Volume 3, Number 68
"There's a Jewish story everywhere"

Today's Postings:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

{Click on a link to jump to the corresponding story. Or, you may scroll leisurely through our report}

The complicated coalition cotillion continues in Israel ... by Rabbi Dow Marmur in Jerusalem
As is well known, the refusal of Kadima (or at least its leader Tzipi Livni) to join a Netanyahu government has complicated things, because Netanyahu doesn’t seem to want to form a narrow coalition that may be distrusted in Israel and vilified abroad. READ MORE

Abbas aide, Hamas agree that Israel has no right to exist ... by Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.
According to Mohammad Dahlan, former Fatah Security Chief and current "special advisor" to Abu Mazen, Fatah has never recognized "Israel's right to exist" and said Hamas shouldn't either.

We've left Egypt; let's not enslave ourselves again ... by Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego
Pesach is celebrated in the month of Nisan, which begins on Thursday. While it is customary to announce the upcoming Rosh Chosdesh (new month) in the synagogue on the preceding Shabbat, the month of Nisan receives special acknowledgment. READ MORE

It's not the gift, but its intent, that's important ... by Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego
The Torah describes in great detail the building of the Mishkan (Temple). It was an impressive work with stunning beauty. It had fine detailed gold, jewels and intricate tapestries. READ MORE

Surprise! Violinist extraordinaire is excited to meet me? ... by Laurel Corona in San Diego

There’s nothing like a little beshert to make a day stand out in the mind.  Last Friday morning I made a call to the number I’d been given for violinist Zina Schiff, now in San Diego for her performance at the San Diego Jewish Music Festival on Monday.

The sweetness of Willie Wonka Junior's chocolate factory ... by Donald H. Harrison in Thousand Oaks, California
The Conejo Players Theatre is celebrating its golden anniversary serving up dramatic fare to juvenile and adult audiences in Ventura County, California. READ MORE

History  Boys makes a good case for education ... by Carol Davis in San Diego
The Cygnet Theatre in Old Town has been showing the Allan Bennett 2006 Tony Award winning History Boys much to the excitement of San Diego audiences.

A bissel sports trivia with Bruce Lowitt READ MORE

Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952:
Jewish Center Teams Activated; To Begin November 16th READ MORE
Temple Beth Israel New Members’ Sabbath READ MORE
Birdie Stodel B.B.READ MORE
Young Jewish Couples Club READ MORE
J.W.V., Post No. 185 READ MORE
City of Hope READ MORE
Temple Sisterhood READ MORE
—Mrs. Charles BaranovREAD MORE
—Mrs. Dorothy Lampert READ MORE
Beth Jacob Sisterhood READ MORE
City of Hope Jr Aux.

We continue our examination of Jewish entertainers

John Garfield and Lana Turner in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" VIEW VIDEO

Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh in "Lust for Life" (trailer) VIEW VIDEO

Lee J. Cobb as Barak Ben-Canaan in "Exodus" (Trailer) VIEW VIDEO

Red Buttons and Dean Martin do a vaudeville act VIEW VIDEO

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San Diego Jewish Academy: Jonathan Sussman reads Megillah at San Diego Jewish Academy; boos greet mention of HamanSEE VIDEO

Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School: Weekly Parsha with Soille Hebrew Day’s Morah Danielle READ MORE

A&B Gefilte Fish see coupon
America's Vacation Center
Anti-Defamation League
Balloon Utopia
Carol Ann Goldstein
Congregation Beth Israel
Jewish Community Foundation
Jewish Family Service
Lawrence Family JCC
San Diego Community Colleges
San Diego Jewish Academy
San Diego Jewish Chamber
Seacrest Village Retirement Communities
Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School
Tifereth Israel Synagogue
United Jewish Federation
XLNC-1 Radio


Melanie Rubin has come through again with another photo of a Jewish license plate: Mazel (luck) 88. We add it to our growing online collection of Jewish interest license plates and ask our readers to send us photos of the ones that they see.


Each day's issue may be dedicated by readers—or by the publisher—in other people's honor or memory. Past dedications may be found at the bottom of the index for the "Adventures in San Diego Jewish History" page.

PLEASE HELP US POLICE THIS SITE: If you see anything on this site that obviously is not in keeping with our mission of providing Jewish news and commentary, please message us at editor@sandiegojewishworld.com, so that we can fix the probem. Unfortunately, large sites like ours can be subjected to tampering by outsiders. Thank you!





