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In Queens, a Jewish mourning ritual inspires a performance about memory



(New York Jewish Week) — What happens to the places that are no more? To the people who have died? To the events that meant so much but cannot ever reoccur? Is there a way to bring the intangible power of vanished spaces into the physical world?

On Friday, May 19, dancers, musicians, orators and spectators will come together for a performance of “Site: Yizkor” at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens to explore these and other questions.

The brainchild of multimedia artist Maya Ciarrocchi and composer Andrew Conklin, the performance takes its name from the Jewish memorial service that is recited on major holidays. It combines live and pre-recorded readings with improvised music and dance, encouraging the performers and audience to summon their loved ones into the room, to commune with them in an intimate and visceral way.

“It’s about trying to make roots in a place, to map it, and also to honor the dead and the ghosts — not just the ghosts of people, but the layers of buried history, too,” Ciarrocchi told the New York Jewish Week. “It’s like, if you go to a small chapel in Italy and then realize it’s on three layers of pagan temples [and other] sacred sites.”

Ciarrocchi, who is of Ashkenazi Jewish and Italian descent, has long contemplated the spaces her own family lost and how that loss has impacted her lived experience as a queer Gen X New Yorker. “My grandparents were immigrants who tried to establish a home in the new world. My mother has had difficulties finding a place [within the] establishment,” she said. “Plus, growing up on the tail end of the AIDS plague, I really didn’t have any queer mentors. It did create an unmooring, a feeling of being ungrounded.”

Multimedia artist Maya Ciarrocchi. (Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)

The impetus for this specific piece was a confluence of events — people and places disappearing while remaining present in Ciarrocchi’s consciousness. In 2015, she lost both her mother-in-law and an elderly neighbor, the 1930s radio star Elia Braca Rose (aka Lynne Howard). “I was thinking a lot [during that time] about the things we leave behind,” said Ciarrochi. “Especially as I witnessed my neighbor’s apartment [getting] dismantled. I was grieving. Her children took things, the neighbors gathered things, the [demolition] team came in. There was something so devastating about all her history being sucked out of the apartment.”

She and her wife moved a year later, emptying out the apartment she had been raised in, a space in the Westbeth artist’s community. All this upheaval summoned grief and thoughts of the power of rites and ritual.

Yizkor, which means “may [God] remember” in Hebrew, is traditionally performed four times a year — on the three pilgrimage holidays of Shemini Atzeret, Passover and Shavuot, and on Yom Kippur. The communal Yizkor service includes a moment of private reflection during which worshipers can read a prayer that includes the name of a lost loved one and their relationship to the person praying.

“This particular viewpoint is inherently Jewish, but it’s a universal experience of displacement, loss, grief,” Ciarrocchi said. “Really, we’re doing a ritual together. And it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; we’re doing this together. Hopefully it brings everyone in, and we can have feelings together. The best way to connect with people is to have conversations with them, to open up space for people to hear each other. I hope that this project can do that.”

Each performance is site specific: Previously, “Site: Yizkor” has been performed at the Chutzpah! Festival in Vancouver and at the Roza Centre for International Art and Cooperation in Ruszcza, Poland, a short distance from where Ciarrochi’s grandmother’s house was burned to the ground during a pogrom.

For the New York iteration, the artist has created a series of videos incorporating drawings and maps specific to King Manor Museum, the former country estate of Rufus King, a 19th-century politician and early abolitionist. The museum says its mission is to highlight King’s antislavery activism and to “promote social change in today’s world.”

“Site: Yizkor” began taking its latest form a few weeks ago with a writing workshop, viewed by the artists as integral to the creative process. Participants were invited to respond to prompts such as “describe a vanished place of personal importance” and “describe your dreams of the future.” The artists then take these reflections and incorporate them into the performance.

The music, born of Conklin’s extensive work in the worlds of folk, bluegrass and traditional music, is improvised live from a graphic score. Similarly, the choreography contains specific modules and instructions but remains open to the interpretation of the performers.

“We come up with a score together but it’s a really open structure,” Ciarrochi said. “An element of a score for dancers might be to ‘walk the periphery of the house connecting with each other.’ You can do a lot of things inside of that, but that is the structure. Because these are skilled improvisers, they’re going to make that happen.”

“This particular viewpoint is inherently Jewish, but it’s a universal experience of displacement, loss, grief,” Ciarrocchi said of the piece. “Really, we’re doing a ritual together.”

“Site: Yizkor” will take place at King Manor (150-03 Jamaica Ave.) in Jamaica, Queens on Friday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m. Register here

The post In Queens, a Jewish mourning ritual inspires a performance about memory appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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