Leonard Bernstein Concert Draws Large Audience in Elkins Park

From left to right, some of the cantors who organized the concert: Cantor Joshua Gordon, Cantor Amy Levy, cantorial soloist Rebecca Schwartz, Hazzan Jeffrey Weber, Hazzan David Tilman, Cantor Elena Zarkh

From left to right, some of the cantors who organized the concert: Cantor Joshua Gordon, Cantor Amy Levy, cantorial soloist Rebecca Schwartz, Hazzan Jeffrey Weber, Hazzan David Tilman, Cantor Elena Zarkh

The coming 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth was the occasion for a concert of his music at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. The concert was produced by the Kehillah of Old York Road and cosponsored by the Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Under the direction of Hazzan David Tilman, cantors, other soloists and a chorus of forty voices delivered Bernstein music from his show “West Side Story,” from his operetta “Candide,” and from his more serious symphonic work “Mass.” The concert concluded with a full performance of the three movements of “Chichester Psalms.” Solo performers included Hazzan Jeffrey Weber, Elizabeth Weigel, Rebecca Schwartz, and in the performance of “Chichester Psalms,” boy soprano Owen Yoder, who brought the audience to its feet with applause.

The Kehillah of Old York Road is comprised of Congregations Adath Jeshurun, Beth Am, Beth Sholom, Keneseth Israel and Kol Ami, all located in Elkins Park. The event marked twelve years of joint activity by the Kehillah and attracted about eight hundred guests.

A Musical Legacy: Nelly Berman, 1938-2015

Nelly Berman

Nelly Berman

Nelly Berman, the Russian-Jewish pianist from Odessa, Soviet Union, who created a premier classical music school in Haverford on the Main Line, which has trained some of Philadelphia’s top young musicians and provided scholarships for their serious studies, died Monday night. She was 77 years old.

During the 35 years her school existed she touched the lives of many generations of young people through music, inspired them to reach beyond and above their comfort level and to seek beauty, depth of emotions and perfection in music performance.

Despite suffering a stroke in 2011, she continued teaching and molding young talented students, passing to them her immeasurable technical performance skills and profound love of classical music. Four days before her death, she applauded her students at a concert at the Nelly Berman School of Music and taught her last student the day before her death following serious heart surgery. She said to her daughter “If I get better after this surgery, I am planning to start teaching more talented children who are serious about music.” As she was driving to the hospital for the surgery, she was discussing the pieces her students will learn during the interim of her recuperation.

The story of her emigration from the former Soviet Union and subsequent integration into the American society reads almost like a fairy tale. Being an immigrant, her life was full of hardship. It was extraordinary that she was able to overcome the staggering pitfalls in her path, as well as to become a trailblazer for many who came to her for help. She became a great mentor, friend and supporter to the students and the teachers at the school. Their lives were forever enriched by this talented, intuitive, fiery, optimistic, generous, and inspiring woman.

The values she had sought in all of the Nelly Berman School students were great beauty of sound, tenderness, passion, and in her ability to touch all hearts through music. She sought and persevered with all of her being to realize her vision for the creation of a non profit corporation, the NBS Classical Music Institute, which awards talented students scholarships to realize their potential in music performance.

Nelly teaches her two-year -old daughter Elena.

Nelly teaches her two-year -old daughter Elena.

Nelly Berman has been a passionately devoted mother, wife and a friend. She is survived by her husband, David Lefkovitz, children, her daughter Elena Berman-Gantard, and her son Dmitry Berman. She is beloved and mourned by her grandchildren Emma, Armand and Jacob, her niece Faina Lushtak, her cousins Emma and Mara and their spouses, her Russian childhood friends Rachel, Bella, Vladik, Luda, Mila, and her American friends Andrea, Elaine and Marina, and many more dear relatives, friends, students and colleagues. The family thanks all their friends and relatives for their support and love.

Alumna Anna Claire Lynn-Palevsky, shared the sentiments of many of her fellow students:

I can’t imagine my life without the Nelly Berman School of Music, and I can’t imagine a world without Nelly in it. She had the most incredible gift for turning children into musicians through her passion for teaching, the joy she found and shared in music, and most of all, her constant faith in every single student who walked through her doors. The things I learned in her music school have shaped every aspect of my life. Thank you for all the love and trust you always showed me, Nelly. It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

Her funeral will take place at Goldsteins, Rosenberg, Raphael Sacks, 6410 N. Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19126 on Friday, September 4 at 10:30 AM. Family viewing at 9:30 AM. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Nelly’s foundation, her legacy to past and future generations of young musicians. For more information please contact Nelly’s daughter, Elena.

