Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism Awards?


Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

Lisa Niver, Photo by Curtis Sabir

Thank you! I was honored to be a finalist in two categories for the 59th Southern California Journalism Awards and delighted to receive second place in the Print Column category for “A Journey to Freedom Over Three Passovers.”

What awards did the Jewish Journal win?

“Jewish Journal senior writer Danielle Berrin was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club at its 59th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards banquet on June 25. She won in the category for print publications with circulations of 50,000 and above.

Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

Lisa Niver and Marty Kaplan

Other Jewish Journal winners included columnist Marty Kaplan, who won first place for “Is Campaign News Necessary?” Berrin took third place in the same category for “Huma Abedin and the Real Housewives of Politics.”

Contributing editor Tom Tugend took second place for his personality profile “Looking Back at War on Memorial Day”; contributing writer Lisa Niver won second place for her column “A Journey to Freedom Over Three Passovers”; book editor Jonathan Kirsch was awarded second place for criticism of books, art, architecture and design for “Shock Is Followed by Awe Over Foer’s New Novel”; editor-in-chief and publisher Rob Eshman won third place for food and culture criticism for “Jonathan Gold on Eating Your Entire City”; and staff writer Eitan Arom took third place for hard news for his story “The Complex, Secret Path to Becoming an Orthodox Jew.”

Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

Lisa Niver, Jessi Berrin and Danielle Berrin, Journalist of the Year

From the Los Angeles Press Club event at the Biltmore: See all the winners and all the finalists for the 59th annual Southern California Journalism Awards.

Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

VideoMayor Eric Garcetti: “Thank you for being the light” 

Mayor Eric Garcetti: “The urgency of what you do in this moment is so important in this city, in this country and this world. Thank you for being the light. What you do is safeguarding this democracy. What you are doing is breathing life back in to what we stand for. I certainly am grateful for that. If you didn’t do your job I couldn’t do my job.”

Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

Lisa Niver and Andrea Mitchell, winner of The Joseph M. Quinn Award for Lifetime Achievement

Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

Lisa Niver and Daniel Berehulak, winner of Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism

Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

The Jewish Journal Table at the Southern California Journalism Awards

Who is a winner at the Southern California Journalism awards?

Lisa Niver, Kat Kramer and Diana Ljungaeus, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Press Club

Do you want to be a travel writer too? Enter the We Said Go Travel Summer Writing Competition! In honor of Lisa’s award, we extended the deadline! Next month, we will have our first ever photo competition.

Golden Globes 2016: ‘Son of Saul,’ ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ star claim trophies


The Hungarian Holocaust movie “Son of Saul” and the star of the Jewy show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Rachel Bloom, won Golden Globe Awards.

“Son of Saul” won for best foreign film and Bloom was named best actress in a television series, musical or comedy when the awards were handed out Sunday night. Aaron Sorkin won in the best screenplay category for the film “Steve Jobs.” Bloom and Sorkin are Jewish.

The televised ceremony included host Ricky Gervais roasting presenter Mel Gibson, who made anti-Semitic slurs to a sheriff’s officer during a widely publicized DUI arrest in 2006.

In “Son of Saul,” a film funded in part by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the character of Saul Auslander is a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau who is forced to cremate the bodies of fellow prisoners gassed by the SS. In one corpse, Saul believes he recognizes his dead son. As the Sonderkommando men plan a rebellion, Saul vows to save the child’s corpse from the flames and find a rabbi to say Kaddish at a proper funeral.

Bloom, along with being the star of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” is the creator of the CW series about a successful New York lawyer, Rebecca Bunch, who follows her summer camp ex-boyfriend to small-town California, even though he has a serious girlfriend. Rebecca’s Judaism is a major element of the show.

Gibson was presenting for the best picture nominee “Mad Max: Fury Road” when he felt the wrath of Gervais, who also had insulted Gibson at the 2010 Golden Globe Awards ceremony.

“A few years ago on this show I made a joke about Mel Gibson getting a bit drunk and saying a few unsavory things,” Gervais said Sunday night. “We’ve all done it. I wasn’t judging him, but now I find myself in the awkward position of having to introduce him again. Listen, I’m sure it’s embarrassing for both of us, and I blame NBC for this terrible situation. And Mel blames … well, we know who Mel blames.”

Gibson later apologized for the anti-Semitic remarks he made to the police officer.

Gervais ended the show by saying: “From myself and Mel Gibson, shalom.”

Moving and Shaking: AJC gives 2013 Community Service Award, Taste of Summer raises $87,000


Rabbinic Leadership Institute graduates include Rabbis Denise Eger (second row, third from left), Ken Chasen (third row, third from right) and Stewart Vogel (front row, fourth from left). Rabbi Joshua Aaronson not pictured. Photo by Yonit Schiller

Rabbis Joshua Aaronson of Temple Judea in Tarzana, Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple in Bel Air, Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood and Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills were recently named senior rabbinic fellows at the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI), following the rabbis’ completion of the institute’s Rabbinic Leadership Initiative.

The elite three-year program of study, reflection and professional development at SHI trains rabbis to transform Jewish life in North America. Participants spent a month each summer and a week each winter studying at the institute’s Jerusalem campus.

During a ceremony in Jerusalem on July 7, Yehuda Kurtzer, president of SHI of North America, praised the rabbis, calling them “teachers, students [and] visionaries.” Other speakers at the July gathering included MK Rabbi Dov Lipman of Israel’s Yesh Atid Party. 

Eger, who was among those in attendance, acknowledged the program’s rigorousness. “It wasn’t always so comfortable; we had to stretch,” she said.


Fred Stern. Photo by Michael Aurit

American Jewish Committee of Los Angeles (AJC) awarded Fred Stern its 2013 Community Service Award in June. Stern is on AJC’s national board of governors and the L.A. board of directors. 

The June 18 reception in honor of Stern, who works as a financial adviser to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, took place at the Beverly Hills home of Debbie and Naty Saidoff. David Harris, executive director of AJC’s national office, delivered the evening’s keynote speech. More than 125 guests and AJC leaders attended.

AJC backers Madeline and Bruce Ramer co-hosted the event.


Tom Tugend

Steve Greenberg

The American Jewish Press Association has awarded Tom Tugend, Journal contributing editor, a first-place Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism for his feature story “A Legacy in Harmony,” published by Hadassah Magazine, and a first-place Rockower to Steve Greenberg, Journal editorial cartoonist, for “Greenberg’s View.”

Tugend’s article described how Ruth and Judea Pearl have turned their private grief into public good in the decade since their son, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Greenberg’s winning cartoons skewered 2012 former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s desire to win the Jewish vote, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel rhetoric and the international community’s response to Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. 


Fulfillment Fund Leadership Council member Todd Hawkins with chef Eric Greenspan, honorary event co-chair. Photo by Matt Sayles, Invision Agency by The Associated Press.

The second annual Taste of Summer, a food, wine and beer festival held at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica on July 13, raised $87,000 for the Fulfillment Fund.

The college-access organization makes college “a reality for students growing up in educationally and economically under-resourced communities,” according to the Fulfillment Fund Web site.

Chef and Fulfillment Fund honorary chair Eric Greenspan co-hosted the gathering. Known for his cooking at The Foundry on Melrose and The Roof on Wilshire, Greenspan expressed support for the Fulfillment Fund in a statement: “I’ve always viewed my most cherished and important role as a chef is to be a teacher, so education is very important to me.”

Vendors included The Roof on Wilshire, Wolfgang Puck Catering, Whole Foods, Stone Brewing and others.

During the event, more than 400 attendees enjoyed bites, drink, music and silent auction – all just footsteps away from the beach.


From left: Floyd Glen-Lambert, president of Jewish Labor Committee's western region; Assembly Speaker Emeritus and honoree Bob Hertzberg and former City Controller Wendy Greuel. Photo by Beth Dubber.

The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) Western Region’s annual awards brunch held last month marked the 79th anniversary of the organization, as the national group’s New York headquarters and Los Angeles office were established in 1934.

The event also honored Laphonza Butler, president of the Service Employees International Union-United Long Term Care Workers; Tom Walsh, president of Unite Here Local 11; and Assembly Speaker Emeritus Robert Hertzberg.

The July 14 ceremony in honor of JLC — which describes itself as the “Jewish voice in the labor movement, and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community” — took place at Loews Hollywood Hotel.

Butler, Walsh and Hertzberg received the Elinor Glenn Leadership Award, the Henry Fiering Union Advocacy Award and the Abe Levy Chaver Award, respectively.


Moving and Shaking acknowledges accomplishments by members of the local Jewish community, including people who start new jobs, leave jobs, win awards and more, as well as local events that featured leaders from the Jewish and Israeli communities. Got a tip? E-mail it to ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Moving and Shaking: Irwin Field honored, Rabbi Ari Segal elected, Breed Street Shul Project ceremony


Irwin Field

Former Jewish Journal publisher and board chair Irwin Field was honored by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles on June 25 with the organization’s Tocqueville Legacy Award. The honor from  the local division of the anti-poverty organization came during its 25th Alexis de Tocqueville Awards, held at the Getty Villa in Malibu.

The ceremony featured a performance by actress and musician Tia Carrere and remarks from Tocqueville member and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan.

Field, who remains a Journal board member and is CEO of Liberty Vegetable Oil, helped initiate the Tocqueville Society at United Way of Greater Los Angeles in 1988 while serving as board chair of the latter. According to the nonprofit’s Web site, the Tocqueville Society was created “to deepen individual understanding of, commitment to and support of United Way’s work.” The society acknowledges individuals who contribute a minimum of $10,000 to United Way and has raised more than $350 million since its inception. 


Mid City West community council board members includes new appointee Rabbi Ari Segal of Shalhevet School (second from right). Courtesy of Steven Rosenthal.

Rabbi Ari Segal, head of school at Shalhevet High School on Fairfax Avenue, was recently elected to the Mid City West (MCW) Community Council as a religious representative. Board members unanimously elected Segal during a June 12 meeting at the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles council house.

The MCW council helps give neighborhoods a voice in policymaking and influence over city government, according to its Web site. 


From left: Stephen Sass, board president of the Breed Street Shul Project; husband-and-wife Barbara and Zev Yaroslavsky; East Side Jews' Jill Soloway; and Uri Resnick, deputy consul general of Israel in Los Angeles. Photo by Joel Lipton.

The Breed Street Shul Project honored Jill Soloway and Barbara and Zev Yaroslavsky during a ceremony last month. The June 23 event, “Praise for Our Past, Raise for Our Future,” took place at the Autry National Center. The evening included a private showing of the ongoing Autry exhibition “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic.”

A writer-director whose first feature film, “Afternoon Delight,” screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Soloway is a founding member of East Side Jews, a nondenominational collective of Jews on Los Angeles’ East Side that holds monthly events at unlikely venues. 

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has served as an elected official for more than 35 years and is well known for his social-action activities on behalf of Soviet Jews and other Jewish causes. He has decided to leave public office at the end of his term in 2014.

His wife, Barbara, an ardent activist devoted to community and civic engagement, has lent her expertise to organizations such as the Zimmer Children’s Museum and Koreh L.A. and has participated in Latino-Jewish dialogue efforts. 

Established in 1999, the nonprofit Breed Street Shul Project has overseen the rehabilitation of the Boyle Heights-based Breed Street Shul. It works to bring together Jewish, Latino and other communities in Los Angeles. 


The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Jewish War Veterans honor more than 20 World War II veterans in Culver City on Sunday, June 23. Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) last month joined the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV) at the latter’s 75th annual statewide convention, where more than 20 World War II veterans were honored. The event took place at the Courtyard by Marriott in Culver City on June 23.

Lisa Zaid, Western region major gifts associate at USHMM, delivered a message of gratitude and hope to the World War II Jewish veterans on behalf of the nation’s living memorial to the Holocaust. Zaid also presented specially designed USHMM commemorative pins to each veteran. 

JWV provides nonsectarian assistance to veterans and advocates on behalf of Jewish issues. The USHMM in Washington, D.C., celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. It hosts programs, lectures, traveling exhibitions and more in Western cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle.


Moving and Shaking acknowledges accomplishments by members of the local Jewish community, including people who start new jobs, leave jobs, win awards and more, as well as local events that featured leaders from the Jewish and Israeli communities. Got a tip? E-mail it to ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Will this finally be the year for an Israeli Oscar?


Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote,” Israel’s entry in the Oscar sweepstakes for best foreign-language film, has jumped the first major hurdle by making the shortlist of nine semi-finalists.

