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Adam on arts and culture: February

A Capella and Kabbalah and Sababa—oh my!

AE music song image
Israeli rockstar Asaf Avidan comes to The Old Town School of Folk Music on Feb. 27.

A Capella and Kabbalah and Sababa-oh my!  Russians and Cantors and Lanzmann-Baha'i!  Okay, forgive my homage to The Wizard of Oz, but this month you too can be off to see and hear wonderful mix of Jewish and Israeli cultural events right in our own backyard without ever leaving Kansas-or Chicago...

A delegation from the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute arrives this month for "Shabbat of Chazzanut" on Feb. 7 and 8. A minyan of 10 of great Israeli Chazanim will be featured at services open to the community and will include Cantor Shraga Herstik, son of the Institute's founder, Cantor Naftali Herstik. February 7 and 8th, Congregation KINS of West Rogers Park

Internationally recognized architect, design critic, and author Alexander Gorlin specializes in designing religious institutions. His new book, Kabbalah in Art and Architecture, is the subject of a lecture.  Gorlin's analysis  illustrates how the 3,500 year old Jewish mystical tradition has impacted Western civilization. Gorlin, who has taught at the Yale School of Architecture, is joined by David Shyovitz, assistant professor of History at Northwestern University's Crown Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. Tuesday, February 4, at 7 pm at Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism in Highland Park.

Musical Trio Sababa, comprised of Steve Brodsky, Robbi Sherwin, and Scott Leader, make a local appearance this month. Together, their harmonies weave the text of Jewish liturgy and heritage into a pop-folk sound that's sure to please audiences of all ages. 6:30 pm, February 7, CongregationAm Shalom, 840 Vernon Ave. Glencoe, IL. and 3:00 pm, Feb 9, 2014, Temple Jeremiah, Northbrook.

It's ironic, but also appropriate, that on the heels of the screen hit American Hustle comes the Chicago premiere of Erika Sheffer's play "Russian Transport" at the Steppenwolf Theatre this month. The story of a raucous Brooklyn family's 'Russian hustle' to achieve the American Dream takes a heart-pounding turn when Uncle Boris arrives from the old country.  Boris' seemingly elicit schemes and business ventures raise question about how far the immigrant family is willing to bend the rules to come out on top. Yasen Peyankov directs and the cast includes Aaron Himelstein, Melanie Neilan, Tim Hopper,Mariann Mayberry, andAlan Wilder.February 6 - May 11, Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St, Chicago.  

Chicago A Capella celebrates its 20th Anniversary season by returning once more to Jewish music with Melodic Migrations: Global Jewish Music.  Artistic Director Jonathan Miller compelling program will include selections from South Africa, Canada, Israel, Europe, and South America. Artistic Director Jonathan Miller compelling program will include exploring melodies from across the diaspora with composition and arrangements by Stacy Garrop, Dov Carmel, Yehezkel Braun, and Max Janwoski, among others. Four performances: 8:00 PM, February 15,Nichols Concert Hall,1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston; 4:00 PM, February 16,K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation,1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd., Chicago; 8:00 PM, February 22,Congregation Beth Shalom,772 W. 5th Ave., Naperville; and 4:00 PM, February 23,West Suburban Temple Har Zion,1040 N. Harlem Ave., River Forest.

Israeli rocker Asaf Avidan's unique vocal delivery has become a bit of a global phenomenon thanks to a remix of his hit single "One Day / Reckoning Song," by a German club DJ. Nevertheless, the musician and singer challenge notions of masculinity and gender visually and aurally. Avidan's bluesy songs are nonetheless enhanced by his approach. Not quite castrati and not quite falsetto, it's worth a listen. 8:00 pm, February 27, Old Town School of Folk Music.

Eighty-seven-year-old Holocaust documentarian Claude Lanzmann (Shoah) revisits a 1975 interview with Benjamin Murmelstein in The Last of the Unjust.  The Viennese rabbi worked with Adolf Eichmann to arrange for the ethically thorny emigration of 120,000 Jews. While Murmelstein's collaboration saved many lives it also landed him in prison. As with Shoah, Lanzmann's approach to the difficult subject brings a new perspective to one of the defining events of modern Jewish history. In German. Opens February 21, Music Box Theatre, 3733 North Southport Avenue, Chicago.

The Gene Siskel Film Center downtown presents the Chicago premiere run of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film The Gardner.  The screenings are part of a series on Iranian cinema, which has experienced a revival over the last decade. This film is all the more extraordinary since its exploration of spirituality is set amid the beautifully gardened grounds of the Baha'i Temple in Haifa, Israel. The singular Baha'i houses of worship on each continent, including one in nearby Wilmette, are an astounding backdrop. Though the faith was founded in Persia, its adherents are a persecuted religious minority in the Republic of Iran.  February 28-March 6 at The Gene Siskel Film Center 164 N. State Street, Chicago.

Adam Davis is the Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette as well as Founder and Executive Director of KFAR Jewish Arts Center, a leading presenter and advocate of contemporary Jewish arts, music, and culture programs in and around Chicago. Contact him or call (773) 362-4760.


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