Posted by Dikla Kadosh
The Skirball’s brochure of events described the Cafe Z concert series as “casual.” Perhaps for regular museum-goers, it was. But for me and my Israeli-to-the-core boyfriend on our first visit to the pristine cultural center, the free concert on Saturday afternoon was not nearly as laid-back as we had anticipated.
We came armed with a blanket, bottles of cold water and a package of sunflower seeds (the seeds are a very Israeli thing). We were looking forward to sprawling out on a patch of cool grass beneath some large tree, nibbling on seeds and listening to the sensual sounds of Brazilian jazz.
Instead, we sat on white wooden chairs in the back of the Zeidler Cafe outdoor patio, where the main event was lunch, not the Nuevo Arte Trio playing world music in the front. Most of the diners seated at the green linen-covered tables seemed to be there more for the Salmon Pastrami Club than the seven-string guitar. However, there were a handful of true concert-goers other than us.
Most of them were African-American or South-American and clearly appreciated the trio’s talents. One lady in her late 40s sitting next to us has been visiting the Skirball for years specifically for their musical programming. She opened the Skirball brochure an enthusiastically pointed out the Thursday night Sunset Concert Series starting July 19th.
“They have great performers coming!” she said with an accent I could not place.
The afternoon was not the loungy, Central Park-style summer concert I was expecting, but nor was I expecting to see the Skirball attracting so many people from outside the Jewish community. It was a pleasant surprise and a testament to the cultural center’s impressive and varied offerings.
I plan on returning to the Skirball for the Noah’s Ark exhibit, the Israeli travel posters display and even the Sunset concerts. But only if I’m hungry after touring the museum, will I go back to Zeidler’s Cafe for a gourmet sandwich and some ethno-ambient background music.
Cafe Z Music concerts are every Saturday afternoon from 12-2 p.m. Skirball Cultural Center, Taube Courtyard, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4544.
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July 6, 2007 | 2:37 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
I’m an avid dancer. I don’t know how to salsa and I’ve never put on a ballet slipper, but I can do debkas and horas all night long!
I’ve been Israeli folk dancing since the age of three because my dad is a choreographer and used to be a teacher. Every Wednesday night, I dance at David Dassa’s sessions at Wilshire Blvd. Temple on Olympic and Barrington. From 8:30 p.m. til midnight, I’m on my feet swaying from side to side, step-hopping, twisting and turning to the sounds of Sarit Hadad, Subliminal, Rita, Idan Raichel and Michael Jackson. Yes, Michael Jackson.
This past Tuesday night at the session (moved because of the holiday), Danielle and I learned a hip line dance to “They Don’t Care About Us.” Then, in honor of Independence Day, David taught a slightly dorky but fun Americana-style couple dance.
Most people think Israeli folk dancing is well, folksy, and old-foggyish. It’s not! At least not at Dassa’s sessions (every Wednesday and Sunday night), where half the dancers are under 30 and a constant influx of new, innovative dances keep the repertoire fresh. The music is passionate, the people are friendly (sometimes a little TOO friendly with each other), and the physical activity is phenomenal! Some of my closest friends are from dancing and I even met the love of my life at an Israeli folk dance session.
I urge you all to come dancing. It took three months to finally get Danielle to a session, but read for yourself what she thought of it…
The thing about Israeli dance is â you have to know the steps. With some beginner footwork training, you can then join the syncopated circles dancing their way into the middle of the cluster, lifting their arms and fluttering their fingers. It looks easy, flowing and simple, but it sounds like this: TO-THE-MU-SIC, now sway to your right, shuffle-step, pivot turn, and walk 2-3-4, now spin-to-the-outskirts and clap, clap, clap—twirl to the right, switch-your-dance-partner, twirl left, slap hands, spin to your neighbor. Now, cha-cha! Cha-cha! All in perfectly parallel, coordinated form.
The Yemenite, the cha-cha, the samba, the salsa, the grapevine â who knew Israeli folkdance utilizes every dance step known to the art of movement? An evening with David Dassa not only integrates dances from all over the world, it mixes ages, ethnicities and music genres. Only between the walls of Wilshire Boulevard Templeâs Irmas Campus will you find endearing and attentive David Dassa rocking Israeli grooves from every era while ages from teen to geriatric break a sweat box-stepping to the beat.
And then there was me. I stepped on toes. I bruised my own. I stumbled over folks to my left and right. I butt heads. I yelled ouch. I unraveled the line dance like an untied shoelace. Basically, I set the rhythm amiss. But boy was it fun! Most everyone else, however, was joyously gliding around the gymnasium-turned-disco hall in a synchronized celebration of Israeli culture.
Two young dancers, a blonde and a redhead, led the line dance. They were so compelling to watch, I found myself sitting on the sidelines and enjoying the show. High-schoolers danced with grandparents, strangers exchanged names mid-step and I hear husbands were not necessarily dancing with their wivesâ¦
But for a long evening, the whole community congregated at temple not for a religious service, but for an old-fashioned, swinginâ, sweat-to-your-soles soiree (but wear your tennis shoes). A welcomed departure from the grind of dance clubs, this kind of dancing is skillful, sensual and celebratory!
See? She LOVED it!
Israeli Folk Dance sessions, Sundays, 7:30-9 p.m. (teaching), 9-midnight (open dancing). $9. Temple Adat Shalom, 3030 Westwood Blvd. (corner of National Blvd.), Los Angeles. Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (teaching), 9:30-midnight (open dancing). $9. Wilshire Blvd. Temple, 2112 S. Barrington (corner of Olympic Blvd.), Los Angeles.
July 5, 2007 | 9:41 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Liami Lawrence, the man behind Sababa, posted a bulletin on myspace last friday that read (in part): “THERE WERE 2 OTHER PARTIES LAST NIGHT IN OUR COMMUNITY. AND WHILE WE HAD THE MOST PEOPLE OF ALL THE PARTIES AND SOMEONE TOLD ME I WON- BECAUSE OF THAT - DIDN’T.”
On Thursday, June 28, there were three competing parties in Hollywood: Sababa’s “Ladies Night” soiree at the Loft at Hollywood and Highland, DJ Eliran and DJ Tal’s “LA’s Finest Summer Party” at The Day After Nightclub and another party at the Bungalow Club that I have very few details about. Though everyone involved insists it was not a head-to-head competition, the fact that they all targeted the same demographic sector - the young, Jewish-Israeli-Persian crowd, were all in the same geographic area - Hollywood, and offered similar DJ-driven, alcohol-infused, go-to-be-seen scenes, inevitably put the gatherings in conflict and put a dent in everyone’s fender.
When I arrived at The Day After on the corner of Hollywood and Highland at 10:30 p.m., there were perhaps 15 people waiting in line. Security was tight - guys were patted down and ID’s were run through a scanner - but that didn’t prevent underage girls from sneaking in. Eliran and Tal, 24 and 21-year-old Israeli-Persian brothers (pictured left), tend to attract the 18-30 set. Naturally, Persians flock to their parties in droves, but Israelis and American Jews also enjoy the duo’s dynamic get-togethers.
The venue itself was gorgeous: a sprawling outdoor patio, a lush lounge with exposed brick walls and red-toned lighting and a classy mod dance area with white curtains and couches. The people were beautiful as well - dressed to turn heads and made up to conceal baby faces. The music was great, bouncing from pop hip hop to Persian favorites to the latest Israeli hits.
According to DJ Eliran’s myspace bulletin thanking everyone for attending the party, over 500 people showed up. But at no point during the night was the venue at capacity. The dance floor, always the key indicator of a party’s success, was pleasantly full but not packed.
Crossing Highland at a little past midnight, I headed over to Sababa at the Loft. I was a little confused as I stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor because the place looked deserted. No people, no music, no signs. This was the right place, a woman at the door assured me. She stamped my hand and I went in.
The Loft is the VIP area of the Highlands club, decorated to resemble a luxurious Manhattan loft. In one room, a handful of couples were engaged in sultry salsa dancing while in the second, larger room with the New York skyline on the back wall, scattered clusters were rockin’ to Israeli music. A third back room had apparently been converted into the smokers’ lounge because management did not allow people to congregate on the outside balcony/walkway leading into the Loft (which is why the party appeared nonexistent at first).
The crowd was slightly older than the one across the way, but just as varied in terms of ethnicity. Liami said that his large Jewish-American contingent came earlier in the night (“they’re doctors and lawyers who have to get up early in the morning”) and left around midnight, at which point, the Israelis showed up. Though the club was sparsely populated by 1 a.m., Liami said nearly 400 people were there throughout the night. He emphasized that there was no rivalry whatsoever between him and the DJ brothers and he often attended their parties (and they his).
To everyone’s credit, the flurry of parties on Thursday night did not appear to dampen anyone’s spirits; however, I think Liami and Eliran/Tal should pick up the phone or at least shoot a text to each other the next time they plan a party so that the chosen people have a little less to choose from in one night.
Photos courtesy of Amnon Harounian/ClubLite. For more photos from “LA’s Finest Summer Party” go to www.myspace.com/clublite.
July 4, 2007 | 10:07 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Luckily, JconnectLA has managed to preserve the integrity of summer’s best loved holiday. If you’re scrambling for a last minute party that promises a good time—we’re recommending this hip holiday cookout featuring cold drinks, hot grilled meat & veggies with a beautiful view to boot!
This Fourth of July festivity is for 21-39 only, so bring your good lookin’ photo IDs and $15 for your shot at this swingin’ soiree.
JconnectLA BBQ in Malibu
July 4, 2007
6288 Porterdale Road, 90625
(310) 271-8666 or visit www.chaicenter.org
July 2, 2007 | 11:35 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In his sweeping literary work, “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History,” former Catholic priest James Carroll traces the confluence of religion, politics and violence from Jesus’s crucifixion to the present day. Through his exploration of European Christian antisemitism, he suggests that religious intolerance inculcated within the Catholic Church has motivated war and violence against non-Christian peoples, particularly the Jews.
His widely acclaimed book is now the subject of a documentary film of the same name that held its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival last week. Skillfully adapted by filmmaker Oren Jacoby, who combines Carroll’s dense research with a recorded pilgrimage to four countries, the film hints at a link between gospel-based portrayals of the Jews and centuries of persecution culminating with the Holocaust.
Underscored by Carroll’s personal confessions about his own history, “Constantine’s Sword” is both personal and political. After discovering the atrocities committed during the Vietnam war, Carroll lost his faith in the institutions of the Catholic Church and the American government. He became a writer and began studying history, theology and philosophy to create a self-defined morality.
Jacoby’s camera quietly follows Carroll on his path, as he meets with church officials, visits religious sites in Rome and travels to Auschwitz. Through archival footage of war and graphically altered religious imagery, Jacoby weaves a biblical and historical recounting with the reality of their modern consequences.
Parallels are drawn between the history of religious fanaticism and current U.S. foreign policy, bringing attention to a coordinated program of indoctrination at the U.S. Air Force Academy being carried out by American Christian Evangelicals. “We were shocked to discover how many Americans donât seem concerned about a possible breakdown between the separation of Church and State. They insist that America is a Christian nation, and have somehow revised history to convince themselves that this was a principle of our Founding Fathers,” Jacoby states on the film’s website.
The film connects the history of religiously inspired violence with the idea that Evangelical movements use the military to parlay intolerance of Muslim nations into a new kind of crusade. Former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard candidly discusses his political influence with Carroll and admits to a weekly conference call between national Evangelical leaders and President Bush.
“Constantine’s Sword” is a riveting example of how history can be distorted in the name of religion and God. The metaphor here is Constantine’s sword—a weapon morphed into a spiritual symbol—or is it the other way around? Nevertheless, the cross is presented as an image associated not only with the death of Jesus Christ, but as an instrument of war used to conquer “dissenting” people of other faiths.
This film questions the morality of religiously justified violence, but instead of raising a sword, it employs the art of filmmaking to challenge a dominant paradigm.
June 28, 2007 | 2:20 pm
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.
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!