The complicated coalition cotillion continues in Israel

By Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM -- As is well known, the refusal of Kadima (or at least its leader Tzipi Livni) to join a Netanyahu government has complicated things, because Netanyahu doesn’t seem to want to form a narrow coalition that may be distrusted in Israel and vilified abroad.
That’s why he’s now trying to entice
Labor - a most unlikely coalition partner - by making offers to its older Knesset members that they apparently find very difficult to refuse. Since they may be too old in four years’ time to stand again, when the next election would take place if the new government remains stable, they’re under suspicion of being prepared to split their party and thus spell its end preferring personal gain to collective loyalty. But if they can’t deliver the whole party, Netanyahu may not be interested in them, so Labor is in crisis.
Its 300+ strong executive committee is due to vote in secret ballot next Tuesday. It’s predicted that it’ll turn down the offer, which may lead to the old boys – including three retired generals (Barak, Ben Eliezer and Vilnai) – to leave the party. In view of their background, they dress up their personal ambitions in terms of national security.
Awaiting the outcome of the Tuesday vote, Netanyahu has asked Israel's President Shimon Peres for an extension of another two weeks before presenting his government. As he already has 61 mandates, and may also get another four by including the extremist National Union, he’ll be able to form a government. But it may not be very stable. Hence his wooing Labor – to the chagrin of his own Likud party members whose chances of becoming ministers is diminishing the more parties there are in the coalition.
seems to calculate that Netanyahu won’t succeed. This would either lead to new elections or force realignment making Livni Prime Minister and Netanyahu Number Two - unless Netanyahu refuses and forces an election. A Likud-Kadima coalition, with or without Labor, would bring stability, especially if Shas is included.
All that’s obvious at this stage is that the prolonged uncertainty is bad for the country for thesel reasons: (1) economic direction, (2) dealing with the Obama administration, (3) dealing with the Palestinian Authority and (4) the hot potato of releasing a large number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Though Netanyahu seems to want to duck the Shalit and the Palestinian Authority issues as long as possible, he’s making preparations to deal with the economy. Thus at the end of last week he met with top businesspeople as well as representatives of welfare agencies. Whether these encounters were substantial or just window dressing is difficult to decide. Ofer Eyni, the Histadrut trade union leader, says that only a unity government can salvage the economy. That’s why he wants at least Labor to join. 

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The relationship with the US administration and the rest of the world will be a hard nut to crack, as Netanyahu has sacrificed the foreign ministry to the ambitions of Avigdor Lieberman, arguably the least acceptable Israeli politician in international circles. Despite Lieberman’s promise to be more congenial than his image, the world has grounds for being suspicious.

It seems that not even the principal players know how it’ll all turn out. In the meantime, therefore, commentators are showering us with speculations. The above is a digest of some of them, with additions of my own.  

Marmur, rabbi emeritus at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, divides his time between that city and Jerusalem. His email is marmurd@sandiegojewishworld.com

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Abbas aide, Hamas agree that Israel has no right to exist

By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to Mohammad Dahlan, former Fatah Security Chief and current "special advisor" to Abu Mazen, Fatah has never recognized "Israel's right to exist" and said Hamas shouldn't either. "For the one thousandth time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. Rather, we are asking Hamas not to do so because Fatah never recognized Israel's right to exist," he said in a Palestinian television interview cited by The Jerusalem Post. It was the PLO, the umbrella organization, which did so, he said, not Fatah the subsidiary, and Fatah is not bound by the decision.


"Well," say the indignant, "Israel can't possibly make peace with people who don't recognize its right to exist. The U.S. demands, Mrs. Clinton demands, I say, DEMANDS that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel in order to have a Unity Government with Fatah so the U.S. can pour in a billion U.S. tax dollars, put the onus of 'making peace' on Israel and get to the Two State Solution."

It is time to repeat the mantra of an American general. "Don't tell me what to do, tell me what you want to have done." Find the end game and then decide how to use resources to get there. In this case, however, the United States is promoting two mutually exclusive end games: a Hamas-Fatah Unity Government and the so-called Two State Solution.

For the first, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Fatah is conceding points to what it considers the senior player. To have unity, one side has to give up the contested issues; Fatah, being weaker, did so. That was inevitable result of the United States, Israel and Egypt elevating Hamas to the role of central political player without whom nothing can be done, after Israel had enormously degraded its role as central military player with whom nothing can be done. In that sense, Hamas won and Fatah lost the Gaza war, and as Machiavelli wrote, peace is the set of conditions imposed by the winner on the loser of the last war. Peace/unity between the two is a function of Hamas's conditions.

But that is inconsistent with the administration's vision of the Two State Solution: a secure Israel living next to a unified democratic Palestine. The current reality is either that Fatah accepts Israel's legitimacy and Hamas doesn't so there will be no Unity Government, or to believe Dahlan, there is unity in their rejection of Israel. In neither case will a Unity Government accept the legitimacy of Israel's sovereignty in the region. Furthermore, a Unity Government under Hamas is inconsistent with the American

determination that Hamas not receive U.S. taxpayer dollars. A Unity Government under Hamas is inconsistent with the

American training of Palestinian security service/military forces loyal only to Abu Mazen and fighting "terrorism" against both Fatah and Israel.

The incoming Israeli government, led by Likud, has said that the Two State Solution is not presently feasible, putting it on

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the path to direct confrontation with the United States. It would be wise of the Obama Administration to review its inconsistent policies on unity and statehood, and try to find common ground with Israel on security and economic development for the Palestinian people and for Israel.

Bryen is special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. (JINSA). Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member

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Weekly Parsha with Soille Hebrew Day’s Morah Danielle

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We've left Egypt; let's not enslave ourselves again

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO--Pesach is celebrated in the month of Nisan, which begins on Thursday. While it is customary to announce the upcoming Rosh Chosdesh (new month) in the synagogue on the preceding Shabbat, the month of Nisan receives special acknowledgment.

On the Shabbat before Nisan we read a special maftir which contains the instructions to the Israelites to select their lamb for the Passover offering on the tenth of the month and protect it from harm until it is offered at the beginning of the festival on the evening of fourteenth of the month.

Our maftir begins: "The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you." (Ex. 12:1-2) As I have noted before, the Biblical calendaring system is different from the Jewish calendar we use today, which was adopted in Babylonia. The Biblical calendar year begins in the spring (with Pesach) while our current Jewish calendar year begins in the fall (with Rosh Hashana.) That is one reason why the Torah says: "This month [the month of Passover] shall mark for you the beginning of the months."

The commentators Bekhor Shor and Sforno, however, suggest that we understand this verse not as referring to our place in time but to our spiritual existence. Up until the exodus the Israelites' lives were not their own, but subject to the needs and whims of their taskmasters. When God took them out of Egypt, the month of Nisan marked for them the beginning of their freedom (Bekhor Shor). Sforno adds: "While you were enslaved your days were not your own; now the months shall be 'for you.'

A very common complaint I hear today is that people feel that their "time is not their own." They have so many commitments and obligations that they feel torn apart, frustrated, and exhausted. It is if someone else owns their lives.

The Torah reminds us that we can only be free when we control our time rather than time controlling us. That is one reason that Shabbat is not only an important day. It is the


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one day of the week when we do not permit ourselves the luxury of turning away from those things which control our lives, and allow ourselves the time to rest, relax, study, feast, and enjoy the company of those we love.

Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego.  His email is rabbi@tiferethisrael.com

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AMAZING STORIES OF JUDAISM Dvar Torah:: Vayakhel - Pekudei

It's not the gift, but its intent, that's important

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO—The Torah describes in great detail the building of the Mishkan (Temple). It was an impressive work with stunning beauty. It had fine detailed gold, jewels and intricate tapestries.

When the Jews donated building materials to the Mishkan it was important that they did so with the proper intent. The Mishkan was not just a cold lifeless edifice; rather, it was the living house of Hashem (G-d). The dedication and love for Hashem were as vital to the construction as the actual wood and stone. Then intention makes the gift, as the following
anecdote illustrates:

The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 5-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of expensive gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became even more
upset when the child pasted the gold paper so as to decorate a gift box.
Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift box to her father the next day and said, "This is for you, Daddy." The father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger
flared again when he found the box was empty. He spoke to her in a harsh manner:
"Don't you know, young lady, when you give someone a present there's supposed to be something inside the package?"

The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said: "Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was full."

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger, and thanked her for her precious

Only a short time later, a tragic accident took the life of that child. The father kept that gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. And whenever he was discouraged or faced

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difficult problems he would open the box and take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

Dedicated by Akiva & Shoshana Lichtner and their children Nosson Tzvi and Nachama Bracha in honor of the San Diego Jewish Community.

Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego. His email is rbl613@nethere.com

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Jonathan Sussman reads Megillah at San Diego Jewish Academy; boos greet mention of Haman

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Zina Schiff interview

Surprise! Violinist extraordinaire is excited to meet me?

-First in a series-

By Laurel Corona

SAN DIEGO-- There’s nothing like a little beshert to make a day stand out in the mind.  Last Friday morning I made a call to the number I’d been given for violinist Zina Schiff, now in San Diego for her performance at the San Diego Jewish Music Festival on Monday.

Her accompanist, Mary Barranger, answered the phone.  No, she hadn’t heard I was going to call, didn’t know what this was about, but would I like to talk to Zina? Cold calls are about my least favorite thing, and unexpectedly I was in the middle of one.
Zina’s voice is sweet, but I hear the reservation in her tone.  Who am I, and what am I going to want of her, just in from Boston, a little jet-lagged, and with only three days to get ready for what is sure to be a packed opening night audience at the JCC?

“I’m Laurel Corona,” I say.  “I’m doing an article on you and your concert for San Diego Jewish World, and I was wondering if you could fit an interview into your schedule.”

Too long a pause on the other end. 

“I’m an author.”  My voice sounds lame. “Don Harrison suggested I get in touch with you because I’ve written a historical novel about Vivaldi and his work with the female musicians of the Pietà.  The main character is a violinist and—“
“What did you say your name was?”  I repeat it for her. “The book’s  The Four Seasons,” I add.

“Oh I can’t believe it!”  It’s as if a dam has burst.  “I saw your book last week.  I wanted to get a copy to read on the plane, but I didn’t have a chance to do it. I made a note to myself to get to a bookstore before I go home, so I can read it on the plane.  And now, I can’t believe I’m talking to you on the phone! Yes, I’d love to have you come over. Can you come today?”

Zina Schiff, violinist extraordinaire, thinks the excitement is her getting to meet me?   This day is turning shades of delightfully crazy. I tell her the reason she didn’t buy the book is because the author is supposed to come bring her an autographed copy.

I ring the bell of a home overlooking La Jolla Shores.   Mary Barranger opens the door.  Behind her is a tiny, brown-haired woman with the look of a ballerina (I learn later that was one of her childhood dreams).  Zina’s long fingers feel cool and smooth as we shake hands, or rather as I shake her hand, since she has done no more than rest hers with delicate grace in mine. I remember how valuable those hands are and I pull away, hoping I didn’t squeeze too hard.

Mary soon has me seated at a table with a cup of tea, and she disappears, leaving Zina and me alone to talk.  Zina is grinning ear to ear, and I think I must be too.  She is one of those people it’s delightful to be around, the kind you feel you already know and just haven’t seen in a long time.  All of a sudden it occurs to me I am supposed to interview her, and I don’t know where to start.  Well, Oscar Hammerstein says the beginning is a very good place.

Zina grew up in Los Angeles.  Her older sisters were gifted musicians (one sister, Eileen Wingard, recently retired as a violinist with the San Diego Symphony) and their home was

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alive--is that Oscar I hear again?--with the sound of music.  She shared a bedroom with her middle sister, and she recalled struggling to stay awake until the first bars of the second movement of Tchaikovsky ‘s famous piano concerto signaled the end of her sister’s favorite radio show , a weekly classical concert. 

Eileen first put a violin in Zina’s hands when she was three.  No tiny violins like young Suzuki students learn on today was available at the time, and though hers was somewhat reduced in size,  in the beginning Zina had to settle for working the bow while her sister held and fingered the instrument.  The older sisters hoped that eventually they might be able to form a family trio of violin, piano and cello, but since the only instrument they lacked was the cello (a comical image for a girl as tiny as Zina must have been), that idea was abandoned.  
Eileen left for Europe on a Fulbright scholarship when Zina was ten, and she needed a new teacher.  She had come to the attention of Peter Meremblum, the director of the California Youth Symphony, and he accepted her as his youngest pupil.  By the time she was thirteen she had risen to the post of concert master.  Laughing as she imitated the maestro’s strong Russian accent, Zina told me Meremblum said that despite her gender he would have to call her that because she was “too young to be a mistress.”

As Zina recounted her life as a student first of Meremblum and later of Jascha Heifetz, her long professional career, and her pioneering role in championing the twentieth-century Russian composers of the Jewish Folk Music Society, I couldn’t help but note her consistently happy expression and lighthearted tone.  She showed no signs of being a tormented artist sacrificing normal life for her work, none of the oddity of someone used to having quirks indulged because that’s what we do with people of genius.    She seemed so, well, normal.
I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when she said that she felt her life had been as normal as anyone’s.  She’s been able to control the expectations generated by her immense talent so that she can do what she wants with her life.  By limiting her performance schedule only to concerts she really wants to do, she finds time for the many other things she cares about—reading, cooking, her two grown children and her husband, and even work on a master’s degree, just for fun, in Jewish Studies.  Zina’s face glows when she talks of the beautiful things Judaism brings to her life—Shabbos, aliyot to read the Torah at her synagogue, going all out for the Jewish holidays.

The violin, however, has a preeminent place in her very full life.  I don’t need to play,” she said.  “I have to.”  As a child, the violin spoke to her.  It was her playmate, her best friend, and in time she learned to talk to it in return.  In fact, she told me, the violin became her voice, and it is now the means by which she communicates best with the world. 

“You know what it’s like when I can’t play?” she asked me.  “It’s the way it feels when you’ve eaten corn and you can’t floss.”  Writing it down now, it sounds funnier than it did at the time.  Then it had all the resonance of twisted covers on a sleepless night, the departed loved one whose features are beginning to fade, the last crumb of a favorite food disappearing off the tongue.  

