Candle No. 1.
Who says a baby is too young to light a menorah? As they say, practice makes perfect. So start with the huggable, colorful “My First Plush Menorah” ($13.95, oytoys.com). The best part: It comes with a special pouch holding nine candles that fit right into the menorah’s holders.
Candle No. 2.
Any young child would want to cuddle with the bright blue Mazel teddy bear by Russ Berrie & Co. ($12.99, amazon.com). But if you’re having trouble peeling a kid away from the computer, slip in the CD-ROM, “Who Stole Hanukkah?” ($19.95, davka.com). The interactive mystery game teaches the story of the Maccabees in five languages.
Candle No. 3.
When it comes to teenagers away at college, first thing’s first: send a menorah. A classic Chanukiah will do the job ($24.95, crateandbarrel.com). Then, it’s about what a teenage girl wants. A trendy T-shirt makes a statement. The “Famous Challah Bread” tee takes its cue from rap and hip-hop, sporting the words “Challah Bread” on the front and “Challah Back” on the back — as in, when someone gives a shout, you “challah” right back. The saucy “Kabballywood Tee” pokes fun at Hollywood stars like Madonna who can’t get enough of kabbalah. ($30-$40, chosencouture.com).
For an aspiring superhero teenage boy, pick up a copy of the “Jewish Super Hero Corps Comic Book” featuring Menorah Man and Dreidel Maidel ($3.95, jewcy.com). Throw in some classic, kosher Hebrew Bazooka Gum, which has comics inside its wrappers ($10.95 for 100 pieces, jewishsource.com). Another Jewish superhero, “The Hebrew Hammer,” saves Chanukah, this year out on DVD. ($16.99, thehebrewhammer.com)
Candle No. 4.
If Mom has all the menorahs she needs, give her an elegant dreidel she can display. Waterford makes a beautiful, crystal dreidel etched with Hebrew letters ($49, bloomingdales.com). If you want to splurge, buy a handcrafted, porcelain, Lladró dreidel. The detail makes these pieces unique. ($105-$130, macys.com).
Candle No. 5.
Nudge Dad into the miracle mood with music. The group, Safam, has a lively “Chanukah Collection” and “Passover Collection” two-CD set ($25, safam.com). Original and upbeat tunes like “Eight Little Candles,” “Maoz Tsur” and “Judah Maccabee” will get Dad — and the whole family — hopping. You can listen to some songs on the Web site before you buy, but you won’t go wrong with this one.
Candle No. 6.
Grandparents will love a gift they can share with their grandchildren. Those who speak a bissel of Yiddish are sure to get nachas from reading their grandchildren Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” — in Yiddish ($15, jewcy.com). But if the language of the Old World prompts an “oy vey,” go with a modern classic like “A Blue’s Clues Chanukah” by Jessica Lissy for preschoolers ($11.80, amazon.com) or “Festival of Lights: The Story of Hanukkah” by Maida Silverman, for children 4-8 years old ($5.99, amazon.com).
Candle No. 7.
There’s always the family friend or baby sitter who deserves some love. In this case, your best bet is an edible treat. For a cookie “monster,” get some chocolate-covered Oreo cookies topped with Chanukah decorations. Nine cookies come in a gold box, tied with a blue ribbon ($16.99, macys.com). Make a chocolate lover’s day with See’s Candies’ Star-of-David box. It’s filled with kosher goodies like milk chocolate coins, blue-and-white sugar sticks and lollipops that will satisfy any sweet tooth ($8, seescandy.com).
Candle No. 8.
Worried your pet will feel left out? Chanukah’s no time for ordinary ol’ bones. Throw a dog the blue and yellow “Squeaky Dreidel Dog Toy” ($8, jewishsource.com) and a give your cat some silver and blue “Chanukah Mice” ($7.99, petco.com).
Give Thanksgiving a Jewish Flavor
The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed orfaxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least threeweeks in advance to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Keren Engelberg
Hebrew Discovery Center: Nov. 26-28. Family Shabbaton with special guest speaker Rabbi Isaac Balaness. $195, $375 (couples). Ventura Beach Marriott, 2055 Harbor Blvd., Ventura Beach. R.S.V.P., (818) 348-4432.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Padua Playwrights: 4:30 p.m. Padua Playwrights presents a workshop production of “Tirade for Three” and “Gary’s Walk,” parts one and two of a trilogy by Murray Mednick. $10. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 823-0710, ext. 4.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family JCC: Noon-5 p.m. “Diversity of Life: A Photographic Exhibit” by Zion Ozeri. Free. David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. (858) 362-1348.
Yiddish Alive: 4-7 p.m. A new conversation group in Orange County. All ages and experience levels welcome. Temple Beth Tikvah Fullerton, 1600 N. Acacla, Fullerton. (714) 671-0707.
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel: 7 p.m. Discussion on “‘In God’s Image’ or ‘The Image of God’: a Spiritual Look at Your Brain.” $15 (includes dinner). 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7311.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Workmen’s Circle: 3-5 p.m. Stanley Schwartz presents his “The Peaceable Kingdom” sculpture. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.
