Posted by Danielle Berrin
The bomb scare threatened to overtake the evening. There was a “suspicious toy” found leaning against the wall of Sinai Temple. Police set up a blockade, cordoning off the streets and summoning the bomb squad. A lady I met on the circuitous walk asked if I was heading towards the temple. “I’m concerned. I have a son,” she said. I tried to reassure her that if it were anything truly serious, they’d evacuate the surrounding buildings. We stopped to chat with LAPD but the officer seemed ill informed. Rachel and I decided to take our chances, but the thought crossed my mind that Dr. Michal Schwartz’s lecture on stem cell research might be the last I ever heard.
As I approached the building, Sinai security performed their routine rummage through my purse, and I was instantly propelled back to normalcy. I walked into a room where a formidable crowd of older adults was assembled, attentively listening to Schwartz’s lecture about rats, brains, the immune system and neurogenesis (the process by which neurons are created).
Schwartz’s groundbreaking research, performed at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel requires engineering various defects or injuries in animals and then trying to cure them. Her team induced spinal cord injury in a rat (though she promised the creature felt no pain) and remarkably, it was rehabilitated from complete paralysis to re-gaining the ability to stand and walk. What Schwartz ultimately discovered was that repair was dependent on immunological mechanisms, which are more closely linked to brain activity than previously thought.
Schwartz will soon begin working in a research lab at Cedars-Sinai International Stem Cell Research Institute. The “atmosphere in California” as well as ample funding, permits greater flexibility with these experiments. Schwartz believes the study of stem cells will lead to medical advances that may help slow brain aging and memory loss, enhance repair after trauma and weaken disease progression.
“It takes time but we are starting to convince the people,” she declared, referring to the resistance she’s encountered. Schwartz’s work is not as controversial as say, embryonic stem cell research, which involves the use of human stem cells, typically 5-day-old embryos floating in the fallopian tube that never find their way to the uterus. These are the frozen, discarded embryos—the blasocyst byproducts of in vitro fertilization that couples sign over to science, with a flood of ethical questions in their wake. Schwartz was the first to admit that her discoveries are only applicable to modern medicine insofar as they have been tested on animals; research with humans may well reveal different results. And so the question remains…
What does Jewish halacha (law) say about such scientific research? Is it ethical?
During the Q&A session led by Rabbis David Wolpe and Ahud Sela, RDW was quick to point out that “it is a deeply rooted imperative in the Jewish tradition to heal,“citing the concept of “rapo y’rapeh—you shall surely heal” and the Talmudic section of bava kamma, which outlines the ways in which one who has injured another is responsible for healing them (lucky for the rats).
I have wondered many times, in the tradition of all great scientific and technological advances, how to maintain a healthy balance of inquiry. Too often, discovery has had destructive consequences. E=mc2 became a nuclear bomb. Was the evening’s beginning a strange irony or foreshadowing?
Perhaps more importantly, the question is “when?” When will this science be certain enough to make a difference in someone’s life? When does animal testing mean one less parent descends into the dementia of dying from Alzheimer’s?
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 24, 2007 | 4:47 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Shabbat would not be Shabbat without challah. The soft golden-brown loaf of bread that graces Jewish dinner tables around the world each Friday night has about as many recipes as there are Jewish mothers. Wheat, eggless, sesame seed, poppy seed, raisin, chocolate chip, olive, jalapeno…challah comes in every size, shape, and flavor you can imagine.
Take your enjoyment of this Jewish comestible icon to the next level by not only devouring handfuls of the sweet bread, but by making it yourself!
Making the challah and performing the ritual of separating a small piece of dough from the rest of the batch, called hafrashat challah in Hebrew, is considered one of the three greatest mitzvot a woman can do.
My dear friend Anita Schmidt, a Mexican Jew and the Program Director at Sinai Temple, was kind enough to give me the recipe to her mom’s special challah - which I had the pleasure of tasting myself one Friday night. Mrs. Schmidt’s recipe is simply and confidently titled “Delicious Challah Recipe” and looks fairly easy to make. The only reason why I have not yet made it myself is because of that 2 1/2-hour rising period. With the rest of the preparation, it would take me 4 hours to make the challah, which means I would either have to wake up at 5 am on Friday morning or leave work at 3 pm in order for it to be ready for dinner. Not too convenient.
But if you like waking up early, don’t work on Fridays, or eat Shabbat dinner really late, I highly recommend trying this recipe. Shabbat Shalom!!!