Fortunately she can play, and even more fortunately, she’s playing for us.  Her concert, with Mary Barranger accompanying her on piano, is at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center at 7:30 on Monday March 23.  For tickets, visit the website of the San Diego Jewish Music Festival.

Corona is a prize winning author and freelance writer based in San Diego. Her website is www.laurelcorona.com




CURTAIN CALL—Cast of Willie Wonka Junior receives ovation following first performance in Thousand Oaks' Conejo Players Theatre

The sweetness of Willie Wonka Junior's chocolate factory

By Donald H. Harrison

THOUSAND OAKS, California—The Conejo Players Theatre is celebrating its golden anniversary serving up dramatic fare to juvenile and adult audiences in Ventura County, California.  Its current production for children is an adaptation of the Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory movie that showcased the genius of Jewish comic Gene Wilder.  In Willy Wonka Junior the company brings to volunteer productions a level of sophistication well beyond those of similar stage groups.

The thought that went into props, costuming and choreography was apparent in this production incorporating the talents of actors and actresses who ranged in age over three generations, and perhaps over four.  The theatre, in its long run at 351 South Moorpark Road,  has endured a lot of wear and tear, so appropriately a fundraising campaign is underway to replace the seating, enlarge the backstage dressing rooms and public bathrooms, and perhaps, if I can make a suggestion, to improve the acoustics.  Right now some of the actors on stage, even the adults, could barely be heard.

The joy in performance, the enthusiasm of the cast, and the uplifting message of the story overcame most of these physical problems in yesterday’s opening performance produced by Karen Graham-Hanna and directed by Deidre Parmenter.  The play will be presented on Saturday and Sundays through March 29, with a special performance at 7 p.m., Friday, March 27.

Announcements preceding the production were quite clever: members of the audience were instructed to look under their seats for a gold ticket to win a 50th anniversary T-shirt.   Soon enough, the two that had been stashed were found—allowing the audience to share in some of the anticipation and joy that the storybook characters in the Wonka tale might have felt when they discovered golden tickets inside the wrapping of their Wonka chocolate bars.

For those of you who may not have watched the movie or read the book by Roald Dahl the plot is a fairly simple one.  Wonka (James Cluster), a confectionary genius, has no heir to leave his factory to, so he decides he will go out of business.  But first, he will extend to five lucky winners  the opportunity to tour his wondrous factory, receive a lifetime supply of chocolate bars and, if he finds someone worthy, the chance to possibly become his successor.

Four of the five winners are caricatures of various forms of childish self-absorption.  Violet (Ava Halliday)  chews gum continuously, no matter how off-putting the habit may be to others.  Veruca (Meagan Chew) is spoiled rotten by her over-indulgent father, and is given to temper tantrums whenever she doesn’t get something she wants.  Mike Teavee (Alex Karukas) is utterly absorbed in his electronic games and communication devices, leaving no room for interaction with real people. Augustus Gloop (Kuba Chyla) is a gluttonous little boy, who cannot resist chocolate, nor any food for that matter.   Only Charlie Buckett (Bennie Glasner) is the kind of boy real parents would want their child to emulate: he cares

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deeply  about his family, and takes some of their hardships (poverty) onto himself.  Glasner, at a six-year theatre veteran at age 11, played this role confidently and charismatically.

As the five winners along with their adult guardians tour the factory, each gives into a candy temptation, thereby disqualifying himself or herself in Wonka’s eyes as a possible successor.  Even Charlie succumbs, but luckily it is out of Wonka’s sight.  Better still, even though Charlie wasn’t caught, he admits his guilt, thereby endearing himself to Wonka.  This is a morality play.

I was attracted to this production because my grand-niece Ashlee Ford (pictured at right) was one of the Oompa Loompas, a singing and dancing chorus who at one point delightfully portrayed the Rube Goldberg-like machinery of the candy factory.  Older girls like Ashlee wore pink shirts and green hair, whereas the younger children reversed that color scheme.  I was impressed by both the precision of their choreography and the clarity and melodiousness of the Oompa Loompas’ singing.  Ashlee has extensive professional credits to her name, having appeared in numerous television commercials, as well as in episodes of such TV series as Eli Stone, The Bernie Mack Show and That’s So Raven.  With such a resume, others might have turned down what essentially is a chorus role, but Ashlee has no such ego problems.  I know that she takes pure joy in performing, whatever the role. 

Some of the cast members were absolute standouts in the performance that I had the pleasure of attending.   Jeremy Hanna, as the “Candy Man” who would slip chocolate and coins to the impoverished Charlie, had wonderful stage presence, as befits someone who numbers among his past roles Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”   Meagan Chew was so incredibly nasty as Veruga you have to admire her performance,  and Steve Staitman as Mr. Bucket ( Charlie’s father) in the number “Think Positively” danced excellently in what was billed as his first stage appearance ever.  He was supported in his debut by his wife Karen, a veteran actress who played Mrs. Bucket, and by daughters Sami and Sarah, the latter of whom, like Ashlee, has numerous professional acting credits.

Shows at the Conejo Players Theatre here or at Junior Theatre at San Diego’s Balboa Park sometimes serve for child actors as stepping stones to careers in the entertainment industry.  More often they are exuberant, delightful chapters in children’s journeys to adulthoods.  The talent that some of these children demonstrate are a joy not only to their parents and grandparents (and, in my case,  to a great-uncle), but  also to audiences who like to witness the occasional ascent of a real rising star.  Moreover, and more importantly, productions such as Willy Wonka Junior teach youngsters how valuable teamwork and synergy will be in any creative enterprise they undertake.

If you can’t catch this musical during its limited run at the Conejo Players Theatre, I recommend that you make plans to try one of their future offerings.  You’ll find the company’s special spirit contagious.

Harrison's email is editor@sandiegojewishworld.com



THE BOYS—Bobby Schiefer, Patrick Kelly, Sean LaRocca, Bryan Bertone, Jacob Caltrider, Dail Desmond Richard, Tom Zohar, Kevin Koppman-Gue perform at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. Daren Scott photo

History  Boys makes a good case for education

By Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO—The Cygnet Theatre in Old Town has been showing the Allan Bennett 2006 Tony Award winning History Boys much to the excitement of San Diego audiences. The coup, Cygnet Theatre Company landed the San Diego premiere of this very current show before any of the other regional theatres here could blink.

How apropos and current then that in the wake of an educational meltdown where class sizes are being increased contrary to ‘No Child Left Behind,' budgets are being cut in every aspect including extra curricular activities and especially the Arts, and teachers unions are being blamed from everything to the drying up of the San Diego River Basin to the deficit in spending in the county that a successful play based on learning and the importance of a solid education and getting into an esteemed College is so wildly applauded.

Bennett’s boys are in their final year at the fictional Cutler’s Grammar School in Sheffield, north of England. Set in the 80’s it follows this diversified group of eight as they prepare and are prepared (taught) in the subject of History by two diametrically opposite teachers to take the entrance exams for Oxbridge (Oxford) College. And what would a school be without the Head Master (Eric Poppick), an English/ General Studies Teacher (Tom Stephenson is Hector) and two History teachers, Irwin (Brian Mackey acts as more of a coach and narrator, building credibility along the way) and Mrs. Lintott (Julian Frost). It’s a big cast and Murray, who directs, is well up for the task although on opening night it did seem a bit hectic on stage.

As a former teacher way back when things were simple, it’s difficult for me to even comprehend the complicated world of teaching, now. I listen to my teacher friends and am horrified with number of IEP’s, parent conferences, specialty classes and endless staff meetings. But such is the way of the world, and way back in the 80’s, I’m guessing it was the same. Bennett’s History Boys is a capsulated look at the different philosophies of teaching, well, History to this anxious, multi racial, multi cultural and, one might add, less than homogeneous group of young men about to embark on their life journey. How they deal with each other, their teachers and their sexuality are thrown into the mix, and that makes for an amusingly serious play.

While historical facts, logistics and interpretations are bandied about by all concerned, and Bennett’s writing is quite ingenious, the interactions between teacher and student, student and student are so carefully crafted that one looks forward to the next flurry of facts to be dissected, acted out and even at one time played out entirely in French.

With an amazing performance by Tom Stephenson’s Hector, the eccentric but lovable teacher, the play pulls you in like a

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suction so that when their beloved Hector is accused of groping the boys on a privileged motorcycle ride home with him, you’re not even surprised. In fact they take it in their stride and joke about it, some wishing for  it more than others. 

There is no question that when we meet them, the boys treat Hector with special care. There is a bonding between pupil and pupil; and teacher, almost parent like, and student that any current teacher would enjoy— it’s that comfortable. But all things are not created equal and learning for its own sake and having fun while learning went against the grain of Headmaster. 

So the Headmaster brings in the teach-by-numbers Irwin. Irwin’s goal: pass the exam cut through the Bull look at the question from both sides— like taking another look at Hitler as a politician rather than a maniac, with no emotional baggage attached. Just the facts Ma’am. While Hector wants to teach knowledge for its own value, Irwin’s methods are more contrived and therein lay the rub. We become eyewitnesses to the two methods of teaching, learn a great deal along the way and become acquainted with each of the boys' thoughts, likes, growth and ambitions; some more than others.