Academy for the Performing Arts at Huntington Beach High School: 7:30 p.m. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” the story of one boy’s journey through the Terezin ghetto on the way to the Auschwitz death camp. $6. Huntington Beach Library Theatre, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 536-2514, ext. 4305.
MET Theatre Company: 8 p.m. Opening of “The Merchant of Venice,” the classic play reset in early 20th-century New York. $15, $12 (students and seniors). 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. (323) 957-1152.
Beth Jacob (teens): 9 a.m. “NFL” Non-stop Fun and Learning, featuring four big-screen NFL games playing simultaneously. Free. 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911, ext. 120.
OASIS (seniors): 1:30-3 p.m. Yiddish conversation group. All levels welcome. $5 (per trimester). Jewish Family Service, 8838 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 446-8053.
City of Hope Singers: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Vocal group for singers of all skill levels from all over Los Angeles. Hope Village, Comedy Theatre, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte. (714) 562-0860.
Caravan for Democracy: 5 p.m. Natan Sharansky, Israeli minister for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs addresses students and faculty at UCLA. Free. www.caravanfordemocracy.org. For more information, see page 16.
The Menachem Institute: 7:30 p.m. Rabbi Laibl Wolf discusses “The Art of Jewish Meditation.” ($5 in advance), $7 (at the door). 18181 Burbank Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 758-1818.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Hammer conversation with screenwriter Bill Condon and author T.C. Boyle. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7056.
Jewish Federation of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley Jewish Book Festival: 7:30 p.m. Author Kate Wenner discusses “Dancing With Einstein.” La Canada residence. R.S.V.P., (626) 967-3656.
Adat Ari El: 12:30-1:30 p.m. Erika Jacoby a Holocaust survivor discusses her new book, “I Held the Sun in My Hands – a Memoir.” $3. 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.
StandWithUs: 7 p.m. Lecture by Khaled Abu Toameh, award-winning Palestinian journalist. $10 (in advance), $15 (at the door). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-6140.
Jewish Book Month: 7:30 p.m. Author Ruth Ellen Gruber speaks about her latest book, “Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.” Alpert JCC, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 985-7585.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Some Favorite Writers presents Jonathan Franzen. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.
Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 7 p.m. (beginners), 8 p.m. (regular class), 9:15 p.m. -midnight (open dancing). David Dassa leads Israeli dancing. $7. Irmas Campus, 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. email@example.com.
Valley Beth Shalom Day School: 9:15 a.m. Kindergarten Live. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 530-4072.
Temple Isaiah: 4-7 p.m. Chanukah Bazaar. 332 W. Alejo Rd., Palm Springs. (760) 325-2281.
Northridge Hospital Medical Center: 6:30 p.m. The Healing Arts program offers its monthly topic, “Balanced Nutrition for Holiday Eating.” Roscoe Campus, Penthouse Auditorium, 18400 Roscoe Blvd., Northridge. (818) 885-5488.
Israel Cancer Research Fund: 7 p.m. Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, associate clinical professor, UCLA department of neurology, discusses “Using Molecular Biology to Individualize Brain Cancer Care.” Free. Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. 1224 Beverwil Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (323) 651-1200.
California Museum of Ancient Art: 7:30 p.m. “Warrior Women of the Bible” with speaker Dr. David Noel Freedman. First in a two-part series, “Women of the Ancient Near East.” $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), free (members). Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Piness Auditorium, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 762-5500.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
L.A. Film School: 8 p.m. Larry Hankin’s “10 Funny Fables Plus 1” with cameos by Janeane Garofolo, Larry Hankin, Jeff Garlin, Jerry Stiller and others. Free. 6363 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (877) 952-3456.
B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 6:30-7:30 p.m. A musical family shabbat. Services and potluck dinner. Free. 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 645-6262.
Nashuva: 6:45 p.m. Nashuva community service-oriented Kabbalat Shabbat.
Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd, Westwood. www.nashuva.com.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
CSUN Arts Council: 7-9 p.m. Eighth annual high school art invitational opening reception. Thirty-nine Valley high schools and more than 200 students are participating in the show. Main Gallery, N. University Drive, Northridge. (818) 677-2226.
Camelot Artists Productions: 8 p.m. David Steen’s “A Gift From Heaven” is the story of an Appalachian family’s demise. $28 (general), $20 (students). Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 358-9936.
Vanguard Theatre Ensemble: 8 p.m. Opening night gala of the holiday play “Greetings.” Champagne reception immediately follows the show. $23. 120-A W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton. (714) 526-8007.
Imaginary Friends Music Partners: 9 p.m.-midnight. Jazz pianist George Kahn and the George Kahn Quartet play songs from their newest release “Compared to What?” Featuring Andy Suzuki, Karl Vincent and Paul Kreibech. $10 cover, plus minimum. Lunaria Jazz Club, 10352 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City. (310) 282-8870.
