Monday, April 23, 2018

Maria Grinberg: Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words (1967-8)

Maria Grinberg [1908–1978]: Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words” (Lieder ohne Worte) are  short lyrical piano pieces by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn, written between 1829 and 1845. Grinberg’s playing was recorded on radio in 1967–8. There is no known archival footage of Grinberg, despite her great musical talent. Grinberg was set aside by the Soviet Union during a good part of her adult years; in 1937, her father and husband were arrested and executed as “enemies of the people” in one of Stalin’s many purges.  After Stalin's death, she was given a little more freedom, in that she was able to travel outside the Soviet Union. For more on Maria Israelevna Grinberg, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Jewish Refugees Arrive in Canada After WWII

Photo of the Day

Jewish Refugees from post-war Europe arrive in Canada via Halifax’s Pier 21, circa 1948. These were the fortunate or lucky ones and they show their appreciation in this photo. They had an opportunity to build a better life in Canada, which they undoubtedly did with much gratefulness and gratitude. Between 1946 and 1952, during the post-war period, Canada received about 160,000 displaced persons from Europe, or about 16% of the one million DPs post-1945 who were not repatriated to their native lands.; 20,000 were Jews. If the numbers seem small for a people who suffered so much, it is because there was already a precedent in place. Between 1933 and 1945, for example, Canada accepted only 5,000 Jews from Europe, and even then did so with stringent economic conditions. Canada was a different country then, not as welcoming as it is today, and perhaps not as prosperous; and, yet, they did welcome my father in 1951. He was ever grateful. For more go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: The Canadian Jewish News and the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives

Daliah Lavi: Erev Shel Shoshanim (1974)

Israeli Poetry/Music

Daliah Lavi [1942–2017] דליה לביא: Erev Shel Shoshanim ערב של שושנים (“Evening of Roses”), a poetic love song often sung or played at weddings. The music is by Yosef Hadar [1926–2006], the lyrics are by Moshe Dor [1932–2016], one of the founding fathers of Israeli poetry. The song was first recorded by Yafa Yarkoni [1925–2012 ] in 1957. Truly, there is a lot of history packed into one song.
Via: Youtube

Friday, April 20, 2018

Leonard Bernstein in Beersheba, Israel

Photo of the Day

Leonard Bernstein [1918–1990] in Beersheba, Israel (also Be’er Sheva; בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע) on November 20, 1948). It was Bernstein’s second visit to the Land in less than two years. During Israel’s War of Independence (1947–49), Bernstein, aged 30, performed all over Israel—forty concerts in sixty days– with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, including here in the midst of the Negev, in Beersheba. Susan Gold writes: “There in the desert, an archaeological dig served as the concert venue, its high walls creating a three-sided amphitheater, and a makeshift stage was constructed. As reported by the South African writer Colin Legum: ‘The well of the amphitheater is alive with chattering soldiers–men and women of the front-line army, Jews from Palestine and the British Commonwealth and U.S., Morocco, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, the Balkans, the Baltic, even one from Lapland." Local residents arrived, and some wounded soldiers were transported by ambulance from the hospital nearby. At 3:30 PM, the concert began. Bernstein played three concerti in a row, not only a bonanza for his listeners, but also a first for him: Mozart’s K. 450 in B flat, Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, a most extraordinary and ambitious encore! A violinist supported Bernstein's chair when it began slipping along the precarious platform.’ ” For more go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Spielberg Jewish Film Archive: Hasidic Music (1994)

Hasidic Music (1994) is a film that is part of the Israel Music Heritage Project. The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, “dedicated to the preservation and research of Jewish documentary films,” holds approximately 16,000 titles: about 4,500 films, over 9,000 videos in various formats and roughly 600 DVDs. A subsection of this is the virtual cinema (that is, available for online viewing), which contains more than 600 films, including this one—dating from 1911 to the present. This wonderful  archive of modern Jewish history is housed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For more, go [here].
Via: The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Israel Declaration of Independence

Photo of the Day

Israel Declaration of Independence (Yom Ha’atzmaut; יום העצמאות‎): Israelis take to the streets to celebrate on May 14, 1948, or 5 Iyar 5708—seventy years ago today in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish Chronicle writes: “On May 14th, 1948, Israel’s Declaration of Independence was made in Tel Aviv, a few hours before the British Mandate was set to expire. At midnight the British Mandate of Palestine was officially terminated and the State of Israel came into being.” After 2,000 years, the Jews were back in their historic homeland as a majority people and not under another nation’s thumb (as was the case with the ancient Romans and their brutal rule), but as a people who would determine their own destiny, their own future and make their own laws and be “the masters of their own fate”—what in politics is called self-determination. Israel is the world’s only Jewish-majority state, and this fact should never be minimized or forgotten. Happy 70th birthday ארץ ישראל‬ (Eretz Yisrael). For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: YNet News

Huberman and Friedman: Beethoven ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata

Yom Ha’atzmaut

Bronislaw Huberman [1882–1947] & Ignaz Friedman [1882–1948] perform Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, known as Violin Sonata No. 9, opus 47, published in 1803. Both were born in Poland; both were Jewish.
Via: Youtube

You can enjoy the music, which is wonderful, but there is also something more important that needs to be said to set the record straight. Huberman was and is a great humanitarian who acted courageously in the face of tyranny, totalitarianism and evil, doing what good men always do. Huberman founded the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in 1936. This orchestra became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948 after the founding of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948, or 5 Iyar 5708, Yom HaAtzmaut. Huberman’s dream not only produced a world-class orchestra, but resulted in the rescue of nearly 1,000 European Jewish musicians and their families from the Nazi death machine. The first concert was on December 26, 1936 (you can listen here to a rare clip); it was conducted by Arturo Toscanini, who was fiercely anti-fascist, who was fiercely humane. “I am doing this for humanity,” Toscanini said, declining any fee. That a small nation wanted an orchestra says  much about that nation. The story is told in “Orchestra of Exiles,” a 2012 documentary by Josh Aronson; you can view a trailer [here]. For more on the Jewish People’s fight for freedom and independence, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A.M. Klein at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal

Photo of the Day

“There is nothing more wholesome in the entire world than a broken Jewish heart.”
Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotsk [1787–1859],
cited in Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust (1982) by Yaffa Eliach

A.M. Klein [1909–1972] (standing in the center): at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, on November 25, 1945. Valérie Beauchemin and David Gilbert for the Museum of Jewish Montreal write: “Group portrait, including Maurice Hartt (at that time a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec, later a federal MP), Pierre Van Paasen, Michael Becker, and A. M. Klein, upon the occasion of the visit of Pierre Van Paasen (a Dutch-Canadian journalist who supported Zionism) to the Jewish Public Library, November 25, 1945. Standing centre is A. M. Klein.” This would be at the time that the facts of the Holocaust and of the 250,000 Jews in DP camps in war-ravaged Europe have become more widely known—it would take years for most of these Jewish war refugees to be resettled. Klein was deeply affected by the Holocaust: as a Jew, as a poet and as human being. For more, go [here], [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Museum of Jewish Montreal; Jewish Public Library Archives; Montreal

Leo Fuld: Vi Ahin Zol Ich Geyn? (1948)

The Jewish Homeland

Vi Ahin Zol Ich Geyn? (1948) by Leo Fuld [born in 1912 in Rotterdam–died in 1977 in Amsterdam], a Dutch-Jewish singer who made the song famous to English audiences.
Via: Youtube

The lyrics to this song were written by Igor S. Korntayer [also known as S. Korn-Teuer; 1890–1941], who was born and lived in Poland, his first language being Yiddish. He died in Auschwitz in 1941 or 1942 during the Holocaust of the Second World War. The music was composed by Oskar (Leib) Strok [1893–1975), who was born into a Jewish family in Dinaburg, Latvia (nowadays Daugavpils), a very famous composer between the two world wars, called “the King of Tango.”

Just before the start of the Second World War [September 1, 1939], Leo Fuld left for America, where he became a well-known singer of Yiddish songsWhen Fuld returned to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, after the war, in 1948, he found out, like so many of his time, that his entire family—with the exception of one sister—had been murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust. As the story goes, Fuld first heard the song at a Yiddish nightclub in Paris, sung by a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. He vowed to make the song famous, which it became.

Without saying it by name, the song is about the hundreds of thousands of Jews, survivors of the Holocaust, who were languishing in DP camps, who were waiting for a country to call home, where they could/would start a new life. Where to go, where to go/Every door is closed to me/To the left, to the right/It's the same in every land.

In the end, there was only one country that could, that had the will and the desire to, accept them all: the Jewish Homeland. Now I know where to go/Where my folks proudly stand/Where to go, where to go/To that precious promised land.

Steve Lawrence, born in 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, sings the song in both English and Yiddish. It is on the album Ramblin’ Rose (side 1; track 3). 
Via: Youtube

For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Exodus 1947 Ship

Photo of the Day

Exodus 1947: at the Haifa Port (in July 1947), after the British takeover. Note the sign “Haganah Ship Exodus 1947.” The story is well known, but as a reminder I cite the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM): “In July 1947, the President Warfield left Sète, France, for Palestine. It carried over 4,500 Jewish men, women, and children, all displaced persons (DPs) or survivors of the Holocaust. Even before the ship (by then renamed the Exodus 1947) reached Palestine’s territorial waters, British destroyers surrounded it. On July 18 a struggle ensued between British naval forces and passengers on the ship. A Jewish crew member and two passengers were killed. Dozens suffered bullet wounds and other injuries. Attempting to make an example of the Exodus 1947, the British towed the ship to Haifa and transferred the passengers onto three navy transports which returned to Europe.” The passengers, deemed illegal, were sent back via three caged prison ships to Germany’s DP camps in Hamburg (which the British controlled assiduously) with its passengers, Jewish Shoah survivors. Undeterred, and driven by a moral imperative, most found a way to reach Palestine by the time Israel declared itself a state less than a year later, in May 1948. For more, go [here], [here] and [here].
Photo Credit: Frank Shershel [1907–1981]
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons & the National Photo Collection of Israel; Photography Department

Kadya Molodowsky: El Khanun (1945)

Yiddish Poetry

Kadya Molodowsky: El Khanun (“God of Mercy”). Merciful God,/Choose another people,/Elect another./We are tired of death and dying,/We have no more prayers.

Kadya Molodowsky [1894–1975], also spelled Kadya Molodovski, was born on May 10th in the shtetl of Bereze (Bereza Kartuska), in Grodno province in what was then the Russian Empire and is now in Belarus. Her poems were initially about the role of women in a modern world, especially working-class women. Her later poems later evolved to discuss the survival of Jews in the modern world, in a world where humanity seemed hopelessly lost.

Such times have always marked the Jewish People. For example, after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, finding herself stuck in Kiev, Ukraine, Molodowsky worked as a private tutor, and, as Kathryn Hellerstein notes in the Jewish Women’s Archive, “in a home for Jewish children displaced by the pogroms in the Ukraine.” There, she met and married Simkhe Lev [1896–1974], a scholar and teacher. The couple then moved to Warsaw in 1921, where she was an active member of the Yiddish Writers’ Union and published four books of poems (she published seven in total).

Then to New York City (by way of Philadelphia, where he father and sisters lived) in 1935. Simkhe Lev, her husband, joined her a few years later (around 1938). In those years she had a active literary life, giving lectures and poetry readings in the U.S. and in Canada. She also wrote a column for the Forverts, under the pen name of Rivke Zilberg.

