Daniel Rolnik: ‘The world’s most adorable art critic’


Daniel Rolnik bills himself as “The World’s Most Adorable Art Critic,” and if you speak to him for even a minute, it’s easy to see why. Animated, passionate, whimsical and delightfully upbeat, Rolnik, 24, has made it his mission to introduce people to new and exciting artists, and more recently, to Judaism as well.

Rolnik’s journey toward becoming an art critic was a decidedly unusual one. He was studying audio engineering in college when he decided that he’d like to interview some of his favorite artists for his blog.

“I would just e-mail people and say, ‘Hey, you’re awesome. Here are my questions.’ ” 

Surprisingly, the bold approach worked, and Rolnik soon found himself interacting with artists such as Gary Baseman, whom he’d looked up to as a kid and who is currently the subject of a major exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center. The college kid with no background in art started making a name for himself; soon he was writing stories for magazines like LA Weekly and Artfetch

Recently, Rolnik and his friend Ryan McIntosh, a non-Jewish printmaker who frequently attends artists’ Shabbat dinners at Rolnik’s mother’s home, discussed how they might spread the joy of Jewish art to the wider community. The idea of doing a series of screenprints for the May 19 Venice Art Walk came up, and McIntosh volunteered to make the prints. 

“I call him the wizard,” Rolnik said, “because he makes these things seem so easy, and it’s so hard.”

Screenprinting is a technique that involves using woven mesh stencils to fill particular areas of a blank surface with ink. When working with multiple colors, this requires multiple stencils to achieve the desired effect. It’s a process that’s done by hand, something that was important to Rolnik, who is dismissive of the many digital prints sold today.

“We assembled a list of dream artists,” and most of them agreed to take part, he said. 

Besides McIntosh and Baseman, some of the artists whose screenprints will be available include Jason Shawn Alexander, Bob Dob, Christine Wu, Daniel Edwards, Gregory Siff, Eric Joyner and Michael Sieben.

“Screenprints are what I collect and what a lot of my friends collect because we can afford them,” Rolnik said. “And they’re cool. They’re made by hand.” 

On top of purchasing pieces of artwork for themselves, buyers also will be giving to charity. Rolnik and McIntosh are donating some of their profits to the Venice Family Clinic. 

Rolnik, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, frequently travels around the globe looking for new and exciting art. 

“I don’t just do fine art, or street art, or lowbrow — I cover everything,” Rolnik said. 

That diversity of tastes is evident in the screenprints that will be for sale. Some are incredibly abstract, others bold and in-your-face, including one that depicts a cartoonish devil with the word “Blood” written beneath it. Others, like Sieben’s piece, are colorful and playful. 

Rolnik is proudly Jewish, even saying that he considers himself a Jewish-American before an American. He decided a little more than a year ago that he wanted to combine his love for art with his Jewish pride. 

He’d grown bored with family Shabbat dinners and wanted to try something new, so he asked his mother if he could host an artists’ Shabbat at her home, as his own apartment was too small. What started out as a small dinner among friends has grown into something of an underground event where dozens of people show up. 

“Some are really spiritual, some are Orthodox, some are not Orthodox … but at their core, they’re all Jewish,” Rolnik, who grew up in a liberal Jewish home, said of the artists’ Shabbat attendees. “We even have non-Jewish people sometimes, and they get such a kick out of it.”

Without the Shabbat dinners, it’s likely Rolnik’s screenprint project never would have come about. 

Baseman and Mark Hanauer, two artists who frequently attend Rolnik’s dinners, are “always talking about how it reminds them of Toulouse-Lautrec and how those Paris salons would have been,” Rolnik said. “I’m actually a really shy person.” 

He credits the dinners with opening him up to a whole new set of friends, including those whose works appear in the screenprint series.

Rolnik will be selling his prints at the entrance to the art walk from noon to 5 p.m. at 360 Hampton Drive, directly behind Google’s Venice office, and they will retail for $50 to $300, depending on the artist. The idea of doing something that would be affordable to even young collectors really appealed to Rolnik. 

He hopes the pieces will be big sellers, but there’s something more at stake: getting more young people involved in both the art world and in Judaism. One might expect no less from a critic whose favorite Shabbat T-shirt, made by artist Will Deutsch, reads simply, “I’m the Jew Mel Gibson warned you about.” 

Sukkah splendor


The sukkah in the backyard of Leat Silvera’s home in the Beverlywood neighborhood of Los Angeles is up a little early this year. It’s not because she’s trying to get a jump on the holidays; it’s because she needs a place to look at her work — three large sukkah wall hangings that she designed herself. She’s just gotten the samples of her mass-produced versions on waterproof canvas back from China, and something about the color in one of them isn’t right. While it would likely be overlooked by anyone but Silvera, she’s not going to let it slide, so there’s more tweaking to do.

Silvera traces her aesthetic sense to growing up with her family in Los Angeles, particularly her father. For them, Sukkot was a special holiday, a time of joy and celebration, and it was in their tradition that Silvera got her start. She grew up in a traditional home, but when she was 12, her brother was tragically killed by a drunk driver, and her parents started going to Chabad. It was through Chabad that Silvera and her family drew closer to Judaism. “My father, who’s a contractor, liked to build these beautiful, elaborate wooden sukkahs in his backyard. And he would take the time to pleat these beautiful white sheets all the way around; it would take him days and days. One year, he ran out of the amount of sheets, and he just made a few walls flat, and I looked at them and I said, ‘Can I draw a picture on them?’ ”

Silvera’s father gave her permission to experiment. “A few sharpies later, I had a couple of designs on there, and they loved it,” said Silvera. Her family and their friends liked the designs so much that, according to Silvera, “the next year all the sukkah walls became flat, and I had to paint all the walls in the Sukkah.”

When Silvera went off to college at UCLA to study fine art, she left her sukkah-decorating days behind for a while. Her work at school — oil paintings focusing on realism — was completely different from the work she produces now. “These are whimsical,” she says, showing off the three sukkah wall hangings she’s made, “they’re much more bright and colorful.”

Silvera’s wall hangings are indeed colorful, and quite large, measuring 8 feet by 5 feet, and they are meant to transport the viewer to a peaceful, joyous place. One depicts a scene of rabbis dancing in the street with Torahs, another, a scenic view from a window ringed by pomegranates, and the third, a playful Jerusalem landscape.

“I had a lot of requests for doing the ushpizin,” said Silvera of the traditional welcoming of the seven exalted guests to the Sukkah, “and I did a lot of sketch work for it, and I worked it through and everything, but what ended up happening is that you didn’t capture a moment, you captured a lot of different moments, and to me that’s very distracting and almost disturbing as an artist, so I dropped it.” 

“What I like to do in general with art is just capture a moment in time, a moment of emotion that can pull you in,” said Silvera. To do this, she goes through numerous sketches before settling on moments that speak to her.

The process is a welcome one for Silvera, now in her 30s and the mother of four boys whom she home-schools. Silvera used to hide most of her paintings once they were completed, but now she sells them, and having them hanging in sukkahs around Los Angeles is a huge step for her. “Whatever anyone gets from that, even just a little bit of happiness, a little bit of joy, a little bit of that transportive feeling, that’s an incredible amount of fulfillment for me as an artist.”

Silvera started making her wall hangings for a wider audience last year. She’d painted the one of the rabbis dancing with the Torahs, and “decided I’d make about 50 copies and see what happens. The problem was, they came the morning before Sukkot.”

Undeterred by the late hour, Silvera pushed ahead with her plans to sell her pieces. “The morning of Sukkot I went to some close neighbor friends and said ‘I have them, what do you think?’ Not only did they buy them, but they called their mother-in-law, their best friend, and long story short, I sold maybe, that morning, 25 pieces.” Silvera was extremely pleased with the results. “I thought, OK, this is nice, this is something people want to have in their sukkahs. So I’ve created two more for this year; we’re selling all three of them this year, and hopefully people will enjoy them.” In addition to the dancing rabbis, there are lyrical images of Jerusalem, painted in soft washes of color.

Silvera currently sells her pieces at her Web site, leatsilvera.com, each priced $225, and she has also been trying other ways to get them noticed. “I’m trying to distribute them through shuls, through schools, Facebook, Pinterest, using whatever mediums I can through the Internet, but mostly I think it’s going to be word-of-mouth, because you can’t really tell what these look like until you see them in person.”

More than anything, Silvera feels lucky to be able to use her artistic talent to brighten one of her favorite holidays for others. “To me, it [Sukkot] is the apex of it all [the Holy Days season] and brings everybody together in such a wonderful way,” Silvera said. She sees how many of her friends want to make their sukkahs beautiful, but maybe don’t have the time or skill to pull it off.

“Maybe I can help. It’s almost like me coming into their sukkahs and helping paint a little mural to make it feel more beautiful for them.”

And since all three of her murals strongly evoke Israel, where she’s visited many times and to which she feels a strong connection, she feels like she’s bringing people closer to the Holy Land as well. “Sukkot is my favorite time in Israel. … I love seeing the apartment buildings where every balcony has a sukkah, and every staircase has a sukkah, and they’re just everywhere, and when you walk down the streets, you hear singing from outside, everyone has kind of removed themselves from that incubation or that secluded area of inside, and now everybody’s open and out and together.”

Germany to restitute two Nazi-looted paintings


Germany will return two paintings to the sole heir of a collector who was murdered by the Nazis.

Two paintings by the renowned Expressionist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff – “Estate in Dangast” (1910) and “Self Portrait” (1920) – will be turned over to Argentinean businessman Roberto Graetz, 60, the sole heir of Jewish textile manufacturer and art collector Robert Graetz, who was killed in Auschwitz.

German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann on Nov. 19 announced the decision by the so-called Limbach Commission to return the paintings, “based on the overall situation, the persecution of Robert Graetz, and given the fact that there was no concrete evidence” opposing the claim that Graetz had lost his collection due to Nazi persecution, according to the German press agency dpa.

The Limbach Commission was established in 2003 to help resolve disputes over cultural inheritance.

Graetz’ nephew and sole heir reportedly had fought for ten years for the return of the paintings, which are worth an estimated $4 million. They are currently on loan to the Neue Nationalgalerie, one of Berlin’s premier modern art museums. It is expected that talks will be held with the Argentinean heir and the Prussian Foundation to arrange for the works to remain at the museum. 

The state of Berlin reportedly had claimed that there was not enough evidence to prove the works had been stolen or confiscated by the Nazis. All they knew was that Graetz still owned them in 1938 and that they were sold at a gallery in 1953 for 3,500 German marks, or under $900. But researchers were unable to document what had happened to the paintings after 1938.

The fate of Graetz, however, is known. According to reports, he was forced to sell his home and belongings in 1938 and was deported to Auschwitz in 1942, where he was killed.

His nephew told Bloomberg after the decision that: “You cannot undo the past, but it is possible to achieve a little bit of justice.”

German casino returns Nazi-looted painting


A German casino has returned a Nazi-looted painting to the heirs of a German-Jewish art gallery owner.

The return of “The Masters of the Goldsmith Guild in Amsterdam in 1701” by Dutch portrait painter Juriaen Pool II (1665-1745), took place Tuesday at the Amsterdam Museum.

The beneficiaries of the estate of Max Stern, who ran a gallery in Germany before he was forced by the Nazis to liquidate his works, are Concordia, McGill and Hebrew universities.

The Pool painting, which depicts some of Amsterdam’s most important citizens, is the ninth Nazi-looted piece of artwork to be returned to the university heirs. It had been with the Stern Gallery in Dusseldorf as late as 1937 when it moved to the Heinemann Gallery in Wiesbaden. In the years after World War II it was acquired by a casino in southern Germany and has been there ever since.

Stern liquidated his gallery’s works of more than 400 pieces after Jews were banned from selling art. In 1943, after recovering a fraction of the works, Stern moved to Canada and purchased the Dominion Gallery of Fine Arts.

