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Jewish Charger Antonio Garay strives to help bring San Diego a Super Bowl championship

January 13, 2010 7 comments

San Diego Charger Antonio Garay and sportswriter Joey Seymour.
Any question which one is which?

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Sometimes you’re not always going to get the best out of every situation, but you’re supposed to strive for the best and maximize your ability.” – Antonio Garay

By Joey Seymour

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers are on the precipice of history this season. Not only are they the hottest team in the National Football League having won their last 11 games in a row, but there is an unfamiliar buzz around the Charger universe . . .  that “this” is the season. Even though the team has captured the AFC West title the previous three years, there was always some worry – some doubt – that the lightning bolts would fall once they left the comforts of competing in their lackluster division (and face mightier AFC foes in the playoffs). Unfortunately, those concerns came to fruition each season.[i] Yet, this year, with a healthy core team still intact having experienced the heartbreak of past playoff loses; the Chargers could very well bring San Diego its first major championship. If they do, they’ll do it with the aid of an exceptional talent recently added to the roster, defensive tackle, Antonio Garay.

Garay was traded to the Chargers in December, ironically by this weekend’s opponent, the New York Jets. At 6-4 and 330 pounds, Garay is an imposing figure with a surprising amount of speed and quickness. Antonio’s story is one that does not immediately interest those in the sports realm. He has never been caught-up in a scandal, he does not wear flashy clothes or perform overly dramatic celebrations after big plays, and he doesn’t take to the internet to broadcast himself 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, dig a little deeper, and the tale of this incredibly unique athlete begins to surface.  And, it is one that could very well be just as interesting, for all the right reasons.

 Born on November 30, 1979, the first of three children for Marsha and Tony Garay, Antonio was brought into a family of incredible diversity and love. Marsha Garay is devoutly Jewish, who taught Antonio and his siblings, brother Daniel and sister Francesca, from an early age about their heritage and the importance of understanding their religion. Of his mom, Antonio stated, “My mom is very proud, knows where she came from, and respects everything about her religion. Every holiday we celebrated, she explained the importance [of them] to us. Even though I am diverse, first and foremost, I am Jewish. It’s a big part of myself and my family.” It is an ambition of Antonio’s to visit Israel soon and wrestle in the Maccabi Games.

His father’s side is a mainly Catholic family with a combination of Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, and Jamaican backgrounds. Marsha and Tony were both two sport athletes at Hofstra University in New York. Tony wrestled and played football and Marsha was a softball pitcher and captain of the tennis team. On a fateful afternoon, Marsha twisted her ankle while playing tennis and Tony came to her rescue, that event, according to Antonio, “is when the fairytale began.”

Tony had a minor stint in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, and New York Jets, after being touted by sports writers as one of the best defensive linemen in the country in 1971.

“My father, he’s like my best friend. I was a kid [who] had support from two parents that were college educated and two sport athletes. I’ve been very fortunate. There were things that were done and said through their careers and they made sure to guide me to make sure I stayed on the straight and narrow.”

While growing up in the small town of Rahway, New Jersey, Antonio knew that he was going to be a football player from an early age. However, his Mom enrolled him in soccer. “My mom had me playing soccer. One of my biggest attributes is that I’m pretty fast. The last two games I’ve been running down on kick off’s. You don’t really see anyone my size running down. In soccer, I played left wing and right wing. Everyone used to be like, ‘who’s that big fat kid running?’” The fact was, Antonio was too big at his age to play in junior football, yet the passion for one day competing on an NFL field burned inside of him.

“My best friends used to have Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders [jerseys], for me, I never got into, wearing and supporting. The one person that I did like was Greg Lloyd. I never had posters up. I was never a super fan. When I was younger, I was [always] thinking about ‘who I was going to play for’ and ‘which one of these guys was going to be a teammate.’ I was always very goal oriented. I would write down [everything], ‘how many plays am I going to make this week?’ When I was younger, in order for me to get to college, I [had] to do well in school. I just became very goal oriented.”  

In high school, Garay was not only a dominant force on the football field (All-State and Blue Chip All-American), but a track star running the 100 and 200 yard races and throwing the javelin. However, it was his skills at wrestling that earned Antonio a great deal of praise and recognition.

Wrestling has been an institution in Garay family since 1955 when his uncle, Louie Garay, won the New Jersey state championship. Two years later, Carlos Garay, another uncle, finished second in the state and in 1966, Antonio’s father finished third. Antonio was the New Jersey state champion in his weight class, 275 pounds. He never lost a match during his high school years (1994 – 1998).

