Winner of the Camera d'Or prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, "Jellyfish" is another example of the remarkable cinematic explosion of Israeli films garnering critical acclaim at international film festivals. Written by Shira Geffen and directed by famed short-story writer Etgar Keret, the poignant film depicts the lives of three women living in Tel Aviv -- each one lost in her own tragic way and dealing with issues of communication, affection and destiny. The thread running through their endearing stories is the gray, tranquil Mediterranean Sea and the jellyfish that wash up on its shores. The film, in Hebrew with English subtitles, opened in various theaters April 25. Check local listings for theaters and showtimes. http://www.zeitgeistfilms.com.
Saddle up your horses and head to Burbank for a lively Western-themed benefit, Wells Fargo's "Hollywood Charity Horse Show," headed up by one of the most iconic starship captains of our time, William Shatner, a.k.a. Capt. James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Let loose your yeehaws and yipees as the knife- and whip-wielding troupe Rancho Indalo Riders wow the crowd with their daring riding tricks. Then croon along with country music superstar Randy Travis as he serenades the crowd during a good ol'-fashioned country dinner party. Don't forget to tip your cowboy hat to Ahead With Horses and the Camp Max Strauss Foundation, two incredible organizations that focus on the needs of children in Los Angeles that will be receiving the proceeds of this event. Sat. 4 p.m. (silent auction), 5:30 p.m. (arena show), 7 p.m. (dinner and concert). $250 (individual tickets), $2,500 (per table). Various sponsorships available. Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 480 Riverside Drive, Burbank. (818) 840-9066. http://www.horseshow.org.
The presidential race, the mortgage crisis, the faltering economy, the growing threat of Iran -- these issues have so consumed our attention in the past few months that the dire situation in Darfur seems to have almost entirely faded from our community discourse. Bringing it back into the spotlight is the Ventura County Temple Reform Youth, or VCTRY, who are hosting a Darfur Benefit Night to raise money for the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders, which provides direct medical aid to Darfur's refugee camps. The high school students behind the event have organized a fun evening, with a fashion show, silent auction, food and drinks, and would appreciate seeing members of their temple, as well as the rest of the community, come out and support this almost forgotten cause. Sat. 7 p.m. Free admission. Temple Beth Torah, Meister Hall, 7620 Foothill Road, Ventura. (805) 647-4181.
Do you ever ask yourself what does being Jewish even mean? Do other people ask you that question? In search of answers to this million-dollar question, eight characters in the comedic play, "Oy, What Is a Jew?" written by members of the Sholem Community, re-discover their Jewishness, and hopefully you will, too. Enthusiastic participants will perform songs, sketches and monologues for your viewing pleasure. Kvell away! Sat. 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. $16 (18 and under), $22 (adults). Los Angeles Valley College, Mainstage Theater, 5800 Fulton Ave., Valley Glen. (818) 760-6625, http://www.sholem.org.
SUN | APRIL 27
Drape yourself and your children in white robes and flowing gowns mimicking the Israelites who fled from Pharoah in ancient Egypt during the "Interactive Family Pesach Adventure" for kids 2 to 15 years old and parents. Haven't you always wanted to act out the dramatic events you've read about in the haggadah for all of these years? Bake a special wilderness matzah and learn about the Passover plate underneath the cool shade of the Moses tent. Make wine from the vine and cross the "Sea of Reeds." Things could get a little messy, so bring a towel and a change of clothes. And don't forget to pack a hearty lunch -- filled with matzot, of course. Sun. 12-3 p.m. $10. Tapia Park, Las Virgenes Road, Malibu. R.S.V.P required, call Tali (818) 445-9606.
Celebrate Pesach green style by reading a "green haggadah" during the Workmen's Circle's "How Green Is Your Seder? Liberation and the Environment" with others who cherish the greenification of our lands as much as you do. Discussions will be facilitated about how Passover stories relate to our modern-day struggle to preserve clean air, healthy eating and water purification. Contemplate how we can help future generations live in a cleaner world, while enjoying performances by Workmen's Circle chorus members, Ruthie Buell and other musicians. This nontraditional seder, catered by Large Marge Sustainables, committed to environmentally sound practices, will offer local, sustainable and organic cuisine. Sun. 1 p.m. $40 (members), $50 (nonmembers). The Workmen's Circle, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P required, (310) 552-2007 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love, deceit, betrayal and political corruption are all themes coursing through the veins of the heart-racing play, "The Spark of Reason." A sister's revenge can be brutal. Throw in a lover's deception and a teacher's betrayal to the historic 24-year-old Baruch Spinoza's trial for heresy in 1656 -- carried out by the Jewish community in Amsterdam -- and you've got one blisteringly dramatic play. An eclectic cast will rile your deepest emotions in a staged reading written and directed by Michael Halperin, inspired by a true story. Sun. 3 p.m. Through May 18. $10 (suggested donation). Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. R.S.V.P to email@example.com.
MON | APRIL 28
Have you ever been curious as to why so many Jews in America have latched on to the ideals of the left? Join historian and professor Tony Michel as he paints a detailed, lively portrait of the Yiddish socialist movement, along with the American Jewish experience, during a conversation about his newly released book, "A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York." Examining the movement through in-depth research, Michel will share insights on Yiddish secular culture and Jewish left-wing activism emerging from social conditions on New York's Lower East Side. Strike up a conversation with Michel as he signs a copy of your book during an event co-sponsored by Yiddishkayt Los Angeles, Reboot and the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. Mon. 7 p.m. $5 (suggested donation). Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. (213) 389-8880.
Have you always wished you could jump in and do the hora flawlessly at weddings? Have you wanted to join the merry circle of dancers after Shabbat services but been too embarrassed to try? Has your girlfriend been begging you to come with her to one of Los Angeles' big dance sessions? The new beginner's folk dance class at Temple Kol Tikvah is your chance to learn how to folk dance -- from step one! Learn the basics at your own pace with the charming Cecilia of Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble. Before you know it, you'll be swaying and side-stepping, laughing, making friends and burning some calories, too! Mon. 7-9 p.m. $10. Temple Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 784-0344. TUE | APRIL 29
What do Muslims around the world think about terrorism and Islamic extremism? Many assumptions have been made on the question, but now for the first time there is a comprehensive study that can tell us the personal beliefs and thoughts of 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide. "Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think" is a book by Georgetown Islamic studies professor John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, who lead the six-year study, polling thousands of Muslims throughout the world on various subjects. The findings may just surprise you. For example, one bit of data reveals, contrary to popular belief, that Muslims and Americans both reject terrorist attacks on civilians, calling them "morally unjustifiable." Close the growing cultural divide and learn more about the true Muslim voice in a public forum with the authors and special guest Howard Gordon (photo), executive producer of "24," the hit Fox network show. Tue. 7:30 p.m. Free; reservations required. Mark Taper Auditorium at Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles. (310) 657-5511. http://www.levantinecenter.org.
When a dying old high school teacher puts an ad in the newspaper for a housekeeper, he never expects that a former student of his will answer it. A chummy high school reunion this is not -- the once fear-inspiring educator flunked the woman years before. He also flunked her mother and father and deceased husband. Israel Horovitz's "Park Your Car in Harvard Yard" is a touching and humorous old favorite being revived by the talented cast of performers from International City Theatre. Tonight's performance is one of several previews. Tue. 8 p.m. Opens May 2; through May 25. $29 (previews), $32-$42 (regular performances). Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. (562) 436-4610. http://www.ictlongbeach.org.
WED | APRIL 30
What better enticement to learn why and how you should eat sustainably than to taste environmentally friendly and delicious foods for yourself? At "Sustainable Eating: Delicious and Good for the Earth," you can gather tips from your favorite cookbook authors and restaurant owners who will speak about why it is crucial to maintain a healthy diet and do your part in healing the earth at the same time. Speakers include Amelia Saltsman, author of "Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook"; Evan Kleiman (photo), owner and chef of Angeli Caffe and host of "Good Food" on KCRW-FM; and Molly Gean from Harry's Berries, a family-owned farm in Oxnard. Cookbooks will be available for purchase. Wed. 7-8:30 p.m. Free. Kehillat Israel, 16019 W. Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. R.S.V.P required, (310) 459-1614 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
THU | MAY 1
Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner delighted readers with several sassy, fem-friendly novels (just don't call them "chick lit" -- she hates that term): "Good in Bed," "In Her Shoes," "Goodnight Nobody" and "The Guy Not Taken." Her new novel, "Certain Girls," centers around a character that may be familiar to readers from "Good in Bed," Candace Shapiro, and her 13-year-old daughter as they plan the socially significant milestone we call the bat mitzvah. If you think your entry into womanhood was rough (or your daughter is suffering from early teen angst), consider what the young heroine of this story has to deal with: hearing aids, a formerly famous mom, a gay grandmother and two fathers! The book is hitting shelves this month, and Weiner will be signing copies and reading passages from it tonight. Thu. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes and Noble, 1201 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. (310) 260-9110. http://www.jenniferweiner.com.
Michael Childers' production of "One Night Only" will play, you guessed it, for one night only, so don't miss this performance. The variety show, chock full of celebrities such as Lainie Kazan, Bruce Vilanch, Lorenzo Lamas and Tim Curry (just to name a few), is a charity fundraiser for Jewish Family Service of the Desert. "JFS has been an invaluable resource to the desert for 25 years," said Childers. "This is an opportunity to raise awareness and funding for these critical services in our community." Thu. 6:30 p.m. $75-$135. McCallum Theatre, 7300 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. (760) 340-2787. http://www.jfsdesert.org.
Women's struggles leap across generational boundaries in James Sherman's play, "From Door to Door," directed by Howard Teichman. Three women, growing up in Chicago during three very different time periods, turbulently attempt to find themselves and their voices in an environment of uncertainty and unfulfilled hopes and dreams. One character, played by Cheryl David, mourns the loss of her husband of 50 years, while reflecting on her various roles in life and now searching for her true identity. With dashes of humor, tragedy and warmth, expect to laugh, cry and bond right alongside these strong female characters. Thu. 8 p.m. Through June 1. $20-$25. The Electric Lodge Theatre, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 823-0710.
Stories, parables and anecdotes are what remain of the thriving Jewish communities of Eastern Europe decimated by the Holocaust. Gathering these precious remnants and illustrating them with rare archival film footage and photographs, the documentary "Echoes That Remain" brings to life the pre-World War II shtetls of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The 1991 film was produced by Moriah Films and includes a series of images from the famed late photographer Roman Vishniac. Narrated by Martin Landau and Miriam Margolyes, it will be screened today to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. Thu. 2 p.m. Free. North Hollywood Regional Library, 5211 Tujunga Ave., North Hollywood. (818) 766-7185. FRI | MAY 2
Commemorating the Holocaust is a painful yet imperative duty for our community. One of the most meaningful ways to do so is to learn about the experiences of survivors, whose generation is slowly dwindling in numbers. "Swimming in Auschwitz" is the story of six Jewish women from different countries who are brought together under the dark cloud of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Instead of wilting under the immense tragedy unfolding around them, these women found hope in the families they formed at the camp, in the faith that sustained them spiritually and in the strength they discovered in one another. The documentary by Jon Kean, which has been well-received at film festivals, opens in theaters just in time for Yom Hashoah. Various showtimes. Through May 8. $7-$10. Laemmle Music Hall 3 Theater, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 274-6869. http://www.swimminginauschwitz.com.
Lobbying for Israel on many levels, political activist and attorney Morris J. Amitay will discuss how he's made a strong, positive impact on the State of Israel and how you can do the same. "Pray, Eat and Learn About Israel" with Amitay, vice chairman of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, on Friday evening, as well as Saturday afternoon for a luncheon following services. The passionate speaker will talk about "What's Going on in Israel and the Neighborhood?" through a look at eight countries in only eight minutes. Listen as the Washington attorney defines the threat of Iran and Islamic extremism, for which we must all keep our eyes peeled. Fri. 6 p.m. (services), 7 p.m. (dinner), 8 p.m. (lecture). Also, Sat. $12-$16. Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426, ext. 223.
You are probably familiar by now with the term "Synaplex Shabbat." It's all the rage at synagogues across the country, and if you haven't already experienced this fresh new trend, you might consider attending Temple Emanuel's version. The concept takes its inspiration from multiscreen movie theaters, where you are presented with many different choices all in one convenient, buttery-smelling location. Temple Emanuel will not offer popcorn, but it will feature a healing service, tot Shabbat, dinner, wine tasting (way cooler than Sprite) and a rousing musical service-in-the-round called "Shabbat Unplugged." Members and nonmembers are encouraged to attend the screenings ... um, we mean, services. Fri. 5:30 p.m. $15-$25 (dinner). Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-3737. http://www.tebh.org.
To please her nagging parents, a good Jewish girl breaks free from an "old world" traditional upbringing, hiring a male escort to play "Dr. Steinberg." Does this plot sound familiar? If you've seen the movie, "The Wedding Date" starring quirky redheaded Debra Messing, you'll be sure to remember Messing's character falling in love with her hot-blooded gigolo. "Beau Jest" weaves a similarly tangled web. In the play, written by James Sherman, "Sarah" has been secretly courted by a non-Jewish executive. Ashamed to tell her parents, she introduces Dr. Steinberg as her loving boyfriend. Sip champagne and enjoy a light buffet before watching the sham unravel at the gala opening. Fri. 7:15 p.m. (reception), 8 p.m. (show). Through June 14. $12-$20. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. (626) 256-3809 or http://www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Celia Soudry contributed to this article