Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Greetings from Israel!

Yaffo in the morning
Sunset at Ein Hod

What a wonderful time to be in Israel. The country is bustling and growing, the shekel is strong against the dollar (ok, not so great for Americans), and Barack Obama was just in Jerusalem today assuring Israelis that he is on our side.

Here's a brief travelog so far.

7/20 Sunday - Arrival 5 a.m. Stayed 'overnight' in Yaffo at the new, lovely (and inexpensive) Mishkenot Ruth Daniel. Took the train to Haifa and stayed at Ein Hod with Rabbi Bob and Annette Samuels. Bob is the former director of the Leo Baeck Education Center. He brought me to Haifa for a year in 1981, and encouraged me to compose music for the Leo Baeck Synagogue, 'Ohel Avraham'. On Sunday night I sang for some friends in their living room.

Ohel Avraham 1982
Ohel Avraham 2008

7/21 Monday - This was a day of walking around Ein Hod, formerly an Arab village, abandonded in 1948 and turned into an Artists Colony in 1956. Some of the worlds' most illustrious artists and musicians live there. I met an incredible gentleman named Nisan Cohen, who owns the world's largest collection of vintage music boxes. He repairs and demonstrates them in a lttle museum he set up. I'm not talking about little things, these are huge tabletop instruments. They were all the rage for about half a century, until Edison's phonograph put them out of business, instantly and permanently. They sound amazing. He also has player pianos and organs, and vintage wind-up phonographs. He played me a 1918 recording by Cantor David Roitman, who sounded like he was standing in front of me.

7/22 Tuesday - I visited the Or Chadash Congregation in Haifa, and met with their rabbi, Edgar Nof. He took me downstairs to the bomb shelter, which was the only place in Haifa where services could be held during the Hezbolla bombing during the summer of 2006. I sang for 150 of the cutest kids I've ever seen, at their day camp in the synagogue. We sang songs they knew and I taught them a few new ones. I hope they understood my pidgeon Hebrew. Afterwards they all came up to hug me... That evening, cantorial soloist and folksinger Orit Perlman had 25 people at her house for a party in her backyard. We sang for over 2 hours.

Singing at Or Chadash in Haifa

7/23 Wednesday - Jerusalem seems to be coping with Obama's visit. I'm at HUC now, but they say you have to walk completely around the King David Hotel, where he is staying, just down the block. I'm using my cell phone to call old friends, making connections and meeting plans.

7/24 Thursday - I spent the day with the class of entering cantorial, education and rabbinic students beginning their year of study in Jerusalem. I piggy-backed on their walking tour of Jerusalem - in the morning to Talpiyot and the "Tayelet", and in the evening to the Old City. In the late afternoon I talked to the class of first-year cantorial students, one of whom looked very familiar. She was one of my bat mitzvah students from about ten years ago.

7/25 Friday - Barack Obama has left the building. All that remains is his photo on just about every magazine and newspaper here. The bustle of the work-week is replaced by the bustle of preparing for Shabbat. Tonight I will lead services at Kehilat Mevaseret Tzion, just outside of Jerusalem, and Shabbat morning at HUC.
7/26 Saturday - Spent a delightful Shabbat morning at HUC services and sang with Cantor Tamar Havilio. Lunch with Michael and Sally Klein-Katz at their flat in Abu Tor. Had a rowdy and totally fun song session with the Bronfman Fellows, high school seniors, at the Goldshtein Youth Villiage.

7/27 Sunday - Just arrived at Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava for a community concert and "shira b'tzibur" (singalong)...some friends from Kibbutz Yahel will be there too. BOY IS IT HOT! Shabbat in Jerusalem was heavenly. More on that when I have more computer time.

7/30 Wednesday - Arrived in Tel Aviv for my last leg in Israel. Kabbalat Shabbat at Beit Daniel Friday. I'll fill in the blanks when I can. More photos coming.

...Next week it's on to LONDON!

The website is safe!

Recently hackers got into my website and hacked the index page. But everything has been fixed and the danger is over. A couple of folks told me that their anti-virus programs screamed bloody murder when they tried to access The files have been cleaned and the passwords changed. I truly hope nobody's computer was messed up. It's a good reminder to get the best anti-virus program you can and keep it up to date!

Friday, July 11, 2008

See you in Israel...

My last visit to Israel was five years ago. I can stay away no longer! So, I recently cleared some time on my calendar and traded in my last batch of United miles for a ticket. I'm bringing my guitar and some clothes. My hope is to sing in as many places as possible, and to stay in homes wherever I travel. I want to reconnect, see old friends and make new ones. I am not charging a fee for my singing. Any earnings that happen to come my way will be used for tzedakah in Israel. With a few things already scheduled, I'll be leading t'filot, doing workshops, singing at house parties, summer camps, maybe tour groups, at cafes, I'll see what opportunities come up. Here's my travel schedule, subject to change.  I'll post specifics when I can. If you're nearby please come and say hi. To contact me, just click here.

July 20 - 23, Haifa area

July 23 - 26, Jerusalem area
• Kabbalat Shabbat July 25 at:

July 27 - 28, Kibbutz Lotan (Arava)

July 29 - August 1, Tel Aviv area
• Kabbalat Shabbat August 1 at:
Beit Daniel, Tel Aviv

Yes, that's Elvis. I have no idea where this photo is from.  Did I take it myself?  Does anyone recognize this restaurant? Stay tuned...see you in Israel!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

But enough about me...

This past December I was asked to sing at a Chanukah party for Hillel at Harvard University. I was invited by one of my former Bar Mitzvah students.  He's a wonderful fellow (from a great family) and he plays in the Hillel Klezmer Band!  My gosh, how could I say no?  

I had no idea what to expect.  I even brought my Jewish comedy videos with me just in case I needed help getting things going.  It turned out to be an incredible evening of singing and shmoozing.  Someone was snapping photos the whole time.  I recently got emails from folks saying they saw me in the Spring 2008 Harvard Hillel Journey (a quite lovely and glossy publication.) Well, I finally got a copy and saw this overly generous article.  You can get the pdf here.  (And the entire issue of the Journey is here.)

As it turned out, I didn't need the comedy videos.  Maybe next time.