7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, April 29

Sure, they’re renown writers, but it seems what everyone really wants to be is a rockstar. Columnist Dave Barry, novelists Stephen King, Mitch Albom and Amy Tan and cartoonist Matt Groening, among other artists known for their literary talents, went so far as to form a band several years ago. The Rock Bottom Remainders performs a few times a year in benefit concerts, and tonight they’re at Royce Hall. The show is called “Besides the Music: Conversation, Debate and yes, Music,” and raises money for 826LA.

8 p.m. $25-$50 (general), $200 (VIP reception). Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood. R.S.V.P., (310) 825-2101.

Sunday, April 30

The City of West Hollywood’s cultural programming today includes a free concert of Jewish songs performed in Hebrew, English and Russian. Embracing the Russian Jewish heritage of many WeHo residents, the city celebrates with traditional songs performed by local artists.

5-7 p.m. Free. Plummer Park, Fiesta Hall, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 848-6826.

Monday, May 1

For those who need a little Bar-Chu on-the-go, religious school music teacher Idan Irelander, of Temple Emanuel in Andover, Mass., and the temple’s Youth Chorus have recently come together to record “Shacharit Inplugged.” The CD features morning prayers like Ashrei and the Shema recorded with a live and spirited sound.

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Tuesday, May 2

On view at two local galleries are photographs offering extreme perspectives on our world by Jill Greenberg and Lisa Eisner. Head to Paul Kopeikin Gallery for Greenberg’s “End Times” to view profoundly upsetting images of babies crying. “The children I photographed were not harmed in any way,” Greenberg said in a press release. Toddlers are wont to cry, Greenberg noted, saying “It reminded me of helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation.” After Greenberg, head to M+B Gallery for more uplifting work by Eisner. “A Butterfly Fluttered By: Photographs of the West” offers beautiful saturated color photographs celebrating the spirit of western states from Wyoming to California.

Paul Kopeikin Gallery, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 937-0765. Through July 8.
M+B, 612 Almont Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 550-0050. Through May 27.

Wednesday, May 3

Better than a book signing is a book signing with booze. The vino will flow at tonight’s event promoting former Journal singles columnist J.D. (Jeff) Smith’s new book on wine collecting, “The Best Cellar.” Get some tips, and get a designated driver.

Free with book purchase. Wally’s Wine and Spirits, 2107 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. Space is limited. R.S.V.P., (310) 475-0606, ext. 122.


Thursday, May 4

It pays to get canned tonight. Celebrating the nonworking man this evening is performer and writer Annabel Gurwitch, with her latest installment of “Fired!” monologues. This new one — aptly titled “Fired Again!” — features a revolving cast of actors and writers, and proof of unemployment gets you in for $15.

May 3-7. $15-$45. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 827-0889.

Friday, May 5

Just arrived on the West Coast is the new musical “I Love a Piano: The Music of Irving Berlin.” The song-and-dance feel-good production celebrates Berlin music, weaving 64 of his songs through the story of an old piano’s life.

Through May 7. $25-$50. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach. (562) 856-1999.

Soothing Music Memories


When Len Lawrence was sitting shiva for his father 12 years ago, he found himself longing for some Jewish music to help soothe him through that difficult time, but he just couldn’t find the right songs.

Now that Lawrence is general manager of Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, he has remedied the situation for others who might feel the way he did. The result is “Scores of Memory,” a CD of traditional and contemporary compositions produced by Mount Sinai and Craig Taubman.

“What I wanted was music that touches people’s souls and hearts in many different ways in their time of need,” Lawrence said.

The CD includes songs by Taubman, Debbie Friedman and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The latter has special meaning for Rabbi Jerry Cutler of Creative Arts Temple.

“My father was an Orthodox rabbi, so we grew up in a very traditional home where we would hear such music as Carlebach’s all the time,” Cutler recalled. “For someone who has lost someone and their mind is in a state of riot, if they put the Mount Sinai music on, they can start remembering beautiful times from many years ago.”

