GRAMMY-AWARD winning violinists Miri Ben-Ari (far left) and Itzhak Perlman take part in the America Israel Cultural Foundation’s 75th anniversary concert in New York. .
(photo credit: (AICF/CHRIS LEE))
NEW YORK – The America Israel Cultural Foundation marked its 75th anniversary in New York last Sunday with a charming recital hosted by violinist Itzhak Perlman at the Lincoln Center that featured several of the AICF’s most recent scholarship winners.
The Foundation has propelled many Israeli artists on to successful careers, including Grammy-award winning violinists Perlman and Miri Ben-Ari. Ben-Ari was given the Aviv Award and former AICF executive director Ralph Goodman was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Goodman, who turned 100 years old this year, oversaw the first time Itzhak Perlman won an AICF scholarship, in 1956.
Current AICF executive director David Homan, speaking to The Jerusalem Post
after the concert, said that with everything that has happened in Israel lately, people “think culture isn’t relevant, but the opposite is true.”
“More countries today are embracing Israel culturally today than ever before,” Homan said, adding this was something positive that Israel needs to build on.
Perlman, for his part, jokingly thanked the foundation for his “59 years of scholarships,” beginning when he was young. “This organization is older than the State of Israel,” he remarked, but has been so successful because it “focuses on children and their dreams.”
“You have given Israel thousands of new artists that we have then given to the world,” he said.
In a talk before the concert with his wife Toby and Homan, Perlman said he always felt that music and culture were strong indicators of what’s happening between countries. He recounted a story from his time in the Israeli Philharmonic, when it was announced that they would be traveling to Russia for a series of concerts.
“I was at the airport, at the desk checking in, when it was announced the trip was canceled,” Perlman said, although he didn’t remember exactly what diplomatic incident had sparked the reversal. “One or two years later we finally went and performed, but I always felt like culture was a barometer.”
Perlman also shared stories of meeting Golda Meir – who insisted that it was his duty as an Israeli to perform in Germany – and Moshe Sharett, who gave all the AICF scholarship recipients the advice to “change their names to their Israeli equivalents before they became famous.”
“I never changed my name,” Perlman said.
“It probably would have been Ishpninim.
Can you imagine some one saying, ‘Hey you ever heard the Ishpninim version of the Beethoven concerto!’” The recital itself featured a variety of acts, from classical and jazz music to ballet and modern dance. Most of the performers were under the age of 20, and despite some slight hiccups, nervousness or uneven performances, the concert went off well. Haggai Cohen-Milo (upright bass) and his band opened with some jazz melodies that were heavily infused with Middle Eastern sensibilities.
Erez Ben-Zion and Nicole Assaad were delightful dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani brought tears to the audience’s eyes with her closing rendition of the folk song “Lu Yehi.”