September 24th, 2014

L’Shana Tova u’Metuka!

The American Jewish World wishes all of our readers a Good and Sweet New Year!

Farewell to the old year and its curses; welcome to the new year and its blessings.

Page-1-AJW-9.12.14-AJWNEWSThe American Jewish World was pleased to present artwork and a poem by Marcia Falk on the cover of the Sept. 12 Rosh Hashana special edition.

The cover motif is based on Falk’s illustration titled “Gilead Apples,” which adorns the cover of her new book, The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions for the Jewish High Holiday Season (Brandeis).

The short poem on the cover, “Opening the Heart,” is an epigraph to her book, which is a fascinating supplement to the traditional High Holidays liturgy.
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September 24th, 2014

Shoah studies on the Range

Mesabi Range College instructor Sue Devereux is helping to bring the Transfer of Memory exhibit to rural communities in northern Minnesota

By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) has partnered with Friends of B’nai Abraham to present Transfer of Memory, a photography exhibition depicting Holocaust survivors living at home in Minnesota.

The exhibit features 39 portraits of survivors living, or who lived, in the Twin Cities by photographer David Sherman, with accompanying text by writer Lili Chester.

“It is important for me to ensure that survivors are remembered in a respectful and beautiful way — by face, by name and by story,” Sherman said in a press release. “Almost 70 years since the end of the war, we are in the midst of a ‘transfer of memory.’ The witness to the horrors, hardships and brutalities of the Holocaust is shifting from those who saw and survived, to a retelling of their testimony.”

The exhibit will be displayed Oct. 1-31 at the B’nai Abraham Museum and Cultural Center in Virginia, Minn. An opening reception, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

Chester, a second-generation survivor, will speak at the reception and present a short documentary titled But Some Survive, featuring members of her family. Other speakers will be Steve Hunegs, executive director of the JCRC, and Margie Ostrov, of Friends of B’nai Abraham.

Among those helping to organize the exhibit on the Iron Range is Sue Devereux, a longtime instructor at Mesabi Range College in Virginia. For the past 12 years, Devereux has taught a three-credit semester course titled “The Holocaust: Understanding the Ramifications of Prejudice, Racism and Stereotyping.”

“Our intention is for [Devereux] to be incorporating the exhibit in her class,” Ostrov said. “She has a very innovative, creative approach to teaching this.”

Steve Hunegs, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), presents the Courage to Teach Award to Sue Devereux, of Mesabi Range College. (Photo: Ethan Roberts)

Steve Hunegs, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), presents the Courage to Teach Award to Sue Devereux, of Mesabi Range College. (Photo: Ethan Roberts)

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September 24th, 2014

The Koufax midrash

A local rabbi and sports fanatic wants to know where Sandy Koufax was when he wasn’t pitching in the World Series

By RABBI JEREMY FINE

Midrash is text behind the biblical text. It helps bring biblical stories to life. But in many cases, rabbis teach these stories as if they are a part of Jewish history. While Judaism is made up of laws, rituals and customs, its heart has always been in midrash.

In 1965 a story was formulated that, for many Jews, is on par with biblical magic. The story goes that on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the greatest baseball pitcher of all time, Sandy Koufax, put religion before baseball and sat out the first game of the World Series.

Sandy-Koufax-Leavy-book-cover

Jane Leavy, the author of Sandy Koufax’s biography, said that Koufax did not attend Yom Kippur services in 1965.

Most Jews have heard this story. Religious school teachers always tell this story in their classrooms this time of year. But this article is not about whether Koufax pitched or did not pitch; the question is, if Koufax was not on the mound on Oct. 6, 1965, where was he?

Who am I to tell this story? A little over two years ago I became a rabbi at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, a Conservative synagogue that has served the Twin Cities for more than 100 years. Included in its many claims to fame is having appeared in scenes from the 2009 film A Serious Man, and being the former congregation of Beatty Zimmerman (a.k.a. Bob Dylan’s mother). What it might be most famous for is that Koufax attended its Yom Kippur service instead of pitching. Or did he?

