Jewish Music

Jewish Director Puts Richard Wagner On Trial At His Own Festival – Forward

Scholars have long argued whether Richard Wagner left traces of his anti-Semitic convictions in his opera, for example, by encoding characters with stereotypically Jewish traits.

When Barrie Kosky directed a Ring Cycle in Hannover between 2009 and 2011, the Australian director didnt have a shred of doubt. For him, the duplicitous dwarf Mime (the cycles most charmingly villainous character) was a perfect illustration of what Wagner wrote about Jews and Jewish music, which the composer described as a sense-and-sound-confounding gurgle, yodel and cackle.

You cannot not argue that Mime is the absolute personification of the Jew, which is why he was a Jew inmy production, with yarmulke, payis and vaudeville clowns face, the 50-year-old director reminisced recently from his office in central Berlin.

This summer, Kosky, whose ongoing tenure as artistic director of Komische Oper has been one of this citys most thrilling cultural developments, becomes the first Jewish director to work at Bayreuth, the legendary Wagner festival founded by the composer as the optimal showcase for his work in 1876. His assignment: the composers most nationalist opera, Die Meistersinger von Nrnberg, a work that the Third Reich adored above all others.

Meistersinger, about a singing guild in medieval Nuremberg, which holds a contest for the hand of a fair maiden, is the only comedy among Wagners ten mature operas: but the laughter here is derisive; it is the laughter of exclusion, directed against the pedantic and scheming mediocrity Beckmesser, who, like Mime, has often been interpreted as a Jewish caricature.

That point is open to debate, but theres no charitable way to parse the operas closing monologue. The hero, Hans Sachs, delivers a stirring speech to the victor of the song contest, the knight Stolzing. Sachs warns against foreigners and the decay of what is German and true, and trumpets the eternity of Holy German Art. Stolzing is won over by Sachs eloquence and gladly accepts the mantle of Meister, which he previously rejected.

Modern productions of Meistersinger have grappled with how to deal with this critical and highly problematic moment. In October 2015, the Berlin Staatsoper celebrated the 25th anniversary of German unification with a blissfully nave and clich-lade production from director Andrea Moser that showed a strong and prosperous Germany that had magically escaped the quagmire of history. Not so in David Boschs 2016 production for the Bayerische Staatsoper, set in a visibly depressed German town dominated by boxy gray concrete buildings with satellite dishes. At the conclusion of Boschs production, Stolzing snubbed the guild, grabbed his sweetheart and left town in a hurry. To his credit, Bosch didnt ignore the nationalist ideology inscribed in the opera, like so many others have, (including Otto Schenks grandly historical production at the Met between 1993 and 2014). On the other hand, his idea of rejecting the monologue was clearly at odds with Wagners score.

To me, the monologue is the absolute natural development of the material that happens in the hours beforehand, Kosky explained. At the July 25 premiere, Kosky revealed his key insight about Meistersinger. It isnt at all a piece about Nuremberg or Germany national identity. The operas true subject is Richard Wagner himself.

More ink has been spilled about Wagner than any other artist in history, making the composer at least as fascinating as the operas he bequeathed to posterity. I think Wagner is so complex and so narcissistic that I think all these characters are part of himself, Kosky explained, suggesting a very personal source for Wagners fanatical anti-Semitism. Wagner carried the fear that he himself could contain Jewish blood in him. Whether its true or not, isnt the issue. The issue is that he had the fear.

The curtain rose on Wagners library at Wahnfried (sets by Koskys frequent collaborator Rebecca Ringst), the magnificent house the composer built for himself in Bayreuth. Its a typical evening at casa Wagner, with Richard excitedly opening presents from admirers and swooning over fine silks and perfumes as Franz Liszt pounds out the Meistersinger overture on the piano. The composer dances across the room, lecturing Hermann Levi, the Jewish conductor who had a near-masochistic relationship with Wagner, one moment, and lunging to upwrap a portrait, the next. His wife Cosima visibly irritated by her husbands shenanigans, nurses a headache.

The real Wagner loved to preview his operas-in-progress to his family and friends, reading dramatically from his libretti and providing musical examples in virtuosic one-man-shows that would last for hours. In Koksys production, Wagner scrambles about assigning roles to his guests in what quickly turns into an impromptu performance once the final bars of the overture segue into the Lutheran chorale.

