Alan Dershowitz’s Musical Endeavors

By Marissa Brostoff

Published January 30, 2008, issue of February 01, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Alan Dershowitz may have finally found a vocation that allows him to make more noise than he does as a celebrity lawyer, professor at Harvard Law School and prolific author. His new calling? Opera.

“This is my current retirement project,” Dershowitz told The Shmooze. “It’s the only one without a deadline except the one God and nature has imposed on my longevity.”

Dershowitz’s opera-in-the-making tells the story of Gershon Sirota, a world-famous cantor who was nicknamed “the Jewish Caruso” after the great tenor Enrico Caruso. Sirota’s star rose in Odessa and then, in the early 20th century, in Warsaw. The cantor died in the Warsaw Ghetto, a tragedy that Dershowitz plans to dramatize.

“In the first act, I establish who he is, his great influence,” Dershowitz said. “At the end of the first act, the Nazis occupy Warsaw. In the second act, he learns that he has an opportunity to go to America with his family. The crux of the opera is his decision whether or not to leave Warsaw. He decides to remain, and is murdered along with his whole family.”

Dershowitz is not without musical experience — he was a choirboy growing up in Brooklyn’s Boro Park at Temple Beth El, and at one point he dreamed of becoming a cantor — but he readily admits the limitations of his prowess. He is writing the libretto for the opera and picking out melodies on the piano, and down the road he plans to get help from more seasoned musicians.

“But even Gershwin needed an arranger,” he said, adding that his musical idol’s original last name was Gershowitz, and that g’s and d’s occasionally get mixed up.

Dershowitz mentioned that he envisions Samuel Helfgott, the cantorial superstar of Park East Synagogue in Brooklyn, in the role of Sirota.
“I’m a Helfgott groupie,” he said.

Asked how he felt about the offer, Helfgott, who had not heard about Dershowitz’s project, responded with great enthusiasm. Helfgott has spoken to the Metropolitan Opera more than once about the possibility of a crossover performance, but the problem of Sabbath observance has thus far nipped such plans in the bud.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.