Sunday, July 2
Miami City Ballet whoops it up for its 20th anniversary, with its tour of performances of signature pieces by Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp. Included are Robbins’ classic “Fancy Free,” which was the inspiration for the musical, “On the Town,” and Tharp’s “Nine Sinatra Songs,” accompanied, as you might’ve guessed, by songs by the blue-eyed crooner.
June 30-July 2. $25-$95. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 365-3500
Monday, July 3
Shaken or stirred, the martini is more than a drink today. It is a symbol. Sculptor Thomas Mann asked artists to riff on it, reinterpreting the conical glass’ shape and context. “The Martini Show” premiered in New Orleans as a benefit for Craft Emergency Relief Fund. It runs here at Altered Space Gallery, through July 24.
Contemporary art+craft+design, 1221 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 452-8121
Tuesday, July 4
What goes great with burgers and dogs? Your radio dial tuned to 89.9 KCRW-FM. Its special Independence Day programming features “a day of music by American artists who embrace the spirit of independence.” The lineup of musical patriots includes Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Roy Orbison, Patti Smith and the Dixie Chicks. The presentations feature music as well as interview clips and other materials.
89.9 KCRW-F, ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Wednesday, July 5
Collapsing just moments after a performance of his stirring trio, “In memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich,” at the Jewish Music Commission concert last month, professor Joseph Dorfman was unable to be revived. He died at age 65. In his memory, a concert will be held this evening at Valley Beth Shalom, to benefit the newly founded fund in his name.
7:30 p.m. Free (general), $15 (reserved seats). 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. R.S.V.P., (818) 788-6000.
Thursday, July 6
Gay lovers struggle to deal with their oppressive societies against the backdrop of World War II France in the case of “A Love to Hide (Un Amour à Taire),” and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the case of “Zero Degrees of Separation.” The two films are part of this year’s Outfest 24th Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which begins today.
Times, prices and screening venues vary by film. Abovementioned films screen at Directors Guild Theatre, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.
Friday, July 7
More lovers caught on opposite sides of the political fence emerge in the film, “Only Human.” Opening today, the Spanish production tells the farcical tale of Jewish Leni, who brings home her boyfriend, Rafi, to meet the folks. But madness ensues when they find out Rafi is Palestinian.
Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino. (818) 981-9811. Laemmle One Colorado, Pasadena. (626) 744-1244. www.laemmle.com” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Spectator – Musical Gathering Comes Naturally
Israel Launches First Underwater Museum
It was the largest, most impressive port in the Roman Empire when it was inaugurated in 10 B.C.E. And some 2,016 years later, the ancient port of Caesarea — along the Mediterranean coast of Israel — was inaugurated again last month, this time as the world’s first underwater museum.
Divers can now don their wetsuits and tour the sign-posted remains of the magnificent harbor built by King Herod to honor his Roman patron, Caesar Augustus. The site has been excavated over the last three decades by a team led by the late professor Avner Raban of the University of Haifa’s Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies.
It’s not your ordinary museum tour. Visitors float from one “exhibit” to the next, marveling in silence at the untouched remains of a once-glorious harbor: a Roman shipwreck, a ruined lighthouse, an ancient breakwater, the port’s original foundations, anchors, pedestals.
“It’s a truly unique site,” said Sarah Arenson, a University of Haifa maritime historian and participant in the project. “This port was built as the state-of-the-art port of the Roman Empire, and made the other ports of the time, including those of Rome, Alexandria and Piraeus, look small and out-of-date by comparison.”
Arenson notes that the port is also unique today: “There are no other ancient ports in the world that are accessible to ordinary divers,” she said.
Some such ports are restricted to authorized scientists. Others may be open to any diver, but would be meaningless to such visitors “because,” Arenson explained, “all you would see is a bunch of stones.”
At Caesarea, divers view some 28 different sign-posted sites along four marked trails in the sunken harbor covering an area of 87,000 square yards. Divers are given a waterproof map that describes in detail each of the numbered sites along the way (currently maps are in English and Hebrew; within a few months they will be available in six additional languages). One trail is also accessible to snorkelers; the others, less than eight yards below the surface, close to the beach, are appropriate for any beginner diver.
And what does the visitor see?
In a sense, an abrogated history of this once prominent port town — from its entrance at sea (about 100 meters from the current shoreline) to the Roman shipwreck that signaled the demise of the port — probably due to an earthquake — about a century after its construction, researchers believe. And, in between, divers can view the remnants of the original foundations that made this harbor one of the wonders of the Roman Empire.
“This port was built using the knowledge and technology of Roman engineers,” said University of Haifa maritime historian Nadav Kashtan, a member of the team that excavated the site.
The port was built with a type of hydraulic cement, invented by the Romans, known as pozzolana.
“The Romans found that when they take the volcanic powder found around Mount Vesuvius and mix it with lime and rubble, the substance hardens in water,” Kashtan said. “This hydraulic concrete was imported to Casearea and used to fill wooden frames which were then lowered into the water to lay the foundations for the port.”
Two such frames were found, one almost perfectly intact, and are on view today.
Kashtan noted that thousands of men were recruited — both from Rome and locally — to build the port in the course of 12 years. Among them were many divers, who descended simply holding their breath, or possibly in a diving bell.
