Posted by Tera Greene
The Israel Film Festival is rolling in this March 15-29, 2012 here in Los Angeles, CA.
I’ve never been to this festival, now in its 26th year, but leaving the President Peres event we were handed a snazzy newsletter program that highlighted the playlist of films that were going to screen at either the Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills or the Laemmle’s Fallbrook 7 in West Hills the end of March.
As I perused the selection, I found the programming to be diverse, which is a good thing. You can’t speak of Israel and not be diverse, so it makes sense that the films would reflect this diversity.
For Tickets, Group Sales and Info: Call Israfest at 1-877-966-5566 or visit their website by clicking here. (Tickets also available at box office)
A smattering of films that seemed interesting and their descriptions are below:
Man Without A Cellphone (dir. Sameh Zoabi) - A young Arab Israeli finds his political voice in this genial comedy about Israel-Palestine tensions. Jawat loves to endlessly call girls on his cell phone while his father, Saleh, is causing a ruckus over a newly constructed cell phone tower near his olive grove. When Jawat’s call to the West Bank draw the attention of Israeli authorities, the young slacker finally takes a stand. (2010, 77 min) Los Angeles Premiere, Feature
Plays at the Fallbrook location Tuesday, March 20 (9:15PM) and Sunday, March 25 (7PM).
Schund (dir. Yael Leibovitz Zand) - A renowned Yiddish actor disappears under criminal circumstances, leaving behind debts, rumors and unrealized promises. 25 years later, the film set out to trail him, passing the colorful and fascinating characters during the country’s first decades, in the days when Yiddish theatre was a huge success, angering the establishment that considered them a threat to the reviving Hebrew culture and trying to suppress it. (2010, 56 min). US Premiere, Documentary
Plays at the Music Hall Saturday, March 17 (6:30PM) and Thursday, March 22 (7:15PM).
~ Dig Yiddish? Live in LA? Check out the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring
World Class Kids (dir. Netta Loevy) - “An Arab, a Jew, a Chinese, and a Philippino walk to school…” - sounds like the beginning of a joke, but that’s not the case. This film follows a Tel Aviv class throughout one school-year, dung the Gaza War. With poignant intuition and uninhibited directness, the children point out basic conflicts in Israeli society, deal with painful identity issues, and experience the first cracks in the childhood naivety. (2011, 54 min) West Coast Premiere, Documentary
Plays at the Music Hall Sunday, March 18 (2:30PM), Sunday, March 25 (2:30PM) and Tuesday, March 27 (7:30PM)
[[[Opening Night Film]]] Restoration (dir. Yossi Madmoni) - Winner of 11 Ophir Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, Restoration traces the shifting bonds between Yaakov, his son Noah and Anton, the secretive new assistant, as Yaakov and Anton restore a 100 year-old Steinway piano. Major award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and Jerusalem Film Festival. (2011, 105 min.) Q+A with Producer Chaim Sharir, Los Angeles Premiere. Feature Film
Plays at the Fallbrook Saturday, March 17 (7:30PM)
Don’t forget to check out the Student Short Films playing at this year’s Israel Film Festival, as well.
See also: Breaking News - 26th Israel Film Festival Honors David Nevins, Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa With Achievement in Television Award for “Homeland” (Nevins, Gordon and Gansa will join previously-announced Jonah Hill, who will receive the IFF Achievement in Film Award.) - [02/29/12 - 01:53 PM via press release from Showtime - TheFutonCritic.com]
2.17.13 at 11:04 am | Registration for the May 2013 trip is NOW OPEN!. . .
2.6.13 at 9:26 pm | This event is in honor of award winning. . .
11.14.12 at 10:52 am | Beth Chayim Chadishim commemorates Transgender. . .
8.25.12 at 3:13 am | The 'If I Were a Rich Man Tour' is a. . .
7.17.12 at 10:05 pm | Each and every day, with open eyes, we can. . .
