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October 23, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 23, 2009 PAGE 21A TEL AVIV--Contestants on TV shows like "Top Chef" and "Hell's Kitchen" know that their meat-cutting skills will be scrutinized by a panel of unforgiving judges. Now. new archaeological evidence is getting the same scrutiny b~ scientists at TelAviv University and the University of Arizona. Their research is providing new clues about how. where and when our communal habits of butchering meat developed, and they're chang- ing the way anthropologists. zoologists and archaeologists think about our evolutionary development, economics and social behaviors through the millennia. Presented in the "Proceed- rags of the National Acad- emy of Science." new finds unearthed at Qesem Cave in Israel suggest that during the late Lower Paleolithic period (between 400.000 and 200.000 years ago), people hunted and shared meat differently than they did in later times. Instead ofa prey's carcass being prepared by just one or two persons resulting in clear and repeated cutting marks--the forefathers of the modern butcher cut marks on ancient animal bones sug- gestsomething else. "The cut marks we are find- ing are both more abundant and more randomly oriented than those observed in later times, such as the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods," says professor Avi Gopher of TAU's Department of Archae- ology. "What this could mean is that either one person from the clan butchered the group's meat in a few episodes over time, or multiple persons hacked away at it in tandem." he interprets. This finding provides clues as to social or- ganization and structures in these early groups of hunters and gatherers, he adds. Among human hunters in the past 200.000 years, from southern Africa to upstate New York or sub-arctic Cana- da. "there are distinctive pat- terns of how people hunt. who owns the products of the hunt. how carcasses are butchered and shared." Gopher says. "The rules of sharing are one of the basic organizing principles of hunter-gatherer cultures. From 200,000 years ago to the present day, the patterns of meat-sharing and butchering run in a long clear line. But in the Qesem Cave. something different was happening. There was a distinct shift about 200,000 years ago, andarchaeologists and anthropologists may have to reinterpret hunting and meat-sharing rituals." Meat-sharing practices. Gopher says, can tell present- day archaeologists about who was in a camp, how people dealt with'danger and how societies were organized. "The basic logic of butcher- ing large animals has not changed for a long time. Everyone knows how to deal with the cuts of me~t, and we see cut marks on bones that are very distinctive and similar, matching even those of modern butchers. It's the more random slash marks on the bones in Qesem that suggests something new." The Qesem Cave finds demonstrate that man was at the top of the food chain dur- ing this period, but that they shared the' meat differently than their later cousins. The Tel Aviv University excavators and professor Mary Stiner of the University of Arizona (Tuscon) hypothesize that the Qesem Cave people hunted cooperatively. After the hunt, they carried the highest-quality body parts of their prey back to the cave. where the meat was cut using stone-blade tools and then cooked on the fire. "We believe this reflects a different way of butchering and sharing. More than one person was doing the job, and i fits our expectations of a less formal structure of cooperation," says Gopher. "The major point here is that around 200.000 years ago or before, there was a change in behavior. What does it mean? Time and further excavations may tell.'" Qesem, which means "magic" in Hebrew. was dis- covered seven miles east of Tel Aviv about nine years ago during highway construc- tion. It is being excavated on behalf of TAU's Department of Archaeology by Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai in collabora- tion with an international group of experts. The cave contains the remains of animal bones dating back to Professor Avi Gopher of Tel Aviv University says that bone fragments from the Qesem Cave in Israel indicate that the irregular cut marks found on their surface suggest a com- munal approach to food preparation. 400,000 years ago. Most of the remains are from fallow deer, others from wild ancestors of horse, cattle, pig and even some tortoise. The data that this dig provides has been invaluable: Until now there was considerable specula- tion as to whether or not people from the late Lower Paleolithic era were able to hunt at all, or whether they were reduced to scavenging, the researchers say. By Gabe Levenson New York Jewish Week This new American gov- ernment "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." August 1790, an excerpt from President George Washington's letter to Mo- ses Seixas, warden of Touro Syna- gogue. Newport, R.!.'s Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jew- ish house of worship in the United States, was 25 years old (having been dedicated in 1763) when young George Washington outlined his philosophy of a new nation, one where religious toler- ance would be a touchstone. A copy of Washington's famous letter to Seixas is featured in a new $12 million visitors' center, anaddition to the synagogue itself, which has recehtly been opened steps from the old shul. The first president's letter was a response to a letter from Seixas and was written when Washington and Thomas Jefferson, his secretary of state, paid a goodwill visit to Rhode Island after that state became the last of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution. David Kleiman, curator of the two-story visitors center, which opened in August, told the Associated Press that the str~cture not only displays Touro's history, but it is "much broader: a focus on Colonial Jewish history in general and on the principles that guided the nation's founding." He added: "There's a place- ment in history of the role this building has played and, more importantly, its role as a living symbol of the concept of religious freedom, the separation of church and state. The building is the embodiment of that concept in the United States." Touro Synagogue, desig- nated in 1946 as a National Historic Site, is still the home of a small but active Orthodox congregation and still offers daily tours of the sanctuary, where runaway slaves were hidden and then transported to freedom in Canada. "This new visitors center has been 12 years in the mak- ing, from idea to completed building," said Keith Stokes, chairman of the board of the Touro Synagogue Foun- dation. "Its purpose is to share with visitors our great story--[and to be] aplatform where everyone can feel able to attend and to learn." Visitors to the center can now see hundreds of images and biographies of early American Jews. Its panels detail the origin of the synagogue, its architect and its founding members. On the second floor, costumed actors perform scenes of Colonial life in eight video vignettes projected onto glass. In 1658.15 families of Sep- hardic Jews settled in New- port, a busy seaport center Roger Williams established on the principles of religious freedom. (The first Jews in North America arrived in Dutch New Amsterdam in 1654, refugees from Inqui- sition-ridden Recife, Brazil.) Isaac Touro, a certified rabbi, emigrated from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, a century later, to serve as Touro's first spiritual leader. On land that synagogue members had bought, Pe- ter Harrison, architect of King's Chapel in Boston, designed the synagogue. The dedication date was Dec. 2, 1>763, during Chanukah. The building served as a hospital for British soldiers during the Revolutionary War and, after that. as a meeting-place for Rhode Island's-state leg- islature and Supreme Court. John Loeb, a philanthro- pist who largely funded the visitors center and who was Ronald Reagan's ambassador to Denmark, calls Washing- ton's letter to Seixas "one of the great documents in American history." The letter at the new center is a copy; the original is held by B'nai Brith in Washington, D.C.. owned by a private family that will not lend it out. Loeb's personal database Stokes, who is also execu- tive director of the Newport County Chamber of Com- merce, declared that the center "would enhance New- port's rich Colonial heritage, jostling for attention along- side Newport's Gilded Age mansions and of the city's present- day yachting culture ." Stokes added: "At the end of the day, historic struc- tures, sites and places are im- portant," but the new center presents visitors with "the perspective of the people of the 18th century, with whom present-day visitors cannot otherwise connect." Tours of both the syna- gogue sanctuary and the of Early American Jewish new center can be arranged Portraits form the basis of the center's floor-to-ceiling "Portrait Tree." A touch screen allows visitors to scroll over each portrait for highlights of the person's life. at the synagogue office: 401- 847-4794; fax: 401-847-8121. Gabe Levenson is a travel writer for the New York Jew- ish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission. By Eric Herschthal New York Jewish Week A night after the Met- ropolitan Opera made na- tional news, late Septem- ber boos for the opening night production of "To- sca"--Dan Ettinger had to conduct. When asked by friends and colleagues about the booing episode, unusual at least in these parts, "I said, 'Listen. in Germany we're used to it .... You can't be in an opera in Germany and not get booed," said Ettinger. With spiked, bleached-blond hair. a long modern-cut black coat and jeans, the 38-year-old conductor, born and raised in Israel, sat in the Met Opera house Friday night, Oct. 2, giving an interview. His breakout year seems to warrant one. Two weeks ago, he made his Met Opera As part of his breakout year, Dan Ettinyer, plucked by the Met's Peter Gelb for a plum spot, has been conduct- ing Nozze di Figaro. His Mozart is anything but traditional. debut, conducting"Le Noz- ze diFigaro." Over the next several months, he'll make debuts as at Covent Gar- den, the Opera National de Paris and the New National Theater, Tokyo. There, he'll lead Wagner's "Ring" cycle, a personal favorite. "I criticize the fact that Wagner is still taboo in Israel," he said. Wagner's rabid anti-Semitism has led to an institutional ban on his works in Israel. though there are exceptions in 2001. for instance, when Daniel Barenboim, who's Jewish, led the Staatska- pelle Berlin in "Tristan un Isolde." (There was booing then, too.) Interestingly enough, Ettinger's rise comes with the help of Barenboim. After Ettinger spent years conducting the Israel Sym- phony Orchestra~the or- chestra of the Israeli Opera, and No. 2 behind the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Barenboim appointed him to be his assistant, in 2004. "That was my first breakout on the international scene," Ettinger said. Two years ago Placido Domingo saw Ettinger con- duct in Berlin and invited him to guest conduct the Los Angeles Opera, which he directs. And then, ear- lier this year, Peter Gelb plucked Ettinger to conduct the Met's "Figaro." Ettinger doesn't bother with the tra- ditional clean and precise take on Mozart. Instead, he goes in for a readingthat's "big, full, colorful, full of energy," as he describes it. The Met "decided that that's the kind of 'Figaro' they want." Which seems perfectly fitting. Gelb, who took over the Met three years ago, has vowed to make the opera more theatrical, provocative and, well, sexy. Ettinger~himself young and fashionable fits that -"To do my debut in New mold. He said he's been in New York for the past seven weeks rehearsing, and when asked if he celebrated Rosh Hashanah or Yore Kippur this year. which overlapped with nights he was conduct- ing, he said yes, to one. "I did a R0sh Hashanah dinner with friends from Israel," he said. He's not observant so didn't bother attending services. Anyway, he said, York during Rosh Hashanah made it more special, if you want to discuss feelings." Plus, he went on, "My debut in Berlin [five years ago] was on Yore Kippur. A Jew in Berlin, conducting on Yom Kippur." Something special, too. Eric Herschthal is a staff writer for the New York Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission.