Archive for the ‘Donald H. Harrison’ Category

San Diego author tells the rest of the story of ‘The Odyssey’

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Penelope’s Daughter by Laurel Corona, Berkeley Publishing Group, 2010, 358 pages including glossary, afterword and reader’s guide, $15.  

By Donald H. Harrison  

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Readers may be charmed by this story and yet find it controversial.  Prize-winning author Laurel Corona, who often writes book reviews for San Diego Jewish World, has written another novel, Penelope’s Daughter, in which she makes a major amendment to Homer’s Odyssey. 

Corona conjures up a daughter, born to Penelope and Odysseus after the latter has sailed off to war to bring Helen home from Troy.  The daughter, Xanthe, growing up without knowing her father, is very much in danger as suitors press their attentions on Penelope (true to Homer’s version).  Would one of these avaricious men seeking Odysseus’ throne rape Xanthe to force her into a marriage?

Fearing that one of these louts indeed might use rape as a political weapon, Penelope decides to fake Xanthe’s death and to send her away secretly to Sparta, where her old friend Helen (of Trojan war fame) rules as Menelaus’ queen.In such a way, Corona weaves for us a tale of a young girl growing to womanhood, and eventually falling in love, in two different cities of ancient Greece, while at the same time providing voices for the women who are otherwise silent in Homer’s enduring classic.  Read more…

Editor Harrison adds college instructor to his portfolio

August 18, 2010 2 comments

Donald H. Harrison

EL CAJON, California  (Press Release)– Grossmont College has announced that Donald H. Harrison, creator of San Diego Jewish World, an online newspaper, has been selected as a new instructor for the class that produces the student newspaper called The Summit.

In addition to a print version of the student newspaper, Harrison says he is planning for a web-based “Griffin News Service” to feature a calendar of on-campus events, stories written by students and audio and video features.

Harrison has more than 40 years of experience in journalism. He was the managing editor of the Daily Bruin as a student at UCLA, and has worked for the Associated Press, San Diego Union and Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.

He also co-founded the San Diego Cruise Industry Consortium and the Old Town Trolley Tours company, and has authored Louis Rose, San Diego’s First Jewish Settler and Entrepreneur, which was published in 2004.

He also has served as editor of the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage and a columnist with the San Diego Jewish Times.

Preceding provided by Grossmont College

San Diegans meet poet Gertrude Rubin… and bid her farewell

August 13, 2010 3 comments

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—A small crowd gathered in the sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El on Thursday evening, August 12, to meet the poet Gertrude Rubin of Chicago, who was introduced by her daughter and son-in-law, Bonnie and Lawrence Baron.  

Rabbis Martin Lawson and Lenore Bohm helped make the introductions, with Bohm reading  two of Rubin’s poems and Lawson reaching into literature to help us define the context of our meeting with the poet.

Gertrude Rubin, z"l

We learned that Gertrude Rubin had not started writing poetry until she was in her 50’s,  en route to an MFA in poetry from the University of Illinois.  We learned that many of her poems deal with social activism, reflective of the fact that she had been an important force in the 1970s in a group called Women Mobilized for Change.

There was one major problem with our introduction to this amazing woman. 

She wasn’t there.   She had died a month before in Chicago at the age of 89.   We, a half continent away in San Diego, simultaneously were meeting her and bidding her goodbye, at a special shiva minyan arranged by the Reform temple to help comfort the Barons, both of whom are well known in the local Jewish community, along with their son Ari.

Bonnie, daughter of the poet, had worked as a social worker in adoptions for Jewish Family Service, and Lawrence, her husband, is professor of Jewish history at San Diego State University, located just a few blocks from Temple Emanu-El.

The crowd that assembled to honor a poet whom most had never met also was demonstrating its respect and affection for the Barons, whose lives of service and mitzvot exemplify some of the ideals Rubin had dramatized in her poems.

Reminiscing about her mother, Bonnie asked:  “How many daughters had a mom who took her on her first peace march in Washington D.C.?”  Or who published two poetry books, The Passover Poems, and A Beating of Wings. 

Rubin, we learned, was a mother who washed Bonnie’s mouth out with soap for saying a swear word, who ran a Girl Scout troop for many years, who “showered her children with unconditional love and who glided with her husband (Philip, who died five years earlier) across the dance floor of life, with big band music in the background.”

Lawrence, whose friends call him “Laurie,” said that “as a historian by profession I believe that the dead leave behind an imprint on the present; their memory influences the lives they’ve touched.”