Chai Center: Dec. 3-5. Desert Hot Springs Retreat. Hot springs mineral baths, women speakers and teachers, gourmet healthy food, stress reduction, massage and informal classes. R.S.V.P., (310) 391-6691.
Sat., Dec. 11
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
MnR Dance Factory: Creative drama workshops for children with Chicago actress/writer Lisa Diana Shapiro. Free. 11606 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 826-4554.
Sun., Dec. 12
ATID (21-39): Dec. 12, 4 p.m. “Adventures in Judaism II” for young professionals ages 21-39, an afternoon of workshops, latkes, cocktails, “ultimate dreidel” and a Middle Eastern buffet. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244.
Dec. 30-Jan. 2
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Wilshire Boulevard Temple: Winter Rikud in Malibu. Israeli dancing weekend. From $175. www.rikud.com.
Jewish Student Union: Applications now available online for the annual JSU New York experience trip. www.jsu.org.
Conversations at Leon’s: 7:30 p.m. Post-Thanksgiving mixer. $15-$20. 639 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 393-4616.
Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. “Not-So-Speedy Meeting” and game night in conjunction with Temple Ner Maarav. $9. 17730 Magnolia Blvd, Encino. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 750-0095.
Jewish Singles Volleyball: 3 p.m. Volleyball and post-game no-host dinner. Free. Playa del Rey Beach court No. 11 at the end of Culver Boulevard, Playa del Rey. (310) 278-9812.
JDate: 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (concert). Performance by Israeli recording artist Noa. $45 (online only). Fred Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. www.jdate.com.
New Age Singles (55+): 7 p.m. “Starlight Ballroom Dance” with music by Johnny Vana Trio. $10-$12. University Synagogue 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 473-1391.
Nexus (20s and 30s): 7:30 p.m. (beginners), 8:15 p.m. (intermediate), 9-10 p.m. (open dance). Israeli dancing lessons and open dance. $5 (members), $6 (nonmembers). Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. www.jewishnexus.org.
Project Next Step: 8 p.m. “Coffee Talk” with coffee and pastries. $7. 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 284-3638.
L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: 6-9 p.m. Dinner at Marmalade Cafe. The Grove, Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.
Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. Therapist Maxine Gellar leads a discussion about “My Most Embarrassing Moment.” $10. R.S.V.P., (310) 444-8986.
The New JCC at Milken: 8-11 p.m. James Zimmer leads Israeli folk dancing. $5-$6. Salsa, swing and tango lessons for an additional $3 (7-8 p.m.). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (310) 284-3638.
Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m. Volleyball followed by no-host dinner. End of Culver Boulevard, near court No. 15, Playa del Rey. www.jewishnexus.org.
Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Date or Mate, What Are You Looking For?” $15-$17. 639 226th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P. (310) 393-4616.
J Networking: 7:30 p.m. The new Jewish networking group meets in the West San Fernando Valley. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 342-2898.
Mosaic: Dec. 2-5. Trip to Kartchner Caverns, Ariz. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandeis-Bardin/Makor Jewish Learning Circle: Dec. 3-5. Partnership weekend with the theme “The Search for Roots and Wings: Commitment and Creativity” with Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin. $130 (singles), $240 (couples). Simi Valley. (805) 582-4450.
New Age Singles: 6 p.m. No-host dinner at Nibbler’s in Beverly Hills followed by Creative Arts Shabbat Service at Temple Beth Am. 1039 La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 838-7459.
Singles Toward Marriage (30-39): 6:30 p.m. Monthly Shabbat dinner with group discussions led by Rabbi Shlomo and Tovi Bistritzky. 5998 Conifer St., Oak Park. R.S.V.P., (818) 993-0441.
Sat., Dec. 11
Sephardic Singles Havurah (40s-60s): 7 p.m. Chanukah celebration and potluck dinner with candlelighting, prayers, songs and dancing. $5. R.S.V.P., (323) 294-6084.
J-Ski (20s-40s): Mammoth Ski Trip. $185. Also, March 2-6, Whistler Ski Trip. $759. JskiLa@aol.com.
Le Nouvel Anti-Semitism
What’s new in French anti-Semitism? Head downtown Thursday, Dec. 2 to find out as ALOUD at Central Library presents Michael Curtis, who will discuss “Anti-Semitism in France: Past and Present.” The author of numerous books on the history of France and anti-Semitism will discuss the relationship between historic traditional anti-Semitism in France and its current manifestations, including new factors like the extreme political left and Muslim
Yiddishkayt for Yiddle Ones
Hey parents… Uneasy about plopping your toddlers on the
sofa to watch a puffy purple dinosaur? Think they need more Jewish culture?
The founders of “OyBaby” say it’s never too early to start
teaching your kids — 6 months and up — about Yiddishkayt.
The “OyBaby” DVD/VHS and accompanying CD educates the babes
in basics like the Hebrew alphabet, colors and numbers, with a backdrop of
colorful music. The collection features Jewish classics like “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem,”
and “David Melech Yisrael” sung by vocalists Stephanie and Lisa Schneiderman
and Kim Palumbis. Loaded with Jewish rituals, the visual “OyBaby” has scenes of
a woman lighting Shabbat candles with a baby girl dutifully mimicking the act
of covering her eyes, and a recitation of “Hamotzi,” with the toddlers munching
Just in time for Chanukah, the lovely trio sing the “Maoz Tzur”
with candles being lit and dreidel playing in the background.
“Growing up, our parents taught us to celebrate our Judaism,
and music was always a central part of that experience,” said Lisi Wolf, one of
the founders. “Now, as parents, we hope to do the same for our son. ‘OyBaby’
will be one of the first steps in his Jewish discovery, and we wish the same
for other Jewish babies around the world.”
For more information, visit
Holy Gifts for a Good Cause
In the days when National Public Radio flagship KCRW-FM was an obscure Santa Monica College station, general manager Ruth Seymour decided to create a live Chanukah show as an alternative to Christmas programming.
It was actually a Yiddish show — feting a culture Seymour imbibed during her 1940s Bronx childhood — but during its 1978 debut, the phones went dead and stayed there.
"Honestly, I thought we’d gone off the air," she told The Journal. "Then the show ended, and the switchboard exploded for three hours. People absolutely went berserk."
Since then, Seymour’s annual Chanukah time show, "Fiddlers, Philosophers and Fools," has become a holiday institution. Jews and non-Jews tune in to hear her play folk music, 1940s pop tunes and Yiddish prose translated into English, among other fare.
There’s also a Holocaust memorial segment, which is one reason Seymour refuses to record the show. "People are angry about that," said KCRW’s visionary leader, whose parents were intellectual, immigrant leftists. "But I always wanted the program to be ephemeral. This is really a show about a culture and a way of life that was lost."
"Fiddler" helped keep the mamaloshen (mother tongue) alive in Los Angeles, according to Yiddishkayt L.A. founder Aaron Paley. Years before, the klezmer revival helped fuel a Yiddish renaissance in the late 1980s, "the only visible evidence of Yiddish for the general public here was Ruth’s show," he said.
Seymour — who attended the rigorous Sholom Aleichem "folk schools" — takes the responsibility seriously. Every year, she trudges to Hatikvah music on Fairfax Avenue to pick up and peruse scores of albums. She said keeping "Fiddlers" fresh is easier because the Yiddish revival spurred diverse CDs by young artists.
Just don’t ask her to make any other changes to the show. "It’s the most personal thing I do on the air, because it’s so redolent of my childhood and my beliefs," she said. "So either take it as it is or turn the dial." n
7 Days in the Arts
Listening to Needs
When kids from Sinai Temple celebrate Chanukah with the members of Temple Beth Solomon (TBS) in Tarzana on Friday night, Dec. 6, they’ll notice that the service is slower and streamlined, but that the singing is performed with every bit as much gusto as a “Friday Night Live” service. And the kids themselves will be able to join in, having learned how to sign the “Shema” when TBS members paid a visit to Sinai.
Building bridges between the deaf and hearing communities is the goal of programs like those of TBS and the group Our Way, which is aimed at observant Jews. More than ever in history, deaf Jews are looking to connect with their heritage and trying to overcome the frustration of a hearing Jewish community that, while well-meaning, still doesn’t seem to “get it.”
For example, a number of people — like the producers of the “Hallelu” concert held Oct. 20 at the Universal Amphitheatre — are attempting to make their programs more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing by providing interpreters. While the deaf community appreciates the gesture, TBS administrator Jan Seely believes it misses the point.
“You could have someone sign the music but it’s not the same experience,” she said. “There is something in the music you will never get through an interpreter. You’ll get lyrics, you might get rhythm, but you’re not getting the essence.” Not only that, but as TBS lay leader Roz Robinson points out, there is a large constituency of older Jews who missed out on having a Jewish education because they attended residential schools for the deaf. As a result, they lack the basics that most rabbis and teachers take for granted when giving a lecture and are unable to appreciate what is being signed to them in temple services and sermons.
“If the material of the sermon is over their heads and nothing they can relate to, the deaf would be lost even with an interpreter, because an interpreter doesn’t explain anything,” Robinson said. “The interpreter only translates what is being said into sign language. The Hebrew portion of any service is also a problem. Most interpreters will only sign, ‘speaking Hebrew.'”
In general, there are numerous problems for the Jewish deaf, which probably never occur to those who can hear. If you are trying to follow an interpreter and your attention wanders, you may not be able to find your place again in the service. And what if the lighting is poor or there are other visual obstructions? At one Orthodox service that hosted deaf visitors, the mechitza made it almost impossible to follow the service when seated in the women’s section.
Even participating in Jewish communal and social activities presents a challenge.
Robinson, the only deaf person in her family of four, expressed frustration with the fact that she has never been able to fully participate in the sisterhoods at either of the hearing shuls her family joined. Although she is a very animated talker and speaks clearly enough to be easily understood, Robinson said the few times she attended Jewish communal events she never spoke up, fearing that by the time she jumped into the conversation the others would have already moved on to another topic — and she would be left looking and feeling foolish.
