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Celebrate Navratri October 5th at Harrington School!

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LEF Trivia Bee – Info for Teams & Supporters!

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Bringing the World to Lexington

 

LEXINGTON-BASED SHADAJ AND WORLD ON STAGE OFFER AN ARRAY OF INTERNATIONAL TALENT

By Heather Beasley Doyle


Shadaj

“People know [Lexington] has become sort of a cultural hub for Indian classical music. The artists know us as a prominent organization now.” 
-Rajesh Godbole

When Rajesh Godbole moved from Pune, India to Boston in 1996, he couldn’t take much with him on the plane. Allowed to check two bags and carry one aboard, he knew exactly how he wanted to use his limited space. “Half of one of my checked bags was filled with audio cassettes of classical Indian music that I knew I was unable to get here,” Godbole recalled recently. “I certainly had developed an ear for music, because the city that I come from, Pune, is the cultural epicenter of classical Indian music,” he explained. “Every night there would be at least five, six, seven chamber music concerts happening in one corner of the city or the other…. It’s in the conversation, and it’s in dinner table conversations with friends.”

Rajesh Godbole and Shadaj members

In Boston, Godbole listened to his tapes and got tastes of live Indian classical music by attending concerts at Harvard University. Then, the organizer called it quits. For a while Godbole attended a hodgepodge of concerts before he and some friends (mostly from Lexington) decided they would bring high-quality classical music to the Boston area. “It started out of personal passion and hobby,” he said.

Godbole, who serves as Shadaj’s president, began writing to the artists he describes as “the Yo-Yo Mas” and “the Pavarottis” of the Indian classical music world. Bit by bit, he got to know them, and before long, someone asked this tiny bud of an organization to pull together a concert. With that, Shadaj was born in earnest. Godbole, a Lexington resident since 2011, and his growing community of volunteers began pulling together chamber music concerts and music appreciation sessions—flying artists in from India, footing the bill out of their own pockets when necessary.

Rajesh Godbole

Four years ago, the group became an official 501c3 organization, to better partner with other organizations including the Lexington Cultural Council and the Lexington Symphony, and apply for grants. According to its website, Shadaj (which means tonic, or base, note in Sanskrit) is “…a nonprofit to cultivate, nurture and promote Indian classical music in its most authentic form through intimate concerts, music appreciation sessions, as a platform for cultural integration and community outreach.”

Each year, Shadaj organizes about a dozen concerts, six of which include music appreciation sessions. The sessions give audience members a chance to hear the featured singers and instrumentalists talk about their craft. The organization’s next event, co-sponsored with Lexington Community Education, takes place the week of September 23 at Cary Memorial Library. Known as “East Meets West,” it includes free daily Indian classical music appreciation sessions Monday through Thursday at the library—and culminates Friday, September 27 at the Scottish Rite Museum with a concert featuring Shubhendra Rao on sitar, Saskia De Haas on cello and Aditya Kalyanpur on tabla. Dutch-born De Haas now lives in India with Rao, to whom she is married. Indian-born Kalyanpur divides his time between Los Angeles and India. All three, Godbole said, have studied with revered Indian musicians. “East Meets West” is the latest iteration of Shadaj’s yearly community outreach event, organized around a different theme each time.

“People know [Lexington] has become sort of a cultural hub for Indian classical music. The artists know us as a prominent organization now,” explained Godbole, but he and fellow organizers embraced the notion that Indian classical music isn’t just for those of Indian descent. “The broader community should also be able to benefit from this. So it was this idea that manifested in the community event that we started 3 years ago.”

In addition to offering free music appreciation sessions for anyone, the concert is free to students and seniors. “We’re trying to get through the cost barrier, because if something is new and you haven’t tried it before, there is a little bit of hesitation: ‘I don’t want to invest that much time and money to go out and attend a concert that I don’t even know what it is about,’” said Godbole, who noted that any music genre can be an acquired taste. “My first five years here, and all of my life in India, I did not like jazz or pop music. I hated it; I thought it was weird. And in the last ten, fifteen years, I find myself listening to jazz and pop all the time. With interest,” he said.

U P C O M I N G  P E R F O R M A N C E S

For more information about Shadaj,
and to buy tickets visit:
shadaj.org

INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC APPRECIATION WORKSHOPS 
Monday, Tuesday & Thursday, September 23, 24, 26 at 7:30 pm at Cary Library
Three nights for an informal and informational workshop on Indian classical music.
Monday, 09/23: Similarities and differences between Indian Classical Music and Jazz, with Phil Scarff
Tuesday, 09/24: Indian Classical Violin, with Tara Anand
Thursday, 09/26: Percussion in Indian Classical Music, with Amit Kavthekar
CONCERT Friday, September 27,  8.00 PM
Scottish Rite Masonic Museum, 33 Marrett Rd., Lexington, MA 02420

Tickets:   www.shadaj.org  

(Premium: $100,  Regular: $30)
FREE for Shadaj Members and Students (Only upon RSVP)
Upgrade available for Shadaj members to Premium seating ​

