Posted by Tera Greene
There’s a lot going on at the Southern California chapter of the Workmen’s Circle!
Here is the footage from the 10’¢ Cinema Slam, held in Los Angeles at the Workmen’s Circle Socal/Arbeter Ring on April 17, 2012. To learn more about the event, please click this link.
True to form, the audience in attendance was both diverse in age-range and background. We were treated to educational history and laughs during this edition of the Cinema Slam.
The next four 10’¢ Cinema Slam events will be scheduled and dates announced as soon as we finalize everything. Hooray!
You can find out more information about special guest playwright, Terry Baum’s, upcoming Mother’s Day Show in San Fransisco by clicking this link. The show happens May 12 and 13th.
SAVE THE DATE: I will be hosting a food justice matinee screening of Forks Over Knives on May 20, 2012 at the Workmen’s Circle. For more information, please click here.
Tera Greene is an Artivist/Writer/Social Entrepreneur and award-winning DJ. She has blogged with the Jewish Journal Online’s “Oy Gay” blog since 2010. Follow her on twitter @djnovajade.
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April 19, 2012 | 8:43 pm
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
In two weeks, I’m getting married. Well, that’s what we’re calling it. Technically, my girlfriend of nearly five years and I are entering a civil union. But, what’s the verb that goes along with that? We’re civil unioning? Civil unionizing?
Here in Illinois, we can get a civil union license, and it will allow us to have all the legal protections and obligations that straight couples get when they get a marriage license. Don’t get me started, though, on how we’ll still be legal strangers in the eyes of the federal government because of a law called DOMA.
More importantly, in two weeks, I’m marrying the woman I love. I can’t wait to stand before our families and our friends and vow to be loving and kind to one another. I can’t wait for our families and friends to make witness our vows and commit to us as a couple – to stand by us, to support us, to love us. That doesn’t sound like a civil union to me. That sounds like a wedding, like a marriage, doesn’t it?
My journey to this day has been long and twisting. Just before I graduated from high school in Modesto, California, Californians passed Prop 22, a measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman (this is the same ballot measure that was found unconstitutional in 2008 by the California Supreme Court, which started the “Great Prop 8” adventure). My college graduation in Massachusetts was the weekend after that state became the first in the U.S. to extend the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. I lived in Michigan in 2004, where voters passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples or any other kind of recognition, like civil unions or domestic partnerships. I moved back to California just as gay and lesbian couples started to legally marry in June 2008, and then I marched in protest after the passage of Prop 8 in 2008, and I have dedicated my career to changing laws and public opinion to advance LGBT equality. Just last year I watched as the governor of Illinois signed civil union legislation, and in two weeks, I will put on a wedding dress, a garter with buttons from my great-great-grandmother’s wedding dress, and I will get married (or civilly unioned). Wow.
April 17, 2012 | 12:48 am
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
This is my longest piece. It is one of my most meaningful pieces. It is a stream of experiences, that are all interconnected. Let it take you on my journey…
It is a Monday night in Tampa, Florida, around midnight, in the neighborhood where I grew up. I am sitting on a sea wall facing the Tampa Bay, with my feet dangling over the side. It is a very peaceful and quiet night. The air is still. The moon is bright and the view is vast and beautiful. The water is calm, and the moon is reflected in its tiny ripples. The only sounds I hear are random splashes from fish jumping and crickets chirping. I feel open and connected, as my insides mirror the serenity and calmness that surrounds me. I know that this is what it means to be present in the moment. I am grateful.
I begin to hear other noises coming from both sides of me, such as the footsteps of a person and an animal, yet I see nothing in the darkness. I am anxious and my body is tightening up from fear. I no longer feel the serenity and connection that I had been experiencing just moments before. My breath becomes shallow. Rather then observing the jumping fish with a childlike wonder, I am startled by them.
I am going to stop and take a breath, and try to once again ground myself. I choose to let go of my fear. I can feel myself reconnect with my surroundings. My head feels clear again and my heart is opening back up. The fish are no longer a threat. I was in no real danger, and realized that what I had just experienced was a great representation of the power of fear, by how my guard immediately went up, and my perception and experience totally shifted.
