Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

A smattering of ignorance

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By David Amos 

David Amos

SAN DIEGO–As a writer of this column, I get to go to concerts, hear new recordings, read new books, and share with you insights and personal observations which may shed light on musical subjects. But this time, it is different. For some unexplained brainstorm, I felt the urge to go to my library and pick up an old book that I have owned for decades, but for whatever reason, never got around to reading.

The result was the delightfully witty A Smattering of Ignorance by Oscar Levant. In case you are not familiar with this name, here is a brief summary as to who he was. 

Oscar Levant was born in Pittsburgh in 1906 to Orthodox Jewish Russian immigrants, and became a respected and popular Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and a relentless promoter of his idol, George Gershwin. What made him such an entertaining personality and a favorite of the press was his outrageous behavior, colorful, witty vocabulary, and hilarious quotes which are in still use today. Levant acted in several films, most notably in An American in Paris, and is recognized as one of the greatest Gershwin interpreters. In the 1950’s he hosted a television talk show from a Los Angeles station (which I remember seeing as a teenager), but his program was discontinued after he made off-color, but clever remarks about other famous stars. He was a frequent guest in NBC’s Tonight Show, which at the time was hosted by Jack Paar.

I have his memorable long-play recording of the Rhapsody in Blue, and the Concerto in F. He was seen in thirteen films, playing the piano and acting, and recorded over 100 albums.

Levant’s first book, A Smattering of Ignorance, was published by Doubleday in 1939, quickly became a national best seller, and was called “brilliant” by Clifton Fadiman of the New York Times. It is a series of essays on Levant’s various life experiences, his early days, his studies (which included years of lessons with none other than Arnold Schoenberg), his encounters with famous musicians and show business personalities, such as Harpo Marx, and above all, his relationship with Gershwin and his family.  

There are a few aspects of this book which I found fascinating. First, were Levant’s explanations on how music was scored for films. He details the relationships between the producers, directors, composers of  film scores, and the roles of the arrangers. In the 1930’s and still today, not all film composers write all the music, all the tunes, and choose which instruments of the orchestra will play the arrangement.  Many times, the latter is the job of the orchestrator, or arranger, who may actually be the person to bring out the greatness of a particular film score. For example, in many of the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit Broadway musicals, the orchestrations were done by a composer who may be remembered as the best ever at what he did, Robert Russell Bennett. Just look at your R&H musicals in albums which you may have at home, and you’ll see Bennett’s name there.

Also Levant details how film composers relied on familiar sounds already created by famous classical composers. You want a “French” sound? Imitate Debussy. You want the open prairie for a Western? What could be better than the familiar sound of Copland? Many other examples are given, together with entertaining and at times amazing anecdotes.  He called these musical scores “generic” or “derivative”, probably differentiating between imitation of other styles, and open-faced stealth of musical material. He also credits truly original material.  

He spoke of the famous producer, Daryll Zanuck, whom he described as “a man who knows, unfortunately, what he wants”. He wrote about the Russian born composer Sam Pokrass who struggled to be understood: “His mother tongue was broken English!”  His detailed descriptions of being a guest  many, many evenings at the home of Harpo Marx are also revealing. During the 1930’s Hollywood and Los Angeles became the home of many great creative minds, in music and other disciplines. This was in part driven by the many refugees from Nazi Germany who sought refuge and work in the U.S., the emergence of Hollywood as the film capital, and the changing opportunities in the New York area. The nicer weather helped too.

Just imagine the cccollection of great musicians which sought refuge and work opportunities in the West Coast: Arnold Schoenberg, Miklós Rósza, Erich W. Korngold, Otto Klemperer, Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, Artur Rubinstein, Gershwin, Bronislaw Kaper, Max Steiner, and many, many others, to say nothing of other artists, authors, scientists, entrepreneurs, and actors. The list is endless. All of the above met socially, played tennis and ping-pong, exchanged ideas and opinions, artistic and political, worked with each other, and enjoyed each others’ company. They also received frequent visits from Easterners, Copland, Morton Gould, publishers, and impresarios. All of this is vividly explained in the book.  

It’s hard for me to visualize an encounter between Fanny Bryce and Schoenberg, possibly the most austere and misunderstood of the great composers. But, at the death of Gershwin, Schoenberg delivered this eulogy in a broadcast: “George Gershwin was one of this rare kind of musicians to whom music is not a matter of more or less ability. Music to him was the air he breathed, the food which nourished him, the drink that refreshed him. Music was what made him feel, and music was the feeling he expressed. Directness of this kind is given only to great men, and there is no doubt that he was a great composer. What he achieved was not only to the benefit of a national American music, but also a contribution to the music of the whole world.” These words ring true even more today.  

Oscar Levant was married twice, first in the 1930’s, a marriage that as expected, lasted less than seven months, and then to June Gale, with whom, in spite of their highly publicized spats, he remained married until his death in 1972, . He was notorious for speaking about his prescription drug addictions, neuroses, mental hospital treatments, and hypochondria. They had three daughters.  Levant is credited with so many quotes and quips that are worth recalling. I will share some of them with you in the next issue of San Diego Jewish World. Meanwhile, all the best for the New Year, Shana Tova, and Tizku L’Shanim Rabot. 


Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra in San Diego and has guest conducted numerous professional orchestras around the world.







Astronaut Garrett Reisman to lift off San Diego Jewish Film Festival Aug. 29

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release) – An Article of Hope, the first film for the 21st Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival, will be screened on August 29 at 7:15 p.m. at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre at the Lawrence Family JCC, Jacobs Family Campus.
Sponsored by the Leichtag Family Foundation, the featured speaker following the screening of the one-hour film is astronaut Garrett Reisman, the first Jewish crew member on the International Space Station.  Reisman will highlight the events that led to the filming of An Article of Hope.  The film’s director, Dan Cohen, will also participate in a discussion session.
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up above Texas on its way to a Florida homecoming.  Its seven astronauts from around the world, including Colonel Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, all perished.
Also destroyed was a very special artifact that had survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the Holocaust: the tiny Torah scroll that Colonel Ramon carried into space.  An Article of Hope explores the journey of the Torah from pre-World War II Europe, to Israel, and then into space.
Dr. Reisman, a native of New Jersey, earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from California Institute of Technology in 1997 and was selected by NASA as a Mission Specialist in 1998.  He was a backup crew member for Expedition 15 and joined Expedition 16 aboard the International Space Station for a short time before becoming a member of Expedition 17.  Reisman sent a greeting from space to the people of Israel during the celebration of Israel 60th Independence Day in May 2008.  He returned to Earth in June 2008 on board STS-124 on the Space Shuttle Discovery.  He was also a member of the STS-132 mission that travelled to the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis from May 14 to 26, 2010. 
Reisman, a self-proclaimed member of the “Colbert Universe,” was interviewed live from space on the May 8, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report after being seen wearing a “WristStrong” bracelet.  After returning to Earth, Reisman appeared in person on The Colbert Report as that night’s featured guest.  Reisman presented Stephen Colbert with the WristStrong bracelet he had worn while in space.  Reisman also filmed a cameo appearance as a Colonial Marine for the series finale episode of Battlestar Galactica. 
Preceding provided by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture

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

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, October 15, 1954, Part 1

July 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff

Bonds For Israel Presents Noted Singer
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 1

Jan Peerce, one of the world’s leading singers, and for twelve years the top tenor of the Metropolitan Opera, will be guest artists, Sunday, October 24, at a city7 wide banquet at El Cortez Hotel in behalf of Bonds of the Israel Government.  This special appearance marks Peerce’s only change in the schedule of his fourteenth consecutive nationwide concert tour.

Murray D. Goodrich, Chairman of the San Diego Committee for Israel Bonds, in announcing the appearance of Peerce enjoined prompt reaction from the community if reservations for the affair are to be made available.

Guest speaker at the B.I.G. banquet will be Alex Lowenthal of Pittsburgh, National Chairman of “Cash Sales for the Israel Bond Drive. Alex Lowenthal is nationally renowned for his dynamic work in behlf of the economic independence of the State of Israel.

City of Hope Honors Memory of Anna Shelley
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 1

The City of Hope Auxiliary of San Diego is honoring the member of its Founder and President for 17 years, Anna Shelley, with a Memorial Fund Luncheon at 12 noon on Thursday, October 21, at the Beth Jacob Center.

The Fund was established to furnish a room in Anna Shelley’s name at the City of Hope Medical and Research Center at Duarte, California – a National free, non-sectarian, non-profit hospital for the care and treatment of those afflicted with the catastrophic diseases of tuberculosis, cancer, leukemia and heart disease (amenable to surgery) who are unable to pay for this care and treatment.

United Nations Group Tells of Plans For Annual Dinner Oct. 18
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Pages, 1, 6

A committee of Hadassah members, headed by Mrs. Maxwell Kaufman, will decorate the House of Hospitality auditorium for the annual United Nations Dinner sponsored by the American Associoation for the U.N., San Diego Chapter, Monday, Oct. 18, at 6:30 p.m.

MRs. Kaufman, whose committee includes Mrs. Alfred Bobrof and Mrs. Valia Dennis, plans to feature the U.N. mobile designed by Miss Belle Baranceanu and executed by art students at Francis Parker School.  Flower motifs will be done in red, white and blue. Dolls of all nations, loaned by the Brownie Troop 685 and flags will add color to the tables.

Principal speaker at the dinner will be Col. C.M. Nelson, chairman of the A.A.U.N. Southern State Council.  Mary Fay, dinner chairman, states:  “Those  who heard Mr. Nelson so briefly  when he was here Jan. 28 with Colonel Salomon and April 3 with Mrs. Roosevelt, know he combines a vast authoritative knowledge of his subject and a subtle wit and personal magnetism which left our members and friends anxious to hear him in a major address. His topic will be the Challenge of the United Nations.

The program will also feature the premiere showing of a new 12 minute color and sound film produced and directed by Miss Ettilie Wallace, well known newspaperwoman who recently resigned to devote her efforts to film productions, a new process begun as a hobby several year ago. Titled “Come In Jupiter,” the novel film has a co-existence theme, and was commissioned by the A.A. U.N. Southern California Mobile Film Unit.

Dinner reservations are being accepted after 11 a.m. daily at the A.A.U.N. headquarters, Room 16, House of Hospitality, Balboa Park, telephone Belmont 3-2970, or by Mrs. Irving Outcalt,
Cypress 6-6582.  The public is invited.

Hebrew Home Breaks Ground~Ceremony This Sunday

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 1

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new San Diego Hebrew Home for the Aged will be held at 2:30 p.m. next Sunday at the site on 54th St., north of University Avenue.

Eugene M. Rosen, Los Angeles community leader and secretary of the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations, will be speaker. City and county officials and civic leaders have been invited to take part.

The home, which will be situated on a 2 ½ acre site, will cost $200,000 of which $130,000 has already been raised.  It will replace the present home, which is situated in a remodeled house at 2750 4th Ave. and accommodates 15 guests.

There will be facilities for 25 guests living in private rooms in the new home.  Occupying about 20,000 square feet, it will be a contemporary modern ranch-style, one0story structure.

The San Diego Hebrew Home for the Aged was organized 10 years ago to provide Jewish surroundings and care for Jewish persons 65 years of age or over, regardless of their ability to pay.

Licensed by the state, the home is a member of the San Diego Federation of Jewish Agencies.  Operating costs are provided with funds raised in the annual United Jewish Fund campaign.

Each room in the new home will have a private bath. There will be a four-bed ward for guests who become ill, a dining room, lobby, two lounges for entertaining visitors, a kosher kitchen and chapel.

Invited guests to the ceremony are Messrs. John Butler, Mayor of San Diego; James A. Robbins, Chairman, Board of Supervisors; Gerald C. Thomas, President, Community Chest of San Diego; George A. Scott, President, Walker-Scott Company; Joseph Dryer, President, Heaven-On-Earth Club; Allen J. Sutherland, President, Security Trust & Savings Bank; O.W. Campbell, City Manager, and Rabbis Morton J. Cohn, Monroe Levens and Baruch Stern.

The committee for the ground-breaking ceremony consists of Alex Newman, chairman; Mrs. William Moss, co-chairman; and Max Maisel, Rodin Horrow and Allen Ferer.  President of the Home for the Aged is Victor Schulman.

New Subscribers

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 1

Eli Witt
J. Olsher
Al Rosen
Nat Mallinger
Dr. H.A. Brookler
Edward Binder
Mrs. F.M. Goldberg

Mrs. F.D.R. to Speak At Russ Nov. 11 for J.C.C.

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Pages 1, 4

Chairmen for the Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt lecture were announced last week by general chairman, Jack Rittoff.

Mrs. Roosevelt will be in San  Diego to speak under the sponsorship of the Jewish Community Center on the evening of Armistice Day, Thursday, November 11, 8 p.m. at the Russ Auditorium.  Proceeds from the meeting will go toward the operation of the San Diego Jewish Community Center, according to Rittoff.

The subject of Mrs. Roosevelt’s address “Is America Facing World Leadership” is exceptionally timely.  Mrs. Roosevelt has been in the forefront of world leadership, has traveled extensively talking to world leaders and is well-prepared to discuss America’s place on the world scen e.

The Advisory Committee of Sol Price, Rodin Horrow, Louis Steinman, Mack Esterson, Edward Breitbard, Morrie Kraus, Seymour Rabin, William Schwartz, Sidney Rose, Henry Price, Maury Novak, Murray Goodrich, Louis Moorsteen, Carl M. Esenoff, Max Rabinowitz and Myron Lustig, have assisted in completing plans for this major event.

Then list of patrons and patronesses who have made possible the presentation of Mrs. Roosevelt in San Diego, will be announced in the near future, according to  a statement from Rodin Horrow, chairman of the committee.

The ticket committee is headed by Dr. Milton Schwartz, chairman, with Mrs. Ted Brav as co-chairman. Cooperating in the sale of tickets are most of the Jewish organizations in the community and several civic organizations.

Mrs. Sidney Rose is the coordinator for all women’s efforts on behalf of the coming event with the Reception Committee being headed by Mrs. Milton Roberts, president of the San Diego Section, National Council of Jewish Women.  Mrs. Victor Selten of the Community Center Women’s League will head the Arrangements Committee.

Publicity Committee will be chaired by Maxwell Kaufman, editor and publisher of Southwest Jewish Press, with Mrs. Alan Soule as co-chairman; Mel Goldberg is chairman of the Program Committee.

Patrons, those who have donated $25.00 for the Roosevelt lecture, will be entitled to two seats in the reserved section of the auditorium, and an invitation to the reception for MRs. Roosevelt to be held at one of San Diego’s leading hotels in order to have the opportunity of meeting Mrs. Roosevelt.

General admission tickets at $1.25 each may be secured at the Palmer Box Office, 640 Broadway; the Jewish Community Center, 3227 El Cajon Blvd., and at the office of the United Jewish Fund 333 Plaza.

Demos Hold Old Time Political Rally Oct. 24

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 1

A good old-fashioned “Fourth of July” political rally with personal candidate oratory, games for the kids, food, drink and fun, will come into being Oct. 24 at Caspar’s Ranch on North Magnolia St., El Cajon, when the Democratic Clubs of San Diego County will hold a Democratic Country Fair.

Sponsored by the Democratic organizations of the party, the affair will be open to everyone regardless of party affiliation. Admission donation of 25 cents per person will be asked at the gate, and inside the grounds merchandise tickets will be purchased at a central booth which can be exchanged for games, goodies, food, drink and all the features usually available at a country fair.

The country fair grounds will be open at 10 a.m., Oct. 24, and the day-time program will be angled toward families with children. A barbecue dinner will be served and in the evening there will be dancing and food and drink for the grownups, according to Carleton Shaw, chairman of the event.

As a welcome change from these days of televised political speeches and second hand pre-election enthusiasm, Shaw said his committee confidently expects a minimum of 10,000 persons to attend the Democratic Country Fair that Sunday.

To See or not To See

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 2

By Berenice Soule

Globe Comedy—Ferenc Molnar’s amusing comedy, The Play’s The Thing, directed by Craig Noel, is scheduled to open Oct. 26 at the Old Globe. The list of cast members promises something special for Globe fans.

As the glamorous actress, Elinor Canedy, is in an enviable position as the only female in the cast and Andy Anderson is portraying, for the first time, an actor. This is significant only in the light of this being Andy’s 14th major role at the Globe. Type-casting, no doubt!

Other popular actors appearing in the comedy are Jack Mason (he of the beautiful voice), Hurdman Wiese, Wes Heinecke, Howard Blake, and Helmut Nienstadt.

Alpine Folklore—A group calling themselves “The Gay Tyroliers” will be presented by DeLannoy and Howarth at the Russ Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 6.  The merry company of 10 men and four girls from a little village in the Austrian Tyrol will bring yodeling and “Schulplattler” (folk dance) direct from the Austrian Alps.

Some of the songs and dances are over 2000 years old but the company does a complete variety show with dramatic and acrobatic dances, comedy touches, and lively instrumental music.

The only two English-speaking members of the cast are Toni Praxmair, their director, and the young lady who explains each number in the two-hour show.

Don Joe—Popular actor-around-town, Joe Oliver (Front Page, The Silver Whistle, Guest In the House, etc) has been chosen the new Don Diego, colorful host of the Southern California Exposition at Del Mar. Joe will be kept very busy because the romantic Don has also been officially adopted as the sybol of hospitality by the San Diego Convention and Tourist Bureau.

It Didn’t Smell as Sweet—There’s a sequel to the story on the lost of Elfi Schwitkis’s pet skunk. When “The toast of the Coast” was being presented at Camp Pendleton all the cast (friends of Elfi) were sure, when a skunk marched into the auditorium, that the last had been returned until—the animal proved, without a doubt he had never been anyone’s pet, by sending audience and cast, alike, running for the exits.

Back to Normal—Craig Noel, who over the years had earned the title of “The Forgetful Man in Town,” was in danger of losing the title when, for almost a full week he remembered to call for Roberta Ridgely on his way to the Globe evenings.  On the 7th night, however, Roberta had to call a cab when Craig failed to show up at her home.  Upon arriving at her destination, Roberta got not even an “Oh, I’m sorry” fropm her erstwhile chauffeur.  Later, puzzled over Craig’s apparent memory recovery followed by a relapse, Roberta asked why he hadn’t picked her up.  Bewilderedly, our director questioned, “Didn’t I?”

Will Durant Due – The first speaker for the San Diego Open Forum, Will Durant, will have as his topic, “The Conflict of Civilizations.”  Known as a brilliant interpreter of philosophy and culture, through his “Story of Philosophy,” “Story of Civilization,” “The Age of Faith,” etc., he will appear at the First Unitarian Church, 1541 Sixth Ave., Sunday, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m.

French Comedy –“The Baker’s Wife,” the second in the International Film Sereis presented by the University of California, can be seen Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Rio Theatre, at 7 and 9 p.m.  This French comedy tells about a baker’s wife who runs away with a handsome young shepherd and how the townspeople take it upon themselves to return his wife to the baker so that he will again furnish bread. It will be accompanied by a short subject.  Single admission tickets are 50c.

Blazers with Bowlers?—The 1920s, always good for a laugh and a musical, again serve as the basis for a Broadway show this season. The thing that makes “The Boy Friend” different from its predecessors is the fact that this hit is a British importation.

Written by a young newcomer to the London Theatre, Sandy Wilson, it has a mainly British cast and was a hit in England ten months before crossing the Atlantic.  Broadway reviewers are predicting the same pleased acceptance by audiences in this country.

New Musical Show Set for Russ Nov. 6

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 2

“Three for Tonight,” the long awaited Paul Gregory-Charles Laughton production will have its premiere Saturday, November 6, at the Russ Auditorium.

The show, a variation in the presentation of music, drama and dance, stars Marge and Gower Champion, Harry Belafonte and the Voices of Walter Schumann. Based on material by Robert Wells and staged by Gower Champion, the production is an evening’s adventure in something entirely new in the entertainment world. 

Tickets can be obtained at deLannoy-Howarth Box Office, Room 230, U.S. Grant Hotel, BE 2-3457.

(Blood Money)

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 2

Blood money is what a man salts away in the brine of more unfortunate people’s tears.

Music Teachers Set Scholarship Auditions
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 2

The Music Teachers’ Association of California, San Diego County Branch, announces their auditions for a scholarship of $150.00, will be held at Southern California Music Company Monday, October 18, beginning at 4 p.m. To be eligible all contestants must be students of members of Music Teachers’ Association,  Piano and Violin, age 15 years or under, Voice, 20 years or under.  Applications must be in by October 16.  Mail to Scholarship Auditions, Southern Califo0rnoa Music Co., 630 “C” Street, San Diego.  Calif. Judges will be Mrs. George Roy Stevenson, Peter Nicoloff, and Dr. Alex Zimmerman with Mrs. John Gallagher acting as chairman for the auditions.

The Music Teachers’ Association Scholarship Committee who has worked to make this scholarship possible are Vivian Brown as chairman, Amoretta Ball and William Benner.

Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ Current Big Attraction

Southwestern Jewish Press, October 15, 1954, Page 2

 A shrill scream shatters the stillness of the night. The sound of breaking glass and then silence. A black cat creeps silently in the courtyard below.  A man with a broken leg, confined to a wheel chair with nothing to do all day but gaze out of his window at his neighbors, has reason to believe that a murder has been committed. This is the suspense-filled story line of Paramount’s brand new Alfred Hitchcock thriller, “Rear Window,” which is now playing at the Capri Theatre.

Starring James Stewart and co-starring Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey and Thelma Ritter with Raymond Burr, the spine-tingling tale is set against New York’s fabled Greenwich Village.  Photographed in color by Technicolor, “Rear Window” was written for the screen by John Michael Hayes from a story by Cornell Woolrich.  Suspense-master Alfred Hitchcock directed and produced the thrill-laden film.


“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.  


Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, August 20, 1954, Part 1

July 5, 2010 1 comment

Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff

Community Census Gets Under Way This Week
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 1

Over 400 San Diego Jewish families were being interviewed this week by 40 trained census enumerators in the first Jewish population census ever attempted in our community.

Participating in the census are Marshall Zucker, chief supervisor and Abe Friedman, staff members. Supervisors for the enumerators are Mrs. Ruth Brav, Mrs. Reva Garvin, Mort Goldberg, Mrs. Martha Kellner, Allan Lame, Mrs. Dee Lasher, Mrs. Jeri Starr and Mrs. Dorothy Tucker.

Enumerators who will be contacting Jewish families are Phil Abrams, Mrs. Doroth Belkin, Mrs. Bea Berner, Bob Cohn, Mrs. Ruth Colt, Dr. David Edelson, Carl Friend, Harold Garvin, Norman Gelman, Mrs. William Goldfarb, Mrs. Muriel Goldhammer, Anne Greene, Maury Gross, Rhoda Jaffe, Mrs. Ruth Janowsky, Mrs. Ruth Kwint, Mrs. Laura Naiman, Charlotte Pearl, Mr. and Mrs. Al Pechman, Sam Rassin, Mrs. Edith Reder, Sidney Rose, Mrs. Audrey Sack, Mrs. Jean Schiller, Mrs. Ann Schloss, William Schwartz, Dr. and Mrs. Milton Schwartz, Martin Starr, Mrs. Evelyn Stolarsky, Mrs. Frances Strauss, Joseph Vure and Joe Weiss.

Undertaken by the San Diego Federation of Jewish Agencies in order to secure basic information to better serve the Jewish community, Jewish youth, the aged, and to better build our future communal life, the study will include material for the Jewish Social Service Agency, Hebrew Home for the Aged, Jewish Community Center, Jewish Community Relations Council, all constituent agencies of the Federation.

Questions on temple synagogue affiliation and Jewish education will be of great assistance to future planning for those institutions, while questions on membership in various Jewish organizations will be of assistance to those groups in planning their programs.

According to the chairmen, it is planned to finish the first phase of the study by August 30, tabulate and analyze the material, and then begin the second phase through the formation of committees to cary on the study using the material gathered in the census.

(Town and County Club discrimination)
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 1

The following resolution was passed at the last meeting held by the Jewish Community Relations Council:

“We recognize and are gravely concerned with the discriminatory practices of the Town and Country Club, and recommend that a committee be appointed to consider a course of action.

Secondly, that this committee investigate the membership practices of all social clubs in the City and County of San Diego.

Annual Meeting of Hebrew Home Set For Sunday, Aug. 29
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 1

Victor Schulman, president of the Hebrew Home for the Aged, announced that Sam Addleson and Mrs. William Moss are in charge of the Annual Meeting to be held Sunday, Aug. 29, at 2:00 p.m. at the Home.

Bids for construction of the new edifice will be discussed and authorized at this meeting.  Max Maisel, chairman of the Building Committee will give a progress report and answer questions concerning the new structure.  Plans and pictures will be on display.

The new Home for the Aged will be located on 54th St. between El Cajon Blvd and University Ave.  It will be designed according to the best advice obtainable from state and local welfare agencies concerned with problems of the aged.  The new institution will contain a large up-to-date kitchen, fully equipped with the latest facilities.  The food served, of course, will be strictly Kosher and under constant supervision by the proper authorities.

The grounds, covering 2 ½ acres will be beautifully landscaped with trees and walks to form pleasant surroundings. The climate in that area is considered to be the most healthful.  Large recreation rooms and proper medical equipment and facilities will make this Home for the Aged one of the most outstanding institutions in all of California.

The entire community is invited to attend. Refreshments will be served by the Ladies’ Auxiliary.

Lasker Lodge Offers Great Talen and Variety Show August 23rd
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 1

Monday night, August 23, at 9 p.m., at Temple Center, Lasker Lodge No. 370 B’nai B’rith will present Rick Ford, popular young San Diego MC and a top flight talent show. Rick, who has appeared on TV and the screen, claims tht this will be one of the finest collections of San Diego tlent shows ever to appear under one roof at one time. He will present an hour long show, and some of the acts scheduled to appear are “Smokey” Rogers; Mike (Bill’s son) Schwartz, Don Jacks, the Rick Ford dancers, the Cotton Pickers, the Hamilton Sisters and others.

The High Twelve Civic Luncheon (Masonic Order) have been extended a personal invitation to attend, and they will be the guests of honor for the evening.

The show is open to the public, and all B’nai B’rith lodges and chapters are particularly invited. There will be no charge for admission, and the program begins promptly at 9 p.m. Refreshments will be served after the show.


