|Christians Embrace a Jewish Wedding Tradition|
New York Times, Saturday, February 12, 2011
By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN
In a San Antonio chapel last August, after reciting their wedding vows and exchanging their rings, Sally and Mark Austin prepared to receive communion for the first time as husband and wife. Just before they did, their minister asked them to sign a document. It was a ketubah, a traditional Jewish marriage contract.
The Austins’ was not an interfaith marriage. Nor was their ceremony some sort of multicultural mashup. Both Sally and Mark are evangelical Christians, members of Oak Hills Church, a nationally known megachurch. They were using the ketubah as a way of affirming the Jewish roots of their faith.
In so doing, the Austins are part of a growing phenomenon of non-Jews incorporating the ketubah, a document with millennia-old origins and a rich artistic history, into their weddings. Mrs. Austin, in fact, first learned about the ketubah from her older sister, also an evangelical Christian, who had been married five years earlier with not only a ketubah but the Judaic wedding canopy, the huppah.
“Embracing this Jewish tradition just brings a richness that we miss out on sometimes as Christians when we don’t know the history,” said Mrs. Austin, 29, a business manager for AT&T. “Jesus was Jewish, and we appreciate his culture, where he came from.”
Beyond its specific basis in Judaism, the ketubah represented to the Austins a broader concept of holiness, of consecration. “We wanted a permanent reminder of the covenant we made with God,” Mrs. Austin said. “We see this document superseding the marriage license of a state or a court.”
Such sentiments have been reshaping the market for ketubot (the plural in Hebrew) in the past decade. Michael Shapiro, an observant Jew from Toronto who sells artistic ketubot through the Web site ketubah.com, said he had seen the non-Jewish share of his customers rise from zero to about 10 percent. He is forming a spinoff site, artvows.com, that concentrates on non-Jewish consumers.
While evangelical Christians like the Austins make up part of that niche, Mr. Shapiro said, the concept of marital sanctity they expressed is one he hears from many gentile buyers.
“There’s an idea of this being significant and lasting, a nod to something greater at work in a couple having come together,” he said in a telephone interview. “For some, it’s about God and faith. For others, it’s almost a sense of a miracle. In Jewish terms, we have the Yiddish word bashert, for ‘meant to be, intended for each other.’ ”
The decade of non-Jews discovering the ketubah coincides with three relevant social trends: the rise of Christian Zionism, the growth of interfaith marriage, and the mainstreaming of the New Age movement with its search for spirituality in multiple faith traditions. As a result, an increasing number of gentiles have taken up Judaic practices: holding a Passover Seder, eating kosher food and studying kabbalah, the Jewish mystical movement.
“A lot of these things are grass-rootsy,” said Prof. Jenna Weissman Joselit, a historian at George Washington University, who has written extensively on Jewish popular culture. “They have to do with the growing popularity of intermarriage – openness, pluralism, cultural improvisation. And for those who are more religiously literate, they add another level of authenticity or legitimacy.”
What makes the ketubah boom among non-Jews more striking is that even for Jews the present concept of a ketubah – simultaneously a work of fine art and a religious document – took centuries to develop and spread.
The earliest known version of a Jewish marriage contract dates to the fifth century B.C. in Egypt. Roughly 1,000 years later, during the Talmudic period in Palestine and Babylon, a formally codified version of the ketubah emerged.
And in its original form, far from declaring marriage as an everlasting bond, the ketubah largely served to protect a wife’s right to financial support in the event of a divorce, which under traditional Jewish law is entirely a husband’s decision. To this day, the standard Orthodox ketubah still contains language requiring a divorced man to pay his ex-wife “200 silver zuz.”
Sephardic Jews, though, wrote ketubot with specific provisions for each marriage. And, of more enduring aesthetic importance, they began to illustrate the documents elaborately with images and calligraphy. With the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, refugees carried that artistic tradition to Italy, Germany and Holland, where the decorative ketubah began to seep into Ashkenazi culture.
But the style never reached into the Eastern European heartland of Jewry – which itself was the source of most of America’s Jewish immigrants – and by the mid-20th century the ketubah was back to where it had started as a document of religious law to be signed and stowed away.
All that suddenly changed with the “Jewish counterculture” of the 1960s, a movement by young Jews to participate in worship actively rather than just follow a rabbi, and to create their own prayers, liturgies, ceremonies and ritual objects, very much including ketubot.