“Footnote” is Cedar’s fourth feature film in an 11-year career, and each one has been selected by the Israeli film industry to represent the country at the Academy Awards.

In 2007, his war picture “Beaufort” was one of the five Oscar finalists, but neither this nor any other Israeli entry has ever walked off with the golden statuette. Cedar and his countrymen fervently hope that the fourth time will be the charm. More about this film later.

This year 63 countries, from Albania to Vietnam, vied in the foreign-language film competition, considered one of the most unpredictable of the Oscar categories.

Last year was the first in memory that no domestic or foreign film dealing with the Holocaust or the Nazi era was entered in any Academy Award category. On that basis, this reporter predicted that the “Schindler’s List” and “Inglourious Basterds” era had passed and that from now on this historical genre would deal with more recent conflicts and genocides.

It took only one year to prove the prophecy wrong with Poland’s entry “In Darkness,” which has also qualified for the shortlist. The movie’s settings and emotions are as lightless as the underground sewers of Lvov, where a dozen Jewish men, women and children actually hid for 14 months during the German occupation of Poland.

Their unlikely protector was a rough-hewn Polish sewage worker and part-time thief, who knew all the hiding places in the underground system because that’s where he worked and stashed his loot.

At the helm of “In Darkness” is the superb Polish director Agnieszka Holland (“Europa, Europa”), whose forte is to delineate the shades of the human character. In this as in her other works, victims, heroes, villains and bystanders each have their strengths and weaknesses, varying with time and circumstance.

“I have always been intrigued by the contradictions and extremes in human nature,” she said in a phone interview. “I wonder at how fragile and how strong we are, how evil and irrational under some conditions, and how brave and compassionate at other times.”

The Netherlands’ entry, “Sonny Boy,” which did not make the cut, tells the actual story of two unlikely rescuers, a middle-aged Dutch housewife, who runs off with and marries a black Surinamese student more than 20 years her junior.

Under the German occupation, they hide several Jews in their home. Similar to Anne Frank’s fate, the couple was betrayed, arrested, and died in captivity.

One trend among foreign film producers, first noted last year, is the growing emphasis on such themes as internal conflicts, problems of immigrants, and life under the former Soviet occupation of East European countries.

Examples are films from Bosnia and Ireland (ethnic cleansing), Colombia (guerrillas vs. military), Czech Republic (expulsion of ethnic Germans after World War II), Estonia (Soviet army deserter returns), Kazakhstan (Soviets invade Afghanistan), Italy and Romania (illegal immigrants) and Lebanon (Christian-Muslim conflict).

New York-born Joseph Cedar, 43, is that rarity among Tel Aviv filmmakers, an Orthodox Jew, and he explored the gulf between observant and secular Israelis in his first two films, “In Time of Favor” and “Campfire.”

His next picture was “Beaufort,” a war, or better said, anti-war, film. In sharp contrast, his current movie, “Footnote,” centers on the rivalry between two Talmudic scholars, who are also father and son.

“OMG, what could be more boring,” I can hear the second and third generations of my family moan, but in Cedar’s hands the movie has more tension per frame than a gun-toting action picture or apocalyptic sci-fi epic.

Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik, father and son, are both shining lights in the Department of Talmudic Studies of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where rivalries are fierce.

As former Harvard professor Henry Kissinger allegedly observed, academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low.

Maybe so, but to the two Shkolnik philologists, the stakes in their lifelong studies of the authenticity and meaning of each word in different Talmudic versions and editions are far higher than the struggles of warring countries or the rise and fall of national economies.

The director, himself the son of renowned Hebrew University biochemist Howard Cedar, firmly rejects the assumption that the protagonists in the film resemble in any way the persons or relationships in his own family.

“The film’s Talmudists in no way represent my father and myself,” the younger Cedar said. “Actually, their relationship is my nightmare, not my reality.”

Yet “Footnote” explores the balance between uncompromising honesty and family relationships. Says Cedar, “what if my son becomes a more successful director than I am, but makes movies that I hate? Will I tell him how I really feel or preserve family harmony?”

On a national scale, the insistence on one’s absolute truth contributes to civic violence in Israel, Cedar believes. “We now have a generation that considers ‘compromise’ a bad word and social harmony has been taken hostage by people who claim to know the absolute truth.”

Although “Footnote” will not be released in American theaters until March, it has received favorable reviews. At the Cannes Film Festival, Cedar was awarded the top prize for best screenplay, and in the United States, the National Board of Reviews of Motion Pictures placed the film among the five top foreign-language features.

But the competition for the ultimate winner will be rough. In both the United States and Europe, the critical favorite at this point is the Iranian entry “A Separation,” which has won a string of awards at international film festivals.

The film by Asghar Farhadi masterfully combines an easily recognizable situation – an impending divorce in an upper middle class family – with the strange atmosphere, pieties and judicial proceedings of an unfamiliar society.

Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 24 and the Oscars presented on Feb. 26.

Awards recognize, reward 4 local Jewish educators


It’s a hard-knock life for teachers, who are trying their darnedest to teach children amid decreased attention spans, increased technological gadgets, fewer resources, job insecurity and myriad other challenges.

All of which make the Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awards, which include a $15,000 cash bonus for each recipient, seem a bit like a dream come true. 

In show-stopping, surprise school assemblies, Richard Sandler, executive vice president of the Milken Family Foundation, and Dr. Gil Graff,  executive director of Builders of Jewish Education (BJE), announced the award recipients on Oct. 6 amid cheering students and faculty. 

The awardees include two elementary school teachers, a high school teacher and a head of school, all of them female and from a diverse cross section of Jewish day schools: Marnie Greenwald, a first-grade teacher at Temple Emanuel Academy Day School in Beverly Hills; Hava Mirovski, a fifth-grade teacher at Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles; Lisa Feldman, head of school at Weizmann Day School in Pasadena; and Juli Shanblatt, a science and math teacher at Bais Yaakov School for Girls in Los Angeles.

Founded in 1990, the yearly awards give $15,000 and public recognition to four teachers or administrators who have demonstrated excellence in their professions, and who have worked for a minimum of seven years in Jewish day schools affiliated with the Los Angeles-based BJE.

Hava Mirovski. Photo courtesy Milken Family Foundation

Educators are nominated anonymously by heads of schools and BJE representatives, and final recipients are selected by a committee of professional and lay leaders in the Jewish community. Judges look for educational talent and promise, leadership and self-direction, dedication to students and innovative programming and teaching methods.

Greenwald, who has taught first grade at Temple Emanuel Academy Day School for 21 years, said she was “completely surprised, overwhelmed,” when the award was announced.

Greenwald, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a teaching credential from UCLA, has had contact with nearly all of the students in the school, which made it feel like it wasn’t just her award. 

“It was for all of us,” she said. 

At Temple Emanuel, Greenwald is known for her ability to involve her first-graders in the learning process and create “buy in.” Her lessons, which involve cooperative learning and small group conversations, create an environment in which students feel nurtured and safe to take risks, she said. 

Greenwald also initiated a story-telling project in which the first-graders rewrite a fairy tale or story incorporating their own life experiences, and work on the story and illustrations for weeks with adult help, culminating in a Student Authors’ Night. 

“I teach because I love it,” Greenwald said. “It’s my passion, and I feel happy every day that I get to do something that I love and earn money.”

Juli Shanblatt. Photo courtesy Milken Family Foundation

She added: “I’m very grateful to the Milken Family Foundation that they take the time and they have the financial means to award these honors to teachers, especially at a time like the present when teachers everywhere are receiving a lot of criticism and negative press.”

Mirovski, a fifth-grade Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher at Sinai Akiba Academy, “is one of the most skillful and dedicated teachers I know,” said Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin, the school’s headmaster. “When I walk into her classroom, I see every kid actively involved, learning, enthusiastic and loving what they’re doing — and she clearly does, too.” 

Mirovski, who grew up in Israel and attended university there, began at Sinai Akiba as a kindergarten teacher 11 years ago, earning a reputation for innovative projects and hands-on learning, according to the school. Three years ago, she was asked to consider a new position teaching fifth-graders, a dramatic change, as any teacher can attest. 

Mirovski said she has her students use Hebrew in an active way, to encourage real learning. In one assignment she designed, her students research their family history and create a project based on a relative who immigrated to the United States, all written and presented in Hebrew.

Mirovski also was recently selected to represent Sinai Akiba Academy in DeLeT, a 13-month fellowship program through Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which provides mentoring and collaboration.

Lisa Feldman. Photo courtesy Milken Family Foundation

When Feldman, head of school at Weizmann Day School, learned of her award, her immediate thought was of gratitude, “Both for the recognition of more than 30 years of working in Jewish day schools in L.A., and also how great for Weizmann Day School, which is not as well known as some of the Westside schools,” she said.

“Being the only Jewish day school in the whole San Gabriel and Pomona Valley, we’re very excited for the recognition,” she said.

Feldman, who earned her bachelor’s degree in education and Judaic studies at Rutgers and her master’s degree in educational administration at American Jewish University, worked at Weizmann for eight years as the assistant head of school and is in her ninth year as head of school. Her award marks the first Jewish Educator Award for the school and is a tribute to Weizmann’s strong growth — enrollment has increased 50 percent over the last few years, and it recently opened a middle school.

She attributes this growth to partnership with parents and a strong sense of community. In addition, many parents in the school hail from CalTech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and are attracted to Weizmann’s unique efforts to bridge science and Judaic studies.

Feldman said she is most proud of inaugurating an annual Daniel Pearl Concert, in which students from Weizmann join with students from a local Muslim school and a local Episcopalian school in singing songs of friendship and peace. The relationship between the schools broadened and now students pen-pal with one another and have attended each other’s prayer services.

Shanblatt, who is in her 13th year of teaching at Bais Yaakov School for Girls of Los Angeles, pioneered the Advanced Placement (AP) program at Bais Yaakov — it now offers AP classes in physics, calculus, history, English and psychology — and also led the development of self-study courses at the school.

She was “choked up and happy” when the award was announced, and said she was glad that her daughter, a 10th-grader at Bais Yaakov, was there to celebrate with her.

Shanblatt, an alumna of MIT and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, previously worked as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry and held positions at Mattel and at Independent Blue Cross in Philadelphia, but said her “fantasy career” was always teaching math to religious Jewish girls.

She currently teaches AP physics and AP calculus to the 12th grade, pre-calculus to the 11th grade and Spanish to the ninth grade. In addition, she serves as the science department coordinator and chairs the school’s WASC/BJE Accreditation Committee.

“It’s a really nice thing to encourage good teaching and to recognize it … we recognize sports and movies, so it’s nice to have an award for teaching,” she said. 

The Milken Family Foundation and BJE will host the 22nd annual Jewish Educator Awards luncheon on Dec. 15 at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard hotel. For more information, visit mff.org/jea.

Jewish Communal Professionals Receive Awards


Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California (JCPSC) held its 31st annual awards banquet on June 15 at the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel. 

The six winners honored at the dinner in Westwood were: Rabbi Gary Greenbaum of American Jewish Committee for Career Achievement; Tzivia Schwartz Getzug of Jewish World Watch for the Alan J. Kassin Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement; Rabbi Yonah Bookstein of Jewlicious Festival for the Mark Meltzer New and Innovative Programming Award; Rosalie Fromberg of Israel Levin Senior Adult Center/Jewish Family Service for the Dora & Charles Mesnick Award for Excellence in Senior Programming; John Magoulas of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for Professional Excellence in Fundraising; Miriam Prum Hess of BJE for the Bobbi Asimow Award for Professional Mentorship.

Special recognition was also given to Hillside Memorial Park and Al Mellman of the JCPSC Retirees Group.

Jewish writer, producer of ‘King’s Speech’ take awards


“The King’s Speech” won seven of Britain’s top film awards, including for its Jewish writer and for its Jewish producer.

David Seidler, whose paternal grandparents died in the Holocaust, picked up what is known as a gong for the best original screenplay while Emile Sherman, a Sydney-based producer who collaborated with Iain Canning in London, jointly won the award for best film at the British Academy of Film & Television Arts awards in London on Sunday night.

Sherman, whose parents are well-known philanthropists in the Australian Jewish community, said he had no problem with the film’s history despite some criticism that it ignored King George VI’s role in preventing Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.

“Smear campaigns are part and parcel of this world,” Sherman told the Australian Jewish News. “I’m Jewish, the writer (David Seidler) is Jewish … and I feel really comfortable with what I know about King George VI. We’re telling a story; the film isn’t an analysis of his political leanings.”

Among other winners at the BAFTAs were Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman, who won a best actress award for her role in “Black Swan,” and Aaron Sorkin, who won the award for best adapted screenplay for “The Social Network.”

