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Veteran diplomat Gideon Meir dies at 74 – The Times of Israel

Posted By on February 18, 2021

Senior Israeli diplomat Gideon Meir died on Monday at the age of 74 after a bout with cancer.

Meir, born in Jerusalem in 1947, served as Israels envoy to Italy from 2006 to 2011, and most recently as head of the Foreign Ministrys Public Diplomacy Division. He also took part in peace negotiations with Egypt.

Meir is survived by his wife Amira, three children, and grandchildren.

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Gideon was responsible for training dozens of diplomats as head of the training bureau and as head of the Public Diplomacy Division in the ministry, said Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. My deepest sympathies to his wife Amira and his children. May his soul be bound in the bonds of life.

Ambassador Gideon Meir (second left) looks on as Prime Minister Menachem Begin greets Walter Mondale (photo credit: Foreign Ministry)

We are devastated and heartbroken by the terrible loss of our husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother, brother-in-law and uncle, Gideon Meir, may his memory be a blessing, after bravely battling cancer for two years, said his daughter Noa in a statement.

He passed away at home, in his bed, surrounded by his loved ones, and thankfully did not suffer or endure any pain. He leaves behind an incredible legacy, and will forever be a part of us.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project, remembered Meirs efforts during the 2005 Disengagement from the Gaza Strip. I have great memories of being on the edge of Gaza in the press area each night when the reporters at a make-shift bar would gather around Gideon Meir and ask him questions for their stories. He would sit with the reporters while they asked question after question. We called it Has-BEER-a instead of hasbara.

He was a brilliant diplomat and professional who loved people and saved many lives through his work, Laszlo Mizrahi added. He also loved his family very much.

Jeremy Issacharoff, Israels ambassador to Germany, called Meir an inspiring example of what a successful and effective ambassador should aspire to be.

The funeral will be broadcast Tuesday afternoon, at 1:30 p.m. Israel time (6:30 am EST) at this link.

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Veteran diplomat Gideon Meir dies at 74 - The Times of Israel

Comments on: Music in Judaism: In Search of the Tenth Song – Jewish Journal

Posted By on February 18, 2021

I spent a decade composing the music for the Warner Brothers TV Network. Here in Los Angeles, that means every time you watched a Channel 5 sports broadcast, a TV show promo or the Rose Parade, you heard my music in the background. But as great an experience as this was for a composer just out of college, I realized my heart was elsewhere.

Since the age of seven, I have heard music in my head new music, fully formed songs and lyrics. My passion is getting those songs developed, arranged, recorded and marketed. But in my mid-twenties, I started flirting with a new passion: Shabbat.

Many of my Westside friends had moved to Pico-Robertson, and I started getting Friday night invites. I was tapping into the deepest well of inspiration: God, Torah and community. Like many of my peers, my Jewish education ended shortly after reaching bar mitzvah age. But now I recognized I had a lot of catching up to do in my spirituality. My music, always the spokesperson for my subconscious mind, reflected this inner turmoil and bore fruit in the form of my first Jewish albums: Hineni, A Day in the Life and Across the River. I started touring synagogues instead of rock clubs, brushed up on my Hebrew and tried on those tefillin I hadnt worn since I was thirteen.

Soon, I was performing in over fifty cities a year. I became poignantly aware of the power of music in connecting audiences of various denominations and ages. And I learned that, for the Jewish People, religious life without music is unthinkable.

Jews see music as the catalyst of Creation. The Big Bang is summed up in the first line of Genesis, beginning with the word Breishit. According to the Dzikover Rebbe (Rabbi Yidele Horowitz, 1905-1989), Breishit can be rearranged to spell Shirat Aleph Beit, the song of the alphabet. In other words, every aspect of the universe is continuously sung into being.

Our Tanach (Bible) is replete with epic songs punctuating the narrative. Jubal, the inventor of the first instruments, is one of the key characters mentioned in the first ten generations of humankind. The patriarchs composed while in the fields with their livestock; Jewish tradition maintains King David was hearing songs as he composed his Psalms; our prophets required music to enter a transcendent realm and hear Gods voice; vast orchestras accompanied the service in the Temple.

When we sing our prayers, we transform our worship from lethargy to ecstasy, from stasis to action and commitment. The nusach (traditional melody) of prayer is so beautifully detailed that one could conceivably travel by time machine to any service in history and know if its a weekday, Shabbat or a holiday, if its morning, afternoon or evening and whether the congregation is Sephardic or Ashkenaz. Specific tropes even accompany the public reading of our Torah and prophetic writings, adding color and even commentary to the black and white text.

As I explored the origins of music in Judaism, I wondered about the origin of the music in me. How does my subconscious create a soundtrack for my dreams? Is it an amalgam of all the melodies I processed that day? Am I hearing remnants of biblical melodies in the ether? Maybe it is a combination of all of those things. For me, the new Jewish music I create from my head offers clarity of Gods loving presence: after all, King David is the source for engaging in shir chadash lAdonai (singing a new song for God). New music communicates vitality and excitement and keeps ritual from becoming stagnant.

the new Jewish music I create from my head offers clarity of Gods loving presence.

The Midrash describes ten primary songs featured in Tanach. Nine have already been sung such as Az Yashir, the spontaneous outpouring of prophetic music sung by the masses at the splitting of the Red Sea. We also have Moshe Rabbeinus final song, Haazinu, as well as songs by Devorah, Hannah and Kings David and Shlomo. One song has yet to be written, awaiting a future date when the redeemed ones leave exile. This is the Tenth Song for which we are yearning. I have a feeling its ready for download can you hear it yet?

It is a tremendous privilege to channel Gods music and share it. May God bless all of us with a holy life filled with sweetness and harmony. And may we soon merit singing the Tenth Song of Creation together in Jerusalem.

Sam Glaser is a performer, composer, producer and author in Los Angeles. He has released 25 albums of his music, heproduces music for various media in his Glaser Musicworks recording studio and his book The Joy of Judaism is an Amazonbestseller. Visit him online at Join Sam for a weekly uplifting hour of study every Wednesday night(7:30 pm PST, Zoom Meeting ID: 71646005392) for learners of all ages and levels of knowledge.

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Comments on: Music in Judaism: In Search of the Tenth Song - Jewish Journal

Meet the Yemeni-Jewish musician singing soulful Jewish R&B – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on February 18, 2021

This story originally appeared on Alma.

When you think of Jewish music, what comes to mind? Maybe its an epic Hebrew prayer chanted by a group of congregants in a synagogue, or the sound of a somber, minor-key klezmer band. Or perhaps you think of a poetic (if not slightly racy) Leonard Cohen lyric.

You probably wouldnt consider jazzy, soulful R&B to fall under the umbrella of Jewish music, but Jewish-Canadian singer-songwriter Erez Zobary is here to shatter that assumption.

Born and raised in the Greater Toronto area, Erez has been singing since she was a toddler. After a bout of vocal nodules in her teens (ouch!), she has since embraced a low, vocal register reminiscent of the late Amy Winehouse. Yet the half-Yemenite musicians style tends to veer more on the side of uplifting and joyous than sultry and secretive.

July Clouds is an acoustic love song reminiscent of a lazy midsummer day back before life became inundated with Zoom meetings and endless commitments. In Before I Knew You, Erez sings about a transformative relationship in her life with contagious enthusiasm.

Oh, and this rising R&B musician wears her Judaism as a badge of pride. In fact, the music video to Love Me includes several snippets of a Shabbat dinner, as well as some gorgeous, scenic shots of the Canadian outdoors. Amid soulful riffs and impressive key changes, Erezs music overflows with a sense of warmth that transports you back to those large, communal fires at Jewish overnight camp.

When not producing earwormy hits, Erez juggles multiple jobs as a high school teacher and social justice educator. Her work often addresses racism within the Jewish community, and she has also been involved in some inspiring volunteering initiatives. I recently had the chance to talk with the rising singer-songwriter to discuss music, Judaism and social justice.

First off, I just want to say that I love your music. I listen to it as I study, as I drive, as I work out. Im totally obsessed. You merge R&B and pop together in a way that is smooth, fun and totally danceable. Who are your musical inspirations?

Its interesting because theres always been a lot of music in my house all the time; my parents are very fun, but different, people. I was born in New York. When I was there, we were going to shows all the time, listening to live music. When we went to Toronto, it didnt have the same live music scene, but there were always records playing at home. With my dad, it was always Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, and he also fell in love with disco in Israel when he was living there as a teenager. With my mom, it was a lot of Joni Mitchell, a lot of Amy Winehouse.

I can hear the Joni Mitchell in your album July Clouds. Your music has that same buoyant energy thats also not afraid to get raw and emotional. Plus, youre both Canadian.

Thank you! My mom loves Joni Mitchell.

We both grew up in a vibrant, developed Jewish community in Canada. How do you feel that the Jewish institutions of your upbringing shaped your love for music?