The Roman city of Caesarea was built on the ruins of a decaying Phoenician town called Straton’s Tower. Its builder, Herod, who also built the Second Temple of Jerusalem, was considered one of the most magnificent builders of the Roman era, Kashtan notes.
The Jewish king built the town — given to him as a present by Augustus — into a grand, fortified city that served as the capital of the Roman province of Judea for about 600 years.
The underwater park was developed with the financial support of the Caesarea Development Corporation.
Israel has long been known as a diver’s mecca because of the rainbow of corals and exotic fish found off the coast of the Red Sea resort of Eilat. But the country has more than two-dozen other diving sites along the Mediterranean coast — from the unique maze of chalky white caves of Rosh Hanikra in the north, to a collection of shipwrecks dotting the coast as far south as Ashkelon.
The sunken port of Caesarea — with its ancient sites and modern explanations — is sure to become one of the top underwater attractions.
Leora Eren Frucht is an associate editor of Israel21c.
Shiloh Welcomes Shiloh
Israeli Superstars Rock the Diaspora
Lo Ozev At Hair Avur Af Echad Anachnu Shnayim Tamid, Beneynu
(“I won’t leave the city/not for anyone/we are two, always/between us, one God.”)
— Shlomo Artzi and Shalom Chanoch, “Live at Caesaria”
Don’t believe everything you hear. Two of Israel’s greatest rockers — Shlomo Artzi and Shalom Chanoch — are leaving Israel, albeit briefly, pairing up for a joint three-concert tour to promote their new album, “Live at Caesaria,” in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, homes to Israel’s largest expat communities.
Although Israeli stars have toured America for years — consider Idan Reichl’s recent popularity at the Kodak Theatre — this tour will be the Israeli equivalent of say, Billy Joel and Elton John touring together. These two Israeli mega-singer/songwriters have produced hundreds of pop songs over more than four decades, and they continue to sell out concerts despite their advancing ages — both are nearing 60.
But unlike Joel and John, who are increasingly relegated to “soft rock” and appeal primarily to their original Gen-X and Baby Boomer fans, the Israeli rockers still enthrall their original fans from the 1960s and 1970s, even as they have captured the hearts of later generations. (This is particularly true of the blue-eyed, dimpled Artzi, who still draws a bevy of screaming, belly-shirted young things rushing the stage at his concerts.)
Part of the pair’s cross-generational appeal is, of course, due to the fact that Israel is a small country, without much room for niche markets: Rock is rock. (Not like America, with its hundreds of Grammy categories). But it’s also because the two men, in a way, are Israeli rock. No, they are Israel: Chanoch was born in 1946, and Artzi was born in 1948.
Chanoch jumped to fame when he teamed up with that other great Israeli star, Arik Einstein, in 1967. In the 1970s Chanoch became a star in his own right, but for the next years continued to write songs performed by other Israeli artists.
Artzi got his start in the army band and in 1975 was chosen to represent Israel at Eurovision. He lost the competition, and soon after recorded “He Lost His Way,” which was meant as a last hurrah, but instead reignited his career.
Each of the artists’ songs have flooded the radio waves for nearly five decades, a soundtrack, of sorts, to Israel’s many wars, casualties, celebrations, assassinations, and shifting moods — from hopeful to cynical and hopeful again.
“There has not ever been another man/like that man,” Artzi sang on the tribute album made following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, a song that became a mantra for the mourning peace camp.
In 1985 Chanoch came out with his humorous “Mashiach Lo Bah” — which became a pop sensation and later entered the lexicon, with its typically Israeli cynical chorus: “The Messiah isn’t coming — and he isn’t phoning, either.”
Neither artist’s lyrics seem particularly religious: (Consider Artzi’s song, “Here and There”: “Here and there the Messiah’s plane flits about/when will it land near us on the shore? She says: He who believes in lies will be disappointed.”) But their ironic faith reflects the tone of much Israeli culture. Many of their songs are about love, about friendship, about wars, and always with a little politics thrown in.
Last summer, Artzi and Chanoch performed together in the amphitheater in Caesaria, in Northern Israel. There, Chanoch played one of Artzi’s most popular songs. “Suddenly when you didn’t come/I felt like this.” Artzi later said it was best performance ever of the song. In turn, Artzi sang one of Chanoch’s songs, and a joint performance was born. After 42 performances in Israel, the duo comes to America (New York’s Beacon Theater on March 5; Miami on March 8; and Los Angeles’ Kodak Theatre on March 11).
One problem with tribute albums, where artists sing another artist’s song, is that a fan has to be able to let go of the original version to appreciate strangers singing the familiar song. (Does one really want to hear Kate Bush singing “Rocket Man,” on the Elton John tribute album “Two Rooms”?)
It can be disconcerting to hear the two singing each other’s top hits on the album.
And yet, after five decades on the Israeli scene, their songs have become such a fabric of Israeli society, their fans overlapping, their voices sounding increasingly similar as age takes its toll (let’s not forget the smoking) that it seems somehow only fitting for Israel’s two great icons to merge their playlists.
And besides, in concert, they’re singing all the songs together.
Like this one, written by Chanoch, performed first by Einstein.
Kama Tov Shebata Habayta/Kama Tov Li’rot Otcha Shuv …
“How good it is that you’ve come home/How good it is to see you….”