“The King’s Speech” garnered 12 Academy Awards nominations; the winners will be revealed Feb. 27 in Los Angeles.

Awards recognize Germans preserving Jewish history


A woman who rescued a synagogue that had been turned into a barn was one of six recipients of the 11th annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards.

The ceremony, held Jan. 24 at the Berlin Parliament House, was one of several events commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet soldiers on Jan. 27, 1945.

For the first time, Germany’s main Holocaust remembrance event features a representative of the Sinti and Roma, or Gypsies. Zoni Weisz, a Dutch survivor, was scheduled to address Parliament and Chancellor Angela Merkel in ceremonies Thursday to be broadcast live.

German President Christian Wulff is attending ceremonies at the Auschwitz memorial and museum in Poland.

The Obermayer awards recognize Germans who preserve local Jewish history and build contacts with Jews who fled during the Nazi years. Arthur Obermayer, an American Jewish businessman who was inspired by his contacts with historians in his family’s ancestral town of Creglingen, created the awards.

Awardee Brigitta Stammer helped raise funds to bring a tiny, 19th century synagogue from the village of Bodenfelde to her home city of Goettingen, in Lower Saxony, where it is now being used by a Jewish community.

“I wanted the new Jewish community to have a roof over its head, to have a synagogue, and be integrated in the society of Gottingen,” Stammer said.

Filmmaker Sibylle Tiedemann, of Ulm and Berlin, was recognized for films that explore the dark side of local memory, including the recollections of her own mother and her former Jewish classmates.

Retired bookseller Barbara Staudacher and publisher Heinz Hogerle documented the flight of Jews from Rexingen, in Baden-Wurttemberg, to then-Palestine. Today the Jews of Shavei Zion in Israel have a special bond to the next generation of Germans in Rexingen.

Journalist Peter Korner was honored for helping preserve the Jewish history of Aschaffenburg, Bavaria, and for his role in creating a website to search local Jewish genealogy. Teacher Michael Heitz of Eppingen, Baden-Wurttemberg, who once faced closed doors when he asked what happened to the local Jewish community, today inspires his own pupils to explore this history.

Briefs: Rice says Abbas can do, Peres talks Turkey, Olmert suspected


Rice: Abbas a True Peace Partner

Condoleezza Rice told thousands of Jewish communal activists that the president of the Palestinian Authority is a true partner for peace. The U.S. secretary of state, addressing delegates in Nashville at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, also said progress toward a Palestinian state was vital to beating back an Iranian-led surge in extremism.

“What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East,” Rice said Tuesday.

“Violent extremists, with the government of Iran increasingly in the lead, are doing everything in their power to impose their fear, their resentments and their hate-filled ideologies on the people of the Middle East,” she said, adding that “this makes the two-state solution even more urgent than ever.”

Rice said she fears that if “Palestinians reformers” fail to deliver on the Palestinian people’s hope for a state, then “the moderate center could collapse and the next generation of Palestinians will become lost souls of unbridled extremism.”

“It is not a time for half measures,” she said.

Rice was cheered multiple times when discussing the need to defend Israel, fight anti-Semitism and confront Hamas and Iran. But the crowd was silent as she described the P.A. president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a true partner for peace and said now there was “responsible leadership” with which Israel could deal.

In an exclusive interview with JTA prior to the speech, Rice praised several steps taken by Abbas and his loyalists in the West Bank to fight terrorism.

Asked about fears that failure at an upcoming peace meeting in Annapolis could spark a new wave of violence, the secretary of state said that “no one can afford failure here” and “not acting is failure in these circumstances.”

“When you have a Palestinian partner who is dedicated against violence and against terrorism, and who’s struggling against an alternative view for the Palestinians,” Rice said, “not acting I think has a much more significant risk than acting.”

Police Conduct Raids in Olmert Probes

Israeli police raided government offices as part of three probes against Ehud Olmert.

Investigators from the National Fraud Unit searched the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Jerusalem municipality, Israel Lands Administration, Postal Authority and several other premises Sunday for potential evidence against the prime minister.

Olmert is under criminal investigation for his allegedly discounted purchase of a Jerusalem home shortly after he stepped down as the city’s mayor. He is further accused of cronyism and bid-rigging during his term as industry and trade minister in the government of Ariel Sharon.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing.

Accountant General Yaron Zelekha, who made a name for himself as Israel’s anti-corruption watchdog by calling for the prime minister to be investigated, announced over the weekend he would be stepping down.

Zelekha said he was resigning as his job was done, but Israeli pundits noted that his tenure at the finance ministry had not been renewed.

Peres Addresses Turkish Parliament

Shimon Peres made history as the first Israeli president to address the Turkish parliament.

In his speech Tuesday attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, Peres expressed gratitude to Turkey for opening its doors to the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. He also voiced optimism about the outcome of the upcoming Annapolis peace summit, and said peace was possible with the Palestinians and other neighboring Arab countries.

“I came here to listen, not only to be heard, to exchange views in order to advance the efforts to reach a peace deal between us and the Palestinians, and to assess the chances of peace in the entire region, from Syria to Yemen,” Peres said.

Abbas also addressed the parliament, thanking Turkey for supporting the Palestinians’ efforts to gain their own state.

Israel to Extradite Alleged Pedophile

Stefan Colmer will become the first American extradited from Israel on sex abuse charges. Colmer, who was indicted on charges he abused two ultra-Orthodox boys in Brooklyn, will be sent back to the United States following a Jerusalem court ruling Sunday, the New York Daily News reported.

Colmer, 30, was arrested in June after he fled to Israel to avoid arrest. Israel and the United States had agreed only to extradite suspected sex criminals if they had been charged with rape, but the agreement was revised in January.

Colmer was indicted in Brooklyn on eight counts of sexual abuse. He allegedly performed oral sex on the two boys over a period of several months last year.

Educators Honored With Covenant Awards

The Covenant Foundation presented its annual awards for innovative Jewish educators Sunday at a gala dinner at the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly in Nashville. The awards include a $25,000 prize for each educator as well as a $5,000 prize for the recipient’s home institution.

The foundation cited Tobie Brandriss, a biology teacher and science curriculum coordinator at SAR High School in New York; Bruce Powell, the founding head of school at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills; and Rabbi Philip Warmflash, the executive director of Jewish Outreach Partnership in Philadelphia. They were chosen from a pool of 148 nominees.

Brandriss, who designed a science curriculum that explores the potential tension between Judaism and science, was the first science teacher to receive the award, created in 1991 to honor forward-thinking Jewish educators. Powell founded three Jewish day schools in the Los Angeles area. Warmflash designs programs to help synagogues welcome unaffiliated families.

Jewish Rookie Makes Baseball History

Ryan Braun became baseball’s first Jewish Rookie of the Year.

Braun, the slugging third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, picked up the award Monday in the National League. In the voting by the Baseball Writers of America, Braun edged Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, 128-126.

Called up from the minor leagues in May, Braun batted .324 with 34 home runs and 97 runs batted in while leading the league with a slugging percentage of .634.

Chabadmania, Ed Asner, Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters


The Chabad Telethon. You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen the banners all over town, you recognize the dancing rabbi image, maybe you caught snatches of the televised event, and maybe you even picked up the phone and made a pledge. But if you’ve never been to the studio during the taping of the six-hour fundraising extravaganza, you haven’t really experienced it.

I spent two hours at KCET studios on Sunday, Sept. 9, and if I hadn’t had to be somewhere else that evening, I would have gladly stayed longer. The atmosphere burst with infectious energy. The lounge teemed with smiling rabbis, happy sponsors and jovial performers.

Televisions displayed the celebration of life going on in the building next door and the crowd alternated between watching, commenting, socializing and eating (there was a fully catered kosher(!) meal of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes).

The stage buzzed with fervent activity, and not just between acts. I expected the place to grow quiet during the taping, with the small audience sitting in a respectful hush, the crew moving about soundlessly. But not at the Chabad Telethon.

People moved in and out of their seats in the separated women’s and men’s sections. A hodgepodge of presenters, performers and spectators crowded around the sets, chattering. Everyone conversed, and not in whispers.

But the constant buzz did not detract from the main event unfolding on the colorful set before us. Long-time Chabad friend and avid supporter Jon Voight stumbled to find his words and to find the right camera to face, but then he delivered a heart-felt plea for donations to support the many incredible services Chabad provides to the Los Angeles community.

Host Elon Gold made a few funnies. Dennis Prager lent his words of wisdom. Six-year-old prodigy Ethan Bortnick sang a charming tune he wrote about birds of the world, and little vest-clad Yakov Gerstner performed with astonishing passion a duet with Mordechai Ben David.

Viewers pledged close to $7.2 million to Chabad, compared to last year’s $6 million. I bet the rabbis were dancing up a storm when they tallied that figure!

— Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer


Scene and Heard …Ed Eisner
Outspoken activist and prolific actor Ed Asner received an Emmy nomination for his role in “The Christmas Card.” The romantic tale focuses on a U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan whose life changes when he receives a holiday greeting from a mysterious woman in California.

Although he did not win the Emmy on Sept. 16, during the broadcast he did join his “Roots!” castmates for a tribute to the 30th anniversary of the groundbreaking miniseries (Asner played the slave ship’s captain, Thomas Davies).

To date, Asner has won a whopping seven Emmys and five Golden Globes and is almost as well known for his political views as he is for creating the legendary role of Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Mazel tov!


It’s a musical world — from the bimah to the stage — and learning to chant trope may be the new Hollywood ticket. During the High Holy Days of her youth, Lizzie Weiss was a cantorial soloist divinely inspired by Jewish music. Encouraged by her mentor, Cantor Yonah Kliger, Weiss led the New Emanuel Minyan, an intimate and musical alternative service at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. This week, the Los Angeles native stars as the brainy Martha Cox in a Toronto stage production of the mega-success “High School Musical.” As reported in Canada’s Jewish Tribune, Weiss credits her Jewish roots and cantorial training for launching her professional singing career. But her newfound success comes at a price. With eight performances a week under her belt, Weiss says she’s missing leading High Holy Days services at home, but she hoped to make it to synagogue despite her rigid schedule: “This will be the first time in eight years that I won’t be on the bimah singing.”


Chabad of the Conejo celebrated a historic groundbreaking Sept. 9 — the beginning of construction for the long-anticipated New Chabad of the Conejo Community Campus on Canwood Street in Agoura Hills. They plan to build a bustling Center for Jewish Life and then demolish their current home, laying the foundation for a new synagogue that will take its place. Rabbi Moshe Bryski, the Chabad’s executive director, hopes fundraising efforts will continue while the project is under way.

“The critical thing now is for us to get the word out with greater urgency and have this campaign generate the excitement it needs and deserves,” he said in a statement. “We’ve come a long way over the past 28 years, but the greatest days for Chabad of the Conejo are yet to come.” From his mouth to God’s ears …


Margy Feldman is a gal who’s still breakin’ the glass ceiling. Honored for her achievements in business, the CEO and president of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles was chosen as the nonprofit executive director of the year for Women in Business (WIB). The WIB Awards recognize individuals who contribute to the economic vitality of Southern California.

Spectator – Make Room for the Jammys


In response to the glaring absence of Jewish music from the Grammy Awards, the teen-themed JVibe has just released the results of its first “Jammys,” a set of Jewish music awards sponsored by the magazine and voted on by readers on the monthly’s Web site.

Not surprisingly, the Jammy for “outstanding male singer” went to Matisyahu, the black-clad reggae-spouting Lubavitcher whose CD, “Live at Stubbs'” has already sold more than 300,000 copies. His female counterpart was Rachel Stevens, the Brit-pop queen, formerly of S Club 7, whose latest solo effort, “Come and Get It” includes several UK hit singles. The Jammy for best Jewish group went to indie-rockers Guster (who also provided one of the leaders of the Chanukah-rocking LeeVees), while the best Jewish album nod went to “Agua Pa’la Gente,” the first full-length offering from the Hip-Hop Hoodios.

The Grammys have been given by the industry’s National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) for 48 years and include six awards in Christian music categories; the lack of a Jewish music category has engendered numerous petitions to the Academy’s Board of Trustees over the years. Most recently, JVibe organized an online petition that attracted almost 700 signatures.

“There are other forms of spiritual music that receive Grammy recognition, and there’s some really fantastic Jewish music being produced that our readers believe deserves recognition,” JVibe executive editor Joshua Eagle wrote in an e-mail interview last week. “We figured, fine, if NARAS doesn’t want to give excellent Jewish performers their due, it wouldn’t stop us.”