Lawrence said many people around the country have written to thank him for the CD, which Mount Sinai offers free to both its clients and anyone who requests the music.

In the introduction to “Scores of Memory,” Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple wrote: “From the depths of our souls, we bring our grief, our joy, our doubts, our hopes, our being in music. From the moment we are born, there is something in us that responds to the cadence and rhythm of the song.”

Cutler views the use of music at a funeral or time of mourning as a very personal decision. “I always say, whatever the heart dictates.”

For more information, visit www.mt-sinai.com.

 

New UJ ‘Tradition’ Starts


Tevye, Tzeitel, Golde and all the other memorable characters of "Fiddler on the Roof" graced the big screen at the University of Judaism (UJ) on Sunday, April 25, but it was the audience who stole the show.

Five-hundred people — some bold enough to come in costume — sang along with the memorable songs of "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man" and other classic "Fiddler" tunes. The UJ singalong event capitalizes on the popularity of participatory shows, such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding" and "Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral."

UJ staff passed out kitschy props highlighting key points in the film — ring pops for "Matchmaker" and boxes of gilded chocolate coins for "If I Were A Rich Man." When the sun set on Friday evening at Tevye’s house, the audience munched on mini challahs.

Participants, drawn into the excitement of the production, led performances of their own. During the graveyard scene of the film, Sandy Erkus, dressed as the ghostly Fruma Sarah, ran about the theater in her tattered wedding gown, reviving the role of Lazar Wolf’s dead wife. Erkus said she didn’t plan to steal the spotlight, but fellow audience members coaxed her to get up and play the part. "Me, being a ham and a half — wait that’s not kosher is it? — I went up," she recalled with a laugh.

At intermission, timed with the wedding of Motel and Tzeitel, Tevye’s oldest daughter, the UJ treated the audience to a mock wedding reception with sliced wedding cake, champagne and even a fiddler playing in the background.

Sandy Kanan, wearing a shawl over her head and a long cloak-like dress, enjoyed coming out and dressing up like Yente the Matchmaker.

"I love getting into it," said Kanan, who finds the program an entertaining lesson in Jewish tradition.

"This is so important; this is our culture; this is our heritage," she said. "There is a lot of truth in it."

The next "Fiddler" singalong has been set for March 20, 2005. A "Grease" singalong is also being planned. For more information, call the UJ’s Department of Continuing Education at (310) 440-1246.

Black (and Jewish) Is Beautiful


Rain Pryor solemnly chants the "Kol Nidre" as the spotlight reveals her silhouette — wearing a hilariously oversized Afro wig.

"What’s the big deal if I’m black and a Jew?" she says.

She answers the question in her irreverent solo show, "Fried Chicken & Latkas," which describes her tortuous journey toward self-acceptance. Pryor — the daughter of comedian Richard Pryor — virtuostically transforms into characters such as her great-grandmother, a brothel madam who taught her to tame her "in-between hair" and to cook fried chicken. Adopting a Brooklyn accent she becomes Bunny, her Jewish maternal grandmother, who taught her to speak Yiddish, light Shabbat candles, make brisket and, of course, latkes.

The singer-actress also morphs into the first-grade teacher who said she couldn’t play the lead in the school play because "there are no black Raggedy Anns."

"I cried for days after that," Pryor, 34, said in her Canon Theatre dressing room.

She’s had to deal with the same frustrations as an adult actress, which is one reason she’s developed "Fried Chicken." At a time when autobiographical monologues can launch actors to stardom (think John Leguizamo and "Sexaholic"), she’s hoping to showcase her unique talents and prove she’s capable of more than the TV roles for which she’s best known.

Her strategy seems to be working. Pryor — who played a junkie lesbian on Showtime’s "Rude Awakening" — moves "Chicken" to the Comedy Store next month.

"I’m hoping the show will help people see me for who I am," she said.

Her background is singular. Her mother, Shelley Bonus, was a go-go dancer and her father was a wild new comic when they met at Los Angeles’ Stardust club in 1965. Thereafter, the enthused Bonus donned a blonde Afro wig and turned her apartment into an "African Heritage Museum," according to her daughter. In the play, Bunny describes her shock upon entering the apartment and seeing "a black velvet Jesus nailed to the cross; I think I even saw his eyes glowing."

Pryor believes neither side of the family was initially thrilled when the couple married in 1968: "At the time, it was hard to explain an interracial marriage, let alone a biracial child," she said.

It didn’t help that, after separating from her husband in the late 1960s, Bonus moved her daughter to Beverly Hills for the superior school system.

"It was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, yet crosses were burned on our lawn," Pryor said. "At school, children said, ‘You’re a n—-.’ But on my father’s side of the family, ‘n—-‘ was a term of endearment, so while I didn’t like the word, I was also called it when I visited my dad’s house."

While Pryor saw her father only sporadically when she was a child ("He was busy being a genius," she said), she was riveted by his revolutionary, expletive-filled act. "I’d share it in show and tell," she said. "The teacher would say, ‘What did you learn this weekend,’ and I’d say, ‘I learned to say m———-!’ and I’d get in so much trouble." Equally confusing was her stint at a Reform Hebrew school where classmates told her there were no such thing as black Jews.

"Because it was so hard for me to be accepted into Judaism, I pushed it away," she said.

Pryor took solace in her acting and dancing lessons.

"Performing allowed me to escape into someone else’s world," she said.

By age 18, she was playing tomboy T.J. in ABC’s "Head of the Class"; within a few years, her identity crisis had caused her to descend into alcoholism and a series of abusive relationships.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that she got sober, read a slew of self-help books, engaged a therapist and took a counseling job at Beit T’Shuvah, the program for recovering Jewish addicts.

"I have to credit [the program’s] Rabbi Mark Borovitz for allowing me to feel Jewish for the first time, and really opening up that world," she said. "I started to study the Tanach and to learn the songs of Debbie Friedman and Shlomo Carlebach. For a time, I thought I would become a cantor."

Instead, she began writing a series of autobiographical songs and sketches that became "Fried Chicken & Latkas."

While she was initially nervous about her family’s response, relatives on both sides said they loved the show. She’s performed parts of it for her father, who has battled multiple sclerosis since 1991 and is now completely paralyzed.

Grandma Bunny called the show "beautiful. I’ve seen Rain perform before, but this was like she came out of her shell and she was Rain, her own self."

Although Pryor culturally identifies as black and Jewish, Judaism is her religion. She has been married for a year to a Catholic man who hopes to convert and to raise their children Jewish. In the meantime, "Fried Chicken" has helped her integrate her diverse identities.

As she says at the end of the show: "I’ve come to love my family and my heritage."

"Fried Chicken" plays at the Canon Theatre Wednesdays, 8 p.m., through Sept. 17. For tickets, call (310) 859-2830.

Haitian Songs


The following piece was written after a recent trip to Haiti, during which a delegation from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger was hosted by the Lambi Fund, one of MAZON’S longtime grantees.

It starts with a song. Soft at first, then louder, like slow rolling thunder, gentle harmonies that keep time with the clapping of hands.

Soon there will be time for serious talk — of politics, hard labor and the struggle to find food — but for now there is only the music.

Every Haitian man, woman and child knows this music, and during a recent trip to Haiti, I came to know it, too. I was there to visit several grass-roots organizations that help Haitians — most of them poor, many of them hungry — develop the skills they need to improve their everyday lives.

Haiti is a startling place. By all accounts is seems to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Driving around, I found a vast, barren wasteland, what you’d expect to find on a desolate moonscape or in some futuristic science fiction movie. Plagued by years of war, famine and political mismanagement, the country has been stripped of its natural resources, and with them its industry. Electricity is undependable, and running water an unheard of luxury. With mile after mile of nothing but rocky dirt road, Haiti seems like a place without hope, and certainly a place without a viable future.

And yet, five minutes into a conversation with a Haitian woman, I realized my first impression was wrong. I visited a grain mill in the center of the country, where local women bring their corn. In Haiti, women bear the brunt of the work burden. They are responsible for milling grain and working as vendors at local markets, while simultaneously tending to the needs of their families. The mill represents a significant improvement for the women who use it, and who previously had to walk great distances to process grain for family meals.

