Archive for May, 2013

How Do You Spell ‘Knaidel’?

May 31, 2013

This piece was first published on the Forward Thinking blog at the Forward.

img_0605Had Jack Lebewohl of the legendary 2nd Ave Deli been competing yesterday in the final round of 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee, he would have lost to the winner, 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali. The Jewish food maven would have misspelled the winning word: ‘knaidel’.

“The thing is, we spell it k-n-e-i-d-e-l,” the deli man said in reference to the Jewish dumpling and Yiddish word for matzo ball, that was the winning word. He’s not sure how the judges could have been sure that Mahankali spelled the word correctly, when “there’s no Webster’s Dictionary for the spelling of Yiddish words.” (Though there is the widely accepted YIVO style.)

‘Knaidel’ or ‘kneidel’, Lebewohl says it’s all good. He likened the difference in spellings to the differences in Yiddish pronunciations between Galicianers and Litvaks. “It’s also like how Polish Jews like their gefilte fish sweet, and the Hungarians like it with more pepper,” he said.

For Lebewohl, the elevation of the modest Jewish dumpling to the status of winning national spelling bee word essentially signifies that Yiddish is truly entering the vernacular. “Non-Jews in New York use Yiddish words all the time,” he said as he recalled how Al D’Amato unfortunately called Charles Schumer a “putzhead” during the 1998 New York senatorial race.

Click here to read more and watch a video on how to make a ‘knaidel’.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Gold Rush Synagogue Went From Bust to Boom

May 31, 2013

This piece was first published on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.

Photo 17 - Interior, vertical cracking visible in upper right cornerIt’s all because he looked up one day during services and noticed a crack in the ceiling of Congregation Emanu-El that Major General (ret.) Ed Fitch, an engineer with the Canadian Forces, ended up spearheading the 150th anniversary celebrations for the Victoria, British Columbia synagogue. Emanu-El is Canada’s oldest synagogue building still standing and still in use as a synagogue, and Fitch intends to ensure that it stands for another century and a half.

“For me, it’s all about the building,” Fitch told The Arty Semite about the rare Romanesque Revival building, considered one of the three most significant buildings in British Columbia. It was designed by Wright & Sanders, architects who went on to build many large and prestigious San Francisco buildings, most of which were destroyed in the city’s 1906 earthquake.

In addition to fundraising for the repairs and restoration required because of the shifting of the building’s roof supports over time, Fitch and other members of Emanu-El have been hard at work preparing for an all-day, high-profile celebration marking the congregation’s sesquicentennial on June 2.

Congregants and other locals will dress up in period costume to parade through town to the synagogue’s location at the corner of Pandora and Blanshard, where there will be a reenactment of the laying of the building’s cornerstone.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

New Director Marching Into CJM on a Mission

May 30, 2013

This profile was first published in JWeekly.

Lori Starr stands in front of a wall display for the current exhibit “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg.” photo/gary sexton

Lori Starr stands in front of a wall display for the current exhibit “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg.” photo/gary sexton

At her first photo shoot as the new executive director of the Contem-porary Jewish Museum, Lori Starr made sure at least one picture was taken of her holding open the door to the museum.

If she could, Starr would stand there all day, every day, welcoming visitors.

“It’s not just about the number of people who come through the door,” she said in a recent interview in downtown San Francisco. “It’s about the museum as a second home, as a place of salience in people’s lives. More than anything, a museum is a social enterprise.”

If her schedule in the weeks leading up to her June 10 start date — packed with meetings with staff, community leaders and representatives of other local cultural institutions —indicates how busy she’ll be, it’s impossible that Starr will be able to greet everyone who comes through the door.

While making the museum’s 125,000 yearly visitors (especially families with children, a notably high 20 percent of that total) feel welcome is toward the top of her agenda, the new director will also focus on other relationships. Outside connections are already important to the CJM, and Starr intends to increase and strengthen them.

“I have a track record of launching natural, synergetic partnerships among institutions,” she noted. “Partnerships lift everybody up.”

A longtime museum executive, notably in Toronto and Los Angeles, Starr, 59, was announced as the new executive director of the CJM on Feb. 9. In less than two weeks, she will officially assume the post, taking over for interim director Denise Childs, who stepped in following the 2011 departure of longtime director and CEO Connie Wolf.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.