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Talmi tells of Wagner ban in Israel

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

By Eileen Wingard

LA JOLLA, California — Yoav Talmi peppered his talk with humorous anecdotes as he described the development of orchestras in Israel, several coming into being because of the large influx of Russian-born musicians.

The January 11 lecture in the JCC’s Garfield Theare drew a large and appreciative audience.
    
When Talmi spoke about why the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss are not played in Israel, he became serious. Strauss, according to Talmi, was not anti-Semitic. He was merely an opportunist who went along with the Nazis and headed Germany’s music division. Wagner, on the other hand, was a virulent anti-Semite who wrote extensively, first anonymously, then openly, venting his hatred for Jews. But it was Hitler’s love of Wagner’s music that gave it additional Nazi symbolism.
    
Talmi told of his own uncle, a survivor of Auschwitz, who had recurring nightmares,  dreaming about the loudspeakers blaring Wagner’s music as he and the other inmates left the barracks for hard labor.
    
“It is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of heart,” said Talmi.
    
He told of three incidents with strong reactions when music by these composers were played. When the great violinist Jascha Heifetz programmed the Strauss Sonata in a recital in Jerusalem, he suffered an injured wrist from an attacker. When Zubin Mehta added for an encore the Love Death music from Tristan and Isolde, it caused an uproar . And when Daniel Barenboim conducted the same music with a visiting orchestra, the Israeli public was scandalized, especially because Barenboim had promised not to program Wagner and he, as an Israeli, should have known better.
    
The question and answer period began with Natasha Josefowitz, a former neigbor of Heifetz in Beverly Hills, describing how she had discussed Heifetz’s program choice with him and tried to pursuade  him not to play Strauss in Israel. Heifetz felt strongly that the music and the composer were separate entities and should be treated that way.
    
Ernest Schoen, a remarkable gentleman 102 years old, asked what Talmi would have done in his shoes. As a violin student at the Vienna Conservatory, Wagner’s music was an important component of the curriculum. Should he as a Jew not have played it? And when he arrived in San Francisco and auditioned, as a singer, for the San Francisco Opera, only to be cast in a Wagner opera, should he not have taken the job?

Talmi’s response was, “You did what was right for you.”

Dr. Norman Mann inquired whether Talmi thought there was anything anti-semitic in Wagner’s operas. “No, replied Talmi, but they glorify the Aryan race.”
    
The evening program opened with  Talmi’s “Three Ghetto Songs” for flute and strings, sensitively performed by four San Diego Symphony musicians as part of the orchestra’s educational and outreach program. The musicians were Sarah Tuck, flute, Eddy Stein, violin, Dorothy Zeavin, viola and Marcia Bookstein, cello.  This was followed by a video of Talmi’s professional life compiled by his son, Gil, a New York-based composer of movie and TV musical scores. The video was made for the recent celebration of Talmi’s decade with the Quebec City Symphony and his 40th year as a conductor. It included footage from the spectacular performance of Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand in Quebec’s Hockey Stadium with 12,000 in attendance, celebrating the 400th anniversary of that distinguished city.
    
Prior to the free lecture, there was a dinner honoring Yoav Talmi and his wife, Er’ella in the Astor Judaica Library. Proceeds went to the library and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation  which sponsors scholarships for deserving young performers and artists. The Talmis were AICF scholarship recipients. 

Talmi, who was music director of the San Diego Symphony for eight years, attracted many San Diego friends to the evening. Attending the dinner were a dozen musicians who played under him, former members of the symphony board. and a former president of the symphony association. 
 
The dinner was hosted by David Amos, Nancy Calderon, Raquel Cohen, Naomi Crosby,  Sigrid Fischer, Jackie Gmach, Lucy Goldman, Susan Hagler, Sylvia Liwerant, Ted Parker, Roz Pappelbaum, Charlotte Siegel,  Norene Shenhav and myself.