Beyond his athletic accomplishments, Garay maintained his goal of performing well in his classes. The strong support of both his parents in his competitive and educational endeavors fueled Antonio to succeed. He was offered scholarships from 25 different schools, but he elected to accept the offer from Boston College.

In Boston, Antonio continued to wrestle until Boston College dropped the wrestling program his senior year. He finished 4th in the NCAA championships during his sophomore year and remains the only NCAA All-American in Boston College history. It was also at Boston College when Garay’s seemingly inevitable path to the NFL began to waver after a few horrific injuries. During his junior year, in the first play of the first game of the season, Antonio sprained his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). His season was over. The next year while playing against Notre Dame, Garay suffered a season ending spine injury.

Antonio could have utilized his degree and walked away from football and the risk of any further injury or focused on wrestling and competing in the Olympics. However, the NFL dream continued to push him to rehab, train harder, and focus on the upcoming 2003 National Football League draft.

On Sunday, April 27, 2003, the Cleveland Browns selected Antonio Garay in the sixth round of the NFL draft. The years of preparation, studying, focusing on school – and not being deterred by the pressures of youth and ignorance – led to that glorious moment. Garay was a Brown for two seasons (2003 – 2004). He tore his ACL in a game against the Baltimore Ravens and once again found himself on the mend. The inauspicious tag of, “injury prone” began to be attached to Antonio, yet, in 2005 he was signed to the Chicago Bears practice squad.

In 2006, during the Bears Super Bowl run, Antonio was active for seven games. Unfortunately, he was deactivated for the Super Bowl, which the Bears lost 29-17 to the Indianapolis Colts. In 2007, Garay was having an impressive season, and then on Thursday, December 6th, 2007 while playing against the Washington Redskins in prime time, Redskins Offensive Tackle, Chris Samuels made an illegal chop block that broke Antonio’s leg and shattered his ankle. Samuels was fined $12,500 for the hit and has been referred to by many in the league as “a dirty player.”

While discussing the injury, Antonio noted, “When I broke my leg, it was a chop block from Chris Samuels. I’ve broken my leg before; I knew right away it was broken. I knew I was going to have a journey ahead of me. Unfortunately, I was going into my free agent year and not many football teams are in the market for a D-Lineman with one leg.”

Antonio would spend all of 2008, essentially starting over again. Beyond rehabbing the leg and ankle, Garay had to find a way to drop the “injury prone” stigma that had seemingly become his legacy. He refused to let the dream die. He wanted to come back stronger, faster, and healthier than ever before.

“I was just real motivated. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I loved football. I knew I wanted to play football. I knew I had a lot more to give to football. Sometimes guys just stop, they feel like they’ve accomplished everything they could. Deep down inside, I felt like there was a lot left for me to accomplish. I heard a lot of people [over the] course of 12-13 months, ‘you had a good run, we’ll support you, but if you don’t get an opportunity, we’ll help you out.’ Some people felt I should get a job. Some people said ‘go back to school.’ In the back of my head, I knew I’d be cheating myself. If I wanted to play football, I [had] to make sure I devoted everything to football. It really was just kind of a mindset that I would will myself to get an opportunity, no matter the cost.”

Prior to the start of this season, Antonio was signed to the practice squad of the New York Jets, his home town team. Garay was thrilled that he’d be playing so close to home. “Over the last year I was out with a broken leg. I got very close with everyone, not that I wasn’t close before, but I’m saying, we were going to family events all the time, bat mitzvahs, bar mitzvahs. [While in College and with the Browns and Bears] I wasn’t able to go to all the family events. Being in New York, basically right over the bridge from everyone, it was accommodating for them and for me, to get to see them all the time. It was definitely a great thing; it was definitely something I will always remember.”

New York never called Antonio up from the practice squad and on December 9th, they traded him to San Diego. “Once I found out I was coming here, I knew I’d have a good opportunity. I have a pretty strong relationship with the coaching staff. Ron Rivera was my defensive coordinator in Chicago. Don Johnson was my D-line coach. For them just to want me here, the stars [have] aligned.”

So far this season, Garay has played in two games for the Chargers, having recorded an assisted tackle vs. Tennessee in week 16 and three tackles and an assisted tackle against the Redskins during the final game of the regular season. Regarding the match up this weekend against the Jets, Garay said, “They’re a talented team. When I was a part of the team, I was thinking, we were going to win the Super Bowl. Now I’m a Charger through and through. Now that is my mentality. We have one goal. We have to take three steps to it and this Sunday is the first step.”

