Celebrating a Medical Landmark

By Masha Leon, With Reporting by Karen Leon

Published October 07, 2005, issue of October 07, 2005.

“We are seeing a struggle between those who value science wherever it leads… and those who truly would like to turn the clock back,” Senator Hillary Clinton said. Clinton was the keynote speaker at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine 50th Anniversary Gala, held September 18 at The Waldorf-Astoria. “I’m worried that there are pressures at work in our government that may undermine the mission that the Einstein College has fulfilled…. Albert Einstein stands for free inquiry as a person; and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine stands for it as an institution.” Clinton, expressing her concern about “the rejection of science and research if it interfered with ideology or other goals and hopes,” said, “It is estimated that 50% of our gross domestic product since World War II is due to investments in science and research.”

Touting the college’s milestone was Yeshiva University President Richard Joel, who beamed as he announced the birth of his first grandson. Joel said that the child “will live a long and healthy life, thanks to Albert Einstein [College’s] research”; also in attendance were Ira Millstein, chairperson of the college’s board of overseers, and chairperson emeritus Burton Resnick. The college’s Bronx campus is named after Resnick’s parents, Jack and Pearl Resnick.

The evening’s tumler, Robert Klein, led off with an operatic tribute to his colonoscopy, which he described as a Jules Verne-like odyssey. Klein kept the doctor-heavy assemblage at The Waldorf-Astoria in “stitches” with such chucklers as “My gastroenterologist knows me inside out.” The 715 black-tie guests, including Einstein faculty and deans, roared at his Florida material, e.g., “I sent two perfectly healthy 65-year-old parents to South Florida, and 30 years later — they are dead! What’s wrong with the water?”

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“Cantor [Alberto] Mizrahi and myself will be the only Jews onstage,” Michael Dorf, founder and producer of the New York Jewish Music & Heritage Festival, joshed at the festival’s Dave Brubeck night. The event was held September 14 at the Rose Theater in New York’s Time Warner Center. Along with quartet members Bobby Militello (sax, flute), Michael Moore (bass) and Randy Jones (drums), the legendary 85-years-young pianist performed a richly textured version of Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather.”

The evening’s highlight was the premiere of Brubeck’s powerful cantata, “The Commandments,” performed a cappella by the 90-member Providence Singers under the baton of Julian Wachner. The work was presented in association with the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music. The evening’s second conscience tweaker, “The Gates of Justice,” was a cantata combining psalms with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. According to Brubeck: “‘Gates’ concentrates on the historic and spiritual parallels of Jews and American blacks…. Jews and American blacks know better than any other people the consequences of hate and alienation.”

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Following the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre’s joyous September 21 performance of “Di Yam Gazlonim” — Al Grand’s exciting Yiddish translation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” — Grand confided: “No author or librettist was ever better served than in Wednesday’s spellbinding performance. I am supremely grateful to [conductor] Zalmen [Mlotek] and his singers for extracting more joy from what I wrote than I ever knew was there.”

Not even a bogus fire alarm could dampen the spirits of the 92nd Street Y crowd in what will be remembered as one of the highlights of this year’s Heritage Festival. In “Gazlonim,” the music score is intact, and Grand’s Yiddish adaptation in no way diminishes G&S’s delicious tale of a lad mistakenly apprenticed to pirates instead of boat pilots. A finger-licking Yiddish feast, the adaptation is a model for how cleverly English can be Yiddishized. Grand ingeniously transforms “When Frederic Was a Little Lad” into “Mit Yorn Tzurik (“Years Ago”); “Poor Wandering One” becomes “Umgliklekher” (“Unhappy One”), and “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” emerges as “Ikh bin der Groyser General.”

Kudos to “Gazlonim” stars Robert Abelson, Henry Carrey, Mary Feinsinger, Jacob Feldman, Dan Rous, golden-voiced Catherine Zeta-Jones-look-alike Nell Snaidas and the supporting cast. Special bravos to the chorus (The New Yiddish Chorale) for its joy-exuding performance. And much gratitude to guest narrator Mal Z. Lawrence, who provided normative English translation for the Yiddish-impaired. (Three days earlier, Lawrence, together with fellow comedians Freddie Roman and Dick Capri, had the audience at Queensborough Community College’s concert hall rolling in the aisles in a 15th reunion of “Catskills on Broadway.”)

So affected by “Gazlonim” was first-time Yiddish-theatergoer, Risa Pulver of Great Neck, N.Y., that she wrote a sizable check to the Folksbiene on the spot. Pulver handed it to Grand, who immediately passed it on to Mlotek. Attention, “Gazlonim” producer Moishe Rosenfeld: Get them another gig!

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Several years ago I took comedian David Brenner to task in this column after he told a TV host: “Jews are afraid of hammers….” At Rockefeller Plaza last week, I spotted Edgar Bronfman Jr. (chairman and CEO, Warner Music Group) dressed in a T-shirt with “Make a Difference Today” logo and wearing a tool apron. He was helping build house frames for Hurricane Katrina victims under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity. This was not a publicity stunt, a Habitat rep told us. Unless you put in the work, you’re not allowed on the site.



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