Become a SHADAJ Member :  http://shadaj.org/membership.html

Note: Admission will be handled on a first come first serve basis.  Members must RSVP to secure a seat.
For more information about Shadaj,
and to buy tickets visit:
shadaj.org


 

World On Stage

“You know, people talk about discrimination. I’ve been in this country now since 1967. I’ve never felt discrimination,” he explained. “We as a country are full of communities, and if you do this, you learn that.”
Subhash “Mal” Malhotra, World On Stage

Appealing to the masses was the idea from the get-go for Subhash “Mal” Malhotra. A conversation with his children in 1990 prompted the longtime Lexington resident and father of three (who are now adults with families of their own) to create an experience that would bring a variety of cultures and their arts to American school children. “So one day we’re talking and I realized these kids, they didn’t know too much about the world. They really didn’t. They’d traveled to India with us, but not otherwise,” recalled Malhotra. “So that’s what prompted me initially to start something with school children and field trips to learn something about world cultures and world music, and where the countries are.”

A year later, in 1991, he put down a deposit to hold an event at the World Trade Center in Boston, then began to plan the event. He quickly realized “God, I can’t handle this; this is too much,” he said, and successfully asked for his deposit back. He planned for the next year, reaching out to cultural organizations, consulates and artists. In 1992, Boston International Festival made its debut, featuring a hall of countries as well as dancers and musicians. Students attended on field trips with their teachers, and could go from booth to booth—country to country—with a mock passport, learning and answering questions at each stop. It succeeded beyond his expectations. “The first year I did that event, there were 25,000 children,” Malhotra said; the World Trade Center was bursting at the seams. The following year, he moved to a bigger venue, Bayside Expo Center, only to see attendance grow significantly.

From there, he decided to take his show on the road to Chicago, Philadelphia, and five other cities. “It was like a caravan,” he recalled. It’s like a circus going there; I would have these performers, they would follow me.” The shows went strong until early September, 2001.

“When 9/11 happened, I got scared. We were opening our mail with gloves on, because anthrax might be there, and people were suddenly very concerned about safety,” he said. “If somebody wanted to perform, they wanted the kids to go through security there before coming inside the venue.”

So he quit, but not for long; by 2002 he had founded World on Stage and also re-imagined the international festivals as Learning on Stage, a selection of shows by artists from a range of countries. The shows took place at smaller venues and complemented school curricula. Once again, Malhotra’s efforts quickly gained traction, then momentum. “So we used to go to about 20—25 states each year. And one year I was putting together as many as 250 shows,” he said. After that peak, Learning on Stage ebbed back to 100 shows per year by 2015. That year, facing a family health issue, he again hit the pause button.

World On Stage features well-known performers in many disciplines from around the world.   Courtesy Photo

Earlier this year, though, a local friend, an Indian singer, asked if he might pull together a show for her. True to form, he agreed, and booked two dates at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum theater. Then, his friend’s circumstances changed, and she could no longer perform. Undeterred, Malhotra decided this would be an opportunity to get back into musical event planning.

Under the banner of World on Stage, he will present six acts over two days: Saturday, October 12 and Sunday, November 2. The October event features Liu Liu the Acrobat, Sounds of Korea and Ultimate Tango. A theme links the three November 2 acts. “I wanted this day to have some connection to India, because I’ve never done a show like that before,” Malhotra explained. They include “Dances of the World,” which showcases a local group, MIT Bhangra, and dancers from Greece, the Philippines and other countries; Hamza Akram Qawwal & Brothers from Pakistan; and Flamenco y Sol, a flamenco dance troupe from Spain. Hamza Akram Qawwal “is a descendent of a family dynasty, musicians, they started in Delhi in India,” Malhotra explained. Flamenco dance, he added, has “a little soul of India in it.”

Malhotra described each artist enthusiastically, peppering in details, explaining here and there how far back his connection to someone goes. Clearly, he loves this. “It’s because it’s international. You know, people talk about discrimination. I’ve been in this country now since 1967. I’ve never felt discrimination,” he explained. “We as a country are full of communities, and if you do this, you learn that.”

In fact, with this latestest World on Stage effort, he decided to revive Learning on Stage. “Because, you know, I thought this was too small a project. I didn’t think it was big enough to keep me satisfied,” he said, chuckling.

It’s been harder than he thought, though—Malhotra feels his age catching up with him. And when describing his initial success with Boston International Festival, he credited the public relations professional he hired with much of its initial success. Now, he said, it’s different. “Before, it was much easier to market these things. It was, you put an ad in the papers, you do some radio talk shows, and get some TV shows to happen, get some interviews there, and you do just fine. But now, marketing is all digital,” he said, largely via social media. This shift challenges him; although the project has been fun, he worries about the success of his renewed endeavors, and by extension, the artists he’s booked.

Godbole, too, noted the importance and challenge of marketing. “I’m not a marketing expert. It’s just there aren’t enough hours in the day,” he said; he spends about 20 hours of his free time each week on the nonprofit—and emphasizes that a cadre of fellow volunteers also put in time to ensure the organization’s success. “But I think this is not our strength,” he said of marketing. “We have fallen short on reaching out to the community, I think.”

He invites community members to become involved in Shadaj, whether to help market to Lexington’s broader community, to serve on the organization’s board, or to record its concerts and events. The concerts, he notes, are small, cozy, intimate—the musicians gauge audience members’ enjoyment just by looking at them. At the same time, they improvise within Indian classical music’s specific constraints, reacting to applause in conversation with the audience, Godbole said.

Like Malhotra, Godbole never runs out of descriptions and imagery as he talks about Shadaj’s 23-year journey. It’s maintaining a culture, it’s passing it down to the next generation, it’s sharing it with a community. But for Godbole, at the center of it all, one perk stands out: “You become friends with some of the artists, so that’s the best part.”

As Godbole and Malhotra shared their stories of bringing their cultural passions to audiences, it became clear how much time, work and energy they’ve put into their respective endeavors. They have networked, figured out logistics and put up their own money. Neither wants to give it up, though—Malhotra has already booked the Scottish Rite Museum theater for next year’s performances.

“It’s like telling me ‘don’t breathe in oxygen,’” Malhotra said. “You don’t get oxygen, you die. This is oxygen for me.”

 

For more information about World on Stage, and to buy tickets:
worldonstage.com

U P C O M I N G  P E R F O R M A N C E S

SATURDAY, October 12, 2019
2 PM    |   CHINA Li Lui
The Acrobat Originally from Shanghai. Has performed and won prestigious competitions all over the world. Been on David Letterman Show and performed at major events around the world.
5 PM KOREA    |    Sounds of Korea
A star cast of Korean performers, educated and trained in Korea. They have performed extensively in Korea and USA and have won prestigious individual awards in Korea.
8 PM ARGENTINA The Tango – Raul Jaurena & Friends
Raul Jauena is one of the most recognized Tango musicians of our time. He has performed with other illustrious musicians like Yo-Yo Ma, Paquita O’Riviera and has travelled all over the world and invited to perform at the White House.

SATURDAY, November 2, 2019
1 PM INT’L    |   Dances of the world
The Six dance troupes representing 6 countries showcase their youth, talent, training, and exotic traditional clothing to light up any stage.
4:30PM    |   INDIA/PAKISTAN HATA Qawwal from Lahore
This award-winning Qawwali group are descendants of the First Qawwal of the subcontinent, some seven centuries ago. They represent the 26th generation of Qawwali in the Sufi tradition.
8 PM SPAIN Flamenco y Sol
One of the finest group of professional flamenco musicians, singers, and dancers. They have performed in USA and Spain

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The Pros and Cons of E-cigarettes

FAMILY MATTERS

Dr. Vaughan Rees to speak in Lexington
November 6th, 2019
 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Cary Memorial Hall
1605 Mass Ave., Lexington, MA 02420
Dr. Rees is a lecturer on Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He will be speaking in Lexington.
Free Presentation & Community Discussion on E-cigarettes and Vaping
(Youth attendance is permitted with adult supervision)

 

By Dr. Vaughan Rees, Director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on the Pros and Cons of E-cigarettes

Presented by Karen Feldscher & Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

 

Is it wise to steer smokers toward e-cigarettes, in the hope that they offer a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes? Or do e-cigarettes pose too many health risks in their own right?

Although e-cigarettes have been available in this country since 2007, the FDA did not exert its regulatory authority over these products until 2016. The agency continues to grapple with how best to regulate these products in light of both the harms and the theoretical benefits to adult smokers. Some advertisements for e-cigarettes imply—but don’t directly state—that they may help people stop smoking. However, e-cigarettes are not FDA-approved for smoking cessation, unlike a number of other products on the market (see “Nicotine replacement options” table right). Small studies suggest they may lower cravings for conventional cigarettes and withdrawal symptoms.

One recent randomized controlled trial found that e-cigarettes were more effective than other nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum. After one year, 18% of the e-cigarette users, compared with 10% of the nicotine replacement users, were abstaining from regular cigarettes. However, among those successful abstainers, 80% of the e-cigarette users were still using the devices, while just 9% of those in the other group were still using nicotine replacement products.

Smokers tend to like e-cigarettes because they deliver nicotine levels similar to those from regular cigarettes, and the drug gets into the bloodstream faster than with other nicotine replacement products. Some smokers also enjoy the familiar hand-to-mouth ritual. According to a 2018 review by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the harmful, artery-damaging substances in cigarette smoke are absent or present at much lower concentrations in aerosol from e-cigarettes. For smokers who aren’t able to quit by other means, using e-cigarettes might be less harmful than continuing to smoke.

“New findings suggest that we’re at something of a crossroads in how we approach tobacco control issues,” Rees told an audience at Harvard University. “But we hope we can use science to guide our way through.”

Rees outlined the enormous health burden posed by tobacco around the globe. In the 20th century, 100 million deaths were attributed to smoking; for the 21st century, 1 billion deaths tobacco-related deaths are predicted. In the U.S. alone, tobacco leads to roughly 480,000 preventable premature deaths each year. The highest smoking rates—and the biggest tobacco-related health burdens—are among poor and marginalized communities, including people with substance abuse problems, mental health issues, or housing instability; members of the LBGTQ community; or those who are in prison.

As smoking rates have declined in the U.S., they’ve gone up in developing nations around the world, where deep-pocketed tobacco companies have aggressively pushed their products, Rees said. Marketing has been savvy, promoting the pleasure of smoking, suggesting that certain cigarette brands are safer, and portraying cigarette smoking as aspirational so that it appeals to those who are poor as well as groups such as women and youth. “Companies have also specifically designed cigarettes to be very addictive”, Rees said.

A safer alternative?

“E-cigarettes have been touted as a ‘safe’ alternative to smoking because they can deliver aerosolized nicotine that can be inhaled without all the toxins found in regular cigarettes,” Rees said. “However, e-cigarettes may pose health dangers too—for instance, they may contain toxic heavy metals and formaldehyde.”

There’s also concern that e-cigarettes marketed to youth, which can be used with a wide range of fruit and candy-flavored “e-liquids,” will hook kids into nicotine addiction early and possibly lead them toward smoking traditional cigarettes. Rees said that one example of this is JUUL, which looks like a USB flash drive and has become very popular among high school students. Some evidence suggests that e-cigarette use increases young people’s likelihood of smoking regular cigarettes. But Rees said that evidence may be outdated because recent statistics show that both traditional cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use have declined over the past three years.

“Even if e-cigarettes do lead to an uptick in young people smoking regular cigarettes, some researchers say this risk is outweighed by the potentially much larger benefits of reducing smoking worldwide,” according to Rees. “For e-cigarettes to deliver on the promise of reducing smoking, they would have to be potent and pleasurable enough to convince smokers to switch for the long term,” Rees said. “At the same time, it will be important to regulate e-cigarettes to minimize risks to young people—for instance, by making e-cigarette packaging and e-liquid flavors less appealing to kids and by more effectively communicating about potential long-term health impacts.”

“We need to communicate intelligently and scientifically accurately the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes,” said Rees. “We’re concerned because this is driven largely by a predatory industry that targets young people with highly addictive products,” says Dr. Rees, “The potential to cause long-term harm by encouraging the use of more deadly products is very real.”

 

Dr. Rees – Courtesy Photo

About the Author:
Dr. Vaughan Rees is Director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control, whose mission is to reduce the global burden of tobacco-related death and disease through training, research, and the translation of science into public health policies and programs. He directs the Tobacco Research Laboratory at the Harvard Chan School, where findings have been used to inform tobacco control policy, develop resources for communicating risks of tobacco products, and to enhance understanding of factors that contribute to tobacco dependence.
Dr. Rees’ academic background is in health psychology (substance use and dependence), and he trained at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and did postdoctoral training through the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Spectacle Management Presents Kenny G.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Kenny G.

Thursday, October 10, 2019
7:30 PM
Cary Memorial Hall
TICKETS ON SALE NOW
www.CaryHallLexington.com, or by calling 1 (800) 657-8774

 

There have been few saxophone players in the past thirty years as publicly adored as Kenny G, whose smooth tones and quirky demeanor have made him a staple on radio stations and social media feeds alike – and his unmatched talent is now coming to Lexington for the very first time!

KENNY G

A phenomenally successful instrumentalist whose recordings routinely made the pop, R&B, and jazz charts during the 1980s and ’90s, Kenny G‘s sound became a staple on adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio stations. His distinctive sound transcends genres and emotions, although his placement at the top of “contemporary jazz” charts and his status as a saxophone icon in the minds of the mass public most often classifies him as a jazz player.

Kenny Gorelick started playing professionally with Barry White‘s Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1976. He recorded with Cold, Bold & Together (a Seattle-based funk group) and freelanced locally. After graduating from the University of Washington, Kenny G worked with Jeff Lorber Fusion, making two albums with the group. Soon he was signed to Arista, recording his debut as a leader in 1982. His fourth album, Duotones (which included the very popular “Songbird”), made him into a star. Soon he was in demand for guest appearances on recordings of such famous singers as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Natalie Cole. Kenny G’s own records have sold remarkably well, particularly Breathless, which has topped eight million copies in the U.S.; his total album sales top 30 million copies. The holiday album Miracles, released in 1994, and 1996’s Moment continued the momentum

of his massive commercial success. He also recorded his own version of the Celine Dion/Titanic smash “My Heart Will Go On” in 1998, and the following year released Classics in the Key of G, a collection of jazz standards like “‘Round Midnight” and “Body and Soul.”

