Posted by Orit Arfa
The Israeli electro-rock-pop band Terry Poison doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Zionism. They belong more in the European electronic music underground. They sing in English and French about boys and partying. Their wardrobe consists of glittery, metallic bodysuits that outlandish pop sensation Lady Gaga would envy. They don’t consider Diaspora Jews who love Israel as their natural market. (Check out the Journal’s upcoming feature on the band.)
But the band’s lead singer and founder, Louise Kahn, left her homeland of Norway to become a part of the Jewish experiment in the Holy Land and to contribute her own sense of fashion, musical creativity, and partying to the Jewish state. Now her dreams are coming true, with a sound that is rocking Israel’s radio waves, regular gigs in Europe, and a bid at the best new Israeli act at the MTV Europe Music Awards being held in Berlin this November.
“Israel was a legitimate place for me because my parents are Zionists,” she told the Journal during a sound check at the Hollywood Playhouse, where they performed on October 15 as part of the Israeli corner of L.A. Fashion Week. Born in Trondheim, a town she now describes as a Jewish museum, she moved to Oslo with her family at age 10, then left for Israel’s metropolis at age 19.
“I found Tel Aviv really exciting,” said Kahn as she prepared her platinum blonde hair extensions that make her look more Norwegian. She admits her natural color is light brown and that her nose is not small enough to be bond-fide Scandinavian. “This was in 2000, right before the intifada. Norway has always been a very homogeneous society.”
She grew-up a good Jewish girl, with Zionist parents having sent her to the Bnei Akiva Zionist youth movement as a child.
“If you’re a minority like me—even if my family is three generation Norwegian—I didn’t really feel like I belonged. When I came to Tel Aviv, it was very freeing to be a part of the majority and leave this ‘Jewish business’ behind.”
She didn’t know any Hebrew when she landed, and she cheated on the Hebrew placement exam to get admitted into Israel’s prestigious art academy in Jerusalem, Bezalel, where Terry Poison was born. “I stopped playing with another band and started writing electronic music on the keyboard, sampler—low tech. A girlfriend and I started playing around Tel Aviv like crazy.”
Haifa native Idan “Bruno” Grift caught wind of the girls at their gigs, and upgraded the band to four girls (plus himself and a drummer) and worked in the studio with them to perfect their sound. Israeli label Phonokol Records put out their debut album.
“He has an amazing studio,” Kahn said of Grife. “He’s a super serious guy. Without him it would be a joke.”
In addition to performing, Kahn teaches a class on branding for musicians at Muzik, a music school in Tel Aviv specializing in electronic music production. She recognized the power of branding in helping musicians secure an audience. In 2006 Terry Poison teamed up with local designers, stylists and photographers to launch on myspace with photographs of the girls in carefully staged outfits and settings.
“We did the photo shoot and video and did things ourselves on myspace. We created our website. After two months on myspace, we were invited all over Europe—for money. We started something.”
Now that the band has penetrated the Israeli mainstream with two radio hits, Kahn, like many artists in Israel, has her sights set on Europe and the US. The band has been making significant headway. It sold a track to Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, and they perform regularly in Europe. In May they opened for Depeche Mode in Israel.
“I’ve been living in Israel for ten years, but I’m really dying to get out of here,” she said as the interview progressed to the café adjacent to the Playhouse. “I love my life there, but as artists you hit the wall very fast. We have a problem with how far we can go with our music there. If you have music in English and French you can be part of the global music scene, and Israel’s an island.”
The band has been invited several times to Norway, with television appearances there. Kahn feels more at home there as the singer of a popular electro-rock pop band than as a Jew.
“Every time they interview me in the paper they have to write I’m a Jew. It’s the way they put things into words that’s very dangerous,” she said, acknowledging Norway’s poor pro-Israel track record.
Her two siblings are among the some 1200 Jews living in Norway. Her father is a medical engineer and her mother is a teacher at a nursing school. Her mother doesn’t advertise her Jewishness to her students to avoid getting into a fight about Israel.
“They see things very black and white and I think it has to do with information people have,” she said. “I think if you’ve been a country that’s been a part of world history—America or Israel, for instance—your worldview becomes more grey. As for their attitude to Israel, you can read some really not fun things in Norwegian newspapers. My parents aren’t happy about being Jewish there.”
She glanced out the window towards Hollywood Boulevard. “It’s not like America. It’s something you hide.”
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October 15, 2009 | 4:53 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
In an LA Fashion Week first, Israeli designers premiered their Spring 2010 collections on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at Mode Israel LA, a fashion extravaganza organized by the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. The participating fashion designers included Bracha Bar-On, Sugar Daddy, Kedem Sasson, Keren Naftali, Bet-ka, Yosef Peretz, Shai Shalom and Alembika, as well as several Israeli accessory designers. High-fashion Israeli pop rock band Terry Poison kicked off the evening with an animated, colorful performance, and Israeli former model and television producer Noa Tishby emceed the show, held at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles.
Despite the gloomy drizzle and dense fog that enveloped the city, the greater-than-anticipated crowd numbered 850, according to a consulate representative. An LA Fashion Week enthusiast commented that no other events he attended that week even came close to the Israeli fashion show’s attendance; in addition to filling every seat, guests packed into every corner of the gallery. Attendees included Consul General Jacob Dayan, supermodel Kathy Ireland, leaders from the Israeli and Jewish communities, fashion industry insiders and press from various fashion publications and local media outlets.
Terry Poison headlined the after party at the Playhouse in Hollywood, which also drew a nearly full house.
Photos by Peter Halmagyi.
October 13, 2009 | 3:30 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
“Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags,” which airs Monday, Oct. 19, at 9 p.m. on HBO, is a
solid documentary with a strong social viewpoint and exceptional archival footage, which chronicles the rise and fall of New York City’s Garment District. For masses of Jewish and Italian immigrants, the industry was the job and assimilation entry to America, producing some millionaire entrepreneurs and a militant labor movement.
Once Manhattan’s Garment District was the engine that helped produce 95 percent of all American clothing, while today the equivalent figure is 5 percent. Director Marc Levin asks whether the fate of the garment industry will soon be emulated by the rest of America’s one-time manufacturing prowess. The documentary will be repeated frequently on HBO and HBO2 through Nov. 19
(818) 783-4135 ph/fax
October 12, 2009 | 4:49 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
From the Blog Rogue Jew comes this perenial question: Was Christopher Columbus Jewish?
Was explorer Christopher Columbus Jewish? There is extraordinary evidence pointing to that conclusion.
On March 31, 1492 the Edict of Expulsion (also called the Alhambra Decree) Every Jew in Spain was forced to shoose between conversion to Christianity or leaving the country forever leaving their possessions behind. 150,000 Jews left Spain, many went to Portugal where they received a short welcome before being asked to convert, die or leave as in Spain.
On July 31, 1492 (7th of Av), the last Jew left Spain. Columbus sailed on August 3, 1492. He did insist that all of his crew be onboard August 2nd.
His historic voyage was financed by wealthy and influential Jews-many themselves converts-rather than a magnanimous King and Queen of Spain.
Columbus’s voyage was not financed by Isabella selling her jewels as is often stated. The major financiers were two court officials – both Jewish conversos – Louis de Santangel, chancellor of the royal household, and Gabriel Sanchez, treasurer of Aragon.
The Jews in Spain became the target of pogroms and religious per-secution. Many were forced to renounce Judaism and embrace Catholicism. These were known as Conversos, or converts.
In response to a petition to Rome to introduce the Inquisition and find a final solution to their Jewish Problem, in 1487 Spain obtained a Papal Bull. The introduction of the Inquisition was motivated by the greed of King Ferdinand attempting to seize all the power and wealth in Spain. It was an instrument of avarice and political absolutism. Four years later tens of thousands of Jews, Marranos, and even Conversos were suffering under the Spanish Inquisition. According to the Christians of the day, Jews were considered “Infidels” (Sound familiar?)
As Spain and Portugal was killing and expelling the Jewish people, Turkey had accepted the Chosen people of G-d and was rewarded. Spain and Portugal’s economies declined, while the Ottoman Empire became one of the greatest powers in the world. The next two sultans, Selim I and Suleiman I, expanded the empire as far as Vienna, Austria.
God had given Abraham and his descendants a special blessing:
“I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and through you, will be blessed all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3)
Christopher Columbus may or may not have been a Jew, but he paved the way for a country that would be accepting of the Jewish people, and keeping with G-d’s blessing, has been a nation abundant in liberty, wealth, and opportunity for all people.
Several sites explain the evidence and possibilites. Check them out! Just do a google search
Happy Columbus day all!
Meanwhile, over at Beliefnet.org, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield asks, “Why does it matter?”:
Beyond the pride which many Jews feel at being able to claim Columbus as a Member of the Tribe, there are real lessons to be learned from his story - spiritual lessons which can help all of us on our own journeys, even if they are not as historic.
First, if any of the stories of Columbus’ Jewishness are accurate, they remind us that we can be many things at the same time, and that having those multiple, even conflicting, identities can be a real advantage under certain circumstances. Columbus, according to the Jewish versions of his biography was a Catholic-Jewish-Spanish-Italian, and in all likelihood it was being all of those things at the same time which positioned him to be who he was. His boundary crossing identity was certainly pivotal historically, and probably psychologically, in propelling him toward a life of boundary-crossing.
