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‘Waiting for Lefty’ portrays Depression-era exploitation

September 5, 2010 Leave a comment

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

LOS ANGELES — As a passionate piece of 20th century history, it works.  As a parable for the present day, not so much. 

Clifford Odets’ 1935 Depression-era play Waiting for Lefty is a rabble-rousing tirade against big business and its heavy-handed control of the “downtrodden masses.”  A situation that might resonate with Americans today, except for the out-of-date solution Odets offers: Russian-style socialism.

Nevertheless, Director Charlie Mount has assembled a truly committed and convincing ensemble—extraordinary actors, every one of them.  They represent a branch of the taxi drivers’ union, shouting their stories from the stage and from the audience.  And the stories themselves are, sadly, relevant today.

A young couple (Heather Alyse Becker and Adam Conger) can’t afford to get married.  A charity patient dies during routine surgery.  A man (Paul Gunning) is verbally attacked by his wife (Kristin Wiegand) for not standing up to his bosses.  (”You are stalled like a flivver in the snow,” she tells him.)  A doctor with seniority (Elizabeth Bradshaw) is “down-sized” because she is a woman and a Jew.  “You don’t believe a theory until it happens to you,” she says.  And another man (Jason Galloway) is rudely turned away when applying for a job.  He is comforted by a secretary (Sandra Tucker) who offers him a book that she suggests will help him.  It is Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto.

The vignettes are gripping and filled with pathos and elicit an emotional response from the audience.  As does Anthony Gruppuso, who plays Harry Fatt, the representative from Management.  If anyone can steal this excellent show, Gruppuso does.  He is a fireball, charging all over the stage, one moment cajoling, another shouting disputations, getting into a fistfight, and holding back the union’s decision to strike.  He is everywhere at once, and if the audience had been provided with eggs, he’s the one they would have bombarded.

In another telling vignette, a worker in a chemical plant (Donald Moore) is offered a huge pay raise by his boss (Roger Cruz) to spy on a fellow scientist who is working on poison gas.  True to Odets’ socialist philosophy about the goodness of “the common man,” the compromised worker refuses, even though it means he will lose his job.

Capitalism, the clash between the various classes, and the ever-present bigotry against immigrants and other outsiders, is what the play is all about.  It was a dark time, the ‘30s, when up to 25% of the American work force was out of work.  Almost makes the current recession, with just under 10% out of work, look easy.  But unfortunately, the roots are pretty much the same.

And I think that’s the point Director Mount is trying to make.

He does this on a nearly empty stage and with a few wooden chairs put together by Set Designer Jeff Rack.  And skuzzy outfits, including scuffed and battered shoes, as well as dramatic lighting designed by Yancey Dunham.

Just about the only things that don’t work well are the great billows of mist that are extruded periodically onto the stage in an attempt to simulate a “smoke-filled” union hall.  Since nobody on stage is ever seen smoking, the mist sort of misses the point.

But this is a small nitpick in a classic play about a time that older viewers will remember ruefully and younger people will learn about with astonishment and, perhaps, incredulity.

Waiting for Lefty will continue Fridays and Saturdays 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 through October 10th at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles.  Call (323) 851-7977 for tickets.

*
Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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Summer Time debate is another of Israel’s peculiarities

September 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Lots of countries do something nutty. That’s  a practice that does not make sense, but has the support of entrenched politicians and much of the public as “the way things are done.”

In Germany it is superhighways without speed limits. In the United States it is easy access to firearms. In Britain it is the definition of one’s body weight in stones.

In Israel it is what the locals call Summer Time, and what is known in the United States as Daylight Savings Time.

Israel’s nuttiness may not be as dangerous to life and limb as those of Germany and the United States, but it is no less nutty.

The deal is that Israeli Summer Time must end on the weekend before Yom Kippur. Advocates claim that it makes fasting easier, but skeptics note that the fast lasts 25 hours, whether from a clock hour later or earlier on one day to a later or earlier clock hour plus one hour on the next day.

Could the fast be easier when it begins at 5 PM and ends at 6 PM than when it begins as 6 PM and ends at 7 PM?