Over the years, I have found myself lost in fear over my sexual orientation. It would take over my mind and body, and I would no longer feel connected with my surroundings. That fear, which ultimately stems from a lack of self-love and self worth, is such a painful space to be in. The majority of the time, I am my harshest critic. I have found it to be a really tough journey, to reach a place where you no longer accept, and give power to the harmful opinions of others, as being based in truth. It is part of a perspective, that does not define who you are. I cannot say that I am completely there yet. I think that a reason why the LGBT community is often “othered,” is because sex, rather then love, is associated as to what defines us. Like so many other human beings, I truly desire to connect and have deep love and intimacy. There have been many times, where that connection was possible, and often already existed, yet the fear of societies responses, made the potentially beautiful relationship, only an idea or concept, that was feared rather then embraced. As I walk through my fears, the more I find self-love and self-worth. To freely love myself, and love within all types of relationships, is what I believe to be the ultimate freedom.
Last November, a random opportunity came my way, to face and walk through my fears. I was asked to share my personal story, which included being open about my sexual orientation. It was an event for NewGround, which is an organization that brings Muslims and Jews together to establish a new relationship, and the premise of the event was to find connection with one another through story telling. Four Muslims and four Jews, shared their stories that night, and the event was a success. Prior to sharing my story, as I sat in the front row listening to those before mine, I looked behind me at the crowd of over 150 people, and began to panic. My mind went blank and I had trouble listening to the storytellers. I asked myself why I had agreed to participate in the event. When I went up on stage, something came over me, as I felt serenity and empowerment take over my entire being. Similar to how I felt at the edge of the sea wall, as I stood towards the edge of the stage, looking out into the sea of faces, I felt grounded in my body, and connection to the moment. My story just effortlessly flowed out of me. The feedback I received that night from the audience, was incredibly supportive and beyond what I could have imagined.
During my story, I mentioned the concept of “the other,” which is when a person discriminates and dehumanizes another person, often because of their sexual orientation, religious views, ethnic background, political views or socioeconomic status. I tried to set up a mirror for the audience, to at least look and see if they could find a part of themselves in my story, regardless of their sexual orientation, or ask themselves if I was “the other.” I shared my belief, that we could be powerful mirrors for one another, where we can face our own reflection and see the truth about ourselves. At times, I have found that in general, my strong reaction to a person and an event signals an issue to work on inside myself. By facing my fears and being transparent in front of the crowd of Muslims and Jews, in a safe and transformative space, would end up being one of my greatest and most powerful mirrors.
Although I felt empowered by the experience, something inside felt out of tune, and I sensed a bit of false pride. What finally hit me, was that I was being incongruent with my message, considering how I was presently “othering” some family members. Instead of giving them the courtesy of communicating about a situation, I let my fear take over and I avoided them. I saw them as a threat, and threw up a wall of anger and blame. Although I was avoiding them, I could not stop thinking about them. There were nights where I struggled over my feelings, and could not fall asleep, yet I still couldn’t face them and my fears. Family members are often the ones who help to lay our foundation of self, and whether we know it or not, influences the core of our being. Regardless of my anger, I knew that it was masking sadness and that I love them.
I have come to believe that having integrity is one of the utmost important character traits for any human being to have. I have suffered some tremendous consequences for not having integrity, and I NEVER want to experience that again. Because I wasn’t being congruent with my message, I knew that my integrity would be at stake if I did not take action, by facing my family, and hopefully making repair. I knew what I had to do, and so I finally reached out. I must say, that I needed to experience something incredibly significant, in order to push me through my fears. I have not perfectly walked on the path of making amends to them, but when I wrestle with fear and want to throw a wall up, I walk through the fear because I truly desire to connect and make repair. I am so grateful that we are now communicating.
It hit me, that there was some great irony and profound significance taking place, considering that by taking the steps to create a new relationship with Muslims, would end up being the catalyst to push me to try and make repair and start a new relationship within my own family. I knew that there was a powerful message taking place, and that I needed to continue to engage with Muslims. I had only scratched the surface with them, and there was already profound messages and parallels. I knew that as long as I was being proactive in establishing a relationship with both my family and Muslims, I would continue to find great parallels and powerful messages. My belief did not fail me.
