November 17th, 2017

PJ Library and Jewish Family Service of St. Paul launch Shalom Baby

The Jewish Family Service of St. Paul and PJ Library, a program locally supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, are partnering to launch Shalom Baby in St. Paul.

Shalom Baby is a successful national program that welcomes families to the community by linking those with babies by birth or adoption to community resources. Shalom Baby will provide an avenue to help new parents identify synagogues, agencies and organizations that will provide support and help them build Jewish connections.

Anyone who is welcoming a new addition to the family or knows someone who is, can contact Jodi Saltzman at 651-313-6623 or or Marni Tselos at 651-695-3195 or

November 15th, 2017

Citizen Kane of Olin-Sang-Ruby

Solly Kane takes over as director of URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute

Community News Editor

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) recently welcomed Solly Kane as director of URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI). Kane is OSRUI’s 10th director, and the first former OSRUI camper to serve in that position.

St. Louis Park native Solly Kane, the 10th director of URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (Courtesy OSRUI)

St. Louis Park native Kane had previously worked at OSRUI as a counselor, unit head and assistant director. “I previously spent 10 years at the camp,” he told American Jewish World in an interview.

Asked to describe what stood out for him in his previous experiences at the camp, Kane answered: “You make friends for life. The relationships that you build at camp are relationships that continue long into the future. Going to OSRUI gave me friends across the Midwest and, indeed, throughout the country.”

Kane praised the camp for its focus on Judaism. “We make Judaism come alive for kids,” he said. “You get to do all the fun, amazing things at camp — sports, swimming, arts, climb or climbing tower — but we infuse it all with Jewish values.” Keep reading →

November 15th, 2017

Anat Cohen Tentet: Jazz in Iowa

A small enthusiastic audience at Luther College enjoyed the Anat Cohen Tentet, a top-flight jazz ensemble


It’s a scenic drive down Hwy. 52, from the Twin Cities to Deccorah, Iowa. My wife, Maj-Britt Syse, and I took the three-hour journey to see the Anat Cohen Tentet perform Nov. 4 at Luther College. It’s good to get out of town now and then.

Anat Cohen (front center) and musical director Oded Lev-Ari (front, second from left) pose with the musicians that recorded Happy Song. A slightly different lineup of the Anat Cohen Tentet performed at Luther College on Nov. 4. (Photo: Aline Muller)

On the heels of the release of Cohen’s most recent album, Happy Song, on her Anzic Records label, the large ensemble of New York City-based jazz musicians flew to MSP and then drove south by Rochester and through Minnesota’s Amish country around the town of Harmony. Decorah lies just across the border.

In the way of Decorah tourism highlights, Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center (, is located on Water Street, the main drag downtown. We didn’t visit the museum. However, we did visit Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., and sampled some of the award-winning products (

Luther College was created, in 1861, by the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to train ministers for its churches in the Midwest. The college, with a student body of about 2,300, sponsors the Center Stage Series, which brings varied musical acts, dance companies and theatrical productions to campus.

The Anat Cohen Tentet concert attracted a smallish crowd. The Center for Faith and Life auditorium was about half full, with students accounting for about a third of the audience.

The ensemble performed songs from the Happy Song album, which ranges over a number of genres, including “Anat’s Doina,” a klezmer suite in three parts. The middle section is “Der Gasn Nigun,” a traditional tune of the klezmer repertory that’s been covered by everybody. “Anat’s Doina” is alternately spooky and soaring, as Cohen takes flight on clarinet over the layer of sounds generated by the large ensemble.

Musical director and arranger Oded Lev-Ari, a Tel Aviv native and Cohen’s partner in Anzic Records, deserves great credit for the band’s sound. He’s really a genius arranger, who likely has studied the Ellington orchestra’s charts written by the great Billy Strayhorn.

Keep reading →

November 15th, 2017

Rebirth of the Cuban Hebrew School

Hella Eskenazi, director of the Albert Einstein Hebrew School in Havana, discusses the revival of Jewish education in Cuba


As a graduate of Minneapolis Torah Academy and Bet Hamidrash Talmud Torah, I had easy access to Jewish education. But Jewish Cubans are and were not as fortunate.

Michael Avrom Appleman with Hella Eskenazi, who runs Cuba’s Hebrew School. (Photo: Courtesy of Appleman)

In October, in a series of humanitarian missions, I sat down with Hella Eskenazi, principal of the Albert Einstein school in Havana. Hella (pronounced “Ella”) has been a friend and colleague for 10 years. She willingly shared the dramatic and nearly heart-wrenching story of Cuban Hebrew education.

Gratitude and recognition are owed to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the tenacity of Jewish Cubans for the existing, vibrant Albert Einstein School in Havana. For Jews, whose religion nearly perished for three decades after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, are now learning Hebrew, Torah reading, Jewish history and Israeli dance.

During the Revolution, Castro nationalized businesses and property. When he imposed his dictatorship, many Jews left the country. Most left for the United States, Mexico and Venezuela, or made aliya.

The remaining Jews were nearly lost, intermarrying and prohibited from practicing Judaism until 1990. The Jewish population seemingly went from 15,000 to 1,500 overnight. Six Jewish schools and five synagogues ceased functioning. Jews could not, and did not, associate with Judaism.

But today, there is a thrilling rebirth and revival of Jewish educational system in Havana. Synagogues have been renovated and restored. Jewish knowledge is skyrocketing, due to a dynamic director (who is also a martial arts champ) and 14 volunteer Hebrew teachers.

Keep reading →

November 15th, 2017

Tommy Lapid: An iconoclastic Israeli

Memories After My Death: The Story of My father, Joseph “Tommy” Lapid, by Yair Lapid, Thomas Dunne, 330 pages, $27.99.

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

So “dead men don’t talk”?

Tommy Lapid — voluble, sharp-witted, tart-tongued Israeli writer and politician — died in 2008, but he’s still talking.

In Memories After My Death, Lapid speaks through son Yair, like Tommy a journalist turned politician. He chairs Yesh Atid, the Knesset’s second-largest party.

Pretending to be Tommy’s autobiography, Memories is a revealing, engaging, delightful portrait of his zest for living, friends, food and family written in Hebrew in 2009. Its U.S. edition, well indexed, is in easy, flowing translation by Evan Fallenberg.

Tommy was in Israel’s news often atop the stridently secular Shinui Party — once the Knesset’s third largest.

“I was the most famous atheist in Israel … whose outbursts were legendary,” Yair’s Tommy says. “I was despised but remarkably popular.”

The former Tomislav Lampel of Novi Sad, Serbia, dates adulthood to March 19, 1944, at age 12, when a German soldier entered his prosperous Hungarian family’s home and took his journalist-lawyer father, “the center of my world.” Released but later arrested in Budapest, Tommy’s father died in Mauthausen.

In Budapest, Tommy’s mother was arrested but rescued like thousands of Jews by Raoul Wallenberg. Later caught in an SS and Hungarian Arrow Cross roundup, she and Tommy were marching toward death at the Danube when they slipped into a public lavatory and hid.

“Half an hour later, not a single person from the march was left alive. This was the key moment of my life, the moment that defines me more than any other,” Tommy says. Since, “I lived my life with guilt-free passion” as possible only for someone “spared certain death.”

Keep reading →

November 9th, 2017

Deadline approaches for Hanuka Cover Contest

Attention, artistic youth: the American Jewish World’s 26th annual Hanuka Cover Contest is in full swing.

The winning artwork depicting the symbols and meaning of Hanuka will grace the front cover of the Jewish World’s Dec. 1 Hanuka special edition, and the winner will have her or his picture in the newspaper!

In addition, there will be fabulous prizes for the winner and runners-up.

All of the details can be found on a flyer: HERE.

The submission deadline for artwork is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22. This contest is open to all students attending 1st through 8th grades.

Entries should be designed in a VERTICAL format.

Please send entries to: AJW Cover Art, 4820 Minnetonka Blvd., Suite 104, Minneapolis, MN 55416. Or you can personally deliver entries to our offices.

Artwork will not be returned and will become the property of the American Jewish World.