ross jazz 248.
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Stanley Ross, founder of Israel's first real Dixieland jazz band, has performed his swan song at least five times and, although he's nearing 79, still seems unable to hang up his trumpet permanently.
"Every time we say we're giving our last concert, something else turns up and we agree to one more," admits the cheery Scotsman, whose baby smooth skin and upright bearing seem to have no connection to his biological age.
Ross and his piano-teacher wife, Irene, made aliya in 1982 and have lived in Netanya for most of the time they've been here. Their four children, 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren all live here, and they are conscious of how lucky they are that this is so. Life has not always been easy, but the happy sound of New Orleans jazz has never been far away, compensating for some of the hiccups along the way.
The best preparation for aliya in 1982 was having tried it out for a year in 1965 when they were sent straight to Kiryat Gat.
"It was a bad time in Israel, there was mass unemployment and we had no friends there. It was full of Moroccan immigrants with whom we had nothing in common," recalls Ross. "The children were fine and learned Hebrew there, but Irene and I were unhappy. I didn't like my job in the dye works of Polgat, which was basically manual labor, whereas in Scotland I'd been in sales for a big lighting company. We came back to the UK after a year and stayed another 16 years before trying again."
Knowing the pitfalls, their second attempt at aliya succeeded.
ARRIVAL, SETTLING IN AND LANGUAGE
With the children grown up and all here, the country "vastly improved" and the Jewish Agency better organized, they arrived at an absorption center in Jerusalem with the aim of learning Hebrew. Irene succeeded and began teaching piano very early on. Stanley still hasn't really managed to acquire more than minimal Hebrew.
"I made the terrible mistake of going to work in a big hotel in Jerusalem, at the reception desk. I never got to speak any Hebrew," he says.
LIFE SINCE ALIYA
Ross continued to work in a hotel, this time managing a shop, but when his son-in-law, a lawyer, suggested he work as a freelance courier for different lawyers, he jumped at the chance.
"It was very interesting work. I had to travel all over the country going to different law courts and delivering documents, taking files and getting things stamped and certified. Red tape? Yes, reams of it, but I got on with all the clerks as they wanted to practice their English and they all liked to chat to me about football and the like."
Much of his spare time was devoted to his band, which began life in 1983 as the Sharon Valley Stompers. The personnel have changed over the years, but one constant has been Israeli-born trombonist Amnon Ben-Artzi, whom Stanley met on the set of the movie Sahara in which they both had parts as extras. Most other players have been immigrants, specifically from Anglo countries, although today his chief clarinetist is Jacques Sany, who is French.
After a few years in which the band became progressively better known, the name was changed to The Stompers.
"It had a lot to do with the fact that Sharon Valley, when written in Hebrew, comes out looking like Sharon and Ali," explains Stan with a smile.
They've done concerts in the square in Netanya, played in community centers and synagogues and performed many times at the British and US embassies on national days.
For 10 years Ross also volunteered as a driver for the Civil Guard.
"I was too old for the army when I came, but I wanted to contribute and felt I could help in that way," he says.
He's also been volunteering for years with Attad, a Netanya organization of Anglos who visit old people in retirement homes and entertain them with singing, dancing and playing. He sees no irony in the fact that he is visiting old people who are probably younger than he is.
BEST THING ABOUT ISRAEL
"There are lots of good things but perhaps I like best the idea of living among other Jews. You don't have this fear of people castigating you because you're a Jew."
ADVICE TO NEW IMMIGRANTS
"Have patience. It takes a while to get used to everything and to enjoy what is here. But once you do it's wonderful to feel you are in the Land of Israel and walking in the paths of our forebears."