August 27th, 2014

Rescuing art from the Third Reich

Robert Edsel, author of The Monuments Men, went from the oil business to art history

By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor

In February, Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox released The Monuments Men, which was written and directed by George Clooney.

Clooney also starred in the film as Frank Stokes, a member of a military unit during World War II that was tasked with protecting artistic masterpieces from damage during battle, as well as finding and rescuing pieces looted by the Nazis.

“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back,” Stokes says in the film. “But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for.”

Robert Edsel:
Sept. 12 at Temple Israel

The film was based on Robert Edsel’s book titled The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. Edsel will be the featured speaker for Temple Israel’s seventh annual Holocaust Remembrance Program on Sept. 12.

“These works of art that we enjoy — in museums and churches, synagogues — they haven’t survived by accident,” Edsel told the AJW in a phone interview last week, during his travels in Switzerland. “It’s happened because, in the case of works of art, other people who came before us made tremendous sacrifices to make sure these things survived for future generations.”

Robert Edsel: These works of art that we enjoy — in museums and churches, synagogues — they haven’t survived by accident. (Photo: Jimmy Bruch)

Robert Edsel: These works of art that we enjoy — in museums and churches, synagogues — they haven’t survived by accident. (Photo: Jimmy Bruch)

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August 27th, 2014

A wife’s captivating tribute

Timeless: Love, Morgenthau and Me, by Lucinda Franks; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 390 pages, $28

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

If opposites attract, it’s little wonder that recovering radical Lucinda Franks, and respected and feared District Attorney Robert Morgenthau — poster children for May-December marriage — cling to each other as if welded.

They met in 1973, when she went to interview him for a news story. She was 26, a Christian Vassar grad, lively and talkative. He was 53, a gaunt, quiet Jewish widower, father of five — two still at home — and part of New York society.

He got her an interview at the New York Times, which hired her; began giving her news tips, and in 1976, asked her to a party at former JFK advisor Arthur Schlesinger’s home. Love blossomed.

Timeless-cover

“Oh, how the odious matrons rebuked us,” she writes. “We are, after all, a marriage that wasn’t supposed to happen.”

It wouldn’t seem likely.

Franks, who had poured pigs’ blood over draft-office files and chained herself to the White House fence, once was “a young woman in a state of rage… I hated my country.” Moving to London, she was hired by United Press International. At 24, she became the youngest winner of a Pulitzer Prize.

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August 27th, 2014

Yiddish tango links time, space and musical styles

Tango music was born in late 19th-century Argentina in communities of newly arrived European immigrants, many of them Jews

By ANTHONY WEISS

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The music that packs the Skirball Cultural Center’s stately courtyard — Yiddish tango — is a musical hybrid twice over.

On the tango side, it is a blend of African-born rhythms and a potpourri of European music styles. On the Yiddish side, it combines mournful liturgical melodies with folk songs.

Tango, too, is famous for its sensual dance, while Yiddish music is rooted in the festive freylechs of traditional wedding bands.

Gustavo Bulgach, a native of Buenos Aires, is the bandleader of Yiddish Tango Club. (Photo: Courtesy of Skirball)

Gustavo Bulgach, a native of Buenos Aires, is the bandleader of Yiddish Tango Club. (Photo: Courtesy of Skirball)

In combination, the two prove irresistible, as the concert crowd stands and sways to the tangled rhythms.

For Gustavo Bulgach, 47, bandleader of Yiddish Tango Club — the star attraction at the Skirball on Aug. 21 — the music is also a reminder of his childhood in Buenos Aires in the 1970s and ’80s. Born to a family of Russian Jewish immigrants, Bulgach grew up in Argentina learning Jewish folk music at the feet of his grandfather, a passionate music lover, and in the synagogue founded by his grandfather.

At the same time, he says, “Tango is more than the music you hear in Buenos Aires, it’s something you breathe.”

Bulgach is far from the first to combine Jewish music and tango in a heady combination. Tango music was born in late 19th-century Argentina in communities of newly arrived European immigrants, many of them Jews.

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August 27th, 2014

Editorial: Anti-Semitism makes a comeback in Minneapolis

Our readers who know their local Jewish history are familiar with the 1946 article in Common Ground magazine by journalist Carey McWilliams. The article titled “Minneapolis: The Curious Twin” examines the “divergent anti-Semitic patterns to be found in the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.”