Then the Khurban in Europe changed everything, and undoubtedly this change lasted for a long, long time for writers, poets, authors, etc. It was in NYC, far removed physically, but not soulfully, from her East European Jewish roots, that she wrote a collection of poems, her sixth, Der melekh David aleyn iz geblibn (Only King David Remained; 1946), which includes this poem. (For biblical passages on El khanun, see, for example, Exodus 34:6-7, Jonah 4:2, and Nehemiah 9:16-17.)

Molodowsky named this collection khurbn lider, or “poems of the Destruction.” In this poem, Molodowsky asks/requests God of Mercy to reconsider His Covenant with the Jewish People, given that having such a distinction is long on suffering and death, and seems more like a curse than a blessing. As much as this poem subverts the relationship, it also, ironically, affirms it. The Jewish People cannot be anything else but a people who have a covenantal relationship with God. In the end this becomes a heartfelt prayer. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].

Kadya Molodowsky in Israel (circa 1949): Between 1949 and 1952, she and her husband lived in Tel Aviv, where she was editor of the Yiddish journal Di Heym (Home), published by the Working Women’s Council (Moetzet Hapoalot). In 1971, Molodowsky received the Itzik Manger Prize, the most prestigious award for Yiddish letters and literature.
Credit: Epharim Erde; National Library of Israel, Schwadron collection
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Monday, April 16, 2018

Youths Aboard Aliyah Bet Ship ‘Mataroa’

Photo of the Day

Survivor Youth with concentration camp numbers tattooed on their arms aboard Aliyah Bet (“illegal” immigration) ship “Mataroa,” at the Haifa port. They were denied entry and were deported to Cyprus detention camps. Palestine, July 15, 1945. Denied so much in their young lives, they nevertheless persevered. They were, after all is said and done, on a similar journey for freedom and to build a new life in a new land with historical and biblical significance to the Jewish People. Most of its passengers were children: a few hundred survivors of the Buchenwald Camp (one of them was Yizrael Lau, future Chief Rabbi of Israel), and children that were hidden in France and Switzerland. All together, 6,000 orphans were held in detention in Cyprus, part of the 50,000 individuals held in detention in Cyprus. The last prisoners, called detainees, were released by the British on February 11, 1949, nine months after Israel declared its independence in May 1948. Wikipedia writes: “ Following Israeli independence, the British began deporting detainees to Israel at a rate of 1,500 per month. They amounted to 40% of all immigration to Israel during the war months of May–September 1948.[4] The British kept about 11,000 detainees, mainly men of military age, imprisoned throughout most of the war. On January 24, 1949, the British began sending these detainees to Israel, with the last of them departing for Israel on February 11, 1949.” For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum & the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Yiddish Writers Monologues: Misha Lev

Misha Lev [1917–2003]: A documentary film by Boris Sandler and produced by the Forverts. This is Part 3 of a 10-part series, “Yiddish Writers Monologues” [Monologn fun Yidishe shraybers], which brings to life Yiddish writers of the 20th century to a wider audience.  This is a wonderful series by Sandler, who was then the editor (1998–2016) of the Yiddish Forward.  Sandler is a well-known Yiddish writer, part of a small group from the former Soviet Union that has gone to great lengths to promote and give Yiddish literature new breath and thus increase its breadth. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Via: Youtube

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rabbi Yisroel Spira, the Rebbe of Bluzhov

Photo of the Day

Rabbi Yisroel Spira [1889–1989], the Rebbe of Bluzhov. (Bluzhov is the Yiddish name of Błażowa, which before the Holocaust was a small shtetl in southeastern Poland populated by 930 Jewish souls.) A good many of the tales in Yuffa Eliach’s Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust are told by Rabbi Spira. He not only survived the Holocaust, he lived to reach almost 100 years of age. Rabbi Eliyahu Safran writes about this zaddik: “After being saved from the Holocaust, he settled in Brooklyn, where the weight of the Holocaust never left him. He believed he survived solely to ensure that neither he nor anyone else ever forgot those dark, dark times. In recounting those dark days, he displayed not only the courage of his character but also his great gift as a storyteller. No one who heard him relate his experiences ever forgot what he shared with them. He truly touched the hearts of his listeners.” He often said, many articles recount: “The reason I remained alive was so that I could continue recounting to future generations what happened to us during those times.” For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Hevrat Pinto

Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust (1982)

Tales of Faith & Belief

“The biggest miracle of all is the one that we, the survivors of the Holocaust, after all that we witnessed and lived through, still believe and have faith in the Almighty God, may his name be blessed. This, my friends, is the miracle of miracles, the greatest miracle ever to have taken place.”

the Klausenberger Rebbe,
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam [1905–1994]

Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust (1982), by Yaffa Eliach [born as Yaffa Sonenson in 1935 in EishishokPoland–died in 2016] in New York City, is like no other book I have ever read.
Photo: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Many of the eighty-nine Tales are fabulous, and defy everyday belief.  Yet, such is what I would expect when the abnormal becomes normal, which is what took place during the Shoah; this is also my expectation when reading about the Hasidim. The Tales are never boring, not at all. Quite the contrary. At the centre of these tales is the zaddik, writes Yaffa Eliach in the Foreword: 
The Hasidic tale draws from both European literary tradition and from a variety of Jewish sources—Bible, Midrash, Kabbalah, and others. Central to many Hasidic tales is the singular, almost mythological charismatic personality of the zaddik, the saint. Unlike the Greek or Christian hero, the zaddik possesses a larger-than-life personality and mystical powers which enable him to transcend the historical reality of his surroundings. He can endow the pain and the suffering of his Hasidim (his followers, literally “The Pious”), as individuals or as a multitude, with personal hope, with national and universal meaning. The zaddik struggles to remain optimistic even in the valley of death. His concept of eternal time enables him to surmount the brutal reality of his temporal surroundings. He is determined to believe that evil is transient and good must ultimately triumph. Faith becomes an optimistic link, providing the structural continuity between past and future, while endowing the wretchedness of the present with dignity. (xviii). 
Having dignity is such circumstances is unimaginable today, and, yet, its importance cannot be over-emphasized. It is dignity that kept the souls alive as much as faith and hope in the transcendent, a profound idea that their Nazi persecutors, with their rationalist racist theories, could not (never) apprehend or understand. Suffering without a purpose will defeat you; suffering with a purpose might (perhaps will) help you overcome it. Chaim Potok writes: “Its true stories and fanciful miracle tales are a profound and often poignant insight into the souls of those who suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis and who managed somehow to use that very suffering as the raw material for their renewed lives.” 