Great Lady To Visit San Diego in Nov.
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, pages 1, 8

Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt will speak in San Diego on the evening of November 11 at the Russ Auditorium under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center, according to Maury Novak and Henry Price, Co-Chairmen of the Program Committee

Mr. Jack Rittoff, chairman of the committee in charge of the event, announced that invitations for patrons and sponsors will go on sale during the month of September.

As former United States member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and American delegate to the UN General Assembly, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt has enjoyed rare opportunities to study the basic quarrels barring the way to the ultimate cooperation between the nations of Western Europe and America and the UISSR.

Characteristically, she has amassed a priceless fund of information untainted by preconceived notions and free of the mounting prejudice against people and forces still dedicated to the cause of world peace.

The widow of the great war President is far from convinced that there is no remaining basis for understanding between East and West. Having faced the discouraging and continuing conflict as it unfolded at UN meetings, she still believes that war is not inevitable, that wiser and calmer heads on both sides may yet resolve their differences and avert the catastrophe that is the only alternative of reconciliation.

Proceeds of the lecture will go towards community Center operation and building fund. Mr. Edward Breitbard is president of the Jewish Community Center of San Diego.

Polio Drive On
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 1

Spreckels Theatre chain will conduct an Emergency March of Dimes solicitation in all their theatres August 34 through 31.

Mrs. Saul Chenkin has been appointed chairman of this committee which will both make appeals from the stage and solicit funds from the audience during the evening showing.

Las Vegas Publisher Seriously Injured
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 1

BARSTOW, Calif. – Herman M. Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, was reported in serious condition in a traffic accident near Barstow Aug. 15.

Greenspun, under federal indictment for tending to incite the assassination of Sen. McCarthy (R-Wis.), suffered multiple fractures of the pelvis bone, internal injuries and cuts.

Letter to the Editor
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 4

Jewish Press
Dear Mack:

I wonder how much cultural equipment it really takes to be able to sit through and enjoy such “artistic” vilification as one is treated to in the lines uttered in that most “gratifying” of plays: “The Merchant of Venice” by the great Shakespeare, currently performed at the Globe Theatre.

I am now quoting Bernice Soule’s column,   “To See or Not To See”: “One of the most gratifying reactions to viewing Shakespeare is often the feeling of personal discovery, a very private, intimate emotion that Shakespeare is writing just for YOU; you find truths in his words that never existed until you unlocked their meanings.”

It seems hard to discover TRUTH in his words and unlock hidden MEANINGS.   It’s pure and simple anti-Semitism and it reeks of hate and no amount of “handling” and “interpretation” can change its popular concept.

Again I quote Bernice: “If I were sure that everyone would see it, I would say nothing so that the full force of the most pleasurable Globe experience of the year could come as a surprise.”

I can appreciate a live and let live attitude, particularly for the sake of “culture and art”, but if Shakespeare really “wrote for popular consumption in his day as do movie and television writers of today”, then we will agree that he was most successful in planting poisonous prejudices.  Well then, should one “await with most interest and trepidation” this great masterpiece of a prejudiced mind, I am sure that very few people will disagree that his portrayal of the Jew is false and an outright lie. Can one really be elated at the prospect of rehashing this ancient of prejudices and should one recommend it to attention.

“The Merchant of Venice” has not been very popular lately and is seldom shown in other communities, because it offends not only the Jew but also the fair minded and liberal non-Jew.  Caricatures of Shylock were used to very good advantage in Hitler Germany and, I am sure, those pictures were executed by the finest of German artists.  Yet, only the confirmed anti-Semite could view and enjoy them.  The fair minded person, be he Jew or Non-Jew, certainly didn’t admire their artistic and cultural qualities.

Apparently, Berenice doesn’t feel that all that Shakespeare wrote is holy for “The Twelfth Night” didn’t seem to move her at all. In fact, she thinks it “silly, dull” and “would like to pretend that Shakespeare never wrote it” and “Let’s just ignore this one.”  Ah, but “The Merchant of Venice,’ there is  masterpiece that moves you to “private and intimate emotions” and is written just for YOU.

Well, I hope next season, when another Shakespeare Festival rolls around that the Globe Theatre will relegate that part of Shakespeare to oblivion.

Sincerely yours,
William B. Schwartz

Editor’s Note: For an answer to Bill’s letter read “To See or Not To See”

To See or not To See
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 2

By Berenice Soule

(See “Letters to the Editor” on Editorial Page)

Dear Bill

While your letter was not addressed to me, I feel it is my responsibility o set the record straight. But first, my sincere thanks for taking the trouble to express your point of view.

Last week’s “To See or Not To See” was obviously misunderstood. At no time did I refer to “The Merchant of Venice” as “that most ‘gratifying’ of plays.”  Read in context the reader will find that the sentence beginning “one of the most gratifying” etc. referred to Shakespeare’s plays in general. Unquestionably, at this late date Shakespeare needs no champion; and surely, Bill, you do not wish to convey the impression that all his artistry must be condemned because we object to one character or one play.

As concerns his “planting poisonous prejudices” (quoting you, Bill) as he “wrote for popular consumption,” I quote George Morris Cohen Brandes (1842-1927), critic and historian—“From 1290 until the middle of the 17th century the Jews were entirely excluded from England.  Every prejudice against them was free to flourish unchecked. … Had he (Shakespeare) made a more undisguised effort to place himself at Shylock’s standpoint, the censorship, on the one hand, would have intervened, while, on the other hand, the public would  have been bewildered and alienated.” So actually Shakespeare was not “planting” anything; he held views and opinions considered normal for that era.

Brandes goes on to say that Shylock “appeared to Shakespeare’s contemporaries a comic personage”, but “in the humane view of a later age, Shylock appears as a scapegoat, a victim.”  It was from this “humane view” of the Globe’s Shylock that I derived my pleasurable surprise.”

Perhaps the error I made was in assuming that my readers needed no assurance that I find anti-Semitism in any form objectionable. As a matter of fact, before the festival repertoire was announced, two members of the executive committee asked for y opinion on the possible reaction to the offending play and I strongly advised against producing it. For that reason, I awaited it with “interest and trepidation.”  You ask, Bill, if one can “be elated at the prospect of rehashing this ancient of prejudices.” Trepidation was my word, not elation. To further clarify my use of the word, trepidation, and eliminate any further possibilities of misunderstanding, I quote from Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, “trepidation: a state of alarm, or trembling agitation; fear,” etc.

The Itch—One of the funniest plays to be written in a long time is “The Seven Year Itch” now showing at La Jolla Playhouse. A difficult play to do, a surprisingly good job is done in getting every possible laugh out of it.

Don Taylor in the lead role, as a summer bachelor with an opportunity to roam, is energetic and Kathleen (The Body) Hughes as “the girl”, is gorgeous to look at.

Capable in supporting roles are Willard Waterman, Catherine McLeod, and George Neise. Much of the laughter-derived action is dependent on the cleverly designed set by Bob Corrigan.

Comedy One-Act
—The University Players will present “Good Housekeeping” as a center-stage production on Aug. 26 and 28 in Lomaland Hall on the Cal. Western campus in Pt. Loma.  Curtain time is 8:15 p.m.

Edith and Murray Schwartz are playing the lead roles of a university president and his not-so-helpful little theatre group formed by Cal-Western under the direction of Dr. Russell W. Lembke.

A main-stage production of “Blythe Spirit” is now in rehearsal.

Movie Series—Cal-Western is also presenting a series of unusual motion pictures for the next four Friday evenings. “Wunder Von Naumberg,” striking camera work of the stone sculptures and “The Italian Straw Hat,” a 19th century farce will be shown Friday, August 20.

“Works of Calder” – Calder’s mobiles in terms of familiar forms with a commentary by Burgess Meredith; and “Theatrical and Social Dancing”, with Vernon and Irene Castle, Valentino, Ann Pavlova, Fred Astaire, Disney (National period dances) will be the attractions for Friday evening, August 27.

“Grass,” Paramount’s picture of nomadic Persian tribes, and “The Window Cleaner,” showing Manhattan and its people as seen by the window cleaner will be presented on Friday, September 3rd.

“Camille” starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor, director by George Cukor will conclude the series on September 10th.

The programs will be presented in Lomaland Hall on the University campus at eight o’clock.

Admission tickets for the entire series may be purchased for $1.25 or tickets for a single showing at 35 cents.

‘The Vacant Lot’ Next at La Jolla Playhouse
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 2

A completely new play with new faces is scheduled for its world premiere and pre-New York showing when “The Vacant Lot” is produced at La Jolla Playhouse next week.

Based upon the activities of a group of teen-agers in one of the larger cities of the Southwestern part of the United States, “The Vacant Lot” is a combination of amusing, touching and exciting drama which producer John Swope thinks destines it for outstanding success.

Co-authored by Paul Streger and Berrilla Kerr, new faces among playwrights, the novel theme is handled with a fresh, deft and human touch.

