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April 22, 1983 - Image 61

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-04-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, April 22, 1983 61

TH E DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

.

From Hester Street to Hollywood' r

By JOSEPH COHEN

Tulane University

NEW ORLEANS — Of all
the enduring cultural in-
stitutions Jew& have
created, not the least impor-
tant is that 20th Century
phenomenon mirroring the
American-Jewish psyche,
the Jewish-American thea-
ter. The play has always
been the thing!
The vitality and richness
of expression that marked
the Yiddish theater' in the
early days, however af-
fected by acculturation and
assimilation, has consis-
tently had a significant im-
pact on the lives of Jews and
non-Jews alike, right up to
the present when names
like Woody Allen, Jules
Feiffer, Barbra Streisand
and Mel Brooks are house-
hold words.
It is no accident that Al
Jolson, Fannie Brice, Eddie
Cantor and Jack Benny are
respected as saints, while
George Burns plays "God."
The most recent
chronicling of the unique
history of Jewish theater
in America is an engross-
ing collection of essays,
entitled "From Hester
Street to Hollywood (In-
diana University Press),
edited by Sarah Blacher
Cohen.
The 18 essays are liter-
ally packed with fresh in-
sights, precise analyses,
biographical data, il-
luminating commentary
and tidy summations. Most
of the essays follow a
chronological format, trac-
ing their subjects' origins
and careers, role by role,
play by play or film by film,
elucidating the specifically
Jewish aspects of their work
(except in the case of Lillian
Hellman where Jewishness
is absent).
The Yiddishkeit abounds.
Good definitions of it are
intersperstd with descrip-
tions of its intermingling
forcefulness. Closely re-
lated are the discussions of
the on-stage effectiveness of
bi-lingualism and the re-
sulting sensitivity Jewish
performers developed to the
patterns and nuances of
speech which increased
their flexibility and range.
Early on, stand-up comics
perfected their techniques
for assuming either "pred-
ator" or "prey" stances, re-
flecting both the aggres-
siveness and the vulnerabil-
ity required for interplay
with their audiences. For
immigrant Jewish children,
learning about life in the
streets, the "predator-prey"
context was ideal for their
future encounters in front of
the public.
Though the essayists
who contributed to the
book include a number of
the best Jewish scholars
currently writing on the
literary and dramatic
arts, there is precious lit-
tle academicism, and the
vitality, enthusiasm,
color and sparkle of the
theater is reflected in
their well-researched ar-
ticles and their verbal
facility. The book's only
distraction is its minis-

cule print, obviously a
casualty of ever-rising
production costs, a seri-
ously inhibiting factor
for non-profit institu-
tional presses.
But you get a lot for your
money when you can read
Sarah Blacher Cohen on the
Yiddish origins of the thea-
ter, and the folk drama of
Isaac Bashevis Singer, An-
thony Lewis on the Jewish
stand-up comics, Jules
Chametsky on Elmer Rice,
Bonnie Lyons on Lillian
Hellman, Daniel Walden on
Neil Simon, Stephen Whit-
field on Jules Feiffer, Keith
Opdahl on Saul Bellow,
Mark Schechner on Woody
Allen, and Sanford Pinsker
on Mel Brooks.
Other essayists deal with
Fannie Brice and Sophie
Tucker, Clifford Odets, Ar-
thur Miller, Paddy
Chayefsky, Jewish theater
music, American Holocaust
drama and the Jewish
presence in the film indus-
try.
Just about every major
Jewish actor, playwright
and comic is mentioned, and
though some are not the
single subject of a given ar-
ticle, they are thoughtfully
discussed. A case in point is
Lenny Bruce, whose ghost
haunts these pages.
The fare is so varied
that it is nearly impossi-
ble to survey it here
adequately. Minor com-
parisons and contrasts
emerge from combining
facts found many pages
away from one another.
For example, Mel Brooks'
depiction of Jewish In-
dians in "Blazing Sad-
dles" seemed original but
he was preceded by Fan-
nie Brice who did a
Jewish Indian routine as
early as 1910.
Barbra Streisand who has
always insisted on "not
changing your noses or your
Moses," makes an effective
contrast to Milton Berle
who had his nose "bobbed"
and subsequently joked
about "cutting offhis nose to
spite his race-," adding that
he was "a thing of beauty
and a goy forever." But, of
course, he wasn't.
The "goy forever" is Lil-
lian Hellman. She has al-
ways struck me as a Jewish
anti-Semite, and I have
never been able to be objec-
tive about her or her plays.
For all her vaunted opposi-
tion to Facism and her
widely publicized righteous
indignation over the
McCarthy era witch-hunts,
she maintained a strict
aloofness from those one
might have regarded as her
natural allies.
As Bonnie Lyons con-
firms in "Lillian Hellman:
The First Jewish Nun on
Prytania Street," that
aloofness was marked not
only by a lack of compassion
for suffering humanity but
by contempt as well. Her
anti-Fascist plays written
during World War II ig-
nored the Jews and the
Holocaust. One finds noth-
ing Jewish in her themes or
characterizations.
The New Orleans-born

daughter of German-
Jewish parents, she re-
jected the little Judaism
they proffered, creating
in its place a moralisti-
cally rigid, pseudo-
philosophical stance
which singularly em-
phasized unflinching in-
dividual courage in con-
fronting the violence in
life.
Lyons sees her in this re-
gard as "Hemingwayes-
que." I am reminded that
R.P. Blackmur once de-
scribed Hemingway as "a
muscle without value."
That description, it seems to
me, more aptly fits Hellman
than Hemingway who, his
macho image notwithstand-
ing, was capable of display-
ing compassion and tender-
ness.
Obviously Hellman has
made a contribution to
American drama. That
much granted, it is still a
pity that with her remarka-
ble talent, she might have
unlocked the door to true
greatness if she had admit-
ted and embraced her hu-
manity and her heritage. In
her failing to do so, we all
lost something, but she, the
most.

Church Thanked
for Aid After Fire

Rabbi Stanley M. Rosen-
baum, president of the Rab-
binical Commission of the
Jewish Community Coun-
cil, has sent a letter of
thanks to the First Church
of Christ Scientist for its ef-
forts on behalf of Cong.
Beth Abraham Hillel Moses
after the synagogue was de-
stroyed in a January fire.
Writing on behalf of the
commission, Rabbi Rosen-
baum wrote: "One of the
bright spots in that terrible
situation was the way in
which you and your congre-
gation opened your doors to
that congregation in its
hour of need.
"Your generosity to your
Jewish neighbors is the
finest example of religious
living, of living the values of
true brotherhood and
neighborliness . ."

Taubman, Ford
Fisher Sell
Calif. Land

Al Taubman has con-
firmed on behalf of himself,
Max Fisher and Henry Ford
II the sale of their interest
in a 120 square mile tract of
land in Orange County,
Calif., the Irvine Ranch, for
more than $1-billion. _
The buyer was Donald
Bren, who already owned 34
percent of the development
and now owns more than 80
percent. Two other original
investors — Milton Petrie,
chairman of Petrie Stores
Inc., which owns a majority
interest in Winkelman's
Stores Inc. of Michigan, and
Herbert Allen, Sr., of New
York — also sold their
interest to Bren.

He that does not bring up
his son to some honest cal-
ling and employment,
brings him up to be a thief.

Y OU th News

ADAT SHALOM Mig-
dal Tzion will play vol-
leyball at 6 p.m, Sunday at
Akiva Hebrew nay School.
Shoresh will have an oneg
Shabat 8 p.m. April 29 in
the home of Yariv Houvras,
7255 Camelot, West Bloom-
field. For directions, call
Houvras, 661-0173.
Shoresh and Migdal
Tzion will participate in the
Israel Independence Day
parade May 1. For details,
call Hadas Reiter, 855-
9865. Migdal Tzion will
sponsor a hot dog booth at
the celebration. Volunteers
should contact Reiter.
Shoresh will have elec-
tions 2 p.m. May 15 at the
synagogue. Migdal Tzion
will have elections 2:30
p.m. at the synagogue.
Shoresh elections are
open to youth in grades
five-eight. A movie will
follow. Migdal Tzion elec-
tions are open to persons
in grades eight-12. Eighth
graders will not be
allowed to vote.
Shabat services are held
at 10 a.m. Saturdays for all
youth.
** *
BETH ABRAHAM
HILLEL MOSES youth
age 9 and up will build a
float for the Israel Indepen-
dence Day parade. Youth
interested in helping to
build the float should meet
at noon Sunday at Ealy
Elementary School. A party
will follow the completion of
the float. For information,
call adviser Aron Weber-
man, 851-6880; or coor-
dinator Mike Sabes, 355-
0891.
The Atid group (age 5-8)
will play miniature golf at
"Putt and Game" Sunday,
meeting. at Ealy School at
noon. Children should bring
a dairy lunch. For informa-
tion, call adviser Julie Mar-
golis, 547-6948; or Sabes.
Junior Congregation
services have been tempo-
rarily suspended owing to
the synagogue remodeling.
However; youth are re-
quested to attend services in
the sanctuary. Discount
credit will for the Cedar
Point trip will be given to
students who attend serv-
ices.
** *
BETH ACHIM Lahav
United Synagogue Youth
will participate in the
city-wide oneg Shabat 8
p.m. today at Cong. Beth
Shalom.
Bnai Mazal will go to
Plum Hollow Lanes to "bowl

* * *

Roeper Student
Wins Math Prize

Steven Newman, son of
Mr. and Mrs. Charles
Newman of Ann Arbor, has
won the 1983 Michigan
Mathematics Prize Compe-
tition for high school stu-
dents by tying for first
place.
He was awarded a $1,200
scholarship and designated
a Burroughs Corp. Scholar.
Newman, 15, is a junior at
Roeper City and Country
School.

