Jack and Robin Firestone, an average American Jewish couple, were vacationing in Paris in 1997. Then tragedy struck -- right before their eyes, a car carrying Princess Diana fatally crashed in a Paris tunnel. The Firestones have since written a book, "Chasing Diana," about their tumultuous experience and their role in the ensuing investigation. "You never want to believe it was anything more than an accident, but the more we saw, we could not help believe that there's something deeper here," Robin said. "The inquest, the verdict, the book; it's all closure for us. Now we'll just let the reader decide." Sat. 7 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. http://www.booksoup.com.
The inaugural Bel Air Film Festival brings us "Carissa," a documentary about a UCLA graduate whose early life in Fresno included homelessness and prostitution. Carissa Phelps will answer questions after the screening. On Sunday, actor and comedian Jamie Kennedy will be honored after a screening of his film, "Heckler." And on Wednesday, the festival will close with a free Jewish Film Night hosted by the Sigi Ziering Institute, which will honor "Friends" creator-producer Marta Kauffman at a screening of "Blessed Is the Match," a film about War World II-era poet and resistance fighter Hannah Senesh. Sat. Through Nov. 19. For exact locations, times and prices, please visit http://www.belairfilmfestival.com.
You can lend a hand in the fight against cancer by playing a hand at the eighth annual Visions Israel Cancer Research Fund's Monte Carlo Night. Dressed in chic evening attire, you can dance, bid on auction goodies, roll the dice in craps, take a chance on roulette and don your poker face in Texas Hold'em while feeling good that your money is going to the best hospitals, universities and cancer research institutions in Israel. Visions, the ambitious "next generation" of charitable organizations, will honor Rachael Tanenbaum and Benjamin Sternberg with its "Visionary of the Year Awards." Sat. 8 p.m. $80 (before Nov. 14 at noon), $95 (thereafter). Petersen Automotive Museum, 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 651-1200. http://www.icrfvisions.org.
She's messed around with the Zohan, played second fiddle to Barbra Streisand, inspired a DC Comics superheroine (Big Barda) and had a stint in "The Vagina Monologues." Beloved Jewish actress Lainie Kazan will read opposite Alan Rachins in the Jewish Community Centers' Celebrity Staged Play Reading of "Plaza Suite." Written by Neil Simon, the comical play involves three sets of characters whose dramas unfold one after another in the same New York City hotel suite: a middle-aged couple attempting to breathe life into their marriage; a former movie producer trying to seduce his now-married old flame, and a bride's parents going to great lengths to calm their daughter's wedding-day jitters. Sat. 7:30 p.m. $12-$16. Valley Cities JCC, 14701 Friar St., Van Nuys. (818) 786-6310. Also, Sun. 2 p.m. $12-$16. Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 938-2531, ext. 2225. http://www.westsidejcc.org.
SUN | NOVEMBER 16
Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews are a minority within a minority. The largely understudied cultures of Jews from Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Iran, Morocco and other Arab countries are the focus of an academic-minded conference, "Integrating Sephardi and Mizrachi Studies, Research and Practice," co-sponsored by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies and USC's Casden Center. Presentations from leading scholars will address the lack of academic attention given to these traditions and how to rectify that discrepancy. Besides academic sessions such as "Who Are the Sephardim and How Have They Been Studied?" and "Rise of the Persian Jewish Community in Los Angeles," the three-day symposium will also include public programming, an art exhibition and a concert featuring Divahn. Sun.-Tue. Various times. $150 (full conference), $65 (single day), $15-$25 (evenings only). Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, Stephen S. Wise Temple, USC, Sinai Temple and UCLA. (213) 765-2117. http://www.huc.edu/sephardic/conference.
Going Metro is becoming all the rage in our eternally traffic-jammed city. Even ATID is hopping on the bandwagon with its Outdoors Metro Rail Art Tour -- a sightseeing trip that takes you below ground to view the eclectic artwork in and around the Metro Rail system in Los Angeles. Knowledgeable guides will point out the works, tell you about the artists and provide insight into the communities they beautify. The tour, beginning at the Union Station Metro stop, will also provide a chance to try out the city's burgeoning public transportation system -- it ain't New York, but it's a start! Sun. 10:45 a.m. Free (members), $8 (guests). Metro Station at Historic Union Station, 900 Alameda St., Los Angeles. http://sinaitemple.org/events/ATID/Metro.
American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev present "Excellence in Research Symposium: Alternative Energy, the Environment and Medical Science," featuring keynote speaker Gabriela Shalev, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Panelists include David Faiman, who will focus on the development of affordable solar energy; Zeev Wiesman, an expert in the field of sustainable biotechnologies; Dr. Alon Friedman, a leading researcher on brain function and disorder, and Dr. Eli Lewis, a world-renowned expert on diabetes. Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $175. Beverly Hilton Hotel, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 552-3300. http://www.aabgu.org.
The West Coast Jewish Theatre invites you to "An Evening of Stars!" The benefit show, starring Jewish theater favorites Ed Asner, Shelley Berman, Hal Linden and others, will enable the organization to continue producing quality theater that presents Jewish themes, traditions and ideas. Famous former host of "Let's Make a Deal," Monty Hall, will be the master of ceremonies at this grand evening of entertainment. Sun. 6:30 p.m. $150-$225. American Jewish University, Gindi Auditorium, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (323) 650-6973. http://www.westcoastjewishtheatre.org.
MON | NOVEMBER 17
Leib Lejzon was only 10 years old when he and his family were imprisoned in the Krakow Ghetto. Three years later, Lejzon's father took him to work in Oscar Schindler's factory. His older brothers were not as lucky; they did not survive the Holocaust. Hear Lejzon tell the full story of his journey and his personal relationship with the courageous German businessman who saved the lives of hundreds of Jews, at "Little Leyson -- The Youngest Schindler's List Survivor Tells His Story." Mon. 8 p.m. $15-$20. Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village. (818) 991-0991. http://www.jewishacademy.com.
TUE | NOVEMBER 18
A naked John Lennon curled and clinging to Yoko Ono. Demi Moore, seven months pregnant. Whoopi Goldberg in a tub full of milk. Annie Leibovitz has created iconic photographs for choice publications such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue; she has published various books, photographed the Barack Obama campaign and had her work featured in numerous art exhibitions. Don't pass up this opportunity to meet the legendary photographer on the day her new book, "Annie Leibovitz at Work," is being released. Leibovitz will discuss her career, reveal behind-the-scenes details about some of her more famous portraits and sign copies of her book. Advance tickets are highly recommended. Tue. 7:30 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (877) 722-4849. http://www.skirball.org.
WED | NOVEMBER 19
Painting and poetry meld together beautifully in Marcia Falk's new exhibition, "Inner East: Illuminated Poetry and Blessings." Falk, author of "The Song of Songs: Love Lyrics from the Bible" and "The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival," combines portions of her books with pencil drawings and oil pastel paintings that extend "the experience of prayer into the visual dimension." Wed. 6-8 p.m. The Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel, Gindi Hall, 974 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081, ext. 108. http://www.uclahillel.org.
THU | NOVEMBER 20
"M*A*S*H" and "Ocean's Eleven" star Elliot Gould will be honored at the Laugh Factory during a special night for Hillel 818. The comedy-filled evening will feature Elon Gold, Bret Ernst and The Skylar Brothers. Proceeds from the event will help support Hillel programs at Cal State Northridge, and Pierce and Valley colleges. Thu. 7 p.m. (VIP reception) 8 p.m. (show) $10-$25; $75 (VIP). The Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 887-5901 or (818) 886-5101. http://www.hillel818.org.
FRI | NOVEMBER 21
The Bible is riddled with drama, and perhaps one of the most gasp-inspiring moments is when Abraham raises his cleaver over his son, Isaac. We know how it ends, but the story is still riveting. "Test of Faith" is a one-act opera based on the Akedah, the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. With libretto by Marcia Hain Engle and music by Lawrence Goldberg, the opera premiered 20 years ago and won the Jewish Music Commission's top honor. Goldberg (who didn't conduct the premiere due to illness and has never heard his own opera live) will conduct this encore performance featuring prominent opera stars Jonathan Mack as God, Ron Li-Paz as Abraham and Jonathan Zur as Isaac. After the show, Valley Beth Shalom's Rabbi Ed Feinstein will lead a discussion with Goldberg and the performers about the Akedah and the operatic work. Fri. 8 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000. http://www.jmcla.org.
What can the Jewish community expect from our next president? Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay will host Jonathan Adelman, a professor at University of Denver's Joseph Korbel School of International Studies and author of "The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State," for a special Shabbat service that will address this and many other questions. Adelman will speak on "What Does Our New President Mean for Israel and the Middle East?" If you're not already impressed with Adelman's credentials, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can vouch for him: She was his former doctoral student. Fri. 6:15 p.m. Free. Congregation Ner Tamid, 5721 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes. (310) 377-6986. http://www.nertamid.com.
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