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Wednesday, November 26

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Greenberg Center Offers Exhibit Celebrating Diversity of Israeli Society and Music/Lecture on Mendelssohn Family


Posted 09/04/2012
Posted by David Isgur

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The Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford will kick off its Fall 2012 season with two programs celebrating the diversity of Jewish life, music, and culture— a photography exhibition in honor of the 65th anniversary of Israel’s creation, and a lecture and concert dedicated to the historical and musical legacy of Moses Mendelssohn and his most famous descendant, his grandson and celebrated composer, Felix Mendelssohn. 

The People of the Land photo exhibit captures the diversity of Israeli society in 2012, through the lens of noted local photographer Lena Stein. The show, which is the Greenberg Center’s annual Minne Goldenberg Photography Exhibition will remain open through April 2013 to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the State of Israel, established in May 1948.

The day’s program will conclude with the 2012 Fallman Family Fund music lecture and performance dedicated to the legacy of Moses Mendelssohn and his grandson, Felix. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) was the father of the Jewish enlightenment and one of the greatest philosophers of his day. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) became one of the most popular composers of the Romantic era, creating well-known symphonies, concerts, piano music, and chamber music. The life and work of the Mendelssohn family will be the subject of Professor Avi Patt’s lecture and the musical performance of Anastasia Seifitdinova, a doctoral student at The Hartt School.

For the past three years, photographer Lena Stein has traveled with the Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies to Israel, helping to create three photography exhibitions that have been featured annually as the Minnie Goldenberg Photography Exhibits: Faces of a Nation (2010), All of God’s Children (2011), and Veiled Women (2012). In the process, she has taken literally thousands of pictures, which have served to capture the colorful tapestry that comprises the fiber of Israeli society. People of the Land, a retrospective exhibition marking Israel’s 65th anniversary, celebrates the diversity that is Israeli society. The exhibit, opening Sept. 9, at 1:30 p.m. in the Museum of Jewish Civilization on the UHart campus, highlights new photographs not included in previous exhibitions and selected photos from past shows.

As Avinoam Patt, Museum director, explains, “Israel is a country of nearly 8 million people, a population that is surprisingly diverse, richly hued and increasingly varied as the ‘Jewish State’ nears its 65th anniversary.”  In 2012, the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics estimated Israel’s population of approximately 7.8 million people to include 75.3 percent listed as Jewish (about 5.9 million individuals), 20.5 percent as Arab (about 1.6 million individuals), and the remaining 4.3 percent (about 318,200 individuals) defined as “others,” that is neither Jewish nor Muslim or Christian Arabs.

Due to its immigrant nature, Israel is one of the most multicultural and multilingual societies in the world. Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages in the country, while English and Russian are the two most widely spoken non-official languages with English often serving as the language of choice for many Israeli businesses. While the country was established by a largely Ashkenazi (European) Zionist establishment, today, the majority of Israeli Jews are the descendants of immigrants from Arab countries and countries in North Africa, including Jews from the Maghreb, Yemenite Jews, Bukharin Jews, Persian Jews, Iraqi Jews, and Kurdish Jews, among others. More recently, other communities have also arrived including Ethiopian Jews (as many as 60,000) and Indian Jews. Since the 1990s, over 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union have moved to Israel, integrating rapidly into Israeli society and making a major impact on various sectors of society. Arab-Israelis are the largest minority group in Israel and are active in all facets of Israeli life. More than 15 percent of Israelis are Arab Muslims, and approximately 7 percent are Christians, Druze, and Bedouin.  About 82.6 percent of the Arab population in Israel is Sunni Muslim (with a very small minority of Shia), another 9 percent are Druze, and around 9 percent is Christian (mostly Orthodox and Catholic denominations).   Other minority religious groups include the Bahai, Circassians, Assyrians, Maronite Christians, Armenians, Coptic Christians, and refugees from Africa, as well as 2.5 million Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank.

People of the Land captures the diversity of Israeli society in 2012, through the lens of Lena Stein. “As a photographer, I ‘paint’ with my lens. Working with natural light and my intuitive sense of color, I capture the beauty of the human face,” she said.

The Museum of Jewish Civilization is located in Mortensen Library, Harry Jack Gray Center, University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford. For docent led tours and Museum hours, please call 860.768.5729 or email mgcjs@hartford.edu.

The day’s program will conclude with the 2012 Fallman Family Fund music lecture and performance dedicated to the legacy of Moses Mendelssohn and his grandson, Felix. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) was the father of the Jewish enlightenment and one of the greatest philosophers of his day. When he arrived in Berlin in 1743 at the age of 14, he was already well-versed in bible, Jewish law, Talmud, and Jewish philosophy. By the time he was 40 (1769), he was extremely well-known as a philosopher and was proposed as a member to the Prussian Academy of Arts and Sciences, but Prussian King Frederick II would not grant a Jew this privilege. Rather than convert to Christianity, Mendelssohn committed himself to demonstrating to the non-Jewish world that it was possible for a Jew to be thoroughly enlightened and “modern” while maintaining his Jewish traditional observance. 

While he succeeded in his lifetime, ironically, none of his grandchildren, including his most famous descendant, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) remained Jewish.  Felix became one of the most popular composers of the Romantic era, creating well-known symphonies, concerts, piano music, and chamber music. The life and work of the Mendelssohn family will be the subject of a talk — “A Musical and Intellectual Journey: From Moses Mendelssohn to Felix Mendelssohn” — Avi Patt, the

Philip D. Feltman Professor of Jewish History at the University of Hartford ,and the musical performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s works by pianist Anastasia Seifitdinova, a doctoral candidate at The Hartt School.

Seifitdinova made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2006, and the New York Concert Review wrote of her performance, "For a critic, hearing a new pianist with a truly warm, luscious tone is like breathing in the scent of jasmine blooming — a pleasure to be recalled again and again — and so I'm happy to report that from the first note she touched at her Weill Hall recital, Anastasia Seifetdinova was a genuine pleasure to listen to. Every piece, every measure, every note – no matter how complex the texture, no matter how many strands of melody and accompaniment – was wrapped in a halo of golden tone..."

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Seifetdinova was the winner of the Rachmaninoff Concerto Competition and was awarded First Prize at the Competition of the Musical Academy in Würzburg, both in 2001. She received First Prize in the 2003 International Piano Competition for Young Pianists in Rome, Italy and was awarded a Special Prize.

Seifetdinova is a member of Performance 20/20, an honors chamber music program that offers its participants full-tuition scholarships and an intense chamber music experience. She is a recipient of many other scholarships in both Germany and the United States.

This program, which is sponsored, in part, by the Arthur and Rose Fallmann Fund, will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Wilde Auditorium, in the lower level of the Harry Jack Gray Center on the University of Hartford campus.