Thirty members of the Garay crew will be in attendance at the game, “This is probably the most family and friends I’ve ever had at a game, it’ll make me feel like I’m at home. I’ve never played a professional game where I felt like I was at home. I’m pretty excited about going this weekend.”

As for the Chargers making it to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV, Antonio said, “Our chances are pretty good. Even though they’ve had some heartaches in the playoffs, that core group is still here. They’ve been together and had a chance to grow. They know what this city is expecting from them. Guys like me, who haven’t been in San Diego, can feed off everything. You can feed off the older guys and know that everyone has to carry their own weight. Anything can happen in the playoffs.”

For the 2010 season and beyond, Garay believes, “I’m in this for the long run. I don’t have a set number. Right now, I’m probably in the best shape of my life. My legs are fresh. My body is feeling good. Junior Seau is a perfect example. He was in this system and has continued on. I actually think I’m a lot better than some of these younger guys. Only time will tell. Right now, I’m just trying to take advantage of every moment. There will be certain moments that will lead up to that defining moment, that’s what I’m hoping for.”

“I like everything about [San Diego]. I like the people, the fans. Everyone is so personable. The organization itself, the guys on the team, everyone has made this a very easy transition for me. I think starting this week; it’s a sign of great things to come.”

Beyond football, Antonio is in the process of creating a foundation that will work with kids in his community to prepare them for college, by instructing them on all their options for continued education as well as providing a safe haven for studying and avoiding the dangerous pit falls that tend to detract students from achieving their fullest potential.

Finally, even though he is 100% committed to football at this moment, Antonio has not completely ruled out representing the United States in wrestling at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Garay still has a lot to prove to San Diego fans before he is mentioned alongside Sid Gilman and Ron Mix as the greatest Jewish Chargers, but he is certainly the prototypical role model for any student athlete with aspirations of finding success in their athletic field of play.

As we all cheer for Rivers, Tomlinson, Gates, Jackson, Sproles, Merriman, and yes, even Kaeding, this Sunday, keep an eye out for #71. He’ll have his hands full with the number one rushing team in the league, but let there be no doubt, Antonio Garay will leave it all on the field this weekend for himself, his family, his teammates, and every Charger fan counting on him and the team to bring the Lombardi Trophy home to San Diego.  

Connect with Antonio by visiting his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Antonio-Garay/251498588675 


[i] 2004: The Chargers lost to the New York Jets in overtime, 20-17, after Nate Kaeding missed a game winning field goal from medium range, during Wild Card weekend. 2005: Did not make the playoffs. 2006: Lost to the Patriots 24-21, after Marlon McCree intercepted a Tom Brady pass and attempted to advance the ball. He was subsequently stripped by Patriots Wide Receiver, Troy Brown. The McCree turn over led to the go ahead Patriots score. Nate Kaeding missed a field goal that would have sent the divisional round game into overtime. 2007: Lost to the Patriots in the conference championship game 21-12. 2008: Lost to the Steelers, 35-24 in the divisional round.

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 Joey Seymour, Sports Historian and Author of “San Diego’s Finest Athletes: Five Exceptional Lives.” Now Available through Sunbelt Publications at www.sunbeltbooks.com.

Contact Joey Seymour at joeyseymour1@aol.com

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Jewish-Interest License Plate~Netafim

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Netafim is an Israeli company that developed drip irrigation and later developed a line of other irrigation products.   This license plate wasspotted by Melanie Rubin of San Diego.  We have added it to our online collection of other Jewish-interest license plates.  Your photo contributons are welcome.  Please send them to editor@sandiegojewishworld.com

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, March 5, 1954~ Part II

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Gail Umeham

Music Festival Set By Cantor Cysner
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 3

Tifereth Israel Synagogue will celebrate its fourth Annual Music Festival on Friday, March 5th, 8:15 p.m.

Cantor Joseph Cysner presents on this occasion the Adult and Junior Choirs in a program of Liturgical, Israeli and Yiddish music.

Some of the liturgical selections have been composed for the occasion by the Cantor. 

The Community is cordially invited to this Service.  On Mar. 14th at 10 a.m. on Channel 8, the Junior Choir will participate with Purim Songs in the television program “Let There Be Light,” presented under the auspices of the Council of churches.

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Fox Lodge News

Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 4

By John Kluchin

The last meeting of the lodge was a social one and brought a standing room membership crowd with their wives for an evening of fun.  A wonderful film of South America was shown courtesy of P.P. Irving Cohen, Chef Max Popik was the most popular brother at the meeting as he served a grand picnic snack to everyone.

The southern California B’nai B’rith Seminar in Los Angeles was well attended by officials of the Samuel I. Fox Lodge.  Pres. Dave Schloss and P.P. Irving Cohen, Ralph Cohen, Chas. Juster, and Sec. Adolph Brodman.

At one of our meetings we had a visitor a long way from home.  Ben Sugarman of Toronto Lodge 836 and also Grand Lodge Executive Morrie Kraus who always receives our plaudits.

Remember, that membership is every member’s business so let’s all push B’nai B’rith and pledge a new member.

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Jewish War Veterans
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 4

March 15 will be election night when the officers will be chosen.  Running for post of Commander are Louis B. Samuels and Ben Snyder.  Other officers to be elected will be that of Sr. and Jr. Vice Commanders and one Trustee.

Members will also vote to change the meeting nights from the first and third Mondays to first and third Wednesdays.  Ballots will be given only to members who have paid dues through 1954.

Harry T. Madison, National Commander is expected to visit San Diego around March 16 to confer with Post Officers and Community leaders.  Harry Apelman and Sam Rose are in charge of arrangements.  Commander Madison will also visit the Naval Hospital where Post 185 and Auxiliary have maintained a program of assistance for the past twelve years.

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Cottage of Israel
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 4

Collecting dues and conducting a membership campaign for the past two months have been our objectives since the first of the year and the results have been quite gratifying.  Having a sizeable paid up membership will enable us to go ahead with plans for new improvements of the Cottage as well as setting up our budget for annual social and educational activities for the year.

Dues are still the bargain $1.00 per person for the calendar year and should be mailed to our financial secretary, Bess Borushek at 4902 67th St.

Newcomers to our community are cordially invited to visit the House of Pacific Relations in Balboa Park any Sunday afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m. at which time open house is held in all of the Cottages.  Get acquainted with this unique San Diego organization and take pride in the fact that the Cottage of Israel is one of its component members.

Mrs. Anna Peckarsky, hostess chairman, is planning a tea for members of her committee.  Any congenial woman, interested in joining our hostess committee will be invited to attend.  For further information phone the Cottage of Israel office at Hopkins 9-8053.

Double Talk
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 4

By Janet & Susan Solof

Linda Douglas celebrated her birthday with a terrific party at the North Park Lions Club.  About 100 kids danced to a crazy band and had a really wonderful time.  Many happy returns of the day Linda, and happy sweet sixteen.

Luanne Blumberg entertained as a lovely luncheon at the San Diego Club to celebrate her sweet 16th birthday.  Among her many school friends were Rochelle Goodrich, Sherry Newman, Sharlene Stone, Janet Solof, Gail Kahn, Faggie Kramer and Jan Cohn.  Happy birthday, Luanne.

The Confirmation class at Temple Beth Israel is really in full swing.  Congrats to Alan Friedman, newly elected President of the class. 

Welcome to Zena and Carol Feurzeig who have come to live in San Diego.

Purim Ball
March 13—7:30 to 11 p.m. at Beth Jacob Center.
Dressy Sport—35 cents drag, 20 cents stag.
Lots of fun will be in store.

Bye now—CY-5-0679.

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Famous Group of Jewish Artists Here Sun., March 7

Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 5

After successful appearances in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, where they were acclaimed, a foremost group of Jewish artists will appear at the Beth Jacob Center on Sunday, March 7 at 8 p.m. under the sponsorship of the Jewish Labor Committee.

Directed by Israel Welichansky, renowned character actor, and assisted by Masha Benya, Charlotte Cooper, and Pola Kadison, a wonderful evening of Jewish cultural life will be portrayed.  Included in the program are “Gut Yom-Tov, Yiddn,” a dramatic musical portrayal of Jewish life in America—10 scenes; Charlotte Cooper and Pola Kadison will offer a group of songs and piano solos.

Well known artists, Aaron Beitlin and Wolf Youmin, will offer two monologues followed by a duet “Motele” with Israel  Welichansky and Charlotte Cooper.  The program will conclude with an old Yiddish folk song portrayed and acted by the entire ensemble.

For an evening of nostalgic Jewish humor and folk songs, get in touch with Ben Feinberg at BE-2-5525; Mrs. Ira Gordon, BE-3-3648; or Herman Sumnabend, AT-1-7380.  Reserve your tickets now.  Admission price, $1.50.  Don’t forget the date—Sunday, March 7 at the Beth Jacob Center.

Purim Ball Slated By Pioneer Women
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 5

Pioneer Women’s gala Queen Esther Purim Ball is being held on Sunday evening, March 21 at Beth Jacob Auditorium and friends who are interested in Israel’s continued growth are urged to mark this date on their calendar.  The Pauline Gleason orchestra will play for dancing.  Two winners will be chosen, one for originality of costume and the other for beauty, in the Queen Esther contest and all those organizations who have not already sent in their entry for Queen Esther are urged to do so immediately.

Adele Cheron has been chosen to represent City of Hope Jrs.; Avia Moorsteen, Shoshanah Pioneer Women; Irene Heller, New Life Club; and Roberta Wyloge, B’nai B’rith Girls.

A buffet supper will be served from six clock on.  Plan to be there and bring the whole family and your friends!  General chairman is Eleanor Gordon with Florence Barach as co-chairman.

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Morris Feldman Dies
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 5

The Jewish community mourns the loss of Morris Feldman, who passed away last Tuesday.   Long active in Jewish Community affairs, he was a member  of the Guardians, Lasker Lodge B’nai B’rith and a former board member of the United Jewish Fund.  He was also a member of the Optimist Club and Temple Beth Israel.

He is survived by his wife, Celia; and his daughter, Mrs. Bernard Lewis.  He leaves sisters, Mrs. Ben Stein, El Paso, Texas; Mrs. Julius Kraft, Los Angeles; Mrs. Ben Levine, New Jersey; Mrs. William Bloom. Omaha; and a brother, Abe Feldman of Omaha.

Rabbi Morton J. Cohn conducted the services at the Benbough Mortuary, followed by entombment in Cypress View Mausoleum.
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Yo –Ma-Co News
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 5

The Yo-Ma-Co Bowling League will hold its semi-annual dinner dance at Michaels’s in La Mesa on March 21.  Chairman Al Nadler, announced that a carefully planned program will assure an entertaining evening.  Tommy Garfield’s orchestra will supply  music for dancing.

The Yo-Ma-Co rummage sale is scheduled for early in May, date and place to be announced soon.  The proceeds of this sale will defray the cost of a bus used for transportation by the children of the Jewish Community summer camp.

All Yo-Ma-Co members and members of the Jewish Community Center are urged to save rummage for this sale.  Call Leon Solomon, chairman, who will arrange to have it picked up.  Any discarded household appliances, tools, gadgets and dishes, shoes, clothes, costume jewelry, phonograph records, books, curtains, furniture, etc., is acceptable.  Call AT-4-2798.

Deceased (Etta Lawrence, Rebecca Fischer)
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 5

Etta Lawrence, aged 79, resident of San Diego for 16 years, died Feb. 22.  Remains were sent by Merkley-Austin Mortuary for interment  to Grand Rapids, Mich.  Survivors are Mrs. Frances Rayden, daughter; and Harry Lawrence, a son of Chicago.

Mrs. Rebecca Fischer, aged 65, a resident of San Diego for 4 years, passed away Feb. 28.  Services were held in Greenwood Mortuary March 1.  Entombment was in Sholom Mausoleum.

Mrs. Fischer  was a member of Congregation Tifereth Israel and Hadassah.

Survivors include a son, Sam Fischer, of San Diego; two daughters, Mrs. Celia Fischer and Mrs. Bess Robbins, both of Los Angeles and six grandchildren.

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Chiropodist Opens New Office Here

Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 5

Dr. H. E. Wyloge, newcomer to San Diego, has opened a most delightful office for the practice of Chiropody.  Located at 3408 Fifth Ave., corner of Upas, the dignified wood-paneled reception room and office provides a pleasant setting for the Doctor’s complete service to those in need of foot surgery.  The office is well-equipped to handle any treatment requiring physical-therapy, diathermy, deep-heat, and the stimulation of muscles and weak arches.

Other offices are equipped with X-ray and Oscillating machines.  Dr. Wyloge will give advice to parents on their problems with children on shoes and orthopedic treatments.

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Beth Jacob News
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 6

The Sunday School children will present a Purim melodrama called “The Belle of Shushan,” directed by Reitha Stokes and Phyllis Mollick on Sunday, Mar. 14, at 10:30 a.m.  Twenty Sunday School children will take part.  There will be games, dancing, and refreshments furnished by the Educational Committee.  All parents, members, and friends are cordially invited to attend.

