Posted by Tom Tugend
Sunday evening’s Academy Awards ceremony wasn’t all that great for the Jewish and Israeli film talent present, but it could have been worse.
“Lincoln,” the early frontrunner in the Oscar race avoided a near total shutout with a best actor trophy for Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.
The half-Jewish actor is the son of actress Jill Balcon, whose parents immigrated to Britain from Latvia and Poland.
The film’s other top nominees, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner, were less fortunate and went home empty handed.
On the brighter side, “Argo,” which chronicles the rescue of six American hostages during the Iranian Revolution, came on strong at the finish, wrapping up the best picture title.
Grant Heslov, the picture’s co-producer with George Clooney and star Ben Affleck, accepted the golden statuette and film editor William Goldenberg did likewise in his category.
Two documentary features centering on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were among the five finalists in their category, but failed to garner the top prize.
In “The Gatekeepers,” Israeli director Dror Moreh interviewed six former heads of the Shin Bet anti-terrorist agency, none of whom had any good words for the policies of the primer ministers under whom they served.
The second entry, “5 Broken Cameras,” jointly directed by Palestinian Emud Bernat and Israeli Guy Davidi, viewed the confrontation between Palestinian villagers on the West Bank and Israeli soldiers protecting a new settlement.
Carrying off the documentary Oscar was the predicted favorite “Searching for Sugar Man,” about an American folk singer unrecognized in his own country, who becomes an idol in South Africa.
In the recent past, Israeli movies have scored well in the foreign-language film competition, making the top five shortlists in four of the last five years.
This time around, Israel was represented by “Fill the Void,” a sensitive portrayal of life and love in a haredi (fervently Orthodox) enclave in Tel Aviv.
Probably none of entries from 71 countries could have topped the winner, the superb Austrian film “Amour,” which examines the marriage of an elderly French couple, tested when the wife suffers a stroke.
However, “Fill the Void” was eliminated in the first cut and part of this disappointing showing can probably be attributed to the film’s anemic promotion effort.
While less accomplished films from other countries staged press screenings and arranged interviews with their directors and actors, the Israeli movie’s producers and distributors failed to make such rudimentary efforts, treating their product almost like a national security secret.
On Oscar night, in the absence of Billy Crystal and other Jewishly attuned hosts of previous years, first-time master of ceremonies Seth MacFarlane stayed away from the typical Jewish Hollywood jokes during the introductory monologue.
The show made up for this omission in the second part of the evening, when Ted, the X-rated stuffed teddy bear of the same titled movie, made an appearance. In a skit, Ted “revealed” that his birth name was Theodore Shapiro and he was actually born Jewish, which he figured would assure his acceptance into Hollywood’s ranks.
He followed up later with a joke about Hitler, of all people, and a puzzling shtick involving the von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame and a black-uniformed SS man.
After that, it was a relief to welcome back Barbra Streisand in a soulful rendition of “The Way We Were” in a tribute to the late composer Marvin Hamlisch.
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February 12, 2013 | 1:25 pm
Posted by Marcy Oster, JTA
Hila Ben Baruch was painted into a corner and came out swinging.
Ben Baruch recently parked her car in a legal space near her central Tel Aviv apartment but returned to find the spot repainted for use by the handicapped -- and her vehicle towed.
She threatened to sue the city for ordering her to pay a fine and the cost of towing to recover her car. Ben Baruch had a strong case: A surveillance camera recording documented the space's transition, and she posted it on Facebook.
The municipality returned the vehicle for free and offered an apology.
"This was indeed a serious error, and schlemielism that is unacceptable to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality," the city said in a statement, according to Haaretz.
Ben Baruch says she still plans to sue the city to recover damages for her mental distress. Regardless of any compensation she receives, the prime parking spot is gone -- a tough loss in Tel Aviv.
January 31, 2013 | 11:53 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Rabbi Manis Friedman, a prominent rabbi from the Hasidic Chabad Lubavitch movement who appeared in a video recently posted on YouTube minimizing the harm caused by sexual molestation, has apologized for what he called his “completely inappropriate use of language.”
“I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives,” Friedman wrote in an email to The Journal. “In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.
The controversial video was first posted on YouTube on Jan. 29 and had been viewed over 4,500 times as of Jan. 31. In it, Friedman, the founder of an educational institute for Jewish women in Minnesota, appeared dismissive of victims of sexual abuse, at one point suggesting that the long-term effects of molestation were no worse than those of diarrhea.
“You’re not that damaged, cut it out,” Friedman said in the video, speaking of victims of sexual molestation.