The five young actors and actresses in the cast have shown great promise in their earlier professional appearances both in New York and in Hollywood.  Eliot Englehardt and Cindy Robins, the two girls in the cast, have both stage and TV credits in the East. Brett Halsey is under contract to Universal-International, Jeff Silver is well-known in TV, radio and on the stage, and Alan Dinehart III has been heard on radio and TV and has been in pictures for RKO Radio, 20th Century Fox and Universal-International.

Rehearsals for “The Vacant Lot” started last Sunday, two days earlier than on the usual rehearsal schedule.  Norman Lloyd, Playhouse director, is staging this premiere production and Robert Corrigan has designed the set.  “The Vacant Lot” opens Tuesday, August 24, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 5, the closing night of the current Playhouse season.

“Pops” Concert Set For Bowl Aug. 31st
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 2

Entertainment for the entire family –from the youngsters to the oldsters—is to be the theme of a “Pops” concert scheduled Aug. 31 in Balboa Park Bowl.

Popular music at its best, with conductor composer Meredith Willson directing the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, and the famed Spanish dancers, the Trianas, will highlight the evening’s performance.  There also will be surprise entertainment and gifts for the children.

The event, which will start at 8 p.m., is sponsored in support of the summer symphony series. 

Reservations for the “Pops” concert may be made at the Palmer Box Office, 640 Broadway7.

New Comedy at Capri
Southwestern Jewish Press, August 20, 1954, page 2

“Hobson’s Choice” a rollicking comedy starring Charles Laughton, opens at Burton Jones’ ultra modern air conditioned Capri Theatre Friday, August 20.  Laughton smirks, pouts, bug-eyes, quivers his wattles and generally golliwoggs as a Lanchashire bootmaker of the nineties, and a widower whose home is cared for by three marriageable daughters.  Besieged on all sides by hilarious problems of an amorous nature, he is wicked and funny and pitiful in :Hobson’s Choice.”


“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 “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.

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, May 28, 1954, Part 1

June 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

Richard Graves, candidate for governor, faces issues

In an interview with the Jewish Press, Richard Graves, Democratic Candidate for Governor, spoke out on issues vital to all Californians.  Speaking about California’s future, Graves said, “In the next four years we must attract a lot of new industry to our state–to provide jobs and prosperity for the millions of families now here and the hundreds of thousands of new families to come.  I propose to establish the Clifornia State Development Agency (which 37 other states have!) to work with government, labor and business–to bring new indutry to California.”

Speaking for freedom and democracy, Graves said, “We must not be afraid of freedom.  We must speak out without fear against those who would impose on us a rigid conformity of thinking and behavior.”  The candidate indicated that he would speak for the traditions of freedom and democracy that made America great.  The candidate also spoke of the hundreds of thousands of families hit by rising unemployment and indicated he was not amused by Knight’s flippant advice to those poor people to “Go pick lemons in Ventura County.”

 In his opinion the administration in Sacramento is short-changing California’s children on education.  he advocates a new, bold, vigorous approach to end the teacher and classroom shortage, the double sessions and overcrowding.

Richard Graves is well equipped to understand the problems of California’s booming cities, having served since 1933 as Executive Director of the League of California Cities.

Graves’ slogan, “Before it’s too late” has atgtracted many people to his side.

Boys Club Has World Premier Pix
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

A major step in the early construction of a much-needed Boys Club in Linda Vista area was taken this week when San Diego was selected as the world-premiere city for a sensational new 20th Cenutry-Fox picture, “Demetrius and the Gladiator,” which will be shown as a benefit for the new clubhouse.

The picture, a Cinemascope, Technicolor production, will be premiered at the Fox Theatre on Thursday night, June 2, with all proceeds going toward the Boy’s Club building.

In the cast are such great stars as Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Michael Renni and Jay Robinson all of whom are expected at the gala premiere, complete with kleig lights, bands, etc.

Tickets are available at Southern California Music Co., Walker Scott Dept. Store, main floor.  Mr. Irving Friedman, president of the San Diego Boy’s Club, stated that the donations are priced at $2.50 and $5.00 for reserved seats and are tax deductible.

To Lecture in San Diego
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

C. Bezalel Sherman, noted author, sociologist and lecturer now touring the west coast, will speak at Tifereth Israel Center on Wednesday, June 9 at 8 p.m., under the auspices of the Poale Zion Organization.

Mr. Sherman is widely recognized as one of the leading contemporary thinkers on American Jewish affairs and was awarded the La Med Fund prize for his book “Jews and other Etnhic Groups in the United States.”

Equally proficient in both the English and Yiddish languages, his topic for his San Diego lecture will be “American and Israel in the Totalkity of Jewish Life” and will be delivered in English.

The public is cordially invited to attend.  A reception will follow the lecture. Donation is $1.00 at the door.

Magic Carpet’ Day Success Drive Hits 70% of Goal
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

Results of “Magic Carpet” Day brought the United Jewish Fund campaign to 70 percent of the $205,000 necessary to give minimum budgets to local agencies and meet overseas and national needs, Sol Price and Seymour Rabin, Campaign leaders reported. 

“Magic Carpet” Day brought out over 100 workers to a breakfast prepared by the Jolly 16 led by Mrs. Rose Neumann.

Edward Baranov, chairman of the day stated that $6404 was brought in from 269 contributors.  Over 775 prospect cards were assigned.

Organizations providing workers included Histadrut, B’nai B’rith, Jewish War Veterans, Tifereth Israel Men’s Club, Jewish Labor Committee, City of Hope and Beth Israel Men’s Club.

Directors of the campaign predicted that unless minimum requirements are met not only will the United Jewish Appeal and national organizations suffer, but the work of San Diego agencies may have to be curtailed.

“This will affect the job being done,” said Louis Moorsteen, president of the Fund, “right here in San Diego by such fine agencies including the Jewish Social Service, the Hebrew Home for the Aged, Jewish Community Center, and the Community Relations Council.

You may make your contribution now by mailing it in to the United Jewish Fund, 333 Plaza.

Hadassah Donor Luncheon Has Royal Setting June 9
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

“If you will it, it is no dream” … Theodore Herzl.  And with these words Hadassah launches its 13th annual Donor Luncheon on Wednesday, June 9th at El Cortez’ Don Room.

Amidst armored knights, ladies-in-waiting and a Princess Royale guests will be welcomed by Co-chairmen, Mmes Leonard Zlotoff and Morton Thaler.

Mrs. George Wixen and Mrs. Alfred Bobrof are Decorations Co-chairmen and the decor will be based on a “Castle of Dreams” theme.

“Angels” will be seated at a starlit table, with make believe haloed angels hovering over the gayly decorated tables suspended from the ceiling.

An exciting and entertaining personality will be on hand to delight the overflow audience and much merriment is promised.

Mr. Edward Breitbard, outstanding civic personality, will act as Installing Officer at a ceremony that will to an end the successful two year term of office of Mrs. Robert S. Strauss.   Mrs. John Ruskin, Treasurer, is accepting reservations by check only and members are urged to send in their reservations to her as all reservations will be closed by June 2nd.

Admittance is by invitation only and is limited to those interested people in the community who have signified their devotion to Hadassah, “the health arm of Israel, ” by becoming a sponsor at $25,00, or a Guardian at $50,, or and Angel at $100.00 per person.

“Knights of the Round Table” include Messrs M.S. Berlin, H. Handlery, A.J. Kahn, and a secret admirer of the organization.  These gentlemen have underwritten the entire cost of the affair thus insuring a great success for Hadassah.

Twin Movie Nite Set by Local Demos
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

The Point Loma Democratic Club, as part of its pre-primary election activity, has arranged a twin movie night at the Dana Junior High School auditorium at 8 p.m., Friday, June 4, at which time two highly popular light comedy films will be shown and Democratic party candidates will be presented.

The films, especially obtained for this gala showing, will include a recent feature starring Alec Guiness and a hilarious fun-fest titled “Tight Little Island.”

No admission is being charged for the entertainment, and tickets are being given to all those who make a token donation to the club’s campaign fund. Tickets may be obtained from the culb’s representative, Mrs. Manuel Haffner, 803 Tarento Drive, phone ACademy 2-3876.

Kuchel for San Diego
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

Local leaders of the Kuchel for Senator campaign are urging his return to th U.S. Senate because they state that “he has shown a keen interest in San Diego matters as evidenced by his championing of the Mission Bay appropriation, a project of great economic value to this area.”

They add tht “he had been determined to protect the Southland water supply by fighting for a settlement of the Santa Margarita water rights suits.”

Fluoridation Upheld by Local Doctors
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

Dr. J.A. Rittoff and Dr. Mickey Stone today urged a vote agaisnt Proposition A on the June 8th ballot.  Proposition A proposes that the fluoridation of San Diego’s city water be abolished. The flouridation program has been in effect here a year and a half.

Dr. Stone said, “I consider fluoridation very essential. It absolutely prevents tooth decay among children by 50 to 60 percent. It is completely safe, and it’s the cheapest way by far to do the job.  It is recommended by the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association and the U.S. Public Health Service.”

Dr. Rittoff said, “I certainly hope that every voter will make it a point to defeat Propostijon A.  We need fluoridation here.  It has been scientifically proved beneficial to children’s teeth through a program of careful observation.”

McIntire Issues Statement
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

Ross T. McIntire, Demcoratic canddidate for Congress, has announced in a statement to theJewish Press that, “as one who was close to President Roosevelt, and understood his feelings toward Israel, I am in favor of continued aid to that state. Israel  is an anti-communist bulwark, essential in the world-wide fight for freedom.”

McIntire advocates stable, long range air power and atomic power programs integrated with naval and ground forces.

He has stated that the Senators from California are deaf to the needs of San Diego. An energetic responsible representative is needed to further the development of water power, transportation, harbor facilities, and of prime importance–to attract industry. The threat of more naval units, stations and installations being withdrawn demands a plan of immediate action.

As a member of the President’s staff for 12 years, Admiral McIntire, USN (ret.) was closely associated with heads of other governments and was present at all international conferences from 1940 to 1945.  he has a rking knowledge of coutnries in the western hemisphere, China and the Far East.

B’nai B’riths Hold Cotton Ball May 30
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

This Sunday, May 30, all four San Diego B’nai B’rith Lodges and chapters will sponsor the annual Cotton Ball at the Beth Jacob Center.

This year there will be dancing to the music of Eddie Stangler and his popular orchestra plus card playing and refreshments.  This is a highly informal affair and cottons are favored for wear. The public is invited and the admission price is $1.25.  Tickets may be purchased at the door.

Community Invited to S.D. Harbor Days
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 238, 1954, page 1

A huge crowd is expected to attend the 1954 Harbor Days, and the Port and Industrial Exposition which will be presented this weekend, may 23 through May 31. Taking place along San Diego’s harborfront and free to the public, this event is sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Port of San Diego.


“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.

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

May 24, 2010 Leave a comment


Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Booksellers agree to pull books

MELBOURNE,  19 May –  Three of Australia’s biggest book retailers this week agreed to pull a number of virulently anti-Semitic titles from their websites, following an investigation by a community watchdog.

Among the poisonous works that could be purchased on the Borders and Angus & Robertson websites were The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which alleges that Jews are plotting to take over the world, and The International Jew by Henry Ford,
which states: “Whichever way you turn to trace the harmful streams of influence that flow through society, you come upon a group of Jews.”

Visitors to the stores’ websites could also purchase Martin Luther’s The Jews and their Lies, in which the medieval theologian describes Jews as “base, whoring people,  full of the devil’s feces, which they wallow in like swine.”

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, meanwhile, was also available online from Dymocks.

The investigation into the sale of hate literature on the net as part of the community alert to this type of display, and campaign against, cyber-racism.

After alerting the retailers to the pernicious nature of the books they were selling via their websites, on Tuesday all three agreed to withdraw them.

Dymocks buying manager Sophie Groom said: “We have taken the decision to remove the title from our website and this will be completed within the next two business days.”

Briony Lewis, general counsel for Redgroup Retail – the parent company of Borders and Angus & Robertson – also confirmed that the publications were being pulled.

The swift action taken by the retailers was welcomed by community leaders.

Expressing his disappointment that “such vehemently anti-Semitic and racist literature can be so easily obtained”, John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), said: “Nevertheless, I’m pleased the bookstores concerned have immediately agreed and acknowledged that it’s inappropriate for such
books to be available. It is precisely the dissemination of this kind of material that leads to ongoing problems of vilification and racism within our community, which the JCCV, together with other organisations, is working to eradicate.”

The sentiment was echoed by Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.

“Given the disturbing ease with which the internet is abused and pernicious and racist material disseminated, it places an onus on all disseminators of information to exercise care and diligence over what they put out there,” he said.

“We therefore applaud these bookstores for their responsible approach when the issue was  raised  with them..”

Cannes coup for small film maker

MELBOURNE, 19 May –  Ariel Kleiman’s status as one of Australia’s fastest-rising film talents was confirmed with the recent announcement that his short film, Deeper Than Yesterday, will be screened at Critic’s Week as part of the Cannes Film Festival.

Critic’s Week has showcased films by up-and-coming filmmakers for nearly 50 years, and has given artists such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Jacques Audiard and Ken Loach their start.

Kleiman, 25, leaves for the French Riviera on Sunday, on the second stop of his festival-hopping itinerary.

In February, he was in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, where another short he wrote and directed, Young Love, won an honourable mention. He was also the director of photography on Muscles – a film by long-time friend Edward Housden – which has been nominated for the short film Palme d’Or.

“We make these films in a little bubble and we work pretty hard on them for quite a while,”Kleiman said. “So it’s definitely a nice feelingeven just to have it screened so other people can see it. It has been a crazy couple of months.”
And Kleiman will get his wish.

Cannes is comfortably the world’s most prestigious film festival and has long been considered a hotbed for talent-spotting and a launcher of careers.

Deeper Than Yesterday is one of seven shorts that will be screened as part of Critic’s Week, along with seven feature-length films. At nearly 20 minutes, Kleiman’s film is an awkward length and was too long to be considered in the short-film competition at Cannes.

“I was quite surprised [the film was selected for Critic’s Week] because I thought Deeper might have been too long. I didn’t know how it would be accepted at film festivals, because it’s quite a commitment to watch for a short. I had low expectations.”

Set on a submarine, Deeper Than Yesterday is a Russian-language film that explores the effects of prolonged isolation on a group of sailors. As the men become increasingly savage towards one another, they discover the body of a woman floating in the water.

The film was the Victorian College of the Arts student’s third-year project and was shot in eight days with a Russian-speaking cast, comprised of security guards and members of a local Russian drama school.

“I wrote it in English and then we workshopped it with the actors. I understand Russian, but I
don’t speak it. The actors really made the script their own in Russian, which was great.”

On a tight production schedule that allowed little room for error, Kleiman and his crew spent eight days bunkered down in a decommissioned submarine docked near Hastings, on Victoria’s Western Port Bay. But it wasn’t the first choice for the film’s location.

“Originally when I thought of it, it was going to be about a group of fisherman that find a woman in the ocean, but we couldn’t find a fishing trawler that would let us shoot on there. But it was probably a blessing because the sub was amazing.”

Kleiman and his housemates – girlfriend Sarah Cyngler, the film’s production designer, and Benjamin Gilovitz, a producer – built corporate websites to pay for the making of the film.

Kleiman said sharehouse living inspired Deeper Than Yesterday. “I guess the concept of living with people and
being with the same people day in and day out, I think that might be where it came from.”

The exposure of Kleiman’s films has earned him a contract with Warp Films (which produced the 2006 indie hit This is England) to pen a feature, which he is currently writing with Cyngler.

Change of guard at Victorian Zionist Council

MELBOURNE, 19 May – It’s the end of an era at the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV), with president Dr Danny Lamm announcing last week he will retire from the post at the next Annual Assembly.

The longest-serving president of the organisation, he has held the role for eight years, two longer than any of his predecessors.

“I have had a tremendous amount of job satisfaction doing the job on behalf of the community and Israel,” Dr Lamm said. “I look back on this period with only satisfaction.”

When asked why he is stepping down, he said simply “it’s time”.

Dr Lamm credited his board for “a really productive period”, that has included advances in advocacy, public speakers, improving the utilisation of Beth Weitzmann Community Centre
and the purchase of 304 Hawthorn Road, adjacent to the centre.

“I have had tremendous support from my board all the way through,” he said. “We have had a really good level of cooperation.”

Remaining chairman of Beth Weizmann Community Centre, Dr Lamm said his retirement from ZCV
would not be the end of his community work, revealing that he is in discussions with another organisation.

ZCV executive director Ginette Searle said that the organisation would announce a replacement
later this year to coincide with the Annual Assembly.

The ZCV is the main representative body for more than 59 Zionist organisations. It enables the expression of Zionism in Victoria.
Court weighs weighty edifice issue

MELBOURNE, 21 May – The Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi Synagogue found itself fighting a Supreme Court injunction over a large sign on the synagogue’s facade last Friday.

Victoria’s Supreme Court dismissed the injunction asking for the signage, which identifies the St Kilda East centre as the “Lyndi and Rodney Adler Sephardi Centre”, to be removed before Saturday, when a ceremony was to be held in honour of one of the congregation’s founders, Jacques Balloul.

The prominent sign is a modification of an earlier, less conspicuous, version.

Costs of $5000 were awarded against the applicant, solicitor Dan Horesh, a nephew of Albert Sassoon Yehuda, the shul’s founder, who is the executor of his late uncle’s estate.

The estate last year launched legal action, claiming the founder was entitled to naming rights to the centre in perpetuity, based on donations he, and later his estate, have made.

A loan for an undisclosed amount was forgiven by the estate due to the centre’s financial
difficulties, and the centre is currently carrying another loan from the estate.

After the injunction was refused, Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, who heard the case,  recommended the matter be resolved via a civil trial.

Rodney Adler, who is not a party to the case, told The AJN this week that when the shul approached him around 18 months ago, it was “in great financial trouble”. Pressed to help by Sephardi friends, the Adlers donated $150,000 in exchange for naming rights.

“I live in Sydney . I’m Ashkenazi . We don’t go to the shul, we’re not Melbourne people,” said Adler, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to criminal charges relating to his dealings over insurer HIH, and served 30 months in prison.

He bristled at comments made in court by Horesh’s lawyer David Sharp that the Adlers made the donation by way of “re-establishing themselves in society, particularly Jewish society”.

“It’s got to be a lot more than one little synagogue whose name is going to change my global perception,” he said.

Sephardi Centre president Paul Berman said the Adler name pertained to the centre as a whole, and that the synagogue would continue to be known as Sassoon Yehuda.

“We wish to honour all the benefactors who contribute greatly to the operation and the survival of our community,” he said.

Jewish contender for parliamentary seat

SYDNEY, 21 May – When nominations closed for ALP preselection in the Sydney seat of Wentworth last
Friday, lawyer Steven Lewis discovered he was the only contender with his hat in the ring.

The business executive turned lawyer will be formally declared as Labor’s candidate next month, pitching him against Liberal incumbent Malcolm Turnbull, as Australians switch into election mode.

Lewis remained the sole candidate for preselection, after NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) colleague Robin Margo withdrew from the race.

“I’m excited and honoured . We’ve always said it’s going to be a very tough campaign. While you’ve got to be realistic about it, the nature of the electorate is changing.

“There are a number of factors that voters will take into account. Are they looking to the future to have a local member represent their local interests, or to the past?”

Lewis said at this year’s election he would offer voters a grassroots alternative.

“Malcolm Turnbull has been preoccupied for a number of years now with much wider issues, [including] the leadership of his party. My goal is to be a good local member.”

Asked if, given Turnbull’s record with the Jewish community, this challenge will become a battle for the hearts and minds of eastern Sydney’s Jews, Lewis emphasised that the community “is oneof a number of groups that make up the electorate”.

“I’m not a Jewish candidate. I just happen to be a candidate who is Jewish. That’s a very important distinction,” the longtime JBD member said. “I’ve had a long association with the [Jewish] community and I hope that association
continues . It would be very nice if the [Wentworth Jewish] community have a representative in Federal Parliament, but that is not the only reason people vote. But I certainly would be a vocal and supportive representative of
the Jewish community’s needs and concerns.”

The Slater & Gordon lawyer said he also wanted to fight for improved mental health care, noting that his electorate includes The Gap, “which is unfortunately a place where a lot of people go to take their lives”. He is also keenly interested in improving the conditions for homeless people and helping with measures on the environment.

Lewis, 53, cut his political teeth protesting against the visiting Springbok rugby team from apartheid-era South Africa in 1971.

He joined the ALP in 1979 and is currently the Premier’s appointee on the NSW Election Funding Authority. Lewis was involved in the campaign to free Soviet Jews and visited the Soviet Union in 1988 as the personal assistant to communal icon Isi Leibler in negotiating the release of refuseniks. He was also involved in the contempt-of-court case against Fredrick Toben that saw alleged Holocaust denier jailed for three months last year.

Gutnick slams super tax

MELBOURNE, 24 May – Mining magnate Joseph Gutnick has fired a broadside at the Federal Government’s
proposed mining profits tax, claiming it will have  a “negative impact” on Australia. He is pessimistic about Australia’s booming mining sector’s chances of staying at full throttle once the proposed impost is introduced.

Gutnick owns US-listed Legend International, a phosphate mining company exploring Queensland’s
Georgina Basin, which through North Australian Diamonds has a controlling stake in Merlin.

The productive diamond mine in the Northern Territory is one of only three in Australia and produces a high proportion of gem-quality stones.

He also has interests in various countries, including gold exploration in Canada.

“When you talk to fund managers and investors, they look at Australia now as a sovereign risk. But it is not only affecting the mining industry – it’s a disaster for the mining industry – but it’s affecting Australia.”

He has heard from foreign investors who are now wary of Australian bonds and there is insecurity
about what Canberra will do next. “Australia is [geographically] far enough without this supertax.”

Gutnick said he is still hopeful the tax “will be substantially changed or given up”. But with
opposition from state premiers and treasurers, he ponders whether it will ever be implemented.

Turning to the political ramifications of the tax, Gutnick said the Government was starting to feel the heat. The tax was “not something people ever expected to happen”.

The former Melbourne Football Club president famously followed the advice of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who urged him 22 years ago to search for gold and diamonds in the outback.

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Another ‘oy vey’ situation

May 1, 2010 Leave a comment

By Carol Davis

Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO–I don’t know when the words ” Oy Vey” made it into mainstream vernacular. It really doesn’t matter. It is often said in so many matter of fact situations that unless you just landed from another planet you would know in essence, if not in fact what it means.

I was weaned on the phrase. From the time I could understand English, some Yiddish, it was a staple in my house like gefilte fish. It’s not unusual for me now to experience Oy Vey situations in almost every decision I have to make that’s unpleasant, hard to do or just plain a pain. Conversely silly, embarrassing and oft times funny times can and should be Oy Vey moments as well. In other words Oy Vey can be applied to anything or anyone you want it to.

It’s no surprise then, that Russian Director Evgeny Afineevsky would title his gay, romantic, film comedy Oy Vey! My Son is Gay! starring none other than the very typically Jewish Lainie Kazan as Shirley (the Mom) and Saul Rubinek as Martin (the Dad) when they learn son Nelson (Nelson?) announces to his parents that he is gay. You see what I mean by Oy Vey situations?

The story takes place in one of the wealthy Burroughs of Long Island. It seems that every Friday night, Shirley and Martin invite yet another Jewish girl to meet their son, who is still single, and look at her as a potential daughter in law. Needless to say Nelson is a bit fed up with the charade but doesn’t have the nerve to tell his parents that he is both gay and has a special someone.

And here comes another Oy Vey situation! When Nelson finally does tell his parents that he is seeing someone, they insist he invite ‘her’ to Shabbat dinner so they can meet ‘her’. Shirley, all ferklempt that their son has a special someone, now wonders if that someone is even Jewish, or white for that matter.

Needless to say the whole film is booby-trapped with OY Vey moments not just for the parents but for almost everyone they and their son’s come in contact with like Nelson’s gorgeous neighbor Sybil (Carmen Electra) who is the centerfold star of a porno magazine. When Shirley pays a surprise visit to Nelson’s apartment and finds Sybil there she assumes Sybil their son’s ‘special friend’. And when Sybil visits Martin at his work, oy vey!

To say that this is a journey for just Nelson (John Lloyd Young) and his boyfriend Angelo (Jai Rodriguez) would be an understatement. Shirley and Martin get themselves into some pretty bizarre situations by first trying to conceal the fact that their son is gay from their family and then by trying to see what the gay life is like with a visit by Martin to a gay bar. Far fetched? Very! But it scored some funny points.

But the parallel story is the real story of what acceptance looks like from both sets of parents’ points of view (and there are some funny and touching moments) as well as the for young men themselves coming to grips with their being an out couple in today’s world.

Its too bad Afineevsky muddied the waters with so much stereotypical goulash when the real facts can stand on their own. Family ties and love of children are strong bonds and even outing oneself doesn’t break that bond. Underneath all the frantic comings and goings is a good story.

To say the acting was award winning would be stretching a point. It was fun, some good points were made and it is certainly a beginning especially now that being gay, coming out and adopting children is just the tip of the iceberg. Next, repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and make marriage a legal state contract between consenting adults.  

OyVey! My Son is Gay! was the last entry in the Film Out Festival that went from April 16th -22 at the North Park Birch Theatre.  It was a fun evening and according to all involved, a success.

See you at the theatre.

Critic Davis is based in San Diego

Fee, Fie, Foe, Feiffer!

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Cynthia Citron

Jules Feiffer (Cynthia Citron photo)

Cynthia Citron

LOS ANGELES — If you ask Jules Feiffer how he likes L.A., he will launch into a story about the time he spent 90 minutes driving around in traffic, becoming so lost and frustrated that he fled back to New York, thus forfeiting a substantial paycheck by abandoning the job he had come out here to do.  Feiffer, it seems, actually lives in the world of his own cartoons.

The iconic cartoonist ventured out here again recently, however, to appear in conversation with Carl Reiner for Andrea Grossman’s Writers Bloc.  The two men were not long-time friends, but their obvious respect and affection for each other’s work gave a warm and hilarious fillip to the evening’s discussion.  The focus was on Feiffer’s newly published memoir, Backing Into Forward, in which he tells the very personal story of how he became the neurotic voice of a generation.

Two days before his Writers Bloc appearance I had the opportunity to interview him and ask him about some of the incidents in the book.  He had arrived in L.A. earlier that day, but his energy level belied his 81 years as we sat in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton and he sipped Glenlivet on the rocks.

He has always worried, he said, about things “almost all of which never happened.”  But his career, especially in Hollywood, had more than its share of ups and downs.  “I never did anything for the money,” he contends, “and I had my standards.  Standards here are the bottom line.”  He did, however, write a number of TV pilots: “the usual crap that writers do, half of which I’m proud of,” he says.  “I dumbed them down—but not enough!”

Producers, he says, “were always great fans.  They loved everything I suggested.  Then I would flesh it out and they loved it even more.  Then I would write the script and they would say, ‘No, this isn’t what we had in mind,’ and their notes would have nothing to do with what we had talked about.

“Some people just weren’t meant to work together,” he adds.  “I could never work with somebody else’s vision.”

One man he did work with, though, was Mike Nichols, whose initial comedy routines with partner Elaine May gave Feiffer heart.  “They let me know that I wasn’t alone.  They were saying what I was drawing!” he says.  Later, when he sent Nichols a play script, Nichols told him it wasn’t a play, but a movie, and offered to direct it if Feiffer would adapt it as a screenplay.  “I told him I’d have to think it over,” Feiffer says, “and it took me nearly 30 seconds to agree.”

Feiffer and Nichols moved into David O. Selznick’s house to work on the film that became the classic Carnal Knowledge.  “We had a ball,” Feiffer says, “but Hollywood hated the film and I didn’t get another offer for 10 years.”

That next offer came from Bob Evans, who wanted Feiffer to do a screenplay for Popeye, with Dustin Hoffman playing the spinach-eating sailor.  “Evans was a joy to work with,” Feiffer says, but then Hoffman decided he wanted a script that was more Beckett-like and Kafkaesque—not the script that Feiffer had created at all.  “Evans stuck with me,” Feiffer says, and they gave the role to “that new kid from Mork and Mindy—Robin Williams.”

Feiffer has always written about and drawn the people he knows.  Like his mother, who is every Jewish mother in his plays and cartoons.  And he readily identifies the whimsical dancing woman of his most angst-ridden cartoons as “a cross-dressed version of me.”  A woman, he says, who typified Greenwich Village in the ‘50s, she was “sweet and desperate, full of pretension, full of hope, and full of shit.”  And then, of course, there was his Aunt Alva, a woman who “hated men so much that she glued down her toilet seat!”

Another relative, a cousin, was the opportunistic lawyer Roy Cohn, who served as the right-hand hatchet man of Senator Joseph McCarthy during the infamous trials conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early ‘50s.  “Those trials affected me very strongly,” Feiffer says.  “They were like hits in the solar plexus; they destroyed a whole generation.”

He recalls one time when he was writing a political play and he wanted to include a “smoke-filled back room” scene.  He wanted to make sure his dialogue would be authentic, so he went to Cousin Roy, then a power broker in the New York Democratic Party, for some advice.  “Roy gave me a long, involved Civics lesson,” Feiffer says, “but what he was actually telling me was to go f—k myself.  He was certainly affable about it, though.”

Feiffer enjoys the fact that he has been friends with some of the major creative thinkers of his time: Bellow, Malamud, Roth, et al.  He says when he got out of the Army in 1953 it was “in” to be Jewish.  “It was just in the air,” he says.  In his memoir, however, he acknowledges that familiar feeling of being a “fraud” as a young man, primarily because of his lack of a college education.  “It has to do with being young and immature,” he says now.  “All of us struggle with that, and when we have a success we feel lucky, as if we got away with something.  It takes time to recognize that you are who you are, and you’re not a fraud!”

In 1956 the Village Voice began to publish his cartoons, and he stayed with that paper for the next 42 years—even getting paid after a while.  At the same time he was venting his political and social outrage in plays such as Little Murders and earning a 1961Academy Award for his animated short, Munro, about a 4-year old who is drafted into the Army.

Which led to his children’s books (beginning with his illustrations for Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth) and his gigs as an adjunct professor at Stony Brook Southampton, and at the Yale School of Drama, Northwestern University, Arizona State, and Dartmouth.  “I’ve always been against teaching,” he says.  “I find it condescending, supercilious, and unhelpful.

“But my books are helpful because I’ve set out not to be helpful.

And with my cartoons I look for the ones I loved as a kid and I only steal from the old masters.”

Fortunately, nobody can steal from Feiffer.  He is most definitely one of a kind.

Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Is ‘Hermione’ part of J.K. Rowling’s secret code in the Harry Potter series?

April 7, 2010 2 comments

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – For a moment, my daughter and grandson looked at me as if I were Dan Brown revealing not the secrets of the Da Vinci Code, but the hidden messages in the Harry Potter code.

I had told them that author J.K. Rowling had put herself into the Harry Potter novels, that Harry’s school friend Hermione clearly was Rowling’s alter-ego.

“What makes you say so?” asked Shor, 8, a dyed-in-the-wool Harry Potter fan.

“Sometimes authors like to send messages with the names that they give to their characters,” I suggested.  “Rowling picked simple names for her boy heroes—‘Harry’ and ‘Ron’—but a complex name for her girl heroine, ‘Hermione’” I said, adding for good measure: “look how similar the words ‘heroine’ and ‘Hermione’ are.”

“Yes, so?” asked my daughter, Sandi, suspiciously.

“Well look at how Hermione is spelled,” I said. ‘Her-mi-one.’  Pronounce ‘mi’ like the musical note and it is ‘me.’  Separate the name into its component parts and it means “Her” and “me” are “one.”

“Way cool!” Shor exclaimed.  You can’t help but love that boy!

“Not so fast,” demanded Sandi, who you’ve got to love despite her tendency to distrust some of her father’s stories.  “That sounds like the same kind of faulty reasoning that convinced Beatles fans that Paul was dead.   You know, he was wearing different clothes than the other Beatles on an album cover, so clearly he was no longer like them—he was dead—and all sorts of nonsense like that.”

I grinned shamefacedly.  When it comes to Harry Potter, I’ve decided that my daughter can do no wrong.  She turned Shor onto the series, transforming a boy who had to be coaxed into reading into one who now gobbles up books, even spurning programs on the Disney Channel and the Cartoon Network to read about Harry and the gang at the Hogwarts school.

Sandi is to Harry Potter books as I am to Star Trek movies and television episodes, I bragged to myself.  Some years ago, I got Shor interested in Star Trek, winning his attention with the original series, featuring Captain Kirk played by William Shatner.  Shor’s favorite character was Mr. Spock,the Vulcan portrayed by Leonard Nimoy.  Then it was onto Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Patrick Stewart played Captain Jean Luc Picard.  Shor’s favorite character was Data, the android portrayed by Brent Spiner. 

Now we are almost finished watching all the episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine over which  Captain  Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, reigns.  Shor’s favorite character is Odo, the shapeshifter played by Rene Auberjonois, although Quark, portrayed by Armin Shimerman, runs a close second because Shor met Shimerman in San Diego during the run of The Seafarer at the San Diego Rep. 

 My wife Nancy already has purchased for her “boys” Star Trek: Voyager, in which Voyager will be captained by Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew).  I can’t wait to learn who Shor’s favorite character will be in that one.

I had never read the Harry Potter novels until Shor asked me to follow him into them, even as he had followed me into the Star Trek world.  His reasoning was both endearing and compelling: “It will give us more to talk about, grandpa.”

Star Trek DVD’s have the advantage of ‘pausability’’ Shor and I can stop action anywhere we want in an episode to discuss the questions being raised.   One of my favorite episodes came during the ‘Next Generation’ series when the only Klingon in Star Fleet, Worf  (Michael Dorn), was asked by a man from his world to join the Klingon cause and to forsake the Federation.   Shor and I talked about concepts of loyalty.  Here, said I, was Worf being asked to change his loyalty –in essence to switch sides from the Federation to the Klingon Empire.

Shor , a student at Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School, responded that Moses has switched his loyalties—from being an Egyptian prince to being a leader of the downtrodden Hebrews.

Besides Star Trek and Harry Potter, the stories of the Torah are among Shor’s favorite  literary reference points.

This most recent Passover, he had the opportunity to help his one-year-old cousin, Brian, search for the afikomen during a seder at our house.   Later in the week, visiting his great-grandfather Sam at the sprawling senior complex at the Ocean Hills Country Club, Shor and his brother, Sky, along with Brian, got to see what Christian kids do, participating with excitement in an Easter egg hunt.

Of course, the similarity between searching for the afikomen to later ransom and searching for an Easter egg to win a prize did not escape Shor.  Nor did he fail to note that in both Passover and Easter an egg symbolizes the renewal of life.

Whether in The Da Vinci Code, Pesach, Easter, Star Trek or Harry Potter, symbols are an important part of story telling.  I give Shor a thumb’s up for catching on.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World