Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Ze’ev Gur Arie, aka “The Champagne Spy,” was an Israeli Mossad agent in the 1960’s who was eventually caught by Egyptian authorities. The price he paid for living a lavish double life as a wealthy ex-Nazi horse breeder was nothing compared to the price everyone around him had to pay.Wolfgang and Waltraud Lotz
Far from depicting the glamorous life of an international man of intrigue, Nadav Schirman’s documentary, “The Champagne Spy,” chronicles the pain and dangers of that world in a fittingly rough and unpolished style, featuring interviews with ex-Mossad agents, news footage, photographs and the powerful, heart-wrenching testimony of Oded Gur Arie, Ze’ev’s only son.
Speaking publicly for the first time about his notorious father, Oded was visibly scarred by the uncertainty, fear, anguish and silence he had to endure as the son of an international spy.
He was 12 when his father was sent to Egypt to spy on ex-Nazi scientists and the activities of the Egyptians for Israel. At one point, he discovered his father’s secret and he bore it for years, never knowing what his father was doing, when he would be home and what danger he was in.
Meanwhile, the elder Gur Arie, under the pseudonym Wolfgang Lotz, was frolicking around Egypt ala James Bond, puffing on hookahs, being entertained by belly dancers, throwing garden soirees for elite ex-Nazi socialites and riding horses with the creme of Cairo. Lotz went as far as marrying a German woman he met on the train and fell in love with. He was so enamored with his second life, that it stopped being a farce and started becoming his real identity.
Lotz visited Paris less and less frequently, said Oded in the documentary. To his son and wife, he was a complete stranger. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
One day, Oded read in the newspaper that six Germans were arrested in Egypt on suspicion of spying. Wolfgang Lotz was one of them. His wife, Waltraud, was another. Oded and his mother were terrified for Ze’ev’s life, but beneath that fear was the shock and hurt of the betrayal.
Ze’ev spent three years in jail until Israel negotiated his release in exchange for Arab prisoners captured in the Six Day war. When he returned to Israel, he came with Waltraud.
Oded and his mother were crushed. She never remarried and Oded never forgave his father for the heartache he caused her. “He hurt everyone around him,” said Oded on camera, his lips quivering.
Waltraud herself paid a dear price for loving Lotz. A close friend tells of the torture she endured when she was arrested with her husband by the Egyptians. She too spent three years in jail, then moved to a hostile and unfriendly country to be with Lotz. She died in Israel of a brain hemorrhage.
Ze’ev lived out the rest of his life in misery: no money, no power, no privilege. The expensive champagne bottles he used to send to “friends” in high places were a faded memory by the time he died, alone, in a German hospital.
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. . .
June 27, 2007 | 3:02 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
L-R: Rabbi Meyer May, SWC Executive Director; Queen Latifah; President & COO Time Warner Inc, Jeff Bewkes; Michael Lynne; Robert Shaye;emcee for the evening, CNN’s Larry King; SWC Dean & Founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier; CEO Dreamworks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg; and SWC Board of Trustees Chairman, Larry Mizel.(Not pictured, Dinner Chair, Universal Studios President & COO, Ron Meyer) Photo: Marissa Roth. Courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center
The foot-tall invitation boasts a cast of dinner chairmen as A-list as a Spielberg film: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ron Meyer, Jeff Bewkes (the granddaddys of Dreamworks, Universal Studios and Time Warner Inc., respectively), David Geffen, Brad Grey, Sumner Redstone - a formidable group. The head honchos of Hollywood and prime benefactors of The Simon Wiesenthal Center gathered at The Beverly Hilton (Wed., June 20) for a dinner honoring New Line Cinema CEOs Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne for their commitment to cultural diversity, social responsibility and philanthropy.
At the hotel, guests were ushered through metal detectors into an unusually dark ballroom, where a plate of roast beef posing as a steak awaited. After Rush Hour director Brett Ratner said Hamotzi, emcee Larry King took over the podium. With that million-dollar CNN voice, he butchered Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s last name while introducing him to the few-hundred guests apathetically picking at their plates. The Mayor praised the Wiesenthal Center’s mission, as well as its founder and dean, Rabbi Marvin Hier, who in turn, lauded the contributions of the crowd. A short video generated buzz about the Wiesenthal project being erected in Israel—the anticipated magnumopus of architect Frank Gehry’s career, though not without its challenges. Following that, Nikki Blonsky who will star in the film version of Hairspray belted an uninspiring rendition of “Good Morning Baltimore”.