Second, if there really was a connection between his decision to set sail in August 1492 and that day being on or about Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av (a day classically associated with destruction and bad fortune for Jews), he figured out how to turn a tragedy into a triumph. That’s no small spiritual lesson for any of us.
Third, while the implications of his “discovering” the New World would takes generations to unfold, the shores upon which Columbus landed would turn out to be the healthiest, safest and most vibrant Jewish Diaspora communities in the history of the Jewish people. Columbus’ journey, like most of ours’ could not be fully appreciated within the context of his own time. He planted seeds which would take years to bear fruit. I hope that among the things people celebrate today is the fact that our own lives are like that as well.
Whoever Christopher Columbus was, and however he is remembered, this much we know: he was a boundary crossing explorer who drew on multiple identities and traditions in ways that empowered him to take incredible chances when others would not, see remarkable opportunities where others could not, and accomplish things big enough that their full implications were beyond anyone’s understanding. That is the stuff of spiritual greatness
October 9, 2009 | 2:19 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
A Zionist Love Story II
This article expands the metaphor I drew of Israel as a “husband” which I introduced in my first blog of this series. Read it here.
When I got off the El Al plane with the Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight, which I joined as in-flight press, I admit I felt like French-kissing the land. It had been year since we’ve seen each other.
Only my love was different than the starry-eyed love I encountered among the new olim (immigrants to Israel) about to enjoy the Nefesh B’Nefesh welcome reception, which I likened to a wedding ceremony with the Jewish State. Mine was a mature, sober, and oft-times embattled love I had developed as an olah of nine years.
As I traveled the road to Jerusalem, I felt like I was making love to a body of land I knew so intimately. I felt the muscular curves of the fleshy hills, the bristles of the leaves and grass, the thrusts of the stone towers. I could close my eyes and feel the enveloped in a passion that once gave me so much pleasure—and so much pain.
But I didn’t get too mushy or sentimental during my month-long reunion with the land.
For example, at the “wedding ceremony”, where the Nefesh B’Nefesh olim were greeted by Israeli dignitaries, I retained stoic cynicism as Knesset opposition leader Tzippi Livni declared Israel’s love to us, saying “there is no politics when it comes to you, and I represent to you today, not the opposition, not the government, but the people of Israel who loves you, wants you to be here, and welcome you today, in Israel.”
I observed with emotional detachment my lover’s achievements, which once made my Zionist heart go pitter-patter: names of streets and highways named after Jewish sages and heroes; the language of the Bible revived for Jews to conduct bank transactions and sing pop songs; the avodah ivrit (Hebrew labor) of the progeny of Jewish victims of persecution, now café owners, computer programmers, and fashion designers; the happening nightlife scene for stylish Jews whose ancestors wore long black coats in stuffy study halls.
And I had a wonderful time precisely because I wasn’t swayed by addicted, heart-throbbing love and lust.
This time Israel and I weren’t so possessive of each other, although my friends still exhort me to come back. I enjoyed the land without the pressure of “I have to stay here or our enemies will have won.” Talk about a romance killer. It’s like staying in a bad marriage for the kids’ sake. Marriage requires a sense of obligation, but there should also be the element of volition.
We didn’t get into too many fights (most of the time) because I already knew how to deal with Israel’s annoying idiosyncrasies. For example, aware of how much driving and parking through the crowded Tel Aviv streets frustrate me, I prepared my EasyPark (nifty pre-paid car meter) in advance while mapping out the roads so I don’t end up in another city. When I did get lost, I laughed it off, chiding Israel for being so convoluted.
But what I enjoyed most was the fact that Israel simply knows me so well—more than any other place on earth. In Israel, I don’t feel like a stranger. He gets me—my past as a Jewish day school student; my questions about Biblical texts that inspired the creation of this country; my mixed Polish-Iraqi Jewish ancestry; my yearning for world perfection. He appreciates the wild side of me that gets down on the dancefloor and the serious side of me that paints biblical portraits.
Within one month, I connected with several new people in ways I haven’t during my entire year in Los Angeles. We rarely had to make plans to meet (with one side flaking); rather, we met at a moment’s notice and talked about life and love as if we had known each other for years.
And even though Israel had jerked me around sometimes, he loves me. He’ll be there for me when I need him, to take me in his arms and protect me—or at least try to—from people who envy our relationship. He tries to be my hero. He tries.
Still, I feel like I got married to Israel too young. I made aliyah at age 20, and I never really got to experience the world as a self-aware, secular adult. I’ve changed, and, while I’d be in denial if I said I didn’t still have strong feelings for Israel, I want to play the field. I don’t want our marriage to turn into a bored, sexless rut.
