July 1st, 2015

‘Amy': Just a Jewish girl from North London

The new documentary about Amy Winehouse humanizes the story of an immensely talented and troubled singer


I cheated myself / Like I knew I would / I told you, I was trouble / You know that I’m no good.

— “You Know I’m No Good,” by Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse rose to international fame as a gifted singer in the jazz and soul vein. Her retro look and catchy lyrics, often written as a sort of self-therapy, elevated Winehouse among her generation of young singer-songwriters.

Then she disintegrated, in full view of TV cameras and tabloid photographers. Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011. She was 27.

The tragic rise and fall of Amy Winehouse is chronicled in Amy, a new documentary film directed by Asif Kapadia. The film, which features previously unreleased music and never before seen footage from the singer’s early years, opens locally July 10.

The film tells an amazing rags-to-riches story, along the lines of Kevin Macdonald’s compelling 2012 documentary Marley, about Jamaican reggae superstar Bob Marley. Although both musicians died young, Winehouse’s demise coincided with the omnipresence of digital social media, and her struggles with drugs and drink were reported in lurid detail.

Amy Winehouse shot to fame and then fell apart in the glare of the press.

Amy Winehouse shot to fame and then fell apart in the glare of the press. (Photo: Getty Images)

“Something happened with Amy Winehouse, and I wanted to know how that happened in front of our eyes,” said Kapadia. “How can someone die like that in this day and age? And it wasn’t a shock: I almost knew it was going to happen. You could see she was going down a certain path.”

Winehouse was raised in a Jewish family in North London, and Kapadia — who is best known for Senna, his 2010 documentary about Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna — also is from that neighborhood.

“It’s bizarre, [Kapadia] went to the same school as her father [Mitch Winehouse], we realized when we were interviewing her dad. So that was a funny coincidence,” commented James Gay-Rees, producer of Amy.

Gay-Rees talked to the Jewish World via phone last week from Los Angeles, just before the West Coast premier of the film. Keep reading →

July 1st, 2015

Editorial: American Jewish World 2nd Century Fund

Perhaps you noticed the full-page ad in the June 5 edition of this newspaper announcing our July 31 special edition: “100 Years of Minnesota Jewish History — from the American Jewish World.” Another ad can be found on Page 2 of this week’s issue.

We will be celebrating a century of the American Jewish World’s continuous publication, with the July 31 edition, and in the months to come. The newspaper has reported on the march of history — World War I, the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, World War and the Holocaust, the birth of the modern State of Israel, 9/11, etc. The July 31 issue will draw on the newspaper archives going back to the first issue, July 30, 1915. Also, we have been offered resources from the Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, which are housed at the Elmer L. Anderson Library at the University of Minnesota; and from the Minnesota Historical Society’s online MNopedia, which has a number of entries on Jewish history and institutions.

Of course, we have put out the call to AJW readers and to all of the synagogues, Jewish agencies and organizations to join in the celebration. The deadline for editorial submission and ad space reservations for the July 31 special edition is 12 p.m. Wednesday, July 22.

And beyond this special number of the paper, we are announcing the American Jewish World 2nd Century Fund — AJW2CF, for short.

The newspaper survives on two main sources of revenue: display advertising and subscriptions. Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC, the local ownership group that took over the American Jewish World, in 2006, and I am the operating partner of the parent company, as the editor and publisher of the newspaper. It’s a challenge to manage a small business, especially a niche newspaper, in the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession.

This is where you come in.

Keep reading →

July 1st, 2015

Potash Twins record new album

Music business luminary Steven Greenberg is the album’s executive producer


The Potash Twins, trumpeter Adeev and trombonist Ezra, have been in the Twin Cities recording a new album at Essential Sessions Studios in St. Paul.

The Jewish musicians have been gaining national acclaim, and cultivating friendships with stellar musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Chris Botti and Jon Batiste (who will be the bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert).

Steven Greenberg, of St. Louis Park, is the album’s executive producer. He told the AJW this week that the recording, which will be released in the fall, features original songs and a talented crew of mainly young local musicians, including bassist Ian Allison and drummer Petar Janjic. Veteran keyboard player Tommy Barbarella (Prince, Art Garfunkel, Ziggy Marley) also played on the sessions.


Steven Greenberg (center) and the Potash Twins in the recording studio.

Guitarist Cory Wong is the album’s producer. Wong recently played the Dakota with former Rolling Stones sideman Tim Ries — and Stones drummer Charlie Watts sat in for one song.

Keep reading →

July 1st, 2015

Fringe Festival kicks off July 30

The 2015 festival features more than a dozen shows with Jewish themes or performers


Many years ago, there was a substantial debate on “how Jewish was Star Trek?” Fast forward in time and space, and the question today is: “How Jewish is the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival?”

With more than a dozen performances having some Jewish connection, I’d say, “Plenty!”

When Eric Pasternack isn’t leyning (chanting) Torah at Beth Jacob Congregation, he can usually be found lending his tenor voice to the Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s chorus. As part of the Fringe Festival, GSVLOC will present a production of Trial by Jury at the Rarig Center. The play involves a broken marriage engagement that motivates the ingénue to sue her former fiancé in court, but the verdict is far from what she expected.

