Thursday, May 31, 2012

The First Maccabiah

Every four years since 1932, thousands of Jewish and Israeli athletes from 65 countries have gathered in Israel to participate in the Maccabiah Games.

This year, an especially festive celebration will mark 80 years since the first games were held. The opening ceremony will take place on July 17, and the games will run from July 18 through July 30.

The Maccabiah is the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition, emphasizing the centrality of the State of Israel in the life of the Jewish people. "The Jewish Olympics" as they are often called, are the Maccabi World Union's largest and most famous enterprise.

Within the Maccabiah there are four separate competitions that take place; Open, Junior, Masters, and Paralympics. Junior games are open to any qualifying athlete aged 15-18. Masters are divided into a number of different age categories mostly to accommodate older competitors and the Open division is generally unlimited in age, subject to the governing international rules in each sport, and is intended for the best athletes from each delegation. In order to participate in the Maccabiah, athletes must represent a delegation. Delegations are formed by each of the Territorial Organizations that participate, i.e. France, Brazil, Germany, United States, Canada, Hungary, Australia, etc.

Cornerstone Centennial: Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Pioneering Women

In Memory

Justice in Jerusalem, 1961

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812)

Israeli Stamps The High Priest's Breastplate (part 1)

Israeli Stamps Children's Books

Israeli Stamps Symbols of Peace

Israeli Stamps The Renaissance of Jewish Seamanship

Israeli Stamps Memorial Day 2012

Israeli Stamps The Chain of Generations Center

Stamps of Israel The High Priest's Breastplate (part 2)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek's Mr. Spock) Invokes His Yiddish-Speaking Childhood at Boston University Commencement

Leonard Nimoy, 81, best known as the half-human, half-Vulcan character Mr. Spock on the Star Trek series, delivered the commencement address at Boston University's College of Fine Arts last week.

In the 18-minute speech (click on the video below to see it all,) he travels back in time to his childhood in the Jewish and Italian West End of Boston, relishing stories of his early years of growing up in an ethnic neighborhood where he could tell the nationality by the aromas of cooking wafting through the tenement building.

He speaks freely of his Jewish roots and how proud he was to be "this Jewish kid from a Yiddish-speaking family at a Jesuit school (Boston College, where he was offered a scholarship in an 8-week summer theatre program) being blessed daily with 'Our Fathers' and 'Hail Marys.'

Nimoy gives humorous glimpses of advice that he received from actor Spencer Tracy and from President-to-be John F. Kennedy, whom he picked up at a hotel when Nimoy worked the night shift as a taxi driver to make ends meet.

He tells how he came to the role of Mr. Spock in 1966 and how his status of an alien parallels Nimoy's own role: "My folks came to the United States as immigrants (aliens) and they became citizens. I was born in Boston, a citizen. I went to Hollywood and I became an alien. Spock was the embodiment of the outsider, like the immigrants who surrounded me in my early years."

He ends his address, sprinkled throughout with funny comments and words of advice to the budding artists in the graduating class, with this request: "Please, please, for the sake of our culture, for the sake of mankind, don't create any more reality TV shows. And of course, I cannot leave without saying to you in all sincerity, Live long and prosper." (as he raises his hand in the gesture that the Kohanim make when they bless the congregation.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

David Harris Blog: Ten Reasons I Admire Israel

Ten Reasons I Admire Israel
David Harris
May 28, 2012
In the daily news coverage, as they say, if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead. The larger story of Israel, therefore, is rarely told.

And the steady barrage of anti-Israel assaults -- from the UN's Arab-led automatic majority to the boycott-sanctions-divestment crowd; from some PR-savvy NGOs to the red-green (extreme left-radical Muslim) alliance -- doesn't always leave much room for the bigger picture, either.

But the larger story of Israel is well worth telling. Indeed it is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, one of the great chapters in the annals of history.

Here's what I admire most:

First, the Jewish people's identity is built on three legs -- a faith, a people, and a land.

