"A Jew from Riga" - By Greta Beigel

Book Description: A FATHER/DAUGHTER TALE: In this personal short memoir, journalist Greta Beigel chronicles her trip to Riga, capital of Latvia, a journey she undertakes in an effort to track the mysterious past of her much-maligned father. What prompted him as a young (handsome) soldier at the start of World War II to board ship for Southern Africa? And why, when she turned 10, did her Dad set sail from Africa to America without informing a sole. She soon learns a lot about Eastern Europe—and his youth. And discovers that Riga, the Baltic States' largest city rocks on with clubs, casinos and strip shows. Also cultural fests with the National Opera, Ballet and Symphony, as well as museum and gallery exhibits and gourmet shopping and dining. Then there's the dark side to the region…
"Oh Daddy I miss you. I only wish I could have told you how much when we were together. But then I hardly knew you. I only really knew you for five years and that's hardly enough time. But we did have fun. If you were here today I'd go with you to synagogue and let you buy me High Holiday tickets and we could stand and pray together. Then get matzo ball soup. And go to concerts. Rest in peace, my Jankela...From your Cookela

Greta Beigel, a child piano prodigy, was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in Johannesburg at the height of apartheid. Greta's mother Mary, struggling and stigmatized by divorce, lived vicariously through her talented daughter, all in an effort to gain acceptance from her largely unforgiving Jewish brethren. Greta survived many years of torment at the hands of her superambitious mother, but went on to win a prestigious overseas piano scholarship from the University of South Africa. You can hear part of her award-winning recital program on an Amazon MP3 featuring works by Bach and Glazunov. Thanks to that prize, Greta was able to escape Africa and a certain death and head for California where she reunited with long-lost Yiddishe father Richard, who had left the family when she was 10 and sailed to America. In Los Angeles Greta studied with pedagogue Aube Tzerko before metamorphosing into a music journalist, working for many years as staff writer and arts editor at the Los Angeles Times. She has contributed to the New York Times. To her surprise, Greta has published three Jewish-themed books: "Mewsings: My Life as a Jewish Cat," featuring cat Ketzel's take on modern Judaism--also recorded as an MP3 with Greta narrating and music by pianist Michael Hoppe; "A Jew from Riga" included here, and the recent "Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life,--A Memoir of Music & Survival," about growing up Jewish and a gifted pianist in Africa, circa the '50s and '60s.

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