“Large group discussions are impossible for deaf people to follow and participate in, even with an interpreter, because people talk in random order and because the deaf are always one step behind whatever is happening,” she said.
“I can’t really see any temple providing full access for the deaf except for our temple, because it is designed by and for deaf people,” Robinson said. “We understand all the pitfalls and can meet individual needs in our small group.” However, TBS is affiliated with the Reform movement. For more observant Jews, Our Way may provide a more fitting alternative, helping its members integrate into hearing Orthodox congregations.
Our Way is a New York-based national organization run by Rabbi Eliezer Lederfeind, the hearing son of two deaf parents who has two deaf daughters among his six children.
When Lederfeind became observant as an adult, he noticed “there were certainly clubs for the Jewish deaf but it was not the same as having a real level of observance and commitment.”
He began working with deaf Jewish teenagers and gradually expanded the program to include family Shabbatons, programs teaching Torah via e-mail and a sports program for deaf children with separate gyms for boys and girls. The organization even has a matchmaking service, the Jewish Deaf Singles Registry (www.jdsr.org).
Lori Moore, a North Hollywood mother of two boys and a teenage girl, leads the Our Way chapter in California. Her sons, Jason, 20, and Andrew, 12, are both deaf. She said the family’s involvement with Our Way has helped her children to integrate better into their community. She recently helped plan a Shabbaton hosted at Shaarey Zedek that drew participants from across the country. “The Shabbaton was a good eye-opener,” she said. “People could see how the deaf are really excluded from the community. Even when we want rabbis to come speak to the Our Way group, they are apprehensive. I really wish, with all the money the shuls raise, that they would give some to Our Way to help people stay in touch with their Judaism.”
Jason Moore, reached in New York, said there have been difficulties (“In middle school, I wasn’t exactly welcomed among my peers”), he wrote in an e-mail, but that there have been certain advantages to having a hearing loss, including the strength of the deaf community.
“It’s amazing how much the deaf look after their own,” he said. “Also, I can shut off my hearing aids when conversations start to annoy me.”
His challenges as a religious Jew who is also deaf are more complex. They include issues like not being able to hear the shofar being blown and questions from others about whether he is “able to be Yoseh under someone else’s bracha” — in other words, whether halachically he is able to perform a mitzvah on behalf of other people, like reading the Megillah, if he cannot hear it and therefore cannot fulfill the mitzvah for himself.
Still, while some deaf Jews remark that they would characterize themselves as deaf first and Jewish second, Jason Moore disagrees.
“I am a Jew; deafness is secondary,” he said. “Deafness only applies in this olam hazeh [this world] whereas being Jewish applies in this world and the next.”
“Being a religious Jew overtakes any ‘defect’ a person might have, because whatever your defect, you are always Jewish,” Moore said.
The Moore family and Robinson, while on very different ends of the religious spectrum, do agree on one thing: hearing and deaf communities should continue to strive for greater inclusion, on both sides.
“TBS is open to all,” Robinson said. “Our services are completely voiced in addition to signed, so that anyone can follow along with us.”
L.A. Jews Aid Argentines
The Musical Sound of ‘Lights’
Not all Chanukah music is kiddie music — even when it’s played by kids. On Sunday, Dec. 1, the Skirball Cultural Center will host the West Coast premiere of Russell Steinberg’s suite, "Lights On!" Steinberg will conduct the Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra, a group of 70 youngsters ages 9 to 18 from throughout greater Los Angeles, who attend more than 40 public and private schools.
The second half of the program will be Steinberg’s "Symphony No. 2," titled, "What Is a Jew?" featuring narration by actor Ed Asner, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin of Stephen S. Wise Temple and Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom.
"Lights On!" gives a symphonic twist to eight traditional Chanukah tunes. After beginning in darkness, the musicians add one melody after another, with the light increased for each tune, until they finish in a blaze of light and a complex intertwining of sound — a musical chanukiah on the eighth night of the holiday.
"I didn’t like most Chanukah music," Steinberg told The Journal, speaking from a residency at the MacDowell Colony, an artists’ retreat in New Hampshire. That disaffinity, he said, "gave me a blank canvas," and the piece wound up being "a lot of fun to write."
Steinberg, 43, who holds a doctorate in music composition from Harvard University, was hired at Milken Community High School four years ago to teach music. He created a conservatory at the school that gradually expanded to younger children. The youth orchestra is an outgrowth of the conservatory.
"We’re reaching out to the whole community, not just Jewish kids," Steinberg said.
A self-described "Valley boy," Steinberg said he came late to an interest in Jewish music, which was sparked by his involvement with Milken and through association with Noreen Green, director of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Attending Shabbatons at Brandeis-Bardin Institute, he said, also brought him into Jewish life.
"I realized [music] was a wonderful way for me to explore Judaism," Steinberg said. "It’s a journey I never would have imagined taking."
The Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra will perform Sunday, Dec. 1, at 4 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. $8 (Skirball members), $10 (nonmembers). For tickets call (310) 440-3500 ext. 3344.
Everyone Likes ‘Pie’
7 Days in the Arts
Puppets, paupers, pirates and poets — especially poets — are invited to the Workmen’s Circle tonight for Slam Shirim, a competitive performance poetry event for the Jewish community. Anyone can sign up to perform, judges are chosen randomly from the audience and the rest of the audience is encouraged to share their reaction to the poetry, so expect a raucous evening. The flyer says it’s “like an amusement park adventure of spoken word.” We say it’s good, artsy fun.
8 p.m. $7 (members); $10 (nonmembers). 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.
Chanukah comes early this year, but it can’t come early enough for the kids. Universal Studios understands, and they’re bringing out the chanukiah — and the stars — a few days early for a big park-wide celebration today. Spider-Man spins the dreidel, the Rugrats characters light the candles, Mayor James Hahn will lend an official air to the proceedings and Jerry’s Famous Deli will present “The World’s Largest Latka.” Plus, the performances range from the sweet Mallory Lewis and Lambchop to Jewish rapper Remedy of the Wu-Tang Clan. This Chanukah celebration, co-sponsored by The Journal, has something for everyone — it’s Universal!
10 a.m.-6 p.m. With coupon it’s $35 (adults) and $25 (children).
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. (800) 864-8377.
“When you’re a Hip Hop Hoodio, it’s Chanukah-time 24/7, 365 days a year.” So say the members of Hip Hop Hoodios, the Latino-Jewish rap supergroup, and listening to their music, you believe them. In addition to a beat-heavy version of “Hava Nagila,” the group’s album, “Raza Hoodia,” includes their attitude-heavy Chanukah track, “Ocho Kandelikas.” UCLA Hillel and Yiddishkayt L.A. bring this free concert tonight, with multiethnic samba-funk-rockers Bayu and an afternoon discussion panel on what all this fusion means.
2 p.m. (panel). 2408 Ackerman, UCLA. 8 p.m. (concert). Bradley International Hall, 417 Charles E. Young Drive West, UCLA. (213) 389-8880.
Set in the near future, George Larkin’s new play “Perverse Tongue” portrays an America ruled by an absolute literalist interpretation of the Bible. Follow the story of two sisters, the younger of whom must flee the Soldiers of God, enforcers who want to put her on trial for having been raped.
8 p.m. $15. Mon.-Wed., through Dec. 18. No performance Wed. Nov. 27 or Mon. Dec. 2. MET Theater, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. (323) 957-1152.
She may be better known for her decades of social activism, but Betty Sheinbaum is also recognized for her art. When she's not filling banquet halls with friends for a fundraiser, Sheinbaum fills galleries with her paintings. Now at Santa Monica's The Artist's Gallery, her collection "Bullfighting" examines the dramatic tension between man and beast.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Through Nov. 30. The Artist’s Gallery, 2903 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 829-9556.
Sculptor Keith Edmier doesn’t claim to be the only artist inspired by an angel, but he may be the only one to collaborate this well with a Charlie’s Angel. Edmier began a collaboration with Farrah Fawcett in 1999 and the fruits of their labor are on display now at LACMA. Fawcett, an art major in college, contributed equally to the six-sculpture, multiple-photo exhibit, which set out to examine the relationship between artist and muse.
Through Feb. 17, 2003. $7 (adults); $5 (seniors and students); $1 (children).
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000.
Light one candle, have some latkes, then head out to celebrate the first night of Chanukah with a few laughs from Eric Schwartz, known to listeners of KIIS-FM as Smooth E, the Suburban Homeboy. The Thousand Oaks-raised comic will be sharing the stage with some big names next week at The Jewish Federation’s Vodka Latka gala, but you can also catch “Lose the Gelt,” “Welcome to the Valley” and other hip-hop ha-has this weekend.
8 p.m. Also Sat. Hornblowers Comedy Club,
1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura. (805) 658-2202.
Everyone Likes ‘Pie’
Music for All Ages
For the Kids
When Paul Zim sent me his new children’s CD, “Shabbat is Here,” to review, I did the only logical thing — I gave it to my 5-year-old son, Yair, for his opinion. The reviews are in — “This is great!”
Yair is a long-time fan of Zim, who is known not only for his children’s music but for his cantorial work and Yiddish songs.
In addition to some original songs written for “Shabbat Is Here,” Zim does his own variations on classics such “Bim Bam,” “Yom Rishon,” and “Gili Gili Good Shabbat,” and includes traditional favorites such as “Lecha Dodi,” “Mizmor Shir” and “Eliyahu Hanavi.” The musical styles vary from klezmer to jazz to something that sounded like a cowboy ballad.