The camp I went to, Gesher, is the most colorful group of human beings I have ever met. I never felt like I quite fit in during private Jewish day school. I never really felt like I could be me. But camp was that place where I could be me a lot more. There was always music going on, whether it was staff playing guitar or us singing Jewish melodies around a fire.

We mentioned your family earlier. I know you told me that youre half-Yemenite. Whats that culture like compared to Ashkenazi culture?

I love being Yemenite. I am Ashkenazi and I am Yemenite, but I feel so connected to my Yemenite culture. I love the energy, the dancing, the food. Yemenite Jews are known for their singing. I dont know if every Yemenite-Ashkenazi Jew feels that [sense of connection to their Yemenite heritage], but I do.

How has that sense of connection to your heritage informed your career as a musician?

Growing up, I always felt different. I wished I looked like everyone else. I had curly hair and darker skin tones than a lot of my classmates in Jewish day school. I even think that insecurity can sometimes show in my music. I wrote a song called Gold, Blonde, which is all about a sense of not fitting into the narrow mold of Eurocentric beauty standards.

Sometimes I feel like Im in between not fully Ashkenazi, not fully Mizrahi. But at the same time, my heritage is also a unique gift because it doesnt make me uncomfortable to have those difficult conversations about whiteness in Judaism. I actually think it allows me to come to conversations in a different and interesting way.

In day school, I remember my education on Jewish history was strong, but it was Ashkenormative. We touched upon Sephardic history a little bit, but I dont think I ever learned anything about the Mizrahim until my history degree at McGill.

I dont even think I realized how Ashkenazi my Jewish education was until I went to university. In second year, I had this existential crisis learning about a lot of genocides I had never studied in the Jewish day school system. I didnt even learn about the Residential school system in Canada until university. I think [overall] Jewish day schools are getting so much better when it comes to teaching both secular North American history and non-Ashkenazi Jewish history, but that omission really disappointed me.

[In second year], I started speaking with my dad and he told me all about the racism and discrimination my grandparents faced in Israel, and I learned some crazy histories.There was the Yemenite Jewish Childrens Affair, where Yemenite children in Israel were kidnapped and sent around the world for illegal adoption. Some of the children were even adopted by childless Holocaust survivors living in Israel. Its a difficult, messy history, not something to be proud of.

My hope is that Jewish day schools can bring that history in, and in a safe and brave way learn to interrogate how our communities work. I hope we can acknowledge how racism exists within Judaism. In order to do the work [of combating anti-Semitism] outside our community, we need to do the work inside as well.

Right. And thats so tricky because we live in a world where anti-Semitism is still a legitimate danger for all Jews, especially after the pro-Trump raid on the U.S. Capitol. Yet there can also be these ugly inequities within our communities. Both these forces exist at the same time, which can be difficult to address without coming across as antagonistic. What do you think that delicate, sensitive work of tackling intracommunity racism looks like?

Just as a teacher, education is everything to me. The Jewish community has taken so many steps to improve equitable education and address issues such as racism, classism and homophobia head on. Theres a group within the Canadian Jewish community that is working on an initiative called No Silence on Race that aims to address how racism still plagues Jewish spaces in Canada. The team Sara Yacobi-Harris, Akilah Allen-Silverstein and Yoni Belete is working with Jewish institutions to create spaces for dialogue and necessary change. I think its about listening, sitting down together, making space for Jews of color, and then absorbing all that knowledge to take concrete steps to change our communities for the better.

I also think my Yemenite Jewish upbringing informs a lot of the work I do within the Jewish community because I am committed to shedding light on my grandparents experience with racism after immigrating to Israel in 1948. I challenge attendants in my workshops to consider the continuing, contemporary impacts of racism within our Jewish communities, such as the treatment of Ethiopian Jews both in Israel and in North America. I love being Jewish and I am proud to be part of this community, but theres a lot of work that still needs to be done so we can envision and pave a more inclusive path forward.

Erez Zobary is streaming on Spotify, YouTubeand wherever else you get your feminist, Jewish R&B-indie-pop music.

The post Meet the Yemeni-Jewish musician singing soulful Jewish R&B appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Meet the Yemeni-Jewish musician singing soulful Jewish R&B - Cleveland Jewish News

A wine-lovers life – The Jewish Standard

Posted By on February 18, 2021

Wine is a complicated thing.

It can be sweet, sticky, and reminiscent of seders long past; it can be complex, sophisticated, demanding both sensual and intellectual attention. It can make drinkers happy, it can help them let go of the top layer of self-consciousness that ties their tongues and depresses their wit. It also can make them drunk.

Wine brings out all kinds of silly rhapsodizing. By the time people get through describing it as tasting not only like chocolate and berries and the Caribbean at midday but also like charcoal and tar and dust and spitballs (I made that last one up) sometimes its hard to want to drink something described with those words, at least without laughing.

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And that would be a mistake.

Like any precious substance, wine is to be handled with care. When it is used properly, when it is drunk with care and reverence and attention and pleasure, it can give great joy.

Gabriel Geller, who lives in Teaneck, knows a great deal about wine. Hes now the director of communications and media management for Royal Wine, the huge Bayonne-based wine manufacturer, importer, and distributor that has changed the worlds impressions of kosher wine.

Mr. Gellers background this is the third continent hes lived in, and his familys history is as unusual as his job is fascinating.

He was born in 1985, in Switzerland. As much as we know about Jews in Europe and given that most of the local Jewish community can trace its roots back there we dont often think about Swiss Jews.

Thats because there havent been that many of them. The communitys hardy, but its not large. Whats very interesting about it is that consistently over the past 50 or so years, there have been about 18,000 Jews in Switzerland, Mr. Geller said. Despite the fact that things have changed over the last few decades, that number has remained stable. But its not always been the same people. As of a few years ago, Switzerland had the highest proportion of olim to Israel per capita in the world, he said. I would say that the reason is Zionism. I dont think that anti-Semitism is really a factor in it. There is some anti-Semitism there, of course, but not nearly as much as you see in other countries. Instead, Swiss Jews make aliyah not to flee Switzerland not to leave for any negative reasons but instead for the positive good of living in Israel.

Gabriel Geller stands in Royal Wines conference room in Bayonne. Hes holding a three-liter bottle of Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Haut-Mdoc 2000. Its kosher, of course. (Shira Hershowitz)

Before anyone could leave the country, however, they had to get there first.

Mr. Gellers history there goes way back. My paternal great-grandparents came to Switzerland from Galicia at the end of the 19th century, he said. His mother, Annie-Marie Dreyfuss, was French; she was born and raised in Paris, and moved to Geneva with her parents, Leon and Ella Dreyfuss, in the 1970s.

So how did Leon and Ella get to Paris?

Leons family was from Strasbourg, in Alsace, which has moved between French and German control over history. Ella was from Poland. The Jewish community in Strasbourg was very racist, Mr. Geller said. It was anti-Sephardic and anti-Polish Jews. (There were far more Polish Jews than Sephardim in western Europe at the time.) It was worse for someone from that community to marry a Sephardic Jew or a Polish Jew than a goy. So my grandparents Leon and Ella got married by themselves, with just the rabbi. No family would come, because she was Polish. My grandfather was put in cherem. He was an outcast. A pariah. They didnt talk to him for years.

Mr. Geller doesnt know why his grandmother moved to France, but he does know that it was a wise move. All of her family in Poland died in Auschwitz, he said.

World War II started, and my grandfather, Leon, was in the French army, Mr. Geller said. He was taken to a labor camp in Germany for French soldiers in 1942, Mr. Geller said. His captors didnt know he was Jewish. My grandmother, and my uncle and my aunt, who were much older than my mother, hid in a house in the mountains in the south of France. When the war was over, Leon Dreyfuss made his way back to France, and somehow he and Ella and the children found each other.

Despite the drama, trauma, and tragedy of their lives, the family flourished. My grandfather was an accountant, a CPA, but he worked mainly managing a foundation called Pica. The foundations full name was the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, and it was the foundation of the Baron Rothschild, in France, that managed all the philanthropy that the Rothschilds did in Israel since the 19th century.

They did a lot of work on the infrastructure in Israel, in agriculture, in academia, in so many areas. Famously, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Rothschilds planted vineyards and established the winery called Carmel. Both Pica and Carmel still flourish today.

Given his job, it perhaps is not surprising that Leon Dreyfuss went to Israel often, even before the war. Hed travel there by boat, his grandson said.

He ran Pica until the late 1970s or the early 1980s, Mr. Geller said.

Mr. Gellers paternal grandparents, Hermann and Arlette Geller are in Lausanne, circa 1975.

Mr. Gellers fathers family had been in Strasbourg for generations. His great-grandfather invested money, particularly but not only in real estate. He did well. During the war, my great-grandfather sold many of his assets for jewelry, Mr. Geller said. Jewelry is portable in a way that buildings and land are not. That allowed him to preserve most of his wealth.

My mother owns a diamond bracelet that is one of the items that my great-grandfather bought, he added. Has he ever seen that bracelet? Yes. Once. At my sisters wedding. The rest of the time, it stays in a vault.

