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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘play’

Writer Profile: Elke Weiss

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Karen Greenberg: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

Elke Weiss: I grew up in Manhattan Beach, in Brooklyn. I now live in downtown Manhattan by the Hudson River. I really like living by the water.

What do you do for a living?

I am finishing a Masters in Urban Affairs and a law degree at New York Law School. I’m looking for a job in policy, but I do dream of a fiction writing career.

How did you get started in writing?

I was born talking, as my mother would say. I always had something to tell others, and deeply felt everyone was entitled to my opinion. My parents hooked me on books to help me shape my opinions. I would read amazing stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Wrinkle in Time and I would make up stories where I had joined those adventures. I soon realized that I could write those stories down and it grew from there. When I was little, I wrote a poem that made it into my school paper, and I decided, this was the place for me. Journalistic writing and essays followed. I think the amazing part of being a writer is being able to reach people I never met.

What types of readers do you hope to reach?

I hope to reach young Jewish teenagers. I remember how lonely and confusing being a teenager was, and I want to give them the advice I wish I had known. Besides that, I have a lot of interesting readers, from grandmothers to young professionals to my wonderful cousins in the Israeli army whom are nice enough to pass my articles around.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? What message do you want to send?

My message is pretty simple. There is so much to learn about oneself and that is the greatest joy in life; to change to become the best person you can be. I’m still finding that out for myself and I am happy to share the journey with others.

What do you usually write about for The Jewish Press?

I just give advice and thoughts from my heart; in my writing I try to speak to people they same way I would in person. I write about what is close to my heart – finding one’s place in college, choosing a major, dealing with internships, etc.

I do write about Israel quite a bit, because it’s an enormous part of me and I think it’s a cause every person should know about, and hopefully embrace. I’m a third generation Zionist. My incredible grandfather, Jack Mikulincer, fought in the War of Indpendance and liberated Afula. My parents marched for Soviet Jews to have the right to make aliya. I’m taking a stand against anti-Israel bigotry.

After I graduated from high school I asked Mrs. Mauer if I could cover a rally. She has been a great mentor since, always encouraging me in my writing. I share her vision of constant self-improvement and a love of Israel and she has been wonderful in letting me develop my voice.

Do you have any plans to write a book?

I do plan on writing fiction books, in both history and fantasy. I am currently working on a series of short stories, as well as a historical epic. If I wasn’t already doing law school, graduate school, Hasbara work, seeing friends and family and volunteering for student organizations, I’d have already finished one.

Have you gotten any reactions/ feedback about your writing? How has it been?

I have gotten a lot of amazing feedback from my writing, which touched me so deeply, expressing how much my articles meant to them. I treasure each e-mail and hope my readers feel comfortable being in touch with me through The Jewish Press with questions, comments or for advice. I adore hearing from readers!

Do you plan to continue to integrate writing into your life in the future?

I will always be a writer, until the undertakers nail the coffin shut. Whether it’s blogging, writing fiction, contributing essays or writing legal briefs or proposals, I’ll always have something to say and will be putting it down on paper. My next big project is a play about Israel, which I hope will be bought or published.

I Surrender…

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I try not to be defeatist; not to give up hope. I try to believe that it will all be okay. I really do. I do believe I have faith and I do trust God. And having said all of that, I hate to introduce a “but” in there…but…

I surrender. I just give up. I’ve been reading about the Munich massacre in 1972. Only weeks before, I had come to the conclusion, at 12 years old…the age my youngest daughter is now…that I wanted to live in Israel. I watched the Israelis march into the stadium with the Israeli flag and my heart soared – that was my flag! I was proud of the American flag; I really was, but my heart was already Israeli.

And then the report of an infiltration in the Olympic village. The Israelis. The hostage situation and the bungled rescue. A report that the Israelis were safe…and such relief…and then utter and complete shock that not one had survived…not one of the hostages. It would be only later we would learn of the incredible, criminal incompetence of the German police and “rescue” squad.

For weeks now, I’ve been posting and writing about the International Olympic Committee’s pathetic, disgusting and disturbing decision not to grant one moment, sixty seconds, of silence in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered in Munich – not once…in forty years. And today, I read an article about the heightened security concerns. Days after Israelis were attacked in Bulgaria, I surrender.

