Posted by Danielle Berrin
Check out last week’s hot Purim happenings in the Circuit and try to find yourself in the crowd:
Purim in Los Angeles is like Independence Day; a chance for Jews to liberate themselves from everyday exteriors and reinvent themselves as their favorite characterâa Persian Queen, an opulent Pharoah or popular this year, call girl #9. With the rare and welcome religious imperative to get shnockered, Jews young and old, observant and secular, all seem to find something irresistible about the holiday of hiddeness, masking and unmasking in their dress, concealing and revealing their inhibitionsâand in an election season, proudly proclaiming their politics.
VideoJew Jay Firestone has possible remedies for a post-Purim hangover in his new comic spin on Judaism’s big night of bacchanalia:
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. . .
March 19, 2008 | 1:00 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
His voice and his face forever lost.
But Doron’s story will endure; because it is a tale not only of incredible determination and overcoming obstacles, but a testament to the passion and the will that enriches and perpetuates Jewish life.
Jeff Ballabon writes:
Doron: Story of a True Tzaddik
Doron wanted to learn Torah in Mercaz HaRav, one of the best of Israel’s yeshivas. But, since his early schooling was in Ethiopia, he lacked a strong background in Gemara. The Yeshiva rejected him. He wasn’t discouraged. He asked, “If you won’t let me learn Torah, will you let me wash the dishes in the mess hall?” For a year and a half, Doron washed dishes. But, he spent every spare minute in the study hall. He inquired what the yeshiva boys were learning, and spent most of the nights and all of his Shabbatot with his head in the Gemara learning what they learned. One day, the “dish washer” asked the Rosh Yeshiva to test him. The Rosh Yeshiva politely smiled and tried to gently dismiss Doron, but Doron wouldn’t budge. He forced the Rosh Yeshiva into a Torah discussion; the next day, he was no longer a dish washer but a full-fledged “yeshiva bachur”.
On weekends, when Doron would come home to visit his family in Ashdod, he’d spend the entire Shabbat either in the Melitzer Shul or the neighboring Gerrer shtiebel learning Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries. Three weeks ago, he finished the entire Shulchan Aruch and principle commentaries. Doron achieved in his tender 26 years what others don’t attain in 88 years. He truly was an unblemished sacrifice, who gave his life for all of us.
March 18, 2008 | 3:01 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It was supposed to be a secular night. A Hollywood premiere and drinks at the Chateau Marmont felt safely removed from Jewish purview, and I even felt relief at not having to ‘talk Jewish’ for an evening.
But Hollywood, as we’ve heard stigmatized many times, teems with Jews, so it’s hard to escape the fact that premiere parties could make minyans, and that being Jewish in Hollywood is like a racial stamp, impossible to avoid.
The search for Jews-who-run-Hollywood during an evening that included the second-season premiere of “The Riches” at the Pacific Design Center on Mar. 16, evinced a disturbing reality: an anti-Semitic Hitler admirer wanted to talk about the Jews more than a Hollywood Jew wanted to talk about his Jewishness.
That Jew is Jason Weinberg, manager and power player, oft reputed to be the best in the business. He’s known for his A-list client roster which includes Naomi Watts, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan and Madonna. Hilary Swank thanked him during her Oscar acceptance speech—even though she forgot to mention her (then) husband.
For Weinberg, the premiere after-party was business as usual. He sat close to client Minnie Driver, the evening’s star, coaching her through the whirlwind of attention, the lavished praise, the putrid politics.
“I love the Jews,” Weinberg said. But he shied away from my request for an interview.
He approached our table, interrupting our gorging on french fries and caesar salad to bring champagne.
“Uncle Adolf, I used to call him,” Herz said about Hitler. “Eichmann was an a—hole, but Hitler was a nice man.”
March 14, 2008 | 11:48 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Here’s my spin in “Attack of The Mothers”:
I know how to handle men, but their mothers? An entirely different challenge. Until I moved to Los Angeles, I had never been “hit on” by women. Now women twice, thrice, even four times my age (I call them mothers-on-the-prowl) approach me nearly every Shabbat. Sometimes, they attack in the middle of the Amidah…
March 13, 2008 | 5:53 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
I had no desire to see Shalom Hanoch in concert. I had never even heard of the guy.
But my co-worker, an Israeli ex-pat who was a young woman during Hanoch’s heydey, insisted that I come with her to his Saturday night, March 8 concert at the Avalon in Hollywood. She wanted to educate me on Israeli music, and Hanoch - being one of the greatest Israeli rock musicians in the country’s young history - would be a terrific start.
Beseder, I said. I’ll come.