By now, the ketubah is such a standard part of American Jewish life that even the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia exhibits and sells them. Next month the Jewish Museum in New York will mount a major show of ketubot.
“You have an interest in a beautifying ritual and you have disposable income,” said Sharon Liberman Mintz of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, who is curating the Jewish Museum exhibit. “There’s both the wherewithal and the interest. Now you’d hang your ketubah on the wall. In the past, you’d just keep it in a safe or something like that.”
As for Sally and Mark Austin, they Googled their way to
ketubahtree.com, selected a version with the image of a flowing river, and chose one of several texts from the Reform Jewish movement. After their wedding day, they hung it over their bed.
“One of the characteristics of a covenant,” as Mrs. Austin put it, “is a tangible sign. And this piece of paper, this beautiful piece of art, is the sign of our covenant.”
Jewish-Muslim initiative comes to University of Illinois at Chicago
On February 7, 2011, a conference about the roles of Jewish and Muslim women in their communities was held at UIC’s Stevenson Hall on 701 S. Morgan St. in Chicago. This conference, “Changing Roles?: Women in Traditional Jewish and Muslim Communities,” attempted to discuss and examine Muslim and Jewish women’s traditional roles in context with modernity, women’s rights, and progressivism.
“In both Islam and Judaism there’s a sense that one’s relationship [to God] is [through religious] law,” said Samuel Fleischacker, Professor at UIC, director of Jewish Studies, and the organizer of this conference. Fleischacker says that there is a tension for these women between wanting to stick to traditional religious laws, and taking up leadership positions in their communities, and in turn breaking into Western society.
“There’s a lot of deference to the past.” These women want to show certain respect to the way things were done before.
Religious law is considered a “good thing,” said Fleischacker. The Halacha (Jewish Law) and the Sharia (Islamic Law) are a part of the all encompassing practice of both religions.
Religious requirements like Muslim women covering their hair, and Jewish women covering their hair after they get married are just some of the issues modern women face today. Leadership in their communities is another. Can Muslim women lead prayer? Can Jewish women become rabbis?
Leadership, women’s dress, prayer, and women’s education are all issues that wiwere covered in the conference. The introductory session, “General Issues: Change in Sharia and Halacha” featured one speaker from the Muslim perspective, and one from the Jewish perspective. Fleischacker emphasized that one of the aims of this conference was bringing Muslim and Jewish women together. He said that Jews and Muslims don’t know much about each other, in general due to some tensions between both communities.
“I don’t think Jewish and Muslim women know each other.” This conference was an attempt to ‘look ahead,’ and start a conversation with both sides. Since it is a part of the “Jewish/Muslim Initiative” at UIC, the conference aimed to have speakers discuss their current positions in the area of their womanly and religious rights.
The “Jewish/Muslim Initiative” is a Postdoctoral Fellowship that enables applicants to teach through a Jewish-Muslim lens at UIC.
“I think all of them [the speakers] are committed to their tradition, and their communities,” said Fleischacker.
Tova Hartman, and Najeeba Syeed-Miller spoke about “General Issues: Change in Sharia and Halacha.” Tahera Ahmad, Marcia Hermansen, and Erin Leib Smokler spoke about “Specific Issues I: Dress; Study and Teaching” and Ruth Balinsky, Hina Azam, and Deborah Klapper spoke about “Specific Issues II: Leadership; Prayer.”
The conference was “an attempt to explore issues and spark a conversation that would go on.”
|3rd Annual International Conference on|
”Religion, Conflict, and Peace:”
Walking The Talk to Compassion and Harmony
April 8-10, 2011
Henry Ford Community College
Dearborn, Michigan USA
A Multi-disciplinary, Multi-cultural Conference
an Official Partner and Event of
the Charter For Compassion
the Parliament of World’s Religions
Common Bond Institute,
Pathways To Peace, Henry Ford Community College,
International Humanistic Psychology Association,
Endorsed by over 100 universities and organizations internationally
Full Conference Details at:
(copy & paste address into your browser)
~ Registration is Open All ~
We Invite You To:
an inclusive, interactive 3-day public forum promoting Inter-religious and Intra-religious dialogue to explore the challenges of Extremism, Intolerance, Scapegoating, and Islamophobia, and the promise of Reason, Understanding, Compassion, and Cultural Harmony.
JOIN over 45 Presenters and Facilitators as we explore:
1) The mutual dilemmas of religious ignorance, extremism, intolerance, negative stereotypes, prejudice, demonization and dehumanization, scapegoating, and fear of “the other,” that lead to toxic divisiveness, polarization, and social paranoia, including the current example of Islamophobia and it’s impact on the Muslim community,
2) The promise of personal engagement through dialogue and practical applications in nurturing a shared consciousness of peace – and in doing so promoting the religious experience as a healing remedy rather than problem.
An outstanding, diverse gathering of presenters for 3 Days of keynotes, workshops, panels, dialogue groups, live global links, film showings, social/cultural events, exhibits, multicultural community, and rich networking for collaborative action beyond the conference.
”It does not require that we be the same to be appreciative of, at peace with, and secure in our relationships with each other; only that we be familiar enough with each others story to share the humanity and trustworthiness that resides in each of us.”
LOCATION: Henry Ford Community College
5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI. USA
SCHEDULE: Fri. April 8, 10:00 am -to- Sun. April 10, 2:30 pm
(On-site Registration opens 8:30 am)
FOR DETAILS on Proposals, Program, Registration, Fees, Program Ads, Exhibits, and previous conference Proceedings CONTACT:
Common Bond Institute
Details at Website:www.cbiworld.org
Steve Olweean, Conference Coordinator
12170 S. Pine Ayr Drive, Climax, MI 49034 USA
Ph/Fax: 269-665-9393 Email: SOlweean@aol.com
The Chidllren of Peace singing “We are Children of Peace!!”
The Rev. Sandra K. Gordon, Imam Achmat Salie, The Rev. Rod Reinhart, The Rev. Kenneth Flowers, Rabbi Jen Kaluzny, and Rabbi Marla Hornsten on the Bimah or Temple Israel to say the Interfaith Pledge for World Peace!!
Ben Falik, receiving the World Sabbath Peace Award, from the Rev. Rod Reinhart, founder of the World Sabbath.
January 30th, 2011 was the Twelfth Annual World Sabbath at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. This wonderful interfaith service grew out of concerns raised by wars that had been raging around the world – in Serbia, Kosovo, Ireland and the Middle East. The Rev. Rod Reinhart decided to underscore the message that God was a God of peace, and in spite of all the differences and disagreements among religious groups, the central message of all faiths was that we are all called upon to build a world of tolerance and justice. So Rod created and proclaimed that the World Sabbath would be an interfaith holy day of peace among all religions, races, ethnic groups and nations. The Rev. Reinhart took this idea to Father Ed Mullins at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, and Father Ed felt called upon to make Christ Church Cranbrook the host and center of the World Sabbath Interfaith Holy Day, starting in the year 2000. In 2004 the Reverend Rod Reinhart moved to Chicago, and Gail Katz, a West Bloomfield interfaith activistand President of WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit), took over as the chair person of this event, and along with the efforts of the World Sabbath Committee, the message of the World Sabbath has spread throughout Metro Detroit. Because of Gail’s background as a elementary and middle school teacher and diversity club sponsor, she felt the committee needed to change the focus of the World Sabbath from the clergy giving the calls to prayer for world peace, to participation of our community’s youth and young adults. The World Sabbath is nowheld on the last Sunday afternoon in January with a Jewish young adult blowing the shofar, a Muslim youth chanting the Muslim Call to Prayer, followed by middle school, high school and college youth giving additional prayers for world peace from many other religions – Jain, Buddhist, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Christian, Hindu, Native American, Sikh, Quaker, and Unitarian faith traditions for example. In addition the World Sabbath features musical offerings – choirs, bands, dance groups, and chantings that reflect the individual language, culture and tradition of the many religions that are represented at the World Sabbath. Attendees have been enchanted by Hindu dancers, Yiddish Klezmer music, Jain songs, Sikh Shabads, Christian Dance ensembles, and Arabic elementary school drummers. To Gail Katz the highlight of every World Sabbath is the inclusion of third through sixth graders who decorate white cotton banners with their ideas about World Peace. These banners are stapled to pieces of basswood to make flags that the children proudly display as they march in the processional into the sanctuary. These banners are then sewn into a Children of Peace Quilt (three of them have been completed so far) which are proudly displayed at the World Sabbath services. The Children of Peace, the youth, and the young adults who participate in the Peace Prayers and the musical offerings bring their friends and family to the World Sabbath, and the event has grown immensely – so big that the sanctuary at Christ Church Cranbrook, where the first ten World Sabbath Services were held, is no longer large enough. The World Sabbath now travels each year to a new venue. This past January 30th, 2011 the World Sabbath was held at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield – the first time in a Jewish house of worship.
The mission of the World Sabbath is to teach our diverse population in Metro Detroit that the work of building a community of justice, equality, respect and peace is a calling that we all share – all of us, no matter what our faith tradition might be. But most important to Gail Katz is the fact that the World Sabbath is impacting our children, our teens, and our young adults. The Twelfth Annual World Sabbath began with the beautiful Yiddish melodies of Kidz Klez, a band made up of Jewish middle and high school students. The World Sabbath processional included close to 100 children of eleven differentfaith traditions, proudly waving the peace banners that they decorated themselves. These children came up to the Temple Israel bimah, andsang the song “We Are Children of Peace” led by Temple Israel’s Teen T’filah Team under the direction of Cantor Michael Smolash. You could see the hope and the tears in the eyes of the adults in the congregation!!
Ben Falik, co-founder of Summer in the City, an initiative that involves our young people as volunteers, was the 2011 recipient of the World Sabbath Peace Award. About 30 clergy and religious leaders of many faiths were invited to participate in this year’s service, and were all called up to read the InterfaithPledge together about building a world of tolerance, justice, faithfulness, and peace, a pledge that the committee hopes will be a wonderful role model for our youth.The World Sabbath concluded with the clergy of Temple Israel – Rabbi Josh Bennett, Rabbi Jen Kaluzny, and Rabbi Marla Hornsten – passing the World Sabbath Banner and the Peace Scarf on to next year’s hosts of the Thirteenth World Sabbath to be held on January 29, 2012 – the Rev. Kenneth Flowers and the Rev. Sandra K. Gordon of the Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church of Detroit. This Twelfth Annual World Sabbath at Temple Israel was a happening filled with hope!!
SCHOOLS SAY THE SIKH RELIGIOUS DAGGER IS OKAY!!
The Plymouth-Canton school district has opted to allow Sikh students to wear a small, religious dagger to school.
The decision reverses a ban put in place in December after a fourth-grade boy at Bentley Elementary School in Canton was found with a dull 3- to 5-inch kirpan, a dagger that is a religious symbol baptized Sikh males are expected to carry.
In Sikh tradition, the kirpan represents a commitment to fight evil.
The principal initially let the boy keep the kirpan, but the school board instituted a ban because of concerns from parents and conflicts with the district’s prohibitions against bringing weapons to school. Under new guidelines, kirpans meeting certain criteria will be allowed for Sikh students.
“While our school district is committed to providing a safe learning environment for all of our students, we must also balance the rights of students to express and practice their religion. In light of the strict scrutiny standard applied by Michigan courts in determining whether an individual’s right to freely exercise his or her religion has been violated, the district will amend its blanket restriction against wearing the kirpan in school,” according to a note the district sent to parents on Friday.
School district officials met Sunday with the Sikh community at a gurdwara, a Sikh religion center, in Canton. They listened to the community’s concerns and learned about the Sikh faith, said district spokesman Frank Ruggirello Jr.
Earlier, the district had received letters from three national Sikh groups expressing their concerns about any ban on kirpans.
Regarding the school’s policy, Ruggirello said: “I’m confident we got a good plan for the community … I think we found a happy medium.”
In the note to parents, the district set out several rules allowing students to wear kirpans:
· Any kirpan worn at school should be sewn inside a sheath in such a way that the blade cannot be removed from the sheath.
· The blade of the kirpan is restricted to no more than 2 1/4 inches. This would take the object outside the scope of the Revised School Code’s definition of a knife constituting a dangerous weapon.
· The blade of the kirpan must be dull.
· The kirpan should not be worn on the outside of the clothing and should not be visible in any way.
Read the article in the Detroit Free Press February 5th about the Sikh faith and its challenges in the United States!!
|Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education Conference —|
Interfaith Action’s Youth Leadership Program presents the fifth annual Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education (TIDE) Conference. The TIDE Conference is organized and led by teens who wish to spread pluralism, increase the impact of teenage voices, and have their presence felt as a positive force in the global community. The three-day conference is planned by fifty high school students of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, and held at Northeastern University over Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29, 2011. The goals of the conference are to train teens to communicate respectfully and use their skills in discussions about highly charged issues; develop leadership and facilitation skills; and foster bonds and lasting friendships among the youth in attendance. Conference attendees will participate in workshops, dialogues, and other activities throughout the weekend that allow them to discover more about themselves and their understanding of personal identity; learn about the beliefs and identities of others; and make their voices heard. By the end of the weekend, teens will gain the skills needed to break down religious and ethnic barriers while becoming leaders in their communities. Adults working with teens have the opportunity to attend a parallel but separate adult track at the conference.
Many of the conflicts that occur across the world are a result of cultural misunderstandings and a lack of tolerance and leadership. Participation in the TIDE Conference is one leap towards a more harmonious and peaceful world, led by strong individuals who have fostered their skills as teens!
The TIDE Conference has been officially designated as a Post-Parliament Event by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR). The conference is sponsored by Interfaith Action, Inc. in collaboration with the Brudnick Center for the Study of Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University.
More information about the conference and how you can register is available at
www.ifaction.org <http://www.ifaction.org/> . Outside groups and individuals may submit workshop proposals to showcase their work during the Sunday track of the conference. All proposals are due by April 1, 2011. More information about this opportunity may also be found on Interfaith Action’s website.
Please contact Jason Smith, Youth Program Director, athttps://ui.constantcontact.com/rnavmap/em/ecampaign/Jason@ifaction.org
with any further questions or requests for additional information.
Angels and Apsaras: Common Ground?
As I began to reflect and do research on the topic of angels in the Hindu tradition, I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. What common ground could I find for angels and Hinduism?
By Padma Kuppa, February 03, 2011
Recently, I was invited to participate in an interfaith event entitled Angels in Religion. This WISDOM community-wide meeting featured artist Lisa Berman, who talked about her sculpture of an angel that was placed in a Catholic cemetery, and what she, a Jewish woman, had learned about angels in the Torah as she crafted this angel. Lisa’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion of angels in Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. The event was open to everyone and was free of cost. As I began to reflect and do research on the topic of angels in the Hindu tradition, I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. What could I say that was relevant, and what common ground could I find for angels and Hinduism?
As the only non-Abrahamic representative on the panel, I wanted to share concepts from the Hindu tradition, with a hope that my sharing would clear up some of the common misconceptions, and possibly find some universality out of the particularities of our beliefs and practices. While accepting the invitation to participate in the panel, I mentioned to Gail Katz, the President of a non-profit women’s organization whose board I sit on, that I took the opportunity since interfaith dialogue is so often these days construed to be between the Abrahamic faiths. For the last five years and more, I have been inserting the word ‘Shanti’ into the “Salaam, Shalom, Peace” used in the interfaith landscape here in metro-Detroit. Because of the contentious nature of current relationships between these faith communities, I thought that including my bit of Eastern philosophy into our Western understanding of angels would help broaden the focus. It was also an opportunity for me to research my own tradition, starting with the translation of the word “angel” into my mother tongue (Telugu) as well as the language of my scripture (Sanskrit). And listening and learning of others’ faith always deepens my own. After all, as Mahatma Gandhi said in Young India (19 January 1928) “… our innermost prayer should be … a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”
I started my research with dictionary definitions of the word “angel”: one of a class of spiritual beings; a celestial attendant of God. In medieval angelology, angels constituted the lowest of the nine celestial orders. So I knew I had to go further; ‘medieval’ brings up a primarily Christian image. A second definition-a conventional representation of such a being, in human form, with wings, usually in white robes-reminded me of how I have been trained to imagine angels. Despite growing up in the Northeastern U.S., though, I always thought the apsara Menaka in the picture books I read looked like an angel-Menaka, a celestial nymph, descended from the heavens to leave her infant Shakuntala in the ashram of a sage.