“Zay a mensch,” the rabbi added, a Yiddish phrase that roughly translates to, “Act like a human being.”
[The Article Continues Below.]
At a time when some leaders in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities are beginning to speak out against sexual abuse and the covering up of molestation by rabbis and authority figures, Friedman’s videotaped remarks drew fierce criticism from around the world.
“Rabbi Friedman's remarks in this instance betray a long-standing, serious problem within Orthodox communities, a minimization sexual abuse and insensitive, dismissive treatment of survivors,” wrote Chaim Levin, a gay Jewish activist, in the Huffington Post.
Friedman founded Bais Chana, a Lubavitch educational institute for Jewish women in Twin Cities, Minn., in 1971. According to its Web site, Friedman still serves as the lead teacher at Bais Chana, which offers programs for women of all ages, including a summertime program for girls aged 15-18.
At one point during the eight-minute video, a man off-screen asks Freidman about a situation faced by one of his own students. The student was dumped by a girl he was seeing after revealing that he had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a family member for two years.
In his response, Friedman draws a parallel between having been molested and having diarrhea, suggesting that victims of sexual abuse would be better off if they kept quiet.
“What’s wrong with him is that he mentioned it,” Freidman said.
“Do you have to tell her that you once had diarrhea?” he added. “It’s embarrassing, but it’s nobody’s business.”
Manny Waks, an Australian Jewish survivor of abuse who founded a group for other Jewish survivors of abuse, also took offense at Friedman’s remarks, and has reportedly filed suits in rabbinic courts in New York and Sydney rabbinic court, aimed at removing Friedman from his leadership positions.
“He needs to be stripped of any leadership position he holds,” Waks told SBS, “he ultimately needs to apologi[z]e and retract those statements... and undertake some sort of educational session so he is aware of the impact of child sexual abuse.”
In the apology emailed to the Journal late on Jan. 31, Friedman said he was “deeply sorry,” and called molestation “a devastating crime.”
“Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately,” Friedman wrote. “Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.”
Waks welcomed Friedman's apology, calling it a "positive first step" in an email.
"I hope Rabbi Friedman contacts me so we can have a discussion about the impact of abuse, and for him to hear first-hand of the damage that he has caused," Waks wrote on Jan. 31.
Waks said that in light of Friedman's apology, his organization would "reconsider [its] position" before pursuing legal action in rabbinic court.
The full text of Friedman’s apology is below:
I want to apologize for my completely inappropriate use of language when discussing sexual abuse. I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.
For that I am deeply sorry.
Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenseless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which they live. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.
From now on, I will make sure to make those points absolutely clear. This is about more than regret. The subject can't be neglected.
I hope over time to earn the forgiveness of those who were hurt by my words.
December 21, 2012 | 3:17 pm
Posted by JewishJournal
Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld revisit Abbott & Costello's classic "Who's On First?" routine, where we finally get to meet the team's first-baseman "Who," second-baseman "What," and third-baseman "I Don't Know."
December 20, 2012 | 12:33 pm
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
Former Chicago Cub Adam Greenberg has signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com reports.
Greenberg was infamously hit in the head by a pitch in his first major league at-bat and has been struggling to make it back to the Big Show for the last seven years.
The Miami Marlins made headlines last season by signing Greenberg to a one-day contract, giving the once bright prospect a second chance to hit in the majors. Although he struck out, he donated his one-day salary to the Marlins Foundation which donated to the Sports Legacy Institute, an organization that advances the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.
December 19, 2012 | 9:00 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
As chants of “Enough is enough” rang out, clergy from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities and members of faith-based congregations gathered on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall to remember the victims of the Newtown, Conn. attack and denounce gun violence. Taking place on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 19, the interfaith prayer vigil drew more than 60 residents of L.A. County and beyond.
“As we continue to deal with the incredible grief and the profound sense of vulnerability in the aftermath of this tragedy, we also remember that we are not powerless, that we can and we must work together to keep our streets and our schools safe," said Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of IKAR.
(To read the entirety of Brous’ statement click here).
Rabbis in attendance included Brous, Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center and Rabbi Jonathan Klein (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice).
Participants carried signs that read ”Love people not guns,” "Grief compassion action" and “stop gun violence." Others carried candles.
Twenty pairs of children shoes were lined up in a row, one for each of the children killed in the Dec. 14 massacre, when a gunman entered an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. and opened fire.
In addition to the children, all first-graders, the Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, killed six of the school’s staff members and his mother. After he attacked the school, Lanza killed himself.