Despite their heavy loads, the women I met bubbled over with enthusiasm. These were not bitter, defeated women resigned to a life of poverty. In fact, the women — and the men — were decidedly upbeat. They recognized that they were poor but not powerless, and that systemic change would have to start with them.

Take Marie-Carmel. A 35-year-old mother of three, she understood what it would take to turn her fortunes around. When we were first introduced, she didn’t hesitate to make her views known.

"The politicians will do what they will," she said dismissively. Then she pointed to the mill and said, "This is my president. This is what I believe in."

In the face of extreme poverty, Haitians retain a tremendous sense of dignity. They may be dressing in rags caked with mud and clinging to machetes, but their children are spotless, wearing immaculate school uniforms and clutching battered books. Like parents all over the world, Haitian parents will sacrifice everything to give their kids a chance at a better life.

Several days into my trip, I drove through a torrential downpour to visit an agricultural site in a mountaintop village. After my visit, I climbed back into a rickety van with threadbare tires and began to descend the mountain, which was rapidly deteriorating into sludge. Several miles outside the village, the van sunk into the mud and was stuck. Within the hour, what seemed like the entire village had descended to help me. There was a sense among these people of the need for collective action, of getting around a problem and solving it. As I stood getting soaked, pushing the van out of the muck side by side Haitian men, women and children, I understood how poverty (unpaved roads, decrepit transportation) can be a physical obstacle to getting things done. But I also felt inspired by a sense of community and possibility.

For weeks leading up to my trip, I wondered what relevance all of this could have for the American Jewish community. For me, the question was more than academic, since I’ve dedicated the past several years of my life to raising funds from the Jewish community and distributing them to fight hunger in our country and around the world. How does Haiti affect Jews when it is a country with so few of us?

I found my answer in the faces of the Haitian men and women I was fortunate enough to meet. We are a people consumed by a vision of a more perfect world, and we are a people, many of us blessed with abundance, who can help build it. As Jews committed to tikkun olam, we send food to poverty stricken Haitians for the same reason we teach inner-city children to read and provide housing assistance for new immigrants in this country. We do it because we believe in kevod ha’beriyot, the respect due to every being. MAZON, the anti-hunger organization I head, was founded with this in mind, and shaped by the principle that Jews don’t discriminate.

Every meeting I attended in Haiti started with a song, and every song told a story. As I’ve replayed the lyrics in my head, I’ve become more convinced that the stories hold a lesson for us as Jews. It’s true that we have our own stories and songs. But ever since I’ve been back from Haiti, it’s struck me that it is the overlap, where our stories meet, where the real work gets done.


H. Eric Schockman is the executive
director of MAZON. For more information on MAZON, call (310) 442-0020 or visit

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

So lovely is that scene of Gene Kelly skipping along, Arthur Freed song in his heart, umbrella in his hand, that it’s become a part of our cultural memory. In honor of “Singin’ in the Rain’s” 50th anniversary, Warner Bros. Classics has digitally restored the sound and picture of the film. You can see the spruced-up classic today at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre.

1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (today and tomorrow). $8. 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Runs Dec. 19-25. (323) 466-3456

Sunday

Spock’s finally got his own series — well, a chamber music series, anyway. Leonard Nimoy (a.k.a. Mr. Spock from “Star Trek”) has donated the funds to resurrect the Temple Israel of Hollywood series laid to rest 20 years ago. The 2002/2003 season begins this afternoon with a concert by the klezmer group The Klezmatics. Two more concerts later in the year by Viklarbo and The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony round out this first season back.

3 p.m. $8-$25 (individual tickets), $20-$60(season tickets). 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (310) 478-6332.

Monday

With last night’s official start of winter, it’s the perfect time for cocoa and quality time with the kids. Get their minds out of vacation mode and into a good book, like Dr. Claire Buchwald’s “The Mitzvah-Go-Round,” with illustrations by Anne D. Koffsky. The book’s filled with Seussean rhymes about make-believe children in made-up lands who do mitzvot. The Whoopswhistler Yidden, Tefillin twins and Kugel-mit-Strudelheim sisters deliver a fun Jewish message.

