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The Eulogizer: Renowned conductor and Israeli Knesset member

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JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Yakov Kreizberg, 51, conductor

Yakov Kreizberg, an internationally known conductor who left the Soviet Union in the 1970s and later divided his time between Europe and the United States, died March 15 at his home in Monte Carlo after a long illness. He was 51.

At the time of his death, Kreizberg was chief conductor and artistic adviser of the Netherlands Philharmonic and Netherlands Chamber Orchestras. He also had led, at various times, the Theater Krefeld Mönchengladbach, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Komische Oper in Berlin, Wiener Symphoniker and Monte Carlo Philharmonic.

He performed as a guest conductor with leading European and American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras, but “never succeeded in securing the music directorship in the U.S. that his supporters felt he deserved,” the British newspaper The Guardian wrote in an obituary.

The Guardian described Kreizberg as having “carved a significant reputation for himself both in the opera house and on the concert platform.”

British concert pianist Stephen Hough wrote that Kreizberg was “a musician of great elegance and passion, with an intense focus and a warm, lovable personality — not a series of qualities automatically found combined in the same person.”

Author and cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht said Kreizberg was “full of vim and ambition, brilliant in Russian and Czech repertory, [and] a courteous man with the sweetest smile.”

Kreizberg was born in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and studied under Ilya Musin. He immigrated to the United States in 1976 and studied with leading American conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Erich Leinsdorf and Michael Tilson Thomas. He won first prize in a leading conducting competition in 1986, and began his career at the Krefeld Opera and Lower Rhine Symphony Orchestra.

From there he went to the Komische Opera in Berlin but left in 2001 following disputes over the range and scale of the company’s work. During that time, he also was principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and took it to Carnegie Hall. His British operatic debut was at Glyndebourne in 1992 with Janacek’s Jenufa, and The Guardian said he “impressed critics and audiences alike by bringing an ideal blend of incisive ferocity and searing lyricism to the score.”

His recordings included Shostakovich and Dvorak symphonies, Symphony No. 4 by Franz Schmidt and a number of discs with violinist Julia Fischer. Kreizberg conducted his final concert with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra on Feb. 14 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The program included Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Kreizberg came from a musical family. His brother is conductor Semyon Bychkov and his wife, Amy Andersson, also is a conductor.

 Ze’ev Boim, 67, Israeli Knesset member

Kadima Party Knesset member died March 18 at 67 in a Milwaukee hospital, where he was being treated for cancer. A state funeral was held for Boim in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu credited Boim “with advancing education, values and love of the land and people of Israel,” and Kadima Party Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said Boim “always represented the values which Zionism was founded upon.”

Herman Wouk’s wife, Yiddish theater actress

Betty Wouk, 90, the wife and literary agent of novelist Herman Wouk, died March 17. She met Wouk during World War II when the ship on which he was serving, the USS Zane, was undergoing repairs in San Pedro, Calif. She converted to Judaism when they married in 1945.

Longtime Yiddish theater actress Shifra Lerer, a “winsome and wide-ranging trouper of the Yiddish theater” for 90 years after being discovered at age 5 in Argentina by Boris Thomashefsky, died March 12 in Manhattan at 95.

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