Comedian Jacob Samuel headlines A Night of Shticks & Giggles Feb. 21 at the Rothstein Theatre. (photo from JCCGV)
In just one week, I will be standing on stage at one of the most exciting events I have ever been a part of. On Feb. 21, some of the funniest stand-up comedians in Vancouver will join me in the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Rothstein Theatre, using laughter to raise money for JCC youth sports scholarships.
A Night of Shticks & Giggles is co-produced by the JCC and Rise of the Comics. Headlined by 2017 Yuk Off champion Jacob Samuel – It’s good to finally see a successful Jewish comedian, right!? – it will also feature a performance from Larke Miller, who I remember watching on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, as well as several other local comedic stars.
While the show will be one of those guaranteed good times for the audience, for me, it also represents a unique opportunity to combine two of my great passions.
Passion #1: As the delegation head for the JCC Maccabi Games – an athletics and arts program that provides Jewish teens the opportunity to travel and experience an Olympic-style international event – I have the responsibility and honour of raising scholarship funds to enable as many teens as possible the chance to participate in this life-changing event.
Passion #2: As a stand-up comic still in his rookie season, I get to meet, learn from and share the stage with some of the city’s top comics. Not to mention the opportunity to stand and perform my craft in front of an audience of 200+ in the Rothstein. (Gulp!)
As a producer of the show, the fact that I will be performing my own original set kind of makes me like that kid who got to start on the soccer team because my dad happened to be the head coach. Except, in this case, I also run the soccer team, picked my dad to be the coach and, oh boy, he’s putting me in!
While I might not end up being the funniest comic of the night, I can promise A Night of Shticks & Giggles will deliver the funny in spades.
Among his many local appearances, Samuel has performed on the Rothstein stage before, when the Jewish Independent team held their JI Chai Celebration in December 2017. He followed that up with his Yuk Off championship win, and his career has taken off since.
Harris Anderson, Joey Commisso and Randee Neumeyer have all inspired me with their irreverent, clever and sharp takes on life, as well.
Another one of the comics, Ed Konyha, used to run the award-winning open mic Stand-up and Deliver, the show in which I finally found the courage to perform my very first set as a stand-up comic.
Finally, Scotty Aceman, emcee for the night and producer of Rise of the Comics, has worked with me on a few shows now (this being the largest by far!) and is a huge inspiration for anyone thinking of quitting their day jobs and following their passion – no matter how little money it makes them. Aceman had a career in the cellphone business before giving it all up to bring comedy to Vancouver’s masses. Today, Rise of the Comics showcases Vancouver’s incredible comedy scene, producing and selling out regular live shows while featuring these local talents on their YouTube channel. His latest venture, Rise After Dark, offers people the chance to bring stand-up comedy right into their living room or private event.
Shticks & Giggles is a well-supported community event with a powerhouse of partnerships including the Chutzpah! Festival; Axis, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s young adult initiative; and, of course, the Jewish Independent.
Tickets for A Night of Shticks & Giggles are $20 and can be bought online at ticketpeak.com/jccgv. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, with the show set to begin at 8 p.m.
Kyle Bergeris coordinator, sports department, Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, and co-producer of A Night of Shticks & Giggles.
Ezralow Dance’s Open comprises many themes. (photo by Angelo Redaelli)
Los Angeles-based Ezralow Dance kicks off this year’s Chutzpah! Festival at the Rothstein Theatre Feb. 15 with, appropriately enough, a work called Open, for its embodiment of myriad ideas and ways in which to express them.
Chutzpah! also features a range of creative expression every year, with performers from around the world in dance, comedy and theatre. As has become tradition, the Jewish Independent will highlight several of the performances prior to the month-long festival. This week, we focus on dance, speaking with Daniel Ezralow, as well as Israel’s Roy Assaf.
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“Open is a testament to what I believe,” Daniel Ezralow told the Independent in an email interview. “When my wife (who collaborated with me) and I were thinking of a title for the show, we played around with a lot of options, but when we came up with the one word Open, it expressed everything that I wanted to say. Be open, open yourself, open to others, open your eyes, open your mind, open your heart and stay open to the world in many senses.
“It was a way of saying, leave your judgments at the door and try, just try, to be open-minded. I find that we are so full of judgment, many times we fail to see the beauty of what is so simple and directly in front of us. I am constantly attempting to open my mind and receive what comes to me. There is a wonderful concept, ‘to want what you get, not get what you want.’ I think Open has something to do with this.”
In his work, Ezralow is certainly open to new ideas and a wide variety of media. In his 40-some years in dance, he has performed with several companies, co-founded others and choreographed for numerous groups around the world, including Batsheva Dance Company, Paris Opera Ballet, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Atlanta Ballet. He choreographed the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Cirque du Soleil’s Love. He has created for dance festivals, Broadway shows, gymnastics competitions, television, film, commercials and other corporate projects, awards programs, pop star performances and music videos. The award-winning choreographer, director and multimedia artist has a vast and eclectic resumé, to say the least.
“I remember as a child always asking my father ‘why?’ I asked him why about just about everything. There is no question I am naturally curious,” said Ezralow. “I was once working with Chaim Topol on a project in New York City and we were in a taxi together. I asked him why – why does he work, why does he do the things he does? I’ll never forget the response he gave me. He said, ‘Curiosity.’ At that point, I understood that was the same thing that made me do the things I do. My mother always encouraged me to ask questions and to do what I believed in. I do lose myself in creations, but usually it is not an escape. In my best moments, I also try to live life like a creation and lose myself in it.”
In looking at his body of work, it’s hard to believe that Ezralow didn’t take a formal dance lesson until he was in his late teens, when he was a biology student at University of California, Berkeley.
“Dancing chose me so strong, I had little choice to shy away from it,” he said of his change in career direction.
“At the time, I was deeply disappointed with the American medical system. I felt it had nothing to do with helping people and was mostly about a hierarchy to achieve a status of life. The system was very closed to acupuncture, Eastern ideas and anything alternative. At the time, this made me feel that it was really askew and not for healing and helping people but rather for diagnosing, medicating with pills and cutting in surgery.
“Hopefully, this has changed and we are now entering a period of truer possibilities,” he said. “I just saw a wonderful documentary titled Heal, which delves into the human possibilities to heal ourselves. This is the kind of medicine I would like to get involved with. I also feel that the work I do is healing – dance is healing!”
About his goal as an artist, he said, “As I have grown, I have shed some of my desire to be a performer/exhibitionist and have been humbled with age, which has allowed me to dig deeper to understand that all I ever really wanted was to make people happy. Happy can mean crying, happy can mean laughing, happy can mean many things to me. I really just want to help people to be inspired to live another day of their lives on this planet.”
