Posted by Danielle Berrin
60 bloggers, 60 days, 60 different spins on Israel.
If you haven’t already done so, check out the new site 60 bloggers for Israel, a blog devoted to thoughts on Israel that features a different post each day leading up to Yom Ha’atzmaut.
The project, dreamed up by Craig Taubman as part of the Let My People Sing festivities, is a collaboration with Rabbi Yonah Bookstein of Jewlicious.com. Together, they enlisted 60 bloggers from near and far including, “Jewtube,” “My Urban Kvetch” and “Yo, Yenta!” to wax poetic about the promised land.
Thus far, the blog reads like an epic love poem to Israel, with many of the contributors sharing their memories, feelings and political impressions of the holy land.
The Calendar Girls posted their prose yesterday in “Oh Israel, how do I love thee?”
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. . .
April 23, 2008 | 3:27 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
The hype has been so frenzied and the reviews so forthcoming on Jason Segel’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” that it would be impossible for me to add anything of significance to the discourse at this point.
Emma Forrest did a stupendous job of profiling the latest Judd Apatow protege, Segel, and the first movie he has written and starred in:
In the film, it’s clear that Segel’s character will end up with Mila Kunis, aka “the right girl,” and—kudos—the first nice Jewish girl to make it past Apatow’s shiksa goddess fixation. It’s certainly the first Apatow film to climax in a lavish puppet musical, puppets being Segel’s secret passion: “I threw it out there and the next thing I knew, there were 40 Jim Henson puppets.” A budding musician—he wrote the love song that his Freaks and Geeks character sang to his beloved on-screen—Segel is also thrilled that the soundtrack will feature songs he wrote. He’s been making his living in the business since his teens, but for this film, Segel’s enthusiasm—and anxiety about its reception—is palpable. “We’re all just wondering who’ll be the one to spoil Judd’s run,” he concedes. “I am afraid that this group has become so successful that one of us will be the iceberg that sinks the Titanic. I really don’t want to be it.”
If you haven’t read the entire article, which Danielle linked to in her last blog, I highly recommend it.
Naomi Pfefferman, the JJ’s Arts and Entertainment Editor, also wrote a nice piece in last week’s paper about “Sarah Marshall” director Nicholas Stoller (a Jew with the name Nicholas?), who is a proud member of the “Jew-Tang Clan,” as Apatow’s stable of talented tribesmen has been nicknamed.
Stoller was hanging around on the set of “Knocked Up” when Segel, his favorite writing partner, mentioned a script about his own experiences as a dumpee. (The actor actually had a girlfriend break up with him while he was naked, which became “Marshall’s” opening sequence.)
“I went to Judd and asked if I could direct the movie—my first—if I helped Jason through the writing process,” Stoller said.
Apatow agreed on the spot.
However, I do have a couple of coins to toss into the overflowing fountain of publicity this movie has generated. I saw the movie last week at an AFI Director’s Screening at the Arclight in Hollywood. The screening, open to the general public, was crammed full of eager young people and the post-film Q & A with Segel and Stoller was buzzing with enthusiasm - the two held hands in a genuine moment of affection and then again later just for laughs.
The unique mix of chick flick romanticism, crude guy humor, universally appealing heartbreak plot and truly nuanced acting made for a movie that appealed to me just as much as it did to my fiance, David.
I have to say though, that the movie poses a challenge for Israelis who may have a hard time with the heavy use of slang words (“junk” for penis) and pop culture references. And the thick British accent of Sarah’s new boyfriend. David whispered to me in the middle of the movie, “Is he speaking English?”
But that’s not the point. The point is that when I bought the tickets to see the movie, I contemplated inviting David, or my girlfriend or my younger sister, feeling confident that any one of them would have enjoyed the movie equally. Usually, we divide up movies by people categories: David saw “300” with his brothers; the latest “Rambo” with his buddies; I saw “Taxi to the Dark Side” (a heavy doc about torture in Afghanistan) with my girlfriend; the dripping-with-drama “Atonement” alone - we were on a 13 hour flight to Israel - because David would never agree to rent it, etc.
