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ADL urges Supreme Court to let states keep guns out of hands of violent extremists

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press release)–In a brief detailing the “serious threat” of armed violence by extremists and extremist groups, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Wednesday  urged the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that states retain the right to reasonably regulate the possession of firearms by those who practice and preach racial and ethnic violence.

“We have placed the problem of armed extremism squarely before the high court,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “Racist and anti-government extremists often have an obsessive fascination with firearms and have shown a willingness to engage in acts of shocking and often deadly violence.  We urge the Supreme Court to ensure that cities and states retain the latitude they need to keep guns out of the hands of extremists, terrorists, and violent bigots.”

ADL’s “friend of the court” brief in McDonald v. City of Chicago points to the long history of gun violence by anti-government and racist extremists.  The brief describes three such examples in detail: the June 2009 shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, by avowed anti-Semite and white supremacist James Von Brunn (an incident which left a security guard dead); the April 2000 shooting spree in Pittsburgh by white supremacist Richard Baumhammers (which left five dead); and the deadly standoffs in Waco, Texas in 1993 and Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992. 

McDonald v. City of Chicago focuses on whether the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits most regulation of firearms by cities and states.

ADL has long supported the reasonable regulation of firearms, particularly when it comes to the possession of weapons by extremists.

“Extremists and those who commit hate crimes pose a serious threat to the safety of the general public and, more specifically, to the members of the discrete racial, ethnic and religious groups who often become their targets,” reads the ADL brief.  “Armed extremism leads to violent extremism with profoundly unsettling frequency and profoundly tragic results.”

 The League’s brief was prepared by Leonard M. Niehoff and Martin E. Karlinsky of the law firm Butzel Long.

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Preceding provided by Anti-Defamation League

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Six charges brought against Abdulmutallab in attempted Christmas bombing

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – The Justice Department announced that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian national, was charged Wednesday in a six-count criminal indictment returned in the Eastern District of Michigan for his alleged role in the attempted Christmas day bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Detroit.

Count one of the indictment charges Abdulmutallab with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a penalty of up to life in prison. Count two of the indictment charges him with attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Count three of the indictment charges him with willful attempt to destroy or wreck an aircraft within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Count four of the indictment charges Abdulmutallab with willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, which was likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft. This violation carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Count five of the indictment charges him with use of a firearm/destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, which carries a consecutive mandatory 30 years in prison. Count six of the indictment charges the defendant with possession of a firearm/destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence, which carries a consecutive mandatory 30 years in prison

“The charges that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab faces could imprison him for life,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “This investigation is fast-paced, global and ongoing, and it has already yielded valuable intelligence that we will follow wherever it leads.  Anyone we find responsible for this alleged attack will be brought to justice using every tool — military or judicial — available to our government.”

“The attempted murder of 289 innocent people merits the most serious charges available, and that’s what we have charged in this indictment,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

According to the indictment, Northwest Airlines flight 253 carried 279 passengers and 11 crewmembers. Abdulmutallab allegedly boarded Northwest Airlines flight 253 in Amsterdam on Dec. 25, 2009 carrying a concealed bomb. The bomb components included Pentaerythritol (also known as PETN, a high explosive), as well as Triacetone Triperoxide (also known as TATP, a high explosive), and other ingredients.

The bomb was concealed in the defendant’s clothing and was designed to allow him to detonate it at a time of his choosing, thereby causing an explosion aboard flight 253, according to the indictment. Shortly prior to landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab detonated the bomb, causing a fire on board flight 253.

According to an affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint, Abdulmutallab was subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew after detonating the bomb. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Abdulmutallab required medical treatment, and was transported to the University of Michigan Medical Center after the plane landed.

This prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The investigation is being conducted by the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is led by the FBI and includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Air Marshal Service, and other law enforcement agencies. Additional assistance has been provided by the Transportation Security Administration, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Wayne County Airport police, as well as international law enforcement partners.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains mere allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Preceding provided by the U.S. Justice Department

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, February 19, 1954, Part II

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Gail Umeham 

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Lasker Lodge News
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 5

To those who saw and heard Phil Klutznick, it was an experience long to be remembered.  He was everything that could b expected in a Supreme president.  B’nai B’rith can be very proud of him.  Sam Fendel, District Grand President, accompanied him.