Ezralow’s father’s family came to Los Angeles via Winnipeg, of all places.
“My grandfather ran from the Russian revolution to Canada and settled in Winnipeg, where my father was born, who was one of a family of five. My grandfather was a carpenter,” he explained. The family moved to Los Angeles, he said, “probably because my grandfather saw there was opportunity. They settled in Boyle Heights, the poor Jewish area of L.A., and he began building houses. One by one, he would build a house, sell the one they lived in and move to the new house. I took a tour of Boyle Heights with my father before he passed away and he pointed out all of the homes my grandfather built and the family had lived in.”
According to the Jewish Journal, Ezralow’s parents met in Los Angeles; his mother was born in Poland, but the family emigrated when she was quite young.
“My mother grew up a Sabra in Palestine, before the declaration of the state of Israel,” he said. “All of my family on her side are still in Israel and I would travel every other summer with my family to Israel, so I am connected by heritage to a people I know intimately from my entire childhood. This has given me a sense of Jewishness as natural and surrounding me.
“In Los Angeles, as well,” he continued, “there is a very strong and permeated Jewish community, which I grew up in and was a bar mitzvah. But, after that, I felt that there was too much dogma in religion. I have worked many times with Batsheva in Israel and still have a deep connection to everyone. I am sometimes sad to see what is happening with the conflict there. But I feel a strong sense of Jewish humanity in my soul. It is something that is universal and not selective to one religion.”
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Roy Assaf is both creator of and a performer in the two award-winning pieces he is bringing to the Chutzpah! Festival, starting Feb. 22.
“I dance in both works, the duet Six Years Later and the trio The Hill,” he said in an email. “Back in 2011 and 2012, when these works were created, it felt perfectly natural for me to choreograph and to dance the work at the same time. Nowadays when I create, it is not at all the obvious choice.”
Assaf was born in Israel, and dance has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. About 15 years ago, he started working with Emanuel Gat, initially as a dancer, then as an assistant choreographer. Assaf’s first choreographed work, in 2005, won two awards at the Shades in Dance competition in Tel Aviv. In 2010, he worked with the Noord Nederlandse Dans company in Groningen, Holland, creating for them a work called Rock.
“I was invited by their artistic director, Stephen Shropshire,” said Assaf about that commission. “The amount of trust that Stephen gave me while working with his company strengthened my belief in myself that I could and should keep making pieces.”
Since then, Assaf has created or co-created works for many other companies, including two full-length pieces supported by the Intima Dance Festival, a work for L.A. Dance Project for the Biennale de Lyon, a collaborative piece for the Royal Swedish Ballet, and a piece for the Gothenburg Ballet. This past fall, he began creating 25 People, working with third-year Juilliard students in New York City, where he was on faculty for a semester, which he is resetting with dancers in Israel.
For Assaf, dance is not simply art for art’s sake.
“I would like to give people room to imagine,” he said. “It’s certainly not about distracting people – I really hope we are in the business of encouraging or facilitating engagement in one’s own life. What a pity it would be if dance principally served to distract or disconnect someone from his or her experience. Please do come to a performance and be fully yourself there – see what you see, recognize what you recognize, run with your fantasies, meet your uncomfortable places.”
The duet Six Years Later explores the relationship between two people who have come together after having been separated for a long time, while The Hill is a commentary on war, based on the Hebrew song “Givat Hatachmoshet,” about a particularly devastating battle that took place during the Six Day War in 1967, a battle that Israel won but with great losses.
Despite the different subject matter, Assaf has described both pieces as having a lot in common.
“They share a spine, in terms of physical material,” he explained. “If you look closely, you may discover that they are both dealing with much of the same movement – but that the same movement has undergone a very different treatment in each work. You might say they share a point of origin, but parted ways in their process. Each work followed a path to its logical conclusion. Both, however, deal with the story of human touch: its effect, its consequence.”
For all of the Chutzpah! dance offerings and the full festival schedule, visit chutzpahfestival.com.
David Broza, left, and Ali Paris will perform in concert. (photo from Chutzpah! Festival)
Tickets are now on sale for the 17th annual Chutzpah! Lisa Nemetz International Jewish Performing Arts Festival, which will run from Feb. 16 to March 13, at venues including Rothstein Theatre, York Theatre, Scotiabank Dance Centre and the Biltmore Cabaret.
“We are all excited for another year of presenting an electrifying array of internationally acclaimed dancers, musicians, comedians and theatrical artists to our audiences in Canadian, Western Canadian and world premières. We’re headed for an energizing and thrilling journey from stand-up comedy to theatrical drama to rich global music to explosive and elegant dance!” said Mary-Louise Albert, Chutzpah!’s artistic and managing director.
As it does every year, the 2017 Chutzpah! Festival dance series presents some of the most sought-after contemporary choreographers in the world. This year’s performances include the return of Italy’s Spellbound Contemporary Ballet with their full-length Carmina Burana; Israel’s Yossi Berg and Oded Graf Dance Theatre with their acclaimed 4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer; and Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion (United States) brings a mixed repertoire of some of Kyle Abraham’s most popular works in their Western Canadian première. Vancouver’s Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art première their completed and full-length version of Telemetry, while local choreographer and performer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and Italy’s award-winning Silvia Gribaudi navigate the role of comedy as a catalyst to questions of gender, culture and language and understanding – this is world première presented with the Dance Centre. As well, in Chutzpah! Plus (May 13-14), there is Birds Sing a Pretty Song (Canada/United States/Israel/Argentina), an exploration through dance, film, interactive media and live music created by Rebecca Margolick and Maxx Berkowitz during a yearlong fellowship in New York City with LABA: A Laboratory for New Jewish Culture.
Among the Chutzpah! Festival 2017 musical highlights is Grammy-winners the Klezmatics 30th Anniversary Tour (United States). In concert together will be David Broza, whose music reflects the three different countries in which he was raised (Israel, Spain and England), and Ali Paris, who fuses Middle Eastern and Western music styles, and plays the qanun, a rare 76-string zither that dates back to the 14th century. Also in concert together will be Shalom Hanoch – touted as “the King of Israeli Rock” and compared to musicians such as Neil Young and Mick Jagger – who will be joined on stage by his longtime music producer, partner and keyboard player Moshe Levi.
