February 11th, 2016

‘Everything that has breath shall praise God’

At 77, the author is sometimes short of breath, but never short of spirit

(Editor’s note: One of the pleasures of social media is to read, and respond, to the reflections of a great writer. Celebrated author Julius Lester has a large appreciative following on Facebook, where he recently posted this essay. The American Jewish World is grateful for his cooperation.)

By JULIUS LESTER

I go to bed around six a.m. This morning, however, I had to be at the hospital by 7:15 for a pulmonary function test (PFT), which meant I slept for an hour sitting in my overstuffed chair, which was enough of a nap to get me to the hospital and back safely.

Personal Reflections

I had not had a PFT since 2000, when I was officially diagnosed with emphysema, though I had been living with it since 1991. Emphysema is one of those conditions to which moral censure is attached. People with emphysema get no sympathy because we smoked, and therefore we have no one to blame but ourselves.

That there are additives in tobacco to ensure addiction, and that it is easier to get off heroin than it is cigarettes are facts people don’t know or choose to ignore. I stopped smoking in 1988, one of the most difficult and painfully agonizing things I have ever done.

Julius Lester

Julius Lester

Recently, I’ve had to start wearing oxygen in public, because my oxygen saturation drops below 88, and breathing is painful when I walk a short distance. Walking around with an oxygen tank and a cannula is like carrying a neon sign advertising that I was a smoker. Some people are so rude as to ask me, “Oh, were you a smoker?” and they bask in their own feelings of superiority. Keep reading →

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February 10th, 2016

A storyteller all of his life

Charles Brin went from roles on Broadway and in the movies to co-founding the first local community radio station

By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor

Charles Brin was an actor, a radio storyteller, a musician and a scholar. And he leaves behind an incredible legacy in the Twin Cities community.

Speaking to KFAI’s Diane Richards last year, as part of the radio station’s “10,000 Fresh Voices” series, Brin said: “Stories have to do with outcomes. One way or another, they’re going to have to end.”

Remembrance

Brin’s story ended on Jan. 29, just five days before his 93rd birthday. Beryl Greenberg, Brin’s partner of 47 years, told the Star Tribune that he died peacefully at home.

“We got out of bed, he was doing his thing, I was doing mine,” she said. “I called out and said I wanted a glass of orange juice, and he didn’t answer. That was the end. It was so fast. That was a blessing.”

Charles Brin co-hosted KFAI’s “Spoken Word” program with his partner, Beryl Greenberg, for 38 years. (Photo: Courtesy of Wehman Models and Talent, Inc.)

Charles Brin co-hosted KFAI’s “Spoken Word” program with his partner, Beryl Greenberg, for 38 years. (Photo: Courtesy of Wehman Models and Talent, Inc.)

Brin was raised near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, with his brother, Howard, and his sister, Rachel. Early on, the children were “imbued with a sense of community,” according to his niece, choreographer and author Judith Brin Ingber. Brin’s father, Arthur, was the founder of what is now the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC).

“Arthur functioned as a bridge in a difficult time in Minneapolis politics during World War II,” Brin Ingber said. “And Charles observed that community work that his father did.”

Keep reading →

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February 10th, 2016

Editorial: Bernie Sanders for president

Let’s travel back to a perilous day in our country’s history: Dec. 5, 2008. Unbeknownst to the public, or to our elected representatives, the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, provided $1.2 trillion to bail out the most needy banks in the land.

“Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates,” according to a November 2011 story in Bloomberg Markets magazine.

Based on 29,000 pages of Fed documents and reams of central bank transactions, from 2007 to 2009, released under a Freedom of Information Act request, Bloomberg Markets analyzed the truly mind-boggling sums of money in the bank bailout.

“Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers, even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse,” the Bloomberg story continued. “The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he ‘wasn’t aware of the magnitude.’ It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.”

That number should be repeated: $7.77 trillion from the Fed to shore up the financial system.

Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign fundraising reception in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2015. In Iowa last week, Sanders said, “We are going to create an economy that works for working families, not just the billionaire class.” (Photo: David McNew / Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign fundraising reception in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2015. In Iowa last week, Sanders said, “We are going to create an economy that works for working families, not just the billionaire class.” (Photo: David McNew / Getty Images)

At the same time as the Fed was opening its coffers to banks and large corporations, millions of families were losing their homes, jobs and life savings in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. However, the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve were not coming to rescue them. In the midst of the Great Recession, we saw capitalism failing the working and middle classes, while the super wealthy strata of society enjoyed socialized risks and privatized rewards.

To remedy the widespread disillusion about the equity of American society, voters should elect a president in 2016 who has been steadfast and clear about making this country work for everybody, and not just for the billionaire class. Of course, that is Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.

Keep reading →

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February 10th, 2016

Stellar cast brightens MJTC stage in ‘Allergist’s Wife’

Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s production includes Twin Cities’ favorites Sally Wingert and Linda Kelsey

By DORIS RUBENSTEIN

There are a lot of Jewish allergists (male and female) in the Twin Cities. You’d have to work hard not to know one. Hence, you probably know the wife of one or another of them. Is that enough reason to go to see The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife opening Feb. 13 at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company?

