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Israeli Folk Dance Pioneers in North America

by Ruth P. Schoenberg and Ruth R. Goodman

An intense desire to share the joy of dance coupled with a strong identification with both Israel and their Jewish roots profoundly affected a diverse group of North American Jewish women. Each added a dimension to the flourishing of Israeli dance activities in communities, including regional festivals, workshops, performing groups and weekly folk dance sessions. All were also involved in enriching Jewish education by training teachers and developing dance resources or programs.

Dance has been an integral element of the Jewish community since biblical times, whether as part of agricultural and religious celebrations, or of life cycle events and rituals. When Jews came to Erez Israel from Askenazic or Sephardic countries, they brought their traditions, including dances, with them. One example is the Horah, a circle dance with its roots in the Balkans. For the kibbutz pioneers, this dance expressed perfectly the closeness required for survival and the equality of each individual, as the dancers moved in a tight, closed circle with hands on each other’s shoulders. To celebrate the success of the seasons, the kibbutzim re-created agricultural festivals from biblical times. As a result, new songs and dances were created as part of the pageants. Both the indigenous local population of Druze and Arabs and the influx of various Jewish ethnic groups, including Yemenites, Kurds, and Moroccans, influenced new dances. In 1944 a dance festival held at Kibbutz Daliyyah, under the leadership of Gurit Kadman, provided an opportunity for dancers to meet and teach each other dances either brought from elsewhere or locally created. This event, at which there were two hundred dancers and 3500 spectators, is considered the start of the folk dance movement in Israel. It encouraged the creative process and the initiation of training courses for folk dance leaders. The dance creators built an ever-increasing repertoire of Israeli folk dances inspired by celebrations and rituals of Judaism, a variety of movement and rhythmic styles brought from the Diaspora, ethnic traditions and the pulse of modern Israel.

Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish community in North America experienced an awakening of pride and interest in the culture of Erez Israel. For example, in 1948, the National Jewish Welfare Board published Jewish Folk Dance Book, by Katya Delakova and Fred Berk, which contained dances created in Israel, e.g., Harmonica (Rivka Sturman) and Rikud Hazugot (Yardena Cohen), dances brought to Israel, e.g., New Horah, and those created in the United States, e.g., Patch Dance. Today, Israeli folk dance enjoys a wider popularity than ever, with programs on every continent and for every age group. It appeals to people of all backgrounds, not only because of its energy and varied ethnic qualities but also because of the warm, social atmosphere it generates. Beyond its recreational value, the direct emotional bond resulting from participation in this culturally based activity is a powerful tool for instilling long-term commitment to and respect for Judaism and Israel.

FRED BERK AND DVORA LAPSON

Two individuals can be singled out as pioneers in the development of Israeli folk dance in North America: Fred Berk (1911–1980) and Dvora Lapson.

Berk’s interest in Palestinian folk dance began in the mid–1940s when he discovered “this activity to be not only fun, but also a very important tool for Jewish educational identity” (“Return to the Sources,” Hora 1977). In 1951 Berk established the Jewish Dance Division at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Here he nurtured a community of dancers through a weekly “open” Israeli dance session with teaching, performing groups on levels both professional (Merry Go Rounders with Doris Humphrey) and amateur (Hebraica Dancers), workshops for prospective teachers and leaders, and the presentation and introduction of Israeli dance creators. Beginning with the second Annual Israel Folk Dance Festival (1953), where he is credited with choreographic arrangements, Berk began to exert his influence on an initially competitive festival that he transformed into one that enabled mostly young people affiliated with Zionist youth organizations to share their love of folk dance. Berk shared his own visions and knowledge with the creation in 1961 of Bulletine. This was followed in 1962 by a newsletter, Hora, initially supported by the “Y,” then by the American Zionist Youth Council, and later by the American Zionist Youth Foundation (AZYF).

In the early 1960s, he made two major contributions. Berk began an association with Tikva Records; together with Ami Gilad, they produced Israeli sound recordings that were designed specifically for dancers. Also, starting in 1961, he directed a week-long workshop held at a children’s camp, Camp Blue Star, in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Here dancers received seven hours of instruction during the day followed by open dancing in the evening. In addition, there were sessions on choreography and teaching, as well as cultural discussions. In 1963, Berk advertised a Folk Dance Workshop Tour to Israel, to be led together with Ayala [sic] Gorenstein (a.k.a. Ayalah Goren-Kadman). This established the pattern for a tour during which enthusiasts would attend a festival, participate in workshops with folk dance personalities, visit various ethnic dance groups and tour the country. In 1968 he founded and directed the Israel Folk Dance Institute of the American Zionist Youth Foundation through which he had an international influence. Under its auspices he wrote and published materials for dancers and dance leaders, edited a newsletter, Hora, and organized dance study trips to Israel. On the first trip, in Summer 1969, twenty-six Americans came to Israel to study dance. Berk’s accomplishments became the template for subsequent Jewish dance educators and leaders.

Like Berk, Dvora Lapson had an intense desire to share the joy of dance. Daughter of Barnett and Lena (Mastbaum) Weinberg, she was born in New York City on February 16, 1907 to a family with a strong Jewish identity. She was a descendant of the hasidic leader Dov Baer, who is known as the Maggid of Mezhirech (d. 1772).

Lapson studied at Hunter College (B.A., 1928) and was also a pupil of the Isadora Duncan School, Doris Humphrey and Michel Fokine. She learned dramatic miming from David Vardi of the Moscow Habimah. In Palestine (1929), Poland (1937), Israel (1949) and North Africa (late 1960s and 1970s), Dvora studied Jewish dance, including gestures and costumes. While in Poland, she obtained an audience with the Bluzhever Rebbe (Rabbi Israel Shapiro, 1881–1981) to study his dance movements and those of his followers. (Their friendship continued and when he immigrated to the United States, her family joined the rabbi in celebrations such as Simhat Torah.)

Primarily known as a concert dancer and lecturer, Lapson began her performance career in New York in 1929. She toured the United States and Canada. In 1937, she toured Poland and subsequently traveled to Mexico (performing at Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City) and Cuba in 1939, 1940 and 1941. Her work was inspired by Jewish customs and Zionist ideology. Lapson received attention for her work, which included a series of pre-war recitals in Poland, where she was deemed the exponent of Jewish dance. In 1934 she was acknowledged for her choreography and solo performance in The Pioneers of Israel, an opera on a modern Hebrew subject (music and libretto by Jacob Weinberg [1885–1966]), which was presented in New York City at the Mecca Temple, now known as New York City Center. Under the title Hachalutz [sic], this comic opera was awarded the first prize in the musical contest of Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Exposition. It was described as “the first purely Jewish music that ever received recognition in an international music contest.” The text was in Hebrew, English and Yiddish. The book Four American Jewish Composers: Their Life and Work: Gershon Ephros, Solomon Rosowsky, Heinrich Schalit, Jacob Weinberg contains a photo with the caption, “Mrs. Lapson was also Premiere Danseuse and Choreographer of the Ballet for the production, in 1934, of Jacob Weinberg’s opera, Hechalutz, at Mecca Temple, N.Y.C.” Fragments of the opera were performed in Jerusalem, in Hebrew, on April 4, 1925. The New York performance on November 25, 1934 was performed in English under the title The Pioneers of Israel.

Dvora Lapson had also arranged and directed dances for the Yiddish Art Theater of New York City. She traveled to Israel in 1949 and gave performances in various kibbutzim, including En-Harod and Deganyah. This trip provided the opportunity to cement her relationships with Gurit Kadman, the “mother of Israeli folk dance,” Sara Levi-Tanai, the founder of Inbal Yemenite Dance Theater, and the prolific choreographer of folk dances, Rivka Sturman. It was on this trip that the Israeli creators of folk dance gained Lapson’s support for promoting their work in Israeli folk dance in America. This was accomplished through her teaching, writing and programs.

Throughout her career, Lapson was a dance consultant to many performers and productions, including Fiddler on the Roof, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, which opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on September 22, 1964 and ran until July 2, 1972. Since her concern was to transmit a sense of authentic movement, her methodology was unique; she brought Robbins and others to traditional hasidic weddings and celebrations.

Besides her stage career, Lapson initially worked as a school secretary in a Hebrew school in New York City. Here she met her future husband, Judah (b. Yanov, Ukraine, 1901, d. 1985), who was the principal. Their paths crossed when he learned that she was providing instruction to children who had been “sent to the office” for infractions of conduct. They were married on the eve of Passover, April 4, 1928. Both Lapsons were recruited by Samson Benderley to work for the Bureau of Jewish Education. From 1929 until 1941, under the sponsorship of the Bureau, the Lapsons worked in Camp Achvah (Godeffroy, New York), where Dvora Lapson staged elaborate dance pageants. According to Nathan H. Winter, “At Achvah, dancing and dance instruction took on more than the usual meaning. Dancing became an art for all and everyone took part in it in one form or another” (Jewish Education in a Pluralist Society, New York: 1966, p. 137). The Lapsons did not return there after their son, Beril (given the family name, Dov Ber), was born in 1942.

Dvora Lapson then turned her attention to Jewish schools, where she pioneered the concept of integrating dance into the curriculum; dance was used to help teach subjects that were considered rigorous. Beginning in 1932 she served as director of the Dance Education Department of the Bureau of Jewish Education, which sought to augment Jewish education with non-yeshivah type activities such as music, dance and crafts, in order to promote Hebrew as a modern language. Lapson believed that experiencing traditional Jewish and Israeli folk dances and creative movement would elevate the students’ sense of Jewish consciousness.

Based in New York City, she organized and conducted seminars and workshops that trained and inspired hundreds of teachers in Jewish schools, community centers, summer camps and other institutions, creating professional dance instructors to teach Jewish dance in schools and in Jewish centers. In addition, she encouraged individual expression by having teachers work with their students to create dances on Jewish themes. This led to the Annual Dance Festival for Jewish Schools that began in 1945 and was held for some thirty years to culminate each year’s achievements. Groups from more than one hundred schools danced together from a repertoire of dances prepared in advance and then watched selected school dance groups perform dances created and related to a general Festival theme. In the public schools of New York City she also directed dances and pageants under the aegis of the Jewish Culture Council, an organization of Jewish Culture Clubs in New York City under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education.

On behalf of the Service Bureau for Intercultural Education, she helped to conduct experiments in New York and Philadelphia that showed the effectiveness of dance in creating understanding and sympathy between cultural groups in the United States. In an assembly program in metropolitan public high schools, she presented dances derived from hasidic and Jewish tradition to provide insight into “several phases of Jewish life.” This was followed by the student leaders learning some Jewish folk dances, e.g., the Horah. Both Jewish and non-Jewish students underwent attitudinal changes and teachers “reported more harmonious relationships between the students of various groups in the schools after such experiences” (Dance Observer, October 1940, 114). Another innovative educational program was initiated in 1961 when Dvora Lapson conducted workshops for Jewish personnel and their families at some army camps in the United States. This resulted in the production of a special dance curriculum for the children of US army personnel, to be used in conjunction with Jewish children from local communities.

An additional landmark opportunity for Jewish dance arose during the summers of 1951 and 1952 when Lapson was invited to teach at the Folk Dance Camp held at the College (now University) of the Pacific in Stockton, California. For the first time, university dance instructors, physical education teachers and folk dance leaders from more than twenty Western and Midwestern states were exposed to the dances, culture and values of the Jewish people. For many, this was their first contact with a Jew. (She was even invited to present the Sunday sermon in the Methodist chapel.) In 1951, Lapson taught nine dances: Kol Dodi, Horah Aggadati, Horah for the Omer Ceremony (Shibbolet ba-Sadeh by Leah Bergstein), Harmonica, Livshu-na Oz (A debka dance by Leah Bergstein), Hava Nagilla, Ha-Noded, Mayim and Mehol Ovadya. The 1952 participants voted Dodi Li the “Dance of the Year.” This teaching opportunity resulted in the folk dance curriculum in secular schools and colleges being broadened to include Jewish and Israeli folk dance. However, Lapson was no stranger to presenting Jewish dance to international dance circles. In 1940, upon the invitation of the Mexican government, she had given a course in Jewish dance at the Escuela Nacional de Danza in Mexico City.

Dvora Lapson was also an instructor in Jewish Dance Education in The School of Education of Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. She worked closely with the Israeli dance pioneers in both the United States and in Israel and was a member of the International Folk Music (and Dance) Council, under UNESCO, where she represented Jewish dance. Among other honors, she was recognized by The American Jewish Tercentenary Committee at the celebration of three hundred years of Jewish Settlement in the United States (1954), and on March 31, 1986, Dvora Lapson received the “Goldy” award (named for Abraham Goldfaden) from the Congress for Jewish Culture in recognition of her contribution to Jewish dance in America as dancer, choreographer, author and educator. Six months later, as part of the landmark conference and festival on “Jews and Judaism in Dance: Reflections and Celebrations” (sponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture) held at the 92nd Street Y in New York City from September 21–23, 1986, she participated in a special session entitled “The Role of the Jewish Dance Pioneers.”

As a consultant for the Israel Music Foundation, Folkraft and Tikva Records, Lapson aided the educational process by supervising the recordings of Israeli folk dance music, providing written dance descriptions, music notation and the text and translation of the songs. This enabled the cadre of dance instructors she had trained to teach Jewish dance in Jewish schools and centers. (Prior to these resources, there were few recordings and teachers had to rely on musicians to play for classes.) She also wrote four instructional manuals: Dances of the Jewish People: Israeli and East European Dances (1954) containing Jewish dances from Israel (e.g., Ha-Noded, Harmonica), dances with an Eastern European flavor (e.g., The Sher, a square dance, Potch Tanz, a couple mixer) and American dances (e.g., Kacha N’Rakeda, choreographed by Lapson, and Nigun, by Vyts Belajius); Jewish Dances the Year Round (1957), which was designed to share Lapson’s joyous response to the Jewish festivals with children by including dances, pantomime suggestions and games she devised based on festival themes and symbols, as well as suggestions for folk dances; Folk Dances for Jewish Festivals (1961), which includes a variety of dances choreographed in Israel and America appropriate for festivals (traditional Jewish, modern and universal, e.g., brotherhood) as well as an index with the dances in the previous two books and a suggestion to teachers about the level of difficulty of the dances, including “golden-age groups”; and The Bible in Dance (1970), containing the creative work of teachers (including Joyce Mollov, The Story of Ruth, and Sally Ray, Queen Esther Prepares to Visit King Ahasuerus) and children in their experiences learning Biblical history and Jewish values; these were chosen from the dances presented at the Annual Dance Festivals for Jewish Schools. Published in New York by the Jewish Education Committee Press, all have been valuable resources.

Lapson also wrote for several publications, including two major articles on Jewish dance (see bibliography). She was also the dance columnist of the Yiddish newspaper Der Tog (The Day, edited by Herman Bernstein and modeled on the New York Times).

Lapson died on June 10, 1996. Her husband had predeceased her. The couple had a remarkable relationship. While Judah was an ardent supporter of all Dvora’s endeavors, in his own right as a Jewish educator, he was noted for his success in reaching out to secular Jews and having the modern language of Hebrew introduced into the public high schools of New York City (through the Hebrew Culture Council, a division of the Bureau of Jewish Education) and nationally (through the National Hebrew Culture Council, supported by private funding and the Jewish Agency). (The Bureau of Jewish Education existed from 1917–1940, when it became known as the Jewish Education Committee until 1970; since 1970, it is known as the Board of Jewish Education.) His efforts also resulted in the SAT Subject Test in Modern Hebrew, an achievement test initially offered in 1961 by the College Entrance Examination Board.

 

JOYCE MOLLOV

Joyce (Dorfman) Mollov, born in Winnipeg, Canada on April 20, 1925, was influenced by both Dvora Lapson and Fred Berk. As a child she learned from Cantor Benjamin Brownstone to associate a sense of creative freedom with Jewish expression. Her interest in dance brought her to the Winnipeg School of Ballet, where she was later asked to teach and to join the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company. Wanting to express herself in a Jewish context, she choreographed and directed the annual Canadian Young Judaea concerts. When Mollov left for New York, Sarah Sommer, one of her dancers, replaced her. Sommer subsequently founded the Chai Folk Ensemble.

Mollov went to New York at the invitation of Lapson and the New York Board of Jewish Education. Through this organization, she taught dance in Hebrew schools, Yiddish schools and day camps. She also worked for the New York City public schools to stage Hebrew-language assemblies and represent Jews in inter-cultural events. Mollov continued to perform, joining Fred Berk and Katya Delakova as part of the Hebrew Arts Committee and later in their Jewish Dance Guild.

In 1952 Mollov introduced the first dance program integrated into the curriculum of a Hebrew day school, at the Yeshiva of Central Queens. While their creativity was nurtured, students were trained in dance technique and improvisation as well as Jewish, Israeli and international folk dance. As a result, dance became a prominent element in all school activities: assemblies, graduations, holiday celebrations, park festivals and parades. Her success resulted in first prize for the school’s participation in the 1969 annual Salute to Israel Parade in New York City. This honor led to her being asked to serve as program coordinator of the parade, a role she used to integrate music, arts and costume to further the concept of pageantry.

Mollov was founder and director of the Jewish Dance Ensemble, which began in September 1967 as the Choreographic Workshop in Jewish Dance and flourished for eleven years. Initially she researched the evidence of dance in Jewish civilization and shared her findings. These were choreographed into dances that became the source material for presentations. The ensemble’s pieces began as imaginative movement generated through improvisational exercises and were molded through the collaborative efforts of its members to form visualizations of Jewish themes. The group appeared several times on network television including Dance Styles of the Jewish People, WABC-TV in 1972 and Go Forth in Dance, WNBC in 1973, presented by the New York Board of Rabbis. They performed for the First National Jewish Women’s Conference in 1973, and from 1972 to 1977 toured a program entitled Jewish Expression Through Dance to colleges in the New York area. Through these endeavors, Mollov was a mentor to many who were entering the field of Jewish dance.

Mollov attended classes at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, from which she graduated in June 1950. Later she enrolled at Queens College, CUNY, where she received her B.A. in 1976. Subsequently, she attended Teachers College, Columbia University, where she was awarded an M.A. in 1980, thus providing the credentials for teaching on the college level. An adjunct lecturer at Queens College from 1980 to 1984, Mollov taught a survey course on Jewish dance, which was also presented at Sarah Lawrence College in 1984. Beginning in 1980, she conducted lecture demonstrations on Jewish dance for colleges and adult study programs. In July 1986 she organized the Jewish Dance Educators Network as part of CAJE (the Coalition for Alternatives in Jewish Education, now The Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education) and edited its newsletter.

Mollov’s love of Jewish and secular dance was also expressed through writing. Her articles appeared in Dance Magazine (October 1986), Ballet News (cover article, August 1984) and Arabesque, as well as in Jewish publications. She proposed that the American Jewish community record and gather “visual evidence of the dance and movement practices of the Jewish people in the United States” (“Dance and Movement Ritual of the Jewish Community in the United States,” Hora, 1985). On August 18, 1985, she was interviewed by Billie Mahoney for the television series Dance On: With Billie Mahoney, where she discussed her work with the Fred Berk Dance Company and teaching at Sarah Lawrence College. Mollov continued to research and write on dance until her death on September 10, 1989. The Joyce Mollov Memorial Lecture and Performance, designed to recognize important dance artists and educators, endowed by her family and under the auspices of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College, has been held annually since 1990 at Colden Center, Queens College, in New York City. In addition, her husband, Norman, has donated her papers to The Dance Library of Israel, Tel Aviv.

 

SHULAMITE KORNBERG KIVEL

Shulamite Kivel was born Salome Shulamite Disentchik (later changed to Diskind) in Latvia, on February 22, 1927. Her mother, Luba Dzenzelsky, was “a great force in her life.” A woman of “great charm, strength and intelligence, who radiated love and self-confidence,” Luba was the backbone of the family. During World War II, Shulamite’s mother “used all these qualities to save her family from annihilation.” Her father, Leib, an educator and Hebraist, “imbued her with a deep attachment to Jewish life and learning,” teaching both Shulamite and her sister, Judith, “respect for the thinking life.” In 1932 the family moved to Brussels, Belgium, where she entered kindergarten, learned French, studied piano and discovered her love for dance.

When the Germans invaded Belgium in 1940, her family narrowly escaped, eventually hiding in the countryside of Vichy France, working as farm hands. Alone in the fields as a shepherd, she had time to think and to decide what would give meaning to her life, if life ever became normal again. The answer was unconditionally dance and Shula, as she became known, held to her wartime resolution, “If I survive, I will dance.”

Shula did survive and in 1942 immigrated to America, where she felt as if she had stepped out of a nightmare and into a magic land where Jews were free. Now came the “joyful but arduous struggle” of becoming a dancer. She studied ballet with Valentina Belova and the American School of Ballet, and modern dance with the Graham School, José Limón and the New Dance Group. She performed whenever possible and taught dance beginning in 1945.

But there was still a missing element. Because she felt “the guilt of being a survivor while millions had been murdered, [she] was compelled to find a reason for the gift of life.” It led her to “a search for Jewish expression in the art of dance both for herself and for sharing with others,” which she found in Katya Delakova and Fred Berk, who were also survivors, and they provided a first step.

