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Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Michael Aushenker

June 28, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Persian Celebration

Members of the Iranian-American Jewish Association (IAJA) celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the house that Dariush built.

Dariush Fakheri, the outreach organization's founding father, was honored at the Loews Santa Monica Hotel gala, along with members Fred Fouladi, Star Barlava, Asher Aramnia, Saeed Banayan and Pooya Dayanim. The Anti-Defamation League's Marjan Keypour emceed the evening. Also present: Neil and Dora Kadisha.

George Hardonian, president of Council of Iranian-American Jewish Organizations, told The Circuit that the honors are overdue.

"They are truly grass-roots people who give of their time," Hardonian said. "They're not all affluent business people, but they are people who have done a lot for the local Iranian Jewish community."

Rep. Brad Sherman, an instrumental ally to the Iranian Jewish community in bringing awareness to the Shiraz 13 prisoners, vowed to continue to "imply and apply economic pressure" on the Iranian government to release the remaining prisoners.

Over dinner, Shohreh Mizrahi, who in 1994 started IAJA's Young Professionals Network, praised IAJA's accomplishments.

"It's been a very essential part of Persian Jewish life here," Mizrahi said. "They get involved in different issues, relevant to young and old. I see [IAJA] as a voice of conscience of the whole community."

Circuit Updates

IAJA reports that Dariush Frashidian, the imprisoned Iranian Muslim local, aided by Persian Jews and recently profiled in The Journal, has found work as a cab driver in Costa Mesa.

Remember Leora Sharone, first-place winner of the academic contest on Israel sponsored by Jewish Community Centers of Los Angeles? The 18-year-old had been seeking scholarship money to enable her to volunteer in Israel as part of the Habonim Dror Workshop. Guess what? -- Leora sent The Circuit a thank-you card for bringing attention to her ambition.

"I was able to meet my scholarship goal and I will be attending the program next year in Israel," she wrote. "Thank you very much!"

An Important Claim This Year in Jerusalem!

Dr. David Fox of Beverly Hills contacted The Circuit with the news that graduates of Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn-Toras Emes convened in Jerusalem in honor of Rabbi Yakov Krause, the school's dean. Also addressing alumni were Rabbi Moshe Chadash and Shmuel Fasman.

Mann Power 'Closet' Conspirators

The Circuit caught up with celebrated French writer/director Francis Veber (profiled in an August 1999 Journal article) as the longtime L.A. resident was anticipating the New York premiere of his latest comedy, "The Closet" ("Le Placard"). The Miramax release is a special occasion for Veber, a Paris-raised Jew who is one of France's most commercial filmmakers. "The Closet" reunites him with cinematic partner-in-crime Gérard Depardieu, star of Veber's hilarious '80s hits, "La Chévre" and "Les Compéres" (and the inspiration for the less-appetizing American remakes "Pure Luck" and "Father's Day," respectively).

Film aficionados know that Depardieu is the hardest working man in cinema, dancing at both Hollywood and French weddings. This evidently took its toll on the actor last August, when Depardieu was rushed into emergency quintuple bypass surgery a day before starting "The Closet."

"I came to the hospital and he looked like Moby Dick," Verber said with characteristic candor. "I kissed him and he said, 'Wait for me.'"

Veber waited. Five weeks later, Depardieu was ready to roll. Still, Veber had concerns regarding his old friend.

"I make a lot of takes. I didn't want to kill him," said Veber, "but he is strong."

So are the performances in "The Closet," according to Veber. The movie centers around a milquetoast accountant (Daniel Auteuil) who learns that the condom manufacturer he works for wants to fire him for being too boring. So the accountant schemes to convince co-workers that he is gay; a fabrication that makes him an object of intrigue. Hilarity ensues.

If this comedy of errors sounds dicey, have faith in Veber, a master of farce since his screenwriting on "La Cage Aux Folles" (successfully remade as "The Birdcage" by Mike Nichols ). Evidently, the premise works -- a hit earlier this year in France, "The Closet"'s Gallic success echoed 1998, when Veber's "The Dinner Game" grossed second only to "Titanic." Incidentally, "The Closet" also reteamed Veber with Thierry Lhermitte, who so precisely portrayed the arrogant Brochant in "Dinner Game."

Veber visited corporate workspaces before writing "The Closet." Despite his research, there were details he couldn't have anticipated before his Parisian shoot.

"We had to go to Japan and visit a condom factory, and then rebuild that on the set," Veber said. "All the condoms in France come from Japan."

"The Closet" opens July 6. Limited release.

125 Years Strong

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR)celebrated its anniversary with a day of study and celebration. HUC-JIR's cantorial alumni provided entertainment at the event, co-chaired by Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark of Temple Beth Ohr and Paul Lippe. At 125 years, HUC-JIR is the nation's oldest institution of higher Jewish learning.

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