Speaking with Alice Hoffman via facebook: Review: “The Dovekeepers”


Dovekeepers-paperback-thumb

Social media has its upside. I was able to contact Alice Hoffman, a very prolific writer via Facebook and asked her some questions. Her answers are contained in this book review. She is my favorite author.

Review of “The Dovekeepers
“The Dovekeepers,” is the fictionalized story of what might have happened at Masada located in Southern Israel.  If you’ve ever toured Israel, you’ve probably visited the remains of the fortress. It was originally occupied by King Herod. It’s situated on top of a high rock and surrounded by steep cliffs.  Israeli soldiers take an oath on Masada, “Masada shall not fall again.”

Masada protected Zealot Jews and their families from the Romans in the first century. After the fall of the second temple in Jerusalem, Jews were being taken as slaves or killed.

Unfortunately, the Jews were only safe at Masada for three years. It took the Roman Tenth Legion that long to reach the fortress. What they found inside the compound shocked them. Nine-hundred-sixty Jewish people were dead. They preferred death to becoming enslaved and killed by the Romans. According to historian, Flavius Josephus, two women and five children escaped death.

Alice Hoffman is a prolific writer who has published a total of twenty-one novels, three books of short fiction and eight books for children and young adults. This is the first adult book she’s written about her Jewish heritage. “ I am not religious, but am culturally attached to my heritage,” said Hoffman.

Many other authors such as Tony Morrison, Jodi Picoult, and Wally Lamb are praising “The Dovekeepers.  “For me, “The Dovekeepers” is the most complicated book I’ve ever written and the most emotionally honest,” said Hoffman.

“The Dovekeepers” is fictional, but Hoffman researched it thoroughly. It took her five years to write this novel. Hoffman also studied artifacts from this period. She was inspired after she took a tour of Masada. “I was moved and connected,” said Hoffman.  The book started coming to her when she was looking at the artifacts displayed in the Masada Museum. After she read some history, she had her novel.

Brave and courageous women are the main characters of this book: Revka, a woman who had led an ordinary life as a baker’s wife until her daughter and husband were brutally murdered; Yael, an assassin’s daughter; Aziza, raised as a boy warrior and Shira, a woman from Alexandria who studied potions and magic.

While doing past research, Hoffman discovered that some women during war-time, disguised themselves as men and went into battle. She was fascinated by this idea and that is how the character Aziza developed.

“Sometimes characters simply arrive, other times they don’t work out. They always surprise me,” said Hoffman.  When she finished the book Hoffman realized each of the characters represented a part of her personality.

The four women in this story are the “Dovekeepers.” The dove’s waste is used to fertilize the land so crops can grow. At first, survival is easy. Herod left storerooms of food behind, but as the time goes on, the storerooms become barren, the weather becomes too hot and dry to grow crops and life becomes desperate.

In the meantime, the Jews watched the Romans constructing battering rams and other weapons. They knew it was only a matter of time before they would be conquered.

Interwoven in the plot are love stories, births and deaths. There is plenty of passion too.
The writer manages to take us back in time. “The inside story is about forgiveness,” said Hoffman.

Descriptions of the battles between the Zealots and Romans are vivid. The tragic end of the people of Masada is masterfully told. Hoffman does end the book with some hope.

When asked how it feels to be admired by so many readers, Hoffman said, “ I am lucky enough to have wonderful readers.”

This book is readily available on the web and at bookstores. Among her other books are “At Risk,” and “Practical Magic.” If you enjoy reading a fantastic author, read any book of Alice Hoffman’s. You won’t be disappointed.

Author Alice Hoffman

Author Alice Hoffman

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Get Read for the 2012 Columbus Jewish Film Festival


Columbus Jewish Film Festival

If you’re a movie buff, don’t miss the Columbus Jewish Film Festival.  If you’ve never attended this event, you’re missing out on something unmatched in Columbus. It will run from November 4-18. This year two additional days and two films were added to the usual lineup.

Recently, I met with Emily Schuss, Festival Chairperson, and Co-Chairs Linda Katz and Carole Genshaft. (Co-Chair June Frankel was not available.) They talked about the lineup of movies, special events and new programs. The films come from all over the world including: Israel, Germany, Austria, Canada, France and the U.S.