Yaffa Eliach in her “Tower of Faces” exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. It is now part of  the Yaffa Eliach Shtetl Collection. It writes: “The ‘Tower of Faces’ is a three-floor-high segment of the permanent exhibition at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum devoted to the Jewish community of the Lithuanian town of Eisiskes, which was massacred by units of the German Einsatzgruppe and their Lithuanian auxiliaries in two days of mass shootings on September 25 and 26, 1941. The exhibit consists of approximately 1,000 reproductions of prewar photographs of Jewish life in the town gathered from more than 100 families by Dr. Yaffa Eliach, who spent her early childhood in Eisiskes.” For more on the exhibit, go [here].
Photo CreditThe New York Times via Associated Press

Such people ought to be remembered, and Prof. Eliach has done so in a remarkably good and generous way, an unforgettable way, I might add, with this book, with her research and with the exhibit of photos of Jewish life in the Lithuanian town of Eisiskes. Yaffa Eliach (born Yaffa Sonenson; married Rabbi David Eliach in 1953, and then the couple moved to the United States), a Holocaust survivor and historian, is also an interesting and notable  person, who has done tremendous pioneering work in the field of Holocaust studies; she was Professor in the Dept. of Judaic Studies of Brooklyn College, City University of New York; and Director of the Center for Holocaust Studies, Documentation and Research. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Friday, April 13, 2018

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising & Jewish Resistance

Photo of the Day

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising [April 19th to May 16th 1943]: [R to L]: Małka Zdrojewicz Horenstein (survived internment in the Majdanek camp; moved to Palestine in 1946, where she married, change name to Horenstein, and had four children.); Bluma Wyszogrodzka (shot in Auschwitz); Rachela Wyszogrodzka (gassed in Auschwitz). The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the Germans in the Jewish section of Warsaw on October 16, 1940; it forced more than 400,000 Jews into an area of of 3.4 square kilometres (1.3 sq mi). Needless to say, conditions were inhospitable, appalling and cruel. This act of defiance is considered as the largest single act of resistance by Jews during the Second World War, a heroic defiance in the face of a well-armed enemy: Here are the recollections of Malka Zdrojewicz Horenstein, the only one of the three in the above photo who survived the war: “We went to a neutral place in the ghetto area and climbed down into the underground sewers. Through them, we girls used to carry arms into the ghetto; we hid them in our boots. During the ghetto uprising, we hurled Molotov cocktails at the Germans.After the suppression of the uprising, we went into hiding, taking refuge in an underground shelter where a large quantity of arms was piled up. But the Germans detected us and forced us out. I happened to be there with Rachela and Bluma Wyszogrodzka (and that is how they took our picture) Rachela and I, together with the others, were driven to the Umschlagplatz. They later took us to Majdanek from there.” For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Ani Ma’amin

Yom HaShoah

Ani Ma’amin (אני מאמין, “I Believe”) is a niggun (ניגון‬ ) or a Hasidic melody. Its popularity during the Holocaust is attributed to Reb Azriel David Fastag, a Modzitzer Hasid (a Hasidic group originating in Poland), who, the Zemirot Database writes “was divinely inspired to sing it on a train to Treblinka”—a forced labor camp and killing center.

It eventually made its way to the Modzitzer Rebbe, Shaul Yedidya Elazar, who said: “With this niggun, the Jewish people went to the gas chambers. And with this niggun, the Jews will march to greet Moshiach.” It is based on Rambam’s Shloshah Asar Ikkarim, the twelfth of the “Thirteen Fundamental Principles” of the Jewish faith. Ani ma’in b’emunah sh’eimah b’viat hamashiach, v’af al pi sh’yitmameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo b’chol yom sheyavo.

Ani Ma’amin (“I Believe”) by the Miami Boys Choir. 
Via: Youtube

Ani Ma’amin (“I Believe”) by David Dudu Fisher at the March of the Living, in 2015, at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Via: Youtube

Ani Ma’amin (“I Believe”) with the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leading the singing at a Farbrengen on 24 Tammuz 5736 (July 22, 1976).
Via: Youtube

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Jewish Children From Poland Orphaned After the War

Photo of the Day

DP Camps: Polish Jewish children, many of whom are orphaned, en route to safety in American Zones of Austria and Germany. Prague, Czechoslovakia. c. 1946. In a post (“No Return”) for the Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program, Michael Kutz [born in 1930 in Nieśwież, Poland], a teenager during this time, shares why he wanted to leave the nation of his birth, Poland, a common view of the majority of Jews: “I didn’t believe that there was any future for the surviving Jews in Poland. Before the war, during a thousand years of Jewish life in Poland, the Yiddish language and culture had flourished, and Jews had helped to build the country for the benefit of all the Polish people. Nevertheless, part of that Polish population had helped the Nazis execute their plans to annihilate the Jews. There were, of course, exceptions — during the Warsaw ghetto uprising Jews received support from Polish comrades in the resistance, and some Polish families had hidden Jews, including many children, although some were well paid by those they hid. The Catholic Church in Poland and Pope Pius XII, however, had been silent about the destruction of the Jews of Poland.” The DP camps, notably those administered by the Americans, were better than what preceded it, but this only a temporary measure. It was still in Europe, where memories were easily triggered.  Michael Kutz arrived in Canada on March 21, 1948, at Halifax’s Pier 21, where he started his new life. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Shoah by Claude Lanzmann (1985)