Following Stern’s death in 1987, the beneficiary universities in association with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office in New York founded the Max Stern Art Restitution Project to locate and recover works from Stern’s collection.

The artist Pool lived in the 17th century building that houses the Dutch museum, which once was an orphanage.

Fla. museum told to hold painting allegedly looted by Nazis


A small Florida museum was ordered to hold onto a painting on loan from Italy because it may have been looted by the Nazis.

The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee was notified this summer by the District Attorney’s Office in the Florida capital that the nearly 500-year-old painting —“Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue,” by the Italian Renaissance artist Girolamo Romano—is believed to have been stolen from a Jewish family by the Nazis during World War II.

The grandchildren of the painting’s owner, an Italian Jew named Guiseppe Gentili, contacted the government and the museum directly.

The painting, part of a show at the museum on Baroque painting that just ended, is one of 50 artworks on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, Italy. Its estimated worth is about $2.5 million.

Five other paintings that belonged to Gentili before the war and were sold in a 1941 government auction after the family had fled France were returned to Gentili’s descendants by the Louvre following a long legal battle.

U.S. authorities and the Italian Ministry of Culture are working to determine who owns the painting.

Meanwhile, The Israel Museum announced last week that it had returned a painting to the heirs of its owner after determining that it was looted by the Nazis from a Jewish museum in Germany. “The Return of Tobias,” a 1934 painting by German Jewish artist Max Liebermann, was sent back to Liebermann’s estate by the museum.

Liebermann had lent his painting to the Jewish Museum in Berlin in the 1930s. It was given to the Bezalel National Museum in Jerusalem in the 1950s after no owner came forward to claim it.

The work is among 12 pieces that the Israel Museum was sending on loan to a museum in Germany. Background research conducted on the piece before it was sent determined that the piece had been on loan to the German museum from which it was looted and that it should be returned to the artists’ heirs.

Two Nazi-looted paintings restituted to Vienna family


Two paintings confiscated by the Nazis from a Jewish family in Vienna have been returned to its heirs following two years of negotiations.

The London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe announced Wednesday that a work by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein (1788-1868) was delivered by the Dresden Gemaldegalerie museum to London to be given to the heirs of the Rosauer family in Vienna. Another work, by Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder (1751-1830), was returned to the family in late 2010. It had been in the custody of the German government.

“We are very pleased that both the government and the museum returned the paintings,” Anne Webber, co-chair of the commission, told JTA Wednesday. “The process in both cases took longer than might have been expected, and we hope that one of the changes that might result from this is that [there will be] clear claims procedures that set out the framework of the process.”

The works were among 160 that belonged to three sisters, Malvine, Eugenie and Bertha Rosauer. Forced by their brother to remain unmarried, the sisters lived together in an apartment in Vienna.

Malvine died there in 1940 and the two younger sisters were murdered in Treblinka in 1942. Of the entire family left in Vienna, only one great-nephew, the late Rudolf Epstein, survived. He had managed to save a watercolor painting of the family’s home, in which many of the artworks were portrayed. The only other evidence is a list of property that the sisters had to provide to the Nazis.

Painstaking detective work revealed that the two now-restituted paintings were among the works that ended up in the hands of Hitler’s art dealer, Julius Bohler of Munich. They changed hands several times before settling in the Dresden museum. Negotiations for their return began in 2009.

Webber told JTA that clues have been found and now other works are being traced as well.

“Uncle Rudy said these paintings were stolen from my uncle and aunts, and when the time is right you must look for them,” Susan Freeman, who was born in Vienna in 1936, told JTA. She and her parents fled to England in 1938.

“This is the first homecoming, and it was such an emotional moment to feel that the aunts were there,” Freeman said. “Rudy would have been over the moon.”

I Ate the Whole Thing!


I Ate the Whole Thing!

Rap music and matzah balls? Hey, Jews can rap. Just ask the group, Chutzpah, which showed up in full rapping gear for the weighing of the 26-pound-matzah ball at Canter’s Deli last week to celebrate the DVD release of “When Do We Eat?” The weights and measures officials arrived in uniform to record the official weight to send to Guinness, and guests and regulars ogled the giant treat. Not exactly like grandma used to make, but in this case bigger was better.

The matzah ball weigh-in was all part of the 75th anniversary celebration for the legendary L.A. deli, with Assemblyman Paul Koretz doing the honors of presenting an official proclamation from the state of California. Alan Canter, representing the second generation of family ownership, accepted the honor; he has spent practically his whole life keeping Canter’s one of Southern California’s most beloved and long-lasting dining establishments.

Koretz saluted the restaurant for its many years of great food, legendary service and extensive community involvement.

Two longstanding employees, head waitress Jean Cocchiaro and manager and main sandwich man George Karkabasis — considered by many to be the fastest and best sandwichmaker in town — were also surprised with certificates of commendation.

Together, they have worked at Canter’s for more than 100 years! Jacqueline, Gary and Mark Canter were on hand to celebrate their family’s famous fressing history with Dad, Alan.

The Canters reminisced about old times with Koretz, noting the table where Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller sat on Friday nights, the visits from sports stars like Wilt Chamberlain and Hank Aaron, the joking of regulars like Jack Benny and Buddy Hackett.

Solidarity Brother

Responding to the crisis in Israel, Rabbi Eli Herscher, senior rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, and the synagogue’s director of education, Metuka Benjamin, quickly organized a solidarity mission to Israel. The group of 21 congregants met with high-level military and political leadership for a crisis update, visited military bases directly involved in the conflict and experienced first-hand the mobilization of essential services for Israelis in the north who were directly affected by this war. Herscher and Benjamin led the temple’s leadership as they brought gifts to wounded soldiers at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. They also visited a summer camp organized by the Joint Distribution Committee to serve children affected by the bombings in the Haifa area and met with handicapped Israelis who were evacuated to hotels in the center of the country. The temple has scheduled three other Israel missions for the coming year and raised $1.4 million dollars toward meeting Israel’s immediate crisis needs.

Zev on the Mount

Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries named Bob Zev director of marketing. Zev, who has a bachelor’s from CSUN and an MBA from USC, has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience serving as the vice president of marketing for a financial institution.

Zev grew up in Los Angeles, became a bar mitzvah at Sinai Temple, and attended Hillel Hebrew Academy, Hebrew High School, Camp Ramah and spent a year in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

‘Lost’ in the Art World

Even though Jack Bender didn’t win the best director Emmy Sunday night for his work on “Lost,” he was very much a winner at the premiere of his one-man show, “Found” at the Timothy Yarger Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills on Aug. 26. The exhibition was a “lost and found” of sorts for Bender’s friends, colleagues and admirers, who all converged onto the swanky gallery floors to view his colorful, explosive mixed-media paintings and, of course, to socialize.

The paintings could hardly be viewed through the talkative crowd of well-dressed art lovers, gallery clients and Bender’s circle of friends, who were sipping vodka-based cocktails named in Bender’s honor, such as “On a Bender” and “Castaway.” Across from “The Hatch Painting,” made famous for its appearance in “Lost,” students from View Park Prep in South L.A. played smooth jazz for the guests.

Among the celebs present to gush over Bender’s artwork were actress Blythe Danner; Jacqueline Bisset; J.J. Abrams, creator of “Lost”; Carlton Cuse, “Lost” producer; “Lost” star Evangeline Lily (who plays Kate) and “Sex and the City” actor Evan Handler (Charlotte’s Jewish husband).

“I don’t know how he did all of these,” Danner enthused to Entertainment Tonight, at the gallery.

Works exhibited are those he completed during breaks from filming “Lost” in Hawaii these past two years. Bender has been painting ever since he was a teen.Lilly, however, wasn’t surprised by Bender’s creative output on display: “It’s an expression and extension of himself,” she told The Journal in the gallery’s backroom, where Bender shared exhibition space with Chagall and Picasso. “He’s very spontaneous as a director and doesn’t like to premeditate things.”Bender summed up the evening: “It’s wonderful to be in this extraordinary environment. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a long ride.”

— Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Beit T’Shuvah’s New President Honored

Brindell Gottlieb recently opened her home to celebrate Nancy Mishkin as the new president of Beit T’Shuvah. Mishkin’s two-year term with the Westside congregation and rehabilitation center began in July. The annual Steps to Recovery Gala on Jan. 28, 2007, honoring Ron Herman, Dr. Susan Krevoy and Diane Licht, will be the first event highlighting Mishkin’s presidency. Beit T’Shuvah’s mission is to insure the physical, emotional and spiritual health of individuals and families within a supportive Jewish community. For more information, call (310) 204-5200, ext. 211.

Austria Makes Reparations for Nazi Past


The expulsion and extermination of 182,000 Austrian Jews during the Nazi era is a wound that will never heal completely, but two important decisions during recent weeks at least point to a symbolic closure for the dwindling number of survivors and the Austrian government.

In a high-profile case, Maria Altmann won her seven-year battle to recover from Austria five famous paintings looted by the Nazis and now valued at $200 million. The art works were seized in Vienna in 1938 from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish sugar magnate and Altmann’s uncle.

After an even longer period of legal and diplomatic wrangling, a court decision has cleared the final hurdle for payment of restitution money to survivors or the heirs of victims.

The drawn-out Altmann case finally reached its end when the Austrian government accepted the decision of an arbitration court in Vienna that the five paintings by Gustav Klimt rightfully belonged to Altmann and four relatives.

The decisive ruling in favor of Altmann and her attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg, is “the most important victory in the entire history of litigation on Holocaust restitution,” said professor Michael J. Bazyler of Whittier Law School, whose latest book, “Holocaust Restitution: Perspectives on the Litigation and Its Legacy,” has just been published by New York University Press.

Altmann, a tall and animated Cheviot Hills resident, who will celebrate her 90th birthday next month, greeted the decision as “Fabulous…. It is wonderful that justice has finally been done, that was my whole goal.”

Born Maria Victoria in Vienna in 1916, she was raised the pampered daughter of the fabulously wealthy Bloch-Bauer family. Her uncle Ferdinand owned Austria’s largest sugar-refining factory, numerous mansions and a major art collection.

The Bloch-Bauers were Jewish, but in the selective manner typical of central Europe’s Jewish upper class.

“We went to a temple once a year on Yom Kippur, where I remember seeing the Rothschilds, the men in top hats and cutaway coats,” Altmann recalled. “But otherwise, we celebrated Christmas and Easter. That’s sometimes hard to explain to American Jews.”

In December 1937, in the last grand Jewish wedding in Vienna, Maria Block-Bauer married Fritz Altmann, an aspiring opera singer. The newlyweds left for an extended honeymoon. Shortly after their return, Hitler’s troops marched into Vienna, amid the unrestrained jubilation of the Austrian people, Maria Altmann remembers well. In one of their first acts, the Nazis seized the art collection of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, including the Klimt paintings.

The most famous of the paintings is a gold-flecked portrait of Altmann’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, currently a centerpiece of the Austrian National Gallery and one of the most reproduced pictures of all time.

Following the ruling, there remain some loose ends to be tied up, especially whether Austria will try to buy the Adele portrait, considered a national treasure, from Altmann.

The portrait itself is valued at about $100 million, and the government has said it cannot afford the sum, which is equal to the annual budget for all Austrian museums.

It is Austria’s hope that a generous private donor might step up and pick up the tab.

The other Klimt works are a second portrait of Bloch-Bauer and three landscapes.

Schoenberg predicts that his client’s victory will encourage other governments and museums, especially in France and Spain, to arrive at settlements on other cases of Nazi looted art taken from Jews during the Hitler era.

A bizarre touch was added last week, when Schoenberg received an anonymous e-mail, whose sender threatened to destroy the Klimt paintings in order for “hungry people to get bread.” Austrian authorities temporarily removed the paintings from the National Gallery, and then arrested a 50-year-old man, tracked down through his Internet provider.

The unidentified man claimed that he was drunk when he sent the e-mail.

Until two years ago, Altmann, mother of four and grandmother of six, supported herself by running a fashionable dress shop for women over 40.