6.24.12 at 1:44 pm | Outfest is celebrating its 30th Anniversary July. . .
7.23.10 at 12:09 pm | "our obligation [is] to treat human beings with. . . (33)
1.24.12 at 1:20 am | The 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality:. . . (5)
7.17.12 at 10:05 pm | Each and every day, with open eyes, we can. . . (5)
March 13, 2012 | 12:04 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
This is the second blog post in a series of three, wherein I am highlighting Israel for the month of March. Read the first blog, “Israel Makes Me a Proud Angelena (3-Part Series)” by clicking here.
The Honor, The Anticipation
I was one of the guests whom were honored to have been invited to sit and listen to President Shimon Peres speak at the Beverly Hills Hilton in the International Ballroom, on Thursday, March 8, 2012, two days after I watched Hazman Havarod (Gay Days), directed by Yair Qedar.
Since I knew security would be a bit much (i.e. secret service), I traveled lightly (only brought the essentials - lip balm, wallet, a small note pad and pen, keys and phone) and arrived 15 minutes before they said the check-in line would open at 5:30 PM PST. It paid off, because the check-in was actually quite organized, the secret service line was quick and I was fortunate to be done in a blink of an eye to save myself and three late-arriving friends seats two rows back from where we were able to sit outside of the VIP section. During my hour and a half wait before the program, I met the people next to me - we chatted about our professions, where we were from, how we got invited - you know, the normal schmoozing that goes on at an event like this.
Again, I was thankful to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for another personal invitation to engage Israel for the second time in a week in such a diverse Jewish setting. The time between getting checked-in and the start of the program seemed long because of my anticipation of the insightful, poignant things that I would hear from President Peres on that historic evening. However, it was not the first time I had had a brush with the President; in fact, the last time was in Israel, not even a full year before.
Third Annual Presidential Conference 2011
In 2011, I attended the 3rd Annual Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, hosted by President Shimon Peres by way of my participation in that year’s ROI Global Summit of Young Jewish Innovators*. There were a multitude of fascinating sessions to attend, and being an innovator, you know I actively made my experience as unique as possible.
For example, I participated in a “Flash Mob of Consciousness” in solidarity with a project called Here’s My Chance (Israel Conversation Project). On my layover in Philly on the way to Israel, I’d met a couple of gentlemen heading to Israel for another innovator’s summit, and we clicked immediately and decided to work together in just a few minutes (and only minutes before it was time to board for Tel Aviv). At the Presidential Conference, President Shimon Peres addressed attendees one of the days of the convening, and I helped kick off this flash mob with my personal pledge to support LGBTQ Human Rights with President Peres in the backdrop of my silent, statemented stance. I’d also been invited to sit in a small, exclusive social media session with him during the Conference, but with jet-lag, I decided to sleep in my hostel instead, with a thought that I would run into him again next year. A lofty goal, considering he was almost 90 years old, for pete’s sake. I guess you can’t blame me for dreaming big.
So, you can imagine how humbled I was to get the chance to be in the audience as journalist Campbell Brown asked President Shimon Peres pertinent questions about his “vision for a strong Israel, a strong American Jewish community and peace in the Middle East.” Especially because this trip may, in fact, have been the last time President Shimon Peres would visit the United States ever again…
“Be Jewish. Don’t give up.”
Actor Jason Alexander (and his beautiful hair) opened the evening with a hilarious welcoming address after a lovely youth choir comprised of local Jewish day schools lead us beautifully in the United States and Israeli Nation Anthems. They sounded so wonderful. I felt so filled up I am almost cried as I sang both Anthems with my fellow attendees. After we sat back down in our seats to listen to the rest of the opening by special guest, Mr. Alexander, he mentioned that on his recent trip to Israel he asked President Shimon Peres about how he stays so focused and positive when building a peaceful world, especially with all the muck one goes through in the process. He relayed to us that President Peres told Jason Alexander:
It was this insight that sparked the rest of the evening’s quotables that gave me pride as an Angelena for us hosting the President in such good fashion. It also reminded me that my Hebrew name, which translates basically to, “I will sing/speak of good things” is so powerful and I should constantly stay grounded in being an optimist, no matter what.
You can Google and read all the different accounts and commentaries of the event, but I thought it would be more powerful to let the evening speak for itself. I leave you with all of the quotes I frantically jotted in my notepad from the evening - witty, insightful, and tangible quotes that really nudged my soul. It was these quotes, the majority of which were delivered by President Peres, that put a perspective in my psyche and a pride in my step. Israel and Israelis have a way of doing that for me, I’ve come to realize.
Many of these quotes gave me such pride in being Jewish, too, that it was no surprise to hear that President Obama will award Israeli President Shimon Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom this summer. Hearing a visionary like Pres. Peres speak illuminated me with a feeling that I control my destiny; that it is up to me, to us, to create the freedom in the world that we all deserve that includes coexistence, peace and the teaching of values to - and learning from - our children. More importantly, that it doesn’t matter where you start from as long as you get started and never ever give up.
Food For Thought
- “Nice to have you in town, sir!” (Jason Alexander to Mayor Villaraigosa)
- “You personify all that is good of Israel, the Jewish People and Humanity.” (Council General of Israel, David Siegel, to President Shimon Peres)
- “There can’t be any peace without security… and I’m proud to say L.A. stands with Israel.” (Mayor Villaraigosa)
- “Peres is truly a Prince of Peace.” (Mayor Villaraigosa)
- “Be Jewish. Don’t give up.” (Shimon’s grandfather who was highlighted in the tribute video for President Peres. Shimon’s grandfather couldn’t board their train to Palestine from Poland in the early 1930s because of illness. Those were his last words to his grandson. He was to die at the hands of Nazi Germans invading Poland shortly thereafter.)
- “There are those who live and those who live to make a difference.” (David Ben Gurion to a 20-something year-old Shimon Peres, who thought of Ben Gurion as his hero.)
The following are quotes by President Peres. I must say that what I found the most inspiring were his references to children and how to engage them, especially the youth in my demographic via Facebook. He is like the V’ahavta personified, if that makes sense. I was also sparked by his references to education and risk-taking, as an innovator and entrepreneur who values these principles at the core of my being.
President Shimon Peres - Be My Friend For Peace (Noy Alooshe Remix Video)
- “Peace is not a political choice. It is a basic, historic and moral choice.”
- “I lived in hope and I shall die in hope.”
- “I don’t think we have to make it a public debate ahead of time.” (Peres answering a question by Campbell Brown regarding what will happen if Prime Minister Netanyahu moves forward unilaterally without the US in dealing with Iran.)
- “It became great by giving, not just by taking… by helping others. They are the Guardians of Civilization.” (Peres on the United States and its early rise to power)
- “The problem of the Middle East isn’t political, it’s poverty. It’s really serious.”
- “Since we can not change the world, we have to change our minds.”
- “…not just the technology, the science, but the day we realized we had nothing. The nothingness made us great.” (Peres on Israel)
- “A true Jew can never be satisfied. Once a Jew is satisfied, he is no longer Jewish.” (Peres on what he felt the greatest gift Jews have given to the world - dissatisfaction.)
- “Work hard, think hard, take risks and be nonconforming.”
- “Iran is not the [enemy]. The Iranian government is the threat to Israel, the United States and the Iranian People.”
- “The women are a majority. That’s a silent protest in the Middle East.”
- “If you have difficulty, it is not the excuse to give up your dream.”
- “Don’t try to be a leader, be ahead.”
- “In the next decade, we’ll [shift] from the right to be equal to the equal right to be different.”
- “In order to learn more, you’ll have to work less.”
- “Economy is global. Science is individual. And science is unpredictable.”
