Posted by Danielle Berrin
Shockwaves are circulating throughout the entertainment and Jewish communities in the aftermath of producer/talent manager Joan Hyler’s life-threatening accident.
Hyler, who blended her Hollywood prominence with her passion for Judaism, was struck by a car on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu Friday night on her way to a friend’s house. She is still listed in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where friends and family are reporting through UCLA’s carepages that she was responsive to doctors’ requests yesterday.
Hyler, whose former clients include Madonna, Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan, was scheduled to celebrate client Portia de Rossi’s marriage to Ellen Degeneres, which took place on Saturday night. She is a former president of Women in Film and co-created the Jewish Image Awards.
The latest update on her condition reads:
Sunday, August 17th
The reports are more encouraging, but Joan is not out of the woods yet. There are plenty of positive signs, but still a lot of unknowns, so it’s a wait and see scenario. Medically, it is way too complicated to describe, but from a non-professional, here are the positive signs:
—Joan does not need any more blood. She did go through 40 units, however, and the medical staff here was quick to suggest that people who want to participate in her recovery, emotionally, should give blood to replenish the blood bank supply. It won’t go directly to Joan, but it will make sure that there is more available for other patients in the coming weeks.
—We’re going in and talking to Joan. She seems to be responding. I spent some time davening schachris (praying the morning prayers), and she stirred a lot, which I took as a sign that she understood something of what was going on. While I was there, the critical care support team came in to do an assessment, and did “move your right hand, left hand, toes” etc. And the appropriate parts of the body moved, to the small extent possible!
Until more medical progress is made, the only thing friends can do is provide emotional support. Joan is a very spiritual person. I firmly believe that we can directly support her with prayers. My tallit is on her feet, and my tefillin are in her room, so there is a physical presence of the “ruach hakodesh” (spirit of holiness), and I explained to Joan what I was doing. You can pray for her, and keep her in mind when you are donating blood.
UPDATE: Joan Hyler is alive and well. Read the full story of her miraculous recovery .
At dusk on Friday night, Aug. 15, 2008, Joan Hyler was crossing Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu when she was struck by a car traveling 60 miles per hour. Her 5-foot frame was thrown 25 feet through the air before she landed on the hard pavement. It was after midnight on the East Coast when her sister, Nancy Berlin, a nonprofit consultant, got a call saying Hyler, a prominent Hollywood manager, was in critical condition.
8.18.08 at 2:26 pm | Hollywood producer/talent manager Joan Hyler. . .
8.15.08 at 7:21 pm | Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be. . .
8.14.08 at 6:37 pm | In town to promote her new book, House Speaker. . .
7.18.08 at 3:03 pm | The new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San. . .
6.25.08 at 10:36 am | Jina, our Calendar intern, is heading to an. . .
6.24.08 at 11:18 am | A clandestine love affair at a girls seminary. . .
August 15, 2008 | 7:21 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Lindsay Lohan knows how to raise eyebrows. First, as a preternaturally talented young actress. Then, as a talented young actress who partied too hard and checked into rehab. And now, as an edgy Hollywood starlet who publicly canoodles with lady friend, DJ Samantha Ronson. And it’s apparently Ronson who’s behind the latest Lohan fad—converting to Judaism.
Since the two women have been spending time together, especially in the company of Ronson’s Jewish family, Lohan, who was raised Catholic, is toying with the idea of being Jewish. Although speculators insist, Lohan is “doing it for Ronson,” the gals refuse to confirm whether their relationship is sexual or not.
Although, the idea of it does spark an interesting challenge for an L.A. rabbi: a Catholic-Jewish conversion and then a same-sex marriage. Any takers?
August 14, 2008 | 6:37 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In lieu of the praise one might expect in a room full of women and the ceiling-smashing Nancy Pelosi, insults were hurled towards the stage.