The land is inextricable to the equation. Even when Jews were forcibly removed from the land, as they were more than once, they never, not for a single moment, lost the connection. It was core to their prayers and their belief systems. Jerusalem, physically and metaphysically, is at the center of Jewish existence. The determination of Jews to reaffirm that link, over literally thousands of years, is awe-inspiring.

Second, those who lived in or returned to the land before the rebirth of the state in 1948 faced indescribable challenges.

Those challenges could easily have defeated less determined people. The terrain itself was harsh and unyielding. The swamps were disease-infested. Water was scarce. Marauding Arab bands put them at risk. But they persisted.

Third, these pioneers, against all the odds, gave birth to field after field, tree after tree, job after job (for Jews and Arabs alike), and neighborhood after neighborhood.

And, equally, they gave birth to Modern Hebrew. They took an ancient language and rendered it contemporary, which in turn became the lingua franca of the new state.

Fourth, the politics of statehood were not uncomplicated.

It took 50 years from Theodore Herzl's vision of a reborn Jewish nation to the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which called for Jewish and Arab states to emerge from British-ruled Mandatory Palestine. During those five decades -- and all the global ups and downs, governments' sleights-of-hand, and power politics -- Jewish leadership in the land persevered. They were undeterred.

Fifth, that same Jewish leadership understood that half a loaf was better than none. While the Jews would have wished for a bigger state, and believed the historical facts warranted it, pragmatism prevailed over maximalism. And therein lies the fundamental difference between Jewish and Arab leadership at the time, and since.

The 1947 Partition Plan could have solved the national aspirations of Jews and Arabs alike (i.e., Palestinians, though the term was not then used by the UN). There would have been two states for two peoples, living, ideally, side by side in peace and cooperation. But the Arab insistence on the whole loaf triggered war. The war in turn created a Palestinian refugee problem, and that dream of the whole loaf continues to be nurtured by too many Palestinian leaders.

Sixth, the 1948 war to annihilate the new state might have been Israel's first and, yes, last war, but it wasn't.

Vastly outnumbered and outarmed, the 650,000 Jews could have been vanquished by the five attacking Arab armies, including the British-trained Jordanians. But they dug in, fought on with often hard-to-acquire weapons, and eventually won, while losing one percent of their entire population -- the first of several wars Israel was to win to defend its very right to exist.

Seventh, Israel's ability to defend itself is nothing short of extraordinary. A country the size of New Jersey, and without a favorable military topography, has withstood repeated assaults of every kind -- wars, missile barrages, suicide bombings, kidnappings, lawfare, and modern-day blood libels.

The morale and commitment of Israelis to fulfill their national obligations -- when, no doubt, they'd much rather be studying, socializing, and traveling -- is remarkable. Alone, having never asked for the help of other nations' troops, they defend the state. And Israel's technical ingenuity in meeting each new challenge head-on has served as an object lesson for other countries. From Entebbe to Iron Dome, from Osirak to the Syrian nuclear plant, Israel has come up with viable answers to seemingly insurmountable threats.

Eighth, Israel has forged a far more cohesive, vibrant society than many predicted.

How, the skeptics asked, could Israel absorb Jews from scores of countries with different languages, political traditions, cultural norms, and religious practices? How could Israel forge a democratic state when so many refugees came from non-democratic Arab lands and communist societies -- and in a region, the Middle East, where there was absolutely no tradition of free, open societies? How could religious and secular Jews coexist? How could Israel absorb over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews, who hailed from villages that had no electricity or other modern accoutrements? And how would non-Jews, especially a large Arab community, fare as citizens of the State of Israel?

These are all works in progress, but, 64 years after the rebirth of Israel, it can be said that the centripetal forces binding the state together far outweigh the centrifugal forces at work -- and that's no mean feat, given the magnitude of each of the challenges.

Ninth, in the face of unrelenting threats and dangers, Israel could have turned inward, abandoned hope, and given up on peace, but it most assuredly has not.

Instead, Israel has embraced the world, sharing its vast know-how with developing countries and often being among the first on the scene when disaster strikes. It has affirmed life in a way that outsiders can hardly imagine. And, despite one spurned peace effort after another since the landmark treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) -- not to mention the experiences of withdrawal from southern Lebanon only to have Iranian-backed Hezbollah step in, or from Gaza only to have Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction, take control -- Israel still clings to the belief that peace, based on major territorial compromise and a two-state solution, is possible.

