7 Haiku for Parsha Re’eh (in which we’re reminded where our tushies need to go) by Rick Lupert


I
Blessings or curses –
Choose your mountain carefully
You only get one

II
Your intention when
slaughtering a cow matters
and the location

III
Your voodoo doesn’t
matter if you don’t come with
divine credentials

IV
Body ink may look
cool but it ain’t Kosher – And
don’t eat flying bugs

V
One tenth of your food
shall be eaten in the place
that God will show you

VI
What a world we could
have if we forgave our debts
every seven years

VII
Passover, Sukkot,
Shavuot – Get your male
Tushles to the Shul


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 21 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Donut Famine” (Rothco Press, December 2016) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

Poem: Sigh in Silence


Ezekiel 24:17

said the Lord, this sigh indiscernible,
although the si- contained is louder than
the second fiddle, second syllable
that ebbs into its chopped-off sibilance.
The first one lasts awhile, the way we wish
that pleasure would endure, the vowel long.
It’s hard to leave the bed it’s made, mouth wide
until the utterance has disappeared
but leave we do — what choice? — arriving late
to consonantal noise, and then its absence
(second act the same, the first a quicker
drama). Good thing there’s a word good enough
to capture what we hear and don’t, or else
the music might go on, or else silence would.


Published in Image, September 2012.

Patty Seyburn’s fourth collection of poems, “Perfecta,” is forthcoming from What Books Press in 2014. She is an associate professor at California State University, Long Beach.

Poem: Isaac Bashevis Singer in the Reading Room, 1968


This old man in the armchair’s plush embrace
waits for his thoughts to settle. He is not
my grandfather despite the wrinkled face,
gleaming skull, vast snout, gargly voice, and odd
twist of lips. They sound like men from the same
village in an old country bordering
on nowhere to be found again. He takes
a deep breath and shifts his weight, ordering
familiar words he has brought together
to address the final question of the night:
You see, I’m only a storyteller,
not a psychologizer. I just write
a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The meaning I leave to you, my good friend.


“Isaac Bashevis Singer in the Reading Room, 1968” appeared in Boulevard.

Floyd Skloot’s 18 books include the poetry collection “The End of Dreams” (Louisiana State University Press, 2006), the memoir “In The Shadow of Memory” (University of Nebraska Press, 2003) and the forthcoming “Revertigo: An Off-Kilter Memoir” (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014).

My daughter was born on my mother’s Yahrzeit


All morning I thought of my mother,
how often we waited for her to die
and then the affront of it

when she finally did, as if it were
up to her family to tell her
when she could let go,

as if by holding her tired fingers
we could drag her forcibly back
to this life, when only weeks

before she announced
I’m tired; I don’t want
to fight anymore and I began

to tell her then I would have another
child, maybe a girl, with dark curls
and a smart tongue, hoping

to entice her with promises unfair
to make, as if I could really deliver
or even had the right to try.


First published in “Lifecycles,” Vol. 1 (Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994).

Carol V. Davis is the author of “Between Storms” (Truman State University Press, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for “Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg,” 2007.

Discourse on the crippled God


A man swings through the open doors on crutches,
his long arms thick with muscle like the Christ
whose marble shoulders shouldering the cross
are sculpted mighty as Odysseus’s.
Before he crosses forehead, heart and chest,
the cripple leans one crutch against the wall
and dips his free hand in the carved stone well
of holy water. Hoping to be blessed,
he gazes at the painted ceiling, stays
a moment, hands crossed on a crutch, tame head
bowed. From the altar’s speakers angels sing
while on one leg like a black stork, he prays,
his other pant leg pinned. If he’s not dead,
God listens and as is his way does nothing.

“The Golem of Los Angeles” (Red Hen Press, 2008)


Tony Barnstone is the Albert Upton Professor of English at Whittier College, the author of 13 books, and the writer/producer of a CD of original music based on his book of World War II poems, “Tongue of War.” Among his awards are the Pushcart Prize in Poetry, a fellowship from the California Arts Council, the Poets Prize, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Poem: In the same key (Chayyei Sarah)


They come together to bury their father
in the cave where Sarah’s body lies.

(No one imagines the vaulted church
-turned-mosque with painted ceilings

or the synagogue, or metal detectors
to keep armed men from getting through.)

Isaac and Ishmael wash him with water
and sprinkle earth on his eyelids

so his visions in the world to come
will derive from the land he loved.

Isaac’s memories of having a brother
and then losing him without explanation

Ishmael’s memories of aching thirst
before his mother saw the spring

go unmentioned, the bones of their past
buried beneath the drifting sands.

Outside the cave the women wail
two families grieving in the same key

not yet the ancestors of enemies
Abraham’s dark eyes in every face.


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat is author of “70 Faces,” a collection of Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011).

Poem: Alphabets


I have always believed in the alchemy of letters 
                                  but never in their permanence.
       