- “Educate our children to not remember so much, but dream more… dreams are more important than memories.”
- “They think a short SMS is better than a long speech. You gotta speak their language.” (Peres on his new FB viral video and why he did it - to engage the youth.)
- “The Jewish People used to be the People of the Book… now they are the People of the Facebook.”
- “We all face enough weaknesses, we don’t have to write a biography about them… speak of the great things about a [person].” (On his biography of Ben Gurion.)
- “If you want to be great, serve a great cause.”
Part three of this series continues tomorrow (click here) as I highlight films from the forthcoming 26th Annual Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles, March 15-29, 2012. Thank you for your readership.
*The ROI Community is a global network of Jewish innovators created by Lynn Schusterman. ROI members connect and create to transform Jewish life.
March 12, 2012 | 2:36 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
I often struggle with loving or disliking Los Angeles; however, this past week I felt so proud to be an Angelena. I’d like to thank the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and more so, the visiting Israelis whom I engaged with, for helping me to feel this pride that often I grapple with feeling in my own city usually. This is a three part blog, which continues tomorrow with a recap about the recent visit of President Shimon Peres that I was honored to attend.
The LA - Israel Network
If you’ve been to both Israel and Los Angeles, you know that in many ways, they mirror each other. The first time I traveled to the Holy Land, I felt like I was home. I noticed immediately that Tel Aviv was like Los Angeles - it was vibrant, youthful and modern. Plus, the beaches were like the ones here in Southern California (though much more clean). Above all, it was home to gays and lesbians, many of whom walked hand-in-hand in couples and wore LGBTQ paraphernalia, much like many of us here in West Hollywood, Long Beach and the East Side of Los Angeles. The gayness of Tel Aviv was truly what made me fall in love with the place even more.
On Tuesday, March 6, 2012, the LA-Israel Network of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles*, hosted a film screening and discussion of the documentary, “Gay Days”, which aimed to highlight LGBTQ pride and inclusion in Israel. The event was in partnership with the Israeli Consulate of LA and A Wider Bridge, which aims to build LGBTQ connections with Israel, and in collaboration with JQ International, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Congregation Kol Ami, the 2wice Blessed Project and the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation.
Per the event page, the Israeli activist panelists included: Avner Dafni (Director of Israel Gay Youth), Irit Zviely-Efrat (CEO of Hoshen), Iris Sass-Kochavi (a Tehila parent), and Adir Steiner (Pride Coordinator, Municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa). All the aforementioned organizations represented are part of the new Alliance of Israeli LGBTQ Educational Organizations (AILO).
Not mentioned on the website was Executive Director of A Wider Bridge, Arthur Slepian, who did not moderate like I’ve seen him do so well before; instead, he jumped in to share a few poignant thoughts here and there that helped to create a cohesive flow to the dialogue.
Music on the Road to Equality
I’d seen “Gay Days” before at OUTFEST’s 28th Annual Los Angeles Gay + Lesbian Film Festival in 2010 (see also Outfest.org). It baffles me that it’s been almost two years already. I loved it then, but for some reason, it took 2012 for my mind to glean a lot more perspective into why I loved the film in 2010.
Hazman Havarod (Gay Days), directed by Yair Qedar, is a political film, which is a big impetus for me liking it now, as I’ve taken more of an activist role in recent months lobbying in the Senate on the Hill and being involved with a social justice fellowship program. However, what I really “got” was how the culture and language of music spearheaded and impacted the Israeli gay community in the 80s and 90s. Sure, film and written publications played pivotal roles, but as I re-watched “Gay Days” this time, I found myself more moved by the music that permeated the scenes as the Israeli gay community came alive - in discos, in town squares, and in life, in general.
The Sense of Pride
As one anonymous writer wrote to summarize the story of “Gay Days” on IMDB, “in 1985, there were three gays who were out of the closet in Israel. By 1998, there were 3,000.” That alone moved my soul. But, I also felt pride as the panelists discussed similarities, differences and influences of the LGBTQ movement in and between the United States and Israel.
In both Israel and the US the Orthodoxy is being more engaged, which is huge when it comes to building a more inclusive LGBTQ community that welcomes and supports even the minorities within the minorities of the population. I felt pride in hearing that the Israelis have adopted the Gay-Straight Alliance model in their schools. I felt pride to hear that even though tragedy struck in 2009 in a Tel Aviv gay nightclub shoot-out, Israeli activists, many of them our panelists, saw it as a wake up call that the work is not done yet; that just like in the USA, the movement can’t be left to hope, but to action, to insure the equality, well-being and longevity of the LGBTQ community.
I felt pride in hearing that Israelis are engaging the youth more actively, which is such a critical time for anybody, LGBTQ or not.
And I’d forgotten, but it was mentioned by a panelist that Tel Aviv was declared the world’s best gay travel destination by GayCities.com recently. That, for sure made me go, “Yes!”
Though still a young moment, the Israeli LGBTQ community is hitting strides, not with loads of violence, but with dialogue, expression and the sheer will to be in action to create change.
If you’ve not seen “Gay Days”, I highly recommend you rent it and enjoy.
Tune in tomorrow for my blog post recap, “An Evening with President Shimon Peres”.
*The LA - Israel Network: Two Places. One Community. Shared Values. Through The Jewish Federation, LA Israel Network Offers a platform and network to actualize and grow personal connections to Israel. This is an opportunity for individuals to create and participate in a network of likeminded people, to learn more about Israel and promote her a s a vibrant and democratic country.
LA Israel Network programs and events connect individuals and groups on topics and causes that highlight Israel as a world leader such as: Start-Up and Innovation; The LGBTQ Movement; Global Humanitarianism; and Environmentalism.
For more info and to stay up to date, please see the LA Israel Network Facebook Page by clicking this link.
March 9, 2012 | 4:45 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
When all is said and done, holiness and wholeness and any other elevated idea of the spiritual goal come down to a simple Yiddish notion: you are supposed to be a mensch, which means “a decent human being.” That one Yiddish word conveys the full measure of the integrity, honor, and respect that a person can hope for in this life. In the words of the Chassidic teacher, known as the Kotzker, “Fine,” he says, “be holy. But remember first one has to be a mensch.”
- Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis
Here are seven individuals that I truly believe to be mensches. They all have inspiring messages, whether through their legacy or through the impact they are making today. They bring holiness into the community…
Gregory Metzger- Greg is a rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion, and the Program Manager at Jewish Committee for Personal Service. He visits with Jewish inmates in jails and prisons all over California, to help them re-align or remain aligned, with their divinity. He leads Shabbat services, teaches Torah study and meets one-on-one. These individuals have lost their way, and Greg goes into the darkness with them, to help them search, face and understand themselves. He has empathy and understanding about what it is like to trudge through great darkness. Although he has not done time in prison, he was definitely imprisoned by an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and had to see his world come crashing down. Greg had a very successful career in the business world. For three years, he was a featured presenter at Wharton’s Symposium for business professionals from Harvard, Chicago, MIT, Dartmouth, Yale, Columbia, etc. He was the National Practice Leader for DC pension consulting at Ernst & Young and Watson Wyatt. After he lost everything, he chose to change his ways by truly facing himself. Today, the world that Greg has rebuilt around and within himself illuminates the sacred truth that no matter how lost one may be, we all still possess an innate holy essence and have the potential to bring greatness to the world. He walks on a path of truth, and sees the holiness in living through loving actions. I genuinely love and respect Greg. We have both been blessed to witness one another trudge through and transcend our darkness. Gregory Metzger is a mensch.
