Guarding The Secrets
Zein Isa hated Jews, blacks and the "dishonor" his daughter
ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Disney Artist Brings
JENNIFER FINER STAFF WRITER
t was Easter Sunday at the
White House and Walt Disney
recording artist Craig Taub-
man was a guest.
From the White House lawn,
he appeared on the nationally tele-
vised "Today Show" singing one of
his new releases. He chose "Every
Little Bit," a song about — al-
though it doesn't mention the
word — tzedakah.
"Here I was at the White House
on Easter Sunday, singing what
is essentially a Jewish song," said
on the children's charts.
In the world of Jewish music,
the recording artist has nine al-
bums to his credit. He describes
the work as adult and text-ori-
ented. Many of the songs come
from the Bible and are interpre-
tations based on his own life ex-
periences. When his uncle died,
he wrote a song about mourning.
Mr. Taubman's recent focus has
been on his secular recordings, the
most profitable aspect of his work.
However, he does not want to
overlook his Jewish roots.
"I sell a couple thousand copies
of Rock 'n Toontown a week," he
said. "I would be lucky if I sold that
many of My Jewish Discovery in
a year. But Judaism is who and
what I am. Perhaps My Jewish
Discovery is so fulfilling because
it marries so much of what I am."
Mr. Taubman was raised in a
Conservative family. He graduat-
ed from the University of Judaism
in Los Angeles, a branch of the
Jewish Theological Seminary, and
spent two years at the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem.
Songs on his new release in-
clude a Chanukah rap and the
song about tzedakah. In a piece
called "Big Trip," he sings about
going to Israel.
Mr. Taubman said his songs
don't preach to children and are
not condescending. He bends over
backward to teach children about
Judaism in a funny way.
Next month, Mr. Taubman
plans to do something else for chil-
dren. When he participates in a
week-long, 525-mile AIDS aware-
ness bike ride from San Francis-
co to Los Angeles, children will be
able to track his progress on the
Internet. In the meantime, he
needs donations so he can raise
$2,200 for AIDS research to par-
ticipate in the ride.
Mr. Taubman's upcoming JCC
performance is sponsored by The
Jewish News, Blue Cross/Blue
Shield of Michigan and Genera-
tions Together, made possible by
the Max M. Fisher Jewish Com-
munity Foundation. Generations
Together links generations from
young and old through a variety
of programs and services offered
by Jewish agencies. Other spon-
sors are Radio AAHS - 1310
WDOZ and Fresh Air Society.
"Music speaks louder than
words," Mr. Taubman said. "A
song, for me, is worth a thousand cc
words. It can be a powerful medi- C
um if you can understand and re-
late to it." ❑
ina Isa was an all-Ameri- Isa family members, most of Ms. Harris has offered to testi-
can girl who liked fuchsia- whom stood behind Zein. Tina fy on her behalf at a retrial.
colored lipstick, school and had dishonored the family, and
(Zein Isa, meanwhile, is in
the rock group Bon Jovi.
for that she had to be punished, poor health, from diabetes. Po-
Zein Isa was a native of Beitin they said.
lice believe he'll die of natural
in the West Bank. He liked tra-
Ms. Harris said she enjoyed causes in prison.)
dition and women, and he hat- her time with Tina's sisters and
Ms. Harris said she worked for
ed Jews. Among the men he aunts, where conversation often four years, at times obsessive-
most admired was terrorist Abu focused on make-up and birth ly, on her book. She recalled re-
turning home after a party,
Like most fathers, Zein Isa ex-
"These are not shallow peo- sitting down to her computer at
pected his daughter Tina to re- ple," she said. "I'm not saying I'd 1 a.m., "dressed in my black
spect his values.
let them babysit my daughter dress and pearls."
Unlike most fathers, he mur- (though I don't have children),
The focus of her work was a
dered her when she did not.
but they weren't monsters."
young woman named Palestina
In the new book Guarding the
And while "we weren't sitting
Secrets, reporter Ellen Harris around discussing the New York who spent the first years of her
life in Brazil, Puerto Rico and the
tells the terrible story of Zein Isa, Review of Books," some of the West Bank before her father
who on Nov. 6, 1989, stabbed his
brought the family to St. Louis.
16-year-old daughter six times
She was 11 years old, and she
in the chest. She died in the liv-
spoke four languages.
ing room of their St. Louis, Mo.,
Her family had a convenience
store that was open from 7 a.m.
"Die! Die quickly! Die quick-
to 7 p.m. Tina went to school in
ly!" Mr. Isa screamed as he killed
the day and sometimes worked
/– his daughter.
at the shop, the Alliance Market,
His wife, Maria, told Tina,
in the evenings.
"Shut up!" even as her daughter
Tina played the saxophone,
begged, "Mama, please help me."
was a great cook and loved
Tina's "crime," says Ms. Har-
American holidays. Her friends
ris, who was in Detroit last week,
admired her energy and her
math and language skills. She
First, she was too American.
was athletic and had a good
Tina wanted to date a young
Craig Taubman: On his way to Detroit.
sense of humor about herself.
man of her own choosing (the fact
Tina and her parents argued Mr. Taubman, of Craig 'N Co. "It
that he was black further infu-
Ellen Harris: Make-up and murder.
for months before her death. was kind of ironic."
riated her parents, who made no
They thought she was becoming
The recording artist from Cali-
secret of their racism). She want-
too independent. She told her fornia first released spiritual
ed to go to college. She wanted a
friends her father was close with recordings.
He entered the secular world of
Second, Tina had come to
Tina ran away once, irrevoca- children's music a few years ago,
know a great deal about her fa-
bly shaming her father's name. when he began working with Dis-
ther's association with the Abu
Zein Isa could not control ney.
Nidal organization, and she had
his daughter, family members
"In the four years Fve been with
little sympathy for the cause.
Disney, I've done next to nothing
Ms. Harris, who works at women very much wanted to im-
Tina began passing notes to with the Jewish community," Mr.
KMOV-TV in St. Louis, became prove their lives.
friends, to be given to the St. Taubman said.
interested in the case after
"One told me she wanted to go Louis police in case of her death.
Then, the Jewish Community
speaking with Capt. Harry Heg- to college, so I suggested she get They implicated her mother and
Center Association commissioned
ger of the St. Louis Police De- her GED then her applications father.
him to produce a collection of orig-
partment. Capt. Hegger could to college, and 'I'll help you fill
Tina returned home around
not stop thinking about Tina, out the forms,"' Ms. Harris said. midnight Nov. 29 after her first inal Jewish children's songs. Re-
"and when someone who has The two met up again several night at a new job. In a govern- leased in February, the album is
been in the business for 22 years weeks ago, but the forms will ment recording that later moved called My Jewish Discovery. It's
gets that affected by a murder, never be filled out. "Her husband jurors to tears, she begged her Mr. Taubman's first Jewish re-
you know it's something unfor- wouldn't let her go (to college). father to spare her life as he lease specifically for children and
She would become too indepen- stabbed her with a 6-inch boning parents.
"I was asked to do this record-
As she researched her book, dent."
ing and I feel Fve touched on some-
Ms. Harris spoke with Tina's
Ms. Harris also spent time
In court, Zein Isa claimed self- thing," he said. "It allowed me to
friends and boyfriend, the police, with Tina's mother, who like her defense.
integrate two important aspects
and government officials who husband was convicted and sen-
One of the most troubling as-
had been recording Mr. Isa's tenced to death for the murder pects of the case was Tina's last of my life, Judaism and children."
Mr. Taubman will perform at
phone conversations as part of of their daughter.
minutes of life, Ms. Harris said. the Maple-Drake Jewish Com-
their investigation into his work
Maria Isa was born to a poor, Not only did Zein stab his daugh-
with Abu Nidal. By chance (the uneducated family in Brazil and ter, he put his bare foot over her munity Center on May 7 at 3:30
p.m. There is a charge for the con-
phone had been left off the hook), married her husband (who al- mouth to muffle her screams.
those tapes included the entire ready had a wife back in Beitin)
Yet he continued to assert that
Mr. Taubman has released
murder of Tina Isa and later against her parents' wishes. he loved Tina, Ms. Harris said.
\/7) were used to prosecute her par- Maria was a docile woman whom "He loved her as long as she be- three albums with Disney, in-
Tickets are on sale at both
cluding Rock 'n Toontown, cur-
Zein often beat.
haved as he wanted her to be- rently listed among the best-sellers JCC branches. For additional in-
She also met frequently with
Citing Maria's background
formation, call (810) 661-7649.
In court, Zein Isa