“In London, Israel’s Olympic team of 38 athletes is training under tight security at the Olympic village, and British forces have even placed surface-to-air missiles at six locations.”

–Reports Israel National News

“More than 17,000 troops and 7000 private security guards will protect the London Olympic Park and 26 other venues, with a further 12,500 police patrolling city streets in a series of ‘rings of steel’.”

– The Australian

Tight security; 24,000 guards and an additional 12,500 police. Is it worth it? If this is what we need to have these games, does it truly represent the great gathering of all nations? Where is the peace and brotherhood that should be symbolized? I surrender – it just isn’t worth the risk. I don’t want the Israelis to go to London. I don’t want to spend my time checking the news to make sure they haven’t been attacked.

I don’t want to trust those guards, those police and those missiles. I don’t ever want to feel what I did back when I was 12 years old watching as the world moved on and continued their games while I watched them loading coffins on planes that flew home to Israel. I couldn’t bring myself to watch them play while we cried.

Let them play – let them play among their missiles; praying they can finish before they are attacked. Let them watch the skies for missiles, the buildings for snipers, the roads for explosives. I know the Israeli team will go; I know they will play. I know others will hope they bring home some gold, some silver, some bronze.

I just want them to come home safe so that we never have to beg the International Olympic Committee’s cold-hearted members for sixty seconds to remember them. Go in peace, I’ll pray to each one…and most important, come home in peace.

Let’s Connect…Diversely

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Living in 2012 means being ‘connected.’ We are ‘connected’ to our cell-phones, our emails, our Facebook ‘Friends’ , and various email lists of interest.

In a world of so many ‘connections’, it’s hard to believe that connecting to our own family- our fellow Jews, would be such an elevated challenge. Indeed, on one such email list, the following story was posted on a few days ago:

” ….my grandchildren, who look quite obviously Haredi, came to visit me in my town, which is overwhelmingly of a National Religious character. My 13 year-old son took them to the park and immediately, the resident children at play, began to shout epithets at my grandchildren, ‘Stinky dirty Haredim,’ they cried. ‘Go play in your own parks.’…grandchildren who immediately left the park and returned to my home to spend the rest of their visit indoors and safe from the hatred extended toward them during what should have been a pleasant visit to Grandma.”

While kids will be kids (and yes, kids can be cruel even if their parents are far from it), and while the same has happened in (so-called) Haredi communities to those not complying with their local fashion of dress, and while these may just be isolated incidents in a park that usually portrays unity and friendliness, I am still profoundly appalled and disturbed to read of such an event.

“Why bad things happen to good people” is the cardinal question to which even Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t get a clear answer (according to one opinion in Tractate Berachot 7a). Thus, I am not about to say that the above incident is a ‘heavenly sign’ of sorts. However, when bad things occur, all will agree (ibid, 5a) that it’s a good time for a wake-up call – to ask if our actions, deeds, educational system, and general behavior is where is should be.

While I feel remain deeply privileged to be part of such a special community, “perfection” is a word that only exists in the dictionary. As we head deeper into these Three Weeks of mourning, a time still upon us due to the “Sinat Chinam” – senseless hatred – that dominated the eve of the 2nd Temple destruction (Tractate Yoma 9b), allow me to bring up three issues that I humbly believe should be reiterated, and refurbished in our actions, when such an event can transpire during such a sensitive time of the year:

Tolerance to some - Jews have usually been tolerant to groups that stand far from their own vantage point and lifestyle. Thus, I can naturally see the very same kids in the park acting cordially to secular Jews, and even to non-Jews as well. Ironically, the “challenge” of tolerance begins when we meet a group of people who share 85% of our own lifestyle; they daven thrice daily, they keep kosher homes, they devote time to learning Torah, they adhere to a standard of modesty and of course, they are Shomer Shabbat. It’s here that, for some reason, we don’t have the same “tolerance” that we bestow upon those that seem far our own lifestyle! Is it a sense of danger, lack of self-confidence or something else, that naturally allows us to be “tolerant” towards groups far from where we stand, and yet so judgmental and intolerant towards ones that are so similar? If we are to be tolerant, then it should be directed to all sides of the spectrum, especially those that are within the realm of Shemirat Torah Umitzvot. Yes, the 15% of dressing differently, our relationship towards the State of Israel, secular endeavors, joining the army and more, will still be “dividers” between our respective communities, and strong debates will yet go on. But will our level of tolerance towards groups who have passed the 15% mark be extended to those closer to it?  If we believe in Tolerance, it can and should run the entire gamut.

Diversity is not a dirty word - Beyond the need for tolerance towards those closer to us, I believe a deeper challenge lies before our communities, one that is not being spoken about enough in the “heat of the debate” in Israel of late; diversity is not a “b’diavad” - it’s not an Ex Post Facto of “three Jews, five opinions,” or the hardships of our long exile! Rather, it’s my view that, after accepting and fulfilling the “Yoke of Heaven,” - the dictates of Jewish Law -that God never intended for all of us to be the same:

Take Back The Calendar

Friday, July 13th, 2012

How do I take back the calendar
full of mistakes looking eerily back at me?

The echo in her mind chorused back and forth like it always had. Thought after thought. She bit her lip as she tried listening to his droning voice. Just more calories to her ears. Feeding her mind with unnecessary information. Fattening her whole world with more complications. She moved her fork from side to side on her plate trying to listen but also trying to drown out the memories taunting at her. Like somehow purging herself of them. Like throwing them up or flushing them away down the toilet. Just like everything else.

How do I unsay those words?
How do I un-breathe those sounds
and play it all back
and somehow delete it?

To most people life was a long menu of mistakes. Decisions not thought through. To Leah they were just empty calories. Each day was a meal she didn’t need. She glanced down at her phone as she pushed back her bangs. Breathing slowly she scanned the calendar. Just days after days. Feeding her. Feeding her uselessly. Life is just a long restaurant menu, isn’t it? And somehow she just wanted to take it all back. Undo those days. Take back those extra carbs or calories.

How do I make it not happen?
How do I erase those memories
like shredding a paper to morsels
or rip off that day
or rewind that hour?

And as Tzvi’s voice echoed in her mind, she slipped on the ring and tried smiling somehow while the sing song voice still played back and forth. The diamond glimmered on her finger. The smile on his face was almost like a little boy who got his hands on some ice cream. Ice cream. Just more fat and empty calories. Catching her reflection in the mirror on the dimly lit restaurant walls she saw herself feeling useless. Like calories she wanted to take back.

Where all prospects slipped from my palms
and everything crashed to the ground
and shattered to pieces.

But a few days later standing in the bathroom hovering over the sink the chorus was now a full blown orchestra. Like at a fancy dinner. Or at a big meal. Big calories. And she knew they all were waiting for her downstairs. But biting her lip she tried blocking it all out. How would she ever be good enough? That’s what the sing song teasing always reminded her. The blood was beginning to mix with her saliva. Pushing back a strand of her hair she bravely met her own eye in the mirror. Someone else stared back at her. Not the person she knew. Sucking her stomach in a little she thought how the feta cheese in her salad was just some extra fat. Why hadn’t she asked for the reduced fat dressing? And as she fed herself with the air she just wanted to get rid of it all. The teasing and taunting. The scales ticking. Treadmills running. She leaned over the toilet and didn’t hear the gentle knock. Her mind circled and pounded. Louder than the knocking. Louder than her logic. And calorie after calorie thrown up into the toilet swirling down away forever. Like the days of the calendar. Because each day just feeds you but you never digest it. You never needed the calories.

How do I make you forgive me
If I can’t take back the calendar?

And as she leaned back and sat down on the tiled floor, second after second ticked back and forth while the chorus finally started to mute. And the door slowly opened. And through the weak tears, dripping down her cheeks like the lace cookies on the platters downstairs, Leah’s eyes met his. Tzvi’s fingers slid from the door knob. He just stood in place. Like the cake she had left standing untouched.

So now how can you still not forgive me
and tell me it doesn’t matter to you
or that you think it’s over
while every second
guilt carves into my heart
and drop by drop erodes a valley too deep
till I’m cringing and wishing
that somehow I can’t un-dent the silver

Leah’s lips started to quiver. Her voice froze like the sorbet her mother had left in the freezer. She tried saying that it wasn’t what it looked like. She tried explaining. But breath after breath her chest just went up and down. Like the ounces on the scale. The soft hum of the rain falling outside filled up the silence. Like the stuffing in the knishes downstairs. The rain. Feeding the world. Dripping down calories.

or sweep up the glass
and put back the pieces
and take back the calendar.

Slowly Tzvi took a step back not taking his eyes off of her, shaking his head. Sadness frosted over his eyes. Like brownies. Slipping his hands into his pockets and shaking his head a last time, she caught his scared look before he walked away. He looked like he just ate way too many calories.

A Man’s Man

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Shmulik’s commanding officer pretty much defines the concept of a “man’s man” – at least as I would think of him. He’s the quintessential definition of an Israeli officer in war, in life, and in command. He’s been in the army since he first entered as a paratrooper somewhere back in his late teens.

He’s steadily climbed through the ranks, moving up very fast because he is charismatic, intelligent, young, handsome and dedicated. Shmulik met him just before he became a Major, now he’s a Lieutenant Colonel and I have no doubt the only limitation on where he will go is within him. Shmulik is convinced he could become Chief of Staff someday. He’s certainly capable, I think.

I heard him speak to a huge gathering of soldiers and parents. He’s a hero of sorts, a man of action. He epitomizes the Israeli commander who will command his troops with the traditional, “follow me” order. He was badly wounded by terrorist fire and when the doctors said he may never walk again, he prove them wrong. He walks – and he runs. Faster than Shmulik, longer distances. He guards what he eats (but he likes my chocolate chip cookies).

He’s a realist and he knows how to play the crowds. When we went up to the base for an introduction to what our sons would be doing in the next few months, S. was head of the base and did the talking. He introduced the weapons our sons would learn to fire, narrated the exercises the soldiers would learn to identify, quarantine, and eliminate terrorists. He walked us through an ambush of a terrorist hideout and explained that the soldiers there up on the hill were one session ahead of our sons. In four months, he told us, your sons will be up there doing this for other parents, “only you’re not invited,” he said with a laugh.

At one point, shooting the various weapons at a target in the distance started a brush fire. No problem, S. explained as a bunch of soldiers went out with what appeared to be poles or brooms, to fight it. This was the desert and there wasn’t really much to burn except brush so there was no urgency. People turned to watch the fire. I could hardly believe what I was seeing – they didn’t bring out fire engines and pour water – they beat the fire down. In a country always short of water, it was a fascinating display and we were glued to the progression of the fire, burning in almost a perfect circle because of the lack of wind.

S. wanted our attention for the program to continue. Like most of the audience, I watched the fire. And then, I turned to him and watched him watching the crowd. I videotaped (and later gave it to him) the part where he called out, “hello? To me…to me. It’s just a fire. Don’t worry…okay,” he said as the realist in him came through (and the humor), “ok, watch the fire for a few minutes and then we’ll continue.”

I thought it so funny at the time. The humor, the acceptance. I didn’t know then what a wonderful role he would play in Shmulik’s life a few months later.

S. waited a few more minutes while the soldiers did their work and got the fire mostly under control and then he began again. He isn’t ashamed of his emotions – another thing he taught Shmulik. Shmulik saw his fury when they went to the site of a horrible terrorist attack in which two parents were murdered, leaving orphans behind. The rage burned inside him and yet he controlled his anger as he ordered troops into action and monitored the situation.

Shmulik learned about humor when S. told him to use the fast lane meant for cars with many passengers, “and me,” S. told him. And he learned about humor when S. laughed endlessly because Shmulik had made some cute CDs for S.’s daughters, never noticing that they were in English with Hebrew subtitles. When he asked Shmulik about the English, Shmulik answered that there were subtitles, which made S. laugh even harder. S.’s daughters couldn’t read Hebrew; couldn’t understand the English that was so natural to Shmulik.

Haredim Offer to Purchase Jerusalem Soccer Team, Impose Weekday Only Schedule

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Chairman of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club Itzik Kornfein said in an interview with Israel TV’s sports channel that a number of Haredi businessmen from “Belgium, London and Russia” have expressed their desire to invest money in his team, on one condition: that Beitar would not play on Shabbat.

Kornfein also mentioned Israeli maverick millionaire Rami Levy, who also wants to buy the team if it would not play on Shabbat. He said: “I have no problem not playing on Shabbat, on the contrary, [I'm all for it]. I sent letters to [league president] Avi Luzon and [media content company] Charlton on the matter. We have many traditional-Jewish fans and itr comes down to five games a year altogether.”

Kornfein envisions combining a deal with Rami Levy and the Haredi investors. “Ramy is an honest and fair businessman. We’ll have to put things on the table from our side and see what happens.”