Her fortunes have changed in recent months. In addition to the money she is expected to receive under the settlement with Austria or the sale of some of the Klimt paintings, Altman and 13 co-heirs got $21.8 million last year in recompense for the sugar factory and other properties seized by the Nazis.

Although the Bloch-Bauers had the foresight to set up a trust account for the factory’s stock in a Swiss bank to shield it from seizure, the bank turned around and sold everything to a well-connected German businessman at a fraction of its value.

Altmann said she plans no changes in her lifestyle.

“I’ll stay in the same home where I’ve lived for 30 years and keep driving my ’92 Ford,” she said. “And I don’t need any new clothing.”

However, she plans “to do something” for the Jewish communities in Austria and the United States and for Israel.

Once the money is in hand, she also hopes to realize her long-held dream of sponsoring a performance by the Los Angeles Opera, starring her idol, tenor Placido Domingo. The event would be dedicated to her late husband, whose operatic career was cut short when he had to flee Austria.

Altmann said she had urged Austria seven years ago to arbitrate the dispute, “but I never got a response back.”

Schoenberg savored the end of the lengthy confrontation, noting that “at the beginning, we didn’t think we had any chance at all.”

A decisive break in the legal proceedings came in June 2004, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Austria could be sued in a U.S. court, despite the opposition of the Austrian and American governments.

The Supreme Court decision helped Austria “to finally see the light” and agree to arbitration, Schoenberg said.

Austria Accepts Responsibility

While the Altmann case has made headlines, it is only part of the larger question of Austria’s responsibility toward Nazi victims in the postwar decades. Austria, whose native son Adolf Hitler incorporated it into the Third Reich during the 1938 Anschluss, played the role of “first victim” of the Nazis, guiltless of the Holocaust and other atrocities.

This attitude changed in the mid-1990s, when the Austrian president admitted for the first time that his country bore its share of blame for Nazi crimes against Jews, as well as against the Roma and Sinti (gypsies), homosexuals and the disabled.

In 1995, the Austrian parliament established the National Fund for Victims of National Socialism, which over the past 10 years has appropriated some $770 million under various programs compensating for loss of property, education, pensions, tenancy rights, and for slave labor and hardship cases.

But Austria has held back a good chunk of the allotted money, some $210 million, until the government was guaranteed that no subsequent class-action suits against Austrian businesses would be filed by survivors.

Last month, a U.S. District court in New York dismissed all such class-action suits, a decision welcomed by the Claims Conference, which negotiated with Austria on behalf of survivors.

The first payments to some 19,000 claimants in 69 countries are to start next December and should be completed one year later, said Hannah M. Lessing, secretary general of the Austrian National Fund. Lessing was in Los Angeles last week to meet with survivors and, accompanied by Austrian Consul General Martin Weiss, met with The Journal over cappuccino at a Brentwood restaurant.

Lessing was born in Vienna in 1963, the daughter of a Jewish photographer who had fled from Vienna to Palestine in 1939, but returned to his native city after the war. He had left behind his mother and grandmother, who both perished in Auschwitz.

Lessing’s non-Jewish mother, with Hannah and her siblings, formally converted to Judaism in 1973. Her later resumé includes a stay in Israel, where she worked as a hotel receptionist and businesswoman.

The raven-haired Lessing wore a prominent Star of David around her neck, which led to a question about the widely reported wave of anti-Semitism again rising in Europe.

She said that the reports were greatly exaggerated, although remnants of classical anti-Semitism remain and in France, especially, threats from young Muslim immigrants.

“I wear my Star of David in Vienna without any comments or incidents,” Lessing said. “But when I’m in Paris, my friends think I’m crazy to do so, and in New York I am often advised that I might be better off leaving it at home.”

On a subtler level, she acknowledged that most non-Jewish Austrians would categorize her first as a Jew and secondly as an Austrian, just as in past decades most non-Jewish Americans considered Jewish citizens as not “real Americans.”

Her answer drew a pained rebuttal from Consul General Weiss.

“I am a Catholic, and I consider Hannah as much an Austrian as I am,” he protested.

When Lessing switched from her career as a banker five years ago to accept her present position, she insisted on a pro-active policy of seeking out survivors, open access by claimants to her offices and a minimum of red tape. Nevertheless, she acknowledged criticism that the whole process is still too slow and complex, especially given the advanced age of the remaining survivors.

“There are only some 12,500 Austrian survivors still alive, and every time one dies, we lose,” she said.

Lessing also wishes that she could raise the payment rate for Jewish property lost during the Nazi era, which now stands at only 10 to 15 percent of current valuation.

“No amount of money can ever make up for the suffering of the Holocaust,” she said. “Whatever we do is meant as a gesture of reconciliation toward our former citizens.”

 

Art Exhibit Links Trojans, Bruins


Divided between the USC and UCLA campuses, the latest art exhibition by the Jewish Artist Initiative (JAI), titled, “Makor/Source,” taps into the wellspring of Jewish life.

How fitting that Ruth Weisberg, USC dean of fine arts, would include her water-themed, mixed-media drawing, “Bound for Nowhere.” As a succession of hunched-over immigrant Jews board a boat headed back to Europe, the vessel, with its portholes and cables strewn like seaweed, appears to be a submarine. It is as if these passengers, who carry their belongings, ascend a gangway into an underwater graveyard.

Alternately, Weisberg, whose drawing features a muted brown or ocher color scheme, suggests that the immigrants may be “undergoing a sea change,” a salutary transmutation as they board the ship. She notes that the Jews in the drawing, though denied a visa to Palestine, ultimately may have been admitted to Israel after the country’s founding, the makor or source of a whole new chapter in the history of the Jewish people.

Barbara Drucker, UCLA art department chair, also contributed a work to the show, “Breadbox Stack No. 1,” in which seven bread boxes are tiered into a ramshackle, yet sturdy, tower. Is it a Tower of Babel surging at peril toward the heavens? Or is it, as Drucker proposes, an image both of life, as symbolized by the bread, and death, since modern-day Greeks use such boxes to store bones?

Drucker works from instinct. She did not set out to create something with a Jewish theme, but the bread boxes date from the 1920s and ’30s and recall the heyday of immigrant and first-generation Jews living in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and the Lower East Side, yet another seminal moment in Jewish history.

JAI, which Weisberg calls the “brainchild” of the Jewish Community Foundation and USC’s Casden Institute, was formed, she said, to “act as a galvanizing force” for bringing Jewish culture to the community.

“Makor/Source” marks the first time that the Hillels of the two universities have collaborated on an exhibition. Roughly 20 local artists submitted works to the show, including collages, paintings and photographs.

Because the exhibition is based on a study of Jewish text, one of the most salient pieces is Joyce Dallal’s “Promises Made in a Language I Don’t Understand,” an ink-jet print of pieces of paper bunched into a ball. The image of crumpled paper might or might not refer to the Hebrew Bible. It’s hard to say, so indecipherable are the runes, yet the scraps, involuted as they are, do resemble a Torah being unscrolled.

Even if Hebrew, like all Indo-European tongues, comes from an original source, the endless permutations can create language barriers that are palpable, if less severe to the artist than humanity’s failings or God’s.

“Makor/Source” is at USC Hillel, 3300 S. Hoover St., (213) 747-9135, ext. 14. Opening reception is Sunday, Jan. 22, 3-5 p.m. “Makor/Source” is also at UCLA Hillel, 574 Hilgard Ave., (310) 208-3081. Both exhibits run through March 3.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, June 18

The near month-long dance-on-film extravaganza that is the Dance Camera West International Dance Film Festival offers a poignant Jewish dance piece this evening. Head to the Redcat to view Kaeja’s Dance Company’s short dance film, “Departure,” which evokes the Jewish experience through the tale of a husband and wife forced apart as the war draws near.

6 p.m. $10. Redcat (Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater), 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles. (213) 237-2800.

Sunday, June 19

Two Father’s Day events to consider: The Workmen’s Circle offers a klezmer brunch today, complete with Klezmer orchestra entertainment and plenty of good food. Or honor his memory at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary. Special memorial services with music and song will be held this morning and afternoon.

Workmen’s Circle: 10:30 a.m. $5-$10. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Hillside: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 6001 Centinela Ave., Los Angeles. (800) 576-1994.

Monday, June 20

The title sounds unlikely enough: “Rescued From the Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitch Rebbe.” But it’s nonetheless true, and only the tip of the iceberg in the remarkable tale of how one highly decorated Nazi soldier saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s life. Meet Bryan Mark Rigg, the author, at the Jewish Community Library this evening. Rigg is also the author of “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military.” The event is co-sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles.

7 p.m. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8644.

Tuesday, June 21

Leave it to Heeb to make storytelling hip. The cutting-edge Jewish mag brings the party west today with their “Heeb Storytelling” series. Tonight’s event at the Three Clubs bar offers irreverent Jewish entertainment hosted by the Sklar Brothers. You’ll hear stories and monologues by Aimee Bender, Eric Friedman, Stephen Glass, Journal singles columnist Lori Gottleib, Jonathan Kesselman and Wendy Spero. Then after-party at La-La Land Gallery around the corner.

7:30 p.m. Free ($5 suggested donation). 1123 N. Vine St., Los Angeles.

Wednesday, June 22

Diverse paintings by Israeli artists make up the Michale Hittleman Gallery’s strong “Summer Exhibition of Israeli Masters.” View images from abstracts to still lifes to Jerusalem landscapes in the show that includes works by Moshe Gershuni, Samuel Tepler, Moshe Kupferman, Jan Rauchwerger, Pinchas Cohen-Gan, Pamela Levy, Itzhak Livneh and Lea Nikel.

Through Sept. 1. 8797 Beverly Blvd., Third Floor, Los Angeles. (323) 655-5364.

Thursday, June 23

Hebrew poetry becomes performance art in the one-woman show, “And Then I Went.” Utilizing dance, theater, music, video-art and animation, the show creates visual poetry based on the classic writings of some of Israel’s best-loved poets, including Leah Goldberg, Yonatan Rathosh and David Avidan. English subtitles are projected during the performance.

8 p.m. $20. Gindi Auditorium, University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1246.

Friday, June 24

Summer nights at the Hollywood Bowl kick off tonight with “Opening Night at the Hollywood Bowl,” a benefit concert for “Music Matters,” the L.A. Philharmonic’s youth music education program. Tonight’s theme is music by the bowl’s two Hall of Fame inductees, Trisha Yearwood and Joshua Bell, who’ll be singing a number with his friend, Josh Groban. Quincy Jones will also lead a special tribute with Frank Sinatra Jr. in honor of “old blue eyes” himself.

8:30 p.m. $15-$97 (concert only), $425-$1,500 (pre-concert benefit reception, dinner and concert). 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000.

Spectator – ‘Time’: a Truthful Family Portrait


For Los Angeles artist Shelley Adler, the epiphany came after her second diagnosis of breast cancer and near-death from diverticulitis in 2001. Following her lumpectomy and two weeks in the hospital, she returned home and glimpsed cartons of family photographs she had collected since her parents and other relatives had died.

“The black-and-white snapshots revealed little worlds and scenes I wanted to bring alive in color,” said Adler, whose “Shades of Time: The Extended Family of Shelley Adler” runs through July 1 at the Workmen’s Circle. “I wanted to paint them the way the 16th-century Dutch genre painters had done — small portraits of ordinary people in their homes, offering glimpses into their lives.” Yet, she had put off the project until that day in 2001: “I suddenly recognized I might die, and if I was to do the series, it had to be now,” the artist said.

Adler, 69, had not painted in oils for decades; she had grown up Jewish in what she describes as a repressive small town, Minot, N.D., which she escaped to attend art school. But by 1960 she had married, had children and become a librarian in an effort to “conform, to be ‘normal.'” Fifteen years later she was so miserable that she divorced, returned to art school and became a professional illustrator.

After her 2001 epiphany, she left her job as The Jewish Journal’s art director and, between radiation and chemotherapy treatments, spent hours intensely staring at the snapshots.

“Eventually, the body language of the individuals told me things I wanted to communicate,” said Adler, who left The Journal in 2002.

Her realistic paintings include a 1944 winter portrait of her stoic, taciturn uncle Ben, who stands very still in front of his Minot jewelry store, his eyes veiled behind shadowed spectacles. In a painting of Adler’s domineering father and grandmother, his hand clutches her shoulder as if he is controlling her every move. A summer 1930s portrait of Adler’s scowling mother and aunt reveals “two women who are in conflict, yet they’re in a family,” she said.

Sherry Frumkin of the Santa Monica Art Studios, which previously displayed some of the paintings, described them as “intimate little gems, which make you feel transported to another era.”

If the portraits aren’t always positive, Adler said, “I’m a truth teller. I don’t color things with niceties…. [Rather], I hope viewers will feel they’re looking through a window, as if these people will step right out of the frame.”

For information, call (310) 552-2007.

 

Artful Solution to Nazi Looting


After six years of litigation and diplomatic battles over Nazi-looted art, in a legal case stretching from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to Vienna and back, the Austrian government has agreed with Maria Altmann, an 89-year old widow, to let arbitration decide who now owns masterpieces that once belonged to her family.

At stake are six works painted by Viennese artist Gustav Klimt, valued at $150 million and considered treasures of early 20th-century art.

The most famous among them is a gold-flecked portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a member of a prominent Viennese Jewish family and the aunt of Altmann, a Cheviot Hills resident.

In 1938, the paintings were confiscated by the Nazis and eventually ended up at the Austrian National Gallery, where they are on display.

A major break in the litigation came last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected pleas by both the Austrian and American governments and ruled that Austria could be sued in a U.S. court.

The Supreme Court decision helped Austria “to finally see the light,” said E. Randol Schoenberg, Altmann’s lawyer, and encouraged the country to consent to arbitration, which Schoenberg had first proposed in 1999.

Under the agreement, announced May 18, both sides have appointed one representative, who will jointly name a third member to the arbitration panel. All three will be Austrian legal experts, who are to render a nonappealable decision by Nov. 1.

The longtime court opponents reacted to the new agreement, hammered out over the last two months, with considerable relief.

“I feel very good that the case will finally be resolved, after waiting, waiting and waiting some more,” Altmann said. “We could have had this result six years ago, when I wrote a letter to the Austrian authorities offering just such a resolution, but they never even sent a response.”

Altmann said she had complete confidence in the fairness of the Austrian arbitration panel. She indicated that if the decision goes her way, she would not insist on the physical return of all the paintings, but consider a monetary settlement.

Martin Weiss, the Austrian consul general in Los Angeles, hailed the agreement as heralding “a very good day.”

He and attorney Scott P. Cooper, representing the Austrian government, expressed satisfaction that the case will be decided in Austria and under Austrian, rather than American, law.

The arbitration panel will have to resolve two key points: The first is whether, under conflicting wills written by the Bloch-Bauers, the paintings rightly belong to Austria or to Altmann. The second is how a 1998 Austrian law on restitution of Nazi-looted art applies to this case.

The Austrian decision to submit to arbitration could have considerable impact on other countries. Many of their museums have been reluctant to settle cases of paintings in their possession that were originally taken by Nazis from their Jewish owners outright, or through forced sales.

A current case involves a painting by impressionist Camille Pissarro hanging in Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The painting was sold by a German-Jewish family under Nazi pressure for a fraction of its value.

For five years, Claude Cassirer, 84, of San Diego, a descendant of the painting’s former Jewish owners, has sought the painting’s return.

Spain will host an international Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance on June 8 in Cordoba, and advocates for Cassirer are hoping to draw wider attention to the dispute over the Pissarro painting.

“The government of Spain would be well advised to follow the Austrian model,” Schoenberg said. “The claimants are getting very old and it is unconscionable to drag out the cases any longer.”

 

The Paintbrush as Sword


Samuel Bak’s first art exhibit was in the Vilna ghetto when he was 9 years old. While the Nazis killed 75,000 Vilna residents, he and his mother emerged as just two of 200 survivors.

Some of that young boy’s artwork, which depicted a culture that once was called “the Jerusalem of Lithuania,” has survived the 20th century and can be found in the Lithuanian capital’s Jewish museum. But Bak’s storied 45-year career in painting also brings more than 40 of his works to Los Angeles for the two-month “Between Worlds” exhibit at the Finegood Gallery at the New Jewish Community Center at Milken in West Hills.

“I had no difficulties bringing up memories that for some other people belong to a realm that is so painful that they cannot even approach it,” the 71-year-old Bak said in a telephone interview from his suburban Boston home. “I wasn’t in a concentration camp, but I was in a [labor] camp where most of the children were murdered.”

The Finegood exhibit will include a film series and Holocaust-related teacher training, both working off of Jewish historical themes in Bak’s paintings, which have a permanent home at Boston’s Pucker Gallery. Abstract masters such as Picasso have influenced his earlier pieces, while Europe’s 17th and 18th century painters have influenced his later works — what Bak called, “my more mature style.”

Although shades of Salvador Dali’s dream-driven paintings, which fused reality with fantasy, can appear to have influenced Bak’s art, the painter said that is a misinterpretation.

“I’m using reality to speak not of dreams but of nightmares,” he said.

The painter, who has three grown daughters who also work in creative fields, said he prefers broad themes because, “I cannot compete with the works of historians or documents of that time. So I go into a totally different domain; the domain that asks questions.”

“The bits and pieces for me,” he said, “are the various minds of the survivors who try to create a life of their own.”

“Between Worlds” at the Finegood Gallery, New JCC at Milken, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. For more information, call (818) 464-3300.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, November 13

On the one-year anniversary of her death, the famous and infamous Leni Riefenstahl becomes the subject of discussion in multiple venues. The Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Fahey/Klein Gallery collaborate in presenting a retrospective of her films and photographs. Today, the UCLA Film and Television archive presents a panel discussion on the controversial artist who has been simultaneously celebrated for her innovations in filmmaking and condemned for years creating Nazi propaganda films. A screening of “Das Blaue Licht” (“The Blue Light”) follows.

4 p.m. Free (panel), $5-$7 (screening). UCLA James Bridges Theater, Westwood. (310) 206-3456.

Sunday, November 14

Wear out the kids today at Mount Sinai’s second annual Jewish Children’s Bookfest. They day’s offerings include book vendors, kosher food, celebrity book readings, kid-oriented entertainment, and workshops, including one on journalism, hosted by Jewish Family of the Conejo and West Valley. A tea party with Eloise, of the popular children’s book series, is also planned.

10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Free. The Triangle, Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 6150 Mount Sinai Drive, Simi Valley. (866) 266-5731.

Monday, November 15

Israeli singer and pop culture phenomenon Aviv Geffen has yet to lose the make-up but he has gained a partner in Steven Wilson, formerly of the band Porcupine Tree. Together, they now make up the rock duo Blackfield, and have just released their debut eponymous album. It is Geffen’s first English-language recording project.

$13.99. ” width=”15″ height=”1″alt = “” >

Tuesday, November 16

Count the curse words today when the Skirball Cultural Center and the Writer’s Bloc present “George Carlin in Conversation with Harry Shearer.” Known for their ascerbic wit and smart aleckiness, respectively, the comedians will undoubtedly keep it entertaining, as they discuss Carlin’s latest book, “When WIll Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?”

7:30 p.m. $20. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Wednesday, November 17

Rich colors move from background to foreground as shapes descend and disappear away in the 36 numbered abstract paintings that make up Ginette Mizraki’s “Illumination: Gold Series” at USC Hillel Foundation. She credits kabbalah and alchemy as the inspirations behind the series, which runs through Dec. 10.

3300 Hoover St., Los Angeles. (213) 747-9135.

Thursday, November 18

Dwora Fried’s boxed art draws the viewer into a little world, sometimes narrative, sometimes nonsensical, Fried has said. Her multimedia “boxes and collages by dwora fried” exhibition displays pieces that combine found art with watercolor and photographic elements. It is on view now at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s Advocate & Gochis Galleries. Runs through Jan. 8.

L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. (323) 860-7337.

Friday, November 19

In “Capture Now,” central character Elijah, together with his brother Ace, ponders the question of how one holds onto life’s perfect moments, or in other words, “How do you capture now?” The question is made all the more relevant when Ace develops a terminal brain tumor. The coming-of-age play about a boy growing up on Long Island opens today at Moving Arts.

8 p.m. $15. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., fifth floor, Los Angeles. (213) 622-8906.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, October 30

The title says it all in playwright Larry Gelbart’s satirical look at political scandals, “Mastergate.” Utilizing a Hollywood action film as a front – the fictional controversy goes – the White House has allegedly engaged in some illegal shipping of arms. The play centers on the congressional hearings that must logically follow. It plays at the Actors Group Theatre through Nov. 14.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 7 p.m. (Sun., except Oct. 31.), 2 p.m. (Oct. 31). $12-$15. 4378 Lankershim Blvd., Universal City. (818) 506-4644.

Sunday, October 31

Old-fashioned music and romance converge in Bruce Kates’ operetta, “Sophie: A Musical Love Story of the 1930s.” Set in Los Angeles, the tale begins with Miles Pearson, a widower who has been so heartbroken by the tragic death of his young bride that he has spent years burying himself in his work as a professor. A series of chance meetings with Diane Walker, an actress heartbroken by life’s injustices, will change him – and her. The show runs through Nov. 14.

2 p.m. (Sundays). $10. Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 665-2208.

Monday, November 1

The prolific and beloved Maurice Sendak gives the kids something new to get excited about: Yiddish. The “Where the Wild Things Are” author employs his storytelling talents in a collaboration with The Shirim Klezmer Orchestra in a klezmer variation of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” “Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale” is the resulting CD and full-color booklet, which includes original drawings and removable stickers.

$15. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Tuesday, November 2

Inspired by the stars, artist Renee Amitai depicts the cosmos based on images from the Hubble telescope in her latest works, included in Gallery Asto’s “Conceptual Expressionism” exhibition. “My paintings translate the outward reflection of the inner nature of things,” Amitai writes. “Dream and reality, the continual mystery at the cycle of life, the transcendence of nature.”

11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Tues.-Fri.), 1 p.m.-5 p.m. (Sat.). 923 E. Third St., No. 107, Los Angeles. (213) 972-0995.

Wednesday, November 3

Jewish Book Month continues with tough choices today. Nessa Rapoport battles it out against Jonathan Kirsch for your attention. For Rapoport, head to Arcadia to hear her discuss her book, “House on the River: A Summer Journey” as part of San Gabriel’s Jewish Book Festival. Kirsch fans book it to the Robertson branch library, where he’ll discuss, sell and sign “God Against the Gods.” Stay tuned for The Journal’s Book Issue, Nov. 12.

Rapoport: 7:30 p.m. $10. Arcadia residence. R.S.V.P., (626) 967-3656.
Kirsch: 6-7:30 p.m. 1719 Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8648

Thursday, November 4

Klezmer fun continues at UCLA’s Fowler Museum. “Fowler Out Loud: Klezmer Juice” presents the titular klezmer fusion and world music quintet al fresco with light refreshments this evening. Take advantage of our city’s superior climate and musical groups in Westwood tonight.

(310) 825-4361. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Friday, November 5

The Museum of Television and Radio’s aptly titled, “Two Five-Letter Words: Lenny Bruce” begins today. The screening follows the provocative comedian’s quick rise to fame and subsequent fall through excerpts from appearances on “One Night Stand: The World of Lenny Bruce” and “Playboy’s Penthouse” with Hugh Hefner and Nat King Cole, among others, and a final frenetic interview on “The Steve Allen Show” that was never aired.

Noon-5 p.m. (Wed.-Sun.). Through Jan. 9. Free. 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 786-1000.

The Sound
and the Fusion

by Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer

” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Every Saturday night at the Disraeli household in Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek in northern Israel, the mandolins would come out and three generations of Disraelis would start to play and sing.

“My grandparents were the original chalutzim [pioneers] who came into Israel before it was even a country, and my grandfather was a poet who wrote songs,” said Itai Disraeli, who now plays bass and percussion for the band Maetar. “So on Saturday night we would get together with them and play harmonies – this music is in our blood.”

In 1991, Disraeli and his brother, Hagai Izraeli, left Israel, but not the music. Three years ago they joined with drummer Peter Buck to start Maetar, a jazz/funk/rock/hip-hop/reggae band that plays clubs all over Los Angeles.

“People ask us what kind of music do we play, and even though we try pretty hard to find a box, the reality is that our music is outside the box,” Disraeli said. “We contain musical influences from Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, klezmer music, Chinese music and Arab music, but our music is totally original. We are innovators, not imitators.”

“We try to intermingle our sounds and voices,” Izraeli said. “It’s a collective sound. At any time any one of us can be leading or following.”

“But it’s very coherent,” Disraeli interjected. “It’s not meaningless meanderings into the jungles of our mind.”

The two chose the name Maetar at the suggestion of Izraeli’s wife. In Hebrew, Maetar has a few meanings. It means string, as in instrument strings. If you break the word up, mae and tar, it means water that you take with you on a journey; another translation is vibrations of change.

These meanings, say the brothers, embody the spirit of their music.

“The beauty of jazz is that it’s a model of democracy,” Izraeli said. “Every person that plays can be the utmost of who he or she is and, at the same time, his powers of [being] individual do not separate him from the group. Music is the true democracy in action.”

Maetar will be playing at Cafe Z at the Skirball Cultural Center, on Oct. 30, noon-2 p.m. Free. For more information, visit

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Free tunes at the Skirball this afternoon, as part of their continuing “Café Z” series. This time it’s the Latin jazz stylings of Angelo Metz’s Brazilian Ensemble, performing for you al fresco, as you imbibe frothy coffee drinks in the shade.

Noon-2 p.m. Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Sunday

Eastern Europe meets western this evening, with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony’s performance of “Two Streams in the Desert,” a merging of klezmer and Ladino music. The orchestra, along with Russian clarinetist Leo Chelyapov, flautist David Shostac and the “Jewish Pavarotti” Alberto Mizrahi entertain with both Ashkenazi and Sephardi sounds.

7:30 p.m. $12-$36. Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.

Monday

This week, UCLA welcomes the Mercedes Benz Cup 2004 men’s
tennis tournament. See Andre Agassi and other top players show off their
athletic prowess, or just come for the guys in tennis shorts.

A Great Beginning


When Ed Block’s father died three years ago, he and his siblings were left to look for keepsakes while disposing of the contents of his Florida home. When opening a large, flat box stored in a closet, they were flooded by memories of their father, ever eager to show off a possession prized for 30 years: an unframed lithograph series by Abraham Rattner, a contemporary Jewish American painter.

"He loved to show them," said Block, of Laguna Hills. "But he never figured out what to do with it," he said of the collection. "He didn’t want to split them all up" between his three children.

In vivid primary colors with figures drawn in bold, black strokes, the 12 large pictures in the series titled, "In the Beginning," depict seminal moments of Jewish biblical history, along with an appropriate citation and quote. Several suggest the dreamy fantasies of Chagall; others are painted with a dark, foreboding cubism in a style reminiscent of Picasso. Just 200 were printed in the early ’70s.

Among the biblical characters portrayed are Moses at the burning bush, Adam and Eve and Sampson and Delilah. The abstract lithographs mounted in contemporary frameless Lucite will be permanently displayed on the second floor of the synagogue under a vast skylight.

The collection can be viewed through Aug. 27 in the current exhibit at the Kershaw Museum in Aliso Viejo’s Temple Beth El. The modernist series aptly fits Beth El’s contemporary architecture, reborn after an extensive remodeling from its original industrial use. The congregation relocated from trailers in 2001.

Block’s father owned the lithograph collection, because he was a childhood friend of Rattner’s publisher, New York art dealer Bill Haber.

After his father’s death in February 2001, neither Block nor his two siblings, Cheryl Gelber and Marilyn Harvey, were ready to hang the collection in their homes. Eventually, they decided to celebrate their father by making the collection a gift to Beth El. Jo Anne Simon, whose family helped establish the synagogue, served as an intermediary.

"I wanted it close to home so I could go and visit it," said Block, a physician. He and Lori, his wife, are 15-year synagogue members. His own artistic preference favors the realism of Israeli artist Tarkay, who sentimentally portrays women in vibrant scenes.

Recent appraisals valued the collection, one of Rattner’s lesser known works, at about $15,000, Block said. "It’s not that valuable. Its value is that it’s intact."

Individual prints from the series can be found for sale but not the entire collection, he said. Alan Wofsy Fine Art in San Francisco acquired Rattner’s portfolio a decade ago and currently lists signed and numbered lithographs made by the artist in the last decade of his life for $400 each.

In the decade that preceded Rattner’s biblical series, the artist’s work began reflecting religious themes and his Jewish heritage. One of his best known from that era is "Victory — Jerusalem the Golden," honoring Israel’s 20th anniversary of independence.

Rattner was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. His parents were immigrants who came to the United States to flee anti-Semitism and czarist Russia. Work by the artist, who died in 1978, was widely exhibited in his lifetime and is included in several museum collections.

His personal papers and those of his second wife, Esther Gentle, are archived in the Smithsonian’s collections, in part because of Rattner’s friendships with some of the century’s most creative luminaries. After serving in World War I, where duty included painting camouflage, Rattner spent 20 formative years in Paris, a cultural center for disillusioned expatriates. He experimented with cubism, futurism and expressionism, which would inform his later work that pushed the boundaries of artistic tradition.

During that period in Paris, he was part of a group that included Picasso, Dali and Miro and writers such as Henry Miller, a friend for 40 years who would join the artist on a road trip in the United States.

The introduction to "In the Beginning" is by the artist’s dealer. Haber wrote, "The 12 scenes symbolize man’s aspirations, his triumphs and defeats, his wisdom, his folly, his hopes and his prayers. There is no end to ‘In the Beginning.’"

Miller, too, added an introductory comment: "I’m so happy to see that with the advance of time, my dear old friend, Abe Rattner, continues to reveal that exaltation of spirit. He has the uncommon faculty of combining wrath, biblical wrath, with ecstasy. His work speaks of a living God, a God of infinite compassion and understanding. It belongs not in the museum, but in the cathedral of a new and promising world."

At least by one measure, Miller’s comments proved prophetic. For sure, Beth El’s remodeling transformed a secular environment into a public space with cathedral-like qualities.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Bite off a rose, scoop up your honey and dance on down to the New JCC at Milken. This evening they present “A Magical Argentinian Night,” complete with tango dancers and singers, folk songs and ballet, as well as Argentine snacks, drinks and desserts. Best of all, proceeds benefit children in need.
7:30 p.m. $25. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. R.S.V.P., (818) 464-3300.

Sunday

Bring a blanket to the The Brandeis-Bardin Institute’s “Under the Stars” series, cop a squat and listen to kid-friendly Jewish tunes performed by the Rick Recht Band, one of the top touring groups in Jewish music today.
7:30 p.m. $15-$25. 1101 Peppertree Lane, Brandeis. (805) 582-4450.

Monday

Broadway buffs should consider “West Coast Ensemble: In Concert” this evening, a cabaret show highlighting songs from some of the musicals the group has put on over the years. Richard Israel produces and directs the one-night-only performance by the ensemble’s original artists as they sing songs from “Company,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Cabaret” and others.
8 p.m. $50 (includes dessert reception). 522 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. (323) 436-0066.

Tuesday

Art enthusiasts tired of the same old paintings-on-canvas will find respite in the form of book-sized abstract collages and box constructions by Hannelore Baron. The artist and Holocaust survivor’s works are currently on display at Manny Silverman Gallery. Or see the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services’ exhibition, “Hannelore Baron: Works From 1960 to 1987” at the Gallery at Cal State Long Beach opening today.
Manny Silverman Gallery, 619 N. Almont Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 659-8256.
The Gallery, Cal State Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach. (562) 985-5761.

Wednesday

Swinging his way into movie houses and hearts once again is the inimitable Spider-Man. Your friendly neighborhood arachnidly enhanced superhero comes to a theater near you in his sequel, creatively titled “Spider-Man 2.” This time, director Sam Raimi has him battling Dr. Octavius, aka Doc Ock, but internal demons lurk, too, as Spidey struggles with “the gift and the curse” of his superhuman powers.
sonypictures.com.

Thursday

SISU Entertainment takes its shot at “fun for the whole Jewish family” with its new “Jewish Holiday Songs” karaoke DVD. Features include menus in Hebrew and English, NTSC and PAL compatibility, subtitles in Hebrew or phonetic English and the option of doing singalong karaoke or just listening to the songs.
$19.95. (800) 223-7478.

Friday

Last chance to catch galerie yoramgil’s latest exhibit of David Aaronson’s “Major Works Since 1951.” While Aaronson, a Boston University professor emeritus and art school founder, generally worked on a small scale, he occasionally went big. Yoram Gil showcases his larger charcoal drawings, encaustic paintings and bronze sculptures before they’re shipped off to Boston University for a special retrospective.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sun.). 319 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 275-8130.

High Court’s New Territory: Nazi Loot


"I feel that I gave my best performance at the right time and in the right place," said a jubilant E. Randol Schoenberg.

Schoenberg’s performance hadn’t won him an Oscar but something else that he believed was infinitely more important — an appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 37-year-old West Los Angeles attorney, partner in a two-man law firm, was pleading a case he had pursued for nearly six years and against formidable opposition. On the other side was not only a nationally known law firm with 600 lawyers, but also the U.S. Department of Justice, with its huge resources, and the Austrian government.

Schoenberg represented Maria V. Altmann, an 88-year-old Cheviot Hills resident, who is seeking to recover six paintings — now valued at $150 million — by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, including a portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer.

The paintings were confiscated by the Nazis when they took over the Bloch-Bauer mansion in Vienna and the rest of Austria in 1938. They are currently in the hands of the Austrian Gallery, which claims that Bloch-Bauer willed the paintings to the gallery before her death.

Altmann is contesting this claim, but the Supreme Court hearing on Feb. 25, the first art theft case of the Nazi era to reach the highest court, revolved around a more fundamental legal question.

"The basic issue is whether a foreign country can be sued in an American court," said professor Michael Bazyler of the Whittier Law School, whose recent book, "Holocaust Justice," analyzes the Altmann case.

Schoenberg answers yes, and two lower courts agreed with him. But the U.S. government, backing the Austrian claim, fears that if the Supreme Court upholds this position, the United States, in turn, could be sued in foreign courts and this could lead to a flood of World War II property claims.

Scott Cooper of the Proskauer Rose law firm in Century City, representing the Austrian government, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court will not rule on the case until the end of June, but if it favors Altmann’s plea, the case will be returned to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, who will decide to whom the paintings belong.

For Schoenberg, the grandson of two world-famous Viennese composers, Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl, the David vs. Goliath case goes beyond prestige and money.

"Having grown up in an Austrian Jewish exile family, which had close friendship ties with the Altmann family in Vienna, the case has deep emotional and personal meaning for me," he said.

Two days before the Supreme Court hearing in Washington, another case rooted in the Holocaust era and also centering on federal vs. state jurisdiction unfolded in a Los Angeles court. It pitted survivors Manny Steinberg of West Hills and Dr. Jack Brauns of Covina, both in their late 70s, against the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) and its chairman, former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Steinberg, Brauns and their attorney, William Shernoff, had earlier filed suit in a California court, charging ICHEIC with unfair business practices. They accused the commission of being in league with Assicurazioni Generali of Italy, one of Europe’s largest insurance companies, to stonewall, deny or lower 60-year-old, justified insurance policy claims.

The commission countered by filing a motion for dismissal of the case but lost when U.S. District Judge Ronald S. W. Lew denied the motion and ordered the case returned to a California Superior court. Underlying the legal wrangling of which court should try the case was an important fact of litigation, Shernoff said.

"We have found that the judiciary in state courts, particularly in California, are sympathetic to survivors, while federal courts are more disposed toward the insurance companies," he said.

Law professor Bazyler observed that the "threshold question" of which court has jurisdiction in a given case may determine 90 percent of the outcome.

"Once the jurisdiction is decided, the parties usually settle," he said.

Attorney Constantinos Panagopoulos of New York, defending ICHEIC, said in a phone interview that his client had been "diligent" in processing survivor claims and that he would vigorously contest the survivors’ charges in California courts.

On the same day that it heard arguments on the Altmann art theft case, the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled that states were within their rights to deny scholarships to students studying to be priests, ministers or rabbis. The decision revived some of the contentious issues of church-state separation and also divided national Jewish organizations, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

The ruling was hailed by the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League but denounced by the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America.

An Artistic Homage to Big Brother


Not many artists begin an ambitious new series at 76, but Arnold Mesches did just that after receiving a large box stuffed with FBI documents in 1999. It had taken the Jewish American painter three years and dozens of letters to obtain the 760-page dossier, his FBI file from 1945 to 1972. The papers — obtained under the Freedom of Information Act — chronicle his left-wing activities from the Communist red scare of the 1950s to the Vietnam War era.

Bronx-born Mesches, now 80, wasn’t surprised to learn that FBI agents had tailed him. “The usual variety of cropped hair, suit and tie shadowers, the clichéd kind seen on TV,” he said in a statement. He remembered how “they’d phone, on the pretext of selling car insurance … or snap your picture at a protest march.”

What shocked him were the “special informants” — friends, colleagues, lovers — who had apparently been recruited to spy on him. “[There was] a student who joined us for beer and pizza after class, a close neighbor whose children played with ours, a fledgling artist [I] helped get into an exhibition, a comrade in a meeting, an as– — buddy you trusted with your heart and being, a confidant whose life’s torments were deeply intertwined with your own,” he said.

Their reports not only revealed that Mesches had applied for membership in the Communist Party in 1948, but also the kinds of cars he drove and the hospital where his children were born.

“They knew what papers and magazines I subscribed to…. That I earned my living as a commercial artist, an art teacher, a film-strip artist, as the art editor for frontier, a magazine unfavorable to the FBI, as a lunch truck driver, an exhibiting artist, the director of an art school that — horrors! — showed a Czech film,” Mesches said.

One statement theorized he was a Communist because he “dressed like a Communist” in “rolled up blue jeans with paint spatters, a T-shirt and an old jeans jacket.”

Mesches, who said he was wearing a similar outfit during an interview from his Gainesville, Fla., studio, found the documents dismaying and “creepy.” Nevertheless, he was intrigued by the blacked-out sections that reminded him of color sketches by the late abstract expressionist Franz Kline.

His response was what one might expect of a contemporary artist known for turning personal history into art. He created 57 collages and paintings combining pages of his file with news clippings, photographs from his personal archives, 1950s-era commercial art, magazine illustrations, elements from his own paintings, drawings and handwritten texts. Files reporting that mesches had picketed during a Hollywood strike or the postcard he wrote to president Dwight D. Eisenhower protesting atomic weapons are juxtaposed with media and pop culture images: Sputnick, Batman, Nikita Kruschev, Marilyn Monroe, motorcycle gangs, the Hollywood sign, moviegoers wearing 3D glasses and an ad for Winston cigarettes.

His composition was inspired by a medieval art form: “Just as monks preserved cultural information through illuminated manuscripts, I was trying to preserve a segment of history, albeit my own,” he said.

“Arnold Mesches: FBI Files,” which opens today at the Skirball Cultural Center, is part of growing body of work that explores fears about the misuse of surveillance. The trend includes films such as 1998’s “Enemy of the State” and exhibits like “CTRL [SPACE]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother,” which opened in Germany soon after Sept. 11.

While “Files” resonates after that tragedy, the show’s curator, Daniel Marzona, said he was drawn to the series for a different reason.

“I didn’t respond to it so much because of its connection to the Patriot Act or what the Bush administration is trying to do,” he said. “For me, what was fascinating was how Arnold had aesthetically dealt with his own past and the shocking discoveries in his FBI file. At first glance, his collages are well-composed and visually pleasing, but if you look closer, you see they depict very frightening events.”

Many of the pieces mirror the strange, surreal feelings the artist — whose work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum — felt upon perusing his dossier. One diptych juxtaposes an image of sculptor George Segal enshrouding a model’s head in a cast with a fuzzy 1959 photo of Mesches, taken from a camera that had been hidden in a student’s tie.

“I remember that guy,” said Mesches, who lived in Los Angeles from 1943 to 1984. “I couldn’t stand him coming to my private drawing class in mid-August, when it’s hotter than hell in L.A., wearing a white shirt and a tie. I remember saying to him, ‘Hey, take that tie off, relax,'” and he said ‘no, no, no.'”

Other collages recount the years of the Communist witch hunts, when Mesches marched for clemency for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and did a series of paintings inspired by their case. He said the paintings were stolen from his Melrose Avenue studio in Los Angeles on Aug. 6, 1956.

As for “Files,” he hopes the exhibit warns against the government’s recent call for citizen informants — lest America become what he considers “a nation of spies.” If that happens, “The times I’ve lived through will seem like a Zen garden,” he said.

On Jan. 31, 2 p.m., there will be a discussion at the Skirball with Arnold Mesches and experts on, “Censorship and Civil Liberties.” For tickets, call (323) 655-8587.

The Skirball will also be holding a class on “The Art of Social Protest: Mesches and Beyond” on Feb. 7 and Feb. 14, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $80 (general), $60 (members) $40 (students). For more information, call (310) 440-4651.

Symphonies in Paint


When she was 18 years old, Desy Safán-Gerard conducted an a cappella choir in her native Chile and won a yearlong scholarship to study musical composition in Jerusalem.

Today, the Venice-based artist has long since left music, but not her love of it. Now an abstract painter and psychoanalyst, Safán-Gerard insists the fields are not mutually exclusive, saying that her interests in music, in painting and in psychology are thematically linked.

"Chaos and control in the creative process," is the connection, she said.

In her psychological work, Safán-Gerard has written analyses of famous artists like Lucian Freud, and many of the patients she sees privately are artists as well. Her artistic evolution shows this common thread as well, from her beginning experimentations with dropping paint — "and then I had to work with it" — to her latest abstract works now on display at L.A. Artcore Gallery, which were painted with both her right and left hands.

"I love the interplay of the deft line and the clumsy line. It’s like life and aggression," Safán-Gerard said.

The show, "Music to the Eye" is a collection of about 30 paintings, several of which are visual representations of musical pieces. While many artists paint to music, Safán-Gerard actually paints the music itself.

In her most recent works, she paints from left to right, in lines, the way a composer would put musical notes down on a sheet. With music by Pierre Boulez, Dmitri Shostakovich, William Kraft, Nestor Piazzolla or her nephew Nano’s drum track playing on her CD player, a model, Sara, moves to the music as Safán-Gerard mimics the sounds and motion by putting the paintbrushes to canvas.

And though Safán-Gerard has had people see visions of Jewish symbolism in her abstracts before — her work was featured in a show of Sephardic artists at the Skirball Cultural Center — she prefers to allow her subconscious to work unobstructed in her art.

"I leave my analytic talent in my office," she said.

"Music to the Eye" runs through Dec. 28 at L.A. Artcore at Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. An opening reception will be held Sunday, Dec. 7. On Sunday, Dec. 14, Safán-Gerard will appear in discussion with composer William Kraft and percussionist/composer David Johnson in "Eyes and Ears: Painting Music, Playing Graphics." For more information, call (213) 617-3274.

Building the Perfect Painting


For local artist Rebecca Levy, building a body of work literally begins with the building. "Each one is different and has a charm of its own," Levy said of her fascination with edifices from all over the world. "Rebecca Levy: A Visual Wanderer’s Retrospective," a one-woman show opening Sept. 16 at The Workmen’s Circle’s A Shenere Velt Gallery, invites the public to take in the angles and archways, doorways and dormers that populate her paintings.

Levy, who moved to Los Angeles from New York many decades ago, has produced numerous paintings based on edifices that caught her eye during her travels with her late husband, Herbert. Subjects include buildings in Mexico City, Rome and Amsterdam. One intriguing painting is a based on a photograph inside a El Salvadorian church, where a mother and child sit in one corner, while a lone man sits across the aisle. Another painting depicts a storybook house that used to stand before the Beverly Center was erected in the early 1980s.

"As we were traveling, I was really attracted to the architecture," Levy said. "It really struck me that the people who build them don’t live in them."

Levy admits that she is not particularly religious, and yet the nonarchitectural, abstract and figurative paintings that fill her home convey a Chagallesque spiritual whimsy.

While there are gems among the exhibit, many of her best works will not be in the show. But the good news is that the Workmen’s Circle is the first of a slew of art connoisseurs with interest in displaying her work.

Levy has plenty of architectural paintings ahead of her, and despite her incredible view of the Grove from her living room window, "I never approached the Farmer’s Market," she said with a twinkling smile.

"Rebecca Levy: A Visual Wanderer’s Retrospective," Sept. 16- Oct. 10, The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring’s A Shenere Velt Gallery, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. Levy will appear at a Sept. 20 reception, 4-7 p.m. For more information, call (310) 552-2007.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Betty Green’s paintings work on so many levels — seriously. Her latest collection of mixed-media works, titled “Worlds Within,” refers to the layers of paint and found objects that cover her canvas, as well as to the infinite nature of the visual space they inhabit. Orlando Gallery hosts an opening reception for the exhibition today.7-9:30 p.m. 18376 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 705-5368.

Sunday

Socially conscious kicks are just what the doctor ordered this evening. Presented by Physicians for Social Responsibility, tonight’s engagement is titled “Rx” and features performances and art to benefit the organization of doctors and health professionals working toward a world “free from violence, weapons of mass destruction and environmental threats to human health.” Marcus Kuiland-Nazario and Nurit Siegel co-host the event, with acts by osseus labyrint, Paul Zaloom, Danielle Brazell and others.7 p.m. $20. The Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (213) 386-4901, ext. 125.

Monday

Congrats to Wilshire Boulevard Temple for making thecut. New out this month is Samuel D. Gruber’s survey of the evolution of theAmerican Jewish house of worship over the past 100 years. With photographs byPaul Rocheleau, the book “American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture andJewish Community” features 36 of the country’s most beautiful or architecturallysignificant temples. Wilshire is the lone edifice representing our fine state,but other highlights include designs by Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson,Walter Gropius and Minoru Yamasaki. $40. Rizzoli International. www.barnesandnoble.com .

Tuesday

Pick up the carpool and head to Borders in Westwood this afternoon for Shalom Time. Kids and parents enjoy Jewish quality time with songs, stories and finger-puppet theater, sponsored by the Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel, better known simply as LINK.4 p.m. Borders Books and Music, 1360 Westwood Blvd., Westwood. (310) 470-5465

Wednesday

Aaron Sorkin’s repartee writing for television is known for being both prolific and distinctive. But is his live banter as good as his “West Wing” scripts? Find out this evening, as the Museum of Television and Radio invites you to participate in “A Conversation With Aaron Sorkin.” As the creator, writer and executive producer of the shows “The West Wing” and “Sports Night,” he’ll discuss how he constructs dialogue and how he moves an episode through production.7-8:30 p.m. $12-$15. 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 786-1091.

Thursday

One of only three military rabbis in the theater of battle comes to Los Angeles this Sept. 11. Capt. Avrohom Horovitz of the U.S. Army 3rd Battalion, 27th Artillery Regiment, Ft. Bragg, N.C., will share observations from the Iraqi front lines and discuss the spiritual struggles in the war on terror.8 p.m. $5-$7. Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel, 10523 Santa Monica Blvd., Westwood. (310) 470-5465.

Friday

Don the goofy glasses for some retro fun tonight. The World 3-D Film Expo kicks off tonight, hosted by the Egyptian Theatre. Movie trailer archivist Jeff Joseph has organized the festival, which will feature more than 33 classic and rare feature length 1950s 3-D films and more than 20 short subjects. Tonight, see “House of Wax” and the short, “Motor Rhythm,” followed by “Stranger Wore a Gun.” Other festival highlights include screenings of “Kiss Me Kate” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon.”7 p.m. Runs through Sept. 21. $10 (per screening), $320 (festival pass, plus souvenir booklet). The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (661) 538-9259.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

“Art” for the people: Yasmina Reza’s play about the delicate nature of friendships opens today at The Laurel in Ventura. Translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, the words fly among three male friends when one of them pays a good sum of money for a supposedly avant-garde white-on-white painting. Actors Joseph Fuqua, Cliff DeYoung and Emmy Award-winner Bruce Weitz (“Hill Street Blues”) star in this latest Rubicon Theatre Company production playing through Sept. 28.8 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday), 7 p.m (Wednesday and Sunday), 2 p.m. (Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). $28-$43. 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. (805) 667-2900.

Sunday

Wunderkind Daniel Schlosberg works his 24-year-old fingers over the piano keys in this evening’s installment of LACMA’s Sundays Live Series. Mozart and Schubert fans convene at the Bing Theater for a free fix of the composers’ “Sonata in F” and “Sonata in B Flat,” respectively.6 p.m. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000.

Monday

Put the superstitions aside and head to Forest Lawn for their latest exhibition, “The Art of a People: Polish Expressions.” Works by Polish artists Danuta Rothschild, Jerzy Skolimowski and Jan Styka are displayed along with videos depicting their lives and their paintings.10 a.m.-5 p.m. (daily). 1712 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale. (800) 204-3131.

Tuesday

You don’t need a parking reservation to see the Getty’s collection anymore. Take a personal Tuesday and check out their “Photographs of Artists by Alexander Liberman” exhibition. During his 50-year career as art director of Vogue and editorial director of Condé Nast Publications, Liberman’s flashbulb dilated the eyes of prominent artists like Picasso, Matisse, Frankenthaler and Duchamp. You can see those images and others through Oct.19.10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday), 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Friday and Saturday). 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.

Wednesday

While growing up, Baila Goldenthal’s nomadic family life took her all over the United States and to the Panama Canal. As an adult, her own wanderlust led to a two-year stay in Europe and later in Madras, India. Her thematic interest in the concepts of time and space were a natural outgrowth of all her traveling, which has translated into her art, most recently in a series of collages and sculptures fittingly titled “On and Off the Wall.” The pieces can be viewed starting today at the Artcore Brewery Annex.Runs Sept. 3-28. By appointment (Wednesday), noon-4 p.m. (Thursday-Sunday). 650A S. Avenue 21, Los Angeles. (323) 276-9320.

Thursday

Three distinctly American musical musings make up tonight’s “Dvořák’s New World” concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Offered up are “Symphony No. 9” from the titular piece, along with excerpts from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915.”8 p.m. $1-$77. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000.

Friday

You started the week with a play about art and friendship; end it with one about architecture and family. Richard Greenberg’s “Three Days of Rain” has reopened at the Flight Theater at the Complex in Hollywood through Oct. 15. The play about two siblings struggling to understand their architect father after his death and their subsequent disinheritance was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1998.8 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday). $15. 6472 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 761-6482.

Your Letters


Piece of the Pie

Tom Tugend’s article led me to fantasize that if I were a secular Jewish millionaire, what would I do to mitigate the present feverish global anti-Semitism (“Why Aren’t Jews Giving to Jews?” June 27)? I certainly would not give a dime to organizations that are in existence solely to perpetuate Jews and Jewish causes. This would only confirm what the anti-Semites say: Jews are clannish and self-serving.

Martin J. Weisman, Westlake Village

The Jewish Journal’s brilliant cover story, “Why Aren’t Jews Giving to Jews?,” points out that “mega-rich” Jews give only 6 percent of their donations to Jewish causes.

Just think if the super-rich Jews gave just 10 percent of their donations — not income, but donations — to Jewish causes. Next year, for example, David Geffen’s $20 million gift would pay for two new loaded Jewish Community Centers, complete with teen services, pool, gym, senior center and retirement community. Eli Broad’s $33 million gift would pay for 10 — count ’em 10 — new 250-student Jewish day schools, with lower tuition, since parents wouldn’t need to pay money into a building fund.

Try to imagine our community after five years of tithing donations — I know, it’s too good to be true.

Nathan D. Wirtschafter, Encino

R.B. Kitaj

I wanted to comment on your piece on the painter R.B. Kitaj (“Kitaj the ‘Diasporist,'” June 20). I was fortunate to see the retrospective of his work both here and in London and appreciated enormously the text next to many of his paintings. In fact, I remember being so incredibly moved by one of the paintings, “The Orientalist,” that I stood in the gallery, I’m not even sure for how long, with tears streaming down my face.

When a painting moves you to that degree, it says a lot about the painter. I wish Kitaj good fortune on his return home and look forward to seeing his exhibition at Venice’s LA Louver Gallery.

Jo Ann Burton, Los Angeles

Brunch Davidians

As a former Brunch Davidian (June 20), I applaud [Rob] Eshman’s conclusion on the ‘Big Idea’ Jewish leadership should have: Judaism. Next should be a discussion of why be Jewish in the first place?

I have chosen to take Judaism seriously and have used Dennis Prager’s writings and taped lectures to learn about it.

One cannot be a serious Jew by default of birth, eating at a deli or uttering a Yiddish term.

Rabbis need to conduct services that teach as much as provide for worship. Cantors need to find ways and music to get their audience to become engaged and daven as a congregation. Maybe The Jewish Journal could spare a page to teach the basics on a weekly basis?

Chuck Mayper, Camarillo

ADD Fast Lane

Perhaps it is because I am so enmeshed within the community of families with children who have invisible disabilities, that I don’t see this abuse of labels happening (“ADD, ADHD — Life in the Fast Lane,” June 20). All of our kids have real and serious issues to contend with and need these opportunities mentioned in her article, such as untimed SATs and Special Needs passes.

Our kids have diagnoses such as Asperger’s syndrome, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and, yes, severe ADHD, among others. An article such as [Wendy] Mogel’s actually sets us back, because it just fuels the anger of the neurotypical population, who feel that our kids are taking away from their kids in terms of services and by getting certain accommodations. It also makes us sound like a bunch of whiners who will do anything just to get our kids ahead in this world.

I am sure there are people out there who abuse diagnoses in order to receive accommodations, but my guess is that they are not the majority. Please don’t ruin it and make it any harder for us parents of children with real special needs. We’ve been through enough already.

Ellen Jannol, Valley Glen

Are We Sea Turtles?

I have no problem with the Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) limiting loans earmarked for fertility treatment to only Jews (“Loans Give Hope to Infertile Couple,” June 13). There are only 16 million Jews worldwide in existence. If we were a sea turtle or panda, we would be declared an endangered species.

Furthermore, the origin of the JFLA is that it is a benevolent society for Jews. In many ways, the Jewish community has failed to prioritize its services to Jews, such as Bet Tzedek. There are many Jews that could benefit from the Jewish community if we would focus our efforts on Jews and not the plight of others.

Sydni Bender, Culver City

Correction

In “Cancer Crusader, Takes on Oil, School” (June 27), the suit filed by Masry & Vititoe on June 9 is a direct action lawsuit. Additionally, Lori Moss’ MRI two months ago “did not look suspicious.”

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Cult song stylist Danny Cohen’s spooky, weird noir rock infuses caterwauls and other bizarre sounds with lyrics about gargoyles and rigor mortis. The dramatic effect can be experienced firsthand today as the MAK Center and SASSAS present “Pathetic Laments and Inadvertent Drool,” a concert by Cohen, with John La Pado, Christine La Pado and Joseph Hammer.7 p.m. $9-$15. The Schindler House, 835 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 651-1510.

Sunday

The Statue of Liberty is blown up by terrorists. A turban-clad Indian mentalist invades the mind of the president and steals national secrets. Maybe the premise seems outlandish, or maybe it’s not that far off. Playwright Gil Kofman’s “American Magic” opens today, offering an Orwellian examination of the personal freedom-national security tightrope.8 p.m. (Thursday-Sunday). Runs through July 20. $20. 2100 Square Feet, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 969-4848.

Monday

Kudos to Carl Reiner, who this week keeps the proletariat in mind. Those of us resigned to the cheap seats may have bemoaned having to forgo the comedic and cinematic legend’s ADL dinner appearance a few weeks back. This time around he keeps the ticket prices in the double digits. He discusses his new memoir, “My Anecdotal Life,” with a “Seinfeld” writer-producer, Peter Mehlman, courtesy of the Writers Bloc.$18. 7:30 p.m. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 335-0917.

Tuesday

“Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish….” So goes the song every good Jewish camper knows. Reflecting the truth behind the message is the Skirball’s latest exhibition, “Portraits of an Eternal People: A Jewish Family Album.” More than 30 black-and-white images captured by New York-based Zion Ozeri reflect Jewish communities in some of the last places you’d expect to find them: Central Asia, South America and North Africa. The opening takes place tonight with an artist talk and two film screenings.7:30 p.m. Runs through Aug. 31. $5 (general), free (members and students). 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 655-8587.

Wednesday

Ten artists work out the themes of modern life and urban environments in Gallery C’s new exhibition, “Urban Anatomy: Contemporary California Art and the City.” Elements of everyday life getting treatment in the show include bridges, shopping carts, postage stamps and the Texaco Pegasus. The multimedia collection includes works by Israeli-born artist Yossi Govrin.11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays), 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Thursdays), Noon-5 p.m. (Sundays). Runs through Sept. 21. 1225 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach. (310) 798-0102.

Thursday

Prolific Chava Alberstein has released yet another album.Titled “End of the Holiday,” this first joint collaboration with her husband,Nadav Levitan, does not disappoint. His socially critical lyrics mix smoothlywith the music she composed, producing a folky, classic Israeli sound thatAlberstein fans will appreciate. $17, www.israel-music.com

.

Friday

Celebrating the true spirit of democracy, the all-American Pasadena Playhouse offers you choices tonight. Theatrical performances are still the mainstay of the theater, but now it also features a gallery of fine art, open one hour before performances and during intermissions. That means you’ve got three options this Fourth of July. You can take in “Goddess Muse Woman,” a retrospective of paintings by Blossom Folb; then stay for “Showtune: A Musical Celebration of the Words and Music of Jerry Herman.” Or you can catch one but not the other. The Pasadena Playhouse — right up there with Mom and apple pie.8 p.m. (Friday, Tuesday-Thursday), 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sunday). $45-$60. 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. (626) 356-7529.

L.A. GOAL Opens ‘Doors’ at Skirball


Sherrie has cerebral palsy, which causes her hands to tremble. So when she was hired to work as an artist for L.A. GOAL in Culver City, she was concerned.

"I can’t paint a straight line, because my hands shake," Sherrie told Susan Wilder, L.A. GOAL’s art director.

"Well, then don’t," Wilder replied. "Use the shaking in your paintings, because that will be part of your language. Rather than fighting it, you can incorporate it."

A door that was closed suddenly opens.

The key? An extraordinary program for adults with developmental disabilities, many of whom haven’t had much success in a job before, let alone one where they are paid as artists.

Forty L.A. GOAL members will be demonstrating their artistic success in "The Drama of the Door," a unique exhibit opening April 30 at the Skirball Cultural Center’s Ruby Gallery. The intention of the exhibit is to provide an opportunity to understand how the doors we open every day determine the lives we live.

The artists have worked diligently on the Skirball exhibit for the past year, exploring and discussing the theme of doors — doors in their lives that are open for them, doors that create barriers, doors that leave them feeling isolated and doors that give them freedom.

The discussion opened the way for the artwork that emerged: brilliantly colored paintings, black-and-white photographs, richly symbolic, hand-painted boxes and intricately designed wall hangings. Each piece tells a story.

The painted boxes have a door that opens and closes. The outside for some represents what is seen and known by others, while the inside depicts a more private self that can be hidden when the door is closed.

"I never thought that I could be a professional artist," said Lisa, who though visually impaired, has always enjoyed drawing. "My artwork has taken a new direction because of this job. It gave me a whole new life. I was very happy when I discovered I could paint."

Unlike workshops for the handicapped, the employees at L.A. GOAL must adjust to high expectations: to be on time, to do quality work and to negotiate with the staff when something upsets them. According to Wilder, this isn’t easy for many people with developmental disabilities.

"They have been ignored or coddled by society," she said," probably because that’s the easiest way not to deal with them."

Elaine, another artist who has her work in the show, accepts the responsibility and sees the payoff. "L.A GOAL has meant a lot to me," she said. "I’ve never been able to do something I really liked before and not fail at it. I do what they ask. I don’t always like it, but I do it anyway, because it’s a job."

On a typical day in the art studio, Sherrie, Lisa and Elaine sit at a large table covered with works in progress, bottles of bright paints, drawing paper and assorted books. The room is alive with the exciting artwork created here: vibrant designs for note cards, baby blankets and hand-painted furniture.

There are eight artists working at the table, and as they draw and paint, they chat, sometimes about the content of their work or techniques the staff has shown them. Though they’re hard at work, laughter often fills the room — a response to a joke or to someone sharing a recent life challenge met in an amusing way. It’s clear that this is a work setting where ideas blossom and creative juices flow, and where disabilities are not the focus of attention.

"I usually painted flowers and pretty things," Lisa said. "For this exhibit, Susan said, ‘Why don’t you paint something that’s hard for you, something that you haven’t done before?’ I decided to do a trapdoor and paint something I don’t like to talk about. I call it my Worry Box."

"I get very frustrated sometimes, and carry things around inside," she added. "I represented that with a dragon, because a dragon breathes fire and fire is very hot, and can burn you. My worries can burn me and hurt me."

The artists at L.A. GOAL often work collaboratively on projects. For this exhibit, a painting by D’Marcus, titled, "The Boxer Rebellion," was also made into a quilt.

"It makes me feel recognized to have people noticing my work and the things that I have done," D’Marcus said. "It’s a new feeling. It feels really good."

D’Marcus said that the door in his painting opens to another world, one that is relaxing and away from pressure.

"My art is the strongest passion I’ve ever had since I was little," he added. "It helps my fear. I feel calm coming here every day and I try to help other people here to be more relaxed. I feel like part of a family."

L.A. GOAL’s "The Drama of the Door" exhibit will be at the Skirball Cultural Center, April 30-June 29. For more information about the exhibit, call (310) 440-4500. For more information about a reception and silent auction hosted by Sean Penn, Thursday, May 8, 5:30pm, call (310) 838-5274.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

A coalition of Southern California Jewish organizations comes together today for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 60th Anniversary Commemoration. Theodore Bikel narrates the program, which includes the lighting of six memorial candles by Holocaust survivors in honor of the 6 million, poetry readings in Yiddish and English and performances by Bikel and the Workmen’s Circle Mit Gezang Yiddish Chorus, led by Dr. Michelle Green-Willner.

8 p.m. $5 (requested donation). Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Sunday

Getting a jump-start on Tuesday’s holiday, the Zimmer Children’s Museum hosts Celebrate Earth Day! Artist and environmentalist Ruth Askren teaches your little ones all about endangered species and ways to protect the Earth. The hands-on fun also includes collage-making with recycled materials.

1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Free (members), $3 (nonmembers, plus museum fee). 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, Los Angeles. (323) 761-8998.

Monday

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, KCET has a host
of films airing this month. First, brush up on your World War II history with
the documentary, “Yalta: Peace Power and Betrayal,” tonight. Then tune in
Wednesday for the broadcast premiere of Academy Award-winning documentary, “Into
the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport,” and next week for “Elie
Weisel: First Person Singular.”

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Somehow, USC Hillel and the Casden Institute have tracked down a few Jews in Hollywood. This weekend, the machers gather with Jewish student filmmakers from Los Angeles and New York for USC’s fourth annual Jewish Student Film Festival. Today’s itinerary: An afternoon “Pitch-Off” and “An Evening with Jonathan Kesselman.” From 4-6 p.m., students get to pitch their story ideas to William Morris agent Mark Itkin; creator and writer of “Freaks and Geeks,” Gabe Sachs; and Howard Rodman, chair of the writing department of the USC School of Cinema-Television. At 7:30 p.m., USC alum and writer-director Kesselman (“The Hebrew Hammer”) participates in a Q and A.Feb. 28-March 2. USC, Los Angeles. (213) 747-9135. www.uschillel.org.

Sunday

To coincide with the release of his novel for young readers, “Summerland,” wonder boy Michael Chabon speaks about “childhood, imagination and creativity” at UCLA today. Chabon is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” (Picador, 2001). A 20-minute Q and A with the audience and book signing will follow the one-hour talk.8 p.m. $15-$35. UCLA Royce Hall, Westwood. (310) 825-2101.

Monday

Those who missed its one-week coming out party this pastOctober can catch “The Trials of Henry Kissinger” on cable this month. TheSundance Channel airs it today (with eight more March screenings) to launch”DOCday” Mondays, a series which will premiere new documentaries every Monday at9 p.m. Finally, the lowliest of weekdays gets some respect. 9 p.m. SundanceChannel. www.sundancechannel.com .

Tuesday

“Fashion and Transgression” is the titillating theme of the USC Fisher Gallery’s current exhibition. American and European women’s fashions from 1900-1950 are examined, exploring “tensions between personal and social identity, as well as the tensions between the liberation and regulation of the body.” Materials on display include photos by Alfred Steiglitz, Man Ray and Edward Steichen, a rare book by Jean Saudé and prints and drawings by Salvador Dali and Otto Dix, taken from various Los Angeles collections.Noon-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday). Runs through April 12. Free. USC Fisher Gallery, Los Angeles. (213) 740-4561.

Wednesday

Lee Miller defied convention as a fashion model-cum-combat photographer. Far from the typical muse, she inspired the likes of Roland Penrose and Man Ray with her beauty, as well as her artistic talent, evident in her paintings, drawings and photographs. Her art, as well as the art inspired by her, is on display in the Getty’s “Surrealist Muse: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose and Man Ray, 1925-1945.” Included are Holocaust images she captured as a photojournalist during World War II.10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tuesdays-Thursdays, Sundays), 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Fridays and Saturdays). Runs though June 15. Free. The Getty Museum, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.

Thursday

Barbara Cook is only giving us a few days to catch the act that earned her a 2002 Tony nomination for Special Theatrical Event on Broadway. She stars in “Mostly Sondheim” at the Ahmanson with Wally Harper on piano and Jon Burr on bass. As you might have gathered, they’ll be doing songs by Sondheim, as well as others, like Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg and Irving Berlin.8 p.m. (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Sunday). Runs through March 9. $20-$55. The Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 628-2772.

Friday

Titian meets tango in Ruth Weisberg’s latest exhibition, “Ruth Weisberg: Love, Sacred and Profane.” Her work is often inspired by fine art images, like Titian’s “Amor, Sacro e Profano” and William Blake’s engravings for Dante’s “Inferno.” In this exhibition, she uses both of these works as foundations for depicting the confluence of art history and personal history, as in her Titian-inspired piece, where lovers slow dance in the forefront of the painting.10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tuesdays-Fridays), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturdays). Runs through April 30. Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 357 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 938-5222.

Artist’s Works From Death Camp Live On


The final portrait that Friedl Dicker-Brandeis drew was of a child’s face. The portrait is clean and white, and the face has an enigmatic expression of purity, innocence and stark intelligence.

What makes the child’s portrait haunting is that it was drawn in 1944 in Terezin, where children who entered the concentration camp in Czechoslovakia were shown hanging bodies as a warning, faced death by disease and starvation and were often shipped off to the gas chambers to "alleviate" the crowded conditions.

The child in the portrait seems unsullied by the wretchedness of life in Terezin, and the portrait appears to testify to Dicker-Brandeis’ conception of a purer world or the way the world was meant to be.

Dicker-Brandeis was a prolific Bauhaus artist, who taught art to the children of Terezin. Her art and the art produced by the children in the camp under her tutelage is the subject of a new exhibition at the Simon Weisenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.

Titled "Freidl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin: An Exhibition of Art and Hope," the exhibition is a Dicker-Brandeis retrospective, with artwork displayed from all the periods of her life, including the anti-Fascist photo montages she plastered all over Vienna in 1931 and the vibrantly colorful Kandinsky-like paintings that she did while studying at the Bauhaus in 1923.

The exhibition also displays the stackable chairs Dicker-Brandeis designed, toys she built for children and her architectural plans for the Maria Monstessori kindergarten. The collection shows a woman who was at once practical but whimsical, aggressively political but also soft and gentle.

The art, most of which was in very poor condition, was collected from 24 lenders, many of whom had been friends with Dicker-Brandeis and received the works from her as gifts.

"Her father said to her, ‘Until you become a good artist, you can’t use good paper,’" said Regina Seidman Miller, project director at the museum. "I think she felt guilty that her art was never deserving of good paper. Unfortunately, she used the worst paper always — it is a miracle her art survived. We had to restore everything."

Freidl Dicker was born in Vienna in 1898 and became interested in art at an early age. At 21, she started studying art at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, which was then a revolutionary new school of art and design. She was so advanced that after her first year, she was asked to be a teacher there, and she taught alongside great 20th century artists and architects such as Kandinsky, Klee and Walter Gropius.

In 1923, she moved to Vienna, and in 1931, she joined the Communist Party there to protest against the growing fascist movement. In 1936, she married Pavel Brandeis, and in 1938 they moved to Hronov, a town northeast of Prague, where she started teaching art to children from local Jewish families.

In 1942, the couple was sent to Terezin, a "model" camp that the Germans set up for privileged Jews, where they were allowed to paint, play sports and produce operas and plays. The Germans used the camp as a ruse to try to convince the International Red Cross that Jews were treated benevolently under the Third Reich.

However, the majority of Terezin’s Jews were transported to Auschwitz, and most of them died there. On Oct. 6, 1944, Dicker-Brandeis was sent to Auschwitz, and on Oct. 9 she was killed in the gas chamber.

But her art survived — in Terezin she hid it between planks of wood — and so did the love that she transmitted to her students there. Dicker-Brandeis was aware of the hopelessness of her surroundings, but it was not something she dwelled on.

"She wasn’t good in a saint-like way," said Miller. "She never told children that everything was going to be OK. What she said was, ‘If you have one day, then you have to live it. And while we are here, we have to do the best that we can.’ So it was a way that they were allowed to be sad and afraid, but they could express it through art."

Dicker-Brandeis had her charges in Terezin draw self-portraits. She was always careful to have them sign their work, so that they could develop self-esteem and retain their identities beyond the numbers that had been assigned to them when they entered the camp. Instead of drawing images of the death and destruction, the children drew flowers and pictures of their friends, among other things.

"Instead of food, she would ask her friends to send her paint," said Ela Weisberger, 71, one of Dicker-Brandeis’ students in Terezin, in a phone interview from New York. "She used the wrapping paper when people were getting packages, and from that we were drawing our paintings."

"Some of the paintings or collages were done on forms from the offices that were in the garbage. She was using every little thing that you could make out of it something," Weisberger said. "You look at her paintings, her beautiful colors, and you feel life in them. I think that she would have been the artist of the century if she would have survived."