Keeping Yiddish alive
Thanks to Andrew Muchin for shining a spotlight on the San Francisco Jewish Folk Chorus’ June 23 concert.
For me as a script-writer for the show, the challenge was to connect the dots between our songs: from lyrics of “the street” (early protest songs pushing back against oppressive garment industry working conditions, with lyrics by the likes of “sweatshop poet” and Czarist refugee Dovid Edeshatat) to those of the “stage” (later, popular songs of New York’s Second Avenue Yiddish theater district and beyond).
What killed the Yiddish theater?
Not simply assimilation, but a 1924 U.S. law that actively barred immigrants from Eastern Europe. Sound familiar?
Today, alongside the klezmer revival (spearheaded by the late Oakland native and Yiddish diva Adrienne Cooper), there are a number of excellent Yiddish choruses beyond the Bay Area. There’s the A Besere Velt Workmen’s Circle chorus in Boston and the kvell-inducing Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus” (Binyumen Schaechter, conductor) in New York City, to name two.
We hope our concerts will inspire amateurs to help us keep this richly diverse legacy alive.
As a Zionist, I feel ’muzzled’
I share Laura Ishai’s sinking heart as progressives increasingly embrace anti-Zionism and even consider it a litmus test for being a progressive.
But how much more heartbreaking that Ms. Ishai felt compelled to write this opinion piece for J. under a pseudonym, lest she be attacked for her beliefs.
I share Ms. Ishai’s beliefs regarding Israel, and I too have experienced the intolerance of the left. I support AIPAC, and I try to understand the conflict from the Israeli vantage point, not my American one. I think Palestinian intransigence is the main obstacle to resolving the painful stalemate we call the Occupation. It is beyond me how these views get interpreted by progressives as “supporting the Occupation” or not caring about the suffering of Palestinians.
Those of us who identify as progressives and Zionists feel muzzled here in the Bay Area. We are routinely met with judgment and often with hostile pushback. I would urge those on the left who value truth and critical thinking to listen more and leap to conclusions less.
Dems who demonize Israel
News editor Dan Pine should be commended for his detailed and substantive report regarding the California Democratic state convention held May 31 to June 2 in San Francisco.
The convention clearly reflected the glaring division within the Democratic Party between the forces aimed at demonizing Israel and those of the old school who feel that defending Israel is crucially important for the future of the Jewish people.
Fortunately, the pro-Israeli camp, by procedural maneuvering and quick thinking, managed to win the battle this time. But the war is far from over.
The anti-Israel resolutions may sound as mere stand-alone concerns for the rights of the Palestinians facing discrimination, oppression and other evils committed by the Jewish state. But there is always an elephant in the anti-Israeli halls where Israel is dehumanized and lied about, and the name of this elephant is anti-Semitism.
No wonder that the Anti-Defamation League, whose prime mission is fighting hate and bigotry like anti-Semitism, was vocal against the anti-Israeli resolutions at the Democratic convention.
Distorting historic facts, blaming Jews for the fate of their neighbors and absolving aggressors from any responsibility for their attacks are equally anti-Semitic, whether they are cast at the Jewish state or the Jews as people; it is impossible to decouple vilifying Israel from vilifying Jews.
Democratic leaders, from the Congress to local officers, together with the Jewish establishment should recognize the words of one pro-Israel activist, quoted by Mr. Pine: “There is a hostile discourse in the water of the progressive movement … There is a flood coming.” And the flood may wash away a lot of traditionally loyal Jewish votes.
Flag debate marches on
Lois Pearlman argued in a letter to J. that it is “insensitive” to carry an Israeli flag, even one made into a multi-colored pride flag, at the Dyke March. Her reason is that it might offend people who hate Israel.
But everything Jewish offends anti-Semites; everything about Israel offends those who deny our right to a homeland.
Pearlman’s position is that Israel-hatred is somehow legitimate and that Israel-haters have a right to be seen and heard, but that Israel supporters do not.
It would seem that, to Pearlman, supporting Israel is just bad manners.
In the same spirit, I assume that Lois Pearlman will demand that the dykes not march at all because it will offend homophobes. Of course she won’t, because Pearlman thinks there is something wrong with homophobia. But she apparently finds Israel-hatred legitimate and appropriate. It isn’t.