$9.99. www.artscroll.com .

Tuesday

What’s a Jew to do today? Chinese food’ll just make you hungry again in an hour, and movies can be so antisocial…. Instead, take the family to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the 43rd annual Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration. The six-hour song and dance show features 34 performing groups representing the diversity of Los Angeles — everyone from the Tabernacle Children’s Chorus to Halau Keali’i O Nalani to the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale. The free show is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. A one-hour show of highlights will air on PBS the following day.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. Seating is first come,first served. 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.(213) 972-3099.

Wednesday

Those who failed to beat the crowds to the movie ticket counters today need not fret. Turner Classic Movies comes to your aid with our vote for the funniest holiday marathon we’ve come across. It’s “A Very Jewish Christmas,” featuring “Fiddler On the Roof,” “Yentl,” “Cast a Giant Shadow” and “The Jazz Singer” back-to-back. Now that’s what we call Christmas spirit.

5 p.m. TCM. www.turnerclassicmovies.coms Dec. 15-Feb. 9. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday), 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Friday). 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777, ext. 201.

Thursday

Mobsters, chorus girls and burlesque dancers all make appearances in the colorful life of Jewish Rat Packer Joey Bishop (nĂ© Joseph Abraham Gottlieb). But the well-loved comedian, despite some rough moments, was also one of America’s most popular. Chosen to emcee JFK’s 1961 inaugural gala, he also hosted “The Joey Bishop Show,” with Regis Philbin as his sidekick. A new book titled, “Mouse in the Rat Pack,” by Michael Seth Starr, tells the life story of the pack’s sole survivor.

Taylor Publishing, $18.17. www.amazon.com  

Friday

A new CD worth staying in for tonight is “Livingston and Evans Songbook Featuring Michael Feinstein.” Pour yourself a glass of wine, light a fire and listen to some songs that never get old. “Mona Lisa,” “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” and “As I Love You” are just three of the 23 offered up.

$13.99. www.amazon.com .

Shhhh … I’m Praying


Am I the only one who goes to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services to listen and participate?

Probably not. But why do I feel that way sometimes?

I realize it would be hypocritical to say I sit (and stand and sit and stand) through all those hours of psalms, songs, sermons and speeches totally focused and absorbed in prayer and pious contemplation. I’m human. My mind wanders. I think about a thousand things.

I read a passage in the Machzor and wonder how it relates to my life. A phrase captures my attention, and I try to understand what it really means. A thought enters my head, and I find myself lost in the liturgy.

But the services are skillfully arranged to bring me back. My mental meandering suddenly stops when the Torahs are removed from the Ark and carried around the sanctuary. My daydreaming ceases when the shofar is blown. The noise of the busy street just outside the synagogue doors seems to fade when I’m tuned in to the rabbi’s broadcast frequency.

And when the Kohanim gather on the bimah and the rest of the congregation turns its collective face away, I am entranced by the haunting sound of the davening.

A synagogue is a house of worship. When we gather there on yom tov and Shabbat, it’s for one reason — prayer. We pray for understanding, consolation, guidance and more. And on Yom Kippur, forgiveness heads the list of what we seek.

We should always feel welcome at our synagogues. But we should remember where we are and why we are there. There will be opportunities to talk to friends following services. There will be hundreds of other days during the year to discuss sports, stocks and other secular subjects.

I am easily distracted, I was not blessed with X-ray vision and I have allergies.

I can’t concentrate when the level of chatter among the worshippers turns into a deafening drone. I can’t see the bimah when the tall woman seated in front of me wears a big hat that puts feathers in my face. I sneeze and get a bad headache when I’m near someone soaked in perfume or cologne.

I do enjoy an occasional giggle and other happy sounds of babies and small children in shul. But when the kids cry incessantly, it’s time to take them out for a change of scenery or whatever.