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Wingard is a freelance writer based in San Diego

Tax break planned in California for Haiti donors

January 28, 2010 1 comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)­­ To recognize and encourage residents who provided much needed cash to help aid Haiti in the recovery process, the Legislature is moving a bill (AB 347) to   allow a tax deduction for cash contributions made between January 11, 2010 and March 1, 2010 for the rescue and recovery efforts to be applied toward the contributors 2009 tax returns.

“Many in our state are suffering the dire effects of our troubled economy,” said Assemblymember Marty Block (Democrat-San Diego) who is a principal co-author of the bill, “and yet residents have responded in full measure to the calamitous situation in Haiti. It is my hope that AB 347 will give at least a small amount of relief to those who have helped others.”

AB 347 now moves to the state Senate for consideration.  For additional information on AB 347 contact Assemblymember Marty Block’s Sacramento office at (916) 319-2078.

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Preceding provided by Assemblyman Marty Block

Headlines for Sunday, January 31, 2010, edition

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Now, why would anyone be pessimistic in Israel?

January 28, 2010 1 comment

By Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM–For a short while I thought that as a result of sober analysis I had finally tamed my natural propensity for pessimism and that my future comments about events in Israel would be cheerful and pleasing. I felt that I had reasons for the change of heart, e.g.:

            (1) The Iranian threat would come to naught because of the punishing sanctions that America and Europe were about to impose on the regime there, without too much sabotage from China and Russia. The new drone and anti-missile technology that Israel is developing would finally silence the terrorists on the Iranian payroll who have been trying to disrupt life in Israel.

            (2) Following the emphasis on eradicating prejudice pledged by European countries in their speeches to mark International Holocaust Day Jews wouldn’t have to fear anti-Semitism anymore.

            (3) After yet another meeting between Barak of Israel and Mubarak of Egypt, Gilad Shalit would come home and Israelis and Palestinians would return to the negotiating table sure that they could make peace.

            (4) Israel’s prominence in the realm of technological development would finally solve the perennial water shortage for the country and its neighbors and thus bridge that terrible gap between rich and poor that exists in Israel and in the territories.

            (5) After the claim by Hamas that all the rockets they hurled on kindergartens and homes in Sderot, which led to the Gaza war, had only Israeli military installations as their targets, the world would finally recognize how unfair the Goldstone report had been and stop harassing Israeli politicians wishing to travel abroad.

            (6) The quick and effective response to the Haiti disaster by Israeli military and other teams would be another factor in showing the world that Israel isn’t the aggressive military power as depicted but always there to help those in need.

But the earthquake in Haiti also brought back my pessimism about the situation here. For almost as soon as it happened, Israeli experts issued warnings that something similar could happen in their country. Here’s part of the history on record: 1034 an earthquake hit Tiberias and Ramleh; 1068 again Ramleh (15 000 dead); 1202 northern Jordan Valley (thousands died); 1546 Nablus (500 dead); 1759 again northern Jordan Valley (20 000 dead); 1837 Safed (about 2000 dead); 1927 again Nablus (300 dead). So we ask: Where and when next?

The agencies trying to persuade Jews to immigrate to Israel must be thrilled with the news and those seeking foreign investors in Israel’s present booming economy are, of course, equally excited. Relatives abroad are fretting.

Optimists schooled in the hermeneutics of suspicion can tell us perhaps that it’s all a media blitz on the part of university departments that want more research money in fields of earthquake prediction and prevention, but will that really satisfy those of us who are prone to worry even when we don’t have hard facts?

Having reverted to my pessimism, I’ve my doubts that we can explain away this latest scare the way I’ve tried to persuade myself that the other dangers have been taken care of. Therefore, all the experts have left me with is the classical telegraphic message: Bad news. Stop. Letter follows  

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Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.  He now divides his time between Canada and Israel.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day speakers warn of Iran’s intentions

January 28, 2010 1 comment

BERLIN (WJC) — Speaking on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder have highlighted the dangers posed by the Iranian regime.

“There will be just a few more short years before the living memories become memories,” said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress. Lauder compared Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler. “I believe another horror is coming to our world. I am talking about what is happening in Iran. We have a man who denies the Holocaust. We have a man who talks about the destruction of Israel. Hitler had these same words and people did not take them seriously. We must take seriously what is happening with President Ahmadinejad. We must take seriously his threats and unless we do, we have a great deal of problems ahead. I only pray the free world will continue to fight against this tyrant,” Lauder said in a speech to the forum ‘Let My People Live’ held in Krakow, Poland.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor, who organized the forum, warned against a policy of “appeasement” toward Iran. “Six thousand European companies cooperate with Iran on a daily basis,” he told the ‘Jerusalem Post’, adding that the “main danger comes from Iran” and the “plan is to frighten Israel through Hezbollah.” Kantor said the Iranians could deliver their “nuclear weaponry” to the Lebanese terror group.

In a press release on Wednesday, Ronald S. Lauder praised the German engineering company Siemens for its decision not to seek new business in Iran until Tehran fully complies with United Nations demands regarding its nuclear program.

Speaking before the Bundestag – the German parliament – in Berlin, Israeli President Shimon Peres called the Iranian government “a fanatic regime” and said its nuclear program represented “a threat to the entire world.” Iran had a ‘‘regime that threatens destruction, accompanied by nuclear plants and missiles and who activates terror in its country and in other countries.’’ He said Israel, like its neighbors, identified ‘‘with the millions of Iranians who revolt against violence.’’

At the commemorative ceremony held in Auschwitz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “From this site, I vow as the leader of the Jewish state that we will never again allow the hand of evil to destroy the life of our people and the life of our state. Never again! We will not allow the deniers of the Holocaust… to erase or distort the memory,” he said.

In Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed confidence that Islamic nations would one day witness the destruction of Israel. Khamenei made the remark during a meeting with Mauritanian President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz. Israel’s continued “pressure to erase Palestine from the world of Islamic nations” would fail, he said, adding: “Surely, the day will come when the nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime… when the destruction happens will depend on how the Islamic nations approach the issue.”

Iran’s most powerful cleric said: “The Zionist regime, by continuing to use pressure, blockades and committing genocide, wants to erase Palestine… but it will not succeed.” Praising Mauritania for cutting its ties with Israel, Khamenei said the “Zionist regime is a great danger to the world of Islam as it was thinking of expanding its influence and grip on the region every day.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

German court orders Catholic bishop to face trial for Holocaust denial

January 28, 2010 1 comment

REGENSBURG, Germany (WJC)–A court in Germany has summoned the Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson to attend a trial in April where he is to face charges of incitement for his belittling of the Holocaust, which is a crime in Germany. In comments broadcast on Swedish television in January 2009, Williamson said he believed no more than 300,000 Jews had perished in the Holocaust and that there had been no gas chambers.

The district court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg has set a hearing for 16 April, because Williamson refused to pay a fine of € 12,000 handed down last year. The court has ordered the 69-year-old bishop of the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), to face questioning in person.

Although authorities cannot force him to attend, if Williamson is not represented at the hearing, then the appeal against the fine would be thrown out, a court spokesman said. “Then the fine becomes legally binding,” he said.

Williamson’s remarks were recorded near Regensburg, within the court’s jurisdiction.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg vandalized

January 28, 2010 1 comment

STRASBOURG, France (WJC)–A Jewish cemetery in the eastern French city of Strasbourg was vandalized by anti-Semites. The attack occurred on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Over 30 gravestones at the Cronenbourg cemetery were either spray-painted with swastikas and the Nazi slogan “Juden raus!” [Jews out], or toppled, according to the French Jewish community organization CRIF.

Laurent Schmoll, president of the 1,000-member Jewish community in Strasbourg, told reporters that he believed the cemetery was defiled in connection with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was being observed on Wednesday. “These are absolutely inscriptions from the Nazi period… I think there has to be a link.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy  issued a statement  in which he “firmly condemns this unbearable act, the expression of odious racism.” The mayor of Strasbourg said that the perpetrators were “evil cowards. It is no coincidence that the attack came on the international day when the Holocaust is commemorated.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress