Holiday music puts the Cha Cha Cha in Chanukah


December always brings a torrent of Christmas-themed recordings by musical artists of all stripes. If you’re at all serious about longevity in a recording career, you record an album of holiday music — the sooner, the better.

No matter what the state of the recording industry, the American public seems to have a bottomless appetite for Christmas songs, regardless of the genre: classical, pop, jazz, country, rap — even death metal.

But while Christmas CDs proliferate, Chanukah-themed albums are seldom forthcoming, and they are hard to locate when they appear. This year offers a bumper crop of three — count ’em, three! — new Chanukah CD collections.

The most traditional comes from the London Jewish Male Choir. Not quite 100 years old as an institution, it sings a wide array of sacred music on “S’u Sh’orim” (Arc Music). The group is one of the world’s foremost Jewish choral ensembles and performs mostly a cappella. Israeli folk, liturgical pieces, Chasidic laments and Ladino songs are all fair game for the choir, whose ranks are open to non-Jews.

The sonorities are thick here, and the soul runs deep. David Hilton’s authoritative bass leads the freylich “Boch Rabeinu,” and Yossele Rosenblatt’s “V’hu Rachum” is a heart-clutching call to prayer by tenor Ben Camissar. “V’al Kulom” has Jason Blair’s tenor soaring over the ensemble, which rolls gently but powerfully. The Ladino numbers show that Jewish soul comes in different flavors, too. This is a great addition to a Chanukah music collection or a very good place to start one.

San Mateo standup comic Lauren Mayer offers something completely different with a sardonic menu of original songs on her self-produced “Latkes, Schmatkes!” It’s a novelty album, albeit one with an ax to grind. Mayer immediately goes for the jugular in “Nine Words”: “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!”

Her “The Jew-in-a-Gentile-World Blues” sums up what she’s after. Likewise, a hip-hop send-up, a country tune, and songs “The Chanuka Cha Cha” and “I Hate Holiday Music” all drive home the draft she feels in December.

But Mayer’s an equal opportunity complainer. On the title number she kvetches about splattered oil and concludes: “Why can’t we eat potato chips instead?” As a singer, she’d never be mistaken for Barbra Streisand, but she does manage to hit the notes. 

The complex relationship of Jews and gentiles to their respective holiday music and that of the other faith is thoroughly explored in the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation’s two-CD collection, “ ’Twas The Night Before Hanukkah.” The complicated topic should be no surprise coming from this outfit, which brought us the “Black Sabbath” compilation, documenting black performers essaying Jewish music. 

Taken as a whole, the collection is a long and multifaceted meditation on tradition versus assimilation. While non-Jews have had virtually no effect on the musical literature of the Festival of Lights, Jews have proven indispensable to Christmas music.

Ray Brenner and Barry Blitzer’s “The Problem” is a funny though incisive musical playlet about the dilemma of how to deal with the overwhelming influence of Christmas for Jews, and it encapsulates much of what the Idelsohn people wrestle with here. The fictional Reform rabbi of the “Hollywood Synagogue,” which comes complete with a health club and shvitz — “Tony Curtis reserved a locker for the High Holy Days!” — is, as Lenny Bruce would say, “so reformed he’s ashamed he’s Jewish.” Ironically, Brenner and Blitzer’s piece is modeled after the brilliant recordings of Stan Freberg, the gentile comic genius from Glendale.

The first disc has some of the more far-reaching musical Chanukah tributes. For tradition, Ukrainian-born Yossele Rosenblatt, with several octaves at his disposal, demonstrates why he was the world’s highest-paid cantor in the early 20th century through his rendition of “Yevonim.” Cantor David Putterman’s ensemble delivers a rousing and obligatory “Ma’oz Tzur” (Rock of Ages), while Tin Pan Alleyman Gerald Marks, who wrote Santa Claus ditties, weighs in with his solemn and historic “Hanukah.” 

Children’s music maven Gladys Gewirtz leads a sing-a-long on “A Chanukah Quiz,” and Temple B’Nai Abraham of Essex County Children’s Choir sings “Svivon Sov Sov Sov” like the Vienna Boys Choir. These are all quite earnest expressions.

Then the Klezmatics and the Klezmer Conservatory Band give us the flavor of old Second Avenue in New York, or at least what they think it sounded like. Debbie Friedman, the Jewish Joan Baez, leads a crowd through her rousing “Latke Song” as her doppelgänger would have done on “We Shall Overcome.”

The curve balls commence when Dust Bowl minstrel Woody Guthrie sings his own sprightly “Hanukkah Dance” (his second wife was Jewish), black folk matriarch Ella Jenkins offers “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” and Don McLean cuts a folk-rock “Dreidel.” Eternal folkie Theodore Bikel sings a Christmas song in English and Hebrew — naturally. 

A number of Jews sang Christmas fare just as sincerely. Pop idol Eddie Fisher sounds earnestly dreamy with “Christmas Eve in My Hometown.” And everybody’s favorite convert, Sammy Davis Jr., exchanges with kids who sound like the Von Trapp children for “It’s Christmas All Over the World.” 

Mel Tormé epitomizes jazz cool on his own “Christmas Song,” while Dinah Shore’s squeaky-clean “Twelve Days of Christmas” could have been sung by June Cleaver. Concert singer and cantor Richard Tucker’s “O Little Town of Bethlehem” holds its mud next to Pavarotti’s.

Then there’s the Velvet Underground’s smug Lou Reed wishing everyone, “Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah … or whatever it is that you do,” followed by a song by the Ramones (lead singer Joey Ramone was born Jeffrey Hyman). Latin bandleader and Santeria convert Larry Harlow (nicknamed “El Judio Maravilloso” — The Marvelous Jew) also renders a salsa Christmas number.

It’s only fitting that Bob Dylan, who’s played hide-and-seek with his Jewishness for decades, croaks “Little Drummer Boy.” Jeremiah Lockwood of the Sway Machinery mates “Dreidel” with the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian chant “Iko Iko.” 

If it sounds quite scattered, you’re right: the collection is eclectic to a fare-thee-well. But it also reflects the multiplicity of the American experiment; this music couldn’t have been made anywhere else. It’s as American as Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Day.  

Musical Journey in Time


Ah the ’60s. Those were the days when Geula, Aliza and Hedva would prance around in their khaki skirts in the Israeli military band — they were the highlight in entertainment for the young and na?ve Israel. After their army stint, they continued performing, singing passionately about the Western Wall and the Kineret and were young, beautiful and adored.

But today? Geula Gil, Aliza Kashi and Hedva Amrani — three of the most successful Israeli female singers of their time — no longer frequent the Israeli stage. And although they might not openly admit it, it is clear that over the years, Israel became a bit small for their ambitions.

All three women married Americans; they now live in beautiful villas in Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Westwood. And not surprisingly, all three share intense and passionate memories of old Israel, the place where they grew up and where their international careers were launched.

I recently spent long and enchanting afternoons with each of them in their homes, with the smell of eucalyptus and the private pools, the old magazine covers and the moving stories from the past. The three were part of a country that had “artists” instead of “talents.” The army bands controlled the music scene and dictated songs with national and Zionist context.

Unlike today, singers would not express personal feeling and mostly sang someone else’s words. The wars, especially the glory of the triumph of the Six Days and later the shame and doubts of the Yom Kippur tragedy were eminent in many of the songs.

The highlight of a career was performing in front of troops in the battlefields. America’s influence on Israeli culture was not yet to be found: No commercial TV or radio, no McDonald’s or Nike, no big cars or Hummers. Instead, there was the open Jeep, the Kol Israel broadcast with its pathos-filled news announcements and the embroidered dresses.

For me it was a journey back in time; for them a glimpse at an old photo album. For both, a look at Israel that some believe doesn’t exist anymore.

Geula Gil

It is lunchtime and Gil stands in her lovely kitchen, facing the Seinfelds’ Bel Air home. (“Jerry is a lovely man, but his little daughter can’t stop nagging, like a Jewish yenta,” she says.) She prepares a light meal with a precision rare to be seen; it is the same seriousness she always applied to her career.

“What can I do?” she shrugs while cutting the sweet papayas she got from the farmers’ market that morning. “I’m a perfectionist.”

In the background, a small waterfall trickles and gathers into a petit turquoise pond. Sometimes, deer come running down the hill and gaze at their home, Gil says. It’s a far cry from Lahakat Hanahal, the famous military band and hothouse for many of Israel’s top entertainers that Gil was part of 50 years ago.

“I miss the band,” she says quietly more than once during the interview.

Everybody always thought the beautiful Geula was Yemenite, because of her tanned, dark skin and large black eyes. But her parents came to Israel from Russia. She joined the army in the late ’50s and was accepted to the prestigious lahaka (band) almost by default.

“I was in Kibbutz Dafna in the northern part of the country, and I hitchhiked to Tel Aviv in the back of a pickup truck, when the rain started pouring on me. By the time we got to the big city, I was miserable as a dog, and my hair was frizzed out like a ball.”

Dubi Zelzer, the leader of the band, took pity on her and made her a hot cup of tea. “Well, after that, he couldn’t refuse me, of course, and I got a part in a musical production that they were working on at the time.”

Zelzer’s tea developed into a hot romance, and the two married. The well-known composer, responsible for some of the biggest hits of the ’60s, such as “Ya Mishlati” (“My Base”) and “Hora Heachzut” (“The Dance of the Settlement”), wrote songs for Gil that made her a superstar: “Kineret Kineret,” “The Western Wall,” “Why Does The Zebra Wear Pajamas?” and, especially, “Talk to Me in Flowers,” one of the greatest romantic Hebrew ballads of all time. Later, when she finished her military service, the couple toured the United States and South America as part of the Oranim Zabar trio, playing to packed venues — mainly Jewish crowds.

“Gil’s voice competes with her beauty — and that’s no easy task,” an American critic wrote after watching her show.

Gil was the first Israeli singer to tour the former Soviet Union in a set of historical performances in front of Refuseniks, Jews who were denied the right to immigrate to Israel and practice their faith by the communist regime.

“Those were probably the most moving performances of my career,” she says. “I’m still moved to tears when I remember the people who saved a whole month’s salary just to get a ticket to see us. They grabbed me, tore my chiffon dress out of excitement and yelled ‘Geula, Geula, Geula!’ You could see the desperation in their faces, and I just couldn’t stop crying.”

Later on Gil fell in love with New York and left Israel for good. Her marriage to Zelzer went downhill, and, finally, they divorced. Gil performed in Jewish clubs in New York, and from time to time was invited to appear on TV, including on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” She was even nominated for a Tony for her role in the musical, “The Grand Music Hall of Israel.”

In the late ’70s, she made one more attempt to attract an Israeli audience. Her brush with the then more commercialized Israeli entertainment business disappointed her.

“Let’s just say that promises weren’t kept, and the whole attitude by music producers in Israel toward me was not fair,” she says. “And my second husband [producer Richard Cohen] just couldn’t understand why people were driving in Israel the way they do and why they kept trying to con us. It was a culture shock for both of us.”

She keeps feeding me all afternoon with her homemade baked oatmeal cookies, while we look at pictures of her with such celebrities as Bill Cosby, Kim Novak Charles Aznavour and Salvador Dali. Finally, before I leave, I ask her one more time if she plans to return and perform in Israel one day.

“Maybe,” she smiles coquettishly. “If there was a serious offer that would be well executed. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I would like very much to try one more time.”

Aliza Kashi

Just after she sang gracefully about a dovecote [“Sho, sho, shovach yonim”], Kashi spread her wings and left Israel to see the world. That was in the mid-60s, and Kashi has hardly looked back since. When she did come back to visit Israel, it wasn’t always pleasant.

But we’ll get to that in a second.

Because first, her elegant husband, Marvin Spatt, 85, pours more wine into the glasses and opens another bottle of red, which he pairs with terrific Gouda cheese. And you can hardly bring up scandals when everybody is toasting and giggling in their colorful Westwood home.

Kashi, who retired from the stage five years ago, even agrees to sing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Naomi Shemer’s famous “Jerusalem of Gold”) for us in her very own dramatic interpretation. Nobody sings like that anymore — with pathos, bravado, arms in the air and all.

Kashi started in Lahakat Hanahal slightly after Gil did in 1959. A singer with a distinct voice and charm, she became the soloist in hits such as “Ya Mishlaty” (“My Base”) and “A Desert Lullaby.”

“We were young and beautiful, and it was lovely,” she says. “I had a boyfriend in the group, and we kept hiding so we could kiss. But they kept finding us. How embarrassing.”

Kashi’s civilian career took off soon after her release from the army, and she became a soloist in Green Onion, one of the top bands of the ’60s. Then came her biggest hit, “Night Comes,” which won the national singing contest and put her right at the top. But Kashi wanted to see the world and moved to Argentina.

“Two agents came to see me and invited me for a two-week tour. I left for a moment — and was gone forever,” she laughs.

Kashi performed all over South America before landing in New York. Ed Sullivan, the TV show host, sent a representative to the Israeli nightclub Sabra to scout for talent for his show. He picked Kashi, more for her spunk than for her vocal abilities.

“I was crrrrrazy back then,” she says with her rolling R. “And he wanted me to fool around with him and with the audience. So I did.”

During her first appearance, she turned to the crowd and yelled, “Hello peoples!” Her mistake in English later became her signature entry in many guest appearances to come — 78 by her own count.

“Did I miss Israel?” she asks rhetorically. “Of course I did. But my life in the Big Apple blossomed, and I didn’t want to stop the ride.”

She came back to perform in Israel during the Six-Day War and once more during the Yom Kippur War, when she made an offensive remark about Arabs on live TV. The newspapers highlighted the story, and the public broadcast authorities, then the only network airing in Israel, were shocked and vowed never to invite Kashi to appear again. That decision insulted her deeply.

“I was very sad that day because my nephew was killed in that war. So after finishing my song, I said what I said without being aware that the microphone was still on, and everybody could hear me. So what? That was what my heart cried out at that moment.”

She went back to New York, performed with Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis and others and refused to get married for years, until she met Spatt in 1980, who became her personal manager and companion. Then, in 1996 just before retiring for good, she made one quick comeback in Israel and sang on TV. This time the event was successful.

Kashi is nostalgic; her house is filled with collages of pictures from the past. She does still perform these days, although rarely and mostly for charity concerts. She visits her sisters and nephews in Israel occasionally, but says she doesn’t miss the stage.

“The music business today is so different, and that’s not my style anymore. I had my time, but now I prefer living tranquilly here in sunny L.A., just the piano and Marvin and me. ”

Hedva Amrani

Quietly, unannounced, she goes alone to Israel every couple of months, stays with her cousin and chooses material for her next Hebrew album, the comeback album. The one that, she hopes, will bring her back into Israeli hearts.

After almost 20 years of separation from the Israeli crowds, Amrani feels it’s time to try again. The graceful Yemenite singer, who burst onto the music scene in Israel with megahits, such as “One Heart” (better known as “Salam Aleicom”) and “I Dream of Naomi,” believes it’s time to remind people back home who she is.

“I know the older people in Israel still remember me,” she says as we sit in her Beverly Hills living room filled with ornaments and statues, where she lives with her husband, Dr. Dudley Danoff, a urologist. “But the younger generation doesn’t.

“They know the songs but don’t connect my face to them at all. I want to change that. And I miss the crowd so much. But I’m also very scared of discovering they won’t throw their arms around me after all these years,” she says.

Her career took off during the ’60s, when she performed with singer David Tal as Hedva and David. They sang together for almost 10 years. Their most famous hit, “I Dream of Naomi,” made it all the way to Japan, where it won first place in a prestigious singing contest, prompting a two-year Japanese career. They finally broke up in 1973. Tal died six years ago, after a long battle with drug addiction.

Ironically, it was only after moving to Los Angeles in the late ’70s that her solo career in Israel really took off. She began going back and forth — setting up a home and a family with Danoff and their two children here and promoting her singing back in Israel. It almost paid off in 1978, when her song, “One Heart,” tied for first place with “Abaniby” in the pre-Eurovision contest, once the top showcase for pop culture in the country.

The committee debated and finally, to her dismay, decided to send Izhar Cohen’s “Abaniby” (which means “I love you” in gibberish lingo) to represent Israel in the international Eurovision contest. Cohen won first place, became a European sensation for a couple of years and Amrani stayed home, somewhat embittered.

“I don’t wish to harp on this anymore,” she says today. “Just one thing I don’t get: How did ‘Abaniby’ win Eurovision? What is this song about — can you explain this to me?”

Amrani returned to compete in the pre-Eurovision contest two more times. She didn’t win, but added another huge hit to her resume, “The Two of Us Together,” before settling in the good life here for good.

“I was na?ve to think that I could go back and forth forever. And in my last contest, they started taunting me that I am a yoredet [a derogatory term for a person who left the country]. And once I started raising my kids here and taking care of my ailing parents, it was clear that my career takes a backseat.”