A matinee with two films has been added on Wednesday, November 14. There will be two short subjects, and a movie treat will be included. This would be ideal for seniors or anyone who has their afternoons free.

The film festival doesn’t only bring films to Columbus. After the showing of three films, there will be a Q&A session with either a director, producer, or subject/actor.

Columbus Co-chair Linda Katz said, “Our films are all so wonderful this year, that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have. It’s our opening night feature titled ‘My Best Enemy,’ and it’s filled with suspense, comedy, drama, and more.”

“There will be an elegant, champagne dessert reception afterwards at Columbus Museum of Art,” added Genshaft.

All three women are excited about Doc Sunday. If you’ve attended the film festival before, you know this is a day of nothing but documentaries.

One documentary is called “Silent Sunday.” It focuses on the reporter, Phil Jacobs, who uncovered a provocative story about an Orthodox rabbi. “He is one of the people we’re bringing in for a Q and A,” said Schuss.

Barrel Night will be one of the delicious events tied in with the French film, “The Day I Saw your Heart.” People will first have dinner at Barrel 44 on Main Street, and then go on to see the movie at the Drexel Theater.

Closing night will leave you with a good impression, so you’re sure to come back next year. Two outstanding movies, and an Israeli dinner will be featured.

“David” is about a lonely Muslim boy living in New York, who befriends some Yeshiva students. The director, Joel Fendelman, will answer questions after the movie

The final movie,  “Hava Nagila,” (The Movie) will answer many questions about this famous song.  It will travel all over the world and features some performances of the song.  “This movie is a great way to close on an upbeat note,” said Genshaft.

A reel pass at $110  will get you 12 films, two receptions, and a dinner. General admission is $10;  $8  for a senior, student, or JCC member.

For more detailed information about the movies, events, and celebrations, go to  http://www.cjfilmfest.org.

Come and see Arkadiy Gips Perform in Columbus on Nov 11


Arkadiy Gips, a well-known violinist plays all over the world. Go see him November 11 at the JCC in Columbus, Ohio

Join Arkadiy Gips and friends for an evening of popular music spanning genres of different cultures and countries. “ Once a year I do an annual performance in Columbus, Ohio, which I now consider my home town,” said Gips. He makes sure each concert Is new and different.

The November 11th concert is called “ Encores”. “It will feature just what the name suggests, songs we beg to listen to over and over again, even when the show is over,” said Gips.

Gips, originally from Kiev, Ukraine, became a well-known violinist in Eastern Europe where he played with a variety of orchestras. In the United States, Gips has performed with many noted musicians and entertainers, including Madonna. During the Madonna tour, he played to a collective audience of 3.5 million people.

Last summer Gips performed 12 concerts in Israel. “They were all packed houses. We received standing ovations, and wonderful reviews,” said Gips.

“Encores” is going to be jam-packed with international music including: Klezmer, Israeli, Classical, Jazz, Ladino, Spanish, Italian and American. Gips will perform his own arrangement of a Gershwin tune. “Arkadiy not only plays, but conducts, arranges and composes music,” said Mira Axelrod, chairperson of the upcoming event.

Gip’s musical guests will not disappoint. Lucy Smirnoff, a gifted vocalist, will be accompanied by Tim Dvorkin, a  young, talented pianist.  Zoica Tovar and Andres Estevez, two sensational premier members of Balletmet Columbus will grace the stage with special choreographed dance numbers. The delightful Columbus International Children’s Choir will be singing a Yiddish song,” Chiri Bim, Chiri Bom.”

Gips will honor the late Mikhail Popov by playing several songs from their two CD’s: “Dialogue” and “Yidishe Soul.”

If you’re interested in being one of the sponsors of this concert, contact Mira Axelrod at 614-352-8897.

The concert will be at the JCC Roth/Resler Theatre, 1125 College Avenue, Columbus, Ohio, 43209.  Pre-sale tickets are $25.00, and at the door they will be $30.00.  You can purchase tickets online at http://bit.ly/arkadiyencores

 

What would Jesus think? Skinny dipping in the Sea of Galillee


It seems that last August, members of congress were invited to Israel. They say they had a nice dinner and too much to drink. Twenty congressmen jumped in the Sea of Galilee. The episode was inappropriate because Kevin Yoder, a Republican congressman, decided to dive in without his swim trunks. I guess some other Republicans followed his example.

I found this on another website, so it might not be the real thing. But, you can get the idea! (credit balloon-juice.com)

All  the  petty politicians on both sides of the aisles are acting so shocked. They’ve all done a lot worse than skinny dipping in the Galilee. (I’m just guessing,so don’t quote me on that.)

These governmental representatives are really annoying, and dare I say,
not paying attention to the real issues.

I bet some of our founding fathers, like Benjamin Franklin, would’ve been happy to skinny dip. I think he would find all the politicians—on both sides of the aisle— boring and a big disappointment.

What do you think?

 

The Girls: Women who have been friends for over 66 years!


“The Girls” l-r Top row Ida, Florlyn
Bottom Row: Late Ruth Stern, Ruth Stone

This article originally appeared in The New Standard a Columbus, Ohio, paper. I feel it’s worth revisiting.

The Girls

How many people can say they’ve been friends for sixty-five plus years. Five women in Columbus can say that because that’s how long they’ve been meeting at each others homes. They call themselves “the girls,” although some of them have adult grandchildren and are great-grandmothers.

The girls started in the early 40‘s but nobody is sure of the exact date. Back then, they were young women who had met at school, and Junior Hadassah. Hadassah is the organization that raises money for hospitals in Israel, and is an important part of the Jewish community today.

The original girls were: Florlyn Rinkov Freedman,Ida Wolpert Gordon, Ruth Mathless Stern, Ruth Berliner Stone, and Fanny Shenker Tobias.  Original members who are not longer living are: Miriam Carlstein Goodman, Joan Mathless Hattenback , and Terry Feldman.

The group have been mainstays in one another’s lives, and is like a close family. It’s fun to watch them interact with each other. These women, ranging in age from late 70’s to late 80’s,  light up when they come together. You can see he group dynamics at work, and  can imagine them as young women in Hadassah going to different events together.

We met to discuss their lives together, the Jewish community they knew as young women, and what their friendship has meant to them.The women I spoke to were Florilyn, Ida, Ruth Berliner Stone, and Ruther Mathless Stern.

These women are not typical  little old ladies.” They all  have strong, engaging personalities. Florlyn is the most outspoken, Ida and Ruth Stone have definite opinions, and Ruth Stern is a good listener and only talks when she has something to say. Everyone was stylishly dressed, and still attractive.

It is remarkable that they’ve stayed in contact for so many decades. They’ve lived through many  life cycles together  —young adulthood, marriage, raising children and loss of loved ones. They have been a great support to each other.

The New Standard: How did you all get together?

Ida: We started meeting in about 1945. We were an offshoot of Hadassah. We started meeting in the evening, just to socialize. It was a way of getting out and about. None of us were card players, so we decided just to talk and have a snack together.

Ruth Stone: We really liked each other. We were all single and independent at the time.   Everyone did eventually get married. Some of us moved away and came back. I lived in San Diego for two years, and meeting with the girls was something I really missed.

Florlyn I left Columbus in 1946 to go to the Pentagon to work for the Defense Department.  I came home, and ended my 38 year career in Columbus, and helped raise a younger brother. I was a career gal, and didn’t get married until I was 40. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a rebel. I love meeting with the group.

  Ida:I missed the group when my husband and I were living as snowbirds in Florida.  We lived there for 18 years.  I came back to Columbus for a short while, and now live in Cleveland. My husband and I owned Gordon Jewelers together when we lived in Columbus.

Ruth Stone: We talk to Ida on the phone when we meet.  We’ve been meeting every other Monday or Tuesday for 65 years.

The New Standard: What was the Columbus Jewish Community like when you were growing up?

Florlyn: I imagine there were about 10,000 to 15,000 people.  The Jewish population was all centered in the Southeast and most of us went to South and East High schools. We had a lot more butchers at the time. I remember when my mother bought live chickens. She had to take it to the kosher slaughterer.

All reminiscing:  There was Martins, Mendleman, Briar Center, Bornsteins and Heps. A good deli was Krolls.

Ruth Stone: Our parents kept kosher, and we attended shul on Friday nights.

Florlyn: In my family, we rode on Shabbos. We weren’t allowed to go out with non-Jewish guys in those days. I remember when we went to my uncle’s on Passover, and didn’t come home until it was very late.

The New Standard: What are some of the best times you’ve had together?

Ruth Stone:  We went to Hadassah conventions together. One time we went to Louisville for “Kentucky Derby Day.” We had a terrific time. There were soliders that came over from Fort Knox. We went to a dance with them that night.

Florlyn: It was 1949. I was the only one who had a car. We met other Hadassah people. I remember a regional we went to in Pittsburgh. It was so much fun.

The New Standard:  How have you helped each other through losses?
Ruth Stone: We’re good friends. We maintained our friendship through all these decades. Knowing hou have friends that have been through a lot of the same things is comforting.

Florlyn: It’s kind of a support. We get together every couple of weeks. It’s good to get out and see people who have been through our history.

Ruth Stern:  It’s a good habit.

The New Standard: Is Judaism still as important to you as it was when you were growing up?

All: Yes
Florlyn: It gives me an inner feeling.
Ruth Stone: It’s a comfortable way of life

  Ruth Stern: I enjoy the Sabbath Service

All of them still light Sabbath candles.

The New Standard: All of you are very vibrant women, even today. What do you attribute that to?

Ruth Stone: I am definitely an optimistic person. I don’t want to dwell on bad things.

Ruth Stern: I bowl, keep busy, go to a book club, and don’t watch daytime TV.

Ida: Getting out and trying new things is important. I didn’t know I was good at art until I took an art class,  and now some of my art is being displayed at an art show.

Florlyn: We are a good support system for each other. Good attitude is the most important thing. I exercised and I still want to do it. I know I can overcome obstacles one way or the other. Getting out and meeting people is important, even if it’s the same people! Each day that is behind you can’t be relived. The future has to be better.

*Ruth Stern passed away this year.

To read more of my articles, go to http:// http://www.thenewstandardonline.com. I’ve written in each edition.  Just hit the archive button, and you will find them.

What’s wrong with the Olympic Committee?


Israeli hostages Kehat Shorr (left) and Andre ...

Israeli hostages Kehat Shorr (left) and Andre Spitzer (right) talk to German officials during the hostage crisis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remembering the 1972 Israeli athletes that were murdered 40 years ago

Mark Lavin  18

Eliezer Halfin  24

David Berger 28

Yossef Romano 3l

Andre Spitzer 27

Mose Weinberg 33

Ze-ev Friedmann   28

Amitzur Shapira27

Yossef Gugfreund 40

Yakove Springer 51

Kehott Shorr 53

I remember when the  Israeli athletes were murdered 40 years ago. I was a young woman still living with my parents.

My mother was interested in the Israelis because her doctor’s son, David Berger, was a part of the delegation. He’d made the Israeli team.

The winner of 7 medals in swimming, Mark Spitz, was Jewish. Everyone was afraid they’d get him too.

I also remember when all of them were shot. My mom screamed, “Oh, I thought they were going to let them go!” She was truly heartbroken. None of us could believe it. The irony was that the murderers had picked Germany, the site of the Holocaust.

Although there was a short tribute, the Olympic Committee didn’t stop the games for the rest of the time left. They continued as if nothing happened.

And now they’re not giving them a few seconds of silence?

Maybe they didn’t want to start something. Maybe they were afraid they were going to offend all the Jew hater countries.

It was criminal they didn’t stop the games after they were murdered, and it’s criminal that they won’t give them a few seconds of silence now.

Find out about surviving musicians of the Holocaust: Another Yom Hashoa story


On November 15, 1936, a statue of Felix Mendelssohn, a famous Jewish composer, was destroyed in Leipzig, Germany.This signaled the beginning of discrimination against Jewish musicians in Nazi Germany.

After that, the music of Jewish musicians and composers was no longer heard in concert halls and opera houses. However, the musicians weren’t completely silenced. They were forced to play music in ghettos, concentration camps, and for the Nazis’ special private events.

Imagine being forced to flawlessly play music while your enemies were marching your relatives and friends to the gas chambers. In Auschwitz alone, there were six orchestras.

Theresienstadt―Terezin was a camp in Czechoslovakia, where musicians, including children, were deported. Although they were starving and desolate, they could forget about their misery for seconds at a time ― while singing, playing instruments, performing, and composing music. The Nazis used these camps for propaganda purposes.

Representatives of the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross were fooled when they inspected the camp in 1944. Gardens had been planted, and the barracks renovated. They watched a children’s opera. They didn’t know that many of the residents had been deported to Auschwitz to be killed.

Although the Holocaust ended years ago, unbelievably, there are still a handful of these musicians still alive.These survivors are being documented by a notable Israeli composer, Dr. Nurit Jugend.

She’s composed over thirty works, and orchestras all over the world have played her musical compositions. This includes the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta.

She is a lecturer at Stanford University and all over the world. Not only is she asking the musicians about their lives, but she is reuniting some of them after years of separation. She has also interviewed their children and grandchildren. She wants to document their stories before they are gone.

Recently I got the opportunity to speak with Dr. Nurit Jugend about this project. She was very forthcoming about what she’s learned from the participants, and why it is so important to get this project completed. What follows are some excerpts from our interview:

Q.What motivated a busy composer to make a film about the Holocaust?

A. My initial research about music during the Holocaust led me to the survivors and their stories. I immediately knew that I had to capture them on film before it was too late, and this opened the door to documentary film making.

Q. What did you want to find out when you started this project?

A. I knew that works had been composed during this period of time in the ghettos and the camps. I wondered what kind of music was being composed. How had it sounded? How did people under such circumstances such as sickness and death survive? How did they find it in themselves?

Q. What impressed you most about the survivors that you’ve met?

A. I was impressed with how they found some joy from music during the Holocaust as they were forced to play for the Nazis. I expected these people to reject music because it was forced from them. I was really surprised that none of the people I interviewed lost their love, passion or need for music.

Quite the opposite, they believe it saved their lives. It had an emotional meaning. These people are full of hope, able to look at life and see the beauty and the joy

Q .Can you tell me something about your experiences with the survivors?

A. One of the survivors Alex Tamir, who lives in Jerusalem, did contribute feelings of particular intimacy and deep excitement due, to his unique creativity of the song “Ponar” (shtilar shtilar) when he was 11 years old in ghetto Vilna. …A beautiful, quite difficult and melancholic song which became the hymn and song of hope and spiritual resistance among Jews in the ghettos and the Jewish brigade. It spread from camp to camp and became very well-known, ….I was very moved to learn that the person who wrote this song is still alive and meeting with him in person was one of the most memorable days I’ve spent in my life at his home in Jerusalem.

Q.How have some of the survivor’s used their experience from the Holocaust in a positive way?

A. Chaim plays the accordion, talks about his experiences, and goes to high schools and plays them the music he played during that period of time. Greta played one of the leading roles in an opera at Terezin when she was a child. She talks to children and tells them what it was like to experience the Holocaust as a child. Anita, a cellist, toured Europe, especially in Germany. She told about her experience as a musician in Auschwitz. They used music as a means to educate the world about the Holocaust. I do interview their children and grandchildren. Survivors do talk about music making in the family. I believe that making music in these families is a way to communicate about their experience. Many of the survivors insisted on teaching their children the music they played during the Holocaust.

Q. What do you want to accomplish with this documentary?

A. I want to raise questions. I want to look at the Holocaust through a different perspective. I want to talk about music making and what role that had in the concentration camps and ghettos. I want the film to come from a more uplifting and positive place. For these musicians, music was able to provide physical need and emotional escape. It saved their lives.

The film’s mission is to educate future generations about the Holocaust and strive for more tolerance and acceptance among people worldwide. Their stories have not all been recorded yet. We are running out of time. Soon, they will all be gone. I want to find them, identify them, make sure they’re still capable of telling their stories.

To find out more about this project, look at the website: http://www.theyplayedfortheirlives.com. You can donate money to help this project.

It is a special way to commemorate all the musicians who died during the Holocaust, especially during this month of April, the month of Yom Hashoa, when we remember the Holocaust victims.