Kosky wittily grafts the fictional characters onto the real ones. Wagner becomes Sachs (the stern Michael Volle); Cosima transforms into Eva (a miscast Anne Schwanewilms); Liszt, Wagners father-in-law, is assigned the role of Pogner (the sonorous Gnter Groissbck), Evas father; a stand-in for Wagner who amusingly crawls out of the piano, assumes the part of Stolzing (the otherworldly Klaus Florian Vogt); poor Hermann Levi reluctantly becomes Sixtus Beckmesser (Johannes Martin Krnzle giving the evenings best performance).

Act I brims over with constant activity and invention. Bayreuths audience is notoriously hostile, especially at premieres. But thunderous applause shook the house once the first act curtain fell. Having raised the bar so high, however, Kosky seemed to be setting himself an impossible task. The remainder of the production never quite reached that same level of theatrical achievement.

The two remaining acts of Meistersinger crescendo in crowd scenes that call for a chorus of over 100. As he has so often in Berlin, Kosky proved himself expert at managing this onstage clutter; the antics that culminate in Beckmesser being pummeled by the nighttime rabble here took on the character of a pogrom, with the town clerk being forced into a gigantic mask of an anti-Semitic caricature right out of Der Strmer. While Beckmesser is thrashed, out-of-sight, behind a painting of Wagner, the evil Jew mask reemerges as a massive balloon dominating the stage. While the symbolism is excessive, Kosky does succeed to conveying one critical point; not that Beckmesser is Jewish, but rather that, at this juncture in the opera, he becomes the Jew the villagers need in order to justify their descent into madness and violence.

One could take the point one step further. Through his theoretical writings and the music that reflected them, Wagner created his own sort of Jew, the undesirable other he was able to define himself and the German culture whose savior he styled himself as in opposition to. I believe you cansee Beckmesser as a metaphor for the fear and humiliation of the assimilated Jew, Kosky explained. Wagners big problem wasnt with Shtetl Jews and Eastern European Jews but with 19th century assimilated Jews. They look like us, they dress like us, they talk like us, but be careful, beware. Theyre out to infiltrate us and destroy us. Its hard not to hear an echo of this suspicion and fear in Meistersingers closing speech.

As in most every Meistersinger production I have seen, Johannestag, the St. John Day setting for the climactic song contest, was presented as a historical Volksfest, with elaborate period costumes (by Klaus Bruns), energetic flag waving for the medieval guilds and good-natured rowdiness. There was one enormous difference, however. Kosky situated the festival inside the courtroom of the Nuremberg Trials. This was Koskys most daring move, as well as his least satisfying one. Stepping out of Wagners monomania, the production contrasted Wagners fairy-tale Nuremberg with the Nuremberg that served as the backdrop for the spectacular rallies immortalized by Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph of the Will, before being chosen as the site to reveal the Nazi regimes greatest crimes.

I stand accused and must acquit myself. Those words, spoken by Sachs in the final scene, formed a leitmotif throughout the third act. In the song contest, Sachs defends himself against Beckmessers accusation of having written a bad song. The ballad in question is Stolzings Preislied, the knights contest entry, midwifed into existence by Sachs during the first half of the act.

In this production, rather than merely defend himself against Beckmessers slander, Sachs, or rather, Wagner-disguised-as-Sachs, is called on to justify himself, and perhaps his posthumous reputation.

Early in the act, Sachs and Stolzing sit alone in the empty courtroom, composing the Preislied like two lawyers going over a brief. Aside from this, the courtroom played no significant role until the end of the act. The austere setting allowed the focus to be placed directly on the music, sensitively rendered by Swiss conductor Philippe Jordan into a delicate and probing disquisition on the artistic process. Michael Volles dramatically nuanced songwriting lesson and the radiant Morgentraum quintet made this the most surpassingly beautiful part of the evening.

While preparing the production, Kosky was focused on Meistersingers long composition history. Its not acomedy, Kosky asserted, pointing to how Wagners initial idea of writing a Satyr play (to imitate the Greeks) that would parody his earlier opera Tannhuser evolved into something very different 25 years later. At first, the whole idea of tradition was to be mocked and laughed at. And a few decades later, its to be venerated.