I doubt it, but there are many, many other reasons you should go.

Reason 1: The play itself was nominated for numerous theatrical awards, including the Tony for Best Play of 2000.

Sally Wingert (Photos: Courtesy of MJTC)

Sally Wingert (Photos: Courtesy of MJTC)

The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, written by Charles Busch, is set in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a location without equal in the Twin Cities, but one might call the protagonist, Marjorie, a “Jewish Edina housewife” and get away with it. Not only is Marjorie suffering her own mid-life crisis but she has to deal with her equally New York Jewish mother, Frieda.

Who can save her? I’ll be a spoiler and let you know that it’s her mysterious childhood friend, who might remind theater lovers of the eponymous character in George Kaufman and Moss Hart’s famous comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Keep reading →

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February 10th, 2016

‘Old Jews trump tyranny’

The Yid, by Paul Goldberg, Picador, 320 pages, $26

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

If a plot by two aging Bolshevik fighters to save Soviet Jews by killing Stalin sounds crazy, just wait until you read this book!

The Yid is Paul Goldberg’s sophisticated, multiform, madcap romp through the alternative Soviet universe of fantasy as reality set in February 1953, the time of the “Doctors’ Plot.” With the fabrication that Jewish physicians were scheming to kill Soviet leaders, Stalin began what was to be the roundup, deportation and death of the USSR’s Jews.

Stalin’s plan died with his apparently natural death, announced on March 5, 1953, but his demise in The Yid is far more colorful — and ridiculous, the costumed killers bickering while trying to follow a script for a sacrificial ritual.

The-Yid-cover

The Yid’s unlikely conspirators are Solomon Levinson, a clownish actor in Solomon Mikhoels’ defunct Moscow State Jewish Theater, once commander of a Russian civil-war machine-gun unit along the Trans-Siberian railroad; Aleksandr Kogan, one of his gunners, now a prominent surgeon who has been told he’ll be arrested in a week; fearless Kima Yefimovna, seeking to avenge her commissar father’s killing in 1938, during the Great Terror; Frederick Lewis, a black, Yiddish-speaking engineer who came to the USSR in 1931 as a welder for an American company; and Levinson’s apartment neighbors: pharmacist Moisey Rabinovich, a muscular former Bundist and civil war anti-Bolshevik fighter, and Ol’ga Fyodorovna, who might be described as an aging, Christian courtier.

Keep reading →

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February 10th, 2016

Zeilingolds will mark 50 years in Minnesota

A community celebration at Mall of America will include the finishing of a special Torah

By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor

“And all who are involved faithfully in the needs of their community, may the Holy One, Blessed be He, pay their reward…”
— from the Shabbat morning liturgy

Adath Israel Synagogue in St. Paul will present Celebration 50, a community-wide gala event honoring Rabbi Asher and Sema Zeilingold for 50 years of dedicated leadership and guidance, on Feb. 23 at Mall of America. The evening will include the completion of the yearlong writing of a special Sefer Torah (holy Torah scroll), which was commissioned in honor of the Zeilingolds.

Rabbi Zeilingold, a disciple of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson, is the longest-serving pulpit rabbi in Minnesota. He and his wife, Sema, arrived in April 1966 to lead the new Adath Israel in Highland Park — which had been formed by the merger of three shuls from St. Paul’s West Side.

“I had just come out of seminary, married two years and I’d just received by rabbinical degree,” Zeilingold told the AJW in a recent phone interview. “I was not looking specifically to be a pulpit rabbi; I did want to do something in the area of Jewish education and outreach.”

Rabbi Asher and Sema Zeilingold will be honored at a gala banquet on Feb. 23. (Photo: Courtesy of Adath Israel)

Rabbi Asher and Sema Zeilingold will be honored at a gala banquet on Feb. 23. (Photo: Courtesy of Adath Israel)

Adath Israel gave Zeilingold a salary of $100 per week for the first year. The young couple moved into an apartment near Cleveland Avenue and Ford Parkway that rented for $95 per month.

“At the end of the year, we said we’ll stay and the rest is history,” Zeilingold said. “Now we’re up to 50 years and still moving on.”

He stressed that this event is not intended as a retirement dinner.

Keep reading →

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January 13th, 2016

Seeking an Administrative Assistant

The American Jewish World has an immediate opening for a person to work part-time (15-20 hours per week), M-Th, as an Administrative Assistant. The ideal candidate will be proficient with Sage (Peachtree) bookkeeping and MS Access database software. Other attributes include a pleasant phone and personal presence, a great attention to detail, and, of course, a sense of humor. The job duties are varied, and the office setting is hardworking but casual.

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We seek someone who is attuned to what’s happening in the world, and would like to be part of a beloved community newspaper that has been publishing for more than 100 years.

Please send a cover letter and resume to: editor [at] ajwnews [dot] com. No phone calls please. Thanks.

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