Grapevine: Great Synagogue celebrations

  • WHOOPS! WE goofed by being a week ahead of ourselves. Apologies to those readers who braved the heat last Shabbat to walk to the Great Synagogue for its 26th anniversary celebrations featuring Yitzhak Meir Helfgot, who always plays to a full house at the Great Synagogue, and the Yuval Choir conducted by Dr. Mordehai Sobol. In fact, the anniversary celebration is this Shabbat. Helfgot and the Yuval choir will be joining cantor Chaim Adler and the synagogue choir conducted by Eli Jaffe. Synagogue officials advise congregants to come early because once all the seats are taken, no one else will be admitted. The ban on overcrowding is in the interest of public safety.
  • YOU CAN take someone out of the Foreign Ministry, but you can't take the Foreign Ministry out of the person. Yael Banayan, who for many years prior to her retirement was the director of the Protocol Department at the Foreign Ministry, was among the thousands of people who attended the opening this week of the annual Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Festival in the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem. It was almost natural for her and her husband to make a beeline for the section reserved for exhibitors from abroad. Banayan's successor and present incumbent Nitza Raz also headed directly to the international section, even though she wasn't on duty. Some habits die hard. Inasmuch as visitors to the fair were gathered around the numerous and varied displays, the majority were doing what Israelis love to do most - feeding their faces. The extremely well-organized food court, offering take-away choices of Chinese, Japanese, South American, Italian, French, Middle Eastern and American fare, was packed, in addition to which visitors were eating while walking or viewing. Even Pepe Allalu, who holds the city's cultural portfolio, was seen sitting in the coffee shop overlooking the international section and the David Gerstein exhibition.
  • VETERAN BROADCASTER Elihu Ben-Onn last Sunday celebrated the 10th anniversary of his popular weekly post-midnight radio show The Israel Connection and received congratulatory messages from around the world via e-mail, SMS and Facebook. That's the way it goes in an-ever advancing electronic era. Ben-Onn, broadcasting out of Jerusalem on Reshet Bet, interviews Hebrew-speaking listeners from the most far-flung corners of the world. Some are Israeli expatriates; some are Israeli academics teaching abroad or Israeli students studying abroad; others may be people in a variety of professions who studied in Israel; or they may be diplomats who learned Hebrew while serving in Israel.
  • SO FAR, the only conductor who has been sufficiently bold and brash to conduct a public performance of works by Richard Wagner in Israel has been Daniel Barenboim. Defying the Israeli taboo on Wagner, who was not only an outspoken anti-Semite but Hitler's favorite composer, Barenboim dared to conduct the Berlin Staatskapelle in part of Tristan and Isolde at the 2001 Israel Festival in Jerusalem, arousing both ire and controversy, even though CDs of Wagner's works are available in Israeli music stores. Leon Botstein, founder and co-artistic director of the Bard Festival and music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, is an expert on Wagner as he is on many other composers. Anyone who has heard any of his pre-concert lectures knows the delight of his extensive knowledge and gift for oratory. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Botstein is examining Wagner at the upcoming Bard Music Festival next week in "programs that offer rare glimpses of Wagner's early works, excerpts from the 13 operas that occupied him most of his life, and generous amounts of music by his contemporaries. Pre-concert talks and panel discussions will explore subjects including Wagner's artistic roots, his musical innovations, his controversial racial and nationalistic agendas, his uneasy private relationships, his colorful lifestyle and the ingeniously devised self-marketing techniques that control his legacy to this day." The question now remains whether the day will come when the JSO will play Wagner under Botstein's baton.