Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



(This is a rerun, just for Rosh Hashanah. A previous version appeared here 9/23/09. No, I’m not running out of stuff. Side B, below, is new.)

Some Jews don’t like choirs in temple. Some can’t stand guitars.  Some can’t stand temple.

I have a friend who is down on “temple Jews” — people who actively participate in synagogue life.  They’re too conventional for her, which is saying a lot, because she’s very conventional (college decals on the car, Heinen’s fried chicken in the frig).

I’m a temple Jew, at least on occasion.  My family belonged to Silver’s Temple, named for Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.  The temple’s official name was The Temple.

“Which temple do you belong to?”


Rabbi Abba Hillel SIlver

“The Temple” morphed into The Temple-Tifereth Israel  after the rabbi and his son (also a rabbi) died.  My family didn’t really fit in there in the 1960s, because many of the members were a lot richer, many from Shaker Heights.  One Shaker kid arrived in a station wagon driven by a chauffeur with a shiny-visor cap.

My younger son went through religious high school at The Temple.  The place had mellowed by then. Nobody cared anymore if you were Deutsche Yehudim — one of Cleveland’s original German Jewish settlers.  When my parents left Silver’s, they went to Temple Emanu El, a middle-class temple in the ‘burbs.  My mom taught macramé there and volunteered in the sisterhood gift shop.  She collected “donor points” for volunteering — points that reduced her admission costs to the annual temple dance.

Yiddishe Cup has played some of these temple dances.  Not so many lately because few people want to dance at temples. They’d rather stay home and watch people dance on TV.

My parents joined the heymish synagogue after I was confirmed, so I didn’t much care what they did. (Heymish — the word — should be banned, by the way. Too heymish.)

On the High Holidays, I went with my parents to the heymish temple, or else with my friends to Hillel at Case Western Reserve. After Rosh Hashanah services, we’d eat at Tommy’s restaurant.  Years ago an older woman told me, “I joined Fairmount Temple because I like the music there.”  She had other reasons too: Brith Emeth didn’t have enough money to carpet, she said, and she liked Fairmount Temple’s classic Reform music.  That stuck with me: joining a temple for the music.

I belong to Park Synagogue because, among other things, I like the music and the rabbi, who likes my band.  Yiddishe Cup is scheduled to play Park Synagogue’s holiday celebrations until about 5800. I once played a holiday gig at another shul, where the rabbi left early to attend a rock concert. He said he was seeing a famous band.  I wasn’t impressed.  The rabbi was walking out on Yiddishe Cup!

It’s impossible to be a rabbi.

Park Synagogue uses a choir once in a while.  Some Jews think a choir is super-goyish.  Not true.  In Europe there were synagogue choirs as far back as the 1500s.

Some temples have rock bands. (I have subbed in several rockin’ shabbat bands.) Rock on. Some congregants really enjoy that groove.

I can see picking a shul for the music.  Why not.  I enjoy hearing the Israeli cantor my shul imports for the Rosh Hashanah overflow.  Either way I’m OK —  main sanctuary (with the regular cantor) or overflow auditorium.  SRO in both places.  Who’s got extra tickets?

Happy New Year.

 B'nai Big Tent

Congregation B’nai Big Tent


Gear shift . . .


When I was up in North Dakota, I filled my tank for under $3/gallon. I actually thought about moving there, but I don’t want to live in a trailer, and there is a serious lack of lox.

But I do love cheap gas. I own a pickup and two cars.

I love natural gas too. It’s all organic — all Cs and Os.

I want “in” on the Utica shale play here in Ohio. Drillers from Oklahoma and Texas are here. Why should they have all the fun?

frackers go vestPrimer for me: OSU means Oklahoma State, not Ohio State; OU is the University of Oklahoma, not Ohio University. I need to learn this.  Today I’m buying some Western wear and tomorrow I’m heading down to Marietta, Ohio, which is a lot closer than Williston, North Dakota.

Meet the frackers. I’m trying to!

File this under fake profiles.

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1 Ted { 09.24.14 at 9:20 am }

That is a funny profile. Actually gas is more expensive up in North Dakota — lack of refining capacity.

I had somebody call me “so shtark” the other day. That is a Yeshivish word I’d never heard before. Do you know what it means?

2 David Korn { 09.24.14 at 11:21 am }

First, to Ted: I’m not sure if the “shtark” comment was made as a compliment, but it means strong. But, as I recall its usage long ago (I haven’t heard it used since I was a kid and around Yiddish-speaking parents and their contemporaries), there was a negative connotation. A shtarker was a tough, a thug, a guy who thought with his fists.

Anyway, “Temple Jews” is not a rerun — It is a classic, one of the best. To one and all, my RH gesture (sincere) intended to pave the way for reflection and atonement: If I have offended you in any way over the past year, I apologize, and commit myself to doing better throughout the new year. Happy 5775.

3 don friedman { 09.24.14 at 11:35 am }

The high holidays………I know college kids and some others who get high and go to services. It helps them through the boredom. And the insincerity of people who knock their closed fist on their hearts to ask and receive forgiveness for their sins during the past year (o.k., not everyone), and then the very next day their peccadilloes resurface! It’s like hearing the Star Spangled Banner sung by song stylists….who remembers their names after the game! And who wants to hear the national anthem as a love song! But that’s another story, right Bert.

4 Ken G. { 09.24.14 at 1:22 pm }

First of all, I heard you have a contract with R. Skoff to perform through 5806.

I guess you mean “Tifereth Israel” got included in the synagogue’s name after the Silvers died, but you do, of course, realize it’s the original names, right?

You skipped over Beth Am terribly quickly. You were on your way to a fire? I thought Beth Am had a monopoly on the term “heimishe”….

Tommy’s after a Rosh Hashanah service…. Imagine if all people went there after the service….

I know there were synagogue choirs centuries ago, but I’m sure they were all men for much of that time. I just read B’nai Jeshurun in “the great PP” only allows Jews in the HH choir, while Park certainly has some – in the Shabbat choir, too.

To those who believe we only had the two Temples in Jerusalem and therefore should not use the word as an acronym for synagogue – you must hate the term “The Temple.”

5 Mark Schilling { 09.27.14 at 9:52 am }

You’ve been doing this for more than five years? I flashed back to my 9/09 comment about my dad and I choosing a church in Elyria, circa 1966, because we liked the cushions on the pews. Why do I remember stuff like this — and not where I put my reading glasses 30 seconds ago?

6 Bert Stratton { 09.27.14 at 10:24 am }

To Mark Schilling:

Yes, I’ve been doing this blog more than five years. You gave me the “green light,” as I recall.

Research department . . .

1. Bert email to Mark, 4/18/09

“Here’s a little writing project. Check it out. I’m thinking of putting this stuff on a blog on Yiddishe Cup’s site. Maybe put up one excerpt a week, like clockwork. Like every Thursday. It’s a self-help guide to real estate and music.”

2. Mark email to Bert, 4/18/09

“This is great stuff! . . . Paring it right down to the bone, Elmore Leonard style (I’m imitating you).”

7 Bob Goldstein { 10.08.14 at 10:07 am }

Rock band in shul? Why yes! Our new cantor (well, 3 years or so new) in Houston does a Beatles Shabbat every year — prayers done to Beatles melodies. It’s SRO. He recently did a Dixieland Jazz Shabbat. He gets the “twice a year” people like me to show up more often. This is all happening at the oldest congregation in Texas, at one time Orthodox but Reform since 1874. But they didn’t have rock bands in the 1800s.

8 Dave Rowe { 10.24.14 at 10:08 am }

Down here in North Carolina, there’s no fracking going on, but there probably will be some soon – the governor, Senate and the House are all Republican – down here, in spite of the best efforts of us transplants, the rednecks still rule.

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