“There isn’t an after party because I know pretty much everyone here,” composer David Amram announced at the end of his 80th birthday celebration at Symphony Space on November 11. “I figured that with 500 of you, plus your dates, plus the 60-piece orchestra, the rest of the performers and our families, we’d need Madison Square Garden. And it was booked.” He was exaggerating, but not much: The hall was packed with fans and well-wishers, and the concert program listed more musicians than could comfortably fit backstage at any one time — they were told to arrive in shifts.
Alana Newhouse, the Forward’s Arts & Culture editor, is touring the country, speaking about her new book, “A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life From the Pages of the Forward.”
Last week, I posted the story of how the Forverts reunited Israeli writer Nava Semel’s family. What I didn’t know then — but do now, thanks to our archivist extraordinaire, Chana Pollack — is that Semel is the sister of folk-rock star Shlomo Artzi. Chana also passed on this great video of Artzi singing in Yiddish with a bunch of Hasidim:
From the mailbag: I just received a note from Israeli author and journalist Nava Semel. Ms. Semel was writing to alert us to the publication of her new book, “Israisland,” but she included a story that she rightly surmised might interest me.
I received a lovely note today from Dov Burt Levy, a columnist for the Jewish Journal North of Boston, who passed along the review he wrote of “A Living Lens.” Readers should, of course, peruse the whole piece, but there’s a lovely tidbit at the end that I can’t help but highlighting:
From the mailbag: “Dear Ms. Newhouse: I recently received a phone call from a family friend that he had received a copy of A Living Lens as a gift,” wrote Anne Feferman of South Bend, Ind. “To his astonishment, he found a picture of my father, Henry Feferman, on page 234. In the photo, he is standing with Father Cavanaugh, who was President of the University of Notre Dame, and presenting him with artwork by Steinholtz. I was totally taken aback, only to be further shocked when I saw his photo was directly across from a picture of Elizabeth Taylor — whom he adored.”
Sure enough, as I was signing books, I saw the aunt walking toward the table. She was holding the photograph like a treasure and, after introducing herself as Barbara Helfant, presented it to me with ebullient pride. I looked down at the picture and smiled.
I had the privilege to be introduced by Herman Taube, a longtime contributor to the Forverts. In his short speech, Taube — a prolific poet — told the audience that his relationship with the paper began on April 18, 1947, four days before its fabled 50th anniversary (see above picture).
At the event in Cherry Hill, I ran into Vicki Zell, who had a story about the subjects of one of my favorite photographs in the book: a very serious-looking couple named the Sutins, pictured “celebrating” their wedding anniversary. As it turns out, they are the ancestors of — stay with me — Vicki’s father’s significant other, Carol Meiselman of Boynton Beach, Fla. “These are my great-grandparents,” said Meiselman, in a recent interview with the Forward’s Aaron Greenblatt. Meiselman explained that they came from a shtetl called Smilovitchi, in present-day Lithuania, and immigrated to America around 1906, settling in Albany with their seven children. This family photo hung on Meiselman’s walls for years, without her ever realizing it had been published in our newspaper.