Alone on stage at the end of the evening, Wagner / Sachs stands in the witness box and directly addresses the audience. Volle pleads with us bitterly and dramatically, and at this point in the evening, the lack of supertitles makes Wagners message the moral of the story more palatable. Volles gesticulating and fist-waving occasionally brought Hitler to mind; yet I more often found myself thinking about Chaplins great final speech in The Great Dictator, where the Fhrers furious oratory style, so memorably parodied earlier in the film, is turned on its head by the Jewish barber. It is possibly the most moving plea for humanity and compassion ever committed to screen. Astonishingly, Chaplin underscores it with Wagner: the ethereal prelude to Lohengrin. Ive always felt certain that this musical choice was the directors defiant insistence that sublime art must never be harnessed to serve odious ideology.

Yet Kosky is up to something quite different. As the monologue reaches its climax, a dummy orchestra glides forward on a stand from backstage. Cosima reclines adoringly in front of the musicians, savoring the triumphant final chorus. (The orchestra at Bayreuth plays from a hooded pit and is hence invisible to the spectators, which makes Koskys decision to have a mock orchestra onstage all the cheekier). In the end, the music wins out.

Does this mean that Wagner gets an acquittal? Kosky leaves us with the unresolved and perhaps unresolvable tension between intolerant philosophy and supreme music; between aesthetics and ethics; between Wagners warped egomania and the universality of his art; and between the historical uses and abuses of that music and what encountering it in means for us in the 21st century.

Some people dont like the idea that the waters are muddied with Wagner, Kosky told me. But geniuses can be assholes, and geniuses can be monsters and geniuses can be also very contradictory and problematic.

In the end, it is the music that endures. That is one conclusion suggested by Koskys production. And it is quite similar to one proposed by another Jew who, not too long ago, went in search of Wagner in Bayreuth: Stephen Fry in the 2010 documentary Wagner & Me argues that we can and must open ourselves to these works because, Wagners music is bigger and better than Hitler ever imagined it to be. In the new Bayreuth Meistersinger, Wagner gets a very different, and slippery, kind of acquittal. You might even say that the trial was rigged from the start. The composer has scripted and staged the whole thing in order to vindicate himself. Hence, what initially seems to be a cop-out musica vincit omnia reveals itself as the productions logical conclusion. It holds up a mirror to Bayreuth and its audience, reflecting how they are trapped, perhaps hopelessly so, inside of Wagners overpowering solipsism. As a probe of Wagners intolerant, megalomaniacal and brilliant mind, Koskys Meistersinger is a fascinating coup de theater, but as an interpretation of the piece it is unsatisfying. The Nuremberg Trials cannot help but seem out of place in a production that is so stuck inside Wagners head for most of the evening. The Nazi history of the Bayreuth continues to bedevil the festival that is still in the control of the composers family. I almost got the sense that Kosky, against his better judgment couldnt resist at least cracking the lid on this can of worms.

The place has a Ring-like curse on it and this means that it can veer between tragedy and farce, and often both, Kosky responded when asked to share his thoughts on the festival. You have a theater constructed by a man whose family then ran it, whose wife deified him, whose wife turned that wooden theater into the Kaaba in Mecca, with people walking around it in circles to be purified so it became not a theater but a temple. And then youve got the war, where it became a Nazi theater and was used and abused by the family and by Hitler.Over the past decade, the festival has certainly begun to confront the most shameful episode of its past. Like Herheims Parsifal, Koskys invitation to direct Meistersinger should be seen as a step in this direction. Beyond owing up to its Nazi past, Bayreuth has also struggled to assert its continued relevance, as well as to justify why a publically funded opera festival should be in the hands of the Wagner clan. This years festival program includes some of the best arguments for and against the tenure of Katharina Wagner, the composers great-granddaughter who has run the festival, by various degrees, since 2008. In addition to the final revival of Frank Castorfs universally hated Ring Cycle from 2013, the program also includes the first revival of Uwe Eric Laufenbergs mind-bogglingly stupid Parisfal, set in ISIS-controlled territory. However, freed from the high expectations that attend any premiere here, the exemplary musical caliber, featuring Hartmut Haenchens fluid, rich conducting and the magnificent Austrian tenor Andreas Schager in the title role, was able to shine through more completely. Beyond Meistersinger, the most compelling case for Katharina Wagners artistic vision for Bayreuth in the 21st century was her stunning and dreamlike 2015 production of Tristan und Isolde, although the July 27 performance lacked the holistic energy and conviction of the Parsifal revival. The fierce boos that met Katharina when she took her bow came as something of a shock. (It must also have been fairly embarrassing for the festival, since Angela Merkel was attending). Were the dissenters in the audience angry about the production or her overall leadership of the festival?

