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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 4, 2014 David Letterman's ick on his 'dream job,' Jewish upbringing By Robert Gluck JNS .org A Jewish upbringing taught Paul Shaffer, David Letter- man's musical director and sidekick for 32 years, the value of giving back. After the Sept. 11, 2001 at- tacks, Shaffer served as musi- cal director for "The Concert for New York City," and in 2012 he accompanied Adam Sandier in "12-12-12; The Concert for Sandy Relief," a fundraiser for people affected by Hurricane Sandy. He was also the national spokesman for Epilepsy Canada. "My mother taught by example," Shaffer said in an interview with "She was a great supporter of Israel. She was a great supporter of local charities and gave her time for the Hadassah (the women's Zionist organiza- tion), as well as the ladies auxiliary at the hospital. Growing up I watched this, so it just came natural to me. Getting involved in charities and fundraisers myself be- came a great opportunity for me to use my musical talents to do some good." Daniel Fetter Paul Shaffer In April, Letterman an- nounced his intent to retire in 2015 around the time when his contract with CBS expires next August, meaning the end of the line for the "Late Show with David Letterman." What's next for Shaffer? "I'm going to try to find something which is as much fun as this has been, but it is not going to be easy because it really has been the dream job for me," he told "Get- ting to play every day, have my own band, do comedy, go up against the quickest, smart- est guy in the business--it's not going to be easy, but I'm still going to play the p!ano. I'll be looking for more ways to do that." Shaffer's parents, Shirley and Bernard, introduced him to the piano when :he was growing up in Fort William (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, Canada. He went on to work as the musical director for the Toronto production of "Godspell" in 1972. Two years later he played piano for "The Magic Show" on Broadway and became a member of the house band on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) from 1975-1980. "My parents said, 'That kid is going to play the piano and that's the way it's going to be,'" said Shaffer. "Playing the piano was obligatory, but I enjoyed it and still do. There was always music playing in my house. My mother with her Broadway show tunes as well as classical tunes. My dad played the great jazz singers of his era. I had music always ringing in my ears." From his role as musical director for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd whenever they recorded or performed as "The Blues Brothers," to his appearances with Adam Sandler, Shaffer has fond memories of the SNL comics. "It was a time when they were making this stuff up and inventing it for the first time and figuring out what kind of show SNL was going to be," Shaffer said. "It was going to represent the youth culture. Itwas going to break down the barriers. I got to be there and watch this happen and develop. I spoke with [SNL creator] Lorne Michaels a few years ago and I said in watching some of the musi- cal parodies, 'These guys are better now than we were.' Lorne said, 'You can only be first once.' By that maybe he meant that the first cast laid down the pattern and showed how this was to be done." Shaffer has played and recorded with many famed musicians, including Ray Charles, B.B. King, Donald Fagen, Diana Ross, Carl Perkins, Robert Plant, Billy Joel, and Bob Dylan. His own album, "Coast to Coast," was nominated for a Grammy in 1989. Soon he will broadcast his 2,500th segment of Paul Shaffer's "Day in Rock," a radio show that illustrates the daily history of rock and roll. The daily vignette draws on Shaffer's vast musical knowledge and his ability to offer expert commentary on the history of rock. "It's what I love," he said. "I have a huge compendium of fun facts and comic rock trivia. Everything we talk about is accurate but we present it with a comic twist. Sort of like what John Stewart does with the news [on "The Daily Show"], we do with rock trivia." In June 2006, Shaffer re- ceived a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. Still, whatever his other personal achievements are, he will forever be con- nected to David Letterman. Asked to describe Letter- man's legacy, he called him "the guy that all the other talk show hosts looked to, to figure out how to behave in times of stress." "Right after the 9/11 attack comes to mind," Shaffer said. "He stayed off the air initially. He went back on then every- one else went back on. He said, 'It's time to start going back to our normal lives and laughing again.' Everyone else said, 'Yes it is.' That's his legacy. An intelligent guy on the spot. A real intelligent man behind the desk who really knew how to run a show like that. Interviewing not only the craziest clown or comedic performer up to the leader of the free world and doing a great job no matter who it was." Reflecting on his Jewish upbringing, the 64-year- old Shaffer said, "Judaism is certainly a blueprint to bring up your kids, and if you follow that blueprint, you can be assured that they are going to be great, that they will carry on the tradition of their parents." "My parents were the great- est," he said. "They brought me up that way. Not all that observant, but there was only one synagogue in town which was Orthodox, so my education was Orthodox. It gives me something to fall back on spiritually, that kind of background." Like Je ,sl ;fore them, Iraq's Christians may face ex "nct'Lon after jihadist invasion Doug via Wikimedia Commons The abandoned Saint Elijah "s Monastery--the oldest Christian monastery in lraq--located in the Nineveh Province, just south of the city of Mosul. By Sean Savage the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, told Like the Jewish people, the Christians of Iraq have a long and storied history that can be traced back to the very foundations of human civilization. Most Iraqi Christians belong to an ethnic group known as the Assyrians. The Assyrian people con- sider themselves to be direct descendants of the numer- ous ancient Mesopotamian civilizations such as the Su- merians, Akkadians, Babylo- nians, and Assyrians. "The Assyrians, also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs are the children of Sumerians, the original people of Iraq," Taimoorazy said. Mentioned numerous times in the bible from Genesis and onward, the peoples of Mesopotamia were key in formation of Judeo-Christian history. It is the land from which the biblical patriarch Abraham hailed. And later on, the Assyrians played a notable role in Jewish history, as they conquered the north- ern Kingdom of Israel and expelled the Jewish people to Mesopotamia. That led to the creation of Iraq's Jewish community, which continued until the 20th century. Additionally, the Mesopotamians' successors, the Babylonians, were the ones who later destroyed the First Temple in 587 BCE. Christianity was first brought to modern-day Iraq by Jesus's apostle Thomas during the 1st century CE, making it one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Christians formed the majority of the coun- try's population until the 14th century. The region's Christians have subdivided since then into a number of churches, with the Chal- dean Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East forming the largest denominations. Today, the Assyrians are based in northern Iraq's For most Westerners, Iraq is a foreboding and dangerous place that is filled with extremists and daily violence. Yet as little as 75 years ago Iraq was a vibrant country that was home to many different ethnic and re- ligious minorities, including large Jewish and Christian populations. But th e latest round of violence spearheaded by the jihadist terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is driving through the heart of Iraq to the capital of Baghdad and inflicting medieval-style Is- lamic justice on anyone in its path, might be the last gasp of Iraq's ancient Christian community, which faces extinction like Iraq's Jewish community before it. "Iraq used to be a beautiful mosaic made of many differ- ent faiths, including Juda- ism," Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of Nineveh plains, where they have fought to preserve the customs, culture, and languages of the area's past, despite facing numerous waves of persecution, mass killings, and expulsions since the invasion of Islam in the 7th century CE. "For hundreds of years Christians have been mar- ginalized in the Islam- dominated part of the world. After the fall of Saddam the situation has been devastat- ing for Christian Assyrians and other minorities such as Mandeans and Yezidies," Nuri Kino--a Swedish- Assyrian Christian who is an independent investiga- tive reporter, filmmaker, author, and Middle East and human rights analyst--told "More than 60 churches have been attacked and bombed. Rapes, kidnap- pings, robberies and execu- tions [are all prevalent]," Kino added. Kino, who has been in constant communication with friends on the ground in Iraq, said that these at- tacks are all a part of daily life for Assyrians "who don't have their own militia or any neighboring country to back them up." According to Taimoorazy, who has also been in regular contact with a number of people in Iraq, the situa- tion has deteriorated rapidly since the jihadist invasion. Taimoorazy said that "water and electricity have been cut, there is a shortage of cooking gas, clean water is running out and there is a fear of an outbreak of illness where the refugees have fled." "This is a complete disas- ter for the wellbeing of our nation," she added. Before 2003, it was esti- mated that around 130,000 Christians lived in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, but only about 10,000 re- mained before the recent ISIS invasion a week ago. Now, residents say around 2,000 Christians remain in the city. Many have gone to the surrounding countryside or to Kurdistan. Addition- ally, many are seeking to flee the country altogether. "Mosul is also very im- portant for Christians, the prophet Jonah is buried there and also Abraham is supposed to be born in that part of Iraq," Kino said, "I have spoken to more than 20 Assyrian refugees [in recent days]. They are all saying pretty much the same thing: ISIS is a radical Sunni Islamic group who preaches and demands Sharia laws. That means that Christians have to pay a certain tax for protection, convert, or die," she said. The latest attacks are nothing new for Assyrian Christians and other minori- ties. They have faced nearly a century of continuous assault on their way of life. "We lost 75 percent of our nation during the Arme- nian, Assyrian, and Greek genocide from 1914 through 1918," Taimoorazy said. This has accelerated over the last decade, where nearly two-thirds of Iraq's 1.5 mil- lion Christians have fled the country since 2003. As the jihadist invasion continues, Iraq's Christian leaders fear that this may very well be the end of Chris- tianity in Iraq. "After more than 2,000 years, during which we have withstood obstacles and persecutions, Iraq is today almost emptied of its Christian presence," Chal- dean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad said in an interview with the interna- tional Catholic charity group Aid to the Church in Need. "We fear a civil war. If the various different op- posing internal parties do not succeed in finding an agreement, then we must ect the worst. Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians," added Syroub. The modern persecu- tion and expulsion of Iraq's Christian and other minori- ties draws many parallels to the waves of attacks on and eventual expulsion of Iraq's Jewish community during the mid-20th century, when nearly 135,000 Jews were forced to leave from 1948 onwards. Overall, nearly 900,000 Jews were expelled from their homes across the Middle East, many settling in Israel, Europe, and North America. Similar to Iraq's Jews, who were targeted for their success and accused of sup- porting Israel, Christians in Iraq are also being targeted for their relative success and supposed ties to the West, especially the United States. "The history of Jews and Christians in the Muslim dominated part of the world goes hand in hand. Mas- sacres and atrocities to the members of the two religions have been going on for centuries," Kino told JNS. org. "It is very sad that the colorful and very cultivated Jewish community of Iraq vanished." For Iraqi Christians--as well as those in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Middle East--their ancient communities may soon also vanish, as many flee for safety in Europe and North America. "At the current rate, with the mass exodus which is be- ing witnessed by the world, the number of Christians left in the Middle East will be slim to none," Taimoorazy said.