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KC SuperStar finalists include Jewish contestant

KC SuperStar finalists include Jewish contestant

Paris Naster is one of 10 finalists vying to become the next KC SuperStar. This year marked the first time 17-year-old Paris Naster auditioned for KC SuperStar, the Jewish Community Center’s “American... Read more...

Bestselling author, Israeli columnist Ari Shavit to speak at Federation Annual Meeting

Bestselling author, Israeli columnist Ari Shavit to speak at Federation Annual Meeting

Ari Shavit Provocative Israeli columnist and New York Times bestselling author Ari Shavit will bring his views on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Jewish Community Campus on Wednesday,... Read more...

Listening Post

THE SINGING RABBI — Rabbi Larry Karol recently mounted a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to record a third album. The Kansas City native surpassed his initial fundraising goal last week and hopes... Read more...

HBHA expands Jewish studies program, names Rabbi Rockoff Matmidim director

Last year’s first grade Matmidim participants at HBHA — Mendel Tiechtel (from left), Chaya Morgenstern, Zachary Granoff, Rayli Kopelman, Baruch Chaim Mazel, Livia Noorollah and Ari Green — posed... Read more...

Israeli terror survivor to tell courageous story here next week

Kay Wilson Some people may find the difference between a terror victim and a terror survivor to be very subtle. In the case of Kay Wilson, the difference is not subtle. Wilson, who will speak here on... Read more...

Emissaries serve Israel here in K.C. while friends serve on the front lines

Barney Goodman Campers gathered around Israeli shlichim (emissaries) Sapir Davidov (top row, second from left) and Noy Tiram (top row, second from right). Now that camp is over, they will travel a little... Read more...

Balloon Festival features new venue, entertainment and cooking competitions

The Great Midwest Balloon Festival, founded by Robbie and Steve Small, has changed venues for this year’s event. It happens this weekend, Aug. 8-10 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Festival... Read more...

Two Israeli books: one serious, one for fun

“Living Beyond Terrorism,” Zieva Dauber Konvisser, Gefen Publishing, May 2014 It was Aug. 9, 2001. I was in Jerusalem after a 19-year absence to attend a Hadassah national convention and do research... Read more...

Listening Post

L’SHALOM, L’SALAAM, TO PEACE — Sheila Sonnenschein is now involved in Mothers on the Side of Peace, a new grassroots movement for people — you don’t have to be a mother — who side with peace.... Read more...

Soldier tells rally crowd there is no Plan B, Israel must win the fight

Photo by Alyssa Dinberg/Jewish Federation Supporters of Israel filled the Kehilath Israel Synagogue to capacity Monday night for the Community Solidarity Gathering. “The only option is to fight back... Read more...

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Letters to the Editor

Israel is the victim I can’t help but find a correlation between Muslim migration into Europe and other non-Muslim countries and the rising clamor of anti-Semitism in those countries. Hamas instigated... Read more...

The spiritual journey of a lifetime

The spiritual journey of a lifetime

Ten local women participated in the 2014 Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project trip to Israel last month. Posing for this photo at the Decks in Tiberious are Stacy Wright (back row, from left), Patricia... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

We need to combat hate Anti-Semitism is a worldwide problem that is getting worse, especially overseas. Our best protection is education, making living conditions better for others and swift eradication... Read more...

The underlying war: Islamism versus democracy

Are Jews the canary in Western Civilization’s cultural mine? Read more...

Turning 80

During my journey through life, as the years have rolled on, I have discovered that time flies even when you’re not having fun — and suddenly even a watershed event can sneak up on one, as it did me.... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

Why can’t Jews speak Hebrew? How come so few Jews in North America know how to speak Hebrew? Sure a lot of them know how to read Hebrew from Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and there is a flowery English translation... Read more...

Why we’re letting our daughter stay in Israel in wartime

Let’s just say that missiles and bomb shelters were not on the itinerary of our 16-year-old daughter’s pilgrimage trip to Israel this summer. I spoke to her this morning. Yeah, the alarms are unnerving,... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Half-truths and anti-Semitism I was irate after watching the late CNN news on July 10. Anderson Cooper pretended to deliver a factual report about Israel’s bombing of Arab residences, with a slight... Read more...

Amidst turmoil, life in Israel continues to be meaningful

My mother wants me to come home. I’ve been calling her every day, and she wants me on a plane immediately. She has been watching the news and following events as they unfold here in Israel and she is... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Conference gives families hope My husband Harold and I were fortunate to attend the Mucolipidosis Type 4 (ML4) Foundation Family & Research Conference last month in Atlanta. ML4, a relatively unknown... Read more...

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Celebrations

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Buchbinder Birth

Buchbinder Birth

Baree Nottberg and Scott Buchbinder of Overland Park announce the birth June 27 of a son, Theo Everett Read more...

Zwick-Pohlman Engagement

Zwick-Pohlman Engagement

Arvin and Tammy Zwick of Overland Park announce the engagement of their daughter, Heather Ashley Zwick, to Andrew David Pohlman, son of Jeff and Robin Pohlman of Memphis, Tenn. Read more...

Nerman Wedding Anniversary

Margaret and Jerome Nerman will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary on Friday, Aug. 8. They are lifelong residents of Kansas City and have lived in Leawood since 1990. Read more...

Krashin Birth

Daniel and Jacki Krashin of Wilmete, Ill., announce the birth May 20 of a son, Drake Evan. They are also the parents of Madilyn Paige. Read more...

Unowsky Bat Mitzvah

Keri and Daniel Unowsky announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Sarah Beatrice, on Saturday, Aug. 9, at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Memphis, Tenn. Read more...

Weiner-Conley Engagement

Barbara and Jeff Weiner of Prairie Village announce the engagement of their daughter, Rebecca Brooke Weiner, to Jason Robert Conley, son of Randi and Larry Haith and Kim and Bob Conley. Read more...

Bock-Lewis Engagement

Lynne and David Bock announce the engagement of their daughter, Hannah Rose Bock, to Joshua Aaron Lewis, son of Sheryl and Jim Lewis of Deerfield, Ill. Read more...

Chase Bat Mitzvah

Debbie and Jeff Chase announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Talia Faye, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Congregation Beth Torah. Read more...

Passer-Wolkofsky Engagement

Sandy and Steve Passer announce the engagement of their daughter, Emily Passer, to Peter Wolkofsky, son of Michael and Vicky Wolkofsky of Queens, N.Y. Read more...

Zwillenberg 50th Anniversary

Morris and Linda (Fein) Zwillenberg will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, July 26. They were married at Beth Shalom Synagogue in Hartford, Conn., on July 26, 1964. Read more...

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Obituaries

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Rosenberg, Abraham B.

Abraham B. Rosenberg, 93, of Overland Park, passed away Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at Village Shalom. Read more...

Spiegel, Robert Alan

Spiegel, Robert Alan

Robert Allan Spiegel, 76, of Ra’anana, Israel, passed away on Monday, July 28, 2014. Read more...

Wurzburger, Irene

Irene Wurzburger, 94, of Overland Park, passed away on Sunday, Aug 10, 2014. Read more...

Beiman, Melvyn

Melvyn Beiman, 82, of Lee’s Summit, died on Wednesday, July 24, 2014, at the Village House on the campus of John Knox Village. Read more...

Jacobson, Herbert Roy

Herbert Roy Jacobson passed away Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Read more...

Kaplan, Seymour

Seymour Kaplan, 88, of Overland Park passed away on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, after a long battle with cancer. Read more...

Pfau, Gladys Levine

Gladys Levine Pfau, age 86, of Overland Park, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Read more...

Sandhaus, Frances Zurovsky

Frances Zurovsky Sandhaus, 98, passed away on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at Kansas City Hospice House. Read more...

Beiman, Melvyn

Melvyn Beiman, 82, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., died on Wednesday, July 24, 2014, at the Village House on the campus of John Knox Village. Read more...

Elyachar, Daniel

Daniel Elyachar, 87, loving father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle and friend, passed away peacefully on Monday, July 21, 2014, at his home in New York City. Read more...

Legendary pianist Leon Fleisher looking forward to performing at Helzberg Hall

Legendary pianist Leon Fleisher has performed in Kansas City before. But he’s never performed at Helzberg Hall at the relatively new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, a concert hall he hears is both amazing and extraordinary. That’s not the only thing that excites him about coming to Kansas City and performing with the Kansas City Symphony. He finds it a great pleasure to work with its music director, Michael Stern.

“I’ve known him since he was a toddler. I’m enormously fond of him. I was very fond of and rather to close to his father, whom I miss very much,” said Fleisher in a recent interview from his home in Baltimore.

“I think you’re very lucky in Kansas City to have him as your music director.”

Fleisher will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, Feb. 7 and 8, and 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, Feb. 9. He will also host a piano master class at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, in Helzberg Hall. For ticket information, call 816-471-0400.

Stern said Fleisher has been one of his heroes for a long time.

“Of course, he has cast an enormous shadow over the entire course of music in our country for almost 70 years. I grew up with his legendary recordings, like so many others, but for me, the connection is more personal. I suppose his long friendship with my family when I was growing up, personal and professional, made it natural that he should be such an inspiration to me as a young student when I was developing my musical thinking. But that might have happened anyway — several generations not only of pianists but of all musicians in our country were lucky enough to have been inspired by him,” Stern said.

The Symphony’s music director went on to say that more than a pianist, Fleisher “is that incredibly rare artist who always combined unusual and truly original insight with a breathtaking ability to deliver the intent of the music on the page.”

“When Leon touches the keyboard, something magical happens, in the sound, in the weight of the notes, in the humanity of his communication. And when he is not at the piano, whether on the podium or in the teaching studio, that inspiration is no less palpable,” Stern said.

“It would be easy and accurate to see him as a link to a golden era of great musicians. But what is great about him is here he is, today, an incredibly vital musical force (with a wonderfully irreverent sense of humor) still making unforgettable music. When I officially assumed the post of music director of the Kansas City Symphony in 2005, he was our dream soloist in my inaugural concert. To have him back for the first time in Helzberg Hall, playing the Ravel Left Hand concerto as only he can, is a deeply moving moment for all of us onstage, an incredibly meaningful celebration of his 85th birthday and of his extraordinary musical spirit.”

Fleisher made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1944, and in 1952, he became the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition, establishing himself as one of the world’s premier classical pianists. At the height of his success, he was suddenly struck silent at age 36 with a neurological affliction later identified as focal dystonia, rendering two fingers on his right hand immobile. Rather than end his career, Fleisher began focusing on repertoire for the left hand only, conducting and teaching. Not until some 40 years later was he able to return to playing with both hands after undergoing experimental treatments using a regimen of rolfing and “botulinum toxin” (Botox) injections.

He’s been making music virtually his entire life and, he said, “it’s my life. It’s what gives me the greatest pleasure.”

He likes every facet of his work, whether it be playing, conducting or teaching. He said simply, “they are all different aspects of the same thing.”

He chuckles when he tells two stories about how he became a pianist. When he was very young, around four and a half, he remembers his mother giving him a choice — become the first Jewish president or a famous concert pianist.

“After careful consideration it struck me that being a musician was more accessible and I had a better chance of success,” Fleisher said.

While his parents owned an upright piano, Fleisher said neither of them were musical.

“But they were attracted to music and it was a manifestation of a certain kind of culture, I think. It spoke to them, I think, on a deep, emotional level,” he said.

Since his brother was older by five and a half years, he was given piano lessons. But Fleisher said his brother was never really interested in the instrument.

“He was rather cool about the whole thing, but it fascinated me. Those were the days when both doctors and music teachers came to the house and when he had his lessons I used to hide away in the corner and listen and watch very intently. Then when the lesson was over and he went out to the school playground to play ball, they tell me I went to the piano and did all the things that he couldn’t do that the teacher had asked of him. So they figured they were giving lessons to the wrong kid, so they gave them to me,” Fleisher explained.

The world-class pianist has received numerous honors and awards, including the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2007. In 2006, he was the subject of the Oscar and Emmy-nominated short documentary film “Two Hands.” In 2010, Doubleday published his memoir, “My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music,” which he co-wrote with Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette. The book has received rave reviews, including this one by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

“Most musicians’ skills lie in their ability to be expressive in this non-verbal medium; Leon has the additional gifts of communicating ideas and concepts tactilely, viscerally, emotionally, spiritually and verbally. Generations of musicians, including this one, have been truly blessed to hear him perform and receive his teaching. In this candid memoir, Leon describes the many lives he has led and conveys one of the most significant of lessons: transforming adversity into triumph — and into wisdom.”

Fleisher’s bio notes that he is “85 years young,” which embarrassed the pianist when he heard the phrase. No matter how you describe his age, he said he has not yet considered retirement.

“I’m doing what I love, why should I stop it?” said Fleisher, who admitted he doesn’t travel and perform as much as he used to. “But it’s still probably too much.”

“I have students here at the conservatory, I teach at Peabody, which fittingly is the oldest conservatory in the country. I give about 40 to 50 concerts a year. We try to group cities within the same general geographic area.”

Before he comes to Kansas City, he will play in Galveston, Texas. When he leaves here he will return home for a few days before going to Rochester, N.Y., for a performance.

“God willing I’ll see you in Kansas City.”