Kivel worked with them, dancing to Jewish songs, old and new. Together, they choreographed their feelings about their Jewish past and Jewish visions, giving voice to the “longing for a land to call [their] own.” It was total involvement and became a way of life until the pull to Israel became stronger, leading her to move there in 1949. This was the beginning of Israel as a state and a time of kibbutz galuyot (the ingathering of the exiles). Shula, who spoke Hebrew, began to work as a dance teacher for the Ministry of Education and Culture. With a team of dance, music and Hebrew teachers, she went from one immigrant camp to another to help integrate immigrant children into a new and common culture. They worked to create Jewish holiday celebrations of grace and joy. The message was warmly embracing: “This is your dance, this is your song and this is your language.” Kivel also worked with the sabra children in the moshav school of Tel Mond as a eurhythmics and folk dance teacher.

In 1951 Shula returned to the United States to marry Leonard Kornberg, a college professor of educational psychology and an author; they lived in New York and had two sons, Ariel and Avram, and a daughter, Adena. She continued working to integrate dance within educational settings, most often in Jewish schools, camps and community centers. Working on every educational level, from early childhood through college, she created innovative programs, using whatever form of dance was most suitable and drawing from folk, modern and interpretive sources. Her goal was always to use dance to build positive emotional bridges to the Jewish experience.

As a co-director of the Jewish Dance Division of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Kivel taught Israeli folk dance classes and workshops for teachers, directed a performing troupe of teenagers and was co-producer and choreographer of the annual Hanukkah festival program, A Gift of Light, which was presented at the Y. For many years, she worked with children at SAJ (Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York City), TAG (Torah Academy for Girls in Far Rockaway, NY) and with high school students at HANC (Hebrew Academy of Nassau County). In addition, she taught modern dance at the Samuel Field YM & YWHA in Flushing, Queens, and dance in the early childhood arts program at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Riverdale (Bronx, NY). Kivel established the Israeli dance program at the Central Queens YM/YWHA in Forest Hills, Queens, NY, with weekly Israeli folk dance sessions and a performing group. At Queens College, she organized the Hillel performing group. For twelve summers she was in charge of dance, initially at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, a residential children’s camp in Wingdale, New York, and then at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, NY. She was also a co-director of the Fred Berk Israeli Dance Workshop at Camp Blue Star in North Carolina together with Ruth Goodman.

In 1980 Berk and Kivel were invited to go to Bonn, Germany, to conduct workshops in Israeli dance. The students were physical education teachers and dancers who planned to utilize the material in the German public schools. When Berk died, Kivel was asked to carry on alone; for her, “as it would have been for Fred, a circle closed.”

In her more than forty years of teaching, Shula touched many lives. One student said, “It does not matter if it is snowing outside; in this room I feel as if there’s sand under my feet, the sun is warm and I am free!” Widowed in 1963, Shula married Morton Kivel in 1969. In 1985 they moved to Florida, where they now reside. She retired from teaching in 1987 and now finds artistic expression through painting; dancers are her main subject matter.

 

SARAH RODBERG SOMMER

Sarah Rodberg, the only child of Clara and Samuel Rodberg, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on December 18, 1929. As a teenager, she was active in the Zionist youth movement Habonim and as the coordinator of its social programs regularly arranged Israeli folk dance activities. Later she was recruited by Canadian Young Judaea to create Israeli dance programs for them. Eventually, the community took notice of her talent and Rodberg was asked to choreograph a local production of Fiddler on the Roof. As this was her first production, she consulted with local “Yiddishists” and researched the dance style to preserve the authenticity of movement.

On July 4, 1948, Sarah married Alex Sommer. Together they raised four children, two girls, Reena and Naomi, and two boys, Aaron and Hillel.

Sarah did not have any dance training until about the age of fifteen, when she took ballet lessons at the Nenad and Jill Lhotka School of Dance. A strong personal relationship developed between Sarah and these two teachers; it was to this couple that she turned for assistance. Nenad, in particular, became a regular source of guidance for the development of Sarah’s projects.

In 1964, Jill and Nenad Lhotka asked her to teach some of their ballet students a segment on Israeli dance. After seeing the Israeli dance troupe Inbal perform in Winnipeg in 1968, Sarah developed connections with the group and traveled to be with them in New York, where the group stayed for a few months; there she practiced with them to learn their technique and style.

When Sarah eventually became sufficiently experienced, she decided to form her own dance group. She approached some parents and children in the community to see if they were interested. In 1964, Chai was established with eight girls aged twelve to fourteen, dancing in the Sommer basement to the accompaniment of music from a record player. According to Joyce Mollov, the motivation for the group was “to present the Jewish heritage through the medium of folk dance” (Hora, 1976). Reena, Sarah’s eldest daughter and only eleven at the time, was one of the original eight dancers in Chai. A few years later, as the group expanded, her daughter Naomi also joined. Both daughters remained members for several years.

In 1967, under the direction of the late Sarah Udow (who died in 1971), singers who were also trained in movement were added, accompanied by a single accordionist. The group rapidly became known across Canada and was one of the few groups invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip when they came to Ottawa in July 1967 for the Centenary of Confederation.

On July 3, 1969, at the age of thirty-nine, Sarah died from complications of metastatic breast cancer. Thereafter, Nenad and Jill Lhotka took over the artistic directorship of the group and both were involved with the ensemble for approximately twenty years. In 1978, Hillel, Sarah’s youngest son, joined the group as a percussionist and drummer. He became musical director in 1986 and from 1988 to 1994 served as the troupe’s artistic director.

With the support and encouragement of Sarah’s husband, Chai was renamed The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble in 1970. Currently the group consists of more than forty dancers, singers and musicians; it is the only Israeli folk dance group in North America to perform exclusively to live musical accompaniment. The members of the group range in age from sixteen to their late twenties and most are students. Their junior dance group is called Ruach. All regular members of the troupe are volunteers.

 

SHIRLEY WAXMAN

Shirley T. Waxman was born on April 23, 1933, to Alex and Esther (Buchalter) Silbert. Her first exposure to Israeli folk dance was in 1945 while she was a member of the HaShomer HatZair Zionist youth group in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which had strong connections with the much larger Toronto group. When she attended her first Oneg Shabbat, she was thrilled to see a new dance from Palestine, Mayim. In response to this initial exposure to folk dance, Waxman describes the entire experience: “There was such electricity in the air that I knew I had found my place. The warmth and feeling of everyone dancing with hands on shoulders stayed with me permanently.” (According to Fred Berk in his article, “Jewish Dance Activities in America” included in The Jewish Dance, shortly after the end of World War II Mayim was “one of the first dances to be brought here [to North America] from Palestine, and it stimulated an enthusiastic wave of Palestinian or, as they were soon to be known, Israeli folk dances here.”) At the age of fourteen Waxman began working with the “peanut” group, ages five to seven, at the Jewish Community Centre of Hamilton. This was an activity program that included crafts, songs and folk dance. Thus began her life-long experience of on-the-job training. However, her desire to care for people led her to a career in nursing and she was in the first graduating class of the Jewish General Hospital School of Nursing in Montreal.

When her physician husband accepted a position at George Washington University College of Medicine in 1962, Waxman moved to the Washington, D.C. area. However, since the hours of nursing conflicted with the needs of a growing family, she turned to Israeli folk dance for her second career. The sense of community motivated Waxman to devote more than twenty-five years to Israeli folk dance, pioneering activities in the Washington, D.C. area and inspiring many to become Israeli dance enthusiasts. She initiated folk dance programs at the Arlington-Fairfax Jewish Congregation and at other northern Virginia Hebrew schools, using folk dance as a tool to teach Jewish history. She started Camp Achvah, a Jewish cultural arts day camp that was the first unifying program in the northern Virginia Jewish community. This eventually prompted the founding of The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax. At the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville, Maryland, she was director of the Israeli Dance and Folklore Department for twelve years and taught classes for all ages, from preschoolers through senior citizens, as well as for the physically challenged and mentally disabled. Waxman had a special interest in drawing boys to Israeli folk dance by emphasizing its energetic, athletic style. She founded the Kallil Teen Israeli Folk Dance Performing Troupe, which performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as well as in Hebrew schools and festivals throughout the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

In 1973, based on an idea of Yossi Almog, the Israeli shaliah, Waxman established Washington’s Annual Israeli Folkdance Festival under the guidance of Fred Berk and was its director until 1985. She also developed an annual workshop to introduce new material, to refresh older dances and to incorporate choreography. As part of the Midrasha Community Hebrew School, her workshop initiatives in both festival preparation and leadership training led to high school credit for the participants. The festival grew in scope to include two thousand participants and 350 performers. In her attempt to bridge cultural barriers, she taught many Israeli folk dance programs outside the Jewish community. This included work in the public schools, Head Start programs in Arlington, Virginia and work with teenagers in the Mormon Church. Waxman found that “Israeli folk dance is a good way to teach non-Jews something about Judaism. When you show Jewish dance comes from the Bible, it seems to open doors.”

In her role as a choreography and concert consultant to the folk dance ensemble at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Waxman created a Yemenite Wedding Suite and Simhat Torah, an Eastern European Suite. She also set choreographies for the folk dance ensembles at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland, and Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois.

As part of Waxman’s work in Israeli folk dance, she designed and constructed costumes based on research and photography in Israel. This led to her third career, as a fiber artist. Her initial creations had been costume designs for the festival but eventually this grew to include Jewish ceremonial objects, synagogue art, decorative pieces, wearable art and ethnic garments.

Waxman has traveled extensively in Israel and the United States to research folklore and to study with well-known choreographers and teachers. Her publications include magazine articles and a vinyl sound recording and booklet, Jewish Culture through Folk Dance and Folklore for Young Children, published in 1981, commissioned by James Madison University.

Although currently retired from folk dancing, Waxman has presented workshops at Tikvat Israel Synagogue in Rockville, Maryland in preparation for Simhat Torah, and a program for Yom ha-Atzma’ut for fifth graders for the local Board of Jewish Education. She has also prepared staff at the B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp in Starlight, Pennsylvania. In her workshops, she uses only the older material and all the dances presented are connected to some aspect of Israeli life. For example, Dodi Tzah ve-Adom takes it words from biblical passages in the Song of Songs. Mehol ha-Gat (the Wine-Pressers’ Dance) refers to the initial grape harvest in Deganyah Alef, the first kibbutz, while Thé ve-Orez (Tea and Rice) is danced to a humorous folk song that is about the hard life of the haluzim in the 1920s and also refers to a time-honored home remedy for treating intestinal ills. The response to these types of dances has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Individuals who never before danced have been thrilled to find that the workshop included material that they were able to perform.

 

RUTH BROWNS GUNDELFINGER

Ruth Browns Gundelfinger was born on May 13, 1929, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In the early 1900s, her father, Samuel Browns, came from Vinnitsa (Vinnytsya), Russia (currently in Central Ukraine, it was taken by Russia from Poland in 1793). He had been a scrap-metal peddler and died when Ruth was one year old. His death left Ruth’s mother, Sara (Miller) Browns, destitute and responsible for Ruth and her three siblings, Morris, Issie, and Toby. On her tenth birthday Ruth was invited to a party being held by the Zionist youth movement, HaShomer HaZair. It was there that she and her friends fell in love with the dances and songs created by the Jews living in Palestine. She was too young to join the movement but insisted on attending for the music and dance every Friday and Saturday evening. Ruth finished the ninth grade in Montreal and at the age of fifteen began working as a bookkeeper. Eventually she received her B.A. degree in dance from San Francisco State College.

At the age of twenty-one she spent a year in Israel. Afterwards she went to New York City, where she stayed for six years, dancing with Fred Berk and acquiring a basic repertoire of Israeli folk dances. From New York she went to San Francisco, where she began dancing with a group led by Grace West, a Protestant who felt an affinity for Israeli music and dance. Several months later, in 1952, when West’s schedule limited her ability to continue leading the group, the core members decided to continue on a cooperative basis with Florence Freehof as their leader. In 1954, they chose the name Rikudom, a contraction of the Hebrew words rikud (dance) and am (nation). After about a year, Grace West returned to lead the group.

This unusual group, most of whose members were non-Jewish but had a deep interest in anything connected to Israel, ranged from high school students to senior citizens. Each session included singing Israeli songs. In 1958, when she wanted to retire, Grace West asked Ruth if she would lead the group. Ruth took over the group until 1970 when she left for a year in Israel. Under the leadership of Browns, the group grew to one hundred weekly participants plus a performing group with a core of twenty members, gaining recognition as an ethnic folk dance group affiliated with the Folk Dance Federation of California. While the group stopped meeting regularly as a folk dance group (circa 1999), it still meets to celebrate Pessah, its original anniversary date.

Browns also led dancing at other venues in the area, including Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center in Berkeley and Café Rina in Cotati. She also taught at the Hillel Foundation in Berkeley from 1960 to 1970 and the Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto. After spending 1970 in Israel, she returned to San Francisco in 1971 and resumed teaching. Richard Gundelfinger came to dance with her group, and they married on March 16, 1974. (He died on May 31, 1989.) Since 1996 she has taught an Israeli dance group that meets at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, California.

Ruth Browns Gundelfinger pioneered several noteworthy projects and contributed greatly to stimulating interest in Israeli folk dance in northern California. In December 1969 she started the Café Shalom Israeli Folk Dance Group, a recreational group that began weekly meetings at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco. She was the first person on the West Coast to initiate a Weekend Folk Dance Camp, bringing folk dance teachers from Israel to teach their own dances or dances of other choreographers. The camp was held on the campus of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, a site chosen because it is the midpoint between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It continued annually for twenty-five years, from 1972 until 1997. Ruth wanted the dancers to learn the same dances at the same time, so that when dancers visited another city they would find the same dances done in the same way. Up to this point, many dances were done differently in the two main California cities and there had been confusion. Previously, for two successive years in the early 1960s, she was asked to teach during both weeks at the Stockton Folk Dance Camp held at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

In his Folkdance Notebook, Israeli Volume 2, containing fifty-nine labanotated Israeli dances, Franklin Byrom has credited Ruth Browns as the source for the entries on the following dances: Debka Kurdit, Erev Ba, Shibboleth ba-Sadeh, Shiru ha-Shir, Vinekehu and Zemer Ikarim. In addition, the group Rikudom is credited for some of the entries: Esh Ali, Ke-Shoshana, Ki Tin’am, Mazal Tov Frelach, Mehol ha-Kerem, Mehol Ovadya, My Parents Delight and Zur mi-Shelo.

In addition to her dance activities, Gundelfinger has published two volumes of Israeli Folk Dance Songs that contain the transliteration and translation for each song. Also included is a list of songs containing texts from the Bible and citing the specific chapter and verse.

 

MOLLY SHAFER RUTZEN

Molly Shafer, the oldest of three children, was born on March 23, 1927, in Rochester, New York, to Sarah (Tepperman) and Nathan Abramow, and was reared with a strong sense of her Jewishness. In addition to her studies at the University of Rochester, where she earned a B.A. in Romance Languages and an M.A. in Education, leading to permanent state certification as a teacher of French and Spanish, she also studied tap, jazz and modern dance. In 1948 she married Earl Shafer, a CPA, and they had two sons and a daughter.

As a child, Molly Abramow was first exposed to Israeli folk dance in the Young Judaea Zionist Youth Movement. As an adult, from 1972 to 1992, she was an enthusiastic participant in the Fred Berk Israeli Folk Dance Workshop at the Blue Star Camps in North Carolina as well as in numerous workshops taught by Israeli choreographers and teachers elsewhere in the United States.

Shafer’s initial theatrical experiences involved directing and choreographing musicals for her Cornell Study Club, Hadassah, and other organizations. In 1969, while teaching languages at schools in Brighton, New York, she was hired to initiate a program in Israeli music and dance at Temple Beth El of Rochester. Within three years she had established four extracurricular dance groups and three choral groups. She also taught Israeli music and dance to all school classes. Later, she developed an advanced class; based on Berk’s methods, she taught high school students how to choreograph, notate and teach Israeli folk dance. Her several visits to Israel included participation as a member of the North American delegation in the National Foundation for Jewish Culture celebration of Israel’s fortieth anniversary, “Independence and Interdependence: Israel-North America Cultural Exchange,” in June 1988. During these visits she worked with Israeli choreographers. She also held workshops in Rochester featuring several Israeli choreographers. For twenty-six years she taught Israeli dance and music at Temple Beth El of Rochester and at the community Hebrew High School (Midrasha) and for fifteen years at Hillel School (the Hebrew Day School of Rochester). In addition, she taught periodically at Temple Sinai High School and Temple B’rith Kodesh of Rochester. She also conducted Israeli folk dance workshops at area colleges.

With Fred Berk’s encouragement, and under the auspices of Temple Beth El of Rochester, Molly Shafer founded and directed the Rochester Israel Folk Dance Festival in 1974. This first festival, held on March 17, attracted high school and college groups from Ithaca, Albany and Buffalo to participate with the local groups. Workshops with Berk were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday prior to an evening performance. Starting on Sunday morning, there was a heavy snowfall and during the afternoon workshop the roads and the airport were closed. While home hospitality was part of the festival plan for performers, the storm necessitated the housing of both the out-of-town dancers and their families who had come to see the performance. The incident resulted in the development of lifelong friendships; the ensuing festivals continued with home hospitality as a norm for participants from outside the local community. Since the first festival was a success, the festival continued annually for nineteen consecutive years under Shafer’s direction, attracting college and high school groups from the New York State cities of Albany, Buffalo, Elmira, Ithaca and Syracuse, and from Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada. In response to Berk’s emphasis on quality control, she visited all groups participating in the festival and supervised their choreography, costumes and music. The festival weekend retained the format of having workshops as an integral part. Shafer’s groups also performed annually in the Albany Dance Festival and in 1988 Margalit, a group of senior high school students who attended Midrasha, the Community Hebrew High School, performed in the 37th Annual Israel Folk Dance Festival and Festival of the Arts held at The Triplex in New York City.

Many of Shafer’s students continued with Israeli dance; some performed and taught in Israeli folk dance groups in college. Her daughter, Amy Shafer Medovoy, taught Israeli folk dance during her years on a kibbutz, while Shira Elkins worked as an assistant to a professional choreographer in Israel. Two of Shafer’s former students have gone on to careers in dance: Barry Temkin danced with The Israel Ballet for two years and Danny Gwirtzman, after performing with Garth Fagan and other dance companies in New York City, formed his own dance company in 1998, the Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company. The DGDC web page states that their “style is a mixture of a highly-technical vocabulary with a pedestrian one … Folk dances inform the work. One is aware that these are people dancing, not abstract designs in space.” The company provides a variety of teaching and performing residencies in the New York City Board of Education public schools. Shafer stated, “Since music and dance enriched my life and brought so much joy to me, I was thrilled to pass on an appreciation for our Jewish culture through music and dance to so many students for so many years.”

Shafer retired from teaching Jewish folk dance and music in 1994. Widowed in 1985, in 1996 she married Robert Rutzen, Ph.D., former Chair, Department of Sociology, and professor emeritus at the State University of New York College at Brockport. Molly became physically unable to continue the rigors of folk dancing after sustaining a serious injury in the summer of 1998 but continued to enjoy ballroom dancing with her husband. She died on December 25, 2012.

 

TEME LONDON KERNERMAN

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 8, 1932, to Ann Mandel and Harry London (changed from Herschel Landman when he came to Canada from Zhytomyr), Teme was named after her Russian great-grandmother, whose name was pronounced “Tem-e.” Together with her younger sister, Corrine (Cookie), she had a conservative Jewish upbringing.

Teme’s involvement in Israeli dance began as a teenager in Habonim, a Zionist youth group that she attended. At the age of fifteen she was hired by Habonim to teach arts and crafts at Camp Kvutza. Here she was part of the counselor dance group run by a female counselor who had no special dance background. After making constant suggestions and criticisms, even though at that time she herself had no dance background, she ended up organizing and running the dance program in addition to arts and crafts, and also taking care of nursery school-aged children residing in cottages on the campgrounds. Over the years, the dance program came to include modern interpretive dances for the Oneg Shabbat and other camp events, dance festivals with international and Israeli dances and daily dance sessions. The camp became known for its festivals and dance programs, which featured outside groups brought from Toronto and the surrounding area to perform with the campers for those festivals that were held on the parents’ visiting day. While she felt that she was a “disaster as the arts and crafts person,” she was helped by the Sports Director, Barry Kernerman [December 8, 1932 - February 15, 2010], who had been studying at an art school and whom she married ten years later.

A first step to satisfy her desire to know more about dance was to study with Ernie Krehm and Ivy Krehm Wittmeyer at University Settlement Recreation Center. After completing high school and in preparation for aliyah, Teme spent a year in Israel (1952–1953) on the Habonim Workshop at Kibbutz Geva, where she learned Hebrew and received a greater exposure to Israeli dance with Shaul Rosenfeld. Upon her return to Canada she worked for Habonim for two years as a group leader/counselor and organized and choreographed all the dance concerts and events. Realizing that there was much more to dance than what she knew, she became involved with international folk dance, introducing the Israeli dances into their repertoire. She also began to study modern dance with Dorothea Bucholz (from New York) at the local YM-YWHA. While she was not aware of it at the time, Teme was the local Israeli dance expert; there was no other teacher of Israeli dance in town. To support her dance activities, she enrolled in a program to become a nursery school teacher, subsequently working first in a church school with underprivileged children and then in a Hebrew nursery. At the same time she went dancing at night. When she found herself falling asleep with the children at nap time, she realized that she would not have a future as a teacher on the early child/nursery school level; she then decided to pursue dance full time.

In 1955, when Bucholz left Toronto to return to New York City, Teme followed her. During the day, she studied modern dance, mainly with José Limon, Hanya Holm and Alwin Nikolai, while also continuing studies with Bucholz, and at night she went folk dancing. She also learned creative dance material for children with Ruth Doing, an acquaintance of Bucholz. She did international folk dance with Michael and Mary Ann Herman at Folk Dance House and Israeli dance with Fred Berk at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA. To support herself, she taught folk dancing in Hebrew schools under the guidance of Dvora Lapson. Dvora directed her to jobs and Teme was involved in the children’s dance festivals that Lapson organized. This exposure was the basis for her future festival, Rikudiyah. However, while Dvora insisted that every group “perform,” Teme felt that this was not the best experience for some of the groups, so she eventually took a different approach.

She worked with Berk at the “Y” as a dance demonstrator at the open sessions and as a substitute teacher; she assisted him in his first Israeli Dance Teachers Training Course and also performed in his Goren [Folk] Dance Group. She led and choreographed Adarim and Harmonica for the Habonim dance group’s participation in the Fifth Annual Israel Dance Festival, held at Hunter College Assembly Hall on February 12, 1956. The performance was repeated on April 10, 1956 in an Israeli Dance Festival held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music together with members of Berk’s dance group—an honor that was awarded to the acknowledged “best” group in the Festival. The association with Berk influenced her greatly; he encouraged her efforts and cemented her love for Israeli dance.

Together, Teme and Bucholz organized a “Stage for Young Dancers.” Deciding “[her] strength was teaching and not performing,” Kernerman worked backstage and became the stage manager. Her association with Bucholz on this project lasted for a year and a half. With Bucholz’s assistance, Teme was offered scholarships in 1956 and 1957 to study modern dance at a summer dance program (1948–1978) that was held at Connecticut College School of Dance in New London, directed by Martha Hill (until 1958). Here she studied with Doris Humphrey (choreography), José Limon, Louis Horst (pre-classic dance forms), Alwin Nikolai, Murray Lewis, Margaret Dietz (Mary Wigman Technique) and Virginia Tanner (creative dance for children). Original music was written for three of her pre-classic choreographies, which she performed at the college student recitals. A work scholarship (to help in the kitchen), provided by Mary Ann Herman, enabled her to attend Maine Folk Dance Camp where she was exposed to both folklore and international folk dance.

Lured to return to Toronto by Ivy Krehm in the fall of 1957, Teme took a dance job at the YM-YWHA and continued to dance and teach modern and folk dance. She was soon invited to establish and direct the School of Dance and, in 1957, became the first full time dance director and established the Dance Centre at the YM-YWHA, where she focused on all forms of dance. She taught classes in modern dance for adults and children and gave teacher training courses in folk dance (with an emphasis on Israeli dance), held Israeli dance workshops and taught Israeli and international dance sessions, organized Israeli dance festivals, created and choreographed for the Nirkoda Israeli Dancers Performing Group and, to round out the department, developed classes in tap, ballet and ballroom dance. Together, Krehm and Kernerman organized the Ontario Folk Dance Camp in 1959. Currently, the camp is held on Queen Victoria Day Weekend in May at various locations throughout the Province of Ontario. For the last several years it has been held at the University of Waterloo. On July 5, 1959, Teme was a participant in a televised program, Rhapsody: Music and Dance of Israel, that was presented by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The program, hosted by Jan Rubes, was prepared by Fred Berk and Ivy Krehm and included performances by the musical ensemble Oranim Zabar (Geula Gill, Dov Seltzer, Michael Kagan) and dances by the Ivy Krehm Festival Dancers (Marcel Chojnacki, Yitz Penciner, Jack Geddes) and the Fred Berk Folk Dancers (Gila Melandoff, Jack Wiener, Dov Alton, Nina Mrva, Mary Carrigan, Teme Kernerman) with music by Ivan Romanoff, his orchestra and chorus.

In 1960, when her husband was appointed director of Galerie Israel in Tel Aviv, Kernerman gave up her post as director of the Dance Centre and went on aliyah. In Israel she studied modern dance with Aryeh Kalev and taught modern classes for him; she also taught international and Israeli folk dance. Professionally she became active with Noah Am, the International Folk Dance Association. Through the organization and teaching of dance classes and teacher training courses, she formed friendships with many of the Israeli dance choreographers, thus obtaining first hand information on the genre. In 1967, when her husband decided to leave his position, the Kernermans returned to Canada with their children, a boy (Doron Noam) and a girl (Varda Rifka), born in Israel.

Unhappy, Teme returned to Toronto where she approached the YM-YWHA and convinced them to give her an opportunity to rebuild the folk dance program. (Currently it is under the Academy of Ballet and Jazz at the Koffler Centre of the Arts.) No longer in Israel, Teme felt that “Israeli dance would be my Israel connection!” She was employed to “develop, teach and co-ordinate the folk dance program.” In addition to reinstating her former initiatives, she reestablished Nirkoda Israeli Dancers, for twenty-five years the only performing Israeli dance group in Toronto, of which she was the artistic director and choreographer for twenty-two years. (The group continued until 1985.) Teme also established family folk dancing, a performing group for senior citizens over the age of fifty-five, known as Chai International Dancers (1978–present), and Rikudiyah–Israeli Dance Festival for Children, now (2006) in its thirty-sixth year. Relying on the personal connections she had made, Teme was able to bring Israeli dance teachers to provide workshops and expose Torontonians to Israeli dance. Visitors in the early years included Fred Berk, Ayalah Goren-Kadman and Zafra Zalzman Tatcher; later came Amnon Shauli, Shlomo Maman, Moshiko, Moshe Telem, Seadia Amishai, Yaakov Eden and Israel Yakovee. In 1970 Kernerman became the part-time coordinator of the Folk Dance Division at the Koffler Centre of the Arts School of Dance, and from 1982 to 1985 served as its full-time director.

Realizing that there was no dance in the Hebrew schools, and convinced that Israeli dance “is part of our heritage and culture” and should be a part of the curriculum in the schools, she began to formulate plans for Rikudiyah. She initially requested that the Board of Jewish Education allow her to appear before a meeting with the principals. Her request was granted, but her proposal was not accepted. Undaunted, she turned for assistance to parents who were dancing in her classes. They, in turn, descended on the principals. Supported by Rabbi Irwin Witty, the Executive Director of the Board of Jewish Education, Teme traveled to many of the schools and taught Israeli dance, initially without compensation. When the principals were convinced that dance was not only a good activity but that it was also educational, she had her program.

While the first Rikudiyah she directed in 1968 had only forty children dancing, it soon mushroomed to become a community highlight where children wait in anticipation to be old enough to participate. Teme attributes the growth in the program to the teacher-training courses she gave; she had developed a mechanism to provide competent individuals to work in the schools to teach Israeli dance. According to Teme, Rikudiyah is “a performance without the pressure of a performance.” Even though the audience might number one thousand, children do not worry about making mistakes since groups are dancing simultaneously, together with their instructor, and the instructors are permitted to vary the steps to adjust to the level and ability of the particular group. The older children (grades seven and up) perform in costume, providing an incentive for the younger children involved in Rikudiyah. Teme is now seeing former “kids, now young adults, dancing in the regular evening classes and some are even teaching in the schools.” She feels that “this is the only way to perpetuate Israeli dance.” At Rikudiyah 2002, former members of Nirkoda, now between forty and sixty-three years old, reunited to perform; appearing as the Nirkoda Alumni Israeli Dancers, they also danced in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Re-established, Nirkoda is now directed by Ronit Eizenman, a former Nirkoda dancer.

In 1980, to meet the needs of older dancers, Kernerman started Mechol Hanoar, a Rikudiyah for high school age students, which was held on Yom ha-Azma’ut (Israel’s Independence Day) for five years. This program had a different orientation. In preparation for the workshop, all the teens learned three dances, containing basic steps. At the workshop, new dances were presented to all, including parents who were invited and encouraged to participate. Performances followed the workshop but participation was optional. An outgrowth of this program was a performing teenage group, Neurim.

Kernerman’s “Montreal connections” led to the organization of a professional association. Initially contacted by Madame Cecille Grenier, Head of Physical Education for the Catholic Girl Schools, she was first requested to help her work out some Israeli dance instructions and then asked to teach Israeli dance in the Catholic schools. Eventually she was introduced to Michel Cartier, organizer of “Folkmoot” Folk Dance Camps in Lake Stukely (in Mont-Oford Provincial Park, Quebec). She served as their Israeli dance specialist for a few years and also worked with the professional folk dance company, L’Ensemble National des Feux-Follets, of which Cartier was director and founder. In 1969, inspired by their zest, zeal and organization for dance, she spearheaded the formation and served as the first chairperson of the Ontario Folk Dance Association and the Ontario Folk Dance Teachers Association. In 1981, the Ontario Folk Dance Association honored four teachers, including Kernerman, by establishing a scholarship known as OTEA in the Ontario Folk Dance Teachers Association to enable folk dancers to pursue new folk dance experiences. As a member of the International Folk Dance Division of The Canadian Dance Teachers’ Association (CDTA), Kernerman has been an examiner for International Folk Dance Student Examinations and a consultant at the national level. She held a fellowship membership with CDTA for ten years and is currently a member, at the fellowship level, of PAEC (Performing Arts Educators of Canada) and a certified examiner for the folk dance division. As the Canadian representative on the adjudicating committee for selecting performing dance groups and teachers to represent North America, she attended the First Israeli Dance Festival in Karmiel, Israel, celebrating Israel’s fortieth anniversary.

For many years, Kernerman has worked at the (Bathurst) Jewish Community Center, taught folk dance classes for the Fifty-Five Plus Department of Adult Services and since 1995 has coordinated their fundraising concerts. Another long-term association was with the Israeli Dance Camp, founded by Fred Berk, and held at Blue Star Camps, North Carolina. On the staff from 1983 to 1998, her responsibilities included classes in dances for children and festivals and conducting the morning warm-up. She has also been associated with Mainewoods Dance Camp held in the state of Maine, where she served on the Board of Directors (1998–2000) and where she has been on the staff and taught periodically since 1981. She conducted Folk Dance Teacher Training Courses for the Ontario Folk Dance Teachers Association and the Canadian Dance Teachers Association and in 2002 taught this course at Mainewoods Dance Camp and the Kentucky Dance Institute.

Besides teaching in Canada, the United States and Israel, Kernerman taught workshops in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China in 1990. At the master class for the South China Singing and Dancing Troupe in Guangzhou, Kernerman gave some background in Israeli dance and taught a class on Israeli dance style and forms. She described her visit in the Ontario Folk Dance Association’s publication, Ontario FolkDancer, under the title, “Teme Sings in Hong Kong!!” In addition to instructing in recreational groups, Kernerman has also taught folk dance as part of the summer physical education courses offered at University of Toronto, Brock University (St. Catharines, Ontario), McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) and Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario). She was also invited to conduct Israeli dance workshops at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia), University of Rochester and The University of Chicago.

Among her other creative endeavors, Kernerman served with music director Shlomo Biederman as dance consultant for the production of the vinyl sound recording, Dance Israel, based on the dances that she taught at the YM-YWHA folk dance group’s annual Israeli workshop in Toronto in March 1968. She was also instrumental in the formation of the Ami Chai Israeli Dance Company, Ottawa, where she initiated Israeli dance workshops and taught from 1970 to 1976. In 1973, together with the Ontario Folk Arts Council, she served as co-coordinator and choreographer for the thirty ethnic groups involved in the presentation for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at Canadian National Exhibition Stadium, Toronto. From 1978 to 1982 she was the coordinator of the Israeli dance performances on “Israel Day,” held at Ontario Place, a park located in Toronto Harbour Front. Teme was acknowledged for her contributions to Dictionary of Dance: Words, Terms, and Phrases, for which she provided the entries for the Israeli step terminology. As choreographer and advisor for the TV film Last Wish, directed by Jeff Bleckner, which aired on ABC in 1992, starring Patty Duke and Maureen Stapleton, Kernerman choreographed a dance sequence that supposedly took place at the 92nd St. Y and coached the actress who portrayed an Israeli dance teacher. (The film is based on a memoir by Betty Rollin, a network television correspondent, about the struggle with ovarian cancer of her mother, who asks her for help in fulfilling her wish to die with dignity.)

In addition to her numerous achievements in dance, Teme also served for fifteen years as the director of the Fifty-Five Plus Department of Adult Services at the Bathurst Jewish Community Center (1985–2000). At present, she teaches recreational folk dance classes for senior citizens at the BJCC, a project she began in 1970. She has been and still is the coordinator of all folk dance activities for the BJCC. She is also an executive member of the Folk Dance Division of the Performing Arts Educators of Canada. For her pioneering efforts and achievements, Teme was twice honored by the Ontario Folk Dance Association and was the recipient of the Ontario Arts Council Choreographers Award (1978) and the Ontario Folk Arts Recognition Fellowship Award (1991). She has lived by the phrase “To dance is to live—believe it!”

 

GALE JACOBSOHN

Gale Jacobsohn was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 18, 1933, to Isaac and Jeanne (Shedroff) Goldweber. She discovered folk dancing only as an adult, when she signed up for a folk dance class for beginners offered at the local Jewish community center. She quickly became addicted to folk dance, to the music and to learning about the cultures of many peoples of the world. Her Labor Zionist background led her to believe that dancing other people’s dances helped form a bond among them. She felt that Israeli folk dance had brought her closer to her own Jewish Zionist roots.

Working mainly through the Hillel of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, she successfully developed an Israeli dance program that attracted both Jewish students and young working adults who often had no other contact with Judaism or Zionism. Once the Hillel program was established, she formed the Hillel Israeli Dancers of Cleveland. The group, which performed in the Cleveland area and participated in festivals in other parts of the country from 1979 until 1989, reflected Jacobsohn’s belief that the dynamic quality of Israeli dance presents a positive picture of modern Israel to the world at large. Through the Coalition for Alternatives in Jewish Education and the local mini-CAJE program, she has taught Israeli dance to teachers in the Cleveland area, thus enriching the local Jewish educational programs. As an artist-in-residence in the Cleveland area from 1982 to 1984, she taught an appreciation of many cultures through international folk dance. After retiring from Israeli folk dance teaching, Jacobson taught a full-semester course in international Folk Dance for undergraduates in the Department of Physical Education and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University.

 

INBAL DANCERS IN AMERICA

Two Yemenite-Israeli women, both former principal dancers and soloists with the Inbal Dance Theatre of Israel, came to reside in the United States, where they made significant professional contributions.

HADASSAH BADOCH-KRUGER was born in Sa’da, Yemen. She was the third of four children and the only daughter of a wealthy merchant. When she was about five her mother died; her father died about two years later. After the death of both parents, she visited Aden where she was registered for aliyah. In 1945, at about the age of seven, she began her immigration to Palestine together with other young children and elderly adults; while her oldest brother had immigrated to Palestine previously, her other brothers subsequently followed her. She first boarded a ship in Aden; they disembarked in the Suez Canal and then took a train to Atlit (near Haifa). In Palestine, she was taken from a transit camp (ma’abarah) to a residential school for children from all over the world, Kefar Yeladim Me’ir Shefeyah near Zikhron Ya’akov. Here she began her dance studies and was inspired by Dr. Aryeh Kalev, a physical educator and dancer. Later, while on hakhsharah (the preparation for establishing new collective settlements or joining established ones) at Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim, she studied modern dance in Jerusalem with Elsa Dublon (credited with choreographing the folk dance Mayim). The kibbutz permitted her to study dance four days a week; she was on full scholarship. After hakhsharah, she joined her brothers in Tel Aviv and studied with Gertrude Kraus. When she was conscripted into military service (September 25, 1951–1953), Kraus convinced the IDF to allow Hadassah to remain in the Tel Aviv vicinity to continue her dance training. During the day she worked in the army and at night she studied dance. A full scholarship enabled her to study Spanish and Flamenco dance with Juan and classical ballet with his wife, Elana. The latter recommended that Hadassah audition for the Israel Opera production of The Song of Norway. While continuing to study dance, she rehearsed for the opera production and, at the request of the IDF, also took command of the preparation of three hundred young women from the Chief Adjutant’s Office and the General Staff for a performance at the 1953 Maccabiah Games in Ramat Gan. About a week before the opera was to open, Hadassah was told the date of the IDF presentation at the Maccabiah; both performances overlapped. The IDF ordered that she perform with her trainees. While disappointed at missing her opera debut, she later recalled that it was “fun to be a part of the performance group at the Maccabiah.”

Prior to leaving the army, Hadassah was invited to audition for the Inbal Dance Theater, founded by Sara Levi-Tanai in 1949. Levi-Tanai, who had also lived at Me’ir Shefeyah, learned about Hadassah through the contacts she had maintained there. Both choreographer Jerome Robbins and Anna Sokolow were in attendance at the Inbal auditions, having come to Israel to help organize Inbal prior to its tour. In 1953, after being discharged from the army, Hadassah joined the company. As a principal dancer, she had two world tours (1957–1958, 1959–1960), performing in the dances Midbar (which included a duet with Meir Ovadia), Bat Yonim (solo), Song of Deborah (as Yael), Laylot Canaan (duet with Moshe Yitzchak Halevy a.k.a., Moshiko), Mi-Saviv le-Medurah (also titled “Leaping Flames,” as the only female in an otherwise all male cast) and Queen of Sheba (as Na’arat ha-Malka, the queen’s attendant). The first tour lasted over eight months and the company appeared in fifteen countries in Europe, the United States and Canada. The second tour was in the United States and Canada and lasted four months. Sol Hurok, the American “impresario,” arranged both tours.

After finishing the second world tour with Inbal in 1960, Hadassah decided to remain in New York City where she was accepted, with full scholarship, to both the Juilliard School and the Martha Graham School for Contemporary Dance. She chose to attend the Graham School where she studied choreography with Louis Horst as well as Graham technique and ballet. Hadassah participated in rehearsals with the Martha Graham Dance Company, where she learned the company repertoire. After several years, Graham encouraged her to join the Batsheva Dance Company, founded in collaboration with Baroness Bethsabée de Rothschild. Rothschild was a former student of Graham who had moved to Israel and had become a benefactress to Graham by providing money for dance scholarships and sending dancers to study in New York, mainly at the Graham school. In return, Graham had agreed to serve as artistic advisor and provide the Batsheva Dance Company with works from her repertoire. At the time, Batsheva was the only dance company to which Graham had given permission to use her repertoire. As one of the original dancers with the Batsheva Dance Company and with her knowledge of the Graham repertoire, Hadassah danced with the company in Israel for a year, performing principal roles that she had learned in New York City under Graham’s direction. She has performed in Graham ballets such as Errand into the Maze as the female lead, Diversion of Angels, Dark Meadow and Clytemnestra (as Cassandra and Young Clytemnestra), as well as in Robert Cohan’s The Pass and Donald McKayle’s Nocturne. Badoch also appeared in the Hanukkah celebrations, sponsored by Israel Bonds, which were held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where she performed the role of Orpah (The Story of Ruth) choreographed by Sophie Maslow. In addition, she danced Kaddish, inspired by Jewish mourning ritual, choreographed in 1945 by Anna Sokolow to music by Maurice Ravel. Since 1966 she has performed throughout the United States both as soloist and with her own company. Other performance credits include CBS and ABC network television specials, productions of The King and I at the City Center in New York (June 13, 1963) and at Lincoln Center (July 6–August 8, 1964), and as a featured dancer on Broadway in Sing Israel Sing at the Brooks Atkinson Theater (May 11–June 11, 1967) with Ami Gilad as musical arranger and conductor. Her work typically incorporates authentic Yemenite movement, Israeli-Arabic motifs and biblical themes; other dances are in an abstract modern vein. However, she has also performed classical court dances of northern India as both soloist and in duets with Ball Ram, dancer to the King of Nepal. Their program of both Near and Far East dances was presented in various venues, including at a United Nations reception for the Nepalese Prime Minister.

Badoch-Kruger participated in the Israel Folk Dance Festival in New York City as a leader/choreographer in five festivals. In 1961 she choreographed Yom ha-Azma’ut for Young Zionists, sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America. Tahat Ez ha-Tomer (Under the Palm Tree) was presented by Junior Hadassah in 1962. For Ganei Yehuda, New Jersey Young Judaea, she choreographed Ke-Shoshana bein ha-Hohim and Ma Navu in 1964 and Moladeti (Land of My Birth) in 1981. For the 1984 festival, she worked with Hashachar, presenting Benot Yerushalayim (Daughters of Jerusalem). The various Greater New York area festival performing groups that she worked with from 1962 to 1984 were all sponsored by Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America. With the support of a grant by the Ohio Arts Council in 1982–1983, Badoch-Kruger choreographed a two-part work representing scenes and images of desert life for the Shalhevet International Folk Ensemble, Cleveland, Ohio, a women’s dance, Se’i Yonah (Fly, My Dove) and a group dance, Yafatee Dalegee-na (Shepherd Dance). Several of her dances were introduced into the folk repertoire, including Im ha-Shahar (a couple dance), Erev Shel Shoshanim (a dance done in a seated position using hand movements) and Al Harim (a.k.a. El ha-Ayin).

From 1971 to 2003 Hadassah taught dance as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Performing and Creative Arts at the College of Staten Island, a unit of the City University of New York. She has performed and given workshops and master classes at various other colleges and universities (Barnard College and Sarah Lawrence College, McGill University in Montreal, Stony Brook SUNY, Columbia University and New York University) as well as in numerous communities in New York, Ohio (Cleveland and Cincinnati), Massachusetts (Lexington), Michigan (Detroit and Grand Rapids) and Canada (National Arts Centre, Ottawa). She has worked within the Jewish community in New York City at HAS (the Hebrew Arts School for Music and Dance now known as the Lucy Moses School of the Kaufman Center) and at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA. Since 1995 she has been teaching at the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island. In addition to modern dance, choreography and Hatha Yoga, her teaching has included Yemenite Israeli dance.

In 1986 Hadassah was certified as a Hatha Yoga instructor and in 1994 she became a Phoenix Rising Yoga therapist; she is also certified as an Arthritis Self-Help Instructor. She uses her training to teach dance and movement therapy to seniors over seventy and to arthritis and Alzheimer patients. She also teaches Hatha Yoga at all levels and provides private Phoenix Rising Yoga therapy sessions.

On August 26, 1962 Hadassah married Norman Kruger, an actor and director, who is currently an associate professor (dramatic arts) in the Department of Performing and Creative Arts, College of Staten Island, CUNY. They have a son, Noam.

Margalit Oved, born in 1937 in the British crown colony of Aden, is a dancer, composer, choreographer, singer, percussionist and actress who immigrated to Israel in 1949 in the airlift known as Operation Magic Carpet. For fifteen years she was a principal dancer with the Inbal Dance Theatre of Israel and, under Sol Hurok’s management, toured with that company for nine months, giving performances in New York (1958), Paris, London and Australia. In 1965 Oved married Mel Marshall, an American whom she had met when she was in Los Angeles during the fourth Inbal tour (1962–1963) filming The Greatest Story Ever Told with Max von Sydow. They settled in California, where in 1968 she gave birth to a son, Barak, and later to a daughter, Dikla.

In 1965 Margalit began a twenty-two-year association with the University of California at Los Angles (UCLA), where she taught modern and ethnic dance and choreographed numerous works for the UCLA Dance Company, including a work for the prima ballerina of the Cairo Ballet Company, dance scholar Magda Saleh. She also taught at The University of Judaism. In 1969, Margalit premiered her first one-woman show, which combined music, theater and dance pieces, and toured it throughout the United States and Israel. With backing from the National Endowment for the Arts, Margalit founded the Margalit Oved Dance Theater Company which was an active participant in the NEA’s Dance Touring Program and Artists in the Schools Program and which comprised performances, residencies, workshops, lecture demonstrations and master classes for primary, secondary and university students. Ohad Naharin commissioned Oved to create and perform two new works for an evening-length production with Ana Laguna and Niklas Ek. The production of LOL ran from April 8 to May 4, 2000 at the Judiska Teatern (Judiska Theater) in Stockholm. It consisted of Off White, danced by Laguna and Ek, Two Short Stories, danced by Laguna with text by Italo Calvino, and Two Dramatic Ballads, choreographed, written and performed by Oved.

Gestures of Sand, an eighteen-minute film produced in 1968 by Allegra Fuller Snyder in association with the Department of Dance, University of California, Los Angeles, features Oved singing and dancing traditional music and choreography. In the film Margalit explains Aden and Yemen as important stopping points on the ancient trading route between India, Africa and Spain and she dances and chants from the wedding rituals of the Yemenite Jews. Also included are desert dances and characterizations of the Queen of Sheba with King Solomon, the prophet Deborah and the matriarch Rachel. She also appeared in the first film made entirely in Israel, Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer, directed by Thorold Dickinson and written by Peter Frye (based on a story by Zvi Kolitz). The film focuses on the personal stories of four people, including a Yemenite girl, Esther Hadassi (Margalit Oved), assigned to defend a strategic hill near Jerusalem during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. (The film received honors, including Hommage, at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.) Oved also appeared (uncredited) in George Stephen’s production of The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

In addition to more than forty-five choreographies, Margalit has composed and recorded twenty-two original music compositions, including the soundtrack for Amiram Amitai’s sixteen-minute film, Taleb and His Lamb a.k.a. Bedouin Boy (1975). She is credited as the author of a sound recording, Travel with Me, My Dove, and Listen to Me!: Songs of the Middle East (1976). Other dancers have presented her work, e.g., on a video recording (1978), Ze’eva Cohen included the dancer Randy Newman performing “Mothers of Israel” (Entermedia) for which Margalit is credited for both choreography and sound. Oved is also the subject of an M.A. thesis, Department of Modern Dance, University of Utah, 1986, “Margalit Oved: Her Life as a Dancer, Teacher, and Choreographer,” by Sharon Homeyer-Perry.

In 1994 Oved and her son Barak returned to Israel, where she again served as artistic director of Inbal. In addition to her choreographic initiatives, she reestablished Inbal’s dance school for underprivileged youth and created an outreach program to teach dance to students in peripheral and low-income communities throughout Israel. In 1996 she left Inbal to join her son’s dance company, Barak Marshall Theaterdance; for three years she toured with the company throughout Europe, Israel and the United States. In 1998 Oved appeared in Barak’s “Emma Goldman’s Wedding,” a tribute to the human rights activist and anarchist, with which Marshall represented Israel in the Recontres Choréographiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis (a.k.a. Bagnolet, International Competition of Choreography), where it won first prize; Margalit had the leading vocal role. She was also the lead performer in And as the Rooster Crowed, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square, an evening-length production that Barak choreographed for the Batsheva Dance Company and presented in July 1999 at the American Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

Oved is the recipient of three Choreography Awards, respectively from The National Endowment for the Arts, the ADAMI Award (L’association Artistique de l’Adami, France) for artistic excellence and the Myrtle Wreath Award for her contribution to the arts presented by Hadassah in tribute to individuals who made significant contributions to politics, diplomacy, science, the arts or organizational work in the United States.

Margalit is particularly proud of her children’s achievements. Barak, an award-winning choreographer, studied social theory and philosophy at Harvard University, while her daughter Dikla has earned both a B.A. (major in economics) and an M.F.A. (Program in Theater [Acting]) from the University of California, San Diego.

 

DANCERS AS AUTHORS

Corinne Chochem, born in 1907 in the Ukraine, immigrated to the United States as a child. Perceiving dance as an important educational tool, she was one of the first to concentrate on Israeli (then Palestinian) dance, leading a group, Rikkud Ami, from 1936 to 1945. Her dance training was with Martha Graham, Louis Horst, Helen Tamiris, Mary Wigman and Pauline Koner. She wrote two books on folk dance: Palestine Dances!, with Muriel Roth, drawings by Moses Soyer and photographs by John Mills, Jr., which first appeared in 1941, and Jewish Holiday Dances, set to poems by Alfred Hayes. Chochem was also the first in America to be involved with the production of sound recordings of Jewish and Palestinian dance music using arrangements by various composers, including Darius Milhaud, Ernst Toch, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Hans Eisler, David Diamond, Trude Rittman, Leonard Bernstein, Stefan Wolpe and Reuven Kosakoff. Orchestras and choruses were conducted by Max Goberman and Victor Young. Corrine Chochem is credited by Vox Records for “the creation” of these albums; she also prepared a page on how the dances were to be executed. The notes on the album explain that the music presented is the work of contemporary composers based on “the rich folk sources” that were familiar to her and designed to “make the listener want to try out the patterns.” A description of her association with the artists and the rationale for it appears in the article, “Artists in Search of Their People.” In addition, she is credited in the program notes for the idea for Arnold Schönberg’s Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46. On April 2, 1947 Chochem sent Schönberg (1874–1951) the melody and English translation of a partisan song for use in a commissioned work of his, either in the original Yiddish or in a Hebrew translation. It seems that she “mentioned hearing reports of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto singing as they were led to the gas chamber” and this image stayed with him (Phillip Huscher, Program notes for Schoenberg: A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, February 2004). In correspondence with Chochem, Schönberg wrote, “I plan to make this scene—which you described—in the Warsaw Ghetto, how the doomed Jews started singing, before gooing [sic] to die.” Due to financial constraints, the project foundered until Schönberg received a commission from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation that enabled him to complete the work, which comprises text written by Schönberg (German/English with prayer in Hebrew) and has the Shoah as its theme. Besides all her other activities, Chochem served as a consultant for a short documentary film, A State is Born (1949), written and produced by William Zimmerman and presented by the Jewish National Fund. The credits include Aubrey Eban (a.k.a. Abba Eban) for the reading of the Declaration of the Independence of Israel and music by courtesy of Richard Tucker, Corrine Chochem and Vox Productions. (The film, A State is Born, in Ecinema format, may be viewed on the website of The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.)

Chochem was married to Yehoshua Kovarsky (Vilna, 1907–1967), an abstract expressionist painter who moved to New York City in 1951. After his death in Los Angeles, she too painted and exhibited in Los Angeles and New York. She died in Los Angeles on September 16, 1990. She was predeceased by a sister, Fanya Chochem Sage, a modern dance teacher (May 6, 1972), who was also married to an artist, the sculptor Max Finkelstein.

FLORENCE E. FREEHOF, née Goldblum, was born on August 27, 1909 in Nebraska and died on February 15, 1994. She also used the name Florence Barlow as a stage name. At the age of twenty-seven, Florence married Louis J. Freehof, a practicing attorney who taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Denver. The couple relocated when Louis Freehof was offered the position of executive director at Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco. Here Florence conducted training classes for folk dance teachers and was invited to be the first leader of the Rikudom group. Together with her husband, she was one of the founders of the Jewish Youth Conference, one of the first Jewish teen-age youth camps on the West Coast. Freehof claimed that it was the camp that led her to specialize in Jewish dance. She considered herself a “bibliophile” who collected “folk dance books from around the world.” Given her collections, she felt that she had “some material upon which to base our Jewish folk dance program.” She also felt that the Bible provided the resource with which to discover the “who, what and where” of Jewish dance.

The books Freehof wrote offered valuable guidance and served as a source of material for Israeli dance teachers, researchers and enthusiasts. Jews Are a Dancing People gives the form, steps and rhythmic description of many Jewish folk dances as well as their historical sources, based on materials used with the Jewish Youth Conference. Tips on Teaching Folk Dancing appeared in 1958; it deals mainly with the terminology of international folk dancing but also provides a glossary for Israeli dance and dance notation for dances that Freehof compiled while in Israel, either in cooperation with Rivka Sturman (Ahavat Hadassah, Im ha-Shahar and Ei ha-Tal by Rivka Sturman and Mezarei Yisrael by Gurit Kadman) or by herself (Ki Tin’am by Tamar Alyagor and Le-Or Hiyukhekh by Shalom Hermon). Rhythm Games and Dances for Jewish Juniors was written for teaching young children. Freehof held that “rhythm games are one of the best means of establishing desirable behavior patterns” and “appeal to the child’s imagination.” There is music and choreography based on Hebrew folk songs, e.g., Kum Bahur Azel, Ha-Rakevet, Pa’am Ahat, Shu’alim Ketanim, for the three- to seven-year-olds and dances for those eight through eighty, e.g., El Ha-Rahat, Yassem Midbar, Kuma Echa, Shibbolet ba-Sadeh, Livshu-na Oz and Ve-David Yefeh Einayim. This was followed by New Dances from Israel, written for the class in Jewish Folk Dance at the College of Jewish Studies in San Francisco. Ten dances are notated: Yom Pana, Va-Yiven Uziyahu, Hora Nirkoda, Inbalim, Dodi Zah, Kalu Raglayim, Ta’am ha-Man, Shibbolet ba-Sadeh, Zemer Atik and Be’er ba-Sadeh. A Guide for Israeli-Jewish Folk Dancers, written to assist university students and other researchers, provides a complete bibliography of all printed works on this subject available in the United States and Israel as of the early 1960s. The book also provides notations for three dances written by Freehof, two of which were translated from the Hebrew: Bat Zurim (Ashriel), Iti Mi-Levanon (Sturman) and Shiru ha-Shir (Bergstein). She is also the author of two articles that appeared in the magazine Let’s Dance (Folk Dance Federation of California): “The Dancing People of Israel” (July 1956), written upon her return from a trip to Israel at Purim time, and “Customs and Costumes of the Jewish People” (August–September 1963), a description of dress from the Bible, directions for Yemenite embroidery and a woman’s costume. Her papers were donated to the Western Jewish History Center, Judah L. Magnes Museum, in Berkeley, California.

 

Bibliography

Most information was gathered from telephone interviews with, and personal histories written by, Ruth Browns Gundelfinger, Gale Jacobsohn, Shulamite Kivel, Molly Shafer and Shirley Waxman during the summer and fall of 1995 and Teme Kernerman in Summer 2003.

A tape-recorded interview with Joyce Mollov was conducted by Ruth Goodman (New York, August 3, 1989).

Information about Sarah Rodberg Sommer was obtained from her family members with the assistance of Reeva Nepon and indirectly from the Chai archives.

Through e-mail correspondence and telephone calls, Ruth Schoenberg obtained additional material in 1997, 2003 and 2005.

Ruth Goodman, Director of the Israeli Dance Institute and of the Jewish Dance Division of the 92nd Street Y, has drawn from her resources and personal knowledge, as well as through collaborations with Ruth Schoenberg, Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science, Brooklyn College of CUNY, New York.

Some information came from The Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna, the Lawton Harris Folk Dance Collection of the University of the Pacific and Klau Library of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.

Another important source of information was articles in Hora, A Quarterly Review of Israel and Jewish Folk Dance News, that changed to Hora, A Quarterly Review of Israel Folk Dance News from Vol. 1, No. 2, Winter 1969, edited by Fred Berk:

“Workshop in San Francisco August 11–12, 1962.” 1, no. 1 (October 1962).

“The Fifth Dalia Dance Festival August 1963: Bet Berl, Israel.” 1, no. 4 (Fall 1963).

“Dvora Lapson: Pioneer of Jewish Dance in America.” 3, no. 2 (Winter 1971).

“Margalit Oved” 4, no. 3 (Spring 1972) [from Volume 5, No. 3, Spring 1973, the title of this publication changed to Hora, a Review of Israeli Folk Dance News].

“Jewish Dance Activities in America.” 6, no. 1 (Fall 1973).

“Return to the Sources.” 9, no. 2, issue 26 (Winter 1977).

“The Story of the Newsletter Hora.” 10, no. 3, issue 30 (Spring 1978).

“What Folk Dance is Made of.” 11, no. 2, issue 32 (Winter 1979).

Kadman, Gurit. “The Folk Dance Movement in Israel” 1, no. 2 (Winter 1963).

Articles in Hora, A Review of Israeli Folk Dance News, edited by Ruth Goodman:

Fenster, Saul. “A History of the Rikudom Israeli Folk Dancers of San Francisco.” Issue 40 (Summer 1984).

Mollov, Joyce. “For Those Who Wish to Pursue Their Ideals.” Issue 41 (Winter 1984).

Shafer, Molly. “Diary of a Dance Festival.” 10, no. 3, Issue 30 (Spring 1978).

Waxman, Shirley. “The Washington Israeli Folk Dance Festival.” 10, no. 3, Issue 30 (Spring 1978).

Additional references include:

Appleton, Lewis, ed. Four American Jewish Composers: Their Life and Work: Gershon Ephros, Solomon Rosowsky, Heinrich Schalit, Jacob Weinberg. New York: 1962–1963.

Berk, Fred. The Jewish Dance: An Anthology of Articles. New York: 1960.

Dance Magazine (New York), Jan. 1991, 30.

Dance Magazine (New York), Aug. 1972, 14.

Koner, Pauline. Obituary of Corinne Chochem Kovarska. Dance Magazine, January 1991.

Schneiderman, Harry, and Itzhak J.Carmin. Who’s Who in World Jewry: A Biographical Dictionary of Outstanding Jews. New York: 1965.

Published works referred to within the article include:

Landman, Isaac, ed. Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 455–463. New York: 1941.

Machpherson, Susan, ed. Dictionary of Dance: Words, Terms, and Phrases. Toronto: 1996 [Entries by Teme Kernerman].

Winter, Nathan H. Jewish Education in a Pluralist Society: Samson Benderly and Jewish Education in the United States. New York: 1966 and works by several of the dancers themselves, including:

Publications by Corinne Chochem

Palestine Dances!, with Muriel Roth, drawings by Moses Soyer and photographs by John Mills, Jr. New York: 1941, Jewish Holiday Dances. New York: 1948, set to poems by Alfred Hayes; “Artists in Search of Their People.” The Reconstructionst, 21–23, February 1947, also reprinted in Hora, 7, No. 2 (Winter 1975): Issue 20.

Vinyl sound recordings by Corinne Chochem (some containing information on the jacket covers).

Palestine Dances and Songs (Z’chartihah, arranged by M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Debka, Achshav, Hoi Chalutz Ikesh, Havu L’Venim and Ura Amchah, arranged by Darius Milhaud.

Kum Bachur Atzel and Pa’am Achat, arranged by Hans Eisler.

Y’minah, Y’minah, arranged by Ernst Toch.

Ari-Ara, Sovevuni Hora and Tcherkessia, arranged by David Diamond) on three discs with orchestra and chorus conducted by Max Goberman. (Vox Records Series No. 1 16037–39). Contains instructions for Y’minah, Y’minah and Tscherkessia reprinted from Palestine Dances.

Jewish Holiday Dances and Songs (Friday night: L’cho Dodi, arranged by D. Diamond.

Saturday night: Hamavdil and Tu Bish’vat: Atzey Zeytim, arranged by S. Wolpe.

Succot: Yom Tov Lanu, arranged by E. Toch.

Simchat Tora: Sisu V’Simchu, arranged by M. Castelnuovo Tedesco.

Chanuka: Mi Y’malel and Shavuot: Salenu, arranged by R. Kosakoff.

Purim: Chag Purim, arranged by H. Eisler.

Hora: Chanitah and Lag B’Omer: Az Titaneg, arranged by D. Milhaud.

Pesach: Dayenu, arranged by T. Rittman.

Reenah, arranged by L. Bernstein) on three discs. (Vox Records, Series No. 2 16040–42). Instructions are provided for Succot Dance and Dayenu, reprinted from Jewish Holiday Dances.

Alco Records also presented her material: Palestine Dances (three discs), Corinne Chochem’s Collection of Folk Dances (10 inch 33 1/3 rpm) and Corrine Chochem Collection Four Horah Dances (two discs).

Books by Katya Delakova and Fred Berk

Dances of Palestine. New York: 1947.

Jewish Folk Dance Book. New York: 1948.

Books by Florence Freehof

Jews Are a Dancing People. San Francisco: 1954.

Tips on Teaching Folk Dancing. San Francisco: 1958.

Rhythm Games and Dances for Jewish Juniors. New York: 1958.

New Dances from Israel. San Francisco: 1960.

A Guide for Israeli-Jewish Folk Dancers. New York: 1963, 1965.

Article by Teme Kernerman

“Teme Kernerman Sings in Hong Kong.” Ontario FolkDancer vol. 21, no. 7 (December 1, 1990): 21–22.

Publications by Dvora Lapson

Group Masks and Dances for Purim Festival. New York: 1942.

“Dance.” Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: 1939–1943.

“Dance: In Ancient Israel and In the Diaspora.” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 5. Jerusalem: 1972.

New Israeli Dances with Gurit Kadman. New York: 1948.

Choreography, Israeli Folk Dances, First Series. New York: 1950s.

Dance Instructions for Israeli Folk Dances, Second Series. New York: 1953.

Dance Instructions for Israeli Folk Dances, Third Series. New York: 1957.

Dances of the Jewish People: Israeli and East European Dances. New York: 1954, 1960.

Jewish Dances the Year Round. New York: 1957.

Folk Dances for Jewish Festivals. New York: 1961.

The Bible in Dance. New York: 1970.

Sound recordings by Dvora Lapson

Sound recording supervised for Folkraft Records (Newark, N.J.) included 78 rpm recordings of Mayim, Hanodeid, Ken Yovdu, Kol Dodi, and Harmonica as well as Hora, Hava Nagila and Mechol Ovadya (with Huig Hofman). They also issued an LP, “Israeli Folk Dances” that included Hora and variations, El Harahat, Shiboleth Basadah, Ta’am Haman, Bat Tsurim, Israeli Mixer, Mechol Ovadya, Kuma Ekha, Debka, Mayim, Ken Yovdu, and Ve David. Under the Tikva label (New York), she supervised another LP (T24) “Israeli Dances” that included Aromimcha, B’er Basade, El Harahat, Israeli Couple Dance, Negev Shelanu, Shir Todah, Yemina Yemina, Yayin.

Articles by Joyce Dorfman Mollov

“The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble.” Hora 9, no.1, issue 25 (Fall 1976).

“Interview with Rivka Sturman, May 25, 1982, Tel Aviv, Israel.” Hora, issue 39 (Summer 1983).

“Dance and Movement Ritual of the Jewish Community in the United States.” Hora, issue 42 (Spring 1985).

Sound recording by Margalit Oved

Travel With Me, My Dove, and Listen to Me: Songs of the Middle East (The Caravan; Dodahiya; My Brother, My Beloved; A Mother’s Love; Women Talk; The Quarrel; Lullaby; Deheh-Deh; A Tale of Aden; The Closing of the Gate of Aden). Washington, D.C.: 1976, 2000 (?).

Book and sound recording by Shirley T. Waxman

Jewish Culture Through Folk Dance and Folklore: for young children (3, 4 and 5 years of age) with Earlynn J. Miller and Patricia J. Bruce. Harrisonburg, VA: (Folk Dance and Folklore Research Project, Published in cooperation with James Madison University and the James Madison University Foundation), 1981.

Israeli Folk 11 - still image [media]
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Margalit Oved

Institution: Ruth Goodman and Ruth Schoenberg

How to cite this page

Goodman, Ruth R., and Ruth P. Schoenberg. "Israeli Folk Dance Pioneers in North America." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/israeli-folk-dance-pioneers-in-north-america>.

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