Feature Stories

2013: A Year in Conversation

Sidan raichel BWome highlights from our “Conversation with…”
column from the past year

Idan Raichel | Keyboardist, producer and composer, and founder of The Idan Raichel Project, one of Israel’s top musical groups • October 18, 2013

“I would describe [The Idan Raichel Project] as Israeli music. I would like people to look at it as a soundtrack for Israel. … It would be a vast compliment to be remembered as the soundtrack of Israel for the past decade…[I’ve worked with] many musicians from all over the world, whether professional or not; there are many immigrants, from Brazil, Morocco, Ethiopia, Germany. There are many, many musicians, just a great number … coming to Israel to record … We are making some interesting new stories, new music, a new sound that defines the multicultural nation we live in, in Tel Aviv. In the streets in Tel Aviv, you find immigrants from all over the world. We bring the voices of minorities into Israel mainstream radio.”

Dalia Davis, of Longmeadow | Jewish educator, dancer, choreographer, and founder of Beit Midrash in Motion • January 18, 2013

“My aim is to develop an alternative approach to Jewish learning, rooted in text and nourished by movement, meditation, and personal reflection. Ultimately, by engaging one’s mind with text, one’s body with movement, and one’s soul with meditation, I believe we can understand the source material in a manner that is profound and personally relevant.”

Ilan Stavans | Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and author of “Return to Centro Histórico: A Mexican Jew Looks for His Roots” • March 22, 2013

“The Centro Histórico is to Mexico City what the Lower East Side is to New York: the neighborhood where Jews and other immigrants first settled. Subsequent generations moved to fancier sections of the city. In the last few years, a few important buildings in the Centro Histórico (a synagogue, a mikva, a school) might be said to have been “rediscovered”; some of them have even become tourist destinations. In my book, I tell the story of how I chose to take one of those tourist trips to my own birthplace, revisiting the houses my ancestors lived in upon arriving from Poland, the Ukraine, and other places in the Pale of Settlement: the shul where my father had his bar mitzvah, the community center where my parents were married, and so on. My quest in the book is multifold: to recreate the encounter of Jews and Mexicans at the outset of the twentieth century that defines me; and to explore Mexico’s other Jewish past, that is, the vicissitudes of Sephardic Jews from Syria and Lebanon and the ordeal of crypto-Jews (also known as conversos) during colonial times and their plight under the domains of the Inquisition. The Centro Histórico is an extraordinary place: history speaks loud and clear there.”
Delia Ephron | Screenwriter and author. She collaborated with her late sister Nora Ephron on several screenplays and the off-Broadway play, “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” • April 19, 2013

“I’ve had a couple of collaborations with other people, but my main collaboration has been with Nora. Because we’re sisters and we’re so close it was very natural and easy to do. We were used to hanging out together. I think collaboration works best when you share a sensibility — when you think the same things are funny; when you appreciate the other’s brain and how it works and all that. I don’t think you can just collaborate with a friend because you’re friends, you have to have a shared sensibility. Nora and I had so much fun doing it and it wasn’t difficult. Although occasionally we’d get into disagreements, it was just always a lot of pleasure. Certainly the good thing was that we sort of knew that we were in it together; there was just no way we weren’t going to love each other and not be siblings anymore. That’s a really good thing.”

Rick Brown | President of Norwell-based Handshouse Studio, which helped recreate a replica of the roof of The Gwozdziec Synagogue, a 17th century wooden temple in Poland • May 17, 2013

“The Jewish population was there over a thousand years and the period of time when these synagogues were built was the Golden Age of European Jewry. These are not examples of folk art and folk architecture…these are very high art and deserve to be perceived in a much more intellectual fashion….These buildings rival some of the great wooden architecture and art anywhere in the world….Our position is that this is very sophisticated Jewish art and Polish architecture. As educators we are constantly encouraging young people to continue researching this history because it has not been studied and written about. At some point, hopefully someone can put it in its proper historic place.”
Seth Rogovoy | Author of “The Essential Klezmer” and program director of “Yidstock 2013”, The Yiddish Book Center’s annual summer music festival • June 21, 2013

“Klezmer has been “changing” or evolving for many decades – centuries, really… The klezmer you heard in Poland in 1850 was different from that in Odessa in 1881, which sounded nothing like what they were playing on the Lower East Side of NYC in 1912, which hardly resembled the golden age of klezmer of the 1920s, which of course couldn’t have predicted the “Yiddish swing” of the 1930s and 1940s, which bears little resemblance to the klezmer-rock fusions of the 1980s and 1990s and the experimental and hip-hop fusions of the oughts. What unites it all is a solid grounding in the nuts and bolts – the musical fundamentals – the modes, or scales, the ornamentations, the basic melodies. It’s the same basic language, just speaking in a different dialect or accent appropriate to its time and location. This will undoubtedly continue as it always had, and I’m sure somewhere right now someone is tinkering with a fusion of klezmer and EDM (electronic dance music), which I for one cannot wait to hear!”

Ora Szekely | Assistant professor of political science, Clark University, on 2013’s turmoil in Egypt • July 26, 2013

“Dictatorships are, ultimately, unpredictable – if nothing else, since they aren’t bound by the collective common sense of the public, you sometimes end up with a Qaddhafi or a Kim Jong Il. While the process of democratization is slow, uncertain, often violent, and rarely goes in a straight line, democracy itself is much more stable and reliable than authoritarian rule, and it’s certainly what the Egyptian people deserve.”

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer | Co-founder, rosh yeshiva and executive director of Mechon Hadar, educational institution that seeks to empower Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah learning, prayer, and service • September 20, 2013

“For so long, our communal conversation has focused on survival and continuity for its own sake. Now I am of course in favor of survival and continuity, but the question is: what are we surviving for? What are we trying to continue? For me, it is all about a Judaism that is relevant and meaningful in the modern world.”

Gary Hochman | Filmmaker and director of the documentary “Deadly Deception at Sobibor,” which follows the dramatic attempt to locate and excavate the remains of this secret Nazi extermination camp in Poland
November 1, 2013

“At Sobibor the Nazis tried to erase the camp from history – and they did a really good job of it right up until [Moroccan-Israeli archaeologist] Yoram Haimi looked at the place and said ‘we can excavate here because, if nobody’s touched this site since the war, then, like any crime scene, something should be left behind.’ That’s what’s really interesting about this in terms of Holocaust research. So much of Holocaust research depends almost entirely on official records that exist from the Nazis, or eyewitness testimony. You’re depending on records and memory. At Sobibor, you’re using the excavation – you’re using science – to make new discoveries and to confirm eyewitness testimony or link obscure records. There are obscure records that exist, but nothing that you could piece together to make a story if you looked at the records alone. [The Nazis] really did keep the camp a secret from the time that it was created to the time that they destroyed it.”

Meredith Dragon | Executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass., on the Jewish Federations of North America’s 86th annual General Assembly • November 22, 2013

“There is something about the power we have when we are together to talk and challenge each other, and to talk about what is going on in the Jewish world. We are able to address it as an eclectic and collective system recognizing that the power of the Federation system is not only in the individual Federations, but in our work together. We have a tremendous amount of opportunity as a system to make some important change.”

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