bronfman1The late philanthropist, author, and business leader, Edgar Bronfman, with his wife, artist Jan Aronson, created the Bronfman Haggadah last year. It is now available as a downloadable app for the iPad and other platforms.

Imagine sitting at your seder, paging through the hagaddah on your iPad, letting it lead you through the songs, listening to actors read from the telling/story.

Jan Aronson said, ‘We were able to add some animation, which adds surprises every now and again as you turn the virtual pages. It also includes a glossary of terms. Edgar used many Haggadahs over the decades and mixed and matched, and he would add commentaries and stories, so he decided to write his own, in a way that was open and inclusive to all Jews and all parts of Judaism, for believers and non-believers… Edgar and I also made some changes. For example, why do we open the door for Elijah and strangers at the end of the meal, when all we have are leftovers. Our haggadah opens the door at the start when the children are most alert and learn the most important lesson. Also, Edgar did not stop the story at the Red Sea. He wanted the story of wandering to be part of the telling. We also added an illustrated map of Goshen ,a biblical map, and also five possible locations (or non location) of Mt Sinai.’

bronfman2Do iPads and iPhones belong at a seder? Aronson said, “It is a non issue.” She added, people check their phones, texts, and e-mails at seders and dinners anyway. This app will give them a reason to use their devices. It’s an option.

We get a sense of just how monumental it was that this baby was saved,” Dana Raucher, the executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, told Edgar Bronfman and Aronson wanted “to get this app out to audiences that are not necessarily visiting bookstores or buying hardcover books,” according to Raucher.

The leaders at Bronfman Associates said that they were mostly thinking of younger audiences, to which this app is geared – people who are transient, on the move between cities, residing in college dorms, and not necessarily lugging haggadahs and books around with them from place to place. Dana Raucher, the executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation said that the app appeals to those who are not visiting bookstores, but are curious about Jewish tradition and contemporary rituals.

A burning bush, or perhaps a bright sun behind a bush that gives the appearance of burning

A burning bush, or perhaps a bright sun behind a bush that gives the appearance of burning

The app was designed by RustyBrick, based in West Nyack, NY, the designers of Shul Cloud, OnlySimchas, the Android Siddur, and more. (they are hiring). Bronfman Associates is reportedly spending $100,000 to advertise the app over the next month on Facebook, Google, Kveller, MyJewishLearning, Tablet, The Jewish Week and Beliefnet.

Narration is by Doug Shapiro and Rachel F. Hirsch. Hirsch is a singer and actor in New York City with the warmth of Anne Hathaway, the classic grace of Jackie Kennedy, and the sweet mature voice of Kelli O’Hara. She likes turtles. Shapiro is a Baritone (Bass Low C to E above Middle C), career coach, and teaches drama at Pace University. He played a “very Jewish passerby” on HBO’s Sex and the City.

A ShaPiRo By Any Other Name…

shoshanna_shapiroShoshanna Shapiro, the character on HBO Girls, spells out her name to a snarky NYU Junior working the graduation desk at the Kimmel Center in the closing episode of Season 3. Shosh, as played by actress Zosia Mamet, pronounces her name as Sha Pi Ro, with a long “i”, and not the more NYC-style of Sha Pier Ro. She is more pie dessert than shipping pier.

But a Shapiro by any pronunciation still sounds and smells sweet. (Oh, a shoshanna-rose joke, I see what you did there)

What is up with Sha Pi’ Ro? A Camp Ramah affectation? The late Pennsylvania Governor, Milton Shapp, was born Shapiro and shortened it to Shapp; it helped him to to win elections. But Sha Pi’ Ro? National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro is a Sha peer ro, as are PBS’s Neal Shapiro and the late Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro. Baseball manager Mark Shapiro is a Sha pi’ro, however. Is the character Shoshanna from Boston? I don’t think so.

No worries. I wish the character, her friends, and @campsucks well in Season 4.

A Jesus book that offers a unique perspective on traveling through Israel

006202423XFather Martin tells a great and personal story in JESUS: A PILGRIMAGE.. And he sure does pray a lot. It appears as if he stops and prays and meditates at each historic site. A former GE financial analyst and Wharton grad, he is now an editor at large of America magazine, a popular media commentator, and a religious commentator for The Colbert Report.

Father Martin travels through Israel and Jordan (with another Jesuit, George) and areas in between and gives their perspectives on the locations they visit, his faith, and prayer, and adds in lighthearted moments. His pilgrimage has ‘produced good fruit’ for us in the form of this book. In addition to the spiritual travelogue and educated discussions on things like Greek phrases, I like the zingers, such as “After a series of improbable detours that took us to the desert… , to a lonely monastery, and ‘to the edge of heat stroke'”

In Bethlehem they visit a site that Catholics find holy, but Russian Orthodox say the site is a few blocks away; in instances like these, I enjoyed his travel realities. Or the reality of traveling with a friend and the stresses that might develop no matter how close people are, such as the time he and George and an empty listerine bottled glowered at each other at the River Jordan in a ‘suddenly seemingly smaller’ car (note to file: do not splash a guy with water in the polluted Jordan River). I also relished his insights into “baggage” (and how a baked good can recall a memory) as he recalls his college years and what he thought was unholy sillyness but actually not devoid of spirituality (“sometimes we close the door to our past, thinking that we have progressed.”) Also, at a dreamy Capernaum, Father Martin asks why Jesus moved to Capernaum and not Jerusalem? (maybe he liked the beach?); and he shares the lesson of Bartimaeus ben Timaeus (which reminded me of Kotzker Rebbe query on preaching and ministering to a person: you need to personally know the person / study partner.

If you liked this, you might also like, Israel: A Spiritual Travel Guide: A Companion For The Modern Jewish Pilgrim by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, which includes space for your recollections of each site

Buyer and Cellar – The Streisand Companion Book

0670022136The one man play, Buyer and Cellar is being performed in NYC at least through AUgust 2014, and is now on the road with its original actor, Michael Urie.

The hilarious play tells the story of an underemployed actor in Los Angeles. Having been let go from his retail associate job, she applies (or auditions) for a position as a retail mall clerk. The only twist is that he is the only employee in the mall; there is only one customer at the mall; and the location is the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu-area estate. Like the Smithsonian, Streisand has built a mall-like creation in her basement where she stores her collections. Urie is amazing, and throught the show, I naturally thought he was all the chatacters, including Streisand.

Interested in the book that is mentioned in the play? It is MY PASSION FOR DESIGN By Barbra Stresand (2010). In it, Barbra Streisand reveals the taste and style that have inspired her beautiful homes and collections. It focuses on the architecture and construction of her newest homes, the dream refuge that she has longed for since the days when she shared a small Brooklyn apartment with her mother, brother, and grandparents. The book contains many of her own photographs of the rooms she has decorated, the furniture and art she has collected, and the ravishing gardens she has planted on her land on the California coast.

Auditory Hallucinations on RadioLab

ImageOn National Public Radio today RadioLab featured a repeated story on auditory hallucinations including an interview with the late Leo Rangell, PhD.

The takeaway is that after surgery, the 94 year old professor and clinical psychologist heard musical hallucinations.  They began with Hebrew cantorial chants, and continued on to popular music for about two decades.  As a Psychologist, Dr, Rangell felt that his mond was communicating something to him subconsciously through the song selection.  I tend to agree with him, since when I start humming a tune, I also try to examine why my mind has selected that song.

A book on his experiences is called MUSIC IN THE HEAD: LIVING AT THE BRAIN-MIND BORDER