Craving Silence


My father passed away this morning.

As I grieve quietly on an Air Canada nonstop to Montreal, there’s a part of me that can’t help but dread the next seven days. My parents’ house will be inundated with visitors, many of whom will bend over backward trying to make me and my family feel better.

I don’t begrudge them. I’d do the same thing. In fact, eight months ago when my father’s identical twin brother passed away, I found myself caught up in that familiar whirlwind of chatty sympathy that often visits the solemn days of shiva.

Now I will be on the other side. How will I react? What will I say when well-intentioned friends and relatives tell me things like, “He had a good life,” “At least he didn’t suffer” or “Be strong, brother”?

To tell you the truth, I don’t feel like being strong. I feel like being really weak and really nonchatty. I feel like crying quietly with my immediate family, and meditating on my father’s life. I feel like silence.

At the same time, though, I am conflicted. I have seen how noisy, boisterous shivas can serve to bring friends and families closer together. We love to talk. We need to talk, even when there is nothing to say. Talking validates the moment and

numbs our pain. It’s the comfort food of shiva.

Silence is scary. It just sits there like a heavy boulder. It’s stressful. It feels unproductive, like nothing is happening. It’s hard to see how silence can bring us closer, or make someone feel better.

On the surface, that makes perfect sense. How can silence help us catch up with the lives of distant relatives we haven’t seen in years? How can it help us bond and reconnect through humor and wit? And most of all, how can it help us reminisce on the life of the person we are mourning?

No, silence cannot do these things. So why do I still crave it? Why am I looking for a quiet hole to crawl into, a vacuum to settle in? Could it be that I desperately want to get close to my father at this very moment, and that only silence can connect me to him in that peaceful, quiet place where he is right now? Could it be that the deepest way to honor the dead is through the raw pain of silence?

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that my father’s shiva will be anything but silent. And I know that I will politely indulge all the visitors’ needs to pay their respects with words, words and more words. I am ready for that. I am actually pretty good at it. I’m used to having a big smile on my face, and giving things a positive spin. It makes for a happier life. It’s who I am.

But now that I am feeling so incredibly sad, I just don’t feel like being me. I just feel like crying and being alone with my father.

Maybe I will have to wait until everyone goes home and I go to bed, me and my silence, me and my father.

David Suissa is founder and editor of OLAM Magazine, and founder of Jews for Truth Now.

7 Days in the Arts


28Saturday

Washington D.C.-based political comedy troupe The Capitol Steps “put the mock in democracy” with 20 albums worth of satirical songs, from the mid-’80s fun of “We Arm the World” to their most recent, “It’s Not Over ‘Til the First Lady Sings.” The group performs more than 500 shows a year across the country, and now, at the height of the current political season, The Steps take the stage with their songs and skits at the Alpert JCC in Long Beach. $45/$55. 8 p.m. 3801 E. Willow Street, Long Beach. For reservations or more information, call (562) 426-7601.

29Sunday

“Kastner’s Trial” tells the story of Dr. Rudolf Kastner, a Hungarian Jewish leader who negotiated directly with the Nazis to save Jewish lives. Denounced after WWII as a collaborator, he was assassinated in 1957. The 1994 Israeli film examines the complicated question of Kastner’s guilt or innocence as a man who “sold his soul to the devil” in order to save lives. Screenwriter Motti Lerner will answer questions after the screening, which is sponsored in conjunction with the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. 7 p.m. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations, call (310) 772-2528.

Also today, at A Shenere Velt Gallery, the feminist art collective Mother Art presents “Domestic Stories,” a literary tea. Carolyn Allport will read from her meditation on motherhood, “Accident! A Tale of Two Sons, or How Life Imitates Defensive Driving.” Poets Julia Stein, Cherry Jean Vasconcellos and Ellyn Maybe are also featured. 2 p.m. A Shenere Velt Gallery at the Workmen’s Circle, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 552-2007.

30Monday

In the absurdist Faustian musical comedy “Roscoe Spitzer Is Afraid of Dying,” the eponymous struggling folk singer, plagued with self-doubt, receives an invitation from a mysterious company. Hoping for a motivational push, he goes along, with danger and music following in his wake. $5. 8 p.m. Al’s Bar and National Theatre, 303 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles. For more information, call (213) 626-7213.

31Tuesday

Accomplished sculptor and former surgeon Sy Rosenwasser’s deft hands create forms both lifelike and abstract. Examples of both are on display in Rosenwasser’s latest exhibit, “Boundaries.” The 15 bronze sculptures in the exhibit are grouped into three related categories: the Family group includes more representational pieces, while the Joy series includes abstracted depictions of the female form, and the works that make up “Flight 2000” symbolically represent earthly limitations. Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally commissioned Rosenwasser to create his likeness in bronze, as has Stephen Spielberg. Tues.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Through Nov. 25. The Loft at BGH Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. For more information, call (310) 315-9502.

1Wednesday

While the theater, literature, dance and visual arts highlighted in this column often speak to our hopes and fears for Israel, the recent violence in the region has put the art of diplomacy at the forefront, and in that medium former President Jimmy Carter is a skilled veteran. This afternoon the broker of the Camp David Accord between Egypt and Israel will deliver a lecture, titled “Talking Peace,” in which he discusses conflict resolution and the prevention of violence around the world. A question-and-answer session will follow the lecture. 4 p.m. Royce Hall, UCLA. For more information, call (310) 794-5081.

2Thursday

A five-week documentary film series led by filmmaker Laurie Russman begins today at the University of Judaism. Each meeting of the series features a documentary focusing on Jewish subject matter, with the filmmakers or other invited guests answering questions and discussing their work after the screening. Some of the films to be screened include “LA Mohel,” “Trailers Schmailers” and “Jews and Buddhism: Belief Amended, Faith Revealed.” 7-9:30 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 7. $200. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. To register or for more information, call (310) 440-1246.

3Friday

Art Spiegelman is best known for his “Maus” books, the only graphic novels ever to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, which tell a story of surviving the Holocaust. Spiegelman also creates often controversial cover art for The New Yorker and has written a children’s book, “Open Me…I’m A Dog.” With his wife Francoise Mouly, the art editor for The New Yorker, he has created “Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies” a melding of comic book artwork and traditional tales. Tonight at Storyopolis, Spiegelman and Mouly present a discussion of this latest work with a slide show and book signing for grown-ups as part of the “Storyopolis After Hours” series. 6-8 p.m. 116 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 358-2500.

7 Days in the Arts


30Saturday

The 50th anniversary revival of Arthur Miller’s classic “Death of a Salesman” won four Tony awards on Broadway last year, including Best Revival, and Best Actor for Brian Dennehy’s portrayal of Willy Loman. Now that Broadway production has come to the Ahmanson Theatre for just eight weeks, and this is your chance to see the heartbreaking, powerful show with an award-winning cast. $15-$60. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m. Through November 5. 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. For tickets, call (213) 628-2772. For lower-priced student group and educator tickets, call (213) 972-7231.

1Sunday

Actress and stand-up comic Heidi Joyce brings together some of L.A.’s funniest women each Sunday in October for Stand-Up Against Domestic Violence. Featuring comics Stephanie Hodge, Karen Rontowski, Danielle Koenig and a host of others, the performances benefit local women’s shelters and other programs sponsored by Theatre of Hope. $15. 2 p.m. Bitter Truth Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. For reservations or more information, call (818) 766-9702.

2Monday

Russian immigrant artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, working and performing together for 35 years as Komar & Melamid, are held responsible for initiating the “Sots” art movement, the Soviet equivalent of Western Pop Art. Perhaps best known for using a professional polling team to discover and produce “America’s Most Wanted Painting” (dishwasher-size, pastoral scene, color blue) and “America’s Most Unwanted Painting” (sharp angles, paperback-book-size, color teal or peach), the duo will team up with two American authors for a performance tonight at LACMA. With Ian Frazier and Dave Eggers, Komar & Melamid present “The Healing Power of Art,” which will be followed on Thursday by an evening of conversation with all four participants. 7:30 p.m. Bing Theater, LACMA East, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (323) 857-6088.

3Tuesday

The Fine Arts Division of Pepperdine University tonight presents its fall choral concert, “Reflection and Folklore.” The Pepperdine University Concert Choir, conducted by Milton Pullen, will perform J.S. Bach’s Motet No. 2, along with three Israeli folk songs, “Erev Shel Shoshanim,” “Zum Gali” and “Bashana Haba’ah.” 7:30 p.m. $10 (general admission); free (Pepperdine students, staff and faculty). Smother’s Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. For tickets or more information, call (310) 456-4522.

4Wednesday

Author and journalist Amram Duchovny, known for his book “David Ben Gurion: In His Own Words,” and for the Broadway play “Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald,” will be at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles tonight to discuss and sign copies of his first novel, “Coney.” Part noir thriller and part coming-of-age story, the novel is also a chronicle of 1930s Coney Island. If the author’s name sounds strangely familiar, yes, he is the father of “X-Files” star David Duchovny. 7 p.m.-9 p.m. 6006 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (323) 761-8648.

5Thursday

Pianist Charles Fierro has recorded the piano works of Aaron Copland under the auspices of the great composer himself. Tonight at the Skirball Cultural Center, in honor of Copland’s centennial anniversary, Fierro performs an evening of his piano compositions, including the Passacaglia Piano Sonata, Piano Variations, and Piano Fantasy. 8 p.m. $15 (general admission); $12 (members); $10 (students). Magnin Auditorium, Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets, call (323) 655-8587.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic is also having a gala and benefit concert in honor of a great musician’s birthday. Beloved violinist Issac Stern celebrates his 80th with the help of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. The evening is the opening concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s season. 7 p.m. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. For tickets or more information, call (323) 850-2000. For Gala dinner information, call (213) 972-3051.

6Friday

For more music, in a less formal vein, catch a performance by Roy Zimmerman at the Beverly Hills Public Library, where the singing satirist’s political folk songs will kick off the library’s “October Surprise” series of political comedy shows. As a founder of funny folk heroes The Foremen, and in his own solo career, Zimmerman’s writing and performing have earned him constant comparisons to the master of the genre, Tom Lehrer. 8 p.m. $15. Beverly Hills Public Library, 444 N. Rexford Dr., Beverly Hills. For reservations or more information, call (310) 471-3979.