A few days following the NewGround event, a Muslim woman reached out to me on Facebook, and sent me a message. “I wanted to introduce myself and let you know that I definitely think you should keep at sharing your stories publicly. I know for sure I wasn’t the only one that was happy to have heard your story. It takes a lot of courage, self reflection, and soul searching to do what you did on stage in front of a community unfamiliar to you and I think that’s exactly the example we need more of. Thank you.” I was so grateful for her message, because she mirrored back to me, that I had made a difference. It relieved some of the lingering fear I had over making myself vulnerable, and I felt empowered and proud of myself. I also felt the desire to continue to get to know her.
*Out of respect for her privacy, I chose to give her the Muslim name Eiliyah, which means “The beautiful one to grow in peace and love with God.”
When I started back up at school, I took a great social work class about working with minorities. One of my major assignments was to interview someone that I had been taught to demonize and view as the “other.” I knew immediately what community to focus on, and who to ask to interview. I reached out to the woman who had contacted me on Facebook, and asked her if she would let me interview her for my project. She said that she would be happy to help me, and so we made plans to meet at the Coffee Bean. Before we met, I looked her biography up online, and came to discover that she is a very successful and dynamic activist. I became a bit intimidated, but I was also really excited to finally get the chance to meet her and hear her story.
While I was excited to meet Eiliyah, I was also nervous because of how once again, I was walking into the unknown by getting together with a woman I had never really met, but who knew some very personal things about myself. As I approached her, I could tell that she was very sweet and laidback, and was around my age. I believe that she was also nervous, because she was walking into the unknown, to be transparent and vulnerable with someone she had only connected with on an abstract level. I have found that by engaging face to face with someone can be a much more intimate and intimidating experience. Before we started the interview, in order to bridge the gap, she wanted to get to know me and establish a connection. She told me that because I had put myself out there by being transparent and vulnerable, she wanted to do the same. I truly appreciated her initiating the opportunity for us to be on the same page. I found it to be immensely considerate and brave. Through sharing some very intimate struggles that she has had to walk through, I saw what a brave and strong woman she is, who has come to know her voice, and integrate with her innate beauty and power. Eiliyah is on a journey to dissipate, ‘unravel’ and break free of any belief systems, that take her away from living in a reality that is based in the love and compassion that she came to know through studying the heart of the Qur’an.
During the interview, she mentioned how she was taught that compassion and social justice are major spiritual principles in the Qur’an. As soon as she said that, I felt a connection to her considering that I was always taught the importance of those principles through Judaism. “I would find messages of compassion and of social justice, and of taking care of the most vulnerable in society, whether you knew them or not, if they were your family or if they were strangers, if they were a different ethnicity or if they are the same. I feel like the stories of the prophet, and the texts, and the scriptures, and the Qur’an are all so full of that. I think its beautiful and I love seeing the world through a lens of compassion. The first of the 99 names and the first of the 99 attributes of God in the Islamic tradition is Rahmah, which means compassion, and I think that is one of the most powerful statements that can be said.” What hit me was that I had never associated principles of compassion with the Qur’an because of all of the negative messages I had heard through the media and word of mouth. Eiliyah spoke of the Qur’an, with such a genuine love and respect, that I could not help but question negative ideas that I had been given about it. I have yet to read it, but would love the opportunity to look over it with Eiliyah. I want to see for myself, if there is hatred espoused in the Qur’an, because in a holy book whose foundation is based in compassion, I do not see how hatred could be a part of the equation. The reality is that people interpret the Qur’an, Torah and Bible, through their own lens, and there are often different meanings for different people. People may see only what they want to see. I knew that Eiliyah was coming from the heart, and in my experience, I have often found that when something is coming from a place of love, is where holiness is most exuberant.
In The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar: Everyday Holiness, I found a passage that mirrored the values of compassion and social justice that I was told is also found in the Qur’an. “The moral precepts of Judaism demand that we be compassionate to every soul. Singled out repeatedly as especially needing our compassion are the poor, widows, orphans, and others in need. The Torah repeatedly hammers away at our obligation to help those who are vulnerable and needy. The tradition is so insistent that we be living vessels of compassion that the Talmud asserts that “anyone who is not compassionate with people is certainly not a descendent of our forefather Abraham.” Compassion is an inner quality that grows within us out of the perception that we are not really separate from the other. We have a commonsense appreciation that we are all separate beings, but the truth is that we are very much connected at several levels.”
