October 2, 2003
About 400 people nearly filled Edwards Big Newport theater last month for a sneak preview of "The Hebrew Hammer," a cultural parody somewhere between "Shaft" and "Austin Powers" that is scheduled for a limited release nationally in December.
A light-hearted mood settled on the crowd at the depiction of a virile Jewish detective who fearlessly and profanely flaunts his heritage. The film's creator, Jonathan Kesselman, took questions after the screening from Rob Eshman, editor of The Jewish Journal.
Some saw more than an action-comedy spoof. "I guess I must be the only one in the room who found the film offensive," Bonnie Jeannette, of Newport Beach, told the filmmakers. "I can't imagine this does much but fuel people who have anti-Semitic attitudes."
Shrugging in reply, Kesselman pointed out that comedy may diffuse rather than perpetuate stereotypes. He cited Richard Pryor's 1974 comedy routine titled "Nigger With a Seizure."
The advance screening was arranged by Arie Katz, chairman of O.C.'s Community Scholar Program, whose lectures and guest scholars generally favor serious topics.
"You may laugh and you may not," Katz warned the audience. "But have an open mind."
Spotted at the show were rabbis Elie Spitz and Arnie Rachlis, Howard Mirowitz, Howard Levitt, Polly Sloan, Shelly and David Malmon, Eve and Elliot Fein, Ed and Deborah Heyman, Alissa and Barry Duel, Reva Furman, Deborah Klein and Gary Levin.
"The Letter," an epistolary essay dashed off in 25 minutes by Gary Goldhammer, of Tustin, was a winning entry in a contest called "Connecting With Jewish Life" by the InterfaithFamily.com Network, an online newsletter.
Goldhammer, 36, won the top prize of $360 in the "Raising Children" category and was surprised to learn he'd won. Because his submission skirted the required essay form.
"I didn't think it met their requirements," he said. "I had completely forgot about it."
His entry is addressed to his father, who died when Goldhammer was 7. Seemingly seeking advice, the letter writer describes a girl who seems infused with Jewishness but who whose mother is a Christian.
The characters only reveal themselves later. The girl is Goldhammer's own daughter, Alexandra, and the mother, his wife, Christine.
"I like trick endings," said Goldhammer, a former OC Metro columnist. He is a partner of Marcom Interactive Corp., a marketing company. The family attends Irvine's University Synagogue.
Cruzing Arab Town
On the second Sept. 11 anniversary, gubernatorial candidate Cruz Bustamante met American Muslim and Arab leaders in Anaheim, pledging his commitment to inclusiveness if elected.
Accepting the invitation to an area known locally as "Arab Town" and "Little Gaza," Bustamante listened to Arab and Muslim community leaders concerns, ranging from the state's ailing economy to erosion of civil rights.
The candidate promised to "look for the very best in people regardless of who they are, regardless of where they came from."
Bustamante's presence indicates that Arab and Muslim communities are integral to American politics, said Ayloush Hussam, Southern California director of the Council on American Islamic Relations.