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jewishencounterCantors, a Broadway star and members of the WRT Adult Choir will host an evening of opera at Westchester Reform Temple on Sunday April 7 at 4 pm featuring Cantor Jill Abramson, Rabbi Jonathan Blake, Cantor Amanda Kleinman, Kelly McCormick, Danny Mendelson, Rabbi Dan Sklar, Cantor Shirah Sklar, and Pianist Lachlan Glen. This annual concert is held in memory of Cantor Stephen Merkel z”l.

This talented company of singers made up will join together to offer music that expresses the connection between Jewish life and the opera stage. Pianist Lachlan Glen, an alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, will share his operatic expertise. Enjoy the natural acoustics of the beautiful Westchester Reform Temple sanctuary as you experience the simplicity and grandeur of the human voice.

A Jewish Encounter with Opera is the brainchild of Cantor Jill Abramson, who is fascinated with the nexus of Jewish culture and the operatic repertoire. For more information, see Cantor Abramson’s piece,

There will be a wine and cheese reception following the program. A suggested contribution of $15 supports continued programs for the community.

Here is the program:

“Zion’s Walls” (Copland): Adult Choir and Soloists

“Olympia’s Aria” (the Doll Song) from Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Offenbach) - Kelly

“Dudele” (Dan & Shirah)

“King David” Herbert Howells (Amanda)

"Laurie's Song" from Aaron Copland's The Tenderland (Shirah)

“Un Moto di Gioia” (Mozart) from Marriage of Figaro (Jill)
Mozart’s librettist was Jewish and Stephen Merkel loved Mozart: he had a huge painting of him in his office.

“Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen” (From the opera Shulamis by A. Goldfaden)
Audience sing-along

Ching-a-Ring-Chaw (Copland) - (Dan)

Tombe degli avi miei (Donizetti) from Lucia di Lammermor (Danny M)
“Va Pensiero” or Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco (Verdi): Soloists

“A “ Simple Song,” Bernstein (Jon)

Note: Leonard Bernstein’s centennial last year, and note the irony that, following his overtly Jewishly-themed Symphony No. 3 (“Kaddish”) (1963) and Chichester Psalms (1965), Bernstein chose the Roman Catholic Mass as the subject of the work he composed for the inauguration of the Kennedy Center. “Mass” (1971) is a massively scaled, eclectic pastiche of classical, pop, Broadway, jazz, and blues elements; but “A Simple Song” belies all of that, and the Christian liturgical conventions of the Catholic Mass, by declaring a universal devotion to God with lyrics drawn from Psalms (co-written with Stephen Schwartz of Godspell, Pippin, and Wicked fame).

“See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” (Judas Maccabeus): Adult Choir and Soloists

Encore: “Chad Gad Yah” (DM solo) Moishe Oysher, arr. Jacobson: Adult Choir and Soloists – as Passover is coming up.

Westchester Reform Temple is located at 255 Mamaroneck Road in Scarsdale, New York. For directions or information, call 914-723-7727, email to or visit the website at

For more information about this program, please contact Cantor Jill Abramson at Westchester Reform Temple, 914-723-7727.

laramieThe Scarsdale High School Drama Club will present, their spring play, The Laramie Project on Friday March 29 and Saturday March 30 at 7:30 pm.

The Laramie Project is a documentary-style play that analyzes the death of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student who was brutally murdered because of his sexual identity. The play was created by playwright/director Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project.

The theater group traveled from New York to the town of Laramie, Wyoming - just four weeks after the death of Shepard. Once there, they interviewed dozens of townspeople, collecting a wide array of different perspectives. The dialogue and monologues which comprise The Laramie Project are taken from interviews, news reports, courtroom transcripts, and journal entries.

The interviews delve into the reactions of people who knew Matthew, people who knew his murderers, and other citizens of Laramie who perhaps did not personally know Matthew or his murderers personally, but can still speak about the reactions of the town as a whole.

Performances will be in the Scarsdale High School auditorium on Friday, March 29th and Saturday, March 30th at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at or at the door.

Michael BoriskinPianist Michael Boriskin

Baroque and Beyond, Hoff-Barthelson Music School’s week-long Festival celebrating music composed between 1600 and 1750, takes place Saturday, March 9, 2019, through Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Festival, featuring music of great Germanic composers – Bach, Telemann, and Handel – as well as masters from other lands, includes student recitals, a lecture on the life and works of J.S. Bach, presented by Michael Boriskin, Artistic Director of the Copland House, and instrumental and choral ensemble concerts. The Festival is made possible by a generous grant from the Westchester Community Foundation.

Baroque and Beyond is part of the School’s “Festivals in Style” that introduces students to music from specific periods of music. Students enjoy the opportunity for detailed study of period solo and ensemble works and are invited to audition to participate in recitals. Auditions are adjudicated by faculty panels. Executive Director Ken Cole said “Experiencing the audition process is an important learning experience for every music student, thus Baroque and Beyond and the Contemporary Festival that follows in May provide vital opportunities for students at all levels to become acquainted with the rigors of auditioning – a character building experience second to none!”