The magazine boasts a readership of more than 9,000, and although he did not have exact figures on the voting, Eagle wrote that he was “pleased with the amount of traffic the vote drove to our site during the voting months.”

Other awards in the inaugural Jammys went to Lenny Kravitz, who was recognized as “the best Jewish singer you wish would refer more to being Jewish,” Rick Recht for best camp music, and a lifetime achievement award to Bob Dylan. In addition, Recht won the “Isaiah,” given to the person who makes you want to go out and change the world,” for his peace song “Shalom B’Olam.”

Regardless of who his readers chose, Eagle promises as long as NARAS continues to ignore Jewish music, this year’s Jammys will not be the last. “Great Jewish music isn’t going away anytime soon,” he wrote, “and neither will this issue.”

 

Oy! It’s Oscar Time


Two films that have encountered fierce controversy in the Jewish community and Israel are in the running for Oscar honors as nominations for the Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning.

“Munich,” Steven Spielberg’s take on the Israeli hunt for the killers of its athletes at the 1972 Olympics, did better than some critics expected with five nominations.

These include best picture, best director (Spielberg), adapted screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, film editing and original musical score.

Picked among the top five foreign language film entries is the Palestinian “Paradise Now” by director-writer Hany Abu-Assad, which follows two suicide bombers from Nablus on a mission to blow up a Tel Aviv bus.

Nominated in the same category is Germany’s Sophia Scholl: The Final Days,” about an anti-Nazi resistance cell in Munich during World War II.

The actor nominations have a Jewish flavor, as well. Joaquin Phoenix, whose mother was born into an Orthodox New York family, received the nod in the lead-actor category for his portrayal of country music legend Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line.”

Jake Gyllenhaal, another son of a Jewish mother (screenwriter Noami Foner Gyllenhaal) was nominated for best supporting actor in the gay cowboy saga “Brokeback Mountain.”

Fully Jewish Rachel Weisz is in contention for best actress in a supporting role for her performance in “The Constant Gardner.” The London-born actress’ father and mother fled Hungary and Austria respectively in the 1930s in the face of the rising Nazi menace.

Woody Allen was named for “Match Point” in the original screenplay category, as was Noah Baumbach for “The Squid and the Whale.”

“Capote” scored an adapted screenplay nomination for Dan Futterman.

Two Jewish personalities will also have key roles on March 5. Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” fame will serve as Oscar host for the first time, while veteran producer Gil Cates will captain the 78th Oscar telecast for the 13th time.

 

Nation & World Briefs


‘Paradise’ Golden; Weisz Blooms

The Golden Globe awards, often seen as a curtain raiser and preview of the Oscar ceremonies, picked a tense drama about two Palestinian suicide bombers as best foreign language film on Monday night, while shutting out Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”

“Paradise Now” by director-writer Hany Abu-Assad is the first Palestinian film to receive wide critical recognition and is considered a serious contender for Academy Award honors.

“Munich,” the controversial movie about the Israeli hunt for the killers of its athletes at the 1972 Olympics, was earlier nominated in two categories. Spielberg vied for best director and Tony Kushner and Eric Roth for best screenplay, but none got the final nod from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which sponsors the Golden Globes.

In the movie acting categories, Britain’s Rachel Weisz, the daughter of Jewish refugees from Europe, received the best supporting actress award for her role in “The Constant Gardner.” Philip Seymour Hoffman was honored as best actor in the title role of “Capote.” In some references, Hoffman is listed as Jewish, in others as of mixed Catholic-Protestant background.

Paul Newman, who is half-Jewish, was recognized as best supporting actor for his role in the television movie “Empire Falls.” — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Oprah Selects Wiesel Book

Oprah Winfrey will visit Auschwitz and make Elie Wiesel’s “Night” her next book-club selection. The New York Times reported that Winfrey, the talk-show host, will visit the site of the death camp with Wiesel later this month. “Night” chronicles Wiesel’s experiences at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The edition of the book selected by Winfrey is a new translation by Wiesel’s wife, Marion.

High Court Upholds Suicide Law

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s assisted suicide law. The high court ruled Tuesday that Oregon’s law, permitting doctor-assisted suicide, was not a violation of federal drug laws. The Orthodox Union had filed a brief in the case, siding with the federal government and against euthanasia. Numerous other Jewish groups chose not to weigh in on the case, but have been interested in the case’s impact on end-of-life issues, a controversial subject in the Jewish community.

Six justices ruled in favor of Oregon, which allowed doctor-assisted suicide in a 1994 ballot initiative. Justice Anthony Kennedy said former Attorney General John Ashcroft went “beyond his expertise” in enforcing drug laws to prevent the Oregon decision. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in dissent.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

 

Winners and Schmoozers


When I heard that the Jewish Image Awards were going to be held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, all I could think about was that scene in the movie “Troop Beverly Hills,” when Shelley Long’s character, Phyllis Nefler, took her Wilderness Girls to one of the bungalow suites after a storm drenched their campsite.

I really wanted to see the bungalows and be a part of the “I can afford to stay here” world, but there wasn’t time. Still, I was entering the kind of Los Angeles that people in other states fantasize about: After I handed my car keys to the valet and began to walk into the posh, pink hotel, the artist currently known as Prince scurried — yes, scurried — past me. No, he didn’t happen to be an honoree.

The Oct. 10 ceremony marked the fifth year for the Jewish Image Awards, sponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC). Honoring Jewish contributions on television and in film is a pretty cool concept, even if it looks like an exercise in preaching to the choir.

I took my spot on the not-exactly-red carpet between a gaggle of guys from VH1 and the stylish female reporter from People and waited.

As the minutes ticked by, people began arriving: celebrities to the left, non-celebrities to the right. The room began to fill beyond capacity and I felt claustrophobic — a sudden move by the all-too-close gentleman in the kippah would have propelled me headfirst into a very large MorningStar Commission banner.

For my interviews, I decided a Jewish-themed question was in order. I settled on: What was your Rosh Hashanah resolution?

(What? You were expecting Edward R. Murrow? My question was downright investigative compared to the guy from VH1 who asked everyone, “Who is your favorite ‘Desperate Housewife’?”)

Creative Spirit Award winner Hank Steinberg, creator of the CBS hit, “Without a Trace,” said his resolution was to be a better woman … and put a lead character who is Jewish on his next show.

“The O.C.’s” Peter Gallagher, said he was truly honored to be receiving the award for Male Character in Television, and that his alter ego, Sandy Cohen, would resolve this year to “do everything he could to make the family stronger than ever.”

But the wit-at-work winner had to be “Stacked” star Elon Gold: “I try to do as many Jewish events between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur [as possible].”

“It’s part of a whole Aseret Yemei Teshuvah tour,” he added, referring to the 10 days of repentance. “Any charities…. I’ll host any kind of dinner functions that go to Jewish causes. I’ll present at the Jewish Image Awards to score points before that book is sealed.”

Unfortunately, just as I was about to get some deep resolution insight from SNL alum and MorningStar Commission board member Laraine Newman, the lights began to flicker on and off, signaling the beginning of the ceremony, and Newman had to hurry inside.

For its Israeli-Palestinian conflict storyline, “The West Wing” won for Television Series.

Lauren Lazin, the Oscar-nominated director was Television Special winner for “I’m Still Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust.” He hopes to raise enough money to get the show, which aired on MTV this past spring, into every high school in the country.

“Sister Rose’s Passion,” about a nun who challenged Christian anti-Semitic teachings, took the award for Documentary Film. Cross-Cultural Production went to HBO’s “Everyday People,” about the gritty life of workers at a Brooklyn diner.

Actor Martin Landau won for Male Character in a Film for his work in “The Aryan Couple,” where he played a steel magnate who makes a deal with Heinrich Himmler to save his family. (Filming took place inside one of the actual Gestapo bunkers.) Landau said he was glad that his next TV role, that of Sol Gold, is a departure from his usual casting as an Italian or Irishman.

Actress-advocate and cancer survivor Fran Dresher, who received the MorningStar Commission Marlene Marks Woman of Inspiration Award, talked about working on congressional legislation that would increase awareness of women’s gynecological issues.

Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman got Best Couple in a Film for their portrayal of Ben Stiller’s parents in “Meet the Fockers.” But no one got to meet these two celebs, who were both no-shows.

One of the best nonceleb moments was the recognition for nine Angelenos who are devoted to the arts, including very excited Skirball docent Marilyn Minkle.

It was, in the end, an evening that could only help one’s Jewish image — even if I had to miss out on both the bungalows and Barbra.

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Class Notes – A Model School


Kehillat Ma’arav, a Conservative synagogue in Santa Monica, thinks it has a winning formula for the eternal challenge of Hebrew school.

First, it did away with Sunday school, which was constantly competing with sports, music, tutoring and family activities. The Tuesday program was lengthened to three hours, but rather than relying on one teacher to cover all subjects, students go to specialized classes in Hebrew language, prayer and holidays, Bible and ethics — much as they move from math to science in school.

It cuts down on boredom, said Cantor Keith Miller, who did the revamp with Rabbi Michael Gottleib.

“The kids realize there is a finite amount of time in class, so they are excited to maximize that time and they come into class ready to start,” said Miller, who is also the education director at the 300-member synagogue. The school has about 60 students in its second- through seventh-grade classes.

Kehillat Ma’arav also developed Club Shabbat, a junior congregation for Hebrew school children, which integrates the Hebrew school families with those families who come for services every week.

This congregation has long sought ways to make its school more innovative. Two years ago, Kehillat Ma’arav revamped its high school program by teaming up with Shaarei Am, a Reform congregation in the neighborhood. Teens from both congregations study together every week.

For more information, call (310) 829-0566 or go to www.kmwebsite.com.

After School Academics

B’nai David-Judea Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Pico-Robertson, is opening a new religious school for fourth- through sixth-graders with minor learning problems who attend public or private secular schools rather than Jewish day schools.

“For a lot of kids, day school is just too fast-paced, with too much homework and too many subjects to master,” said Janet Fuchs, a mother who helped establish Torah Club with B’nai David’s Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky.

Eight kids and a teacher are already signed up for September classes, which will meet twice a week for two hours. Fuchs hopes the program will not only educate the kids but, more importantly, give them a sense of community. The vast majority of traditionally observant kids go to day school, leaving those who don’t out of the social loop.

Students at Torah Club will study the holidays, the prayerbook and the weekly Torah portion, but not Hebrew language, which eliminates the need for homework.

For more information, contact B’nai David-Judea at (310) 276-9269 or BDJ@bnaidavid.com.

Calling All Authors

If, like most Angelenos, you have a manuscript in your desk it’s time to pull it out. If it’s geared toward 8- to 11-year-olds, that is. The Association of Jewish Libraries is accepting submissions for the 21st annual Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition for aspiring authors of children’s books. The best fiction manuscript written by an unpublished author that serves to deepen an understanding of Judaism will receive a $1,000 award.

For entry forms and rules, go to www.jewishlibraries.org, then click on Awards, then click on Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award. Deadline for submission of manuscripts is Dec. 31, 2005.

Around the Fringe The Gift of Summer

Nine Southern California children were able to attend camp this summer thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Education. The Beverly Hills-based nonprofit gives scholarships to unaffiliated, financially strapped families so their children can enjoy a summer experience of Jewish education and identity building. All nine attended Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, which also contributed to the scholarships.

For more information on the Foundation for Jewish Education, visit www.tfjeinc.org or call (310) 273-8612.

The Winners Are…

Downey B’nai B’rith Lodge 1112 presented five students Al Perlus Awards for scholastic and community achievement. The recipients of the $25 or $50 scholarships are: Vanessa Vasquez of South Gate High School; Byron D. Zacarias of Bell High School; Mercedes Perez of Huntington Park High School; Lauren Duran of Downey High School, and Mathew Vasquez of Warren High School.

Emek Hebrew Academy graduate Adam Deutsch won third place in the Jossi-Berger Holocaust Study Center Essay and Poetry Contest, a national contest sponsored by Emunah of America. His poem, “Will There Be Another Day?” dedicated to the 6 million Jews murdered during the Shoah, is posted at www.Emunah.org.

Please send Class Notes submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

You can reach Julie Gruenbaum Fax at julief@jewishjournal.com or (213) 368-1661, ext. 206.

 

The Agony, Ecstasy of School Awards


Before 18 year-old Sara Smith graduated last June, she made multiple trips to the stage to receive multiple honors at Shalhevet High School’s awards brunch for graduating seniors. In addition to being named class valedictorian, she received the excellence in math award, two Bureau of Jewish Education awards and a plaque from Bank of America.