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September 24th, 2014

Editorial: A sermon not about Israel

In the way of review, in the previous AJW editorial, I mentioned that over “many years, epochal historical events have lined up with the High Holidays.” In the Sept. 12 edition, I mentioned the 1982 massacres of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

This week, President Barack Obama announced that the United States and its allies had expanded the bombing of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — also known as ISIL and the Islamic State), the violent extremists rampaging across Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. also took aim and fired at another, heretofore unknown, outfit called the Khorason Group, al-Qaida operatives said to be planning attacks against this country and other Western targets.

So, again in the run-up to the High Holidays, we have an escalating conflict in the Middle East to think about. By my count, the U.S. is flying drones and firing missiles in six countries now: Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Perhaps some of these current events will become fodder for High Holidays sermons. When you get this edition of the AJW, it will be the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. A provocative article, “Talk in Synagogue of Israel and Gaza Goes from Debate to Wrath to Rage,” in the Tuesday edition of the New York Times, suggests that rabbis likely will steer away from Israel as a topic for High Holidays sermons.

Too hot to handle, it turns out.

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September 24th, 2014

An exhaustive portrait of evil

Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer, by Bettina Stangneth, translated by Ruth Martin, Knopf, 579 pages, $35

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

Bettina Stangneth quickly and thoroughly demolishes Adolf Eichmann’s Jerusalem courtroom persona of glorified clerk — and subsequent ideas that his evil was banal.

To the contrary, she shows — often with his own words — Eichmann’s enthusiasm for his murderous work. His proudest achievement was deporting 437,402 Hungarian Jews in just weeks, and his greatest disappointment, even humiliation, was the escape of the Jews of Denmark.

“I have no regrets,” he said in 1957, in an inadvertently premature conclusion to recorded interviews that his Argentina Nazi circle planned to use for a book denying the Shoah and portraying Germans as victims.

Eichmann, esteemed as their “Jewish expert” who knew the real numbers, was expected to say several hundred thousand, although he’d admitted 6 million to others. In the interview, he said: “If of the 10.3 million Jews that [a Nazi statistician] identified… we had killed all 10.3 million, I would be satisfied and would say, good, we have destroyed an enemy.”

That was playing big shot by Eichmann, who “acted out a new role for every stage of his life, for each new audience and every new aim,” Stangneth says in Eichmann Before Jerusalem.

Eichmann-cover

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September 17th, 2014

‘The Green Prince’ opens Friday

The Green Prince, a documentary film by Israeli director Nadav Schirman, probes the stranger-than-fiction life of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a top leader in Hamas, the militant Islamic Resistance Movement, who became an important informant for Israel over a span of 10 years.

The film opens Sept. 19 at the Edina Cinema, 3911 W. 50th St.

Regarded as a traitor by his compatriots, Yousef — dubbed “Green Prince” by the Israelis — somehow survived and forged a lasting bond with his Israeli handler, Ben Yitzhak, an agent for Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service

The film is based on Yousef’s memoir, Son of Hamas.


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September 17th, 2014

Cantor Mitch Kowitz releases cookbook

Cantor Mitch Kowitz has released Kosher Cuisine for a New Generation, a cookbook that pairs recipes with music. Referred to as the “Singing Chef,” Kowitz shares his passions for God, music, entertainment and food.

The cookbook features more than 75 recipes, all of which include an accompanying song. Kowitz, for example, recommends Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” with Poached Salmon and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess with Apricot Chicken; of course, “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof is suggested with Mama’s Jewish Chicken Soup.

KosherCuisine_Cover

Additionally, the cookbook includes bonus content, such as cooking webisodes using QR codes; stories, tips and tidbits; and color photos of the finished dishes, as well as of Kowitz cooking and his family.

