I was on a routine visit to the UB
Archives when I observed a young woman at the
receptionist’s desk carefully handling a handwritten musical
score, her gloved hands gingerly sorting through the pile of
fragile papers. Curious, I asked the woman (who turned out to be
Gabrielle Carlo, a musician and student assistant pursuing a
master’s degree in library science) about the papers. She
told me they were scores for voice and organ that had belonged to
Samuel Luskin, the long-serving choir director at Temple Beth El in
Tonawanda, N.Y., who died in 1959. Luskin’s collection of
scores, notebooks, correspondence and what Gabrielle called
“special objects” recently came to UB in a joint
program with the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project.
As we chatted, Gabrielle suddenly held up an old-fashioned key
with a rounded head that had also belonged to Luskin. “Where
does this lead to and what does it mean?” she wondered aloud.
Somewhat akin to Harry Potter’s winged key (though a little
less ornate), it provoked in my mind the image of unlocking a
previously unexplored world. Unable to dislodge these thoughts, I
found myself researching it later.
Luskin’s key may have opened an arc containing the Torah,
as some have speculated, or perhaps it led to an unknown repository
of his other musical compositions. Either explanation is plausible:
Luskin spent much of his life composing and arranging music, both
religious and secular. And he helped generations of boys prepare
for their bar mitzvahs. But maybe the purpose was more prosaic.
Perhaps the key opened an old clock or unlocked a strong box
containing his insurance policies. Clues to the key’s
significance may be hidden in the four other boxes that remain to
be sorted. In the meantime, Gabrielle told me a few days after our
visit, she savors the mystery.
I thought a lot about Luskin’s key, and how it might serve
as a metaphor for unlocking our own sensibilities, as we embarked
on redesigning our magazine. It’s been almost a year since we
began planning the redesign. During our dozens of team meetings, we
endeavored to reveal what is essential to developing more
compelling content for our readers. If our symbolic key worked,
you’ll see our new reader-centric approach reflected in our
features and in regularly occurring departments. One of these
departments, Objectology, takes an object associated with UB and
either deconstructs it into its component parts or shows its
evolution, as with our lighthearted depiction of the UB
Still, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. As with Luskin’s vintage key, a certain mystery may always remain.
Ann Whitcher Gentzke, Editor