Just look how the aleph was stripped of its
rightly earned place to begin the Torah
                                  how the bet is sheltered —
but only on three sides
             so its wind tunnel thrusts the reader forward.
       
                             In Russian the silent letters gather in the cheek like
             magic pebbles waiting to drop from the tongue. And the chutzpah

of English, its misleading spelling. Tell me, how can anyone
                                      ever learn it?

I have returned to America, but my dreams are a kite whose tail is strung with
                    alphabets of all these languages and when I awaken

to the Morse Code of birds in the oak tree I do not know
how to translate this into prayer.


Carol V. Davis is the author of “Between Storms” (Truman State University Press, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for “Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg,” 2007.

Poem: Mold


When Noah prayed
You sent him a flood
and charged him with the safety
of all animal life.

What I got was rain.
I forgot to wash my shirt
so it grew mold.

In every generation
the holy men we have
stand on different levels.
We all get the hero
we deserve.

On behalf of mold
— and on behalf of my wife,
who loves when I do laundry —
I will try
to be worthy.

Poem: Cracking the Sky


It’s time to talk about grief
as if the mere mention could
crack the sky leaving the stars
to break through shattering
afternoon’s complacency.
As if at a preordained hour
all the lovers of the world
will stand still, like the minute
of remembrance for the dead,
then turn and walk from each other
trailing a scent different for each couple,
here a trace of anise, there the gnarled
root of wild ginseng known to help
the memory and cheer the heart.
Each man shaped by what ails him:
a bad liver, a jaw housing neglected teeth.
For the woman the signs more subtle,
a hand’s slight tremor, an eye that wanders
at dusk like the last cow in pasture.
There is no possibility of resolution,
only the remnants of torn silk and a
tweed cap dropped on a railroad platform.

First published in the Greensboro Review, Winter 95-96.


Carol V. Davis is the author of “Between Storms” (Truman State University Press, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for “Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg,” 2007.

Poem: Return to the Stone of Losses


for Rachel Tzivia Back, U. of Minnesota Symposium
on Jewish American Poetry, Feb. 17, 2013

We stood as she instructed around the stone of losses,
declared what we had found
and waited for other Jews to claim it.

Centuries inspected us: had we fallen
out of their pockets?
Were our voices theirs?

God said, I’ve lost and claim you all.
We insisted — it’s the job of poets and lost-and-founds —
that we couldn’t give ourselves up

unless God got more specific.


Joy Ladin is Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University and the author of six books of poetry. Her memoir, “Through the Door of Life:  A Jewish Journey Between Genders,” was a finalist for a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, and a Forward Fives winner.

Poem: Let Me Thrum (6 a.m.)


a new lay upon this lute for You 
Let me hum the new day
of loose strife and lily
Let prayer plant and mallow
Let heads and hearts let heels
and thumbs feathers and fins
and all things fleet and slug
antennae’d and furred
all sing all shirr all rub and buzz
and fling their call to You
in song-light as the mist still clings
as the settled dew thins
as all attendant things
in Your rising yolk-red grin
unfold and re-begin.

Published in Nextbook [online] from “Of Hours: A Jewish Book of Hours.”


Sharon Dolin is the author of five poetry books, most recently, “Whirlwind” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012). She has been awarded the 2013 Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress.

Poem: After Life


Every time we mention the dead
I feel their weight on the mattress
indentations — never been flipped.

My pores have forgotten the garlic.

When you die before Americans
learn to love sushi
there is extra unfamiliarity
in the afterlife.

You have to get used to
more than the weight change.

Expecting the rocky coast of Maine
you find Uncle Harry with a beard,
Great Aunt Blanche sitting very still
around an oblong Formica table.

There is an abundance of whitefish salad
a surfeit of historically accurate costumes.

Here, this one is exactly your size.

From “Marginal Road” (Hollyridge Press, 2009)


Rachel M. Simon is the author of the poetry collections “Theory of Orange” and “Marginal Road.” She teaches writing, gender studies and film courses at Marymount Manhattan College at
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, SUNY Purchase College, Pace University and Poets House.

Abraham


I came late to sunrise. The hills were lit
with goats. Everything shimmered in
small steps. I closed my eyes.

The Kinneret sits back in its water
waiting to be made to shine.
My blood is like the sea.

Jerusalem against the sun. People
draw lots for the shadows
and put down spears.

I walk toward walls.
The late sun enters my skin
like the blade of Isaac’s knife.

This poem first appeared in Midstream in 1985.


Bill Yarrow is a professor of English at Joliet Junior College and the author of “Pointed Sentences” (BlazeVOX, 2012). His work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Poetry International, DIAGRAM, The Del Sol Review and RHINO.

What I Married Into


Salt into meat
browned briefly.
 
Carrots, paprika, potatoes.
As it is written on her greased page.
 
I sing Dayenu, improvise verses
as I churn the soup.
 
Meal of bitter herbs I married
into. Chopped apples and cinnamon.
 
Matzos wrapped in linen.
Silver goblet for the prophet.
 
Celebrant out of bondage,
shank of a lineage I’d refused.
 
The woman who loved my husband
without doubt I carry to all things
 
was certain her recipe would not fail,
the matzo ball would be light,
 
our daughters would marry well,
the brisket tender.
 
Mother-in-law of big bosom,
sequin and shocking pink,
 
took me in — hug
into faith I’d waited for. 
 
Today, in my kitchen
littered with pots and peelings,
 
parsley limp in its strainer,
I want her bossing, her sass, soft arms,
 
her gold rings
in the dish by the sink.


Barbara Rockman lives in Santa Fe, N.M., where she teaches poetry at Santa Fe Community College and in private workshops. Her collection “Sting and Nest” received the 2012 National Press Women’s Book Award and the 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award.

Poem: Here Today


God is here today
She is a spectacular god,
Good company and magnificence. She sings, barks,
And is an able contortionist (she learned this in India.)
She does splits when you don’t expect them,
Has a big vocabulary, is part Jewish
Part Buddhist part wind.
She plays excellent piano, speaks Urdu,
Breathes deeply, and does the sun salute.
This god knows words to many songs.
She bakes bread, and often makes strawberry shortcake.
She turns her small mountains so green
You want to eat them and then
She just hands you a long light yellow porch
Where you can sit and sit and sit
To watch her move so slowly
You’d miss her if you weren’t really watching.

From “God Is a Tree” (Pleasure Boat Studio)

Esther Cohen is a poet, cultural activist, novelist and book doctor. She lives in New York.

The Mirror Psalm


I had a dinner with a woman mad
for God. I told her I have learned to walk
without a crutch. She told me I was made
to look like him but I have always thought
he has my nose. So am I God’s worst blunder
or is he mine? She told me I should raise
my children in my image. That’s bad taste,
it seems to me. She talked about surrender
and resignation, prudence, diligence,
but I preferred her company, her style
to his, the sweetness in her clear eyes. Still,
I might believe in God if he could dance,
a God who’s learned to laugh, a God like this
young woman I press into for a kiss.

From “The Golem of Los Angeles” (Red Hen Press, 2008).

Tony Barnstone is the Albert Upton Professor of English at Whittier College, author of 13 books and writer/producer of a CD of original music based on his book of World War II poems, “Tongue of War.”

With poetry and scholarship, Daf Yomi Talmud study grows beyond Orthodox


As a light drizzle tapered off over MetLife Stadium, more than 90,000 Jews packed into the home of the NFL’s Jets and Giants for an event quite unlike any the popular sports and concert arena had ever seen.

They came dressed in black and white, but not for any sports team. Instead of a raucous kickoff, there was a hushed mincha prayer. And in place of hot dogs, cheesesteaks and beer there was babka, danish, and mineral water from a company based in Lakewood, N.J., a center of yeshiva study.

But, as at the football games and rock concerts, there was great exhilaration at the stadium Wednesday night for the Siyum HaShas – the completion of the 2,711-page Shas, or Talmud, in the page-a-day study cycle known as the Daf Yomi (literally, “Daily Page”).

The excitement was evident in the furrowed brows of concentration on congregants’ faces during the prayer services, in the impassioned speeches onstage, and during the heady singing and dancing that followed the end of the special Kaddish marking the completion of the Talmud.

“Fortunate is the person who sees, who experiences, this great gathering,” declared Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, the emcee of the Siyum HaShas. “Try to visualize the singing and dancing that’s going on right now in shamayim [heaven] watching tens of thousands celebrating the masechtos [tractates] they worked on so diligently!”

For the organizers of the Siyum, the event was an opportunity to showcase the strength of so-called Torah Judaism and its resurgence in America following the Holocaust. Indeed, the Holocaust was the first subject that the chairman of the event, Elly Kleinman of Agudath Israel of America, talked about in the night’s opening speech, and the Jews’ survival and religious resurrection since the Nazis was a recurrent theme throughout the evening.

But the night’s official theme was Jewish unity, something one speaker tried to hammer home with a remark about the lure of the Daf Yomi for all Jews: those with black hats, shtreimels, knit yarmulkes and even baseball caps, he said.

That description, of course, left out a few slices of the Jewish community, even if it covered pretty much everyone at Wednesday’s Siyum celebration (except the few thousand women relegated to an upper tier).

Yet, despite the challenges of doing the Daf Yomi – moving at a relentless pace through thousands of pages of dense argumentation covering complex Jewish legal matters and odd tales narrated without punctuation in an arcane language – daily Talmud study is spreading beyond the confines of those categorized by Orthodox headgear.

In some cases, it’s happening in very unorthodox ways.

New York native Ilana Kurshan, who now lives in Jerusalem and works for a small literary agency there, got into the Daf Yomi while studying at Jerusalem’s Conservative yeshiva six years ago. Soon, she began writing limericks about each page of Gemarah (a synonym for Talmud) and posting them on her blog, Ktiva.blogspot.com, in an effort to better retain what she was learning.