Kosky has nothing but kind words for Katharina, who he says gave him complete artistic freedom and made his assignment there unexpectedly enjoyable. Nor did he feel any disquiet working for the festival that once hosted and toasted the Nazi high command: Bayreuth, even with the Hitler story, is a set for farce, not a setfor tragedy. The tragedy happens in the art that you put on thestage. But that whole domestic world of Wahnfried and that whole Nazi circus at Bayreuth, to me, its Mel Brooks. Im horrified by what the Nazis did outside Bayreuth. But what the Nazis did in Bayreuth is Springtime for Hitler! With his big assignment behind him, its safe to say the director will be laying off Wagner for the foreseeable future. When Kosky returns to Berlin in the fall, he will throw himself into a work that is much closer to his heart, Fiddler on the Roof.

The Bayreuth Festival runs until August 28

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The Jewish wedding without any Jews – Jewish Chronicle


Jewish Chronicle
The Jewish wedding without any Jews
Jewish Chronicle
Teresa Wroska, an actress from the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw, was brought on board to assure the wedding's authenticity. Ms Wronska choreographed the event from the signing of the ketubah, to the traditional Jewish music that was played by a band of …

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Hollywood Temple Beth El Adopts Open Seating, No Charge Policy for High Holy Days – WEHOville

Hollywood Temple Beth El, 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd.

Hollywood Temple Beth El is adopting an open seating, no-charge policy for High Holy Days in an effort to reach beyond its core members and attract more young people to its services.

The policy, announced by Rabbi Norbert Weinberg, the senior rabbi at the synagogue, is a gamble, based on the quote If you build it they will come, Weinberg said. It is our hope that a significant critical mass of younger Jews will meet, find common interest and become interested in creating a community of common interest and friendship at historic Hollywood Temple Beth El.

Rabbi Norbert Weinberg

Synagogues traditionally have charged annual dues to their members. But that practice is changing according to a report in Jewish Telegraphic Agency. It notes that nearly 60 Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues have dropped mandatory fees. And while that number is a small percent of the roughly 1,500 such synagogues, it is double the number in 2015. Many of those synagogues do have a suggested voluntary donation.

The JTA story cites a survey by the Pew Research Group that notes millennials are less inclined to become members of old institutions. And it quotes Jack Wertheimer, a history professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who says Were living in a time today when institutions are held suspect and also seen as rather cold and distant. This whole idea of membership dues reinforces that point.

In his congregation newsletter, Weinberg notes that Hollywood Temple Beth El has had a glorious past, starting with its founding by some of Hollywoods film industry pioneers. We also know that this congregation, like any person, has gone through its own storms, and from time to time, needs a taking of stock. We owe it to those who came before us and whose passion helped build this sacred place to do so.

We are at such a point now.

We have been operating, since antiquity, as a conventional synagogue, supported by a membership base and High Holy Days tickets, whose focus is on that core membership. However, reality has bypassed that model; this is true for many other synagogues as well.

We must now position ourselves to become the locus of Jewish life in this side of Los Angeles. That means that we are opening our doors to the entire community. Our services are open, our activities are open.

In its effort to make the High Holy Days service more open, Temple Beth El is creating a new prayer book text, Weinberg said. It will be inviting and accessible, with new explanations, readings, and transliteration. We are making sure that the music will move the heart and body, while the teachings will move the heart and mind.

Weinberg said a system to register for tickets to attend High Holy Days services is in the works. Meanwhile, those interested in attending can obtain free, open-seating tickets (or reserved seating for a small donation), by emailing temple@htbel.org or calling the synagogue at (323) 656-3150 and leaving the names, email address and phone numbers of attendees and the number of tickets desired.

The free, open-seating policy will be in place for the service at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25, which will feature a musical performance by Bryce Emily Megdal and fellow musicians. Also present will be Cantorial soloist Bryce Megdal, a rising singer and songwriter in the L.A. Jewish music scene. Megdal is a cantorial student at the Academy for Jewish Religion and will be High Holy Days Cantor this year for Temple Beth El.Rabbi Weinberg, senior rabbi at Temple Beth El, will be joined on the pulpit by Rabbi Steven Rosenberg, who is providing his services to act as director of engagement and outreach.

For that service, reservations must be made online https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-shabbat-of-music-singing-and-spirit-at-hollywood-temple-beth-el-tickets-36213075283 through Eventbrite.