Jack Lowenbein, athletic chairman, announces a skating party to be held at Palisades Gardens on Sunday, Feb. 21st from 2 till 5 p.m.  All members and their families are invited.  It’s 25 cents a head if you show your B.B. membership card.  Co-chairmen for this affair are Leonard and Bob Zlotoff.

Speaking of membership cards, you still have until the end of February to own one of those cherished Gold Menorah cards, if you pay your 1954 dues by then.  Send your check to Joe Kaplan, 3305 Upas as soon as possible, if you have not already done so.

Percy Steele, Executive Secretary of the Urban League, will be the main speaker at the next regular meeting.

All officers are, of course, invited to attend the Officers’ Seminar on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles.  Contact Ralph Feldman for more information.

 **

Jewish Community Center Nursery
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 5

Cooperative Nursery School of the Jewish Community Center now has openings on its waiting list for children 2  to kindergarten age.  The school, under the supervision of a trained teacher assisted by parents of the children, offers a full program for the pre-school child.

Anyone desiring further information regarding the school may contact Mrs. Mel Karzen, JU-2-2232; or Mrs. Milton Schwartz, JU-2-7874.

Parents of the Cooperative Nursery School will have their first social get-together at a pot luck—installation Saturday evening, February 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jewish Community Center.  Chairmen Mrs. Frank Larrick and Mrs. Jerome Greenstein have planned an evening of entertainment and fun.

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B.B. Women Announce Winners of Essay Contest
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 5

The 4th Annual Essay Contest, sponsored by the Birdie Stodel and Bay City B’nai B’rith Chapters has come to a close.  Mrs. Ted Brav and Mrs. Harold Garvin, co-chairmen, report that over 700 essays were received from the 5th and 6th grades of the 10 participating schools.  Based on the film “The Toymaker” which was first shown to the students, the essays were judged on the merits and interpretations of the film.

The 3 winners selected were:  1st Vivian Englert, Chesterton School; 2nd, Teresa Sousa, Cabrillo School; 3rd—Ann Cosgrove, Garfield School.

Prizes to be awarded are:  1st, Radio; 2nd, Camera; 3rd, Clock.

The judges were Dr. Richmond Barbour, Child Guidance at the Board of Education; Dr. James Kinder of San Diego State College; Mrs. George Lykos, president of the League of Women Voters; Lionel Van Deerlin, newspaper man and TV commentator and Eddie Breitbard, president of the Jewish Community Center.

Chesterton will receive the Gold Trophy for submitting the winning essay and each student who submitted an essay will receive a certificate of recognition.  All of these presentations will be made at the school assemblies by members of the two chapters.

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New Jewish Sorority on State Campus
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 5

Pi Alpha Lambda, new Jewish sorority on S.D.S.C. campus will hold its semi-annual formal installation dinner-dance at Tops, Sunday, February 21.

 Norma Simmons will turn over her gavel to Iris Leeds who will be installed as president.  Other newly elected officers are Ethel Schwartz, vice-pres.; Lillian Slayen, sec.; and Maxine Gerson, treas.

The new pledges will receive their pins at a ceremony honoring them.  The installation will be followed by dancing and entertainment.

 **

Double Talk
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 5

By Janet & Susan Solof

Here’s the news up-to-date,
Let’s see what’s on the slate.

The Sergeanette’s Ball marked a wonderful evening for Sharlene Stone ‘n Herb Wenig, Janet Solof ‘n Steve Kerschel, Jane Cohn ‘n Shearn Platt, Faggie Krasner ‘n Bobby Beck, Manon Haas ‘n  Chuck Fagelson.  Jane Cohn received the honor of being one of the captains of the 1954 San Diego High School Drill Team.  It was a wonderful affair.

Cartoon movies and a delicious lunch was the center of attraction at David Cohen’s fifth birthday party.  Among those watching with all eyes and eating up the fun were Lisa Lieberman, Jonathan Sapp, Judy Karp, Stevie Horrow, Susan Siraton , David Gordon, Janie and Susie Siner.  A gay time was had by all.  Happy birthday David.