Yom HaShoah

Shoah by Claude Lanzmann [born in Paris, France, in 1925], the 1985 epic documentary on the Holocaust (khurbn eyrope, חורבן אײראָפּע, in Yiddish or Shoah, שואה, in Hebrew): Nine hours and 30 minutes was the result of over 300 hours of raw footage and 11 years in the making. Part 2 can be viewed [here]. This might be the greatest documentary made on the greatest evil perpetuated against humanity, whose machinery of destruction started with a profound hatred of Jews. You can also read a 2011 interview of Lanzmann [here].
Via: Youtube

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Reuben Brainin With His Four Sons

Photo of the Day

Reuben Brainin [born in 1862 in Liadi, Byelorussia–died in 1939 in New York City] and his four sons who all enlisted in the Jewish Legion during the First World War. Richard Kreitner for the Museum of Jewish Montreal writes: “In 1912, Brainin moved again to Montreal, where he began a three-year stint editing the Yiddish-language community paper Keneder Adler and thereafter the rival daily Der Veg, which was formed to challenge the more affluent, assimilationist members of the Jewish community, and to support the creation of a national Jewish congress. Brainin became involved in community politics, including labour strife in 1914 (during which he acted as a mediator between the two sides), and refugee relief efforts during World War I. Along with Yehudah Kaufman, Brainin opened a Jewish reading room in 1914, which eventually became Montreal’s renowned Jewish Public Library. In that same year, he also played an important role in creating the Yidishe Folks Shule (Jewish People’s School).” During this time that he resided in Montreal (1912–1917), he lived the latter part at 533 Ave Davaar in the Outremont neighbourhood. He then left for New York City, where he wrote for a number of Jewish journals and newspapers. Although he died in New York City, he requested that he be buried in Montreal, and his books donated to the Jewish Public Library. For more, go [here] and [here].
CourtesyMuseum of Jewish Montreal; JPL-A. Special thanks to Judy King Fonds.

The Yidsher Neshomah of Moyshe Kulbak

Moyshe Kulbak [born in 1896 in Smarhoń–died 1937 near Minsk, Belarus] was a poet, novelist, playwright and teacher. This program is hosted by Boris Sandler for the Forverts; it originally aired on March 20, 2015. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here]; and to hear the emotional expressive Louis Harry Danto [born in 1929 in Suwalki, Poland–died in 2010 in Toronto, Ontario] sing an excellent version of “Shterndl” (1916), you can go [here]. Danto was cantor at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda synagogue, in Toronto, from 1973 until his retirement in 1998. As for this particular poem. Yiddishkayt offers this much by way of information: “The poem, written in a folk style, was the prayer of a Jewish soldier, separated from his family and his hometown while stationed at the front. “Shterndl” (or “Little Star”) was set to music and became extremely popular, so much so that it was often credited in various publications as an anonymous folksong.”
Via: Youtube & the Forverts

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Previous Rebbe Visits New York City

Photo of the Day

The Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn [born in 1880 in Lubavitch, Belarus–died in 1950 in Brooklyn, NY], also called the Frierdiker Rebbe (Yiddish for the Previous Rebbe): The rebbe is escorted by police upon his arrival in New York. Thousands awaited him at the pier. September 18, 1929. Yosef Landa writes for the Chabad website: “The Rebbe arrived in New York Harbor on September 18, 1929. During the next eight months, he traveled to a number of American cities, including Philadelphia; Baltimore; Boston; Washington, D.C. (where he met with President Herbert Hoover); Milwaukee; Chicago and Detroit. On Sunday, May 4, 1930, the Rebbe arrived in St. Louis. Ten days later, on Tuesday, May 13, 1930, he departed for New York on his way back to Europe.” It would be another ten years, on March 1940, that the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe would return to America [you can see a video of his arrival here], to New York City, and then to Brooklyn, on March 19, 1940, where he resided and reigned as head of this Hasidic dynasty until his death on January 28, 1950. Y.Y. Schneersohn is the father-in-law of M.M. Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher rebbe, who is simply called The Rebbe. For more, go [here] and [here]

Father, Where Are You? (1979)

Father, Where Are You?, by Menachem Mendel Schneerson [1902–1994], the Rebbe, the seventh Lubavitcher rebbe, in a farbrengen [gathering] on 15 Shevat 5739 (February 12, 1979).
Via: Youtube & Living Torah (Volume 48, Episode 190)

This excerpt is from Jewish Educational Media, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch; it writes by way of explanation:
The purpose of exile has been explained with a parable: G-d hides from us, like a father hides from his son–in order to evoke the son’s deepest desire to find his father and be close to him again. But after looking for so long, the son is liable to give up the search! He may even forget that the father is there altogether. The Jew may continue to adhere to Jewish law, but no longer hope for a meaningful relationship with G-d. And when confronted about this he can respond: “Why complain to me? Complain to G-d! How long must we wait for Him?” G-d is the One Who makes man finite and limited, and the exile seems to be more than man can handle. When a person increases the Divine light in his life, and specifically a real and tangible joy, then “joy bursts through barriers”—it tears down the barriers within himself, and the thick barriers of the darkness of exile.
A good part of the farbrengen is emotional, and with good reason. Exile is never easy. It never was; it never will be. How can it be? Such describes, I believe, the feeling of so many people who are sincerely searching for G-d, the Divine Father. The Rebbe shows a keen understanding of the human heart and what matters most.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Saul Bellow as a Young Boy in Montreal

Photo of the Day

The Bellow Family around 1920 in Montreal (L to R): Saul, Liza, Jane, Abraham, Maury, and Sam. Saul Bellow [1915–2000] was born outside Montreal, in Lachine, QC, on June 10, 1915, which would make him around five in this photo. He was born two years after his parents emigrated from Saint Petersburg, Russia. The family would move to the United States, to Chicago, when Bellow was nine. It was in Chicago that he was formed as a writer, but the early years in Montreal, when he lived on St. Dominique Street  had some notable influences on him. When he was three, they moved to the second floor of a duplex at 1092 St.-Dominique St., a cold-water flat, which was then in an area at the heart of the Jewish community in Montreal. It was where immigrants from many nations lived and rubbed shoulders and bumped elbows. For more, go [here], [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Vanity Fair

Vladimir Horowitz: The 1968 Concert at Carnegie Hall

Vladimir Horowitz [born in 1903 in Kiev, Ukraine–died in 1989 in New York City], in his first TV concert, which took place at Carnegie Hall in New York City, on September 22, 1968.

Vladimir Horowitz, who is 64 here, plays phenomenally well. Horowitz was a self described “19th-century Romantic,” who played from the heart. In an obituary (“Vladimir Horowitz, Titan of the Piano, Dies; November 6, 1989) after his death, published in The New York Times, Bernard Holland writes: Lessons on the piano at home began at the age of 3, then formal training at 6. He studied both the piano and composition at the Kiev Conservatory and in his early years leaned more toward a life of composing. His musical talent was apparent from an early age.” He first played at Carnegie Hall 40 years earlier, in 1928 (on January 12th), when he made his American debut at the age of 24. For the next 60 years he was among a handful of beloved classical pianists in America.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Jewish Immigrant at Ellis Island

Photo of the Day

Jewish Immigrant at Ellis Island [1892–1954]; Photo taken in 1905: Ellis Island was the entry point for more than 12 million immigrants to the United States between 1892 and 1924. Three million of the arrivals were Jews from Eastern Europe, who came between 1880 and The First World War. Before Ellis Island opened, people entered via Castle Garden in Lower Manhattan. It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans have at least one relative who came in through Ellis Island, symbolic as the gateway to a better life, di Goldene Medina. For more go [here], [here] and [here].
Photo Credit: Lewis Wickes Hines; 1905
Courtesy: New York Public Library Digital Collections; The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection

Arthur Rubinstein: Live in Moscow (1964)

Arthur Rubinstein [born in Lodz, Poland in 1887–died in Geneva, Switzerland in 1982] at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory, October 1, 1964 with an all-Chopin program (and a few non-Chopin encores). Rubinstein was 77 at this recital. For more on the performance, go [here] and [here]; and for more on Rubinstein himself, go [here], [here] and [ here].
Via: Youtube

Friday, April 6, 2018

Yiddish Writers at the Czernowitz Conference

Photo of the Day

Czernowitz Conference (1908): Yiddish writers at the Czernowitz Conference: (L to R): Avrom Reyzen, Yitskhok Leybush (I.L.) Peretz, Sholem Asch, Khayim Zhitlovski, Hersh Dovid Nomberg. This was the first international conference in support of the Yiddish language and its important to Jewish life; it was convened between August 30 and September 4, 1908 in Czernowitz, then the capital of the Austrian crown province of Bukowina (now Chernivtsi in Ukraine). The conference proclaimed “Yiddish a national Jewish language.” This proved true until a number of events undermined its importance in the daily lives of Jews: 1.) cultural assimilation made Yiddish less important, particularly in the Soviet Union, where it was suppressed and in the United States, where it was not, but English was the language of economic opportunity; 2) the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews: approximately 85 percent of them were Yiddish speakers; 3.) the rise of Israel and the Hebrew language. Yet, Yiddish is heard on the street (di gas), not in the same way of 100 years ago, and not in the same numbers, but it is nevertheless heard and survives. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Roman Grinberg: Ikh Un Di Velt (2014)

Yiddish Poetry & Music

Ikh Un Di Velt (“The World and I”) is here played and sung by Roman Grinberg [born in 1962 in Belz, Moldova] based on a poem by Avrom Reyzen (also spelled Avraham Reisin).
Via: Youtube

 Avrom Reyzen [born in 1876 in Koidanov, eastern Belorussia–died in 1953 in New York City] was a Yiddish writer, poet and editor. This is one of his best-known poems. As the Milken Archive of Jewish Music says: “[The poem] places the speaker at one with a suffering world. Neither he nor the entire world can help each other; neither has happiness to offer: “as we both suffer, the world has nowhere to come; and I have nowhere to go.” Ven di gantse velt volt laydn, mir aleyn zol gut zayn bloyz. For more, go [here] and [here].

Ikh Un Di Velt
Poem by Avrom Reyzen
Music by Roman Grinberg

Were the entire world to suffer,
And only I were well, I would then invite the entire world into my home. I would comfort her and caress her, And say, “World, do not worry,” Until she would come back to herself, And stand on her own again. Were the world happy, And I alone laden with sorrow, Then I would go over to her And demand, “Give me happiness!”... But as we both suffer, Both the world and I, The world has nowhere to come, And I have nowhere to go….

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Jascha Heifetz, Child Prodigy

Photo of the Day

Jascha Heifetz [born as Iosef  “Jascha” Ruvinovich Heifetz in 1901 in Vilnius, then in the Russia Empire and now in Lithuania–died in 1987 in Los Angeles, California], child prodigy, ca. 1908, which would make him about seven years of age and shortly before he made his public debut in the nearby city of Kovno (now known as Kaunas). This is from a postcard printed in Russia. Heifetz started to play the violin at age two. For more on Heifetz, go [here] and [here].