In 1973, Rubin gave an interview, from which Laurie read excerpts.

Once Rubin heard a school principal “speaking patronizingly about her Latino students.”  She wrote a few lines in protest and “I was called down to the district superintendent, but for me it was a new beginning….

“Being Jewish I understood that the historic thrust toward the final solution, although sporadic, remains unsatisfied.  But I came to realize that before they come to destroy me for being a Jew, I could be destroyed in many other ways.”

Rather than suffer such destruction by acquiescing to injustice, Rubin became involved with Women Mobilized for Change.  The politically progressive women “lived, marched, traveled, laughed and cried together,” she recalled.  In the process she met mothers on welfare, ex prisoners, and people with vastly different life experiences, and became “profoundly impressed that in this world their gifts go unrecognized….

“Years ago, some friends mentioned the Rosenberg trial to me, and felt that it was a government frame up.  I thought they must be mistaken.  The Rosenbergs must have been guilty of betraying state secrets.  Otherwise our country wouldn’t have prosecuted them.  Such was my belief in the credibility of authority.  All that has shattered because time and time again, I have seen the evidence of the injustice of justice.  This loss of belief was done without trauma, it was progressive….  What remains after the dust settles is not despair, not at all. There is a kind of joy, a belief in myself, of energy released for transformation…”

Some of Rubin’s political beliefs were expressed in her poetry:

Memories Of Vietnam

Oh, to be a soldier stationed
in the CuChi foothills.  I’d get
to see the Bob Hope Christmas Show,
join the G.I. laughter, feel my
manhood swelling at the sight of
the All-American bosom, bouncing
in a patriotic frenzy, while I’d
clap my hands, and stamp both feet
(unless one was missing), and bawl
out loud to “Silent Night”, until
the last musician shut his case,
and Bob Hope’s starlets danced
into the sky like specks of flak,
and I’d go back to killing without
time to ask: what was I laughing at?

In other poems, she juxtaposed Jewish belief and present realities:

Passover For the Residents

They were brought downstairs
early. For each: a small
Seder plate of matzos, apple-
sauce, parsley, roasted egg.
Horseradish and fish-balls.

All went well, but someone at
Table Six took a sip of wine
before the first blessing.  Was
it Ida, who burst into tears
and begged to leave the room?

Anna was festive in black silk,
faux pearls.  Her remaining leg
sported a T-strap sandal…
Later, they sang songs praising
(in unison) God’s miracles —

“Day-Day-Enu! Day-Daay-Enu!”
Clapping like children; like
Seers whose practiced hands
summon the past.  After the
meal, they were wheeled down

a corridor, only to wait at
the Center’s stalled elevator.
Suddenly they were Israelites,
“come out of Egypt”.  Huddled at
the edge of the Red Sea,

praying it would open.


It was a special occasion, meeting such a  poet.  My wife Nancy and I are grateful that Bonnie and Laurie as well as the two rabbis arranged such a nice introduction.  May our new friend Gertrude’s  memory be for a blessing.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Book review: Combatting jealousy, the monster within us

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Benny The Big Shot by Tehilla Deutsch, illustrations by Vitaliy Romanenko, Nanuet, N.Y.: Feldheim Publishers, 2010, 25 pages including glossary, ISBN 978-1-59826-468-5, $12.99.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — With school soon to go back into session, this is an enjoyable, cautionary, tale about how students must struggle against becoming jealous of each other.  Although set in a Orthodox Jewish day school, the moral applies to students no matter what kind of school they attend—parochial, private or public.

This rhymed tale is about Benny, the new kid in school, who has no trouble answering the questions posed by the rabbi that stump the rest of the all-boys class.  Although he is quiet, and not a braggart, his constant academic successes are especially irksome to the narrator, his classmate Tzvi.

So while Benny was giving an answer one day,
I whispered to my neighbor, Avraham Kay.
“Take a look at who’s showing off once again,
It’s the one and the only Big Shot Ben!”
Then Kay passed the joke on the Aryeh Leib Pretter,
And that made me feel just a little bit better.

The story goes on to explain the concepts of lashan ha-ra (evil speech, gossip) and kin’ah (jealousy).  It races toward a conclusion when the rabbi announces that whoever does best on a certain test would win a prize—two admission tickets to a local amusement park.   Tzvi decides he will study harder than ever before just to do better than Benny.

Benny, unaware of Tzvi’s feelings, does his normal best and triumphs in a competition he didn’t even know he was in.   But, then he does something else: he asks Tzvi if he would please accompany him to the amusement park, explaining that he admires Tzvi for how easily he makes friends and hopes to be his friend too.

