Calendar Picks and Clicks: May 3-May 13, 2011


Follow Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich as he sets out across the United States and Eastern Europe to uncover why his Holocaust survivor mother believes the world is conspiring to kill her. The documentary explores a little-known disorder: late-onset post-traumatic stress disorder. A Q-and-A with Reich and producer Joanna Rudnick follows. Tue. 7:30 p.m. Free (RSVP required). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2498.


Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s department of interreligious affairs, discusses 40 years of Catholic-Jewish relations with the Rev. Patrick Desbois, president of Yahad-In Unum, an organization that facilitates meetings between Catholic bishops and Jewish Orthodox leaders. Holli Levitsky, director of Loyola Marymount University’s Jewish studies program, moderates the discussion. Wed. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Free (RSVP required). Loyola Marymount University, Hilton Center for Business, Room 100, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 338-7664.


New York Times columnist Alina Tugend, author of “Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong,” speaks at today’s annual brunch. Attendees are asked to bring toiletry items that will be used in Mother’s Day baskets for women in shelters and transitional living facilities. Thu. 10 a.m.-noon. $40. Stephen S. Wise Temple, Zeldin-Hershenson Hall, 15500 Stephen S Wise Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-8561.


A Jewish doctor (Jean Reno) and a Protestant nurse (“Inglourious Basterds’ ” Mélanie Laurent) struggle to aid thousands of Parisian Jews following a mass arrest by police in July 1942 in the L.A. premiere of “La Rafle” (“The Round Up”). Also tonight, the Chicago crime drama “Polish Bar” stars Vincent Piazza (“Boardwalk Empire”) as Reuben, a strip club DJ and drug dealer who questions his life when his Orthodox cousin arrives. Other films screening during the citywide festival include the French comedy “He’s My Girl” (May 8), “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story” (May 8), the 2011 Oscar-winning short documentary “Strangers No More” (May 9 and 11) and the Civil War documentary “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray” (May 10). Through May 12. Sat. 8 p.m. $12 (adults), $9 (seniors and students). “La Rafle,” Laemmle Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. “Polish Bar,” Laemmle Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (800) 838-3006.

Frontman Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, a 20-year-old Long Beach native and Habonim Dror alumnus, kicks off the Getty Center’s “Saturdays Off the 405” summer concert series with his acclaimed indie pop band. DJ Kevin Bronson also performs. Sat. 6-9 p.m. Free. Getty Center, Museum Courtyard, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.


The Los Angeles Jewish Home hosts its annual brunch for mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers. The celebration of motherhood at the Home’s Grancell Village and Eisenberg Village campuses includes live music, dancing, clowns, and arts and crafts. Sun. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. $20 (general), $8 (children, 5 to 11), free (children, 5 and under). Grancell Village, 7150 Tampa Ave., Reseda. Eisenberg Campus, 18855 Victory Blvd., Reseda. (818) 774-3344.


On May 15, 1974, three Palestinian terrorists, disguised as Israeli soldiers, infiltrated the Lebanese border and stormed a school in Ma’alot, where 11th-graders were spending the night. Following a two-day standoff, 21 students were killed and 71 people injured. Director Brandon Assanti reflects on the Ma’alot massacre in his new documentary, screening at theaters citywide. This one-night-only event concludes with a musical tribute by the all-star Cantors Assembly, originally featured in the film “100 Voices: A Journey Home,” singing songs that celebrate Israel Independence Day and commemorate the children of the 1974 incident. Mon. 7 p.m. $12.50. Various locations.

English, Hebrew and Yiddish mix with folk, soul and gospel as the Santa Barbara-based quartet Soul Aviv performs in celebration of Israel’s birthday. Tonight’s event also features children’s crafts and activities. Israeli dinner available for purchase. Mon. 6 p.m. Free. Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 426-7601.

Pay tribute to those who defend Israel, and celebrate the birth of the Jewish state with Cantors Joseph Gole and Arianne Brown, Aryell Cohen and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Sgt.
Benjamin Anthony of Our Soldiers Speak. A candlelighting ceremony commemorating fallen IDF soldiers features Sinai Temple’s David and Angella Nazarian Youth fellows, USYers, Sinai Akiba Academy students, IDF Maj. Roy Levy and musician Justin Stein. Mon. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3246.

WED | MAY 11

CBS/KCAL news anchor Pat Harvey moderates a discussion on teen bullying with guest speakers Gail Rolf of Friends of Project 10; Daniel Solis of the Gay Straight Alliance Network; Holly Priebe-Diaz, an intervention coordinator with LAUSD; Sara Train of The Trevor Project; Bev Meyer of the Fairfax High School Safe School Ambassadors Program; and a student from Fairfax H.S. Wed. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Free. NCJW/LA Council House, 543 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 852-8503.