The March 11 concert at the Kodak Theatre starts at 8:30 p.m. $47-$147. 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. For tickets, call (213) 480-3232.
Director Pays Price in Making ‘Capote’
Teens Find Peace On and Off Stage
“We don’t care about politics; we just like each other,” says Shira Ben Yaakov, a cheerful brunette who is an eighth-grade student at Tel Aviv’s A.D. Gordon Junior High School.
Ben Yaakov is referring to Israeli-Arab friends she has met through the Peace Child Israel drama group, which meets weekly, alternating between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. The group consists of 20 Arab and Jewish teens from Jaffa and Tel Aviv, proof that friendship between Jews and Arabs can exist, even in post-Intifada Israel.
“Even though Arabs live close to me, I have never had the chance to get to know them. I have always been afraid of Arabs as a group and now I know this fear has been unjustified,” Ben Yaakov says.
Maya Smolian, another member of the group, says she was “thrilled” to meet Arab kids her age. Having the opportunity to perform together is just another incentive to be a part of the group.
Peace Child Israel was founded in 1988 by the late Israeli actress Yael Drouyanoff and uses theater and other art forms to encourage dialogue between teens who might otherwise never meet. So far, seven groups have been formed, pairing Jewish and Arab towns throughout Israel, among them Misgav-Sakhnin, Raanana-Qalanswa, and East and West Jerusalem.
In January, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa group toured the United States, visiting Philadelphia and communities throughout New Jersey. Their hosts were Jewish families in each of the cities, as well as students from Changing Our World (COW), a teen drama and arts group with similar methods and objectives. Students from the two countries bonded quickly.
Deb Chamberlin, a singer, songwriter and co-director of COW, initiated the venture. She contacted Peace Child after two visits to Israel, where she was touched by the country and its people.
“I looked to cooperate with a group similar to my own. Once I heard about Peace Child, I knew this was the group I was looking for,” she says. “When I returned to the States, I looked to share my feelings with other people, [to] let them know what Israel is all about.”
Chamberlin wrote Peace Child’s new anthem “The Time Has Come for Peace,” which the group sang on a Philadelphia television morning show and then subsequently recorded with help from some local singers.
“We made a beautiful CD and now wish to promote this anthem as a song for global tolerance and peace,” Chamberlin says.
The group’s original musical, “On the Other Side,” was also adapted for American audiences and has been performed in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The play is inspired by the students’ personal experiences in their native Israel and addresses the sensitive issue of Israel’s security fence from the teens’ point of view. The two groups found they share many of the same challenges in overcoming barriers between cultures.
“The COW group brings together students from different backgrounds,” Chamberlin explains. “Our group consists of Latin, Afro-American and Jewish students; they study in a public school of 3,000 students, most of whom are white Christian Americans. Before meeting with Peace Child, the students would usually socialize with their ‘own kind.’ When they witnessed the beautiful friendships that exist between the Jewish and Arab members of Peace Child, they realized what they were missing. As a matter of fact, many stereotypes were broken on that tour.”
“During one of our workshops, Hiba Salila an Arab student, admitted that before coming on the tour, she was convinced the Americans would prefer the Jewish students to the Arab ones,” Chamberlain says. “It surprised her when they didn’t. Another Jewish student says COW students form a bridge between Arab and Jewish students with their love for us.”
Language was not a barrier. “Though the Jewish kids had better English, the Arab students compensated with their Spanish, so they could all communicate,” Chamberlin says. “On the bus from Washington to northern New Jersey, the students cried because it was their last journey together. We promised to keep in touch and start making arrangements for our visit to Israel. The hosting families intend to help me found ‘The American Friends of Peace Child’. Knowing there are more people willing to work for the success of this project was quite a relief for me. I delivered this baby but now a whole new future awaits it.”
The 10-day tour culminated at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where groups of American teens joined Peace Child along with an appreciative audience of 500.
“People were deeply touched by the show,” says Melisse Lewine-Boskowich, director of Peace Child, who noted that North Star, an African American teen group, and Intellectual Journey, a band of Jewish and Arab musicians working in the U.S., joined them on stage. “The tour opened many … opportunities for us and now the sky’s our limit.”
Sima Borkovski is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
Amona Violence an Uncertain Harbinger
Vienna Glories in Past and Present
Sixty years after the end of World War II, Vienna has reclaimed its roots as a city of culture. Not the culture of stoic monuments to faded glory or landmarks illuminated by historical plaques, but in a living, breathing, heart-still-pumping way. Grand-yet-graceful music, art and architecture are the lifeblood of this city and those fortunate enough to live here.
Strolling along the wide pedestrian mall of the Kartnerstrasse, you cannot help but feel swept up in the art and culture of this elegant city. The impressive architecture rises up and surrounds you as the beauty of the city embraces you.
As the sun sets on the Kartnerstrasse, Viennese girls window shop Euro chain stores for platform shoes and designer scruff denim, shadowed by elegant palaces that line the cobbled street. A girl plays Strauss on a grand piano. Down the street, a man plays a symphony on crystal glasses of water, as students in black tie and spiked hair saunter past with cellos. The street comes to life with people who seem to not be in a hurry to go anywhere in particular.
