Posted by Jay Firestone
So you make it as a major success on MTV, sign on for another season, circulate late night talk show, and top it off with a Purim party - amazing.
Luckily no one was seriously hurt.
Snooki, Chris Noth, and Vinny Guadagnino were unharmed by falling glass Saturday night. The three were at a Purim Party in New York City’s Sony Building, according to The New York Post, when ice and shards of broken glass from building’s atrium fell on revelers below.
Read the full story at HuffingtonPost.com.
12.6.13 at 12:35 am | In June 1990, Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky,. . .
11.25.13 at 2:23 pm | My aversion to Hanukkah streetlights,. . .
11.22.13 at 1:51 pm | Rachel Bloom, 26, and Dan Gregor and Jack Dolgen,. . .
11.13.13 at 11:33 am | The educational book publishing company,. . .
11.12.13 at 10:52 am |
11.11.13 at 1:49 pm | During the British Academy of Film and Television. . .
12.6.13 at 12:35 am | In June 1990, Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky,. . . (995)
10.12.09 at 4:49 pm | Is it time to claim the explorer as an MOT? (299)
4.27.11 at 3:21 pm | Just because neither the bride nor groom are. . . (204)
February 26, 2010 | 3:10 pm
Posted by Melanie Reynard
With only a railing separating them from a panoramic sea of Los Angeles lights, Judith FLEX Helle’s 6 dancers maintained somber faces as they leapt into 180 degree splits, and two men pulled at each end of an Audrey Hepburn-like dancer’s arabesque.
On the evening of Sunday February 21, the performance was part of a fundraiser for Ms. Helle’s fledgling dance company, Luminario Ballet, which she began in April of 2009. Hollywood director Randal Kleiser hosted the fundraiser at his home in Runyon Ranch - an ideal setting for a company that seeks to represent the glamor of contemporary ballet in Los Angeles. In her budding endeavor, Helle - a Jewish dancer who has lived in Los Angeles for 20 years - culled together the support of an illustrious crowd, including Jewish public relations women Jann Berman and Lucia Singer, and Jewish producer Charles Evans Jr. The evening was star-studded, with Hollywood sponsorship, and literally, with the glittering lights below us. Nevertheless, here’s the true reason why I was the last to leave the party: in the warm glow of Kleiser’s chic home: it had become like an eclectic family had convened to worship the art of dance.
During a savory buffet of spring rolls and dumplings, Marat Daukayev of the Kirov Ballet in Russia started off the evening’s reverences for dance when he spoke of ballet in Russia as a cultural institution and national treasure. Argentinian-Italian-American opera tenor Carlos De Antonis took the stage – or rather, the pool – as he walked majestically around the translucent blue water with his long wizard’s coat trailing behind him, and elicited the artistry out of all our hearts. Just before the next and main act, I met the woman who had invited me - Jann Berman, who wore large white vintage spectacles. Our formal handshake turned into a familial meeting. She told me she was so excited about promoting dance in Los Angeles, that she took on Luminario’s cause pro bono. Then we were back outside, to watch Helle’s company of 6 dancers perform on Kleiser’s deck – a 10 x 20 foot stage covered in black Marley, and on the edge of the cliff with Hollywood searchlights below and an airplane roaring overhead.
Later, in a phone interview, Helle insisted, “This is the area of the world that loves beautiful bodies and beautiful people and I stand behind my dancers’ beauty.” Having grown up in Los Angeles and pursued dance since I was 4 years old, I could appreciate the dedication and talent that went into each pirouette, and I’ve grown up fascinated by Hollywood aesthetic - but I’ve also learned to seek what strikes me beyond the allure of beautiful people doing balletic feats. My personal favorite moment was when I spotted two of the dancers in the back corner of the railing, in what I assume was a make-shift wing, as they pasted their bodies against each other in a tight embrace. After all the flashy leaps and carefully sculpted poses, this struck me as a vulnerable repose, against the backdrop of a flickering Los Angeles abyss. Meanwhile, a woman in a slick golden leotard took the center.
The works that they performed on Kleiser’s deck were by well-known choreographers Jamal Story (a Southern California native, no longer in California) and Michael Smuin (from San Francisco). In a conversation before the show, Helle told me she was committed to representing an array of international choreographers in Luminario’s repertoire. It seems these pieces were a way for the company to establish its legitimacy that evening, by taking on works by these recognized contemporary ballet choreographers, but actually, with more and more of the general public picking up hula hoops, fire dancing, and learning aerial arts as recreation, what I find most interesting is the proposition that Helle will bring her experience as an aerial artist to a new ballet company in Los Angeles. Helle says she’s been an aerial artist for 30 years.
“Aerial dance is becoming a fusion that is part of today’s lexicon, ” she told me over the phone, “You go to these big rock shows and they have dancers on stage and they have aerial.” Maybe in the next fundraiser they’ll be doing aerial off Kleiser’s cliff?
The audience, of about 50 guests, all seemed energized after watching Luminario’s dancing. The dancers, their friends, and myself included, took advantage of the magnificent view and patient photographer Johanna Jacobson (also Jewish) indulged our Hollywood dreams as we posed as models on the glimmering deck. A DJ played hip hop, while Luminario dancer Alex taught his swing-dancing steps on the deck. A handful of guests got grooving out by the pool.
According to PR firm Berman and Singer, the event raised a total of $20,000. This includes matching funds from the Charles Evans Foundation. Helle said she will use these funds to keep her dancers in rehearsal longer, as they prepare for their next gig: Helle will be choreographing on four Luminario dancers for an event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall April 10th an 17th at 11 AM.
February 24, 2010 | 12:02 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
There were artists, besides Matisyahu, who shined at Jewlicious, like Rav Shmuel, Moshav, Electro Morocco, Kosha Dillz and Rinat Guttman.
Shmuel, “a rabbi who hangs out in Greenwich Village,” according to ravshmuel.com, played a heartfelt acoustic set. With peyos and wearing traditional Orthodox garb, the wise, musical-veteran, joined by guitarist Duvid Swirsky from Moshav, played quirky folk ditties about his relationship to God and Judaism, including “Protocols of the Elders of Zion are True,” a crowd favorite.
“Some people ask me if I’m Jewish,” sang Shmuel, whose vocals were barely melodic, but earnest.
“Are you Jewish?” responded a beamingly enthusiastic audience member, on cue.
Like his very own “VH1 Storytellers,” between songs, Shmuel told funny and accessible tales of past travels and performances. It’s difficult to find comparable unpretentiousness behind a guitar nowadays.
I went up to Shmuel after his performance and asked for an interview. Kindly he agreed, even offering to go outside with me, as Basya Schechter, of world-music band Pharoah’s Daughter, was busy putting the audience in a trance with her crunchy, new-age oud playing. (Just like you, I didn’t know what an oud was. I had to look it up at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/oud. FYI, if you’re the type of person who is considering a water birth, you’ll probably love Schechter’s music.)
I asked Shmuel why nobody gets on stage at Jewlicious and preaches: “Move to Israel,” “Marry Jewish, “Or go to temple more often.”
“I think that the religion speaks for itself,” Shmuel said. “I don’t think we need to sell it.”
Last October I did a story about Shabbat Tent, which holds Shabbat services at Phish and other music festivals. Shmuel co-founded it. He used to follow Phish around. He is known as the “Phish rabbi” in some circles. I told Shmuel that Jewlicious should invite Mike Gordon, the Jewish bassist from Phish, to Jewlicious next year.
He thought it was a great idea. So let’s keep our fingers crossed.
The day before, on Saturday night, Moshav opened their set with “Too Late.” The tune features English and Hebrew lyrics and is white reggae at its finest (recalling the now disbanded Dispatch and the recently grouped, sans Bradley Nowell, Sublime). Another highlight was their infectious “Come Back,” thanks to an innovative guitar lick. The audience happily clapped along, embracing the Israeli quintet and their laid-back beach band persona.
Electro Morocco and Kosha Dillz opened for Moshav. Electro Morocco, hailing from Williamsburg, Brooklyn – Where they are the only musicians, joked comedian Joel Chasnoff, before bringing the band onstage—played an energetic set that fused surf rock and Middle Eastern sonics. Before Morocco, the unannounced appearance of Matisyahu bolstered New York’s Kosha Dillz’ freestyle heavy hip-hop set. Rinat Guttman, the first female Israeli Orthodox rapper, also joined Dillz onstage for an electrifying verse.
Read full coverage from Jewlicious here.
February 23, 2010 | 4:17 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Matisyahu’s friends and family call him “Matis.” The first time I approached Matisyahu for an interview at Jewlicious, he said okay. But he was on his way to the bathroom. Can we do it in five minutes? he asked.
The lanky, Chasidic reggae star resembles a track runner. In fact, remember “Forest Gump,” when Tom Hanks is running all over the country and his hair and beard haven’t been cut for God knows how long? That’s how Matisyahu looks.
“Sure,” I said, feeling hopeful. I haven’t been in journalism that long – the Grammy-nominated reggae star would be my most famous interviewee – and I assumed that when he said he’d be back in five minutes, he would be. I waited and waited. Actually, I didn’t wait that long. There was Mexican food and I was hungry. But I did hang around longer than five minutes, and he never came back
Did he go to the bathroom? I will never know.
That night, I saw him during Kosha Dillz’s performance. He was wearing his hood over his head—he has to keep his head covered, but it seemed as though he was doing more than reminding himself that God was above, it was like he was trying to hide. He’s so tall, though, that his head was popping out of the crowd. He couldn’t hide.
“Hey,” I said, walking up to him. “Remember me? Do you think we can do an interview? It will only take a few minutes.”
Neither his head nor body budged. Just his eyes moved. He glanced all the way down at me, looking suspicious.
“Yeah,” he said. Then he averted his eyes back to the show.
I looked back too. A skinny Persian teenager had jumped onstage and was dancing happily to the beat, tossing his arms in the air.
Dillz, who was wearing a Star of David chain and is relatively new to the Jewish alternative music scene, was mid-verse, holding the mic in one hand. He threw his free arm around the teen, and they rocked out together.
“Um, do you want to wait until after the song,” I said to Matisyahu.
He nodded, less than enthused.
When the song ended, the kid hurled himself back into the crowd.
“When I was young I wanted to be onstage too,” said Dillz, to the audience. “So why not?”
I turned back to Matisyahu and asked him if he wanted to do the interview now.
“I think I’m going up,” he said.
Oh. Why hadn’t he mentioned this before? “Can we do it after?” I said.
Matisyahu walked onstage, freestyled back-and-forth with Dillz, and I didn’t see him the rest of the night.
The next morning, I walked into the JCC determined to get my interview. I asked one of the P.R. people if I could talk to Matisyahu.
“He’s in Palm Springs,” she said.
“Palm Springs? What’s he doing in Palm Springs?”
An interview!? “Is he coming back?”
“Yeah, he’s scheduled to perform on the acoustic stage later this afternoon.”
The elusive Matisyahu, he did return and play the show that day. At 3:30 p.m., he walked on the candlelit stage, smiling. His long, ashen hair burst out of a baseball cap. He sat on a high stool, two acoustic guitarists flanked him and they played songs like “One Day” and “Jerusalem.” His off-the-cuff beat boxing extended most of the songs, and the guitarists did everything they could to jam well with his improvised beats.
Mid set, he asked the festival staff, who were sitting on the side of the stage, if this was supposed to be a Q-and-A, too. They basically told him “whatever.” So, Matisyahu decided to take some questions. He warned the audience, however, that if anybody asks who his influences are, they would have to leave.
When somebody wanted to know if he had smoked pot before the set, he told the person to exit the room.
“I’m just joking,” Matisyahu said.
After the 45-minute set, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, the director of the festival, went onstage. The crowd was departing, ready, after the 3-day event, to make their way home. Bookstein thanked everybody for coming, for making Jewlicious possible.
Bookstein is known for being generous with his time, so when he stepped away from the mic, I asked him if he could help me get an interview with Matisyahu.
He led me behind the stage and through a door. It took us outside, to a parking lot, where Matisyahu was hanging with family, friends, other performers and Yuri Foreman, the welterweight champion of the world. Foreman, fresh off his November title victory, had come to the festival to lead boxing workshops.
“This guy is from the Jewish Journal,” said Bookstein, talking to Matisyahu. “Can he do an interview?”
“Yes,” said Matisyahu, turning to me, his tone unprecedentedly convincing. “Now we can do the interview.”
I followed Matisyahu to a quieter area across the parking lot. He found a couple of stranded chairs and sat down.
I stood, and, holding a recorder, aiming it at the Matisyahu’s mouth, fired away. I asked him if he liked playing Jewlicious.
Five, maybe ten minutes later, I was out of questions. I thanked Matisyahu for his time, we shook hands and I walked off.
Matisyahu stayed while another reporter shoved a camera into his face and started an interview. He asked him if he liked playing Jewlicious.
February 23, 2010 | 2:57 pm
Posted by Jay Firestone
SUSPENDED! Tony Kornheiser of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption (PTI) has been suspended over recent comments he made on air about his ESPN colleague Hannah Storm.
Apparently Hebrew school didn’t teach Tony how to control that wicked tongue his.
Tony’s best remark:
“She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body ... I know she’s very good, and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won’t ... but Hannah Storm ... come on now! Stop! What are you doing?”
FOXNews has the full story:
ESPN has suspended TV commentator Tony Kornheiser for remarks about fellow ESPN personality Hannah Storm, according to multiple reports Tuesday.
Kornheiser, the popular host of the show “Pardon the Interruption,” is known for making sports figures the subject of his humorous criticism, but in a recent show he aimed his commentary at Storm’s wardrobe.
“Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today,” Kornheiser said. “She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt ... way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now.
February 22, 2010 | 12:46 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Torah Bright, the Australian snowboarding gold medalist on the halfpipe at the Vancouver Olympics, may not be Jewish but her name is just what it looks like – homage to the Jewish Five Books of Moses.
Torah bright is a lifelong Mormon who grew up near the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. Her sister Rowena told the LDS (Latter Day Saints) Church News in 2006 that she suggested the name for her new sister, born in 1986, after her Jewish piano teacher told her the name meant “bearer of a great spiritual message.”
Rowena skied in the 2002 Olympics and then moved to the University of Utah in Salk Lake City, where Torah soon followed, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Her brother Ben coached her for this Olympics. Torah suffered a series of concussions in January and doctors ordered her to sit out weeks of practices to “rest her brain.”
She out-boarded American snowboard stars Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark with a clean run that included a “switchback 720,” a move done only by men snowboarders.
February 19, 2010 | 2:47 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Tragedy has plagued the Hen family numerous times over the course of the past two decades, leaving Avinoam and Rachel Hen depleted of hope and barely capable of maintaining a normal existence. Their 25-year-old daughter, Victoria, was killed in the 2002 terrorist shooting at LAX. She was an employee of El Al and was working at the counter at the time of the attack. Four months later, their son, Nimrod, died of injuries suffered in a car accident. He was 18 years old. Their one remaining son, Udi, is 30 years old and lives in Los Angeles.
Their latest woe involves the foreclosure of their Chatsworth home—a somber shrine to their two deceased children. The Daily News ran a long story on the hapless couple this week:
The mortgage crisis has spawned an untold number of hardship stories, but few could top that of Avinoam and Rachel Hen of Chatsworth, whose tale of personal woe and tragedy approaches that of the biblical Job.
Fortunately, the Hens have some determined and influential Jews fighting on their behalf. Raffi Tal, originally from Israel and a real estate default specialist with iShort Sale and Peak Corporate Network, has managed to delay the foreclosure of the Hen home more than once, including securing a one-month reprieve on Wednesday. Read the Daily News follow-up here.
But forestalling the inevitable is not a long-term solution, says Tal, so he and Eli Tene, also an Israeli native and the CEO of iShort Sale and Peak, are interceding on the Hens’ behalf to get their application for a loan modification approved, thus giving the family a chance to stabilize their precarious financial situation. Tene contacted Congressman Howard Berman to solicit his help, and Berman, according to Tal, yesterday wrote a letter and called the CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, acting as servicing agent for a private lender that has denied the Hens’ request.
Berman asked the Wells Fargo CEO to understand the urgency of the situation, according to Tal. Berman, who intervened with great passion and without a moment’s hesitation, has also reportedly contacted a director in the U.S. Treasury Department for assistance.
Less than two hours later, Tal received a phone call from the executive office at Wells Fargo, saying that they are working at finding a solution to the matter. “Their story completely broke me,” Tal said. “We’re doing everything we can to help them.”
February 19, 2010 | 2:30 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
They aren’t using the “m” word, but leaders from Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills met with the leadership of Temple Beth Haverim on Feb. 10 to discuss plans to help shore up the Agoura Hills Conservative synagogue, which has been struggling financially in recent years and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008. Aliyah has no plans to provide Beth Haverim with funds, and there is no discussion of a merger per se. Instead, Beth Haverim would become a satellite campus of Aliyah and would share staff, including a rabbi, based on a plan under discussion, Sophia Fisher reports in The Acorn.
An Agoura Hills site would be a coup for Temple Aliyah, which has a West Valley- and Conejo-based membership of more than 900 families on a modest campus on Valley Circle Boulevard. Beth Haverim, a congregation started in 1984 by families who left Aliyah, currently has 275 families, down from 370 last year. The Ladyface Court location could help provide Aliyah with the space it desperately needs without the cost and inconvenience of razing its West Valley structure.
To help Beth Haverim cut costs, Aliyah professionals would oversee Hebrew school, preschool, programming and spiritual services. Beth Haverim’s preschool director, Donna Becker, has already announced she will leave in June for a job with another school. Lev Metz, Haverim’s education director hired last year, is moving to Israel. A new rabbi would share responsibilities with [Beth Haverim Rabbi Gershon] Weissman.
Assistant directors under Aliyah control would be hired to assist with the Haverim preschool, religious school and youth program. Aliyah’s part-time program director would receive increased work hours in order to oversee programming, including adult education, at Beth Haverim.
The staff changes would allow Haverim to save $300,000 annually, which could be put toward its mortgage payments, [Temple Aliyah Executive Director David] Brook said.
Beth Haverim members would also have access to services and programs at Aliyah, [Temple Aliyah’s Rabbi Stewart] Vogel said. Aliyah would benefit by having a second campus closer to its Conejo Valley members.
“Given budget constraints, this is the model we feel we can offer,” Vogel said. “If we can rebuild and revitalize, the ultimate goal is fulltime for all professionals.”
Vogel and [Beth Haverim President Dave] Scherr acknowledged the difficulties that lie ahead.
“We don’t have as models anything out in the Jewish world for this,” Vogel said. “We only know what hasn’t worked.”
“One of the things we in the region have long tried to encourage synagogues to do is to create alliances, because as the economy suffers resources diminish,” said Joel Baker, executive director of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Pacific Southwest Region, said. “This is the only way we can retain services.”
Beth Haverim congregants are to be commended for “holding on and believing in their community,” Baker said.
“If they can rework the financial situation I would give this a tremendous chance of succeeding,” Baker said. “The Aliyah people are skilled professionals and could inject real good leadership development and programming.”
Although other options were mentioned, including abandoning the Ladyface Court site and moving to a smaller, less expensive space, the Beth Haverim congregation agreed to pursue Aliyah’s offer, which several congregants described as “a gift.”
Scherr said he had looked at other locations.
“With an alternative site, we would have a small sanctuary, a small Hebrew school and a much smaller congregation at that point,” Sherr said.
The boards of both synagogues must approve any plan, and Beth Haverim’s financiers must give their blessing. Beth Haverim officials are contacting bond holders to discuss their options.
“Many things could happen between now and the next couple of months that could derail us,” Vogel told the Beth Haverim members.
“We want to be able to help you. Our hearts are in it.”