for quarters" Sunday, meet-
ing at the synagogue at 1:30
p.m. There is a charge. For
reservations, call Bonnie
Whiteman, 557-7582.
Kochavim will have an
Israel Independence Day
preppy party Sunday, meet-
ing at 1:30 p.m. at the
synagogue. There is a
charge. For reservations,
call Linda Ankerman, 546-
5797.
Beth Achim youth
groups will march in the
Israel Independence Day
parade May 1. For car-
pool information, call
Youth Director Marc An-
kerman, 352-8679.
Shabat youth services are
held at 10 a.m. Saturdays.
* * *
SHALOM
BETH
Kadima will go five-pin
bowling noon Sunday, leav-
ing from the synagogue.
Members should bring a
dairy bag lunch. Chips and
beverage will be provided.
There is a charge and
members should bring a
copy of their birth certifi-
cate to go to Windsor. Driv-
ers are needed. For reserva-
tions, call Alex Greenbaum,
399-7194; or Ron Leff; 552-
8165.
** *
BNAI DAVID Ruach
,grades three-five) will hold
a Shabat luncheon Satur-
day following services.
A float-building party
will take place 1 p.m. Sun-
day at the synagogue, to
build a float for the Israel
Independence Day parade.
Shabat youth services are
held 10 a.m. every Saturday
for youth age 3-13.
Talit and Tefilin will
meet 9 a.m. Sunday for serv-
ices, followed by breakfast
and a social activity.
For information, call the
youth hotline, 557-8325.

* * *

BNAI MOSHE Junior
Congregation will hold
Shabat services 10 a.m.
April 30 at the Jewish Fed-
eration Apts. Youth in
grades one-six are invited.
For details, call Mark Eich-
ner, 358-0065, after 6 p.m.
Bnai Moshe youth will
participate in the March of
Dimes walk-a-thon Sunday,
meeting at 8:15 a.m. at
Building H at Oakland
Community College, Or-
chard Ridge campus in
Farmington Hills. For de-
tails, call Adam Gottlieb,
352-2351, after 6 p.m.; or
Walter Rosenblum, 352-
2307, after 6 p.m.
The youth also will par-
ticipate in the Israel Inde-
pendence Day parade May 1
at the main Jewish Com-
munity Center. For details,
call Rosenblum.
Regular Shabat services
for youth are held at 10 a.m.
Saturdays.

,

* * *

TEMPLE ISRAEL
TEMPLE YOUTH will
hold an election meeting 6
p.m. Monday in the temple.
Applications for the
spring retreat, scheduled
for April 29-May 1 at Camp
Maas, are due at the meet-
ing.

The group will have its
installation 6:30 p.m. May
21 at the temple.
* * *
YOUNG ISRAEL OF
GREENFIELD will have a
minyan for boys and girls
age 5-9 at 10 a.m. Saturday.
At 5:45 p.m. Saturday,
the 613 Club for boys age
8-12 will meet at the
synagogue to study the 613
Mitzvot (Sefer Hachinuch) .
and Pirke Avot.
Kvutzat Shabat for chil-
dren in nursery school
through second grade will
meet at 5:55 p.m. Saturday
at the synagogue.

BBYO

Activities

Yachad BBG, Windsor,
will hold its annual fashion
show 7 p.m. Sunday at the
Windsor Jewish Commu-
nity Centre. All Jewish
youth are invited. There is a
charge.
The next meeting of the
BBYO board of directors
will be 8 p.m. Monday at the
BBYO office. The meeting
will be the culmination of
the annual board fund rais-
ing, and Ways and Means
Chairman, Henry Gutter,.
will give a report.
An orientation meeting
for all AZA and BBG mem-
bers going to the Israel
Summer Institute will be
held 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
at the United Hebrew
Schools auditorium. Par-
ents of participants are in-
vited. The program will fea-
ture BBYO members who
attended the ISI trip last
summer as well as touring
Israeli high school students
who will present a view of
Israel today.
BBYO will participate
in the Israel Indepen-
dence Day Celebration
noon May 1 at the main
Jewish Community Cen-
ter. BBYO will have a
float and chapter mem-
bers are encouraged to
march.
Applications for the Elec-
tions Training Conclave,
which will take place May
13-15 at Camp Maas, have
been sent to every regis-
tered member of AZA and
BBG. Additional applica-
tions are available from
chapter presidents. Dead-
line for application is
Thursday. _

Summer Classes

WALTHAM, Mass. (JTA)
— Registration is now open
for the varied selection of
courses in Near Eastern and
Judaic studies highlighting
the two 1983 summer ses-
sions at Brandeis Univer-
sity, May 3I-July 1, and
July 5-Aug. 5.

Correction

Dr. Moshe Davis, who
edited "Guide to America
Holy Land Studies, Vol. 2"
which was reviewed in the
April 1 Jewish News, is the
founding head of Hebrew
University's Institute of
Contemporary Jewry.

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