Music is at the heart of Vienna, and since 2006 is being celebrated as the Mozart Year in Austria, the most rewarding Mozart experience is the city that inspired him. By all means, visit Mozart’s statue and the house he lived in, but to really experience Mozart’s Vienna, wander the cobbled lanes like the Blutgasse, where Mozart lived and worked. While away a morning by lingering over café and strudel in a plush coffee house (complete with charmingly polite tuxedoed waiters).
The best way to discover Mozart here might be a night at the Vienna Opera. I was lucky enough to attend a performance of “The Magic Flute” during my visit, which was sponsored by Austria Tourism. This was classical Mozart through and through in terms of the music, but the performance was strikingly modern.
A minimalist industrial set was the backdrop for bearded ladies painted blue and dressed in 18th-century industrial corsetry, while the priests of Sarastro were done up in white, minimalist hazmat suits. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I’ll concede, but that completely sums up a city that glories in its past but revels in its modernity.
Lets remember that Mozart was cutting-edge cool in his day. It’s fitting that this city still pushes the artistic envelope while embracing its artistic history. Vienna is a place where the elegant Hofburg Palace can stand alongside stunning Hundertwasser House.
Vienna’s influence as a cultural center also drew such Jewish composers as Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Zelimsky, in addition to numerous Jewish writers, actors, artists and doctors. And while the city’s Jewish history has been a tumultuous one — only 2,000 of the city’s pre-World War II population of 183,000 Jews survived the Shoah — Vienna today boasts a very active community of about 7,000 Jews.
The city features 15 synagogues (including a Sephardic congregation), a yeshiva, a Jewish museum and an office of Jewish Welcome Service. Most of Vienna’s Jews live in the city’s Second District, where you’ll find kosher supermarkets, butchers and restaurants.
The other must-see on any Austrian Mozart tour is the quaint city of his birth, Salzburg, where the Hohensalzberg fortress looms over the Salzach River, and the pastel shades of the shops in the Aldstadt are undeniably photogenic.
In Salzburg, you’ll have the opportunity to see the house where Mozart was born and visit the Mozart museum, which struggles to understand the composer’s genius. Both are worth a look, but the truly hot ticket in Salzburg is the Marionetten Theater, which regularly stages Mozart’s operas.
Appreciating the preservation of a centuries-old art is the key to enjoying Salzburg, a town that seems content to linger in its past. And provided that a look into a time capsule is all you expect, you may not be disappointed.
Jewishly speaking, Salzburg never fully recovered following the Holocaust. Only about 100 Jews inhabit the city, which features a single synagogue at Lasserstrasse 8. But despite its anti-Semitic reputation, the city was host to such Jewish luminaries as dramatists Max Reinhardt and Carl Zuckmayer, who were drawn to its Salzburg Festival and its cultural scene.
However, Mozart himself preferred the energy and vibrancy of cosmopolitan Vienna. Like a deep breath of fresh air, it’s a city that will make you sigh.
Israeli Government Gets on With It
Lesson in Tolerance Seeks to Aid School
A group of students from Jefferson High School gathers around the tour guide, Jewish grandmother Diane Treister, at the Museum of Tolerance on a recent Friday morning.
While Treister talks about personal responsibility and respect, the students, many in jeans and T-shirts and carrying cellphones, chat among themselves, mostly in Spanish.
“This is going to be a tough group,” Treister whispers to an adult visitor. “You just hope the kids will remember what they see today. I try to tell them to be ambassadors of tolerance and to speak up. Because the Holocaust happened because no one spoke up.”
This tour is no typical high school field trip, with its predictable mix of unruly, disinterested teenagers. These students are here mainly because their school, Jefferson High, became a flash point last year for fights between Latino and African American students. The overcrowded, underperforming campus in South Los Angeles was 92 percent Latino, 7.5 percent black and, seemingly on a handful of occasions, nearly 100 percent out of control.
Since then, hundreds of students have transferred to a new school south of Jefferson, police have increased their campus presence and a new principal has taken charge. The school district also has arranged for human relations speakers to visit the campus.
Now, students are getting a special kind of training that officials hope will make a difference at school: They’re learning about human rights abuses and the fight for civil rights in the United States and, especially, about the Holocaust.
Throughout November and December, ninth graders from Jefferson High and eighth graders from Carver Middle School, which feeds into Jefferson, spent a day at the Museum of Tolerance, the educational arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
On this particular winter day, Treister leads the students into a room called the Millennium Machine, where they squeeze into six-person booths. Video monitors flash images of child abuse, including slavery, forced labor and pornography. The monitors ask, “What is the most common form of child abuse?”
The students overwhelmingly choose physical abuse. But they’re wrong. The answer is forced labor.
“I think it’s just sad,” says a girl with long brown hair, as she makes her way out of the room for the next exhibit. Here, 16 video monitors show historical film footage of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others fighting for civil rights.
Then, it’s time for the Holocaust section of the museum. Students sit on the floor, while Treister kneels, imploring them to pay special attention to this part of the tour. She explains anti-Semitism, using her own, expanded definition: “Anti-Semitism means hatred of Jews — and hatred of anyone of color.”
Two tall doors part, and the students walk into another room, where a reproduction of a Berlin street from the 1930s awaits. The ninth graders pass by a scene at a cafe, where sculpted figures sit at tables. A voiceover brings the scene to life, offering snippets of the cafe patrons’ conversations about the Nazis’ rise to power.
Less listless than before, the students eavesdrop on a recreation of the Wannsee Conference, where the Nazis determined that “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was to kill all Jews in German-controlled lands. In a Hall of Testimony that resembles a concentration camp gas chamber, students listen to survivors’ stories.
Leaving the exhibit, Treister asks, “Who was responsible for this?”
“Hitler,” a student says.
“Who else?” she asks.
“The people who followed Hitler,” answers Jose Albarran, 14.
“What could’ve been done?” Treister asks.
Tames’e Smith, 15, raises her hand and says: “Somebody standing up to make a difference.”
Smith seems to get the point of the tour. The question is how she, a girl who says she has grown weary of witnessing gang fights and parties “getting shot up,” will apply what she’s learned to life at school.
Ron Rubine, the 46-year-old head of Standing on Common Ground, an organization that trains students in peer relations, tried to make the connection.
“Today,” he told the students at the start of the tour, “is going to be a day for you to think about making Jefferson a place where everybody’s included and nobody’s left out.”
After the tour, Rubine led the ninth graders in a session on how to make the day’s lessons relevant. He also brought in guest speakers — a reformed white supremacist and a gay rights activist — to broaden the message of tolerance.
“In terms of acceptance and learning more about how to get along,” said Juan Flecha, Jefferson High’s principal, “I can’t think of a better opportunity” than a trip to the museum.
Flecha added that simply visiting the Westside was eye-opening. “It’s really important for our students to see a different part of the world,” he said.
With 30 buses provided by Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry (Ninth District) and free admission tickets offered by the Museum of Tolerance through a Wells Fargo Foundation grant, an estimated 1,000 students participated.
After this day’s tour, ninth-grader Smith explains that “standing up” means stopping child pornography, “babies getting exposed on the Internet,” as she puts it.
Another student, Mayra Rivas, 14, says, “I think it could happen again — to Mexicans.” Just as Jews could not escape Europe, her own grandmother, she says, cannot immigrate to the United States today.
A certain amount of confusion — as with this questionable analogy — is inevitable because many students arrive knowing little or nothing about the Holocaust, said Beverly LeMay, manager of the museum’s Tools for Tolerance program. She added that she hopes to follow up with students.
As the day wore on, most students had paid attention to substantial parts of the presentation, sometimes participating in discussions with enthusiasm. If all went well, they will take away something of lasting value — and Jefferson High will be a more peaceful, respectful place.
“You don’t come to the Museum of Tolerance in one visit,” LeMay said, “and be resolved on all these issues.
Intense Me’ah Gets High Marks
Glimpses of Jews’ Past in Andaluca
Spain’s Andaluca is romance. It’s orange blossoms perfuming the air. It’s golden drops of sherry sliding down your throat in a smoky bodega. It’s fingers dancing on the strings of a flamenco guitar.
This southern wedge of the Iberian Peninsula, known for whitewashed villages skirting the Mediterranean Sea, was once the center of a vibrant Moorish kingdom whose link with Jewish history is bittersweet.
When this Muslim region was known as al-Andalus, it was home to thousands of Sephardic Jews, who settled here after the fall of the Second Temple. Jewish and Islamic cultures entwined to produce a legendary golden age beginning in the 10th century, during which time Jews thrived as diplomats, physicians and poets. After Christians conquered Moorish realms, Jews found themselves expelled from Spain in 1492; the ordinance was not officially rescinded until 1968.
A tour of the region offers some tantalizing glimpses of the Jewish past, set against Muslim and Christian landmarks of incomparable splendor. But traces of modern Jewish life in Andaluca are harder to find.
At the heart of historic Cardoba, Spanish architectural traditions overlap and blend in impressive fashion. The huge Mezquita (mosque), built between the eighth and 10th centuries, is pierced at its center by a soaring gothic cathedral, added in the 16th century once the Christians had consolidated their power.
Not far away is the tourist-friendly La Judera quarter. A modern statue representing Maimonides, the great 12th-century scholar and physician who was born into a distinguished Cardoban rabbinical family, stands guard outside one of Spain’s few medieval synagogues, its stucco walls still etched with Hebrew phrases.
Seville, Andaluca’s largest city, is known for its enormous cathedral, flanked by the graceful Giralda bell tower that was once a minaret. Preserved in the cathedral’s treasury are, quite literally, the keys to its Jewish past. Two intricate iron objects on display are the ceremonial keys to the city’s Judera, as presented in 1248 to the conquering Ferdinand III of Castille by his new Jewish subjects. An inscription in both Hebrew and Spanish reads: “The king of kings shall open, the king of all the earth shall enter.”
Public buildings in Seville are painted in brilliant shades of yellow and red. After a visit to the opulent halls and lush gardens of the Alca¡zar palace, the traveler can slip through a narrow covered passageway into the quaint Barrio de Santa Cruz. Despite its very Christian name, this is Seville’s old Jewish quarter, now home to fine restaurants and the city’s best flamenco show. Where once Jewish scholars swayed over sacred texts, you can now hear the staccato beat of high-heeled boots on wooden floors, punctuated by shouts of “Olé! ”
Granada can boast one of the world’s architectural masterpieces, the breathtaking Alhambra. This hilltop fortress and palace complex covers a variety of styles, but its crown jewel is the 14th-century Nasrid Palace, a fantasia of vaults, domes, graceful columns and stucco friezes embellished with elegant tile work and swirling Arabic calligraphy.
Interlocking patios reveal a series of enchanting vistas. None is more delightful than the Courtyard of the Lions, whose central fountain is rumored to have come from the mansion of a powerful 11th century Jewish courtier, Joseph ibn Nagrella.
Off the Courtyard of the Lions is one of the palace’s most exquisite rooms, the Hall of the Ambassadors. Standard guidebooks don’t mention that this was the site where on March 31, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella signed the decree banishing all Jews from Spain. Some commentators believe that the tragedy of that edict continues to haunt the Spanish people, many of whom have long-denied Jewish roots.
It’s heartening that King Juan Carlos, who ascended the throne in 1975 after the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, has been a staunch defender of religious tolerance. He freely displays his fascination with Spain’s Sephardic heritage, and his wife, Queen Sophia, attended a well-publicized service at Madrid’s modern synagogue.
Most visitors to Andaluca travel from Madrid by car or by rail, a trip of about three hours. A worthwhile stopover between Madrid and Cardoba is the magnificent walled city of Toledo, which contains two of Spain’s best-preserved synagogues (see sidebar). These historic landmarks, however, have not functioned as Jewish houses of worship since the time of the Inquisition.
Of functioning synagogues, Spain has only a handful, but Andaluca can claim two of them. One is in Ma¡laga, the seaside capital of the Costa del Sol. The other, a charmingly decorated building that includes its own mikvah, is just down the coast in the upscale resort town of Marbella.
Jaén, a small Andalucan city that calls itself the olive oil capital of the world, contains no synagogue. But in a quiet square far off the tourist route, the traveler to Jaén will stumble onto an unexpected sight. Atop a square column stands a seven-branched menorah, erected to commemorate the Jewish families dispersed from Spain after 1492. Below is a plaque, written both in Spanish and Ladino. Its message is poignant: “The footprints in which they walked together can never be erased.”
Women’s Lib Rises in Wake of Disaster
Get Enraptured With the Central Coast
California is beautiful. You can forget that sometimes, living in Los Angeles, fighting traffic, commuting past big-box retailers and strip malls and — does it get any worse? — Lincoln Boulevard.
But drive a few hours and you will find Beauty herself, and you will once again be certain few places on Earth are as spectacular as the state in which you live.
Case in point: a three-day weekend drive from Los Angeles to Half Moon Bay via Hearst Castle and Paso Robles.
Now is the time to take this trip, when the summer crowds have departed Mr. Hearst’s
California Thanksgiving Resources
Congregation Ohr Tzafon (Reform)
2605 Traffic Way
Atascadero, CA 93477.
For more information, call (805) 238-1502.
Tour reservations are highly recommended. Call (800) 444-4445, or reserve online at www.hearstcastle.com.
The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay
1 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay. For more information, call (650) 712-7020, or visit www.ritzcarlton.com/resorts/half_moon_bay.
Sea Otter Inn
6656 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria.
For more information, call (800) 965-8347 or visit www.seaotterinn.com.
Willow Creek Olive Ranch-Pasolivo
8530 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles. Open Friday-Sunday and by appointment.
Call (805) 227-0186 or visit www.pasolivo.com.
homey little cottage near Cambria, when the olives are ripe and the extra virgin oil is flowing in Paso Robles, and when, at the end of the car ride, you can literally soak in the Martha Stewart-perfect holiday atmosphere of the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Pumpkin facial, anyone?
Los Angeles to Cambria is an easy four-hour drive, along some of the world’s most beautiful, usually sunny, coastline. Numerous reasonable priced “inns” — actually gussied up motor lodges — line the shore drive just north of Cambria. Most feature swimming pools, quick access to a network of coastline trails, and views of cows meandering the hills opposite PCH. There are no kosher restaurants in town, but the elegant Sows Ear Cafe on Main Street and the more family-friendly Brambles Dinner House offer high quality fish and vegetarian dishes.
Arriving in the bustling tourist town by 2 p.m. still allows enough time to see Hearst Castle, just 20 minutes away. Make your reservations by phone or online, and secure a tour time. Many of the lodges in Cambria offer slightly discounted tickets to the castle, and will make the arrangements for you
Tour One, the basic first-timer’s tour, takes just under two hours. And for first-, second- or third-time visitor, the scope and design and ostentation of the castle never fails to impress. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst toured the castles of Europe as a young man, and set to emulate them on this windswept, untrammeled piece of coast. Beginning in 1919, Hearst built but never completed the castle on his 240,000-acre San Simeon ranch.
Take in the sumptuous furnishings, the elaborate outdoor pool where Winston Churchill and Cary Grant and others frolicked, the “guest cottages” designed down to the door jambs by Old World artisans, the mosaic tiled indoor pool and the landscaping of thousands of native citrus and other trees and shrubs — “unbelievable” is the word you will hear your fellow visitors whisper most.
For visitors whispering in Hebrew, the museum offers a translation of the salient points of the tour in pamphlet form — just ask for it in the beginning. And it might help Jewish visitors appreciate the site more if they gloss over Hearst’s early enthusiasm for Adolf Hitler and Italian fascism — the staunch anti-communist reportedly struck a newsreel deal with the Führer following the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, and used his media empire to justify the Nazi invasion of Ukraine. Take comfort instead that Hearst was an enthusiastic participant in the July 1943 Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe in New York City, which attempted to show the Roosevelt administration that saving European Jewry was not just a Jewish issue, but an American one.