Like Zim’s other children’s tapes, such as the Noah’s ark-themed “Zimmy Zim’s Zoo” and “Jewish Holiday Time,” “Shabbat is Here” establishes a friendly rapport with listeners by using children as back-up singers and narrators in the ongoing dialogue that carries through the tape, explaining various aspects of Shabbat. Zim’s singing is slow and enunciated so that even small children can learn the words to Hebrew songs they may not even understand.
“Shabbat is Here” is available at local Judaica stores, or by calling (888)3-SAMEACH, www.paulzim.com.
For the Bigger Kids
Just in time for Chanukah, Craig Taubman has produced “Celebrate Kids: Kids’ Kosher Cuts,” a fourth CD in his “Celebrate Series,” which includes theme albums on Chanukah, Passover and Shabbat.
This latest CD, like the others in the series, includes selections from about a dozen singers, from favorites such as Debbie Friedman and Craig ‘n Co. to some newcomers. The musical styles are diverse and tantalizing — you never quite know what might come next: ’50s bebop, a cappella, country, jazz, disco and even a song by “Visions” that sounds like it came off a Britney Spears track.
What holds the CD together is a broad, unifying message — being Jewish is cool, it’s fun and it gives you something to think about. Half of all revenues from this CD will go to Magen David Adom.
The CD is available at Borders Books, Gelsons and Ralphs, or at (800) 6-CRAIG-8, www.celebrateseries.com.
For the Grownups
The Western Wind Ensemble, in cooperation with National Public Radio, has released an updated version of its choral and narrative “Chanukah in Story and Song.” Narrated by Leonard Nimoy, the CD interweaves the story of Chanukah with vocal arrangements, both a cappella and accompanied, from the span of Jewish musical history.
With Chasidic melodies, Israeli folk songs and liturgical pieces set to both contemporary and classical compositions, the CD offers an evocative and thoughtful rendition of the traditional story.
Especially moving is solo performance of a Sephardic melody about Hannah, whose seven sons submitted to the sword rather than commit idolatry.
KCRW 89.9 FM will air the Western Wind’s “Chanukah in
Story and Song” Friday, Dec. 14, noon-3 p.m. To order the CD, call (800)
788-2187, www.westernwind.org .
Olive Oil Treats
Flash! Handel’s Chanukah Oratorio in Yiddish
This year the December dilemma got just a little easier, thanks to George Frederick Handel and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony with help from the late, great Max Helfmann.
In a concert entitled “The Light of Helfman-Generations of Music from the Brandeis-Bardin Institute”, which celebrates Max Helfman, founder of Brandeis Bardin’s Summer Arts Institute, the LAJS will inaugurate its sixth season with a performance of Handel’s triumphant “Judas Maccabeus” in a Yiddish translation by Helfman.
Drawing on the drama of the Hanukkah Story, Helfman’s unique adaptation brings new life to this holiday classic. The concert will mark the first performance that combines Handel’s original orchestration with the Yiddish text.
Something for Everyone
Some years ago, the American Booksellers Association’s holiday advertising theme was the phrase: “Give a gift of love; Give a book.” Jewish Book Month, scheduled in November, anticipated the gift-giving season. This year, as always, a fresh crop of children’s books appeared for the holiday. Consider choosing one of these instead of toys that beep and break:
* Highly praised in publications of the American Library Association and other reviewing journals, Cathy Goldberg Fishman’s “On Chanukah” (Atheneum, 1998) describes the meaning and rituals of the holiday as observed by a young girl and her family. As each candle is lit, a different aspect of the observance is examined and differing qualities are associated with each night’s light: a light of hope, strength, giving, knowledge, freedom, happiness or faith in the darkness. Illustrations by Melanie W. Hall are in mixed media, soft and somewhat abstractly rendered images of family celebration, which include specific symbols in their fluidly glowing composition. Ages 4-8.
* “A Chanukah Treasury” (Henry Holt, 1998), compiled by prolific children’s writer Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Emily Lisker, is a delightful compendium of not only history and tradition, but stories, songs, poetry, recipes, legends and lore. It offers information found nowhere else I know of: for example, the source of the White House Menorah (did you know there was one?); how to celebrate Chanukah in Alaska while being stalked by a moose (hint: he loves latkes); and a few interesting variations on the dreidel game. The pictures, in acrylic paints on canvas, are brightly colored, reminiscent of folk art and a definite asset to this entertaining and educational work. For family use; all ages.
* Little people are not unknown in Jewish children’s literature. We did, after all, have K’tonton. But he was an out-in-the-open human family member. In “When Mindy Saved Chanukah” (Scholastic Press, 1998), also by Eric Kimmel, Mindy Klein’s miniature family — like The Borrowers — live very much behind the scenes, in the back of the walls of the famous Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York. When the shul brings in a predatory cat, the Klein family’s plans to go foraging for a candle with which to celebrate Chanukah become very dangerous indeed. After Papa fails, intrepid Mindy dares all and succeeds, helped by zayde, who understands that cats can seldom resist pickled herring. Barbara McClintock’s ink, watercolor and gouache illustrations are a delight, using sepia tones to enhance the early 1900s setting and amusing details to underscore the family’s size (zayde’s helmet is a thimble; Mindy’s climbing hook is a paperclip). Ages 4-8.
