In 1975, Bernard R. Hollander, a Cleveland lawyer and cantor, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 48. After his death, his family discovered these words scribbled on a piece of paper in his desk: “Beyond the welfare of one’s family and friends, the enhancement of the lives of others and those to come must be the real object of life.”
His daughter, Anita Hollander, took her father’s words to heart. She has dedicated her life to the enhancement of others through art and advocacy, in a career that hasincluded singing, acting, producing, directing, musical theater, television drama, composing, teaching and conducting. For the past 17 years, Anita has also been the director of The Village Temple Children’s Choir, and for the past 18 months, our soloist for Shabbat services (alternating with Gerard Edery) and creator of marvelous new melodies for our liturgy, including her moving rendition of Mi Shebeirach and ingenious use of beloved Joni Mitchell and James Taylor melodies.
Yet, Anita had the fortitude and wisdom (and talent) to treat adversity as another aspect of her artistic purpose. Instead of being stopped by having her leg amputated, she has used this experience to deepen and broaden her gifts. Through her work in all three actors’ unions, she has been a tireless advocate of fellow performers with disabilities.
In addition to her insanely busy artistic career, Anita has been a prominent advocate on behalf of people with disabilities, through appearances at the UN and The White House as well as in schools and theaters, ranging from Off-Broadway to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Her original one-woman musical, “Still Standing: A Musical Survival Guide for Life’s Catastrophes,” has been widely acclaimed. The New York Times pronounced her “provocative, funny, communicative, and beautifully polished,” adding that “she has a wide range of vocal colors, which she uses with dramatic sensibility as well as comic insight…All this plus a charming presence that flavors everything she does.”
This multi-faceted career is even more remarkable in light of Anita’s personal story. She was diagnosed at the age of 21 with neurofibrosarcoma, a form of cancer of the nerves. After surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and 5 years of walking and dancing in a leg brace, the cancer recurred. At age 26 her left leg was amputated.
Yet, Anita had the fortitude and wisdom (and talent) to treat adversity as another aspect of her artistic purpose. Instead of being stopped by having her leg amputated, she has used this experience to deepen and broaden her gifts. Through her work in all three actors’ unions, she has been a tireless advocate of fellow performers with disabilities. She also built a wonderful family with her husband, the actor Paul Hamilton and her daughter, Holland Hamilton, who inherited her parents’ theatrical gifts (and who is also a former member and now sometimes leader of the Village Temple Children’s Choir!)
We at The Village Temple have been so lucky to be the beneficiaries of Anita’s talents and humble soul. “I’m grateful to Rabbi Koster for the assignment
and encouragement,” she said, when asked about the compositions she’s done for Shabbat services. As for the children’s choir, Anita says, “They inspire me. I’ve learned so much from these kids and watched a
generation grow up!”
A superstar but no diva, Anita is a generous collaborator, working week-in and week-out with our own Lisa Loren on flute, occasionally with classical guitarist Diego Campo, and with the cadre of talented young musicians she has brought into our services (Marina Kifferstein on violin; Daniel Stein
on bass; Eli Salamon-Abrams on cello; Romain Rachline on guitar; and Adrianna Mateo on violin).
In 2010, Anita wrote a beautiful song based on the words her father left behind; his legacy is imprinted in the life his daughter has lived.