Posted by Ryan Torok
Approximately 1,000 people are singing the late songwriter Debbie Friedman’s version of Lech-Lecha. Craig Taubman, musician and composer, leads them along. In a moment, Taubman asks the crowd to stop singing—the large band accompanying him continues to play a gentle instrumental—and he calls everyone’s attention to Friedman’s parents, who are sitting in the audience. Taubman asks everybody who are sitting in the first eight rows to turn away from the stage and face the center. He asks Friedman’s mother, who is seated in the lower-center seating area, to raise her hand.
Friedman wrote the song that you are all singing, Taubman says. I’m standing on the shoulders of my parents, but I’m also standing on the shoulders of Debbie Friedman, Taubman says.
The crowd—a mix of old and middle-aged couples, young professionals and parents with their children—applaud Friedman’s parents, and everyone continues singing Lech-Lecha.
It’s one of the last songs of the evening—an approximately two-and-a-half hour music-filled Shabbat service called “A Mid-summer Night Shabbat,” at the Ford Amphitheater, on Friday, Aug. 24. By the end of the festivities, there are more than 25 artists, performers and presenters on stage, including Taubman, Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute; Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom; musicians Josh Nelson, Shany Zamir and Ari Herstand; Jewish-yoga instructor Zack Lodmer; artist Amir Magal and other performers and presenters.
Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, co-organized the event with Taubman, founder of Craig N’ Co, under the auspices of cultural series the Big Jewish Tent. Founded in 2011, the Big Jewish Tent facilitates themed, large-scale recreational community events, hoping to build bridges. Past Big Jewish Tent events include the Tu B’Shevat Nature Fest; Spavuot, a mind-body-Torah Shavuot festival and the Jewish County Fair.
During Mid-Summer Night Shabbat, three simultaneous Shabbat celebrations took place across Los Angeles last Friday. According to Kaplan, who also served as master of ceremonies at the Ford, over 2,000 people in total attended the three events, including a Shabbat picnic and concert at Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills and Shabbat-themed family-friendly activities at Westward Beach/Point Dume in Malibu.
Several synagogues, including Temples Aliyah, Ramat Zion, Judea, Kol Tikvah, Congregation Or Ami, Shomrei Torah Synagogue and Valley Beth Shalom and the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance gathered for the event in Woodland Hills.
At the Ford on Friday, the concert followed the structure of a Shabbat service. Taubman and co. led, and the crowd participated in, the various traditions, prayers and blessings of Shabbat, including a pre-service Kiddush, the welcoming of the Shabbat bride and musical renditions of the shema, amidah and aleinu. Many in the crowd arrived early and dined on food and wine at the Ford’s patio areas, and many drank at their seats.
“Just like the shul I grew up in, right?” Feinstein joked. Throughout the evening, Taubman and his and Feinstein switched off taking the reins. Feinstein told stories and jokes and asked audience to forget about the daily struggles of the Los Angeles workweek, to let go of their inner kvetch and to enjoy the wine, the company and the unusual setting and finally, to embrace Shabbat.
“You’re in the Ford-freaking-amphitheater on a Friday night!” he said.
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August 7, 2012 | 1:17 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
In the wake of Sunday’s shooting in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that left six dead and three more wounded, over 2,000 people have submitted e-notes expressing solidarity for Wisconsin’s Sikh community, including “Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, atheists, and agnostics,” according to Groundswell, a multi-faith social action movement that is coordinating the letter-writing campaign.
Spotlighting Groundswell’s efforts, Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of progressive Jewish community IKAR, is calling on people to participate in Groundswell’s campaign by sending in notes of “condolences and blessings for healing,” directing people to Groundswell’s website.
A third generation Sikh American and the author of an Aug. 6 CNN op-ed about the shooting, Kaur is delivering the notes in person when she visits Wisconsin this week.
In the message posted to IKAR’s site, Brous also condemns the “reckless proliferation of guns in this country, which make it absurdly easy for mass shootings to take place,” including the recent Aurora, Colorado shooting. She refers to Kaur as a “friend” and an “exceptionally talented young woman.” Kaur’s 2008 documentary, “Divided We Fall,” documented Kaur’s travels across the country as she discovered stories related to post-9/11 racism and hate crimes.