4 packages of dry yeast
4 cups of warm water
1 cup of sugar
2 tbsp. Of salt
1 cup of oil
13-14 cups of flour
1. Mix yeast, water and sugar. Let sit covered until mixture is bubbling.
2. Add salt and 1/2 of the flour, and mix together.
3. Add eggs, oil and then the rest of the flour, one cup at a time.
4. Cover, place in a warm place, and allow to rise for 2 hours. Punch down, and allow to rise again for 20 min.
5. Shape the challah.
6. Take a small piece of challah dough, about the size of an olive, and repeat the following:
“Blessed are you who has commanded us to separate challah from the dough.”
7. Place challah on a greased cookie sheet, including the small piece of dough.
8. Bake for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.
(Chocolate chips and/or raisins can be added for an extra touch)
August 23, 2007 | 5:53 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I didn’t anticipate the buzz. But then Brett Ratner got profiled in The Miami Herald and my grandmother called to tell me alllll about the nice Jewish boy from Beach High who became a big Hollywood director (and subsequently invited his grandparents to cohabit his Beverly Hills mansion). The headline declared, “Rush Hour 3 director Brett Ratner doesn’t care what critics think.” Well, that’s good, considering it doesn’t take a critic to know ‘Rush Hour’ isn’t exactly Oscar material.
In the article, Ratner had more flattering comments for the enemies of the Blockbuster film. ‘‘Critics are snobs. People like [Roman Polanski] know that it’s easier to make a pretentious art movie than a movie that makes f- - - - - - $500 million.’‘
Nice? The Jewban—once removed (Ratner is a U.S. native while his family hails from Cuba) is known for throwing lavish, star-studded parties at Hillhaven Lodge, the Beverly Hills estate that looms high on a hill near Benedict Canyon. He’s also known for a devil-may-care attitude and infamous for womanizing. Nice Jewish boy. But when I got invited to his house, I had to go.
150-or-so Hollywood heavy hitters were chaffeured up the hill and granted entry to his not-quite-as-sprawling as I had imagined backyard. The large pool glowed, particularly luminous among the predominantly dressed-in-black business set present for tonight’s grand affair: The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding‘s Los Angeles Benefit honoring two of the biggest agents in the biz, Charles D. King (William Morris Agency) and Steve Smooke (Creative Artists Agency), along with Randy Spendlove, President of Motion Picture Music for Paramount and still riding the waves of a brilliant job with “Dreamgirls.”
There was mixing and mingling, though not quite the kind you see at a J-Date event. This was hardcore Hollywood. I could hear deals being made. Moguls shook hands, blackberrys were at arm’s length, talk of money, money, money.
The usual, compulsory and quite boring award ceremony took place at the top of the steps, in the shadow of the brick-and-mortar built lodge. Rabbi Marc Schneier spoke long and hard, with interminable pauses between each word so all I managed to cull from his address on ethnic understanding was, the importance of amicable race relations, the importance of ethnic communities working together, and how proud he is of the new anti-racism/anti-Semitism public service announcement starring Russell Simmons and Jay-Z. Simmons basked in the glow beneath the hanging tree-lights—-or was that bright spot just his forehead? He delivered an eloquent message, although I can’t remember much of that either…
I was preoccupied watching Jamie Foxx uncomfortably crouch into the corner at an event where he was not the most powerful or best-loved among the crew, but the only real celebrity present. He seemed to oscillate between discomfort (or nervousness?) and genuine enjoyment. Smooke is his agent and he seemed proud.
After that, I hit the road. The buffet line was way too long and I was hungry. On the way out, our driver peeled off the property, sped down the hill (in reverse!) and gave a big, bad bodyguard a hard time for parking his monster Escalade in the middle of the driveway. He tried excuses but she wasn’t having it. She was in control and very pregnant.
I thought, ‘only in Hollywood does a superstar director host a benefit at his home, not even feign intention to be there and get away with it.’ Iâm told this sort of âgenerosityâ in donating oneâs lawn to charity for an evening affords lovely tax deductions. At least we know Ratner is smart and savvy.
And Gram, when I can afford a house like that, you’re welcome to bunk with me.
August 22, 2007 | 5:05 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Smart, sassy, beautiful, sexy and talented. That’s the word on the women in this 100% female-centric serenade, set to inflame Woodley Park this Saturday, Aug. 25 at the first annual Los Angeles Women’s Music Festival. “Females on Fire” features 50 female-fronted acts performing music from around the globe, across all genres, rocking 5 stages. Now that’s hot.
Though women’s music festivals have enjoyed fertile success around the country (read: Lilith Fair), this is the first celebration of the form in Los Angeles, epicenter of the North American music industry. Artist Sophie B. Hawkins, who shot to #5 on the Billboard chart for her single “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” will headline the day-long event with other cutting-edge women musicians.