By the time the ice cream melted, the evening took on a more serious tone. Holocaust survivor and engineering Professor Liviu Librescu was posthumously honored for his selfless act during the Virginia Tech massacre, when he used his own body as a shield and allowed endangered students to escape through the windows. Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose efforts towards peace still resonate years after his death, was honored as well.
The highlight of the evening was an elegant Ann Curry, who received a medal of valor for reporting on humanitarian crises in Africa. “I am truly humbled and wish to be worthy,” she stated earnestly, acknowledging the magnitude of the company she was in. She eloquently recounted her experiences traveling to refugee camps and war zones. She spoke of genocide, rape and disease. From memory, she recalled the individual names and stories of people she encountered. She gave voice to their plight and admitted that it wasn’t enough. Her tone was somber and heartfelt, and without the camera in the way, her eyes met every face in the room.
People may have gone home hungry, but after that, hearts were full.
June 26, 2007 | 11:00 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Hollywood dreamers Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson borrowed $60,000 from their parents and maxed out their credit cards for an additional $20,000 to finance the original Jewtopia play back in 2003. The comedic play had an unbelievable 17 month-run at the Coast Playhouse in Los Angeles before heading to New York, where the two charismatic young men finally recouped their investment and then some…After two and a half years on the cold coast, Fogel and Wolfson returned to L.A. to premiere their new multimedia creation: The World of Jewtopia - a fusion of their original hit play, the Jewtopia book Warner Books published last December, and new material. Opening night at the Brentwood Theatre was Thursday, June 21 and we were there. Here is what we thought of the latest Fogel-Wolfson production….
Dikla: World of Jewtopia take 3
Danielle: We could probably have written a full length play with how many im conversations it’s taken to get here after we scrapped one and you accidentally deleted another
Did we even see Jewtopia? I can’t remember
Dikla: so much has happened since…
Danielle: You turned 26, for one…
Dikla: and we saw two movies at the LA film fest this weekend
Danielle: one about espionage and one that had a complex plot that i’ll save for the next post…
dikla, remind me about jewtopia
Dikla: bryan and sam, charming and funny jewish boys, traditional jew jokes…
Danielle: the intertemple rockin’ singles mixer
i love saying “intertemple”
Dikla: that was the opening scene of World of Jewtopia and in my opinion, the most successful part of the play
Danielle: a non-jewish guy crashes the mixer on the hunt for a jewish gal…because he never wants to make another decision for the rest of his life
Dikla: so he enlists the help of his jewish friend who teaches him how to woo a jewish woman…and her mother
i thought that skit worked extremely well
Danielle: absolutely, the performance segments were the strength of the show. ultimately the humor sustained the audience, but this new version largely resembled a corporate powerpoint presentation
Dikla: i didn’t mind the slides actually. in fact, i think our generation is so used to multimedia presentations that it really suits their target audience (which i’m assuming is 20-somethings, even though the audience on thursday night was more like 50-somethings)
Danielle: and the 50 somethings weren’t finding Jewish kama sutra positions very funny…although i thought “the challah” was quite creative. But all the yoga in the world isn’t going to allow that degree of bodily contortion
Dikla: see, a joke like that would not be possible without a projected slide to illustrate the position - can you imagine bryan and sam trying to demonstrate “the challah” ?!?!?!
Danielle: dikla, this is a pg audience
Dikla: that was part of the problem
i expected two young witty guys to be a little more irreverent
Danielle: and a little less stereotypical. i think some of the humor was outdated, like the overbearing mother schtick—they didn’t seem like the kind of guys lacking loving, supportive mothers
Dikla: yeah, i wasn’t into that skit either - too long and too overdone
but i was into the restaurant schematic where the audience participated in pointing out the flaws of every single table
too close to the bathroom, too close to the kitchen, not enough privacy (i shouted that one out), too close to the noisy table…
Danielle: that was a highlight—i thought they were great at facilitating audience interaction. their candor in dealing with their own subject matter and sometimes even the flaws of their own show was refreshing, and it created a relaxed, fun atmosphere for the audience
Dikla: absolutely, instead of appearing awkward when a joke bombed, they acknowledged it out loud, like when they listed the “biggest threats to judaism” and flashed pictures of neo-nazis, osama bin laden and then an asian girl. when the audience didn’t laugh, sam shrugged and said “no? you didn’t like that? we thought it was good”
Danielle: i certainly appreciated their joke about what people living in Jerusalem say on
Passover—- next year in Miami!
everybody liked that
so overall, we enjoyed ourselves but felt the performance was a little on the raw side, needs some tweaking, but the guys are talented and have a promising future in showbiz
they were extremely personable at the book signing after the show too, an important component of building a following
and with Jewtopia the film slated for production in September, they’ll need a loyal tribe
to generate buzz
Danielle: and they are handsome!
great for billboards
Dikla: yeah, i wouldn’t mind driving past a 30-foot photo of the adorable duo on wilshire every morning
Danielle: doing “the challah”
i think this conversation is done
to read more about Jewtopia, visit www.jewtopiaworld.com
Danielle: or buy their book!
