Thursday, January 23, 2014 | return to: columns, faces



by suzan berns

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Celebrating ‘Fiddler at 50’

Josh Kornbluth
Josh Kornbluth
Josh Kornbluth emceed a wildly enthusiastic, almost full house at the “Fiddler on the Roof” sing-along at Berkeley’s California Theatre on Jan. 8 — and saw the movie for the first time. “Growing up, I heard the original soundtrack with Zero Mostel approximately a million times … it’s part of my DNA,” the monologist and storyteller explained later in an interview. When the movie was cast with Topol (isn’t that the name of a toothpaste? he quipped to the audience) instead of Mostel, “I was never drawn to see it.” Singing along during the film, he said, “I felt a feeling of wistfulness and celebration and a real poignancy about the transitory nature of life.”

After the movie, a fiddler led the crowd to the Magnes museum for an after-party of dancing to klezmer music by Veretski Pass. Among the celebrants were Naomi Seidman, director of Jewish studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Shana Penn, executive director of Taube Philanthropies, and Magnes director Alla Makarova.

Gravity Goldberg
Gravity Goldberg
“Fiddler” also was featured at the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s “first Tuesday” program last week. An equal number of hands went up when the audience was asked who had seen the show on Broadway and who was seeing it for the first time. “The second set of hands belonged to people about 40 years younger,” noted Gravity Goldberg, who emceed the event. The crowd also saw the premiere of Break/Tradition, a crowdsourced video project produced by the CJM and 3200 Stories composed of people singing, acting or talking about what tradition means to them.

And finally, a personal experience: In Budapest in September, we went to a klezmer concert at the Dohany Street Synagogue. There was little clapping or movement from crowd of 1,000-plus to any of the band’s upbeat offerings, until it played “Matchmaker.” Then the audience came to life. Hearing the “Fiddler” song in Hungarian was a reminder of the depth and breadth of the film’s reach.


Another milestone: JCCSF

It’s been a decade since the renovated JCC of San Francisco opened its new doors. Among the activities planned to honor its past is “Building History and Art,” a tour of the JCC’s art, sculpture, design and architecture led by Lenore Naxon, director of the Eugene and Elinor Friend Center for the Arts. She will explain the building’s surprising connections to Milan, Israel and “I Love Lucy.” Tours will take place on Saturdays, Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, and Wednesday, Jan. 29. While there, you can stop by to record your memories of time spent at the JCC.


Short shorts

Susan Freundlich
Susan Freundlich
Jason Porth of San Francisco has been named executive director of the University Corporation for San Francisco State University … Susan Freundlich is the new senior director of development and marketing at Jewish Family and Children’s Services/East Bay … Karen Goldberg of Mill Valley and her Tamalpie Pizzeria were recognized for outstanding treatment of employees by Marin Grassroots at its third annual “Be the Dream” event on Jan. 15. Hebrew Free Loan loaned Goldberg $50,000 to open the restaurant, the agency’s first loan of that amount. It was the second time HFLA helped her start a new business.

Mea culpa … In my Dec. 20 column, I mistakenly dubbed DJ Dave and his mom, Ruth, with the last name “Witt.” They are David Wittman and Ruth Wittman.


by Suzan Berns


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