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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 25, 2009 PAGE 21A Yiddish music, after hours By Jonathan Mark New York Jewish Week NEW YORK--Sometimes the wall between this world and the OtherWorld is as thin as the walls of an East Side tenement; one can hear the dead carrying on in Yiddish, playing accordions, cracking jokes. One can hear cantors davening, vaudevillians do- ing shtick as if in mounhain casinos. tte a 67-track, three-CD set, "Can- tors, Klezmorim & Crooners 1905-1953,', a newly released anthology of a discarded world compiled from discarded 78s, from the collection of Sherry Mayrent, associate director of KlezKamp and Living Tradi- tions, a Yiddish arts preserva- tion group. In her introduction to the collection, Mayrent explains that in 2004 she came across 100 cantorial records on eBay from the collection of a deceased cantor. Mayrent bought it for $40. She bought another 200 records from another collector, mostly klezmer this time. Within five years she had ac- quired Yiddish recordings not only of cantors and klezmer but crooners, comedians, novelty acts--5,000 in all. Keep in mind there were only 6,000 Yiddish recordings ever made in the United States, pre-1942; another 5,000 in pre- Holocaust Europe. It is the nature of music that it lingers in the soul even as it vanishes in the moment. Even the musicians seem to vanish, except for those brief hours out of a lifetime that the musician is in a recording studio, a primitive place in the early 20th century. Robert Johnson is one of the most revered names in American blues. Almost nothing in his life is docu- mented other than the three days in 1936 he spent singing into a microphone while fac- ing the wallpaper in a San Antonio hotel room playing the only 29 songs he ever recorded. Nothing is known about Itzikel Kramtweiss other than what he did on Sept. 3, 1929, when he took his band, Broder Kappelle, into a studio. It was quite a day in Yiddish New York: 7,000 hemstitch- ers, pleaters and tuckers, many Jewish, had gone on strike, while Zionist leaders sent a telegram to President Hoover thanking him for his support following a mas- sacre of Jews in Hebron. Old newspapers tell us that. But who can tell us, asks Henry Sapoznik, executive director of Living Traditions, about this "fiery and flamboyant director-clarinetist, Itzikel Kramtweiss?" This one session, Sapoznik writes in the booklet accom- panying the boxed set, "is key to understanding the... stylistic diversity of klezmer music." Backed by drums and a tuba, the recording captured "the enigmatic playing of bandleader Kramtweiss," with his "strident and edgy" clarinet. "Except for this one record- ing session," Sapoznikwrites, Kramtweiss' "amazing contri- bution...would have been lost forever." On a 1913 recording by the Yenkovitz and Goldberg band, Sapoznik writes, we hear "an older European sound of klezmer music, whose repertoire included religious melodies and local dance tunes.., the delicate pre-industrial sound of the accordion and insight into the persistence of musical traditions," in a changing soundscape. Let's spend Sept. 7, 1915 with Sholom Aleichem--a short day, Jews call it, as Rh Hashanah is just a few hours away. He had less than a year to live. He was in poor health, close to broke, living in a Bronx apartment in the shadows of the elevated tracks. He likely waited at those tracks for a subway to the Victor Studios in Manhattan. Sitting in front of a mi- crophone, with hardly a dollar in his pocket, Sholom Aleichem starts to read: "If I were Rothschild... I'd give my wife a three-ruble note so that when it comes time for Shab- bos [she] won't have to bother me... I'd buy this house... I'll give her everything from the cellar to the attic." He wasn't well. He stops. The sound engineer calls out, "Is that all you got?" That was it. Sholom Aleichem had nothing left. Victor, at first, did nothing with the record, until the writer died, then they "rushed out the failed test record," Sapoznik notes. It didn't sell and was quickly dropped from the catalog. Mayrent has it. The release of "Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners" ($25), from JSP Records and Living Traditions, is timed to honor the 25th anniversary of KlezKamp, Living Tradition's festival of Yiddish music and art (Dec. 23-29). Speaking to us by tele- phone, Sapoznik, a five-time Grammy winner for his pro- ductions of early folk and country music, as well as a Peabody Award winner for his "Yiddish Radio Project," says, "I've been listening to these types of recordings for the last 30 years, but even for me, to hear Sholom Aleichem reading from his own stories is thrilling. Or hearing the very first recording of Kol Nidre," by a cantor in Warsaw in 1909, "puts you in a special place. You're experiencingwhatJews experienced in 1909." Sapoznik is intrigued by the cross-pollination of Yiddish- American culture. On one cut, Nellie Casman, of the Yiddish theater, was backed by Larry Shield, whose band played on hundreds of Yiddish and cantorial sessions. He also composed and conducted the movie scores for "Our Gang" and Laurel and Hardy. "How many hundreds of thousands ofpeoplehave heard those scores?" Sapoznik asked. And yet "we can hear the same influence that he brought to those movies in this orchestra- tion for Yiddish theater." Sapoznik observed, "The cantorial tradition," so central to Yiddish recordings, "was the key DNA of Eastern European Jewish music. Everything-- klezmer, Yiddish theater, folk songs--that's what links them all together. And yet every one of those other musical tradi- tions has experienced a revival except the cantorial." For most American Jews, whose non-Chasidic High Holidays services are never- theless so influenced by the Carlebach-Modzitz Chasidic spirit, these 78sare what most shuls actually sounded like when the harbor was filled with immigrant ships. Afascinating discovery here is the presence of female can- tors, years before they could serve even in liberal congrega- tions, performing liturgical selections and items such as the Friday night kiddush in the recording studio. Sapoznikhopes that"in the next year or so," as many as 8,000 other Yiddish record- ings will be digitally remas- tered and available online. This anthology ends in 1953 for a reason. As early as 1940, the U.S. Census was showing that the children and grandchildren of Jewish immigrants were among the quickest of any immigrant groups to abandon their mother tongue. With the Holocaust destroy- ing Yiddish roots, the revival of Hebrew as the real mother tongue, the end of Yiddish ra- dio and SecondAvenue theater dissolving into nostalgia and assimilation, suddenly there were few places for aficiona- dos and ethnic musicologists to find Yiddish music in an unadulterated natural habitat. For awhile, klezmer bands and crooners continued to play the Catskills vaudeville circuit, but the Catskills hardly were the Carpathians, and then that circuit died, too. It became impossible, Sapoznik told us, for a new generation to find"Jewish old- timers tenaciously holding onto their repertoire against all modern influences." What remains are these old Yiddish records, what Sapoznik calls "three-minute Rosetta Stones on shellac." As if in a dream, chazzanim are still operatic, comedians are still kidding and clarinets are wailing through the wall. Go ahead. Eavesdrop. New evidence sheds light on 2 decades of collaboration By Jonathan Kirseh Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles One measure of the vigor of the Israeli democracy can be seen in the candor and clear-sightedness of its scholars and other public intellectuals, ranging from journalist and historian Tom Segev ("1967") to archaeolo- gist Israel Finkelstein ("The Bible Unearthed"). To these examples we must now add Hillel Cohen and his remark- able new book, "Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs, 1948- 1967" (University of Califor- nia Press, $27.50, translated by Haim Watzman). Cohen is a research fellow at the Harry S. Truman Insti- tute for the Advancement of Peace at The Hebrew Univer- sity in Jerusalem and author of several previous books on the troubled coexistence of Arabs and Jews in Israel, including "Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaborators with Zionism, 1917-1948" (University of California Press, 2008). His latest book, a best-seller in Israel, is based on top secret police files that were only recently declassi- fied. Although his reading of the documentary evidence will surely be challenged by some of his fellow scholars, Cohen's courage is beyond debate. The fascinating and often troubling account begins with the 1949 armistice that ended the War of Indepen- dence and endowed the Jew- ish state with 156,000 Arab citizens, approximately 15 percent of the total popula- tion. To cope with the threat they posed to the Jewish homeland, Israeli security officials recruited a network of Arab collaborators and set them to work on what we might call the dark side of the Zionist dream. Indeed, the title of the book ("Aravim Tovim" or "Good Arabs") is purely ironic, and the author digs deeply into the means and motives of both the Israeli authorities and the "good" Arabs. Cohen makes it clear that the collaborationist enter- prise was complex, subtle and effective. Some Arab leaders who had opposed Jewish nation building under British rule found it expedi- ent (and profitable) towork with Israeli authorities; they saw themselves as "loyal and committed members of the Arab nation, acting in the best interests of their communities." Other Arab collaborators were ordinary informers who passed infor- mation to the army and police about smugglers, infiltrators and activists in order to curry favor with the Jewish authorities. For example, the Israeli government sought to influence the election of vil- lage mayors and councilors "to ensure that 'their' Arabs received positions of power." The blandishments available to collaborators included not only cash payments and cleansing of arrest records but also leases for abandoned Arab-owned land, licenses to own and carry firearms and even a "franchise" to engage in what the government defined as "legal smuggling." Although "Good Arabs" is an academic monograph, it is enlivened and enriched with character studies and colorful anecdotes. Cohen, for example, introduces us to a young man named Hasan Kamel 'Ubeid, who splattered paint on an Arab member of the Knesset when he visited the village where 'Ubeid lived during the 1950 election campaign. The Arab paint- thrower was rewarded for his efforts by the Israeli authori- ties with a rare and valuable permit to carry a pistol. "A rifle or pistol not only served a man as self-protec- tion (and self-confidence) but also gave him prestige," Co- hen explains. "The expression 'Msadso hal-qad' (His pistol is this big), accompanied by an open-armed gesture, served in some villages as an idiom to express not only how large a given man's pistol was but also how important the pis- tol's bearer was (at least in the eyes of the authorities)." But Cohen also digs deeply into the strategic underpin- nings of Israel's policy to- ward its Arab citizens. "The state's goal was to detach the Palestinian Arabs in Israel from the Palestinian Arab identity that was central for many of them and to create something new--the Israeli Arab," Cohen explains. "Through its loyalists, the state sought to indoctrinate Arab schoolchildren with the Zionist narrative, to widen the fissures between and within religious communi- ties (Muslims, Christians and Druze), to promote obedience to the authorities, and to challenge non-Israeli national identities (Palestin- ian or Pan-Arab)." Cohen tells a second story in "Good Arabs," a story of resistance rather than collaboration. "Just a few months after the Nakba, the catastrophe of the 1948 war, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, including their political and religious leadership, left or were driven out of their coun- try to become refugees, and immediately after the imposi- tion of Israeli military rule, the Arabs who remained and became Israeli citizens orga- nized large-scale, adamant protest activity that lasted for two decades," Cohen writes. "They set in motion mass protest actions, cre- ated radical frameworks for debate and action, and offered an alternative to the Zionist narrative and to the model of submissive collaboration." "Good Arabs" ends on the eve of the Six-Day War, when the Arab population and its demographi c threat to Israel both took a quantum leap. Looking back on the previous two decades, Co- hen concludes that "Israel's Arab population presented no real danger to Israel's security." But he also points out that the grandson of the paint-thrower who was once rewarded with a gun permit is now a Hezbollah activist who directs "armed Palestin- ian squads in the West Bank" and "special missions such as the kidnapping of the Israeli colonel Elhanan Tanenbam to Lebanon in October 2000." So Cohen's scholarship cast a new light on the "facts on the ground" that are nowadays displayed in news bulletins and news- paper headlines about the Arab-Israeli conflict, all of which remind us that the quaint era when Israel could rely on aravim tovim is now long gone. Jonathan Kirsch, book editor of The Jewish Journal and author of 13 books, blogs at twelvetwelve. There's a difference in our service You'll see it in your yard MLc Maurice Lawn Care Maintenance. Landscaping. Irrigation 407.462.3027 mauricelawncare@yah'cm