April 23rd, 2014

Playing the soundtrack of Israel

Marking 10 years of recording and performing success, the Idan Raichel Project schedules a St. Paul concert

By MORDECAI SPECKTOR

Idan Raichel, one of Israel’s most famous musical exports, last played in the Twin Cities two years ago. He performed with Vieux Farka Touré, the esteemed singer and guitarist from Mali, in West Africa, at the Dakota Jazz Club.

Raichel, who is a producer, composer and keyboardist, will return here on May 14, for a show at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul. The auditorium on the campus of St. Catherine University is more capacious than the intimate Dakota music room; but the full-blown Idan Raichel Project involves three vocalists and seven musicians, so the ensemble’s eclectic sounds will fill the large hall.

Idan Raichel Project at The O’Shaughnessy May 14

“I’m really honored to share the stage with these amazing artists,” Raichel says, regarding the upcoming U.S. tour.

The St. Paul JCC and The O’Shaughnessy are presenting the Project’s local concert.

During a phone chat with the AJW from his home in Tel Aviv last week, Raichel talked about his most recent album, Quarter to Six (Cumbancha); his introduction to the diverse musical mosaic in Israel; and his infant daughter, who chimed in throughout the interview.

Idan Raichel: The seeds of the Idan Raichel Project were actually from this boarding school. (Photo: Courtesy of The Idan Raichel Project)

Idan Raichel: The seeds of the Idan Raichel Project were actually from this boarding school. (Photo: Courtesy of The Idan Raichel Project)

The Idan Raichel Project’s 2013 album, Quarter to Six, continues the tradition of inviting guest artists into the group’s creation process. Farka Touré is featured on the song “Mon Amour (My Love).” Renowned Palestinian-Israeli singer Mira Awad — who recently recorded and performed with Israeli troubadour David Broza (3-14-14 AJW) — joins the Project on “Ana Ana wa Enta Enta (I Am What I Am),” a song in Arabic. Keep reading →

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April 23rd, 2014

It’s Supermensch!

The History of Invulnerability challenges what we think we know about Superman and his Jewish creators

By DORIS RUBENSTEIN

For nearly every AJW reader, life has never existed without Superman. The Man of Steel’s appeal in comic books, TV, movies, etc., crosses the barriers of gender, socioeconomics and time.

Who among us does not have warm memories of sitting on a front porch, or a playground bench, or with a sibling in your shared bedroom, shoulder-to-shoulder reading the latest issue of Superman comics.

MJTC’s new show runs through May 11

These are just a few of the reasons that David Bar Katz’s The History of Invulnerability, playing at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s Hillcrest Center Stage in St. Paul, has such appeal. We’ve lived all our lives with the red-caped superhero; we think we know Superman. But do we really?

Katz’s play, superbly and powerfully directed by Hayley Finn, makes us question our understanding of this American — and Jewish — icon.

Dan Beckmann stars as Superman, Jim Lichtscheidl (center) as Jerry Siegel and Alex Brightwell as Joe Schuster in Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s production of The History of Invulnerability. (Photo: Sarah Whiting)

Dan Beckmann stars as Superman, Jim Lichtscheidl (center) as Jerry Siegel and Alex Brightwell as Joe Schuster, in Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s production of “The History of Invulnerability.” (Photo: Sarah Whiting)

Katz takes very literally the myth that as we die, our entire life flashes before our eyes. In this case, the play is seen through the eyes of Jerry Siegel, a Jewish boy from the hinterlands of Cleveland and one of Superman’s co-creators (along with Joe Schuster). Keep reading →

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April 23rd, 2014

Anita Diamant will speak at Hillel fundraiser

Acclaimed author will talk about her most recent novel, Day After Night, a story of four women in a British internment camp in Palestine after World War II

By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor

Hillel, the Jewish Student Center at the University of Minnesota, will welcome bestselling author Anita Diamant to speak at its 2014 spring fundraiser on Sunday, May 4 at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park.

Diamant will speak about her newest novel, Day After Night, and participate in a question-and-answer session with Star Tribune columnist Gail Rosenblum. A lunch will precede the program, which will honor couples who met at Hillel.

“I’ve been asked to speak about Day After Night, my most recent novel, which was published a few years ago,” Diamant told the AJW. “It’s a novel that’s set in 1945, right after World War II, in an internment camp in Palestine where Jews without the right papers were interned by the British, usually for very short periods of time. But it was very traumatic for some of those people who had been in barbed wire-fenced camps to be put in another one.”

Bestselling author Anita Diamant said she writes from the perspective of characters who “generally don’t make it into history books.” (Photo: Gretje Ferguson)

Bestselling author Anita Diamant said she writes from the perspective of characters who “generally don’t make it into history books.” (Photo: Gretje Ferguson)

The novel is based on the true story of the escape from the Atlit detention camp, which was classified as a military victory, but was a signal event in the fight for Israeli independence. Diamant’s novel, however, focuses on the experiences of four women in the camp and makes no “global statements” about politics. Keep reading →

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April 23rd, 2014

Editorial: Thinking about Israel at 66

We have some news about Israel in this edition of the Jewish World, ahead of the observance of Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. The State of Israel is marking 66 years; and the local festivities are set for the evening of May 5 at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park.

Following the “delicious Israeli fiesta,” dancing and singing, fun fair and a tribute to American and Israeli war veterans, there will be a 7:30 p.m. preview screening of Beneath the Helmet, a documentary about the lives of five young Israeli soldiers, including two who are immigrants from Ethiopia and Switzerland. You can watch a trailer at: beneathhelmet.com.

As a catalyst for Jewish arts and culture in Minnesota, the AJW is happy to provide a preview in prose of the May 14 concert by the Idan Raichel Project, on Page 1. This Israeli ensemble blends the musical modes from Israel’s ethnic tapestry into a unique sonic stew. They’re big on the so-called “world music” scene, and they’ve scheduled a May 14 stop at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul. We’re happy that bandleader Idan Raichel was available to chat again.

And now let’s turn from the sublime to the political. Specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which were restarted last July by Secretary of State John Kerry, appear to be going nowhere. The peace talks are scheduled to end on April 29, without the resolution of any issues related to a two-state agreement. JTA reported this week that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, threatened to unilaterally dissolve the P.A., which would annul the 1993 Oslo Accords, and leave Israel to police and administer the West Bank.

Keep reading →

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April 23rd, 2014

Menachem Begin for the Jews

Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, by Daniel Gordis, Schocken, 311 pages, $27.95

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

Daniel Gordis calls Menachem Begin “the most Jewish of Israel’s prime ministers” and a leader now much missed.

“I wrote this book to find out why,” says Gordis, a rabbi, writer and senior vice president at Shalem College in Jerusalem, could “someone so polarizing, so controversial… appear today as the soul not only of Israel’s best self but as a living fusion of Jewish consciousness and aspiration.”

The answer is “bound up with his unabashed, utter devotion to the Jewish people.”

Menachem-Begin-cover

In Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, Gordis examines that devotion’s linkage with belief in Jewish dignity — no more subservience — in democracy and in adherence to law, advocated by a slight man who could impress with speech, charm with warmth and madden with stubborn-seeming consistency.

Some new esteem may come from later leaders’ behaviors, including the bribery conviction of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Begin lived honestly and modestly, giving his Nobel Prize money to a foundation for disadvantaged students.

“There was something about him that led the powerless to believe he cared for them, not as a matter of policy or political wisdom, but as a matter of instinct,” Gordis says. Keep reading →

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April 18th, 2014

What’s happening in Donetsk, Ukraine?

A pro-Russian activist guards the front of the Donetsk Regional Administration building on Friday, in Donetsk, Ukraine. The activists occupying the building have surrounded it with a barricade of tires and barbed wire, and have a cache of Molotov cocktails strategically placed within the barricade. The sign with the crossed out swastika reads "No to fascism," an allusion to the assertion by pro-Russian groups that the new Ukrainian government is dominated by fascists. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A pro-Russian activist guards the front of the Donetsk Regional Administration building on Friday, in Donetsk, Ukraine. The activists occupying the building have surrounded it with a barricade of tires and barbed wire, and have a cache of Molotov cocktails strategically placed within the barricade. The sign with the crossed out swastika reads “No to fascism,” an allusion to the assertion by pro-Russian groups that the new Ukrainian government is dominated by fascists. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

AJW Staff Report

Press accounts of a flier threatening repression against the Jews in eastern Ukraine are generating a huge buzz in the global Jewish community.

JTA posted the following confusing report today:

U.S. Secretary Of State John Kerry condemned as “grotesque” fliers that called on Jews in parts of Ukraine to register and pay a special tax to pro-Russian separatists.

The fliers’ authenticity and origins are not clear. They appeared last week in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where pro-Russian separatists who earlier this month declared the formation of the “republic of Donetsk” are locked in a standoff with Ukrainian authorities and are occupying buildings.

“In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable; it’s grotesque,” Kerry said Thursday in Geneva, where he was attending talks aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis.

“It is beyond unacceptable, and any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities — from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of — there is no place for that,” he said.

He also condemned as “grotesque” reported threats by Ukrainian nationalists on members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The fliers were handed out to passersby near a Donetsk synagogue by three men wearing masks, the news site novosti.dn.ua reported.

The fliers in Donetsk said all Jews who are 16 and older should register at the government building, which separatist protesters are occupying, and pay a registration fee of $50 by May 3 because of their support, according to the text, for Ukrainian nationalists.

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the separatists in Donetsk whose name appears as the signatory on the fliers, denied any connection to the documents, saying the signature is not his.

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged allegations of anti-Semitism since the ouster from power in February of the Ukrainian former president Viktor Yanukovych over his ties with Russia and corruption charges.

Both parties, pro-Russian and Ukrainian nationalist forces, have accused each other of staging anti-Semitic incidents to undermine each other’s public image.

Both countries have relatively low levels of anti-Semitic incidents, but several violent attacks have been documented in Ukraine since the revolution began, including the stabbing of a rabbi, a number of street beatings and the attempted torching of a synagogue. Keep reading →

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April 17th, 2014

A miracle in Uganda

In a short 35 years, there are African children learning Hebrew, and men and women are celebrating Shabbat

By GERSHOM SIZOMU

NABAGOYE, Uganda (JTA) — As we celebrate Passover, it is important to remember that as great as the miracle of the Exodus was, freedom was only the beginning. I know this from reading the Torah, but I also know from personal experience.

I was born in Uganda to Jewish parents at a time when it was illegal to be a Jew in my country. Uganda’s dictator, Idi Amin, was a modern-day Pharaoh, outlawing everything Jewish from prayer to practice. Many of our Jewish elders, including my father, the community rabbi, were beaten and imprisoned. Our synagogue was destroyed. Under these dangerous conditions, most of the 3,000 Jews in Uganda abandoned their faith.

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu (Photo: Courtesy of Be'chol Lashon)

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu (Photo: Courtesy of Be’chol Lashon)

Nearly a decade later, on April 11, 1979, corresponding to 14 Nisan 5739, Amin was deposed. It was the first night of Passover when the government declared freedom of worship. For us, it was a true Passover miracle.

However, as exciting and meaningful as the Passover celebration was for us that year, it was, as in ancient times, only the beginning. In the days, months and years that followed, we have engaged in the task of rebuilding our community. Like the journey of the Israelites in the desert, that work has been filled with many joyous moments as well as challenges.

Keep reading →

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April 13th, 2014

Gunman kills 3 at Kansas City JCC, old-age home

The alleged gunman in a shooting spree at two Jewish sites in Kansas City yelled ‘heil Hitler’ to reporters after he was apprehended by police

(JTA) — Three people were killed in separate shootings at a JCC and a Jewish assisted-living facility in suburban Kansas City, Kan.

One person was in police custody for the shootings on Sunday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park at about 1 p.m. and at Village Shalom in Leawood three blocks away, according to local news reports.

Among the dead were a teenager auditioning for a show at the JCC and a resident of the retirement community. The two JCC victims were males; the retirement community victim was a woman.

An Overland Park police vehicle sitting in front of the JCC of Greater Kansas City, Kan., following shootings there and later at a nearby assisted-living complex that killed a total of three people on Sunday. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

An Overland Park police vehicle sitting in front of the JCC of Greater Kansas City, Kan., following shootings there and later at a nearby assisted-living complex that killed a total of three people on Sunday. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said at a news conference that the man in custody was in his 70s, had a white beard and was not from Kansas. He said the gunman used a shotgun and police were investigating whether he also used a handgun and an assault rifle.

KCTV news identified the shooter as Glenn Frazier Cross, 73. Cross, who also goes by Glenn Miller, is a known white supremacist. He is a former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Cross, a perennial candidate for office, made headlines in his 2010 campaign the U.S. Senate from Missouri for his racist and anti-Semitic campaign ads. Federal law required broadcast stations to air the ads even though they did not want to put such vile rantings on their airwaves.

Keep reading →

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