A Shoah survivor, rabbi, teacher, businessman and philanthropist, he lived a long life full of both joy and tragedy
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
Rabbi Marc Liebhaber began writing a column in the American Jewish World around 40 years ago. The popular feature was titled “From Friday to Friday,” and topics ranged from communal Jewish issues — local, national and global — to Israel.
The Jewish state was a frequent topic. Rabbi Liebhaber often reported on his travels to Israel, and relayed his concerns about social and political developments there.
In March 1980, Liebhaber, who had served in the pulpit of Tifereth B’nai Jacob Synagogue, in north Minneapolis, realized a longtime dream when he purchased the newspaper from Norman Gold and his partners. He ran the Jewish World — and continued to write his column — for 26 years, until he sold the paper to Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC, the current parent company of the AJW.
On Oct. 14, Rabbi Liebhaber died at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 97. Funeral services took place this week in New York City.
Rabbi Marc Liebhaber speaks at the 2013 Liebhaber Prize awards ceremony in Jerusalem. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)
The American Jewish World was clearly a labor of love because he valued Jewish journalism
By RABBI DAVID GOLINKIN
I had the pleasure of knowing Rabbi Marc Liebhaber, z”l, for more than 20 years. He was one of the last of a dying breed — a rabbi who received a thorough Jewish education in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust who combined that education with the Western values and approaches which he learned in the United States in a seamless fashion.
We have learned in the Tractate of Megillah (13b): “Mordechai was one of the members of the Sanhedrin who sat in the Hewn Chamber of the Temple, who knew 70 languages.”
Rabbi Liebhaber did not know 70 languages, but he was fluent in at least six, including Yiddish, Hebrew, English, Russian, Polish and German. I always spoke to him in Hebrew. He spoke a pure Hebrew, which he had learned in Eastern Europe, sprinkled with biblical and rabbinic expressions, without many of the slang expressions so common in Israeli Hebrew.
From time to time he would ask me if I understood Yiddish and then he would throw in a Yiddish expression or joke. I think that he told me when he was about 95 years old that he read three newspapers every morning online — Haaretz in Hebrew, the New York Times in English, and a newspaper in Russian. I believe that he also wrote his doctorate in German, after World War II, on the history of Jewish journalism.
Rabbi Marc Liebhaber (right) met with musician and social activist Kobi Oz (left), a recipient of the 2013 Liebhaber Prize for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in Israel; and Prof. David Golinkin, president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, prior to the awards ceremony on the Schechter Institute’s new Jerusalem campus, June 23, 2013. Dov Elbaum, a journalist and host of the TV talk show Welcoming the Shabbat, also received the Liebhaber Prize last year. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)
David Ives’ play, New Jerusalem, engages the audience during a historic legal interrogation
By DORIS RUBENSTEIN
What do the portrayals of Wolfgang Mozart in Amadeus and Baruch de Spinoza in New Jerusalem have in common? In both plays, the main characters are child prodigies and they are both depicted as sort of wild and crazy guys.
Much more is known about Mozart’s early life than about Spinoza’s life. David Ives’ play, New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656, now on stage at Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s Hillcrest Theater in St. Paul, attempts to fill in some of that gap.
The play’s mood is set before the houselights are even dimmed when the muffled voices of a sizeable crowd bleed through the sound system (creatively used by sound designer C. Andrew Mayer), melding with the voices of the audience that is just being seated. It’s a hint to those paying attention that they will become part of the play itself.
New Jerusalem’s main action takes place in the Talmud Torah Synagogue. It imagines what was a legal interrogation — not a religious one, per se, since it is not conducted by a beit din (rabbinical court) — by Talmud Torah’s administrative leaders, ex officio leaders of the Amsterdam Jewish community.
The object of the interrogation is one 22-year-old member of the community: Baruch de Spinoza. The audience is the Talmud Torah congregation, witnessing the “trial.”
Michael Hugh Torsch (Baruch de Spinoza) and Rachel Weber (Rebekah de Spinoza) star in Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s production of New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656. They are pictured with James Ramlet (Van Valkenburgh, far left) and George Muellner (Rabbi Mortera, second from left). (Photo: Sarah Whiting)
Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for Justice, by Timothy Ryback, Knopf, $26.95
Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER
Stranger than fiction: In spring 1933, a Bavarian prosecutor obtained indictments against SS members for the murders of four prisoners at Dachau.
Timothy Ryback’s Hitler’s First Victims is a short, fascinating, disturbing story of an honest man’s courage and of the treatment of Nazi Germany’s first concentration camp victims — political prisoners shot or beaten to death for no apparent reason but the sadistic enjoyment of their tormentors.
The hero is Josef Hartinger, then 39, deputy prosecutor for a large area near Munich in which the Nazis created their first concentration camp in an abandoned World War I ammunition plant.
Hartinger’s notes and files are “some of the earliest forensic evidence of the systematic execution of Jews by the Nazis,” says Ryback, who also authored Hitler’s Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life and The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau.
Ryback learned of these early Dachau murders during a New Yorker assignment in the 1990s. Two Germans previously had written of them, and Ryback thought there was little to add until he discovered Hartinger’s “unpublished, and seemingly forgotten, account.”
The 2014 Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival, formerly the Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival, will bring the community together by featuring international award-winning feature films, documentaries and shorts from around the world on themes of Jewish culture and identity.
The festival, a partnership of the Sabes JCC and the St. Paul JCC, runs Oct. 23–Nov. 2.
Prior to the official opening, there will be a screening of Dancing in Jaffa 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19 at the Sabes JCC, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd. S., St. Louis Park. It will be followed by a tango dance lesson and reception.
Under the context of Israeli-Palestinian relations, Dancing in Jaffa demonstrates the powerful role that dance can play in enabling communities to overcome prejudice and build personal ties with one another.
Opening night will feature the Minnesota premiere of The Sturgeon Queens, a documentary of a famed New York fishmonger shop and deli, with guest appearances by the director and author. The festival will also include the Minnesota premiere of Above and Beyond, the true story of the volunteer foreign airmen in the War of Independence. That screening will feature guest producer Nancy Spielberg and honor local hero Leon Frankel, who is seen in the film.
The Heidi Chronicles continues its run through Oct. 26 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis.
The brilliant Wendy Wasserstein play, directed by Leigh Silverman, follows the eponymous protagonist, noted feminist art historian Heidi Holland — played by Kate Wetherhead — from high school in the 1960s, through the ’70s and ’80s, as she navigates career and personal choices. Silverman told the AJW that Heidi expresses the competing priorities facing women, and “the emotional resonance of those issues is as current today as it was in the ’70s” (9-12-14 AJW).
Noted feminist art historian Heidi Holland (Kate Wetherhead, second from right) accepts an invitation to appear on Hello, New York, a TV talk show, in the Guthrie Theater’s production of The Heidi Chronicles. (Photo: Joan Marcus)
Freundel, 62, was taken away Tuesday in handcuffs after uniformed officers and plainclothes detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department searched his home in the Georgetown section of Washington, Washingtonian magazine reported.
The Forward reported that a witness allegedly saw Fruendel installing a hidden camera above a shower stall at his synagogue’s mikva. The story also detailed a Rabbinical Council of America investigation into allegations over the summer of “ethical issues that came up regarding an issue with a woman.” The allegations were investigated, but no action was taken.
The shortest poem in playwright, director and author Israel Horovitz’s new collection, Heaven and Other Poems (Three Rooms Press) is titled “A Dieter’s Prayer.” Here it is: “Bless you, Father, / For I have thinned.” This poetry collection should delight the lover of verse, and those averse to poetry. Horovitz […]