Philadelphia’s Contemporary Israeli Music Choir

— by Odaya Szulanski

From its inception in 1995, the composition and repertoire of the Philadelphia-based Chavurat Hazemer, “the singing group,” represented the ethnic mosaic of the Israeli society.

The Chavurah performs in different events of the local Israeli community and of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Their musical appearances emphasize the bond between the Jewish people and their land, and the Jewish cultural heritage, history and traditions throughout the ages.

More after the jump.
The Chavura was started by a group of amateur Israeli singers, most of whom with past experiences in choirs, under the musical directorship of Curtis Institute of Music graduate Boaz Ben Moshe. It was sponsored primarily by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs. The sponsorship of the Israeli ministry helped defray expenses, which were otherwise covered by the singing members of the Chavurah.

Following the departure of Ben Moshe and singer Rina Ben Yehoshua, Julia Zavadsky, a graduate of the Rubin Academy of Music in Israel and the Temple School of Music in Philadelphia, was appointed as musical director. She had recruited a professional piano accompanist and Rubin graduate, Michal Hefer, to rehearse weekly with the Chavurah.

Currently, the Chavurah counts with twenty members, three of whom soloists. The current musical director is Valerie Lomazov, and the professional piano accompanist is Rita Lomazov.

The Chavurah meets once a week for rehearsals. To join the choir or to engage them for an occasion, call Dalia Daskal at (267)882-7326 or Odaya Szulanski at (610)348-8495.  

The Les Misérables Special You Will Only See On Passover!

The Maccabeats sing the story of Passover in a perfectly adapted medley based on Les Miserables.

“Look down, look down. You’ll always be a slave…” Wait for the grand finale as they continue with “Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums, It is future that they bring when tomorrow comes.” The Maccabeats are unbeatabe on their new album – One Day More. Just sit back and enjoy!

Three Philadelphians Star in “Megillas Lester” Musical Comedy DVD

Akiba Hebrew Academy graduates Michael Bihovsky, Adam Levinthal and Andrew Davies star in the newly-released, full-length musical animated comedy DVD Megillas Lester, presented by EMES Productions, produced by Kolrom Animation Studios, and distributed by ArtScroll.

Bihovsky, who directed and starred in One Grain More and Fresh! now voices Doniel “Lester” Lesterovitch, an average boy in a Jewish elementary school. While directing his school’s Purim play, Lester gets a knock on the head from a fallen box of puffy paint and falls unconscious. Suddenly, Lester finds himself in the middle of the feast of King Achashverosh, and through a case of mistaken identity, it is Lester who is asked to go summon Queen Vashti to the party.

More after the jump.

Vashti decides to go, which prevents the story of Megillas Esther: Vashti is not killed, a search for a new queen is not required, and thus Esther never comes to the palace. That leaves nobody to save the Jews from the plot of Haman (voiced by Levinthal). Amid a sub-plot involving Bigsan (voiced by Davies) and Seresh’s murder schemes, Lester runs all over Shushan, trying to stay out of Haman’s way and set the Purim story back on track.


The Actors

Get to know the real live actors that are the voices of Lester, Bigsan, Achashverosh, Haman and more!

America the Beautiful – אמריקה היפהפייה

אמריקה היפהפייה

יפֵהפִיָה ללא גבולות
וּזְהב דגן גלִי
הרים סגוּלים
סְפוּגים בְּהוֹד
מישור עמוּס בִּפְרי
אמריקה אַת אֶרץ
שהאל בּרֵךְ בלי סוף
וּבְרית אחים נאמנה
תִשְׂרוֹר מחוף אל חוף


Responses from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert follow the jump.

“Israeli Rock Godfather” Arik Einstein Dies at 74


“You Can’t (Leave Me)” by Arik Einstein’s band, the “High Windows.”

— by Amir Shoam

The iconic Israeli folk singer and comedian Arik Einstein passed away suddenly at the age of 74.

Einstein introduced entire genres, including rock, to Israeli music. Imagining Israeli music without him is like imagining the NBA without Michael Jordan. He will be missed.

More praise for this Israel entertainment legend and videos of his music and comedy follow the jump.

Parody of Israeli immigration

Shawn Evenhaim, Chairman of the Israeli-American Council commented,

We are sad to hear about Arik Einstein’s death and send our condolences to his family, friends, fans, and to all Israelis. Einstein is an Israeli cultural legend and probably the greatest Israeli singer of all time, and we’re sure that every Israeli who lives in the U.S. today shares in the sadness of his passing. A major icon of Israeli culture has left us, but his memory and songs will stay with us forever.