June 25, 2007 | 11:42 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
How does the L.A. Jewish experience distinguish itself from the Jewish communities of New York, Chicago and Cleveland? Why did Los Angeles attract one of the most diverse Jewish migrations in history and how did that ethnic blend contribute to the city we know today? The Autry National Center is searching for these answers, and enlisting the support of L.A.‘s Jewish community to find them.
Their first effort, “The Stuff of Memories” event (Sunday, June 17), invited the community to bring forth relics of their Jewish past. Museum scholars presume the history they seek exists within artifacts sitting in people’s homes, so they asked L.A.‘s Jews to share their family heirlooms, photographs, historical documents and Judaica. They also provided a team of independent appraisers to valuate objects and infer their provenance. To stimulate community dialogue, the event included an educational film screening and panel discussion. But despite the effort, Jewish bodies were scarce and only a scant 20 toted their memorabilia.
Did Father’s Day deter the crowd? Was it made clear that Jewish descendents could unlock their history hidden in homebound artifacts?
In partnership with UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies, the aim to unveil Los Angeles Jewish history will result in a museum exhibition slated to open in 2011. The goal of this research is to re-write the history of Los Angeles Jewry to include the impact of ethnic diversity on community development during the 19th and 20th centuries. Scholars are focusing their efforts on the distinction between the Persian Jewish experience and that of Ashkenazi groups from Eastern Europe.
Before arriving at the Autry, I imagined the stories that would surface through objects: the golden candlesticks from Russia that survived pogroms and emigrated to America where they are lit every Shabbos by great, great grandchildren; or the heirloom kiddush cup, made in Israel, sipped during the Six Day War and a powerful reminder of what the fight is for. But the conjured images inspired by the event were more revealing than the bits of ephemera, family photographs and legal documents that turned out.
The appraisers noted a few exceptions. They identified an urn-shaped brass samovar used to heat water that probably derives from Russia or the Slavic nations. A pair of miniature wood carvings depicting a religious couple were also presented. Crafted by a European artist who immigrated to the U.S., they were sold at the 1939 World’s Fair when someone’s grandparents bought them. A photograph taken in 1911 portrays a family standing in front of their West Adams wooden-frame house, and posing next to their cow - the implication is of a kosher household.
Another highlight of the program was when Ellie Kahn, oral historian and filmmaker, presented her documentary, “Meet Me at Brooklyn & Soto: Celebrating the Jewish Community of East Los Angeles.” This in-depth portrait of the Boyle Heights Jewish neighborhood is an invaluable account of a community that thrived for over a century. Thanks to the filmmakers, it is now a well documented history.
It is no secret that Los Angeles evolved into an epicenter of storytelling, and no coincidence that Jews are widely credited with creating Hollywood. So why are we not bursting to tell our own stories? This exhibit is not about the distant, biblical narratives of Abraham or Moses, but about the recent history of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Its creation is an opportunity to preserve Jewish heritage and ensure that our precious stories are not lost; our children will know where they come from.
I went to the Autry to discover the ancient secrets to a pair of candlesticks, but what I found in their absence was the urgency to re-discover a whole world.
To share your memories with The Autry National Center, please call (323) 667-2000 or the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies at (310) 825-5387.
June 19, 2007 | 3:32 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Gathering in a makeshift sanctuary inside the auditorium of the Westside JCC, IKAR’s holy place contains no bimah, no stage. Rather, the young community encircles a small wooden ark and envelops an empty space. Facing each other, they stretch their necks to look at their leaders: a petite and pedagogic rabbi, an assured rabbinic intern, an emotive cantor and accompanying vocalists and drummers. The congregants project their prayers into the open space, filling it with the electricity sparked by their sways. With emphasis on prayer, learning and healing, the IKAR community congregates with warmth and honesty.
On Friday, IKAR’s Shabbat b’Yahad drew 100 participants to a traditional worship service with davening. Led by Rabbi Sharon Brous, a former fellow at B’nai Jeshurun in New York, who emphasizes ethereal meditation and eschews mechanical prayer, IKAR intimately engages with the text through music, movement and reflection. The rabbi fosters this approach through gentle guidance and by example. She provides Talmudic anecdotes and quotes Jewish rabbis and scholars, elucidating context for each week’s service. In sharing personal tales or speaking about Israel, she links ancient texts with contemporary issues and encourages creative davening. If you can’t read Hebrew, a full transliteration booklet is provided; if you can’t say the prayers, dance to them.