Tour One will leave you with what the Hebrew pamphlet might call a ta’am shel od — a taste for more — but there is also more California to explore.
Lock the kids in the car and backtrack south through Cambria to Highway 46 East, one of the last and most beautiful underdeveloped agricultural byways in the state. Vineyards from such wineries as Eberle, Tablas and Tobin James give way to rolling pastureland, steep arroyos, olive groves and old farmhouses. Take it slow — you’re looking at Napa or Sonoma 30 years ago.
Just outside Paso Robles, tour the Willow Creek Olive Ranch, makers of Pasolivo, a superb native olive oil. You could spend thousands to fly to Tuscany for the same olive-crushing experience, and not taste any better oil.
You can stop for lunch in Paso Robles and, if there on Friday, attend the 7:30 p.m. Shabbat services at Congregation Ohr Tzafon.
Continue north from Paso Robles on Highway 101, then make your way west to Highway 1 and Half Moon Bay, about three hours away.
In October, this remarkably quiet and well-kept town just 40 minutes south of San Francisco hosts a pumpkin festival, drawing too many thousands of visitors from all over. But come November, the almost perennially foggy weather and non-freeway access ensure a quieter time.
There are a handful of quiet bed and breakfasts and some larger lodging alternatives in the area. For a splurge of opulence and natural beauty, nothing, however, surpasses The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.
The relatively new luxury hotel can’t justify its existence based on resort weather or famous environs. Set on a cliff overlooking a turbulent and unswimmable portion of the Pacific, it is the epitome of a destination hotel.
Fortunately, it is self-contained.
There is a full-service spa that draws on a famous local resource to come up with a pumpkin-peel body scrub and pumpkin mask. An attendant spreads the mushed-up pulp on your skin and, lo and behold, you feel your carapace give way.
A cozy fire is always stoked in the lounge, and guests gather outside at night by fire pits — thick blankets provided — to look at the surf and the stars, or dip in a cliffside Jacuzzi.
The restaurant, Navio, offers a Sunday brunch of staggering quality, as well as special holiday meals. Kosher catering is available by special arrangement.
Thanksgiving time is celebrated here in a big way. A display of giant pumpkins welcomes visitors, and there are holiday cooking classes for adults and children (as at many Ritz Carlton’s, there is a schedule of high quality kids’ programming for ages 4-12).
In fact, the resort, which has all the signature Ritz amenities and luxuries, offers a complete Winter school of some 50 classes — from chocolate cookery to wedding planning.
Along with the a Scotland-like golfing experience (we watched many diehards tee off in light drizzle), there are many outdoor activities available — whale watching, mountain biking, hiking.
But our favorite, of course, was curling up under one of those blankets by the outdoor fire pit, and recounting our long trip through the beautiful parts of California.
Hope and Faith
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) honored L.A. resident Doron Kochavi, for his participation in the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope across America, headed by Lance Armstrong.
Patients in the Childrens Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at CHLA sent off Kochavi with well wishes as he left to join a team of 24 cancer survivors, advocates, caregivers, physicians and researchers selected to ride 3,300 miles from San Diego to Washington, D.C.
The team of avid cyclists began their trip Sept. 29 — to share their experiences and inspire those they met along the way to learn more about cancer research.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong led the team at the kickoff in San Diego and into Washington, D.C., as well as during other points along the route.
Kochavi’s son, Ari, is alive today because of the treatment for a brain tumor he received at CHLA. When asked about the significance of the holidays and what is he reflecting on Kochavi said prior to leaving, “The Jewish holiday is for laymen. It is a message of hope. You hope that the new year will bring all the good you hope for … health, family, a good life…. This year I will spend the new year on the road. I have the opportunity to send a message of hope across the country. We will be riding everywhere … there will be no religious boundaries and touch everyone north to south … rich to poor….. I get the chance to talk to millions of people through television, newspapers, etc. and deliver a message of hope for tomorrow.”
For more information, visit www.tourofhope.org.
The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles will award four new Jewish day school scholarships as a tribute to Mark Lainer, its chair from 2001 through 2004. The Mark Lainer Scholarships will provide assistance during the 2005 academic year to a deserving student with financial need at four local Jewish educational institutions where Lainer has played major leadership roles. These include Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School West and New Community Jewish High School, along with one recipient selected by the Bureau of Jewish Education.
The Foundation announced the scholarships at a gala dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire on Sept. 22 saluting Lainer’s dedication to The Foundation and the community.
“Mark’s energy and commitment are exemplary,” said foundation President and CEO Marvin I. Schotland. “We’re proud to honor him for both his outstanding guidance as immediate past chair of the foundation and for his passionate, dedicated service to the entire community.”
A leader in philanthropy and education, Lainer was also founding president of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School and has played important leadership roles in the Bureau of Jewish Education, The Jewish Federation, University of Judaism, Valley Beth Shalom, United Jewish Communities, Jewish Education Service of North America and The Jewish Journal.
The Inner Sanctum
I had just finished up with a tour of the new Mormon Temple in Newport Beach when I came face to face with Kathleen. Forthright, with a shining smile, straight shiny hair and the physique of a beach volleyballer, she seemed to embody the ideal of young Mormon womanhood.