And tenth is what travelers see for themselves when they come to Israel.

As many first-time visitors have commented, they had no idea that Israel was so small or its security challenges so complex.

They had no clue that Arabic was an official language and Israeli Arabs, even those opposed to the state's very existence, have been elected to the Israeli parliament.

They were unaware that churches and mosques are found everywhere, with full freedom of worship protected.

They had no sense of how ancient and modern, at one and the same time, the country is.

They had no understanding of what a full-throttled democracy Israel is, including a feisty press, an independent judiciary, an array of active NGOs, political parties galore, and an argumentative, self-critical culture.

And they had no hint how proud of their country -- and optimistic about the future -- are the vast majority of Israelis.

For nearly 2,000 years, Jews could only dream of, and pray for, the rebirth of Israel. Today, it is a living, breathing, and pulsating reality. And I count myself among the lucky ones to see it unfold before my very eyes.
To rate and comment on these articles, go to The Jerusalem Post and The Huffington Post.

Pella Productions Presents - MOVES LIKE MOSES (A Bar Mitzvah A Cappella Song)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Letter from Prague: Every Day a Miracle

Norm Eisen, the U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, on the Jewish aspects of the experience, posted this week on the White House blog:
My mother, who passed away earlier this year, was born in then-Czechoslovakia, survived the Holocaust, and later fled Communism and immigrated to the US.  She was very proud that I had returned to the Czech Republic representing the mightiest nation on earth.  She liked to tell people that “the Nazis deported me and my family to Auschwitz in a cattle car, and my son flew back on Air Force One!”
… returning to a place where my mom, the rest of my family, and so many other Czechs and Slovaks were oppressed by the Nazis and the Communists, was not without its challenges.  I felt the weight of that history particularly during the first weeks of living in my residence – a home built by a Czech Jewish family that was commandeered by the Nazi General Staff before being purchased by the US after World War II.  Not long after moving in I discovered a swastika and a Nazi inventory number affixed underneath a beautiful antique table in my foyer—seeing that was a stab in the heart.
Of course, intellectually I recognized that my return represented a triumph over evil, but it took a little while to feel that triumph emotionally as well. … That really hit home at the end of my first year in Prague, when my family and I celebrated Hanukkah in the house.  The Hanukkah story is, of course, about re-consecrating what was made unholy by oppressors.  We felt that by celebrating in the former home of a Czech Jewish family and the Nazi General Staff we re-consecrated the house and were living the message of the holiday -- freedom from oppression. … 
Since arriving in Prague over a year ago I have done my best to become a member of the authentic life of the city, including the small but dynamic Jewish community.  Given my roots, it is incredibly powerful to worship every Shabbat in Prague’s Old-New Synagogue.  It is a place where Jews have been praying more or less continuously since about 1270.  It is one of the oldest operating synagogues in the world, and my ancestors certainly prayed here when travelling through Prague--although as far as I know I am the first in the family to earn an assigned seat!  In the terrible pogroms of 1389, the walls of the synagogue were splashed in blood and were left that way for about two centuries.  Finally painted over in the sixteenth century, it has left an indelible memory in my consciousness and that of Prague.  We are fortunate to be part of this community that has so many important links with the Jewish community in the United States and around the world.   
From the time I was a child, my mother told me about growing up in the newly-independent Czechoslovakia led by President Masaryk, about the horror of the Nazi occupation, and about the hopes for a new beginning after the war, only to have the Communists take over.  Never did I imagine then that I would one day have the privilege to represent my country as Ambassador in her former homeland, what is now the Czech Republic.  It is miraculous. 
Also miraculous on a larger scale is the rebirth of freedom here in the Central Europe after so many years of totalitarian oppression.  The Czech people are among our closest allies in the world today.  Their soldiers have served with us in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Czechs have stood up for freedom around the world, from Cuba to Libya.  I strive daily to justify the trust that President Obama placed in me by further strengthening the ties of friendship between our two countries.  My mom would accept nothing less.