Now she is hoping for a comeback but only something small.

“I can’t go back to Israel for good; there is no way. It’s impossible,” she says. “I have my life here, and in my profession you cannot make a decent living, especially in Israel.

“So everything I own here is from my husband. I’m just hoping I could get a small condo in a nice area in Israel, perhaps not far from the beach, so I could come visit once in a while, perform, then open the door and smell the fresh air of the Mediterranean Sea and feel I am home again. That will be wonderful,” she said.

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, April 29

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

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

Sunday, April 30

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

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

Monday, May 1

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

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Tuesday, May 2

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

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

Wednesday, May 3

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

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


Thursday, May 4

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

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

Friday, May 5

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

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

Kids Page


Catch a Wave

There’s nothing better than spending a hot summer day at the beach. Sink your toes in that golden sand and surf those blue waves.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s hit the beach!

Sea That?

What will you find at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium?

The following words all start with the word sea:

Sea + It shines in the sky and on the movie screen __ __ __ __

Sea + A cool, green vegetable __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Sea + UR + part of your face __ __ __ __ __ __

We’re Cleaning Up!

Heal the Bay invites you to leave “Nothin’ but Sand” on the beach.

Come to Santa Monica Beach on Aug. 20, 10 a.m.-noon.

Park in lot 4S at 2030 Barnard Way and meet other volunteers at the north end of the lot at the end of Bay Street. Get involved. Help clean up our beaches!

Beachy Beatles

The Fab Four wrote many incredible songs about all sorts of people and places. Can you think of two Beatles songs that have to do with the sea? You might want to ask mom or dad for help with this one — but beware, they just might start singing.

 

Soothing Music Memories


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Calendar


The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed or

faxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least three

weeks in advance to:
calendar@jewishjournal.com
.

By Keren Engelberg

Calendar

April 9/SATURDAY

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Friends of Valley Cities JCC and Westside JCC: 7:30 p.m. Celebrity staged play reading of “Driving Miss Daisy”with Charlotte Rae, Charlie Robinson and Alan Blumenfeld. $12-$16. Valley Cities JCC, Sherman Oaks. Also, April 10, 2 p.m. at Westside JCC, Los Angeles. (818) 786-6310.

Yiddishkayt Los Angeles: 8 p.m. “The Kvetching Continues” starring Jackie Hoffman. $25. Renberg Theatre, The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood.
(323) 860-7300.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 8 p.m. “Hope: A Musical Celebration of the Soul” with local cantors and guest singers. $36-$100. 1161 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 591-2706.

April 10 /SUNDAY

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Workmen’s Circle: 11 a.m. West Hollywood Senior Citizens’ Center Chorus performs songs in Yiddish, English, Russian and Hebrew. $5-$8. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles.
(310) 552-2007.

StandWithUs: 8 p.m. “LaughWithUs.” Proceeds go to Israeli charities. $75 (includes two drinks). The Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 836-6140.

EVENTS

American Israel Public Affairs Committee: Annual OC AIPAC Dinner: A Community United for Israel. Hyatt Newporter,
1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach.
(323) 937-1184.

Jewish Outdoor Adventures: 10 a.m. Easy to intermediate hike to Dawn Mine from Millard Canyon. Carpools available. www.jewishoutdooradventures.com

Jewish National Fund: 10:30 a.m. (registration), 12:30 (3K and 5K walk begins). “Walk for Water” benefits the Hatzeva Reservoir in the Arava Valley, Negev Desert. Community performances, children’s activities, hands-on exhibits and kosher food vendors. $25, $50 (family). Paramount Ranch, 2813 Cornell Road, Agoura Hills.
(818) 704-5454.

Jewish Federation Real Estate and Construction Division: 5:30 p.m. 65th anniversary and annual tribute dinner honoring Steve Sobroff. $150-$225. Beverly Hilton Hotel, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 761-8226.

April 11/MONDAY

LECTURES

University of Judaism: 7:30 p.m. Public Lecture Series 2005 featuring Tim Russert, Paul Bremer, Andrea Mitchell, George Tenet and Bob Woodward. Universal Amphitheatre, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1246.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Congregation Kol Ami: 8 p.m. “Torch Song Trilogy” screening. 1200 N. LaBrea Ave., West Hollywood. (323) 606-0996.

Israeli Folk Dancing: 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Classes by Israel Yakove meet Mondays and Thursdays. $7. 2244 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 839-2550.

National Council of Jewish Women:
9:30 a.m. (refreshments), 10 a.m. (meeting). Allan Gruenberg’s one man show, “The Life and Times of Mae West.” Free. Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana.
(818) 758-3800.

EVENTS

The Jewish Learning Exchange: 6:30-7:30 p.m. (international buffet), 7:30 p.m. (program). “An Evening of Music and Song” with speakers Rabbi Michel and Rebbetzin Feige Twerski, musical performance by Shalsheles and the JLE choir. $250. El Rey Theatre,
5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-0923.

April 12 /TUESDAY

EVENTS

Valley Beth Shalom: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Annual Spring Boutique with more than 60 vendors supports the nursery school. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino.
(818) 788-0567.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

California Institute of the Arts:
8:30 p.m. “What Makes a Great Magazine?” panel with Gil Maurer, Eric Nakamura, Steve Wasserman and Martin Wong. $8. 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia. (213) 237-2800.

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APRIL 13/WEDNESDAY

EVENTS

Hadassah Southern California: 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Youth Services Luncheon and boutique with guest speaker and special performance. Beverly Hilton Hotel, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-0036.

APRIL 14 /THURSDAY

LECTURES

Temple Kol Tikvah: 8:30-10 a.m. Town hall meeting with mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa. 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 348-0670.

Temple Beth Am: 7 p.m. Professor Reuven Firestone and attorney Josef Avesar discuss “Israeli-Palestinian: The Road to Peace.” 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Santa Barbara Hillel/The Forest Foundation/Los Angeles Hillel Council/The Jewish Journal/ Jewstar.com/Platinum Events (18-25):
10 p.m.-2 a.m. Southern California Jewish College Night. Element, 1642 Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood. www.theforestfoundation.net.

PROGRAMS

Valley Yiddish Culture Club: Commemoration of the Six Million with documentary screening of Spielberg’s “Survivors of the Holocaust” followed by candlelighting and Kaddish. Free. Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

Congregation Or Ami, Jewish Family Service: 7:30-9 p.m. Madraygot 12-Step group. Recovery from addiction in a Jewish setting. Free. 26115 Mureau Road, Calabasas. R.S.V.P., (818) 880-4880.

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APRIL 15 /FRIDAY

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center: 7:30 p.m. “More Bad Jewish Chicks: Lynne Bronstein and Julia Stein.” 681 Venice Blvd., Venice.
(310) 822-3006.


PASSOVER 2005

Temple Adat Elohim Religious School: Sun., April 17, 9-11:30 a.m. “Exodus Experience” workshops for adults and families. Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-0361.

Temple Beth Am: Sun., April 17, 9 a.m.-noon. “Kashering for Pesach.” Kosher all Passover utensils at the temple. Also, April 22 Erev Pesach Shabbat Dinner and April 24 Seder. Los Angeles.
(310) 652-7354, ext. 555.

B’nai Tikvah Religious School: Sun., April 17, 10 a.m.-noon. Open House and Exodus Simulation. Westchester. (310) 645-6414.

Skirball Cultural Center: Sun., April 17, 11 a.m. “Reggae Passover: Songs of Freedom” with Alan Elder and friends. Ages 5+ with an adult. $9. Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 440-4636.

Hadassah, Kochava Group: Sun., April 17, 4 p.m. Women’s Seder. $25. Seventh-day Adventist Church, Santa Clarita. R.S.V.P., (661) 297-2960.

Anti-Defamation League: Mon., April 18, 5:30 p.m. Jewish-Latino Seder. Temple Beth Sholom, Santa Ana. (714) 979-4733.

Temple Kol Tikvah: Wed., April 20, 7 p.m. Women’s Seder. Special songs and dancing. $15-$20. Woodland Hills. R.S.V.P., (818) 348-0670.

Congregation Beth Israel: Fri, April 22,
7 a.m. “Siyum.” Breaking of the fast of the first-born sons. Also, May 1, Yizkor Memorial Service. Los Angeles.
(323) 651-4022.

Merage JCC: Fri., April 22, noon-1:30 p.m. “A Taste of Passover” luncheon seder. Irvine. (949) 435-3400.

The Bistro Garden at Coldwater: Sat., April 23. Passover dinner. Studio City. R.S.V.P., (818) 501-0202.