Kathleen grew up just blocks from where the temple now stands, and is looking forward to a life in its embrace. After spending three hours at the temple, I had a lot of questions, and Kathleen had answers.
The tour was part of a public open house that all temples hold just once. After a temple is officially consecrated, its inner sanctum is open only to Mormons in good standing. You need a bar-coded card, good for one year at a time, to get in after that.
But for a week before consecration, non-Mormons, called gentiles, are allowed to visit. Earlier this month, tens of thousands of people did. I joined in with a group from the American Jewish Committee, which has worked to enhance interfaith relations with the LDS Church.
The beautifully landscaped temple grounds were filled with tour groups; the parking lot seethed with cars and tour buses. The gleaming buildings, the immaculately laid out gardens and paths and the unfailingly cheerful tour guides in sensible dresses or suits and ties gave the day an efficient, theme-park feel. A dozen Jews at a synagogue Kiddush couldn’t maintain that kind of order.
To the uninitiated or unprepared, Mormon theology is weird. Not bad weird, or wrong weird, just strange to those who are used to God’s revelation coming to a close with Deuteronomy. Founding prophet Joseph Smith began receiving his revelation in 1823 in the form of a book of gold pages, presented to him on a hill in upstate New York by the angel Moroni.
The book detailed a strange and fabulous story of the former inhabitants of North America. Having left Jerusalem 600 years before the birth of Jesus, two tribes of Israel, the Nephites and the Lammanites, battle for supremacy until Jesus comes to America to make peace between them.
He leaves, then the Lammanites eradicate the Nephites, whose leader was Moroni’s father, Mormon. The Book of Mormon imparts this bloody story as well as Mormon’s wisdom, though Smith and his followers continued to receive divine messages.
The revelations led to strict codes of conduct: no alcohol, no caffeine, no tobacco, clear lines of patriarchal authority, a solemn and powerful church hierarchy and tithing — about half of all Mormons tithe 10 percent of their pre-tax earnings to the church.
The Mormon Church abandoned polygamy in 1890, and entered mainstream American religious life with what author Jon Krakauer, in his excellent study, “Under the Banner of Heaven,” called, “stunning determination.” They were the Lord’s Elect, or Latter-Day Saints (LDS), with the mission of establishing the One True Church, and preparing the way for the Second Coming.
What’s fascinating to me about the LDS Church is not its fabulistic ur-text. These are narratives, like the Bible and Quran, that believers take on faith. What’s almost unbelievable is the church’s newness. Now, 150 years after its founding, the LDS Church has 13 million members worldwide. There are about the same number of Jews in the world. (True, millions of us were murdered, but we also had a 4,000-year head start.) Now, the race for hearts and minds really isn’t even close.
Sociologist Rodney Stark estimates the LDS Church will grow to 265 million members by 2080. At any moment, about 60,000 Mormon missionaries are spread around the globe, proselytizing on behalf of their faith. “No other American religious movement is so ambitious,” wrote professor Harold Bloom in “The American Religion.” “And no rival even remotely approaches the spiritual audacity that drives endlessly toward accomplishing a titanic design.”
To the extent organized Jewry is organized and has anything approaching a “design,” it is merely to stop what is seen as the inexorable attrition of Jewish souls. Meanwhile, some 300,000 people join the LDS Church each year, the largest growth rates being in Africa and South America.
Touring the sanctum santorum of Mormon belief, I tried to divine what accounts for this appeal.
The rooms are large, though not cathedral grand. They have reproduction French furniture and crystal chandeliers. Large clerestory windows pour light onto simple religious-themed paintings and murals.
Other than the baptismal room, which features a Jacuzzi-like pool supported on the backs of huge oxen statues, the other rooms are — just nice rooms, decorated more like the Century Plaza Hotel than Lourdes or the Crystal Cathedral or, for that matter, Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
In these rooms, Mormons engage in distinct, personalized rituals — baptizing themselves or deceased ancestors in the True Church or sealing themselves in eternal marriage. One room, the Ordinance Room, is painted with bright murals of California landscape. It could be a Hollywood screening room — and it is, in fact, where Mormons sit and watch a movie about the founding of Mormonism.
Since that recent beginning, the LDS Church has splintered into numerous sects, some of which, as author Krakauer documents, can be as unbendingly fundamentalist as the Taliban. But within the mainstream movement, orderliness abounds. The ideals of 19th century America — hierarchy, the patriarchal family, charity, temperance, personal revelation — are enshrined.
“Salvation,” one Mormon leader told our group, “is a family affair.”
After the tour, when I found myself face to face with Kathleen, I asked her what happened to the golden tablets, which Joseph Smith said he translated from their original “Reformed Egyptian.” She explained that they had been lost.
I also had another question on my mind. I explained to her that a large segment of Jewry believes that while our holy books reflect eternal truths, they are not necessarily literally true. I wondered: Did Latter-day Saints believe in the literal truth of the Book of Mormon?
Kathleen’s smile didn’t waver, and her voice was strong and sure.
“I understand metaphor,” she said, “and I understand history. My degree is in history. But we believe in the revelation of the prophet as it is written.”
Combine that powerful belief with a duty to proselytize, and it’s no wonder this new religion will soon fill a far larger portion of the world and the religious firmament than our own.