Oscar-winning director Ari Sandel ("West Bank Story") racked up yet another prize when Americans for Peace Now presented him the 2008 Cine-Peace Award.
"I never in my wildest dreams expected the film to go as far as it did," Sandel said during his acceptance speech.
Sandel spoke at length about traveling the world and being surprised by the number of people who had seen his musical comedy -- a film about two competing falafel stands in the West Bank.
In Beirut, he said, a girl overheard him talking about his film at a restaurant. She approached him to say she managed to get a bootlegged version.
He was even well received in Chechnya, a country both the U.S government and his mother told him to avoid.
Sandel says he still receives e-mails from people the world over about how his film has affected them. Some, he says, have only seen the Jewish community as it is portrayed on screen.
The Cine-Peace event, held Sept. 22 at the Harmony Gold Preview House in Hollywood, also presented a number of other films that offered a perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Some members of the audience cried as they watched "Holy Land -- Common Ground: Unbroken Circle," a heartbreaking documentary that focuses on Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the conflict.
In the Israeli film "Roads," a 13-year-old boy escapes the drug-infested city of Lod. At one point in the film, Ismayil is heard saying that two dead Arabs are nothing but that one dead Jew makes for a headline.
After the films, people shared dessert and each other's company.
"It was very emotional," Debbie Tehrani said. But "it turned out to be a good night and a very interesting event."
-- Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer
Big Gamble for JBBBS Poker Tourney
I liked my chances when I sat down last week at a poker table at Hollywood Park.
The Inglewood casino is my regular haunt, and I was playing in the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters (JBBBS) charity poker tournament, hoping to outplay, outbluff and outluck 201 others to take home $7,500 in cash or, against my wife's wishes, grab a $10,000 seat at next summer's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Like any poker game, the tournament, in its fifth year, was filled with big hands and bad beats.
Victor Snider, a former JBBBS board member with 20 years of service, caught a royal flush -- there's about a one in 649,740 chance of that -- during the first 10 minutes. Seated behind me, Greg Shane, whose father is president of JBBBS' Camp Max Straus, called for more chips with a "rebuy" after the first hand as he tried to best his second-place finish in 2006.
"This organization is amazing. Jewish Big Brothers, Camp Max Straus -- I have seen it change kids lives," Shane said, adding that he was happy to contribute.
Stacks were small to begin -- only 500 chips and with the blinds starting at 25-25 -- so the prudent players in the room sat back and waited for big hands, chatting, drinking from the open bar and hearing the constant call of "Rebuy!"
When I busted out three hours into the tournament with a starting pair of sevens, the rebuy period was over -- 288 stacks had been re-filled or added onto -- so I schlepped downstairs to play the cash tables and redeem myself.
In the end the title of champion and the $7,500 cash prize, sponsored by Joyce Lederer, went to the big Libowsky -- Cary Libowsky (photo). He won his final hand just after 1 a.m. with a pocket pair of kings.
The big winner, though, was JBBBS, which brought in $103,000 from the night of gambling and drinking and a little bit of dreaming at Hollywood Park.
-- Brad Greenberg, Senior Writer
The Ultimate Playground for Adat Ari El
Adat Ari El's Labowe Family Day School unveiled its new state-of-the-art sports pavilion on Sept. 21 during a ceremony honoring its benefactor, Manny Kaplan and dedicated in honor of his late wife, Sybil. The new 7,500-square-foot pavilion features 10 separate play areas and is equipped with a "smart ceiling," which blocks the sun, increases air circulation and lowers the temperature by 25 degrees. Rain or shine, it's play time for the schoolchildren of Adat Ari El.