Yiddish Writer Jacob Glatstein on Poetry (1955)

Yiddish Poetry
Jacob Glatstein, in an excerpt from an interview by Abraham Tabachnik at New York City’s Central Park in 1955. This digitized recording is part of the Frances Brandt Online Yiddish Audio Library of the Yiddish Book Center. The original recordings are from the collection of the Jewish Public Library of Montreal.
Via: Youtube

Jacob Glatstein [also spelled Yankev Glatshteyn; born 1896 in Lublin, Poland–died 1971 in New York City] was an important figure in Yiddish literature, helping to establish an important literary movement: Di Inzikhist (“The Introspectivists”) in  the late 1910s, shortly after arriving, in 1914, in New York City. As the name suggests, the poetry is profoundly personal and egocentric. It was Modernist and employed free verse, thus breaking conventional standards at the time.

The interview takes place 35 years later, when Glatstein was almost 60, and much has changed in the world, which affects the life of the poet, no doubt influencing his person-hood, his sense of individuality. Individual freedom becomes less important than the fate of the Jewish People. “In this interview excerpt Jacob Glatstein discusses his definition of poetry and explains why it has changed over the years,” the Yiddish Book Center writes.  

A good part of the reason for the change is the Holocaust, the khurbn eyrope (חורבן אײראָפּע), which changed everything in the Jewish World, di Yidisher velt, even for those who don’t know or say it does not matter anymore. Such is instructive for anyone who cares, and more so for those who plead ignorance, indifference or apathy.

Such historical thought and insight, to a large degree, proves instructive to those of us who are interested in 20th century Yiddish poetry and language and the preservation of both under the large banner of Yiddishkayt.  There are very good historical and humane reasons to do so, to not forget what should not be forgotten. Don’t you think?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Touro Synagogue in Newport, R. I.

Photo of the Day

Touro Synagogue or Congregation Jeshuat Israel (built in 1763): Interior of the oldest Jewish synagogue in the United States, in Newport, R. I. As was the case with all early synagogues in the U.S., the Touro Synagogue was built by Sephardi Jews and followed the Sephardic liturgy. For more of its history, go [here], [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1895–1905

Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym

Yiddish Music & Poetry

Itzhak Perlman, who was born in Tel Aviv, in 1945, with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Dov Seltzer, perform “Oif’n Weyg steyt a Boim” (“On the Road Stands a Tree” or “A Tree is On the Road”), the seventh track on Traditions (1987). In accordance with YIVO spelling rules, it would be “Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym,” a slight variation that does not alter at all the poem’s inner meaning nor on how the piece is played and enjoyed.
Via: Youtube

The song is based on the poem by famous Yiddish poet, Itzik Manger, who reads the poem below.  The poem’s meaning is clear enough: a child’s wish to be as free as a bird.

Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym by Itzik Manger, who was born in Czernowitz (then the capital of  Bucovina; now Chernivtsi, Ukraine), in 1901, is here recorded reading his poem in New York City’s Central park in the 1950s.
Via: Youtube

David “Dudu” Fisher, who was born in Petah Tikvah, Israel, in 1951, performs the same song, the 14th track on Golden Yiddish Favorites (2014).
Via: Youtube

Nechama Lifshitz, who was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1927, performs here as well in another beautiful rendition. She showed much courage in the face of government opposition, The Forward writes: “[Lifshitz] defied the censors by singing in Yiddish and Hebrew throughout the Soviet Union, serving as a deep inspiration for the so-called Jews of Silence under Communist rule.”
Via: Youtube

Monday, April 2, 2018

Hear Me Out: Interview with Evgeny Kissin (2011)

Hear Me Out (January 2011) is a video channel of The Forverts in New York City, whose host is Dr. Max Kohn, a psychoanalyst from Paris.

Here, Dr. Kohn interviews world-famous concert pianist, Evgeny Kissin [born in 1971 in Moscow], in Yiddish. This language was, for about a 1,000 years until the end of the Second World War, the common language of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern and Central Europe (numbering about 13 million speakers before the war). It was the language that my parents spoke to each other, the language that my father spoke to me and my brothers.

The Holocaust and cultural assimilation–both in the West and in the Soviet Union, each under different environmental conditions—drastically and dramatically reduced the number of Yiddish speakers to less than a million. Today most reside in the Hasidic and Haredi religious communities, whose numbers are increasing in the West, mostly in America and in Israel.

There is, however, a generation of young people outside these communities who want to learn Yiddish, the mame loshen of their grandparents. When you think about it, it is not at all surprising that Kissin voiced a desire to speak Yiddish. He remembers his grandparents, saying, “I am certain that they would be very happy if they knew that I learned Yiddish and even publicize the Yiddish language and Yiddish culture.” Very well said.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Art of Piano (1999)

Beautiful Music

“Einstein said that ‘the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.’ So why do so many of us try to explain the beauty of music, thus depriving it of its mystery?”
Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question
1973 Norton Lecture Series at Harvard University

The Art of Piano (1999): A good compilation of the pianists of the 20th century who gave audiences what they wanted to hear in their artistic interpretations of the classical great pieces.

No one artist can please everyone, which is why we have so many from which to choose. The great artists, however, share something: in their performances they are able to “capture the audience,” leaving it enraptured“ and lifted up to a higher place—from the mundane to the sublime. Apart from the critics, most people can enjoy beautiful music without having a need to describe why. This speaks about mystery; this speaks about artistry, both of which carry with them a number of definitions primarily dedicated to heart and soul; simply put, beautiful music is more than technique and skill, which is why people today still want to listen to Horowitz or Gould or Rubinstein. And, of course, there is Evgeny Kissin, who takes his place among these men of the piano, an equal among equals, an artist among artists, who all bear a poetic soul, a sharer of the musical mystery.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Leonid Kogan: Beethoven Violin Concerto (1966)

Leonid Kogan [1924–1982] and the Orchestre national de l’ORTF (since 1975 named Orchestre national de France), conducted by Louis de Froment, perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major, opus 61, at Maison de la Radio’s Salle Olivier Messiaen, in Paris, France, in 1966. Ludwig van Beethoven completed this piece in 1806. Kogan, whose playing is beautiful, is among the many talented Jewish musicians that came out of the Former Soviet Union, which had a way of training musicians to achieve a rare combination of both technical and artistic virtuosity.
Via: Youtube

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Glenn Gould and J.S. Bach Concerto No. 7

Glenn Gould [1932–1982], with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, some time in the late 1950s, plays the Bach Harpsichord Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV 1058, which Johann Sebastian Bach [1685–1750] completed in 1738. Gould is one of my favourite pianists and an individual I would have liked to meet; whatever particularities he had (and all of us have a few) are easily forgiven because of his musical abilities, which I consider as phenomenal and his intellectual ideas, which I consider as humane. Further thoughts on Glenn Herbert Gould, which have remained consistent and unchanged over the years, can be found [here].
Via: Youtube

Monday, March 19, 2018

Human Relationships

The Human Condition

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee....”

John Donne [1572–1631], Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624)

Young People’s Concerts (YPC) with young people in close proximity to Leonard Bernstein [1918–1990], conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Bernstein conducted a total of 53 YPC performances between 1958 and 1972—first at Carnegie Hall and then at Lincoln Center. There was an audience who were physically present, who were not facing the kind of distractions (chiefly from “social media) that young people today routinely face. As an educator, Bernstein has a engaging way with both his young audience and old audience alike. Music not only speaks a universal language; it brings people together. For a wonderful example, you can view the beginning of the first Bernstein YPC concert shown here; It is titled “What Does Music Mean?” (CBS-TV; on January 18, 1958), The full script can be read here. We need more shows like this today, notably if we as a society care about such things as sincerity, authenticity, imagination and intimacy, so lacking today in “new media” productions.

We are social beings, with a need to connect, to bond and to form relationships with each other. “No Man is an Island,” John Donne, the 17th century metaphysical poet, reminds us in his famous piece of prose turned into a poem; and I am here bringing this down to its most essential meaning to raise a point, an issue, that is important to all of us, in that we are all human and want what all humans want. Or at least we start out that way as children; and over time things fall apart.

Persons who are isolated, who are alienated from society, who are outside of social circles, and who have the inability to form relationships with others suffer immensely as a result. When such persons, by reasons of innate personality or illness or experiential circumstances, do not or can not form human relationships, they suffer loneliness, alienation and social anxiety. The pain of exclusion is real, and there are tangible consequences. This is no doubt tragic, since this is what humans are meant to do, what is among the primary purpose of all humans.

So, in pursuit of this, many enter a space that is not really a space in the physical sense or in any measurable way or in any real way; and this “space” is given a nice-sounding name: “social media,” which is what it is named, because it contains the promise of being social, to connect with others, of sociability. This is or becomes the only or the main means that many people today have with the outside world, even though it is as unreal as unreal can be, as lacking in any form of human connectedness as one could or would expect with being in a non-existent space.

Many, particularly the young, argue that it does exist. If so, consider the following questions about the 15-year social experiment that claims the whole world as its laboratory: Is this the best that humans can offer humanity? Is this necessarily good?  Has it actually made persons less sociable? less willing to be sincere, open, honest, authentic? Has it actually made too many people more hostile, fearful and angry? Sufficient anecdotal evidence says that this is so; science might eventually confirm this, although I do not see this happening soon. 

Yet, for many it has to do for now, either because of low expectations or because that is all they know, a result of long-term conditioning, where social media acts as a replacement for intimate friendship, intimate relationships, intimate talks and discussions. When you think about it, you conclude that this, “social media,” is but a poor replacement. Even this blog is only a blog, written from my 6th floor apartment in Toronto, which in no way can replace the contact that humans need and find essential to their well-being.

Human relationships require physical proximity, they require time, they require sincerity, they require nurturing. Yet, some, probably more than some, have only the counterfeit, it appearing genuine in people’s minds. Yet, it must be said that the counterfeit, no matter how it appears, is only that which it is. It is a cheap forgery, poorly imagined and poorly constructed, bereft of authenticity. If such is the case, and I have no doubt that it is, then “social media” cannot meet the normal expectation of human relationships. Its purpose is outside of this realm.

Yet, it starts early, this entering of an unreal space for many children, through online games and video games, many of them violent, which has replaced the real world of play and imagination with very real-world consequences, including social alienation and social isolation (see “Was Your Childhood Happy?; November 18, 2013). As a parent, I tried to play some of the online games my older son plays, but I found these too violent. It was not possible for me to play for more than a few minutes.

Social media, of which I was a willing participant for some time, suffers from a similar problem; not surprising, I have found it wanting of late. So, it is now natural and normal for me to say, “No, I do not think or believe that this is the best that humans can offer.” Far from it, especially if you consider what existed before and which now does not much exist for free public viewing, such as the Young People’s Concerts. In the Age of Social Media, there has been a “progression” to mediocrity, narcissism, and vulgarity. I am not sure if this is what the public wants, but it is what it gets.

Seeing this reality, some have decided to do something about it. In other words, throw out the forgery and look to obtain the real item. Or simply put, forget social media altogether (e.g., I closed all of my accounts; this blog remains open for now), viewing it as a unnecessary and tiring effort with no reward or benefit of personal relationships of any type. Now, having done this recently, I can happily say that this is a worthwhile endeavor on the journey for meaning and purpose.