Kowitz is scheduled to speak about Kosher Cuisine for a New Generation 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18 at Chapter 2 Books, 422 Second St., Hudson, Wisc. He will begin a book tour on Oct. 23, which includes stops in Columbus, Ohio, Virginia Beach, Va., La Jolla, Calif., Penn Valley, Penn., and Newport News, Va.

For information, visit: www.cantormitch.com.
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September 10th, 2014

Wendy Wasserstein’s great play

Leigh Silverman talks to the AJW about directing The Heidi Chronicles at the Guthrie

By MORDECAI SPECKTOR

Playwright Wendy Wasserstein was the theatrical voice for a slice of women from the Baby Boom generation. In her most popular play, The Heidi Chronicles, the eponymous protagonist, Heidi Holland, moves around in time: from a high school dance in 1965; through feminist consciousness-raising, in the 1970s; and coming to terms with her life and career choices, in 1989.

Wasserstein, who also wrote screenplays and essays, died in 2006. She was just 55.

Funny, affecting and brilliantly written, The Heidi Chronicles comes to the Guthrie Theater, in a production that runs from Sept. 13-Oct. 28.

Leigh Silverman, making her directorial debut at the Guthrie, recently talked with the American Jewish World. The interview took place at the theater; it was the fourth day of rehearsals for the show.

This year, Silverman was a Tony Award nominee for best director of a musical. The show, Violet, written by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, ended its Broadway run last month. Silverman also directed the Broadway shows Chinglish and Well, and numerous works in off-Broadway theaters.

A Washington, D.C., native, Silverman attended Carnegie-Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. Her undergrad major was in directing; and she simultaneously pursued a graduate degree in playwriting.

“I was really interested in new plays,” she explains, “and I wanted to be in a room with a writer, and there was no other way to do that except be a writer myself. I was good enough to get into the program, but I’m not actually a good playwright.”

Leigh Silverman: Wendy is one of our major American playwrights, and her Jewishness was a big part of who she was. (Photo: Courtesy of Guthrie Theater)

Leigh Silverman: Wendy is one of our major American playwrights, and her Jewishness was a big part of who she was. (Photo: Courtesy of Guthrie Theater)

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September 10th, 2014

The Cookers come to town

David Weiss discusses his campaign to gain greater recognition for some journeymen of jazz, America’s unique art form

By MORDECAI SPECKTOR

David Weiss, a talented jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader, is back in New York City, after an “exhausting” European tour with The Cookers, a group of veteran jazz musicians.

The Cookers have been together for seven years, and have released four albums. Their sensational new CD, Time and Time Again (Motéma), will be out next week, ahead of their Sept. 25 performance at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis.

The gig here, the only show by The Cookers in the Midwest, kicks off a two-week U.S. tour promoting the new album.

During a recent phone conversation with the Jewish World, Weiss talked about the top-flight band, his rise in the competitive world of jazz performance, and his mission to bring notice to talented older musicians who often gain acclaim only upon their passing.

The Cookers play the Dakota, Sept. 25

In August, The Cookers played music festivals in France (Jazz in Marciac), Norway and Serbia. It went pretty well — except in Serbia.

“Serbia… it started off like, ‘What’s this?’” Weiss recalls. Then the mood shifted to, “Oh, this is kind of cool” and ended up with “Wait, this is a lot of fun!”

“It was a jazz festival, per se; but we followed a very old, Django [Reinhardt], French hot-jazz thing,” he explains. “And the band after us was a local brass band. So, [The Cookers] was the only acoustic jazz they heard.”

Weiss concludes, regarding the audience in Serbia: “Sometimes it’s them. They’re a little wary about how they’re supposed to be reacting to it… then they lighten up and have a ball.”

The Cookers are (standing, l to r): Donald Harrison, Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, Cecil McBee, George Cables; and (front, l to r): Billy Hart and David Weiss.

The Cookers are (standing, l to r): Donald Harrison, Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, Cecil McBee, George Cables; and (front, l to r): Billy Hart and David Weiss.

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