I know of no survey that answers that question. However, the ultra-Orthodox parties are insisting that it stay that way.

The coming Sabbath begins at 6:12 and ended at 7:27 in Jerusalem. Summer time ends between this coming Saturday and Sunday. The Yom Kippur fast should begin no later than 5:03 the following Frday and end no earlier than at 6:16 on Saturday. The times for other cities differ by a few minutes, and can be found on published calendars.

An industrialist, who may or may not be planning to fast, has begun to wage a campaign to do away with the nuttiness. He asserts that it costs money, puts Israel out of sync with its overseas markets and suppliers, and that he will order his company to stay on Summer Time until Europe makes its change at the end of October.

The head of the SHAS delegation in the Knesset and the Minister of Interior, Eli Yishai, is the man in charge of this, and he insists that Summer Time must end on the weekend before Yom Kippur. But whether he is serious or not, he is proposing a super-nuttiness: re-instituting Summer Time after Yom Kippur.

This would mean that Israelis would move their clocks back on the coming weekend, them move them ahead after Yom Kippur. Since the fast falls this year on Friday-Saturday, that would presumably mean that Israelis could be changing their clocks soon after breaking the fast. So far Yishai has not said when he would suggest going back again to Winter Time.

Insofar as there is less than a week to the scheduled end of Summer Time, Yishai’s super nuttiness probably won’t be vetted by the professionals in his ministry, formally proposed, debated, and voted on this year.

But maybe next year.

Doubtful.
 
There is only so much that the Israeli majority can demand from its minority of religious extremists. It is pressing hard, with tiny results, to induce ultra-Orthodox youth to spend a bit of time in the military; to end the rejection of Sephardi pupils by Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox schools; to facilitate the continuation of   construction projects whenever there is a discovery of ancient bones that may be Jewish; and to insert courses in English, mathematics, science, and technology to the ultra-Orthodox curriculum.

No one should expect that the Education Ministry would try to impose on the ultra-Orthodox anything like evolution or sex education, and maybe not anything to do with biology, history, or social science.

Ultra-Orthodox kids are as bright as any. They begin school at the age of three, handle Aramaic as well as spoken and Biblical Hebrew (and the Ashkenazim Yiddish), and understand convoluted Talmudic logic by their teens, and can be taught to make a living doing computer programming.

Israel has been able to create technological colleges for ultra-Orthodox post-teens, with the young men separate from young women, but putting those subjects in the curriculum of most schools for ultra-Orthodox adolescents has so far eluded the Education Ministry or the Government.

Putting off the end of Summer Time until after Yom Kippur?

It’s less of a priority than the army, ethnic segregation, finding a solution for bones that may be Jewish, and the school curriculum.

One should not expect Israel to get to it in our life time.

In the event that this nuttiness may represent my last note of the year, let me wish you all that is good for the coming year, whenever it comes on your clocks this Wednesday evening.

*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, February 4, 1955, Part 4

September 5, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Double Talk
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 7

Hi everyone. Here’s the news up to the latest.

Scoop: Linda Douglas was chosen “Girl of the month” at Hoover and given a really terrific write up in the Cardinal, their school paper, including picture and the real history of Linda’s life. Three cheers Linda and our sincere congrats.

Adrienne Sachnoff, a resident here for four years, has moved back to Chicago. She was mighty surprised at a party given by Sharlene Stone and Lois Liff.  Sadly saying goodbye were Lucy Recht, Maxine Schoenkopf, Harriet Silverman, Sherry Newman, Linda Douglas, Donna Godes, Lu Anne Blumberg, Natalie Vietzer, Janet and Susan Solof, Brenda Heiman, Andy Leeds, Joan Breitbard, Gayle Krasner, Beverly Kitaen.

To celebrate his many months of hard work Norman Bard gave a party celebrating his Bar Mitzvah.  Dancing and having oodles of fun were Marcia Ruskin, Nancy Silverman, Janice Asner, Shelly Hafner, Caroline Fine, Norm Kellner, Phil Brenes, Steve Rosenberg, Warren Dean, Larry Addleson, Raphael Levens and Buzzy Lippitt.  Congrats, Norm.