Seen having fun at Hoover High Chatterettes dance were Natalie Veitzer ‘n Shearn Platt, Sherry Newman ‘n Jerry Schultz, Lois Liff ‘n Harry Slayen, Dona Godes ‘n Bobby Beck, Bev Kitaen ‘n Bernie Sosna, Gail Kahn ‘n Chuck Fagelson, Adrian Sachnoff ‘n Sheldon Golden.  They all had a crazy good time.

South West University Debate Contest of Southern California held many of our kids on top placing.  Among them were Jerry Schultz who placed in impromptu, Stan Camiel and Sherry Newman rating in debate and Lawrence Schiller in debate and extemporaneous.  Congrats kids.

Good luck to Lawrence Schiller who was written up in March issue of U.S. Camera magazine as a “Pro at 16” and was interviewed on Harold Keen’s People in the News.  Nice Going, Lawrence.

Lois Liff was surprised at a luncheon honoring her birthday given by Natalie Veitzer and Sharlene Stone.  Lots of fun and best wishes on your birthday, Lois.

Danny Shaefer (sic, Schaffer), Linda Zuckerman, Alan Friedman, Diane Fogelman, Morton Cohn, Gloria Turner, Gary Fine, Susie Salzer, Jack Sharpe, Loise Gelman, Bernard Berwin, Sonya Weitzman, George Weiss and Margie Lowitz all helped make Ethel Shapov’s birthday a big success with dancing, buffet dinner and oodles of fun.  Yep, that was a real “gone” party reported all the kids.  Congrats on your birthday, Ethel.

B.J.Y.O. invites you to their Installation Dance, Saturday, February 27, at Beth Jacob Center.  Wear dressy clothes and come dance and eat and have fun.  The new officers to be installed are President, Sonyia Weitzman; V.P., Ronnie Doctor; Sec., Marjorie Lowitz; Treas., Louis Lokowitz; Serg-at-Arms, Richard Bart.  Don’t miss it.

The number is CY-5-0679.
Phone your news to that line.

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Fox Lodge News
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 5

By John Kluchin

B’nai B’rith had a Big Week, for the Samuel I. Fox members.  A board Meeting, Regular Meeting and meeting the Supreme Lodge President Phil Klutznick, a dynamic, yet down to earth person who has everyone’s problems on his shoulders and who wants you to know B’nai B’rith better.

He brought a stimulating message and told how B’nai B’rith aids all Jewry throughout the World.  Pres. Dave Schloss, Chas. Juster, P.P. John Kluchin, P.P. Irving Cohen, and Sanford Goldman were privileged to hear the Supreme President who has rubbed shoulders with President Eisenhower and Sec. of State Dulles.

Bay City Women Set Annual Dance
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 6

The Bay City Chapter announces their 5th Annual Buffet Supper Dance—the Mardi Gras—to be held on Saturday, March 13th, 8 until ? at the American Legion Hall, 2619 “ B” St.

Mrs. Sam Cohen, General Chairman, has appointed the following women:  Mrs. LeRoy Cohn, Decorations; Mrs. Abe Hollandersky, food; Mrs. Harold Garvin, publicity and entertainment; and Mrs. Joseph Kagan, tickets and reservations.

The food will be home-cooked with the buffet set up all evening.  There will be dancing to an orchestra, entertainment and many other surprises.

Mrs. Sanford Sack, president, extends a most cordial invitation to the entire community to participate in this evening of fun and frolic.  Those desiring to play cards may do so in another room which will be set up for them.  Just bring your own cards.

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Yo-Ma-C0 News
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 6

The following members were ushered into office ast the semi-annual Installation dinner-dance Feb. 7th:  Jack Brisker, Pres.; Al Nadler, V. Pres.; Binnie Brooks, Rec. Sec.; Dave Brooks, Treas.; Esther Brisker, Mem. Sec.; Doris Kossy, Corr. Sec.; Ray Lowitz, Auditor; and Dave Cohen, Sgt-at-Arms.  The high-light of the evening was the take-off on “ This is Show Business,” complete with moderator, panel and performers.

Arrangements for a Washington’s birthday party are being planned by Sid Steckel and his committee for Feb. 24th, at the Club rooms.  Members are to be costumed to represent song titles and gaily decorated box lunches are to be auctioned off.  The proceeds of the auction will be the start of a pledged fund to defray the cost of a bus used by the Jewish Community Center to convey children to summer camp locales. 

In discussing ways and means to raise this fund it was resolved that the club will hold a Bingo Fun Night, in the near future.  This event to be followed by a rummage sale, date to be announced.  Hold that bus!!

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Community Center Teen-Age News
Southwestern Jewish Press February 19, 1954 Page 6

Beginning Thursday evening, February 25, the Center will be open to boys, tenth grade and up, girls ninth grade and up.

For teen-agers 12 to 13 years of age, a dance class will be opened Monday, March 1, at 7 p.m.

Coming Special Events
Inter-faith party for Saturday evening, March 6th—Chuck Fagelson, Donna Godes and Larry Cantor are the committee planning this event.

Dance party—Saturday, March 27th—Gail Kahn, Lee Leitchtag and Beverly Kitaen are responsible for this event.

The following staff members have been added to assist in the teen-age program; George Monta, Dan Andrews, and John Smith.

San Diego A.Z.A. is beginning to roll.  All boys (15 to 18) interested in joining this up and coming group are invited to attend the Tuesday evening meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center.

Beach and Bay Area
Teenagers—Attention!!
A cracker barrel discussion group with an experienced discussion leader is in the cards.  This group will tackle the various aspects of the many subjects that concern them, and will complete the evening activities with refreshments and dancing.  Plans are to meet bi-monthly in the beach area, and registration is limited.  All interested teen-agers are to call the center office—AT-1-7744 for further information.

Teen-age girls—to assist in your endeavors to share the fellow’s enjoyment, lessons in the art of billiards will be given to those interested.  Call AT-1-7744 for further information.

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“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our  indexed “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.

Historical center will tell story of first Jewish settlers of the Negev

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

RIBBON CUTTING—Ruthie Goltz and representatives of JNF,
Sha’ar Hanegev municipality, and  the Ministry of Tourism
cut the ribbon in front of the renovated area at the site of the
first settlers of the Negev.

___________________________________________________________
By Ulla Hadar

KIBBUTZ RUHAMA, Israel–On the first day of Chanukah, in December 1911, Ruhama farm was founded on lands acquired by the”Rest of Israel” organization of Moscow.

During the first World War, Ruhama settlers were arrested and expelled to Beer Sheba and the farm was destroyed.

Reconstructed in 1920 , it was abandoned on the eve of the 1929 Arab riots. Reconstructed again it was destroyed a third time in the 1936 riots. During Chanukah 1943 Ruhama lands became a Hashomer Hazair kibbutz called “Amal”.

On the eve of the War of Independence, the wadis (river valleys) on Ruhama lands served as a centre for “Haganah” military drills. These activities led to a British siege and to a search for weapons from the 28th of August to the 2nd of September 1946.
During the War of Independence, Ruhama along with its neighbors Kibbutz Dorot and Kibbutz Nir Am, served as a centre for the Palmach units and headquarters when the Negev was besieged by the Egyptians.

Monday the 28th of December 2009, almost 100 years after and only few days following Chanukah festivities,  a small crowd gathered at the site of “The First Jewish Zionist  settlers in the Negev”  for the inauguration of several improvements.

Site of the first well in Ruhama

The site is situated at Kibbutz Ruhama, a kibbutz that today is part of the Sha’ar Hanegev municipality, bordering Gaza. With the approval of the Ministry of Education and a national organization for historic sites, a community educational center here will tell the story of settlement in this “Gateway to the Negev.”
A special entrance and parking for disabled is a feature of the site, which is within the boundaries of “Park Shikma.”  The park area includes several of the kibbutzim from the Shaar Hanegev municipality.
Ruthie Goltz, a native of Kibbutz Ruhama, is in charge of the project. She retired two years ago and volunteered for this project because it is “an asset to the community and the place where I live and that I love very much”

She added: “Three times the kibbutz was built and destroyed between the years 1912-1944.It was rebuilt a fourth time and today our community still stands strong and proud. The site is part of the kibbutz history but more so also part of the history of Sha’ar Hanegev and Park Shikma”.

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Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World.  She may be reached at hadaru@sandiegojewishworld.com

Barbra and Frank … Who’da Thunk?

