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September 11, 2009

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PAGE 20A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 11, 2009 By Dan Pine j. the Jewish weekly of Northern California SAN FRANCISCO--Start- ing this month, admirers of the Judah L. Magnes Museum will be able to see much of the institution's art collections whenever they want. Even on their iPhones. The Berkeley museum's years-tong project to digitize and display much of its vast collection online has reached fruition, meaning 13,000 items--from l~etubahs to paintings to historical docu- ments-will soon be a mouse click away. The Magnes has joined other museums around the world in an effort to digitize and post their collections. "We're in the 21st century," said Magnes acting director and chief curator Alia Eft- mova. "There is an expecta- tion that for researchers, the public and students, access needs to be provided online." "This is tremendously excit- ing, both for the Magnes and for researchers and scholars around the world," added Frances Dinkelspiel, the museum's board president. "Over the last 45 years, the Magnes has created a tremen- dous collection. Much of this stuff has been unknown and unexamined, except for the select scholars who are able to come into the building and examine them." With a grant from the Toole Media Fund, the project began a few years ago by digitizing several hundred objects and records from the museum's North African and Indian collection, including manu- scripts, ceremonial objects and folk art. Later, as more funding was secured, the scope expanded to cover the broad spectrum of Magnes collections, including its modern art and decora- tive art holdings, as well as documents from the Western Jewish History Center. Users can search and re- trieve information on thou- sands of art objects, pieces of Judaica, manuscripts, photographs and the like, spanning the whole of the Jewish diaspora. Employing state-of-the- art software developed in Israel (the same sort used by Yad Vashem and the Is- rael Museum), the Magnes online catalog offers several novel features, according to Francesco Spagnoto, the museum's director of research and collections. The digital programs at the Magnes also receive support from the Hellman Family Foundation and the Bernard Osher Foundation. Not only are many of the 13,000 items illustrated and described in detail, a combination of links, search engines and interfacing with social networking sites (such as Flickr and Twitter) offer~ multiple approaches to the Magnes' treasures. "Because the collection is so diverse--manuscripts, archival materials, objects, art, documents--we needed a way to catalog everything," Efimova said. "We wanted to make sure there was a kind of ease. That was the premise: easy to use and search." Users can preview the site at After the launch, th~ catalog will be linked to the museum's main Web site at http://www. Many of the items in the online archive rarely make it to gallery exhibitions, which should make the online cata- log all the more appealing, not to mention democratic, according to Efimova. "It's a way of releasing con- trol of a collection," she said. "If you're the only one who can go into the vault, you have a certain hierarchy of likes and dislikes, but once you put it out there, you realize people begin to love different images: Their attention is piqued by things different from the curator." The digitization project has spun off into several side projects on the main Magnes Web site, such as narratives about notable Jewish fami- lies, personal stories about objects in the archives and Courtesy of the Judah L. Magnes Museum Archives Children's Synagogue Central Hebrew School, San Fran- cisco, 1928. Flickr slideshows of smaller collections (some of them bequeathed by local fami- lies). All of these help paint portraits of Jewish life in California and beyond. Efimova also sees the digitization project as a form of conservation, because objects don't need to be over-handled, thus protect- ing them if they are fragile or sensitive to light. Of course, that brings up one of the pitfalls of an online museum: The "wow" factor might not be as strong as it might be when coming face- to-face with a piece of art. "An object has an aura, a texture, you will not see online," Efimova conceded. "But digitization is not meant to preclude that experience." Reprinted with permission