Local people, places, travels and simchas

A musical treat

Gary and Marsha Tankenoff flank Itzhak Perlman.  (Courtesy UA Presents)
Gary and Marsha Tankenoff flank Itzhak Perlman. (Courtesy UA Presents)

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, a sold-out crowd at UA Centennial Hall was treated to a concert by Grammy and Emmy award-winning violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman. Sponsors of this UA Presents classical music event were Irene and Ellis (UA Presents board member) Friedman, Carol and Phil Lyons, and Gary and Marsha (UA Presents board chair) Tankenoff. Perlman played pieces by Vivaldi, Beethoven, Schumann, and Stravinsky. He followed the performance with five encore arrangements, including John Williams’ theme from “Schindler’s List.”  On Nov. 30, accompanied by his pianist, Rohan De Silva, he performed this piece at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at the memorial service for Elie Weisel.

On a personal note, in 1970, Perlman, then in his mid-20s, performed on the same stage in the UA Main Auditorium (later re-named Centennial Hall) as part of the UA Artist Series, a precursor to UA Presents. An undergraduate at the time, I was on the Artist Series committee and had the privilege of meeting and greeting him.



Arielle Devorah (left) and Rachel Freund at Kfar Hanokdim  (Courtesy University of Arizona Hillel Foundation)
Arielle Devorah (left) and Rachel Freund at Kfar Hanokdim (Courtesy University of Arizona Hillel Foundation)

This winter break, another University of Arizona crew headed off on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. Birthright is a partnership between the government of Israel and Jewish communities around the world, with the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Hayesod, Jewish Federations of North America, private philanthropists and thousands of Birthright Israel Foundation donors maintaining the continuity of this gift of Israel travel to young Jewish adults. Since its inception in 1999, over 500,000 participants from over 66 countries have traveled 376 million miles across Israel, contributing one billion dollars to the Israeli economy.

The UA Hillel students who journeyed on Birthright Dec. 18-29 included Tucsonans Arielle Devorah, Rachel Freund, Jessica Lange, Zy Mazza, Tiffany Pelmont and Eli Soyfer, plus Tucsonan Boaz Cohon of Vanderbilt University and another student from University of California, Santa Cruz. Elyse Pincus, UA Hillel coordinator for Israel engagement, and Michael Walden, director of Jewish student life, staffed the trip.

Traveling during Hanukkah, the group bonded amongst themselves and with the Israeli soldiers assigned to their bus who were enjoying their own Birthright experience.

Arielle, a freshman majoring in engineering with a minor in creative writing and history, summed up the experience: “As someone who has been to Israel before, I thought that Birthright would not make any different impressions. Much to my pleasure, I was proven wrong. Immediately upon boarding the bus to Tiberias on our first night in Israel, I looked around at my trip mates, whom I barely knew before embarking on this journey, and knew that this trip was going to create memories that would last a lifetime. For the first time, I had the opportunity to discover Israel from an adult-tourist point of view. Everything from the beautiful nature walks across the Galilee to the hard-hitting discussions that extended far beyond the time allotted to the tear-jerking experiences at Yad Vashem and Mt. Herzl continued to remind me why I fell in love with such a troubled nation in the first place. As I walked arm in arm with my friends through the Old City of Jerusalem, I basked in the pure bliss we all felt as we wove our way through small alleys that our ancestors walked thousands of years ago. I have never felt a stronger connection to myself nor my Jewish friends than in that very moment. There is simply nothing comparable to breathing in the brisk winter air of Israel, surrounded by some of your new best friends — your mishpacha (family) — as you bite into a sweet Roladin sufganiyah (Hanukkah fried jelly donut) that your tour guide bought you.”

13 Strong

The Fine family at the Knesset (L-R): Morris, Joel, Thea, Talia, Natalie, Alyssa, Addison, David, Michelle, Jennifer, Andrew, Beverly and Vi  (Courtesy Beverly Fine)
The Fine family at the Knesset (L-R): Morris, Joel, Thea, Talia, Natalie, Alyssa, Addison, David, Michelle, Jennifer, Andrew, Beverly and Vi (Courtesy Beverly Fine)

From Dec. 22- Jan. 2, Morris and Beverly Fine enjoyed a jam-packed visit to Israel with their sons Joel and Andrew and their families (including seven grandchildren). During the first five days, they stayed in Herzliya in a rental home large enough to hold all 13 of them comfortably. There, they hosted a large contingent of Fine relatives from all over Israel, about 50 in all. Guests brought something to share — chairs or food — and lit the Hanukkah candles. From homemade cheese and olives from Metula to latkes from Haifa to crates of apples and oranges from a cousin’s orchards in Northern Israel, all enjoyed a feast and warm welcome to Israel. At a second gathering at another cousin’s home in Haifa, they met another 25-plus cousins. Moe and Bev were happy to see the grandchildren bond with third and fourth cousins for future communication and visits.

In the early 1900s, Morris’s greatgrandfather immigrated to Israel with his eight children. Four remained and there are now over 500 of his descendants living throughout the land. Two others went to America (including Morris’s grandfather) and two to South Africa. One of their second cousins was Mordecai Hod (nee Fine), who took an Israeli surname when he was made a general in charge of the Israeli Air Force. He is remembered as the hero of the 1967 Six-Day War who sent almost the entire Israeli Air Force out to destroy the air forces of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq at the outset of the war. He left Israel unprotected that day; however, that bold decision won the war.

Tour highlights included Machon Ayalon, the reconstructed secret underground munitions factory on Kibbutz Hill in Rehovot; the Tel Maresha Dig at Beit Guvrin National Park, where participants were allowed to take home shards of pottery; the man-made Bell Caves; a bike tour of Tel Aviv (minus Moe and Bev); a jeep ride on the Golan Heights; a visit with IDF soldiers at a base bordering Syria; Jerusalem, including the Kotel; exploring Masada and swimming in the Dead Sea.

On the last day, the family toured the Knesset and had a private meeting with another cousin, Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich, from the Jewish Home party. He brought his parents, wife and five sons (a new baby daughter stayed at home) to meet with the group in his office. A lively discussion ensued and the Tucson Fines learned a great deal about Israeli politics.

After this introductory sojourn to Israel, several of the Fine grandchildren are already planning to apply for Birthright trips.

Time to share

Keep me posted — 319-1112. L’shalom.