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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Friends of Yiddish presents a freylekhn Purim

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Jazz pianist Jordan Klapman and singer Sharon Smith are the feature performers at A Freylekhn Purim With Jewish Jazz, hosted by the Friends of Yiddish. Besides music, the afternoon program features refreshments and door prizes. Beth Tikvah Synagogue, 3080 Bayview Ave. (between Sheppard and Finch). Sunday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m. Guests $10, members free. Please RSVP to Sandy, 416-458-1440 or yiddish18@yahoo.ca by Feb. 14.

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Jewish Film Society: The Toronto Jewish Film Society presents two British film gems – The Barber of Stamford Hill and The 10th Man. The Barber of Stamford Hill by playwright Ronald Harwood was adapted for British TV in 1962. It is a precisely observed character study that is also a snapshot of cultural isolation. With guest speaker Gerry Arbeid, the film’s producer and screenwriter. Tickets $15, $10, on sale 15 minutes before each screening. Miles Nadal JCC, Al Green Theatre, Sunday, Feb. 17, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

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Names in the News: Guitarist Liona Boyd was an honoured guest at the lieutenant governor’s Closing Diamond Jubilee Gala at Roy Thomson Hall on  Feb.6, where she performed and presented Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals.

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Names in the News II: Winnipeg playwright Cairn Moore is the winner of the 2012 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition for her play Shiksa. Moore receives $1,000, and a professionally directed and acted workshop reading of her play takes place in Vancouver on Feb. 28.

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Arts In Brief

• The genre-bending Argentine musician Simja Dujov explores the fusion of Latin rhythms and mixes them with electro-klezmer, Balkan, Gypsy-punk and more. Dujov performs with The Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s Chris Weatherstone, fiddler Jessica Hana Deutsch and others. Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W. Feb. 27, 8 p.m. $10, $12, $15. A Koffler Gallery and Ashkenaz Festival co-presentation. www.kofflerarts.org

• Register now for “The Coen Brothers in Nayman’s Terms,” a series of talks by film critic Adam Nayman about the acclaimed filmmakers and their films Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man. $90 for the series, $12 per session. Miles Nadal JCC, Monday evenings, Feb. 25 to April 29. 416-924-6211, ext. 606.

• Tarragon Theatre presents A Hannah Moscovitch Double Bill celebrating the work of the acclaimed playwright-in-residence with premieres of her plays Little One and Other People’s Children. A co-production with Theatre Crisis and Theatre PANIK. 30 Bridgman Ave., Feb. 20 to March 24 (previews from Feb. 14). $27 to $53. www.tarragontheatre.com, 416-531-1827.

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At the Galleries: Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery presents Organic Alterations, a solo exhibit of more than 100 paintings by Ian Alter. Carrier Villa Gallery, Columbus Centre, 901 Lawrence Ave. W. Feb. 6 to March 4.

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Passages: Varda Hall Berenstein, a professionally trained singer and choir conductor who died recently in Toronto at age 91, was born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1921. During World War II, she travelled to refugee camps and sang for the relatively few Jews who, in fleeing the Nazis, had been allowed into Switzerland.

Berenstein was the first person to sing Israeli songs on Swiss national radio and, after arriving in Toronto in 1949, sang on CBC radio and TV in the 1950s and 1960s. She performed Yiddish and Israeli songs on many occasions for Jewish communities across Canada. One of her fondest memories was singing for then-prime minister Lester Pearson at a Negev Dinner in Montreal.

Berenstein was the first music teacher for the Associated Hebrew Schools and had extensive musical credits within Toronto’s Jewish community. She conducted the Hadassah-WIZO choir for many years, as well as choirs at Adath Israel and Beth Sholom synagogues. More recently, she conducted the Chai Singers, a small vocal chorale of senior citizens.

Until her last weeks, she was an engaging and dynamic educator, an advocate for Israeli and Yiddish music, and an oral historian about Jews in Switzerland. Until recently she taught an informal course in her home on “Learning Yiddish Through Songs” and gave talks on “Yiddish Folksongs and the Legacy of Mordechai Gebirtig.” Just two months ago she spoke to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto on “Growing Up as a Jew in Switzerland, 1921 to 1949.” She was also a regular in the Yiddish Vinkl, a circle of Yiddishists who meet downtown monthly.

She was predeceased by her husband, Isidore Berenstein, with whom she worked as the Canadian representative of Rodenstock, a German optical company. She leaves behind daughter Rhona Berens and stepson Ilan Levy, their partners and two grandchildren.

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