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George Robinson, GRComm@ writes for the Jewish Week. His book, "Essential Judaism," was published in hardcover by Pocket Books, March 2000. You can find out more at his website.

Articles by George Robinson, available on the KlezmerShack, are:

2004 Chanukah Roundup, by George Robinson, sent 2 Dec 2004.

The Year's Best: the annual "best of" column, by George Robinson, sent 25 Nov 2002.

A Religious Experience: A roundup of recent Jewish liturgical music, by George Robinson, sent 26 Aug 2002.

More Than Klezmer: A sampler of Yiddish vaudeville, folk music and even art song, sent 9 Aug 2002.

Spring Sephardic Music Roundup, send 3 May 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 1, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Spring Roundup, part 2, sent 9 Mar 2002.

The Best of 2001 - Hanukah suggestions, sent 7 Dec 2001.

Isaac Stern: Beyond the Fiddle to the Heart of a Man, sent out 5 Oct 2001.

Sounds for the Jewish New Year, sent out 23 Nov 2001.

Slobin on Beregovski (and the survival of Klezmer Music), sent out 30 Aug 2001.

Women of Valor, sent out 15 Aug 2001.

Shabbat, for Starters, sent out 3 Jun 2001.

From Liturgical Rock to the Postmodern, sent out 15 May 2001.

A Sephardic Passover, sent out 25 Mar 2001.

Oh, Klezmer, sent out 18 Mar 2001.

Jewish Classical Music, sent out 1 Mar 2001.

Best of 2000, send out 23 Dec 2000.

Holiday Music for Hanukkah, 6 Dec 2000.

Kidding on the Square, 9/29/00, from the Jewish Week

From the Catskills to Canada, 6/15/00, from the Jewish Week

Sephardic Survey, 05/00, from the Jewish Week

1999 Klezmer Wrapup, from the Jewish Week

Sisters in Swing, 12/15/99, from the Jewish Week

Bending the Genres, October 1998, from the Jewish Week

The Klezmer Drums of Passion, September 1998, from the Jewish Week

Drums of Passion, summer, 1998, from the Jewish Week

other klezmer articles
on the Internet

Isaac Stern:
Beyond the Fiddle to the Heart of a Man

E-mail publication 5 October 2001.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

by George Robinson,

Any father would have wanted to help out his son's school.

Isaac Stern went farther. A lot farther.

When his son Michael became a student of viola and conducting at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Stern began a relationship with the school that went considerably beyond the occasional donation to the alumni fund.

"He was not an alumnus of Curtis, he didn't have a direct connection to the school, but we had a very warm relationship that went on long after Michael graduated," Robert Fitzpatrick, the Institute's dean, noted in a telephone interview two days after Stern's death on Saturday, September 22.

It was typical of the man, the musician and the Jew who was Isaac Stern.

Several years ago, I interviewed Stern for an article on famous Jews and tzedekah. His responses to questions about his charitable efforts were representative of the kind of person he was.

Of course, his efforts to save and sustain Carnegie Hall are well known and featured prominently in obituaries of the great violinist. But his concern for the future of music and music education went far beyond that single cause. He gave generously of his time, talent and money for Israeli causes, with a particular interest in "young people of talent," he said.

"Over the years I have been involved with the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, then the Jerusalem Music Center," Stern said. He helped train and nurture many Israeli musicians, just as he did musicians of every nation.

His efforts at Curtis were an excellent example.

"Over the years he always generously volunteered his time to give master classes here," Fitzpatrick said. "And he would hear many of our gifted soloists in New York and coached them too."

For Stern, musical education wasn't merely about building a career in music or improving one's technical facility.

"I believe that music is part of a civilized life," he told me. "[Music education] has nothing to do with being educated musically, but with being educated. Music is involved with the welfare of the state of a person's soul."

Stern was always willing to put his time and energy into that principle, not just with Curtis students for whom his chamber music seminar, Fitzpatrick says, "will be a lasting memory of him for many of our students," but with children and adults around the world.

Still, Stern had a special bond with the State of Israel. As he told me, "My main concern has been with the efforts of Israel to take care of its own. That's been the center of my efforts in every way since 1948."

For many of us, one of the most indelible images of Isaac Stern's love of Eretz Yisroel will always be the picture of him playing a Bach sarabande in a 1991 concert during the Gulf War while wearing a gas mask.

For Avi Shoshani, secretary-general of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, it was simple.

"Isaac was always there with us, for us, in good times or bad," he said in a telephone conversation this week. "If you said Israel Philharmonic, you said Isaac Stern and vice versa."

For the IPO's musicians and its musical director Zubin Mehta, "Isaac was a father figure," Shoshani said. "Itzhak, Shlomo, Pinky, all of us, Isaac built an entire generation of musicians in Israel, whether through the Jerusalem Music Center or the Philharmonic or just through his presence. He was committed to Israel from the first day of independence, from before the first day!

"We were sad that he didn't really play with us in the last two years," Shoshani concluded, "but it meant a lot just to have him around us."

Now, he's not there and the IPO is feeling his loss. The Curtis Institute is feeling his loss. Lovers of music are feeling his loss.

But there is some consolation in the knowledge that Isaac Stern built large, built a legacy of music, of commitment to music-making and commitment to Jewish and cultural causes that lasted well after the last notes of his playing faded from the air, and will continue to last now that he is gone.

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Contents copyright © 2001 by George Robinson. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 11 June, 2007.