January 6, 2010 1 comment


IMPERSONATORS–Sharon Owen and Sebastian Anzaldo portray
Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra in new Las Vegas act.
________________________________________________________
By Carol Davis

LAS VEGAS, Nevada– Many years ago, my late husband Gerry and I used to make Vegas our winter getaway. That was a time when things were simple, the Strip was The Strip and deals were so abundant you could almost write your own ticket between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I can’t even begin to tell you how many of the then stars we saw either in large (remember the long tables?) show rooms or in lounge ‘show rooms’. It was a cornucopia of choices and as easy as walking through the casino and into a show room.

Oh sure, there were lines and some sort of a pecking order and slipping the ‘seater’ some higher denomination of a bill folded into thirds was an expected, unspoken bonus for him. (I don’t ever remember a ‘her’). He always took a peek at the amount before weaving paid patrons through a sea of tables and chairs. It was never a question of ‘IF’ you had a seat. It was always a guessing game of ‘Where’ that seat would be. I never did figure that policy out, but for the most part we, I’m sure, were never on the highest priority list in the pecking order of things.

Not in any particular order, we did manage to see Dionne Warwick, Fats Domino, Tom Jones, Bobby Vinton, Jack Jones, (I know I’m dating myself) Jane Powell, Jack Benny, Steve Lawrence and Edyie Gorme, Don Rickles, Jack E. Leonard, Barbara Eden, Juliet Prowse, Totie Fields, Shecky Green, B.B. King, The Follies Bergere, Hallelujah Hollywood, Casino De Paris, Andy Williams, Neil Sedaka and Barbra Streisand. I’m, sure memory has failed on some level, but this is the best I can do for now. Later on in our writing career, we managed to see quite a few more, but with Press Credentials, come perks. We were then directed to the VIP line. Some things in life, like wine, get better with age.

That brings us to the present where ‘The Strip’ doesn’t resemble ‘The Strip’ as I knew it and the shows are big productions and the casinos are all themed and it takes a marathon ready body to make it from one end of a building to the next and rooms are in towers and slot machines are digitized (if that’s a word), and 1cent machines need a dollar to pay anything and showrooms are built for specific shows and what goes on in Vegas doesn’t stay there anymore. I just brought the worse cold home with me after a weeklong stay with dear friends who are new residents there.

While there however, I did get to see the 90 min Phantom in a theatre made especially for that Andrew  Lloyd-Webber musical. We, the audience are made to feel as if we are sitting in an actual opera house. What can I say, several millions of dollars can buy an awful lot but the condensed no intermission musical is effective and a welcome relief from the over two hour show we see that comes through many cities.

We also saw small venue musical tribute at Le Bistro at the Riviera Hotel (now that’s out of the past and way down on what used to be the Strip) to Ole Blue Eyes and Barbra Streisand called, Barbara & Frank The Concert that Never Was starring Sebastian Anzaldo and Sharon Owen.

It is a dandy of a show and Ms. Owen is a very good look a like Ms. Streisand. She sounds a lot like the diva and her body language, small talk and those long nails reinforce her persona. Anzaldo is charming, easy going and while his looks are not as conspicuously Sinatra, his voice is smooth he’s dapper looking and his delivery engaging. The two are at ease with each other, finishing sentences and talking as if they best friends even though their paths crossed very seldom. He works better with her than without and she is perfectly suited as a single or in concert with Anzaldo.

She works well with the piano player who also gets a few bars in of his own during the hour and half performance. Videos and taped orchestrations play an important part in giving the show a bigger feeling. I would like have liked just the piano and the vocalists for a few of the numbers. Le Bistro is a rather small and intimate setting and some of the sound design was a bit too much for the size of the room.  

Just about all the musical numbers will sound familiar starting off with “I’ve got a Crush On You”. The two jibe and poke at each other making the audiences feel right at home as they go through their repertoire: “Luck Be A Lady”, sequences from Funny Girl including “Second Hand Rose”, “People”, Don’t Rain On My Parade”, “Memories” and “Woman In Love”. He counters with “I’ve Got The world On A String”, “Strangers In The Night”, “My Way”, and “That’s Life”. They join together in “It Was A Very Good Year” and “The Way We Were”.

Other memorable tunes include “Papa Can You Hear Me?”  “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, “All Of Me”, “Witchcraft”, “Come Fly With Me”, “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Somewhere”. The ‘60’s and ‘70’s will roll past in fond memories while these two gifted impersonators give it their joking and bantering with each other as well as with the audience. From time to time it almost feels as if Streisand is actually on stage.

As of now the show is having an open run. The Riviera is on 2901 S. Las Vegas Blvd. and tickets are $49.95 plus taxes and fee; Add $10.00 per ticket for VIP seating. All shows run Tues. through Sun. and are at 8:30 pm.

See you at the theatre.

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Davis is a San Diego-based theatre reviewer

The holidays and their music, Part II

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The holidays and their music, Part I

By David Amos

SAN DIEGO–In the last issue, I talked about the music we hear for the Christmas holidays, where Hannukah fits in (or doesn’t), and on the larger picture, the place of Jewish Music in the concert hall.

While we accept with pleasure the presentation of non-Jewish religious music as part of the classical music repertory, I have sensed an incongruous uneasiness among Jews when it comes to their own music and heritage for sharing with the at-large mainstream concert audiences. Even in Israel, there is this unwarranted sense of an inferiority complex as to the place of serious Jewish music, even to Israeli listeners.

You may argue this, but even the wonderful Israel Philharmonic Choir, sings almost exclusively the great Christian masterpieces, and shies away from supporting music on Jewish subjects as being, somehow, of lesser quality and weight. I have talked to dozens of people, Israelis and American Jews, and their observations and responses have confirmed my concerns and conclusions.

Although there is a vast number of world class Jewish composers today, their compositions of works on Jewish subjects are somehow, not regarded in the highest esteem, by some enigmatic definition and rationale.

One possible answer to this is that because of the limitations on Jewish composers in earlier times, compositions on substantial Jewish subjects did not appear until well into the Twentieth Century, when all concert audiences started to reject all new music because of its modernism and dissonance. Not a good, logical artistic reason, but nevertheless, it is reality.

So, the scene is set: What we are faced with today, is the talent of many Jewish composers, a treasury of music already composed (or waiting to be composed) ready to be heard and enjoyed, a welcoming time for Gentile audiences to be exposed to the grandeur of our history and traditions, and on the negative side, the moderate reluctance of all audiences to give of their time to listen to new music when they could go to concerts or hear recordings of beloved chestnuts by Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Fiddler on the Roof.

Fortunately, on the other hand, these times are very good for commissioning professional and community orchestras, having new works performed (if well presented, with education and relevance), published, recorded professionally, promoted, and played by classical music  radio stations worldwide.

Everything is in place, except for the important catalyst: Money. While composers, music critics and musicologists easily see the logic and benefit of the need to commission, to perform in concert and record the infinite choices of music in Jewish subjects, it would take a sponsor with the necessary vision to underwrite this noble project to leave a legacy for today and future generations.

Through my experience and knowledge in this area, I have been fortunate to have encouraged many a composer, Jewish and Gentile, to compose music inspired by Judaica. Many of these works are weighty, relevant, educational, and pleasing; they have been enjoyed by audiences worldwide, and in the local scene, wherever I have had the opportunity to present such works. For even wider exposure, I have also been fortunate to have the pleasure of conducting world class orchestras in commercial recordings of such music, which not only have been praised by music critics, but also enthusiastically received by the very musicians who played in the recording sessions. Record companies are very interested in marketing new music of relevance and quality.

There are so many areas to be explored. Music related to stories in the Bible, in Jewish history, folklore, Israel, the Holidays, political events which have changed the world, the Holocaust, (where could you best preserve its memory in an assertive, instructive way for presentation to the general public?), American Judaism, the Liturgy, famous people in history, etc. My obvious medium is the symphony orchestra, but there are infinite possibilities with solo voices, opera, chamber music choirs, and narration. Or, some interesting combinations of any of the above, including multi-media.

If you find this article of significance and sufficiently important, I would encourage you do something about it. I personally feel an obligation to this project, and the gap which I have described in our culture today is self evident. I can think of no better way to leave our mark through contributions which perpetuate our heritage; statements in the arts are forever, and, quoting a sports figure, the future is now.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on this subject, please e mail me at amosd@sandiegojewishworld.com

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Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and a guest conductor of professional orchestras around the world.