Faith: A Holiday Album was released that same year, followed by a limited-edition re-release of the 1997 Greatest Hits disc. In 2002 Kenny G dipped into tropical territory with Paradise, which featured guest appearances by Brian McKnight and Chanté Moore. This was followed by a music video collection, another holiday album, entitled Wishes, and, in 2003, a second greatest-hits collection, Ultimate Kenny G. Wishing to diversify his discography, he released At Last…The Duets Album in 2004, which featured “duets” with LeAnn Rimes and Chaka Khan. Two years later, smooth jazz’s king of the soprano sax returned to a purely instrumental approach on the brassy, big-band-inspired albums Holiday Collection and I’m in the Mood for Love; 2006 was also the year the artist was dubbed the best golfer in music by Golf Digest, beating out Vince Gill for the number one spot. In 2008, Kenny G released the Latin-inspired Rhythm and Romance. The sax player next drifted toward R&B for 2010’s Heart and Soul, which featured guest vocals from Robin Thicke and Babyface. A collection with Rahul Sharma called Namaste followed in 2012, and in 2015 Kenny G released a tribute to bossa nova titled Brazilian Nights.

Tickets to Kenny G at Cary Memorial Hall on are $69-129.

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Temple Emunah Welcomes Rabbi Leora Kling Perkins 

Temple Emunah’s welcomes Leora Kling Perkins. Courtesy Photo

After a comprehensive search, Lexington’s Temple Emunah welcomed Rabbi Leora Kling Perkins to join Rabbi David Lerner as the new Assistant Rabbi of the congregation on July 16.

“It has always meant a lot to me that Judaism connects with and respond to the world we live in,” said Rabbi Kling Perkins, who received her Rabbinic ordination and her Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York in May 2019.

“Individualism is so important that it sometimes it overwhelms the feeling of community. Yet people crave fellowship and belonging,” said Rabbi Kling Perkins.

“She brings deep knowledge and a wonderful ability to connect with people of all ages in diverse settings,” said Rabbi Lerner. “I am looking forward to teaching and learning with her, and to having her strengthen our multigenerational community.”

“My goal,” said Rabbi Kling Perkins, is to help people find meaning in our traditions and bring them into their lives, to their bonds with each other, and their communities.”

Strength in Community, Meaning in Tradition

After her graduation from Brandeis followed by a year of study in Jerusalem, Rabbi Kling Perkins undertook a series of responsibilities aimed at her goal.

She participated in a year-long fellowship with JOIN for Justice, which integrates Jewish teaching about justice with community organizing and training.  She went on to organize volunteers to read to Boston Public School students in her three-year role with the literacy volunteer program of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which promotes community values and commitment to society.  She was among the organizers of Cambridge and Somerville prayer groups, helping those new to the cities bond with an energetic, lay-led, welcoming Jewish community.

Her commitment to helping communities expand the way they meet different Jewish needs led to rabbinical school.

Diverse rabbinical student internships provided a range of opportunities for involvement in all aspects of Jewish life:  teaching in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and West Hartford; hospice care in the Bronx; camp in the Rocky Mountains; the Center for Small Town Jewish Life in Maine.

“These experiences help me connect with the diverse congregation at Temple Emunah, find meaning in our traditions, and enhance our bonds to the synagogue and to our community.”

Rabbi Kling Perkins, originally from Needham, is married to Matthew Goldstone, who teaches rabbinical students at the Academy of Jewish Religion.

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Berman’s: A legacy of giving, learning, and love

“We become friends with the people that come in here, we know who they are,

we understand what goes on, and we care about them.”

–  Joel Berman

 

Berman family members in front of their shop. Courtesy photo

By Devin Shaw

After at least 6 months of planning, on September 7th, Berman’s Wine & Spirits held their 10th Annual Block Party in East Lexington. Joel Berman was also celebrating an even bigger anniversary—the 110th anniversary of his family’s business. The event was supremely curated: food from local artisanal vendors and Lexington restaurants, beers and wine tastings inside the store, (spectacular) music from LHS students, and a booth selling raffle tickets and knick-knacks—the proceeds of which are going to the people in the Bahamas.

It was a real family affair. The staff and their families were tasked with individual jobs. You see, Berman’s is a real family business—even if you aren’t a Berman.

The celebration wasn’t just for Berman’s individually; it was for Lexington. Joel has been running the store for 56 years, and his relationship with Lexing-ton is of the utmost importance to him.  He told me, “We’re a part of the community, we’ve been here for a long period of time. We care about this place; we care about Lexington; we care about the community. We care about the people in the community, the people who come here; we want to give them the best service that they can possibly get. We want them to come here and have a wonderful experience.”

When anything is 110 years old, there is bound to be a long history. The Bermans story started with a cattle boat leaving Russia, Joel told me, “Legend has it that the business was incorporated in 1909 by my grandfather Max. He came over here on a cattle boat from Russia. He ran a dry goods and meat store right here at 12 and 14 Mass Avenue. It’s a two-family house. They actually reared cattle back there. My uncle Eddie used to run a meat market up and down the street.”

Berman’s in the early 1900s in East Lexington. Courtesy Photo

Joel’s grandfather was known for his generosity—often giving food to the poor without expectation of compensation (specifically during The Great Depression), he just wanted to help out his fellow community members in need. Joel explained to me, “So in 1933 when the repeal [of Prohibition] happened the chairman of Lexington’s Board of Selectmen came and said ‘Max we have a liquor license here, we’d like you to have it.’ and he said, ‘I don’t know what to do with it.’ They said, ‘Well, you’re an honorable man, and we’d like you to have it.’ And he said ‘Fine, okay, so I’ll take it.’”

Joel’s father, Mike, ran a very successful driving school (Grove Hill Driving School) but his wife (Joel’s mother) insisted that he help his father with the new liquor store. So Mike and his brother joined the business. Joel explained, “they started with less than six bottles! But, it just grew. When my grandfather passed away in 1949, the two brothers essentially inherited the business, and they worked together off-and-on.”

At the same time, there was a restaurant across the street that was having problems.  Joel said, “They had hanky-panky in the kitchen, and Hell’s Angels in the parking lot and they were having all these problems. And, my mother insisted—she was very prescient and smart—that my uncle and father buy the property. They did, and we’ve been here ever since.”

A few years later Joel was studying psychology at B.U. but took a sabbatical to enlist in the Army. When he returned home from the military, he went back to BU to finish up school and took a part-time job at his family’s store. That was in 1962.

His father took ill, that’s when Joel stepped up. He said, “At 56 years of age, my father contracted diabetes―he had never been sick a day in his life. So I ran the store at age 24, and I bought my uncle out when I was just 30. So I was essentially equal partners with my dad, but he was completely retired, so I was completely autonomous.”

This is when his education began. Joel said, “I knew nothing about anything…including wine.”

Joel Berman (far left), along with his wife and life partner Bonnie (far right) are pictured with Kathleen Darcy, Ada Wong and Lester Savage at a recent Chamber of Commerce event at Aloft Hotel. Joel is a former
longtime director of the Chamber. (Photo by Jim Shaw)

Joel continued, “People didn’t really buy much wine, there was almost none. There were none of these periodicals: The Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, and Decanter Magazine. It was all word of mouth. However, there became a point where I was going to do a little bit of renovation here, and I was going to push a wall back, it was going to cost me $5,000 to do it.”

The contractor never showed, and Joel had an extra $5,000. He exclaimed, “I said ‘you know what? I’m going to buy a Bordeaux!’ So I bought a Bordeaux. I bought three cases of this, five cases of that, and some other products. And, to me, it was like selling penny candy. I flipped them out at really great prices. I said, ‘Okay,’ and went away on vacation. When I came back, half the stuff was gone. I said, ‘Whoa!’

“So, I had bought – and I remember this – five cases of 1964 Chateau Beychevelle―which is a Saint-Julien―and I went to go and re-buy it, and I called my then sales manager, Leo Sulkinat at Brandon Liquors, and said ‘I want five more.’ He says, ‘Well, it’s 60 dollars.’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about? I paid 40 dollars two weeks ago.’ He says, ‘That was then, this is now.’ That’s when I learned I had to get into the wine business!”

Joel began taking classes, tasting different varieties of wines―becoming an expert. He started his own import company where he would travel overseas. He said, “I speak French, I speak Italian, and I go over there and deal with the growers directly, and pick my wines and bring it back.” He has since sold his import business to his son, but he is still the business’ “best customer, even though I don’t own it anymore. That’s why we offer different wines that a lot of people don’t have, and we still have more exotic brands than some-one else, more interesting things, because I’m not interested in having the national brands.”

Over 35 years ago, Joel began mailing a very descriptive monthly newsletter to customers with all of the wines he liked—which has now transitioned to a subscription email (you can subscribe on the website). Joel has most definitely become an expert in the field; he has even published a book on the subject, So you Want to be a Wine Merchant. I personally would encourage you to go in for a free tasting/lesson between 2:30-5:30 on Saturdays.

The most important part of shopping at a store like Berman’s is knowledge. Joel’s palate has memories. If presented with a bottle of Chardonnay that is 25 dollars, he will know one that tastes the same at a lesser cost. Or, he could find you a vintage that tastes even better!

Or as Joel says, “I’m faithful to my wife, but I’m not faithful to these bottles. Try different things, have a little fun with it!”

While you can shop at the big conglomerates, they’re not going to be able to help get you the right bottles. Berman’s is agenda-free; why else would they have loyal customers of 40 years? My best advice is: present a dinner party and offer up the menu and let any employee help pick out your wine for the evening—you will be beyond pleased!

Considering how knowledgeable Berman’s staff is, there is another reason Joel still goes in at 8 am everyday; he told me, “I’ve often said that I really like people. If I didn’t like people, I wouldn’t be here all this time. I enjoy people. I meet all kinds of people; it’s fun. I love to see them, all the diverse people. We become friends with the people that come in here, we know who they are, we understand what goes on, and we care about them. We want them to have the best time, the best experience, and get the best products that they can from us!”

Joel continues, “I can’t tell you how many people come in here and commend us, they sing our praises, and they tell us how much they love coming in here and how much they love the store. I mean it can bring tears to your eyes! And, it’s because of the personality of all the people who are here. But this is the way we’ve hired these people. A lot of my people have been here for years. They know their stuff. They are fixtures.”

You can get almost anything at Berman’s: curated local food, all of the craft beer you can imagine, an awe-inspiring spirits section. And, of course, wine. You can pick your own bottle, but as Joel told me, “You want this bottle? Yeah I got it, no worries, here it is, it has a good price. But if you want to really ask me, ‘what do you think is good?’ I’ll pick you something good.”

Berman’s Wine and Spirits is located at 55 Massachusetts Avenue in East Lexington.  You can learn more by visiting www.BermansFineWines.com.

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Marjan Kamali’s The Stationery Shop: A Story of Love, Loss and What Happens After

Lexington moms represent at Kamali’s book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge.

Kamali’s new novel “The Stationery Shop” is available locally at Porter Square Books and Newtonville Books.

By Jane Whitehead

Tehran, 1953. As the Iranian capital simmers with political unrest, two teenagers meet and fall in love in the calm sanctuary of Mr. Fakhri’s stationery shop.

Among shelves stacked with pens, paper and volumes of classic Persian poetry, Roya Kayhani and Bahman Aslan embark on a lightning courtship. But the course of true love ends in a baffling separation on the very day of the CIA-backed coup that overturns the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.

Lexington author Marjan Kamali’s second novel, The Stationery Shop, is a story of love, loss and resilience, set at a pivotal point in Iran’s history. The narrative opens in 2013, when 77-year old Roya, long married to an American, and living in a New England town much like Lexington, learns by chance that Bahman is being cared for in a nearby nursing home, and makes an appointment to see him.

Decades after they parted and half a world away from the Tehran of their youth, Roya and Bahman have many questions for each other about what really happened in that hot, tumultuous summer. The answers emerge from a buried family history of shame, pain and thwarted love.

Thickening the Plot

“I’ve always admired writers who write well, and plot well, and I’ve never felt those things were mutually exclusive,” said Kamali in a recent conversation. Her 2013 debut novel, Together Tea, a Massachusetts Book Award finalist, was a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel with a straightforward narrative structure. For her second novel, Kamali wanted to stretch herself by concocting “ a really damn good plot, with twists and turns, surprises and layers.”

Judging by favorable notices in publications from The Wall Street Journal to Newsweek and Kirkus Reviews, she has succeeded. “Readers will be swept away,” says Publishers Weekly, praising Kamali’s vivid evocation of “the loss of love and changing worlds.”


Book signing at Newtonville Books in Newton.

“They say there are two kinds of writers – plotters and pantsers,” said Kamali. Plotters know where the story is going. They make an outline and use index cards to track events and characters. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. She puts herself firmly among the latter: “When I start the day, I don’t know where it’s going,” she said.

What that means, for a ‘pantser’ trying to develop a complex plot, is “a lot of reworking.” Kamali used her first draft to figure out some major plot points, but there were many unanswered questions. “I knew Bahman had to disappear,” she said, “but I didn’t know why he disappeared.”

For Kamali’s literary purposes, Bahman had to disappear so that he could write letters to Roya during their separation. In homage to the love of literature that is embedded in the Persian psyche – a love shared by Roya and Bahman – she has them exchanging love letters between the pages of books in the stationery shop.

Composing Bahman’s letters allowed her to write for the first time from a male point of view, something she had not attempted in Together Tea. “The letters turned out to be a rich plot device,” she said, “but it’s difficult to write love letters without sounding cheesy!”

How We Talk About Iran

Kamali longs for the day when negative coverage of Iran disappears from US headlines. But until that day, she said, like many Iranian Americans of her generation she feels a responsibility to show “a fuller, richer picture – to tell the stories of the people behind the headlines.” In spite of the current repressive government, she said, Persian culture is “a joyful culture – colorful, vibrant, full of zest for life.”

Born in Turkey to Iranian parents, as a child Kamali lived in Kenya, Germany, Turkey, Iran and the United States. Although she only lived in Iran for five years, her home was always an Iranian home, no matter where her diplomatic family happened to be living.

As in her first novel, in The Stationery Shop Kamali gives vivid glimpses of Persian food, manners and customs. “Food is so much a part not just of the culture, but of every person’s character, almost,” she said. But although her descriptions of jeweled rice and chicken khoresh make the reader want to reach for a Persian cookbook, the cooking scenes always serve to develop relationships and move the story forward, as when Roya introduces her American boyfriend Walter to the joy of cooking with cinnamon, cardamom and saffron.

To get a sense of Tehran in the early 1950s, Kamali interviewed older family members. Her father proved an invaluable source for the city’s geography, crucial to the plot, recalling the names of streets and squares. (To Kamali’s surprise, these were all fact-checked by her copy editors, by reference to old maps.)

“From my father, the other thing I got was the feel of the city,” said Kamali. From him she learned what people were eating in the cafes, the kind of coffee they were drinking, the clothes they wore, and the music they listened to.

The period details enliven memorable scenes, as Roya tastes her first espresso coffee in the chic Café Ghanadi, learns to dance the tango with Bahman to gramophone music at the house of his wealthy friend Jahangir, and watches the Italian movie The Bicycle Thief in the gold and red-plush splendor of the Cinema Metropole. From such vignettes, Kamali creates a portrait of a city with a flourishing cultural life, alive to new influences and open to foreign ideas.

Democracy Derailed

Kamali’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of faction-fighting that ended in the overthrow of democratic rule in Iran in a coup engineered by US and British intelligence services on August 19, 1953. At stake was the future of the mainly British-owned oil industry, nationalized by the Iranian parliament in April 1951, and a desire to neutralize the perceived threat of Communist Russian influence.

Prime Minister Mossadegh was overthrown and the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had fled to Baghdad in his private plane after an abortive coup attempt on the night of August 15, was restored to the Peacock Throne.

“A lot of people think of 1979 as the turning point for Iran, and in many ways it was,” said Kamali. “But 1979 wouldn’t have happened without 1953.” The Shah’s increasingly authoritarian rule led to riots, strikes and demonstrations, the return to Iran of Islamic clerical opposition leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and, in April 1979, the proclamation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“The coup is still a very contentious subject,” said Kamali. She dramatizes the political divisions that extended even into schools, by showing one of Roya’s classmates, a girl with communist sympathies, being assaulted by police with a water hose as she leaves school. Bahman and Roya’s father, Baba, bond over their shared devotion to Mossadegh, and Bahman is beaten up by the Shah’s police at a pro-democracy demonstration.

To give an accurate picture of the events of August 1953, Kamali consulted published sources, including Stephen Kinzer’s All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. She collected stories from relatives and family friends who lived through the upheaval. They shared a feeling of disillusionment, “a sense of losing a future and becoming a different country,” she said.

Many readers have told Kamali that they knew little, if anything, about the 1953 coup, but that they have been inspired by the book to do their own research.

A Lot of Crying

“I’m hearing from readers that there’s a lot of crying going on,” said Kamali. “I hope it’s a healing kind of crying!” Through her website and on social media, readers are telling her that Roya and Bahman’s story has helped them put their own first love into perspective. “I get a lot of emotional catharsis responses,” she said.

Some readers have been inspired to write letters to long-lost boyfriends and girlfriends. People have written privately to share their own love stories, and one reader even made a playlist of love songs for Roya and Bahman, including Iranian and American songs from the 1950s.

In the end, Roya and Bahman are not Romeo and Juliet. Though seared by their intense youthful love, they do not perish. Wounded but resilient, they go on to have long lives full of other joys and sorrows. As she looks forward to taking the book on the road at Fall literary festivals, Kamali stresses the importance of that message: “I really, really wanted to show that life goes on, and on, and there is no one love, one soul mate, no one style of love,” she said.

 

For more Information, visit marjankamali.com

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East Meets West – A Shadaj Baithak Event

Lexington nonprofit organization will present a cultural event co-sponsored by Lexington Community Education and Community Endowment of Lexington (www.lexingtonendowment.org).

 

Indian Classical Music Appreciation Workshops on Monday, Tuesday & Thursday, September 23, 24, 26 at 7:30 pm at Cary Library.

Please join us three nights this week for an informal and informational workshop on Indian classical music.
Monday, 09/23: Similarities and differences between Indian Classical Music and Jazz, with Phil Scarff
Tuesday, 09/24: Indian Classical Violin, with Tara Anand
Thursday, 09/26: Percussion in Indian Classical Music, with Amit Kavthekar

CONCERT:

Friday, September 27,  8.00 pm :  Concert
Venue:  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum, 33 Marrett Rd., Lexington, MA 02420

Tickets:   www.shadaj.org  (Premium: $100,  Regular: $30)
FREE for Shadaj Members and Students (Only upon RSVP)
Upgrade available for Shadaj members to Premium seating ​

Become a SHADAJ Member :  http://shadaj.org/membership.html 

Note: 

  • Admission will be handled on a first come first serve basis.  Members must RSVP to secure a seat.

About the Artists :​
Composer and performer, Pandit Shubhendra Rao is ranked amongst the key soloists of India who lived with his guru, Pandit Ravi Shankar in the Guru-Shishya Parampara for over 10 years, assisting him in concerts and compositions all over the world. He is an unmatched master at his instrument whose playing reminds the listener of the masters of yore transformed into today’s era.
Saskia Rao-De Haas (Cello)
Saskia Rao-de Haas is a brilliant cellist and composer from the Netherlands who is based in India. She has enriched North Indian classical music with her unique instrument, the Indian cello, and created a distinctive playing style with it. She studied with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia as well as at top institutes in the West, CODARTS, and the University of Amsterdam. In addition to her prestigious status in India, Saskia is an accomplished Western
Aditya Kalyanpur, a child prodigy, is one of the leading young generation tabla players of the Panjab Gharana. A prime disciple of the legendary Ustad Allarakha and Ustad Zakir Hussin, Aditya has performed with all the leading artists all around the world in all major music festivals. Aditya is a talented tabla solo artist who is equally adept at accompanying, fusion music and have several albums to his credit.

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