Hollywood Temple Beth El is located at 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., at the northwest corner of Fountain.

Tagged high holy days, hollywood temple beth el, rabbi norbert weinberg

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The Top Jewish-y Events In NYC This Week (Aug 11 Aug 20) – Jewish Week

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Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall announces 10-concert season – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State Universitys Green Music Center has announced its 2017-2018 season, featuring 10 concerts from October through May.

The new season, which is down from 13 shows last season, features the return of a seven-concert Sundays at Schroeder series and a three-concert Musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival series.

The Sundays at Schroeder series, which showcases up-and-coming musical superstars on Sunday afternoons, opens at 1 p.m. Oct. 8 with young Russian pianist Nikolay Khozyainov playing an all-Romantic program.

Violinist Alexi Kenney, winner of the 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, will perform in recital at 3 p.m. Oct. 29. American saxophonist Ashu will perform a recital at 3 p.m. on Nov. 26.

In the new year, piano duo Anderson & Roe will perform at 3 p.m. Jan. 21, while completing a two-day residency with the SSU Department of Music.

Stanford University organist Robert Hew Morgan will return with a concert entitled Variations on a Theme at 3 p.m. on March 18, and Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin will perform in recital at 3 p.m. March 25. The Dover Quartet will perform a program of Haydn, Borodin and Mendelssohn at 3 p.m. April 1.

Also performing in the new year will be the Musicians from the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, who will present music by Schumann and friends at 3 p.m. Jan. 27; a program of piano trios at 3 p.m. March 31; and a tribute to Schubert and his legacy at 3 p.m. May 12.

Tickets to each concert are $30; a subscription series of three Valley of the Moon concerts costs $70. Tickets to the Schroeder Hall 2017-2018 season go on sale to Mastercard cardholders and 2016-17 GMC Season subscribers at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15; and to the general public at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 17. To reserve: 866-955-6040 or gmc.sonoma.edu.

Now in its fourth season of programming, the 240-seat recital hall also hosts education and music events, such as the SSU Music Departments free Jewish Music Series, a seven-concert series through November that is part of the Survey of Jewish Music course led by Joshua Horowitz.

For more information: gmc.sonoma.edu/SSU_Music_Department

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Polish Villagers Hold Jewish Wedding Without Jews – Jewish Week

JTA Nostalgia for Jews is a well-documented phenomenon in Eastern Europe, with cultural and even substantial commercial aspects.

In Ukraine, so-called Jewish-themed restaurants with pork-heavy menus compete for tourists, while figurines of Jews are sold at markets as good luck charms. In Poland,graffiti reading I miss you, Jew have become a common sight.

Beyond the kitsch, Jewish cultural festivals draw large non-Jewish audiences in Krakow, Warsaw and Budapest.

Some credit this trend to a feeling of loss over the near annihilation of once-vibrant Jewish communities.Others trace it a desire to reconnect with the pre-Soviet past.

But even against this backdrop, the fake Jewish wedding that was held Saturday in the village of Radzanw, 80 miles northeast of Warsaw, stands out as a remarkable affair.

Make-believe Jewish weddings a regular educational event in Spain and Portugal, where nostalgia for nearly-extinct Jewish communities is also prevalent are rare in Poland (locals in the village of Bobowa organized one in 2013). Even rarer are enactments as well-produced as the one in Radzanow.

Organized by the Radzanovia Association, a cultural group promoting Polish heritage, the event featured a few dozen non-Jewish volunteers, men and women, dressed in traditional haredi costumes. Some men wore fake beards and side curls including ones that didnt match their natural hair color.

Portraying the groom was Piotr Czaplicki, a journalist for the Radia dla Ciebie station. Czaplicki, who is not Jewish, got under a chuppah the canopy used in traditional Jewish weddings together with his make-believe bride, Julia Brzeziska, a local resident. They were wed by a fake rabbi in a show before villagers, whom the events organizers sought to teach about Jewish traditions.

To Jonny Daniels, the London-born founder of From the Depths, which promotes Holocaust commemoration in Poland, events like the one in Radzanw are some kind of therapy taking place all over the country.

But the events producer, Agnieszka Rychcik-Nowakowska, sees it as a way of commemorating the hundreds of Jews who had accounted for approximately half of her villages population before the Holocaust.

We want to remember all those homes of all pre-war Jews, who lived a peaceful life punctuated by the rhythm of holidays, family celebrations and more mundane events, she told the news site Nasza Mlawa.

Jews first settled in Radzanw in 1710, and at their peak numbered about 500. By September 1939, when the Germans took over, the population had dipped below 300. Nearly all who remained would be sent to the Mlawa ghetto, never to return.

We remember those who lived here before us and entered the memory of our grandmothers and grandparents.It was so recently, saidRychcik-Nowakowska.

Elsewhere in Europe, Jewish-themed festivals are more common , bringing together hundreds of participants. There too, Jewish-themed events are held in the absence of a living, breathing Jewish community thanks to nostalgia and a desire to generate tourism revenue.

But in Spain and Portugal, for example, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were oppressed 500 years ago during the Inquisition, the passage of time has made goodwill gestures toward Jews less complicated than in the east. In 2013, Spain and Portugal even passed laws granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews a move whose generosity contrasts sharply with the refusal by Poland and other East European countries to offer even partial restitution for property that was stolen from Jewish communities.

At the fake wedding in Radzanw, organizers turned to Teresa Wroska, an actress from the Jewish Theater in Warsaw, to assure the weddings authenticity. She choreographed the entire affair from the signing of the ketubah (the Jewish marriage contract) to the traditional Jewish music played by a band of locals and musicians from the capital.

Even the POLIN Jewish museum of Warsaw was consulted in staging the event, according to Nasza Mlawa.

The wedding is not the only attempt by Radzanw locals to reconnect with their villages lost Jewish heritage. Last year, a high school student from the region, Cuba Balinski, initiated a project aimed at rededicating and reopening the villages abandoned synagogue a small but beautiful Moorish-style building that miraculously survived the Nazi occupation.

Balinski, who has secured the cooperation of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage inPoland for his project but is still looking for investors, is adamant about restoring the synagogue to a house of worship rather than having it turn into museum.

If there is no Torah in the synagogue, than it is still just a building, he told the news site Gosc Plocki. But if we bring the holy book back, it will come back to life.

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First Read For Aug 11 – Jewish Week

Glen Campbell, Messianic Jew, has died at 81

Glen Campbell, the country music star who died this week at 81 from Alzheimers disease, was a Messianic Jew for the last two decades of his life, JTA reports. He and his wife Kim attended services at a synagogue near their home in Malibu, and they celebrated major Jewish holidays, such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah.

Messianic Judaism combines Jewish traditions with the idea that Jesus Christ is the coming Messiah. Some Messianic Jews want the movement to be accepted as a branch of Judaism, but mainstream Jewish movements believe the ideology is a contradiction.

Minneapolis JCRC reaches out to vandalized mosque

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota has supported affirmed the Muslim community in the wake of an attack on Saturday at a local mosque, JTA reports.

Following the bomb blast at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center, in which no one was injured, the JCRC of Minnesota and the Dakotas said in an ad in the Star Tribune that the Jewish community affirms its solidarity with the school, mosque, and local Muslim community.

The attack caused an estimated $95,000 worth of damage.

Endangered Iranian journalist arrives in Israel

Neda Amin, a Turkey-based, Iranian-born blogger forThe Times of Israels Persian website, arrived safely in Israel yesterday, and was met at Ben-Gurion Airport by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, the paper reports.

Neda Amin, left, meeting The Times of Israel editor David Horovitz at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Aug. 10, 2017. JTA

Amin, threatened with imminent deportation by Turkey, had feared that if no other country took her in, she would be sent back to Iran, where she feared for her fate.

After The Times of Israel alerted the Israeli authorities to her plight, government officials immediately responded and paved the way for her safe arrival in Israel.

Amin has blogged regularly for The Times of Israels Persian site. I felt we had an obligation to ensure her well-being, and I am very grateful to all the Israeli officials to whom I turned for assistance for providing it, immediately, said Horovitz.

In Poland, a Jewish wedding without Jews

A fake Jewish wedding was held on Saturday in the Polish village of Radzanw, 80 miles northeast of Warsaw, according to the Times of Israel.

Organized by the Radzanovia Association, a cultural group that promotes Polish heritage, the event featured a few dozen non-Jewish volunteers, men and women, dressed in traditional charedi costumes. Some men wore fake beards and side curls including ones that didnt match their natural hair color. The marital couple stood under a chupah, where they were wed by a fake rabbi in a show before villagers, whom the events organizers sought to teach about Jewish traditions.