After completing folio 5a of Tractate Niddah, which deals with laws of ritual purity and women’s menstruation, Kurshan wrote:

Just before and just after the sex
The couple performs body checks.
It is never in vain
There could yet be a stain
Says one rabbi. Ketina objects.

“The Talmud, for someone who has a diverse range of interests, is the most incredible text because it has everything in it,” Kurshan told JTA. “There’s nothing as exciting as the next page of Gemarah because it’s so discursive. There could be a wild tale. For me that’s so exhilarating. Every daf is uncharted territory.”

Kurshan also writes essays about her studies, including reflections on how the dafs correspond with her life – like a horoscope, she says. When she was pregnant, Kurshan ruminated on how her baby’s upcoming journey through the birth canal was paralleled by a Talmudic discussion of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt through the “birth canal” of the Red Sea.

“My interest in learning has nothing to do with halachah,” Kurshan said, using the Hebrew term for Jewish law. “For me, what’s exciting is that the debates were not resolved. You have everybody’s opinion, they’re all fighting with each other. It’s just a thrilling intellectual experience.”

For Yedidah Koren, who is doing a master’s degree in Talmud at Tel Aviv University, Daf Yomi study has provided a harbor of stability in a life filled with constant change.

“It’s been the most steady thing in my life for the last 10 years,” said Koren, 27, who began while a student at a Jerusalem seminary and continued through her national service, college, a year abroad in Sweden and married life. Sometimes, she learns the daf over breakfast, on the bus, or during prayer services. She’s on her second Daf Yomi cycle.

“It’s a way to finish Shas a few times in your lifetime,” she said. “And besides that it really gives you a sense of stability, and a strong, emotional bond with the Talmud. The more you learn it, the more you connect to it, and it’s always there for you.”

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, who was ordained by the Conservative movement and co-founded an independent egalitarian yeshiva in New York called Mechon Hadar, says Daf Yomi is beginning to catch on in non-Orthodox circles.

“Daf Yomi in particular is a real commitment, a daily commitment for 7-plus years that I think only now is gaining some traction outside Orthodoxy in a meaningful way,” Kaunfer said. He said, however, that he’s not aware of any non-Orthodox synagogue with a daily Talmud class – known in the parlance as a Daf Yomi shiur.

There is growing interest in Talmud study among Jews not steeped in Torah scholarship because, Kaunfer says, once they have the intellectual tools to learn Gemara, they are empowered to access one of Judaism’s most difficult and central texts without the filter of someone else’s perspective or ideology.

“I think there’s something very appealing about opening up a mysterious text, and I think people want to experience a text unmediated,” he said. “In the internet age, where everything is open, one of the last things that’s uncracked are the sources of Jewish wisdom and culture.”

Businessman and Jewish philanthropist Edgar Bronfman convenes a weekly Talmud class in his office taught by varying rabbis.

“The Talmud belongs to all of us,” Bronfman said. “Studying Talmud, there’s so much wisdom there, and it also gives you a chance to argue, and that’s very Jewish.”

Daf Yomi is not without its critics.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, says the pace of Daf Yomi is overly focused on getting through the Talmud rather than studying it deeply.

“The question is how much depth does one really get into with a Daf Yomi kind of approach,” Wernick said. “It’s breadth over depth. The Conservative approach to Jewish study tends to be more depth-oriented.”

Instead, his movement encourages learning one Mishna per day. Though the Mishna is the foundational text for Talmudic discourse, it’s much shorter and simpler: The Mishna is to the Talmud what the Constitution is to Constitutional law.

Koren, the master’s degree student at Tel Aviv University, defended the Daf Yomi approach against the sort of criticism offered by Wernick.

“A lot of the claims against Daf Yomi is that it’s not deep and it’s not rigorous and you don’t really remember when you learned,” she said. “But how many different topics do you come across that if you learn just classic, regular yeshiva Talmud, you’d never come across?”

Rabbi Daniel Freelander, senior vice president at the Union for Reform Judaism, says Talmud study is not a priority for his movement, which assigns the same authority to contemporary Reform rabbis as it does to Talmudic sages.

“Text study is very important to us, but we focus on the Ur-text, on Torah in particular. Talmud, the Oral Law, is not our core text,” he said. It “certainly doesn’t rise anywhere to the level of a daily study encouragement for us.”

Poet’s Haggadah story


Every year at Passover, families around the world pull out their Haggadahs for their Seders, and whether they use a traditional text, a modern one, or even Maxwell House, the story and the words remain largely the same.  But one man, Rick Lupert, saw an opportunity to do something more than produce just another slight tweaking of the classic text.  And thus, the Poet’s Haggadah was born.

The idea didn’t emerge out of nowhere, Lupert’s been running a poetry website – Poetrysuperhighway.com—for over a decade, and one of his main goals is getting poets from around the country to connect.  “I’m always looking for different ways to get poets to share their work with each other,” Lupert says.  One year, as Passover approached, Lupert realized that there might be a way to combine his interest in poetry and Judaism in a unique way. “I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be interesting if poets reinterpreted the Haggadah.’”

Lupert put out a call for submissions and turned to some Los Angeles poets whose work he felt might fit.  He had no clue what the response would be, although he hoped that due to the success of past poetry exchanges he’d done, and the large number of poets who visited his site, that he’d get some good interest. 

One of the poets Lupert contacted was Rachel Kann.  “I’ve known Rick for years and years,” says Kann, “through the poetry community…but not through anything Jewish.”  For Kann, the opportunity to connect her poetry with her Judaism was a welcome one.  “I think he knew I’d be excited about it,”  says Kann, “I take my Judaism very seriously.”

Kann was raised in a secular household in a small town, where, she says, she and her siblings made up roughly “50 percent of the Jewish population.”  It wasn’t until she was older, and “tattooed” that she grew into her Judaism, finding inspiration in the writing of Aryeh Kaplan and Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.  Kann decided to write a poem responding to the song Dayeinu.  As she describes it, the poem barely made it in the book as she struggled to get it in before the deadline, but Kann is thrilled it did.  “I have so much gratitude (to Rick) for giving me the assignment,” says Kann. “It parted my Red Sea…I was struggling.”

A few months after publishing her poem, a friend invited Kann to read at an event for the Los Angeles Board of Rabbis.  Kann “was freaking out” before her reading.  She wondered how the rabbis would respond to a tattooed outsider reading her potentitally blasphemous poem.

“I was thinking, I’m going to get struck by lightning for reading this poem here,” Kann recalls.  To her surprise, the rabbis “were so supportive. The response I got was very healing for me, very affirming.”  As a Jew who often felt like an outsider, Kann’s poem allowed her to feel like she was accepted.

Poet Larry Colker was similarly solicited for a contribution.  He spent a number of days trying to figure out what to write about.

“I was reluctant because “occasional” poetry is typically a trap for mediocre work,” Colker says.  But because of his respect for Lupert, Colker pressed forward.  What emerged was a poem about Elijah the prophet, which Colker says is “very personal.”  He submitted it despite some trepidation, because he trusted Lupert. “Rick always endows his creations with unique…wrinkles…so I thought it would be fun.”

When Ellyn Maybe, a regular at many LA Poetry events, heard from Lupert, she jumped right in. “It sounded so cool,” says Maybe, who submitted a poem about the “Four Questions” that delves into issues of social justice.  “I think that’s one thing poets do naturally… questioning,” says Maybe. 

It wasn’t the first dip into the world of Jewish poetry for Maybe, who has also written poems on topics like Yom Kippur.  “It’s important to look deeper into things for yourself,” says Maybe about her decision to delve into Jewish holidays.  For Maybe, whose work is usually not so steeped in Judaism,— she’s traveling with her band to the Glastonbury festival later this year to perform—it was a unique chance to explore Jewish themes.

One thing Maybe loved about the project was the “Poets’ Seder” that went on after the anthology was completed.  A number of poets who’d published in the book gathered at Beyond Baroque, an arts center in Venice.  “They came out, we had some music, it was sort of a performance seder,” says Lupert.  The poets in attendance read their work live, and others called in from around the globe.  As Maybe recalls it, “a lot of poets read that night. I think it was moving.  It’s neat when people are in an anthology together and get to hear their work spoken, too.”

The event was a big success and is available to listen to at poetseder.com, where the anthology can also be purchased.

Lupert hopes the book will find a place at the seders of people around Los Angeles and around the world.  “I didn’t think anyone would necessarily use this as a Haggadah,” Lupert says, though he did just that at a seder at his in-laws.  Lupert hoped that the book could supplement a traditional Haggadah at a seder, and that it would “be an interesting read, whether or not people used it for Passover.” 

“Everyone has their own sensibility about what they enjoy,” Lupert says.  He doesn’t expect that every person will love every poem in the anthology, but he hopes that through its diversity it offers something for everyone.  And if you enjoy poetry, you may want to pick up a copy for your own seder and see for yourself.

In loving memory of our chazzan, Debbie Friedman


When the New Reform Congregation [now Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills] was established in 1984, Debbie was our chazzan for 3 years. She responded, and the congregation was thrilled, as truly “the old dreamed new dreams and the youth saw visions.” Our shul was “alive to the sound of music” to Debbie’s presence and her music. Debbie gave voice to the voiceless through her voice and her passion for justice.

Prof. Stanley Chyet z’l’ of Hebrew Union College was a poet and reflected thusly:           

what is that poets do
they sing
wind and insects
the substance of their songs
and maybe of themselves
they wander lost
among flaming riverbanks
at dusk their voices rise
above the howling winds
above the din of insects
their voices rise above tall marsh trees
above tree tops their voices
fling out into space
into the arteries of creation.

Debbie was our musical poet…but not ours alone…to our movement….to the Jewish people…to the world. May she rest in peace as she teaches the angels above to sing songs of healing…a Mishaberach to you, Debbie.