Bible Discussion Group
The second Book of Moses, that basis of modern Jewish law is now under discussion and study on Friday evenings.  An understanding of that particular period in Jewish history will give content and meaning to the coming Pesach holiday and the Seder ritual.

Purim Dinner
Beth Jacob Congregation will again hold its annual Purim Dinner on Thursday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m.  The dinner will be sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary under Jennie “Cookie” Bloomfield’s supervision, co-chaired by Mary Penn and Helen Bohre.

Dinner will be served immediately following the reading of the Megillah which will start at 6:15 pm. Sharp in the Synagogue.

Price of the dinner is $2.00 per person and $1.00 for children under 12 years .

For reservations call AT-2-2676 before March 15.  Everyone is cordially invited.

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Si Rich New Prexy of T.I. Men’s Club
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 6

At the Annual Election of Tifereth Israel Men’s Club the following men were elected to office:

Si Rich, Pres.; Joe Spatz, 1st Vice-Pres.; Herman Tulchinsky, 2nd Vice-Pres; Joe Kader, Treas.; Ben Lawrence, Fin. Sec.; Jerry Weissman, Rec. Sec.Board of Directors are Ray Toole, Al Young, Barney Korey, Harry Zall, Dan Cheron, Sam Sklar, Sam Brenes, Phil Goldman, Moss Addleson, Henry Bowman, and Ben Mash.

The newly elected officers are planning a full and interesting program for the year.

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Open Forum to Hear Speaker on McCarthy

Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 6

Morris Rubin, noted speaker and editor of the “Progressive” magazine will speak at the S. D. Open Forum on Sunday, March 14 at the First Unitarian Church, 1541 6th Ave. at 8:00 p.m.  Mr. Rubin’s topic will be “McCarthyism and the National Interest.”

Mr. Rubin was former aid to Governor Philip La Follette and formerly served on the Milwaukee Journal, New York Times and Time Magazine.  He is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the editor of the “McCarthy Record,” a documented analysis.

Doors are open to the public, admission free, at 7:45 p.m.

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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.

Jewish community organizes relief effort for Haiti quake victims

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)– On Tuesday, January 12, a powerful earthquake battered the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck about 10 miles southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday evening, devastating the island’s most populated city. Hundreds of thousands are feared dead from the immediate impact, with tens of thousands more injured and an estimated 3 million Haitians may face hardship in the aftermath.

 
HOW YOU CAN HELP:  The United Jewish Federation of San Diego County is coordinating with the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, which brings together the experience, expertise, and additional resources of North American Jewish organizations to assist victims of natural or man-made disasters on a non-sectarian basis.

The coalition, managed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), consists of organizations such as the Jewish Federations of North America, the Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, World ORT, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, American Jewish World Service and American Jewish Committee, to name a few. The coalition’s work maximizes the resources, coordinates the activities of its member agencies, informs the public about the disaster situation and the Jewish response, and demonstrates the long tradition of Jewish humanitarianism during times of crisis. 

Click here to give online. 100% of all funds raised through the emergency mailbox will support JDC’s relief efforts.

SIDEBAR – The Jews of Haiti: A Jewish presence in Haiti dates back to 1492; the interpreter on Christopher Columbus’ ship was Luis de Torres, a Converso. Today, Haiti’s Jewish population is approximately 25, centered around Port-au-Prince, the earthquake epicenter. Haiti and Israel have full diplomatic relations.

100% of all funds raised through the emergency mailbox will support JDC’s relief efforts. You can make your donation online or by mail to:

Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund
United Jewish Federation of San Diego County
4950 Murphy Canyon Road
San Diego, CA 92123
858.571.3444

About JDC Campaign Funds

JDC relies primarily on the generous support of American Jews who donate to the Jewish Federations of North America annual campaigns. They also receive support from World Jewish Relief, Canadian Jewry and the United States government. Additional funding comes from individual non-Jews, charitable foundations and philanthropists, other governments, and international organizations. JDC’s Non-Sectarian Programs (such as aid for natural disasters) are funded by special donations. Federation annual campaign funds are not used for JDC Non-Sectarian activities. If you have any questions, please visit our website at www.jdc.org

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Preceding provided by United Jewish Federation of San Diego County

That orchestra is –yawn–boring; lock them up!