The A.Z. A. celebrated the installation of their new officers with a “swell” party at Jackie Sharpe’s.  Among those “cutting up” (using the term loosely) were Art Pogrell, Diane Fogelman, Alan Friedman, Gary Naiman, Robin McStroul, Henrietta Faguet, Buddy Kader, Barbara Silverman, Rog Brenes, Roberta Wylogue, Jerry Mendell.

Beth Jacob Youth League: A new group is being started by B.J.Y.L. for girls of 14 years of age and boys of 15.  All kids are invited to jhoin for a really good time.

A terrific snow party is being planned by the B.J.Y.L. on Feb 13 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Laguna Mountains. There will be a chartered bus which costs members 1.25 and non-members 1.75. Bring your lunch and all the spirit for a good time.  Call CY 6-2905 for reservations,.

The installation of the B.J.Y.L. for the new officers will be Feb. 26 at the Beth Jacob Center.  From 8:00 to 11:00 there will be dancing and refreshments. Dressy dress is what they’ll wear. Adults and teenagers alike are invited to come.

Where were Joe Winicki and Steve Kirschtel Sunday Eve?  Sympathy is sent to Bev Kitaen who recently had two stitches taken in her hand.

Welcome home Mike Witte and Dick Godes who are both on leave from the Armed Forces.

Who was the caddy for the golf game betwixt Sheldon Golden and Bruce Fisher?

Is  it a scoop that you know?
Let’s have it blow by blow.
CY-5-9679 is the number to call.
To give the news to one and all.

*
AZA
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 7

The new president of A.Z.A., Steve Goldfarb, set the tone of the incoming administration when he said, “Those of you .. who are interested in A.Z.A. .. will see us Go and Grow.”

At their last meeting on Feb. 1st, the boys saw a premiere showing of the “1954 World Series.”  Committees were decided upon and proposed amendments to the constitution submitted.

On Feb. 8th the San Diego A.Z.A. boys will meet again and votes will be taken on the amendments. Appointments of members to serve3 on the various committees will also be made at this meeting.  The program chairman promises something different in the way of entertainment.

If you are a newcomer to the city and want to make good friends, be a guest at our next meeting… for those who have been thinking of joining our ranks there is no time like the present.

*
Harry L. Foster Bids for Mayoral Race
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 7

Harry L. Foster, retired engineering contractor and veteran of two wars, has announced his candidacy for Mayor, and said he would campaign on a platform of devoting his entire time to this important job.

At the same time, Foster outlined an 11-point platform after qualifying for the March 8th ballot.  Campaign headquarters are at 30 E. Street, BE 4-7316.

Foster’s business experience in San Diego dates back to 1926 when he was empoloyed by a large construction firm. In 1939 he started his own engineering construction firm, retiring recently.  During this period he played a major role in the development in many of the areas within the city. In 1951, Foster was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce, after serving on many major committees.

*
Nursery School
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 7

The next regular business meeting of the Nursery School group will be held on Thursday evening, Feb. 10th, 8 p.m., at the home of Mrs. John Gregory, 5435 Vale Way.

The budget for the year will be presented for approval and the workshop for Fathers will be planned.

At the last educational meeting held at Mrs. Bert Eifer’s home, the guest speaker was Mrs. Sid Guthers, psychologist and psychiatric worker for the Boys and Girls Society.

*
Temple Sisterhood
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 7

The next meeting of the Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood will be Wednesday, Feb. 9th, at noon, at the Temple Center,.

Co-Captains Mrs. Hyman Kobernick and Lillian Stein promise a delicious repast.  MRs. Hebert Eber, Chairman, will have a surprise program.

*
Women’s League Of Center Set Camp Jaycee Scholarship Month
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 7

The Women’s League of the J.C.C. is planning a “Day Camp Scholarship Month,” from February 20th to March 20th.  A series of card parties are to be held at the homes of the members and all monies raised will be used to help children to participate in Summer Day Camp.

All members of J.C.C. are asked to help by holding some type of card party at their home, during the allotted time, and charge $1.00 per person. The hostess or hostesses to furnish cake and coffee.