“Traitor!” screamed one woman. “Liar!” shouted another. One man’s high-volume, breakneck rampage got him physically removed from the room. His diatribe, though nearly indecipherable, left Pelosi stone-faced but shaken.
Confronted by a surprising outburst of California’s politically liberal constituency, Pelosi, on a break from her post as the first woman Speaker of the House – the third highest office in the nation – landed at American Jewish University on Aug. 11 to promote her new book, “Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters.” Faced with an acrimonious audience, one of Congress’s most outspoken critics of the Bush administration was lambasted for opposing impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush.
During a 90-minute Q&A with AJU’s president, Robert Wexler, nearly 400 people listened as Pelosi discussed her childhood, her unexpected rise to power and the need for more women in government. When Wexler pressed her on a question about Congress’s dismally low 9% approval rating, Pelosi defended herself and her colleagues. This prompted an irate audience member to accuse Pelosi of shirking her constitutional responsibility by not impeaching Bush for the deceptive reasoning that started the Iraq war.
Pelosi dismissed the outburst. “I have complete comfort with the frustration. I’m from the streets,” she said.
But when several other people rose from their seats in paroxysms of protest, Pelosi was forced onto the defensive.
“I take an oath of office to uphold the constitution of the United States. Don’t tell me I don’t do that,” she snapped. “Why don’t you go picket the Republicans in Congress that will not allow us to have a vote on the war?”
It was the puzzling part of the whole evening: why L.A. liberals have allowed themselves to be charmed by people like Karl Rove (who appeared a few months back) but were hostile to Nancy Pelosi, who purports to represent their interests.
By the time the crowd quieted down, Pelosi looked deflated.
“What else do you have for me?” she asked a bereft Wexler, who refused to confront her with the issue on everybody’s mind.
Despite her book’s message of empowerment to America’s women, Pelosi was pelted as if she were a harlot.
July 18, 2008 | 3:03 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco is a hip amalgam of modern art. Daniel Liebeskind’s peculiar architectural dazzle looks like a giant Rubik’s Cube in metallic steel, standing on its tip beneath the city’s downtown skyscrapers. Beside it is the Jessie Street Power Substation, a brick and terra cotta structure in the classical revival style, a landmark building first erected in 1881 that Liebeskind adapted to the project.
The juxtaposition of the historic with the cutting-edge is an odd sight, but it does represent a spectrum of Jewish experience as a kind of past-future metaphor. The architecture—and the art—are a way of linking tradition with what is current. But once you enter the museum’s whitewashed asymmetrical orbit, the image of Judaism projected feels—well, not very Jewish.
Not that the current exhibitions aren’t provocative, interactive or innovative. Inside the new building is “John Zorn Presents the Alef-Bet Sound Project,” where various musicians and composers have written music based on the kabbalistic meaning of Hebrew letters. The result plays to great atmospheric effect inside the angular room with 36 diamond-shaped skylights that positively glow.
“In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis” is the most comprehensive exhibit, featuring a combination of historical art (Chagall, Rodin, etc.) and newly commissioned installations, where artists meditated on the modern relevance of the Genesis story. These creations are edgy, experiential and even abstruse.
Alan Berliner’s experimental film plays across separate horizontal screens that randomly flash words from Genesis in English. At the touch of a button, the word roll stops and somehow always forms a perfect (and poetic) sentence. If “God” comes up, thunder strikes and a montage of dramatic images from Jewish history play in montage (think: Holocaust).
While the offerings are stimulating and sometimes strange (check out Trenton Doyle Hancock’s “In the Beginning There Was the End, in the End There Was the Beginning,” about half-human, half-plant creatures attacked by jealous half-siblings who are then swallowed by the earth and become “Vegans”) the Jewish content is sparse.
Where is Jewish history? No destruction of the Temple? No Babylonian exile? Not even Ellis Island? No, there’s only William Steig, The New Yorker cartoonist who created “Shrek.” And don’t expect a Zionist ode to Israel. In this museum’s version of Judaism, Israel might as well not exist. And as far as any instructive on Jewish religious observance—that’s pretty much limited to some audible Torah chanting as you roam around and a couple of Torah books sitting on a table for your reading pleasure (that is, if you’re fluent in Hebrew).
Here, the closest you’ll get to Shabbat is a pair of candlesticks in the museum gift shop.
All this, and Libeskind still insists Judaism was at the heart of his creation. He offered some insights into his process during a Q&A with Heeb magazine:
How did you choose chai as the one word that ended up embedded in the design of the museum?
I think it’s probably the most famous word in Jewish tradition and it’s also a number with a lot of meaning:18. It’s about bringing life, and I think emblems of life are part of the story they communicate. In this case, the Hud and Yud are organizing volumes for a new life, a new building outside an existing power station. And then I’ve also used proportions of 18 throughout the building.
In Hebrew letters are not just signs – the letters themselves are part of the story they create and they have a deep history. Jews are the only people who can read a text that’s 2000 years old without any sort of translation. You can’t do that in Latin or Greek because the language has changed, but in Hebrew the meaning of letters is unchanged and very specific.
Do you consider yourself religious?
Religion is so distorted today – fundamentalist occurrences have distorted it – but I think everyone is a believer, you believe before you even think about it. And Jewish tradition is something I’m very much a part of. But “Jewish” is complex, there’s not just one way to be Jewish. My own family, for example, includes a Hasidic strand, a Zionist strand, reformists, anarchists – they’re all part of the family, and all of those strands are part of the Jewish tradition.
What aspects of Jewish culture did you most want to highlight with your design?
I wanted to emphasize that Jewish culture is deeply rooted in the past but has always had an incredible horizon of freedom into the future. I wanted to create spaces that simultaneously connect you to history and reinvent history. That, to me, is part of Jewish tradition and I wanted to introduce that concept through not only the design but the use of the building, which is why there are spaces programmed for a multi-purpose room, education spaces, and event areas, not just galleries.
And I wanted it to be obvious that there is a Jewish sensibility to creating such a building. All of it – from the small to the big, both in the design and the way the building operates – is symbolically and truly Jewish. That’s why the area for kids and families is at the center, the front desk welcomes you with both a literal and mystical understanding [lights create the word pardes on the lobby wall behind the front desk] and the museum is located in an urban context. I think all of those things make you think about and consider Jewish culture in America. It’s not merely an appliqué of Jewish truth, it’s an extension of many Jewish themes through architecture.
June 25, 2008 | 10:36 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Thanks to the provocative Israeli film, “The Secrets,” featured in the 23rd Israel Film Festival, Orthodox Jewish seminaries are a hot topic this summer.
Our Calendar intern, Jina Davidovich, is choosing to spend a year studying torah at an all-girls theological college in Israel, like Naomi, the main character in the film.
However, the similarities end there. Jina, in contrast to Naomi, is not postponing an unwanted shiduch, but rather her college education. Bright and bubbly, the recent YULA graduate is also a far cry from the brooding, angst-ridden young woman in the film. At the moment, her most pressing dilemma doesn’t involve the proper place of a woman in religious life or her relationship to other female students, but rather the resorting of her closet. Here is Jina’s honest and endearing confession:
As I stood amongst a heap of discarded clothing, the frustration got the better of me, and I screamed. My parents raced down the stairs and cried, “What happened?” Reminiscent of my younger temper-tantrum days, I flung myself onto the pile of bright colored t-shirts and dresses and wailed, “I have nothing to wear in seminary! I’m not going!”
While this scene sounds like something out of a religious version of The Real World, I assure you, it’s a situation that many seminary-bound girls will find themselves in in a few short weeks as they pack their bags for Israel.
It has become an encouraged tradition for girls and boys from Orthodox American high schools to push off their collegiate plans for a year and attend the best seminaries and yeshivas in Israel. After countless arguments, I was sending a deposit to Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) where I would spend the year with my head buried in various religious texts. Now, with less than a hundred days to go, I’m starting to panic.
While I am accustomed to the rules and rigorous standards that accompany life at an Orthodox, all-girls institution (I recently graduated from Yeshiva of Los Angeles), this was a whole new ballgame – I was playing with the big boys, well, girls. When I received my acceptance packet from MMY, I quickly flipped to the section detailing all the standards they require of their talmidot (students). While I knew the dress code would force me to cross every religious t and dot every modest i, seeing it in writing made me break a sweat. Shirts that covered my collarbone and my elbows, skirts that cover the knee while sitting or standing, and no open-toed shoes…I rushed to my closet to find that I was in dire need of a new wardrobe.
Now, every time my friends and I enter a store, we must tear our eyes away from the just-too-short summer dresses and those oh-so-cute jeans and head towards the ankle-length skirts and crew-neck shirts. As I stand in my closet and finger all the clothing with which I much part in a mere 69 days, I remind myself that in Israel, I won’t be working on my outside, but rather, my inside.
In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my tantrums to a minimum and my skirt lengths to a maximum.
June 24, 2008 | 11:18 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
The secret is out. There is a steamy sexual scene between two gorgeous Israeli women in the film, “The Secrets.”
But the Israeli film, directed by Avi Nesher and spotlighted in this year’s Israel Film Festival, is not only about a lesbian love affair.
The film is much deeper than that.
To be sure, the title “The Secrets” is referring to the intimate bond two young religious girls form while studying at a seminary in Safed. The girls, both under societal and familial pressure to marry and fulfill their role as dutiful mothers and wives, must keep their romantic feelings hidden from the world and much of the film’s drama revolves around the clandestine coupling.
But there are other, more intense secrets in the film.
Like the cause of the main character, Naomi’s mother’s death. The family alludes to an illness and Naomi accuses her father of ignoring her mother’s depression, but the entire subject is seemingly swept under the ultra religious household’s rug.
Then there is the mysterious French woman in Safed who seeks the help of the two young seminary students to obtain redemption for a murder she committed. The terminally ill social outcast reveals a few of her dark secrets during the course of the film, while others remain hidden.
In attempting to purge the woman’s sins, Naomi delves into the forbidden secrets of Kabbalah, whose roots are strongly entrenched in the holy city of Safed. Almost like playing with the dark side of magic, Naomi unearths passages and rituals in the seminary’s ancient books and concocts a series of “tikkunim” - literally “fixes” - to cleanse the sinner’s soul.
“The Secrets” is a riveting labyrinth of hidden thoughts, mysterious deeds and concealed emotions that prompts you to consider numerous interesting questions, including whether sexual relations between women are forbidden in Judaism. The answer is not what you would expect.
You’ll have to see the movie to find out. Or ask your rabbi, although I think spending $11 is much easier.
For more great Israeli films, show times and theaters, visit www.israelfilmfest.com.
June 17, 2008 | 11:29 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Jewish Journal super-intern, Jina Davidovich, writes about her extracurricular activities for The Calendar Girls:
As a senior at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Girls’ School, my obligations extend beyond surviving anxiety attacks that come with opening college decision letters, keeping up my grades and attempting to have a social life. Every week, YULA students are required to do one hour of community service (chesed) which is then recorded on yellow cards with blue stamps. Those blue stamps are highly coveted for the simple reason that not having enough of them means not graduating.
I pulled out my chesed card a couple of weeks ago and turned it over to find that five of the boxes were sans stamps. I started to panic. Luckily, our school psychologist had a suggestion—the Aleinu Family Services Hike-a-Thon, worthy of one blue stamp. While I am not the most enthusiastic nature lover, I knew Aleinu is a great organization so mustering up the desire to help wasn’t difficult.
The Hike-a-Thon took place June 1st at Kenneth Hahn Park, where hundreds gathered to raise money for Aleinu’s Safety Kid project. In learning more about the extremely successful program, my interest was suddenly piqued. Safety Kid trains educators around the country to go into pre-school, elementary and middle schools to teach adolescents the importance of safety and ways to implement it in their day-to-day lives. In addition to demonstrations, the Child Safety Institute, which runs Safety Kid, has presentations for parents and educators to ensure that their steps toward safety come from a joined front of kids, adults, and teachers.
At the event, families gathered around water stations to rehydrate after the hike. Children were running around, parents were grinning, the weather was gorgeous and suddenly, the blue stamp didn’t matter. My job was to distribute prizes to the excited kids. Water guns were a predictable favorite, which resulted in my t-shirt being damp by the end of the day. My required hour was over, but I didn’t want to leave yet. I was having a great time.
Coincidentally, the YULA community service coordinator approached me with her four kids. “Looks like someone is in desperate need of hours,” she joked. “Nope,” I responded, “someone is just dedicated to the community and wants to lend a helping hand.” We both laughed at my slightly sarcastic comment, but I realized it was really true. Having heard so many stories of child abuse and abduction, it felt good to be helping to create a way to prevent children from being harmed.
I handed out my last water gun and headed home.
One stamp down, 4 to go.
June 16, 2008 | 3:15 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Where on Ventura Boulevard can you get a glatt kosher prime rib eye steak infused with a garlic herb rub, broiled in an open fire while singing along to popular Israeli love songs performed by the legendary Pini Cohen?
Only at Bocca steakhouse, the much anticipated and talked about phoenix that rose out of the ashes of what was once Tempo. Filling the shoes of such an iconic Israeli hangout of the San Fernando Valley is not going to be an easy task, but Bocca seems to be settling right in.
I visited the steakhouse, only several months old, last Thursday night and the place was hopping. Every seat in the house was being warmed by a well-dressed lady or gentleman. Handsome waiters dashed about, carrying martini glasses, gorgeous-looking appetizers and thick, juicy steaks. Pini Cohen, a legendary Israeli entertainer, milled about saying hello to loyal fans and chatting with old friends. Cohen drew enormous crowds every Thursday night for his Israeli sing-alongs at Tempo, and the owners of Bocca wisely kept that tradition going, all the while changing everything else around it.
Patrons at the old Tempo may not have necessarily come for the food, though I’ve heard the Mediterranean fare was appetizing enough, whereas Bocca is making a serious attempt to attract diners to their high end cuisine and not just their “go to be seen scene.”
Bocca’s menu makes you wish you could dine out every week. Appetizers include Asian chicken satay over spiced crispy rice and apricot-glazed Moroccan chicken wings served with couscous. There is a delicious selection of soups, salads and pastas, but I had no interest in those options that night. I skipped straight to the entrees: the Bocca steak with bearnaise sauce, center cut medallions, pepper crusted London broil, prime rib black angus…it was a big decision.
I settled on the garlic rubbed prime rib eye steak with rice pilaf and roasted potatoes. I was not disappointed. The food was delectable. Lucky for me, by the time the food arrived, the enchanting Pini Cohen was on stage, which forced me to look up from my plate every few seconds and breathe between bites. In Hebrew, you would say that Cohen “ose sameach,” which literally translates to “Cohen makes happy.” But the saying really means that Cohen gets the party started.
And that he did. As soon as he started singing, the steaks were forgotten, wine glasses abandoned and chairs pushed aside as people got up to dance and sing along.
The entire restaurant, decked out in elegant furnishings, designer light fixtures and romantic candles turned into a rocking party scene. It was quite a transformation.
If Bocca can continue to impress with its delicious (and kosher!) cuisine as well as delight with its vibrant live entertainment, the corner of Ventura and Hayvenhurst is going to be, once again, one of the hottest spots in the Valley.