Cole Porter’s “Jewish Tunes”

Nov. 20 2020

One of the wonders of modern Jewish history is the way that certain fields of human activity have, for periods of time, been almost entirely the domain of Jews. This was true of psychoanalysis in early 20th-century Vienna, photography in much of pre-World War II Central Europe, the movie business in the early days of Hollywood, and, of course, the golden age of American musical theater. But then, writes Terry Teachout, there was Cole Porter:

From Rodgers and Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim, virtually all of the great pre-rock Broadway songwriters were first- and second-generation Jews who were either born in New York or grew up there. None was observant, but they were all very much aware of their Jewish roots. Cole Porter was a rare exception to this rule. Like his admiring friend Irving Berlin, he wrote both the words and the music to his songs, but the two men had nothing else in common. Berlin had been born in the Pale of Settlement. Porter was the only child of a wealthy family of WASPs from Indiana and was groomed by his father to be a lawyer. But he studied music at Yale and decided to become a professional songwriter instead.

[One] of Porter’s songwriting fingerprints is hinted at in a remark he made to Richard Rodgers when he claimed to have discovered “the secret of writing hits. . . . I’ll write Jewish tunes.” Porter almost certainly had in mind his marked propensity to fluctuate at will between major and minor modes, a familiar characteristic of Jewish folk music. “I Love Paris,” for instance, begins in the minor key, then shifts to major with the suddenness of a sunrise as the singer explains that he loves Paris “every moment, . . . because my love is near.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewish History, Broadway, Jewish music

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations