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Zane Zalis
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


By Rhonda Spivak, October 1, 2009

I - no doubt like virtually  everyone else in  our community- read Bartley Kives’s “Hold Your Applause” column in  the Winnipeg Free Press, in which  Kives made it  awfully clear that he didn’t at all like Zane Zalis’s Holocaust themed Oratorio  performed at the  Winnipeg Concert Hall on May 21, 2009. Those who haven’t read it can read it here.

In response, let me tell you what I believe and what I can’t quite believe.

I believe that  Bartley Kives  really disliked the performance  and  also I believe that he, like anyone else in a free and democratic society, can voice his opinion in  a robust and vigorous manner—a right that he certainly  exercised.

I believe he has every right to tell readers that he didn’t like the performance and he wouldn’t recommend going to see it.

However, I find it hard to believe that he actually wrote “ I may never forgive Zalis for creating a clumsy and vainglorious tribute not just in [ the name of  Kives’s great aunt who died in a Nazi concentration camp] but in the name of six million Jews and nine million other Europeans who died in ghettos and trains and camps and marches and gas chambers(emphasis).”

It’s unfortunate that you wrote that Bartley—because  there are many Holocaust survivors, those who  supported the performance and who attended,  and their families, who were genuinely moved that Zane Zalis  invested the time and effort into trying to understand their experience and passing on  the lessons of the Holocaust  through the power of his music.  By saying you can never forgive Zalis for the ‘vainglorious’ tribute, presumably you also can’t forgive these survivors and their families for backing or supporting this project.  How you can insult all of those survivors who felt it was a fitting tribute to the loss of their loved ones that this performance occur, is really beyond belief.  Even if you didn’t like the performance—to say that “you can’t forgive” in this context is  something I just can’t believe you wrote.

But- it got worse, Bartley.  You ended your column by writing:  “Winnipeg has a large, mature and robust arts community. Nobody need praise rubbish in this town, lest it be performed again. ”(emphasis added)

To call  the performance  none other than garbage, is certainly as ‘robust’ a criticism anyone could ever imagine being written.
But, there is something more that I can’t quite believe.  I can’t quite believe  that you actually  suggested  that Zane Zalis’s work should  not be performed again.  Never Again in the context of a Holocaust themed oratorio is offensive. You certainly don’t have to ever see the performance again, but neither should you  desire to ensure that others who were moved by it, or could learn something from it, ought never  have the opportunity to see it or see it again.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.