The Chai Center: Sat., April 23, 6:30 p.m. (singles “Schmooze and Cruise” happy hour), 8 p.m. (seder), 9 p.m. (dinner). Seder also April 24. $39. Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., www.chaicenter.org.

Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging, Eisenberg Village Campus: Sun, April 24, 5 p.m. Seder. $15-$30. Reseda. R.S.V.P., (818) 774-3386.

Jewish Single Parent Network of Jewish Family Service: Sun., April 24, 5:30 p.m. Non-dairy potluck seder. Van Nuys. R.S.V.P., (323) 761-8800, ext. 1251.

Temple Adat Elohim Sisterhood: Sun., April 24, 6 p.m. Community Seder. (818) 375-1164. Also, Thurs., April 28, Women’s Seder. Thousand Oaks. (818) 706-2213.

Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s): Sun., April 24, 7:30 p.m. Passover dinner at Froman’s Deli. $18.95 (plus tax and tip). Encino. R.S.V.P., (818) 750-0095.

Nexus (20s and 30s): Thurs., April 28, 6:30 p.m. Sixth-night Passover Singles Seder in Long Beach. www.jewishnexus.org.

Workmen’s Circle: Sun., May 1, 1 p.m. May Day Seder celebration of freedom, community and Jewish tradition. $16-$39. Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 552-2007.

Gay and Lesbian Jews of the Desert/JCC of the Desert WOW/Temple Isaiah/Temple Sinai of Palm Springs/Temple Kol Ami/Beth Chayim Chadashim/JPride San Diego: Sun., May 1, 3 p.m. Third annual Gay and Lesbian Seder. $35. Temple Isaiah, Palm Springs. R.S.V.P., (760) 328-1003.

Many synagogues and Chabads also host community seders. Please contact your local synagogues or visit www.chabad.org.
A synagogue directory can be found at ” width=”1″ height=”30″ alt=””>


Singles

APRIL 9 /SATURDAY

Hillel: 9-9:30 a.m. Producer David Sacks leads an ongoing weekend class on “Fundamentals of Judaism.” Free. R.S.V.P. for address, (310) 285-7777.

Nexus: 7 p.m. International dinner night: Brazilian barbecue. Costa Mesa area. www.JewishNexus.org.

Super-Singles (35+): 8 p.m.-midnight. Dance for singles and couples at the Elks Lodge in Canoga Park. $12. 20925 Osborne St., Canoga Park.
(800) 672-6122.

Singles Helping Others: 6-10 p.m. Sell tickets and refreshments and help clean up at “Hope: A Musical Celebration of the Soul.” Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 343-4722.

Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s): 7:30 p.m. The comedy, “A Flea in Her Ear,” at the West Valley Playhouse. 7242 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park. R.S.V.P. (818) 750-0095.

APRIL 10 /SUNDAY

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 10 a.m.-noon. “Lox, Lattes and Learning” at the home of Rabbi Dennis Eisner. Fourth meeting in a series of five. $50-$65. Mid-Wilshire area. R.S.V.P. to Rabbidennis@aol.com.

Social Circle (40s-60s): 10:30 a.m. Meet in the parking lot of Will Rogers State Park for a walk and no-host brunch at Mort’s Deli, 1035 Swarthmore Ave., Pacific Palisades. $7 (parking). (310) 204-1240.

Harbor Jewish Singles (55+): 2:30 p.m. “The Lion King” at the Orange County Performing Arts Center followed by dinner at the Claim Jumper. $28. 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
(714) 842-7876.

AISH L.A.(22-33): 6:30 p.m. “Astrology and the Jews” with Chinese buffet. $14, Aries get in free. Aish Center, 9100 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 278-8672, ext. 401.

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APRIL 11/MONDAY

Coffee Talk (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. Weekly discussion group. $7. 9760 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-4595, ext. 27.

APRIL 12 /TUESDAY

Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. “Saying ‘No’ and Not Feeling Guilty.” $10. West Los Angeles.
(310) 444-8986.

Elite Jewish Theatre Singles: 8 p.m. “The King and I” starring Stefanie Powers. $39 (prepaid only). 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 203-1312.

APRIL 13/WEDNESDAY

Wilshire Boulevard Temple:
7:30 p.m.-midnight. David Dassa’s weekly Israeli dance lessons. Beginners at 7:30 p.m., regular class at 8 p.m. and open dancing from
9:15 p.m. $7. 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. ddassa@att.net.

APRIL 14/THURSDAY

L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: Dinner and cocktails at Morels Bistro at the Grove. 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P.,
(323) 782-0435.

Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Three Steps to Turn Trauma Into Triumph.” $15-$17. 639 26th St., Santa Monica.
(310) 393-4616.

APRIL 15/FRIDAY

Ethiopian American Jewish Art Center: 9:30 p.m. Weekly klezmer band performance. $5. 5819 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6661.

UPCOMING

SUNDAY, APRIL 17

Barbara’s Bungalow by the Beach (45+): 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Singles Sunday Champagne Brunch. $15. Venice residence. R.S.V.P. by April 13,
(310) 823-9917.

L.A. East Coast Connections (25-40): 11:30 a.m. Bagel brunch and Einstein exhibit at the Skirball at 1 p.m.
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 358-9930.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, January 15

The Moshav Band be jammin’ locally tonight, thanks to the Happy Minyan and the Breslov Shul. Straight outta Israel, the group will perform a mix of their classics and new songs inspired by Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach. Kabbalah-inspired musician LevYatan opens the show.

8:30 p.m. (doors open), 9 p.m. (concert). $10 (students), $15 (general). Breslov Shul, 1499 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Sunday, January 16

With Jewish classical music that ranges from the more traditional homage to the Rambam by Avi Eillam Amzallag to a “Surfer’s Guide for the Perplexed” by professor David Lefkowitz, tonight’s “Synergy” concert is well named. The combined energy of these varying parts is bound to make for some serious aural stimulation. The show also features “Spinoza,” a musical exploration of the Jewish thinker, and “The Dybbuk Suite,” based on the classic Anski play, and is brought to you by the folks at the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity.

7:30 p.m. $15-$18. Emanuel Arts Theatre, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (323) 658-5824.

Monday, January 17

With more gold and platinum than a rapper’s got in his smile, lyricist Marty Panzer is yet another one of those guys you’ve heard, but never heard of. Tonight, hear songs like “Even Now” and “It’s a Miracle” performed by Panzer and his friends in “An Evening With Marty Panzer.”

7:30 p.m. $50. Coronet Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 960-4410.

Tuesday, January 18

“Oooooooooooklahoma!” comes to SoCal today. A newly conceived national tour of the original Rodgers and Hammerstein musical comes to Los Angeles for two weeks only. It’s cowmen vs. farmers – and Curly vs. Jud in the musical battle over the affection of a certain farm girl named Laury. In short, delicious cheese.

8 p.m. (Tues.-Fri.), 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Sat.), 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sun.). $42.50-$67.50. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles.

Wednesday, January 19

One program, two options. Tune in to KCET for chapter one of “Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State,” which airs on the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. Alternately, you can attend the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) special viewing and discussion of an abbreviated one-hour version of the six-hour doc on Thursday.

Wed., 9-11 p.m. on KCET, or Thurs., 6:30-8:30 p.m. with the ADL. For screening location, R.S.V.P., (310) 446-8000, ext. 241.

Thursday, January 20

Judith Hoffman takes the antique store to the next level by moving beyond the cluttered retail showroom to a more inviting salon-type atmosphere. Thus, her gallery for Hungarian modernist antiques doubles as “Szalon,” a gallery now exhibiting Russian avant-garde works from the 1910s and ’20s from the collection of artist Katya Kompaneyets. There will be a discussion of the works in conjunction with today’s opening, and light Russian faire will be served.

Through March 18. 7:30 p.m. 910 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 657-0089.

Friday, January 21

Moved by issues and ideas as disparate as the Holocaust and garbage can dwellers, a dozen choreographers present original dance pieces that incorporate modern dance, ballet and jazz in Santa Barbara Dance Alliance’s “New Works: 12 Santa Barbara Choreographers” this weekend.

8 p.m., Jan. 21-23. $16-$50. Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara. (805) 963-0408.

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.

Mikveh Plunges Into Uncharted Waters


Since the klezmer revival exploded a quarter century ago, the Ashkenazi musical tradition has experienced more variations than deli sandwiches. There has been klezmer-infused jazz, hip-hop, bluegrass and most any other permutation one can imagine. But as klezmer has morphed from shtetl to nightclub fare, one of the most unusual things it has added is women, said musician-scholar Yale Strom.