Let Our Hearts and Minds Not Be Fooled By Subtle Forms of Slavery…Written by Greg Metzger
The Call from the Rainbow… A Parshat Noach written by Greg for The Academy for Jewish Religion.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: She was a pioneer when it came to acknowledging and addressing the topic of death and dying. She relayed her insight and wisdom surrounding a subject that society often does not want to talk about, or understand how to cope with. Her work empowered those who were in the process of dying in a tremendously beautiful way, by helping to mirror the patient’s dignity and autonomy back to them. I admire the compassion she had for a population that is so often tucked away and hidden out of fear. Even years after she has passed away, her legacy continues to help others cope and understand the process of death and dying. A quote of hers that I find to be very poignant, and speaks to my own experience with death is “For those who seek to understand it, death is a highly creative force. The highest spiritual values of life can originate from the thought and study of death.” I have managed to tune into that creative force she speaks of, regardless of how painful the process was for me to walk through. I am currently a hospice volunteer and find it so incredibly powerful and rewarding in my spiritual journey. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a mensch.
Here is beautiful example of the autonomy, dignity and purpose that she used to help empower a patient and their family members:
Asher Gellis: Asher is the executive director of JQ International, which is a Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgender (GLBT) Jewish movement founded to serve as an infrastructure and community building space for GLBT Jews. JQ helps GLBT Jews to feel more whole, as they get the chance to integrate their sexual orientation and spirituality. When coming across any GLBT programing in the Los Angeles area, Asher Gellis has had something to do with it, whether directly, indirectly or on a collaborative level. He is a pioneer in bringing a GLBT voice to the Jewish community. He also trains clergy, educators, and administrators on what it means to be an inclusive Jewish community for the GLBT population. These days, raising funds is not an easy task for any non-profit, but I admire Asher because getting funding and support for his cause has been an incredibly tough uphill battle that someone could easily feel defeated by, but for years he has continued to fight for a population that is often voiceless and invisible. I recently did a paper on identity building for GLBT youth, and I came to understand that peer-mentoring programs are such powerful resources. I view Asher as a mentor to me, who has made such a huge impact in my life that I almost can’t even wrap my head around. I am so grateful for Asher. He is kind, and immensely thoughtful, sweet and extremely bright. Asher Gellis is a mensch.
JQ International in collaboration with Hebrew Union College’s Institute for Judaism & Sexual Orientation, created a GLBT Haggadah that integrates GLBT Passover traditions within the spirit of the traditional Passover experience.
For an online copy of the Haggadah go to: http://www.jqinternational.org/haggadah.php
Craig Taubman: I feel like I don’t need to mention who Craig is, because I have observed the tremendous presence that his music has in the Jewish community on a global level. Plus I kind of find it hard to describe him because his work is so dynamic. A “Jewish folk singer” doesn’t cut it. I have a special place in my heart for Craig. I know that I am not alone. Craig has helped bring healing to my life, not only through his music, but also through his kindness. I had the opportunity to work for him on the 6th annual “Let My People Sing” event. It was called Ashkenafard, and the theme of the festival was “Reuniting the Diaspora.” As you can imagine, it was a big project that took a great deal of outreach, and one of my big tasks was to get sponsorship. The truth is that I have struggled with asking for money, and found myself lost in fear and doubt. I knew that a very painful pattern of mine was being triggered, where my fear gives the wrong impressions and I loose my voice, and ultimately self-destruct. One day, Craig had asked my opinion about something, and after I responded he told me that he wanted to sit down and talk. I figured I had destroyed the opportunity to work with him. Instead, he said that the opinion I had given him the other day, reminded him of how I am a very bright and sensitive person who feels things very deeply, and I needed to use it to empower myself and not forget who I am. We would check in with each other to make sure that I was on track and not feeling lost and disconnected. I can’t even tell you how much that meant to me. While working with Craig, I witnessed a tremendous amount of people from all over the world, relay with such sincerity, the value and special meaning that Craig had brought to their life. I was told about the kind acts he had done for others, that were profoundly meaningful for them. I also know that Craig truly appreciates the loving feedback that he receives, because as a super busy person, the love helps to keep him going strong. It is a reciprocal relationship. Craig Taubman is a mensch.
Performance of Holy Ground
Esther Kustanowitz: Esther wears many many hats…she is a Jewish blogger, a social media consultant, works for the Los Angeles Jewish Federation as the Program Coordinator for NextGen Engagement Initiative, and does Jewish innovation consulting for the ROI Community. Esther has a list of really fantastic titles, but the titles will not give her justice in relaying the impact of these different roles. The level of impact that Esther is making within the Jewish community on a macro-level is tremendous and will be reverberated through generations to come. Because Esther is so humble and down to earth, I don’t know if she even truly knows the gravity and beauty of the impact she is making. If someone were able to step back, and truly be able to understand and grasp the magnitude of the mark she is making on the world, they would be so amazed and proud. Esther is a part of the leadership at some of the most influential Jewish programing found around the world, and is helping to create spaces where Jews can discover and decide what being Jewish means to them, find connection with fellow Jews while also discovering and respecting our differences, express our individuality and creativity, and figure out how we want to integrate our Judaism into our everyday lives. Her captivating wit and intellect, can not help but make us want to stick around and be a part of the Jewish scene. I am proud and honored to be able to call Esther my friend. She is definitely someone I look up to. Esther Kustanowitz is a mensch.
Esther was named one of the Top Ten Jewish Influencers by the National Jewish Outreach Program.
Her achievement was also covered in the Huffington Post.
Rabbi Sarah Bassin- When I initially tried to describe what I believe to be so powerful about the work Rabbi Sarah Bassin does, I was having a tough time, and I realized that it was because the very nature of her work lies in existing in the “gray area,” and non-linear thinking…where black and white thinking cannot thrive (and fortunately so). Rabbi Bassin is the Executive Director of NewGround, which is a successful organization that brings Muslims and Jews together to establish a new relationship. Rabbi Bassin demonstrates how to live a life with conviction, through the belief that there is an intrinsic therapeutic value in the process of establishing a new relationship, such as new beginnings, new perceptions, new allies and friends. I respect her conviction, but also her ability to manage remaining balanced and grounded while in the “gray area.” It truly takes a lot of skill to remain open-minded, flexible, and be able to see all the different sides within polarized situations. The tumultuous relationship that often happens between Muslims and Jews has a harsh reality to face, but I can tell you from my own personal experience with NewGround, that allowing myself to be vulnerable and transparent around those I may have stigmatized or demonized, is so powerful and healing, and has opened my life up. Through NewGround, Rabbi Bassin is a guide that invites others to be all that they are, in a safe and transformative space, where wisdom can manifest liberation and love. Rabbi Sarah Bassin is a mensch.