Performances of Trial by Jury will take place July 30–Aug. 2, Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 at the University of Minnesota’s Rarig Center Proscenium, 330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Pasternack’s wife, Jo, is also a chorus member and has served in numerous backstage roles over the couple’s career with GSVLOC. During their years in Dallas, they were instrumental in founding the Texas G&S Company. But Jo Pasternack says that she enjoys the local group more.

Eric and Jo Pasternack will be featured in the Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s production of Trial by Jury.

Eric and Jo Pasternack will be featured in the Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s production of Trial by Jury.

“We have great cast parties after each performance,” she said. “It’s a very heimish [warm and friendly] group.”

Keep reading →

July 1st, 2015

Two liberations

The Liberation of the Camps: The End of the Holocaust and its Aftermath, by Dan Stone, Yale University Press, 288 pages, $32.50

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

Dan Stone shows that many Shoah survivors had two liberations: the first when their Nazi guards disappeared and the second after prolonged confinement in displaced persons camps.

The Nazi camps brought abuse, torment, starvation and death. The DP camps, most of them in Germany — adding insult to injury — brought confinement, discouragement and despair. As before the war, Jews wanted to leave but had almost nowhere to go.

“After the tremendous elation of having survived came the sobering realization that one had lost everything — family, home, everything,” said survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch. “One had to start over again.”


Stone divides The Liberation of the Camps about equally between the two kinds, first telling us how uncommon was the popular image of Jews in striped uniforms jubilantly welcoming the first Allied soldiers, then focusing on survivors’ “existential angst of discovering that their families had been killed, that they alone remained,” and the continued isolation of Jews that lasted for years.

Stone, a modern history professor at the University of London, writes simply and clearly, basing his superb book “largely on survivor testimony, written and spoken, of which there is now a vast amount.” Source notes, bibliography and index run 53 pages of small type.

For many survivors, “liberation” was quiet. Guards vanished from camps, workplaces or death marches and death trains — journeys of starvation and sickness. Of 714,000 inmates recorded in January 1945, at least one third were dead by war’s end, Stone says.

Many of those still in camps were too sick to celebrate. British troops reaching Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945, were stunned by 10,000 unburied bodies, prisoners so weak they couldn’t move and barracks floors six inches deep in feces. After liberation, 13,000 died.

“Liberation freed [survivors] from Nazi rule, but not from its effects,” Stone says, calling liberation a process over time that for some was very long.

Said survivor Micheline Maurel: “Each survivor has brought his camp back with him” mentally. Said Trude Levi: “The general assumption is that for the survivor, normal life… resumes at the end of the ordeal. How far indeed this is from the truth in the majority of cases and my own.”

Keep reading →

June 18th, 2015

AJW at 100: July 31 special edition

The first edition of the American Jewish World was published July 30, 1915.

Dr. Samuel Deinard, a native of Lithuania who came to Minneapolis to serve as the rabbi of Temple Shaarei Tov (which later became Temple Israel), was a visionary who tried to unite the Minnesota Jewish community through journalism. He published a paper called The Jewish Weekly, which appeared in 1912, but it failed after about six months.

Dr. Deinard

Dr. Samuel Deinard

Several years later, Deinard teamed up with Leonard H. (Leo) Frisch, and the American Jewish World was born. (After Deinard’s untimely death in 1921, Frisch became publisher of the newspaper — and his tenure spanned six decades.)

This is quite a legacy for the newspaper, and a special edition on July 31, 2015, will celebrate the AJW at 100 — a century of the newspaper’s continuous publication.

The theme of the issue is “100 Years of Minnesota Jewish History — from the American Jewish World.”

All of Minnesota’s synagogues, Jewish schools, agencies and organizations have been invited to participate in the print edition. We also welcome businesses in the greater community to advertise in the July 21 edition; details can be found HERE.

The advertising space reservation deadline is 12 p.m. Wednesday, July 22. For information or to reserve an ad space, contact Mordecai Specktor at 952.259.5234 or e-mail: editor [at] ajwnews [dot] com.


June 17th, 2015

‘Mike’s Place': Blues and a bombing

Mike’s Place: A True Story of Love, Blues and Terror in Tel Aviv, by Jack Baxter, Joshua Faudem and Koren Shadmi, First Second, 189 pages, $22.99

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

At first glance, Mike’s Place appears to be a graphic novel — like a comic book for grown-ups — based around a real event: the suicide bombing of a popular beachfront bar in 2003.

But in their epilogue, writers Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem say the book is a serious work, sort of an illustrated documentary of the bombing and the shooting of video for their real film, Blues by the Beach.

“We made every event to truthfully chronicle the events around the April 30, 2003, Mike’s Place terror attack,” they say. “However, it was necessary to fictionalize aspects of this story for efficiency and to protect the identities of some of the characters.”


The epilogue includes photos of the owners, Assaf and Gal Ganzman and “Downtown Dave” Beck, so called to distinguish him from bartender “U.K. Dave.” We also get photos of the perpetrators. Keep reading →

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