In his interview with the sports channel, Kornfein spoke openly about the mental fatigue he felt at what had been his vain attempts to recruit buyers for the Jerusalem team and save it from bankruptcy.

In January, Beitar Jerusalem was the target of angry criticism by religious season ticket holders who missed part of a crucial game with the team’s arch-rivals, the Arab team from Beit Sichnin. The original game time was set for 5:15 PM, but out of consideration for religious fans game time was postponed to 5:40. Except the Shabbat ended only at 5:45.

The fans accused Charlton of scheduling an early start to make room for their later, popular feed from the English soccer leagues.

Andy Statman: Klezmer Is Finished

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Andy Statman, one of the foremost Klezmer musicians in the world, knows that the time of Klezmer has passed.

“Each music has its point,” He explained over the phone while working at a Mandolin camp in California. “[Klezmer] is still alive, but in many ways it doesn’t really represent a living community. While it’s still alive and it’s great music and people enjoy it… It’s not a reflection of the time.”

At 62, Statman was the recipient of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in June for his work in bluegrass and Klezmer music. As part of the fellowship, the nation’s highest recognition for traditional and folk art,  he will receive a one-time, $25,000 grant. He has been hailed by The New Yorker as an “American visionary” and by the New York Times as a “virtuoso.” His white shirt, beard and velvet yarmulkes also display the fact that Statman is an Orthodox Jew.

Statman grew up in Queens to a traditional, yet secular Jewish family from an unbroken chain of cantors going back to the 1700′s. His house was steeped in both vaudeville and Klezmer traditions. His cousin, Sammy Fein, originally Feinberg, a self-taught musician and composer, won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Statman taught himself guitar and banjo after his brother brought home a record of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. A musical prodigy, in his teens he took up mandolin and became a well-known bluegrass musician.

After mastering saxophone and an extended foray into jazz in his mid-twenties, Statman felt the call of something else. He sought out master klezmer clarinetist Dave Terras. He says he became a “ben bayit,” a regular, at Terras’s house.

“There’s an incredible depth and spirituality to the music,” he said about Klezmer. “It connects you to the deepest part of yourself and to God. That’s what Judaism is about… In the old-time melodies, there’s, for lack of a better word, spiritual vitamins.”

Klezmer is the Eastern European musical tradition passed down from one generation to the next. (“It’s basically Chasidic music,” Statman said.) The exact history of the music was unknown to him, save for the fact that when Statman began playing Klezmer, it had almost been gone.

“A lot of where the music was played didn’t make it out,” he said. “Russia, Galicia, a lot of Chasidim. I think not only the Holocaust but there was more of an interest in preserving Judaism and the community. Music was not such a pressing concern.”

As the Klezmer revival began in the 1980’s and 90’s, Statman found himself more and more in demand, performing on records for the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.

“I didn’t intentionally start the revival, I was just doing it for myself to preserve the music,” Statman said. “I wasn’t reviving something, I just wanted to keep it alive. And the whole thing sort of blossomed.”

Paradoxically, as he became more Orthodox he felt less of a pull towards Klezmer music.

“The music became very much an expression of Judaism for me, and once I began observing the mitzvot I didn’t feel the need to play the music anymore.” Statman said.

Statman returned to Klezmer in the mid-90’s when he produced “Songs of our Fathers” with his mentor David Grisman, and “In the Fiddler’s House” with Itzhak Perlman. He, along with his two band members Jim Whitney and Larry Eagle, perform regularly at the Charles Street Synagogue. His most recent CD is Old Brooklyn.

Statman now lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with his wife. His grandsons and granddaughters attend religious schools. While musically inclined, none of them have seriously taken up an instrument.

“Given the schedules of yeshiva and Beis Yakov, there’s no real time to learn it well,” he explained. “If you really want to play music well, it’s a full-time commitment. I’m practicing six hours a day.”

He sees his becoming religious as a “continuation of a seven thousand year heritage that was momentarily broken.”

About the future of Klezmer, Statman said it wasn’t bittersweet.

“Like bluegrass [music], it’s from a time and place,” he said. “It changed and the music was moving on to become something else. That’s the way it is. Styles come and go. They reflect the lives and the people who are involved in them… Each day is new.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/andy-statman-klezmer-is-finished/2012/06/26/

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