McWilliams found that “the pattern of anti-Semitism is much more pronounced in Minneapolis than in St. Paul. One might even say, with a measure of justification, that Minneapolis is the capital of anti-Semitism in the United States. In almost every walk of life, ‘an iron curtain’ separates Jews from non-Jews in Minneapolis. Nor is this ‘iron curtain’ a matter of recent origin; on the contrary, it seems to have always existed.”

The writer went on to point out that Jews were excluded from “service clubs” — Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Toastmasters — in Minneapolis; but this was not the case in St. Paul. “Even the Automobile Club in Minneapolis refuses to accept Jews as members. Mr. Hugh Craig, secretary of the club, recently declined to accept the applications of a well-known and highly respected rabbi.”

The article goes on at some length about discrimination against Jews in many spheres of social and economic life in the Mill City.

In this thumbnail history, I will just add that the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) was founded in Minneapolis, in the 1930s, as a response to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany; the activities of the Silver Shirts, the German-American Bund and similar organizations in Minnesota; and “the anti-Semitic overtones of the 1938 Minnesota gubernatorial campaign,” according to an entry on the Web site of the Minnesota Historical Society. From 1936 to 1939, “an informal organization, the Anti-Defamation Council of Minnesota, was the vehicle of Jewish protest” against all forms of anti-Semitism. “Members included Arthur Brin, Charles I. Cooper, and 21 other Jewish leaders in Minneapolis. A sister organization was established in St. Paul.”

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August 20th, 2014

Alleging bias, Israel keeping distance from U.N. probe

Conclusions of the latest investigation will not be legally binding on Israel, but could further ratchet up international criticism

By BEN SALES

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The United Nations probe into the Gaza conflict hasn’t even begun, but Israel already is convinced that it won’t end well.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 29-1 with 17 abstentions, the U.N. Human Rights Council moved last month to establish a commission of inquiry “to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The United States cast the sole vote against.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the council for choosing to investigate Israel rather than nearby crisis zones such as Iraq or Syria, and implied he would not cooperate with U.N. investigators.

A Palestinian child amid the rubble of homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday. (Photo: Emad Nasser / Flash90)

A Palestinian child amid the rubble of homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday. (Photo: Emad Nasser / Flash90)

“The report of this committee has already been written,” Netanyahu said following a meeting with visiting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The committee chairman has already decided that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. Therefore, they have nothing to look for here. They should visit Damascus, Baghdad and Tripoli. They should go see ISIS, the Syrian army and Hamas. There they will find war crimes, not here.”

Israel has been down this road before. Following the end of the last Gaza conflict, in early 2009, its government refused to cooperate with a U.N. investigation led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The probe, dubbed the Goldstone Report, alleged that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians, though Goldstone later personally retracted that allegation. Israel rejected the original report as inaccurate and biased.

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August 13th, 2014

Our annual Peter Himmelman story

Renowned singer-songwriter returns Sept. 14 to headline Herzl Camp’s ‘Music & Musings’ event

By MORDECAI SPECKTOR

Peter Himmelman understands that his role will be that of “featured entertainer, performer, facilitator,” for the Sept. 14 Herzl Camp benefit, “Music & Musings at the Mercaz.” (The mercaz is the amphitheater at the camp.)

The event, which will be held at the summer camp in Webster, Wisc., “is going to have a little bit of a Big Muse aspect to it,” says Himmelman, 54, referring to the creativity seminar he developed and has presented to a variety of groups across the country (11-8-13 AJW).

Peter Himmelman: I sat down at the piano, and the piano had a song for me.

Peter Himmelman: I sat down at the piano, and the piano had a song for me. (Photo: Jim Hershleder)

During a recent phone interview with the Jewish World from his home in southern California, the St. Louis Park native talked about the Herzl Camp gig; his new album, The Boat That Carries Us, on the Himmasongs label, which features rock legends Jim Keltner on drums and Lee Sklar on bass; and his first “war song,” a recent tune titled “Maximum Restraint,” which was inspired by widespread criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza.

The publicity for the Herzl Camp benefit mentions that Himmelman will also be playing some of his “greatest hits” from his days with Sussman Lawrence, a popular Twin Cities rock band of yore.

“I don’t know if there are too many of those,” he replies modestly. “There’s a couple songs that I do play. Not all of them made it through the pinhole of time.”

Regarding how the “Big Muse method” will fit into the show up in Webster — “I’m not going to give away the magic sauce of this” — Himmelman says that he might do something to help the audience “focus in a fun and unique way on their personal connections to their Judaism… and that’s the oblique way I’m going to describe what may go on there.”

And, of course, there will be lots of songs and stories — the always entertaining stuff of a Himmelman concert. Keep reading →
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