We are also privy to the slow leaning of the group toward Irwin somewhat breaking the bond between Hector and the boys. But boys will be boys and all the attention given them gives us more of an understanding of the difficult loyalty predicament they find themselves in. The boys take turns trying to please each of their teachers while vying for their attention. Life does get in the way as when Irwin’s teachings about Hitler strike a tender note with the one Jewish student, Posner (Tom Zohar, himself an Israeli) under the gun for challenging the teacher only to have a complaint from Posner’s family for the insensitivity of the argument. Naturally, an apology goes out to the family.

The large cast doubles as prop movers reconfiguring the sets (Andrew Hull moveable desks and chairs) in speed like fashion getting ready for the next go around. Tom Zohar, a multi talented performer is a standout as not just the ‘only Jew: “I’m small, Jewish, homosexual and live in Sheffield, I’m fu..ed”, but also piano player and singer of songs. Jillian Frost, as the only woman in the play gets her chance in a breakaway moment defending women’s rights and Bryan Bertone is a hulk as Dakin, the sexiest guy on campus. 

Eric Lotze’s lighting, Matt Lescault-Woods sound design (who can forget a Benny Hill seg.), Shirley Piersons school uniform correct costumes and James Vasquez choreography all lend grand support to this fine production. 

The show has another week to run and all the kinks should be ironed out. It’s worth a try. It is playing now at the only and permanent home of the Cygnet Theatre Company - Old Town, through March 29th.

See you at the theatre.


A bissel sports trivia with Bruce Lowitt

OLDSMAR, FLORIDA—Q: Who played for the Grand Rapid Chicks and the Muskegon Lassies?

(a) Anita Foss
(b) Bonnie Blank
(c) Grace Surber
(d) Clara Greenspan

Background: A few years after her husband was killed in World War II, she joined the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, portrayed in the 1992 film A League of The Own, playing second base.

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Adventures in San Diego Jewish History

Jewish Center Teams Activated; To Begin November 16th
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 6

Lou Mogy, Chairman Jewish Community Center Athletic Committee, announces that beginning Sunday, November 16th, 10 a.m., at Wilson Junior High School playground, the Center will sponsor a varied program of athletic activities for individuals 15 and over.

Mr. David Anfanger will be in charge of the program and plans are being formulated to conduct volleyball, basketball, baseball and other activities that people might be interested in organizing.  A feature of this program will be the organization of a co-educational volleyball league.

A Jewish Center basketball team for both teenagers and young adults is being organized to participate in the various leagues, under the supervision of the City De3partment of Recreation.  All who desire to participate on the Center Team are invited to attend the try-outs that will be held the next two Sundays, November 16 and 23rd.

Temple Beth Israel New Members’ Sabbath
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

Honoring nearly 70 families who have become affiliated with Congregation Beth Israel in recent months, the Temple will observe New Members’  Sabbath at its regular worship services this Friday evening at 8 p.m.

Featuring the service will be a special Ceremony of Induction, and Rabbi Cohn’s sermon on an appropriate theme.  Following the service, Mr. and Mrs. Morris W. Douglas will be hosts at a lovely reception and social hour.

All new members of the Congregation, their families and friends are urged to attend this special service, to which the entire Jewish community is cordially invited.

Jewish Book Month Sabbath—Jewish Book Month is being observed nationally from November 7th to December 7th.  On Friday evening , November 21st, Congregation Beth Israel will give recognition to this nationwide observance.

Rabbi Cohn will preach on the subject “Books and Barbarians,” and following the service a special dispay of recent Jewish books will be presented by the Sisterhood Gift Shop.

Sabbath Morning Services— Regular Sabbath services are held every Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m.  at Temple Beth Israel, to which all members and friends of the Congregation are invited.

Rabbi Cohn’s discussions of the Torah portion of the week have excited much interest, and the ever-growing attendance demonstrates the increasing significance of the Sabbath in the life of the Congregation.

Birdie Stodel B.B.
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

Mrs. Ted Brav, President of the Birdie Stodel B’nai B’rith urges members and friends to attend the next regular meeting, Sunday, November 24th 8 p.m., at Temple Center.  A most interesting evening has been planned by Mrs. Reuben Aved, Program Chairman.

Our own B’nai B’rith girls will give a cantata.  Also on the agenda is important news that Mrs. Jerry Aronoff brought back from the recent Plenary Session.  The Plenary Session was held in San Francisco by Grand Lodge Women’s B’nai B’rith District 4.

We have a new project in B’nai B’rith, Diapers for Israel, and for a small sum that you donate to your chapter, diapers are bought by Grand Lodge, sent to Israel.  Come to the next regular meeting, hear all about this important project.

Young Jewish Couples Club
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

An extra social crept into the program of the Young Jewish Couples Club and on Saturday, November 15, members of the club and their friends are invited to an evening of cards, mahjong, and other games at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue. 

Here, finally, is your chance, to beat your “Spouse of Life” at something.  No doubt, the Herman Hornsteins, social chairmen, have arranged an exciting and wonderful evening.

Please note that the date has been changed from Sunday to Saturday.  Dr. F. Johnson, who was originally scheduled to speak, will be heard at some future date, to be announced.
saac Lias, religious chairman, will be on hand to display samples of Hanukah articles, such as menorahs and decorations.  He will take orders for these articles.

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J.W.V., Post No. 185

Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

The public is invited to the San Diego Post 185 social meeting, November 17, at the War Memorial Bldg., Balboa Park, when Sidney Posin, Director of the Jewish Community Center will speak.

A citation from National Headquarters was awarded at the November 3rd meeting to Commander J. David Brooks for the Post and Auxiliary’s outstanding job in obtaining donations of blood from the public during Baseball Blood Donor Month last June.  Workers from the Red Cross and the Post with the splendid cooperation of the San Diego Padre management, obtained many pints of blood for Korean veterans, that ordinarily would not have been pledged.

The Tubercular Ward Hospital party will be held November 17, at Naval Hospital beginning at 7 p.m.

City of Hope
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

Everyone is urged to attend the next regular meeting of the Senior Auxiliary of the City of Hope, to be held Tuesday, November 18th, at 12 noon at Beth Jacob Center, where a delicious lunch is to be served.  Mrs. Zel Camiel, President, will report on the recent City of Hope Telethon and also advises that contributions are still being accepted toward the Telethon.  Ms. Camiel takes this opportunity to thank all donors, and to thank the volunteer workers who did a tremendous job.  Do all please make a special effort to come to this Luncheon Meeting, and help nominate and elect your new slate of officers for the coming year.

Temple Sisterhood
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

The Sunday Night Supper sponsored by the Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood on November 2 was a huge success.  All proceeds will be given to the proposed new kitchen.  Raffle chairman, Mrs. Harry Snyder, has announced the winning number.  The prize is a breakfast set for four and a lazy susan.

The lucky person holding no. 01 6896 has until Monday, Nov. 17 to call F-4353 or F 9-0149 to claim the prize.  If it is not claimed No. 017175 will be honored until Friday Nov. 21.  If no one appears with that ticket No. 017091 will be the lucky ticket.

Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

Baranov, Mrs. Charles, 63, on November 1.  Born in Lithuania, Mrs. Baranov had lived in San Diego for 19 years.  Services were conducted November 5 at the Benbough Mortuary by Rabbi Morton J. Cohn.  Survivors include four daughters, Mrs. Adele Wolovnick of San Diego; Mrs. Ruth Margo of Van Nuys; Mrs. Sylvia Andich of Rock Island, Mrs. Anne Rogoff of Chicago; and two brothers, one in Minneapolis and one in Chicago.  Internment was at the Home of Peace Cemetery.

Lampert, Mrs. Dorothy, 64, on October 23.  Formerly of Hartford, Conn., Mrs. Lampert had lived here five years.  In Hartford, Mrs. Lampert had been an active member of Hadassah, the Old People’s H0me, J.C.R.S., and the Sheltering Home.  Services were conducted October 24 at the Johnson-Saum Mortuary by Rabbi Monroe Levens.  Internment was at the Home of Peace Cemetery.  Survivors include her children, Mrs. Edward Binder, Mrs. Sidney Segal, Sam Lampert and five grandchildren.

Beth Jacob Sisterhood
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

Beth Jacob Sisterhood will hold its regular meeting, Tuesday, November 25th, at 12 noon, at Beth Jacob Center.  A delicious luncheon is being planned by Mrs. Joe Kaplan, chairman.  Along with a very delicious luncheon, you will enjoy a social afternoon, and Mrs. Bernard Godes, President, invites members and friends of Beth Jacob Sisterhood to attend.

City of Hope Jr. Aux.
Southwestern Jewish Press, November 14, 1952, page 7

Because the City of Hope  at Duarte received pledges way above its quota at the recent Telethon, the Medical Center will be able to open its new cancer wing shortly, thus pushing forward by another step its work of healing.  About $250,000 in pledges was received.  Of course, pledges are still acceptable.  If you have not made yours yet, contact Irma Ruden or Lea Hoggard, the two girls who worked all night during the Telethon, or Rosalie Reisman or Sally Lieberman who also helped at the T.V. studio.

Now that all the money raised during Fun and Fund Week has come in, the affair can be considered a wonderful success.  Thanks to the hard work of all the girls that gave parties, close to $300.00 was raised for the club.

“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our indexed "Adventures in San Diego Jewish History" series will be a daily feature until we run out of history.

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