The positive gesture turns the relationship around. And Tzvi learns a valuable lesson.  Everyone in the class has a special talent, or unique feature of his personality, that makes him special.  One boy is funny, another is a good baseball player, another is quite strong. 

It’s important for children, as well as for some adults, to learn that we are not diminished by other people’s successes.  We ought not feel jealous if someone else wins a scholarship, or the lead role in a play, or a job promotion. Our own opportunity to make a positive contribution to society may be just up there ahead.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

SDSU’s Jewish Studies Program looks ahead to expanded offerings

August 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—It has been four years since Lawrence Baron was succeeded by Risa Levitt Kohn as head of the Jewish Studies Program at San Diego State University, but he’ll be back at the helm—temporarily—this upcoming academic year while Kohn takes a sabbatical in Israel where she’ll work with that nation’s antiquities department.   Kohn, many people will recall, had served as the curator of the successful six-month long  Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.

Lawrence Baron

Baron, in addition to being a professor of Jewish history, serves as the SDSU history department’s advisor to graduate students—a role he’ll continue even as he serves as interim director of the Jewish Studies program.

Coincidentally, this academic year will also mark the 40th anniversary of Jewish studies becoming an official academic “minor” at San Diego State University, and the 25th anniversary of the inception of a formal Jewish studies program on the campus.   These two anniversaries will be commemorated with a series of lectures by Baron and two other members of the program: June Cummins, who specializes in American Jewish literature, and Yale Strom, a klezmer musician and documentary film maker.  The dates for the lecture series are still being decided.

San Diego State University officials report that the campus serves the largest Jewish population south of Los Angeles and the 28th largest Jewish population in the country.  The Jewish Studies Program offers a major in Modern Jewish Studies or a minor in Jewish Studies stretching from the biblical period to the present day.

In November, the Jewish Studies Program will sponsor a talk at the San Diego Jewish Book Festival at the Lawrence Family JCC by author Roger Kamenetz, a religious scholar best known for his book The Jew in the Lotus.  Kamenetz’s topic at the festival will deal with two “troubled and beloved” Jewish figures – Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka, “both of whom left strict instructions that their unpublished works be burnt after their deaths,” according to Baron.

A Jewish community professional whose name formerly had been all but synonymous with the Jewish Book Festival and other cultural programming of the JCC — Jackie S.  Gmach—has been hired by SDSU to direct its new outreach and fundraising program “Friends of Jewish Studies. ”   

Another addition to the Jewish Studies Program is this year’s visiting Israeli professor – Oren Meyers of the Department of Communications of the  University of Haifa.  His academic specialty is the Israeli media, with one of his more recent publications being “Prime Time Commemoration: An Analysis of Television Broadcasts on Israel’s Memorial Day for the Holocaust and the Heroism.”  Besides teaching at San Diego State, Meyers will be giving talks about Israel and its media around the community.

Baron said that he hopes to bring outside speakers on Jewish topics regularly to the campus next year – a .practice that he said had been the impetus for the creation of the Western Jewish Studies Association, an organization of academics that will hold its convention next April 10-11 in San Diego.  Baron currently serves as president of that organization.

Other planned lecture series in the county include “Israel in the 21st Century” which under a grant from the Leichtag Family Foundation will be conducted at two libraries in North County, those in Vista and in Encinitas. Baron said it is now being explored whether the same lecture series also could be presented at Cal State San Marcos.

“Israel in the 21st Century” additionally will be presented at Congregation Beth Israel in the spring, and will include lectures by Meyers, Steven Spiegel of UCLA and Samuel Edelman, the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Faculty members in SDSU’s Jewish Studies Program include Baron, Cummins, Meyers, Strom, and  Veronica Shapovalov, who under the auspices of the Russian department teaches a course in 20th Century Russian and Eastern European Culture.  In the language department are Zev Bar-Lev, who created an imaginative syllabus for teaching Hebrew, and Ilana Schuster, who uses that methodology to teach conversational Hebrew.

Some of Kohn’s teaching duties during her sabbatical are being taken over by Dr. Yehuda Shabatay, a professor at Palomar College and  former director of San Diego’s Bureau of Jewish Education (prior to the time the Bureau became the Agency).   Additionally, Rabbi Scott Meltzer of Ohr Shalom Synagogue will be teaching a course in Hebrew Scriptures.

Saying that it will be “a busy year,” Baron noted that Strom, the Jewish Studies Program’s  “Musician in Residence” plans to appear in a concert entitled “Common Chords 3”  with Pakistani musician Salman Ahmad to explore common roots of Jewish and Islamic music.

Additionally, Baron said, the Leichtag Family Foundation has donated start-up funds to the Jewish Studies program and the Religious Studies Department for an  interdisciplinary Institute of Moral Courage, to “encourage the examination and study of a range of issues related to the study of moral courage under the broader rubric of contemporary global ethics.”

Is Baron busy enough?  Known as one of the world’s leading scholars on films dealing with the Holocaust (he was called to Yad Vashem to lecture on his book, Projecting the Holocaust Into the Present), Baron said he has another book soon to be published by Brandeis University: The Wandering View: Modern Jewish Experiences in World Cinema.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Documentary follows Greenberg, Koufax, other Jewish baseball icons

July 29, 2010 3 comments

Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, directed by Peter Miller, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, produced by Clear Lake Historical Productions.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – A new documentary, sure to hit the circuit of Jewish film festivals is Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. Although actor Dustin Hoffman is the off-camera narrator, the real star power comes from Jewish major leaguers, alive and dead, whose skillfully edited interviews provide first-person perspective on a story that began in the late 1800s and continues to this day.

The longest segments of the 91-minute documentary cover the careers of Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, but plenty of other Jewish players appear in this work of love including Buddy Myer, Harry Danning, Norm Sherry, Ron Blomberg, Shawn Green, and Kevin Youkilis.

The essential thesis behind the documentary is that Jews love America, nothing is more American than baseball, and that success in baseball represents success in America.

There are some great tidbits along the way, and one not so bad pun.  Did you know that the Bible contains the first account of baseball?  Yup, it’s right there in Genesis, which starts “In the Big Inning.”

The first known Jewish baseball player was Lipman Pike, who played for various teams in the 30 years following the U.S. Civil War.  The first Jew to appear on a baseball card was pitcher Barney Pelty of the St. Louis Browns, who pitched during the first two decades of the 1900s.  The New York Giants recruited Jewish players in the 1920s, to win Jewish fans.  Moses Solomon, a big home run hitter, was dubbed “the rabbi of swat,” which was a rhetorical challenge to Babe Ruth of the cross-town Yankees, who was known as the “sultan of swat.”  Another giant Giant was Andy Cohen, who was so popular at the Polo Grounds they sold “Ice Cream Cohens.”

Here’s some impressive trivia:  The second-most sung song in the world behind “Happy Birthday”  is “Take Me Out To the Ballgame,” which was composed by the Jewish musician Albert Von Tilzer.

These kind of factoids were warm ups for the story about Hank Greenberg, which his son, Steve, assisted in telling.  Described as the first Jewish baseball superstar,  Greenberg was a 6’4 first baseman who spent most of his major league career with the Detroit Tigers.  In 1934, he set a precedent for Sandy Koufax, when he decided not to play on Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah, ten days earlier, was another matter.  A rabbi found some biblical precedent to permit him to play, and Greenberg hit two homeruns that day to beat the Boston Red Sox.

Abstaining on Yom Kippur prompted some doggerel about Greenberg:

We shall miss him in the infield
We’ll miss him at bat.
But he’s true to his religion
And we honor him for that.

Not everyone honored Greenberg or other Jewish players, however.  Catcalls like “Heeb!” “Kike!” “Throw him a pork chop!” plagued Greenberg, who occasionally did not turn the other cheek.  In 1938, the year historians say was the beginning of the Holocaust with the Kristallnacht in Germany, Greenberg was chasing Babe Ruth’s single season record of 60 home runs.  The documentary debunks the rumor that opposing teams were so anti-Semitic they refused to pitch to him.  Pitch to them pitchers did, including Bob Feller, who was interviewed on camera about one of the last games of the season in which he faced—and tamed—Greenberg.

With anti-Semitism rampant in Nazi Germany and with some Bundists hoping to import similar hatred to the United States, Greenberg considered every good game he played – every home run – a way to show the world how wrong Nazi racial myths about Jews being inferior really were.

At the height of his career, Greenberg went into the Army to fight in World War II.  “I’m in the Army now, and now I’m playing on Uncle Sam’s team,” he said in one news clip.

Greenberg played his last season when Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major leaguer, played his first.  The documentary described a collision at first base when Robinson was running for a single.  “Fans,” who were yelling cat calls at Robinson from the stands, wondered whether there would be a fight between the two men. Instead, Greenberg helped Robinson up, and told him not to worry about  the invective some people screamed.  They used to yell similar things at him, Greenberg told Robinson.