"Traditionally, the purveyors of Yiddish songs and culture were women, but that didn’t occur outside the home," said Strom, author of "The Book of Klezmer" (Chicago Review Press, 2002). "Women did not play in klezmer bands because of the Orthodox prohibition against hearing a woman’s voice and because nice Jewish girls stayed home."

"Even today, women are underrepresented," violinist Alicia Svigals said of klezmer. In recent years several all-female groups have sprung up, including Mama Labushnik and the playfully named Isle of Klez-bos. Perhaps the most accomplished of them all, Mikveh, named for the ritual bath, performs at Temple Israel of Hollywood on Sunday.

The quintet brings together some of the best klezmer musicians anywhere: Svigals, a founding member of The Klezmatics; vocalist Adrienne Cooper, a premiere interpreter of Yiddish song; bassist Nicki Parrott, who has worked with David Krakauer’s Klezmer Madness; accordionist Lauren Brody; and trumpeter Susan Hoffman Watts.

If these maidlech had united two decades ago, they "might’ve had to skulk around under a banner like ‘The All-Girl Klezmer All-Stars,’" Rolling Stone noted in 2001. Having come together in the more empowering 1990s, the 5-year-old group has been widely lauded for its musical virtuosity and its fresh, feminist take on traditional Eastern European songs.

In "A gutn ovnt Brayne" ("Good Night Brayne"), a battered wife tells her neighbor about the abuse; "Sorele’s Bas Mitsveh" honors the girl’s rite of passage; "Borsht" extols the virtues of, well, borsht, and "Yosemame" ("Orphan Mama") describes the quiet grief of miscarriage.

Mikveh’s musical voice fills a void, according to Svigals: "I can’t think of another song about miscarriage, although it’s such a universal experience," she said. "We’ve had elderly women come to us in tears after our concerts, talking about their miscarriages which occurred 60 years ago. The material has just had such a tremendous impact."

Mikveh began making an impact back in 1998 when playwright Eve Ensler asked Svigals to put together a klezmer ensemble for a performance of her "Vagina Monologues," to benefit battered women.

"Afterwards, we looked around at each other and said, ‘This is the start of something good,’" Cooper recalled. "It wasn’t so much that we were all women as the fact that we had such a fabulous front line of players."

Nevertheless, each of the performers had experienced "being the only woman in the band," Svigals said. "There was this huge repertoire of women’s folk songs out there, but they weren’t the songs the male-dominated groups were choosing to revive," she added. "As an all-female group, this was the area in which we felt we could make a difference, so Adrienne went out of her way to find [such] songs."

Cooper discovered "Good Night Brayne" in an obscure library anthology published in Jerusalem; she borrowed "Borsht" from a Ukrainian Jew who had brought the tune with her to Brighton Beach and adapted "Sorele’s Bas Mitsveh" from a piece about a bar mitzvah. Band members have also helped compose original songs such as "Orphan Mama," which uses imagery from a Yiddish poem by Itzik Manger.

The goal is to help nurture and evolve Jewish culture: "We don’t want to just recreate the old 78s," Cooper said. "We want to bring the music forward to the audience, not bring the audience back to the music."

Mikveh members intend to do just that when the group performs at The Nimoy Concert Series at Temple Israel of Hollywood on Sunday; June 20 happens to be Father’s Day and the irony hasn’t escaped Svigals.

"Of course, we all have fathers, so we will rock the house," she said.

Yet when asked if there is a daddy version of the classic "My Yiddishe Mama," the violinist was temporarily stumped.

"There is no ‘My Yiddishe Tateh," she replied after a pause. "But that should give us some food for thought. We’ll have to work on that and see what we come up with.

The result could be one more variation on the seemingly endless klezmer theme.

For tickets, $8-$25, and information about the concert, June 20, 3 p.m. at Temple Israel, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., call (310) 478-6332. Tickets can also be purchased at the temple’s box office, which opens Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

New UJ ‘Tradition’ Starts


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He Sang/She Sang


Take one part Aimee Mann, one part Pete Yorn, stir in some Tori Amos and add a dash of Yiddishkayt and you’ve got two of the newest sounds in rock.

The brooding but sweet Ben Arthur and the edgy yet fun Jennifer Marks will give L.A.’s book lovers a vocal treat when they perform on the Starbucks Stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA on April 24 and 25. The two will also autograph their respective CDs at The Jewish Journal’s festival booth.

"Most of my material comes from a place where the most grim and difficult sentiments lurk under a catchy melody," Virginia-raised Arthur said.

The melancholy performer has opened for Bruce Hornsby and Shawn Colvin and played with Dave Mathews.

His morbid title track, "Edible Darling," pontificates about a friend who raises pigs to eat them: "The most beautiful angel/Is the angel of death/Vinegar-throated/Confused and bereft." "Keep Me Around," is a Zevonesque, tongue-in-cheek takeoff on "Weekend at Bernie’s," featuring a corpse that begs to hang out at the house.

"I tend to be into lush images," Arthur said. "I don’t like songs that are too specific, too literal, with just a single meaning."

Marks comes in at a slightly different key. The New York University music business major was inspired by the Annie Lennox/Aretha Franklin anthem, "Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves," and went on to produce several albums independently.

The Long Island redhead’s humor shines through in her lyrics and album titles — her 2000 album is titled, "My Name Is Not Red." Her songs have been featured on the soap, "As the World Turns," and on a few indie film soundtracks.

"I didn’t even realize you could be a songwriter for a living until I was 17 or 18 years old," said Marks, who has won several prestigious songwriting contests in the past few years, including the USA Songwriting Contest and the Great American Song Contest.

Referring to her years of hard work, Marks said, "You don’t just wake up and write a song."

Ben Arthur will perform April 24 at 3 p.m. and April 25 at 4 p.m. Jennifer Marks will perform April 24 at 4 p.m and April 25 at 3 p.m. The two will sign autographs at The Jewish Journal booth from 5-6 p.m. on April 24 and will make periodic appearances on April 25 from 1-3 p.m.

7 Days In Art


Saturday

Shhh! Today and tomorrow, the Silent Movie Theatre presents “The Silent Picture Show.” Legendary 91-year-old theater organist Bob Mitchell and singer and ukulele player Janet Klein provide the sounds, while Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, the Little Rascals and Felix the Cat provide classic visuals.$10-$15. 8 p.m. (Dec. 26, 27 and 28), 2 p.m. (Dec. 28). 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Hollywood. (323) 655-2520.

Sunday

Keep the kids’ brains working during winter break today. The Zimmer Children’s Museum’s Bubbie’s Bookstore welcomes an experienced storyteller this afternoon, for some Jewish wintery “Once Upon a Times.”2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Free (members), $3 (nonmembers). 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8989

Monday

New Year’s resolution time, a.k.a: time to commit thatscreenplay idea to paper. Those daunted by their distinct lack of funny get noexcuses. Brad Schreiber’s latest comedy-writing-for-dummies type book is titled,”What Are You Laughing At? How to Write Funny Screenplays, Stories and More.”Think of it: finally, the confidence of knowing they’re laughing with you.$14.96. www.mwp.com

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Tuesday

‘Tis the season for celebrating. Do it Jewish-style withthe Ultimate Jewish Music Collection. The four-CD set from Craig Taubman’s”Celebrate Series” contains “Celebrate Hanukkah,” “Celebrate Shabbat,””Celebrate Passover” and special bonus CD, “Celebrate Kids.” Included are 55holiday tracks of songs by Theodore Bikel, Debbie Friedman, Taubman and DavidBroza. Available at Costco, Walgreens, Ralphs or at www.celebrateseries.com

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Wednesday

For the cheap but satisfying New Years Eve, pop the corn and tune the TV to American Movie Classics. AMC brings you nonstop yuks, airing a 13-hour Three Stooges Marathon today — because nothing says “Happy New Year” like a pie in the face.Noon-1 a.m. www.amctv.com.

Thursday

Fresh as this first day of the 2K4 is the new “Let’sTalk About God” 50th anniversary edition. Dorothy Kripke’s classic text andmessage has been left intact: “The thing that matters most of all/ We’re verycertain of:/ That God told people we must live/ In friendship and in love.” Andthough you shouldn’t judge this book by its cover, either, it has been given ashiny new one, illustrated by Christine Tripp. Ages 5-9. $9.95. www.torahaura.com .

Friday

Prepare yourself for cackles of laughter at DanIsraely’s new play, “Orgasms,” if not from you then from those around you.Sometimes old, sometimes new, sometimes borrowed and sometimes blue, the sexjokes prevail in this examination of the differences between men and womenthat’s perhaps best suited to the over-50 crowd. It plays at the Canon Theatrethrough Jan. 18. 8 p.m. (Wednesday-Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sunday).$25-$55. 205 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 859-2830. www.orgasmstheplay.com

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Black (and Jewish) Is Beautiful


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pryor took solace in her acting and dancing lessons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Linda Richman types be warned. The American Cinematheque’s “Can’t Stop the Musicals!! A Celebration of Hollywood Musicals of the 1970s and 1980s” presents the plotz-inducing Barbra Streisand Double Feature tonight. From Glamour Babs to Cross-dresser Babs, the back-to-back bonanza showcases two very different Streisands in screenings of “Funny Lady” and “Yentl.”

Sunday

The Conejo Jewish community continues to sound its presence today with a special cantors concert at Temple Etz Chaim titled “Shema Koleinu: Hear Our Voices.” Cantors Pablo Duek of Temple Etz Chaim, Peter Halpern of Temple Adat Elohim, Kenny Ellis of Temple Beth Haverim, Mike Stein of Temple Aliyah and Marcelo Gindlin (pictured) of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue join cantorial soloists Sandy Bernstein and Kim Moskowitz in performing an eclectic selection of spiritually uplifting songs.8 p.m. $18-$25 (general), $50-$1,000 (patrons and sponsors). 1080 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-6891.

Monday

All around Los Angeles on practically every day of the week, Israeli dancing sessions are offered for a fee that’s cheaper than a movie ticket and a payoff that’s way better than “The Matrix: Reloaded.” Today, head to the 310 for lessons by Tikvah Mason or Michel and Israel Yakove. (Tikvah also teaches in West Hollywood on Wednesdays.) David Dassa brings his expertise to West Los Angeles and Valley Village on Sundays and Wednesdays, respectively; and James Zimmer offers swing-salsa-tango before segueing into Israeli on Tuesdays at the West Valley JCC. Those who don’t know their Yemenite step from their grapevine should show up early, as lessons generally precede open dance.Mason: (310) 278-5383 (Mondays), (323) 876-1717 (Wednesdays). Yakove: (310) 839-2550. Dassa: www.rikud.com. Zimmer: (310) 284-3638.

Tuesday

Old-schoolers seeking Jewish gangsta flava need look no further than the American Cinematheque tonight. In conjunction with the film’s special edition DVD release on June 10, “Once Upon a Time in America” screens tonight in all its digitally restored, uncut, 229-minute gory glory. For some added bling-bling, the big night also includes in-person appearances by actor James Woods, producer Arnon Milchan, film historian Richard Schickel and production executive Fred Caruso.7 p.m. $6-$9. The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-3456.

Wednesday

Zócalo. It’s a cultural forum. It’s a public think tank. It’s a chance to mingle with some of the biggest American thinkers. And it’s happening again tonight. Essayist and author Debra Dickerson discusses “The End of Blackness and the Future of African America” at the downtown Central Library. Educate your mind. Free your soul.7 p.m. Free. Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., downtown. (213) 228-7025.

Thursday

Three female Middle Eastern artists bring their individual perspectives to the subject of displacement in three movies now on view at UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. Mona Hatoum, originally from Beirut; Shirin Neshat, born in Qazvin, Iran; and Michal Rovner, born in Tel Aviv, each contribute film or video to the exhibition titled “Elsewhere: Negotiating Difference and Distance in Time-Based Art.”Noon-8 p.m. (Thursdays); noon-5 p.m. (Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays). Runs through July 27. Free. Westwood. (310) 825-4361.

Friday

Another faux-weathered, mass-produced Pottery Barn piece? Think outside the mall this weekend. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium welcomes back the Contemporary Crafts Market this year. On display and for sale will be decorative, functional and wearable artwork by over 250 artists.10 a.m.-6 p.m. June 6-8. $6. 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 285-3655.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

With a title like “Jane White Is Sick and Twisted” the
product practically sells itself. But just in case you haven’t heard of this
little cult film, here’s what you need to know: Obsessed with television and
home-schooled by an agoraphobic mother, Jane White’s strange life gets stranger
when she sets out to find her absent father by trying to make it onto “The Gerry
Show,” a TV talk show in the vein of “Jerry Springer.” In the process, she
encounters freaks of every variety. Written, directed and produced by David
Michael Latt, the movie stars TV icons like Maureen McCormick of “The Brady
Bunch” and Dustin Diamond of “Saved by the Bell.” It’s now available on DVD.
$24.95.

Haitian Songs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Janet’s Retro Planet


It could have been a scene aboard the deck of the Titanic –before that pesky iceberg hit.

As the live band performed tunes from the early 1900s,couples swing danced on the black-and-white checkered floor of an elegant artdeco venue. In between songs, Cherry Tartes, burlesque strippers dressed inskimpy raincoats, strategically folded and unfurled their umbrellas to reveal,conceal and tease the supper club crowd.

While it may have felt like the turn of the 20th century,the supper club was in the Fenix Room of the Argyle Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.

In the center of it all was the self-proclaimed “ukulelechanteuse” Janet Klein — a svelte woman with bright eyes, a brunette bob and along gown that might place her as a contemporary of Theda Bara and Clara Bow.On a winter Monday night, she belted out vintage numbers such as “HollywoodParty,” “You Keep Me Living in Sin” and “Nasty Man,” with her backup band, TheParlor Boys.

“I like to say that I was born in 1908,” said Klein, whocoyly describes her age as “30-ish.”

Born sometime after that in Los Angeles, Klein grew up inthe San Bernadino foothills, with her parents, UCLA-educated educators with anEastern European heritage.

“I always thought I had the soul of an old lady,” Kleinsaid. “I was always very close to the older people in my family. I loved thestuff they had in their houses.”

Klein’s ancestors were Polish leather-workers, and she hasheld on to their handmade, knitted, sequined gowns.

“I had a vision of me in a long gown with a candelabra,”said Klein, who now dresses in these family heirlooms when she performs.

Even as a teen attending Pacific High School and TempleEmanuel, Klein cherished the 1910s, ’20s and ’30s.

“This period has been poorly stereotyped,” said Klein of thedecade maligned by visions of Betty Boop and the Charleston, when, in reality,”it’s blessed by some of the greatest ever music produced by immigrants andblacks.”

Brad Kay, the Parlor Boy on piano and coronet who hooked upwith Klein in 1998, agrees that there is relatively little appreciation for themusic.

“Our tendency in our culture to completely trash the past,”Kay said. “Americans especially are prone to dismiss anything that’s older than20 minutes, which is completely opposite of the rest of the world.”

A trained classical pianist, Klein first picked up theukulele in 1995. Within months, she went up to Santa Cruz to patronize a notedluthier, who created Klein’s customized black lacquer ukulele — adorned withcherry blossoms, a “Coeur de Jeanette” logo mugged from a French cologne labeland birdseed fret marks.

Lori Brooks, who works at Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica,brought down the staff of her shop to the Argyle show. She also caught Klein atFais Do Do in November when a building code violation bust — teeming withpeople dressed in period clothing — enhanced that evening’s allure.

“It really had this 1920s Prohibition feel to it,” saidBrooks, 24. “At the strike of midnight, the fire department showed up. Thebartenders was quickly getting out of there. It seemed like all of LAPD was outthere.”

Klein finds the vaudeville-era tunes, a lot of them writtenby Jewish songwriters, “lively and clever and heartwarming.”

Parlor Boys’ ukulele and accordion player, Ian Whitcomb(whose “You Turn Me On” was a pop hit during the British Invasion), observedthat Tin Pan Alley was a natural outlet for the East European Jews passingthrough Ellis Island.

“The professions, such as banking, were closed to them,”said Whitcomb, who recently scored Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Cat’s Meow.” “Sothey entered rogue businesses, such as cinema and Tin Pan Alley.”

These Jews developed an ear for the genre’s urbanvernacular, he said. “Being outsiders, they could see American mass culturemuch more objectively….In a way we can thank the czars for the pogroms [thatchased from Russia] Al Jolson, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and the like.”

Klein even tosses Jewish numbers into her sets, such as”Yiddish Hula Boy” and “Rebecca from Mecca.”

“Yiddish gives me a kick,” she said.

Kay said Klein excels at what she does because “she hasgreat respect for this music.”

“It’s not kitsch to any of us,” he continued. “It’s justmusic.”

Janet Klein will perform at McCabe’s on Feb. 7; at the Silent Movie Theatre on Feb. 14 ; and at the Argyle Hotel on March 3. For information, visit www.silentmovietheatre.com or www.janetklein.com . p>

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Big into cantorial music? Is this ever your weekend! Head over to the Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center’s (PTJC) “Cantors in Concert.” (No worries, they’ve probably cleared out all of the Rose Parade mess by now.) Or, for you West Valley-ites, wait till tomorrow and swing by Valley Circle Boulevard (aka Synagogue Row) for The Cantor’s Assembly Western Region’s “Kol Libeinu: The Voice of the Heart” at Temple Aliyah. They’re two variations on a theme, with both concerts featuring cantors Henry Rosenblum, Yonah Kliger, Eva Robbins and Judy Sofer, as well as the PJTC Chamber Choir.

8 p.m. $36-$108. Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, (626)798-1161 or www.pjtc.net.

7 p.m. $10-$20. Temple Aliyah, (818) 346-3545.

Sunday

PJTC’s got it goin’ on this weekend. Today, it’s the cheapest ticket to the homeland you’ll find. (Good news for those of us whose checkbooks are still recovering from Chanukah.) Actually, it’s a lecture/workshop on the “Music, Poetry and Dance of Modern Israel.” So you can take in some Israeli culture without spending a lot of dough. (And speaking of dough, bagel breakfast is also included.)

10 a.m. $5. 1434 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. R.S.V.P., (626) 798-1161.

Monday

The guy’s worked with everyone from Tom Waits to Norah Jones to Willie Nelson as part of Tin Hat Trio. But this time, musician Rob Burger is going it alone with his debut solo album “Lost Photograph.” Well, almost alone. He does get some accompaniment from bassist Greg Cohen and percussionist Kenny Wollesen on the CD that’s been described as “part klez-soul, part tango groove, part film-music.” The fact that he can play instruments as varied as the accordion, the glockenspiel and the claviola makes us all the more curious to check out this new release.

$15. www.tzadik.com.

Tuesday

Tu B’What? Tu B’Shevat, silly. And if you or your kids aren’t familiar with this holiday, today’s the perfect day to learn. Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel sponsors “Shalom Time” at Borders in Westwood. The monthly story time features interactive activities including songs, finger plays, puppetry and stories. January’s theme is “Tu B’Shevat: Jewish Arbor Day.” Here’s a hint: It’s all about the trees, people.

1360 Westwood Blvd., Westwood. (310) 441-5024.

Wednesday

Happy Birthday, Elvis! Turns out there are two extraordinary lives to celebrate today. The University of Judaism’s Department of Continuing Education presents “About Anne: A Diary in Dance,” a drama inspired by the diary of Anne Frank. Choreographer Laura Gorenstein Miller and the Helios Dance Theater have been praised by the Los Angeles Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Our suggestion: Take in the show today, then head home for some fried peanut butter ‘n ‘nanner sammiches.

2 p.m. (Also plays Jan. 9, 11 and 12. Times vary.) $30-$35. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1547.

Thursday

Non-Jewish playwright John O’Keefe’s bold choice to write about the Holocaust seems to have paid off. “Times Like These” tells the story of a famous Jewish actress banned from the stage in Nazi Germany, and how she prevails with the help of her actor-husband. The play’s first run just ended in November. This weekend, it reopens at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. You can catch a preview tonight.

8 p.m. Runs through Feb. 23. $15 (previews), $20.50-$30 (general). Discounts available. 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 477-2055.

Friday

She’s funny, she’s female, she’s Rita Rudner. The Jewish comedienne takes the stage tonight only at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. If anyone’s ever sent you one of those “fabulous female”-type e-mails, chances are you’ve read some of Rita’s lines. She thinks Judge Judy should be president and Barbie should be fattened-up. A stand-up gal, indeed.

8 p.m. $40-$50. 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (800) 300-4345.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

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

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

Sunday

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

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

Monday

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

$9.99. www.artscroll.com .

Tuesday

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

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

Wednesday

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

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

Thursday

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

Taylor Publishing, $18.17. www.amazon.com  

Friday

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

$13.99. www.amazon.com .

A Great Party Happened Here


"Entertaining is a lot like gardening," Linda Burghardt said. "You can’t make mistakes."

In other words, no matter what you do, it’s OK.

Just as each combination of flowers produces a different garden, each approach to party planning results in a unique gathering. Through these suggestions, hosts can reinvent Chanukah parties or weave in new ideas with established traditions:

1. Make a guest list of family and friends who light up your life. Celebrating the holiday with friends is fun for people with small families.

2. Using construction paper, show children how to cut out dreidels or candles and create one-of-a-kind invitations by filling in the time and date.

3. If you want to do something fancier, buy plastic dreidels with removable tops and put a note inside each one, explaining the party details.

4. Make a centerpiece by turning a large cardboard box into a dreidel and letting children decorate it. Fill the dreidel with party favors wrapped in blue and white paper, taping mesh bags of Chanukah gelt or real money on top. Attach long ribbons, so it’s easy for children to pull party favors from the centerpiece.

5. If you enjoy grab bags purchase them, make gifts yourself or ask guests to bring something to exchange. Organize two sets of grab bags — one for children and one for adults. Set a price range to ensure fairness.

6. Plan a manageable menu and prepare as many dishes ahead of time as possible.

7. Experiment by making latkes out of sweet potatoes or vegetables such as carrots, zucchini or turnips.

8. For extra-crunchy results, drain latkes on brown paper bags from grocery stores rather than on paper towels.

9. Make Chanukah gelt by melting chocolate and spooning it into rounds on aluminum foil coated with a no-stick spray. When they’ve cooled, wrap individually in silver or gold foil.

10. Create a lovely ceremony by asking guests to bring menorahs from home. Provide candles in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes, including some from Israel.

11. Place menorahs around the dining room table at the appropriate guest’s place. Say the blessing and light the shamashim (the central candle) together, followed by the other candles. Prepare to be dazzled.

12. Explain each step for guests who’ve grown fuzzy about Jewish customs or who are learning about Judaism for the first time.

13. After dinner, read Isaac Beshevis Singer’s delightful "Zlatch the Goat" from his collection of stories by the same name. Young and old alike will be entertained by this charming tale.

14. Sing songs such as "Rock of Ages." Remember to copy song sheets and distribute to guests, so they can join in.

15. Before the party, take a long bath. Allow 45 minutes to relax. Remember your role as host is to extend warmth and welcome people into your home. Forget perfectionism — it has no place at Chanukah.


From “Jewish Holiday Traditions” by Linda Burghardt (Citadel Press, 2001).

Ladino “Flor” Show


Singer Vanessa Paloma loves to perform Ladino songs. “The stories are so amazing,” said Paloma, 33. “They’re like little tidbits of a society that has been spread around the whole world.”

Prior to the 15th century, the Spanish word Ladino translated as “the other,” as in cultural outsiders. Since then, however, it has become shorthand for the Judeo-Spanish people.

The Ladino songs that her musical group, Flor de Serena (Siren’s Flower), will perform in “A Tapestry of Songs and Stories” at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Sept. 19 are part entertainment and part a historical-cultural document of a Jewish community that was dispersed after the Spanish expulsion of 1492. While the tunes themselves tend to interpolate melodies with origins in Catholic Spain, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Holland and other countries where Sephardim migrated, the lyrics often dwell on female bonding between women — between mother and daughter, between the young woman and las tias (the aunts). Some songs even contain cooking recipes.

“Ladino songs were really a woman’s repertoire, a Jewish woman’s tradition,” said Paloma, whose Sephardic mother is Columbian and whose American father is from the Midwest.

One song from Peru advises men to only marry dark-skinned, dark-eyed beauties and to avoid the blond devil. One of the songs that Paloma performs, “Una Matica de Ruda,” is a love song featuring a rue plant.

“My grandmother would say it’s very good luck to have a rue plant, but you can’t buy it for yourself, someone must give it to you,” Paloma recalled.

Flor de Serena formed in 2000 following Paloma’s time in Israel, where she met Sephardic community leader Itzhrak Navon and Kohava Levy, widow of a leading ethnologist on Ladino music. When she returned to Los Angeles, Paloma turned to her friend, guitarist Jordan Charnofsky, for whom, it turned out, Ladino is the nexus of all of his musical interests and training.

“It was very natural,” Charnofsky said, “because I specialize in classical and Spanish guitar and Jewish music.”

The pair recruited Vic Koler on bass and David Martinelli on percussion, and Flor de Serena was born. Flute player Martin Glicklich, cellist David Mergen and Latin percussionist Kim Diaz will fill out the group’s sound on Sept. 19.