Another major driving force for me to make repair within my family, was my grandmother, whom I tremendously love and respect. She had been struggling over the disharmony in the family, and feared that the tension would not change before she were to pass away. She had been in a lot of heartache over what was going on. It was an awful concept for me to think about, and so I wanted to respect my grandmothers life, by trying to repair the damage that was on my part. After some good communication began to occur within the family, when I spoke to my grandmother, she exuded such joy and relief. I had not heard her that excited in years. One day, as I was thinking about the family situation, I wondered what Abraham would feel if he knew of the disharmony, to say the least, that has existed between the Abrahamic faiths. I would imagine that similar to my grandmother, Abraham would be, or is, heartbroken, and yearns to see repair and harmony.
When Eiliyah and I first met, I asked to sit tucked away in the corner of the outside eating area, so that any additional voices would not get picked up on my recording device. Half way through the interview, four priests sat next to our table, and I became a bit nervous that their voices would overpower hers. There had been plenty of other places for them to sit. A month later, as I was transcribing the interview for my paper, I realized that there was a reason why they sat next to us. When addressing the conflict between Muslims and Jews, she said, “I don’t remember anybody ever saying anything from a Quranic perspective, that was demeaning about the Jews. If anything it was making connections between the Jewish tradition, the Christian tradition and the Islamic tradition, that we all come from Abraham. That there is this deep connection, and brotherhood and sisterhood amongst our traditions, and that we should respect that and we should hold that relationship dear, and this is coming from the line of thought and the same message of God. The messages of God were being sent around the world, and the focus is on compassion and its focus is on getting to know one another and establishing equity. Being a part of these traditions was what was taught, and that there should be respect.” As she spoke of the brotherhood and sisterhood between the three Abrahamic faiths, I was taken back when I realized that the voices from all three of them were on my recorder. Turns out that the four voices of the priests did not over power either of our voices at all, but rather added to the display of a beautiful sense of unity and harmony.
When the interview came to an end, and we began to get ready to leave, I felt this amazing sensation of being present and connected to my new friend, similar to the feeling I had on the sea wall in Tampa Bay. I felt a synergistic centeredness in my heart. The experience I was having could be highlighted in one of the statements that Eiliyah had said… “There is this deep connection, and brotherhood and sisterhood amongst our traditions, and that we should respect that and we should hold that relationship dear, and this is coming from the line of thought and the same message of God.”
As I started to write the closing statements for the term paper on my interview with Eiliyah, I was supposed to address how I was going to continue to engage with the community that I had been taught to demonize. How was I going to bridge the gap? I hit a wall as I thought about how I could bridge the gap, and I realized that it wasn’t about making all these major changes in the community, but rather engage by just showing up and participating. This answer came to me through an email I received at that very moment, about an Interfaith Concert for Possibility, produced by reGeneration, which is an organization that is seeding the Middle East with an educational philosophy that embraces life, learning, the arts, the earth and all the children. A few of the many collaborators of the event were NewGround, King Fahad Mosque, Temple Emanuel, All Saints Church, Islamic Center S. California, IKAR, Valley Interfaith Council, Temple Isaiah, Wilshire Center Interfaith Council, Progress Christian United, The Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Temple Israel of Hollywood, and the First Congregational Church of LA.
I took the timing of the email as a message that I needed to be there. Although I had four different people back out on plans to join me for the concert, I felt that I should go anyways. I am so glad that I went because something amazing happened that night, and probably wouldn’t have happened if I had gone with someone.