* Mark Podwal, whose work appears both in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Times, is the author/illustrator of many Jewish books. His latest, “The Menorah Story (Greenwillow, 1998), is in simple text and glowing pictures. Podwal gracefully casts light on this important symbol and its place in Chanukah’s history. Ages 5 and up.
* In 1987, Jane Breskin Zalben began writing and illustrating a series of warm and cozy stories that brought Jewish holiday tales into the popular tradition of using small animals to tell universal stories. This holiday season brings us “Pearl’s Eight Days of Chanukah (Simon & Shuster, 1998). Pearl, a young lamb, celebrates each of the eight days along with visiting cousins Harry and Sophie. Linked by short segments describing the family’s activities for each night are recipes, crafts, puppet shows, songs, history of the holiday and more. Painstakingly and charmingly illustrated in pencil and watercolor, this is an excellent guide for families celebrating with young children. Ages 4-9.
* For a Chanukah chuckle, seek out David A. Adler’s “Chanukah in Chelm,” wonderfully illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1997). In this picture book, Mendel, the caretaker of the shul, has a big problem when the rabbi instructs him to place the chanukiyah on a table by the window so its glow may be seen outside. Finding the menorah in a closet, he goes off in a futile search for a table, ignoring (like many of us) what is right under his nose, the table the menorah rested on in the first place. Funny and fond old-world watercolor and pen pictures by O’Malley are just the thing to expand upon Adler’s humorous folk tale. Ages 4 and up.
Also appropriate for Chanukah are several new books that not only address Chanukah, but the entire Jewish year:
* Gilda Berger’s “Celebrate! Stories of the Jewish Holidays” (Scholastic Press, 1998), with vivid and dramatic watercolor paintings by Peter Catalanotto, first ties each holiday to a story from the Bible (e.g. the story of Jonah for Yom Kippur), Berger then appends three sections on each story: What We Celebrate, exploring the background of the holiday including a timeline; How We Celebrate, explaining traditional observances; and Crafts and Food, which provides activities and recipes with careful instructions. All ages.
Rita Berman Frischer is the librarian at Sinai Temple
A Cinematic Look at Israel
Homage for the Holidays
Don’t call her the “Jewel” of Jewish preschool.
Sure, Pearl B. sings to the accompaniment of her acoustic six-string. And she does lean professionally on her gem-like first name. But that is where any similarity to the chirpy pop star ends.
“There are so many levels of Judaism — from the most religious to the most secular kind of Jew and there’s this common thread…. My goal is to make it understandable for a young child.”
No aching tales of love lost here — the songs Pearl B. (the B is for Berzansky) writes for young Jewish children mix the joy for Jewish tradition with “a bit of silliness in the approach.” Pearl will perform her original compositions — along with traditional Chanukah songs — at a string of local appearances with Sue Epstein, a fellow writer/performer of Jewish children’s songs, beginning this Sunday.
Last year saw the release of Pearl B.’s first musical collection, “Gotta Sing All Week Long!” On the tape, the modern-day bard sings, but not alone — choruses performed by children fill out the songs, with the binary purpose of inviting child participation and reinforcing the positive Jewish values that is at the heart of each ditty. While several tracks deal with life’s daily routines, most of “Gotta Sing” celebrates Jewish ritual. “Days of the Week” enthusiastically counts down the week until the Sabbath. “Havdalah Trio!” embraces the end of Shabbat, singing the praises of the Kiddush cup’s purple wine, the spice box and the twisty candle. “Hallah Chain Hamotzi” incorporates the Hebrew bread prayer while “Jing-a-ling” rhapsodizes tzedakah and even gives a shout-out to SOVA, the local food-collection charity organization.
Born in South Africa, where “everybody belongs to an Orthodox shul even though nobody was Orthodox,” Pearl — whom the kids like to call “Curl” — currently resides in Venice. A mother of three and grandmother of six, Pearl is no stranger to children or Judaism. All three of her grown children are observant Jews, “each in a different kind of religiousness. My oldest daughter is a Lubavitcher, my middle daughter is [Modern Orthodox], and my son is a black hatter…. And they’re all so happy.”
A rabbi’s daughter, she spent many years working as a religious-school director and teacher before switching to a full-time music career five years ago.
“It kind of just mushroomed,” says Pearl.
“I’ve had parents tell me their kids won’t go to sleep unless they put my tape on.”
Parents and educators interested in purchasing copies of “Gotta Sing All Week Long!” will find the tapes on sale at temple gift shops, synagogues and at these upcoming Pearl B. appearances:
Pearl B. and Sue Epstein’s Magical Musical Chanukah Party Family Concerts, Sunday Dec. 6, 4 p.m., Temple Aliyah, 6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills.
Sunday Dec. 13, 1:30 p.m., Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Mann Family Early Childhood Center, Marcia Israel Chapel Auditorium, Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. — Michael Aushenker, Community Editor
The Power of Israel