Let us make this “Scholarship Month,” a city-wide campaign and so contribute to the happiness of many children.

All hostesses please register with Edith Gelman and anyone interested I being a hostess or attending one of the planned parties, please contact Mrs. Gelman, Juniper 2-2741.

Full details will be discussed at the next meeting of the Women’s League, to be held Feb. 17th, noon, at the Jewish Community Center, 3227 El Cajon Blvd. Coffee will be served.

The Women’s League also plans, in the immediate future, to remodel and refurnish the kitchen of the J.C.C. which is in a sad condition right now. This is an urgent need and an important one. Mrs. Thelma Selton is chairman for “Operation Kitchen.” Since the present site will be used as a meeting place for many months, practical suggestions and innovations are welcome. What can you do to help?

Come and join in the Women’s League and help to plan the welfare of your children. Token dues, $1.00 per year.

*
(Traffic Lights)
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 7

Tip to motorists: Every time you run a traffic light you’re betting your life against a few seconds’ time.

*
Deceased

Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

Funeral services were held at the Lewis Colonial Mortuary Thurs., Feb. 3, 9:00 a.m. for Louis Leaf.  Mrs. Leaf, who had lived in San Diego for two years, was 59 years of age at his passing and resided at 2948 Reynard Way.  Mr. Leaf was a retired salvage dealer. He was a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He is survived by his wife, Rose L. Leaf; three daughters, Mrs. Florence Masters of Iowa; Miss Wilma Lee Leaf, San Diego, and Mrs. Pearl Prince, N.Y., a son, Jerry Leaf of La Jolla; two sisters, Mrs. Harry Sinton, Illinois; Mrs. Charles Weisman, San Luis Obispo, and one brother, Bill Sinton, Chula Vista. Burial was in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Rabbi Morton J. Cohn held services for the deceased.

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(Hebrew Home)
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

Application for admission to the Hebrew Home for the Aged may be made through the Jewish Social Service Agency, 333 Plaza, BE 2-5172.
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(Modern Living)
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

The greatest trouble with this modern living is to keep our ambitions pinned down to our salaries.

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(World in Halves)
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

The half of the world able to make ends meet is unable to understand why the other half is always short.
 
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Pioneer Women
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

The Pioneer Women, Negba Club, will celebrate Tu B’Shvat (Arbor Day) on Sunday evening, Feb. 13th, 8 p.m., at Beth Jacob Center.

Rose Domnitz and Betha Gaberman, chairmen, are planning an interesting program. Traditional delicacies will be served and members and friends are urged to attend. (The Tu B’Shvat dinner that was to be held on the same date was cancelled.)

*
(Home Economy)
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

Some men’s idea of practicing economy is to preach it daily to their wives.

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Birdie Stodel Chapter To Hear Outstanding Speakers at Luncheon
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

President, Mrs. Morrie Kraus, cordially invites the community to attend the 26th Anniversary of the S.D. Birdie Stodel Chap. No. 92, B’nai B’rith Women. A luncheon is being held on Monday, Feb. 14, at noon at Beth Jacob Center.

Mrs. Louis Kash, 4th Vice President of District No. 4, B’nai B’rith Women, Past Pres. of So. California Conference, will be our guest for the afternoon. For those of you who have not met “Kagey,” you will have a treat in store for you.

*
B’nai B’rith Women Aid March of Dimes
Southwestern Jewish Press, February 4, 1955, Page 8

The chapter of S.D. Birdie Stodel No. 92 held a brunch on Jan. 26th as a kick-off to aid the drive.  Sponsored by Mrs. Irving Dean, Americanism-Civic Affairs Chairman, assisted by Mrs. Mack Freedman, Community Services Chairman, and their committee consisting of Mesdames J. Geller, H. Dean and H. Levine.

We know that there are many people who will want to contribute to this project through B’nai B’rith and we are therefore reminding you that this drive in our chapter will not close until Feb. 15th.  Please see that either Mrs.I. Dean or Mrs. M. Freedman receive your contributions. All that is collected will be sent to honor the Four Marine Sergeants who walked from San Diego to Los Angeles.*

*
“Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.  To find stories on specific individuals or organizations, type their names in our search box.