The stress of living in our techno-driven society can be overwhelming. The frenzy of phone calls, e-mails, deadlines and demands can darken the brightest day.

So now, more than ever before, I treasure this time of year. I welcome the breaks from commerce and computers. I appreciate the switch from virtual to virtuous. And I value this chance to recharge my spirit, review my actions and reactions, and reevaluate my goals and the path that leads me to them.

Maybe I’m too sensitive to my surroundings. Or maybe I’m just a chronic complainer who never learned how to pray well with others. But whatever the reason, please humor me. Give me and my legions of co-kvetchers a break this year. Go easy on the fragrance. Turn off the alarm on your watch. Leave your cell phone at home. Shut off the bleeping beeper. Try to keep conversation to a minimum.

It’s all a matter of respect — for these holy days and for your rabbi, cantor and co-congregants.

In return for your cooperation, you’ll get our gratitude and good wishes for a healthy, happy and hassle-free new year.

Spring Is Here


On this Shabbat, hol ha’moed Pesach, we read a beautiful story called “The Song of Songs.” It is attributed to King Solomon, and the rabbis interpret the love story that takes place between the girl and the boy in the poem as Solomon’s love for God and of God’s love for the Jewish people.

The story/poem takes place in the spring, when flowers are blossoming, fruits are ripening and the sweet fragrance of jasmine is everywhere. Pesach is a time of new beginnings, and so is spring. The world is being reborn.

CDs to Light Up Eight Nights


They are round, shiny and popular. But CDs don’t melt like chocolate coins — and they have fewer calories. To give the gelt without the guilt, try the gift of music.

Rick Recht “Shabbat Alive!”

You don’t want to miss Rock Recht with his voice, guitar and charisma, he’s held his own with every oxymoron from Vertical Horizon to Supertramp. Recht transmits spirituality, social conscience and a sheer love of Judaism — all in an irresistible rock ‘n’ roll package. His is the sound of America’s Jewish youth — happy, strong, and blessed with potential. “Shabbat Alive!” is his second Jewish release, and another can’t-ignore-it work.

Achinoam “Noa” Nini/Gil Dor “First
Collection”

Israel’s most brilliant musical jewel today is Noa. Born in Israel to Yemenite parents and raised in New York, Noa’s music is anchored, as she says, on “both sides of the sea.” Her first all-Hebrew anthology, “First Collection,” arrived this year. The album chronicles a decade of her music — from a single guitar to the Israeli Philharmonic. But the centerpiece is that voice, sparkling as silver and warm as gold. If you’ve ever enjoyed Noa’s concerts, all her best stuff is right here.

Diaspora Yeshiva Band “The Diaspora
Collection”

Founded at the Diaspora Yeshiva by rock-loving students in the late ’70s, Diaspora created the Jewish rock genre, now reaching a new plateau. “The Diaspora Collection” is a two-CD set that captures the history of the band. It proves Diaspora’s claim as the seminal Jewish rock band, and also the greatest Jewish country band ever, thanks to Avraham Rosenblum’s rangy guitar and Ruby Harris’ down-home fiddle and mandolin. Come discover the favorite band you never knew.

Sam Glaser “The Songs We Sing”

We’ve always sung “Adon Olam,” and “Erev Shel Shoshanim.” But we’ve never heard them the Sam Glaser way. A tireless, gifted producer, Glaser established the annual Jewish Song Festival that helped launch many careers. An engaging performer, Glaser combines old-fashioned haymishness with state-of-the-art technology. Here, he reimagines Jewish favorites as rock, blues, and reggae numbers. In “The Songs We Sing,” Glaser explains why this music has endured: it always sings to the current generation.

Philip Don/Ruby Harris “Tzalel
Nafshi”

The title song won an international Jewish-music competition, and is featured in the Oscar-winning documentary, “The Long Way Home.” Encompassing American, European and Israeli music, “Tzalel Nafshi” features the words and voice of Philip Don and the compositions and music of Ruby Harris. Harris is a one-man string section, playing up to four instruments on one track. And on other tracks, he plays the harmonica and even does a dramatic reading. This is a tough but ultimately rewarding album, made with acoustic instruments and a lot of loving care.

Shirona “Judaic Love Songs (Love Songs to the
Creator)”

Ruth Wieder Magan “Songs to the Invisible God”

Two takes on the same idea: a woman with a plush yet soaring voice singing love songs to God.

But here the similarities end. Shirona writes her own material, based in scripture and liturgy, and backs it with lush instrumentation. Her debut release evidences Eastern European and Middle Eastern, but also Celtic, influences. Like the jewelry Shirona designs, the tone is elegant and golden. One track, “Ki Elecha,” is so moving, it has become a wedding march. As a whole, “Judaic Love Songs” is a spiritually uplifting experience.

Ruth Wieder Magan sings cantorial works composed by the great classical Jewish arrangers. The only sound on the entire album is Magan’s haunting voice. The works are beautiful, but can be challenging, even frightening at times (both her parents survived the Holocaust). All are enshrouded in the embrace of the Shechina, the very presence of God. “Songs to the Invisible God” is the more difficult of the two, but also the more profound.

Whether you eat your latkes with sour cream or applesauce, make sure to eat them with music!

Passover Events


A 1998 article about Chicago collector Stephen Durschslag’s haggadah collection set the number of different haggadot on his shelves at 4,500, increasing almost daily.

It’s probably impossible to know how many haggadot exist, but it’s obvious that for every Jew, there should be a haggadah that fits like a glove.

In Every Generation —

Escape and Survival

One of the few new haggadot this spring is a fascinating reminder of the parallels between our ancient and more recent past. A Survivor’s Haggadah (Jewish Publication Society, 2000) is a facsimile of a work written in 1945-46 by Lithuanian survivor/ teacher/ writer Yosef Dov Sheinson. Used during the first post-liberation Passover seder in Munich, in April 1946, the original booklet was found by editor Saul Touster of Brandeis among his father’s papers and serves as the source for this edition.

Professor Touster’s introduction and commentary are revealing and jarring, in keeping with the powerful words by Sheinson and the woodcuts by another survivor, Mikls Adler. To read of the DP camps and initial Allied political insensitivities is to be angered; to read Sheinson’s text indicting factionalism among the Jews within the camps (as among the Israelites in the desert) is to be bemused; to read of the roles played by Rabbi Abraham J. Klausner and other U.S. chaplains in “organizing” for the Saved Remnant is to be inspired; to trace through word and woodcut these dual stories of deliverance is to be moved beyond words.

Contemporary User-

Friendly Haggadot

A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah by Noam Zion and David Dishon (Shalom Hartman Institute, 1997) is especially designed to let you plan seder length to what your group can handle. Suggested thought questions, quotations from myriad sources, cartoons, and artwork from more formal sources are included, and the book is guaranteed to involve everyone.

Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, with rabbis Eugene Kohn and Ira Eisenstein, edited a breakthrough haggadah, The New Haggadah (Behrman House) for the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation in 1941. A 1999 Behrman House revision, prepared by an editorial committee of outstanding young rabbis and retitled The New American Haggadah, includes songs by Debbie Friedman and references to civil rights and other timely issues — and you’ll be able to read the typeface.

Among other fine and friendly table haggadot are the abridged Family Passover Haggadah by Elie M. Gindi (SPI Books), a real labor of love that incorporates illustrations from ancient illuminations to photographs to animation figures with ideas and questions scattered throughout.

Tents of Jacob and

Tongues of Exile

Haggadah from Four Corners of the Earth by Ben Cohen and Maya Keliner (1997) is recommended for families with multilingual guests, since it combines the Hebrew text with linear translations in English, Russian, Spanish and French. Nicely designed and certainly indicative of the diversity of Am Yisrael.

To obtain information on haggadot in Hebrew and other languages (e.g., Hebrew-Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish), go online to http://www.books international.com/hags.htm. Questions can be directed to info@booksinternational.com. This company is based in Israel, so don’t count on quick delivery. Check local sources first.

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