Mr. Gellers parents, Anne-Marie and Bernard, met in college, at a Jewish students event in 1974. She lived in Geneva, and he lived in Lausanne, 50 miles away. Both are fluent in German Hebrew, but their native tongue, like their childrens, is French.

Bernard Geller was a lawyer. He had a successful career from the 1970s until he retired on January 1, 2012, Mr. Geller said. My mother was a part-time teacher, who spent her entire career working at the Jewish school in Lausanne. She also translates books, mainly but not entirely from Hebrew to French. Her most successful project a highly successful project was the first translation into French of Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed, her proud son said.

January 1, 2012, was a day of transition for the whole Geller family. On that day, the day Bernard Geller retired, he and Anne-Marie made aliyah. Theyve lived in Jerusalem for the last nine years, and my father decided to become a lawyer also in Israel, Mr. Geller said. Its a very different legal system, so he had to start from scratch. He did. He passed the bar. Hes a licensed lawyer in Israel. Now he works pro bono, providing legal advice to new immigrants.

The whole family eventually made aliyah, but not all at once. Hermann and Arlette, Bernards parents, went first.

Then Gabriels oldest sibling, his sister Esther, was sent to Israel when she was 15. She didnt want to be there, but she was a troublemaker as a teenager, and they sent her away.

It wasnt a good idea, and it didnt work out. She came back when she was 16. But then, at 24, she made aliyah on her own terms, and she lives in Israel today.

My brother, David, is six years older than I am, and when he was 15, he moved to Israel by himself, although our grandparents did live there too. He went to boarding school, so during the week he lived at school and on weekends he was with our grandparents.

I wanted to do the same thing, and my brother encouraged me to do it when I was 14, instead of waiting until I was 15, the way he did. Thats so he could start high school with everyone else, instead of trying to break into established cliques a year later.

Mr. Gellers paternal grandparents, Hermann and Arlette Geller around 1960 in the Swiss Alps.

And my parents agreed. So when I was 14, I moved to Israel.

Mr. Geller and his wife, Yael, have a 3 1/2-year-old, a son named Shmaya. How would he feel if his son moved across the world in about 10 years, following his Zionist passion? Mr. Geller hesitated. I dont know, he said. I dont know how I would feel if it came from a good place. But I dont think that my wife would like it

After he graduated from high school, Mr. Geller went straight to college. Because he was not yet an Israeli citizen that didnt happen until 12 years later he did not go into the IDF. I studied business administration and marketing, and then I changed schools and studied and graduated in political science and international relations from the Open University of Israel, he said. Its a public university that works with students who want to work instead of being full-time students; even before covid many of its classes were online rather than in-person.

Because of the way the school operated, I had a lot of free time, Mr. Geller said. Hes entrepreneurial; when he was in high school, back home in Switzerland on summer break, hed worked for a Swiss wine importer. That importer gave him a job when he was in college.

The importer was Jewish, but most of the wines he sold were not kosher. But he sold a few kosher Israeli wines, originally as a service to the local Jewish community, and then he realized that the vast majority of sales were not to Jews. People were interested in it because the wines were of good quality, reasonably priced, and interesting.

Thats when I became interested in wine, Mr. Geller said. I went from just liking wine to growing my nose his ability to taste and assess and my understanding of wine.

So they hired me to find Israeli wineries that would like to export wine to Switzerland. I went to all the wineries in Israel, all the professional tastings and trade conferences.

Thats how I grew a lot of network connections in the Israeli and kosher wine industry. I was paid very well to do that work, and I really enjoyed it, and I learned.

After he finished college, Mr. Geller spent a year in the United States, working in the Peninsula Hotel, a high-end hotel in Beverly Hills, learning about the hospitality industry. It was very fancy, and had nothing to do with wine, he said. I did press relations there. But I wanted to go back to Israel.

Soon, he did go back; he and a friend opened a wine store in Jerusalem. It was called the Wine Mill, because of the windmill in Rehavia, the stores neighborhood, he said. The store lasted for only a few years his business partner got married and lost focus but through his range of experiences, topped off by his time retailing wine, a bottle at a time, Mr. Geller realized that hed found his professional home. It was in the wine world.

Hlne & Lon Dreyfuss, Mr. Gellers maternal grandparents, are in Lausanne around 1990.

He returned to consulting. He also joined an online English-language forum about kosher and Israeli wine run by Daniel Rogov, who was basically the Robert Parker of the Israeli and kosher wine world, Mr. Geller said. Mr. Rogov, who had written for Haaretz, died in 2011, and the forum he had slowly died too. But that started him thinking about the power of online groups. (And speaking of Robert Parker, the famous wine critic and reviewer began to include Israeli wine and rate it highly in his Wine Advocate in the mid 2000s. Since then, other popular wine reviewers also include Israeli wines in their lists.)

The turning point was about seven years ago, when I opened a Facebook group about kosher wines called Kosher Wine Sharing and Experiences, Mr. Geller continued. The goal was to discuss kosher wines, provide opinions, and share information with a like-minded group. It was for centralized crowd-sharing information.

The group grew very quickly. In a year, we were up to a couple of thousand members. I had two groups one in English, and one in French and together we had 11,000 members. It became the largest online forum about kosher wine.

In 2015, I noticed a girl on the Facebook group, Mr. Geller continued. We started communicating via private messages. We went through many conversations, and then I told her, If youre really serious, lets meet up.

She was based in New York, and I lived in Israel, and I wanted to do this seriously and with a long-term vision. So I managed to get myself a wine consulting gig for an Israeli winery in New York for a few months.

I moved here in 2015.

Wed never met in person, so I asked her out on a date and we met for real. Yes, readers, of course the girl in New York was Yael. We went to a restaurant in Queens, and it clicked. Maybe six, seven weeks later we got engaged, and three months later we got married.

So we met through wine.

Yael has a masters degree in public health and has worked for medical practices at Mount Sinai and for the American Association for Tourettes Syndrome. Since she had Shmaya and of course since the pandemic shes worked from home, as a freelance wine writer and social media manager.

Gabriel had come to the United States working for a winery, but Royal Wine, which was the importer for the winery, said, Why are you working just for that winery, when you could work for all of them? So they made me an offer. That was more than five years ago. Since then, Ive worked for Royal Wine, and we live in Teaneck.

Arlette and Hermann Geller are in Netanya in 2000.

Hes enthusiastic about Royal Wine and hes always promoted Israeli wine, first to the Jewish world, and now to the world at large, he said. Israel is an emerging wine country, with interesting wines.

Israel also is a small country that nonetheless seems to include an almost ludicrous number of microclimates, kinds of soil and amounts of sunlight, and wind and rain and snow and blistering sun. That means that all kinds of grapes can be grown and wines can be created there. At least until recently and perhaps still today, Israeli wine-drinkers have to grapple with the incorrect assumption that its countrys wine is the sickly sweet rot-gut that might be found on Skid Row. It also has to deal with all kinds of notions of how wine is made kosher no, its not boiled until its flavor vanishes and it becomes hot grape juice.

So theres a lot going on there, both good and bad.

Mr. Geller knows all about that.

My goal is to promote wine as a culture, as it is understood in France, Spain, Italy, and many other countries around the world. Its not just something that you drink at a party, but something that is part of culture and history.

The goal is to democratize wine, as a cultural beverage. Not to drink it to get drunk although you can get drunk but because it is a complex beverage the represents the culture and history of wherever it comes from.

Israeli wine has a rich, multicultural history. The ancient roots of Israeli wine go back thousands of years, and I think that every wine shares a little bit of that culture and history.

Daniel Rogov used to say that when you open a bottle of wine, you open 5,000 years of culture and history.

Wine should not be just a luxury. It is something that you can integrate as part of your daily diet. If you believe that drinking wine in moderation is good for you some studies say that it is, others do not then you can do that. There are a lot of good wines, including Israeli and kosher wines, that you can drink every day, and other wines that are more expensive, for special occasions.

It really is a drink like no other.

Arlette and Hermann Geller are in Jerusalem in 1995.

That true thing said, it also is true that its unlikely that the wine that biblical characters drank would be either recognizable or palatable to us, he said. It probably had little in common with the wine we have today. The way they it was made then doesnt sound particularly appealing.

Mr. Geller explained how kosher wine is made. From the moment the grape is crushed until it is wine, it can be touched only by Sabbath-observing Jews, he said. If it then is made mevushal if it is flash heated and pasteurized anyone can touch it. Mevushal wines used to taste terrible, but with modern techniques that has completed changed, Mr. Geller said. The vast majority of those wines are very good. And no one could tell that they are flash pasteurized just by tasting it.

Mr. Geller gave a quick history of Israeli wine. It started taking off in the early 1980s, he said. There were a few wineries, like Carmel, established in the 19th century, but for the most part until the late 70s they made sacramental kiddush wine. It was sweet and syrupy, like Manischewitz and Kedem. At the end of the 70s, Carmel made the first dry cabernet sauvignon, aged in barrels, following modern wine-making protocol, and it was very successful.