The event is also being billed as an eco-adventure fest. Powered by eSolar renewable energy and benefiting animal rescue, these gals are tuning their audience into the benefits of going green. There will be vegan and vegetarian cuisine, pet adoptions, a healing arts tent, open-mic sessions and a mini-recording studio to test out your own vocals. So spread out your picnic blanket for a wild, rock-and-roll romp through a woman’s world.
Females on Fire: Los Angeles Women’s Music Festival takes place Saturday, Aug. 25. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. $25. Woodley Park North, 6340 Woodley Ave., Encino. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.lawmf.com.
August 21, 2007 | 6:56 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
That’s what I kept thinking as I wandered up and down the multiple wooden staircases of the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard on Saturday night.
The August 18 cocktail mixer and “Lost 80s” Live Concert was supposed to be the centerpiece event of JDate’s Schmooz-a-Palooza, a weekend-long extravaganza beginning with an oh-so-LA poolside party on Friday night at the Hyatt and ending with a swanky hotel brunch on Sunday morning-ish.
I didn’t make it to the early evening munch-and-meet, but according to one of the very few JDaters who stuck around for the rest of the night, it was, eh. Shelby, a bright, friendly and confident 23-year-old, verbally expressed her disappointment at the paltry turnout to Joel, one of the JDate representatives running the Palooza (we’ll get back to him in a bit). Shelby was also shocked and offended that the potato skins served at the reception had gasp! bacon on them! What is it with Jewish organizations serving blatantly non-kosher foods at their events (recall the Justice Ball)? Is it really that difficult in the land of abundance to find food options that aren’t treyf? Seriously.
Joel, who was extremely likeable and accommodating (and single I think), sincerely apologized to Shelby and explained that the House of Blues was informed that the event was Jewish, but apparently, no one explained the laws of kashrut to the kitchen staff.
“You’re not going to write about that, are you?” Joel grimaced as I stood by and listened to his exchange with Shelby. Yes, Joel, I am. But I’m not blaming you at all for the mistake. And from the sweet smile Shelby flashed Joel all evening, I don’t think she blamed him either.
Maybe the smile had more to do with the fact that Joel was one of the only other Jews left in the House. And one of the few people under the age of 30. “Everyone here is so old, ” remarked Shelby, perched on the arm of a plush couch in the House of Blues Foundation Room. The VIP lounge was gorgeous and decadent and had a sparkling view of the city below, but all that didn’t distract me from noticing the same thing. Let’s just say my boyfriend’s brother, who loves older women, was like a kid in a candy store that night.
A shiksa candy store.
According to JDate’s count, roughly 300 people schmoozed throughout the weekend and 175 attended the cocktail/concert night. To be fair, I didn’t do a visual count of Jewish looking people at the concert itself (I was having too much fun dancing in the Foundation Room), so maybe all the Jews were rockin’ to A Flock of Seagulls.
Despite the lack of a Jewish vibe, I had a wonderful time. The venue was great, Joel was great, and I made a friend. I gave Shelby my number. I wonder if she’ll call. It’s been three days already…
I guess this event had a JDate stamp on it after all.
August 21, 2007 | 9:31 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The only filmmakers that remain “On The Lot” are Jason Epperson (Winchester, Kentucky), Will Bigham (Canyon, Texas) and Adam Stein (Miami, Florida). Last week, they screened two films that best exemplify their skills as directors and viewers then cast their votes for America’s favorite new filmmaker.
We’ve been watching Adam since his national debut and he is one talented director. A guest judge remarked, “I have a feeling we should be sucking up to this guy!”
You can watch Adam’s top two picks, “Dough: The Musical” (about a couple who meet in a bakery; he hopes to win her heart through his bread and she needs a job) and “Army Guy” (where oversexed figurines duke it out in a dollhouse) before the final episode.
Tonight, the winner of the competition will be revealed, gifted with a million dollar development deal and welcomed onto the Hollywood ‘lot’—Dreamworks SKG—by Mr. Steven Spielberg himself.
You can tune in for the final episode of “On The Lot” tonight at 8/7c on FOX.
August 20, 2007 | 4:54 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Last week I took my sister to see the Donald Margulies play, “Sight Unseen,” at art/works theatre on Santa Monica Blvd. When we walked up to the tiny theatre in the waning evening light and saw only one couple lingering outside, I figured we were either a little early (it was 7:40 p.m.) or a little late (the show started at 8 p.m.). It turned out it was neither. The attendance that Thursday night was 7, including the two of us.
The theatre may have been empty, but the play was plenty full. Full of emotion and wit and thought-provoking content. It was full of intensity and complexity. It was full of dialogue. And subject matter: modern art, love, identity, Judaism, wealth, marriage.
Johnathan Waxman, played by the handsome Jeffrey Dean, is a wildly successful and arrogant Jewish-American painter who is in London for his first European retrospective. He decides to pay his former college sweetheart, Patricia (Tiffany Walker), a visit in her northern England farmhouse, where she lives a sparse existence with her quirky archaeologist husband, Nick (Steve Owsley). Patricia has never healed from her painful breakup with Johnathan fifteen years earlier and her current passionless marriage is a sad result of mere circumstance.
Awkward chit chat, bitter accusations and highly charged exchanges ensue as the old lovers meet for the first time since their explosive breakup and as Nick faces the menacing figure that has been looming over his marriage and his mantle in the form of a nude painting Johnathan did of Patricia the day they met.
Superbly written, “Sight Unseen” won an Obie award for Best New American Play when it debuted in 1992. It also had a long, successful run at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2004 where Laura Linney reportedly played Patricia to perfection. Though Tiffany Walker was a bit overdramatic in her performance as the resentful shiksa and Jeffrey Dean not quite charming enough to make his insecure but self-absorbed character likeable, the production was still powerful and entertaining.
And full. Very very full.
August 20, 2007 | 1:16 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Jonah Hill got discovered in a bar. It was storytelling/poetry night at “Black and White,” a hip joint in Manhattan’s East Village, when a couple of peers noticed this funnyman. They suggested Hill meet their father, who turned out to be Dustin Hoffman. After that, Hill (a Los Angeles native) found himself living the dream with roles in “I Heart Huckabees,” “The Forty-Year-Old Virgin” and “Click.” He currently stars in the new movie “Superbad” by director-friend Judd Apatow.
On Aug. 12, he was featured in a one-on-one chat with the New York Times’ Deborah Solomon discussing youthful immaturity, being bar mitzvahed and sex.
There is much that is supergood about your performance in âSuperbad,â which opens this week. But how do you feel about landing your first big role in a film that celebrates male immaturity and vulgarity? Any time I have a conversation with a female reporter, this kind of comes up. The way that Michael Cera and I talk in the movie is vulgar. But whether people realize it or not, this is how 17-year-old kids talk today. You might not want to believe it.You make the film sound like an example of gritty realism, when itâs a teen comedy about two underage buddies trying to buy alcohol to impress girls. I donât think âSuperbadâ is a teen movie. I think itâs a movie about young people. I mean, no one has sex with a pastry of any kind. Youâre referring to the definitive moment in âAmerican Pie.â What do you consider the definitive moment in âSuperbadâ? My favorite parts are when Michael and I are just walking around talking. If you didnât believe that Michael and I love each other, then the whole movie doesnât work. Growing up in Los Angeles, did you always want to be an actor? No. I wanted to be one of the Simpsons. I wanted to live in Springfield. Actually, you do seem like an animated character. I didnât ever think about that. What did you learn from working with Judd Apatow, who produced âSuperbadâ in the wake of the comedy hits â40-Year-Old Virginâ and âKnocked Up,â in which you had supporting roles? The best advice Judd gave me is that there are a billion other people who are funny and want to be doing what youâre doing. The second you stop realizing that â and you stop working as hard â opportunity can go away for you. It sounds as if you have a healthy work ethic. My dad is an accountant, and he instilled a good work ethic in me. The last thing I ever want to do is blow an opportunity, especially this one. Youâre clearly less of a hedonist than the high-school character you play in the film. Do you use drugs? Occasionally I smoke pot. I am way too neurotic to ever do any real drugs. Thatâs good. How would you compare your sex life with the character you play? I am not a superlecherous guy. I usually enjoy having a girlfriend as opposed to dating a variety of women. Iâm a nice Jewish boy. Did you have a bar mitzvah when you were a kid? Yeah. It was amazing. It was magical. The theme was âJonah Goes Platinum.â Did you like high school? No. I felt underappreciated in high school. Unless you were good at sports or got great grades, no one seemed to bother about you. I was pretty laid back. I was like, âHey, whatâs up?â I wanted to get the hell out of there. You wound up moving to New York to study acting at the New School and quickly broke into film. âI Heart Huckabeesâ was my first movie, and Dustin Hoffman discovered me. So thanks, Dustin. What do you think is the best film that disappeared overnight? âThe Puffy Chair.â Itâs one of my favorites. No one I know has ever seen it. Itâs about a man who drives cross-country to bring his dad a puffy chair he had as a kid and that he found on eBay. Sweet. Whatâs your next film? âThe Middle Childâ is a movie I am writing for Universal, which will hopefully be the next one I do. Judd and I are looking at directors right now. Are you a middle child? Yes. How old are you? 23. Young man, have you done your homework? Unfortunately, no. (Photo by Emily Shur)