Greenberg mentored Al Rosen, and later disappointed him when he decided to trade Rosen from the Cleveland Indians,  which Greenberg served as a general manager in his career off-the-field.  Rather than be traded, Rosen decided to quit baseball, a sad chapter.

The story of Sandy Koufax’s career was the next large segment of the documentary.  After his retirement, Koufax shrank from the limelight, so this interview is one of the longest—and most comprehensive—about the superstar Dodger pitcher, who threw a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs one season, and decided not to pitch on Yom Kippur in the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins.

Don Drysdale pitched that World Series game instead, and got drubbed in the first two innings, giving up seven home runs. When manager Walter Alston came to the mound to take Drysdale out, the pitcher quipped that he’d “bet you wish I was Jewish too.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, baseball had a $100,000 salary cap—but Drysdale and Koufax decided to hold out together for a better salary,  shutting out baseball owners who tried to resist their twin juggernaut.  Eventually, their actions helped to empower the baseball players organization – led by Marvin Miller, another Jew.

There were quite a few Jewish owners in baseball, among them Charles Bronfman of Montreal, and Bud Selig of Baltimore, who eventually would go on to become Commissioner of Baseball.

Other Jewish baseballers included in the documentary were Art Shamsky of the 1969 Miracle Mets, Kenny Holtzman of the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics, and Ron Blomberg, a first-round draft pick of the New York Yankees, who later in his career would become Major League Baseball’s first designated hitter.

One player who many folks believed had converted to Judaism was Rod Carew of the Minnesota Twins and California Angels.   In fact, he had not, although Carew’s wife was Jewish and his two children were raised Jewish.  Another African American who did convert to Judaism was Elliott Maddox, an infielder and outfielder who played on six major league teams, and quipped about his conversion: “I always considered myself a good two-strike hitter.”

In the 1990s, Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers was considered the standout Jewish baseball player, and in the 2000s, Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox has been a dominant player.

Not all the stories in the documentary were happy ones.  Adam Greenberg was called up from the minors, and as a Chicago Cub pinch hitter, he was beaned on the very first pitch.  The concussion he suffered knocked him out of baseball, although he has not given up on the idea of making a comeback.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Tonight Show veteran gives afternoon concert some Pop

July 25, 2010 Leave a comment


One Baton, Two Conductors: David Amos and Shelly Cohen

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—The late Ed McMahon, a former colleague on NBC’s “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” might have introduced Shelly Cohen on Sunday afternoon, July 25,  at the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra’s pop concert, with a drawn out  “Heeeeeere’s Shelly!”   Such an introduction would have been in keeping with the show business patter that the guest conductor served up to the San Diego audience.

Cohen had served from 1962 to 1992 as an assistant music director under Tonight Show orchestra leader “Doc” Severinsen, and since has conducted the Los Angeles Pops Orchestra, the Virginia Pops Orchestra and the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, among others.  The conductor had driven down from Los Angeles to lead the show on Sunday joining his 12-member Los Angeles-based New Horizon Singers with the 80-piece community orchestra of San Diego in the presentation of familiar Broadway show tunes and Hollywood movie themes.

David Amos, the regular conductor of the TICO orchestra, took a middle seat in the second row of the audience and watched the orchestra that he has led for 35 years respond to the baton of Cohen, a good friend.   He described as a “warm pleasure” seeing a representative of Hollywood, in the person of Cohen, “appreciating what we do.” 

The concert began with Cohen conducting the audience in singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” Next he led the TICO orchestra in “Holiday for Strings” by David Rose, who had been the music director for Red Skelton’s TV Show.   Cohen, dressed in tan pants, blue blazer, pink shirt and blue patterned tie and conducting under a five-tiered, six-pointed Magen David chandelier, told the audience that when he was 10 years old his mother dragged him away from his beloved baseball and to a violin lesson, which he didn’t enjoy. So he took a holiday from strings.  However, when he got to high school, he took up the clarinet, and while he was at it, decided to fulfill his mother’s fond hope and play violin too.  “Stringed instruments are the closest thing to the human voice,” he declared.  Stringed instruments have emotion, and they make mistakes, he insisted.

Cohen said Leonard Bernstein had been of a similarly divided mind – not between baseball and music, but between popular music and classical music.  “Happily he did both,” composing not only West Side Story but the Jeremiah Symphony, Cohen commented before leading TICO in a West Side Story medley.

