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Weekend Preview May 19-24
Bob Dylan tributes, Deborah Voigt, Tom Paxton, Bill Kirchen, John Kirk and Trish Miller

Celebrating Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday in Style
Paying tribute to the greatest rock songwriter ever

FILM REVIEW: In a Better World and Of Gods and Men
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Deborah Voigt Headlines Mahaiwe Gala
Opera star to sing arias, show tunes on Saturday, May 21

Famed Spiritual Teacher to Speak on Nonviolence
Mother Maya in free talk at Sruti Yoga in Great Barrington, Mass., on Friday May 20 at 7pm

Special Effects Wizard to Be Honored by Film Festival
Doug Trumbull to be Feted by BIFF

Weekend Preview May 12-16
Cultural Highlights of the Berkshire Weekend

Talk about a small world
Elaine and I grew up together, but only just recently met....

Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
A Farewell from Publisher Michael Zivyak

twiGs Branches Out
Lenox boutique launches new e-tail site

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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As the city of Pittsfield rushes to get ready for the summer tourist season, touting newly opened theaters and restaurants and residential and commercial renovations all leading to a much-touted revival of its downtown, the city has suddenly become plagued by a series of anti-Jewish vandalism attacks that could mar the city's reputation for welcoming tourists, many of whom come from the heavily Jewish New York metropolitan region, to its gritty, post-industrial streets.

The lead, top-of-the-fold story in today's Berkshire Eagle reported on what as of yesterday was the latest in a series of growing attacks featuring Nazi swastikas targeting Jewish schools and businesses throughout the city ("Swastikas scrawled in Pittsfield ").

Yesterday's attack, which according to the Eagle story occurred in broad daylight, targeted a Jewish-owned law firm. A previous attack hit the region's only Jewish day school, when vandals painted three Nazi swastikas on playground equipment at the city's Sinai Academy.

In a word-of-mouth update, it seems that another building in downtown Pittsfield was hit in the last 24 hours, as reports say that the rear of the CompuWorks building was marred by giant spray-painted swastikas -- the symbol of Nazi Germany and the neo-Nazi movement (although the Eagle for some bizarre reason today felt it necessary to raise the possibility that this was a Hindu-inspired attack, pointing out that the Hindu religion uses a similar symbol, but failing to note that the Hindu reverses the direction of the crooked cross of Nazism).

In the midst of these serial episodes of anti-Semitic vandalism, a popular Pittsfield-based radio host and columnist has reportedly used the airwaves and his local opinion column to defend the right of vandals to express their hate as consititutionally protected acts of free speech, rather than the hate crimes that the Pittsfield city council says they are.

While the city council has spoken up, and police claim to be investigating these attacks, and a few letter writers and religious leaders have condemned them, the Eagle has yet to report any comment from any of city government's leaders, including the mayor.

Needless to say, all these actions and comments and lack of comments together will add up to a hard-sell for Pittsfield this summer, the very summer when the city was hoping to put a new face out toward the world and the millions of visitors who flock to the bucolic Berkshires. Especially once word gets out of the city, and picked up by regional and national press, that elements in the city are inhospitable to Jews or insensitive to the pain they still bear from centuries of persecution and pogroms culminating in the Nazi Holocaust, of which the swastika is still the most powerful, lasting symbol.

And this isn't all. Three doors of the Pittsfield YMCA were desecrated with swastikas last week. One door faced North Street, right across from the building owned by Larry Rosenthal and Joyce Bernstein where these adventurous entrepreneurs are rebuilding the first floor into the Spice restaurant/coffee bar/bistro. Must be quite a confirmation of their investment to see a swastika welcoming them to North Street.

In any case, it took a few days before the YMCA staff removed the offensive symbols. In fact, it took two visits to YMCA management to get it done.

As yet, this incident hasn't been reported in the local press. No doubt, Dan Valenti, the insensitive radio host you allude to, will defend the perpetrators as overwrought proponents of free speech rather than Vandals (in the old sense, with a capital V).
David Scribner, Pittsfield, Mass.

Seth Rogovoy adds:

I received an e-mail from Pittsfield mayor James Ruberto, in which he assures me that he has spoken out against the siege of swastikas in his city. I pointed out to him that I never wrote that he hadn't done this -- only that the Berkshire Eagle had yet to report that he had. In any case, for the record, Mayor Ruberto says, "I deplore these acts, and have said so at every public affair that I have attended since the first occurrence. Please get a copy of 'Breakfast with the Mayor' from PACTV, a copy of my visit to the Dan Valenti Show from WBRK, or speak with anyone from the Rotary Club, where I recently was the invited guest speaker."

I have invited Mayor Ruberto to release a transcript of his comments to these groups, or to provide a written statement, either of which I will be more than glad to post here.

He has yet to respond to or even acknowledge this invitation.


I just want you to know that as a Jew and a long time visiter to the Berkshires,and as someone who has enjoyed the fine restaurants in Pitsfield, this vandalism will not deter me, and I will bring more of my Jewish friends. ( more then I normally do) If this vandalism was ment to intimidate the Jewish population and visitors to Pittsfiled, I hope it backfires .
I would like to express my appreiation to the town of PIttsfield and the communities that have planted flowers and shown support for an anti-hate movement.
Ted Kahn

If A tree falls in the woods…

On Halloween last year I took my kids trick or treating in an affluent Berkshire town. It’s a family tradition .Ironically some years I see my actual neighbors of the next door variety down there too. The kids had a good time, the costumes were great. As we were leaving the area we passed a man apparently walking his dog. The man was staring at a house. Upon closer inspection we saw the house had been vandalized by spray painted swastikas. So there I was dressed like “The Devil” in a car full of goblins munching upscale candy facing a symbol of real evil! “Stupid kids” I thought to myself and then a funny thing happened. Nothing .I forgot about it, until now. Call me insensitive but that was it. I don't think I'm anti-semetic. No I don't think The Holocaust a Zionist fantasy. Maybe I read the wrong papers or talk to the wrong people but I didn’t hear another word about it or for that matter about my costume.

John Higgiston
Berkshire County


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