Marcos Cohen's stage name is Mor D. Hai. Photo courtesy of Marcos Cohen

Chabad Pesach concert with a Latin flavor

The Spanish word for a musical or theatrical performance is espectáculo. With its suggestion of spectacle, it’s an apt description of the show to be presented April 15 by Mor D. Hai, stage name of Marcos Cohen, an Uruguay-born performer who lives in Los Angeles.

“My show has rhythm, humor, a Latin beat and recognizable Jewish themes, like traditional Passover songs and Sephardi music,” Cohen told the Journal.

The elaborate, high-energy production, suitable for children and adults, evokes smiles and tears, hitting emotional buttons and serving as an introductory course in Jewish history: from the birth of monotheism as embodied by the struggles of Avraham Avinu to Sephardic songs composed in medieval Spain; from the hard-won triumphs of the State of Israel to the tragedy of the Shoah; from the Psalms of David to a musical number that brings Arab and Israeli together.

Cohen said he combines his Jewish and Latin roots in the show, with songs in Ladino, Hebrew, English and Spanish, as well as surprising and amusing stagecraft: desert tents, tinted wisps of smoke, film clips, silhouettes of dancing Chabad figures, lighting effects, choreography, audio-visual elements and Hebrew prayers.

Cohen’s talents came naturally. When he was growing up in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, his Sephardic father played a Hammond organ while his Ashkenazi mother performed with an all-woman Jewish theater group.

Though his parents are fiercely Jewish and Zionist, they are not religious. Cohen, on the other hand, is a modern Orthodox Jew who wears a kippah, keeps kosher and observes Shabbat: When he gets work as actor or singer, he stipulates that he won’t perform on Jewish holidays and Shabbat. “The rest of my family calls me ‘rabbi’ since I’m the only one that’s really gotten into Judaism,” he said.

“The show combines my love for music and for religion,” Cohen said. “There are themes with the particular flavor of Brazil; Argentina; of my country, Uruguay. My Latin- American background is always there, but I give everything a Jewish dimension. There’s a well-known tango called Cambalache. In the version that I do, I give it a Jewish twist. When I did it in Argentina and in Uruguay, it was a big hit. I have a Jewish version of Volver [a popular tango], and I also sing ‘My Beloved Jerusalem’ instead of ‘My Beloved Buenos Aires.’ ”

The show has dancing — Israeli hora, tango, samba, bouncy Chabad twirls — and many costume changes, even different head-coverings: When Cohen sings tangos, he wears a fedora, like the one used by legendary tango singer Carlos Gardel; when he
does music from Bukhara, where his father’s family is from, he sports a beige, flat-top kippah, which he made.

Cohen’s concert includes interaction with the audience, especially with children. “I think that the fact that I don’t have kids of my own makes it even more important that I have contact with them,” he said. Single and in his late 40s, Cohen teaches music at a Jewish pre-school and has been a volunteer with Jewish Big Brothers. “I always try to maintain contact with kids, so I can keep that part of me alive that’s always wanted to have kids… When I lived in Uruguay, I wrote plays for children and sang songs for them.”

Cohen said that 20 years ago, when he first came to Los Angeles from Uruguay, he eked out a living doing a clown-mime act at the Santa Monica pier. One day a little boy, with a dollar in his hand, asked him, “Where’s the balloon?” Cohen said he immediately bought an instructional tape and learned how to shape balloons into animal figures.

“I did very well with my balloon act,” Cohen said. “I went along that way for a long time, dressed as a clown and making animal balloons for kids, making good money, when one day a woman comes up to me and says, ‘You are an old soul. And you know you’re an old soul.’ So I challenged her, ‘OK, tell me what you think you know about me.’ And she said, ‘I know you’re a musician. Yes, you’re a musician.’ And she looked straight at me and said, ‘You’re not supposed to be here, doing this. Why are you afraid? Go pursue
your dreams.’ ”

Cohen said that was a turning point: Since then, he’s pursued his dream of being a singer and performer, in L.A., New York, Uruguay — and, for the last five years, again in L.A. Along the way he started using, he said, “a funky version of my Hebrew name, Mordechai, and that’s how I became Mor D. Hai.”

Cohen clearly feels that meeting that woman in Santa Monica was not a random event. In interviews, he often says his life has been blessed by divine touches.

“I feel a special relationship with God,” he said, “and I feel really blessed to be part of a Jewish community. This is important for me, since I came here from another country, without family, without friends. So it’s essential for me to feel that connection.”

His community, Cohen said, is Jewish life in the Pico-Robertson area, where he lives, prays, and where, this weekend, he’ll perform a show he created and stars in, an espectáculo that he calls “A Latin Revolution in Jewish Music.”

Chol HaMoed Pesach Concert, featuring Mor D. Hai Latin Jewish Band, April 15, at Chabad SOLA, 1627 S. La Cienega Blvd. 9 p.m. $13 in advance, $18 at the door. For more information, go to

Britney Spears

Finally some good news: Britney Spears reportedly to perform Tel Aviv concert in July

Britney Spears will perform in Tel Aviv in July, the Israeli media are reporting.

The one-night show by the American pop singer reportedly will take place at Yarkon Park and be part of her upcoming Asian tour. The final date and ticket sales have not been announced.

Rumors that Spears, 35, would play in Israel have circulated in the past, but the show’s producers confirmed to Haaretz that the concert would be announced officially in the coming days.

Spears has sold more than 240 million albums, DVDs and singles since her debut in 1999.

Other big names scheduled to perform in Israel in the coming months include Gun N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Justin Bieber, Radiohead and Tears for Fears.

Morrissey of Smiths fame returning to Israel in August

Morrissey, the British singer-songwriter best known for his involvement in The Smiths, will perform two concerts in Israel this summer.

The 57-year-old solo musician will play Tel Aviv on Aug. 22 and Caesarea two days later, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

Morrissey sold out his most recent concerts in Israel, in 2012. His latest album, released in 2014, is “World Peace is None of Your Business.”

He is an outspoken advocate for animal rights and vegetarianism.

Elton John returning to Israel for May concert

British singer-songwriter Elton John will be returning to Israel this spring for his fourth concert there.

His May 26 concert at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv was announced late Monday night. Tickets went on sale Tuesday morning. The performance is part of his “Wonderful Crazy Night Tour 2016,” which starts in February to promote his 33rd album of the same name.

At a concert in Ramat Gan stadium in 2010, John addressed attempts by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to have the singer cancel his performance in Israel.

“Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby,” John said. “Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.”

Melissa Manchester is loving the life

“You Gotta Love the Life” is the title track of Melissa Manchester’s latest album and a kind of personal and spiritual mantra. It’s the essence of what she conveys to students at USC’s Thornton School of Music, where Manchester teaches master classes, and at Citrus College in Glendora, where the Grammy-winning pop star is an honorary artist-in-residence.

The philosophy has come in handy for family discussions as well.

“My daughter, who is a very talented singer, was considering walking the artistic walk,” Manchester said. “I said to her — as I say to all my students — ‘Your talent is just your focal point that piques your curiosity.’ But the truth is, this version of normal for most people is so unsettling that you have to be willing to reinvent yourself at least once a week to stoke the fire and keep your hunger going.

“For me, this version of normal is a very good fit. I’m comfortable with the unsteadiness and the insecurity of it,” she continued. “If you’re going to do this, you have got to love it.”

The 64-year-old Manchester — who will give a holiday concert Dec. 16 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills as part of the Cabaret @ the Wallis series — not only loves “the life,” she continues to learn how to work it and make it evolve. “You Gotta Love” is her 20th album, funded by an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign managed by one of her USC students and entirely self-made. 

It is Manchester’s first album of original music in nearly a decade and was recorded largely in the state-of-the-art recording studio at Citrus. Not only did Manchester include songs that are highly personal, she produced the album in such a way that her students could observe it being brought to life and learn from the experience. 

“I really wanted to return to how I made albums in the first place,” said Manchester, who launched her career with 1973’s “Home to Myself.” “I wanted to bring in live musicians, bring new ideas to light or revisit old ideas. A lot of these students had never seen that collaboration. Most of them have worked with tracks, and the only person who comes into the studio is the pizza delivery guy.”

Robert Slack, Citrus’ dean of fine and performing arts, has watched Manchester with students on campus and during summer 2014, when she accompanied the orchestra and singers to perform in Waikiki, Hawaii. Slack said Manchester has been “incredibly gracious” in helping them find their way.

“I think the album speaks volumes about the kind of artist she is,” Slack said. “She has never sold out. She has always been who she is, and she will always do it her way.”

Manchester will be on the move this holiday season. After her performance at the Wallis, the singer has a five-performance engagement at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2016, she has scheduled performances in Oklahoma and across Florida. The world premiere of the musical “The Sweet Potato Queens,” which Manchester wrote with lyricist Sharon Vaughn and Rupert Holmes, will open in March at Theater Under the Stars in Houston.

For her holiday shows, Manchester’s set list will include selections from her new album, as well as seasonal favorites and hits from her more than 40 years of music making. She also plans to include the Chanukah song “Let There Be More Light,” which she wrote in response to the death of a rabbi in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Manchester had visited a Conservative temple shortly afterward, and she listened to a rabbi who had said, “How shall we combat this darkness? With more light!” Manchester wrote the song “Let There Be More Light” later that day.

A native of the Bronx in New York, Manchester had a bat mitzvah as an adult and describes her upbringing as “beyond Reform.” The daughter of a bassoonist with the Metropolitan Opera and a mother who worked in the fashion industry, she studied songwriting with Paul Simon at New York University and was subsequently discovered by Bette Midler and Barry Manilow. She received her first Grammy nomination in 1979 for “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and won the Grammy for best female pop vocal performance for “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” for the year 1982. Two songs that she recorded for films — “Through the Eyes of Love” from “Ice Castles” and the theme from “The Promise” — were nominated for Oscars in 1980. She has composed for films and spent some time acting on the small screen and onstage. 

Considering the who’s who of recording stars with whom Manchester has worked over the years, it is hardly surprising that her phone would start to light up when word spread of the development of her new album. “You Gotta Love” includes guest appearances by Dionne Warwick, Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, Keb’ Mo’ and the late Joe Sample. 

While touring in Florida in 2014, Manchester received a phone call in the middle of the night from someone interested in being part of the project.

“I pick up the phone and it’s Stevie Wonder, who doesn’t know about night or day. He just knows about time in his own way,” Manchester recalled. “I hear, ‘Melissa! It’s Stevie Wonder! I’d love to play harmonica on your album!’ Sure. OK!”

As Manchester tells it, Wonder arrived at Citrus to record his harmonica work on the track “Your Love Is Where I Live.” Students were on spring break and the campus was largely empty except for a student band that was practicing in a rehearsal room not far from the location where Manchester and Wonder were recording.

His “You Gotta Love” duties at an end, Wonder was preparing to leave the campus when he heard the student musicians and went off to find them. He entered the room, and the students, after getting over their shock, invited him to sing with them. As it happened, the Citrus musicians had been preparing “Superstition,” and with Wonder taking the microphone, they launched into a rendition of Wonder’s hit that Manchester said had “the paint peeling off the walls.”

After Wonder departed, Manchester debriefed the still amped-up students.

“They’re all screaming and crying and thanking me,” Manchester said. “And I said, ‘Listen to me. When you get home, find something to write on and write everything you remember about this day — everything you ate, whatever you wore, what he wore, what happened up until this moment and now your reaction to this moment. Because 20 years from now, how you thought about this will blow your mind.’ ”

For more information about Melissa Manchester’s Dec. 16 performance at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, click here.

Pharrell Williams’ concert venue in South Africa drops legal bid to fend off BDS

Organizers of a concert by American pop star Pharrell Williams have abandoned their legal action against pro-Palestinian demonstrators protesting against his presence there.

The Sun International hotel group had launched an urgent court interdict on Monday to limit the number of protesters outside Williams’ Sept. 21 concert in Cape Town, according to But the group withdrew their court application, due to be heard Friday, against the local branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, or the BDS movement.

BDS SA spokesperson Kwara Kekana described the hotel company’s move as an about-face.

“For us it’s not only a Palestine victory but it’s a victory for freedom of expression,” he said.

Pro-Palestine protesters have been agitating against the American pop star since he concluded a promotional deal with major national retailer Woolworths, due to its trade ties with Israel. Woolworths denies sourcing produce from the West Bank or other disputed territories.

Last month, BDS SA board member Braam Hanekom said: “[Williams] is about to face the biggest backlash any artist has faced in South Africa in over 30 years, since the days of apartheid. He is walking into a very angry, unhappy environment because he has chosen to walk with Woolworths,” he told Reuters following a decision by the City of Cape Town to deny an application by thousands to protest at Williams’ Sept. 21 concert.

Hanekom threatened that protestors may block roads on concert nights or rally inside venues. A second concert is due to take place in Johannesburg.

Jeffrey Siegel brings his ‘Keyboard Conversations’ to The Wallis

Sometimes, a stranger’s chance remarks can redirect and enhance a career. Pianist Jeffrey Siegel still recalls a woman at a party many years ago, who said, after one of his concerts, “I know I’m missing something not to have great composers in my life. What can you do to make the listening experience more than just an ear wash of sound for me?”

The question triggered “Keyboard Conversations,” a trademarked concert-with-commentary series, including a Q-and-A session, which Siegel developed and has since taken to 22 American cities. The pianist also gives three programs every year at Kings Place in London. Siegel has given 90 “conversations” this season alone. 

“The series has taken over my life,” Siegel, 72, said by phone from his home in New York. “When the woman asked me that question, I thought it probably represented 95 percent of concertgoers. One of the goals of each program is to heighten the listener’s musical experience. I have to be careful not to bore the expert or lose the novice.”

When the pianist brings his program, “The Romantic Music of Chopin,” to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Jan. 17, he will include his commentary on and performance of such demanding masterpieces as Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude” and “Fantaisie-Impromptu.”

“This is not a master class,” Siegel said. “It’s about going beyond the program notes for avid music lovers and novices of all ages who want to become more active listeners.”

The pianist’s well-organized, eloquent commentary employs a good dose of humor. In his conversation on “The Glory of Beethoven,” for instance, Siegel explains that the composer’s well-known piano work “Fur Elise” was not a teaching piece, as it has come down to us, but actually “a love poem in sound, a private gift from Beethoven to his lady friend.” That lady’s name was Therese Malfatti, not Elise, he said, and it’s possible Beethoven had proposed to her. 

As Siegel dryly observes on a YouTube segment, “For some reason, she turned him down, preferring instead a good-looking, wealthy, aristocratic landowner.” 

For Siegel, knowing what inspired a score allows us to hear it differently — and better. For his upcoming Chopin program at The Wallis, Siegel said he’ll talk about the 19th-century Polish composer’s life as it directly relates to a certain piece.

“In periods of despair, Chopin could write some of his happiest music,” Siegel said. “There’s a tune in the middle of Chopin’s posthumously published ‘Fantaisie-Impromptu’ used for the hit pop song, ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,’ recorded by Judy Garland.” 

Given the enduring quality of the score, Siegel added, “It’s a shock that Chopin never wanted it published.”

Siegel said Chopin’s music is “immediately accessible and engaging to the ear,” even when the composer’s passions are flowing. The impetus for the “Revolutionary Etude,” for example, may have been Chopin getting news while on tour that the Russians had taken over his country. 

“It’s fiery, full of rage and defiance, but Chopin didn’t call it ‘revolutionary,’ ” Siegel said. “The music is about itself.”

Siegel’s impressive musical background includes studying at the Juilliard School with the famous pedagogue Rosina Lhevinne. He also was coached by the Polish-American pianist Arthur Rubinstein. In Chicago as a kid, Siegel played jazz, which later informed his stunning recordings of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Piano Concerto in F” with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony. 

Siegel also made a remarkable recording of Henri Dutilleux’s harmonically rich piano sonata, and has premiered unusual pieces such as Liszt’s technically thorny paraphrase on “Ernani,” which he discovered, and Leonard Bernstein’s tender, unpublished “Meditation on a Wedding.”

“Bernstein was my guiding light,” Siegel said. “He knew how to talk about a piece. Musicians are trained to communicate wordlessly, in tones, not in words about tones. There are few musicians who can talk about music. Bernsteins do not grow on trees. Slatkin can do it. We learned at Bernstein’s feet.”

Siegel’s past programs have included “Great Jewish Composers,” and next up is a trip to London for “Schubert in the Age of the Sound Bite.” For the pianist, Schubert summoned a special memory of being young in Los Angeles in the early 1960s.

“I was 20 years old and had just done a concert with Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic when Edward G. Robinson [born Emanuel Goldenberg] walked backstage and told me how much he enjoyed it. I always liked that we were about the same size — short, dumpy Jews,” Siegel said with a laugh. “It was one of the great moments for me. Robinson said Schubert’s last piano sonata was his favorite.”

Siegel, who recently performed in concert with Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, called himself “a concert pianist who talks, rather than a lecturer who plays.” For him, the need for what great music offers a thinking, feeling person is greater today than it’s ever been. 

“We’re living in an impersonal age,” Siegel said. “I am playing the greatest music that’s ever been written, and as I get older, I want to play and share it more. It never feels stale, particularly Chopin.” 

For tickets or information about “The Romantic Music of Chopin” at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 17, call (310) 746-4000 or go to

Lone soldiers unwind at Lady Gaga concert

Israeli Lone Soldier Adam Berman admits that it was a “rough summer.”

Berman, 24, made aliyah a year ago from Columbus, Ohio, serves at the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza and lives on Kibbutz Alumim, also located on the Gaza border. So he did not escape this summer’s constant barrage on southern Israel before and during the 50-day Operation Protective Edge which ended on Aug. 26.

When he and 239 other Lone Soldiers were offered free tickets to Lady Gaga’s Tel Aviv concert earlier this week he jumped at the chance.

“For us soldiers it was a sign of the return to normal life and a chance to do things on the weekend again,” he told JTA. The tickets for Saturday night’s concert were provided by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and distributed through Garin Tzabar, Irgun Heiseg and the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center.

Lynn Schusterman, of Oklahoma, also attended the concert alongside the soldiers to show her appreciation to Lady Gaga for sticking by Israel despite the myriad of artists who cancelled their summer concerts due to the war and pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Clearly, the Gaga-Israel relationship is far less tortured than the Gaza-Israel one.

Backstreet Boys scrap Israel shows due to Gaza crisis

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Backstreet Boys canceled three sold-out concerts in Israel due to the Gaza conflict.

The American pop band posted a message Sunday on its official website announcing the cancellation of the July 29-31 concerts at the Raanana Amphitheater “to assure the safety of the audience.” New dates will be scheduled for the spring.

“This is a major disappointment for the band and fans as this was to be our first visit to Israel and we looked forward to meeting our fans,” the message said.

Canadian singer Paul Anka also canceled two concerts set for this week in Tel Aviv. The concerts will be rescheduled “once the local situation is resolved,” according to a statement issued by his representative.

Earlier, the Gaza conflict forced the cancellations of a Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv and a performance by the band America.

Michael Feinstein sings Gershwin

George Gershwin has been dead since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second term. Ira Gershwin left this world during the height of the Reagan administration. For Michael Feinstein, though, the Gershwins aren’t dead — they’ve lived on through their music. And on July 19, Feinstein will perform the Gershwins’ music with the Pasadena Pops at a special concert called, simply, “Michael Feinstein SINGS Gershwin.”

Soon after Feinstein moved to Los Angeles from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, in the late 1970s, he was introduced to Ira Gershwin by the widow of Oscar Levant. “He changed my life,” Feinstein said recently by phone. “He was a man who was infinitely kind and gentle and never had children, so I became like a son or a grandson.

“He brought the whole era to life for me in a way that was very exciting, and he was not only a conduit but had a great memory …”

Memory is something that holds a heavy sway over Feinstein, who has been one of the country’s foremost advocates both for preserving and performing classic American songs. The Gershwins, of course, being a towering presence in American music, always held a certain fascination for Feinstein, even as a child. 

“It was, at first, an emotional response,” Feinstein said. “It was the extraordinary harmonic palette of George Gershwin and his use of rhythm, and the energy and the excitement in the music, and then the seamless combination of the words that I didn’t understand much when I was little. But, as I grew older, I came to appreciate the deft fashion in which Ira was able to expand the power of the music.”

Working with Ira Gershwin was a dream come true for the young Feinstein, and as he looks back now, it’s with both wonder and a regret for things his older self would have liked to know. 

“I now think, ‘Oh, gosh, why didn’t I ask him this? Why didn’t I ask him that?’ Because people ask me questions about certain things, and I don’t know the answer, but Ira would have.”

For Feinstein, performing music like the Gershwins’, both with the Pops and in his hundreds of concerts around the globe every year, is not only professionally fulfilling but also enriches today’s musical landscape. 

“We have an incredible history, an incredible musical history and heritage that is wonderful, and music today has its attributes and  its flaws, and I think one of the flaws of some music today … is that it is rhythm-based and not based in melody and harmony, and the power of melody and harmony cannot be [overstated],” Feinstein said. “What music does for the soul is significant.”

Feinstein enjoys performing with the Pasadena Pops, and became the principal conductor of the orchestra after the passing of the great Marvin Hamlisch.

“It was certainly an incredible honor to be asked to conduct the orchestra, since I’ve had no prior training as a conductor, even though I’ve worked with many orchestras, but not waving a stick,” Feinstein said, with a chuckle.
“It was daunting, and still in some ways remains daunting, but it is the music itself that carries me through, and the incredible talent of the orchestra, and the joy that we experience collectively in making music.”

Feinstein offered some anecdotes about how the Gershwins’ Jewish background crept into their music.

“George, at one point, famously wanted to write an opera based on ‘The Dybbuk,’ ” Feinstein said, “but it turns out that the rights were already owned by an Italian composer, and he could not pursue the project.”

As for Jewish themes that did make it into their music, Feinstein said that “the most palpable one is in ‘Of Thee I Sing,’ which is a political operetta … the French ambassador comes to Washington and as he makes his entrance, his henchmen are singing, ‘Garçon, sil vous plait …’ and then they sing … Yiddish for ‘Where does it hurt you, where?’ And I asked Ira why he put [the Yiddish] in it, and he said, ‘Because it sounds French.’ So that was his own little joke.”

Feinstein hopes a big crowd will come out for the concert, even if this might be their first exposure to the Gershwins’ music. “For people who don’t know anything about the Gershwins, it’s sort of a Gershwin 101 that will introduce them to their work. But for people who know and love the Gershwins, they’ll hear a lot of arrangements and fresh renditions of the work.”

Feinstein is busy prepping for two PBS specials that will be airing later in 2014, one a tribute to classic night clubs that will be filmed at the new Rainbow Room in New York and air in the fall, and the other, a New Year’s Eve celebration that he promised will not be a countdown show, but will be, he joked, “an alternative to Kathy Griffin.”  

But on July 19, his mind will be focused solely on the Gershwins: “The power of how this music feeds the mind, body and spirit, it is essential to our existence. It is, to me, just as essential as learning reading, writing and arithmetic.”


Michael Feinstein SINGS Gershwin, Los Angeles County Arboretum with the Pasadena Pops on Saturday, July 19. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Concert at 7:30p.m. For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Pasadena Pops online at

Sinead O’Connor trying to back out of Israel concert

Sinead O’Connor said she will try to back out of a scheduled performance in Israel because she was unaware that she had been asked to boycott by pro-Palestinian groups.

“I was not informed by my booking agent, and was unaware myself, that a boycott of Israel had been requested by the Palestinian people,” O’Connor wrote in a statement published Jume 13 on her website, which has since been removed. “I agreed to perform having been unaware any such boycott had been requested.”

The Irish singer is scheduled to play Caesarea on Sept. 11. The concert date is not listed on her website.

O’Connor added that she will pull out only if there is no financial cost, pointing out that she is the sole breadwinner for her four children.

“No one should assume musicians can afford not to work. Neither should anyone assume we can afford to pay the legal costs involved in pulling out of shows,” she wrote.

O’Connor criticized supporters of the Palestinians and of Israel.

“I do not appreciate being bullied by anyone on either side of this debate any more than I appreciate not being properly informed by my booking agent of the potential ramifications of accepting work in war zones,” she wrote.

In a post on O’Connor’s Facebook page, Irish composer Raymond Deane called on her to observe the cultural boycott of Israel.

“Our Irish government, as part of the EU, is complicit in Israel’s crimes — it’s up to us, representing civil society, to stand up for truth and justice,” he wrote in part.

Satisfaction for Israeli Stones fans: Band has arrived

The Rolling Stones arrived in Israel two days before their scheduled Tel Aviv concert.

The band, making its concert debut in Israel, landed in Israel on Monday and will play Yarkon Park on Wednesday evening at the close of the Shavuot holiday. The concert is part of the Stones’ “ON FIRE 14″ European tour.

Frontman Mick Jagger reportedly had a four-hour dinner at a Tel Aviv restaurant shortly after landing and returned to his hotel room after 2 a.m., according to the Times of Israel.

Over the weekend, the Stones said they would push the concert’s start time to 9:15 to enable religiously observant concert-goers to attend. The Tel Aviv municipality agreed to extend the 11 p.m. curfew on public performances.

In Brussels, a tragic note to a Jewish student singing tour

Moments before they were scheduled to start singing at an impromptu memorial vigil outside the Jewish Museum of Belgium, the 13 members of Yale University’s Jewish a cappella group were still unsure what number to perform.

Fresh off the train from Paris, Magevet’s men and women had not initially planned to perform anywhere near the museum during their biennial international tour in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

But they decided to show up after hearing on Saturday that an unidentified shooter had killed four people at the Jewish museum in central Brussels.

The following day, they were already standing at the solemn vigil that the Jewish community of Brussels had hastily organized. And while they were full of emotions, they still had no proper set for that performance before the 2,000 people who showed up.

“It was not even clear whether it would be possible for us to sing at all,” recalled Yale sophomore Joshua Fitt, 18.

But as it turned out, Magevet’s members needn’t have worried.

“At a certain point, people from the vigil spontaneously started singing Hatikva,” Fitt said in reference to the Israeli national anthem. “So we joined the singing and took it from there.”

Magevet — whose founders 21 years ago named it after the Hebrew word for “towel” as a tribute to their love of saunas — followed up with “Yerushalaim Shel Zahav” and other Israeli semi-official anthems “that all Jews share,” Fitt said.

Fitt still gets overcome with emotion when he describes what he saw at the gathering, where many Jewish parents came with their children despite the fact that police are still searching for the shooter and at least one other accomplice – both of whom have shown considerable determination in their effort to kill Jews.

“The fact that 2,000 convened there in the current situation exemplifies the Jewish response to such acts, which is unity,” said Fitt. After the show, Belgian Jews approached him to thank him and his group for their performance, he recalled. “He told me, ‘when some Jews hurts, all Jews hurt.’ And that captured what we were feeling.”

Though the performance at the vigil was unplanned, Magevet did have a concert scheduled in Brussels on Sunday, at the city’s Jewish Community Center. But following the attack, the center – which does not list its address online for security reasons — changed the venue. The concert was held before the vigil for 60 people at the home of a member of the local Jewish community.

“We began with a minute’s silence but we followed with our set, including some Israeli pop songs,” Fitt said. “We did it for the same reason we decided to keep our performances in Brussels  despite the tragedy, To uplift the community’s spirits and to not to allow the people who perpetrated the killings to achieve their goal of disrupting Jewish life.”

Drake cancels Philadelphia concert

Drake’s tour is off to a rocky start, much to the disappointment  of fans in Philadelphia. His show there Saturday night was postponed an hour after it was set to begin due to a mechanical problem, according to

“Due to the elaborate nature of tonight’s show and an unexpected technical issue, Drake’s ‘Would You Like A Tour’ concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia has been postponed until Wednesday, December 18th,” A spokesperson said in a statement. All ticket holders will get their second chance then.

This isn’t the first drama associated with the “Would You Like A Tour?” tour. Drake reportedly fired opening act Future after the rapper dissed Drake in a Billboard article, telling the mag, “Drake made an album that is full of hits, but it doesn’t grab you. They’re not possessive; they don’t make you feel the way I do.”

It’s all good between them now, though. Tonight they’ve moved on together to Montreal, where Drake’s Canadian home court advantage will hopefully bring some better luck.

Summer Sneaks calendar



More than 20 dramas, documentaries, comedies, foreign language films and shorts will be shown at seven venues from Thousand Oaks to Beverly Hills. Highlights at the eighth annual L.A. Jewish Film Festival include tonight’s star-studded opening-night gala celebration with the premiere of the comedy “Putzel,” starring Susie Essman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Melanie Lynskey (“Two and a Half Men”); “Neil Diamond: Solitary Man,” a documentary on the music icon; “Becoming Henry/Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir,” with Polanski addressing every aspect of his celebrated and controversial life; “My Father and the Man in Black,” the untold story of Johnny Cash and his talented but troubled manager; and “When Comedy Went to School,” the closing-night film, which presents an entertaining portrait of the country’s greatest generation of comedians. A program of the Jewish Journal. Sat. Through June 6. Various times, locations. $40 (opening night gala), $7-$12 (films). (213) 368-1661.


Based out of Mishkan Omanim (The Artists’ Studio) in Herzliya, Israeli artist Hofshi returns to Los Angeles with her latest exhibition, “Cessation,” which explores the relationship between the artist, topographical patterns and her perception of the environment and man through works on paper, installations and woodcutting. Sat. 7-9 p.m. (opening reception). Through July 27 (Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.). Shulamit Gallery, 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 281-0961.



One of Israel’s foremost singer-songwriters and co-founder of the world music ensemble Sheva, Ben-Ari combines traditional Jewish ethnic chants with rock, soul, reggae and pop. Guest artist Mooke, an Israeli rapper and former frontman of Shabak Samech, also performs on the last stop of Ben-Ari’s U.S. tour. Mon. 7:30 p.m. $45 (advance), $55 (door). Avalon, 1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood. (323) 462-8900.



Mandy Patinkin

Beloved for his Broadway turns in “Evita” and “Sunday in the Park With George” as well as numerous roles on screens big (“The Princess Bride,” “Yentl”) and small (“Homeland,” “Criminal Minds,” “Chicago Hope”), the Tony and Emmy winner performs popular standards and Broadway classics while backed by the Pasadena POPS, conducted for this concert by Eric Stern. Sun. 8 p.m. $81-$153. John Anson Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.



Direct from Broadway, following a critically acclaimed sold-out run, the pop singer-songwriter brings hits like “Mandy,” “Copacabana,” “Looks Like We Made It,” “I Write the Songs” and “Can’t Smile” to adoring Fanilows during a three-night engagement at the Greek. Fri. 8 p.m. Through June 16. $9.99-$249.99. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-5857.



Judy Gold, the 6-foot-3 Jewish mother of two, is bringing her big, critically acclaimed off-Broadway hit to the Geffen. A one-woman show and homage to the classic sitcoms of Gold’s youth, including “The Brady Bunch,” “The Partridge Family” and “Facts of Life,” “The Judy Show” covers life, love, show biz and ultimately her quest for her very own show. Through July 28. Tue. 8 p.m. $57. The Geffen Playhouse, Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater Season, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-2028.



The road warriors from the East Coast jam band scene blend the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel and the Beach Boys with tribal drumming. Led by nice Jewish boys Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner on guitars and vocals and Brian Rosenworcel on percussion, the band joins groups Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds Five for the “Last Summer on Earth 2013” tour.  Sun. 7 p.m. $37.75-$77.75. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-5857.