Book examines the images Jews have of their own bodies

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Jewish Body by Melvin Konner, Nextbook, New York; ISBN 978-0-8052-4236-2, $22.00, 255 pages

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By Fred Reiss, Ed.D

WINCHESTER, California–The Jewish people are obsessed with the body. While the Sumerians, Egyptians, Canaanites, and others prayed and sacrificed to idols, the embodiment of their gods, the Hebrews announced to the world that God is invisible. Centuries later, Christianity brought back God in human form, claiming that he felt birth, lived life like any other person, and died horribly and with excruciating pain. Years later, Jews would become identified through their blood by the Inquisition and the Nazis. Anti-Semites identified Jews through exaggerated physical features.

Traditional Jews understand that God created humanity in His own image, and so they personify God through their own bodies. A male Jew gives a small and delicate portion of his body to be part of God’s covenant. Jews, who follow the tradition, marvel at the complexity of their bodies and thank God “for fashioning humanity with wisdom” at every morning service. They observe what they put into their bodies, and scrupulously observe not to defile its outward appearance, and follow rules about menstruation and sexual intercourse. Because traditional Jews believe that from dust we are and to dust we go, they have their bodies placed in wooden coffins, giving nature the quickest way to complete her deed.

Melvin Konner, Ph.D., M.D., a professor of anthropology at Emory University, has written a marvelous little book, The Jewish Body, describing how the Jew treats his own body and how others perceive and react to the Jewish body. He begins with the most recognizable Jewish body characteristic—circumcision, and how that ritual may have developed from pagan fertility rites. Circumcision kept Jewish men from fully participating in the Greek way of life. So enamored were the Greeks with beautiful male bodies that any deformity rendered a man unfit for athletic competitions. The Greeks and the Jews differed in other ways. The ancient Greek way of life allowed for the Epicurean philosophy and feasts to Bacchus. The Jews had dietary laws. The Greeks had public baths; the Jews private ritual immersions. The Greeks conquered much of the known world. The Jews first lost their independence and later the entire country. The two-thousand year Diaspora, according to Konner, allowed the world to perceive Jews as weak and defenseless. The Jews were as powerless against village pogroms as they were against the well-armed Crusaders. Until the mid-nineteenth century, European Jews thrived only where they were protected by kings or noblemen.  

The Jews became caricatures in literature: Fagan in Oliver Twist, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Hirsch in Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, and so on. Jews had wide noses, hooked noses, horns on their head, beady closely-set eyes, protruding ears, and thick lips. Even the eminent educator, Dr. Charles Eliot, President of Harvard University told the Menorah Society in 1907 that Jews “are distinctly inferior in stature and physical development… to any other race.” The Nazis portrayed the Jews as a virus that can attack a country from within. With this health metaphor, Jews were declared a public-health menace, and the Holocaust became a noble cause to eradicate a potential plague, which would defile the “pure” German race.

With the rise of Zionism came the call for physical prowess. Not the prowess of prizefighter Daniel “The Light of Israel” Mendoza, or boxer Sam “The Terrible Jew” Elias. Not even the more than thirty Jewish boxing world champions, including Max E. “Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom. Zionism didn’t mean the toughness acquired in America’s cities, where Jewish gangs formed and festered. Places that gave us such personalities as bootleggers Waxey Gordon, Maxie Greenberg, and Arnold Rothstein. Arthur “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer terrorized the South Bronx, and the Purple Gang composed of Sammy Cohen, and the Fleisher and Bernstein brothers controlled parts of Detroit. Zionism wanted to toughen and remake the Jewish body through systematic training. And so they did.

Through outright purchase of land in Palestine, followed by back-breaking work to clear mosquito-infested swamps and tilling the land, the Jew showed that his image as a trembling coward was a mirage—a lie repeated so often that it became the truth. Jews fearlessly defended the State of Israel and in 1967 rose to the (equally false) image of superhero with the defeat of its Arab neighbors in six days.

Melvin Konner offers us a delightful and informative study of the perceptions of the Jewish body through history. He shows us the myopic and inaccurate view that Jews and non-Jews have of the Jewish body.  Reading The Jewish Body is like walking into a hall of misshaped mirrors: one cannot help but laugh at some of the vain and ridiculous Jewish self-images, and cry at the awful actions spawned by the distorted picture of the Jewish body perceived by others.

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 Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil CalendarsAncient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah.