Many readers may remember the Bar and Bat Mitzvah twinning program of the 1980s, which paired Soviet Jews denied the right to practice their religion with young Americans who were becoming Jewish adults.
The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous has spun off on this idea with its own twinning program: the foundation provides monetary support to a number of surviving righteous Gentiles around the world — those non-Jews, usually Christians, who helped save European Jews from the Nazi death camps.
On Aug.4, Max Kerwien of Sammamish will become our state’s latest resident to participate in the twinning program. (Stanlee Stahl, JFR director, thinks there have been “about six” from Washington during the 10 years the program has existed.)
Max, the son of Erica and Craig Kerwien, attends Pine Lake Middle School in Issaquah. He chose Marion Pritchard from the Netherlands as his twin. Pritchard, now in her 80s and living in Washington, D.C., helped save about 150 Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of Holland. She worked with the Dutch resistance and also hid Jews in her family’s country home.
Erica told me she discovered the program when she was looking for Bar Mitzvah invitations on the Internet.
“One Web site I was using is the only distributor of the cards the organization uses. I noticed [the program] and showed it to Max. He thought it was a good idea.”
After perusing the JFR web site, Max chose Marion.
“I think it’s really cool,” he says, “that they keep in contact with these people. It’s important to support them in their old age.”
Erica added that he chose her because “she saved quite a number of children.”
Max, who will become Bar Mitzvah at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Bellevue, will mention Marion in his Torah commentary, focusing on “how she saved people and we should look up to her and she can set an example for us.”
The invitations are a fund-raising project for JFR. You can learn more about the foundation and their programs, and read profiles of righteous gentiles at www.jfr.org, and also find a link to the stationer (Checkerboard) that supplies the invitations.
Daniel Zaitchik has become a temporary Seattle resident, arriving earlier this summer to begin rehearsals for the role of Billy Noone in the Intiman Theater’s world premiere of Prayer for My Enemy by Craig Lucas (opening August 3).
The New York-based actor has appeared in numerous theater productions in his home city, as well as regional productions around the country, but lately — other than his appearance in Seattle — he has been limiting his out-of-town work so he can concentrate on his other career in music.
As a singer-songwriter who trained for many years as a classical pianist, “I did the whole thing,” he laughs. “But I realized that was not where I was going. I got very anxious before competitions, sometimes I would improvise during standard classical pieces.
But his training “introduced me to composers that were an influence.” Zaitchik counts Claude Debussy among those, as well as less-well-known composers like Russians Alexander Scriabin and Anton Arensky, who composed “very lush, romantic music.”
Music he heard at synagogue growing up was also an influence, “timeless, smooth and soulful,” he calls the traditional chanting, as was the music his father played at home. He was very eclectic: everything from classical to klezmer to gospel.
He often performs his songs backed by a 30-woman choir called the Baleen Choir. (You can hear a sample at his MySpace page, www.myspace.com/
“I love writing for female voices,” he states, adding that the choir is “definitely unique… I use their voices more like instruments.”
Daniel caught the acting bug in elementary school when he was cast as Fagin in a 5th-grade production of Oliver!.
“I went to theater camp and did all the plays I could,” throughout school, and continued studying acting at Boston University.
“My favorite thing is when the two combine,” he says of his two professional interests. In fact, he is working on a “musical play” based on the classic Australian film and novel Picnic at Hanging Rock, and hopes to see it performed in a workshop setting at Lincoln Center this winter.
Preparing for Prayer has been demanding and time-consuming, so Daniel hasn’t seen many local sites. He wasn’t fazed by the recent record-setting spate of rain because that’s what everyone had told him to expect.
The play, concerning “a family that has been dysfunctional for years and is now trying to function,” is complicated, Daniel explains. His character is the now-grown son who grew up in the shadow of an alcoholic and bipolar father, and is being sent to Iraq at the same time that his father is finally in recovery.