Catching Up With Matisyahu

When Matisyahu was 17, he started freestyling in parking lots for spare conversation and change. Since then, a lot has changed: He hitchhiked around the United States with a drum attached to his hands. He got married, traveled in vans and regrouped old buddies from The New School to tour. He started a family, and he made three albums.
This year has brought the recording of his fourth album, Spark Seeker. It’s a collaboration that delivers through angles, improvisation and Judaic philosophy. By these rituals and spiritual deliveries, Matisyahu has created an album for the ears and for the hearts.
We caught up with Matis to understand his sensibility for his new release and the joy that oozes from his latest single “Sunshine.”
Paste: ‪There is an identifiable pop element to Spark Seeker.
Matisyahu: I have always had a broad appeal in music. In high school I was the hippie listening to Phish but beat-boxing for MCs at parties. I’ve had phases where I listened to one artist or a particular genre. When my vocal style was developing I was listening to a lot of Reggae. Every time I make a record or play music with different musicians I use it as an opportunity to merge sounds and expression. Kojak (producer) and I really connected musically. We’ve created songs that are fun to listen to, that blend different styles to merge pop songs that have lots of melody, hooks and crunchy beats. Kind of like sugar cereal and Saturday morning cartoons—but with content.
There also is the whole spiritual dimension that takes place on any piece of music I’m working on. We went to Israel and had that experience…it is creatively important to just to get out of the studio, take a field trip and have some experience to write about. There is a track on the record called “Tel Aviv’n” which about our experience one day going out into the desert.
Paste: Where did you write Spark Seeker? What was the motivation for the album’s single “Sunshine?”
Matisyahu: We started our work together in LA and then after some time went to Israel and recorded a lot of live instrumentation there as opposed to the mostly digital sound we were creating before. It created a very unique blend of old world sound and modern sound. “Sunshine” is the first song we recorded so to me, it made sense being the first single. It is a song about returning to the inner essence, about not giving up on oneself even after making changes and to incorporate all of the self’s, to make room for the abandoned self. During the making of this record I was in a process of shedding and returning to something that had been lost.
Paste: Who produced the album? How was the recording process?
Matisyahu: While In Israel we took over a studio in Tel Aviv for 10 days. One of my best friends, Daniel Zamir, who went to the New School in NYC went with me and also became religious around that time. He is an unbelievably talented saxophone player and songwriter and helped us arrange schedules for musicians to come by and play. We also had our good friend Avisar reaching out which totally re-inspired the record.
At that point the sound of the record started coming together. We had Zohar Fresco, who is undeniably the best Middle Eastern percussionist alive today, record with us. This combined with Kojak’s beats made something special. Then there is this singer Ravid Kahalani (Yemen Blues), who has an extremely unique voice and he came in, along with so many others. We ending up having multiple musicians playing together, improvising over beats and songs we had started and writing new tunes. Also Shyne came in from Jerusalem and recorded.
Paste: You work with a few collaborators, can you tell me a bit about that experience?
Matisyahu: This record was a lot of fun to make. The chemistry between me, Kojak and the other collaborators really made this record very natural. The process was tremendously organic. We acted spontaneously and wrote songs that we wanted to hear.
Paste: What do you feel sets this album, Spark Seeker apart from your previous records?
Matisyahu: This album has an emphasis on spirituality, as do many of my past records. It derives a lot of inspiration from Chassidut, Kabbalah, and my own process of the search for meaning. I guess it picks up where I left off. Splitting the sea, leaving slavery, journeying through the desert and entering the Promised Land.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kaddish, a Memorial Prayer in Praise of God

The Kaddish is recited in a prayer service, on a daily or weekly basis, after the death of a close relative.

Reprinted with permission from Jewish Literacy (HarperCollins Publishers Inc.).
Throughout [Jewish Literacy], I have generally tried to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. However, when it comes to reciting the Mourner's Kaddish, I feel compelled to urge my readers, "Do it."
The Kaddish, an Aramaic prayer that is [almost] 2,000 years old, is recited in slightly different variations at every prayer service. Although one form of the Kaddish is recited in memory of the dead, the prayer itself says nothing about death; its theme is the greatness of God, reflected in its opening words: "Yitgadal ve-yitkadash, Shmei rabbah--May His name be magnified and made holy…. " The prayer's conclusion speaks of a future age in which God will redeem the world.kaddish
Why then was this prayer designated by Jewish law to memorialize the dead? There is no definite answer; the tradition dates only from the Middle Ages. Most likely, people believed that the finest way to honor the dead was to recite the Kaddish, thereby testifying that the deceased person left behind worthy descendants, people who attend prayer services daily and proclaim there their ongoing loyalty to God.
Reciting the Kaddish also forces mourners to go out in public. After the death of a loved one, a person might well wish to stay home alone, or with a few family members, and brood. But saying Kaddish forces a mourner to join with others. According to Jewish law, the Kaddish cannot be recited unless a minimum of 10 adult Jews are gathered in a minyan [quorum for prayer].
Because of the Kaddish's therapeutic value, I believe it is important that it be recited by women as well as men. Throughout Jewish history, only men had the obligation to say the Kaddish. So associated was this prayer with men that Eastern European parents sometimes referred to a son as their Kaddishl--the one who would recite Kaddish for them. Among traditional Jews, it was considered disadvantageous to have only daughters, because there would be no child to say Kaddish after the parents' deaths.
However, even before the rise of feminism, there were Jewish women who said Kaddish. A gem of modern Jewish literature is a letter written by Henrietta Szold, one of eight daughters of a Baltimore rabbi and a great figure in American-Jewish history. When Szold's mother died, a close male friend of the family, Haym Peretz, offered to say Kaddish on her behalf. An excerpt from the letter in which Szold refused his offer, insisting that she would say the Kaddish herself:
"I believe that the elimination of women from such duties was never intended by our law and custom--women were freed from positive duties when they could not perform them [because of family responsibilities] but not when they could. It was never intended that, if they could perform them, their performance of them should not be considered as valuable and valid as when one of the male sex performed them."
Kaddish is recited every day during the morning, afternoon, and evening services. Ideally, one should attend every service, but if one cannot do so, it is desirable to attend at least one of the three daily services. In the observance of Kaddish, as in most areas of Jewish life, something is better than nothing. If it is impossible to attend a daily service, then one should at least say the Kaddish on the Sabbath.
In the case of the death of a sibling, a child, or a spouse, Kaddish is recited for one month; when a parent dies, it is recited for 11 months. The reason the Kaddish is said for 11 months, although the full mourning period lasts for 12, has to do with folklore. According to a statement in the Talmud, when the most wicked people die, they are consigned to hell for a maximum of 12 months. Since recitation of the Kaddish is believed to help elevate the soul of the dead (see Sanhedrin 104a), reciting it for a full year would imply that one's parent is one of those wicked people sentenced to a full year in hell; hence, the Kaddish is recited for only 11 months.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Remembering the Struggles of Vidal Sassoon

Vidal: A Jewish Soldier of the Hair Salons
Remembering the Struggles of Vidal Sassoon

The hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, who died on May 9, reportedly of leukemia, was more than just a fashion legend. Born in London in 1928 of Ukrainian-Greek Jewish background, Sassoon created an architectonically geometric updating of the short women’s haircut known as the “bob” for such 1960s celebrities as the English model Twiggy, dress designer Mary Quant, and actress Mia Farrow. These design prototypes are still highly influential today.

In recent interviews, Sassoon referred wryly to how the current high priestess of fashion, Vogue’s Anna Wintour, and the tween pop singer Justin Bieber both sport unauthorized adaptations of his signature styles. Yet unlike the bob, an adaptation of a Paris style developed around the end of World War I known as “la garçonne” (the “boyish girl”), Sassoon’s achievement was not merely to liberate or emancipate women. Based on his own experiences growing up as a Jew in anti-Semitic England, Sassoon created hair visually appropriate for a symbolic tribe of women warriors.

As revealed in the 2010 documentary “Vidal Sassoon: the Movie” released last year on DVD from Phase 4 Films, and last year’s “Vidal: The Autobiography,” (Macmillan) this bellicose inspiration may have been due in part to the fact that there was nothing boyish about Sassoon’s life, not even when he was a boy.

At age 5 Sassoon was sent to the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Orphanage in Maida Vale, London, after his father had abandoned his mother. After seven years, he was able to rejoin his family and at 14, he was apprenticed to an East End wigmaker, Adolph Cohen of Whitechapel, who provided local Orthodox women with their “sheitels.” This Dickensian beginning instilled a fierce fighting spirit in him, as well as a sense of commercial realities. Although passionate about architecture — Sassoon later claimed to have been inspired by designs in the Bauhaus spirit — he resigned himself to shampooing the hair of Cohen’s clients as his only realistic career option.

The real revolution in Sassoon’s sensibilities came at age 17, when he joined the 43 Group, which was formed by Jewish ex-servicemen who returned from combat after World War II to find that London was still rife with public events by supporters of Fascist anti-Semites, such as the notorious Oswald Mosley. This Fascist-smashing 43 Group — named after the original number of its members — was somewhat successful in tamping down the postwar public flowering of UK Fascism by those who were disappointed by Hitler’s defeat.

An anti-Fascist fighter with a day job as a hairdresser, Sassoon was certainly aware of the style example set by Hollywood icon Ingrid Bergman in the 1943 movie “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” In it, Bergman played Maria, an anti-Fascist Spanish guerilla with a much remarked-upon short-cropped hairdo. Although Bergman’s style was technically termed a “bubble cut” rather than a “bob,” the lesson for young Vidal was clear: strong women fighters must be given shields of low-maintenance hair to enhance their abilities.

This knowledge came in especially useful after the full news of the horrors of the Holocaust reached Sassoon and the rest of London’s East End. His reaction was to make aliyah in order to join the Palmach, the elite force of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization in British Mandate Palestine. As Sassoon told The Jewish Chronicle: “I wasn’t going over [to Israel] to sit in an office…. I thought if we don’t fight for a piece of land and make it work, then the whole Holocaust thing was a terrible waste.”

Sassoon’s feisty descriptions in his autobiography of Israeli battlefield experiences make the book read in parts like the memoirs of a retired foot soldier, not anyone involved in the arts world. Although Sassoon returned to England to help support his mother, his experiences in the Holy Land remained an indelible part of his existence, inspiring his creative life. As Sassoon added to The Jewish Chronicle

The sense of what we’d done [in Israel’s armed forces] gave me an enormous confidence, and I really felt as if I belonged. And, funnily enough, it gave me a feeling of belonging in London, too. Or belonging anywhere: this is our world, that kind of thing.

Working intensely and launching tireless publicity campaigns about his style innovations in the 1950s and ’60s, Sassoon eventually managed to make the then-stylish beehive hairdo look outmoded. By doing so, he created what English fashion maven Hilary Alexander called in a memorial tweet the “most radical hair shift since 1920’s.” Yet despite his all-consuming career, Sassoon never forgot his early London experiences combating Fascist thugs. In 1982, he established the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

And the Center’s attempt to understand and historically document anti-Semitism has borne fruit. The Vidal Sassoon International Center’s noteworthy series of publications include Deborah Lipstadt’s “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory” (Free Press,1993); Cesare De Michelis’s “The Non-Existent Manuscript: A Study of the ‘Protocols of the Sages of Zion’”; and Vadim Rossman’s “Russian Intellectual Anti-Semitism in the Post-Communist Era,”, both from the University of Nebraska Press.

It is in such volumes, and a lifetime of devoted concern for defending the Jewish people, that the real legacy of Vidal Sassoon will remain, whatever hairdos Anna Wintour or Justin Bieber may be wearing next year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jewish Haiku

On Passover we

Opened the door for Elijah.

Now our dog is gone.

Jewish Buddhism:
If there is no self,
Whose arthritis is this?

Beyond Valium,
Peace is knowing one's child
Is an internist.