International Bible Quiz parody

Song on Soviet invasion of Prague

Israeli Classic Rock on YouTube


“Your Forehead Is Adorned” by Arik Einstein, Korin Elal and Yehudit Ravitz

— by Ronit Treatman

Where can you find an amazing collection of vintage footage of Israeli rock music? On a YouTube channel created by Guy Alon, an Israeli music aficionado. The Hertzlia native tells me, “I grew up with Israeli Music, which always was in the background in my parents’ house.”

I especially remember old LPs by Chava Alberstein, Matti Caspi and Svika Pick. However, it was only when I became an adult that I realized how deep the Israeli music was inside me, and really started to read, listen and explore the nostalgic Israeli music. It was only in my early 30s that I became a true “Israeli Music fan.”

More after the jump.
Impressed by the selection offered by his channel, I asked Guy how he got so many videos. “My collection is a result of decades of preserving old VCR cassettes with original recordings from Israeli TV, mainly with Israeli Music,” he said.

After I started my new hobby, of uploading my materials and sharing them with the world, the rumor of what I did spread and got to many people, who generously donated their own collections, or just old VCR cassettes for the noble cause.


“I was overwhelmed with the number of responses I got.” Guy Alon

“I started my journey with a small, beautiful clip sang by Netan’ela — one of my favorites singers,” recalls Alon.

I uploaded it on August 2006, to share with some of my friends, and was overwhelmed with the huge number of responses I got, from within Israel, and Jewish people worldwide, asking for more materials from the good old Israeli music. Since then I decided to slowly share my collection with everyone, with a goal to upload one new clip every day, a task I am proud to say that I managed to achieve. Today, my YouTube channel has more than 2000 clips that I uploaded, and is one of the most popular private YouTube channels in Israel.

And how about personal favorites? “My favorite artist is Matti Caspi,” Alon says.

I think he is a true musical genius. One that if was born in another country would have become one of the most succesful artist in the world. His music is so rich and deep that I can never get enough of it. Another artist I love to hear is Idan Raichel. He is a very talented musician, with original material of his own. He is also seems to be a very nice and modest person.


Ruhama Raz and Manny Amrilio reharsing “In My Beloved Country”

Alicia Keys to Perform in Israel Despite BDS Pressure

— by Steve Sheffey

Alicia Keys confirmed that she will perform in Tel Aviv on July 4 as scheduled, despite public pressure to boycott Israel from Alice Walker (who refused to authorize a translation of “The Color Purple” into Hebrew) and Roger Waters. “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show,” she said.

Walker called Israel an “apartheid country,” said that the Israeli system is “cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil,” and called Israel the cause of “much of the affliction in our suffering world.” Walker refused to authorize a new Hebrew translation of “The Color Purple.” Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, also urged Keys to cancel. Waters previously convinced Stevie Wonder to cancel an appearance at a Friends of the IDF event in Los Angeles.

More on the anti-Israel BDS movement after the jump.
For an excellent refutation of the canard that Israel practices apartheid, read this op-ed from Richard Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is condemned across the pro-Israel political spectrum, even by those who strongly believe that Israel should find a way to extricate itself from the West Bank.

According to J Street:

For some, the BDS movement has become a convenient mantle for thinly disguised anti-Semitism” and “the BDS movement fails to explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and it ignores or rejects Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people. In addition, the promotion by some in the BDS movement of the return to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their families indicates support for an outcome incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state solution to the conflict.

A statement signed by the National Jewish Democratic Council and 60 other Jewish organizations opposing the BDS movement explained that “Criticism [of Israel] becomes anti-Semitism, however, when it demonizes Israel or its leaders, denies Israel the right to defend its citizens or seeks to denigrate Israel’s right to exist.”

So what do we do about it?

My view is that if an artist or scientist attempts to economically harm or delegitimize Israel, we should not economically support that person.

As much as I used to enjoy Elvis Costello’s music, I can’t listen to him anymore. I have a long list of books to read. Why read Alice Walker when there is so much other good literature? We certainly should not reject the scientific ideas of Stephen Hawking, but why buy his books? (If you must read him or Walker, use the library).

I’m not suggesting that we deny ourselves art based on the anti-Semitism of its creators. If we did, we would deprive ourselves of a large portion of Western culture. I also suspect that if we knew what was in the minds of some of our favorite artists, we might not be too happy. Rather, I am suggesting that we single out the subset of artists who have chosen to single out Israel for boycott. If they won’t play for Israelis, we shouldn’t pay money for them to play to us. So you won’t find Elvis Costello, Santana, or Stevie Wonder on my playlist, and you certainly won’t see me at their concerts.

Perhaps most important, we should visit Israel or buy Israeli goods — no matter where we are on the political spectrum.

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Canadian Rock Star Steven Page Explores His Musical Jewish Roots

— Reprinted with permission from CBC/Radio-Canada

Steven Page, musician, and former lead-singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for the internationally acclaimed pop band the Barenaked Ladies (BNL), grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, feeling like he was the only Jew in the neighbourhood, and thus an outsider. He began his search into his ancestry with the goal of uncovering why his Jewish identity has played such an important part of his life.

Continued after the jump.
Steven was born in 1970 to a Jewish mother, Jo-Anne (Simmons), and an Anglo-Protestant father, Victor Page. When Jo-Anne and Victor married in the 1960s, Victor converted to Judaism to appease Jo-Anne’s strict grandparents, Nuchum and Chava Greenbaum. But it wasn’t enough; they disowned Jo-Anne, and as a result, Steven never met his great-grandparents.

According to Steven’s great aunts Annette and Beulah, Nuchum came to Canada from Poland in 1909. Later, he brought Chava and their daughter Shirley to join him. They lived in the Kensington Market district of Toronto, then a thriving Jewish community, and had seven more children.

Steven decided to investigate the Greenbaum side of the family by searching the 1911 Canadian census online. He discovered that Kalman Greenbaum, Nuchum’s father, was born in Russia/Poland in 1866. Kalman came alone to Canada in 1903. After being naturalized in 1909, he brought his family from Poland to join him, including Nuchum. When Kalman first arrived, he lived in an area of Toronto called St. John’s Ward, on Chestnut Street.

What was life like for Jewish immigrants at that time? Steven met with the historian of Jewish Toronto, Stephen Speisman, at the Toronto City Archives. At the turn of the century, a Fifth Census of Canada 1911 showed that a huge influx of Jewish immigrants moved to Toronto. Inside ten years, the Jewish population of the city grew from 3,000 to 32,000. Out of necessity, most settled in St. John’s Ward, a slum with affordable rents. As soon as Kalman earned enough money as a peddler, he bought a house in Kensington Market, where he and his family lived for many years.

To learn more about Kalman, Steven visited his mother’s cousin Henry Green, a professor of religious studies at the University of Miami. Henry has discovered that Kalman belonged to the Hasidic dynasty of the Modzhitz, a group known as the singing Hasidim, who turned Hasidic melody into an art form. Steven never knew the Greenbaum side of his family was connected to music; it is exciting for him to discover he is part of a musical dynasty.

According to Steven’s great aunt Annette, poverty wasn’t the only challenge faced by the Greenbaum family. A tragic house-fire in 1928 took the lives of Nuchum’s sister Sarah, her husband, and two of her three children. Steven verified this information by searching the Toronto Star’s Pages of the Past. There, he finds a front-page story, headlined, “Parents and Two Children Perish in Fire: dying girl declares family was menaced by threats of enemy.” Steven was shocked to discover that the article suggests the fire resulted from a family or business feud. Chava was never the same after the tragedy.

Given the hardships they faced in Canada, Steven wondered why his family left Poland. He found a clue in Nuchum’s 1905 diary, where Nuchum referred to “a year of curses.” Steven decided to go to Poland to investigate.

Steven’s first stop was the regional office of the Polish State Archives in the city of Kielce, where the birth, marriage and death records of Kielce’s Jews are stored. In 1897, approximately 83,000 Jews were living in Kielce, constituting 28% of the city’s population. Steven found Nuchum’s 1894 birth record, and was surprised to see it is written in Russian.

In 1894, Poland was part of the Russian Empire. Discrimination against Jews was widespread. In Poland, Jews paid double taxes and were forbidden to lease land or go to university. Despite this, Jewish men aged 18 were still liable for conscription into the Russian army. When Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, in 1881, the Jews were blamed. Throughout the Empire, Jews were attacked in an infamous spate of officially condoned violence, known to history as the pogroms. It was out of this climate of fear that a massive wave of Jewish immigration to North America emerged. Leading up to the First World War, about two million Polish Jews left for North America.

Steven next visited Rakow, the hometown of his great-grandmother Chava. Before the Holocaust, over half of the population of Rakow was Jewish. No Jews currently live in the town, so Steven visited a group of Poles called “Friends of Rakow.” The group, dedicated to remembering the town’s Jewish past, cooks Jewish meals and maintains a memorial at Rakow’s former Jewish cemetery. Steven ended the journey into his ancestry at this cemetery. His trip to Poland has been powerful and disturbing. While Steven is moved by the efforts of the Poles to honour the memory of their Jewish friends, he finds little testament to just how horrible life was for Jews in Poland. His family, he now knows, was lucky to survive.