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Courtney Naliboff


Students recording "Songs of Darkness and Hope" in a local church

In the small Maine town of Oakland, two music teachers collaborated with 400 choral students, the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine (HHRC), and a professional producer and sound engineer to record and release a one-of-a-kind album: “Songs of Darkness and Hope” (Affetto Recordings 2017).

The CD’s 11 tracks include traditional Hebrew music from Eastern Europe and Israel (“Shiru L'Adonai,” “Dodi Li” and “Ani Ma'amin;” concentration camp songs “Dachau Lied” and “Peat Bog Soldiers,” which arose in the camps as songs of rebellion and internal support for the captives; modern...

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Preschooler looking at hanukkiyah with unlit candles in it

As one of a pair of Jewish kids in my rural Maine elementary school class, I was conscripted each winter to teach my classmates about Hanukkah. I'd dutifully bring in my wax-encrusted brass menorah, a few wooden dreidels, and a bag of foil-covered chocolate gelt to sweeten my description of those plucky Maccabees and the miracle of the oil.

While my teachers’ intent to share cultures outside of the Protestant norm was pure, the annual presentation only set me farther apart from my classmates. Sometimes it opened the door to actual bullying, as when classmates drew swastikas on...

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Closeup of the middle of a fiddle

Growing up Jewish in central Maine, I had few opportunities to connect with my religion and culture. While I had Jewish friends from music camp, few of my public-school classmates had any sense of what being Jewish meant, beyond knowing that it somehow made me different from them.

And I lacked the tools to be a cultural ambassador.

That changed when my grandmother, who lived in San Diego, sent me a cassette tape of the Second Avenue Klezmer Ensemble. Suddenly, our minivan was filled with wailing clarinets, the startling sound of the ahava raba scale (the almost minor scale...

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Elaborately set seder table awaiting diners

In my childhood, as one of a few Jewish families in central Maine, our family celebrated Passover by ourselves. Although it has always been my favorite holiday, I never invited any of my non-Jewish friends – which was all of my friends – to join us when I was a child.

Since moving to a tiny island off the coast of Maine 12 years ago, though, I've made it a tradition to host a giant seder, inviting island friends from all walks of life to fill the table. There are farmers and fishermen, new residents and people whose families fought in the Revolutionary War as islanders. The local...

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Closeup of a hand holding a sparkler

The gym at our tiny YMCA in North Haven, Maine is packed every January with enthusiastic exercisers motivated by their New Year’s resolutions. The herd thins by February, and by March only the stalwarts remain.

New Year's resolutions grow out of a desire to identify areas of needed self-improvement and to take remedial action in the coming year. Nearly half of Americans make such resolutions, but according to a 2013 column in Forbes, only 8% actualize their resolutions. One major reason cited in the column is people’s tendency to set overly ambitious goals.

Do not despair....

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