Milton Glaser

August 2nd, 2020|

“With the passing of Milton Glazer on June 26, his 91st birthday, New York lost a favorite son whose designs — and one in particular — radiated the vitality and multiplicity of his beloved hometown,” said Jason Farago in his “Critic’s Notebook” column on July 1. “Over seven decades,” Farago continued, “he produced an uncountable quantity of high-impact graphic imagery, first at Push Pin Studios, the countercultural and politically engaged design firm he established with Seymour Chwast and others; later at New York magazine, which he cofounded with Clay Felker; and then as an independent designer.

“Mr. Glaser’s designs could be amusing, even outright comic, but his wit and invention were undergirded by a profound seriousness about the history of art and the power of design.”  His work appeared in posters, logos, book covers and typefaces — “all with a vibrancy that was unmistakably New York,” Mr. Farago said.

Of his signature “I love New York” design, Mr. Glaser first scrawled a preliminary sketch on the outside of a torn envelope he found in the back of a taxi. “This was a design that did not just tell tourists we were open for business, but persuaded the residents of a near-bankrupt metropolis [1976] to hold their heads high,” Mr. Farago said.


Carl Reiner

August 2nd, 2020|

Carl Reiner, performer, writer and director, died June 29 at his home in Beverly Hills, CA. He was 98.

Mr. Reiner first attracted national attention in 1950 as Sid Caesar’s multitalented second banana on the television variety show, “Your Show of Shows,” for which he was also a writer. A decade later, he created “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and teamed with Mel Brooks on the hugely successful “2000 Year Old Man” records. His novel, Enter Laughing, became both a hit Broadway play and the first of many movies he would direct.

He won praise as an actor as well, with memorable roles in films like “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and, more recently, “Ocean’s Eleven” and its sequels.

His contributions were recognized by his peers, by comedy aficionados and, in 2000, by the Kennedy Center, which awarded him the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.



Lester Crystal

August 2nd, 2020|

Lester M. Crystal, who after 20 years at NBC News, including two as its president, moved to “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” on PBS and immediately set about transforming it from a half-hour program into “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” a broadcast widely acclaimed for its breath and depth, died on June 24 in Manhattan. He was 85.

Mr. Crystal, a long-time resident of Scarsdale, NY, served as executive producer of “NewsHour” for 22 years, helping to establish the program as a distinctive voice in broadcast journalism. “NewsHour” took an in-depth approach to the news that the half-hour news programs of commercial television could not.

World leaders, presidential candidates, and other newsmakers were interviewed at length as the broadcast examined issues in segments that had more in common with a newsmagazine than with other TV news programs, thereby “gaining influence in the corridors of power,” The New York Times said.

“Les’s voice was the one you wanted to break into your ear during a news-making interview or on an election night, providing a crucial fact or giving you the breaking news you needed to get on the air right away,” said Judy Woodruff, who co-anchored the program with Robin MacNeil when Jim Lehrer suffered a heart attack. He was “authoritative, calm and brief,” she said, and a stickler for facts. “You were OK if Les said it.”

[Editor’s note: Lester Crystal and his wife, Toby, were our friends for many years. My best memory of Les is that he could tell a good joke as well as he could distill the news. Rest in peace, my friend. SMB]


Shirley Siegel

August 2nd, 2020|

Shirley A. Siegel, who as a top law school graduate overcame rejections by 40 male-dominated law firms before forging a career as a leading civil rights lawyer, arguing cases before the Supreme Court and becoming New York State’s first female solicitor general, died June 29 at her home in Manhattan. She was 101.

Ms. Siegel was no stranger to discrimination herself — as a woman and as a Jewish woman. She had entered Yale Law School in 1939 as the only woman in her class. “I came to my first class, and nobody would sit next to me,” she said. Graduating fourth in her class, her application for employment was rejected by 40 firms. She was finally hired by Proskauer, Rose & Paskus, a largely Jewish firm, becoming its first female lawyer.

In her New York City Bar Association biography, Ms. Seigel explained how she had achieved her childhood goal of becoming a lawyer. “You get to realize in so many different settings the importance of understanding the facts, getting skeptical if what you’re being told doesn’t hang together,” she said. “It just applies to everything. And, of course, hard work. Everything is hard work.”

Ida Haendel

August 2nd, 2020|

Ida Haendel, the Polish-born prodigy who became one of the foremost violinists of her generation, died July 1 in Pembroke Park, FL. Her age was unclear, either 91 or 96.

Until the 1980s, Ms. Haendel was virtually the only woman among the top tier of concert violinists. Well into her 80s, she continued to play at any opportunity.

The cellist. Steven Isserlis, who played Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Ms. Haendel and the pianist Martha Argerich, said Ms. Haendel’s musicmaking had always conveyed passion. “It was strong, vibrant, focused and came from right deep inside her,” he said.

Mr. Isserlis recalled an impromptu performance that Ms. Haendel gave around 1 a.m. in a late-night diner in Westchester County that he described as filled with bikers. The conversation had turned to Schumann’s Violin Sonata in D minor, and Mr. Isserlis offered that he didn’t know the piece well. “Do you want to know how it goes?” she asked.

“Before I could stop her she took out her violin and played Schumann, with all the bikers watching,” Mr. Isserlis said. “When she was done, everyone erupted in applause.”

In 2006, Ms. Haendel traveled to Auschwitz, where she played the Prayer from the “Dettingen Te Deum” by Handel for a delegation that included Pope Benedict XVI. Her recorded performance of the simple melody is “impassioned, her tone anguished yet irrepressibly vibrant,” the New York Times said.


Sy Brittman, Master Gardener of Andrew Levin Park, died June 20

June 25th, 2020|

It is with profound sadness that The Shofar reports the death of long-time and devoted shul member Seymour (Sy) Brittman, on Saturday, June 20. According to the family, he died comfortably and peacefully at his home in Southold. Sy was buried next to his beloved wife, Addy, at the family burial ground in New Jersey. Because of the continued threat of Covid-19, plans for shiva and a gathering of mourners are delayed.

As many shul members are aware, our stunningly beautiful Andrew Levin Park, adjacent to the synagogue building, was designed, planted and maintained, largely singlehandedly for as long as he could, by Sy Brittman. It was for him a labor of love, his fondness for the Levin family, and for the park that bears Andrew’s name. Sy also contributed his craftsmanship to the interior of our building, from the kitchen to the handsome library shelving in the vestibule.

Sy held a special place in the heart of this editor, and I will miss him greatly. SMB

Else Blangsted

June 25th, 2020|

Else Blangsted, who fled Nazi Germany as a teenager, believing that she had given birth to a stillborn child, then built a career as a leading music editor on Hollywood films, died May 1 in Los Angeles. She was 90.

For more than 30 years, Ms. Blangsted played a major part in shaping how movie music was heard in features like “The Color Purple,” “Tootsie,” and “On Golden Pond.”

She concealed a teenage pregnancy when her family sent her to a Jewish boarding school in Switzerland to escape the Holocaust. The pregnancy was discovered when she went into labor. Under sedation during the delivery, she was told afterward that the child had died. Fifty years later, she discovered that her daughter had survived and was adopted by German-speaking Jews. When they finally met, “it was the end of drama, the end of shame, the end of accusations, the end of migraines,” Ms. Blangsted said.