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December 25, 2009

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PAGE 20A Anna Rudnitskaya MOSCOW (JTA)--A Jewish holiday, the lure of sex and the possibility of helping break a Guinness world record drew hundreds of young people to a Moscow nightclub for an un- usual Chanukah celebration. The Dec. 13 event was the brainchild of the new Russian Hillel director, Alexander Shlimak, who was appointed in September and says he is trying to come up with new ways to attract young people to the Jewish community. Some 500 young people came to the party at Zona in a bid to break the Guin- ness world record for most Chanukah candles lit simul- taneously. "There are about 15,000 Jewish students in Moscow," Shlimak said. "Only 10 per- cent of them take part in the events organized by the Jewish community. I feel my task in this post is to raise this figure up to at least 40 percent. To achieve this, we have to show the modern face of Jewish life to young people and provide them with events By Robert Leiter Jewish Explonent PHILADELPHIA--There are some artists who seem to come into the world with their styles intact--no years of insecurity and searching for them. They know what they want to say and how to say it, and then proceed, for the remainder of their careers, to simply ring brilliant changes on their original vision, startling us again and again with their versatility and the force of their genius. The sculptor Louise Nevelson was just such an artist; and a super- lative new book from Yale University Press (connected, yet again, to an exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York), titled "The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: The Making of a Legend," makes the point indisputably. Nevelson, who lived through much of the 20th century--she was born in 1899 and died in 1988--is perhaps best known for her massive sculptures com- posed of found objects, most of them pieces of wood in an assortment of shapes and sizes, that were generally painted black. But this new book makes several things clear: that her palette was a good deal broader than might be imagined by most people, even those who think they know her work HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 25, 2009 S '.r, world record lure young l,00:ople to Moscow Chanukah ri y that look neither dull nor frightening. I hope this party is a good example of what can be done." Held in a large and fashion- able nightclub covered with posters declaring "Strip Danc- ers Wanted," the celebration did manage to attract some who don't usually attend Jew- ish events. Elena, a graduate student at Moscow State University, told JTA she heard about the party through promotional e-mails. "I got several e-mails, and even a message on my mobile that said I could take part in setting a Guinness world record," said Elena, who preferred not to give her last name. "They must have had my contact details because I took part in a Taglit program several years ago. I thought it could be fun, so I came." Taglit is the Hebrew name for Birthright Israel, the program that brings Jewish 18- to 26-year-olds to Israel on free 10-day trips. Evgeny Lensky, 26, the owner of a small trading firm, said he also received a promotional e-mail and Anna Rudnitskaya Photographers take pictures Dec. 13 of participants at the Zona nightclub in Moscow trying to break a world record for most Chanukah candles lit simultaneously. decided to attend because he had nothing better to do that night. A graduate of a Jewish high school, Lensky said that although he knows a lot about Jewish tradition, he considers himself assimilated and is not that interested in Jewish community. Lensky said, however, that parties like these have the power to draw young people like him to Jewish venues. "Probably I was just un- lucky in my first experiences, but somehow my attitude in general to Jewish society isn't good," he said. "I live avery as- similated life and I don't think anything could really get me back into the community. But there are thousands of young Jewish men who just know nothing about Hillel and all these events. Sometimes they don't even know they are Jews. "I think Jewish organi- zations should work with them," he said. Lensky brought his non- Jewish girlfriend, Katya, to the party. She said she knew nothing about Chanukah before, but found the event "very colorful." The candlelighting cer- emony itself took only a few minutes. After Shlimak recited the prayers over the candles, those who registered to take part in the record at- tempt each lit four candles, one after another--three for the third night of Chanukah, plus the shamash, or middle candle. In total, 1,440 Cha- nukah candles were lit in one place nearly simultaneously. Shlimak said he believed it was a new world record; the final result should be an- nounced in about a month. Before the dancing seg- ment of the party started, organizers talked to the crowd about the Chanukah tradition of giving money, or gelt, to children, and suggested everyone donate a small sum to help the children who were orphaned by the nightclub fire in the Urals city of Perm earlier this month. More than 140 people were killed in the blaze. Many Chanukah celebra- tions in Russia this year were affected by the trag- edy, which was sparked by fireworks at the Lame Horse nightclub. "When we learned about the Perm fire, we thought it probably would seem wrong to light candles and set off fireworks for Chanukah," Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, told JTA after the public ceremony of light- ing the menorah on display in Moscow's Manezhnya Square. "But then we decided that bringing a bit more light to the world is always good. So we held this ceremony, as usual, in an effort to show that we remember miracles and still hope for better." In St. Petersburg, Rus- sia's second-largest city, Chanukah celebrations were held without the expected fireworks. In Perm itself, celebrations commenced with Kaddish for those killed in the nightclub fire. Moving from the inner self to soci0000ty at large The artist in later life. well; that she worked with a good number of other materials than just wood; that she took up several Jew- ish themes and interpreted them with characteristic brilliance and her requi- site clarity; and that, even though her style may have seemed to be set from the start, she struggled as a woman to receive her due in the male-dominated art world of her time. In fact, according to Brooke Kamin Rapaport's lead essay (there are three others in this book, as well as a chronology), Nevelson's first big break came with a group show in 1959 at the Museum of Modern Art. To strike the proper blow and ensure some attention for herself, the artist created a room-sized environment called "Dawn's Wedding Feast," made up of found wood but this time painted all in white. Her piece, of course, shared space with some of the top-flight male sculp- tors of the period: Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella. But she man- aged to get the attention she'd striven for. But why, asks Kamin Rapaport, did it take this singularly striking artist so long to reach "the marquee?" "The answer lies in the subject matter that ignited Nevelson's work: herself," writes the essayist. "Much of the literature on Louise Nevelson has focused on the constant (often grueling) progression of her work from figuration to abstrac- tion to the crucible of her found object. Critically, however, Nevelson's use of her own life experience af- fected both the work itself and the way it was received. Her work is, above all, a metaphorical story about herself, told in sculpture." Kamin Rapaport's essay and the others track Nev- elson's Jewish background, her early marriage, moth- erhood and the revolt she instituted against bourgeois life by becoming a sculp- tor, as well as the different currents in the art world-- cubism, surrealism and ab- stract expressionism--and the various artists--David Smith, Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder, to name only a few--who influenced her. Most interesting is the artist's move from the self to society at large. As Kamin Rapaport writes, "By the 1960s and 1970s, with her reputation firmly established as sculpture's grande dame, Nevelson cre- ated room-size pieces that reflected personal, religious and social issues. As often as Nevelson had looked inward to find her ultimate subject, she now made works relat- ing to the larger culture. Her black walls--already dole- ful tombs of objects once relating to an individual life--were well suited to themes of memory, decay and death"--especially the Holocaust, which came to preoccupy her artistically for a number of years. Robert Leiter is the lit- erary editor of the (Phila- delphia) from which this article was reprinted by permission. "Case With Five Balusters," from "Dawn's Wedding Feast," 1959 "Cascade," 1964 "Majesty," 1953-55, one of her less well-known etchings