In calling attention to this past weekend’s tragedy, Brous joins several other local and national organizations that have issued statements of outrage at the actions of the alleged shooter—Wade Page, an army veteran with ties to the white supremacist movement, whom police officers shot dead on the scene – including the Board of Rabbis of Southern California; the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders and Bend the Arc, a Jewish Partnership for Justice.
August 6, 2012 | 6:07 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
In the wake of the Aug. 5 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that left six people dead and three wounded, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California expressed sympathy and solidarity with the Sikh community.
“An attack on one house of worship is an attack upon all of us. An assault on one faith community is an assault upon all of us. We join together in praying that the Source of Peace will grant the blessings of peace and security to our broken world,” Rabbi Mark Diamond, the Board of Rabbis’ executive vice president, said in a statement.
Law-enforcement officials identified the gunman as 40-year-old Wade M. Page, an army veteran with ties to the white supremacist movement.
According to police, Page entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wisc., on Sunday and began firing. Police shot and killed him on the scene.
Page’s victims include five men and one woman, and a police officer was among the three who were critically wounded. As of late Monday, police had yet to determine a motive for the shooting.
The Board of Rabbis, which operates under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, is among several organizations, including the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders, that expressed solidarity with the Sikh community following the shooting.
A local memorial service for the victims of the shooting is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 12, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Vermont Gurdwara Sikh in the Griffith Park-Los Feliz area, according to a temple spokesperson.
August 6, 2012 | 12:16 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Performing at the Greek Theatre last weekend, 23-year-old Israeli singer and philanthropist Liel Kolet joined Iranian-Armenian pop star Andy for a song of peace.
The power ballad, “We Hear Your Voice,” brought together Andy and Kolet and musicians from across the world, including exiled Afghan singer Ehsan Aman; “Korea’s Got Talent” star and South Korean opera singer Sung Bong Choi and American singer Shani Rigsbee, Andy’s wife.
“Coming from Israel,” it was particularly meaningful for Kolet to take part in the performance, she said, onstage.
“I’m really happy to be here and take part in this beautiful thing…to promote peace is something that I love and to let all the people all over the world know we hear your voice,” she said.
Made up of thousands of people in attendance at the Aug. 4 concert, the crowd swooned, including Oren Nadav, 28, a general contractor who was born in Tel Aviv and lives in Sherman Oaks and attended with his Armenian girlfriend, who is a big Andy fan. Nadav didn’t know who Kolet was prior to the show—and he didn’t know that she’d be coming out to perform – but given his personal connection to Israel and Israel’s ongoing conflict with Iran, he was happy to see Kolet and Andy perform together.
“I love it. I actually think it’s great,” he said. “We need peace in the world, and in Israel it’s not so easy to have peace.”
“I love it,” he said one more time, dancing with his girlfriend.
A popular vocalist in Persian and Armenian communities who has performed all over the world and released more than one dozen albums, Andy (real name: Andranik Madadian) headlined the two-and-half hour performance on Saturday night. He performed with a 12-piece band and blended dance music, Middle Eastern rhythms, pop vocals and Persian lyrics. Born in Tehran and currently living in Los Angeles, Andy is internationally known. But his music is banned in Iran.
On Saturday, thousands of Armenians and Iranians of all ages – including couples, groups of friends and families—attended his concert.
Story continues after the jump.
A past performance with Andy and wife Shani.
“Put your hands together and clap!” Andy yelled in Persian between songs. The audience abided.
Relentlessly high energy throughout the evening, and reveling in the adoration, Andy invited Kolet onstage to perform one song with him around 90 minutes into the concert, which began at 8:30 p.m. and lasted until 11 p.m.
Born on a kibbutz in northern Israel, Kolet’s participation in charity events has put her onstage with artists such as Elton John, U2’s Bono and Andrea Boccelli and she has even sung with Bill Clinton. She has tried to establish herself as an international Celine Dion.
“We Hear Your Voice,” the song that Kolet performed with Andy and the others, was written by Rigsbee as part of a charity project to improve children’s welfare throughout the world.
Andy’s brother and manager, Varouj Madadian, said that the concert’s message was a “message of unity. The only message we have tonight.”
“Every human in the world is the same, and the message is only unity,” he said.
Varouj also said that Andy has performed in Israel as recently as last year.