THU | JUNE 27 


The acclaimed author of “Coraline,” “The Graveyard Book,” the comic book series “The Sandman” and the award-winning fantasy novel “American Gods” discusses his well-received new novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” with Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher. Gaiman’s first work for an adult audience in eight years, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” follows a middle-aged man who returns to his childhood home, where he is confronted by a past too strange, too frightening and too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. Thu. 8 p.m. $40-$103. Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. (818) 243-2539.

SUN | JUNE 30 


The Hollywood legend you’ve never heard of — who guided the careers of celebrities Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Neil Diamond and Joan Rivers; championed the making of the “Woodstock” film, saving Warner Bros. in the process; and discovered martial arts sensation Bruce Lee — discusses his memoir, “Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me.” “I’ve pretty much seen and done it all,” writes Weintraub. “Or at least as much as any nice, Jewish, Ritalin-deprived, Depression baby could ever hope to see and do.” Sun. 2-4 p.m. Museum admission rates apply: $10 (adults), $6 (students, seniors), $4 (children, 3-12), free (children under 3). Autry National Center, Griffith Park, Los Angeles. (323) 667-2000, ext. 326.

WED | JULY 10 


Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright Bruce Norris follows up his monster hit “Clybourne Park” with this mind-scrambling comedy that distorts the audience’s perspective and poses profound questions about the choices we make. Directed by Tony-winning director Anna Shapiro (“August: Osage County”), “A Parallelogram” follows Bee, for whom the past, present and future collide when strange new revelations rock her seemingly normal suburban life and take her down a rabbit hole. Through Aug. 18. Wed. 8 p.m. $30-$50. Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 628-2772.


Beth Lapides


Idiosyncratic blends with the conversational to form actress, writer and producer Lapides’ weekly stand-up showcase. Over its 25 years of existence, “Uncabaret” has fostered the careers of stars Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho and Jeff Garlin. This time the magic happens at the summer series Grand Performances. Fri. 8 p.m. Free.  Grand Performances, 300-350 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 687-2159.


Celebrate the creative universe of artist, illustrator, animator and toy designer Gary Baseman, whose whimsical exhibition, “The Door Is Always Open,” is currently on display at the Skirball. The festive “Into the Night” soiree features live bands, DJ sets, gallery explorations, art making, film screenings and a special appearance by the artist himself. Ages 21 and over. Fri. 9 p.m.-1 a.m. $15 (advance), $20 (door). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.



Celebrating America’s great composer, SongFest 2013 partners with Grand Performances to present a concert, the centerpiece of which will be the unpublished “Songfest: A Cycle of American Poems for Six Singers and Orchestra,” a 1977 song cycle by Bernstein. Other works include favorites from “Candide” and “West Side Story.” Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein, will recite the poems. Sat. 8 p.m. Free. Grand Performances, 300-350 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 687-2159.



Featuring contemporary design, exceptional objects and multimedia, this 14,000-square-foot permanent exhibition offers a unique take on Los Angeles: Inside a suite of four galleries, a visually striking canopy symbolizes the sweep of history and leads visitors through major sections or historical eras: the pre-Spanish landscape, the Mission Era, the Mexican Rancho Era, the early years of the American Period, the emergence of a new American city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and L.A. as a global city of the 21st century. Sun. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. $12 (adults), $9 (seniors, college students, ages 13-17), $5 (ages 3-12). The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 763-3466.


In the season two premiere, the staff of “News Night,” led by anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) and cable news president Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) chase a mysterious tip, which leads to a story that ultimately spins out of control. New arrivals to the Aaron Sorkin series include actress Marcia Gay Harden, who plays a litigator defending the station from a termination suit. Sun. Free. 10 p.m.

THU | AUG 1 


The acclaimed Israeli composer and musician resets Hebrew prayers and poetry to Indian devotional music. Part of the Skirball Sunset Concert series, presenting musical traditions from around the world. Thu. 8 p.m. Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

SAT | AUG 10 


Southern California-based klezmer band Mostly Kosher’s bandleader and singer Leeav Sofer and Janice “Rachele the Matchmaker” Mautner Markham on violin celebrate Jewish culture. They perform songs and stories from across the globe as part of the family series “Big!World!Fun!” at the Ford. Sat. 10 a.m. $5 (adults), free (ages 12 and younger). John Anson Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.


The Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series continues with the Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Led by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, Complexions troupe brings its athletic, lyrical, technically proficient and seasoned choreography and dancers to the Ford stage. The evening also includes local favorite Lula Washington Dance Theatre, a creative outlet for dancers in South Los Angeles. Sat. 8 p.m. $45-$85. John Anson Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.

TUE | AUG 20 

Itzhak Perlman


The melding of the Israeli-American violinist’s soulful tone and virtuosic technique with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot’s tenor highlights tonight’s concert performance, “Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul.” This program includes beloved Jewish liturgical and traditional works in arrangements for chamber orchestra and klezmer musicians. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Klezmer Conservatory Band and conductor Russell Ger also appear. Tue. 8 p.m. $1-$136. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000.

SUN | AUG 25


Encompassing dance and music from Russia, Argentina, Israel and the United States, the orchestral ensemble’s performance, “Cultural Collaborations,” features the orchestra and Argentinian tango dancers Miriam Marici and Leonardo Barrionuevo performing the U.S. premiere of “Go Tango!” along with a musical look at the familiar story of Tevye the Milkman (“Fiddler on the Roof”) in the symphonic suite “Reb Tevye.” The evening continues with violinist Kobi Malkin, who is featured in the world premiere of Sholom Secunda’s “Violin Concerto,” and closes with a return to dance with the world premiere of “Israeli Country Dances Suite,” which highlights 10 different forms of dance popular in Israel over the years, ending in a rousing horah. BODYTRAFFIC dance ensemble acts out the interpretation. Sun. 7:30 p.m. $30-$50 (general), $20 (students). John Anson Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.



Baseman’s solo exhibition, “Base Man” — featuring the works of the artist, illustrator, animator and toy designer — runs through the fall at the Venice-based Shulamit Gallery. Born in 1960 to Polish-born Holocaust survivors, Baseman began his career as a successful illustrator in the 1980s, then transitioned into fine art in 1999, gaining wide recognition for his whimsical work. Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Shulamit Gallery, 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 281-0961.

Streisand to perform two stadium concerts in Tel Aviv

Barbra Streisand will perform two Tel Aviv concerts in Israel in addition to performing at the 90th birthday celebration for President Shimon Peres.

The concerts will take place June 15-16 at Tel Aviv's Bloomfield Stadium, the Israel media reported.

On June 18, Streisand will perform at the opening ceremony of the Israeli Presidential Conference, which will be marking Peres' milestone birthday.

Streisand reportedly has visited Israel many times, and is a strong supporter of Israel, but has never performed in the Jewish state.

One of the best-selling musicians of all time, Streisand has sold some 72.5 million records in the United States. She performed at last month’s Oscars for the first time in 36 years.

Some 4,500 people are expected to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference.

Multifaith concert to express ‘Unity’

Craig Taubman, the singer/composer/maestro known for bringing large-scale cultural events to synagogues and other venues across town, is hoping for an audience of 2,000 for his upcoming interfaith concert at Sinai Temple on Nov. 15.

Billed as a “multifaith celebration of Israel,” this second “Unity in Concert” features an array of artists from various cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds performing songs, dance, music and poetry. The aim is to transcend differences through art, Taubman says. “Inspiration is not limited to any one religion, any ethnicity or race, or any one age bracket,” he said. 

The lineup includes platinum-selling Israeli musician David Broza; Israeli-Arab singer and actress Mira Awad; Neshama Carlebach, daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach; Ethiopian-Israeli singer Aviva Desse; Christian gospel singer Ericson Alexander Molano and others. All proceeds will benefit Ariela U.S., which advocates for Israeli youth of Ethiopian origin. Tickets are $10-$36.

Additional speakers, community leaders and performers are slated to appear, including actor-comedian Larry Miller, Sinai Temple Rabbis David Wolpe and Nicole Guzik, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel, African-American civil rights leader the Rev. Cecil Murray and, of course, Taubman.

The Sinai Temple Israel Center, an Israel-awareness program and resource center, is presenting and funding the event produced by Craig N’ Co, Taubman’s independent label/production company. 

The inaugural “Unity” concert was held in 2010 and coincided with Israel’s Independence Day. Although this time the concert falls later in the year, Guzik emphasized a strong connection to Israel, saying it shows the power of “unity between religions and ethnicities, but the core foundation of the concert, and that was same mission two years ago, is unified support for Israel.”

Prior to 2010, the event had several names, including “Let My People Sing” and “Faith Jam.” The events date back as much as 10 years and have been held in churches, synagogues and even once at an Islamic cultural center. Sinai Temple became an exclusive partner in 2010, rebranding the event as a “Unity” concert.

This year’s concert theme, around which the evening will be structured, is “alone we are strong, together we are stronger,” Taubman said. Instead of a headliner who plays longest, each artist will perform two songs, and, for at least one of them, is required to collaborate with another artist from another walk of life.

Mira Awad

Broza will perform one song with BODYTRAFFIC, a Los Angeles-based contemporary dance company. Co-founded by Tina Finkelman Berkett, a congregant at Sinai, the dance company helped launch this year’s season of the Los Angeles Philharmonic with a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall last September.

Broza and Awad will perform together, as well. The daughter of an Arab physician father and a Bulgarian mother, Awad, who is an Israeli citizen, garnered international attention — both positive and negative — when she and Israeli-Jewish singer Noa performed as a duo representing Israel at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest.

Additionally, Neshama Carlebach, a star in the world of Jewish music, will perform with the choir of Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal (COR-AME). Murray, the John R. Tansey chair of Christian Ethics in the School of Religion at the University of Southern California and his protégée, the Rev. Mark Whitlock of COR-AME, also will appear, offering words of inspiration.

Another collaboration will bring together the special-needs children’s choir from Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services and the gospel LIFE Choir, which has performed with such greats as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and others.  

The event demonstrates the ongoing collaboration between Taubman and Wolpe. Together they created Friday Night Live, a monthly musical Shabbat service at Sinai that has been drawing large crowds for more than 14 years. 

Taubman’s experimentation with the “Unity” concert, of bringing together Jewish and Muslim voices, caused a minor backlash following the 2010 concert, when a performer’s chanting of “Allahu Akbar” upset some attendees. The performer chanted in Arabic, alongside a cantor chanting in Hebrew and a Christian woman chanting a psalm.

Soon after the concert, one of the attendees wrote a letter saying that he was offended by the Arabic chant and that it did not belong in a celebration of Israel. The letter found its way onto the Web site of a blogger in the Pico-Robertson Jewish community and circulated via e-mail.