from j. the Jewish weekly of Northern California, www. By Michael Regenstreif Ottawa Jewish Bulletin Frank London & Lorin Sklamberg Tsuker-zis Tzadik Frank London--who pl~ys trumpet, alto horn, flugel- horn and harmonium--and singer-accordionist Lorin Sklamberg have been main- stays of the Klezmatics, one of the most essential bands of the klezmer revival, since the group's inception more than two decades. London and Sklamberg are both musically active in groups and collaborations beyond the Klezmatics,and this is the third in a series of the pair's collaborations on religious songs they've adapted from various Chas~ sidic traditions. The first, Ni- gunim, focused on wordless melodies, while the second, The Zmiros Project, with keyboardist Rob Schwim- mer, featured Sabbath songs, but somehow suitable, elec- Tsuker-zis adapts songs and tronic effects. prayers associated with spe- In the best folk music tra- cific holidays and festivals dition, these songs combine including Rosh Hashanah,something that seems very Yore Kippur, Sukkot, Pass- over and Chanukah. London and Sklamberg use a remarkably diverse musical palette in these ad- aptations. You can hear the influence of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis on London's playing on their deeply contemplative version of "Our Parent, Sovereign (Ovinu Malkeynu)," from the Rosh Hashanah and Yore Kippur liturgies. ~A joyous Passover song with an im- possibly long title, "Mighty, Blessed, Great, Prominent, Glorious, Ancient, Meri- torious, Righteous, Pure, Unique, Powerful, Learned, King, Enlightened, Ex- alted', Brave, Redeemer, Just, Holy, Merciful, Almighty, Omnipotent is Our God," has a klezmer-meets=ska arrangement with noisy, familiar with something that is somehow wonder- fully weird. Special credit also needs to be given to the superb musicians--guitarist Knox Chandler, Armenian oud virtuoso Ara Dinkjian and Indian percussionist Deep Singh--whojoin London and Sklamberg on this recording. Beyond the Pale Postcards Borealis Postcards is the third CD by Beyond the Pale, the Toronto-based klezmer band led by mandolinist Eric Stein, the artistic director of Ashkenaz, Toronto's bien- nial festival of Yiddish and Jewish culture. In addition to Stein, Be- yond the Pale also features twoviolinists, Bogdan Djukic and Aleksander Gajic, both of whom were established classical musicians in their native Yugoslavia; accordion- ist Milos Popovic, who also began his career in Yugosla- via; clarinetist Martin van de Ven, a former member of the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band; and bassist Bret Higgins. While most of the album is instrumental, Israeli vocal- ist Vira Lozinsky joins them for three songs including "An Old Legend," which combines a traditional Ro- manian tune with new Yid- dish lyrics in a swinging arrangement that features Stein on cimbalom, a type of hammered dulcimer. Whether playing up tempo toe-tappers like "Magura," or slower, contemplative pieces like "Meditation," a Chas- sidic nign, Beyond the Pale's creative arrangements never fail to engage. Half of the tunes were writ- ten by-members of the band and the tunes reflect the vari- ous musical backgrounds of the composers. Stein's "Split Decision" has a throbbing Eastern European, almost classical, groove thatvariously brings each of the various mu- sicians to the fore for riveting solos. "Back to tl~e Beginning" is in an intense piece charac- terized by shifting moods that was written by Gajic during the NATO bombing campaign in Belgrade in 1999. Tim Sparks Little Princess: Tim Sparks Plays Naftule Brandwein Tzadik Naftule Brandwein, who came to America in 1908 and became known as the "King of the Klezmer Clarinet," was, arguably, the greatest of the first generation klezmer musicians in the New World. His 78 RPM recordings, now reissued on CD, have pro- vided inspiration and tunes to countless klezmer revival bands in recent years. This set of 10 Brandwein tunes is the fourth excursion into Jewish music by Tim Sparks, a highly innovative guitarist from Minnesota best known forhis recordings offolk, jazz and blues. Working With bassist Greg Cohen--known for his work with Tom Waits-- and Brazilian percussionist Cym Baptista, Sparks has done asuperbjob ofreimaginingmu- sic composed for the clarinet as finger-style guitar pieces. Owing to the origin of the music, and certainly to the contributions of the percussion- ist, there's an Eastern Europe- meets-South America groove to many of these tunes. These are not traditional klezmer interpretations, but it is a fine album of Jewish music that will have great appeal to lovers of sublime acoustic guitar playing. Ottawa Jewish Bulletin editor Michael Regenstreif has written about music for Sing Out!Magazine, the Montreal Gazette and many other Canadian newspapers. By Hilary Larson New York Jewish Week Beautiful and remote, the eastern Balkans are an endless rural landscape of red-roofed villages tucked into broad, sweeping valleys amid jag- ged mountains and dramatic river gorges. Cities of any size are few and far between, as are tourists, except in the well-trod islands of southern Greece. The Balkans are Europe, absolutely, but they are also a world apart from Rome and Provence. Ancient cultures, born over centuries of empire and conquest and largely isolated from the West until recently, they offer in fascina- tion and exoticism what they eastern Balkans these past weeks, I've been struck by how the relative lack of Western tourism (indeed, of Western influence: foreign- language media is virtually absent in cities like Sofia and Skopje) allows the American visitor access to a Europe of vibrant local traditions and proud regional identity. If you're looking for a slice of Greece that feels timeless and unspoiled, consider the two cities where I spent a recent weekend: Kavala and Xanthi, two lovely northern Greek burgswhose differences make perfect complements, The entire region is best explored by car; gas is expensive, but parking is ridiculously easy. Kavala, in the Greek re- lack in cosmopolitanism., gion of Macedonia about an Traveling across the south- hour east of Thessaloniki, is a sleepy seaport of about 60,000 people. Its pastel buildings tumble down a steep mountain hillside to a natural harbor where fishing boats lazily glide in and out. Settled six centuries before Christ, the Second-biggest city in northern Greece also boasts one of the best-preserved old towns" in the region. Perched on a steep hill over- looking the harbor, crowned byan honest-to-goodness tur- reted castle, Kavala's old town is a labyrinth of cobblestoned alleysand 19th-centurywood- frame Balkan architecture, intermingled with the rem- nants of ancient walls. Figs, pomegranates and olives grow lushly amid quiet balconies and winding stairways. The southernmost promontory features a lighthouse, rocky cliffs and views over the shim- mering Mediterranean to the island of Thassos. Old Town Kavala's single commercial street is lined with candlelit tavernas, fruit markets--and improbably, the Imaret, one of the region's most luxurious hotels. The Imaret of Mohammed Ali Pasha, a sprawling Ottoman- style building from 1817, was once the home of Ali, the founder of the modern Egyptian state; that he was born here in Kavala says a lot about the region's cultural palimpsest. Thessaloniki remains Greece's most Jewish city, and Jews had a significant presence throughout north- ern Greece in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sadly, the Balkan wars of the early 20th century and the Holocaust all but vanquished the smaller communities, and only rem- nants are left. Xanthi's Jewish cemetery, on Xanthis-Diomidias Street, lies in weed-covered neglect. Kavala still has a handful of tourist infrastructure here to accommodate a handful of weekenders, but not enough to draw crowds or high prices-- and that's just the way locals like it. "Legal, I don't know," said a fisherman in struggling English, when I asked ifI could Jews; its municipal building park in the harbor-front lot. on the central square is known "But no problem. You no need as the"Jewishvilla,"andaJew- ish cemetery lies just outside town, with most graves dating from before the 1920s. But modern Kavala is a relaxed and multiethnic town, greeting visitors from America with warmth and English-language hospitality. The harbor-front area offers a smattering of tourist-friendly cafes and tavernas wit.h gener- ally delicious food, and a pub- lic beach lies just a 20-minute stroll west. There is enough to worry." When shops shut down in the midday heat and a hush descends over the city, jump in. the car and drive the winding coastal road along Macedo- nia's arid mountains stopping whenever you spot a particu- larly fetching turquoise cove or stretch of white sand. There are endless beaches in northern Greece, most. of them completely empty. Timeless on page 23A !