Bikel, Debbie Friedman, Taubman and DavidBroza. Available at Costco, Walgreens, Ralphs or at www.celebrateseries.com
For the cheap but satisfying New Years Eve, pop the corn and tune the TV to American Movie Classics. AMC brings you nonstop yuks, airing a 13-hour Three Stooges Marathon today — because nothing says “Happy New Year” like a pie in the face.Noon-1 a.m. www.amctv.com.
Fresh as this first day of the 2K4 is the new “Let’sTalk About God” 50th anniversary edition. Dorothy Kripke’s classic text andmessage has been left intact: “The thing that matters most of all/ We’re verycertain of:/ That God told people we must live/ In friendship and in love.” Andthough you shouldn’t judge this book by its cover, either, it has been given ashiny new one, illustrated by Christine Tripp. Ages 5-9. $9.95. www.torahaura.com .
Prepare yourself for cackles of laughter at DanIsraely’s new play, “Orgasms,” if not from you then from those around you.Sometimes old, sometimes new, sometimes borrowed and sometimes blue, the sexjokes prevail in this examination of the differences between men and womenthat’s perhaps best suited to the over-50 crowd. It plays at the Canon Theatrethrough Jan. 18. 8 p.m. (Wednesday-Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sunday).$25-$55. 205 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 859-2830. www.orgasmstheplay.com
7 Days In Arts
7 Days In Arts
“The Nanny’s” Fran Drescher whines her way into heartsonce again, as she hosts the Jewish Television Network’s one-hour,all-the-stops-pulled-out”A Chanukah Celebration.” Today on PBS, Fran shares herown Chanukah memories, then introduces each of the segments that follow: anexplanation of “The Eight Lights of Chanukah” by Rabbi Irwin Kula; homedecorating tips with The Journal’s own Teresa Strasser; music by Craig Taubmanand Theodore Bikel; and “Aleph … Bet … Blast-off!” puppet show. 9 p.m. KCET.www.kcet.org .
From yesterday’s “Celebration” to today’s “Chanukah Extravaganza.” Day Two of the Fest O’ Lights brings the Friendship Circle’s kick-off event. The program for special-needs kids presents an introduction to their organization for parents, children and potential teen volunteers, while avoiding the typical lecture-and-refreshments open house scenario. Today’s activities include a latke-making workshop, arts and crafts, sports and games and a bubble show.1-3:30 p.m. Chabad Persian Youth Center, 9022 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 653-1086.
One little girl thinks her school friends’ names don’tsuit them at all. Shira — whose name means song — doesn’t like to sing, and Avi — whose name means father — isn’t anyone’s dad. So begins the premise of “ShemotMuzarim,” (“Strange Names”). The newly released Hebrew kids’ book, written byShari Dash Greenspan and illustrated by Avi Katz, explores the meanings behindHebrew names from a child’s perspective. $12. www.urimpublications.com
Perfect for gathering ’round the chanukiah, DebbieFriedman’s “Light These Lights” is her latest collection of Chanukah songs, outjust in time for the holiday. The CD features Friedman classics like “Not ByMight,” traditional songs like “Y’Mei HaChanukah,” as well as her interpretationof Peter Yarrow’s “Light One Candle.” $15.95. www.soundswrite.com
Intercultural holiday warm fuzzies come in the form of afree six-hour music and dance show at the Music Center, sponsored by the LosAngeles County Board of Supervisors today. Included in the list of more than 38acts are performances as diverse as Persian santur-playing by ManoochehrSadeghi, a Haitian carol sung by the Compton High School Choir and Chanukahsongs by Valley Beth Shalom Congregational Choir, with live music by the LosAngeles Jewish Symphony and klezmer variations by the Oy!Stars. Other actsacknowledging the MOT’s are Louisville High School’s Christian-oriented choirand the San Fernando Valley Youth Choir. 3-9 p.m. Free. Dorothy ChandlerPavilion, downtown Los Angeles. (213) 972-3099. The show will also be broadcastlive on KCET. www.kcet.org
Your gift this Christmas morning? Jewishy fun at The Zimmer Children’s Museum. Just roll out of bed to be ready for their Pajama Party, featuring games, storytelling, exhibits, hat-making and snacks.Free (members),$3 (nonmembers) plus $5 (per family, suggested donation). 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8998.
Missed the nipple controversy the first time? Copro/Nason Gallery now offers you a second opportunity. Leonard Nimoy’s black-and-white photographic exploration of Jewish mysticism, spirituality and sexuality, “Shekhina,” is on display through Jan. 31.1-6 p.m. (Wednesday-Saturday). 11265 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 398-2643.
7 Days In Arts
7 Days In Arts
More More. Celebrity Staged Play Reading producer-director Alexandra More presents another installment in the series tonight and tomorrow. “The Floating Lightbulb” is a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy penned by Woody Allen that revolves around a Canarsie family in 1945. The title references the older son’s dream of becoming a magician as a way out of his depressed surroundings. Alan Blumenfeld, Richard Fancy and Katherine James star.$10-$14. Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m., Valley Cities JCC, 13164 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 786-6310.Nov. 23, 2 p.m., Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 938-2531, ext. 2225.
The Skirball shows the accordion due respect this evening as they present Grammy Award-winning accordionist Flaco Jimenez in concert. Jimenez and his ensemble perform traditional South Texas conjunto and Tejano music as part of the cultural center’s ongoing American Dream Music Series, which coincides with its exhibit, “The Photograph and the American Dream.”7 p.m. $10-$18. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8587.
Neile Adams — singer, horse breeder, trapeze aficionado and ex-wife of Steve McQueen — clearly wears many hats. Tonight, she tips hers to Broadway songwriters Jerry Herman, Rodgers and Hart, Lieber and Stoller and Mel Brooks, performing their songs in “Neile Adams: The Child in Me.” Her show at the Gardenia continues for two more Mondays through Dec. 8.9 p.m. $15 (cover). Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, 7066 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 467-7444.
In the aptly titled “Timekeeper” exhibition, Stephen Cohen Gallery displays a retrospective of photographs by Anthony Friedkin. His 30 years as a fine-art photographer, film unit still photographer and photojournalist (Newsweek and Rolling Stone) are all represented in the collection. There are images from projects including The Gay Essay, The “Le Mer” Series and The Beverly Hills Essay. Tony Friedkin’s art also hangs in LACMA, George Eastman House and the J. Paul Getty Museum, but Cohen Gallery features a considerable selection through Dec. 31.11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday). 7358 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 937-5525.
Chanukah comes early this year for choral Yiddish musiclovers. Thank Mark Zuckerman and the Goldene Keyt Singers for this miracle. TheCD is titled “The Year in Yiddish Song,” because, Zuckerman writes, “thesequence of the songs reflects the calendar (more or less) of the EasternEuropean Jewish immigrants to America.” It includes old faves like “Ikh bin akleyner dreydl” (that’s “I am a Little Dreydl,”) and “Bay mir bistu sheyn.” $15.www.centaurrecords.com
You’ve been giving thanks all damn day. Take a timeoutwith this week’s Jewish Book Month suggestion: Sol Wachtler’s and David S.Gould’s legal thriller “Blood Brothers.” Legal wizzes Wachtler and Gould, whoserved as New York State chief judge and assistant United States attorney,respectively, put their knowledge to good use for this courtroom drama thatreunites childhood “blood brothers” who have taken different life paths. $24.95.www.amazon.com .
For those predisposed to road rage or parking lot paroxysms, may we suggest avoiding the malls in favor of a second look at one of LACMA’s collections. “Revisiting the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection of Photographic Self-Portraits” runs through Jan. 11, and gives you the opportunity to do just as the title suggests. Divided into thematic sections, the exhibit illustrates the ways in which artists have explored ideas of “identity, culture and art-making itself.”Noon-9 p.m. (Friday), noon-8 p.m. (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday), 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday). Free (children 17 and under), $5-$9 (general). 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000.
7 Days In Arts
An Afro Judeo Beat
Tired of the same old synagogue music? Want to put a little lift in your liturgy? Then give your cantor the gift of Ugandan Jewish music, Say what?
Yes, Smithsonian Folkways has just released a singular CD titled, “Abayudaya: The Music of the Jews of Uganda.”
This is a sometimes lilting, often haunting and always fascinating collection of African Jewish music in which the rhythms and harmonies of Africa blend with Jewish celebration and traditional Hebrew prayer.
The Abayudaya community traces its roots to the early-20th century, when disparate tribes melded their traditions with those of Western Jews. Founded in 1919 by Semei Kakungulu, a tribal military leader who was exposed to Judaism by the British, the Abuyudaya developed a literal interpretation of the Bible and adopted circumcision and Sabbath rituals. Subsequent generations of Jewish visitors imparted knowledge of Hebrew prayers, kashrut, the Hebrew language and Jewish calendar.
But the harmonies remained African, and this collection celebrates the melding of the songs and prayers you know with music you can only dream about. Give it to a cantor today.
$15. Available at record and book outlets or at www.folkways.si.edu/catalog/40504.htm .
Europe’s Tragic Melody