The Pops conductor moved through a program that included melodies from the musical Paint Your Wagon, and such movies as 2001, A Space Odyssey; The Apartment; Exodus; The Pink Panther and The Magnificent Seven.   He also incorporated into the program medleys from popular Disney productions, “The Wonderful World of Rodgers and Hart,” “Jule Styne on Broadway” and “Rodgers and Hammerstein.”  “Gymnopedies No. 1” by Erik Satie included a short, but notable, flute solo by TICO’s Sylvia Hansen.   During the concert, Cohen showcased New Horizon Singers Carol Bratcher, Kim Anderson, Gene Kowalski, Tim Aberdeen, Scott Robbins, Vicki Kirk and, in this reviewer’s opinion,  two vocalists who were particular standouts: Coleen Forward, who sang “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita, and Debbie Lowe who soloed Abba’s “I Have A Dream.”  Lowe is the daughter of jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe, a current San Diego resident who was introduced from the audience.

Cohen added immeasurably to the afternoon of popular music with shows about celebrities he has known, or studied, although, curiously, he refrained from sharing any anecdotes about his former colleagues Carson, Severinsen and McMahon.

A self-described jokester, who “will say anything to get a laugh,” Cohen did just that following the percussion filled finale of “Ritual Fire Dance” by Manuel  De Falla.   Pointing at TICO percussionist Ricki Pedersen, the conductor quipped.  “That really wasn’t castanets; she has false teeth.”  Pederson laughed along with the audience.

Discussing the “Exodus” selection in the concert’s “Saturday Night at the Movies,” Cohen noted that the lyricist for the song about Israel’s fight for independence was singer Pat Boone, who is “as Presbyterian as you could meet.”

In the concert’s second half, the first selection was Elmer Bernstein’s theme from The Magnificent Seven.  Cohen noted that Marlboro cigarettes later chose that theme for its “Marlboro Man” commercial, and quoted Elmer Bernstein’s observation that he “made more money from the Marlboro Man than from the Magnificent Seven.”

The second half featured the New Horizon Singers—five men and seven women, who wore black shirts or blouses, with different pastel colored ties or scarves. 

Cohen said that when Henry Mancini composed another of the evening’s selections, “Moon River,” he had difficulty finding someone to record it, until Andy Williams finally said, “I think I’ll take a shot at it.” It became one of the most famous songs in Williams’ repertoire.

The conductor urged members of the audience to join in the Disney Medley of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “The Mickey Mouse March” and “Chim Chim Cheree,” suggesting however that “if the person next to you is completely out of tune—and doesn’t even belong in the same state,” an elbow jab to that person’s ribs might do nicely.

Moving onto the music of Rodgers and Hart, Cohen said rarely were two collaborators less alike.  Richard Rodgers was a Type-A personality, a punctual man to whom being in control was important, whereas Hart was the complete opposite, an alcoholic.   “They were at odds all the time.”   One time Richard Rodgers had been trying to track Larry Hart down for days, becoming increasingly panicked that they would not finish a song in time.  Hart finally arrived, and Rodgers remonstrated with him.   “Give me some paper,” said Hart, and in ten minutes time he wrote, “The Lady Is A Tramp,” and then walked out of the studio and disappeared for another three or four days, according to Cohen.

Later, discussing the collaboration of Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon on El Condor Pasa, an Inca song they made famous with the English lyrics, “I’d rather be a hammer then a nail,” Cohen marveled that they were two Jewish boys who had lived in Queens.  How did they come up with this?

When Cohen reached a segment entitled “Jule Styne on Broadway,” he told the audience, “If you feel like singing along, please don’t!”  The medley included “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” “Just in Time,” and the show business standard, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

Ralph Barnes, a former Tifereth Israel Synagogue president who raffles off tickets for huggable stuffed toy bears during the concert’s intermission, led the cries of “More! More!” to persuade the singers and orchestra to provide some encores.  As “Encores” was printed on the program, it was hardly a surprise, however, that the audience’s pleas were successful.

After Lowe’s solo, the combined orchestra and choir concluded the concert with a medley from The Sound of Music, in a salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Evelyn Kooperman, principal cello, said that working under Cohen and seeing the volunteer orchestra’s own conductor, Amos, staring at her from the second row, was just a touch intimidating. 

“Each of them has a different style,” Kooperman said. “Shelly expects us to play like a professional orchestra—after one rehearsal.  He’s used to working with professionals who’ve played all their lives.”

“Each has his own idiosyncrasies,” she said.  “And they’re both wonderful gentlemen.”

Charles and Albeta Feurzeig were the sponsors of the concert.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

At Comic-Con, toys don’t wait for humans to leave before coming alive

July 23, 2010 Leave a comment


Original Star Trek "cast" at Comic-Con exhibition hall. Photo: Shor Masori

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – In the Toy Story series of movies, toys wait for people to leave the room before they transform themselves into living, talking beings.  But at the Comic-Con convention at the San Diego Convention Center, all such formalities are dispensed with.  Toys become alive whether humans are present or not, and then they mingle with the crowd – or so it seems.  And that’s one of the reasons the convention has reached a level of popularity prompting  organizers to predict that  125,000 people will attend the convention this year over the four days ending Sunday,  July 25.  No doubt more people would come, but for reasons of safety and good sense, the jam-packed event was declared “sold out.”

Spiderman and baby carriage

Costumed characters everywhere – James T. Kirk and the rest of the crew of Star Trek here, Superman over there, Spiderman pushing a baby carriage filled, one assumes, with little arachnids; the Joker from Batman buying toys for his own collection over there – these are the sights that have kept kids and the kids-inside-adults coming back to Comic-Con year after year for more than four decades.   Further excitement is generated by movie and televisions stars like Angelina Jolie, Sylvester Stalone , Will Ferrell and Tina Fey giving press conferences about upcoming movies which, if successful, will prompt at next year’s Comic-Con new costumes for attendees.

Joker browses a stall at Comic-Con. Photo: Shor Masori

"Superman" at Comic-Con. Photo: Donald H. Harrison

The Metropolitan Transit District, which operates light rail trains throughout the City of San Diego, helps to build the crowd by running special cars between the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium and the Convention Center.  This enables Comic Con patrons to easily find a parking spot and then ride to nearly the front door of the Convention Center 13 stops away.  Enhancing the fun, trolley signs have been posted in Klingon – one of the languages spoken by denizens of the sometimes enemies and sometimes allies of the United Federation of Planets in the Star Trek series.

Mad Hatter enters San Diego Convention Center. Photo: Shor Masori

While riding to the Convention Center on Thursday with my nine-year old grandson, Shor, we spotted “Wonder Woman” sitting in a back seat of our trolley car.  When she disembarked, she received only a few appreciative glances – there were so many other sights competing for visitors’ attention.   A giant Transformer character –Octimus Prime–stood on the grounds of a hotel neighboring the convention center.  Hawkers handed out flyers, inviting visitors to come to their booths for prizes, food items and other swag, and nearly everyone had slung over their shoulders large Comic-Con bags, for taking home the goodies.

Although there were red-shirted security personnel in evidence everywhere—just in case—the mood was celebratory.  I asked Shor to hold onto my hand, not because I feared for his safety, but because the crowd was so large we could easily become separated otherwise.   As a precaution, we both had each other’s cell phone numbers set on speed dial.

Shor examines Transformer in lion mode. Photo: Donald H. Harrison

Shor views transformer in robot mode. Photo: Donald H. Harrison

The main exhibition hall was filled with booths selling every type of collector’s item imaginable – comic books, of course, as these noble literary productions were responsible for starting Comic-Con in the first place; plastic action figures of all kinds; T-shirts; posters; costumes; masks, wigs – one could come into the convention looking like a businessman, make a few quick purchases, duck into a bathroom stall, and return to the exhibition floor as Darth Vader, or Spiderman, Princess Leah, Buzz Lightyear, Harry Potter, Hermione, or Captain Kathryn  Janeway.    I’m sure some of the costumed people did just that.

Shor and I wandered around the exhibition floor, snapping photos of fantasies come alive.  Seemingly in each booth, and there were hundreds of them, Shor examined different items for possible purchase, using his calculator to determine what this or that set would cost if he purchased them all.   He didn’t have that kind of money to spend, of course, but this was a hall of fantasy after all.   After observing other people make purchases, Shor realized that the price on the box is not necessarily the price one has to pay.

Finally deciding on a “Leo Prime” Transformer that converts from a lion to a metal robot,  Shor asked the price and a woman at the cash register responded “$20.”  “Will you take $10?” Shor piped up.  “Let me check,” she said, calling out the question to her boss.  “No, $15,” the boss said.  That’s what Shor paid.   When Shor got home, his grandma the shopper was so proud!

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

A pleasure cruise to Turkey? I think not!

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO–A friend of mine was considering a Mediterranean cruise.  I suggested that he find another itinerary.   One of the ports of call he had been considering was in Turkey.  I can’t imagine a reason after the Gaza Flotilla incident why any member of the Jewish community would want to go to Turkey, anymore than they should want to go to Iran, Syria, Lebanon, or to Gaza.

There are places in the Muslim Middle East I would recommend visiting: Egypt, Jordan, and Oman, all of which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting myself.   Oh, I’ve also been to Turkey, but not again, thank you.  While Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power, I’ll be waiting for his government to be reset, tied up, er-gone.  If I want Middle Eastern flavor, I’ll go to Israel.  And if I do venture among Israel’s other neighbors, perhaps it will be to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco or Tunisia. I certainly won’t waste time on the country of a false friend, a provocateur, someone who has betrayed Israel in order to curry favor with the most radical regimes in the Middle East. 

Beautiful beaches? Erdogan’s Turkey can keep them.   Antiquities?   There are a lot more in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.  Turkish coffee?  The world has learned to brew it long ago.  Carpets?  We can manage without them.

There was a time when I wanted to travel everywhere on the globe, to meet the people of every land, to taste their foods, partake of their customs.  Not anymore.   If other countries want tourism, let them earn it.  Let them show that they respect the people of the world, no matter where they come from or how they pray.  Let them demonstrate that they are willing to abide by international standards of decency.  

It was an act of indecency last May when Turkey attempted to force Israel to either give up its right to self-defense or be condemned by  Arab-engineered “world opinion” for blocking such manifestations of “humanitarian assistance” as knives, cutlasses, grenades, and automatic weapons.

Five of the six ships in the so-called Gaza Flotilla went peacefully to the Israeli Port of Ashdod and their humanitarian cargoes were transferred without incident to Gaza.  These supplies amounted to drops of water in the river of aid that Israel continually sends to the people of Gaza notwithstanding the fact that their Hamas “leaders” thank the Israelis with Kassam missile strikes on Sderot and the villages of Sha’ar Hanegev.

Only the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara refused to be escorted peacefully to Ashdod.  As the video released by the IDF makes clear, the “humanitarians” on board replied to the Israelis who invited them to deliver the cargo there: “Shut the f**k up.  Go back to Auschwitz!  We’re helping Arabs going against the U.S.  Don’t forget 9/11 guys.” 

Listen, you so-called “humanitarians,” we Jews are not going back to Auschwitz.   And we Americans will definitely remember 9/11, and all the innocent people who died there at the hand of terrorists with whom you apparently have much in common.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

An editor’s call for letters of another kind

July 7, 2010 1 comment

By Donald H. Harrison 

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – There are times when I would prefer not to open my e-mail. So often it seems that the only people really motivated to write are those with some axe to grind. 

These include a vociferous minority of Jews who seem to hate all Arabs and Muslims, and a smaller, but equally strident, minority of our people who take any opportunity to denounce Christians.  As we refuse to run on our news site generic attacks on any group of people, these messages all are consigned to the trash, where they belong.

I find myself fantasizing at times that our e-mailbag will be filled with positive letters from people who want to write about the mentors in their lives who have motivated them to do good.  How I would love to read—and to re-publish—letters and commentaries about those people whose lives were spent in service to others, and especially those who dedicated themselves to making peace between rivals. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of clenching our jaws in anger as we read some missive, we could nod with appreciative understanding and admiration?  Wouldn’t you like to read about people whose lives exemplify the highest aspirations—rather than the lowest emotions—of humanity?

I don’t believe that we will preserve and enhance Jewish life simply by being more militant than our adversaries. While there are short-term P-R gains to be made by counter-picketing and having questioners ready to contradict biased academic panels discussing the Middle East, our longer term goals will be served by publicizing not what we are against, but what we are for.

I believe that we Jews, as a people, must continuously articulate for ourselves standards of goodness that we can take pride in upholding, and core beliefs that others, upon reflection, will consider worth emulating. 

One such belief is that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity, and that when we debase or dehumanize others, we undercut our own humanity. The great singer Aretha Franklin had it right, what people need and want is  r-e-s-p-e-c-t, and we ought to give it to them, all of them.

I’d like to invite our readers to write to us about the people in their lives who have been positive influences on them, who exemplified values worth upholding, and who could benefit the world if only more people would profit by their positive examples. 

Let’s discuss and refine our appreciation for the good.  Please consider sharing with us stories about the people for whom you have  r-e-s-p-e-c-t, and why!

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World