Guests at the recent Gallery Night sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Renaissance Group for young adults were treated to background music performed by internationally acclaimed cellist Steve Kramer
Kramer, currently on staff at the Nelly Berman School of Music, volunteered his time and musical abilities to perform for guests at this inaugural event at the Philadelphia Ethical Society. The event exposed more than 75 young men and women to the work of Jewish artists, both established and emerging.
Kramer, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, is a fourth-generation musician whose first instrument was the violin. At the age of 3, he began playing with Vladimir Yeshayavitch Novak, an eminent Soviet Jewish violinist and teacher, during Novak's tenure with the Kiev Philharmonic.
At the age of 5, Kramer was introduced to the cello, learning from the highly regarded Scandinavian cellist Erling Blondal Bengtsson. Bengtsson has Philadelphia connections, having served as first assistant to the late Russian-born cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky, who taught at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Kramer, like his musical mentors, has performed as a soloist and in ensembles and orchestras around the world. He has won numerous competitions and awards for his performances of both orchestral and chamber music. He said he accepted Renaissance director Rachel Sigman's invitation to volunteer for the gallery event because of his interest in teaching the importance and joy of classical music to young people.
At 33, Kramer is the same age as many of the Renaissance group members and guests. "I saw this performance as an ideal opportunity to contribute my talents and share my love of music with my peers in the Jewish community," he said.
Also volunteering his time and expertise was Sande Maslow, founder of the Maslow Art Group. Maslow, the former director of art sales and corporate art for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, approached Sigman, who was a former professional colleague, with the concept of putting together an art exposition showing the talents of Jewish artists. "We put together 28 pieces, reflecting a variety of themes, subjects and artistic styles," he said, adding that all pieces were available for purchase with proceeds benefitting Federation. "The evening was so well-received, that we look forward to making this an annual event."
Sigman said that events like the Gallery Night represent Renaissance's goal to offer a mix of social and social-action programming that is relevant to current and prospective members in the 45 and younger age group. The 2011-2012 program year kicked off with a capacity crowd for a Rosh Hashanah dinner at Supper restaurant in Philadelphia.
In October, 35 members traveled to Northeast Philadelphia to be inspired by Jewish Relief Agency's executive director, Amy Krulik, pack and deliver food for JRA clients and then celebrate the completion of this mitzvah project while cheering on the Eagles at a local sports bar.
Coming on the heels of the November artists' expo is the affinity group's Dec. 18 mitzvah project at the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia. Renaissance members and their guests will meet at the JCC, located at 10100 Jamison Ave., and share a light breakfast followed by a tour of the facility.
They will get to work, painting a mural, preparing and decorating gift bags for a Chanukah event, prepare soup or dinner as part of the center's Cook for a Friend program and help to pack breakfast bags to be delivered to area older adults. Volunteers are asked to bring single-serving breakfast items such as tea, apple sauce, cereal and granola bars to be donated.
To volunteer for Renaissance's Chanukah mitzvah activity or to learn about upcoming group programs and events, call Rachel Sigman at 215-832-05852 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Online registration for the Dec. 18 event is available at: www.jewishphilly.org/mitzvah .