So I went. But my coworker did not (for family reasons).
And, surprisingly, I had a great time!
Despite not knowing any of Hanoch’s songs and being one of the few concert goers under the age of 40, I really enjoyed the show.
Hanoch’s raspy, seductive voice was full of emotion during the quiet ballads and bursting with energy during the raucous rock songs. He was charismatic and a pleasure to watch, and he interacted with the crowd in a playful, genuinely interested manner. Their adoration was palpable: they swayed to his love songs, knew every lyric to every song, shouted requests, danced wildly and roared for an encore performance.
The warm vibe enveloped me and I felt like I belonged, on the one hand, and a complete outsider on the other.
Walking past the merchandise-selling booth in the lobby on my way out, I paused to consider buying Hanoch’s CD.
Nah, I thought. He’s a little too rock for me. I walked away, humming one of his softer tunes.
At least now I know who Shalom Hanoch is.
March 12, 2008 | 1:28 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The most scintillating aspect of Stephen S. Wise Temple’s “Forum on Critical Values” dialogue between Rabbi David Woznica and Pastor Hagee last night was the press release.
Hagee is the founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church with more than 19,000 active members; he has traveled to Israel 23 times and has met with every Prime Minister since Menachem Begin; John Hagee Ministries has given more than $10 million to bring Soviet Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel.
At the talk, little else surfaced.
Hagee softened some of his pithier statements, such as “I believe that Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans,â with maundering rationale and suggested misunderstanding.
The packed synagogue of mostly Reform Jews loved him anyway. Especially when he said Jerusalem should belong to Jews and only Jews, undivided. But when asked, he said he wouldn’t cause a public stir if for their safety, the Jews decided to divide Jerusalem anyway.
However, I was surprised to learn that after speaking at the Knesset in September 2005, it was Benjamin Netanyahu who inspired Hagee to unify the many Christian groups loosely supporting Israel, which prompted Hagee to create “Christians United for Israel.”
Here are the verbal highlights from a night that sounded more like a bible recitation than a discussion:
“I’d rather talk to G-d for 30 seconds than to George [W.] Bush all night.”
“Granting forgiveness without demanding a change in conduct is to make the grace of G-d an accomplice to evil.”
“Jesus, who was a reform rabbi…”
On Jews bringing the bible to the world:
“We, as Christians have a bible mandate to help you. If we have benefited from Jewish spiritual things, than we have an obligation to help Jews with material things.”
On he and his rabbi friend:
“When we’re standing in the streets of Jerusalem together and the Messiah comes, one of us has a great theological adjustment to make.”
On the Crusaders:
“They were thieves, liars, robbers and rapists.”
March 10, 2008 | 3:26 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
L.A. Opera is one of a kind.
It may lack the fanciful flair of opera-goers in New York or San Francisco, with their lavish attire and high-culture gabbing at the mini-bar, because, save for a handful of ladies anachronistically bedecked in fur, Angelenos prefer a more casual fashion display—call it “off the red carpet couture.” And instead of the escapism most Americans crave on the eve of economic recession, Angelenos desire to see themselves reflected in their art.
Luckily, music director James Conlon knows just how to give that to them.
This past weekend, the appropriate performance was “Recovered Voices” a double-bill of one-act operas written by Jewish composers and suppressed by the Nazis. Alexander Zemlinsky wrote “The Dwarf” before fleeing The Third Reich for New York, and Viktor Ullmann penned “The Broken Jug” then perished in a gas chamber.
How providential then, that these two concealed works found a stage in a city that mimics their themes: political corruption and beauty versus ugliness.
At first I thought “The Broken Jug” would need metaphor. A whodunit opera about a fractured water pitcher seemed like a tall order for people whose attention spans were crafted by Hollywood. But then it dawned on me that a political satire about a judge presiding over a trial in which he is the culprit, reeked of hypocrisy. Like Mayor Villaraigosa being endorsed a ”member of the tribe,” praised by L.A.‘s most esteemed rabbis - without a trace of scorn for his public infidelity. It’s a delicate balance you know, Ten Commandments or political allies?
Next up was “The Dwarf,” a weepy melodrama about a Paris Hilton-type princess gifted with an exotic dwarf for her birthday. The young beauty trifles with the dwarf’s delicate heart while the rest of court mocks him. When he glimpses his deformities in the mirror, he yelps and dies. The dramatic preoccupation with looks—a perfect fit—for a town that lives and dies by the vagaries of youth and beauty.
Though they most certainly didn’t anticipate it, Zemlinsky and Ullmann were channeling the voice of Los Angeles almost half a century before Los Angeles would find its most prescient operatic companions.
