Q.Have you ever performed in Israel?
Bell: Many times! Many times! My grandfather, my mother’s father, was born in Israel before it was Israel, and his father was one of the early pioneers in Israel.
And I have family there. My violin is also very connected to Israel. [His violin, the 1713 Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius, was owned by Bronislaw Huberman, 1882-1947.] Huberman founded the Israeli Philharmonic. I’m very proud, when I do go to Israel, to say that I play on the Huberman violin…. I get extra points.
Q. Now, once Jews like Heifetz dominated the ranks of famous violin players. Menuhin, Milstein, Stern, Zuckerman, Rabin. What has changed?
Bell: Well, it’s been part of Jewish culture. As a young Jewish kid, you look at the role models. There was never a famous black golf player until Tiger Woods. And now I’m sure there’s a whole new generation of African-American golfers because they have Tiger Woods to look up to. When you’re a kid looking up to Heifetz and Milstein, that’s something that you can aspire to. So that sort of perpetuated itself.
And then you need the discipline of a strong parent, the Jewish mother. And then there’s the work ethic in the Asia community. A lot of it is the work ethic, the parents passing it on to the child.
And it’s just in the culture. The violin has been associated with the Jewish culture for a long time.
Q. Thank you for a very good interview.