Yet another definition of angel-a messenger, esp. of God-was one that my Hindu WISDOM “sisters” suggested, i.e., that of the divine messenger, Sage Narada. (The “sister” is something we call our Friends and Board members of WISDOM.) And this last definition-an attendant or guardian spirit-led me in the final minutes of my ten-minute presentation to expand on the concept of Ishta Devata. Deva, devata are both words that mean God, who, for a Hindu, can be without form, of many forms, or an infinite form. And so, the God with form can be worshipped and prayed to in the form of a cherished deity, the Ishta Devata. Hindus havemurtis -representations of the devas and devatas-in temples and in shrines or altars in their homes. In bhakti marga, the path of devotion, a Hindu chooses an Ishta Devata for contemplation and worship, supplicating the devata for deliverance (from ignorance) and protection, sort of like hoping that an angel is watching over you.
I spoke to a fully engaged audience of almost sixty, after Lisa’s enlightening and touching presentation on how she and another artist created a beautiful bronze angel who would watch over those who lay in their final resting places in a Catholic cemetery. Then, I was “the other” as I listened to clear scriptural references and quotes about angels from the Bible and the Quran, from my co-panelists-a Japanese American Christian and a Muslim who emigrated from the Middle East, who narrated the story of Mary and Joseph from the Islamic scripture.
The evening concluded with a short question-and-answer session, and someone asked about the Angel of Death-is he considered good or bad [from our various perspectives]? The highlight of the evening for me was the way my WISDOM sister Dima’s eyes lit with recognition when I responded, “The Hindus consider Yama, the God of Death, to be neither good nor bad-only just.” Perhaps angels or apsaras were watching over us, bringing us to the place where we can create common ground.
Padma Kuppa is a writer, IT professional, community activist,wife, and mother working to build a more pluralistic society within a Hindu and interfaith framework. You can also read her blog A Balancing Act, at padmakuppa.blogspot.com. The views represented in this column are not a reflection of the views of any organization of which she is a part.
|THE WISDOM BOARD AND THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN|
STUFF BACKPACKS TOGETHER ON SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH
TO HELP HOMELESS CHILDREN IN OAKLAND COUNTY WITH
MUCH NEEDED SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Jewish piano prodigy plays benefit concert for Iraqi Christian refugees.
Ethan Bortnick, who came to Michigan three years ago to entertain at an event celebrating the local Chabad organization, returns to entertain at an event raising funds for the Adopt-aRefugee Family program benefiting displaced Iraqi Christians.
The concert, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, is part of the “Ethan Bortnick and His Musical Time Machine” tour. The piano serves as the time machine leading audiences on musical journeys featuring classical, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and other types of selections.
“It doesn’t matter what religion people are or what skin color they have,” says Ethan, 10, whose talents are extended to many charitable organizations. “We have to help.
“I know how important it is for refugees not to be forgotten. My family came from Ukraine and were refugees. I will do my best to make the concert amazing so that more families can be helped.
“I’m writing a song with both words and music for the organization. I learn about a program and how it works and then write a song.
I stay at the piano figuring it out.”
Ethan, appearing at ease being interviewed by Jay Leno or Oprah Winfrey, showed a musical interest that his parents, Hannah and Gene Bortnick, didn’t take seriously when the entertainer was 3 years old.
“I listened to Baby Einstein CDs and asked my mom and dad for piano lessons,” recalls Ethan, who last summer became the youngest musi cian with a PBS concert special. “I had a toy keyboard and was able to play a Mozart piece that I had heard.
“My mom and dad weren’t watching while I was at the keyboard and asked who was playing. When I said it was me, they said, `You’re getting a piano!’” The youngster got national attention with the help of neighbors, who contacted the Jay Leno staff.
Cameron Diaz, appearing on the same initial program, suggested the boy to her agent.
Ethan, who plays by ear and extends his knowledge with two private teachers, attends Jewish day school in Florida. While he is on the road, he takes along assignments and connects with the classroom through Skype.
“Basically, I’m a regular kid who plays a little piano,” says Ethan, already thinking about his bar mitz vah and whether it can take place in Israel, where his mother lived before coming to the U.S. “I love to play video games with my brother, read, go to school and eat.”
Ethan’s commitment to community was inspired by his brother, Nathan, 5, who had heart surgery at a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Ethan, who wrote a song for the network and performed at an organization event, also joined music’s biggest names as the young est member of the all-star “We Are The World 25 For Haiti” recording.
“My goal is to help a lot of people,” Ethan says.
Ethan Bortnick performed Feb. 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre