IMAGE IS EVERYTHING
On Oct. 4, the Beverly Hilton became the only place in town where you could watch Jeffrey Tambor and Rabbis Laura Geller and Debra Orenstein say Hamotzi.
Tambor was there to do double duty both as emcee of the fourth annual Jewish Image Awards and to pick up an award for Excellence in Portrayal of Male Jewish Character in Television for his role as convict-convert George Bluth Sr. on the Fox Emmy-winning comedy "Arrested Development."
The awards, presented by the Los Angeles Entertainment Industry Council of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC), recognizes outstanding contemporary creative work, transcending stereotypes and cliches, that portrays Jewish values, history and traditions in film and television.
Tambor joked that although his grandparents, Yossel and Gertrude, were Orthodox, he is so Reform that he attends Temple Beth McPherson, where on Kol Nidre the cantor performed songs from "Pippin."
The night was big on laughs in more ways than one: the three winners in the TV category were all from comedies.
The Excellence in Portrayal of Female Jewish Character in Television went to a Jew-by-choice. "Sex and the City's" Kristen Davis won for her role as WASP Charlotte York, who undergoes conversion for the love of Harry Goldenblatt. Despite the amount of bed-hopping on the HBO series, creator Michael Patrick King called the Charlotte-Harry story line "one of the most controversial things to happen on the show."
Davis said the candlelighting prayer was the hardest thing she ever had to do, and she still is uneasy about watching herself say it on screen.
As "Saturday Night Live" alum Laraine Newman presented the award for Television Episode to writer Joel Cohen for "The Simpsons'" Krusty the Clown-themed episode, "Today I am a Clown," she noted that not since "Bam-Bam's bris" on the "Flintstones" had Judaism played such a role in an animated series.
Cohen said the episode, where Hershel "Krusty" Krustovsky becomes a bar mitzvah to get a star on the Jewish Walk of Fame, was written and treated with a lot of respect.
Considering the dearth of Jewish TV characters this season, next year's probably won't be as humorous.
Actor, singer and Tevye-forever Theodore Bikel presented awards to two pieces of nonfiction. Menachem Daum's "Hiding and Seeking," about a man who wants his ultra-Orthodox sons to appreciate the contributions of non-Jews – especially the Polish family who rescued his father during the Shoah – won for Excellence in a Documentary.
The award for Excellence in Promoting Cross-Cultural Understanding went to "Paper Clips," a documentary by Joe Fab that chronicled what happened in 1998, when white Christian students at a Tennessee middle school filled a railcar with 11 million paper clips to give a sense of how many people were killed in the Holocaust.
The three major awards were spread throughout the evening. Actress and MorningStar Commission board member Caroline Aaron (who voiced Dr. Marcia Fieldstone in "Sleepless in Seattle") presented Hadassah's MorningStar Commission Marlene Adler Marks Woman of Inspiration Award to executive producer Caryn Mandabach. Mandabach, who has produced nearly "1,000 hours of television with shows like "Roseanne," "Third Rock From the Sun" and "The Cosby Show," joked that three months after she met the man who would become her husband, she was thrown by the fact that he wasn't Jewish.
"How many of you think Mandabach is a Jewish name?" she asked, polling the crowd.
Uber producer Mark Gordon received the 2004 Tisch Industry Leadership Award for his work on such films as "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Saving Private Ryan." Gordon, who joked that Keanu Reeve's character in "Speed" was originally supposed to be a Chasidic rabbi, said that to him, being Jewish means "not going along, not giving up, not being beaten."
"The OC" creator Josh Schwartz received the first-ever Creative Spirit Award, presented by cast members Kelly Rowan and Peter Gallagher, who said that in his role as patriarch of the mixed-marriage Cohens, he was proud to be "TV's first Jewish family in Orange County."
The 28-year-old Schwartz, whose show was called "guilty pleasure of the year" by VH1, held up his award and said of all the things he has done and won "this is the thing my mom is most proud of."
Others in the grand ballroom that night included Todd Leavitt, president and COO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and his wife, Lauren; Peter Horton; Mark Feurstein, Joan Hyler; Shalhevet founder Jerry Friedman, and Jessie and Pauli, two Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi sisters from MTV's "Sorority Life," who have worked with the MorningStar Commission since their season finale.
Since this is the 350th anniversary of the Jews arrival in America, NFJC felt it was only fitting to announce the "Top 10 Great American Jewish Films." The selection process, which was launched last July, allowed the public to vote on feature films and documentaries that best embody Jewish values, culture and experience.
The films are: 10. "The Graduate," 9. "Diary of Anne Frank," 8. "Annie Hall," 7. "The Jazz Singer" (original version), 6. "Exodus," 5. "Gentleman's Agreement," 4. "The Pianist," 3. "Kissing Jessica Stein" (Tambor noted that Tovah Feldshuh, who co-stars in the film, "must have voted a lot"), 2. "Fiddler on the Roof" and – No. 1 – "Schindler's List."
The folks at "Yentl" have not yet demanded a recount. – Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer
ROUNDTABLE DOES LUNCH
The Jewish Business Leader Roundtable (JBLR) celebrated its first anniversary at Tarzana's El Caballero Country Club on Oct. 15. But instead of its typical 7 a.m. breakfast meeting, Roundtable regulars shared an elegant lunch with guest speaker Norman Pattiz, founder and chairman of Westwood One, who recounted his entrepreneurial past and his current efforts to bring balanced news to the Middle East.
Pattiz had worked as sales manager for local television station KCOP in the late 1970s, but a week before his wedding he was fired and replaced by the new general manager's younger brother.
When he returned to Los Angeles from his honeymoon, Pattiz was inspired by a 52-hour Motown weekend on KGFJ and began syndicating programs to radio stations under the name Westwood One. The company now supplies radio and television stations with news, talk, sports, music, traffic reports and weather, and boasts an estimated 2003 revenue of $539.2 million.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed Pattiz to the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. After discovering that the U.S. outreach to the Middle East consisted of a one-size-fits-all, seven-hour shortwave Voice of America broadcast out of the Greek island of Rhodes, he went about reshaping the nation's approach to countries whose media environment is saturated with hate speech and self-censorship.
What the board of governors came up with was Radio Sawa, which was armed with a journalistic mission.
"We're not in the propaganda business," Pattiz said. "We're an example of a free press in the American tradition."
Programming youth-oriented popular music with news, Sawa broadcasts are increasingly finding an audience. The only two countries not broadcasting Sawa are Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
"We're starting to cut through the natural bias in the area," said Pattiz, citing studies that show Radio Sawa listeners have a more positive attitude toward the United States than non-Sawa listeners.
Pattiz's latest effort on the board has been Alhurra, Arabic for "the free one," a commercial-free Arabic-language satellite television network for the Middle East that mixes news coverage with magazine shows on topics like entertainment, sports, high-tech, style and food.
And while Alhurra is hoping to share the audience with Al Jazeera, Pattiz didn't have many kind things to say about the Qatar-based cultural icon.
"They are not the CNN of the Middle East. They are CNN meets 'Jerry Springer,'" he said.
JBLR is a Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance group that started with the help of 10 families and has grown to host 25 members and five or six guests at each breakfast meeting. The group meets on the first Friday of each month, seeking to provide members and guests with thought-provoking speakers on topics of concern to the Jewish community, rather than the usual staid networking mixer.
Recent programming has included talks with Rabbi Stan Levy, co-founder of Bet Tzedek, and L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss, as well as an Oct. 3 group volunteer effort at SOVA's Reseda' Boulevard location.
"We've been focusing on the quality of speakers and the quality of time that we spend together," said Larry Cohen, JBLR co-chair.
The group has previously limited its membership but is expanding in January to include CEOs, presidents and principal partners.
For more information about the Jewish Business Leader Roundtable, call (818) 464-3263. – Adam Wills, Associate Editor
More than 160 women attended Hadassah Southern California Health Professionals Council's sixth annual Women's Health Day on Oct. 14, titled, "Healthy Women, Healthy Lives."
Held at West Los Angeles' University Synagogue, which co-sponsored the event, medical experts addressed topics such as heart health, colorectal cancer and cosmetic dermatology. Members picked up information sheets on breast cancer, genetics-based discrimination and organ donation.
"It's a chance to educate women about health matters and give them up-to-date information and clear up misconceptions," said Charlotte Horstein, Health Professionals Council president. "There are so many advances today."
She added that it's important for women to keep up with medical changes, because "women typically determine health care for the family."
During his lunchtime speech, University Synagogue's Rabbi Morley Feinstein addressed the Jewish approach to stem-cell research.
"A physician has the divine right to heal as a partner with God in creation," Feinstein said. "We are in the ethical business of saving life."
The first Women's Health Day was established in 1998 by the Health Professionals Council, formerly the Nurses Council, and drew 25 women to a luncheon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
"As we've developed our program, women's health issues have gotten a great amount of attention [from Hadassah members]," said this year's event chair Maxine Wainman, a 50-year member and registered nurse who helped start the Women's Health Day. "I wanted it to be a thank you to the Hadassah women who had been so active in Southern California." – AW