San Diego Jewish World
Volume 2, Number 30
Volume 2, Number 64
'There's a Jewish story everywhere'

Fri-Sat, March 14-15, 2008


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Today's Postings

Carol Davis in Carlsbad, California: Dancing at Lughnasa: An Irish 'Fiddler'?

Peter Garas in Canberra, Australia: Skypes! Now long-lost cousins can get back in touch easily, join in family web log

Yvonne Greenberg in La Jolla, California: Rafi Malkiel: cantor's son likes folk, jazz, Latino, Afro, Israeli; in fact world music

Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: Purim Chef: Queen Esther in an apron

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego: Amaleks, Hamans still pursuing us Jews

The Week in Review
This week's stories from San Diego Jewish World







Amaleks, Hamans still pursuing us Jews

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO—Whenever I teach about the holiday of Purim I include a discussion of Parashat Zachor. Zachor is the special maftir which is read the Shabbat before the holiday: "Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt–how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear." (Deut. 25:17-18)

The tribe of Amalek did not fight fair. Instead of engaging Israel’s warriors, Amalek sneaked up on Israel from the rear and ambushed the weak and weary. Therefore, the Torah instructs, " shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deut. 25:19)

I explain to my class that the story of Purim is a replaying of the ancient battle of the Israelites and Amalekites with one major difference: in the story of Purim we win!

I expand on the theme of Israel vs. Amalek by explaining that this battle is paradigmatic for how Jews have often viewed the non-Jewish world. Jews have experienced violent and deadly anti-Semitism but yet have always survived. I tell my classes that anti-Semitism still exists but that we are fortunate to live in a country that is fundamentally different from others. The Jews in the United States have not experienced the same anti-Semitism as have Jews who have lived in other places.

This year I was caught off guard by the response of my adult Basic Judaism students. It was not so much that they disagreed with my basic premise about anti-Semitism in the United States (that it is not institutionalized nor government sanctioned) but most were quick to relate to me stories of their personal encounters with anti-Semitism. These ranged from them or their parents being rejected from certain colleges or occupations because they were Jewish to being told to leave a store because the shop keeper thought they were Jewish (even though they were not!) As they shared their experiences, I also thought about the number of local high school students who have told me about their personal experiences with anti-Semitism on campus and how they and the school administration have responded. I also thought about the time our synagogue was desecrated in June, 1997.

Although the Anti-Defamation League reports a decline in reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States for the third straight year in a row (1,357 in 2007 as opposed to 1,554 in 2006), it is clear that hatred of Jews still exists.

Although the Torah commands us to "blot out the memory of Amalek" it also realized that no matter how much we try to erase hatred and bigotry, we will never fully succeed. This is why we must remember and never forget. We must remember all of the harm done to our people and other minorities due to racism and prejudice and be diligent in protecting our rights and well being, as well as the rights and freedoms of others who are persecuted and oppressed.

Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego


Purim Chef: Queen Esther in an apron

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO—My maternal grandmother, my Bubby, was taught to bake by a pastry chef; not in a cooking school but in the kitchen of her family’s large estate outside of Kiev in the Pale of Settlement in old Russia.  Surrounded by the forests they owned, the family’s estate depended upon a household staff to care for the house, the garden and the smallest of the children.  This large household had entertained the Baron Von Rothschild for several days before he resumed his travels through Russia.
My Grandmother, one of two daughters in a household of brothers, followed the head gardener around as he pruned the fruit trees and she stood at the elbow of the pastry chef as he created his masterpieces.  At Purim the usual creative baking was put aside and all efforts were spent in baking Hamentaschen.
When I, as a small child, stood at my Grandmother’s elbow it was in a tiny rented row house in an old immigrant neighborhood in Philadelphia.  Her wealth had been stolen long ago; her husband and much of her family had been murdered in the Russian Revolution and both World Wars.  She now presided over the five small rooms on two floors and a coal cellar without any staff, but she had lost none of her natural elegance and beauty: beauty and reputation enough to have attracted the matrimonial attentions of the Chief Rabbi of Philadelphia, whom she refused.  Instead she followed her heart and married a kind man who had a small clothes shop. 

The fortune was gone but her name remained well known in the neighborhood and I was often pointed out by other Jewish Russian émigrés as “Shandel Robbins’ granddaughter.”  It meant nothing to me at the time but what remained in my memory was the significance others attached to it.

What did matter to me was my Bubby’s baking and conversely she gave me to understand that my “baking” mattered to her.  My “baking” correctly appears within quotation marks since it was the rough product of a five year old and only fit to be eaten by my doll who awaited her meal sitting up alertly in her doll size high chair.

Purim to me at that age meant two things: baking Hamentaschen and dressing up like Queen Esther.  Though the celebration of Purim changes according to the lunar calendar, in Philadelphia it is almost always still quite wintry.  My Queen Esther costume was the pride of my heart, but my heart was very heavy when I realized I would have to wear it over a snow suit of padded pants and under a padded winter coat, with a woolen scarf pulled tightly around my head and topped with earmuffs - Queen Esther’s crown went into a shopping bag.  Then another wool scarf was wrapped around my neck and mittens firmly latched to my coat sleeves.  The final coup de grace was the pair of rubber boots pulled over my shoes.

No matter how much I protested that surely Queen Esther had never worn all this stuff with herbeautiful clothes, my mother was immoveable.  No snow suit – no costume – and that’s final.  So, there I was bundled till I could barely move – no King would chose me for my beauty of that I was certain.

But all this angst was alleviated by the other half of the tale which was baking Hamentaschen with my Bubby.  I walked the two blocks to her house wearing my overstuffed Queen Esther costume carrying a shopping bag which along with Queen Esther’s crown included my rolling pin, pastry board, knives, spoons, forks, cups, saucers, bowls and assorted pots and pans – all child size and deeply beloved.  In my other hand was my doll properly wrapped up in a blanket.  The winter sun was shining, my Bubby was waiting for me to arrive before she would start baking, I was five years old and whatever might be wrong with the world in general, my world in particular was just fine.

She and I stood side by side facing a wall along the back of the combination kitchen-dining room.  The refrigerator was still an ice box, hot and cold water came from two separate faucets, the milk, ice and bread had been delivered by horse and wagon and the oven needed to be lit by a long match each time.  We both had our aprons on - mine over my Queen Esther costume, but the crown was now properly affixed to my head. Bubby had a large jar of flour, a bowl of prune paste (lekvar - prepared from scratch), another of apricot preserves, crushed nuts, plumped golden raisins and mounds of dough.  She was very careful not to start without me – and oh how important that made me feel!   Just the two of us and the hungry doll. 

She placed a large clump of dough on her pastry board and an appropriately sized portion on my much smaller pastry board.  We sprinkled flour on our rolling pins. We rolled out our dough.  When she needed to turn the dough over, with an expert flick of the rolling pin her dough sailed through the air and landed completely flat with nary a wrinkle: she remembered her pastry lessons well.  My dough needed to be scraped off with a knife – in pieces – turned over and reassembled.

We cut out the circles – she using a delicate tea cup of blue Depression glass and I a lid from a preserve jar.  We filled the circles with prune paste or apricot and tucked up the corners.  Occasionally she would give my Hamentaschen corners an extra tweak.  I filled up my baking sheet with my creations and she with hers and into the oven the two sheets went together.  My doll was looking hungrier and hungrier. 

When the Hamentaschen came out of the oven and cooled down on racks she placed mine on my doll’s plate.  She was very careful to make sure I never ate my own – she said only my doll could eat them.  I was to eat hers.  I didn’t understand it then but now realize that though she made sure I washed my hands before baking, she was taking no chances that I would eat my own – just perhaps not quite as clean - baking.  The doll had no such scruples.

At the dining room table, covered with a snowy white linen cloth, I sat next to my doll - finally wearing my Queen Esther costume sans snow suit or apron; the crown sparkling on my head. Bubby sat next to me, and poured boiling water from the kettle into a teapot prepared with Swee-Touch-Ne tea, not in bags (heaven forefend) but loose tea leaves.  Little slices of lemon were on a plate alongside the platter of Hamentaschen. When properly steeped her tea went into a tea glass (not a cup), mine went into a saucer - so there was no chance of me spilling a lot of hot tea.  After tucking a cube of sugar in her mouth, we sipped tea and ate Hamentaschen together – along with Alice, my doll (who got no tea - Bubby told me tea wasn’t good for babies). 

And so I learned to bake and went on to eventually making pierogy (which Bubby called verenikas) and knishes by the time I was ten.  By then, Bubby was gone and so it was to my mother I addressed my most important question of the day:  “What happens if I get married and my husband doesn’t like pierogy?”   It was my absolute favorite food and I couldn’t imagine living without it – even if it meant no husband.  But my mother reassured me and said that “G-D will provide.”

And so He did.  My husband adores Hamentaschen, pierogy and knishes and I still use Bubby’s blue Depression glass teacup to cut out the circles.  When I hold that cup in my hand - I can see myself watching in amazement as her dough sailed through the air and landed without a wrinkle. And tea in a cup has never tasted as good as it did from a saucer.


Skypes! Now long-lost cousins can get back in touch easily, join in family blog

By Peter Garas

CANBERRA, Australia—I am not convinced that as we approach the Shabbat it is appropriate to thank our lucky stars for our good fortune. However, early on Friday morning here in Australia (and I mean early like 04:30am) I was simply overwhelmed with joy when seemingly out of the blue, I was contacted by relatives about whose existence there was merely a whisper of information in the genealogy data base.

How did they discover me? Ah, therein lies a story.

I have written before about genealogy being a passion. Trying to discover your ancestry and then delving into the past with all its history is a monumental task that modern technology is making easier each day!

In the past you had to get on a plane, travel to wherever there was an archive or a government department dealing with births, deaths and marriages and then search through often horribly hand written records in another language to try and find those people in your family history. You had to transcribe the records and then somehow integrate them into a book or something to make some sense of it all

Along came technology and thanks to those brainy scientists in European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Internet!

We now have access to genealogy packages (some are even free) and the ability to search many data bases of records that are available on line.

All this you already know - and now comes the revolution!

Web sites do not have to be individual effort - they can be collaborative efforts. So what about - for example - hooking up with some relatively computer aware relatives whom you have found and who are on line and creating a collaborative family web page? This can be controlled totally from being visible to being invisible to the general public and where the authors and the comments are completely under the control of the administrator who sets up the site.

Old hat? Of course it is. Now let's get a little creative.

Let's imagine that you set up such a site with Google! Once you have done so you have a free Google account. This entitles you to massive volumes of storage space and access to things like Picassa - a Google sponsored product that enables you to share photos on line with others. Not enough? Of course not. You also may want to share documents and spread sheets - no problem - Google also offers this facility at the same time. Still not enough? Fine how about being able to talk to your relatives for free - anywhere around the world and both see and hear them or just send instant messages while you collaborate on family history related (or other) matters? Google now offers something called Google Talk that does just that.

There are of course other offerings out there from such providers as SKYPE which is the first (and in my opinion best) of the internet communication tools, and there is also Windows Live Mail.

If you have a web cam with a sound card and a set of speakers and microphone or a headset with a boom mike you can do all of this!

I started such a web site the other day and contacted the few people I know in the world who have an interest in the family. Since then we have been finding new relatives on line and they have been finding us by finding the family site and learning they can join. This then enables them to communicate their email addresses and their links with one of the video and sound enabled communication media. They realise that they can actually write to the site in their own language and send their photos to the site and post their precious memories to be shared with new- found family or friends.

Just today I was able to inform at least six or seven people in the same town that they have relatives living in their neighbourhood that they did not know about. With the provision of an email address and a skype number they can 'meet' these relatives on line to determine whether they wish to pick up the connections or not!

Wow - welcome to the 21st century - I can't wait to get to know more about those who have signed in and to learn from them what they know about their ancestors so I can add to the wealth of my own research. At the same time where I know more than they do I can supply them with the missing links that they have been searching for!

It's exciting, it's new, it's innovative and we are just at the beginning of what's

Garas is a freelance writer and commentator in Australia's capital city

Rafi Malkiel: cantor's son likes folk, jazz, Latino, Afro, Israeli; in fact world

By Yvonne Greenberg

LA JOLLA, California—Well-renowned and accomplished composer, arranger, band leader, and player of instruments, Rafi Malkiel,  finds it quite exciting that "when I perform I get my reward pretty quickly, I can see it and feel it immediately, if I'm getting it all."

The Malkiel Ensemble, comprised of various virtuosi and versatile musicians living in New York City, will present: “A Musical Journey from New York to Tel Aviv” on March 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre at The Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacobs Family Campus, with support from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. 

Rafi Malkiel was born in Jerusalem in 1972 but now resides in New York City.  He  is an active musician in both the Jazz and Latin scenes in New York City, and  leads a quintet in original compositions, as well as unique arrangements fusing jazz and Latin American standards with Afro-Caribbean rhythms.

Malkiel’s main instrument is the trombone but he also plays the euphonium, another  brass instrument, and he "likes a variety of music: a mixture of jazz, world music or folk music, because the music is very real, has been worked on for years and passed down from father to son.  I also like any music with improvisation in it."
He stresses that the combination of his Jewish heritage, the environment of Israel, and the fact that his father is a cantor inspires a large part of his original compositions.

The most challenging part of his work is combining the playing, composing, arranging, and band leading.  Malkiel says he likes to dance but generally limits his dancing to onstage during his musical performances. Among his favorites are the  cha cha and salsa.

How many concerts does he play each year in Israel?

"Now that I'm living in the United States, not many, but a few times a year for a couple of weeks, or sometimes  twice a year.  A couple of years ago I went to play the festival in Tel Aviv, which was great, but I wished I played there more often."

He has played to wide-ranging audiences: "We play for everybody. In concert settings we have mixed audiences, some older and some younger, sometimes we play specifically for children's audiences, and in jazz clubs we play mainly to younger audiences."

Malkiel has recorded over 40 Jazz, Latin, and Rock albums with notable artists.  He is also credited with several movie and TV theme songs in Israel

His future musical plans include "to keep playing and growing, writing new music, playing with other groups, and recording new albums."

Malkeil earned a BFA in Jazz Performance from the New School, where he studied with Ray Anderson, Conrad Herwig, and Benny Powell.  He also has a MM in Jazz Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Herwig and Slide Hampton.

For concert information or tickets, call the JCC Box Office at (858) 362-1348 or visit the web site  The concert will open the 9th Annual San Diego Jewish Music Festival, which runs from March 17-August 4 and is sponsored by U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management and presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture. 

Paul Greenberg, son of the author, contributed to this article


SISTERS—Amanda Sitton, left, Kristianne Kurner, P.J. Anby and Amanda Morrow perform in Dancing at Lughnasa, now at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad, California


Dancing at Lughnasa: An Irish 'Fiddler'?

By Carol Davis

CARLSBAD, California—There are some plays I never tire of: Fiddler on the Roof, Sholem Aleichem’s short story based on “Tevya and his Daughters” or “Tevya the Milkman” is one of them.  Irish playwright Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa is another. I could see them over and over again. In fact, I can’t count on my fingers how many times over the past 30 or so years that I have. Each time I do it just validates once again, why it’s worth the trip to the theatre for another ‘fix.” Both are steeped in tradition: “Fiddler” is set in the little shtetl of Anatevka where everyone knows everyone else and their business, and collectivism is their way of life. Their traditional Eastern European Jewish ways are unchanged by outside influences, but change is in the air. 

In Lughnasa the Mundy Family lives two miles outside the village of Ballybeg, County Donegal, Ireland. Here too, everyone knows everyone else’s business. Family members struggle to make a living as best they can in their stagnant environment. Both communities rely on their religious beliefs to get them through another day.  “Fiddler” is set in the early 1900’s, while Friel’s play is set in 1936. Both families have five daughters and both households are on the crossroads of change.  The Russian czar is creating pogroms and causing chaos within the Jewish community that will affect everyone in the village of Anatevka, and a tariff war with England has depressed Ireland’s economy, and the industrial revolution has finally caught up with the residents of Ballybeg’s small community.

Dancing at Lughnasa was first performed at the Abby Theatre in Dublin in 1990. In 1991 it won the Oliver Award, and the Tony Award for best play in 1992. The first time I saw the play was in 1994 in Costa Mesa at The South Coast Repertory Theatre. Now, The New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad, under the direction of Esther Emery, is giving it a fine airing with room for improvement. 