During Wednesday’s event at City Hall, Rabbi Grater led the prayer, “el male rachamim,” which is recited during Jewish funerals, and he translated it into English. A moment of silence followed. Two women shared personal stories about losing loved ones – one a fiancé, the other her child - to gun violence.
The Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, which is comprised of social justice groups from all three major religions and LA Voice, a citywide coalition of faith leaders, families and communities, organized the vigil, which began at 5 p.m and lasted approximately 30 minutes,
Pastor Ryan Bell (Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church), Pastor Shane Scott (Macedonia Baptist Church in Watts) and Salam Al-Marayati , president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council also turned out, among other clergy members.
Woodland Hills resident Virginia Classick brought and passed out candles.
“People, families especially need to be educated about the risk of having a gun that’s accessible…and the other part is legislative, “ said Classick, a member of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, during an interview. “There is reasonable, sensible gun control legislation that does not infringe with the rights of people who are able, if they choose, to own a gun.”
December 19, 2012 | 8:43 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Appearing at an interfaith prayer vigil held at L.A. City Hall on Dec. 19, Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of progressive congregation IKAR, denounced gun violence. She also expressed the need for the nation to come together to prevent the type of incidents that took place on Dec. 14, when a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and took the lives of 20 first-graders. She spoke for nearly three minutes. Read her entire statement below.
This tragedy was not a natural disaster. This was not an inexplicable accident. This was an entirely predictable response to the terrifying and toxic mix, the combination of elements, the reckless and reprehensible proliferation of guns, which today are more easily accessible than Sudafed.
This is about the shameful and inadequate national treatment strategy around treatment of mental illness.
And this is about a culture that celebrates violence and brutality.
This is a toxic mix that erupted on Friday [Dec. 14] and is certain to erupt again—maybe this time in Los Angeles; maybe tomorrow; maybe in a couple of weeks.
But our tradition teaches in the Talmud that when a tragedy occurs, we are not allowed to shut our doors and our windows and eat and drink and say, ‘Well, all is well with me and my family.’
We are scared, we are in anguish, but we are part of a holy network of human beings – Jews and Christians and Muslims; African-Americans and Latinos; Democrats and Republicans – who care deeply about our children, who care deeply about our own safety and security and who are no longer willing to stand by and allow this to go unaddressed.
The President said on Sunday [Dec. 16] that our job is first and foremost caring for our children. ‘If we don’t get that right,’ he said, ‘then we don’t get anything right.’
And if we look honestly at what is going on in this country, we are not getting that right.
First and foremost, our obligation is to our children. The gun that was used in Newtown was a Bushmaster, a weapon whose ad slogan says ‘Consider your man-card reissued.’
We’re here today to fulfill the obligations we have to our children by saying that violence does not make you a man. Compassion does.
We are here to fulfill our obligations to our children by saying that access to magazine clips does not make us free, but working together to build a society that affirms the sanctity of all human life does.
We are here today to fulfill those obligations to our children by saying that we are unwilling to sit and wait for the next tragedy to occur, for the next time when the child-sized coffins need to be special ordered because there simply are not enough in stock.
As we continue to deal with the incredible grief and the profound sense of vulnerability in the aftermath of this tragedy, we also remember that we are not powerless, that we can and we must work together to keep our streets and our schools safe, to keep our malls and playgrounds safe from gun violence.
We do this for our children, we do this for all of us. This is what it means to be God’s partners in bringing about a world redeemed.
Let us say, ‘Amen.’
December 11, 2012 | 11:34 am
Are Israel's recent publicity problems finally over? Or did they just get worse?
In the wake of the vote granting the Palestinians upgraded status at the United Nations, and just days after "Sesame Street" actress Sonia Manzano called Israelis “bullies,” Honey Boo Boo of TLC reality show fame offered a respite.
Adi Segal, an Israeli fan of the "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" star, sent her a letter from a bomb shelter during the recent Gaza conflict.
"We watch your show every time we feel terrorized and threatened and you light up our faces," wrote Segal, a college student. "We watch it in our bomb shelters and panic room, and rejoice in the happiness and joy you spread. When you are playing redneck games, eating sketti or dumpster diving, we feel like we are dumpster diving along your side and forget the sad reality that is outside. Your family is a shining beautimous beacon of hope for the Middle East."
In response, the toddler in tiara took a photo of herself with the letter and an inflatable hammer emblazoned with the Israeli flag and posted it on her Facebook page. Is this the next step in Israeli hasbarah? Is it connected to the recent firing of the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon?
Maybe next year we'll be able to watch “Land of Milk and Honey Boo Boo.”