On Saturday, March 9, and Sunday, March 10, 2019, at 7:00 pm, student performances will take place at the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 468 Rosedale Avenue, White Plains. Ensembles scheduled to perform include the Festival Orchestra (Jun Nakabayashi, director); Suzuki Strings (Barbara Berg and Erich Schoen René, coordinators); Flute Clubs (Donna Elaine and Joseph Piscitelli, directors); Symphonette and Chamber Orchestra (Robert Schwartz, director); Chamber Choir (Laura Green, director); Viola Clubs (Naomi Graf, director) and Wind Ensemble (Joseph Piscitelli, director). Admission is a suggested donation of $20. Students may attend free of charge.

Student recitals are scheduled at the Music School during Festival week. Visit the School website – – for dates and times. These recitals are free of charge.

All Bach All the Time: Great Composers Lectures Series at Hoff-Barthelson

Hoff-Barthelson Music School’s Great Composers Lecture Series for music aficionados continues on Friday, March 15, 2019, at 11:00 am with All Bach All the Time.

How is it that a dutiful, local church organist, who labored diligently in his weekly duties providing music for Sunday services, came to be regarded – along with DaVinci, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare – as one of the icons of all of Western civilization? Bach’s music represents the pinnacle of intellect and beauty – both individually and combined. His body of work is immense – including not only hundreds of cantatas for his church services, but also epic musical manifestations of the mass and passions. Even his purely instrumental compositions, intended “simply” for study or “for the pleasurable diversion of music lovers” reside on an artistic Mount Olympus. Prepare to scale the musical heights of the heart and mind with Michael Boriskin, “our fearless tour guide, who always offers an adventure for the audience” (The New York Times).

The lecture takes place at the School, 25 School Lane, Scarsdale. Admission is $25. HBMS students may attend free of charge. Space is limited; reservations are strongly encouraged.

For additional information, or to reserve seats:; 914-723-1169;

About Michael Boriskin:
Hailed by American Record Guide as “one of the most skilled and versatile musical artists of his generation,” internationally-acclaimed pianist Michael Boriskin has taken listeners in over 30 countries on provocative journeys across four centuries of music. From Berlin to Buenos Aires and Toronto to Tokyo, he has appeared at major concert halls and festivals, including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Ravinia Festival, BBC in London, South West German Radio, Vienna’s Arnold Schoenberg Center, and Library of Congress.

He has performed as soloist with leading orchestras and as guest artist with countless chamber ensembles and has recorded extensively for SONY Classical, Naxos, New World, Bridge, and other American and European labels. He is a much-sought-after lecturer on both sides of the Atlantic, and is a familiar presence on National Public Radio as a performer, commentator, and host. He also served as Music Director of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s fabled White Oak Dance Project, and is a program advisor for the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, the U.S. Department of State, and many other preeminent institutions.

He is the longtime Artistic and Executive Director of Copland House, the award-winning creative center for American music based at Aaron Copland’s National Historic Landmark home in northern Westchester.

BronxRiverThe Scarsdale Historical Society is proud to announce a new documentary film, A River Returns, a History of the Bronx River. The event will be held at the Little Theater at Scarsdale High School on Sunday, March 24th at 3pm. This screening is sponsored by the Scarsdale Historical Society, The Scarsdale Forum, The Scarsdale Public Library and the League of Women Voters Scarsdale.

The beloved Bronx River has played a significant role in the rise of towns and modern suburbs in Westchester and the Bronx. Our film tells the story of the river’s remarkable history, sorrowful decline and the unique efforts to reclaim the river by the communities it flows through.

The Bronx River travels from Valhalla in Northern Westchester for 16 miles through towns in Westchester and for 8 miles in the Bronx before it flows into Manhattan’s East River. Once teeming with fish and wildlife, the Bronx River Valley was the hunting grounds for Native Americans and the fur traders. The river powered the mills of the first colonists and factories. However, by the 1890's the Bronx River had become a toxic brew of industrial and human waste.

The first efforts to protect the river resulted in the construction of the Bronx River Parkway and a greenbelt of parks in the early 1900's that transformed towns in Westchester. The second major clean up began in the 1970's when local activists from blighted neighborhoods in the South Bronx and river advocates joined forces to restore the river.

Today, the Bronx River continues to be cared for through an alliance of private and government groups and by the efforts of volunteers, students, educators and environmentalists. Those efforts have become a model for the restoration of urban rivers across the nation.

Join us for the inspired story of the return of the Bronx River and a Q&A with the filmmakers and the historians interviewed in the film.

This is the third film produced by the Scarsdale Historical Society with the combined teamwork of Barbara Shay MacDonald, the Society's Historian, and Lesley Topping, a New York based filmmaker, who grew up in Scarsdale. The two previous films include A Tour of the Cudner-Hyatt House and Scarsdale in the 18th and 19th Century: From Hardscrabble Farms to Gracious Estates. They can be watched on the Scarsdale Historical Society’s website:

opaopa3OpaOpa is a Greek emotional expression of enthusiasm that one hears at celebrations. A short time ago, OpaOpa took on another definition- the new restaurant on Bronxville’s Pondfield Road, OpaOpa Fresh Greek. Bright white paint and a royal blue awning announce its opening. The airy corner space is bright white with the logo of the restaurant and many fish artistically rendered in blue. Seating about 40 guests at the pedestal tables, the white tile walls make the space sparkle. The counter in the back displays the menu on the wall. They do a large take out business and often there is a long line waiting to pick up orders. The space is architecturally lovely with many angles. The dark wood floors compliment the light wood tables and chairs and lively Greek music plays in the background.

Frank Berisha and his partner Tony were my hosts. According to Frank, “ Our dream is to make great food and serve it as if our guests were visiting our home. We treat everyone equally. We wish to make our guests happy and we are happy when they leave with a smile. We expect to sponser charitable events at our restaurant. Our goal is to become better and better and become an important part of this great community.”

Greek meals often begin with a selection of mezedes or small plates of hot and cold dishes. Our tasting at OpaOpa started in that traditional fashion. Some warm thin pita arrived with a plate of assorted dips. This colorful plate was decorated with tomato and cucumber slices and olives. There was an eggplant salad dip. The coarsely chopped eggplant had a fine smoky flavor. The familiar hummus was flavored with jalapenos for a wake me up taste. A spicy feta cheese dip was rich and robust. My favorite was the tzatziki, a combination of Greek yogurt, cucumbers, garlic and mint. They were all excellent with our warm pita wedges.

Several homemade soups are offered and we chose the traditional argolemono soup, that lemon flavored chicken potage, a Greek opaopa2classic. Here, a hearty bowl of chicken broth combined with whisked egg, fresh lemon juice and chunks of chicken was the perfect way to cure a cold. Orzo was added, and the result was a great meal in a bowl.

Among the hot appetizers there was fried zucchini, zucchini croquettes, fried meatballs, and saganaki. We sampled a large square of spinach pie filled with chopped spinach and feta cheese, layered with crisp baked phyllo pastry, a great combination of tastes and textures. A large Greek salad arrived next. Exploding with color it was a garden on our plate, with lettuce, tomato, olives, red onion slivers, peppers and feta cheese topped with a delicious stuffed grape vine leaf. A light Greek olive oil dressing completed this generous salad. Other salad options included Caesar, and a roasted beet salad with arugula, chick peas and Kalamata olives among its ingredients. You can make these salads into a meal by adding gyro meat, grilled chicken breast, salmon or avocado. We proceeded to sample the “ on the stick selections.” The grilled pork was tender and lean. The chicken was a bit on the dry side, but I am sure that served in one of the sandwiches with pita and lettuce and tomato and tzatziki it would be much improved. Other Greek sandwiches include veggie souvlaki wraps, falafel, souvlaki and gyro. The chicken gyro is prepared in house and the beef and lamb gyro is of the finest quality. If a burger is your wish, try the Santorini salmon burger with feta cheese, lettuce, jalapeno and avocado or Greek style burger with cheese on pita.

hummus1It was time to sample some of the homemade Greek specials. There is shrimp with orzo, roasted lamb and stuffed peppers and tomatoes. We chose pastitsio, a casserole of macaroni and ground beef flavored with nutmeg and topped with a thick layer of béchamel. It was rich and warming. Very delicious was their rendition of moussaka, with layered of eggplant, potatoes and ground beef with a crown of golden-crusted béchamel.

From the land there are lamb chops, rib eye steak, grilled quail, and pork chops grilled and served with salad, pita and a side dish. Since this is a Greek dining spot you can choose an entrée from the treasures of the sea. Porgy, red snapper, flounder, swordfish, calamari, octopus and cod are some of the offerings. We were presented with a regal whole branzino baked and grilled to perfection. To accompany your meal, a must have are their lemon potatoes. The large segments of Idaho potatoes are infused with fresh lemon juice and sprinkled with oregano and herbs. They were among the best I have tasted.

Complete your meal with homemade baklava, kataifi, or galaktoboureko and perhaps a cup of Greek coffee.

It certainly would be enchanting to eat a meal such as those I described, on a Greek island surrounded by the shimmering blue sea, watching the boats unload the day’s catch, but if that experience is not on your agenda, enjoy the traditional foods of Greece at OpaOpa Fresh Greek in Bronxville.

OpaOpa Fresh Greek
116 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York
914 6008129 or 914 6008193

Recipe: Hummus – about 3 cups

1 pound chick peas
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsps. Tahini
¼ cup fresh lemon or lime juice
¼ cup Greek olive oil
Salt and white pepper, to taste

Place chick peas, garlic and tahini in a food processor and process until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and citrus juice and season to taste. Refrigerate in a non reactive container and serve with pita bread.

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