After the warm rain
The sweet smell of camellias.
Did you wipe your feet?

Her lips near my ear,
Aunt Sadie whispers the name
Of her friend's disease.

Today I am a man
Tomorrow I will return
To the seventh grade.

Testing the warm milk
On her wrist, she sighs softly
But her son is forty.

The sparkling blue sea
Reminds me to wait an hour
After my sandwich.

Jews on safari --
Map, compass, elephant gun,
Hard sucking candies.

The same kimono
The top geishas are wearing:
I got it at Loehmann's.

Mom, please! There is no
Need to put that dinner roll
In your pocketbook.

Sorry I'm not home
To take your call. At the tone,
Please state your bad news.

Is one Nobel Prize
So much to ask from a child
After all I've done?

Today, mild shvitzing.
Tomorrow, so hot you'll plotz
Five-day forecast: feh

Yenta. Shmeer. Gevalt.
Shlemiel. Shlimazl. Meshuganah
Oy! To be fluent!

Quietly murmured
At Saturday Synagogue services,
Phillies 5, Red Sox 3.

A lovely nose ring,
Excuse me while I put my
Head in the oven.

Hard to tell under the lights.
White Yarmulke or
Male-pattern baldness.

Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life;
With the first sip, joy;
With the second sip, satisfaction;
With the third sip, peace;
With the fourth, a Danish.

Wherever you go, there you are.
Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems,
What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles
Begins with a single Oy.
Zen is not easy.

It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?

The Tao does not speak
The Tao does not blame.
The Tao does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others
The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in, Breathe out.
Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will
Be the least of your problems.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist

Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical
Sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says, Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Buddha says there is no self.
So, maybe we're off the hook.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Fork

Israeli rower won gold -- and sang "Hatikvah" on her own

Organizers of a rowing competition for the disabled in Italy apparently didn't take into consideration the possibility that the Israeli contender, Moran Samuel, would win the competition, and they forgot to bring the CD with the national anthem, "Hatikvah," to the awards ceremony. What did Moran do? She took the microphone from the m

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hebrew & Yiddush music(audio only)

Aaron Razel - Mizmor Ledavid

Kissifim - MBD & Shira

Ein Kelokeinu - Tuvia Bolton



Hisoreri - Shlomo Carlebach 



Vehar'einu - Shlomo Carlebach 



Maoz Tzur - London School of Jewish Song 



Shomrim Hafked - Shlomo Carlebach 



Hu Elokeinu - Shlomo Carlebach 



Yismechu Bimalchuscha - Zalman Levin 



Devai Haser - Shlomo Carlebach

Master of the world:
Protect our soldiers,
Protect our Holy Land,
Protect all the Yidden,
Protect the world
Protect Yerushalayim Ir Hakoidesh
Ani Maamin - Shlomo Carlebach


L'Shem Yichud - Chanukah - Shlomo Carlebach 



Tzelem Elokim - Shlomo Carlebach 


Sholom Highway - Shlomo Carlebach 


Kol Nidrei/Niggun Racheim - Shlomo Carlebach 


Kivakoras - Shlomo Carlebach 

The Rebbetzin of Lublin - Shlomo Carlebach

Black Wolf - Shlomo Carlebach 







Clouds of Shabbos - Shlomo Carlebach 


Yivorechecha - Avraham Fried 


Achas Medley - Tzlil



Chicken 101-Schmaltz

Schmaltz -- rendered chicken fat -- used to be on the tables in most Jewish restaurants in the early decades of the 20th century, and also on the dining room tables in many Jewish homes. We have a friend who served it as recently as 1962. 

But the only place you're likely to find this high-cholesterol spread today is at Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse, a non-kosher Jewish style eatery on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

In this week's Forward, Lenore Eskenazy offers what amounts to a Schmaltz 101 course, taking a nostalgic look at its history and reporting on schmaltz stalwarts who use it today as the secret ingredient in chopped liver, matzo balls, and even quesadillas.

Eskenazy writes:
In the olden days — the days before people were expected to read labels, blanch kale and use dumbbells for exercise instead of as a label for their sons-in-law — schmaltz was golden. (Well, it still is. But “golden” in a more metaphoric sense.)
“My mother used to make it,” recalled Marilyn Meltzer, a retired telephone company employee in Boston. “The house smelled wonderful when she made the gribenes” — little pieces of chicken skin and onions fried up in that savory fat. Meltzer’s mom, like most yidishe mames of an earlier era, rendered her own chicken fat and saved it, sometimes for months, in coffee cans.
Then the family used it like butter, scooping it onto bread for sandwiches, or frying in it, or even baking with it. But because it wasn’t made with milk, you could eat it with a meat meal and still be kosher. “My mother used to bake pies, and her apple pies were, I swear to God, so good, my sister and I fought over them. So she used to make one for each of us,” Meltzer said.

Jewish Music From Bucovina

By Miamon Miller 

In December of ’09, Mel Bay published an online article I wrote regarding Romanian folk music from the region of Moldavia.  In that short piece, I said that

Those of you who play klezmer and other types of Jewish music may have taken special notice of this article’s title “Hora Mare”.   Moldavia was one of several Eastern European areas rich in klezmer tradition and it’s not surprising there are many words borrowed with identical or near-identical meanings.  For example, the Romanian ‘doina’ has a similar rubato and improvisational quality to its Jewish counterpart.”

The above paragraph is directly relevant because the selection for this article is another hora mare from the sub-region of Bucovina within Moldavia; but in this instance, it’s one with a distinctly Jewish character.  What gives this flavor of ‘Jewishness’ is a subject worthy of a discussion lengthier than can be presented here.  Suffice it to say, when I’ve played this piece for Romanians knowledgeable in music and dance traditions, they say ‘ah, this is a Jewish hora mare’ and when I play it for Jews steeped in shtetl folklore, they’ll say ‘it could be Romanian but it’s definitely Jewish.’

I learned this hora mare about 25 years ago from a Jewish clarinetist and accordionist who grew up near Bucovina.   He not only showed me the tune in the slower dance tempo of 3/8 (with rhythmic stress on beats 1 & 3), he also illustrated how the first two melodic phrases could segue and be transformed into a faster 2/4 version of the same dance.

It’s especially interesting that a melody played in one dance rhythm and time signature may be equally adaptable to others.  It’s a very practical way of extending repertoire in an inventive way while simultaneously satisfying the clients’ request (i.e., “musicians, play a slow hora and then a faster one”).

Since then, I’ve found developing this musical skill quite useful outside the Romanian/Jewish context.  For example, practically any 2/4 tune can be turned into a waltz albeit some are more amenable to this transformation than others.   Truthfully, you may never be called upon to turn the Beatles “Yesterday” into a waltz, but I was asked to do exactly that on a gig earlier this year.

With that, here’s the Jewish hora mare in both its 3/8 and 2/4 forms.

Miamon Miller


 In Romanian, ‘hora’ means ‘circle dance’ and ‘hora mare’ means ‘big circle dance.’
In Yiddish, ‘shtetl’ means a village or very small town.
The metronome markings are approximations.

I found a version of the 2/4 melody on Youtube:

About the author:
Violinist Miamon Miller has been a fixture in folk music for 40 years.  In the 1970s and early 80s he was a musician with, and later directed, the Aman Folk Ensemble.  During that period and subsequently, he has played with many other groups including Pitu Guli, Bucovina Klezmer, Fuge Imaginea, Trei Arcusi, Moondog Trio and the As Yet Quintet.  Whether playing with mariachi or klezmer bands, Middle Eastern music, or jazz, he approaches all styles with near-equal enthusiasm.
Miamon has a B.A. in music composition and an M.A. in ethnomusicology (both from UCLA). He studied Transylvanian folk music for a year in Romania on a Fulbright grant and has made many research trips to that country.

A native of Los Angeles, Miamon is also involved in mainstream music having recorded with Neil(s) Sedaka and Diamond as well as other well-known artists.  His compositions and arrangements have made it to Hollywood in projects as diverse as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Arabs in Detroit, Keeping Up With the Steins and Swimming in Auschwitz.