During an intermission at the concert, I just stayed seated looking out at my surroundings. There was a woman next to me that I felt inclined to interact with. As soon as we started talking, I could tell that she was sweet, but the conversation ended pretty abruptly because a group of women came up to her, and she jumped up to hug them, and with such pure joy. It was very evident that they all were genuinely excited to unite. After the group left, the woman apologized for leaving the conversation. I told her to not worry about it, and that it was great to witness such a joyous connection between all of them. Turns out that they were a part of an interfaith group. She described herself as being spiritual, and a woman on a quest for inner standing. She said that it was beautiful how color was no divide amongst the women. Her roots are from the Garifuna culture, which are descendants of Carib & Arawak Indians and West Africans. She told me that she had made a documentary film about her people and her love for her grandfather, and that it was about to start being shown at film festivals across the country. I told her that her timing was great, because of how just the other day, I was expressing my deep sadness to someone, over how I had been in such a bad emotional place for so many years, that I did not get the chance to be present for a relationship with my grandfather, who was such a good man. I had decided to try and still have a relationship with him, and I was trying to figure out how. She told me that she believed I could still have a relationship with him, even though he was not physically present. I told her that I would love to meet for coffee sometime and talk about our grandfathers. She thought it was a great idea. At one point, when I looked over at her, she was flustered with excitement. She told me that she was getting chills, and showed me the goose bumps on her arms. She said that she could feel that my grandfather was with me.
When I told her that I was Jewish, she said that her husband was Jewish, and that he was the director of an organization, whose title had the name of a man I did not recognize. Before they were about to leave, we exchanged information. It wasn’t up until that point, that we had actually exchanged our names. I was so grateful that I listened to the message that told me I needed to show up to the event.
I decided to leave about ten minutes after they did. As I exited Temple Emanuel, where the concert was held, I ran back into my new friend. I told her that it was so great to meet her, and she said that it was by no accident. She then introduced me to her husband, who I came to learn was the director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics. He asked me if I had heard of Raoul Wallenberg, and I said no. I came to learn that he was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat, and humanitarian, who is widely celebrated for his successful efforts to rescue tens of thousands to about one hundred thousand Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from Hungarian Fascists and the Nazis during the later stages of World War II. Raoul Wallenberg is honored in the Guinness Book of World Records as having saved the greatest number of people from extinction. I mentioned to her husband, that my grandfathers’ parents came to America from Hungary. I wondered if Mr. Wallenberg helped to save some of my own family members during WWII. The woman and I looked at each other with gleaming faces. As I walked away, it hit me that I was being taken on a fluid path, to help me reconnect with my grandfather.
Like Raoul Wallenberg, my grandfather was also an architect, and had the oldest architectural firm in Tampa. One of his many projects was to expand the sanctuary at the synagogue that I had grown up in. The night before I headed back to Los Angeles from Tampa, I decided to go with my grandmother to the Shabbat services at the synagogue, called Schaarai Zedek. As always, my grandmother and I sat in the left wing of the sanctuary, which was one of the extensions that my grandfather had designed. I felt that by being in the sanctuary, I was wrapped in his loving arms. As I was sitting there, something struck me, that had never before. On the wall of the wing he designed, was a 15-foot tall stained glass portrait of Abraham, as he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, and was being stopped by the angel of God. Over the years, during each service, I used to stare at the beautiful stained glass portrait of him, but this time, it’s significance and presence was much more profound for me. In a sense, it came alive.
Not long after I returned from Tampa, my aunt reached out to me and asked if I would like to join them for their Passover Seder. It had been a while since I had last seen them, and I was really happy to receive the invitation and let her know that I would be joining them. As I was heading out, I realized that I had not picked up some flowers to bring with me to the Seder, like I had hoped to. If I had time, I was going to stop. On my way from Silverlake to Pacific Palisades, something extraordinary happened. It was 6:30pm on a Friday in Los Angeles, and I was hitting absolutely no traffic. As I flew through downtown and on the 10W, I felt as if Moses had parted the waters to help me get to my family, except that it wasn’t just Moses who was parting the waters, but also prophets from all different faiths, because they too were responsible for helping me to reunite with my family. I made it so quickly to the Palisades, that I managed to be able to stop to pick up a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I came to find out that the lack of traffic was because it was Good Friday, however that did not take away from the powerful symbolism from freely reconnecting with my family. I guess you could say that the timing was perfect.