THU | MAY 12

Celebrate Israel Independence Day with laughter. Comedian Joel Chasnoff, who toured with Jon Stewart and Lewis Black of “The Daily Show,” draws on a mix of personal anecdotes and keen observations of Israeli life for his act. In his irreverent memoir, “The 188th Crybaby Brigade,” Chasnoff recounts his eye-opening experience in the Israeli army as a tank gunner. Thu. 7:30 p.m. Free. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 445-1280.

Brunch at Brent’s

“Hungry People Eat at Brent’s,” the sign that greets us proclaims, and we are among the hungry when we arrive. Outside, it is damply gray and occasionally rainy, and the deli’s bustling interior seems all the cozier for it. Just inside, would-be patrons stand in quiet groups, mostly families, mostly with very young children. More than one set of sons sport matching sweaters; their parents are outfitted in sweats and running shoes, a mild concession to the impropriety of actually wearing your PJs in public. We wait for 10, maybe 12 minutes before being whisked off to a midroom booth; our orders are taken quickly and dispatched with efficiency. Sunday brunch at Brent’s is one-half family affair and one-half well-oiled machine, an experience that is brisk without ever seeming brusque. Owner Ron Peskin prowls the room in a bright yellow short-sleeve button-down shirt, seating customers and chatting with regulars. His name, along with those of his wife and children, are printed at the bottom of each receipt, thanking you for your business.

Brent’s is larger than it seems from its front, tucked into the back of a Northridge strip mall. It is marked by a stained-glass sign that reads, simply, “Welcome to Brent’s.” A green-and-white umbrella that serves as a valet stand when needed bears Brent’s signature color, repeated along with familiar deli brown in the booths and on the walls inside. Accolades and glowing reviews hang, framed, throughout the restaurant.

It has had plenty of time to acquire them: Peskin, 69, purchased a failing deli in 1969 and has been steadily transforming it ever since into one of the best loved and most respected restaurants in the city, a Los Angeles institution. The name is the sole survivor of that first incarnation, kept on because Peskin’s son happened to be a Brent as well.

“I would be sweeping in the kitchen, and people would come in and say, ‘I want to see Brent,’ ” Peskin says, reminiscing about the early days, “so I’d take them to my 4-year-old and say, ‘Here he is!’ And they’d say, ‘Well I want to speak to the owner.’ So I’d tell them, ‘I’m the owner, and now I’m busy! Go away.’ ”

If this seems cantankerous, well, perhaps he’s earned the privilege in years since. When Peskin first took over the deli, he says, there was no Jewish community to speak of in the Valley. He’d sell a whitefish a week — if he was lucky. However, Peskin was as savvy then as he is now: He’d insist on purchasing three of the fish, knowing two would be a loss, because a single one looked too sad to display in a case by itself.

That confidence has served him well in the intervening years, turning him into one of the top names in L.A.’s well-stocked deli scene. And though has opened up a second location in Westlake Village, run by his daughter and son-in-law, he claims never to visit other delis.

“I’m not that curious,” he announces wryly.

He does, however, keep a close eye on the whole of his operation: Upstairs, in the back, is a small office where a computer displays feeds from nearly 20 security cameras, offering glimpses into both locations. It’s a little after noon on a Sunday, and on the monitors we see the Westlake location, where the bar is half full of customers enjoying a beer and watching the Masters golf tournament. A different kind of relaxation than the brunch crowd here in Northridge, sure, but Peskin views it as an equal source of pride. We walk downstairs, through the kitchen, which is itself deceptively huge and surprisingly quiet and clean, especially given the volume of the crowd outside. It has grown since my 11 a.m. arrival; Peskin says it will stay this busy until around 2:30.

By this point I have gone from hungry to starving, and Brent’s does not disappoint. A bagel and lox comes with an ice-cream-size scoop of cream cheese and generous helpings of onions, tomatoes and — obviously — lox over a bed of lettuce. The toppings are so generous, in fact, that the bagel is presented on its own plate. Blintzes are burrito-sized and delicious, soft dough plumped by sweet filling that is neither soggy nor cloying. I had planned on bringing home one of the black-and-white cookies from the display cases up front, but I’m too stuffed to even consider it as I head up to pay the check. Hungry people arrive at Brent’s, sure, but no one ever leaves that way, and if Peskin has his way, no one ever will.

He stops by the table toward the end of the meal to chat briefly and laughs off the idea of retirement: “It’ll never happen,” he says, looking around his cozy kingdom of friends and regulars, before taking off to guide another group to their table. They, too, are hungry, and it is time to get them fed.