I realize I never really divorced Israel. He never gave me a get (Jewish writ of divorce). I’m an agunah, and we are bound to each other forever.
So I’m having an affair with my old friend, America. We respect and admire each other, but sometimes I wonder if there’s enough passion. There’s very little possessiveness and we rarely get into fights. Our relationship is almost too respectful, sweet and polite. And women, whether we like it or not, always like a “bad boy” streak.
But I need a relaxed, low key relationship right now, one that will let me explore other sides of me without having any claims on my soul.
In the meantime, let my desire for Israel, and his for mine, build up so deeply that when I come back we’ll ravage each other, just like the fresh Nefesh B’Nefesh olim did as they made aliyah (ascent to Israel), but with a renewed brew of passion, reason, and self-knowledge.
And when I make aliyah again, which I’m sure I will, I won’t fall in love with Israel. I’ll ascend in love.
October 7, 2009 | 1:31 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Sharing a tender moment are T.R. Knight and Lara Pulver as Leo and Lucille Frank in the riveting musical “Parade,” playing at the Mark Taper Forum through Nov. 15. The riveting story by Alfred Uhry is based on the actual 1915 lynching in Atlanta of Frank, a New York Jew, for allegedly raping a 13-year old factory girl. The play, with music by Jason Robert Brown, probes the dark undertones of anti-Semitism. mob violence, and historic North-South hostility.
October 2, 2009 | 12:51 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
H. David Nahai has resigned from his position as CEO and general manager of the L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) to pursue a senior advisor position with the Clinton Climate Initiative. The resignation is effective immediately.
Nahai has been with the utility agency since 2005, when he was appointed to the DWP Commission by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, first as vice president and then as president of the commission. In 2007, the mayor appointed Nahai as the department’s chief executive. According to the Los Angeles Times, Nahai has been under fire from the start:
He drew strong criticism from the head of the powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents thousands of DWP workers, who accused Nahai of doing too little to secure the passage of Measure B, a solar power ballot proposal that narrowly fell short of passage in March.
Neighborhood councils also complained of a proposal to increase electric rates. Residents of the San Fernando Valley have been upset in recent weeks over the DWP’s water conservation measures, which limited sprinkler use to two days per week. And residents across the city were perplexed by a string of water main breaks, including one that resulted in a sinkhole that gobbled up a portion of a fire truck.
Nahai did have support from environmental circles, however. Last spring, a series of environmental leaders sent Villaraigosa a letter urging him to ignore the complaints and keep Nahai.
In a statement released by the mayor’s office this morning (LA Observed), Villaraigosa said:
I would like to thank David Nahai for his four years of service at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power where he led the team responsible for increasing the City’s renewable energy portfolio, reducing water consumption to record levels, and putting us on the path to be coal free by 2020.
I wish him great success in his new endeavor as Senior Advisor to the Clinton Climate Initiative where he will use his experience and leadership skills to advance their core mission of finding and developing workable solutions to climate change.
In his resignation letter to the DWP Board, dated Oct. 1, Nahai wrote that he was “immensely proud of what I have been able to accomplish and will forever be grateful for the invaluable experience.”
Citing changes that have taken place at the agency, Nahai added that the mayor’s goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2010 was within reach, that his administration had completed the largest municipally owned wind farm in the country and that water conservative efforts had resulted in unprecedented reductions, among other improvements.
As far as a replacement for Nahai, Rick Orlov of the Daily News is reporting that David Freeman will likely take over as interim head of the DWP:
It is expected that Deputy Mayor David Freeman, who headed the agency from 1997-2001, will be named interim head of the department, however will not apply for the permanent post.
October 1, 2009 | 4:42 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Traveling with a lulav and etrog could cause some airport security headaches.
While the palm branch spine and citron fruit used for ritual purposes on Sukkot aren’t technically on the Transportation Security Administration’s prohibited items list, both the agricultural nature of the items, and the Lulav’s sword-like shape, have been known to raise some security eyebrows.
This year, as in the past few years, TSA, working with the Orthodox Union, has issued an advisory to its workforce alerting them to the Sukkot travel period and the likelihood that they may see Jews traveling with strange items.
“Observant Jewish travelers may carry four plants – a palm branch, myrtle twigs, willow twigs, and a citron – in airports and through security checkpoints. These plants are religious articles and may be carried either separately or as a bundle. Jewish travelers may be observed in prayer, shaking the bundle of plants in six directions,” the alert reads.
The Sukkot travel period this year is begins Sept. 30 and ends Oct. 13.