At your next dinner party, here's a surefire way to bring the sparkling conversation to a dead stop. In the midst of all the banter about the Oscars and Westside real estate prices and Michael Jackson, chime in with, "So, what do you think of the mayoral race?"
Walk into Zabar's and it's easy to spot 76-year old Gittel "Gabby" Zuckerman. She's feisty and funny, and her shrinking height and failing health don't diminish her power. Nor do the memories of the family she lost in the Holocaust ever leave her.
HeimishHome.com, a new Web site that wants to be the one-stop shop for researching Jewish neighborhoods. Heimishhome has listings from realtors in different neighborhoods around America with special features that allow the users to check how close the house is to the nearest shul, school, kosher restaurant or mikvah. There are also editorials on the site that offer thumbnail descriptions of the different communities.
Ari Greenspan knows his matzah. It's not the only thing he knows, but he definitely knows his matzah.
Los Angeles writer Steve Oney's book, "And the Dead Shall Rise" (Pantheon Books, 2003), details two infamous, unsolved crimes: the 1913 murder of non-Jewish preteen Mary Phagan in an Atlanta factory and the arrest, trial, conviction, death sentence commutation and 1915 abduction and lynching by a 25-man mob of Leo Frank, the factory's Jewish, 29-year-old Northern-born supervisor. In 1995, on the 80th yahrtzeit of Frank's death, Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Ga., helped place a plaque on the building built on the spot where the tree used to lynch him grew. Oney, a 49-year-old former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, whose wife is Jewish, spent 17 years researching the 742-page book.
With the relentlessness of a Terminator pursuing its victim, the fan hounded Jonathan Mostow at a convention. "You aren't the original director of the 'Terminator' movies," he said. "Are you going to ruin [the franchise]?"
It's a question observers have posed, albeit more politely, since Mostow stepped into the oversized shoes vacated by franchise creator James Cameron two years ago.
It was this relationship -- these two boys, total strangers now bound forever by one horrible deed -- that was the initial inspiration for "Levity."
In researching the movie, I spent time with a lot of people who had committed murder when they were kids. I met some through youth groups, others through church and community programs. Some I interviewed extensively, others I just followed around for a while. They were all different ages, yet each had in common that he was trying to come to terms with the consequences of what he'd done. Some (those who believed in God) were trying on a spiritual level, others (those who didn't) on a secular level. For all of them it was a kind of obsession.
For some time, Dr. Eitan Galun, the head of Hadassah Medical Organization's Goldyne Savad Gene Therapy Institute, has been engaged in research to cure a genetic disease prevalent in the Palestinian community. He recently requested genetic material from a Norwegian scientist and was refused. "Due to the present situation in the Middle East, I will not deliver any material to an Israelitic (sic) university," she responded by e-mail. With this statement, she engaged in nothing less than a boycott of Israel and its scientists. By her actions, which confuse science with politics, the Palestinian population will needlessly continue to suffer from a disease that could be cured through scientific cooperation. This irony seems to have escaped the Norwegian researcher.
"The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape," by Joel Kotkin. (Random House, $22.95)
Joel Kotkin, a senior fellow at both Pepperdine University Institute for Public Policy and Milken Institute and a research fellow at the libertarian Reason Public Policy Institute, for 20 years has been researching and writing about what he terms "intangible" inputs into economic life.