The home belonged to Rachel, who is the mother of my uncles’ wife. Like my grandfather, Rachel is Hungarian. As we were standing in the kitchen, I decided to ask her if she had heard of Raoul Wallenberg, and she looked me straight in the eyes and said that he was responsible for saving her life during the Holocaust, and immediately showed me a picture of his memorial site. Rachel had recently written a book about growing up in Hungary during World War II, and one of the chapters is titled “My Hero: Raoul Gustav Wallenberg.” He had personally grabbed her and her mother while waiting in a line for deportation to Auschwitz.
This weekend I was in Sacramento to attend an event put on by the National Association of Social Workers, called Lobby Days. The event was a culmination of 1,400 social work students from schools all over California, giving us the opportunity to speak with senators about three specific bills. On Monday, a couple hundred of us gathered to have a rally in front of the Capitol. There was an amazing synergy, as we were all so passionate about helping to give a voice to the communities that are so often marginalized. Occurring in the Capitol at the exact same time as our rally, was the California State Assembly’s Holocaust Memorial Project 2012. As soon as the rally was over, I ran inside to see if I could catch some of the end of the program. It was over, however I got the chance to speak with a woman who was an organizer for the event. She said that 170 people attended, and 78 of them were survivors. I thought about the contrast of the two events… Where one was about shouting for the living, and the other was about giving silence for the victims that are no longer with us. They were both poignant in their own way, addressing the injustices of the present and the past. I wondered if any of the survivors were rescued by Raoul Wallenberg.
Hillary Rodham Clinton once said “We should see the story of Raoul Wallenberg not as a part of a heroic myth, but as an example of the values that should inform how we live.” One of the bills that we lobbied for, which I believe would be close to Wallenberg’s heart, is for the Reuniting Immigrant Families Act. The majority of children whose parents are undocumented immigrants, are often found in our foster care system, after their parents had been abruptly taken away from them and deported. Given the nature of the immigration system, these children are less likely to be reunified with their birth parents. When Wallenberg saved Rachel’s life, he made sure to keep her and her mother together, as he managed to convince some of the guards with fake documents and men posing as Swedish police officers, that they did not belong in the line that was deporting Jews to Auschwitz. Although I could not attend the memorial, I imagined Raoul Wallenberg, standing along with us at the rally, fighting for the voiceless.
Going back to my trip to Tampa, to be with my family, I want to mention my last experience on the sea wall before I headed to the airport to go back to Los Angeles. I had decided to go say good bye to my meditative space, and as I walked out there, I felt that the wind was very strong, and when I approached the sea wall, I saw that the water was very choppy. The sky was grey and it began to drizzle. I was initially bummed because I wasn’t going to get one last peaceful encounter, but I realized, that even though my surroundings weren’t ideal, it was still important to find connection and beauty in what I was facing. With life in general, it is important to be able to have the faith and recognition, of the intrinsic beauty in situations and relationships that could be easily dismissed as “bad.” There were pelicans struggling to fly, as they battled going against the wind currents, but I noticed how they would freely soar when they would swoop down and skim the surface of the choppy waters. Often times, similar to the pelicans battling the wind, we are battling a struggle within ourselves, but when we take the chance to face the choppy waters, whether that be ourselves, challenging situations or tumultuous relationships, there is a freedom that can occur with it, as we break the shackles from belief systems based in fear, anger and mistrust. This freedom occurs for me as I face my fears, such as through speaking in front of Muslims at the event for NewGround, or by facing my family. For Eiliyah, by facing and breaking down her belief systems that held her back from living from a place of love and compassion, has given her a sense of freedom. There is freedom found in unconditional love. When I use that term, I do not mean it in the sense that we are going to love every single person we come across, because I do not think that is realistic. I believe in having unconditional love with discernment, such as through not retaliating feelings of anger and hatred to those who may feel that way towards you, and even having an open heart, and an open mind, towards the possibility of a new relationship. I have found that when we are facing “the other” we are ultimately facing ourselves.
“Living in a world of polarities, yet knowing that all parts are one in the unified whole, creates the underlying framework of connectedness. Utilize the relationships created by polarity to explore and expand any self-limiting construct. Open your perceptions.” I cannot help but find this statement to be true, especially through the experience with how by connecting with Muslims, I was also connecting with my family. Not just family members who are alive, but also those who have passed away.
Life is sacred. Life is tough. Life is mysterious. Life is painful. Life is beautiful. All of it is holy.