Erica Mandelbaum, a.k.a Momski: When I say that my mom is my hero, I am not just saying that because she gave birth to me and I love her. Separate from the fact she is my mother, she is an extraordinary human being, whom I feel embodies the love and liberation that I continue to strive for on a daily basis. The way she chooses to handle the adversity and challenges in her life, has taught me what it means to be a spiritual warrior. At the age of 39, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Before my mom was diagnosed, she was an avid and successful runner that never thought twice about whether or not her body would be functional enough to run in the next race. She was extremely proactive in the community at large, and was seen as an incredibly sharp and eloquent go-getter, and never thought that there would be days where she would find herself waiting in her car for an hour in the parking lot across from the building she worked at, praying that her medication would just kick in and the tremors would stop. The entire meaning of your life can change in a moment, and for her it was with a diagnosis. I saw my mom go through a period where anger and sadness held her hostage, but one day she decided that she had enough with feeling sorry for herself and that she was going take charge of her life, and not let the disease take control. My mom is a spokesperson and role model within the Parkinson’s community. She has helped to put together major fundraisers for Parkinson’s research, bringing speakers on board such as Rasheeda Ali-Walsh, who is one of Muhammad Ali’s daughters, the American political commentator and journalist Morton M. Kondracke, and the former Los Angeles Times editor and reporter Joel Havemann. She has received two major brain surgeries on both lobes of her brain, called Deep Brain Stimulation, with both lasting over seven hours while remaining awake. The implanted device is pretty much like a pace maker for the brain. Only two months after her first surgery, she went from struggling to move, to running in a 15K race, and her story ended up on the front page of the Tampa Tribune. People with Parkinson’s all over Florida reached out and contacted her because they felt empowered and hopeful through her bravery and strength. I have seen my mom deliver many speeches, and have felt so proud, as I watched the audience be incredibly moved by her story. She has received awards and recognitions for her bravery and impact, such as the Medtronic Global Hero Award. People feel honored to engage with my mom. Although the illness is progressive, and when my mom turns off her brain stimulators she is debilitated by severe tremors, when she does have them on, she continues to reach for the stars. In May, my mom, who is a rock star, will be at her graduation receiving her Masters diploma in marketing from the University of South Florida College of Business. My mother is a free woman. She is incredibly witty and has a spirit that exudes a state of openhearted wisdom, innocence, trust, simplicity and joyful wonder. She is my ultimate hero. I have the most exquisite role model of strength. My mom is the mensch queen.
Article about my mom running in a 15k race after brain surgery:
Article written by USF Oracle about my mom going back to college:
My mom honored as a Medtronic Global Hero:
I hope that you can feel the brilliance and beauty being reverberated through every single person I just wrote about. They all shine such bright lights, and bring such profound messages through the work they do. Do not miss the opportunity to engage and be touched by the holiness that these individuals bring forth.
March 9, 2012 | 10:48 am
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
In one week, Keshet, an organization working for the full inclusion of LGBT Jews in Jewish life, will host its annual Keshet Cabaret – a chance to come together, dress up, and celebrate leaders in the LGBT Jewish community. This year’s honorees including Idit Klein, Keshet’s executive director. Idit has been at Keshet for 10 years – a lifetime in terms of change in the Jewish LGBT world.
Think back to ten years ago when Idit first got involved with Keshet. Gay and lesbian couples could not marry anywhere in the U.S., and only one state prohibited discrimination based on gender identity in the workplace. The Conservative Movement of Judaism hadn’t yet issued its teshuvot affirming gay and lesbian Jews or its statement on transgender Jews. Trembling Before G-d hadn’t come out yet. Idit worked out of a home office. Fast forward to today, when LGBT Jews around the U.S. are finding new and innovative ways to celebrate rituals (and they can legally marry in eight states and the District of Columbia), the two largest streams of Judaism ordain openly LGBT rabbis, and the nation’s Jewish youth groups make videos to combat bullying. Keshet has offices in Boston, San Francisco, and Denver and a diverse, growing staff.
My, how far we’ve come. And, LGBT Jews around the U.S. owe much to Keshet and Idit’s leadership. You may not have had a Keshet staff member speak at your congregation, meet with your clergy, or train teachers in your community, but chances are through workshops at conferences for clergy, Jewish educators, and youth, the idea that Jewish communities can be inclusive of LGBT Jews and the tools to help them become inclusive have been developed and shared by Keshet. The film Hineni has been shown around the world and has given communities a way to talk about LGBT inclusion through one girl’s story. Posters celebrating LGBT Jews hang in classrooms around the country.
Join me in saying “kol ha kavod” to Idit and Keshet! Thank you for all you’ve done, and all you continue to do for LGBT Jews around the U.S.
March 1, 2012 | 6:42 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
Here’s to the day. Here’s to you making your way. Here’s to being Brave.
How are you being today?
I am happy to be me. I am.
Be thankful, no matter what. Even for the times when you are frustrated, angry and feel slightly lost.
Be thankful, thankful, thankful…
No matter what.