August 25th, 2016

Yiddish Vinkl show set for Sept. 18

The Minneapolis Yiddish Vinkl opens it’s 25th anniversary season with “The Wind Gave Birth To Me” 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 at the the Sabes JCC Theater.

The event will be the premiere performance of original music, Yiddish poetry, song and spoken word by women composers and poets.


The concert will feature new, commissioned music by prominent composers Diane Benjamin, Miriam Gerberg, Sherry Ladig and Sarah Miller based on the texts of early 20th century Yiddish women poets, Rokhl Korn, Ana Margolin, Kadya Molodowsky, Dora Teitelboim and Reyzl Zikhlinski.

Woven throughout the work, writer Alison Morse will present her original narration drawn  from the lives of these poets and interviews with Twin Cities  women whose first language was Yiddish. Vinkl members will read poetry, and English translation will be provided.

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August 24th, 2016

Don’t shoot the piano player

Ben Sidran will play his annual late-summer gig at the Dakota Jazz Club, on Sept. 7


Jazz pianist Ben Sidran will travel next month from his home in Madison, Wis., to Minneapolis, for his annual date at the Dakota Jazz Club.

While on the road about half of the year, Sidran also plays clubs in Europe. In Paris, Sidran and his quartet hold forth at the Sunset/Sunside, a jazz spot on the rue des Lombards. Sidran’s 2004 album, Bumpin’ at the Sunside!, was recorded at the club.

Ben Sidran: I’ve thinking a lot about Mose Allison, and who he is and what he meant to me. Photo: Bruno Charavet.

Ben Sidran: I’ve been thinking a lot about Mose Allison, and who he is and what he meant to me. (Photo: Bruno Charavet)

On Friday evening, Nov. 13, 2015, the Ben Sidran Quartet had played its first set at the Sunset/Sunside, when word came that there had been a shooting in the city.

In a special episode of his son’s music-oriented podcast, The Third Story Podcast with Leo Sidran, Ben Sidran recalled that someone said “it’s serious, but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t take it seriously. We went up on the stand, we played the second set.”

Then everything changed.

“It wasn’t so much any one piece of information that I remember, but the feeling in the room, of like the floor opening up, you know, it just felt suddenly like we were in a state of suspended animation, and that we were in the middle of something very serious,” Sidran said on his son’s podcast.

Indeed, the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, the work of ISIS, killed 130 people, including 89 people attending a rock concert in the Bataclan theater. It was the deadliest attack in France since World War II.

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August 24th, 2016

Elie becomes a fighter

An elite military unit reminds its soldiers of the mission: ‘Tomorrow War’


At the conclusion of a soldier’s training, the IDF conducts an “end of course” (sof maslul) ceremony. My son Elie, who is in an elite, secret commando unit, recently completed a relatively lengthy 16-months of training.

(I was rebuked by a friend for mentioning the name of Elie’s unit in a previous column; let’s just say here that Elie’s unit specializes in operating behind enemy lines.)

Life in Israel

The ceremony was held on Thursday night, Aug. 11, at the unit’s base near Ashkelon.

At the ceremony a brief film showed us portions of the training: use of sophisticated weapons, martial arts, hand-to-hand combat, charging enemy positions, transport via helicopter, use of special gear for night fighting, and the frequent arduous challenge of walking/running extremely long distances while carrying extremely heavy backpacks.

Sarah and I looked at each other: Too much scary information.

Elie Weinberger (right) and his sister, Ruthie Ross. (Photo: Courtesy of Teddy Weinberger)

Elie Weinberger (right) and his sister, Ruthie Ross. (Photo: Courtesy of Teddy Weinberger)

A mother of one of the boys spoke, and she very much expressed a lot of what I was feeling. On the one hand, we are extremely proud of our boys. The IDF sees a need for this incredibly demanding unit and our boys volunteered for the challenge. (While there is a universal draft, participation in elite units is voluntary.)

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August 24th, 2016

Jewish groups mobilize to aid Louisiana flood victims

Minnesota-based Nechama is among the groups helping


(JTA) — At midnight on Aug. 13, the floodwaters began to flow into Ellen Sager’s Baton Rouge home.

Her husband grabbed some important family documents, then the couple gathered some snacks and headed to a room on the second floor with their two teenage children. Sager assumed the waters would recede and the family could return within several hours.

Volunteers from JNOLA, a Jewish young adults’ group in New Orleans, at a house affected by the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, La., Aug. 20. Photo: Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

Volunteers from JNOLA, a Jewish young adults’ group in New Orleans, at a house affected by the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, La., Aug. 20. (Photo: Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans)

But after spending the entire next day cooped up in the room, the Sagers had to be evacuated from their block by boat. The water had risen to 4 feet outside the house and to 2 feet on the first floor.

Now their belongings sit in a heap on their front lawn. The house has been gutted — baseboards, floor molding and walls all removed — leaving a shell. With flood insurance, the Sagers have rented furniture and moved into a three-bedroom apartment, where they will live for the next six months.

The high school their son and daughter attend has moved into a church. They and their classmates won’t have lockers and will be limited by space to one notebook each.

“People are paralyzed,” said Sager, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge. “People don’t know what to do. You’re watching your life being hauled away into a dumpster and you need to start all over.”

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August 24th, 2016

Letters filled with hope

Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family’s Correspondence from Poland, edited by Christopher Browning, Richard Hollander and Nechama Tec, Cambridge, trade paperback, 291 pages, $24.99

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

For obvious reasons, voices of those killed in the Shoah are far rarer than voices of survivors, but in Every Day Lasts a Year, the dead do speak.

After his parents’ 1986 death in a car crash, Richard Hollander found a briefcase in their attic. Inside were stacks of letters and postcards in Polish and German with swastika postmarks from his father Joseph’s family in Poland — from November 1939 to December 1941, as Jews were steadily impoverished, restricted, confined to a ghetto and deported.

Sept. 18, 1939, Joseph presciently had left a thriving Krakow law career and travel agency, entering Romania with wife Felicia, heading for neutral Portugal via Italy, where they picked up Arnold Spitzman, 14, separated by illness from his Paris-bound relatives.


Denied entry to Portugal, they found themselves on Dec. 6 on Ellis Island, without visas. For more than a year, Joseph fought deportation while simultaneously trying to rescue his mother, three sisters, two brothers-in-law and two nieces.

“Revealed in every letter is an almost childlike faith in Joseph’s ability to provide deliverance,” says Hollander. “There is no way to calculate the burden of being the only thread of hope of an entire family and its only survivor.”

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