But “Sarah Marshall” could fit in any of those categories. I could enjoy it with anyone, even my mom - in spite of Segel’s infamous naked scene.
And that’s cool.
April 21, 2008 | 5:24 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
At one of the most luxurious and largest athletic facilities in Los Angeles, JDaters and wine lovers alike strolled around the Sports Club Oliver Cafe to mingle with singles and taste more than 20 kosher wines. Wally’s Wines & Spirits and JDate put on a merry daters’ fete on Thursday, April 17.
Sipping a variety of reds and whites, I started getting tipsy right around the 10th tasting. After a while I lost count. In a similar state of wine-iness, the women sitting at my table started getting friendly and introduced themselves. Curious about my dating situation, one woman in her early 30’s asked if I’ve had any luck on THE Jewish dating website. Clearly I would not be sitting next to her had I found my prince kosher on JDate.
âIt has its ups and downs,â I answered.
At one point, I found myself conversing with a quirky messy-haired massage therapist, who made a dramatic sour expression and released a long sigh as she tasted a wine harvested in a metal barrel as opposed to the traditional oak barrel. I inquired if she was having a good time. She answered bitterly, âI’m moving to Israel because there are no men here.â
Moving along to another table, I learned about different grape varieties along with the nature of dating as I watched men boldly introduce themselves to women, attempting to initiate conversations out of thin air.
Singles events can be torturous, but an abundance of wine definitely helps soften the blow. Also, events such as this one inject a much needed touch of reality to the seemingly fictitious world of digital dating. Although the crowd was a bit above my age range (the average seemed to be mid-30’s), I connected with a few wine sellers and yes, even a couple of JDaters, who hopefully found a reason to have butterflies in their stomachs and not just the comforting warmth of the wine.
April 18, 2008 | 3:10 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Here’s some of our favorite Passover multimedia fare to get you revved up for the wine-heavy breadless holiday. Enjoy!
Is a rising penis kosher for Passover?
VideoJew Jay Firestone’s hilarious matzah taste-testing:
Michelle Citrin and William Levin came up with super cool ways to dispose of leftover matzah:
CHAG SAMEACH FROM THE CALENDAR GIRLS!
April 16, 2008 | 4:02 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
David Minkin is the rock star of magic.
I was told that is the epithet given to him by his fellow magicians at the prestigious Magic Castle club in Hollywood. And having just been to his “Evening of Enchantment” at Malibu’s Beau Rivage restaurant, I can say that the title is fitting.
David Minkin, the 2007 International Magic Champion, is loaded with talent, charisma and charm. Women in the audience swooned, fans swarmed him after his wondrous performance and he handled the unusually stressful day with the cool nonchalance of an internationally acclaimed artist. One of David’s non-rock star qualities (I detected several) is his affinity for intimate settings.
While many magicians aspire to theater-sized, marquee-trumpeted shows in Las Vegas, he said during his 45-minute act, he prefers to get closer to his audience.
The “Evening of Enchantment” does exactly that - it brings David and the audience to a level of intimacy that makes the experience more than just an amusing set of magic tricks.
The evening begins long before you pull open the heavy wooden doors of Beau Rivage. Driving along the Malibu coast as the sun is in its last hours begins to set a pleasant, relaxed tone for the night. Dimly lit and decked with flowers and twinkling lights, Beau Rivage is the quintessential romantic Mediterranean restaurant - the perfect setting for magical moments.
Guests, limited to 28, are escorted to the tower room on the second floor, where they are treated to hors d’oeuvres and tastings of award-winning wines from the local Malibu Rosenthal winery.
Having had an hour to schmooze or in my case, reminisce (my high school P.E. teacher was there!), the now chummy crowd descended the candle-lit stairway, wine glasses in hand, to the cozy wine cellar.
And then David appeared. No, not out of thin air. His entrance was more earthly - he walked down the stairs, pulled the curtain aside and began to work his wonders. Slowly, the black-clad magician built a rapport with the already warmed up group. He started with coins and moved on to cards - traditional magician fare - but complimented the tricks with autobiographical snippets and charming banter, which the audience readily threw back.
Then David impressed even a skeptic, took us time-traveling, played a tune on his guitar and finally, led us through the rain. I promised David not to reveal his grand finale - it’s a bit he has been developing for four years and has only performed at the “Evening of Enchantment.”
Whoever came up with the name for the show was spot on.
As I strolled to my car, full of wine and wonder, I felt truly enchanted.
For reservations, call A.J. Steinberg at (310) 795-0269 or visit www.magicandwine.com.
April 14, 2008 | 4:40 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Shuffling through the crowd at the Hollywood Improv on Thursday night, April 10, excited comedy-club goers eagerly fought for good seats in the packed room to hear Jewish comics deliver their sharpest witty banter at âKing Davids of Comedy.â
Host Dan Rosenberg took the stage, and we soon realized that there was nothing funny about his shpeil. Self-deprecating and Jew-bashing Rosenberg made stereotypical jokes about cheap Jews getting half-off coupons to come to the show. The crowd was mixed with older folks as well as young people, and there was an unfulfilled desire for authentic Jewish humor, not just the obvious jabs.
Rosenberg then brought politics into the mix, which wasnât the best idea after delivering such offensive remarks. âYou know, Obama is half Jewish right? Half white, half black, half Jewish, half off,â he said.
After a few more dry comics bored us, grossed us out, and almost killed the high-energy mood of the night, a couple of hilarious performers emerged, Nick Thune and Louis Katz, and saved the day, but only after Jewish-Canadian comic Lahna Turner ranted about her mullet-clad vagina screaming racial slurs. Describing her obese husband, she said, âfatties are great because you never know what youâre going to find. I found a penny once under his titty.â Receiving limited laughs, she begged the audience to cut her some slack.
The Improv saved the best for last with Thune, the only non-Jewish performer. Strumming his guitar, the handsome bearded comic tripped over his microphone cord and quipped, âyou have to make mistakes every now and then so no one thinks youâre perfect.â He cleverly sang about an AIM conversation he once had in the 90s when his father first brought home an Apple computer. The then 14-year-old boy chatted with a sultry female online donning the screen-name âNsyncHottie503.â After an in-depth conversation with the 20-something wannabe actress wildly LOLâing and JKâing, Thune confessed he was really just a young teenage boy. âI know who you are,â Hottie responded. âBecause I’m your 57-year-old neighbor, Jim.â
From the corner of my eye I noticed the guys sitting at the table next to me. They were doubled over laughing during Thuneâs entire knee-slapping routine.
The night was slightly disappointing, not just because the Jewish comics bombed, but because the people who spent $18 dollars on tickets with a two-drink minimum and stood in line for a half hour are not likely to return to this monthly show, which raises money for Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, and blood bank service.
And that’s no laughing matter.
Nick Thune’s Instant Messenger Song:
April 8, 2008 | 2:27 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
I am plagued by a certain mental malaise every time I return from a trip to Israel.
I feel run-down, depleted, out of sorts.
It’s not the usual back-from-vacation-I-wish-I-wasn’t-at-work sluggishness. It’s different. It’s deeper and harder to shake off.
Israel leaves an aftertaste that is a combination of fatigue, nostalgia, emptiness and expectation.
The frenzied pace of life - the fast-talking shopkeepers, the reckless drivers, the crush of people everywhere you go, the whisp of danger always swirling in the air - drains you of all reserves of energy so that it takes at least a week to recover; longer if you had a return flight at 4 a.m. with a 7-hour layover in Switzerland.
Almost as soon as I arrive at Ben Gurion airport and make my way through the long security line, I begin recalling all the things I love about Israel: the Mediterranean climate, the sweet and spicy meals, the roughly handsome men, late nights at Aroma - Israel’s improved-upon version of Starbucks, and most of all, the fullness of being surrounded by loved ones.
The intense attention and warm affection of family members who see their relatives from America once every year or two at best was coupled on this trip with the eager observation and enthusiastic embrace of my soon-to-be extended family, who will be making up 400 out of the 500 invited guests at our September wedding. A steady stream of beaming faces paraded through our ten-day trip, filling every minute of every day with banter, questions, drinking, singing, eating and laughing. After that, who wouldn’t feel empty sitting alone in their car for 45 minutes on the 101? Or getting only a handful of phone calls throughout the day? Or waking up on a Saturday morning with no one waiting for you at the kitchen table?
I always return from Israel with a sense of expectation. As if I’m waiting for something. Waiting for the next trip to Israel, that’s for certain. But also, a larger sense of waiting. Waiting to return to Israel for good. Every visit to Israel tightens the strings that connect me to my birthplace, pulling me closer to the day that I become a toshevet choseret - a “returning resident.”
Returning to Los Angeles, I feel like I left home and came home at the same time.
It’s no wonder I feel out of sorts.
(Top: Purim Parade - Holon; Middle: Shabbat dinner - Hadera; Bottom: My sister’s wedding - Haifa)
April 3, 2008 | 9:50 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
While the Jewish people are pepping their spirits in celebration of Israel’s 60th birthday, the hype has begun to overshadow serious talk about the perils facing the Jewish state. âNot now,â we think; after all the struggles, pause to celebrate is a tremendous relief.
The mood shifted though, when Rabbi-cum-Dr. Daniel Gordis, who has long been my Zionist exemplar, stopped by Sinai Temple April 2, during a Shalem Center business trip and delivered an ominous message.
Since I first read his dispatches in high school, Gordis has always seemed to me a man full of hope, someone for whom “Lech L’cha” was not mere verse but a commandment; someone who loves Israel romantically but isnât afraid to ask her hard questions, who craves peace but knows too well the reality of living in a region that does not.
His speech, delivered eloquently and with animation was uncompromising in its content. The greatest threat to Israelâs future he said, is neither Hamas nor Hezbollah terrorism, not the Arab-Israeli conflict, or even the existential threat to Israelâs existence posed by a nuclear Iran (though that threat is real). Instead, it is the combination of these hostile elements affecting international discourse, and serving to erode the very idea that the existence of a Jewish state is a good idea at all.
He aired a concatenation of multilateral hostilities towards the State of Israel, from international degradation to Israeli civilian apathy; from Walt and Mearsheimer’s smear on the America-Israel relationship to Ahmadinejadâs unchallenged hate speech. More frightening than any imminent danger, he said, is that these disparaging and confused sentiments have begun to take root in Israel herself, at her newspapers and universities, in her homes and among her people.
But the couple of Israelis I spoke to this weekend said they didnât buy that message. âIsraelis arenât afraid of getting killed by a bomb,â a young woman pronounced at the Shabbat table. Nuclear threat or not, Israel will âtake care of itâ and life will go on. Realizing that they live in Tel Aviv, where the party never stops and not in Sderot, where the rockets never stop, curtailed my wanting to believe them.
Gordis the hard core Zionist compared the status of Zionism with the dusty dissolution of Communism in Russia, something that began as a great idea but lost gravity and disappeared.
A man who was once hopeful is now fueled by desperate determinism. Israel will survive until 2048 because âit has to.â
He didn’t bother to sugar coat his message for the Sinai Temple crowd or its rabbi, David Wolpe, whose discomfort and despondency took turns realigning the lineaments of his face. Gordis drove a hard reminder about the status of world Jewry when there was no Jewish state. True, Jewish life in America is quite nice, but imagine what would happen to Jewish liturgy, to say nothing of Jewish life, if there was no Israel to pray for?
Whether you believe in the doomsday message or not, itâs clear that the Gordis who chose the Israel of 1998 is a changed man, and the Israel that lured him there is no longer a fledgling country, but a world power facing unique challenges and called upon to make difficult decisions.
The question is then, what should the Jewish community do? Ignore the fact that the worldâs largest Jewish population may soon live in the crosshairs of a nuclear-armed country led by a president who makes no secret of his ultimate aims? Deny that Sderot is a possible microcosm for what might happen when those same terrorist groups have greater destructive capabilities? Tell ourselves that because Tel Aviv is fine, everything else is—and that if we keep going, believing and praying it will one day be alright?
When there is no easy answer, or any answer at all, living a Jewish life makes Israel not a dream or an idea, but a necessary reality.