IKAR’s website declares, “Our community stands at the intersection of spirituality and social justice, a mandate that is integrated into everything we do.” Though their mission is bold, IKAR succeeds as an understated and open community, embracing its Hebrew name, meaning “essence,” “core” or “root.”
When prayer is silent, the empty space in the middle of the community is consistently filled with IKAR’s essence: giggling little girls play ring-around-the-rosy, men and women intertwine in a vibrant dance of the hora, a newborn baby receives her Hebrew name and a woman sings a song for Jerusalem with melancholy and tenderness. Soon, the community joins its voice in shared longing for the land. From one holy place to another, the text is a starting point for a prayer exemplified in physical and emotional expression.
Celebrate Shabbat with IKAR the 1st (6:45pm) and 3rd (6:15pm) Friday of each month and study Torah (9:15am) the 2nd and 4th Saturday mornings. All programs take place at the Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, except the 1st Friday of the month at Roxbury Park, 471 S. Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills.
June 18, 2007 | 2:12 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
After publishing his ninth book, Kirk Douglas ascended the stage at Sinai Temple on Thursday, June 14 and kicked back for some casual conversation with Rabbbi David Wolpe, his spiritual mentor and friend. The most engaging aspect of this evening was Douglas’s charisma and humor, so we decided to reiterate the wisdom of a timeless movie star and an admirable man. Below are direct quotes from the discussion and following that, some poignant excerpts from his book, “Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning.”
“I like being old because when you make a mistake, people forgive you. They say ‘he’s 90 for goodness sake!’”
“It is so important for us as Americans to preserve the land of Israel, which is in dire need of our help. We must do everything we can to help Israel - in doing that, we demonstrate our priorities as Jews.”
On his stroke:
“For a guy who can’t talk, I talk a lot!”
“What I learned from my stroke is that we take so much for granted in life—speech—when you have something to say, you say it. You don’t think about your teeth, tongue and lips. I work out everyday, not to take my physical being for granted. My stroke taught me how to deal with despair. The only way to get through is to think about others. Suicide is selfish because you’re not thinking of what you’re leaving behind, you’re only thinking of yourself. My stroke was the most important thing that’s happened to me.”
On what he’d say to G-d:
“Thank you. You’ve been very good to me.”
An anecdote by Rabbi Wolpe:
“A while back you told me you felt guilty using your stroke to get people to pay attention to you, and I said, people use different things to get noticed - when you were younger, you used your looks, but you said, ‘I never thought I was good looking,’ and I said, ‘Well you used charm’ and you said, ‘Oh I always knew I was charming.’”
Excerpts from his book:
An actor lives many lives. I have been a cowboy, a sailor, a soldier, a policeman, and an artist. You just go from one life to another. As I grow older I have less desire to erase myself and create another character. I have done that for so many years and with so many characters. I don’t want to erase myself now. I want to delve within myself and see what I find.
...When my father was dying I went to visit him, stayed a short time, and told him I had to go. When he asked me to stay longer, I answered, “Pa, you had your kids and now I have mine. Michael and Joel are waiting for me in New York.” I started to leave, and these were the last words I heard my father mutter, “I will never see you again.”...I left. I was cruel. I was trying to hurt him because he never gave me a pat on the back. I mean, I wanted him to recognize me—to be proud of me. I wanted him to love me.
This book is for…my grandchildren. I want them to know more about Pappy. I want them to know how I see things at this point in my life—maybe it will help them avoid the mistakes I made. I love all of you very much. I won’t be around when most of you reach maturity, but I hope you will find a belief in a higher power that will lead you to be good citizens and help others.
How can we apologize for these awful crimes we inflicted [American slavery]? Our apology would best be expressed by trying to solve the problems that exist in Africa now—genocide, poverty, rape, starvation, and corruption…The apology should be a gigantic movement of money, food, personnel, and the military. It should be comparable to the Marshall plan at the end of World War II. At that time, the world looked approvingly upon our country because we showed concern for others.
Why have I gotten so many reprieves from my inevitable end? Why do so many good people die young and so many bad people live to a ripe old age? No one knows, but I feel that every brush I had with death changed me and made me a better person. I began to think less about myself and more about other people. If I survive a couple more near-death experiences, I might become a very good guy.
June 15, 2007 | 12:26 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Laughter is the secret to a good marriage, goes the saying.
Apparently, it’s the secret to a good fundraiser too. Hillel 818, a newly formed partnership between the Pierce and Valley Colleges Hillel and the CSUN Hillel, raised about $10,000 at Comedy Night on Tuesday at the Laugh Factory. Jamie Masada, the owner of the Sunset comedy club and a fellow Jew, donated the 8-10 p.m. time slot for the benefit. The waitresses were also generous enough to donate their time. Hillel organizers estimated that 150 people paid between $50-$150 to hear jokes about J-Date, obsessive mothers and therapy.
Wendy Liebman, a petite 40-something, was the only female comedian of the night. Her subtle style, in my opinion, was the most engaging. “I have separation anxiety,” she said. “So I can’t do laundry.” Everyone laughed except for a male college student sitting in the front row to the left of the stage. “You didn’t get it huh?” Liebman asked him. “I don’t do laundry,” he replied. “You have to separate the clothes,” she explained patiently. The audience laughed.
The Hillel 818 marriage is off to a good start.
Host Louis Katz indicated he’s not into marriage. In fact, he prefers dating all kinds of women. His refusal to limit himself to Jews only incurs the dismay of his parents, of course. “My parents give me grief about who I date. They say, ‘if you don’t marry a Jew and have Jewish children than the race will die out and Hitler will have won!’ But I say - Hitler’s dead! I’m alive and f(expletive)ing shiksas regularly - WHO won?!”
Marriage, children and ethnicity provided most of the material for the evening. Beneath the funniness, assumptions appear responsible for how differences are perceived: an Asian comic complained that most people associate his face with orange chicken; an African-American labeled the LAPD “racist” and said he’s seen white cops pull over on-duty black cops; another said he heard about the Hillel fundraiser and wondered, ‘The Jews need more money?!’; Katz called hippies “filthy and smelly,” Bay-area residents “ugly” and Los Angeles inhabitants “shallow and superficial.”
As sayings go, it’s a good thing we are what we eat, and not what we say.
June 13, 2007 | 5:44 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
There is a growing tradition of musical Shabbat services in the Los Angeles area, but the most popular precursor to them all is Sinai Temple‘s Friday Night Live. Combining Craig Taubman‘s infectious and emotive Jewish music with Rabbi David Wolpe‘s insightful commentary, the second Friday of every month at Sinai is the Shabbat celebration of choice for nearly 1,500 Los Angeles Jews.
This past week, the vocals of the Beit Teshuva choir added vibrato and solemnity to the evening, a delightful complement to the performative liveliness of Taubman’s band, and resonating with more devout members of the congregation. Some attendees find FNL overly-theatrical, evoking the atmosphere of a rock-concert and not a worship service. A soulful Taubman frequently orchestrates musical sequences as a conductor would, using impassioned gestures to manipulate the tone and tempo of each song, but to startling spiritual effect. The applause that erupts seems to me, a genuine expression of passionate piety and not commendation of an act. Often in musical forms of worship, the senses are overwhelmed; the eyes and ears must absorb, the voice and body must react and offer their outpour. What results is a kind of visceral transcendence. This is not for the conservative of soul - this is for those who want to act! To dance! To sing!
Halfway through the service, Rabbi Wolpe strolls into the aisles and envelops the crowd with his wisdom-of-the-week. The mayhem of Paris Hilton’s plight that day obligated him to address the storm that swept the city as Hilton was released and re-incarcerated. With razor-sharp intellect and a smile, he taught the congregation about depth: he said we spend so much time focusing on the way we appear to others; he suggested the necessity of cultivating “inner resources” beneath our glossy surfaces; he warned that life will deal us blows, but inner substance equals the fortitude we need to get through hard times. Those moments of real insight not only demonstrate Rabbi Wolpe’s intuitive gauge of the community’s needs but represent the religious grit of the Friday Night Live experience.
After the service concludes, ATID (Sinai’s 21-39 membership) hosts an exclusive afterparty/oneg replete with challah, dessert and beer. There, young professionals can mingle and unwind, indulging in the promised ârestâ beyond the rigorous workweek.
Friday Night Live symbolizes the full spectrum of what it means to be a modern Jew in Los Angeles, contributing to the cultural development of the next generation. Through ATIDâs social networking, Taubman’s music fostering joy and Rabbi Wolpe’s instruction on enlightenment, this service hits the spot: it’s hip, enlivening, community-engaging and spiritually relevant - the modern fabric of Shabbat unfurled.
Sing-a-long with Craig the 2nd Friday of every month at 7:30pm. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.