This June, talented and bright middle school and high school graduates, like Sara, will star in their own school awards ceremonies. They will walk up to the stage, amid hearty cheering by faculty and family, to receive awards for their achievements in such categories as academics, the arts, sports and menschlikhkayt.

At the same time, the majority of their classmates will sit and watch, walking away without any certificates, plaques, trophies or applause and likely feeling that their contributions have been inconsequential. Many might inevitably become less enthusiastic about attending graduation ceremonies and festivities.

That conflict is not lost on the award winners themselves.

“I really didn’t want it to be the Sara show — but it was,” said Smith, now completing a year of study in Israel and attending Brandeis University next year.

What, in fact, is the purpose of school awards? Do they provide a service to students by recognizing excellence in a positive and motivating manner? Or are they psychologically and pedagogically detrimental, polarizing students at what should be a unifying juncture in their academic careers by dividing them into winners and losers? And for those students attending Jewish day schools, are they in keeping with Jewish values and traditions?

“Nothing feels better than to acknowledge somebody who’s worked hard,” said Roxie Esterle, middle school principal of Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge. “But the issue [of awards] is just huge,” she added.

Administrators have to figure out, for instance, whether an award should be given to the highest achiever or the person who has made the most progress? Should it go to both a girl and a boy for their eighth-grade year or for all three middle school years?

To minimize the sting on those students not being honored, Heschel last year completely separated the awards ceremony from graduation, including not listing award winners’ names in the graduation program guide. All eighth-graders now stand together on equal footing to receive their diplomas.

Still, Esterle believes that awards are motivating for students.

“You get your best work out of them by helping them realize their potential,” she said.

For parent Lori Berthelsen, whose son, JJ, 15, graduated from Heschel last year with departmental awards in both science and math, as well as two others, recognition can be a plus.

“It really boosted his self-esteem to be acknowledged for how much he had contributed,” she said.

But for her daughter, Nicki, now 18, who didn’t receive a certificate of academic excellence at the end of 11th grade in any of her classes at Milken Community High School last year, the disappointment negated previously positive experiences in those classes.

“I’m really conflicted [about awards],” Berthelsen admitted.

Others, however, are not conflicted.

Awards have a place in an academic institution, specifically a high school, said Milken’s Head of School Dr. Rennie Wrubel. “People who do outstanding work should be recognized in some way,” she said.

Furthermore, she believes awards should be based not only on innate talent but also on passion, collaboration and the ability to make the classroom a more meaningful place.

At Milken, awards are presented at the senior siyyum (literally, completion) that takes place prior to graduation. But, Wrubel stresses, the school also provides multiple opportunities during the year — including art shows, dance concerts, poetry readings and community service projects — for many students to be recognized.

Wrubel believes that sometimes we create a culture of anti-intellectualism by always trying to make kids feel good about themselves.

“I think there is an important side to having students want to excel and to be rewarded for that,” she said.

But Bruce Powell, founding head of school at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, has a different view. While the school won’t graduate its first group of seniors until June 2006 and the official policy concerning awards is still being formulated, Powell feels that awards are not conducive to building character, and don’t mesh with the school’s philosophy and mission. He sees everything, including grades, as subjective, he questions how schools can fairly determine who should be recognized.

“When you start giving awards, what do you mean by the ‘best’ student?” he asked. “It’s a comparative term which means that nobody else is as good.”

Powell believes that almost all students have equal access to greatness and that they shouldn’t be honored for merely being given a “good genetic lottery number” in English or science, intelligence or kindness. In place of awards, Powell is considering having the faculty write a personal letter to each graduate, reflecting on how they see his or her special character traits and contributions.

Student recognition sends out a message about what a school deems important, according to Sara Lee, director of the Rhea Hirsh School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, who is ambivalent about awards.

“For Jewish schools, awards can’t be unidimensional,” she said. “They have to recognize service and Jewish values.”

And they have to be careful not to conflict with Jewish ethics.

“The same way we have to be careful about saying negative things, we also have to be careful about saying positive things because it can open the door to lashon hara [hurtful speech],” said Elon Sunshine, rabbi-in-residence at Heschel Day School in Northridge.

With that in mind and with the Jewish directive not to embarrass anyone, Sunshine still believes that awards can be inspirational and motivating for students providing they are presented carefully and respectfully.

Even with that kind of care, the process can hurt students and parents.

“In order for there to be winners, there have to be losers, and I don’t think that’s a message we should be putting on our children any more than the culture already does,” said marriage and family therapist Kathy Wexler, who teaches developmental psychology at Phillips Graduate Institute in Encino and maintains a private practice.

Wexler is especially opposed to giving awards to middle school students, who are struggling to master their environment.

“You want to emphasize what they’ve learned,” she explained, “and not how it compares to what everyone else has learned.”

She worries that awards erode intrinsic motivation for both winners and losers, of all ages.

Parent Bruce Gersh, whose three daughters, ages 9, 7 and 4, attend Adat Ari El Day School in Valley Village, agrees.

“My wife and I are more focused on developing well-rounded children than children who study for awards,” he said.

Gersh, in fact, recently moved his oldest daughter from gymnastics, which was becoming too competitive, to softball.

“We just want her to have fun,” he said.

Perhaps radio and television pioneer David Sarnoff realized this decades ago when he said, “Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people.”

So can anything be done?

Not according to Josh Krug, 18, who graduated from Milken last year as a multiple award winner and who currently attends Yale University.

“There are so many [competitive] things out there that even if you get rid of awards, it won’t make much of a dent,” he said.

 

Circuit


 

Jokes, Lights and Songs

The Israel advocacy group StandWithUs filled the University of Judaism’s main auditorium for its Dec. 5 Festival of Lights concert. Actor-comedian Larry Miller hosted the event on crutches, and provided a light comic stream amid the tributes and music. He reminded the overflow crowd that expecting terrorists to have a change of heart is like holding out hope for sour milk: “The milk is sour; maybe it’ll be fresh tomorrow.”

Musicians Sam Glaser and Peter Himmelman, cantors Alison Wissot and Chayim Frankel and Israeli singer Hedva Amrani Miller all performed.

“Too bad the tourists don’t come; Israel needs our help,” Amrani said. “I have two hearts; one heart in Israel and one here.”

StandWithUs began in 2001 as a sort of informational guerrilla unit working among larger, entrenched Jewish institutions trying to grasp the extent of current anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses. Despite the Festival of Lights’ naturally festive mood, a video captured the gravity of what StandWithUs monitors, showing a Muslim cleric on Palestinian television saying, “Jews are dogs. Jews are pigs.”

Two of the group’s main backers, Newton Becker and Mark Karlan, were honored at the Festival of Lights with menorah trophies that almost dominated the stage podium.

“In Europe, Israel is perceived as Nazi Germany,” Becker said. “We’ve lost the war of ideas in Europe. The Jews in Europe have not countered the lies. They need our help and they’re not used to doing it themselves.”

Karlan praised StandWithUs for using donations effectively, saying, “I like the fact that they deliver more bang for our tzedakah buck.” – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

ORT Support

The Jewish vocational organization ORT honored Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief William Bratton at its Dec. 5 Chanukah brunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Jewish community philanthropist Jona Goldrich pledged $10,000 to the ORT’s $500,000 annual budget goal.

The LAPD chief, who attended the brunch with his wife, Court TV personality and legal analyst Ricki Kleiman, was named the L.A. ORT chapter’s Man of the Year. Bratton told the 200 ORT supporters that police officers and ORT instructors are in similar roles because they try to “make a difference.”

KNX 1070 reporter and L.A. ORT advisory council member Laura Ornest was the emcee for the brunch, which was coordinated by third-generation ORT supporter Deena Eberly, while Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom for the Arts gave the invocation.

Goldrich was not the only donor pledging big bucks to the organization. ORT’s L.A. chapter founder Stanley Black – whose name graces the L.A. ORT Technical Institute building on Wilshire Boulevard – started the brunch’s fundraising by pledging $18,000, and then Black’s 10-year-old grandson donated $10.

ORT’s global budget of $300 million supports schools in 60 countries.

“College prepared me for the advertising business, but ORT prepared me for the world,” said a young Argentine immigrant who studied at an ORT school. – DF

Hopes and ‘Dreams’

Domestic violence blights even wonderful communities, which is why organizations like the Jewish Family Service’s Family Violence Project (JFSFVP) are working to stop it. On Oct. 27, the mid-Wilshire Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative – a joint venture of JFSFVP and 14 other organizations – honored eight individuals and two groups for their efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence in Los Angeles, especially in underserved communities where information on the issue has been largely unavailable.

The ceremony was held at the West Hollywood Community Center on Santa Monica Boulevard, and was hosted by West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land. Other dignitaries in attendance included state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), Beverly Hills City Councilman Jimmy Delshad and Paul S. Castro, executive director of Jewish Family Service.

Honored at the ceremony was the cast and crew of the NBC TV series “American Dreams.” Sarah Ramos, 13, who plays Patty Pryor in the show, spearheaded an effort on the set to help victims of domestic violence, and since the show’s debut two years ago the cast and crew have collected donations for domestic violence victims.

Other honorees were the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation (Asian community); Dr. Gerry Rosen (African immigrant community); Esther Batres (Latino community); Sattareh Farman Farmaian (Iranian community); Matthew Pulling (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community); Cori Jones (Jewish Orthodox community); Maya Segal (Russian community); Julieana Tores (youth community); and officer Chris Curry, of the LAPD Wilshire Division (law enforcement).

Safire at Sinai

The Adult Education Committee at Sinai Temple, chaired by Rosa Berman Ruder, hosted award-winning New York Times columnist William Safire as its Rabbi Jacob Kohn scholar-in-residence on Nov. 20 and 21. Safire spoke twice over the weekend – once on Shabbat, where he discussed the book of Job, and then again at a breakfast on Sunday, where he spoke about his ardent support for Israel and U.S. politics. In his Sunday speech, Safire analyzed the 2004 presidential race with warmth and humor saying that the difference between President Bush and Sen. Kerry was that Bush was playing to win, whereas Kerry was playing to not lose.

“That’s why you had Bush’s certainty and Kerry’s nuances,” he said.

Safire said that he expected the 2008 democratic ticket to be headlined by Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He also said that he supported an amendment to the constitution that would allow foreign-born citizens to run for president.

After his speech, Safire sat down for a Q-and-A session with Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe.

Safire will soon retire from his New York Times Op-Ed column, but will continue writing the On Language column published in the New York Times Magazine.

Spiritual Relaxation

N’Shei Chabad of Los Angeles held its annual Rest and Ruchnius retreat – ruchnius is Hebrew for spirituality – at the Oxnard Marriott Oct. 29-31. The retreat was for women only – although they were allowed to bring along nursing babies – and its purpose was to provide some respite from the pressures of careers and home life by ensconcing the women in a nice hotel, with good food and great speakers. This year, the featured speaker was New York-based teacher and author Shimona Tzukernik, who spoke about chasidut (piety) and the spiritual lessons she learned on a recent safari trip through her native South Africa. Other speakers at the retreat included Devorie Kreiman and the Chai Center’s Olivia Schwartz.

Appointment Time

In August, Na’amat USA, an organization that raises funds to support the social service of Na’amat Israel, appointed its first president to hail from the West Coast – Alice Howard of Encino. Howard, who has taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 28 years, previously served the national organization as coordinator for the Western Area, financial secretary and chair of the Golda Meir Child Development Fund. She is a second-generation Na’amat USA member– her mother, Sarah Bocarsky, is a life member and was president of California’s Lake Elsimore club for 10 years.

Na’amat, which is Israel’s largest women’s movement, supports the largest network of day care centers in Israel, as well as technological high schools, women centers, legal aid services for women, centers for the treatment and prevention of violence in families and many other services.

Dori Sher, who serves as director of after-school children’s services for Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Sherman Oaks, was recently accepted in the Teen Professional Mentor Program with JCCA of North America. Sher was the only person selected from the Western Region for this prestigious program.

The Teen Professional Mentor Program is a nationally recognized curriculum that invests $18,000 worth of training, in-service and conferences/trips into each participant. The program has achieved numerous honors over the years for their work with teens throughout the United States.

For more information on the program, call (818) 786-6310.

Planet Partners

On an unusually chilly autumn night under the stars, The Coalition of the Environment and Jewish Life of Southern California (COEJL/SC) presented its fifth annual Environmentalist of the Year awards. A far cry from its first awards, the elaborate party at the home of Richard and Daphne Ziman drew hundreds of Los Angeles’ Jews, environmentalists, businesspeople and politicians, like former Gov. Gray Davis, mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg and Michelle Kleinert, deputy director of community affairs for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“When you think about the environment and Jewish life in Southern California, you think Ed Begley,” said the lanky blond actor, who served as the master of ceremonies for the evening.Begley said he believes in COEJL/SC because it is sounding the clarion call to save the planet: “God gave us this planet, it’s our responsibility to preserve it.”

“Together, as a community, we can make real changes,” said Jewish Environmentalist of the Year Marlene Grossman, the executive director of Pacoima Beautiful. She pointed to TreePeople for its outstanding conservation work. “Tonight is the night we teach that to our children, and tonight is the night we bequeath it to us all,” she said.

Interfaith Environmentalist of the Year went to Terry Tamminen, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency; Business Environmentalist of the Year went to Toyota, which manufactures the hybrid Prius.

The lifetime achievement award was presented to Dorothy Green, the founding president of Heal the Bay. Green said she was honored and privileged to be able to work to restore habitat and that she was glad people of different religions were coming together to work on the environment.

“To bring together communities of faith – that is the future of the environment,” she said.

“Throughout all religions, teachings and moral commandments it is clear that we must care for creation to protect future generations,” said Lee Wallach, president of COEJL/SC. “Only in coming together we can do that.” – DF

 

Two Educators Earn Honors


Barry Koff, who integrates technology and art into his religious school lesson plans, is a recipient of this year’s Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Joanne Mercer, retiring director of education at Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm, suggested Koff be considered for national recognition by the Jewish Education Service of North America and the local Bureau of Jewish Education.

Another winner from Orange County this year is Limor Barkol, a Hebrew teacher at Morasha Jewish Day School in Rancho Santa Margarita and Westminster’s Temple Beth David.

"I have had the fortune of studying with many of Orange County’s wealth of rabbis and educators, including my mentor, Rabbi Bernie King," Koff said, referring to the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’a lot. "King says that ‘everyone we meet is our teacher,’ so I suppose I come by my Jewish knowledge through my family, friends and strangers."

Koff earned a state teaching credential and completed a master’s degree in Jewish education through Chicago’s Spertus College. Yet his first career as an on-air radio broadcaster comes through in his classroom. During three years at Bat Yaym, Koff encouraged use of student-made video documentaries about Jewish genealogy and music videos about historic Jewish personalities.

"I try to bring whatever creativity I can to allow students to express themselves and their Jewish identity," Koff said.

His assignment is seventh-grade Judaic studies and middle-schoolers preparing to become confirmands.

He previously served as education director at Shir Ha-Ma’a lot, where he started, wrote and produced full-length Jewish-themed musicals for the Not Ready for Orthodox Players children’s theater.

Koff, 46, and his wife, Ann, live in Dana Point with 10-year-old twins, Jonathan and Shoshana. Koff currently is a full-time home-school teacher for his children.

The award recognizes 50 outstanding Jewish educators annually. They each receive $2,500 toward funding professional development.

Koff intends to use the prize money for a summer study program in Israel.

Kids Page


You know that harmless-looking body part inside your mouth? The tongue? It sure looks nice enough, but it gets a lot of Israelites into trouble in this week’s parsha. Do you remember getting a present and then complaining it wasn’t enough? Not the right video game; not the kind of scooter you wanted. Often, your parents end up giving you what you want, but they might get pretty mad in the process. Well this time, the Israelites complain about the manna. “We want meat! We want more!” they shout.

God gives them what they want, but gets pretty mad at them. Was it worth it? Miriam and Aaron get into trouble, too, when they use their tongues to spread gossip about Moses’ wife, Zipporah. So, think about that tongue of yours. It’s more powerful than you realize.

Special Friends

Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing essays and poems by children who won the San Fernando Valley fifth-grade writing contest. The theme of the contest was: My Special Friend. Awards were given out by the California Writers’ Club on May 25, at the Encino Community Center. Meirav Fishman Cafri, 12, of Northridge, wrote the first-place essay. She is finishing up at Napa Elementary School in Northridge. She is the youngest of four children and is one of a set of triplets.

My Special Friend

My special friend is God. The reason God is my special friend is because He is the ruler of the Earth and has created me. He has dealt kindly with me throughout my 12 years. He is always there for me when I am going through good and bad times. He is even there for me when I need him most. No matter where I go He will always be watching over me. God has helped me through school and is still helping me through school. He is always where I need him most. He is keeping me alive and strong. I love him with all my heart. He always helps me through my injuries no matter how bad they are. Even when I behave badly, he does not or never will give up on me and that’s a fact.

Community Briefs


Music, Israel Bring 950 Educators to BJEConference

Participants at the Bureau of Jewish Education of Los Angeles’s (BJE) 23rd annual Early Childhood Spring Institute had the opportunity to take a special journey to Israel through music. In a workshop called “A Musical Trip to Israel,” three music educators from the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem demonstrated an entertaining way to teach children about the Holy Land through song and movement.

“I think the exposure to meeting the people from Israel and talking to them is important [for Jewish educators],” said Esther Elfenbaum, director of BJE early childhood education services. “I think we have to focus on the positive to help kids deal with what’s going on in Israel.”

More than 950 nursery school and kindergarten educators from Southern California gathered at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills for the conference on Monday, March 10. Participants had the opportunity to attend more than 60 workshops led by educators, rabbis, child psychologists and children’s book authors, where topics included “Creating a Jewish Environment in Your Classroom,” “Bringing Music and Drama to Every Subject” and “Talking to God: Teaching Children to Speak From Their Souls.”

During the conference, the BJE presented select teachers and administrators with special awards. The BJE Lainer Distinguished Educator Awards went to Tara Farkash, teacher at Temple Adat Elohim Preschool in Thousand Oaks; Kimberly Shapiro, teacher at Westside Jewish Community Center Nursery School in Los Angeles; and Audrey Freedman-Habush, director at Valley Beth Shalom Nursery School in Encino. Several educators from various Southland schools received BJE Smotrich Family Foundation Early Childhood Educator awards. Highest distinction: Debra Cohen, Niki Egar, Susana Ezon, Laurie Healy, Wendy Smith, Miri Hever and Michelle Stein; excellence: Esther Posin and Kimberly Shapiro; and merit: Terri Sigal and Diana Pakdaman.

Sherry Fredman, principal of Temple Israel of Hollywood Nursery School, said she and her staff were inspired by the conference and look forward to enhancing the Judaic aspects of their program.

“My teachers came back [from the conference] motivated with excellent ideas,” she said.

For more information, visit www.bjela.org . — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Camp Gets ‘Creative’ at WilshireBoulevard

While most camps boast activities like swimming, archery and arts and crafts, campers at Creative Space Summer Camp will learn break dancing, aromatherapy, yoga and fencing. Creative Space, the award-winning Hollywood enrichment school, has teamed up with Marcia Israel Day Camp of Wilshire Boulevard Temple to create a new summer camp, which will be housed at the shul’s Irmas Campus in West Los Angeles.

Creative Space, a unique children’s program, is owned by three Jewish women who believe that creativity fosters self-confidence. Building on this principle, they are taking their imaginative classes into a camp setting.

While the new camp prides itself on artsy activities like stunts, hip-hop dance, cheerleading and magic, the summer program will also offer sports. And rather than recruiting recent high school graduates or college students as counselors, Creative Space Summer Camp has hired many of the professionals who teach their classes during the school year. The creative arts camp will be open for 4- to 12-years-olds for a series of two-week sessions. A separate camp, with age-appropriate programs, is open for 3-year-olds.

When Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple approached Creative Space about coming together to create an arts-based camp, the owners knew he was onto something.

“For the temple and for us it’s an opportunity to expand community,” co-owner Gayle Baigelman said.

Baigelman said that the nondenominational environment will be a plus for campers and their parents.

“I think that is the beautiful thing about the Jewish tradition — it’s all-inclusive,” she said.

For more information about Creative Space Summer Camp,call (323) 462-4600 or visit www.creativespaceusa.com . — SSR

OU Offers Jewish Parenting 101

What do you do if your child refuses to listen to you? More than 125 parents attended the Positive Jewish Parenting Conference on Sunday, March 2 to address this common dilemma and others like it. The conference, which was put on by the Orthodox Union (OU) with the support of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, included a series of interactive workshops led by psychiatry, psychology and social work experts.

Attendees gathered at the Museum of Tolerance and the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Nagel Campus with hopes of strengthening their parenting skills and incorporating Jewish values into child rearing. The keynote speaker was Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the OU’s executive vice president, a clinical psychologist who combined the worlds of Torah and psychology for parents.

Workshops included topics like “Bringing Spirituality Into Our Homes,” “Conflict Resolution in the Family” and “Overcoming Sibling Rivalry.”

“By participating, parents learn that a lot of what goes on in their house is normal,” said Frank Buchweitz, director of special projects for the Orthodox Union in New York.

“I got a few pieces of practical advice,” said Irwin Nachimson, a father of two who lives in the mid-Wilshire area. “But more importantly, I was impressed to see that there are people who focus on [parenting topics] on a daily basis. It’s not something readily offered in any other segment of the Jewish community that I’ve seen.”

Dr. Larry Eisenberg, president of the West Coast OU, feels that the religious slant of the program drew the community in.

“I think it’s the fact that it was done under an Orthodox program and people could ask questions that were religious,” he said. — SSR

From Naive Dream to Big Screen


Michael Prywes was 24 when he decided to make a film. After all, he reasoned, he had started the Jewish Theater Ensemble in Chicago, so why not make his own movie? It was, he conceded, "complete chutzpah or a serious lack of understanding of the world."

Prywes’ first feature film, "Returning Mickey Stern," is a "new old comedy," shot on Fire Island with Joseph Bologna and Tom Bosley in leading roles. It opened the Long Island Film Festival at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in April 2002 and played at the Long Island International Film Expo 2002. The film won awards at two other film festivals: best feature at the Rome Film Festival 2002 and the audience award at a festival in Tiburon, Calif.

Prywes’ audacious decision came shortly after he left Chicago with a degree in creative writing for the media from Northwestern University and went to Los Angeles to break into films. Raised in Old Bethpage and Dix Hills, both in New York state, he had decided that filmmaking would be ideal for combining his desire to be an author with his talent in the visual arts.

A stint in Los Angeles — studying at UCLA and running errands for a few production companies — convinced him to return to New York to make an independent film that he would direct from a script he had written as a thesis project at UCLA. He and his co-producers, Victor Erdos and Jason Akel, were determined to shoot it "come hell or high water, even with relatives playing the roles, if necessary," he said.

When his partners discussed the project on a radio show in Los Angeles, the host of the show said it sounded like something his friend Joe Bologna might like, Prywes said. Bologna, who plays the title role of a mature man who tries to relive his youthful dreams, recommended Bosley for the role of his adult best friend. Renee Taylor, Bologna’s wife, and Connie Stevens took supporting roles. Prywes’ parents, Dr. Arnold and Charlotte Prywes, did get to appear, as a doctor and his nurse. Four members of the younger cast were chosen from the Internet. Prywes, who also designs Web sites, created www.castourmovie.com, inviting the public to choose from among finalists.

Deciding on a location was easy. Prywes and his family have always spent the summer on Fire Island in the New York area. "It’s so cinematic, with a certain innocence that has not gone away," he said. "It has always been a place of magic and romance to me."

The principal photography began in September 2000 and was completed 19 days later, on Prywes’ 26th birthday. "It was the best birthday present anyone could ever hope for," he said. After completing post-production chores, Prywes’ company, 2Life! Films, began the arduous task of showing the film, looking for a distributor and making the rounds of festivals. "We didn’t enter festivals like Sundance or Toronto or even the Hamptons, because they generally go for the more edgy films," Prywes said. "’Returning Mickey Stern’ is the opposite. It’s sweet and funny. Like popular foreign films, like my favorite, ‘Cinema Paradiso.’ In fact, you could say it’s the perfect foreign movie made in America."

"Returning Mickey Stern," about a Jewish teenager who loses his true love, then helps a younger version of himself avoid the same mistake 50 years later, opens today at Loews Beverly Center Cineplex in Los Angeles.

Remembering the Comedians


Walking into Lillian Lux’s Lower East Side home in New York
is like entering a museum of Yiddish theater. The apartment holds a photo of
Lux and her husband — the late Yiddish actor Pesach’ke Burstein — from an
appearance in Argentina in the late 1930s. There also is a picture of Lux,
Burstein and their actor-son, Mike, who now lives in Los Angeles, at a benefit
for wounded Israeli soldiers.

Awards are strewn all over.

“Everything is a something,” Lux said. Something similar
could be said about Lux’s family: Everyone is a someone, as far as Yiddish theater
goes.

The patriarch of the family, Pesach’ke — he was both born
and died during Passover — was a Polish-born actor who became a matinee idol
during the Golden Era of Yiddish theater.

Along with Lux, whom Pesach’ke married after moving to America,
he traveled the world — Europe, Argentina, Israel — as one of the ambassadors
of Yiddish theater.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the two often performed together
with their two children, Mike and Susan — or Motele and Zisele, as they were
billed.

The story of the family, and of the history of 20th century
Yiddish theater, is told in a new documentary, “The Komediant,” that is being
released in theaters in the United States.

For Israeli director Arnon Goldfinger and screenwriter Oshra
Schwartz, the film served as a sort of therapy. In 1995, both were recently
separated from their spouses and needed a new project. Schwartz showed
Goldfinger an article about the son, who uses the name Mike Burstyn.

Goldfinger was skeptical, but agreed to meet Burstyn. The
director was won over, but it took Burstyn some time to be convinced that the
two Israelis were sincere in making a serious movie about his family and the
Yiddish theater.

In Israel, Yiddish, which lost out to Hebrew as the
country’s primary language, was denigrated as the language of Diaspora Jewry,
the language of the vanquished past. Goldfinger admits that he shared this
attitude until he made the film.

“It took time until we succeeded in gaining his trust,”
Goldfinger said of Burstyn. “We made it clear to him that we were not investing
so much time in order to ridicule Yiddish.”

But “The Komediant” — the name comes from one of Pesach’ke’s
best-known plays — goes to great lengths to show the often-tough reality of
life in the Yiddish theater. The backbiting among the actors as they competed
to join the Yiddish actors association is made clear.

“I went in with only one no. And I know who gave me the no,”
Lux said.

The fear of plays being stolen was so great that performers
were sometimes only given their own lines, not the lines of their fellow
actors.

“Back then, you never knew what your partner was going to
say,” Burstyn said.

Burstyn, in fact, eventually became an international actor,
known in Israel for his role in “The Two Kuni Lemls” and in America for his
role in “Barnum.”

Burstyn’s sister, Susan, despite her early success as a
ventriloquist, said she resents having had an unusual childhood. She left the
stage at an early age, married and retired from performing.

Director Goldfinger was nervous that the sister would not
agree to appear in the film. But she did, and offers a more critical view of
the family’s life on the road.

Similar to old-time actors on the Yiddish stage, the family
members did not know what the others were going to say.

“We ended up with a mosaic of stories — a number of
perspectives on the same events that at times unite and at times contradict one
another,” he said. “I think the film is loaded with layers.”

“The Komediant” will be screening
Friday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. at Tarbut V’Torah, 5200 Bonita Canyon Drive, Irvine.
For more information, call (714) 755-0340, ext. 134, or visit www.pjff.org .

Marvin Mirisch


Marvin Mirisch, one of three brothers who formed the Mirisch Co. motion picture production company, died on Nov. 17 of undisclosed causes at UCLA Medical Center. He was 84.

Born in New York City, Mirisch was the third of four Mirisch sons. After attending City College of New York, Mirisch eventually relocated to Los Angeles in 1953, where he joined brothers Walter and Harold at Monogram Pictures. When Monogram turned into United Artists, the first artist-run independent studio, the Mirisch brothers independently packaged such movies as John Huston’s “Moby Dick” and the Billy Wilder favorite, “Love in the Afternoon.”
In 1957, the Mirisch brothers established the Mirisch Co., where Marvin acted as the chief financial officer and Walter functioned as the producer. The Mirisch Co. created 68 motion pictures over 17 years in a deal with United Artists. Mirisch Co.-produced films — which included “The Apartment,” “West Side Story” and “In the Heat of the Night” — were nominated for 79 Academy Awards and won 23.
In 1968, after Harold died, Marvin and Walter moved to Universal Pictures, where they produced “Midway” and “Same Time Next Year.” Marvin also produced 1979’s “Dracula” and in the early 1990s was an executive producer of a “Pink Panther” cartoon series.

Marvin Mirisch was active in Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences politics. He also chaired the motion picture division of United Jewish Welfare Fund, and was on the boards of Temple Israel and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Mirisch is survived by his wife of 60 years, Florene; son, Don; daughters Carol Hartmann and Lynn Rogo; six grandchildren; brother, Walter. He was buried on Nov. 20 at Hillside Memorial Park.

Contributions can be made to UCLA Foundation, 10945 Le Conte Ave., Suite 3132, Los Angeles, CA 90095. — Staff Report

The Circuit


In our Image

The stars were out again last Tuesday. In the wake of the Emmys, Jewish celebrities, community leaders and entertainment industry people gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, to honor their peers at the second annual Jewish Image Awards in Film and Television (JIA), sponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC).

“We see few images of Jewish people in the media, so it’s important to celebrate positive images,” said former Saturday Night Live regular Laraine Newman, who had played a rabbi’s wife opposite Richard Lewis for several episodes of “7th Heaven.”

Newman presented the JIA to Brenda Lilly, Hollis Rich and Stan Rogow for best TV series, which this year went to the now-canceled ABC Family show “State of Grace.” Other presenters included Mimi Rogers, Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) , Jennifer Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”), KTLA’s Sam Rubin and Shiri Appleby (“Swimfan”).

Hosting the event was a slimmer-than-usual Jeffrey Tambor, who began the night by noting that with the current state of the world, “I know the one thing going through your mind is — isn’t he thinner?”

But unlike that “other” awards ceremony earlier in the week, the Image Awards were not the typical three-hour self-congratulatory schmoozefest. They kept the show down to two hours. And while there were plenty of “do you know so-and-sos” and business card exchanges during cocktail hour, a feeling that this was more important than the usual Hollywood affair permeated the room as people settled in for the actual ceremony.

Brad Garrett might have joked two nights earlier, when he won an Emmy for his portrayal of Robert on “Raymond,” that he hoped, “This award breaks down the door for Jewish people who are trying to get into show business,” but as far as portrayals of Jewish characters on television were concerned, Roberts, coming off her third Emmy win (her second for her role on “Everybody Loves Raymond”) half-seriously joked about being a Jewish actress too often cast as an Italian.

Dinah Manoff struck a similar chord in accepting her award with “State of Grace” co-stars Erica Yohn and Alia Shawkat for their portrayals of three generations of Jewish women. When reading for the part, she told the audience, it had been the first time she wasn’t asked to be less Jewish.

The two honorees of the evening happened to be executives at competing cable channels. Early into the evening, Sheila Nevins received the MorningStar Commission’s Woman of Inspiration Award for her work as executive vice president of original programming for HBO. (The award will be renamed the Marlene Adler Marks Woman of Inspiration Award next year in honor of the recently deceased Jewish Journal senior columnist.) Rounding out the night, Rogers presented Jerry Offsay, president of programming for Showtime Networks, with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

A screening of a clip montage from the various programs Nevins helped create ran the gamut from “One Survivor’s Story” to “G-String Divas.” With the lights back up, Nevins joked as she accepted her award, “In case you’re wondering about the stripper in that, she was Jewish.” On a more serious note, Nevins also spoke of her encounters with anti-Semitism and bigotry as reasons why she was proud to be accepting the award.

Offsay was humbled by his lifetime achievement award, telling the audience, “I’m just a Reform lawyer who took a job as a writer.” Writer job aside, Offsay, who joined Showtime in January 1994, was responsible for bringing movies like “The Believer” and “Varian’s War” to the channel. He thanked the NFJC for choosing him over people he thought more deserving, like Barbra Streisand or Neil Simon, and named his eight years as president as partial cause for his strong track record. As he put it, he’s had a lot of “at bats.”

Other awards went to writer John Orloff for his screenplay of “Band of Brothers” episode 9, about the liberation of a concentration camp; Amir Bar-Lev and Jonathan Crosby for their documentary film “Fighter”; Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Wallach and Eric Ian Goldberg for their portrayals of three generations of Jewish men in “The Education of Max Bickford”; Tovah Feldshuh for her role in the film “Kissing Jessica Stein”; Hank Azaria for his role in the film “Uprising”; and Justine Shapiro for her documentary “Promises.”

Tambor closed out the evening by straying from the teleprompter. Moved by the evening’s speeches and company, he asked everyone to lift a glass, as he led the audience in a simple toast of “L’Chaim.” — Keren Engelberg, Contributing Writer

Gold Rush

Amanda Maddahi, a junior at Harvard Westlake School in North Hollywood, participated in the Pan American Games for Karate in Caracas, Venezuela, where she was one of four American competitors to win a gold medal. Maddahi competed in the 16 to 17 year-old female kumite (sparring) division. Six hundred representatives from 14 countries participated in the games. Maddahi and her family are active members of Sinai Temple in Westwood.

Chabon’s Web

Michael Chabon, author of the Pulitzer-winning “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” has been tapped by Sony Pictures to write “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the sequel to 2002’s biggest grossing film, “Spider-Man.” In a February, “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi told The Journal that he was enjoying “Kavalier & Clay,” a novel set in the Jewish immigrant landscape of the comic book industry’s nascent years, while working post-production on “Spider-Man.”

The Winner Is…

Several entertainment industry talents that have recently graced The Journal’s pages picked up Emmy Awards last week. In addition to “Everybody Loves Raymond’s” Doris Roberts and Brad Garrett (see story in The Journal’s Sept. 27 Up Front section), Steven Spielberg picked up an a best miniseries score for his “Band of Brothers.” And Joel Surnow, with co-creator Robert Cochran, won for best writing for a drama series for “24.”

Things gone wild

The Skirball Cultural Center kicked off “Where The Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak in His Own Words and Pictures” with a whimsical opening filled with childlike wonder. The exhibit, spotlighting the beloved children’s book author/illustrator, features something for young and old alike.

For the little ones, there’s the sheer splendor of interactive set pieces, such as the Night Kitchen from “In The Night Kitchen” (1970) and a giant bowl of chicken soup for kids to dive into, a la Sendak’s 1962 favorite “Chicken Soup With Rice.”

For the older kids and grown-ups, there’s the sheer virtuosity of the pencils, rough and pen-and-ink illustrations that Sendak created for his various projects. Interspersed with his artwork are letters and project ideas torn from Sendak’s sketchbooks, from which the viewer gains insight into the internal and external circumstances that influenced his work.

“There Must Be More To Life” (1967) reflects the loss of Sendak’s mother, Sadie, who was dying of cancer, as well as his aging Sealyham terrier, Jennie, also afflicted with the disease.

“‘Outside Over There’ [1981] became my exorcism of the Lindbergh case,” Sendak writes in another section.

There are also family pictures of his Eastern European Jewish immigrant relatives, who, in some cases, served as inspiration, such as with his illustrations for Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Zlateh the Goat & Other Stories,” where the characters were based on “the sweet faces of Peshka, Yankif, Zolma, Esther, Geetle, Malka and all the others.” Sendak lost many relatives on his father’s side in the Shoah.

“My parents were so proud that my name was linked to Singer’s illustrious name,” Sendak commented on the project.

Among those posing in the pictures are Sendak’s brother Jack, with whom he collaborated on “Circus Girl,” and their father Philip, whose story, “In Grandpa’s House” (1985), Sendak illustrated, inspired by photos of Polish synagogues destroyed by the Nazis. Also hanging at the show: original art from “The Miami Giant” (1995), a parody of Miami Jews authored by Arthur Yorinks.

Sticking to the childhood theme, the opening party offered chicken soup with rice, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes, to the delight of Deputy Consul General Zvi Vapni of the Consulate General of Israel, who brought his 5-year-old son, Nitia, and Assemblyman Paul Koretz’s Chief of Staff Scott Svonkin and wife Jennifer, who arrived with baby daughter Rose in tow.

The Skirball Cultural Center’s exhibit, “Where The Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak in His Own Words and Pictures,” continues through Jan. 5. For exhibit information, call (310) 440-4500 or visit www.skirball.org .

Eulogies: Dr. Robert W. Brooks


Dr. Robert W. Brooks, an interna-tionally renowned mathematician who made aliyah with his family from Los Angeles in 1995, died of a heart attack on Sept. 5, at the age of 49.

A native of Washington, D.C., he earned his doctorate degree from Harvard in differential geometry in 1977, taught at the University of Maryland from 1979 to 1984 and, after a year-long research fellowship at the Courant Institute of New York University, was appointed a professor of mathematics at USC.

Brooks was acknowledged interna-tionally as an expert in his field, which was primarily theoretical, but yielded practical applications in physics and computers.

During his 10 years in Los Angeles, Brooks and his wife, Dr. Sharon Schwartz-Brooks, a Kaiser West Los Angeles physician, had been founding members of a minyan at Congregation Beth Jacob, as well as active members of Young Israel of Century City, Young Israel of Beverly Hills and Congregation B’nai David-Judea.

In 1995, Brooks took a position as tenured professor at the Technion Institute in Haifa. His many awards and honors included an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, a Fulbright senior fellowship, a Guastella fellowship and Technion’s Taub Prize for Excellence in Research.

In addition to his wife, Brooks is survived by his children, Simon, Tova, Isaac and Meir; parents, David and Harriet; and sisters, Betsy and Renana.

— David Margolis, Contributing Writer

Georgian Life


What is the meaning of courage?

In Hollywood, it is often the brave, handsome soldier who risks his life, or the enterprising businesswoman who succeeds against all odds. The triumph of the individual: that’s the American Way.

But not all cultures glorify that path, and when faced with a character that chooses a different path, we may be hard-pressed to deem that choice "courageous."

But that’s exactly what Israeli writer-director Dover Kosashvili says of Zaza, the main character in his film "Late Marriage," the winner of nine Israeli academy awards and other world festival awards, which will be shown at the Israel film festival here this week.

Zaza (Lior Loui Ashkenazi) is a 31-year-old Tel Avivian bachelor who humors his parents as they fix him up with "suitable" girls. Zaza is handsome, intelligent and successful, so why are they are so worried about him? They’re Georgian.

Sometimes we forget that the term Israelis includes as great a variety of people and cultures as exists in America. There are the oldtimeAshkenazim and the Sephardim, the religious, the secular, the settlers, then there are also the new immigrants: the Ethiopians, the Russians — and each have their own subculture and traditions. In Hebrew and Georgian, "Marriage," Kosashvili’s first feature film, portrays one of those subcultures, the Georgian community — though certainly not at its best.

Zaza’s parents — his mother is actually played by the director’s mother ("I couldn’t find an actress who could do a convincing Georgian accent," he says) — live across the street from their prized son, and ship him on many interviews of other young Georgian woman of good families. (Ashkenazi studied for five months with the director to learn the language.) But Zaza doesn’t take their concerns seriously, because he is in love with Judith, a divorced mother who is more typically "Tel Avivian."

Zaza’s entire extended family gets involved and forces Zaza to make a choice, one they themselves once had to make, and their fathers before them. But how he chooses isn’t exactly the point; for a foreign audience (and probably most audiences seeing this French-Israeli co-production will be outsiders) it’s the otherworldly values inherent in the relationships in the movie: family loyalty, respect, tradition, community.

Kosashvili, 35, views the world and his film philosophically. "I don’t believe that Zaza even has a choice," he told The Journal in Hebrew from his home in Israel. A Georgian immigrant himself who came to Israel at age 6, Kosashvili says the characters are a composite of his community, though the story is something he heard from a friend. "On the whole, I don’t believe in choice. The freedom to choose is nonexistent in this world," he said. Kosashvili’s worldview is definitely not an American one of manifest destiny.

"Zaza is not seeking the moment when he is supposed to decide. He is searching for the point to which he is suppose to arrive," the director said, noting that his character is not a coward, but one who acts within his own constraints.

But what about love conquering all?

"Zaza is investigating the nature of his great love," Kosashvili explains. "He discovers that his great love is for his parents."

The Circuit


A Valley-able Ally

Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino presented Allyn and Jeffrey Levine with the University of Judaism’s (UJ) Award of Merit, in recognition of their contributions to the community. Rabbi Bradley Artson, dean of the UJ’s Ziegler School, and the honorees’ daughters, Francine and Lauren Levine, led the birkat hamazon. David Kaminer played keyboard at the tribute breakfast.

Prager Meister

Master of Ceremonies Dennis Prager takes the cake at the Late-Onset Tay-Sachs Disease Foundation’s fundraiser at the Woodland Hills Country Club. Also helping raise awareness of the degenerative disease was Bonnie Pastor, president of the Foundation’s Pacific Southwest Chapter. Research has uncovered that one in 25 Ashkenazic Jews carry the disease.

Two Days in the Valley

Young Leadership Division and the Ben Gurion Society of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance co-sponsored “Souled Out,” a reception held at the home of Kim and Rob Cavallo. Alternative pop group the Goo Goo Dolls played for 200 people at the private dinner event.

On a separate occasion, Valley Alliance members were also treated to “Viewpoints,” a theatrical performance featuring a troupe of Israeli and Arab performers. The piece, which promoted cross-cultural tolerance, featured a new song by composer Marvin Hamlisch, who played musical accompaniment at the event. Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, an overseas beneficiary of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, sponsored the troupe’s tour.

Triple Play

The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance Women’s Department announced its 2000-2001 award recipients. Jill Rosenberg, Ellen Silverman, and Susan Frydrych were all honored for their community activism at the installation meeting of the Women’s Department, held at the El Caballero Country Club.

Winging It!

Former Presidential Press Secretary Dee Dee Meyers addressed an audience of top donors at Valley Alliance’s annual Major Gifts Event. The first woman and youngest person ever to serve as White House Press Secretary, Meyers held the position during the early years of the Clinton Administration. She currently serves as a consultant on NBC’s “The West Wing.”

Not for Keeps


There are lots of things wrong with awards, aside from the fact that I so rarely win one. First off, there are way too many of them. All some people have to do is show up, and you know there’s an award in store for them. Every time Steven Spielberg leaves his house, I guarantee he finds an enormous pile of plaques and commendations on his doorstep. All Jack Lemmon has to do is agree to make a movie and Mrs. Lemmon starts moving stuff around on the mantel to make room for the next load of trophies. I swear, the man collects Oscars and Emmys the way a dog collects fleas.

In case you haven’t noticed, every day brings a new awards show. As it is, with the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Emmys, the Tonys, the Golden Globes, the People’s Choice, Kennedy Center, Screen Actors Guild, the Foreign Press and all those televised tributes to country-and-western singers, there’s barely room on the tube for “I Love Lucy” reruns. Things have reached such a point of zaniness that there are even awards for awards shows.

The thing is, once created, awards, like government bureaucracies, can never be killed off. For instance, take the Oscars. Back in the ’30s, with the advent of musicals, a category was created to honor the best song. Back then, when the likes of Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Berlin and Warren were writing the tunes for the movies, the likes of “Over the Rainbow,” “That Old Black Magic” and “A Fine Romance” used to wage battle year in and year out. The competition used to be so stiff that the Gershwins, whose output for Hollywood included such musical treasures as “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “A Foggy Day,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “They All Laughed,” “Love Walked In” and “Love Is Here to Stay,” never took home an Oscar. If that doesn’t convince you how far we’ve fallen, consider, if you will, that such evergreens as “I Won’t Dance,” “Easy to Love,” “Pick Yourself Up,” “In the Still of the Night” and “Too Marvelous For Words” weren’t even nominated!

These years, when movie musicals are as passé as silent films, typically five songs without a discernible melody or a memorable lyric among them get nominated, and one of them eventually wins an Oscar that looks and feels exactly like the ones that went to “White Christmas” and “It Might as Well Be Spring.”

The truth of the matter is that most people who win awards don’t really deserve them. Eliminate politics, PR campaigns and bribes, and a lot of honors would go begging. When it comes to acting awards, it’s invariably the script that determines who deserves the victory. Or do you think it’s an accident that after winning an Oscar for Paddy Chayefsky’s “Marty,” Ernest Borgnine was never again even nominated?

The biggest problem with awards, though, is that once people win them, they get to keep them, no matter what they go on to do. At least in the world of sports, if you win a title you’re expected either to defend it on a regular basis or retire. But in the world of arts and entertainment, once they call your name out, the prize is yours, and nothing that happens afterward can force you to relinquish it.

To me, that’s just ridiculous. Consider Marlon Brando, if you will. The man has not one but two Oscars on his shelf, in his closet or stashed away on an American Indian reservation somewhere. I won’t argue that he didn’t have them coming for “On the Waterfront” and “The Godfather,” even if I hasten to point out that those were two of the best scripts ever written. (to Brando’s credit, he didn’t muck them up.) But are you going to tell me that he deserves to keep those Oscars? If a person can earn honor and esteem, can’t he also earn dishonor? And I insist that a bad review isn’t sufficient. When an actor plows on, turning out the likes of “The Freshman,” “Christopher Columbus,” “The Formula,” “Don Juan DeMarco” and “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” I want the Academy to send a couple of big guys out to Brando’s house to repossess the hardware. And in the future, he should be identified as Oscar-loser Marlon Brando.

I don’t want anyone to accuse me of picking on Americans. Take Sir Laurence Olivier. The man took home a suitcase full of Oscars for “Hamlet” and then got to keep them in spite of “Wagner,” “The Jigsaw Man,” “Wild Geese II,” “Clash of the Titans,” “The Jazz Singer” and “Inchon.” Hell, for “Inchon” alone, I’d have made him give back the knighthood.

Actors aren’t alone in this regard. The woods are full of people who should have to fork over Pulitzers, Peabodys and even Man of the Year tributes. Take Yasser Arafat. Please. Am I the only one who thinks it’s way past time that the Nobel Committee sent a bunch of big, tough Scandinavians over to his tent with orders to take back the Peace Prize?

Community Briefs


Even for an international film producer and inveterate traveler, Arthur Cohn has covered a lot of territory recently.

During the last week in October, the winner of a record five Oscars and producer of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” and “Central Station” was feted in Shanghai at his very own “Arthur Cohn Day” by the Chinese government and film industry.

He used the occasion of a retrospective of his works at the Shanghai International Film Festival to premiere his latest documentary, “Children of the Night.”

Conceived as a cinematic memorial to the 1.3 million Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust — and their rescue from the anonymity of statistics — the film resurrects the faces of its subjects, sometimes at play, more often ragged and starving.

Although the film is only 18-minutes long, Cohn spent three years scouring archives across the world for material, of which only six yielded scraps of usable footage.

For the feature film to follow the documentary at the Shanghai festival, Cohn had originally selected his 1995 movie “Two Bits” with Al Pacino. However, government officials in Beijing insisted on “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” the 1971 classic about an aristocratic Italian-Jewish family that is ultimately destroyed by the fascists.

Cohn says that he took the Beijing fiat as a signal that “the theme of the Holocaust has been openly recognized by the Chinese government for the first time.”

His reception in Shanghai was remarkable, as press and public mobbed him like some rock star. More than 130 journalists covered his press conference, during which a giant banner above his head proclaimed “World Famous Producer Arthur Cohn” in Chinese and English.

For the screening itself, Chinese fans fought for tickets to the 2,000-seat theater. When the two films ended, the audience sat, as if stunned, for three-minutes, before quietly leaving.

For most Chinese, it was their initial introduction to a Holocaust theme. Said a young hotel manager, “Six million dead … that’s as if they murdered every bicyclist in this city.”

A reporter for the Shanghai Star perceived that “Cohn seems to cherish a special feeling for the Jews.” Indeed, the producer’s next release will be “One Day in September,” referring to the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

The production will be a “thriller with documentary footage,” says Cohn, with Michael Douglas in the central role of the commentator.

“One Day in September” will have its world premiere on Jan. 18 in Los Angeles, under the auspices of the American Film Institute.

A couple of days later Cohn arrived in Hollywood to report on his Shanghai triumph and participate in the first annual International Jewish Film Festival here.

He officiated at the American premiere of “Children of the Night” and presented an award to veteran actor Gregory Peck.

Cohn, who stands a rangy six-foot, three inches, is a third generation Swiss citizen and resident of Basel.

His father, Marcus, was a respected lawyer and a leader of the Swiss religious Zionist movement. He settled in Israel in 1949, helped to write many of the basic laws of the new state, and served as Israel’s assistant attorney general until his death in 1953.

The family’s Zionist roots go even deeper. The producer’s grandfather and namesake, Rabbi Arthur Cohn, was the chief rabbi of Basel. He was a friend of Theodor Herzl and one of the few leaders in the Orthodox rabbinate to support the founder of modern Zionism.

It was because of this support, says Cohn, that Herzl chose Basel, rather than one of Europe’s more glittering capitals, as the site of the first Zionist Congress in 1897.

Of the filmmaker’s three children, two sons have served in the Israeli army and studied at Israeli universities.