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Pay no attention to the number by the month.  Here's a good thought for the New Year.  Shannah Tovah. Ron                        ...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

3,000 Chanukah Candles in July...No Problem

                                                                                     December, 2017

Dear Family and Friends:

Our Indianapolis community and The Goldman Union Camp Institute lost a good friend last week.  From the time our kids Jer and Mike attended the Hasten Hebrew Academy we knew the Batelman family.  Our kids were friends and the Klotz family shared our neighborhood, Greenbriar, with the Batelman family.  Gideon, who passed away last week, and I worked together all the years I directed the camp.  He sold the camp paper goods, kitchen supplies and a variety of other things over the years.  But our relationship was unlike any other vendor and customer.  I think the camp reminded Gideon of his birthplace, Israel.  He didn't just sell to the camp, he took care of the camp.  I'll give a few examples.  Before each summer I would order the entire summer's worth of paper goods.  Gideon knew that the camp had very limited storage space.  He would bring half of the items and keep the other half in his garage.  Then throughout the summer he would come to camp, take inventories and replace whatever needed replacing (it's possible he also liked seeing his kids who were campers and camp staff members). 

 I remember one time he showed up with an industrial fan.  If you visited the camp’s dining hall today, you would see two dozen ceiling fans, two big warehouse fans and several wall mounted fans.  It gets hot at camp.  But in those days we didn't have those fans and Gideon thought we could use one.  He just showed up with it; and it was great.  Whenever he found anything at a good price that he thought the camp could use, he would call me, and we would have it.

But here's the best Gideon story.  I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, "The Great Escape."  In that prisoner of war movie James Garner plays the part of "The Scrounger."  The prisoners are, of course planning an escape.  Whatever they need The Scrounger finds.  Need a camera?  What size lens?  They tell the Scrounger and he'd somehow find it.

Well one July we were studying the history of Jerusalem in our camp's educational program.  That summer Jerusalem was celebrating its 3000th anniversary.  We came up with the bright idea to culminate the program on the last night of camp by floating 3000 candles on Styrofoam boards in the pool and have a birthday party for Jerusalem.  Not only that, we wanted to use Jewish candles, so we decided Hanukkah candles would be perfect.  One problem.  Hanukkah is in December and this was July.  Enter our James Garner.  I called Gideon with this wild idea.  I expected him to say that it is impossible to find any Hanukkah candles at that time of the year let alone 3000.  But no.  Gideon tells me that he knows someone in Brooklyn and let him make a couple calls to see what he can do.  No lie; the next week 3000 Hanukkah candles arrive at camp.  I still do not know how Gideon did it, but I certainly remember it well all these years later.  By the way, the Jerusalem culmination program was a complete disaster, but we did get all of the candles lit.

Susan Dill will testify to the fact that our great G.U.C.I was lucky to have many people who helped us over the years and were completely in the background, unrecognized.  We were lucky to have  Gideon Batelman on our side.  Gideon and I had great talks whenever he came into the office.  He was one of the really good ones.

That's the way I see it.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ella My Love 2

                                                                                             Nov.  2017

I went back in the archives to find this piece about Ella Fitzgerald.  Today I found out that Verve records discovered an Ella tape recorded live 60 years ago.  It was stored and forgotten.  On December 1st it will be released.  This is  surely a buried treasure.  I pre-ordered it from Amazon.  "Ella at Zardi's."  I haven't been this excited about getting a CD in a long while.  Check it out, it's bound to be great.

                                                                                        February, 2010

Dear Family and Friends:

It just occurred to me that I’ve never told you about Ella (well, my family certainly knows about her).  Ella and I have been on a first name basis since I fell in love with her when I was fifteen.  I took my senior prom date to hear her at the Empire Room in the Palmer House Hotel (fancy, schmancy) on Wabash Ave. in Chicago, and I  remained faithful to so many of her recordings over the years.  Oh, I’m sorry, it’s Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, I’m talking about.  I’ve been a jazz fan all my life; have a favorite player for every instrument, and a few favorite singers.  There’s Mel Torme (nice Jewish boy from Chicago), Sinatra, even Diana Krall and sometimes Jane Monheit on the short list, but no one even comes close to Ella. 

No bio here.  You can find that on your own if you want to read about her incredible sixty year career (buy anything recorded before 1975 for Ella in best voice).  I just wanted to go on record as saying that no one should leave this world without having heard two Ella Fitzgerald albums (CD’s), “Ella Fitzgerald at the Opera House,” and “The Intimate Ella.”  Ella made dozens of great recordings, live and in the studio. But these two should not be missed.

In 1966, while studying at the University of Illinois, I was happy to be invited to spend a Shabbat with Rabbi Larry and Jan Mahrer at their home in Peoria, Illinois.  We had become close friends (sailing and water skiing partners, actually) the summer before at camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.    Jan was a great cook.  Larry and I loved to sip a beer and talk into the wee small hours of the morning (also a great Sinatra album).  And I loved playing with Jeff, Debbie, and Scotty, the Mahrer kids.  So, I was thrilled to be invited.  

One of those weekend nights, after everyone else had gone to bed, when the hours had become pretty wee and small, Larry told me he wanted to play a record for me.  He took out Ella at the Opera House.  The recording was of two almost identical concerts recorded in 1957 at the Opera House in Chicago (hence the name) and in LA.  That’s the night I rekindled my torrid affair with The First lady of Song.  Backed on the ballads by the Oscar Peterson trio and Ella’s drummer, and then by an all-star Jazz at the Philharmonic band on the last two tracks, Ella takes us on a moody and lyrical tour of Jazz standards.  After leading us down the garden path to romance and emotion, she cuts it all loose singing Stompin’ at the Savoy and Lady be Good, with the likes of Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Jo Jones, Roy Eldridge, J.J. Johnson, Sonny Stitt, Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and Flip Phillips in the all-star band.  You won’t believe Stompin’ at the Savoy.  It will bring tears to your eyes and stop your heart.  That’s how intense is Ella’s scatting.   I’ve listened to it 100 times, maybe 200.  I can’t hear it enough.  But here’s a hint; start the CD on track number 10.  The first concert, the one recorded in Chicago, is not as outstanding as the second.  Listen to the LA recording which begins at number 10.  And, it’s not just the Savoy that is mind blowing.  It just hits you in the guts and leaves you breathless.  The nine or so tracks leading up to Savoy are amazing in their sheer beauty.  There is one particular note I listen for in the ballads that pulls at my heart strings each time it floats out of my speakers.  See if you can find it.  What a treasure. 

The second Ella recording that's a "must hear" is called” The Intimate Ella.”  It was recorded in 1960; just Ella singing and Paul Smith at the piano.  Three or so of the songs were included with Ella as a bar singer in the movie, “Let No man Write My Epitaph.”  This is the CD to listen to late at night with most of the lights off, preferably with someone you love. The Intimate Ella is a collection of the most beautiful jazz standard ballads you can imagine.  Ella sings them all with such style and warmth.  Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday each recorded many of these tunes on various records, but (and I love both of them) never with the feeling that Ella gives to each.  Ira Gershwin often said about her interpretations of his songs..."I didn't know our songs were good till Ella sang them!"

Ella Fitzgerald recorded over fifty albums in her near-sixty year career.   At the Opera House and The Intimate Ella, two very different recordings, are two of her best.  No one should be deprived of hearing these two recordings sometime in their life.  You never know, it could be the start of something big; you might just fall in love.