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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 25, 2014 From Bible heroines to Bernie Madoff: Alicia Jo Rabins strikes new chord Jason Falchook Alicia Jo Rabins, a musician, poet and Torah scholar, says she "wanted to have a Jewish response to Bernie Madoff." By Rebecca Spence BERKELEY, Calif. (JTA)-- Plucking a violin on an empty stage, an animated scene of Manhattan skyscrapers scroll- ing behind her pregnant body, the musician, poet and Torah scholarAliciaJo Rabins begins to sing what sounds like a mystical incantation of sorts. "Bring me your empty jar, I will fill it," she intones. "Where it comes from, I can't tell you, no one knows." Inspired by the biblical story of the prophet Elisha, Rabins, 37, is musing in the broadest possible terms about the crimes of Bernard Madoff, whose decades-long Ponzi scheme and the result- ing fallout--particularly in the Jewish community--led to the creation of her first experimental rock opera, "A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff." Rabins' one-woman show, which had its California pre- miere last month at the Berke- ley Jewish Music Festival and will be released next week as a digital download, parses the unholy ground of Madoff's crimes through the eyes of seven disparate characters with both direct and indirect ties to the $50 billion scam. Over the course of two years Rabins--who with a workspace grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council was working out of an abandoned Wall Street of- rice when news of the scandal broke--conducted inter- views with a wide-ranging cast of characters, from a Jewish-Buddhist monk who offered philosophical reflec- tions to a Wall Street risk analyst who saw the writing on the wall. "I wanted to have a Jewish response to Bernie Madoff," Rabins said over coffee in Port- land, Ore., where she moved last year from Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband and 2-year-old daughter, Sylvia. "I grew interested in the ancient rituals 6f excommunication, and so I wanted to consider whether a modern, secular excommunication might be warranted. I mean, if not Madoff, then who?" A classically trained vio- linist who spent eight years touring with the Brooklyn- based klezmer punk band Golem, Rabins was able to explore that question in depth while developing her Madoff rock opera with a grant from the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Art- ists. More recently, she was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Covenant Foundation to fund the creation of an arts-based educational cur- riculum focusing on women in Torah. The Covenant Foundation grant--one of the most pres- tigious in the field of Jewish education--came as a direct outgrowth of Rabins' work with Girls in Trouble, the biblically inspired art-rock song cycle that first put her on the Jewish cultural map. With two CDs under her belt, Rabins is preparing to record a third album in Portland this summer with the help of yet another recent grant--this one from Portland's Regional Arts & Culture Council. Drawing its inspiration from stories of Bible women-- including Tamar, Miriam and Hannah--Girls in Trouble began as Rabins' master's thesis at the Conservative movement's Jewish Theo- logical Seminary in NewYork. After two years of Torah study in Jerusalem (and a regular Tuesday night gig at a bar near Ben Yehuda Street), Rabins eventually returned to New York City to complete her graduate degree in Jewish women's studies. Knowing her musical rep- ertoire, which had expanded to include bluegrass music during her undergraduate years at Barnard College, Rabins' thesis adviser sug- gested that she turn her research on women and music in midrash, or Torah commentary, into songs. "What I was really inter- ested in was the internal, emotional experience of the women in the stories," Rabins said of her inaugural work with Girls in Trouble. "In the darkest times, there was a power that came through, and I wanted to focus on that." Rabins' symphonic take on the complicated lives of biblical women struck a chord, and it wasn't long before she was recording her first album with JDub Records, the now- defunct independent Jewish music label. Bassist Aaron Hartman, who Rabins mar- ried three months before the release of her debut album, joined the band after he heard her rhapsodizing about the project at a Brooklyn bar. Since then, the pair has toured the United States and Europe together, playing everywhere from The Smell in Los Angeles to the Great Synagogue in Stockholm. "Alicia is able to combine a deep rigor and familiarity with Jewish text witha cutting- edge artistic sensibility," said Daniel Schifrin, the former director of public programs for San Francisco's Contem- porary Jewish Museum, who commissioned Rabins to compose a piece on the bibli- cal handmaid Hagar."Ancient midrash and post-punk violin should not work together, but she makes it happen." Perhaps what is most strik- ing about the multitalented songstress, who grew up in Baltimore and spent her high school years sneaking out to punk shows, is her sheer range. A critically acclaimed poet who has published work in Ploughshares and the American Poetry Review, Rabins also is a sought-after b'nai mitzvah tutor for unaf- filiated Jewish families, and a U.S. cultural ambassador. In 2009, she traveled with the U.S. State Department to five countries in Central America to play fiddle music and teach American folk traditions. Her second mission, in 2011, took her to Kuwait. When she's not touring with Girls in Trouble, editing the manuscript for her first book of poems or baking gin- ger snaps with her daughter in north Portland, Rabins can be found writing a weekly Torah commentary for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com. "It sounds like I'm doing a million different things," Rabins said. "But for me they're all expressions of the same impulse to find mean- ingand beauty in the workof creation." Tragedy and fancy dinners at new Anne Frank theater in Amsterdam By Cnaan Liphshiz AMSTERDAM (JTA)--To millions worldwide, she is a symbol of heroism and a haunting reminder of the dangers of discrimination. But for one Dutch enter- tainment firm, Anne Frank is a brand name powerful enough to merit millions of dollars of investment. Last week, the Amsterdam- based production company Imagine Nation announced plans to open a huge theater in Amsterdam that will feature only one show: a new play, "ANNE," about the life of the young Jewish diarist. The first production based on the full Frank family ar- chive, the show will expose audiences to lesser-known elements of the Anne Frank story, such as the family's ordeals in German concentra- tion camps. Butthe commercial nature of the venture--the theater will include fancy interiors and a restaurant, among other amenities--also is exposing the Swiss organization that houses the archive, the Anne Frank Fonds, to criticism from its rival Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, a re- nowned museum that receives more than 1 million visitors annually. "Anne Frank should not be a nice evening out," Anne Frank House director Ronald Leopold told JTA. "We are not involved with this whole thing, and I'm quite glad about it when I see all of this." Leopold is referring to what he calls "the commercial set- ting in which this production is steeped." / "I can't tfelp but frown when I see arrangements with a glass of wine, a box of snacks, dinner with a nice view and then a night out," he said, adding, "If it were [up to] me, then it would never have come to that." Yves Kugelmann, a board member of the Anne Frank Fonds, celebrates the produc- tion for bringing Anne Frank's story to new audiences. Any money the Swiss group earns through royalties from ticket sales, he said, would be used for charity and education. "It's like saying that selling her diary is commercializa- tion," Kugeimann said. "It's not. Publishing books costs money and any proceeds [our] foundation makes from book sales go to charity and education." Anne Frank was 16 when she, her sister and her parents were arrested after more than two years of hiding in a se- cret annex on Prinsengracht 263, now home to the Anne Frank House, which is also known as the Anne Frank Museum. Only Anne's father, Otto Frank, survived the Ho- locaust, and he edited Anne's diaries into a book, which was later adapted into a play and film. Otto Frank also established the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel as the sole owner of the copy- rights to the diary and tens of thousands of other docu- ments. Frank, who also sat for anumber of years on the board of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, stipulated that any royalties earned by the Swiss organization should go to charity and education. The two organizations have long had a contentious relationship. Though Leopold says the Anne Frank House would never associate with commercial initiatives, itwas accused two decades ago by Anne Frank Fonds of com- mercializing Anne after bal- loons and T-shirts were sold at traveling exhibitions of the Dutch group's artifacts. The Anne Frank House said local organizers were responsible for the sales. The fight was the first of several clashes between the organizations, which once shared exhibits and collabo- rated extensively. Last year, a Dutch court ordered the Am- sterdam museum to return a cache of 25,000 documents lentby the Swiss organization. Both sides accused each other of blocking a more amicable resolution to the conflict. For decades, the Anne Frank House has thrived as the leading authority in its field in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Leopold says he believes the new theater, housed in a three-story build- ing less than two miles from the museum, will actually drive more traffic to the Anne Frank House, which he says offers a more authentic portal into the Frank story. "You go to see 'ANNE' in Cast and production crew built as a venue for the play a place which had had noth- ing to do with Anne Frank," Leopold said. "It's backdrop, a show with actors, and it is a radically different experience than historical immersion in the place where it happened, where the diary was." Kugelmann says he doesn't see the theater as competition for the museum. The decision to locate the theater in Am- sterdam was made because the city is so central to the story. Leon de Winter, the best- selling Dutch Jewish novel- ist who wrote the script for "ANNE" with his wife, Jessica Durlacher, calls the conflicts between the two groups an unwelcome distraction. Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA examine the still unfinished Amsterdam theater that is being ANNE" on March 12, 2014. "I didn't and still don't care about this conflict," de Win- ter said. "I only cared about materials which I have been privileged to access, butwhich filled me with uncontrollable anger at what has been done to a family of Jews and awriter who, at the age of 15, already had the talent, experience and clarity of a full-fledged author." The play is being produced by Imagine Nation founders Kees Abrahams and Robin de Levita, aTonyAward-winning Broadway producer who worked on hits such as "Chi- cago" and "Les Miserables." Audiences will arrive at the 1,100-seat theater by special ferry from Amsterdam's Cen- tral Station. Tickets will cost between $50 and $100. "It's important that people feel at home, that they have a good time," Abrahams told journalists at a sneak preview last week of the still-unfin- ished theater. "So we made a large, lounge-like restaurant with 150 seats." Abrahams sings the praises of the caterer, Dennis Borrel, whom he describes as "cra- zily creative," and vows that his theater will have enough bathrooms that spectators won't have to "line up like cattle" to relieve themselves. "This theater has 16 toilet stalls for women--three times the required amount," Abra- hams said."I think it's crucial."