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By David Amos

SAN DIEGO–At times, I think that people should be put in jail for being boring. Granted, it is not a practical idea, but the thought, nevertheless, is tempting. These potential jail birds lead seminars, make sales presentations, compose music, and attempt to interpret the works of others. They are so wrapped up in their own internal thoughts, whatever they may be, that they become totally unaware that their audience is completely detached of emotion and/or interest of the subject at hand. Sensitivity to one’s audience is an essential element to proper communication and the conveyance of a message, an artistic creation, or a call to motivate and excite.

These concepts were inspired by a recent sales meeting I attended, but it also applies to concerts and lectures at which you and I may have been present. At an American Symphony Orchestra League conference in Dallas years ago, we were told by a major speaker giving a major speech at a major lunch that the greatest cause of dwindling audiences in the concert hall is simply boring music, mostly performed with technical accuracy, but lackluster in spirit and devoid of energy and excitement.

This applies equally to the great classics, or newer music.

The process starts with the proper choice of music. This can become tricky, and varies from audience to audience. In many cities, the public that buys subscription season tickets is conditioned  to expect to hear what we call the standard warhorses (such as the 1812 Overture, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Mozart’s 40th, The Seasons, Bolero, etc..).

Attendance by the mostly wealthy patrons who support the arts is somewhat of a given; after all, many of these fine people do not go to concerts or recitals to enjoy great music, but are there to be seen as part of the community’s high society or as contributors to the arts. This is fine, we need their support. But there are other segments of potential audiences which are neglected. These people are the ones who truly love music, and they fall into two categories: A) The ones who know very little about music and wish to learn and enjoy more of what they hear in classical music, and B) the very knowledgeable enthusiasts who are familiar with the basic repertory as well as its fringes, and most probably own a multitude of recordings, which enables them to make intelligent comparisons of interpretations.

Of the three groups I mentioned, the first, the supporting patrons will buy tickets, be there for the programs, and probably perceive nothing more than a superficial pleasure at best from the experience, no matter how well or how badly the orchestra, the conductor, or the soloist, if there is one, perform. But, when we give performances that are a crashing bore, the second and third groups will be there once, and probably not come back. The former will simply not feel any communication or edification from the music, and the latter will find the presentation ridiculous, or the choice of music unimaginative, and likewise, will keep away.

Applying this to plain numbers, statistics and dollars, it is obvious to see that the affluent patron support is diminishing, and that we are failing to motivate and/or educate a new generation of enthusiastic concertgoers. Is it any surprise that most professional orchestras are in trouble today? There are, obviously, other factors that affect this puzzle, but uncreative choices of repertory, artistic execution, planning, management, and advertising are major contributors.

Note that a performance can be technically perfect, but colorless. This is far worse than a less precise rendition that sparkles with excitement. Take, for instance, the old Sviatoslav Richter recording of a live recital in Sofia, Bulgaria, of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, in its original piano version. The audience coughs at times drown out the music, the recording, sonically, is far below the standards of the time, and, conceivably, you could write a whole new piano concerto with the notes that Mr. Richter unceremoniously dropped under the keyboard. Nevertheless, it is one of the most electrifying performances you are likely to hear anywhere!

This historic recording has been re-released on compact disc.

It is not easy to select the right “mix’ of works for a concert that motivates a potential audience to attend, and give a performance that is memorable. As the late Sol Hurok used to say, “ If the public does not want to go to a concert, there is nothing you can do to stop them!”. But, whoever said that the classical music business is easy?

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Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and has conducted professional orchestras around the world.   His email is amosd@sandiegojewishworld.com

She looked down on other Ruhama Riders–but they didn’t mind a bit

January 13, 2010 1 comment

 
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By Ulla Hadar

KIBBUTZ RUHAMA, Israel — A slight gentle movement and the basket lifted of the ground. The fields still were covered with the morning dusk and the sky was only beginning to show pink and yellow colors. 

Was this a dream or had my dream come true? I had to pinch myself several times in the arm before understanding that I was not dreaming and the fields and river Valleys down below were the ones where I usual either run or bike.

The atmosphere can only be described as divine, and the silence was “deafening”–only being broken here and there by the PSSSS… of a burner heating up the Air in the balloon. Now and then I waved to the small group of bikers below.

The ride in a hot air balloon was over my home – Kibbutz Ruhama. Joining me on this adventure was journalist Ayellet Nir who is a regular writer on the Israeli bicycle magazine “Ofaneim”. She has been working on an article about the bike rider group in Ruhama – the Ruhama Riders. And as part of the article we had asked some of the group to follow in the “footsteps” of the balloon.

