Arabbi, a school superintendent and a conductor walk into a synagogue.

It's not a prelude to a joke; Rabbi Albert Plotkin, Tom Horne and Michael Orlikoff are three of the many participants in "Carnegie Hall West," an art-and-music fundraiser for the Arizona Jewish Historical Society.

The Dec. 18 event will also honor Risa Mallin, the former executive director of the AJHS who retired in August.

"I was very surprised, but very pleased," Mallin says.

"She's had a tremendous impact," Plotkin says of Mallin. "She was the organizer, the fundraiser and the catalyst. She really put (AJHS) on its feet."

Mallin and Orlikoff, the event's musical director, conceived the project as a fundraiser early last year while Mallin was still executive director. After her retirement, the committee "decided to make this particular event to honor the outgoing director," says Dr. Lawrence Bell, the current AJHS executive director. Mallin "really made the organization a major organization within the community. It provides a good foundation for us, and what we're doing."

The planners have gathered a wide range of performers and participants for the event. Orlikoff has conducted the local Metro Pops Orchestra for 16 seasons and teaches music to students in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. Former U.S. Rep. Sam Coppersmith will be the master of ceremonies. The musical performers include Plotkin; Horne, who is state superintendent of schools; Debbie Lavinsky, wife of Rabbi Arthur Lavinsky of Beth El Congregation; Judy Mallin, sister-in-law of Risa Mallin; soprano Thelma Feller; drummer Andy Ziker; and bassist Jon Christensen.

Horne, who will perform George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as part of the program, is an accomplished pianist who performed on the radio as a teenager back in New York City. Locally, he has played at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Herberger Theater Center.

He is participating "because I think it's important to support the Jewish Historical Society. I think when we know our history, we know what there is to be proud of. I'm a great believer in the study of history in general, and I think Jewish people need to know their own history, including our own local history."

The art component of "Carnegie Hall West" will include works by Ed Dubrow, Sarah Hurwitz, Nancy Kravetz, Judy Lebeau, Diane Scholar and Joel Zolondek. All the pieces in the exhibit will be for sale; a portion of the proceeds will go to AJHS.

Proceeds from "Carnegie Hall West" will fund the many projects of AJHS, including archiving, an oral history project, the speakers' bureau and restoration on the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, the site of Phoenix's first synagogue.

Plotkin, who will sing two Jewish songs, an operatic piece and "Old Man River" from the musical "Show Boat," says, "I sing on occasion, for an occasion. I started the program to buy the center, so when I was asked to sing for the center, there was no getting out of it. I'm just delighted."

Bell says that if "Carnegie Hall West" is successful, it may become an annual event.

Orlikoff says, "It's important that we are providing an opportunity for the community to experience our excellent musicians and visual artists sharing their talents and skills with the entire community. What a win-win situation for the AJHS - it's a fundraiser and it brings people together. It's a great opportunity."

  • Details

  • What: "Carnegie Hall West"
  • Who: Arizona Jewish Historical Society
  • When: 1:30-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18
  • Where: Beth El Congregation, 1118 W. Glendale Ave., Phoenix
  • Cost: $50-$500
  • Call 602-241-7870

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