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

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



I went down a rabbi hole.

Here’s the hole:

1. I’m reading a New York Times article about Shaker Heights schools, about how some blacks at Shaker want out, moving to academically highly rated Solon. The NYT writer is Debra Kamin. [The story: “Could Black Flight Change a Model of Integration?” January 15, 2023.] I check out Debra’s bio because her last name sounds familiar. Yes, she is the daughter of Ben Kamin, who was head rabbi at The Temple Tifereth Israel, Cleveland, in the late 1990s. Rabbi Kamin was a heavyset ebullient man. He told the religious-school kids “wake up and smell the Torah!” He also wrote op-eds for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, often about growing up in Israel. And he said he wanted to be the commissioner of baseball. In 2000 Kamin got fired. Nobody said why. Simply fired. And he moved to San Diego, where he led a congregation.

2. In 2015 Kamin writes in the San Diego Jewish World how he got blindsided by The Temple in 2000 and was shit-canned via letter, read aloud by the the local Jewish funeral-parlor director. Rabbi Kamin boasts in the San Diego article:

The rabbi’s study of The Temple in Cleveland was a national seat of power and prestige. Everyone in town knew me, many sought me out. Sports franchise owners had confided to me in this office. The African-American mayor had sat across from me, asking for Jewish support and money as he sought reelection. I had spoken by telephone more than once from this office with the Commissioner of Baseball. The Governor of Ohio had called me to offer congratulations on the day I ascended to the position I was now about to lose.”

3. 2017. Kamin’s older daughter, Sari, writes in Medium that she was sexually harassed by James Toback, a well-known film director. Sari was trying to be an actor in New York City. Sari’s story gets some national attention. [Medium headline: “I am one of the countless women film maker James Toback has harassed.”]

4. Kamin jumps in with an essay in the San Diego Union Tribune, 2017, saying it’s bad what his daughter is going through, and bad for him too:

“What does a father feel when he reads and hears his daughter’s harrowing story in various media and watches her, through his tearful eyes, stand up on national television on behalf of her own dignity and that of so many incalculable victims of this plague-perversion?

“The first thing he does not feel is any celebratory sense that his daughter is suddenly the subject of national interest and scrutiny. Pain should not derive fame; it needs to be released in the private corners of one’s subconscious, it needs to be mended with and by the mindful. It unequivocally needs to be reported — I’m proud of my child. But her pain needs more so to be redeemed. She needs to fulfill herself more than she is obligated to service CNN, NBC, and the New York Times.”

5. In 2019 Kamin is expelled from the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the Reform Jewish conclave) for violation of “sexual boundaries.” [Cleveland Jewish News: “CCAR expels former Cleveland Rabbi Benjamin A. Kamin.”]

6. Kamin’s obit, 2021, dead at 68 from heart complications. Daughter Debra says her dad was “a charming and complicated person.” [Cleveland Jewish News: “Former TTTI Rabbi Kamin recalled for humor and speaking ability.”]

7. Debra again, in Conde Nast Traveler, 2021, reiterates her dad was complicated. [“Getting to Know My Late Father Through his Travel Journals”]:

“My father, Ben Kamin, was a brilliant enigma. He was a rabbi and an author, an occasional journalist, and a late-life social justice warrior whose narcissism choked his full potential. He was stymied, both as parent and professional, by a desperate need for adulation that sent him tilting at windmills when confronted with even a whiff of criticism. Safe in the shell of his ego, my father was gregarious, and generous. He was my confidante and steadfast cheerleader. But if that shell took a blow, he retaliated with searing cruelty. Like skin on the body, my memories of him are mottled with these scars.

“Though my dad lifted up thousands—he led congregations, and wrote a dozen books and countless sermons—he let me and my family down. When I was 16, he was fired from his rabbinical pulpit, a public, gossip-fodder ejection that he would spend decades refusing accountability for. This was the first crack that divided my relationship with him into poles of before and after.

“To escape his shame, he pushed away those who reminded him of it, first divorcing my mother, then alienating my sister and I. As an adult, my relationship with my father was one of low expectations and high boundaries. With those guardrails in place, we found a way to stay connected. After a childhood of closeness, I could only allow him in my life by keeping him at an arm’s length.”


I ran a draft of the above by my wife, who wasn’t interested. That’s for the best probably. I was just reading an article in the New York Times about Shaker schools and fell in a rabbi hole.

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1 Stephen Mumford { 02.08.23 at 10:40 am }

The daughter writes beautifully and insightfully. If I still subscribed to Pravda… er, I mean, the New York Times, I’d run to read her article.

I think you successfully chased down that rabbi(t).

2 Ken { 02.08.23 at 1:01 pm }

I’m sure the rabbi had some idea why he was let go.
I recall he’d sign his secular PD columns only “Ben Kamin,” without the title “Rabbi.” He must have thought the title would turn off potential readers but I saw it as disrespectful to the rabbinical profession.

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