Teresa Wroska, an actress from the Jewish Theater in Warsaw, choreographed the entire affair from the signing of the ketubah (the Jewish marriage contract) to the traditional Jewish music played by a band of locals and musicians from the capital.

Harvey Weinstein to film Mila 18 novel

Oscar-winning producer Harvey Weinstein is planning to make a version of Leon Uris novel Mila 18 next year, according to Haaretz. The book recounts a fictionalized version of the real-life Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II.Weinstein announced that he had developed a script for a film adaptation years ago, collaborating with his friend, the Iranian-born writer and director Hossein Amini. Weinstein added that he intended to direct the film himself and that he was now committed to making the film.

Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman and co-founder of Weinstein Co., at a Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. July 12, 2017. Getty Images

Israeli channel fined for excluding non-Orthodox Jews

Israels Channel 20 has been fined about $30,000 for failing to give broadcast time to non-Orthodox Jewish groups, Haaretz reports. The fine, imposed by the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, was preceded by several warnings following complaints on the matter.

The council examined the channels broadcasting in April and May of this year following the complaints, and found that there was no coverage at all of Reform or Conservative Judaism. Last month the Reform movement petitioned the High Court of Justice, but the council said it had completed its investigation more than two months before.

Israeli boxer wins bronze medal in youth championship

Israels Amit Mdah won a bronze medal this week at the IFMA Youth Muay Thai World Championships in Bangkok after his Palestinian opponent failed to show up for their quarterfinal match-up, the Jerusalem Post reports. Mdah, 16, from the Druze-Arab town of Kisra-Sumei in the western Galilee, was supposed to face Acbag Sultan, a resident of the Ramallah district, but the Palestinian teenager never appeared for their fight. Mdah eventually ended the age 16-17 under-54 kilogram competition with a bronze medal after losing to Ukrainian Andrii Mezentsev in the semifinals.The head of the Palestinian Association of Kickboxing and Muay Thai, Muhammad Ahmad Zeidani, told Palestinian news agency Maan that Sultan didnt face his Israeli opponent as there has not yet been an official Palestinian decision over whether to face Israeli athletes in any sporting event.

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Fake Rabbi Holds Fake Jewish Wedding in Real Polish Village – Haaretz

Nostalgia for Jews is a well-documented phenomenon in Eastern Europe, with cultural and even substantial commercial aspects.

In Ukraine, so-called Jewish-themed restaurants with pork-heavy menus compete for tourists, while figurines of Jews are sold at markets as good luck charms. In Poland,graffiti reading I miss you, Jewhave become a common sight.

Beyond the kitsch, Jewish cultural festivals draw large non-Jewish audiences in Krakow, Warsaw and Budapest.

Some credit this trend to a feeling of loss over the near annihilation of once-vibrant Jewish communities.Others trace it a desire to reconnect with the pre-Soviet past.

But even against this backdrop, the fake Jewish wedding that was held Saturday in the village of Radzanw, 80 miles northeast of Warsaw, stands out as a remarkable affair.

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Make-believe Jewish weddings a regular educational event in Spain and Portugal, where nostalgia for nearly-extinct Jewish communities is also prevalent are rare in Poland (locals in the village of Bobowa organized one in 2013). Even rarer are enactments as well-produced as the one in Radzanow.

Organized by the Radzanovia Association, a cultural group promoting Polish heritage, the event featured a few dozen non-Jewish volunteers, men and women, dressed in traditional haredi costumes. Some men wore fake beards and side curls including ones that didnt match their natural hair color.

Portraying the groom was Piotr Czaplicki, a journalist for the Radia dla Ciebie station. Czaplicki, who is not Jewish, got under a chuppah the canopy used in traditional Jewish weddings together with his make-believe bride, Julia Brzeziska, a local resident. They were wed by a fake rabbi in a show before villagers, whom the events organizers sought to teach about Jewish traditions.

To Jonny Daniels, the London-born founder of From the Depths, which promotes Holocaust commemoration in Poland, events like the one in Radzanw are some kind of therapy taking place all over the country.

But the events producer, Agnieszka Rychcik-Nowakowska, sees it as a way of commemorating the hundreds of Jews who had accounted for approximately half of her villages population before the Holocaust.

We want to remember all those homes of all pre-war Jews, who lived a peaceful life punctuated by the rhythm of holidays, family celebrations and more mundane events, shetoldthe news site Nasza Mlawa.

Jews first settled in Radzanw in 1710, and at their peak numbered about 500. By September 1939, when the Germans took over, the population had dipped below 300. Nearly all who remained would be sent to the Mlawa ghetto, never to return.

We remember those who lived here before us and entered the memory of our grandmothers and grandparents.It was so recently, saidRychcik-Nowakowska.

Elsewhere in Europe,Jewish-themed festivalsare more common , bringing together hundreds of participants. There too, Jewish-themed events are held in the absence of a living, breathing Jewish community thanks to nostalgia and a desire togenerate tourism revenue.

But in Spain and Portugal, for example, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were oppressed 500 years ago during the Inquisition, the passage of time has made goodwill gestures toward Jews less complicated than in the east. In 2013, Spain and Portugal even passed laws granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews a move whose generosity contrasts sharply with the refusal by Poland and other East European countries to offer even partial restitution for property that was stolen from Jewish communities.

At the fake wedding in Radzanw, organizers turned to Teresa Wroska, an actress from the Jewish Theater in Warsaw, to assure the weddings authenticity. She choreographed the entire affair from the signing of the ketubah (the Jewish marriage contract) to the traditional Jewish music played by a band of locals and musicians from the capital.

Even the POLIN Jewish museum of Warsaw was consulted in staging the event, according to Nasza Mlawa.

The wedding is not the only attempt by Radzanw locals to reconnect with their villages lost Jewish heritage. Last year, a high school student from the region, Cuba Balinski, initiated a project aimed at rededicating and reopening the villages abandoned synagogue a small but beautiful Moorish-style building that miraculously survived the Nazi occupation.

Balinski, who has secured the cooperation of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage inPoland for his project but is still looking for investors, is adamant about restoring the synagogue to a house of worship rather than having it turn into museum.

If there is no Torah in the synagogue, than it is still just a building, hetoldthe news site Gosc Plocki. But if we bring the holy book back, it will come back to life.

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Fake Rabbi Holds Fake Jewish Wedding in Real Polish Village – Haaretz

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Music Fest Alters Colors, Adds to Board – Atlanta Jewish Times

Each August the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival unveils a new color scheme for the upcoming season and transitions the AJMF board to add new leadership.

This years color scheme is a carnation palette with pink, green and dark brown.

The AJMF9 logo and color scheme will be used in all marketing and branding materials for the next year.

To choose the colors, the festival staff explored fashion trends on Pinterest and choose the carnation combination out of 8 to 10 options in a vote of the marketing committee. The carnation palette will be used in all marketing and branding materials for the ninth spring festival.

The new AJMF board members are Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Sarah Arogeti, Cantor Nancy Kassel, Shai Robkin and Moses Mostai Staimez.

Every summer we transition our AJMF board with seasoned veterans rolling off and new leaders joining the team, festival Executive Director Russell Gottschalk said. Its also a time for us to update our marketing and branding materials for the upcoming season. We are thrilled to announce our new AJMF9 board members and new palette. We have some incredible events planned for 2017-18, and we look forward to kick-starting our year-round programming on Aug. 13, when AJMF will provide music for Congregation Shearith Israels back-to-shul event from noon to 2 p.m.

The AJMF9 spring festival is scheduled for March.

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Music Fest Alters Colors, Adds to Board – Atlanta Jewish Times

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Westchester Set For Annual Jewish Music, Arts Festival – Mount Pleasant Daily Voice

VALHALLA, N.Y. — It’s going to be a day filled with Jewish music.

The 43rd Annual Westchester Jewish Music and Arts Festival will be held on Sunday, Aug. 20 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla.The festival is presented by The Westchester Jewish Council and The Westchester Klezmer Program in cooperation with Westchester County Parks.

The event will feature a wide variety of musical performances including headliner Golem, a Klezmer rock band based in New York City.

Also performing will be Rockmitzvah, a full service live musical ensemble of rock and roll musicians.who will play tunes for children and adults. Israeli singer and composer Sandy Shmuely will lead a sing-a-long.

The event is free and open to the public and will be held rain or shine.

There is something for everyone, from children to adults, at this festival. We have lined up amazing musical performers, as well as fun activities for kids. We hope all members of the community, regardless of faith, will join us for this very festive day, said Elliot Forchheimer, Executive Director of The Westchester Jewish Council.

Pre-registration is requested at http://www.wjcouncil.org .

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Westchester Set For Annual Jewish Music, Arts Festival – Mount Pleasant Daily Voice

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