Now based out of Chicago, Marbin, founded by Israeli guitarist Dani Rabin and Israeli saxophonist Danny Markovitch, is a progressive jazz-rock band, and MNGWA [ming-wah] opens their performance, mixing elements of psychedelic rock, dub, African rhythms, and vocals in four languages. Israeli singer Maya Avraham, who is known by Chutzpah! audiences from her performances with the Idan Raichel Project, comes to Vancouver with her band of Israeli and American musicians, and Lyla Canté (United States/Israel/Japan/Argentina) also joins the festival – exploring the intersection of Sephardi, flamenco and Ashkenazi music. For Chutzpah! Plus (April 2), composer Landon Braverman and Friends put on an evening of musical theatre – while currently based in New York, Braverman is originally from Vancouver.
With respect to theatre, one of this year’s Chutzpah! highlights is Wrestling Jerusalem, created and performed by Aaron Davidman. Set in America, Israel and Palestine, the play follows one man’s journey to help understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Davidman’s solo performance is a personal story that grapples with the complexities of identity, history and social justice.
Another theatre draw is Folk Lordz, high-speed and multicultural improv featuring two members of Edmonton-based Rapid Fire Theatre, which was co-created by Todd Houseman and Ben Gorodetsky and brings together the unlikely combination of Cree storytelling, Chekhovian character drama and spontaneous comedy.
Comedy highlights include Mark Schiff (United States), who has headlined major casinos and clubs and has appeared many times on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with David Letterman. He has had HBO and Showtime specials, was a featured act at the Montreal Comedy Festival and regularly opens for Jerry Seinfeld.
Also on the comedy front, there is a double bill: Ali Hassan and Judy Gold. Canada’s Hassan appears in his one-man show Muslim Interrupted; Hassan is a stand-up comedian, actor, chef and radio and television celebrity, and is the host of Laugh Out Loud on CBC Radio and SIRIUSXM. Gold’s (United States) most recent TV appearances include guest-starring roles on Louie, Broad City, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Inside Amy Schumer, and she has a recurring role on the upcoming series on TBS Search Party. Gold has had stand-up specials on HBO (Cable Ace Award), Comedy Central and LOGO and was twice nominated for the American Comedy Award for funniest female comedian.
After the success of Chutzpah’s first literary event in 2016, this year’s Chutzpah! features author Christopher Noxon in Hollywood Stories, a special pre-festival event. Noxon is an author, journalist and illustrator and his humorous and unflinching Plus One is a novel about an interfaith family set in contemporary Los Angeles. Noxon is married to television writer and producer Jenji Kohan, creator of Orange is the New Black. This event is presented with the Cherie Smith JCC Jewish Book Festival and will take place on Feb. 5.
Single tickets for Chutzpah! range from $23 to $50 and are on sale now from chutzpahfestival.com, the festival box office, 604-257-5145, or Tickets Tonight, 604-684-2787. Chutzi Packs are also available – see four different shows for $94 – and new this year is a special five-show dance pack for $115.
Tickets will be available in-person starting Jan. 30 at the on-site festival box office at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. For hours and other information, visit chutzpahfestival.com.
Gwen Epstein is the second on right in this photo of Sister Suffragette, performed by Razzmatap. The troupe’s upcoming show at the Rothstein has already sold out. (photo from Razzmatap)
The audience at the Norman Rothstein Theatre on June 27 will be treated to a uniquely entertaining show – The Best of Razzmatap.
The local amateur tap ensemble’s members are all women, among them representatives of diverse professions – from a judge, to a teacher, to a physical therapist – and a range of ages, from 40s to 80s. Founder, director and choreographer Jan Kainer talked to the Independent about the group’s roots.
“When my daughter was 7, I started a little class with some of her friends, so she would have an opportunity to tap dance. One class grew to several classes at Kerrisdale Community Centre and, in about 1987, I added an adult class. It was just for fun and fitness. After about six months of class, I asked the adults if they wanted to participate in a Christmas concert. Only one person was willing but, by yearend, the group had worked up the courage to dance in public, and they never looked back…. After we started doing performances and competitions, we decided we needed a name. Everyone put in suggestions, and we voted on Razzmatap.”
The initial core members are still with the ensemble, and several new members have joined through the years, explained Kainer. “The dancers’ average age is 65,” she said. “Our oldest dancer is 86, and I do have to take her health and strength into consideration. I choreograph around the strengths of the dancers in the group, so it forces me to work at making the dances interesting.”
A multiple-award-winning troupe, the upcoming show at the Rothstein, like many Razzmatap events, is already sold out. Kainer thinks the group’s success is largely due to her dancers’ obvious delight on stage. “My group has learned over the years how to tell a story and how to express the joy they feel when dancing. I think it shows.”
One of the dancers, Gwen Epstein, shared her enthusiasm with the JI. “Our teacher Jan Kainer is wonderful,” Epstein said. “When she works on new dances, she tries to give everyone a small solo, to showcase what the individual dancers do best, but, most of the time, we dance as a group, and everyone participates in almost everything.”
Epstein joined Razzmatap about 20 years ago but, like Kainer, she has danced most of her life. “I always liked dancing,” she said. “My mom was a ballet teacher. Of course, I started with ballet classes but I liked tap dance better.”
She took tap dancing lessons until high school, then took a break from her late teens to early 20s. When she got married, she resumed dancing and never stopped, not while raising her three children and not while working full time as a microbiologist.
“I was with a couple of different groups for awhile,” she remembered. “When my daughter was 6, I took her to tap dancing lessons and learned that the teacher also had an adult group. I joined it. It was Razzmatap.”
According to Epstein, the group participates in several tap dance competitions every year and usually wins. “We like to compete,” she explained. “We’ve competed in B.C. and in Germany. We also traveled to New York, Chicago and San Francisco for workshops. We danced in Tap on Broadway in New York. It was fun.”
Everything connected to her favorite group is fun for her. “Tap dance is such a happy activity. The music is lively. You dance and you think of Fred Astaire and Singing in the Rain. You want to smile. Even though none of us is very young, dancing makes us feel young. People come to rehearsals and complain – my knee hurts, my back aches, my feet are sore, some wear knee braces – but then we start dancing and we dance.”
The group usually rehearses twice a week for two hours, but now they have increased to three times a week in preparation for the new show, and everyone is excited. “Everyone has to come to the rehearsals,” she said. “We’re all very enthusiastic about the coming show.”
In the June 27 performance, Epstein will appear in nine dances out of 10, but her favorite is the one where she gets to reminisce on stage – in dance, of course. “I perform in my mom’s clothing in that dance, and it makes me think of her. This dance is very important to me, especially now, when she passed away.”
Each dance of Razzmatap is a story, told in music and movement. Some pieces have serious historical connotations, while others invoke a vague sense of nostalgia or memories of bygone eras. Of course, to create the right ambience for such dances, the performers need multiple props.
“We make all our props ourselves,”
Epstein said. “One dance needed human-sized man puppets as our dancing partners. Another needed suitcases. And then there are costumes. Of course, Jan sets the tone, like the color or sequins, but we make them.”
Epstein has quite a collection of costumes by now, from 20 years’ worth of dancing. “I keep them all in labeled boxes. It’s interesting when we have to travel with all of them.”
Epstein enjoys all aspects of performing: the spotlight, the music, the public. “Before the show, you’re nervous, but after, you feel such a thrill,” she said. “And the audience loves our shows. They are smiling, laughing…. I like entertaining people. When I was young, I didn’t think to make dance a career. I still think it’s nice to have a good job and a hobby you love, but if I had another chance, I might have chosen to be a professional dancer.”
Olga Livshinis a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach will speak at the Rothstein Theatre on Jan. 17. (photo from Shmuley Boteach)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach will be in Vancouver later next week to talk about his most recent book, Kosher Lust: Why Love is Not the Answer. Boteach, a rabbi, author, television host, pundit and in-demand speaker who has been called “America’s Rabbi,” is being presented by the North Shore Jewish Community Centre/Congregation Har El with support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. His talk will be followed by a Q&A and a meet and mingle over refreshments.
Boteach described Kosher Lust as “a revolutionary book,” in an interview with the Jewish Independent. “Most books about marriage, about sex or about romance, are about how you can create love in a relationship, how you can increase love. This book argues that love has been the problem all along. Why do we have such a high divorce rate? Why, if [marriages] do work, they work on a practical level but not on a level of deep desire? And my book argues the reason is that love has always been the problem.” He stressed, “The foundation of a marriage is supposed to be lust and desire, rather than love and friendship.”
In recognizing that “we live in a modern world where marriage as an institution is in common decline,” Boteach said he is “trying to make arguments for sustaining, enhancing and promoting marriage.” The bestselling author said his newest book “gives us three rules of lust. Number one, unavailability; number two, mystery; number three, sinfulness.” The book “teaches couples how to bring the three rules of erotic lust into their marriages and relationships.” These three rules of lust are from the Song of Solomon on which, he explained, the book itself is based.
Untangling the first rule, Boteach said that unavailability is “what we call erotic obstacles, erotic impediments [or] things which frustrate desire.” These include “things that get in the way of desire … that actually increase desire,” he said.
A problem with modern marriage “is that there is no mystery,” he said. “Marriages today are based on openness and a lack of mystery, and constant availability…. I actually argue a different kind of marriage.”
When asked how an ideal marriage would look, Boteach said, the “whole belief that marriage is about this constant openness and constant availability is incorrect.” Jewish law, he suggested, argues instead “for ‘sinful’ marriages. Notice that husband and wife become forbidden to each other for a period [of time] every month [during niddah]. Then, you have the element of sinfulness under the laws of modesty that are all about things being concealed, mysterious, covered, not just always available.”
Are there dangers or limitations to lust? “From a Jewish perspective, all things in life are neutral, and it really depends on their application as to whether they are positive or negative,” he said.
“There is unkosher lust,” Boteach added, “like what a husband will feel towards a woman who is not his wife. Unkosher lust is the kind of lust that is generated by pornography and the objectification of women and demeaning women.” Kosher lust, however, “like the desire that a husband has for his wife and that a wife has for her husband, is a beautiful thing and a ‘kosher’ thing.”
His book contends that “women are as lustful as men are,” Boteach explained. “One of the central arguments in my book is that women are much more sexual than men, and female sexuality has been belittled in our time and prior to our time.” Women “lust in a uniquely feminine way … in a much deeper more emotional way,” Boteach suggested, while men “lust in a uniquely physical way, that is often very two-dimensional, very predictable, very monotonous and very boring.”
The book has received several positive reviews in mainstream media, but also a critical review in Haaretz, Boteach said. In his opinion, this is “no coincidence … because Jews are the ones who always have an issue with a rabbi giving them advice about sex, because so often we belittle our own religion.”
Boteach continued, “I am not looking to write specifically to a Jewish audience. I am writing to a mainstream audience…. Jews have to learn how to assert their Jewishness in the midst of a multicultural society. And that’s what I do … I’m promoting Jewish identity, which can be affirmed and asserted anywhere and everywhere. We can’t create ghettoized Judaism that is only affirmed in the presence of other Jews. But I also believe that the universal teachings of Judaism are universally applicable and, therefore, it’s not just for Jews.”
The prolific author – he has published 30 books to date – will continue to focus his writing on relationships, but he is also continuing his foray into television with a new pilot for a show to be broadcast in Canada on Vision TV.
Boteach will speak Jan. 17, 7 p.m., at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre. Tickets are available online at harel.brownpapertickets.com.
On Dec. 5, Lenka Lichtenberg will perform traditional and original songs at the Rothstein Theatre, self-accompanied on piano, guitar, harmonium and percussion. (photo from lenkalichtenberg.com)
Three new CDs in three years made in three different regions of the world, garnering at least as many awards and even more nominations. Toronto-based Lenka Lichtenberg has been on creative fire. She sent the Independent greetings from Prague earlier this month, as she was preparing for a concert there, and early next month, she will be in Vancouver.
The group Art Without Borders is bringing Lichtenberg here for a Dec. 5 solo performance at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre.
According to its website, the nonprofit organization has two missions: “it strives to promote an understanding and appreciation for Czech culture through the arts both within and without the Czech community” and “it endeavors to cultivate dialogue between Canada and Central Europe.”
Lichtenberg’s work certainly forms cultural connections, and it greatly expands upon the dialogue. Consider only her most recent recordings, all of which bring together top-notch musicians from around the world to create music that blends multiple languages, cultures, melodies and rhythms: Songs for the Breathing Walls (2012) with the help of many international artists, Embrace (2013) with Canadian world-music group Fray and Lullabies from Exile (2014) with Israel’s Yair Dalal.
In addition, on her website, Lichtenberg has a virtual museum that displays some of what she has discovered about her family. Born in Prague, she didn’t find out she was Jewish until she was 9 or 10 years old. “It took me awhile to learn about my roots, as my mother did not say much about it; she did not know herself,” writes Lichtenberg. “My mother, while 100 percent Jewish, was brought up a Catholic by her family who left Judaism one by one. My great-grandmother described herself as ‘without faith’ already in 1919, and my grandmother and grandfather left Judaism some three to four years later. There were no signs of Jewish roots in the households, Christmas was celebrated. Not a completely atypical Czech Jewish urban family, I believe; assimilation was widespread. Then, the Holocaust … and my family was murdered. As an adult, I began learning.
“The activities of the past 25 years of my life, since my first trip to Masada, have largely been an attempt to learn about, and honor, my heritage in ways available to me: as a Yiddish singer (picking up Yiddish as an adult) and musician, composer of music built in one way or another on Jewish traditions, and a singer of beautiful liturgy. My 2010-2012 project Songs for the Breathing Walls was the most determined milestone in my quest to honor and connect with the past – via the history of the wider Jewish community of Czech and Moravian lands.”
The album Songs for the Breathing Walls connects that past with the future, preserving traditional Hebrew liturgy and poems in contemporary arrangements that were performed live in 12 different synagogues, or buildings that were once synagogues or used as such (nine Czech and three in Moravia). The recordings were made from July 2010 through July 2011. “The journey ended in Terezin, where my mother’s family was incarcerated; for the first time, I walked in the halls of the building where my mother had lived for two and a half years,” writes Lichtenberg in the liner notes. Appropriately, the memorial prayer El Maleh Rachamim was recorded there. Several of the recordings are prayers from the Yizkor service, but they mix with an Adon Olam based by Dalal on a melody of Babylonian Jews, an Avinu Malkeinu arranged by Lichtenberg and other holiday or weekday prayers.
Mourning and hope, sadness and joy cohabitate easily in this beautiful, moving and meaningful recording, the idea for which came to Lichtenberg in 2009. Performing on consecutive days in synagogues in Plzen and in Liberec, she noticed a difference in sound, ambience and feeling, “a unique character stemming from something deeper than mere acoustics … perhaps something left behind by those who built these structures and filled them with their lives.” Her hope is that, in listening to Songs for the Breathing Walls, people “will be able to hear the ‘breathing walls’ as well, embracing those who lived among them, love, suffered, prayed for peace. Perhaps then, their memory will live on….”
In all of Lichtenberg’s music, the memory and traditions of those who have lived before can be heard – they are celebrated, and merge with the memories, traditions and passions of Lichtenberg and the artists with whom she collaborates. A completely different mood infuses Embrace than Songs for the Breathing Walls, yet it too crosses temporal, cultural and geographic borders. Recorded in Toronto with Fray, co-led by percussionist Alan Hetherington, Embrace features lyrics inspired by religious texts, folk tales, poems, family and friends, with melodies rooted in the Middle East, North America, South America and India.
Lichtenberg is at home in many languages and musical styles, and every release highlights her talents, and those of the musicians with which she works, Lullabies from Exile being another example. It is one of the most distinctive collections of lullabies you’ll ever hear. With songs recorded in Israel, Canada and Czech Republic, it brings together Babylonian and Yiddish music, songs sung to Dalal and Lichtenberg by their mothers, literally intertwining them in eight medleys, each arranged from a song from each of their traditions.
As explained on Dalal’s website, the collaboration on this CD “was born before a joint concert in Kosice, Slovakia, when Lichtenberg played the album’s opening lullaby, ‘Yankele,’ for Dalal to see if he could accompany her on oud. Soon, Dalal was playing an Iraqi lullaby from his childhood [‘Wien Ya Galub’] that connected to Lichtenberg’s Yiddish song with a remarkably natural intuition…. While most of these lullabies are in Judeo-Iraqi Arabic and Yiddish, the concept grew to include songs in Czech, Slovak and Hebrew in order to reflect the artists’ personal histories, as well as English, to acknowledge the experience of the English-speaking Diaspora.” The CD also includes two non-medleys.
When the Jewish Independent first interviewed Lichtenberg (“Eclectic Jewish music,” Dec. 15, 2006), it was about her third CD, Pashtes/Simplicity, a collaboration with Brian Katz, in which she set the Yiddish poetry of Simcha Simchovitch to Jewish, jazz, Brazilian and other melodies. Having performed previously “in lounges, bars, in a rock band, more bars, and a cruise line,” she explained what she realized in Israel: “… I needed to change my direction and truly embrace my roots, my identity, which at that time was barely visible. I decided to ‘do Jewish.’ Being a musician, it meant dropping the kind of music I made my living with up to then in Canada and starting from scratch as a Jewish singer…. I concentrated on Yiddish, as I felt it would be closer to my true identity than Hebrew, even though my family, my mom and grandma, Holocaust survivors, didn’t speak a word of Yiddish. [They were] totally assimilated, as [were] most Czech Jews.” Lichtenberg, who had also been studying cantorial music for several years by 2006, described her experience with Jewish music as being “a growing process.”
While it is tempting, having listened to these latest recordings, to say that Lichtenberg’s Jewish music is all grown up, so to speak, written and performed with a confidence and skill that is remarkable, she seems like someone who will continually push herself to keep growing, experimenting in each new project. And, of course, she has several on the go. For more information about Lichtenberg, visit lenkalichtenberg.com. For tickets to her Dec. 5, 8 p.m., solo concert at the Rothstein Theatre, visit arwibo.org ($25) or the theatre box office at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver ($28).
In 2003, the Jewish Independent reviewed Jennifer Gasoi’s debut children’s album, Songs for You, describing it as “intelligent, energetic, philosophical, educational, at times silly and, most importantly, it’s high-quality music.” Since then, Gasoi has garnered numerous awards and nominations for her music. The latest – her second CD, Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well, took home the 2014 Grammy Award for best children’s album.
With the big January win still fresh, Gasoi – the first Canadian to ever receive this Grammy honor – returns to Vancouver next month. Living in Montreal since 2002, she is not only coming back to see family, but to perform two concerts on April 12 to benefit the Children’s Hearing and Speech Centre of British Columbia.
Gasoi, who also won the 2013 Sirius XM Canadian Indie Awards for children’s artist of the year, the Parent Choice Award and the Canadian Book Centre’s selection for best children’s music, and was a semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Competition and a Juno nominee for children’s album of the year, took time to speak with the Jewish Independent before her upcoming visit.
JI: You’ve won other honors and nominations in your career. In what ways, if any, is the Grammy different, and in what ways has it already affected your work/schedule?
JG: The other awards and nominations were wonderful accolades, but winning a Grammy has taken my career into a whole new realm. I’m being asked to speak and represent many different organizations. I’ve had quite a few requests internationally – to play shows (U.S.), to submit my music to radio stations (Australia), to sell my CDs (a theatre company in Oklahoma) and I’ve even had interest to play a show in China. There’s a certain status associated with being a Grammy winner that I’m still getting used to! It’s been quite a challenge keeping up with all the requests and opportunities arising. There’s no question that new doors are opening and my horizons are broadening.
JI: You have consistently put out quality recordings. From where do you find your inspiration? How do you keep the work fresh and interesting for yourself?
JG: I am inspired by life. By people, experiences, nature, music, small moments, unexpected interactions, synchronicities. Sometimes, it’s just a simple two-minute interaction that can inspire a song. Or a memory can be the catalyst. “The Little Things” started off with the image of jelly tots– little candies that I used to love as a child – and it spun into a whole song about all the joyful moments from my childhood. “The Pizza Man” was inspired by a real-life pizza man at a iconic pizzeria in Montreal. Inspiration can hit anytime, anywhere. To keep the creative energy flowing, I see live shows, listen to music, practise yoga and meditation, go for walks on the mountain, take improv comedy classes, watch inspiring videos, dance, and spend time with creative and inspiring people. Children are one of my main sources of inspiration. They continually amaze me. They are so full of life, connected, brilliant, openhearted, pure and so much fun to be with. They remind me of what is really important in life.”
JI: You’ve been very involved in the Jewish communities of both Vancouver and Montreal. In what ways, if at all, has your Jewish heritage/upbringing/communal ties influenced your life/work?
JG: There is something very special about being part of such a close-knit community in both Vancouver and Montreal. It has provided me with a real sense of belonging and groundedness. When I was a child and attended synagogue at Temple Sholom, I was deeply moved by the music played during the services. I love Jewish music. It touches my soul. My Jewish heritage has definitely influenced my songwriting. In my first album, Songs for You, I have a klezmer tune called “The Animal Party,” and, in my latest CD, Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well, the hora features prominently at the end of “The Purple Man.”
I have the privilege of playing music for seniors and patients in several hospitals in Montreal. There is a significant Jewish population, so I often play classic Jewish songs such as “Hinei Ma Tov,” “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem” and “B’shana Ha’ba’a.” I once played Hatikvah during one of my gigs at a Jewish seniors group held in a synagogue, and everyone in the room stood up and sang along. It was so powerful, it brought me to tears.
JI: Are there any projects on which you’re currently working/collaborating?
JG: I have some projects in the works. That’s all I’ll say for now. My priority is to get all my business in order so that I can continue to create music, perform and reach a wider audience.
JI: Is there is anything else you’d like to share?
JG: I am so grateful to be living the life of my dreams. I hope that I can inspire others – big and small – to take chances in their lives, to live from the heart and know that anything is possible.
Jennifer Gasoi will perform twice at the Children’s Hearing and Speech Centre of British Columbia’s annual Family Concert on April 12, at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The event at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre – which raises funds to support CHSC’s audiology program – will also feature clowns, games, auction items and face painting. Tickets are $15.50 per child and youth under 17, $18.50 per adult 18 and over, and $60 for a family of four (two adults and two children under 17); they are available from childrenshearing.ca.
Idan Sharabi will be joined by three other dancers when he comes to Vancouver for Chutzpah! (photo by Tami Weiss)
From running around barefoot as a child to dancing for audiences around the world, Idan Sharabi has never stopped moving. “Dancing is the only action I have been doing all my life,” he told the Independent – and we in Vancouver can see him in action at Chutzpah! early next month.
The festival runs Feb. 22 to March 9, and Idan Sharabi & Dancers opens for eight-member Italian contemporary dance company ImPerfect Dancers in performances on March 6, 8 and 9. While based in Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Idan Sharabi & Dancers are an international group: accompanying Sharabi to Vancouver are Ema Yuasa (Japanese), Rachel Patrice Fallon (American) and Dor Mamalia (Israeli). Sharabi himself has studied in Tel Aviv (Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts) and New York (Juilliard School), performed with Nederlands Dans Theatre (NDT) in The Hague and Batsheva Dance Company in Israel, and had his work shown in – among other places – Israel, Switzerland, the United States, Japan, Italy and Canada (Montreal and Toronto).
“I have loved every person I have met from Canada. I have had a great connection with them immediately. There is something I like about Canadians!”
The Chutzpah! show will bring Sharabi to Vancouver for the first time. “I have been many times to Montreal but never anywhere else in Canada,” he said. However, “I have loved every person I have met from Canada. I have had a great connection with them immediately. There is something I like about Canadians!”
Idan Sharabi & Dancers will be coming to Vancouver from a residency in Holland. “Right after, we go to Rome to perform in the Food for Thoughts event [hosted] by the European Dance Alliance of Valentina Marini and, after, to teach repertoire workshops and master classes at the Contemporary Dance School Hamburg, in Germany,” said Sharabi, who has known and collaborated with each Mamalia, Yuasa and Patrice Fallon for some years now.
“Dor and I have worked together for the past 2.5 years,” Sharabi told the Independent. “We met back when I created for him and others in The Project of the Israeli Opera House, in 2011. Since then, we’ve been good friends and inspiring each other to create.
“Ema had danced with me in NDT and we created a lot together there: both Adar and K’zat (two pieces of our repertoire were made back then with her). She joined the group in 2010, when we had just started in Israel with our first show, when we weren’t yet settled at all. It was the show Home, which I had created for five dancers and, only two years later, I was able to start Idan Sharabi & Dancers as a traveling and performing group. It took those years, but Ema stuck with me through it, even though she lived in Holland – it was done by e-mails, phone, Skype. We made it happen, and she joined us again, since August 2013, in the Copenhagen Summer Dance Festival of the Danish Dance Theatre, who invited us to perform Adar there.”
Last but not least, Patrice Fallon and Sharabi met each other in 2011 at the Springboard Danse Montreal program. He has worked with her since then. “I was invited by Yuri Zhukov recently to create for his company ZDT [Zhukov Dance Theatre] in San Francisco, Calif., and I insisted on him auditioning her for the company,” explained Sharabi. “She got it and came to do my project there – we created together Spider on a Mirror. Everyone was happy with the decision to bring her, as she is definitely a great and very physical, groovy dancer with an open mind and heart, and then I realized she should definitely join us every time, whenever it’s possible.” The Chutzpah! show will be the first time that Patrice Fallon joins the full group of Idan Sharabi & Dancers in performance – she will also be with them during their residency in Holland prior to their coming here.
Born in Rishon Le Zion, Sharabi moved with his family to Mazkeret Batya when he was four years old. “It was like a tiny town,” he said of where he grew up. “Back then, everybody used to know each other and you got really close to your neighbors. The whole town was like a big neighborhood. Now, there is a road to it but when I was a child, there was no road yet for cars to drive on, and we used to run there barefoot, there was just sand. Actually, I don’t remember many cars … inside the village. We could basically use the ‘road’ (the sand) to lie down on, we would play there.”
Sharabi said he grew up in a traditional Jewish home. The youngest of three children, he went to synagogue with his father and brother every Friday night, and there was always Shabbat dinner, at least until he was in his mid-teens. “No one from my family works formally in the arts,” he said, “but they are all very creative, and especially my mother, who writes stories and poetry – but never to be published.”
Asked when he first discovered dance, Sharabi shared, “I always remember dancing and moving around as a kid. In general, as a kid, I was weird, according to the stories and my overall feeling. My mom says I was telling her things like there is movement inside plants, that the flower I was holding in my hand is not only what we see. She also says my father tells her that he can never understand me and he thinks my mom and I understand each other because we are both ‘crazy.’
“So, movement, and even exploration, was always there. I first started dancing in a class when I was about 12 years old.”
Sharabi also shared the recollection of a vacation at a hotel where his family stayed every summer. He participated every night in a dance activity for kids. “I think it was called Disco-Kid or something,” he said. “Apparently, according to the stories, I stayed there every day after the other kids left and kept moving around with one of the entertainment team of the hotel, and made myself – and her – memorize movements. By the end of the week, I had a little dance I had choreographed for us! Then, she brought my parents to watch me when I was dancing.”
“I don’t know how to describe how dancing makes me feel, but I can say for sure that dancing is the only action I have been doing all my life.”
A year later, he said, he was studying dance. “I don’t know how to describe how dancing makes me feel, but I can say for sure that dancing is the only action I have been doing all my life.”
One of Sharabi’s recent creations – with two other members of the group – is Nishbar, which means both broken and breaking, and the work has “a lot to do with feeling broken … breaking down or breaking up,” explained Sharabi. He said, “Everything we create in the group is personal on a certain level and people are touched in the creation process. I feel the moment when there is no inspiration for myself or the dancer, it stops there.”
“I realized how we always have our first stage in the process, which is playing a lot of games in the studio, getting to know the dancers, their personalities, their insecurities, the natural movement approach, their ideas of things, their creativity or the lack of it. Mainly, you see the reasons for one to dance almost right there on the spot.”
Sharabi and Mamalia recently were inspired to choreograph a work for Israel Ballet, at the ballet company’s invitation to Sharabi. “It was a very interesting process,” he said. “I realized how we always have our first stage in the process, which is playing a lot of games in the studio, getting to know the dancers, their personalities, their insecurities, the natural movement approach, their ideas of things, their creativity or the lack of it. Mainly, you see the reasons for one to dance almost right there on the spot…. This is something I always start with these days. In my group, I can sometimes just start with a lot of improvising with the dancers, or just watching them improvise and [encouraging] them towards different directions, giving them more and more tools to develop, things that I think of at the moment, leaving the freedom for them to develop other things…. I love this kind of process because I always learn so much from it.”
At the Chutzpah! Festival, Idan Sharabi & Dancers will be presenting a première formed from a couple of different parts of their repertoire. Called Makom, Sharabi explained, “Dor is a dear friend and so I talk to him a lot. I realized at a certain point that I simply love talking to him, I love how witty, funny, easygoing and open and sensitive he can be. I decided to start recording our talks. It became small interviews I would make with him before rehearsing. I asked him stuff in English instead of Hebrew because I started thinking [I would like] to use the material. He didn’t think we would do such a thing and it definitely surprised him to hear himself on the soundtrack. Then we went through a whole process of discovering his voice and the sound it creates in space and time. The textures of his voice and the meanings of what he had said were almost always connected.”
About the future, Sharabi said, “We might travel to Malta this summer. I go a lot to Europe to teach and create for companies as a freelance choreographer and this has created interest recently from a lot of companies to join my company with theirs, and so we do a lot of collaborations.
“We are booked to perform Nishbar and more works from our repertoire in Jerusalem, in Beit Mazye Theatre, in May. After, [we’ll be] in Herzliya with another show with the orchestra there. Poliphony invited my group for this collaboration. Artistic director and conductor Gil Shohat had met me recently and expressed his interest in my work to live music. I loved the idea and we are going to work on that as soon as we step in Israel again.”
ImPerfect Dancers and Idan Sharabi & Dancers are at the Rothstein Theatre on March 6, 8 p.m.; March 8, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (evening includes a talkback); and March 9, 4 p.m. Note: There is partial nudity. Tickets ($20-$28, plus taxes and service charge) are available at chutzpahfestival.com, as is the full festival schedule.
Imagine not being able to hear. The silence. The isolation. Now imagine the sounds of kids singing, playing, asking questions at story time – even though they are deaf or hard of hearing. These and other happy sounds filled the halls and classrooms of the Children’s Hearing and Speech Centre of British Columbia when the Jewish Independent recently toured the centre, which just celebrated its 50th year.
Founded in 1963 as the Vancouver Oral Centre for Deaf Children by a group of parents with educator Hilda Gregory, CHSC’s mission statement describes the facility as “a family-focused clinical and educational centre that teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing children to listen and talk, giving them the skills and confidence they need to achieve their fullest potential.”
According to the centre’s website, “Gregory was one of a handful of deaf educators who believed that even children with profound hearing losses, wearing hearing aids, had enough residual hearing that they could learn to listen and talk. The model of small classes and individual sessions … is the one we still use today.”
When the centre was started by Gregory, explained Janet Weil, executive director/principal of the CHSC, “There were no services for children under the age of 5. Hilda opened the first preschool for deaf children in Western Canada. What she did wasn’t radical. There were programs throughout the world teaching deaf children how to speak. What she did do was create a place where deaf children, with the very best amplification (hearing aids) available and focused educational strategies, could learn to listen and talk. Parents were key, and so parent education was a requirement. Parents were very involved. They knew [it was] something special, and they did everything they could to support the well-being and sustainability of the centre.
“Things have changed,” she said about developments over the last 50 years. “Children with profound hearing losses weren’t being identified as DHH [deaf or hard of hearing] until they were sometimes 3 or 4 years old; and, with a more moderate loss, until they were in school and it was obvious they were missing things.” Technological changes since the centre was started, however, “include newborn screening, which identifies a hearing loss at birth, [and has been] mandated in B.C. for all newborns as of 2009. There is a small window of learning when the child is very young. Neural plasticity means a child can access auditory information with prescriptive hearing aids and cochlear implants. The first three years are critical to get information to the brain that can be processed with relative ease. It makes all the difference for typical language and speech development – [it] impacts everything, especially reading.”
