Electronic Minyans- Have we let the Genie out of the bottle? and George Gershwin’s Jewish Music By Saul Jay Singer and Kahane and Alan King, a famous comedian and Israel and Trump’s War on the Coronavirus By Caroline B. Glick and my Hebrew Birthday today
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
Love Yehuda Lave
It's always nice when people acknowledge your birthday, and today is my Hebrew birthday. I heard Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn say once, your birthday is the day that G-d decided that the world couldn't live without you. I asked him, does that mean when you die, G-d decided that now it could?
Electronic Prayer-Have we let the Genie out of the Bottle?
How and when this situation will be corrected and how it will play itself out is one of the mysteries that the future contains. Especially now, in a world after the Coronavirus with its attendant disasters, a new world will be formed whether we wish it to be or not. Perhaps this will be an opportunity for Judaism to reassert itself upon Jews so that the disconnect can be narrowed and the future will be stronger and brighter for all of us.
Or perhaps not.
We all want to make good habits, whether it's in business, in our hobbies, or in our personal lives. One popular method to build habits is called the 21/90 rule. The rule is simple enough.
Commit to a personal or professional goal for 21 straight days. After three weeks, the pursuit of that goal should have become a habit. Once you've established that habit, you continue to do it for another ninety days. If you can keep up something for three weeks and then ninety days, then it should become a permanent lifestyle change
Why is it 21 days to break a habit?
This number comes from a widely popular 1960 book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who noticed his patients seemed to take about 21 days to get used to their new faces. However, according to a 2009 study, the time it takes to form a habit really isn't that clear-cut.
Researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is actually 66 days; furthermore, individual times varied from 18 to a whopping 254 days.
The take-away message here is that if you want to develop a new behavior, it will take at least two months, and you shouldn't despair if three weeks doesn't do the trick - for most people that's simply not enough.
The good news is as of Nissan 25 (April 19th), Outdoor minyans were now allowed again. I davened with a Minyan at 6:00 Am on the 19th. This was exactly 20 days (not 21) that we were canceled from minyans. A coincidence"? Why not 22 days were we stopped?
Now many of us have been praying in Minyans for 50 years (some more some less). We were forced to break the habit through no fault of our own. There is strong pressure to daven in a minyan as that is one of the principals of being Orthodox for a man and it joins us together
When one passes away, one of the best things that is said about a man is that he came to minyan every day. This is the praise of a Torah Jew.
But we have formed new habits. Getting up late. Davening on our patios, or roofs, or back yards. I have a beautiful roof with a view looking out on the King David Hotel that is temporarily closed for the Virus.
I love minyans and what they represent. But it won't be easy to give up my new habits even for me a convinced minyan man. How will be it for others, that didn't want to get out of bed in the first place?
And it was sprung on all of us so fast. First, the synagogues were closed and since we knew how important the minyan was, we continued outside. Then when people didn't follow rules, a quick blanket no was put out for minyans that they were "killers" even if we followed safe distancing rules. The concept was since many people didn't follow the rules, it was necessary to kill a fly with a sledgehammer, all minyans were out. Now at least for a while outdoor minyans are back. Let's see if they will let them stay. It will be great to hear the Torah and say Kaddish again.
Then the radio was ok to daven with. Each day on the Radio, when the prayer is being said, a flute and a harp play. I will be forever looking for the flute when I pray in the future.
Now that we have made these new habits, will we break them so easily? Especially older people who are the backbone of the minyans, will they be encouraged to come, because it is more dangerous for them?
Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to put him/her back into it.
One thing that many of us have difficulty with is remaining positive. There is one way to stay focused, however. Find one notable positive thing in every day and write it down each day.
Now another thing that we have gotten used to:
A Hard Day at the Office
Moishe Epstein dragged himself home and barely made it to his chair before he dropped, exhausted. His sympathetic wife Rivkah was right there with a tall cool drink and a comforting word.
"My, you look tired," Rivkah said. "You must have had a hard day today. What happened to make you so exhausted?"
"It was terrible," Moishe said, "We had no computer or internet access the whole day so all of us had to do our own thinking."
Ideas, that help explain how the world works
Denomination Effect: One hundred $1 bills feels like less money than one $100 bill. Also explains stock splits – buying 10 shares for $10 each feels cheaper than one share for $100.
Israel and Trump's War on the Coronavirus By Caroline B. Glick
The presidency of Donald Trump has shaped coalition talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz. For weeks, the chief stumbling block holding up a unity government deal was Gantz's attempt to delay or block Israeli implementation of Trump's peace plan, which greenlights the implementation of Israeli law over parts of Judea and Samaria.
Gantz argued that there was no reason to rush ahead, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Israel should wait six months until the danger passes and then figure out how to proceed. Netanyahu rejected Gantz's position. He insisted that Israel apply its laws to the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, and the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria as soon as the joint U.S.-Israeli mapping committee completes its work, by early July at the latest.
Netanyahu, whose position carried the day, was right to view the issue as urgent. To understand just how urgent it has become, we need to consider Trump's political challenges, seven months before the presidential election in November.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemonium, major issues have fallen by the wayside. In Israel, no one remembers that Netanyahu's criminal trial was supposed to begin two weeks ago. In America, almost no one noticed that Wisconsin held Democratic presidential primaries on Tuesday between former vice president Joe Biden and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders' decision to withdraw from the race following his defeat in Wisconsin would have been the story of the week a month ago. But in the event, no one really cared.
Although Biden is the party establishment's choice for nominee, he is not an ideal candidate. The 77-year-old career politician can't get through a public appearance without tripping on his tongue. In an interview with the friendliest of interviewers on MSNBC last week, for instance, Biden referred to Wuhan, China as Luhan and referred to the national drugstore chain CVS as CVC. Even sympathetic commentators are compelled to raise questions about his mental fitness for office.
In the face of Biden's constant gaffes, talk has exploded on the possibility that the Democrats will ignore the results of the primaries and draft New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as their presidential candidate. How this could happen is unclear. Biden has won the primaries. But in truth, it doesn't matter too much who ends up being the Democratic candidate—it won't decide the outcome of the race.
The coronavirus will.
The spread of the pandemic across the United States has reshuffled the political deck. Until the pandemic broke out, the U.S. economy was prospering and Trump was reaping the rewards of the record unemployment, booming stock market and optimistic economic forecasts. His election rallies drew tens of thousands of supporters, whether they took place in the very red South Carolina or very blue California.
Then the coronavirus arrived. The virus upended Trump's electoral strategy and compelled him to change his basic governing philosophy. Trump is a rhetorical pugilist and a policy iconoclast. He thrives in appearances before a mass audience where he rallies large crowds while resonating their frustration with Washington's ruling class. The coronavirus has made rallies impossible.
As for his programmatic iconoclasm, the pandemic has compelled Trump to embrace "scientific experts," even as they, like their counterparts in the economic and national security spheres, have provided incorrect information and assessments about the coronavirus.
Trump rejected the "expert" opinion of the foreign policy "experts" and the economic "experts" in forging his successful foreign policies and economic policies. But given the massive uncertainty about the nature and danger of the coronavirus, ignoring scientific advice is far riskier a prospect, particularly in the midst of a public health crisis.
The problem is that the scientific experts themselves have built up a terrible track record. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Trump's coronavirus task force, said in January that the virus wasn't a significant threat to the U.S. Currently, Fauci and his expert colleagues in the federal medical bureaucracy are downplaying the potential of medicines that seem to work in treating the virus.
For instance, Fauci reportedly opposes recommending the use of drug combinations including hydroxychloroquine, which has brought positive results to coronavirus patients worldwide. They reportedly argue that the drugs, developed to treat other ailments, haven't been tested as rigorously as drugs generally are tested before being used for new purposes.
Likewise, despite the fact that the U.S. has the ability to perform 500,000 coronavirus tests a day, last week only 100,000 were being performed daily because the Food and Drug Administration won't permit the use of tests produced by private firms.
In other words, in the midst of a pandemic that has shuttered the U.S. economy, the "experts" are gumming up the works for freeing people to return to their jobs and restart the economy.
Democrats for their part are not crediting Trump for his willingness to defer to experts. Rather, as is their wont, the Democrats are moving the goalposts. Several Democratic governors have been using the pandemic as a means to score political points against Trump. Cuomo for instance, repeatedly accused Trump of responsibility for the shortages in medical protective equipment and respirators in New York—despite the fact that the federal government has been rushing massive quantities of supplies to New York and New Jersey to keep up with demand.
On Jan. 29, against the advice of many medical experts, including the World Health Organization, Trump shut down air traffic from China to the United States.
Cuomo, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Biden and the media attacked the move as racist. Cuomo, who demanded that the gates of America remain open to Chinese travelers, now accuses Trump of having ignored and downplayed the threat the coronavirus posed to the United States.
Cuomo and his fellow Democratic politicians are lavishly supported by the media in their efforts to rewrite the history of the past two months. This week, for instance, the Associated Press published an article that rewrote the history of the past two months. The AP article stated everyone was worried about the coronavirus except Trump—including Pelosi, who urged San Franciscans to participate in Chinese New Year's celebrations in San Francisco's Chinatown.
Whereas the Democrats and the media are going out of their way to protect China from criticism, it works out that China's behavior has been far more ominous than even its critics first alleged.
It is widely recognized that the Chinese regime waited two months to tell the world that the virus is transferred between humans and is exceedingly infectious. This week the New York Post reported that, while lulling the world into complacency, from late January to late February, the Chinese regime barred foreign medical supply companies with manufacturing plants in China from exporting their medical equipment. For instance, Chinese officials barred the U.S. firm 3M from shipping protective gear to the United States. China seized all of the coronavirus-relevant equipment for itself.
Even worse, according to administration officials who spoke to the New York Post, from late January until late February, the Chinese bought $1.2 billion worth of medical protective gear. This included two billion masks and more than 25 million protective suits.
In other words, while China was hiding the dangers of the made-in-China virus from the world, they were buying up the world's supply of protective gear and thus ensuring that when the virus began striking the rest of the world, the rest of the world would lack the means to protect itself.
Last week, Holland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Australia reported that the protective gear and virus detection tests they purchased from China were defective. Wednesday, Finland reported its Chinese gear was defective.
Despite this, since the pandemic broke out, the Democrats and the liberal media have served as a megaphone for Chinese propaganda. They parroted the Chinese data regarding the Chinese infection and death rate despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies reported that the Chinese data are fraudulent.
Their motivation is obvious. They seek to paint Trump as incompetent. In light of their efforts, not only does Trump need to manage the crisis based on the advice of "experts" that have wrongly assessed the virus from the beginning, he needs to do so in an environment where his opponents are working with China to undermine public trust in his leadership.
This then brings us back to the elections. In Israel, the unemployment rate rose from 3 percent to 25 percent in two weeks. According to economist Stephen Moore, U.S. unemployment rates are likely as well to rise from 3.5 percent at the end of February to 23 percent by the end of the month. Ten million new Americans registered as unemployed in the last week of March, the largest weekly figure in U.S. history by a factor of more than 10.
To successfully lead the United States through the crisis, while facing a concerted effort by the media, China and Democrats to undermine the public's trust in him, Trump needs to figure out a way to get the U.S. back to work within weeks while minimizing the infection and death rate even as he is receiving bad advice from his experts.
This brings us back to Israel, where the stakes in Trump's success couldn't be higher.
On April 7, Forbes reported that Iran has deployed an array of anti-ship missiles and large rockets overlooking the Strait of Hormuz. Whereas Trump refuses to cancel U.S. economic sanctions against Iran—while offering Iran humanitarian assistance in handling the coronavirus—last week Biden said that if he is elected president, he will cancel the U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. The Democratic Party is committed to returning the United States to the nuclear deal.
Last week, eight Democratic senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to restore U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
All of this seems unrelated to the coronavirus, but of course, it isn't. It is clear that the same courage that enabled Trump to reject the advice of failed experts on Iran and the Palestinians is required in the war on the coronavirus. If Trump does not find the advisers that will help him to successfully shepherd the United States through the coronavirus crisis and save the U.S. economy from depression and collapse, the coronavirus will beat him in November.
This means that Netanyahu is right. We cannot know if Trump will beat the virus or if, with the lavish support of the Democrats, the "experts" and the media, the virus will beat him.
What is clear is that the future of Israel-U.S. relations, like the fate of Iran's nuclear weapons program, will be determined by Trump's ability to win the war against the coronavirus.
Alan King was an American actor and comedian
Alan King was an American actor and comedian known for his biting wit and often angry humorous rants. King became well known as a Jewish comedian and satirist. He was also a serious actor who appeared in a number of movies and television shows. King wrote several books, produced films, and appeared in plays. In later years, he helped many philanthropic causes. Throughout his life, King was deeply involved in charity work. He founded the Alan King Medical Center in Jerusalem, raised funds for the Nassau Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children (near his home in Kings Point, New York), and established a chair in dramatic arts at Brandeis University. He also created the Laugh Well program, which sends comedians to hospitals to perform for patients. In the 1970s, King turned his passion for tennis into a pro tournament at Caesars Palace Las Vegas called the Alan King Tennis Classic, which was carried on national TV by the TVS Television Network. He also started the Toyota Comedy Festival.
If you want to read about love and marriage, you've got to buy two separate books.
Banks have a new image. Now you have 'a friend,' your friendly banker. If the banks are so friendly, how come they chain down the pens?
Marriage is nature's way of keeping us from fighting with strangers. Alan King
A summary of every Jewish holiday: They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat! Alan King
When I was in the hospital they gave me apple juice every morning, even after I told them I didn't like it. I had to get even. One morning, I poured the apple juice into the specimen tube. The nurse held it up and said, 'It's a little cloudy.' I took the tube from her and said, 'Let me run it through again,' and drank it. The nurse fainted. Alan King
If you keep yourself alive and current, funny is funny. Alan King
Moses Speaks To Pharaoh "No Retreat No Compromise "
K A H A NE The magazine of the authentic Jewish Idea Shavat –5737 February – 1977
"And Pharaoh called to Moses, saying: Go and worship the L-rd. Only your sheep and cattle will remain – your children will also go with you. And Moses said: You will also give us offerings and sacrifices for the L-rd our G-d, and our flocks will go with us…" (Shmot 10:24-26)
The ninth plague-darkness – has struck Egypt with a vengeance and Pharaoh breaks. Step by step he has retreated and after the eighth plague – locusts – he was prepared to allow the Jews to leave except for their children. Now he surrenders almost entirely as he agrees that all the Jews can leave. He only asks one thing, one compromise, one small victory for himself, that the Jewish cattle remain behind.
Consider; the Jews have been slaves for 210 years. They have lived in misery and persecution. They suffered decrees such as the one casting their male children into the sea. They cried out unto the L-rd for freedom and salvation. Now, apparently the great moment has arrived! Pharaoh agrees that they shall go free! What does it matter that he asks for their cattle? Give it to him! The main thing is peace and salvation and we are willing to give up cattle for peace!
But Moses knows that this is not the purpose of the freedom of the Jewish people and of the story of the slavery and exodus. He is not prepared to compromise one inch because he knows what the purpose of G-d is. When Moses first entered the presence of Pharaoh and said: "The L-rd, G-d of the Hebrews, has said: Let my people go!" Pharaoh contemptuously answered: "Who is the L-rd? I know not the L-rd and will not let Israel go!" Here is where the battle was joined. Here is the purpose and aim of creation – to have the world recognize the dominion and kingship of the L-rd being challenged. Pharaoh must be made to recognize and totally acknowledge the sovereignty of the L-rd over him and his people. He cannot make compromises; he cannot strike bargains. He must submit totally!
"And I shall be glorified through (the defeat of) Pharaoh and his army and Egypt shall know that I am the L-rd." Only the total defeat of the wicked can raise and honor the name of the L-rd, says the Biblical commentator Rashi. This is why there will be no compromise with Pharaoh. He must totally submit, he must totally surrender.
And even when he apparently does this, after the plague of the first born, when he runs to Moses and says: "Get out, take your flocks with you, just leave and ask the L-rd to bless me!" Moses refuses and in the words of the Mechilta; "And he called unto Moses and Aaron in the middle of the night and said: get up and leave! Said Moses unto him: No, we have been ordered not to leave our houses until morning. What are we, thieves that we should slink out in the night? No, we will leave only in the morning with an upraised arm before the eyes of all the Egyptians!"
Not one inch of retreat here. The lesson of the L-rd being the Omnipotent, King of the universe must be seen and acknowledged.
The lesson is an eternal one and must be learned in our time, too. The question of peace in the Middle East is a question of the Arabs and the world acknowledging the total sovereignty of the All Mighty. There can be no compromise on this. It is only a peace that comes with Arabs submitting to the yoke of the heavenly kingdom that will be a permanent one and the Jew who gives up part of his land as a compromise, violates the entire purpose of the rise of the Jewish State and the demand of the All Mighty that the nations acknowledge Him as King. There can be no retreat from land because that is in essence a retreat also from the Kingship of the L-rd.
George Gershwin's Jewish Music By Saul Jay Singer
Until George Gershwin, serious American orchestral composers were predominantly influenced by European schools of music. By composing original musical works based upon the rhythms, melodies, and moods of American popular music, Gershwin proved that the finer elements of jazz could be integrated into music to form the basis of symphonic creations typically and uniquely American.
He manipulated Tin Pan Alley jazz into the mainstream by merging its cadences and tonality with the contemporary popular songs of his time. One commentator perhaps best summarized the distinctiveness of Gershwin's music this way: "He combined the musical heritage of his Eastern European Jewish antecedents with the syncopated sounds of 42nd & Broadway."
The prolific Gershwin wrote 30 musical comedies for stage and films, most with the lyrics of his brother, Ira, including Lady Be Good (1924), Funny Face (1927), Strike Up the Band (1929), Girl Crazy (1930), and Of Thee I Sing (1932), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in drama, the first musical comedy to be so honored.
His orchestral works include the legendary Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Concerto in F (1925), and An American in Paris (1928); his operas include Blue Monday (1922) and the renowned Porgy and Bess (1935); and his best-known songs include Swanee (made famous by Al Jolson), Summertime (from Porgy and Bess), Fascinating Rhythm (1924), Someone to Watch Over Me (1926), Funny Face (1927), S Wonderful (1927), Embraceable You (1928), I Got Rhythm (1930), and They Can't Take That Away from Me (1937), which earned Gershwin a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.
Exhibited here is a signed program page for a concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of Rhapsody in Blue, given by Gershwin himself and by renowned tenor Lames Melton. Works by Gershwin on the program include the Concerto in F,Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, and several songs, including Fascinating Rhythm, I Got Rhythm, and The Man I Love. The concert tour ran from January 14 through February 10, 1934.
Gershwin (1898-1937) was born Jacob Gershowitz on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His grandfather, Yaakov Gershowitz, the son of a rabbi, had been born in Odessa and served 25 years in the Russian artillery as a mechanic for the Imperial Russian Army, which earned him the privilege – rarely bestowed upon Jews in czarist Russia – to travel freely, including leaving the Russian Pale and establishing residence in St. Petersburg.
To avoid Russian military conscription, George's father, Moishe (later Morris) joined the major stream of Jewish immigrants at the turn of the century fleeing to the United States, where he settled in New York; married Rosa Bruskin, whom he had known in Russia; and became an American citizen in 1898.
Morris frequently changed dwellings with each new business, moving his family to some 28 different residences during their first two decades in America. The one constant seemed to be living in or near the Yiddish Theater District, where the Gershwins frequented the local Yiddish theaters and George occasionally landed a role onstage as an extra. George grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home, as his parents did not speak English until much later.
According to most authorities, the family's Judaism was neither religious nor political but, rather, cultural and casual. The secularism of George's parents may be attributable, at least in part, to the fact that they lived in cosmopolitan St. Petersburg as opposed to the more insular towns and shtetls of the Russian Pale. According to these authorities, Ira – George's lyricist brother – was the only Gershwin to have a bar mitzvah ceremony, and the family virtually never attended synagogue and never observed the Jewish holidays.
However, in a 1938 interview, Rosa stated that, though she had put Orthodox Judaism behind her – "other than a devout belief in the Ten Commandments" (an interesting assertion, given the 5th commandment to "keep the Sabbath day holy") – the family "adhered rigidly to the Jewish faith and the home was strictly Orthodox." The children, she said, "were taught by rabbis and were all bar mitzvah."
George's aunt remembers Passover seders regularly hosted by Moishe and, lending credence to her recollection, famous actress Kitty Carlisle spoke of attending a Gershwin family seder where co-hosts George and Oscar Levant presided over a service "in a kind of mad jazzy rhythm," which she characterized as "a big joke."
Moreover, several letters exist in which George blessed G-d for various positive developments in his life, including one in which he wrote, "I pray to G-d that he will send me good blues for my concerto." He told one romantic interest, "Thank G-d that your mother is Jewish," and he refused to marry the great love of his life, composer Kay Swift, because she wasn't Jewish.
He had a 10-year relationship with Kay, with whom he frequently consulted about his work (he dedicated Oh, Kay to her), and he would not wed even after she divorced her (ironically, Jewish) husband to commit to a long-term relationship with him.
During his later years, Gershwin supported various Jewish charities and causes. Shown here is a February 14, 1934 check for $25 to the "Hadassah Jeritza Concert" written and signed by Gershwin. Maria Jeritza (1887-1982) was a celebrated Moravian soprano long associated with the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. She was glamorous and beautiful, and her sensational rise to fame earned her the nickname "The Moravian Thunderbolt." For Hadassah to get her to perform at a benefit concert was a real coup.
The basis for Gershwin's best-known work, the folk opera Porgy & Bess, was his deep interest in both Catfish Row and the Jewish shtetl. The Gershwin family's several residences in Harlem brought George into contact with the mushrooming black population there, and he traveled through the Gullah region of South Carolina to conduct research for Porgy, during which he developed an even stronger feeling for African-American culture.
After investing two years in the work, he was keenly disappointed that it was initially a commercial failure, though it came to be recognized as an American cultural classic and one of the most important musical developments of the 20th century. The audacious novelty of the work created great controversy, as music and theater authorities debated at length whether it was opera or a grand Broadway musical.
Gershwin told composer Lazare Saminsky, "While I actually do not know much about Jewish folksong, I think that many of my themes are Jewish in feeling." In a 1925 interview with The American Hebrew, he declared that "the traditional Hebrew religious melodies have had a marked influence upon modern music" and that "the Hebrew chants possess a peculiarly plaintive wail which gives them a universal appeal."
A collection of Gershwin stamps, including a stamp issued in 1998 by the Israel Postal Authority.
There is a particularly fascinating Jewish angle in the song It Ain't Necessarily So from Porgy, in which Gershwin parodies religious fundamentalism through dope-peddling con man Sportin' Life, who scolds and mocks other residents of Catfish Row in Charleston for believing various Biblical stories. Gershwin's melody for the song's famous refrain is the traditional tune for the first beracha by recipients of aliyot to the Torah: "Bar'chu et Hashem Ha-mevorach." In this regard, some commentators amusingly note that while you could keep Gershwin out of shul, you couldn't keep shul out of Gershwin.
It Ain't Necessarily So was a particularly powerful piece, coming as it did in 1943 during the height of WWII and the Holocaust. When Porgy and Bess made its European debut in Copenhagen at the Royal Danish Opera, the Nazis – enraged by the "degenerate" work, which they said was dominated by "sub-humans" (considering that it was written by Jews about blacks) – sought, but initially failed, to shut down the production. Later in 1944, when the Nazis threatened to use the Luftwaffe to bomb the Royal Opera to rubble, the producers decided that discretion is the better part of valor and ended the performances. However, Danish radio responded by playing It Ain't Necessarily So alongside Nazi propaganda broadcasts.
Gershwin's early intimacy with Yiddish musical theater, generally popular with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, proved efficacious when he was invited to collaborate on a Yiddish operetta with Sholom Secunda, a gifted musician infused with the Jewish tradition. In 1929, he signed a contract with the Metropolitan Opera Company to write an opera based on Szymon Ansky's The Dybbuk, and he began to create some music for the work, even planning to travel to Europe to study Jewish music traditions there to lend further authenticity to it. The proposed musical never materialized, however, because, as it turned out, rights to the play had already been assigned to Italian composer Lodovico Rocca.
Unfortunately, the ability to assess fully Gershwin's deliberate handling of Jewish material took a huge hit when he was forced to abandon The Dybbuk project, though we do have an insight into the nature of the material provided by his early biographer, Isaac Goldberg, who heard Gershwin play some of his proposed work. Goldberg characterized the music as "turning the room into a synagogue" with "the indistinct prayer of those to whom prayer has become a routine such as any other before coming to life as a Chassidic dance."
In any event, the Jewish legacy of Gershwin's music can still be seen through much of his existing work. Aside from It Ain't Necessarily So, as discussed above, there is little question that many of his motifs and melodies resemble Jewish prayer and cantorial chants. For example, according to many music historians, his famous "blue note" technique emerged from Jewish liturgical music, suggestive of the collective cry of an oppressed people, and the opening clarinet upward slide in Rhapsody in Blue has its roots in Klezmer.
One of his most famous tunes, S Wonderful, seems to have been lifted intact from Noach's Teive (Noah's Ark), a number in Goldfaden's operetta Akeidas Yitzchak (The Binding of Isaac).
The "Jewishisms" in Gershwin's music are most evident through his repeated use of expressive traits found in Biblical cantillation, including particularly in My One & Only (from Funny Face), and musicologists have also noted a resemblance between Gershwin's music and snappy frailachs (Jewish folk-dance tunes).
* * * * *
In the May 15, 1936 signed correspondence on his personal letterhead exhibited here, Gershwin, who often reviewed manuscripts of proposed works by other musicians, refers a work with evident Jewish content to a Jewish organization:
Please pardon the delay in returning your manuscript to you. I found it interesting and timely but it is not the type of material which I feel qualified to handle. Your best opportunity, in my opinion, would lie with some Jewish organization. Why don't you contact the Jewish Club, 23 West 73rd Street? They are very active and I feel sure would be able to give you some valuable suggestions.
Founded in 1931 by a group of Jewish musicians and scholars, the Jewish Club, formerly called the "America-Palestine Institute of Musical Sciences," or MAILAMM (the English acronym for the Hebrew name Machon Aretz Israel L'Mada-ei Ha-Musika), sought to explore and promote the musical culture of Eretz Yisrael and encourage musical creativity through concert programs, academic seminars, and educational programs.
MAILAMM worked closely with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to create a music research department there and build an important music library to facilitate forging musical links between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora. Besides Gershwin, initial MAILAMM members included Jewish composers Arnold Schoenberg, Ernest Block, and Rubin Goldmark, and Jewish violinist Mischa Elman.
After Gershwin's tragic death from a brain tumor, two simultaneous bi-coastal Jewish funeral services were held for him, one at Temple Emanuel in New York City, officiated by Rabbi Nathan Perilman, and one at Temple B'nai Brith (now known as the Wilshire Boulevard Temple) in Los Angeles, officiated by Rabbi Edgar Magnin. To raise funds for a Gershwin Memorial Concert hall in Jerusalem, MAILAMM gave a concert at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on January 18, 1938.
In 1916, Gershwin recorded a piano roll medley including Dos Pintele Yid, a popular Yiddish song. Although he was not religiously observant, it was that very "little spark of Jewishness" that lived within him and occasionally manifested itself throughout his life and work.