Cut & Post
Keeping an Eye on Israel
Americans’ perception of Israel is shaped largely by what they see in the media, and the media isn’t always as impartial as it should be, according to CAMERA—the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (www.camera.org). The group recently launched “Eyes on Israel,” a comprehensive curriculum for students in grades 7 through 12 at Jewish day and congregational schools, aimed at teaching young people to think critically about what they hear and see in the news.
“One of the chief goals of the curriculum is to allow learners to explore media—articles, radio and television broadcasts, Web sites—and historical facts in such a way as to encourage insight about the nature of the Middle East conflict and the way in which it is rendered by the media,” explains Hillel Zaremba, who developed the program.
“Eyes on Israel” comes on a DVD (available at no cost) complete with lesson plans, handouts and activities for students. Accompanying multimedia materials such as radio clips and PowerPoint presentations showing colorful maps and timelines are designed to engage students. Also included are helpful tidbits for anyone reading the news, such as a brief Who’s Who in the Middle East.
Finding Lost Keys
Do we get second chances? Elisha Abas did. The Israeli native was a child prodigy mentored by Arthur Rubinstein and taught by legendary Israeli pianist Pnina Salzman. He burned out in his teens and abandoned the piano, earning a law degree and playing soccer for Israel’s national league.
But the music stage beckoned again, and, in 2006, Abas took up residence in New York and returned to the piano.
Today, Abas (left) is wowing New York socialites with private piano concertos reminiscent of 17th-century France salon recitals. Performed in patrons’ penthouse apartments, Abas, 37, plays Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Chopin and then heads out to prearranged parties with audience and hosts.
“It removes the barrier and mystique between artist and audience,” he says.
Last winter, Abas (www.elishaabas.com) packed a recital space at New York’s Carnegie Hall and performed at the city’s Baruch Symphony Hall and for private patrons in Italy and England. This month he will tour Russia and, for next fall, he is organizing a classical musical festival in the Cinque Terre region of the Italian Riviera.
Love them or hate them, Crocs, the ubiquitous rubber sandal available in a rainbow of colors, has become the foot fashion for Yom Kippur. By several accounts, Crocs have outpaced canvas Keds and Converse sneakers in popularity on Judaism’s holiest day, when Jews are forbidden to wear leather shoes.
Already a phenomenon in Israel all 365 days a year, Crocs first started making an appearance in North American synagogues about three years ago during the lengthy services on Yom Kippur, which starts on the evening of October 8th this year. The appeal? Comfort. Crocs’ squishy rubber sole and ample toe space make standing for the Neila prayer that much more tolerable.
“I don’t have many nonleather shoes, so Crocs are sometimes my only choice,” admits 29-year-old Montreal resident Keren Ludvig. “But even when I have had other options, my hot pink Crocs are the most comfortable and are great when you’re standing in synagogue all day.”
To find Crocs in the color or theme of your dreams—from Cars and Dora for kids to sports teams for adults—visit www.crocs.com. But be forewarned: Not all the company’s designs are leather-free.
Soon it will be safe to die in Jerusalem—that is, if you’re Jewish but do not want or cannot have an Orthodox burial. Until now, all Jewish burials in the city have been conducted with Orthodox rites. Twelve years after the Right to Alternative Civil Burial Act was passed, the city has complied with the requirement that 10 percent of all new cemeteries be allotted to “alternative” burial.
A new 84-acre site, just east of the existing Har Hamenuhot on land that was once a dump, will have a section for non-Orthodox burial. The cemetery will feature dense burial—an architectural means of accommodating more bodies in a given space—which its architects, Uri Ponger and Tuvia Sagiv, pioneered in Israel to relieve cemetery land crunch.
But don’t rush to reserve a plot: Funding for the infrastructure has yet to be arranged.
Something is brewing this holiday season. Shmaltz Brewing Company’s second He’Brew sacred fruit creation is the limited-edition, figinfused Rejewvenator. Made from 500 gallons of fig juice fermented into a half-doppelbach, half-Belgian lager/ale, these suds are a heady way to mark Sukkot—beginning this year on October 13th—when Jews traditionally consume the seven species of Israel, including figs.
Already makers of a pomegranate ale, Genesis, Shmaltz “plans to roll through the rest of the seven species in the coming years,” says company owner Jeremy Cowan. But Rejewvenator will also be back; Shmaltz (www.shmaltz.com) will release it seasonally, starting in the spring just after the barley harvest and extending to the High Holidays in the fall.
Also on tap in 2008 are Messiah Bold, the fifth annual Hanukka release of Jewbelation 12 and the inaugural line of Coney Island Craft Lagers with varieties such as Sword Swallower, Albino Python and Freaktoberfest. —L.B.
Tropic of Torah
When Michael Stoner, a University of the West Indies graduate archaeology student, unearthed a mikve on Synagogue Lane in Bridgetown, Barbados, it symbolized that, like the fresh spring water running under it, Jewish history still flows through Barbados.
The mikve was discovered during excavations of the land surrounding the newly opened Nidhe Israel Museum (246-436-6869); the museum’s permanent exhibit tells the story of the Jewish people in Barbados through artifacts recovered from the adjacent cemetery, multimedia presentations and a Torah. The museum (left) highlights how the Jews, Sefardic refugees from Recife, Brazil, helped establish the former British colony’s once booming sugar industry.
The museum is adjacent to one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere, Nidhe Israel, built in 1654. —Stacey Marcus
A Philadelphia synagogue abandoned 35 years ago is being restored. The “Lost Synagogue” (above) will reopen this month for holiday services and special occasions and will be part of tours of the Eastern State Penitentiary (www.easternstate.org), where it occupied an alleyway off Cellblock 7.
Research by University of Pennsylvania graduate student Laura Mass in 2004 led to the discovery of a plaque honoring the leadership of businessman-philanthropist Alfred Fleisher, president of the penitentiary’s board and namesake of the sanctuary.
“I knew nothing about my father’s involvement until then,” says his 92-year-old son, Howard Fleisher. “He helped keep the spirits of Jewish prisoners up.”
Those prisoners included hardened criminals and hard-luck cases, notes Rabbi Martin Rubenstein, the last Jewish chaplain at Eastern State before the prison was closed in 1971. “I am proud my congregants were the only religious group that never had a guard present during services.”
More than $280,000 has been raised for the restoration of the Alfred Fleisher Memorial Synagogue, and B’nai B’rith is donating a Torah.
—Barbara Trainin Blank