Jazz fans have long noted the talented Brooklyn-born pianist/composer Roberta Piket, who, mentored by a fellow Brooklynite, eminent pianist Richard Aron “Richie” Beirach, performs with sophisticated emotional astuteness. Piket, who will be performing at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola from Sept 22-26, delights audiences with urbane charm, meditative sensitivity, and even humor, in the sassy number “Schmear,” appetizingly redolent of early morning bagels (“Schmear” was composed by Piket’s longtime drummer, Billy Mintz, who will be playing at Lincoln Center for the September dates).
Earlier this year, Piket set up a website in honor of her Viennese-born father, Frederick Piket (1903-1974), a composer who studied with Franz Schreker, but after emigrating to the USA, created many familiar Reform liturgical works of which one, “Ahavas Olam” (Eternal Love) even became a cantorial hit as recorded by Jan Peerce on his landmark album, “The Art of the Cantor.” Piket expressed her admiration to the website allaboutjazz.com for her father’s “radical idea that the music these [sacred] texts would be set to should be sophisticated and musically valid. He felt the texts were too important to be entrusted to amateur composers.”
Watch Roberta Piket, Billy Mintz, and bassist Ratzo Harris play “Schmear” below.
In her first of what she promises will be a regular column for Yediot Ahronot Madonna has explained how she was turned on to Kabbalah.
She notes how her fame and global traveling hadn’t helped “when it came to trying to understand why people suffered in the world or what the meaning of life was all about.” Kabbalah opened her eyes to how things worked: “Nature and the laws of Cause and Effect.” To the quintessential material girl, suddenly, “[l]ife no longer seemed like a series of Random events…[she] started to see patterns in life.” As she puts it, “I woke up.”
There are obvious encomia to those who have helped wake her up, and road-to-Damascus (or should that be from-Damascus?) insights. Perhaps her own alacrity or some judicious editing have kept the column short but interesting — even if its fascination lies with the author’s celebrity rather than her slightly sophomoric prose.
Two things still remain hidden though: How long will she continue writing the column (neither she nor Yediot Ahronot have specified the length of their arrangement), and why?
Why does a global star with nothing obvious to sell want to write her own column? And why does she start by omitting that most obvious of questions? Perhaps to get us to read the next one?!
…to sing a dreidel song on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.” The real Hasid is Bostoner Hasid/rapper Y-Love. The fellows in the fake beards are Erran Baron Cohen (brother of “Borat” comic Sacha) and his band. The song is from Erran’s new album “Songs in the Key of Hanukkah.” The motley crew’s performance can be viewed here — at the end of the show. (It was, by the way, a very Jew-y episode of “Late Night,” with the dreidel song preceded by a fun appearance by perennially popular comic matador Don Rickles.)
UPDATE: Turns out Y-Love is no longer a Hasid. Back in June he told Jewcy: “I am no longer Chassidish. I converted Chassidish and I davened in Chassidish shuls until like 2005. But my rav is Sephardi.” Oops.
…she still wouldn’t want to go to rehab:
There’s something quite appropriate about doing an Amy Winehouse cover while a bit shikered. Here’s Winehouse herself performing a Michael Jackson cover while in a bit of state.
Hat tip: Commentary’s John Podhoretz
UPDATE: The mysterious, bearded, Yiddish-speaking Orthodox guy has been identified! Bintel Blog reader Ralph Kostant helpfully notes in a comment that the fellow in the video “is Marvin Silbermintz of North Hollywood, California, formerly a writer for Jay Leno at the Tonight Show, and a very funny guy.” Indeed, it turns out that this isn’t Silbermintz’s first appearance on the Bintel Blog. We previously showcased his genius back in February.
Some ultra-Orthodox women are defiantly taking seats at the back of Israeli buses in the name of what they see as religiously mandated gender-segregation. What’s more, as the Forward reports, some of them (or at least one of them) are comparing their actions to those of civil rights legend Rosa Parks.