The morning started out at 6AM near the balloon that was lying flat on the ground. Air was blown into it by a ventilator and soon it rose above the small basket that can hold six passengers and the captain.

The hot air balloon flights have been lifting off from the fields close to Kibbutz Ruhama for more than two years. The flights are run by Moran Itzckovich, an experienced balloon captain who is a Kibbutz Ruhama citizen. More information is on his website, www.overisrael.co.il

After a while the riders down below had a problem following us because we started flying farther and farther north over magnificent expanses of nature. Sunrise lit up our surroundings, and from the balloon’s basket, Kibbutz Ruhama seemed much smaller and compact than it looks on the ground.

The Ruhama Riders consists of 20-30 people, including beginners and more experienced riders. The stalwarts are 6-8 riders who bike three times in the week, usually very early in the morning in order to finish riding before going to work.

Not long ago a decision was made to prepare a set of bike uniforms for the whole group. We were lucky to get a sponsor so the expenses could be minimized.

The group now proudly rides together in shirts and pants bearing the logo of the sponsor and the logo of the Ruhama Riders.  But if you look closely on the back of the shirt an additional smaller logo can be noticed – it is the Jamaican flag with the sentence “We are free” inscribed on it. There is a very touching story behind this picture.

Avi Garbovski works as a  service manager at AvivCom mobile–the company that sponsors us. His son Ido was killed near Saluki in one of the last battles of the Second Lebanon War. He had been in a tank in which everyone except the driver was killed. 

Ido’s parents searched for several ways to commemorate their son and in their search they came upon the idea of the Jamaican flag.

Apparently when Ido and his classmates were graduating 12th grade, they had a farewell party and as decoration they hung a huge Jamaican flag on which Ido wrote in the middle “We are free”. After the party the flag followed Ido everywhere and became a symbol for him.

After he was killed his bag was removed from the tank. Inside there were only a few items apart from the flag. Since then the flag has now become a symbol of Ido’s memory for his parents.

Additionally, AvivMobile Com also uses it on cars and in promotional materials.
The Ruhama Riders group are proud to have Ido Garbovski’s flag on their bike shirts and to be able to continue the commemoration of this Israeli soldier– a young guy of 21 who lost his life too soon. The logo can be seen on Ido’s website, www.idolaad.co.il

As the balloon neared its final destination, a small field near moshav Telamim, the captain instructed us on landing procedures. I had not thought that part through. Usually not a very brave flier, this air balloon trip did not rip any nervous membranes in my body, but once we started bumping on the ground and the basket turned on its side my stomach turned once or twice.

Nothing went wrong and apparently this is normal procedure. Well, what can you expect when you deal with the wind and the weather and don’t have big machines to do the work for you?

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Hadar is San Diego Jewish World’s bureau chief in Sha’ar Hanegev, the muncipality that is a partnership region in Israel for the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County.  Kibbutz Ruhama is a part of Sha’ar Hanegev. The ballooning and biking photos are by Ayellet Nir. The photo of Ido Garbovski is courtesy of his family.

San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘Brothers’

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Yvonne Greenberg

LA JOLLA, California–The film Brothers won last year’s Audience Choice Award in two European countries, and best actress and actor in another overseas location. 

Now the film in Hebrew and Spanish with English subtitles will be shown at the 20th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival (sponsored by the Mizel Family Foundation) at the AMC La Jolla  on Thursday, February 11, at 7:30 PM and at UltraStar La Costa on Saturday, February 13, at 7:30 PM

 
The movie explores the disagreements between the secular and orthodox Jews in Israel today through its two main characters, Dan and Aharon. Igaal Niddam, the Israeli filmmaker, has this conflict develop when two brothers meet after 25 years of separation that involved no contact whatsoever. They are shocked by their totally different lifestyles and viewpoints, and their relationship is cold and distant.
 
Dan, a macho type, is a shepherd in a secular kibbutz living a peaceful, content life in Israel with his beautiful wife and his two young children.  
 
Aharon is an Orthodox rabbi and New York attorney who has come to Israel to defend the right of Orthodox yeshiva students to be exempt from military service.
 
From their very first meeting, there is absolutely no understanding of each other’s lifestyles, attitudes, or viewpoints.  The brother’s relationship  mirrors the  lack of understanding between secular and orthodox Jews on a variety of issues in modern Israeli society.
 
The script delves deeper into the psychological makeup of the principals when they have face-to-face talks. However, trying to change the laws dealing with military service in Israel cause havoc, even an unexpected murder.

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Click here for the schedule of film festival shows and ticket information.