Weil’s uncle, born in the early part of the 20th century, was deaf. There was “no access to amplification, but my grandmother worked diligently with him to learn to talk,” said Weil. “He went to Stanford, graduated with a degree in English literature and became an editor of college textbooks. [He] never learned to sign, was a lip-reader and talker; very active in the San Francisco Jewish community. My mother was also a teacher of the deaf, so it’s really the family business.”
About how she landed in Vancouver, Weil said, “I was recruited to the centre in 2010. I had been a teacher of the deaf in the SF [San Francisco] Bay area for many years, a consultant to schools for the deaf in the U.S., and was the early childhood education director at the Brotherhood Way JCC in San Francisco for six years.”
The Children’s Hearing and Speech Centre of British Columbia offers programs that are not offered anywhere else in Western Canada, she said. “We see children from birth through Grade 12,” she said about what makes CHSC unique. She explained that its “various programs address individual needs,” and the goal “is to integrate the children into the mainstream of school and society with learning readiness skills and confidence.”
“What we know about the brain and sensory learning underscores our commitment to a team approach that includes occupational therapy; weekly sessions for identified children to address processing, balance, motor skills, learning differences. On-site audiology services make sure children have ongoing access to sound.”
The centre has a “cognitively based curriculum that fosters critical thinking and independence,” she added. As well, it recognizes that many of the deaf or hard-of-hearing children at the centre – more than 40 percent, she said – have additional learning needs. “What we know about the brain and sensory learning underscores our commitment to a team approach that includes occupational therapy; weekly sessions for identified children to address processing, balance, motor skills, learning differences. On-site audiology services make sure children have ongoing access to sound.”
Weil sent the Independent a document she had written about CHSC’s work with sensory integration. About the children who have additional learning needs, she wrote, “In addition to having a hearing loss, they also have vestibular dysfunction. The vestibular system, which sits insides the cochlea or inner ear, can be compromised when there is a hearing loss. The vestibular system influences nearly everything we do. That is why it is often referred to as ‘sensory motor integration.’
“For deaf and hard-of-hearing children, it impacts auditory language processing so that children have difficulty discriminating likenesses and differences in what they hear, as well as an inability to comprehend what is being said in a noisy environment, follow directions and express themselves with ease.
“Occupational therapists work with children to strengthen their vestibular systems, which improves their ability to play and learn,” she wrote.
In addition to occupational therapy, CHSC offers “speech and language therapy, parent education and support, before- and after-school care, music education and summer camp,” according to its website. First Words is CHSC’s program for children from birth to age 3; preschool and “language acceleration programs provide group and one-to-one sessions addressing each child’s specific learning needs. Small, individually focused, on-site classes begin at age 3 and continue, if recommended, through the primary grades.”
To help with children’s transition out of the centre, into public school or post-Grade 12, Weil explained that there are social groups for the kids, there are workshops for the high school to post-secondary jump, and the centre provides itinerant teaching services to children in independent schools. Some graduates participate in fundraising activities, she added.
One of CHSC’s itinerant students is Rina Pinsky, 15, who is in Grade 10 at King David High School. The youngest of four children, Pinksy told the Independent that she was diagnosed when she was 2 years old. “The type of hearing I have is called bilateral profound hearing loss, which means I am completely deaf in both ears,” she said. “On my left ear, I have a cochlear implant and I use an FM system at school, which helps me hear teachers better.”
She started going to the Children’s Hearing and Speech Centre when she was 3 years old, and left after Grade 1. “Since then,” she said, “I’ve had a hearing resource teacher from there. I still go back to the school to visit or volunteer for events.”
“I went to CHSC to learn how to talk, listen, and how to interact with other people. Now, with all of that support, I am doing well in school and I’m able to be independent. I read from the Torah at my bat mitzvah in 2011, I am part of United Synagogue Youth (USY) and I have been to two Jewish summer camps (Camp Solomon Schechter, 2007-2012, and Camp Miriam, 2012-present). All of this would never have happened if it weren’t for the staff at CHSC.”
About how the CHSC has impacted her life, Pinsky said, “I went to CHSC to learn how to talk, listen, and how to interact with other people. Now, with all of that support, I am doing well in school and I’m able to be independent. I read from the Torah at my bat mitzvah in 2011, I am part of United Synagogue Youth (USY) and I have been to two Jewish summer camps (Camp Solomon Schechter, 2007-2012, and Camp Miriam, 2012-present). All of this would never have happened if it weren’t for the staff at CHSC. I see Tricia [Eckels] twice a week at my school. We work on homework, editing papers, talking about my cochlear implant and FM system. Sometimes, we talk about current events.”
When asked to share something about her interests and/or extracurricular activities, Pinsky told the Independent, “I love to cook and bake, which makes me want to go to culinary school after high school. Once a week, I do hip-hop at the Jewish Community Centre [of Greater Vancouver]. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do.”
Pinsky is one of the hundreds of students that CHSC has taught since it opened. Among Weil’s “blue sky” plans for the centre is reaching out to more children, with more training programs for new teachers and satellite programs (classes outside of Metro Vancouver). This would be in conjunction, of course, with maintaining the services currently being offered. The third annual Family Concert, for example, will raise funds to support CHSC’s audiology program. “We do not receive government funding for this critical service,” explained Weil, “so we must fundraise to be able to provide this vital service that ensures our children are always able to hear.”
The family event has grown from one to two performances, both of which this year will feature children’s entertainer Jennifer Gasoi, a two-time Juno nominee whose Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well was nominated for a 2014 Grammy for best children’s album. (For interested readers, the Grammy ceremony takes place this Sunday, Jan. 26, 8 p.m., and will be televised.)
“What an idea,” said Weil about the fundraiser, “having a music concert to support children who are deaf and hard of hearing because they can listen and sing and make music. A great way to highlight what is possible…. A great way to reach out to families in the community for a fun day and to let them know something about what we do.” The event at the JCCGV’s Rothstein Theatre will also feature clowns, games, auction items and face painting.
Weil said the suggestion to invite Gasoi came from committee member Marla Groberman.
“Marla worked with Jennifer’s parents, Dr. Ivan and Laurie Gasoi, and it was agreed upon,” said Weil. Given the local connection and the fact that many of the production committee members are involved in the Jewish community, Weil said that the JCCGV “seemed like the perfect place to have the concert.”
The concerts will take place on April 12, at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Early-bird tickets (until Feb. 28) are $13.50/$16.50, or $50 for a family of four (two adults and two children under 17). For tickets and information, visit childrenshearing.ca.