Let’s set aside the moral question here, since I’m but a simple Jew and thus find such weighty matters painfully vexing. On the basic level of the facts, however, I just don’t understand how the Rosa Parks analogy applies: These haredi women want to sit at the back of the bus. Rosa Parks, of course, refused to give up her seat at the back of the bus. But, it seems safe to say, she didn’t particularly want to be relegated to the rear of the bus, and her brave act of defiance gave birth to a movement that eventually put an end to racially segregated seating in public transportation.
This leads me to believe that perhaps these haredi women are not, in fact, motivated by the example of Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon, but rather by “Rosa Parks,” the hit song by the Atlanta hip-hop outfit Outkast. That song, of course, features a chorus that urges, “Ah ha, hush that fuss/Everybody move to the back of the bus.”
I only hope that these haredi path-breakers don’t now try to implement the second half of the song’s chorus: “Do you wanna bump and slump with us/We the type of people make the club get crunk.” In any case, they should be aware that Outkast was sued over its song on behalf of (the since departed) Parks, and so they may want to consult an attorney as a precautionary measure.
But that’s just my own personal theory. You can decide for yourselves which Rosa Parks they’re emulating by watching a pair of videos. Be forewarned, however, that the first video contains some language that may be offensive to many viewers, while the second video contains a moving depiction of personal courage.
Natalie Portman takes a page from Bollywood in a video from her bohemian beau Devendra Banhart (who is, no doubt, by now the object of loathing from jealous young Jewish men the world over):
Hat tip: Jewlicious
The hipster humorists at Heeb Magazine are taking their cool cultural gestalt out West, organizing a music festival in Oakland, Calif. But, they want to be clear, it’s not a Jewish music festival.
San Francisco’s always informative (albeit unfortunately named) Jewish newsweekly J. reports that the “Heeb fest won’t include any Jewish programming or content, nor will attendees be hearing traditional Jewish tunes.”
“We really could care less whether the people in the bands are Jewish or not — though we promise not to hold it against them if they are,” Heeb editor Joshua Neuman tells J. “Our goal isn’t to showcase Jewish musicians or ‘Jewish music’ — a murky moniker that generally signifies some sort of backwards gaze at a mythical, ‘authentic’ past. We’re interested in creating an amazing festival for our magazine’s community, many of whom happen to be Jewish.”
Why do Jews love Irish music? Actually, I didn’t know they did, until Gwen Orel told me so.
Writing in The Village Voice, Orel presents some anecdotal evidence that Jews are particularly well-represented in New York’s Irish music scene — which, of course, begs the question: “What makes so many Jewish-Americans with no Celtic heritage pour sweat equity into presenting, producing, writing about, and traversing long distances to enjoy Celtic music?”
But, as Orel learns, it’s a question easier asked than answered.
Rabbinical student Tom Gardner says that Celtic music “felt familiar. I’m not sure what it is, but it speaks somehow to our souls.”
“There’s a sorrow that unites both of those peoples,” Irish singer Susan McKeown says. “The Irish have been put down and moved on for hundreds of years, and the Jews have been moved on since time began. And nobody could put it into words in a miserable song that could touch your heart and be more beautiful than the Jews or the Irish … there’s a lot of hope.”
“I think part of it is longing,” says Riverdance composer Bill Whelan. “There’s a longing in the slow airs that’s expressed in the music. The first time I came to New York to work in 1992, I was brought out here by Leon Uris. He thought the Irish and the Jews had a load of shared cultural and emotional connection.”
But, Orel finds, not everyone buys the notion of some sort of deep spiritual affinity:
“There is no overlap between the styles—no emotional overlap,” contends klezmer pioneer Andy Statman. “It’s really just great music. Music can transcend culture.” Piper Bill Ochs, who teaches at the Irish Arts Center, agrees: He’s Jewish, and finds the idea of a mystical connection “kind of a romantic blarney.” His students come from Japan, China, Singapore, Russia, Latvia, Germany, and France. “It’s just great music,” he insists.
The AP reports:
Barbra Streisand has announced that she will pull out of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebration next month. Streisand was one of the big-name guests slated to appear at the Jerusalem convention hosted by President Shimon Peres beginning May 13.
The American diva was supposed to perform a rendition of the Hebrew prayer Avinu Malkeinu, or “Our Father Our King.” But Peres’ office said Tuesday that Streisand has now announced she will not be coming.
A statement from Streisand’s Los Angeles publicist Dick Guttman said Tuesday that she was unable to attend the event in Israel due to ”personal obligations” and had informed Peres’ office two weeks ago.
”She celebrates as always the nation’s courage and purpose and flourishing democracy and is saddened that she cannot be there to do so in person,” Guttman’s statement said.
Among those scheduled to take part in the convention are Italian designer Giorgio Armani and the Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington.
Yep. That’s right. Denzel Washington (who, incidentally, I just discovered, is not only a great actor, but also a real mensch). Back in February, Y-Net reported that Denzel Washington was going to be traveling to Israel as part of a delegation of African-American artists that is expected to meet with Israeli leaders in advance of the 60th anniversary celebrations.
Given that Israel will be celebrating its 60th sans Streisand, now is a good time as any to remember to remember her contribution to the 1978 “Stars Salute Israel” show marking the Jewish state’s 30th birthday.
I’m a little late to the game on this one, so I’ll summarize in brief: A couple weeks ago the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia published a statement from 33 ultra-Orthodox rabbis — including some of the American haredi community’s most respected figures — prohibiting attendance at a planned charity fund-raising concert at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater.
The concert was to feature Lipa Schmeltzer (see above video), a Hasidic singer who is reputed to cause some young ultra-Orthodox Jews go a little bit wild with his mix of traditional Jewish music and contemporary pop influences. The rabbis who issued the ban warned that the concert would have led to “ribaldry and light-headedness.”
The 11th-hour ban came as a surprise to organizers, who canceled the concert, reportedly at significant cost. Schmeltzer also pulled out of a planned performance in London.
The ban has generated a fair amount of outrage in the ultra-Orthodox community. Some are warning of a backlash against the rabbinic leadership. Rumors are flying that some of the ban’s signatories were manipulated by zealots.
Perhaps the rabbis fear Lipa Schmeltzer for the same reason that the powers-that-be once feared a certain foursome from Liverpool — namely, modern music and authority (particularly of the authoritarian variety) don’t always mix.
The concert controversy has garnered plenty of press in the past few days:
Reggae sensation Matisyahu made waves last year when he revealed that he was no longer affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect. Since then, he has been davening at a shul affiliated with the Karliner Hasidim, who are known for screaming their prayers. Now, it appears, his new spiritual orientation is starting to show in his hairstyle.
While Matisyahu has long had a long beard, more recently he has been seen sporting payos (which are generally eschewed by Lubavitchers) and wearing the rest of his hair shorn close to the scalp, a style favored by members of other Hasidic sects. Matisyahu’s new ’do is evident in photos from this year’s Jewlicious Festival in Long Beach, Calif.
The three-day festival, sponsored by Beach Hillel and the blog Jewlicious.com, is now in its fourth year. It drew more than 600 mostly college-aged participants from across North America with lectures on Jewish topics, Shabbat services representing different streams of Judaism, yoga and performances by Matisyahu and other popular Jewish musicians.
According to JTA, Matisyahu chatted with festival participants about dating, making music and praying. He said he liked the way that the Karlin Hasidim shout each word of the Shema prayer “as if there’s a firing squad in the room, and they’re saying it with their last breath. That’s the way I like to kick off my morning.”
UPDATE: Jewlicious.com has some video from the festival.
Okay, I’m not sure anyone’s actually said that — and now nobody’s going to be able to say it, because we have ironclad evidence to the contrary.
TMZ.com reports that the rapper Pharrell — who collaborated with Snoop Dogg on the hit single “Drop It Like It’s Hot” — “was driving around Miami when he happened upon a big Jewish Orthodox wedding — so he got in on the party!”
TMZ has plenty of great photos from the simcha. (Note the decidedly unorthodox image on Pharrell’s T-shirt.)
Eat your heart out, Rabbi Marc Schneier.
Hat tip: Aimee Friedman.
The idea behind the display is to mirror the pile of glasses from Holocaust victims at Auschwitz. Organizers of the RESPECtacles display have already collected more than 1,000 pairs of glasses. The glasses will eventually be donated to people who need glasses in the developing world.
“It is an honour to be part of such a symbolic piece of artwork which will help people to learn how important it is never to forget the horrors of the Holocaust and to challenge hatred and prejudice wherever it arises,” Ono said.
The JTA reports:
Orthodox Jewish reggae sensation Matisyahu is leaving the Chabad movement.
“I am no longer identified with Chabad,” the American singer told Ha’aretz this week during a private visit to Israel. “Today it’s more important to me to connect to a universal message.”
Born Matthew Miller, Matisyahu embraced Orthodox Judaism while studying in a Chabad yeshiva in New York City His virtuosity in reggae and hip-hop, religious lyrics and uncanny garb and antics on stage launched him to international music stardom.
According to to the Israeli newspaper, Matisyahu experienced a “spiritual shift” while celebrating the High Holy Days in Israel. That drew to him to alternative forms of Chasidut such as Breslav.
“What we do is not at all about Judaism and not about Chabad. It’s much bigger than one religion or another,” he said. “It relies on something real that can speak to anybody. It’s about truth and memory.”
While still Orthodox, Matisyahu said he is “searching for freedom from a pronounced identification with one specific group.”
This is not exactly news, but it does add more context to less specific remarks the toasting Hasid had made previously.
First, legendary New York punk palace C.B.G.B. passed into history. Now, the man who made the club a center of the burgeoning punk scene has passed away: Hilly (Hillel) Kristal, R.I.P.
Say what you will about Hitler, he apparently had better taste in music than previously assumed. ABC News reports: “A new chapter about Hitler’s taste in classical music has now been opened on reports that suggest the German dictator and Holocaust mastermind may have actually had an ear for the works of Jewish and Russian musicians.”
(Hat tip: Raphael Mostel)
It looks like the Lubavitchers did. The Hasidic reggae sensation recently told the Miami New Times:
My initial ties were through the Lubovitch sect… I went to a Hasidic school for two years in Brooklyn. At this point, I don´t necessarily identify with it any more. I´m really religious, but the more I´m learning about other types of Jews, I don´t want to exclude myself. I felt boxed in.
The New York Jewish Week took a look at the fallout in the Lubavitch world, and (non-Lubavitch) Hasidic rapper Y-Love chimes in on Jewschool. Y-Love’s post is particularly interesting, as are the reader comments.
Some Lubavitchers, it seems, fear their embrace of Matisyahu may have backfired. They touted him as a role model, and now he’s distancing himself from their movement. So they worry that young Lubavitchers may now follow their reggae idol’s lead.
Y-Love, however, (writing in the comments section of his original post) agues that Matisyahu will still be a good role model even if he chooses another flavor of Orthodox Judaism.
Woody Allen will make his operatic debut in September 2008, directing Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” at the Los Angeles Opera. It’s hard to imagine Allen feeling at home in the City of Angels (in “Annie Hall” he perfected the role of fish-out-of-water New Yorker in L.A., famously saying, “I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light”), or, for that matter, in the world of Italian opera, but “Gianni Schicchi” is the only comedic opera ever written by Puccini, so perhaps that will bring the first-time opera director some sense of comfort.
For one night, at least, MTV may as well have been the Jewish Television Network. Yesterday’s MTV Movie Awards had an unusually large number of young, hip celebrity Jews taking center-stage.
The show was hosted by comedian-of-the-moment Sarah Silverman, who, in typical faux-innocent fashion, mercilessly roasted Paris Hilton (conveniently in attendance). Silverman noted — to vigorous audience applause — that the hard-partying socialite was headed to jail, before lobbing an off-color barb that can’t be printed on a family blog. Of course, the camera, after each blow, cut to Paris, who did not seem pleased. For perhaps the first time ever, it was easy to feel sorry for the self-aggrandizing socialite. (Watch the video here.)