At the same time, they were not very successful in following through and keeping the momentum going. Just a few years later, in 1983, the Golan Heights winery was founded, with equipment and knowledge and winemakers from the University of California at Davis. They started winning awards right away.

This is how modern Israeli winemaking started. There were many wineries started in the following years. There was a big boom in the early 2000s, and now there are more than 300 wineries in Israel.

About 100 of those wineries are kosher, and those 100 wineries make about 95 percent of all Israeli wine.

He talked about the countrys many microclimates. Theyre within a short drive of each other, he said, and offer winemakers the opportunities to experiment with exactly what grape grows best exactly where, and which style to produce. They have had a lot of success already, and theyve made a huge amount of progress in a short time. Its still a very young industry, and there still is a lot of room for improvement, but there is a lot of good stuff already.

Israel is known for its science and technology, and the wine industry uses it. Thats a big part of Israeli winemaking, Mr. Geller said. Some of it is in the service of religious observance. There are interventions that have to be made to the wine during the wine-making process, and sometimes it would have to be done on Shabbat, but thats not possible. So now winemakers have been able to use technology to make it automatic, and to schedule operations that can be done by robots, so there is no need for human intervention on Shabbat and holidays.

Kosher winemaking has taken off around the world, at least to some extent the result of the growing sophistication of kosher-keeping wine drinkers. There are now almost 4,000 different kosher wines made every year.

Kosher wine consumers have become used to the fact that kosher wine can be very high quality, and there is demand for it from every well-known region not only Israel, of course, but also from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Germany; from California; from New Zealand and Australia; from Argentina, Portugal, and Chile; from South Africa.

Gabriel Geller perches on a carton of wine at Royal Wines warehouse in Bayonne. (Shira Hershowitz)

Why is Bartenura kosher, and why is there so very much of it? Because Bartenura, which is made in Italy, started as an inexpensive kosher wine, Mr. Geller said. It became extremely popular; of the approximately 700,000 cases it sells each year, most go to people who do not keep kosher but like the wine for its taste, its price, and its availability.

One the other hand, some of the greatest wineries, in France, Italy, California, and Argentina, among other places, produce kosher versions of their wine, he added; those wines include Chteaux Giscours, Pontet-Canet, Malartic-Lagravire, Padis, Marciano Estate, Riglos, Tassi, and Flechas de Los Andes.

How does that work? The idea for it usually comes from Jewish wine makers, who say Lets make kosher wine together. We will bring the logistics, and we will make it happen.

Those logistics include people they must be shomer-Shabbat Jews, remember and the supplies they need. It is very labor intensive, and very expensive, Mr. Geller said. Its very complicated but they have been doing it for 30 years now, and theyre doing great.

Overwhelmingly, the kosher wines taste like their non-kosher counterparts. In the vast majority of the time, it is very similar, Mr. Geller said. Someone who is not trained could not tell the difference.

I can tell differences, but they are very subtle. Sometimes it seems like the kosher wine is better; more often it seems like the non-kosher wine might be a little bit superior, but in a very subtle way, that no one without training could notice at all.

One of the many changes this pandemic year has forced is the migration online of what until now have been densely packed in-person meetings, conferences, and celebrations. That includes Royal Wines Kosher Food and Wine Experience, which has offered food, wine, and community for 15 years. We decided to do a virtual event instead, Mr. Geller said. People had the opportunity to order tastings of 25 different wines small samples, 100 milliliters each, which is two or three small pours of the greatest kosher wines from all over the world. Most of the stuff is high end. The package which is sold out was sent to buyers homes.

And there will be a live show broadcast, with a lot of surprises, as well as videos about the wines and cooking demos with famous chefs. Tickets are free. Information and free tickets are online at

The show is on Sunday, February 21, and begins at 5:30 p.m.

I hope we wont have to do it like this again next year, Mr. Geller said. But were trying to make up for the lack of an in-person show this year.

And of course, whether or not youve bought the official testing set, viewers are invited to open a bottle of wine, relax, and watch the show.

What: Royal Wines Kosher Food and Wine Virtual Experience

When: Sunday, February 21 at 5:30 pm

Information and free tickets: Online


A wine-lovers life - The Jewish Standard

Rabbi Abel Respes Spent Lifetime Urging Jews of Color to Discover Their Roots – Jewish Exponent

Posted By on February 18, 2021

The late Rabbi Abel Respes, the subject of a Black History Month webinar this week, always knew his family was different.

Born in 1919 to a poor Black family in North Philadelphia, he grew up with a vague understanding of his religious background. His mother told him that their Bible was written in a different language, and his grandmother observed Jewish customs and told him that their people worshipped in secret in the past.

I remembered my father, who read the Bible but never went to church, telling me when I was 13 and should have been bar mitzvahed Were different from other Negroes. We are Jews, he told The New York Times in 1978.

He dropped out of high school at 16 and worked odd jobs to help support his family. At 28, a series of mystical experiences, including dreams, motivated him to research his Jewish roots. His son, Rabbi Gamliel Respes, said he fasted for seven days and seven nights and began teaching himself Hebrew, reading texts like the chumash and the tanakh.

Researching his Spanish last name led him to the stories of the Marranos, or Jews who practiced in secret during the Spanish Inquisition. His studies indicated he was descended from Marranos, also known as crypto-Jews, who fled persecution and may have resettled in North and West Africa.

Respes dedicated himself to intensive study, became a rabbi and founded Adat Beyt Moshe, a largely African American congregation that began in North Philadelphia and later moved to Elwood, New Jersey.

He felt that if this was a possibility for his family as a person of color in the United States, then maybe there were other families who sort of lost their way and were crypto-Jews because of circumstances such as the slave trade, Rabbi Gamliel Respes said.

Adat Beyt Moshe congregants included a combination of crypto-Jewish families, converts to Judaism and other Jewish people of color. It operated communally, with families pooling resources to buy land and build homes and a synagogue.

Despite the fact that a panel of rabbis found Respes knowledge of Judaism to be superior to that of graduates of Yeshiva University, he and his community often faced scrutiny from white Ashkenazi rabbinic authorities who required them to prove their Jewishness, Rabbi Gamliel Respes said. During an attempt to immigrate to Israel, Abel Respes, who died in 1986, underwent a formal conversion because he could not produce proof of his heritage.

He also worked to educate the broader Jewish community about Jews of color and their history, advocating for Jews to focus on their identity as an indigenous people from the Middle East as the Torah described them, not divided along contemporary American racial categories.

My dad was on the radio explaining this, which resonated with some people of color and they came to learn more. So the fact that my father was educating them and letting them know that there were Jews who were exiled not just in Europe but in Africa led them to come and learn from him, Rabbi Gamliel Respes said.

He thinks the most significant part of his fathers legacy was the reach of his community and education work. His cousins have traveled across the country and encountered people along the way who recognize Rabbi Abel Respes name because he touched their lives in some way.

His granddaughter, Yasminah Respes, said her grandfathers dedication to finding acceptance in the Jewish community helped inspire her to become a Jewish educator and make an Orthodox conversion in Israel.

I wish more people knew just how wise he was, she said. I mean, the fact that he could teach himself Hebrew is an amazing accomplishment, especially before the internet. And the fact that he was able to influence so many members of his own family and extended community members, thats a big deal.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphias Jewish Community Relations Council will hold a webinar discussion with Yasminah Respes, Rabbi Gamliel Respes and historian Craig Stutman about Rabbi Abel Respes life in partnership with the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, ADLs Black-Jewish Alliance and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey on Feb. 23 in honor of Black History Month.

Viewers can register for the 7 p.m. Zoom event

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Rabbi Abel Respes Spent Lifetime Urging Jews of Color to Discover Their Roots - Jewish Exponent

Southeast Michigan entertainment calendar Feb. 19 and beyond – The Oakland Press

Posted By on February 18, 2021

Note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, events are subject to change. Check with venues for updates.

Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas: 8 p.m. Feb. 19, online, The Ark, Ann Arbor,, $20+.

Todd Rundgren: geo-targeted multi-city Clearly Human Virtual Tour through March 22, routed for Detroit, Feb. 23,, $35+ each.

Nothin But the Blues: DSO Digital Concerts: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25-26,, streaming, $12 each.

Jazz from Detroit-Virtual Music Marathon-DSO Digital Concerts: 2 p.m. Feb. 27,, streaming,$9+.

A Tribute to Duke Ellington: Candlelight Jazz showFeb. 27, The Masonic Temple Fountain Ballroom, 500 Temple Ave., Detroit, 313-832-7100,, $100+ for two.

Chantae Cann: Online through Feb. 28, Detroit Institute of Arts,

Music of Florence Price: DIA @ Homethrough March 1,, free.

DSO Digital Concert: 7:30 p.m. March 5, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis,

Dan + Claudia Zanes: Through March 6, streaming, Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, Clinton Twp.,, free.

Birmingham Musicale: "The Social Voices of American Music-Stories for All People" virtual music concert via YouTube, recorded for later viewing,

Conversations & Cocktails: Spoken word and drums 7:15 p.m. Feb. 19, part of the Southfield Celebrates Black History Month, virtual program on the Southfield Parks and Recreation Facebook page, hosted by Ber-Henda Williams.

Nationtime: Film, Feb. 19-21, DFT @ Home, Online, Detroit Film Theatre,, free.

Just Mercy (PG-13): Moonlight Movie Night pop-up drive-in7:30 p.m. Feb. 20, Southfield Parks & Recreation Department Building parking lot. Bring your own refreshments (no alcohol),, limited to 40 cars, register at 248 796-4620,or at

Examining Voting Rights-Past, Present & Future: Noon-1 p.m. Feb. 22, virtual program hosted by ADL Michigan, Urban League of Detroit & SE MI, Black and Jewish Coalition for Unity, and JCRC/AJC, register at

Wednesday Night Virtual Storytelling Series: 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Detroit Association of Black Storytellers presents selection of personal and historical narratives for youth and families, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History,

Excellence in Black Cinema Series: Black films, Thursdays in February, at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit, 313-494-5800, Films run at 9:30 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m., Thursdays, free.

Capturing a Culture Change Motown through the lens of Jim Hendin-1968-1972: exhibit at Motown Museum, 2648 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, New hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Stories of Pride & Prejudice:The Secret Society of Twisted Story Tellers presents at 7 p.m. Feb. 26, via Zoom, Southfield Parks & Recreation Department, or call 248-796-4620, $10, adults.

The Blackness Project-Identity And The African American Community: Documentary through Feb. 28,The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History,

Michigan in the Civil War: traveling exhibit from the Detroit Historical Society, through Feb. 28 at The Oxford Public Library, 530 Pontiac Street, Oxford,

Films of the Rev. Solomon Sir Jones: Online through March 1, DIA at Home, Detroit Film Theatre,, free.

Walk Through History display: Through March 1, along the walking path on the front lawn of the Southfield Municipal Complex, 26000 Evergreen Road, Southfield, display featuring influential African Americans of Southfield and world history,

DSO Digital Concert and Classical Roots Celebration: 6:30 p.m. March 6, Detroit Symphony Orchestra with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis, celebrates African-American composers and musicians, Orchestra Hall livestream,, $100+ for 2. Concert only, 7:30 p.m., $12+.

Detroit 67 Perspectives exhibit: opened in 2017 to recognize the 50th anniversary of Detroits civil unrest, will become a permanent exhibition at the Detroit Historical Museum.

Teen Arts Council Film Fest 2021: Call for filmmakers ages 13-20 to share short films by Feb. 19,

Art on Auburn: The City of Rochester Hills accepting art submissions forAuburn Road community artwork project open to all K-12 students attendingRochester Hills, Rochester or Avondale public schools. Register by Feb. 28,

Motown Mic-The Spoken Word Competition: ages 16+, apply online by March 5,

Ehnes-Brahms for Six:DSO Digital Concert7:30 p.m. Feb. 19,, streaming concert, $12 each.

Mike Armstrong: Feb. 18-20, One Night Stans Comedy Club, 4761 Highland Road, Waterford Twp., COVID-19 restrictions include a 10 p.m. curfew, 25 percent capacity,, $20+.

Dean Edwards: Feb. 18-20, Mark Ridleys Comedy Castle, 310 S. Troy St., Royal Oak,, prices vary.

Gildas Laughfest Festival: March 11-14, presented by Gun Lake Casino, 30 events, plus social media content and contests,

Mosaic Arts International exhibition: Featuring Huntington Woods resident Michelle Sider. View at, free.

Annual #HeartsForArt: Visitors pick up a decorative heart at front desk during February, take a photo of the heart in front of their favorite artwork and post on social media, tagging #HeartsForArt and #CranbrookArtMuseum, health safety measures in place,

History of American Architecture: 11 a.m. or 7 p.m. Mondays, through Feb. 22, virtual five-week lecture series by Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. Register at, $75 adults, $25 full-time students, free for Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cranbrook Schools students.

Michigan Annual XLVIII: Exhibit available in person and online, through Feb. 23,,

Conversations with Cranbrook: Laura Mott, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art and Design, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Feb. 25 via Zoom, virtual tour of her personal art collection, free for Cranbrook ArtMembers and academy students,

The Body Eclectic: Exhibit through Feb. 26, Lawrence Street Gallery, Ferndale, See exhibit at the website and in-person at the gallery, open Thursday-Sunday, 248-544-0394.

Hum & Glow of Winter: Michael Polakowski installation 6 a.m.-10 p.m. through Feb. 28, 1903 Grand River Ave., Detroit,, Playground Detroit in partnership with DTE's Beacon Park, free.

Virtual Field Guide to Renowned Detroit Architectural Sculptor, Corrado Parducci, hosted by the Ferndale Area District Library is 7 p.m. March 2 via Zoom, register at

Corrado Parducci: Virtual Field Guide to Renowned Detroit Architectural Sculptor,7 p.m. March 2, hosted by the Ferndale Area District Library via Zoom, register at, 248-546-2504,

Boom Town-Detroit in the 1920s: The Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit,

Winter Wednesday: Private group visits Wednesday afternoons at Cranbrook Art Museum, 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills. One-hour time slots available at 3, 4 and 5 p.m. for up to six (including galleries and shop). Staff will provide brief overview of exhibitions, $50 per group,

Detroit Style-Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020: Exhibit through June 27. Access Detroit Institute of Arts online to view collections, online resources for children and adults,,, The DIA open Wednesday-Sunday; timed entry tickets at

Experience and Expression: Through Oct. 3. The DIA open Wednesday-Sunday; timed entry tickets at

Art Bytes-Detroit Style Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020: DIA gallery teacher Crystal Palmer takes viewers through the exhibition, DIA School Field Trip from Home,

Art-Making: Luminaries using recycled glass jars and tissue paper for a stained-glass effect, Art Access Online,

Monroe Street Drive-In: Hidden Figures 7 p.m. Feb. 19, Kung Fu Panda Feb. 20 and Back to the Future Part 2 Feb. 21,Powered By Emagine movie theater, 32 Monroe St., Detroit. Films and showtimes Thursdays-Sundays through spring, $20 per vehicle,

Minari": Through Feb. 25, Landmark Main Art, 118 N Main St, Royal Oak,, $10+.

The Father: Feb. 26, The Maple Theater, 4135 W. Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills,, $12+.

M.C. Escher-Journey to Infinity: Online through March 4, DFT @ Home, Detroit Film Theatre,, $12.

A Glitch in the Matrix: Online through March 5, DFT @ Home, Detroit Film Theatre,, $12.

Lapsis: Online through March 5, DFT @ Home, Detroit Film Theatre,, $6.99.

Live ice carving: 4-7 p.m. Feb. 19, ice sculptures by Finesse Ice, Festival Park, The Village of Rochester Hills, Rochester Hills,

Twenty-Onederland Block Party-Mardi Gras celebration: noon-2 p.m. Feb. 21, Prestige Entertainment will have a DJ playing New Orleans music, The Village of Rochester Hills, Rochester Hills,

Skating sessions: Through March 7, The Rink at Campus Martius Park, 800 Woodward Ave., Detroit, register at or call 313-963-9393.

Dino Stroll: May 20, animated dinosaur-themed stroll, opening day proceeds benefit Jays Juniors, to support chronically and terminally ill children, Canterbury Village, 2325 Joslyn Ct., Lake Orion, $9.99+, free for children younger than 2, military and veterans. Parking $5.

Butterflies Are Blooming:Annual Fred & Dorothy Fichter exhibition March 1-April 30, thousands of butterflies fly inside Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, COVID precautions in effect with wait times, or, $14.50 for ages 14+; $7 for ages 5-13; $4 for ages 3-4; free for 2 and younger.

Meadow Brook Hall: weekend self-guided tours. Guests may explore all three levels of the house and wander the wooded pathways with the help of a new app. Admission is $10 per adult, $7 for ages 62+, $5 for ages 6-12. Free for ages 5 and younger, guests must wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and maintain physical distancing. Tickets are available at,

Rosa Parks Bus exhibit: The Henry Ford-Museum of American Innovation, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, exhibit included with museum admission, $25+, youth (5-11), $18.75+, free to ages 4 and younger. COVID-19 precautions, Greenfield Village closed for the season, Ford Rouge Factory Tours are open Monday-Saturday, purchase tickets online.

Deadly Medicine-Creating the Master Race: Through July 11 in-person exhibit at Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus, Farmington Hills,, 248-553-2400.

Michigan Science Center: Reserve museum visits onlineThursday-Sunday, 313-577-8400,, $18, free for younger than 2. IMAX Theater reserved tickets extra cost. COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Rochester-Avon Historical Society: Illustrated new heritage tour book, History in the Heart of the Hills: A Rochester Area Heritage Tour, available for purchasefor $13 at

The Brave Little Tailor: Through Feb. 20, streaming, Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, Clinton Twp.,

Scott Silven's The Journey:Live virtual theater and storytelling Feb. 23-28,, $46-$56.

4 Genres: 8 p.m. Feb. 24, second in series, performed live on Zoom, Theatre Nova, Ann Arbor, $10 each month, or $30 for a series pass, Email

Maltese Falcon: a radio play 8 p.m. Feb. 26, premiering on our YouTube Channel, presented by Rosedale Community Players, via Youtube,, donations welcome.

The Magic Science Lab with Bill Blagg: March 1-May 28, virtual, Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, Clinton Twp., streaming,, free.

Doktor Kaboom! It's Just Rocket Science: streaming through April 2, Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, Clinton Twp.,, free.

DIA At Home: Family art projects Neighborhood Collage and Art-Making-Stabiles, freestanding geometric sculptures. Access the Detroit Institute of Arts online to view collections and online resources for children and adults,,,

Michigan History for Kids: For third- and fourth-graders, exploring history and heritage of all Michigan peoples,

Submit events online at

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Southeast Michigan entertainment calendar Feb. 19 and beyond - The Oakland Press

New Jewish Horror Film Steeped in Ancient Jewish Lore and Demonology –

Posted By on February 18, 2021

It may be tempting to describe The Vigil as The Exorcist meets Borough Park. But making the comparison can be glib and detract from the originality of this one-of-a-kind Jewish horror film. Tickets for the film, screening through Feb. 22, are available from Boston Jewish Film.

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Jewish themes do not usually drive horror films. But The Vigil has blazed a trail for the way it introduces Yiddish dialogue and combines supernatural elements with Jewish mourning rituals. There are plenty of jumpy scares, along with flickering lights and unsettling appearances. All of it happens in a setting where things literally go bump in the night.

The film is written and directed by Keith Thomas, a rabbinical school dropout who brings out eerie elements lurking during a night spent watching over a dead body. Jewish tradition calls for a shomera watchpersonto guard the body in this period of aninut, the time between death and burial.

The shomer for this particular night is Yakov, played to perfection by Dave Davis. A scene at the beginning of the film shows Yakov in a support group for those who have also stepped off the derechoff the path of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Yakov, emotionally fragile, desperately needs rent money and accepts his cousin Menashes offer to watch over the body of Mr. Litvak, a Holocaust survivor. Menashe is played by the excellent Menashe Lustig, a practicing Hasid, who was the subject of the lightly fictionalized 2017 film Menashe.

Suffice it to say that Yakov is in for a frightful night where he has to contend with the disturbing Mrs. Litvak, played by the late Lynn Cohen, an exceptional actor who had a recurring role as Magda in Sex and the City and played Golda Meir in Munich. Giant lamps eerily illuminate the Litvaks cramped living room with its yellowing wallpaper and shabby furniture, and Yakov is left with a dead body that eventually reacts to the dybbuk, or demon, that haunted it in life.

Davis, along with producer Raphael Margules, met with JewishBoston over Zoom to chat about the film. They discussed everything from speaking Yiddish in the film, understanding Yakov in light of his mental health struggles, considering the horror genre in combination with Judaisms more esoteric mourning rituals and the intergenerational trauma associated with the Holocaust.

Davis said that learning Yiddish to play Yakov was a revelation. Brought up as a Reform Jew, he said: I didnt realize how much Yiddish I knew until I started studying it for the film. The more I learned about the Hasidic community, the more I realized I could have been part of that community if my grandparents hadnt decided to take a different path toward Americanization.

In his research for the role, Davis also met with people at various stages of leaving the ultra-Orthodox community. I came to appreciate their struggles, he said. For many, leaving meant it was their first interaction with English, secular life, American films and music, and popular culture in general. I kept in mind how those interactions could inform Yakovs character. The film also addresses antisemitism. To bring those experiences to life as an American Jew was another way for me to bring that community to life.

Margules, an Orthodox Jew, runs BoulderLight Pictures with a friend he met in Hebrew school. Margules said he was determined to bring his sensibilities as an observant Jew to the films aesthetic. The intention was to tell a very scary, intimate personal story within the Hasidic community and to portray that community in very human ways, he said. We brought the audience into this community organically with someone who has left that world and was pulled back literally and figuratively to face the issues he left.

To that end, Yakov spends the first part of his vigil reading psalms in Hebrew. The gesture not only reflects Yakovs fragile state of mind but the fact that he suffers from a form of PTSD after witnessing antisemitic thugs murder his younger brother. It was important that the fear in the film be grounded in the reality of the emotion, Davis noted. Being afraid of the boogeyman or the monster under the bed comes from the internal demons we all struggle with, whether it be mental health, familial issues or community trauma. Yakovs challenges come from all three of those things.

While death is a natural subject for a horror film, Margules and Thomas took things a step further by focusing on the trauma of the Holocaust for survivors and second-generation survivors. Marguless four grandparents were imprisoned in concentration camps, and he said their experiences are intertwined in my DNA. When I got Keiths script in 2018, my grandmother in Borough Park had recently died at age 90. The movie is a tribute to her and that generation. I recognize that its an ambitious move to tackle the Holocaust when making a low-budget horror movie. We had to handle it delicately and organically.

The horror, coupled with the trauma of the Holocaust, comes together in the demon of the Mazzik. The dybbuk latched on to Mr. Litvak in Buchenwald and never let go, even in death. At one point, Yakov confronts the Mazzik and sees a distortion of his face projected onto the demon. Davis considers that scene a turning point in Yakovs convoluted relationship to faith. How does Yakov grapple with his Hasidic roots? he asks. Does distancing himself mean he doesnt believe in God? In a supernatural story like The Vigil, the implications are that there are profound things to deal with, like Jewish suffering through the generations and personal spiritual journeys.

Join a live conversation with writer/director Keith Thomas, producer Raphael Margules and actors Dave Davis and Malky Goldman on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. Admission is included in the price of a screening ticket.

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New Jewish Horror Film Steeped in Ancient Jewish Lore and Demonology -

Americas Christian and Jewish Faithful Observe Socially Distanced Ash Wednesday and Purim – Times of San Diego

Posted By on February 18, 2021

Martha Gendonou receives communion from Deacon Tony King at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Atlanta. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

Kimberly Hendricks will usher in the somber Christian period of Lent on Ash Wednesday from the parking lot of her Sacramento church instead of its sanctuary thanks to COVID-19 restrictions.

She and the other congregants of St. Johns Lutheran Church in California will listen to the familiar prayers from their car radios before marking their own foreheads with a cross using ash and oil they mixed themselves.

Its not perfect, but its what we can do right now, said Hendricks, 50.

Nearly a year since the pandemic curbed large gatherings, communities of faith have grown more creative to reach congregants hungry for spiritual and social connections.

In many Catholic communities, ashes will not be worn on the forehead as is traditional in America as a symbol of mortality and penance in advance of the Easter holiday on April 4. Instead, most churches are following guidance from the Vatican to sprinkle the ashes on the congregants head. Others are applying them with Q-tips or cotton balls in a drive-through setup.

With the actual wearing of ashes not required by the Catholic church, some parishes are skipping application of ash entirely or holding only digital services due to safety concerns.

Online services and Zoom meetings now are mainstays of distance worship. But congregants like Hendricks say they need more to fill the void created by the lack of in-person interaction.

Religious or secular, there is a certain amount of Zoom fatigue, said Bryan Visitacion, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.

In suburban Atlanta, the COVID-era changes do not bother Fred Maxwell, 75, a congregant at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church who has not missed an Ash Wednesday Mass since he was old enough to participate.

Its not the ritual thats important, Maxwell said. Its how you turn inward and try to be a better Christian, a better person.

They could put the ashes on my nose for all I care.

Jewish synagogues will celebrate the festive holiday of Purim on Feb. 25 and 26 with drive-through carnivals, outdoor services and holiday-in-a-box packages that congregants can open at home.

The Temple Beth Hillel synagogue in Los Angeles typically holds a large community carnival for Purim a celebration of the Jews salvation from genocide in ancient Persia with amusement park rides, food vendors and crafts.

But this year, costume-clad families instead will drive through a series of games in the synagogues parking lot, including a coin toss for charity, Rabbi Sarah Hronsky said.

At the end of the ride, everyone will get hamentaschen, traditional Jewish cookies eaten on the holiday, and have their photos taken, Hronsky said.

Hronskys more liberal Jewish tradition allows for the religious aspect of Purim, which includes reading from the biblical scroll of Esther, to be conducted through online services.

Worshipping via Zoom has brought unexpected blessings, Hronsky said, allowing congregants who have moved away or elderly members who have difficulty coming to the synagogue to participate.

But I think there is a huge desire to want to be together, she said. Nothing will replace the power of a hug.

In the orthodox Jewish community, where tradition holds that the story of Purim should be read in person, some synagogues are hosting numerous small events so congregants can gather without being in a large crowd. Others are holding services outdoors.

In the Hasidic Chabad movement, several synagogues in cold locations are having outdoor Purim in the Arctic services and parties, said Motti Seligson, a spokesman for the movement. Congregants will don winter coats and hats as their masquerade costumes.

Chabads across the country are encouraging people to really get into it, Seligson said. If we ever needed a shot in the arm of joy around Purim, it would be this year.

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Americas Christian and Jewish Faithful Observe Socially Distanced Ash Wednesday and Purim - Times of San Diego

A year of grief: Orthodox Jewry reels as COVID-19 hastens the loss of its rabbis – The Times of Israel

Posted By on February 18, 2021

JTA Three times on Sunday, January 31, Orthodox men carried the body of a beloved Torah scholar wrapped in a black and white prayer shawl through the streets of Jerusalem to a freshly dug grave.

First there was Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, the 99-year-old heir to a vaunted tradition of Talmud study. A few hours later it was Rabbi Yitzchok Sheiner, the 98-year-old leader of a prominent yeshiva. And in the evening they took Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, a psychiatrist and scion of multiple Hasidic dynasties, to his final resting place near Beit Shemesh.

By nightfall, the Orthodox world could count three fewer rabbinic scholars than when the day began. All died of COVID-19, the disease that has killed well over 2.3 million people around the world, including more than 400,000 in the United States and nearly 5,000 in Israel. In Israel, 1 in 132 Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews over 65 had died of COVID-19 by the end of 2020.

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The weekends losses were relentless in their pace, but they reflected a cruel fact of life in the Orthodox world over the past year. A long list of Orthodox rabbinic leaders have died, leaving communities reeling from their losses and at times wondering who will emerge to fill their shoes. The deaths from COVID and from other causes during a pandemic that curtailed the mourning rituals that usually follow the deaths of major rabbis spanned the range of the Orthodox community, from Modern Orthodox to Lithuanian (non-Hasidic Haredi) to Hasidic.

In some cases, the deaths of major rabbis signaled the end of an era in which men who attained high levels of secular education also joined the ranks of the generations leading rabbis, something that has become more rare as time goes on. And in others, the rabbis who died were symbols of connection to a past era of Orthodoxy in which the quality of Torah study was deemed to be higher and holier.

The rabbis leave behind many disciples who have dedicated their lives to study, so their deaths do not signal the demise of traditions, as may be the case, for example, for some Native American tribes whose elders have been hit hard by the virus. Still, the rabbis symbolized a connection to the past that is highly valued in a community based on the transmission of a tradition said to date back to the giving of the Torah to Moses at Sinai.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews participate in funeral for prominent rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, in Jerusalem, January 31, 2021. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

It represents periods of real Jewish glory in terms of Torah scholarship, said Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive officer of the Orthodox Unions kosher division. Were looking for that link to what was.

The losses began early in the pandemic. In the United States, there was the Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, a member of the rabbinical council for Agudath Israel, a Haredi advocacy group. Perlow died of COVID in early April, just a few weeks after he exhorted the Haredi community to take precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The loss to [the Jewish people], and Agudas Yisroel, is incalculable, Agudath Israel said at the time in a statement, using an alternate spelling of its name not yet knowing how much greater the losses would be.

Deaths piled up in the Haredi community in New York during the spring, though few who died were as prominent as Perlow.

The late Rabbi Yaakov Perlow speaks at Agudath Israel of Americas 2019 convention in Stamford, Connecticut. (Courtesy/Agudath Israel via JTA)

Meanwhile, the Modern Orthodox world suffered a series of devastating losses. Rabbi Norman Lamm, a former president of Yeshiva University who had used his post there to promote his vision of Modern Orthodoxy, died at age 92 in May. His wife, Mindella, died the month before of COVID-19 at 88.

In August, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a scholar whose expertise ran the gamut from Jewish mysticism to prayer to theology to ethics, but who became more famous for his translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew, died at 83. Steinsaltz did not die of COVID.

Pope Francis meets Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz at the Vatican, December 5, 2016. (LOsservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom who became an eloquent spokesperson for Judaism to the world, died in November at 72 of cancer. His death, a major blow not only to his community in the United Kingdom but to the Modern Orthodox community in the United States and others across the entire Jewish community, was mourned in a torrent of essays and tributes.

Illustrative: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, set to present the Humanitarian Award to IsraAids Meira Aboulafia at the TOI Gala in New York City, January 2015. (Blake Ezra/Courtesy)

Just a few days later, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, son of the most famous Orthodox Jewish legal authority of the 20th century, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, died at 91. In December, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, a longtime judge in Jewish legal courts, died, in Chicago at 95, as did Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin, a pioneer in the world of Orthodox Jewish feminism, who died in Jerusalem at 75.

Those who died were sometimes mourned for what they symbolized as much as for their individual accomplishments.

A crowd of yeshiva students attend the funeral of late Rabbi Dovid Feinstein on November 9, 2020 in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )

Rav Dovid was the last surviving son of the Brisker Rav, Genack said of Soloveitchik. The Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, moved the Brisk Yeshiva from Poland to Jerusalem in the 1940s and helped promote the Brisker method of Talmud study, which has since become popular throughout the Orthodox world.

You feel that loss in the sense of that living link that we had to Brisk before is gone, Genack said.

Soloveitchik, at the age of 99, also was one of the dwindling number of rabbis who was born in prewar Poland, another link to the yeshiva world that thrived in Eastern Europe and was almost entirely wiped out during the Holocaust.

In the United States, Feinstein formed that link, if not to the world of prewar Europe then to the decades when his father was the leading Orthodox rabbi in America. Moshe Feinsteins mastery of Jewish law commanded respect from nearly every sector of the Orthodox community.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski. (CC-BY-SA-3.0/ Latkelarry)

Twerski, a Milwaukee native, represented another connection to a way of living as an Orthodox rabbi that has become rare. He was the son of a Hasidic rabbi who attended public school and later medical school in addition to learning in yeshiva and becoming a rabbi. Twerski became known both for his contributions to the field of psychiatry as well as his writings on Jewish subjects. And he combined the two in some of his 60-odd books, and in appearances at academic conferences where he presented papers dressed in Hasidic garb.

He was a great believer that there was no contradiction, said Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, a psychologist and former executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. A person could be a person of great faith and a rigorous scientist.

Few people who attain Twerskis level of recognition in the Orthodox community today also have graduate degrees, particularly in the sciences, with many forgoing a college education.

In the Lithuanian, or yeshivish, world, encompassing the Haredi community that is not Hasidic and centers around yeshivas like Soloveitchiks Brisk yeshiva, most of the rabbis lost this year were in their 80s or 90s. Rabbi Aaron Kotler, CEO and president of the Beis Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, the largest yeshiva of the non-Hasidic Haredi community in the United States, said that was no coincidence.

We venerate age and wisdom, Kotler said. So the advanced age doesnt minimize the feeling of loss. In some way it magnifies the feeling of loss.

Yet the fact that so many Orthodox leaders have died of COVID-19 has not spurred their followers to pay greater heed to public health advice meant to slow the virus spread. Thousands attended the Sheiner and Soloveitchik funerals in Jerusalem, with few wearing masks, in violation of Israels lockdown.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox men attend the funeral of Rabbi Yitzchok Sheiner, who died from COVID-19, in Jerusalem, January 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Genack said the fact that many of these leaders were elderly made it easier to ignore the fact that COVID-19 had killed them.

Most of the leaders are in their 80s and 90s, so its relatively easier to detach yourself from [attributing it to] COVID. A person of 89 or 99 passes away, you know that can happen without COVID, Genack said. So in that sense its not a game changer.

Not only have the deaths of beloved leaders from COVID not encouraged the community to take greater precautions in stopping the spread of the virus, they have even galvanized some to double down, according to Kimmy Caplan, a professor of Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University in Israel who studies Haredi communities.

They take the loss and the mourning and it gets a twist in educational terms, Caplan said. It becomes a trigger for enhancing the community and for strengthening the community.

In the Modern Orthodox community, the losses of Sacks, Henkin, Steinsaltz and Lamm registered as the rapid disappearance of rabbis who combined serious study with thought leadership.

Norman Lamm (Yeshiva University via JTA)

Rivka Schwartz, an associate principal at SAR High School in the Bronxs Riverdale neighborhood and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute who writes frequently about politics and the Orthodox community, said she found Lamm to be the voice she missed most.

He articulated a philosophy, Schwartz said of Lamm, thinking back to the sermons on race in America that he delivered in the 1960s. The loss of somebody doing that for the community, I think the Modern Orthodox community feels very acutely.

The loss of Sacks left the community without its most articulate spokesperson, even if he was often speaking to an audience that included non-Jews in many of his popular writings. In contrast to the yeshivish community, where yeshiva leaders who die are generally replaced by another elderly scholar, the Modern Orthodox community does not have a clear succession plan for someone to fill the shoes of a Rabbi Lamm or a Rabbi Sacks.

I do think that is a gaping hole, Schwartz said, and thats not going to be filled by somebody else sitting in the rosh yeshivas chair.

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav at the grave of his mother Sarah, after the funeral on October 18. 2021 (courtesy of Yehuda Meshi-Zahav)

Schwartz said another gaping hole has gone largely unacknowledged: the deaths of untold numbers of Orthodox women who have died during the pandemic and rarely rose to prominence for their contributions because they were kept out of the rabbinate in all but the most progressive Orthodox communities. Typically they are memorialized in obituaries as the wife or mother of a rabbi rather than for their own accomplishments.

Thats structural if no woman is ever a public figure, they wont be on the lists, said Schwartz, who grew up in the Haredi community and wrote an obituary for her teacher, Chaya Ausband, who died in May at 96. The people who taught me and who are important in that community dont speak in public, so even people who play important roles are not remembered in public in the same way.

Few expect the deaths to end with these rabbis, as the virus continues to spread. And younger rabbis, some trained by the rabbis who died, will eventually fill the absences they left behind. But for now, the years losses continue to weigh heavily on the community.

I dont mean to say that these people are irreplaceable theyre not irreplaceable, people can go on, Genack said. But this corona has taken a huge toll.

Read the rest here:

A year of grief: Orthodox Jewry reels as COVID-19 hastens the loss of its rabbis - The Times of Israel

Celebrate the February holidays and beat the winter blahs with arts and culture activities – freshwatercleveland

Posted By on February 16, 2021

With February being the shortest month of the year there is often a feeling of being pressed for time. Yet often, Februarys cold and snowy late winter doldrums also can make the month last forever.

The February holidays remind us to appreciate the transitory nature of the season with Groundhog Day and the Lunar New Year; to rekindle our desire for human contact with Valentine's Day and Fat Tuesday; and to understand our history through the lens of major figures in the Black community with Black History Month.

Thanks to some Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) grant recipients, people can speed through the remainder of February with events to satisfy the longing the month brings.

These events can help you break out of your usual winter routine or connect with and celebrate Black History this month, and every month, says CAC executive director Jill Paulsen. We seek to find meaning in these times, and connection, even if it is virtual for a little while longer.

The event round up below is but a sampling of Northeast Ohio offerings to help shake the winter blahs and deepen your appreciation for February's gifts.

Though we cant be together in-person right now, there are hundreds of exciting virtual events taking place that you can enjoy from your home," says Paulsen. We encourage people to continue to support CAC-funded organizations in new ways this month.

Dr. Donna Whytes mother, Dorothy L. McIntyre, was a shaping force, breaking through stereotypes of what women could achieve. She is featured in her virtual talk America, Race and Me, hosted online by the Shaker Historical Society on Thursday, Feb.Racial equity in Northeast Ohio

Donna Whytes lifelong commitment to racial equity has its roots in her mothers experience as a licensed pilot and Whyte own education in Cleveland Public Schools.

She will share how some of her successes, failures, and experiences with racial equity have shaped her lifes work at Cleveland State University and involvement in the Shaker Heights community in Virtual Talk: Dr. Donna Whyte: America, Race and Me, hosted online by the Shaker Historical Society on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.n.

I like living in a city that is open to addressing racial issues, Whyte says. When I learned that Shaker Heights had a voluntary busing program to promote racial integration in the elementary schools when I moved to Shaker in 1982, I thought it was a proactive strategy and an important approach for nurturing positive relations among students, parents, and teachers.

Her mother, Dorothy L. McIntyre, was a shaping force, breaking through stereotypes of what women could achieve. My mother was a major reason I had confidence in myself growing up, Whyte adds. As a licensed pilot in 1940, I did not have to look any further than my family for a strong role model.

Whyte tapped that confidence when she joined a protest as a student at Clevelands John Adams High School.

I will also talk about the first time I took a political stand by participating in the boycott of Cleveland Public Schools due to its perpetuation of racial segregation.

The virtual presentation will stream free on Shaker Historical Facebook Live.

Shaker Historical Society is a recipient of a 2021 CAC General Operating Support grant of $13,475.

How to make a Zine for teens

Lake Erie Ink and the Cleveland Print Room are teaming up to host Cordelia Eddy, who will lead teen writers in a free four-week Zine Making workshop. The workshop is all about using language and photography to create zines. Participants will work alongside fellow writers and photographers.

Zines are in their nature a populist genrethey make everyone into a published artist and everyone into a writer, says Eddy. And, at the same time, they are often a tool for disseminating revolutionary ideas, and ultimately for fighting for justice. To be a Zine writer is to be a superhero in a kind of way. In that vein, I hope in this series to have the students focus on the superpowers that they themselves hold, and to provide prompts for zine making that allow them to explore those powers.

Eddy says the goal is to produce four unique collaborative Zineseach with their own sub- theme and style. The Zines will consist of short writing (poetry, flash fiction, and personal narrative), alongside collages and photos.

The weekly Saturday workshops started on Saturday, Feb. 13 and run through Saturday, March 6 and meet from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Participants can still join the group, but the free workshops require registration.

Lake Erie Ink is a recipient of a 2021 CAC grant in the amount of $24,076. Cleveland Print Room is a 2021 CAC grant recipient in the amount of $23,083.

The Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival is screening our documentary Leo's Legacy about the legendary music venue Leos Casino. Pictured is Eddie Levert of the O'Jays in front of the casino once located at 7500 Euclid Avenue from 1963 -1972.A free encore of Leos Legacy

Leos Legacy tells the little-known story of a multicultural entertainment venue in Cleveland, Leos Casino, which was a testing-ground for Motown acts and a popular venue for leading Black entertainers in the 1960s and 70sentertainers like Redd Fox, Otis Redding, and Dizzy Gillespie.

The Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival and MidTown Cleveland will present a free encore screening will take place on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 12 p.m.


I did not have the privilege of socializing across cultures in an entertainment venue like Leos Casino of the late 1960s and early 1970s, says filmmaker Rev. Dr. Leah Lewis. If such a place exists today, it might be the Agora [Theater and Ballroom] where I sometimes see a rainbow coalition lining up for tickets and shows. Other than that, I have not known Cleveland as a great paragon of equity, inclusion, and diversity even where the joy of entertainment is involved.

More impressive, then, is what Leo Frank and his early partner, Jules Burger, were able to cultivate at their club on Euclid Avenue. At the time, Leos held clubs and shopsa far cry from the big parcels of vacant land and institutional buildings seen today.

Frank'sand Burgers relationship with Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, made Leos one of the most important venues in a national circuit.

Our documentary gives some insight into Clevelands place in Americas music history, Lewis says. It also reveals economic prowess and opportunity, and a true sense of community.

Lewis hopes Leos Legacy is one more inspiration for the next generation of Cleveland musicians.

The groups that have come out of Clevelandthe OJays, Bobby Womack, the Dazz Band, LeVert, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmonyour history is rich, Lewis says. Our youth have an opportunity to ponder their opportunity to build upon this legacy.

Register for Leos Legacy and other Cleveland Urban Film Festival showings here.

"Leo's Legacy" is being screened as part of the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival and with the support of Midtown Cleveland, a recipient of a 2021 Cuyahoga Arts and Culture grant in the amount of $7,075.

Karamu House is hosting an interactive online hip hop class with Samuel McIntosh of 10K Movement to celebrate Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 26.Hip hop with the 10K Movement at Karamu House

Karamu House is hosting an interactive online hip hop class with Samuel McIntosh of 10K Movement to celebrate Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 26.

"I don't teach Bboying [and] Breaking, I teach street, club, and hip hop dance culture, says McIntosh.

He says his goal is to preserve, present and cultivate authentic street, club and hip hop dance culture.

By doing this we create access to the art form and culture for those who may never be able to experience true hip hop culture in Cleveland says McIntosh. I teach because it was handed down to me to share from pioneers who trusted me with these tools. I teach because dance is a universal language and I know how powerful finding your own voice can be.

Karamu House has received a grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture for general operating support in 2021 for more than $90,000.

Art in Our Midst: a virtual tour

In this period of self-quarantine and limited social gatherings, the Sculpture Center offers safe, outdoor, tangible art experiences in a self-guided tour, curated by Andrea Gyorody and Lo Smith.

The tour starts with one of Clevelands most iconic public sculptures, Free Stamp, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and then moves through the city to lesser-known areas to showcase works that might not conform to traditional notions of sculpture.

Unless youre in the know, the histories of these works are often opaque, the curators write. The average visitor has little access to information about who commissioned and paid for them, what purposes they were intended to serve, and how they have changed, materially or contextually, in the years since they were first installed.

Art in Our Midst: Cleveland Outdoor Sculpture Reconsidered offers an introduction to the citys public art, which becomes a lens through which to understand the city itself, and all the many histories layered beneath the surface of what is visible.

Log on here for a map of the outdoor sculpture tour of Cleveland.

The Sculpture Center is a recipient of a 2021 Cuyahoga Arts and Culture grant in the amount of $16,624

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Celebrate the February holidays and beat the winter blahs with arts and culture activities - freshwatercleveland

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