Friel’s play is a memory play told in flashback by Michael (Joshua Everett Johnson), the illegitimate son of Chris (Amanda Sitton) Bundy and Gerry Evans (Manny Fernandes). The story takes place from the start of the pagan festival La Lughnasa in early August to September when it ends. 

“And so when I cast my mind back to the summer of 1936, different kinds of memories offer themselves to me…” And so we take the trip back in time with Michael who was 7, to his then house in Ballybeg (Nick Fouch’s cut away kitchen and side yard are authentic looking), as we meet his four aunts and mother; Kate Mundy (Kristianne Kurner), Maggie (Grace Delaney), who is somewhat of a jokester, Agnes (Amanda Morrow) and Rose (PJ Anby). Each sister has a defined role in the family.

Kate is a schoolteacher who teaches at the Church School and is the only real breadwinner. Rose, who is a bit simple minded, and Agnes knit gloves for one of the local merchants and bring in a little subsidy. Maggie cooks and cleans. When their only brother, Jack (Charlie Reindeau) arrives home after eighteen years of missionary work in Uganda, disoriented and out of sync with his family and his community, the family is at odds as to how to treat this new crisis.

One of the few things that gives them pleasure is their Marconi wireless, which on a good day they can listen to music piped into their simple kitchen. It is one of little delights they all enjoy, even though stern Kate, guffaws at the idea. She tries to keep outside influences out of the picture and adheres to her strict Catholic ideas. But they all love to dance and remember the days they were young and used to dance at the Lughnasa Festival with their favorite beaus. Before the end of Act I all four sisters begin a raucous Irish

DANCING—Manny Hernandes and Amanda Morrow dance
outside as Amanda Sitton, Kristianne Kerner and Grace
Delaney look on. (Photo by Brian Meagher)

dance smack in the middle of the kitchen, throwing all modesty to the wind. It is truly a highlight of the play.  Not wanting to appear eager to join in, Kate slips outside and dances alone, becoming lost in her own thoughts. And when Gerry makes his surprise appearances at the Mundy household, he gathers Chris up in the side yard and waltzes to the sounds of the radio from within while the others look on wistfully. Not to be outdone, Jack starts performing a native ritual dance to the horror of Kate.

The beauty of Friel’s play is three fold: His lilting language is lovely to hear, his characters are surprisingly beautiful in their own simplicity and his story telling is mesmerizing as Michael tells us what is going to happen to the family before they know it. In bittersweet moment after bittersweet moment we learn of the fate of all the characters, combined with the joy and heartbreak that befalls this lively and lovely Irish family whose desire it is to keep things as they are yet long for change. 

Credit Emery and the ensemble, one of the largest assembled for this small theatre company, to bring forth such an engaging and sincere looking evening. Mary Larson’s period costumes are right on target and Ashley Jenks lighting design is perfect as is Joshua Everett Johnson’s sound design. All four women live up to their respective sister roles. Their use and delivery of the language with their Irish brogue was most impressive, at least to these ears. Everett, an amazing actor with an enormous range, is perfect as Michael. Each nuance, tone and look brought us closer to his truth as he relates to us his memories of way back then. The other two men fared a little less well in the authenticity department. Fernandes, who was so wonderful in Sailor Song at NVA, was a little off as Gerry on opening night as was Riendeau’s Jack.

By now all systems should be in full swing.

If you’ve not seen this beautiful play, I highly recommend you see it. It plays through March 30.

See you at the theatre.

Sunday, March 9, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 59)

Judy Lash Balint in Jerusalem: Mercaz Harav central to Israeli life
Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.: Shootings should end the 'Peace Process'
Carol Davis in San Diego: Snobs eschew The American Plan
Peter Garas in Canberra, Australia: Hey mate, opportunity in Australia
Donald H. Harrison in San Diego: Shor, 6, meets His Honor, The Mayor
Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego: Some thoughts for those at a shiva
Dov Burt Levy in Salem, Massachusetts: Barack Obama, political nudniks and me
Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego: The unending need for tzedakah

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