Cut & Post
Noah’s Ark Comes Alive in an Enchanted Forest
From the age of 6, Neil Goldberg dreamed of realizing his “artistic inclinations.” Not surprisingly, the once Orthodox artistic director of Fort Lauderdale-based Cirque Productions followed Long Beach, New York, yeshiva learning and Oceanside public school with a scenic design degree at C.W. Post College.
Goldberg’s latest effort, Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy—recently staged at New York’s Broadway Theatre and now touring—actually harkens back to that early Torah study with its Noah’s Ark-like pairings.
“So many of our presentations are done in doubles,” he notes. Set in a vivid enchanted forest and distinguished by world-class acrobats, contortionists and aerialists, Jungle Fantasyreaches its high point with the gravity-defying mastery of two “giraffes” balancing on boards and cylinders.
In all its shows—there have been eight—Cirque Productions (
www.cirqueproductions.com), founded in 1993, has combined European-cirque-style performance artistry with American circus conventions and Broadway spectacle. And this year, Goldberg may fulfill yet another dream—reading an acceptance speech at the Tony Awards for Special Theatrical Event honors.
The Fish With the Golden Eggs
A kibbutz in northern Israel is exporting one of the world’s most sought-after luxury items: sturgeon caviar.
As overfishing and pollution have reduced supplies of prized Caspian Sea caviar, Galilee Caviar, a subsidiary of the fish farms at Kibbutz Dan (www.danfish.co.il), has been gradually increasing its production. By 2009, the kibbutz expects sales of up to $6 million, according to managing director Yigal Ben-Tzvi.
The kibbutz started farming sturgeon in 1993 to supply the fish popular among immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. In 2003, when international caviar prices skyrocketed, the kibbutz shifted gears. Kibbutz member Avshalom Hurvitz, under the direction of Berta Levavi-Sivan at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, developed a method that makes females mature and produce eggs after 10 years, rather than 15.
Galilee Caviar, ranging in color from black to the prized golden, is marketed online under the Golani label. Is it kosher? There is some debate, but the answer for now is no.
Israel’s Most Precious Relic to Be Digitally Preserved
The Dead Sea Scrolls, 2,000-year-old writings that include the earliest known version of the Hebrew Bible and illuminate the Jewish roots of Christianity, are on their way to becoming available on the Internet.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (www.antiquities.org.il), which is responsible for conserving the thousands of extremely fragile parchment and papyrus scrolls and fragments, recently completed a pilot project in which sophisticated cameras created digital color and infrared images of some of the scrolls.
The pilot was born of the need to monitor conservation efforts, said Pnina Shor, who heads the IAA’s conservation department. It then became clear that the high-resolution images, often more legible than the originals, would themselves help preserve the scrolls; the originals would no longer need to be exposed to light, a major source of damage.
When the full project is completed—Shor’s cautious estimate is five years—the images will be available on the Internet along with bibliographical references to the thousands of books and articles the scrolls have inspired.
Newlyweds often transform the fabric of their huppa into a quilt or bed canopy, bringing its symbolism into everyday life. But what about turning your huppa into an actual bed?
The idea occurred to Austin-based custom-furniture-maker Henry Levine while constructing huppa poles for his wedding five years ago. It became clear, he says, that he was creating a “spiritual first home,” and to extend the concept, he fashioned the poles into four posters of a modern, elegant bed (right).
Now couples can order similar poles handcrafted from sustainable and reclaimed hardwoods for their ceremony (www.henrylevine.com). After the big day, Levine will work them into a queen- or king-size frame of white oak and American black walnut.
Jewish Bedtime Stories
The PJ Library initiative (www.pjlibrary.org) is mailing free Jewish books and CDs every month to children 6 months to 7 years, reaching unaffiliated families through an old bedtime ritual. Philanthropist Harold Grinspoon launched the project in December 2005.
Before joining the program, only 23 percent of surveyed parents were likely to buy Jewish books, and now 75 percent read PJ Library books weekly.
In partnership with local philanthropies, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation distributes 240,000 books to 29,000 children every month in 80 American cities, with another 40 cities joining soon. In 2009, the program will expand to Canada.
—Sara Trappler Spielman
Sweet Home Alabama
Most Jews moving south from cities like New York and Boston are headed to Florida. But now, thanks to a plan to aid Jews who relocate there, a town in Alabama is hoping to reinvigorate its Jewish community.
Though Dothan, Alabama, is predominantly Christian, its Reform Temple Emanuel (left) has enjoyed an almost 80-year history of peaceful coexistence. But now, young Jews are leaving for cosmopolitan Southern cities, such as Atlanta and Birmingham.
To reverse those losses, Larry Blumberg, chairman of Dothan’s Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services (www.bfjcs.org), is offering $50,000 to families who move to Dothan, remain five years and join the synagogue. The goal is to recruit 20 families by 2012.
“I think it’s important that we try to find young people…to create more of a family-type atmosphere in our temple,” Blumberg told the Associated Press in September.
His plan is meeting with some success: BFJCS has received over 500 e-mails and phone calls and more than 120,000 hits on its Web site.
Israel’s Strategic Oil Reserve
The next major oil-producing area in the Middle East may turn out to be—Israel’s Negev Desert.
Over the last few years, thousands of acres have been planted with the Barnea olive tree, which is especially suited for intensive growing. The trees are planted in rows, irrigated with waste or brackish water and harvested mechanically.
The Barnea olive variety was selected from a single tree found in the area of Kadesh Barnea by Professor Shimon Lavee of the Israeli government’s Agricultural Research Organization (www.agri.gov.il). It has been a boon to agriculturists in the Negev due to its fast and vigorous growth, high fruit yields and superior quality oil. According to Benjamin Avidan, an olive culture specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture, up to 70 percent of new olive groves are being planted with the Barnea.
And beyond Israel, the tree has become a major component of several new olive-oil producing regions worldwide, including Australia and New Zealand. India is currently embarking on several very large projects that will also include the Barnea variety.