March 7, 2008 | 11:14 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In 1998, Rabbi Daniel Gordis kissed a shiny life in Los Angeles goodbye. He took his wife and two children on a one-way El-Al flight to Israel and has become a fixture there ever since.
The founding dean of American Jewish University’s (then, University of Judaism) Ziegler Rabbinical School is now Senior Vice President of the Shalem Center, and writes extensively about Israeli society and the challenges the Jewish state faces.
Since his U.S. departure, he has written a series of “dispatches” which began as mass emails and have since filled the pages of two books.
His latest missive, “The Shame Of It All” regards recent events in Israel with malcontent, placing culpability with Israel’s national leadership. (I recommend reading it through the link in its full form, instead of what I’ve abbreviated below.)
There were days, and they were not that long ago, when Zionism was about something different. Days when Zionists could articulate what the purpose of Jewish Statehood was, days when Israelis understood that having a state was about changing the existential condition of the Jew. Not anymore.
When you’ve lost the sense that Jewish statehood is about changing the condition of the Jew, and when you can no longer recall that independence was designed (inter alia) to end the era of hunting seasons in which the Jews are the ducks, just because they’re Jews, when any semblance of a Jewish conversation is thoroughly absent from your worldview, it’s hard to say much about why the Jews need a State. It’s hard to say why the high cost of living here (and I don’t mean financial) is worth it. How do you explain to your friends, and to yourself, why you should drive your eighteen year old son to the base where he’ll be inducted, and hope and pray for three long years (or more) that he’ll be OK, if you have no idea why a Jewish State matters?
... you don’t allow yourself to be horrified by the fact that almost 8,000 rockets have been fired at Sderot, that life there has been transformed into hell. You don’t allow yourself to remember that for years, yes seven years, kids (and old kids, sometimes in their teens) have been sleeping in their parents’ rooms, making any kind of normal family life utterly impossible, elementary school kids have been wetting their beds, half the businesses are vacated, more than half the town is empty, the economy doesn’t exist and everyone is scared to death, all the time.
You don’t allow yourself to focus on the fact that this is exactly what Zionism was supposed to prevent. You get so used to it that you don’t see that Jews sitting like ducks, simply waiting to be hit by homemade missiles while the region’s most powerful army sits on the side and polishes its boots, is a bastardization of what Zionism was supposed to be.
When a country’s leadership can’t express a single coherent thought about why the Jews need a State, when its Prime Minister can articulate no agenda for the Jewish State beyond the hope that it will be “a fun place to live” (and look who gleefully cites that interview), you know we’re bankrupt… now, aside from being a marginally Hebrew-speaking version of some benign and characterless country, we can’t remember why we wanted this State to begin with. So we don’t defend it, because we don’t want to hurt their civilians (even though they openly target ours). We don’t want to earn the world’s opprobrium, because our Prime Minister loves being welcomed in foreign capitals. We don’t defend ourselves because we’re no longer sure that it’s really worth the casualties on our side that preventing these attacks on our sovereignty would require.
So we sit. And civilians keep getting targeted, and keep dying. And soldiers die. And Israeli towns become ghost towns. But George Bush most supports us, so we feel better. And the charade with Abu Mazen permits us to continue hallucinating about the possibility of peace, to pretend that the Palestinians aren’t simply an utterly failed people that will never make peace in our lifetimes or those of our children, so we feel even better.
...And before you know it, before your friend has even had five minutes to say anything about his book, all of the Blackberry’s are out, and all the cell phones are being used, because the news has reached us - it’s starting again. There’s been an attack at a yeshiva at the entrance to the city.
In the morning, the papers report the attack, but there’s not a single mention of a response, or even a contemplated response. Of course one will come, but not yet. It will have to get worse first, because a few people killed in Sederot, and a couple of soldiers, and even eight kids from a yeshiva - well, it’s sad, but just for that we’re actually going to start a war?
No, probably not, at least not yet. Because to go to war (or more accurately, to respond to the war that’s been unleashed against you) to defend your citizens, you’d have to be able to articulate why this country still makes any difference. You’ve have to be able to say something about why it was created in the first place. You’d have to have a sense of Jewish history. You’d have to have a vision for the Jews, an agenda for your country. You’d have to be able to see yourself as part of a several thousand year old conversation. You’d have to have some courage. And yes, you’d Âhave to love your people more than you love your office.
... Our Prime Minister doesn’t want to defend Sederot. Or Ashkelon. He doesn’t want to tell Bush that the charade with Abu Mazen is bound to explode, and that when it does, more of us will die. He just wants a country that’s “fun to live in.”