“Ladino can serve as a bridge to help the Jewish community outreach to the Hispanic community,” said John Rauch, director of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, where Paloma has worked for four years. Non-Jewish Mexican singers, such as Jaramar, perform Ladino music, and Paloma would like to see Los Angeles’ Latino population embrace Ladino, too.

Charnofsky enjoys the idea of excavating the dormant melodies and bringing them to a wider audience, which will be the point of the CD that Flor de Serena is currently recording.

“We’re going to focus on lesser melodies that people haven’t heard before,” Charnofsky said. “It’s part of preserving the culture and moving it forward, making it known to people. It’s not only entertainment, but preserving the Jewish culture in different forms.”

Shhhh … I’m Praying


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in a Name?


Eric, Matt and Chris are three musicians who refuse to give away their last names. But if you guessed it was out of a lack of ethnic pride, you’d be wrong.

"I’m a pretty high-profile Jew, whether I like it or not," says singer-songwriter Eric. "It’s hard to hide when you’re in a band called JEW."

Priding itself on its pop rock, JEW has been generating some buzz with its name and its music. "Don’t Speak French" got some alternative rock station rotation this year. In May, JEW scared up good press while performing at Las Vegas’ EAT’M Festival.

The unsigned band was working out of a Hollywood studio with a producer on the then-untitled tune, "Threw Your Love Away," when The Journal caught up with them earlier this year. Their demo’s other tracks include the brooding, Nirvana-esque "Notice Me" and the 1980s pop-influenced "12/31" and "Sugarfly."

"If you put us in a mix tape with songs of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, we fit right in," Eric says of his relationship-obsessed songs.

Not bad for a band whose guitarist had no musicianship several years ago.

"I couldn’t even hold a guitar," says Eric, a former personal trainer who was taught an unorthodox technique by Guitar World editor-in-chief Brad Tolinski in exchange for some fitness instruction.

"He told me, ‘You’ll literally be able to play in two weeks,’" Eric says.

"Nobody plays guitar the way I play. I couldn’t play a bar chord if you put a gun to my chest. Subsequently that’s what makes our sound so different."

"I’ve always been enamored by his drive and his naivete," says JEW’s drummer, Chris. "He’ll walk into a room and ask a musician, ‘What chord is that?’ and they’ll give him this look. Eric never has that kind of guard. It catches people off guard and it’s very disarming."

Eric grew up in Farmington, Maine, where he says he was the only Jew in school.

"[My parents] had this mutual dream of living in the woods in Maine. It was a great upbringing, but the one thing that I missed was any strong Jewish culture experience."

Oddly enough, Chris — the obvious non-Jew of JEW — had a mirror-image upbringing.

"In Potomac, Md., I was one of three goys in the neighborhood," Chris says. "When I was 13, I went to bar mitzvahs all [the] time. I knew how to make hamantaschen and I sang ‘Hava Nagila.’"

In 1995, Eric and Chris met in New York and formed an early version of JEW. By 1998, they found themselves in Los Angeles, where Chris has become something of a polyhyphenate — acting on TV series such as "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Homicide" playing "rednecks and yuppies," and getting three screenplays optioned, including one with Danny DeVito’s Jersey Films. Eric and Chris later met up with Matt, an old friend from their New York days who describes himself as "a total Jersey suburb Jewish kid." Shortly before New Year’s 2001, JEW — with Matt on bass — was born again as an L.A. band with a Viper Room show.

One of the band’s key attractions is its name, which JEW’s non-Jew has no problem with.

"People who will normally breeze by the name, get more involved with it," Chris says.

Eric adds, "I came up with it because the word is bold and powerful. In certain cases it’s a drawback, and in certain cases it’s been a positive. One [record company executive] told me, ‘I’ve had a hundred demos and the only reason I chose it was because it had the word JEW on it.’ But I also got a call two days ago from a high-powered manager who felt that the music was great, but was unwilling to work with us unless we changed our name."

"If we do," Eric continues, "it loses its fun and edge. We have no intention of changing it. JEW is here to stay."

Spring Is Here


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

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

Bittersweet Music


Despite its air of celebration, Passover is a bittersweet remembrance, one in which the joy of liberation is marked by the pain of recollection of what we were liberated from and what we lost on the way from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Our seder liturgy reflects that ambivalence, although it may require hearing some unfamiliar music to remind us.

Two recently released CDs offer an excellent opportunity to reflect on the delicate balance of this festival. One is largely a reminder of the jubilation we feel at the seder table, yet, because it is specifically a tribute to Yiddish Passovers past and present, it inevitably has a certain appropriate somberness underlying its up-tempo party feel. The other is a collection of songs written about the liberation of Mauthausen; not surprisingly, its joys and sorrows are also mingled.

“Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me, Volume 1: Passover” marks the debut on CD of singer Lori Cahan-Simon. Cahan-Simon has put together a sprightly collection of Yiddish Passover songs, the vast majority of which I haven’t heard before. Those who grew up in the secular socialist Yiddish world — Workmen’s Circle, the Farband and the like — will undoubtedly recognize many of them with great pleasure. She has also assembled a terrific group of musicians, most of them fellow Midwesterners, including fiddle player Steven Greenman, percussionist Alexander Fedoriouk and singer Michael Alpert.

Cahan-Simon has one of those delightful rough-and-ready soprano voices, expressive even when it’s not conventionally pretty and very flexible. She makes a wonderful pair with Alpert’s reedy tenor and my favorite cuts on this charming record are their seven duets. The musicianship is very high caliber, with some beautiful fiddling by Greenman. Best of all, these songs haven’t been recorded to death, so if you are looking to add some unfamiliar spices to your seder table’s musical mix, this is a great place to start.

There’s even a version of the Four Questions I’d never heard before, and a “Dayenu” that veers between big-band swing and Beethoven-on-the-rocks.

The fine Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis was himself a captive in German prisons during WWII. His close friend Iacovos Kambanellis, a poet, was interned in Mauthausen. In 1965, Theodorakis set four of Kambanellis’ poems about that hellish experience to music. The resulting piece has gone through many evolutionary stages. Its most recent incarnation is “Mauthausen Trilogy” (Piano). In this CD, the Greek versions of the poems are sung by the great Maria Farantouri, a frequent collaborator with Theodorakis, the English versions by Nadia Weinberg, the Hebrew by Elinoar Moav Veniadis. The recording closes with a 1995 speech by Simon Wiesenthal delivered at Mauthausen.

There is a family resemblance to be found among the songs of the Mediterranean, and many of Theodorakis’ warmest melodies could just as easily have been written by and for Jewish musicians. Farantouri’s plangent, hoarse contralto is particularly well suited to his laments, finding the perfect balance between the agonized and the triumphant.

Perhaps this is not a CD to play for the children at the seder; they’ll have much more fun with the Cahan-Simon (although they will probably miss some of its musical nuances). But “Mauthausen Trilogy” is powerful stuff and would make my short list of great music about the Shoah.

On the other hand, if you are looking for unfamiliar Pessah music suitable to your own seder table, two recent albums of North African music, imported from France, offer some interesting alternatives: Alain Scetbon’s “Haggada de Pessah — Tunisian Passover” (Ness) and Elie Zerbib’s “Haggada de Pessah — Algerian Passover” (Ness). These two CDs include French narration by the artists putting the musical selections in the larger context of the seder, but you probably won’t need the help (assuming you understand French in the first place). The Scetbon and Zerbib sets have the intimate and slightly rough feel of an evening at a friend’s home. The music on both is quite interesting, very reminiscent of Arabic music from the Maghreb, and will be unfamiliar to most readers. How much does professional slickness matter to you? I would opt for the two French sets for authenticity and kavanah (sincerity); at their best they have a tremendous power.

The above CDs range in price from $16.98 to $19.98.
Exclusive distribution in the United States by Hatikvah Music, www.hatikvahmusic.com  or (323) 655-7083.

CDs to Light Up Eight Nights


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

Rick Recht “Shabbat Alive!”

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

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

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

Diaspora Yeshiva Band “The Diaspora
Collection”

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

Sam Glaser “The Songs We Sing”

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

Philip Don/Ruby Harris “Tzalel
Nafshi”

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

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

Ruth Wieder Magan “Songs to the Invisible God”

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

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

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

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

Passover Events


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

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

In Every Generation —

Escape and Survival

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

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

Contemporary User-

Friendly Haggadot

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

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

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

Tents of Jacob and

Tongues of Exile

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

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

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