April 17, 2012 | 12:12 am
Posted by Tera Greene
Los Angeles, CA
On April 17, 2012, I will be hosting the second ever 10’¢ Cinema Slam. All are welcome to attend/perform. The Entry is at least a donation of 10’¢. (To see the footage please click here!)
A night of entertainment for 10 cents to help you relieve yourself of tax anxiety… you’re welcome.
The 10’¢ Cinema Slam is my latest project fusing artistic mediums; in this case, spoken word and film. I believe things are most accessible when they are able to cross disciplines and bridge age group gaps. The spoken word, song and film are all universal media forms that also help us hold mirrors up to ourselves. I believe that Queer Jews have been pivotal in both mediums and the 10’¢ Cinema Slam exists to showcase the contributions by Queer Jews through an evening of interactive arts.
The name 10’¢ Cinema Slam is a play on words, referencing the notion that ten percent - literally, 10 per (’) cent (¢) - of the population was once perceived as being LGBT(Q). Because this series is a “Platform for Storytelling and Storytellers” within a Jewish framework, the ten percent also references the notion of giving back (“tithing”). Plus, at ten cents a donation, the barrier to entry virtually diminishes, while the diversity of patrons increases.
Held at the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring in the Pico-Robertson Area, non-Jews and straight-allies are welcomed to attend and participate in the event. Though the Workmen’s Circle is in the process of a transition and rejuvenation within the organization, the Circle already has over 100 years of social justice dedication and groundwork under its belt. The Cinema Slam is another notch in its historic legacy. It aims to be an evening to learn and engage in Jewish LGBTQ history and community in a way that allows for our stories and influence within the greater LGBTQ framework to be displayed positively. And since there’s always an opinion, the open mic portion is a way to be heard in real time. The Workmen’s Circle also helps to engage a wide range of age demographics - in December of 2011, participants and attendees’ ages spanned a 60 year age range.
Open Mic Sign-ups happen the evening of the event. Each guest gets 6 minutes.
To be on the mailing list to be notified of more 10’¢ Cinema Slams, email your information to director[at]circlesocal[dot]org with the subject “Cinema Slam list”.
If you are a Jewish filmmaker or poet, OR feature Jewish positive/insightful characters in your films, poetry or songs and wish to submit a film or pieces for review to be a featured film or poet, please email Tera at tera[dot]greene[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject “Cinema Slam Artist”. Feel free to also send recommendations for consideration.
April 17, 2012 at 7PM
10’¢ Cinema Slam
Entry is 10’¢. All are welcome to attend/perform.
Featuring the film:
GAY REVOLT AT DENVER CITY COUNCIL, OCTOBER 23, 1973, AND HOW IT CHANGED OUR WORLD.
A documentary film produced by
Workmen’s Circle member Gerald Gerash
The film documents the incredible bravery of 1970s gay liberation activists in standing up for their rights. Their relentless grass roots organizing led to the extension of equal rights protection to all gays and lesbians nationwide.
For more information, please click here.
There will be a Q+A with filmmaker/gay liberation activist Jerry Gerash in addition to an open mic portion of the evening so that other queer Jewish artists and allies can share their stories as well.
Entry is 10’¢.
All are welcome to attend/perform.
Sign Ups for the Open Mic will occur the night of.
* More about GAY REVOLT AT DENVER CITY COUNCIL
There have been powerful media depictions of the storied New York Stonewall Uprising of 1969 and also of Harvey Milk whose story captured the strong LGBT community of San Francisco of the mid 1970s. However, nothing has ever been documented about the dramatic turmoil and victories between the coasts in the early 1970s: in Denver another explosive burst of gay liberation energy and activism occurred, with successes unequaled up to that time.
During the first decade of gay liberation, Denver was a leading center of gay rights progress and innovation. As further waves of Denver activists furthered LGBT civil rights after our earlier successes, Denver became an even greater leader in gay tolerance and protection. In fact, the Romer v. Evans case of the U. S. Supreme Court, establishing for the first time that gays and lesbians were entitled to equal protection came out of Colorado.
Footage from the 10’¢ Cinema Slam 12-6-11
March 14, 2012 | 6:25 pm
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]
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 | 3:45 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.