Also among the crowd: 20-year-old Israeli student and Beverly Hills resident Avital Hasid. Attending with her Middle Eastern friends, Hasid is half-Persian and said she grew up with Andy’s music.
“I was just very proud of it. I didn’t expect an Israeli person to be here. I thought it was going to be a Middle Eastern thing, but I was glad to see her represent,” she said of Golet appearing.
If there were other Israelis in the crowd, they were scarce, but even non-Israelis appreciated the gesture of Kolet and Andy appearing together.
The collaboration sent the right message,” said 33-year-old Baha’i Persian P.J. Hak. “The Iranian and Israeli governments [are] not good together, [but] at least if we’re doing something like this, [it] brings all the people together,” Hek said. “It shows we don’t care what the government does.” Hak had traveled from Atlanta for the show, and the wallpaper on his cell phone is a photo of him and Andy.
Hak also spoke of his connection to Israel. He has visited Haifa, where there is a place of worship for the Baha’i community, he said. His life involves border-less connections between cultures, much like the evening’s concert.
August 3, 2012 | 4:10 pm
Posted by Cora Markowitz
Segel Set to Leave
How I Met Your Mother, a successful TV show that will begin its eighth season in September, may not have main cast member Jason Segel in it for much longer. Segel has played character Marshall Eriksen since season one but now seems ready to move on. He’s had success in recent movies like The Muppets and The Five Year Engagement. In an interview with Austrian website Kurier.at, Segel said, “It’s great to do some ‘Rated R’ stuff again because I’ve been playing the nice guy for quite a long time now. That’s why I’m gonna quit How I Met Your Mother after the eighth season. I’ve hit my 30s, the TV show that I’ve been doing for eight years is coming to its natural end, I’m feeling much more like, ‘OK, now it’s time for Phase Three.’” Whether the show will continue on without him or make season eight its last remains unresolved, but the network seems eager to keep its hit show going. CBS President Nina Tassler told critics, “They know we want the show to come back next year. We are having conversations right now about extending it.”
Unlikely Action Stars
Though neither Jake Gyllenhaal nor James Franco are the first people who come to mind when thinking of action movie stars, both have an action film in the works. Gyllenhaal stars in End of Watch, a cop movie set on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Gyllenhaal sports a police uniform and a bald head for the movie, due in theaters September 21st. James Franco’s movie, which begins principal photography in September, is written by Sylvester Stallone and costars Jason Statham. The action thriller, called Homefront, stars Franco as a vicious drug lord named Gator.
Unlike her co-star Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, on the TV show Community, Alison Brie isn’t known for her rapping skills. Behind the scenes of Community, however, it seems to be a different story. In the season three gag reel, Brie raps about werewolves, Chevy Chase curses, and the entire cast seems to be having the time of their lives. The third season DVD set comes out August 14th and Community returns to NBC on October 19th.
New Role for Rashida Jones
Rashida Jones is sick of being so likeable. “I am generally cast as the dependable, affable, loving, friend-wife-girlfriend,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. In order to play a new role, Jones wrote one for herself. Along with her friend, actor Will McCormack, Jones wrote her first screenplay, telling a story about a couple in the midst of a divorce. The movie, Celeste and Jesse Forever, comes out on Friday and stars Jones as Celeste and Andy Samberg as Jesse. A studio made an offer for the film, on the consideration that Jones’ character would possibly be played by someone else. She turned them down. “I felt like this was the only opportunity I had to play this kind of part,” she said, “a character that’s maybe less than likable.”
Chris and Josh?
Fans of the old Nickelodeon show Drake and Josh will be overjoyed to hear that Josh Peck is coming to the big screen soon. Formerly the overweight brother that fuelled a lot of the Nick show’s jokes, Peck has switched it up by taking on the role of action hero in the upcoming movie Red Dawn, in theaters November 21st. The original Red Dawn, a Cold War movie about Russians invading a town in Colorado, has been updated in this remake; this time, North Koreans invade Washington State, leaving a group of teens to fight back. Peck plays the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson of The Hunger Games also stars.
Last appearing on the big screen in the third Transformers movie, Shia Labeouf will make his return with the movie Lawless, in theaters nationwide on August 29th. Labeouf co-stars with Tom Hardy, who played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. The pair play brothers struggling with a bootlegging business while pursued by the law in 1930s Virginia. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May to positive reviews.
August 3, 2012 | 10:55 am
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek