In Praise of Shemp

Written by Larry Shor on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

Suppose you had “made it” in your chosen career. The struggles of earlier years were far behind you and you were comfortable and happy. And then, for the love of your family, you gave it all up and went right back to where you had started; and you would be seen for all time as a second-rate replacement for your baby brother, now deathly ill and unable to work and support himself. Even your very name, by which millions of fans would know you, would be an accident.

Gesher with a Twist: ‘From Kibbutz to the City’ With Liraz Cohen

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

Gesher with a TWIST, Gesher Jewish Day School’s robust event series, hosted a fun event on fashion and style for its parent body, alumni families, and community of friends and supporters On Sunday evening March 5.

The event, co-chaired by Gesher parents Barbara Kaplan and Francine Rossen, was held at Lord & Taylor in Tysons Corner, in McLean, Virginia. There was a wine bar as well as a variety of high-end, scrumptious delicacies catered by Michael Medina of Medina Cuisine, including Israeli bourekas (potato, mushroom, and spinach), Moroccan pastilla (with chicken, phyllo dough, cinnamon, almonds, and powdered sugar), seared ahi tuna in Japanese spoons, chocolate truffles, and chocolate mousse in shot glasses. This was followed by a comprehensive presentation of the history of Israeli fashion by Israeli fashion mogul, Liraz Cohen, and, finally, a fashion show featuring Gesher faculty and staff expertly (and amusingly) modeling an assortment of fashionable clothes and accessories by Jewish designers whose merchandise is currently on sale at Lord & Taylor.

Free to See: Black Hill Regional Park

Written by Dinah Rokach on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

This serene oasis of nature and outdoor fun on 2,000 acres in northwest Montgomery County, Maryland, beckons with the change of seasons. The first official day of spring is next week, and it is followed the following week by Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first day of Chodesh Ha’Aviv. Our thoughts turn to the beauties of the world around us that awaken with the passing of winter.

At the Visitor Center, which proudly welcomes 35,000 nature lovers annually, pick up a map of the park and its trails and the location of the various amenities.

Before you enter the structure, look for the “open classroom.” To your left, check out the children’s garden, bee garden, bird feeding area and sandbox. Learn how to play the pebble harp. There is even a log garden (inspiration, perhaps, for those who hate mowing their front lawns). To your right, observe the activity in the pond. In the spring, tadpoles and frogs make this their home. Note the shimmering goldfish. They represent the mazal (astrological sign) of Chodesh Adar, dagim (fish). In residence in Little Seneca Lake on the park grounds are largemouth bass and bluegill sunfish. Fish are considered special and beloved by G-d as they did not perish in the flood but survived that cataclysm even though they were outside the confines of the Ark.

Kol HaOlam: A Night of Music, Inspiration, and Unity

Written by Atara Mayer and Emma Murray on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

Silence. Nine hundred pairs of eyes trained on a troupe of college students clad in shades of blue, white, and black. The beating hearts of those onstage pound with adrenaline and nerves.

And then: deep bass notes penetrate the silence, as Northwestern University’s Shireinu opens Kol HaOlam, the 7th Annual National Collegiate Jewish A Cappella Championship Competition.

Set in the beautiful Charles E. Smith Sanctuary of Adas Israel Congregation, hundreds of individuals from near and far gathered for a night of musical melody and inspiration.

The National Collegiate Jewish A Cappella Championship Competition brought together Jewish collegiate performance groups from around the country. The event also included a special performance from Kol Haolam VI winner Tizmoret and guest Marak Hayom.

The night “represents young people’s opportunity to find joy in Jewish identity,” said Julia Gordon, who co-chaired this year’s Kol HaOlam competition with her husband Geoffrey Berman. “It can be difficult to be Jewish on some campuses these days, and not everyone finds their community in prayer service. [These groups] provide another opportunity for Jewish kids to be Jewish and celebrate their culture.”

A Very American Spiritual Odessey

Written by David Hornestay on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

“How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey” by David Gregory, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015

David Gregory’s chronicle of his now decades-long “spiritual journey” will inspire many, trouble others, and puzzle more than a few. Whatever the reaction, the author, a former NBC news anchor, sheds light on a significant segment of American Jewry whose destiny will largely determine the nature of Jewish survival in the Land of the Free.

Gregory is the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. Raised in the familiar tradition of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur worship, a seder, and a bar mitzvah, he concedes that his adolescence, college years, and early career as a journalist were almost totally devoted to his goal of becoming a TV network news anchor. The product of a broken home, he describes (with her permission) his mother’s ultimately successful long struggle with alcoholism. It was a family trauma which clearly played a part in his growing realization that there were important things in life besides TV news.

To My Mother, Roslyn Shor, on Her 16th Yahrzeit

Written by Super User on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

My mother was a unique personality, larger than life. She loved people, cared about them, and made them the center of her universe. She filled up a room in a way that no one else could. She was Roslyn Shor and she was my mother. I see her now in my memories, frozen in time. Strong and vibrant and full of life, before cancer took her from us just two days after her 65th birthday. Because my mother was also a native Washingtonian and this column is about stories, I think the best way to pay tribute to my mother is to tell you vignettes and stories about her that will give you a glimpse into who she was.

Once, when I was a kid, I caused some trouble in school and she had to go in for a conference. She wasn’t going to let that teacher talk badly about her Larry! She told the teacher, “Honey, when he misbehaves at home, I don’t call you!” She loved her life-long shul, Beth Sholom, and the great cantors that she loved to listen to. The rabbis were her friends. When it was time for me to become a bar mitzvah, she called the rabbi of the shul, Harry Kaufman and told him to come to the family photo shoot so that he could take a picture with me and I would always remember him. I still have it today!

A Master at a Master’s Art: Remembering Cantor Sholom Katz

Written by Super User on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

One of the world’s leading chazanim (cantors) lived right here in Washington and davened at the shul known for decades for its world-class chazanim and choirs, Beth Sholom. I had the good fortune to know Cantor Sholom Katz and his family. Now, on his 35th yahrzeit, let’s look at the career of a chazan the New York Times called “a master at a master’s art.”

Katz’s voice was one of great brilliance. He was capable of shifting from heart-wrenching softness and pathos to strong and declarative power. His voice mirrored his life, a life filled with great triumph and deep sorrow.

Not Your Average Selfie

Written by Sara Levi on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

Many people like to take selfies and snap impromptu portraits of their sons and their daughters. They snap away at arm’s length, compiling galleries on their smartphones.

Maybe you’ve been the lucky person sitting next the photographer at the bus stop or in line at the grocery store. “Do you want to see a great picture of me? My baby?? My dog???” And it’s never just one.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit the art of the portrait.

Bender JCC and Yiddish of Greater Washington Present: Tevye’ and Friends

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

ROCKVILLE (Md.) –– The Congress for Jewish Culture is bringing their three-person show “Tevye’ and Friends” from NYC to the DMV. Drawing on the writings of famed Yiddish playwright Sholem Aleichem, the performance will take place on Saturday March 18 at 8 P.M. at the Bender JCC’s Kreeger Auditorium in Rockville, Maryland.

In the production, Sholem Aleichem’s funny and yet poignant stories depicting the everyday trials of his fellow countrymen are laid out with acerbic wit and stirring sentiment. Among the stories are “Strange Jews on a Train,” where the prohibition against gossip is thrown out the sidecar window as a stranger inquires a fellow passenger about their destination. In a “Stepmother’s Trash Talk,” curses are served up as the main course in a meal where insults are doled out with sharp tongued wit. In “Tevye the Dairyman,” the trio grapples with the story familiar to any fan of “Fiddler on the Roof”: the tale of Chava and her non-Jewish Ukrainian love, emblematic of the the cultural shifts facing the European Jewish immigrant in America.

A Painter’s View: Jerusalem, London and Tuscany

Written by Nancy Schreiber on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

“A Painter’s View: Jerusalem, London and Tuscany,” featuring watercolors and oil paintings by Virginia native Michael F. Shipley, opened at the Goldman Art Gallery at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington last month. If you haven’t visited yet, you should definitely catch it this weekend before it closes during open hours at the JCC in Rockville, Maryland.

This visual tour emanates from several weeks spent in Jerusalem, where Shipley’s son is studying to become a rabbi, and in London and Tuscany, where he went to explore the beauty of the land, architecture, and people. Shipley’s realistic scenes display a technique particular to the artist, the materials he uses, and his unique approach to color and composition.

Shipley grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and graduated from the architecture program at Virginia Tech University. Employing a watercolor wash over his architectural drawings, he grew to enjoy the medium and continued to create watercolor paintings during his 30 years working for the National Association of Home Builders. When he retired nine years ago, he began to travel with his wife, always bringing his watercolors, brushes, and boards in a portable box, allowing him to paint wherever he was. Besides the pieces representing his trips to Jerusalem, London and Tuscany which are part of this show, he also captured the vistas outside the window of his plane using a specially constructed bag for supplies that hung over his seat. (He cut a confounding figure for his seatmates.)

U.S. Capitol

Written by Dinah Rokach on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

On Purim, we commemorate the miracle that occurred in Shushan, the capital of a powerful and far-flung empire. In our own birah (capital), the U.S. Capitol building is where laws are enacted that regulate a vast and mighty nation. It is fitting to contrast our own democracy and its representative legislature to the whims and brutal decrees that our ancestors endured under Haman.

Security rules prohibit food, drink, and water in the Visitor Center as well as bags larger than 18 inches by 14 inches by 8.5 inches. These restrictions are strictly enforced. You may want to head first to the grounds, as there is no security checkpoint for entry.

To enter the grounds, follow the path a few feet past the intersection of Constitution Ave and First St NE. The paved walkway meanders along the Capitol’s Senate side where “trolley stop” covered benches beckon to your right. Further along, the red brick “summer house” is a perfect spot to enjoy an al fresco meal. Proceed to the west front of the Capitol where there are more benches in front of the Peace Monument at the traffic circle. Gaze at the reflecting pool beyond. Hear the bells of the carillon chime on the hour and quarter hour.

Return to the west front on Memorial Day with a blanket and picnic basket to enjoy first-hand the free concert at 8 P.M., televised on WETA. The Capitol Fourth concert -- accompanied
by fireworks -- is an annual July 4th tradition.