Taubman, who scripted the chant into the 2010 performance, has cut “Allahu Akbar” from this year’s program, out of sensitivity to the feelings of as many people as possible, he said.

Controversy aside, approximately 1,000 tickets had been sold to this year’s concert as of Nov. 2. 

As a way to encourage attendance by a multifaith audience, Taubman has given away approximately 150 tickets to leaders of different faith communities, including Whitlock, who is bringing people from his church, Irvine’s COR-AME. The First African Methodist Episcopal Church and Latino artist Molano will also be bringing people to join the crowd.

In order to raise funds, Ariela U.S. is selling VIP tickets to its benefactors at a higher cost. Additionally, community organizations and synagogues can purchase higher-cost tickets, which buys them a table at the event to promote their programs, and two tickets.

Taubman said interfaith events show how far the Jewish community has come, recalling how, approximately 10 years ago, it was radical for a Conservative synagogue to come together with an Orthodox synagogue. This “is the next step,” he said.

“Not that we all have to be the same,” he added. “I don’t expect Orthodox to become liberal or a liberal Reform Jew to become Conservative — that’s not the agenda. But I do see the value of collaborating and coming together and sharing what it is we all have in common.”

“Unity in Concert” takes place at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles on Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the event, visit or call (818) 760-1077.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers heat up the Holyland

The Red Hot Chili Peppers made their first visit to Israel on Sept. 10, but the band member who stole the show wasn’t even onstage. Hillel Slovak – the group’s Israeli-American guitarist and co-founder – died tragically of a heroin overdose in 1988, but his presence was felt throughout every moment of the raucous performance in Tel Aviv.

“Hillel had his own brand of Israeli funk,” Flea, the band’s gap-toothed, perpetually bare-chested bassist told the crowd of 50,000 at Yarkon Park. “To come here tonight, and to think of him, is truly a dream. We’ll never forget this night as long as we live.”

Slovak was born in Haifa in 1962 to a Polish mother and Yugoslavian father, both Holocaust survivors. Five years later, the family emigrated to the United States – first to the New York borough of Queens, then the Fairfax area of Los Angeles. Slovak first picked up an electric guitar after receiving the instrument as a bar mitzvah gift.

The teenager soon became a virtuoso – the Chili Peppers would base many of their early songs around Slovak’s hard-driving riffs – and in 1983 founded the now-legendary band with high school friends Flea (aka Michael Balzary), singer Anthony Kiedis and drummer Jack Irons.

With the exception of Irons, all of the band members struggled with drug abuse – including heroin, LSD, cocaine and methamphetamines – but only Slovak would pay the ultimate price. The shock of the guitarist’s death led Irons to leave the group, which ultimately replaced him with its present drummer Chad Smith.

Slovak is interred in Mount Sinai cemetery in the Hollywood Hills. In April of this year, he was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the rest of the group – his brother James accepting the honor on his behalf.

During the performance, the Chili Peppers and their fans paid tribute to the guitarist. “Hillel, we love you” flashed across the giant onstage screens as fans wielding the signs were caught on camera. As he launched into the 1999 hit “Around the World,” Keidis dedicated the song to Slovak’s hometown: “This jam is for Haifa!”

“They told a story about how in the band’s early days, Hillel visited Israel and came back so invigorated,” said Scott Piro, a public relations professional from Philadelphia who immigrated to Israel three years ago. “They went on and on about how amazing his trip was, and how since then they had all wanted to come to Israel.”

Despite attempts to dissuade the band from performing in Israel and calling for boycotts of the Jewish state, the Chili Peppers were not deterred. In fact, they have a YouTube video announcing their Tel Aviv stop. Flea gushed, “We’ve always had a great love for Israel… We are so excited to go there.”

Israel was the last stop on their European tour. On the day of their arrival to the Holy Land, Flea posted “Yay!!” on his Facebook page and their fun began. Traveling the country they took time to float in the Dead Sea and to visit the Western Wall.

“They were also so appreciative,” said Piro, 42. “They said so many times how thankful they were that we were there. They must have thanked the crowd at least ten times.”

The performance kicked off with “Monarchy of Roses,” the opening track from the band’s last studio album “I’m With You.” Fan favorites were the drug-addiction lament “Under the Bridge” and “Californication,” the title track from the five-times-platinum 1999 album of the same name. On both, thousands of exhilirated fans – some under 10 years old  – sang along to every word. The encore concluded with a boisterous rendition of “Give It Away,” the pounding 1991 single that gave the group its first number-one hit.

Slovak is not the only Jewish musician to have earned a spot with the Chili Peppers. Irons and former guitarist Arik Marshall (both L.A. natives) are also Jewish, as is their current guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer – a distant relative of Leon Klinghoffer, the 69-year-old wheelchair-bound passenger murdered in the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.

For Flea and Kiedis – the two founding members still with the group – Slovak’s memory seems to have left them with an undeniable affinity for his homeland, making their performance a homecoming of sorts.

“Good night, Tel Aviv,” Kiedis told the enraptured crowd before exiting the stage. “We love you! And your families, too!”

Karen Springer is a Los Angeles-based writer, and a former speechwriter for Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, as well as a former editor at OLAM Magazine.

Oren Kessler is a Tel Aviv-based freelance journalist, formerly with Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.

Summer sneaks calendar


The latest attraction by the producers of the King Tut exhibition makes its only West Coast appearance at the California Science Center. Unlocking the myth of the last queen of Egypt, “Cleopatra: The Exhibition” features the largest collection of Cleopatra-era artifacts from Egypt ever assembled in the United States. Advance ticket purchase recommended. Fri. Through Dec. 31. Daily: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $19.75 (adults), $16.75 (seniors, students and youth, 13-17), $12.75 (children, 4-12). California Science Center, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 724-3623.

Providing a comprehensive overview of land art, which uses the earth as a medium, “Ends of the Earth” is the first large-scale, historical-thematic exhibition to deal broadly with land art. The exhibition highlights the works of more than 80 artists, including Israeli sculptor Yitzhak Danziger’s “The Rehabilitation of Nesher Quarry,” Superstudio’s “Cube of Forest on the Golden Gate” and Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty.” Fri. Through Sept. 3. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Fri.), 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Sat., Sun.), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Mon.), 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Thurs.). Museum admission: $12 (general), $7 (seniors and students), free (children, 12 and under). Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 626-6222.


This annual celebration of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” includes dramatic readings of the book’s “Aeolus” chapter by professional actors, live music by Irish band the Sweet Set and a Guinness happy hour. Taking place on the same date as Joyce’s novel, the event takes its name from the book’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, who was born a Jew. Sat. 4-10 p.m. Free. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.


American Jewish University’s new art exhibition expresses the possibilities inherent in art when the language of paint is not literal. Taking its title from Merriam Webster’s definition, “Abstract” features the works of Renée Amitai, Miriam Ancis, Margaret Gallegos and Joan Tucker, which highlight nature, family, randomness and other ideas well suited for abstraction. Meet the artists during a reception on June 24, 3-5 p.m. Mon. Through Aug. 26. Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Free. American Jewish University, Platt and Borstein Galleries, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777, ext. 201.


Broad, the founder of SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home and a philanthropist who heads foundations holding more than $2 billion in assets, appears in conversation with television icon Larry King to discuss his new book, “The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking.” Broad, who funds scientific research and education reforms, has built some of the great contemporary art museums. Tonight, he shares how being “unreasonable” led him to extraordinary success. Tickets include a champagne reception and a signed copy of Broad’s book. Thu. 6:30 p.m. $50. The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 434-3200.


Folk performer Julie Silver, Broadway stars Amick and Cassie Byram, tenor Ilan Davidson, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony under the direction of Noreen Green and others perform at this interfaith concert, which raises funds for Jewish World Watch. The event will also feature celebrity guest appearances by Ed Asner, Michael Strahan and Denzel Whitaker. Sat. 8 p.m. $36-$180. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (323) 319-4849.


Fanilows rejoice! The pop singer-songwriter behind the hits “Mandy,” “Copacabana,” “Looks Like We Made It,” “I Write the Songs,” “Can’t Smile” and more performs at the Bowl. Surviving the constant changes of the music biz, he remains a strong force in the world of adult contemporary. Tonight, Manilow aims to please during this holiday spectacular. The program also features fireworks, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Sarah Hicks. Mon. Through July 4. 7:30 p.m. $13-$220. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000.


The Getty retrospective showcases the Viennese master’s fascination with the human figure. Featuring more than 100 drawings by the artist, including some never exhibited before in North America, “The Magic of Line” traces Klimt’s evolution from early academic realism and historical subjects in the 1880s to his celebrated modernist icons that broke new ground in early 20th century. Tue. Through Sept. 23. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tue.-Thu., Sun.), 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Fri. through Sept. 21; Sat.). Free. Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.


The Grammy-nominated singer performs in support of his upcoming album, “Spark Seeker,” produced by Kool Kojak and recorded in Los Angeles, New York and Israel. New songs focus on spirit and body, including “I Believe in Love,” which mixes ancient traditional sounds with futuristic beats, and the soulful “Sunshine.” New Zealand band Katchafire opens. Sun. 7 p.m. $20-$50. Pacific Amphitheatre, 100 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. (714) 708-1870.


Grab your clarinet, trombone, trumpet, guitar or accordion and channel the folk rhythms of Eastern Europe. Part of “J.A.M. (Jazz and Motivated) Sessions” at the Ford, today’s event features professional klezmer musicians teaching participants how to play klezmer songs on their own instruments. Afterwards, everyone comes together to jam. Mon. 7 p.m. Free. Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.


The Grammy-winning violinist performs Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto.” Bassist Edgar Meyer premiers his newest work tonight, “Double Concerto,” with Bell. The program also features renditions of German composer Carl Maria Von Weber’s “Der Freischütz Overture” and “Oberon Overture” by the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by French conductor Ludovic Morlot. Tue. Also Thu., July 19. 8 p.m. $1-$133. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000.


The Grammy-nominated pop singer and former “American Idol” finalist, known for his flamboyant, theatrical and androgynous style, performs the single “Better Than I Know Myself” and other cuts from his new album, “Trespassing.” Thu. 7:45 p.m. $29.50-$59.50. Pacific Amphitheatre, 100 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. (714) 708-1870.


The Israeli-American pianist performs Johannes Brahms’ “Piano Concerto No. 2.” Born in the Soviet Union and trained at Julliard, Bronfman immigrated to Israel in 1973 and won a Grammy in 1997 for his recording of three piano concertos by Hungarian composer Bartok. Tonight, he shows off his worldly and learned chops. The program also features the Los Angeles Philharmonic with conductor Lionel Bringuier. A rendition of Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” rounds out the evening. Tue. 8 p.m. $1-$133. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000.

Planned Wagner concert stopped at Tel Aviv U

Tel Aviv University put a stop to a planned concert of music by German composer Richard Wagner.

In a letter denying the request to hold the concert in a campus auditorium, the university said that Yonatan Livni, founder of the Israel Wagner Society, concealed the organization’s name and its desire to play Wagner when he requested last week to rent the auditorium, Haaretz reported Monday.

Wagner’s music traditionally has been boycotted in Israel. The forerunner to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra stopped performing his music in 1938 following Kristallnacht.

Wagner, who reportedly held anti-Semitic views, was Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer.

Catching up with Matisyahu (and his beard)

Like many artists, Matisyahu resists personal praise. Instead, the 32-year-old singer saves it for others — and his music. He described Youssoupha Sidibe, a musician he performs with, as “a very spiritual being … a very incredible musician,” and said their music was “next level” in a Tweet that linked to a recording of their recent jam.

In his shows, the musicians’ improvisational collaboration often features impromptu chanting over loose electric guitar. But Matisyahu’s forthcoming studio album, “Spark Seeker,” which will come out this summer, will be a slick effort, emphasizing studio wizardry over live spontaneity. 

“The music I’m going to be releasing, the record that is coming up, is a totally different feel,” Matisyahu said during an interview last week in advance of his appearance at American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus on March 10. The new album follows “Light,” his 2009 release that featured what may be his best-known track, “One Day.”

Fans criticized “Light” for relying too much on hip-hop beats. Asked if he thought the critiques were fair, Matisyahu gave an unexpected reply.

“To me, ‘beat-heavy’ is a compliment,” he said. So while he wasn’t specific about the sound of the next album, one assumes it will continue the departure from the reggae sound of “Shake Off the Dust … Arise” (2004) and “Youth” (2006), his first two albums.

Despite talk about the novelty of Matisyahu in the mainstream music scene — and how different he is from the typical Jew — he’s extremely personable, even normal, in conversation. At times, he’s confident. Other times, he’s insecure. His album “Live at Stubbs” is beloved, but, he said, “I cringe when I listen to a lot of that record.”

Like any other celebrity whose actions and statements are scrutinized, Matisyahu doesn’t hide his frustration with the media. Raised as a Reconstructionist Jew on the East Coast, he dropped out of high school and got involved with drugs before learning about Orthodox Judaism on a trip to Israel. In his mid-20s, he exploded on the music scene as a Chasidic beat-boxing, reggae-singing superhero. He performed wearing a long beard and peyos, then shed the Orthodox garb for street clothes. While the change of wardrobe led people to question the sincerity of his observance, nothing came close to his decision last December to shave off both his beard and peyos. The move brought on a firestorm of anger, admiration and also confusion from fans, journalists and bloggers. And it caused him to be portrayed in the media in off-putting ways, he said.

“It’s so ridiculous to me, the whole thing,” Matisyahu said on the phone from Lake Tahoe, where he performed on Feb. 22. In interviews after he shaved, he explained that he’d been afraid to shave. Some had told him that a beard attracts God’s blessings and that by cutting his beard, he would be cutting off those blessings. If the fear sounds strange, consider that Orthodox Judaism gave the singer his identity and sense of self.

Once he built up the courage to shave, he came to believe that it would be his worthy behavior, not his beard, that will bring him God’s blessings.

“I went through a lot of changes and a lot of growth,” he said. “A lot of that has been … internal;  it’s been very much kind of like an inner thing.”

The beard, the evolving sound of his music — if nothing else, the last decade with Matisyahu has been interesting. No one denies that he’s a powerhouse live act.

“King Without a Crown” and “Jerusalem” are now eight years old, but the songs still enrapture audiences at his shows.

Visit for more information on the March 10 performance.

Apres le beard: Matisyahu takes the stage in Boulder

When Matisyahu, the 32-year-old Chasidic reggae superstar, appeared onstage for the first time since shaving his trademark beard, no one in the audience at the Boulder Theater seemed surprised.

The news of his shaving had been widely discussed since the star tweeted a photo of himself, along with a brief explanation for his cosmetic and philosophical changes. Though he was now missing the aesthetic hallmarks of Chasidic Jewry, he still wore a yarmulke—a large, black-knitted version—and his tzitzit hung out from under his plain white T-shirt. He also wore baggy khaki pants that sagged off of his slim, vegan-fed frame, a long black jacket and dark sunglasses.

Without the camouflage of his beard and peyes, his face was noticeably angular, gaunt even. His features looked delicate and feminine under the multicolor stage lighting. 

The sold-out crowd didn’t seem to care, roaring with approval as he stood in front of the mike.

Yet some concert-goers expressed concern before the start of the show as to the viability of Matisyahu’s career without his signature look.

“I think it’s the beginning of the end of Matisyahu,” said Donny Basch, who was attending the Dec. 15 show with his wife. “If you’re going to see KISS and Gene Simmons comes out without makeup, I’d be really pissed.”

Others were more interested to see if any changes would result from his altered appearance.

“I’m curious to see how his concert today compares to the show in Philly,” said one woman, referring to a show she had attended several years prior that had a mix of Modern Orthodox and secular folks in the audience. “I thought it was a fun show, but mostly due to the mystique of a Chasid rapping and doing reggae.”

“I’m very interested in him and what his shift is philosophically,” Deborah Skovrom, a middle-aged woman, said of the singer’s new look and the deeper changes it might signify. “It’s a major shift in how he wants to be perceived.”

Yet she expected no changes in what perhaps matters most to fans—his music.

“His music and message is still right on,” Skovrom said.

Story continues after the jump.

Calvin Carter spoke even more emphatically in defense of Matisyahu’s choice to shave off his beard.

“He’s got the right to do that without people saying he gave up his faith,” Carter said. To him, the music is the point—“as long as the brother is spreading good cheer and good music.”

Carter was one of several stereotypical reggae fans in attendance—guys with long dreads and colorful knit Rasta hats. Most of the crowd, however, ranged in age from high schoolers to baby boomers and were white. Many seemed to have stepped off the pages of a J. Crew catalog.

Newly shorn and wearing his Gap-esque clothing, Matisyahu looked more like his fans than he ever has before. He danced jerkily across the stage. Many in the audience followed suit, yet few reached down to pick up their fallen yarmulkes as the singer did several times throughout the night.

Addressing the audience briefly after a few songs, Matisyahu spoke in unaccented American English without any hint of the patois he adopts when he busts into reggae and dancehall, and none of the “oys” and Ashkenazi pronunciations he sprinkles throughout his songs—especially those that are extra heavy on Jewish and messianic themes. In those brief moments he was simply Matt Miller.

And some people seem to like it that way.

“I think it’s kind of sexy,” said one Jewish woman of Matisyahu’s new look. “With the beard he looks like every other Chasidic Jew.”

It’s an interesting observation—to Jews, looking like a Chasid makes you look like every other Orthodox Jew. It makes you seem like you’re part of a black-and-white-clad monolith. But on the stage of popular music, the beard—not the neatly shorn scruff favored by Brooklynites but a long, full beard—makes one stand out. Some may even argue that it helped launched Matisyahu’s career.

He covered many of his most popular songs—“Jerusalem” and the seasonally appropriate “Miracle”—yet the evening’s highlight was the final song (before the encore set), “One Day.” The song had been used as the official anthem of the 2010 Winter Olympics due to its utopian message.

During his performance, Matisyahu was joined on stage by more than two dozen teens from the audience. A couple of the girls embraced him, clearly unaware of—or undeterred by—Orthodox Judaism’s prohibition against touching between the sexes. Though he did not brush them off, he seemed to momentarily stiffen. His beard may be gone but his fidelity toward Jewish law remains.

“I’ve seen him several times and this is the best I’ve ever seen him,” said Jonathan Lev, the executive director of the Boulder JCC.

Whether his performance quality had anything to do with his new look is hard to say (especially since this reporter had never seen him live). In the blog post he had penned to accompany the photos, he said, “Sorry folks, all you get is me … no alias.”

For the fans who lined up outside the theater, crowded around the stage and sang along with him, that seemed to be more than enough.

Sold-out concert garners 24,000 Hours of community service pledges

“When the ILC told me they planned to sell 6,000 tickets to this concert, I was skeptical,” Israeli media mogul Haim Saban said onstage at the Israeli Leadership Council’s “Do Something for Someone” community concert on Nov. 20. “I thought it was too tall an order.”

Turns out it wasn’t. The ILC succeeded in selling out the Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk for a concert that headlined Israeli pop star Moshe Peretz and Chasidic reggae singer Matisyahu, and launched the ILC’s newest project, I.L.Care, which aims to get Israelis and Israeli-Americans living in Los Angeles to volunteer regularly.

“I tip my hat to you, ILC,” said Saban, a major donor of the ILC and one of the concert’s main sponsors. “Am Israeli chai!”

Throngs of young Israelis dressed in club attire socialized in the theater’s aisles, and neither the rain nor a ticket fiasco — people waited in long lines to claim tickets that had been misplaced — put a damper on the crowd’s ebullient mood.

It took a couple of hours for the audience to finally settle into their seats, but once there, they sang along enthusiastically to Matisyahu’s “One Day,” lit up the theater with cell phone screens, and roared wildly when Moshe Peretz came on stage — staying on their feet for the duration of his performance. At some point, the ushers gave up trying to keep Israelis from dancing in the aisles and screaming young fans from rushing the stage.

“This is better than Caesarea!” Peretz said from the stage, referring to Israel’s most prestigious concert venue. At the end of his spirited set of popular Israeli hits, Peretz brought Matisyahu back onstage for a rare mash-up of Mizrahi and reggae music that was both spiritual and hip.

Tickets for the event were heavily subsidized — the actual cost of $90 was reduced to $18 or less, as two-for-one specials and other deals were promoted — with the caveat that each ticketholder had to commit to four hours of community service in exchange for the discounted price.

Getting Israelis to promise volunteer hours was a challenge in itself, but the ILC also faced the fact that even the biggest names in Israeli music have traditionally had a hard time filling big venues here. By most accounts, the Gibson is the largest venue at which an Israeli star has performed in recent history.

With help from more than 100 community organizations, the ILC filled the 6,000 seats and secured pledges for 24,000 hours of service, although it remains to be seen whether all the ticketholders will follow through on their commitment.

The message to the concertgoers, reiterated by speakers Saban and ILC board member and I.L.Care chair Shawn Evenhaim, as well as Israeli Consul General David Siegel, was clear: Do something for someone — it’s good for you; it’s good for the community; it’s good for Israel.

As the audience streamed out of the theater, Evenhaim breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“This was a historical night. The Israeli and Jewish communities came together tonight and committed to making a difference in the world.”

Bibi cancels Bieber meeting over reported snub of beleaguered kids

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly has canceled a meeting with pop star Justin Bieber after the singer refused to meet with children from southern Israel.

Netanyahu, who was scheduled to meet Bieber on Wednesday night, a day before his concert in Tel Aviv, invited children living in communities that have been hit by rockets fired from Gaza to join the sit-down. Bieber, however, refused to meet with the children, according to Israel Channel 2, causing Netanyahu to cancel the meeting.

Bieber and his manager reportedly asked for the meeting with Netanyahu.

The teen idol arrived Monday in Israel and is scheduled to tour the country. His itinerary includes visits to Christian sites in the Galilee, the Dead Sea, Masada, Acre and Caesarea. He has complained in tweets on Twitter that the Israeli paparazzi have forced him to hole up in his hotel room.

Meanwhile, some 700 children from southern Israeli communities that have been hit by rockets and missiles from Gaza were given free tickets to the Bieber concert.

The tickets for Thursday’s show in Tel Aviv, as well as transportation, are a gift of The Schusterman Foundation-Israel, The Morningstar Foundation and ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators.

Concert honors Bat Mitzvah

It’s not every Jewish girl whose parents commission a new work by a renowned classical composer for her bat mitzvah, but then Dora Schoenberg’s lineage made a musical tribute all but mandatory.

So when some 800 listeners gathered on April 7 at Sinai Temple for a “Community Celebration Concert,” Dora’s two great-grandfathers, Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl, were there in spirit and song.

A third composer was Samuel Adler, whose work for organ, “From Generation to Generation,” had its world premiere to honor the bat mitzvah and her paternal great-grandfather.

Adler included harmonies from the Viennese master’s fragmentary sketches for a “Jewish Symphony” and spelled out the name DORA through a musical formula too complex for the untutored mind to grasp.

The evening was hosted and sponsored by Dora’s parents, Pamela and E. Randol Schoenberg, with the latter explaining it is a family tradition to mark b’nai mitzvah celebrations with the works of the two musical patriarchs.

The first half of the concert was devoted to Schoenberg, the second half to Zeisl. Both men were born in Vienna and resumed their careers in Los Angeles after escaping Hitler. The program included, in addition to the Adler work, the world premiere performance of Zeisl’s “Psalm 29, God’s Glory in a Thunderstorm.”

Both composers emphasized their Jewish biblical roots after fleeing Europe, and much of the concert expressed both the solemnity and joyousness of a prayer service.

The contrasting moods were conveyed masterfully by the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale under conductor Nick Strimple. Initially, there were 16 choral voices, later expanded to 50, standing on the sanctuary’s bimah, which had been transformed into a concert stage. Iain Farrington, a young British organist, pianist and composer, performed the organ solos.

The impact of the evening was summed up by Rodney Punt, the principal of Arts Pacifica SoCal, who was in the audience and enthused, “What an ear-stretching experience.”

Singer Macy Gray turns to fans on Tel Aviv concert

R&B and soul-singer Macy Gray has asked her fans in a message on her Facebook status whether she should cancel scheduled concerts in Tel Aviv “in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians.”

“I’m booked for 2 shows in TelAviv. I’m getting alot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I wana go. I gotta lotta fans there I dont want to cancel on and I dont know how my NOT going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?” read the status posted Monday night.

The status had more than 1,000 responses by Wednesday evening. Most urged Gray, an R&B and soul singer, to stay away from Israel and thanked her for supporting the Palestinian cause. Others urged Gray to come and see the situation for herself.

Gray is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on Feb. 11 and 12.

Another Facebook page called Macy Gray: Please Cancel Your Show in Israel, established late last year, had 180 likes as of Wednesday night.

Gray performed in Israel in 2008 and 2009. She also performed in Caesarea in 2000.

For top stars like Madonna, Israel gig becoming more common

Madonna managed to sprinkle some of her fairy diva dust on Israel during her recent tour, calling the Jewish state the world’s “energy center,” wrapping herself in the flag on stage and even lighting Shabbat candles with Sara Netanayahu.

Audiences, local promoters and officials are hoping her magic will linger and boost an already emerging trend in which Israel is becoming a draw for big-name artists in relatively large numbers.

“Anytime you have a successful concert or artist of that caliber here, people will take notice,” said Jeremy Hulsh, a concert promoter who also founded Oleh Records, a company that promotes Israeli artists abroad.

“This year was particularly strong and next year looks to be strong, too. There are lots of newcomer promoters willing to take risks because they are seeing great potential,” he said, noting that Israelis are willing to pay top dollar for tickets and thus help the bottom line. “Israelis are both excited and grateful to see any big names coming to Israel.”

September alone is seeing the likes of Madonna, Leonard Cohen, Julio Iglesias, Dinosaur Jr. and Faith No More performing here. Earlier this summer, the Pet Shop Boys played, as did the new pop sensation Lady Gaga.

Madonna played two concerts last week to a total of some 100,000 fans, while Cohen’s performance for 47,000 sold out in 17 hours—faster than his shows anywhere else in the world.

As promoters and agents talk among themselves, word seems to be spreading that Israel can be a lucrative and successful new stop for performers. Logistics and facilities are top rate, fans pay as much as $400 for good seats for a big name and, despite an uncertain security situation, artists realize when they arrive that the country belies its image as a war zone.

In an age where Israelis feel particularly besieged by international criticism amid calls for cultural and other boycotts, the celebrity acts and the glamorous star power they emit feel especially welcome.

“Madonna is the best ambassador for the Jewish people,” gushed Liav Mizrahi, a 31-year-old art teacher from Tel Aviv who saw her first of two concerts here and was still breathless the next day.

Andy David, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said he hoped the message that Israel is a “normal” country was a happy by-product of high-profile acts like Madonna coming to the country.

“We are a normal country where people enjoy music and performers understand there is a market here for their music, he said, adding later that “it’s good business and a good place to come.”

“We are not some crazy corner of the world where everything is upside down,” David said.

Madonna in particular has forged a unique connection with Israel following her involvement with the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles. Although her last performance here was 16 years ago, she has been to Israel several times in recent years on private visits that included the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the graves of mystics in Safed.

Although the average Israeli seems a bit befuddled by the Queen of Pop’s interest in Jewish mysticism, especially the Kabbalah Center’s version—serious Jewish scholars have dismissed it as a flashy and inauthentic New Age perversion—they have embraced her all the same.

Officials also have embraced the celebrity fawning with enthusiasm. Madonna dined with Tzipi Livni, a prime ministerial hopeful and leader of the opposition, at a trendy Tel Aviv restaurant. Last Friday evening the singer met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. Madonna, who reportedly knows some Hebrew, recited the blessing over the Sabbath candles with the first lady.

One major paper featured Madonna’s arrival on its front page, overshadowing news that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been indicted on corruption charges the day before.

In a column in the weekend magazine of the daily Ha’aretz titled “You Really Like Me,” Gideon Levy described the history of Israeli politicians seizing photo ops with stars. A photo spread showed Golda Meir shaking hands with Kirk Douglas, Menachem Begin kissing Elizabeth Taylor’s hand and Shimon Peres visiting Jaffa with Sharon Stone.

“We have always longed for the world’s love, or at least the love of those of its stars who bothered to come here,” a sarcastic Levy wrote.

The occasional big-name music act certainly isn’t new to Israel. Paul McCartney performed last year, and Roger Waters, the late Michael Jackson and Elton John also made their way here over the years.

What is new, industry insiders say, is the volume of such performances, due in part to Israel’s sound track record as a place where fans will pay relatively high prices for tickets.

Performing in Israel involves not only security considerations and the extra insurance necessary to cover them, but the expense of flying in equipment, crew and backup musicians from Europe, as most performers include Israel as part of their larger European tours.

“It’s easier now because promoters are not afraid of Israel and the insurance companies are covering the risks of such shows,” said Perla Mitrani, a project manager for, a site that features Israeli concert dates. “Israel is now becoming a market like anywhere else, a normal stop on people’s tours. The question is how much people are ready to pay for this or that performer.”

According to Avisar Savir, a promoter who is arranging an upcoming concert here of the Chasidic reggae musician Matisyahu, the world economic crisis also has provided an opportunity for Israel.

“People need to open new markets,” he said, “and Israel is seen as a legitimate place to come in a way it wasn’t before.”

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Oct. 25-31: Jerusalem Symphony, Der Golem, Das Jazz, El Vote


A German expressionist film miraculously melds a Halloween mood with a talmudic rabbi and the Prague ghetto. “Der Golem: Wie Er in die Welt Kam” (“The Golem: How He Came Into the World”) tells the legend of a clay figurine created by a rabbi to save the Jewish people of the Prague ghetto, who suffered from the ” target=”_blank”>

Jewish violinist Ilia Korol will make his debut as guest concertmaster at the opening of the new season for “Musica Angelica,” California’s premier baroque ensemble. Internationally acclaimed music director Martin Haselblock will lead the orchestra through performances of Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann and the U.S. premiere of Graun’s “Double Concerto.” Recording virtuoso Marion Verbruggen and gambist Vittorio Ghielmi will round out the lineup of outstanding soloists. Audience members are also invited to attend a pre-concert lecture, which begins 40 minutes prior to the first performance. Sat. 8 p.m. $39-$55 (general); $15 (students). Zipper Concert Hall, Colburn School of Performing Arts, 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Also, Sun., Oct. 26, 4 p.m. Same prices. Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 458-4504. ” target=”_blank”>


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As part of a special tribute dedicated to musicians affected by the Holocaust, Da Camera Society is bringing the Berlin-based Jacques Thibaud Trio to Los Angeles to play the rarely heard works of Jewish composers: Paul Ben Haim, Erwin Schulhoff, Gideon Klein and Leon Levitch. The New York Times has hailed the trio ” target=”_blank”>

Get ready for some relief from the seriousness of the political debates. The Capitol Steps — the comedy troupe made up of former congressional staffers — are back by popular demand, skewering the politicians who once employed them. Republican? Democrat? It doesn’t matter. No one is safe from their caustic yet hilarious barbs. Sun. 4 p.m. $45. American Jewish University, Brandeis-Bardin Campus, 1101 Peppertree Lane, Brandeis. (310) 440-1246. ” target=”_blank”>

Friends of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl are in the midst of an annual three-week concert tour. Pearl, who was also a musician, believed in the power of music to bring people together. “FODfest” aims to ensure Pearl’s vision lives on by inviting people from all walks of life to partake in the free concert series. Angelenos get their chance to participate when the peace-spreading duo SONiA & disappear fear, singer-songwriter Todd Mack, indie star Lauren Adams, Mexican artist Judith de los Santos and many others hit the stage. Sun. 8 p.m. Free. Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 461-2040. ” target=”_blank”>

UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies is pondering Sephardic life in the Balkans. In conjunction with an exhibit containing first-hand accounts of Balkan Sephardim (thanks to the work of, an oral history project combining pictures and stories), “Images of a Lost World” features a symposium discussing this unique historic experience, followed by the opening reception of the multimedia exhibit. Sun. 2-4 p.m. (symposium). Free. UCLA, 314 Royce Hall. 5-7 p.m. (exhibit opening). Free. UCLA Hillel, Rose and David Dortort Gallery, 574 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. (310) 825-5387. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>meant to explore the American Jewish Diaspora. They will perform Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” suite, along with Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 and Copland’s Symphony No. 3. Violin soloist Robert McDuffie has made a name for himself and earned a Grammy nomination along the way. Tue. 8 p.m. $34-$90. UCLA Live, Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-4401. ” target=”_blank”> Refugee camp open Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, Santa Monica Pier, Parking Lot 1 North. (800) 490-0773. ” target=”_blank”>


It’s a scary thought, but it’s true: there are more than 3 million active “swingers” living in the United States (and by swingers, we don’t mean Vince Vaughn). These are ordinary Americans, living everywhere from Mahwah, N.J., to Pleasanton, Calif., and they like to expand their sexual horizons by swapping partners now and then. Naomi Harris, a photojournalist who has published work in ” target=”_blank”>



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” target=”_self”>Rabbi David Wolpe as part of the grand finale to this year’s San Diego Jewish Book Fair. The authors of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and “Why Faith Matters” (respectively) will no doubt have plenty to say to one another, but there is much, much more at this year’s fest that is not to be missed: NBC News’ Tel Aviv bureau chief Martin Fletcher, award-winning ” target=”_blank”>


We think you should be completely politicked out by Nov. 4, and so do leading Democrat and Republican activists in Los Angeles., evidenced by their citywide “Jewish Vote Forums” taking place almost every other night at a different synagogue. McCain-Obama, Larry Greenfield-Andrew Lachman. Can’t we all just get along? Maybe that’s the point. Here are three options worth a hiatus from CNN: Shaarey Zedek Synagogue is hosting the two aforementioned gentlemen with Paul Kujawsky moderating. Sun., Oct. 26. 7 p.m. Free. 12800 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 763-0560.; and Valley Beth Shalom is hosting Greenfield and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) with Journal editor-in-chief Rob Eshman serving as moderator. Thu., Oct. 30. 7:30 p.m. Free. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-0752.

Paul McCartney is ‘shocked but not intimidated’ by jihadi threats re Israel concert [VIDEO]

LONDON (JTA)—Suicide bombers will target Paul McCartney unless he cancels his concert in Tel Aviv, a Muslim cleric said.

Omar Bakri said the ex-Beatle’s decision to perform in Israel “is creating more enemies than friends,” London’s Sunday Express reported.

“If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there,” Bakri said. “The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Bakri made the comments on his weekly Internet broadcast from his home-in-exile in Lebanon after being banned from returning to Britain, according to the Express.

McCartney is scheduled to perform for thousands of Israelis in Hayarkon Park on Sept. 25 as part of a world tour.

Several pro-Palestinian and political groups have asked McCartney to cancel his show, but he has refused.

From The Express . . .

Sunday September 14,2008
Dennis Rice
SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

In an interview with Israeli media yesterday he said: “I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

Sir Paul, 65, should have gone to Israel with the Beatles in 1965 but they were barred by the Jewish nation’s government over fears they would corrupt young people.

Yesterday a number of websites described him as an infidel and suggested he was going to Israel only because of the reported £2.3m fee for the one-off concert.

A message posted on one website said: “Shame on you Paul McCartney for day trippin’ to apartheid Israel” and vowed never to buy his music again.

Bakri, who made his weekly internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, where he has lived in exile since being banned from returning to Britain, said Sir Paul was “making more enemies than friends”.

Syrian-born Bakri, 48, went on: “I heard today that the pop star Paul McCartney is playing as a part of the celebrations.

“If you speak about the holocaust and its authenticity never being proved historically in the way the Jewish community portray it, people will arrest you. People will you say you should not speak like this. Yet they go and celebrate the anniversary of 60 years of what?

“Instead of supporting the people of Palestine in their suffering, McCartney is celebrating the atrocities of the occupiers. The one who is under occupation is supposed to be getting the help.

“And so I believe for Paul McCartney, what he is doing really is creating more enemies than friends.”

Explaining his comments, Bakri told the Sunday Express: “Our enemy’s friend is our enemy.

“Thus Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call ‘sacrifice’ operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression.

“If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Lawyer Anjem Choudary, who last week chaired a meeting in London at which extremists claimed the next 9/11-style atrocity would be in Britain, said Sir Paul had allowed himself to become a propaganda tool for Israel.

He added: “Muslims have every right to be angry at Paul McCartney. How would the world react if he wanted to have a
concert in occupied Kashmir?

“They would not allow it to happen but because it is Israel he can play. A country which, as the celebration indicates did not exist 60 years ago, only exists thanks to stealing and occupying another country’s lands.” Yesterday the comments drew condemnation from Palestinian sources and outsiders.

Omar Barghouti, of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as “deplorable”.

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former Shadow Security Minister, said: “One could dismiss Bakri as a ranting extremist but history has shown that he has an ability to twist minds, so his comments should not be underestimated.

“If Sir Paul McCartney wants to play at the 60th anniversary then it is the worst form of illiberalism for Omar Bakri to restrict the artist’s freedom in this way.”

A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on the threat, saying: “Paul’s Friendship First concert is about his music. Paul’s is a message of peace.”

Tickets for the concert range from £70 to £230.

Last night Sir Paul performed his first concert in the Ukraine, playing to tens of thousands in the capital Kiev.

Fan video welcomes Sir Paul to Israel



Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks for September 13-18: When Ladino met klezmer, Torah Slam, a lawerlyy


The City of Los Angeles and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sponsor an annual emergency preparedness fair as part of the Great Southern California ShakeOut: Are You Prepared? The fair seeks to educate Angelenos on the importance of being prepared for disasters, natural or manmade, such as earthquakes and riots. Activities will include live safety demonstrations, disaster preparedness exhibits and interactive programming for children. Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Free. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Also, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 (different locations). (213) 978-2222. ” target=”_blank”>

” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = left border = 0>is perhaps nothing he enjoys more than writing about religion. Today, Kirsch will discuss his latest book, “The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God,” which explores persecution and violence in the name of righteousness. Sat. 2 p.m. Free. Barnes & Noble, 1201 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. (310) 260-9110. ” target=”_blank”>

We live in a city where summer continues well into December and so do the pool parties, picnics and barbecues that the rest of the country bid farewell to after Labor Day. Taking advantage of our unique environs, Jewish Singles Meeting Place, for singles in their 40s and 50s, is inviting you to a Gourmet Western BBQ Party at a home in Sylmar. Be sure to R.S.V.P. before noon on the day of the event. Sat. 8 p.m. $12. Sylmar. (818) 750-0095.


In addition to facing paralyzing fear, families of children with cancer have to deal with financial hardships, emotional and mental strain and the difficulty of keeping a family intact. Larger Than Life offers aid to families in Israel who are struggling through just such a crisis. Larger Than Life’s annual gala in Los Angeles ” target=”_blank”>

Learn about klezmer and Ladino music, enjoy brunch and receive a free pass to the Autry National Center, all at the “Klezmer-Ladino Convergence.” ” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = right>, which was founded by singer, scholar and ” target=”_blank”>

The Von der Ahe Library at Loyola Marimount University is hosting a five-part reading and discussion series. In “Let’s Talk About It: Jewish Literature, Identity and Imagination,” theology professor Saba Soomekh, who has written several essays about California’s Persian Jewish community, will lead the book-based discussions on the theme “Neighbors: The World Next Door.” Books discussed will include “Journey to the Millennium” by A.B. Yehoshua, “Red Cavalry” by Isaac Babel and “Mona in the Promised Land” by Jen Gish. Sun. 2 p.m. Through Dec. 7. Free. Collins Faculty Center at Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 338-4584. ” target=”_blank”>

The man known as the “Yiddish Indiana Jones,” Yale Strom, and his band Hot Pstromi, will ensure that “Angels & Dybbuks: The First L.A. Klez Fest” is an event to remember. Strom delves into all that is Yiddish, whether it’s music, books, film, theater or photography. Strom will also offer workshops on klezmer instruments and history. Sun. Events begin at noon. $20-$80. McCabe’s Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 828-4497.


A pudgy toddler whose cheeks are delightfully doughy may be cute, but a plump preteen could turn into an obese adult with myriad health problems. Educate yourself about the dangers of pediatric obesity at the Children’s Health Forum, which is sponsored by the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Professor Ronald Nagel, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and professor Francis Mimouni, chair of the department of pediatrics, will speak. Kosher lunch will be served. Mon. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $50 (requested donation). Luxe Hotel, 11461 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 229-0915.


Everyone is invited to Los Angeles’ first cross-denominational public Torah study. With the High Holy Days coming up, The Journal decided to get everybody together for a “Torah Slam,” ” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = right>a knock-your-socks-off Torah study with five great rabbis: Elazar Muskin (Orthodox), Ed Feinstein (Conservative), Mordecai Finley (Reform/Chasidic), Haim


Jordan Elgrably’s resume reveals that he’s had a prolific career as a Sephardic writer and activist. Tonight he speaks about his personal journey as an American with roots in multicultural Morocco in “The Loquat Tree, or the Art of Being an Arab Jew.” His audiovisual presentation is sure to be moving, funny and insightful. Wed. 6 p.m. Free. Los Angeles Public Library, Robertson Branch, 1719 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 657-5511. ” target=”_blank”>


Good cause. Unlimited alcohol. Cold, hard cash prizes. So, come get some chips at the fifth annual No-Limit Texas Hold-‘Em Poker Event benefiting Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles’ mentoring programs, which help children reach for their dreams. Thu. 6:30 p.m. (lessons), 7:30 p.m. (tournament). $200 (advance), $230 (door). Hollywood Park Casino, 3883 West Century Blvd., Second Floor, Inglewood. (323) 456-1159. ” target=”_blank”>

Tikkun olam is a monumental Jewish value. Jewish teens can get involved with the Friendship Circle, an organization that supports children and young adults with special needs. The Friendship Circle Teen Volunteer Open House offers a chance to learn about the organization’s many volunteer opportunities. Thu. 8 p.m. Free. Friendship Circle, 9581 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-3252.