Quarterly calendar


MARCH

Fri., March 16

“Irish Writers Entertain: An Evening in the Company of Irish Writers.” One-man show starring Neil O’Shea. Part of the annual Irish Cultural Festival. Loyola Marymount University (LMU). 7:30 p.m. Free. LMU, Barnelle Black Box, Foley Building, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 338-3051.

Sat., March 17

“Cult of Childhood.” Multiple artists explore the menace and charm of childhood. Opening reception 7-10:30 p.m. Through April 15. Black Maria Gallery, 3137 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 660-9393. www.blackmariagallery.com.

Thu., March 22

Joffrey Ballet Performances. Two dance programs, one featuring live orchestra accompaniment, and the other featuring contemporary music by The Beach Boys, Prince and Motown artists. Choreography by Twyla Tharp, George Ballanchine and four others. Through March 24. $25-$115. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-0711. www.musiccenter.org/dance.

Werner Herzog Tribute and Film Retrospective. Screenings of “Heart of Glass,” “Fitzcarraldo,” “Grizzly Man,” and other films by the German director. Herzog will be discussing his work at some of the programs. American Cinematheque. Through March 25. $7-$10. Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456. www.aerotheatre.com.

Ventura County Jewish Film Festival. Film subjects include the fate of European art during the Third Reich, a French butcher who saves the lives of three Jewish children, the journey of musician Debbie Friedman and a romantic tale of unrequited love. Through March 25. $36 (festival pass), $10-$12 (individual screenings). Regency Theatre Buenaventura 6, 1440 Eastman Ave.; and Temple Beth Torah, 7620 Foothill Blvd., Ventura. (805) 647-4181. www.vcjff.org.

Sun., March 25

“Projectile Poetry.” Hosted by Theresa Antonia, Eric Howard and Carmen Vega, the program features readings by published poets as well as an open mic for newcomers. 3 p.m. Dutton’s Brentwood Books, 11975 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 476-6263. www.duttonsbrentwood.com.

“Requiem.” World premiere of Christopher Rouse’s musical piece, performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and baritone Sanford Sylvan. Conducted by Grant Gershon. 7 p.m. $19-$109. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (800) 787-5262. www.lamc.org.

“Distracted.” Lisa Loomer’s comedy about an 8-year-old boy diagnosed with ADD and the fast paced, overly wired environment that may have caused it. Directed by Leonard Foglia and starring Rita Wilson and Bronson Pinchot. Center Theatre Group. Through April 29. $20-$55. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org.

Tue., March 27

“Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.” Tony Award-winning dancer stars in a musical production celebrating her 50-year career. Directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele. Through April 1. $25-$75. Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-4900. www.wilshiretheatrebeverlyhills.com.

Fri., March 30

Roy Zimmerman’s “Faulty Intelligence.” Singing political satirist takes aim at Saddam, Dick Cheney, creation science and more. 8 p.m. $25. Steinway Hall at Fields Pianos, 12121 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 471-3979.

“California Style: Art and Fashion From the California Historical Society.” Exhibit includes Victorian-era paintings, ball gowns and a re-created private parlor from the 1880s. Through May 27. $3-$9. Autry National Center, Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles. (323) 667-2000. www.autrynationalcenter.org.

APRIL

Thu., April 5

“The Art of Vintage Israeli Travel Posters.” Commemorating Israeli Independence Day, the exhibit displays posters produced by Israeli government tourism agencies as well as national and private transportation companies during the 1950s and 1960s. Through July 8. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, Ruby and Hurd Galleries, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Fri., April 6

John Legend Concert. Special guest Corinne Bailey Rae. 8:15 p.m. $30-$75. Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. (818) 622-4440.

Sat., April 7

“Sleeping Beauty Wakes.” Musical adaptation incorporating deaf and hearing actors signing and singing to the book by Rachel Sheinkin. Also features GrooveLily .Center Theatre Group/Deaf West Theatre. Through May 13. $20-$40. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (213) 628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org.

Wed., April 11

“The Elixir of Love.” Gaetano Donizetti’s light-hearted romantic opera is set in a West Texas diner in the 1950s. Opera Pacific. Through April 22. $27-$200. Orange County Performing Arts Center, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (800) 346-7372. www.operapacific.org.

Thu., April 12

“KCLU Presents Terry Gross.” The host of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” will speak about her experiences interviewing renowned writers, actors, musicians and political figures. Book signing will follow discussion. California Lutheran University. 8 p.m. $15-$50. Fred Kavli Theatre, Countrywide Performing Arts Center, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. (805) 449-2787.

Malibu International Film Festival. Competition festival premiering films from around the world. Opening night party at The Penthouse and awards night at Geoffrey’s Malibu. Through April 16. $10-$100. Aero Theater, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 452-6688. www.malibufilmfestival.com.

Jane Austen Book Club. Series of six book club luncheons discussing Jane Austen novels with UCLA Professor of English Charles Lynn Batten. Novels included. Literary Affairs. 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. May 10, June 14, July 12, Sept. 27, Oct. 25. $375. Beverly Hills Country Club, 3084 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 553-4265. www.literaryaffairs.net.

Fri., April 13

“The Diary of Anne Frank.” Selections from the book performed as an opera and staged in specially prepared areas of parking garages. Featuring Laura Hillman, Schindler’s List survivor. Composed by Grigori Frid. Long Beach Opera. Through April 19. $15-$70. Lincoln Park parking garage, Ocean Boulevard and Pacific Avenue, Long Beach; Sinai Temple parking garage, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (562) 432-5934. www.longbeachopera.org.

Sat., April 14

“Preschool Poetry Jam.” David Prather hosts interactive children’s program with jump rope jingles, Shel Silverstein’s poetry, tumbling boxes, scooters and more. Part of Pillow Theatre Series for 3-6 year olds. Music Center. 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free. BP Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-3379. www.musiccenter.org.

Tue., April 17

Spectator – A Poet’s Slam-Dunk


Jewish summer camp introduces young Jews to many things — sports, arts and crafts, drama classes; Eitan Kadosh, a 1999 National Slam Poetry champion, “learned that sex isn’t always like pizza.”

He also learned how to entertain people, playing one of the brothers in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

But he realized that he “much preferred reading my own material,” he said.

In college, he wandered into an open-mike night at a coffeehouse and got a good response from the audience. From there, he began writing poetry. Possessing an infectious love for language, the 30-year-old Kadosh created his own major at Cal-Berkeley, graduating with a degree in spoken-word poetry and performance.

For many years after college, he toured the country, often performing at Hillels at various universities, as well as at non-Jewish venues. In more recent years, he has remained in Los Angeles, working on his master’s of fine arts at Cal State Long Beach and performing locally at clubs.

With a gift for diction, Kadosh explores the cultural absurdities and political hypocrisies of America, dedicating one spoken-word poem to SUVs, and another to the cheese at the heart of America.

He said that he has been influenced by the Beat poets, particularly the “cadences and rhythms of Ginsberg, each stanza as long as a breath.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti, he said, “sounded so good when read aloud.”

Kadosh wanted to “take the energy” of these Beats and “combine it with more technical precision and craft.”

Many of his poems do not have a Jewish theme to them, but his act, titled “Too Neurotic,” is unmistakably Jewish, not so much in its subversive humor, a humor that may recall George Carlin as much as Jewish comedians, as in his frenetic delivery, which is evocative of Gene Wilder’s nebbish Leo Bloom in the original “The Producers.”

Not unlike Bloom, who keeps repeating, “I’m wet, and I’m hysterical,” Kadosh in his piece, “Waiting for Isaac,” melts polar ice caps, sleeps in the gutter on street-sweeping day, eats nothing but Denny’s, then repeats with exasperation, “But it wasn’t enough.”

His refrain sounds like the antithesis of the Passover song “Dayenu,” even if he is not dealing with plagues. But in “Waiting for Isaac,” he probes the origin of Jewish progeny. For that, we will wait.

Eitan Kadosh performs “Too Neurotic” on Jan. 17 and 18, 8 p.m., at the Fountain Theater, 5060 Fountain Ave., (323) 663-1525.

 

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday

Puppets, paupers, pirates and poets — especially poets — are invited to the Workmen’s Circle tonight for Slam Shirim, a competitive performance poetry event for the Jewish community. Anyone can sign up to perform, judges are chosen randomly from the audience and the rest of the audience is encouraged to share their reaction to the poetry, so expect a raucous evening. The flyer says it’s “like an amusement park adventure of spoken word.” We say it’s good, artsy fun.

8 p.m. $7 (members); $10 (nonmembers). 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Sunday

Chanukah comes early this year, but it can’t come early enough for the kids. Universal Studios understands, and they’re bringing out the chanukiah — and the stars — a few days early for a big park-wide celebration today. Spider-Man spins the dreidel, the Rugrats characters light the candles, Mayor James Hahn will lend an official air to the proceedings and Jerry’s Famous Deli will present “The World’s Largest Latka.” Plus, the performances range from the sweet Mallory Lewis and Lambchop to Jewish rapper Remedy of the Wu-Tang Clan. This Chanukah celebration, co-sponsored by The Journal, has something for everyone — it’s Universal!

10 a.m.-6 p.m. With coupon it’s $35 (adults) and $25 (children).
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. (800) 864-8377.

Monday

“When you’re a Hip Hop Hoodio, it’s Chanukah-time 24/7, 365 days a year.” So say the members of Hip Hop Hoodios, the Latino-Jewish rap supergroup, and listening to their music, you believe them. In addition to a beat-heavy version of “Hava Nagila,” the group’s album, “Raza Hoodia,” includes their attitude-heavy Chanukah track, “Ocho Kandelikas.” UCLA Hillel and Yiddishkayt L.A. bring this free concert tonight, with multiethnic samba-funk-rockers Bayu and an afternoon discussion panel on what all this fusion means.

2 p.m. (panel). 2408 Ackerman, UCLA. 8 p.m. (concert). Bradley International Hall, 417 Charles E. Young Drive West, UCLA. (213) 389-8880.

Tuesday

Set in the near future, George Larkin’s new play “Perverse Tongue” portrays an America ruled by an absolute literalist interpretation of the Bible. Follow the story of two sisters, the younger of whom must flee the Soldiers of God, enforcers who want to put her on trial for having been raped.

8 p.m. $15. Mon.-Wed., through Dec. 18. No performance Wed. Nov. 27 or Mon. Dec. 2. MET Theater, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. (323) 957-1152.

Wednesday

< She may be better known for her decades of social activism, but Betty Sheinbaum is also recognized for her art. When she's not filling banquet halls with friends for a fundraiser, Sheinbaum fills galleries with her paintings. Now at Santa Monica's The Artist's Gallery, her collection "Bullfighting" examines the dramatic tension between man and beast.

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Through Nov. 30. The Artist’s Gallery, 2903 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 829-9556.

Thursday

Sculptor Keith Edmier doesn’t claim to be the only artist inspired by an angel, but he may be the only one to collaborate this well with a Charlie’s Angel. Edmier began a collaboration with Farrah Fawcett in 1999 and the fruits of their labor are on display now at LACMA. Fawcett, an art major in college, contributed equally to the six-sculpture, multiple-photo exhibit, which set out to examine the relationship between artist and muse.

Through Feb. 17, 2003. $7 (adults); $5 (seniors and students); $1 (children).
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000.

Friday

Light one candle, have some latkes, then head out to celebrate the first night of Chanukah with a few laughs from Eric Schwartz, known to listeners of KIIS-FM as Smooth E, the Suburban Homeboy. The Thousand Oaks-raised comic will be sharing the stage with some big names next week at The Jewish Federation’s Vodka Latka gala, but you can also catch “Lose the Gelt,” “Welcome to the Valley” and other hip-hop ha-has this weekend.

8 p.m. Also Sat. Hornblowers Comedy Club,
1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura. (805) 658-2202.

Mourning Israel’s Poet


Yehuda Amichai, a world-renowned poet and one of Israel’s most famous writers, has died of cancer at the age of 76.

Amichai, who died last Friday, was known for blending modern ideas with ancient Jewish traditions, as well as his innovative use of Hebrew.

“He was very Israeli, and at the same time very Jewish in his writing,” said his close friend, writer Aharon Appelfeld.

Thousands paid tribute to the beloved poet as the casket was placed in downtown Jerusalem’s Safra Square on Sunday before his funeral.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav and Prime Minister Ehud Barak were also present.

“One of the greatest artists of Israel and the Jewish world has gone from among us,” Barak said in a statement.

Amichai was born in Germany to a religious family that immigrated to Palestine in 1936. He served with the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in World War II.

He was a member of the Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah, the fighting force of Jewish settlements in pre-state Palestine. Amichai also fought in several of Israel’s other wars.

He wrote 25 books of poetry, some of which have been translated into English, two novels, two short-story books and three children’s books.

Amichai’s poems have been translated into 37 languages, and he was perennially mentioned as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Regarded as Israel’s national poet, Amichai lived in Jerusalem for his entire adult life, and his work often revolved around seeing the possibility of coexistence in opposites – in the mixture of tradition and modernity, beauty and bloodshed, that mark Israel’s capital and Israeli life.

“In the United States, you have to travel miles to see battlefields, but this is a small country, and everything is adjacent and jumbled together,” he told The Associated Press in 1994.

“I can stand on my balcony and tell my children, ‘Over there, I was shelled for the first time. And over there, just to the right, just beneath those trees, I was kissed for the first time.'”

Amichai repeatedly urged peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors and supported former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s initiative to make peace with the Palestinians.

From the publication of his first volume, “Now and in Other Days” (1955), Amichai was known for modernizing Hebrew poetry – for fusing modern, technological slang with biblical and medieval imagery.

He also fused personal and political themes such as love and war.

But he is perhaps best known for writing verse accessible to – and relevant for – the average reader.His poem “From Man You Are, To Man You Shall Return,” written during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, discussed a parent listening to the noise made by a soldier son going off to war as the parent accepts the prospects of the young soldier’s premature death.

The poem became a consolation for Israeli parents who had lost their children in war.

As Doron Rosenblum, who called Amichai Israel’s “Citizen No. 1,” put it the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz: Amichai’s lines “pop up every time someone wants to soften our harsh reality or make it palpably ordinary, when one wants to describe a slice of life richly, to speak about real Israelis: Those who ride on the bus, those whose voice gets swallowed in the ‘rising rumble’ of engines, who carry packs on their back, and have had their hair shorn by the military, or return home on Friday evening, when ‘the laundry is already dry in the yard.'”

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