Photo courtesy of Roni Blau

Edward Blau entertainment attorney, 94


Prominent entertainment attorney Edward Blau died at his Los Angeles home on  Jan. 31, surrounded by his family.  He was 94.

Blau was born in the Bronx, N.Y., on Aug. 3, 1922. His parents emigrated from Hungary in the early 1900s and ran a successful neighborhood bakery.

His clients included many luminaries from the world of entertainment, including writer Henry Miller; TV personality, musician, writer and actor Steve Allen; actors Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper and Jerry Mathers; comedians/actors Jerry Lewis and Rowan & Martin; singers Bobby Darin and Dionne Warwick; magicians Siegfried & Roy; the Magic Castle; and Ralph Edwards Productions. He represented renowned singer Johnny Mathis for more than 50 years.

He received an honorary award from the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors for his dedication to the organization. He mentored junior attorneys, many of whom became successful entertainment figures.

From an early age, Blau excelled in school, graduating from City College of New York with a degree in business administration. During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps (forerunner of the U.S. Air Force), achieving the rank of first lieutenant. After serving in the military, he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1951. His career began with the MCA talent agency in New York, where he worked closely with legendary talent agent and studio executive Lew Wasserman. He then drove across the country to Los Angeles, where he became a prominent entertainment attorney and a partner at a prestigious law firm before eventually branching out on his own.

He loved to regale friends with stories and jokes, and approached every challenge as an adventure, his family said. He enjoyed his daily newspaper, watching movies at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, playing tennis and playing with his grandchildren, his family added.

Blau is survived by his wife, Rita; children Gary, Roni and Sharon (Scott); granddaughters Ariella and Elana; sister Rita Goldstein; and nephew and nieces.

Four ways Jews and Arabs live apart in Israeli society


Betzalel Smotrich, perhaps the most right-wing member of the current Knesset, caused a storm when he endorsed the idea that Arabs and Jew should be segregated in Israel’s maternity rooms.

Smotrich was responding to a report on the Israel Broadcast Authority that several hospitals practice de facto segregation of maternity rooms — placing Jews with Jews and Arabs with Arabs. Such segregation is prohibited by law.

“There are mental gaps, and it’s more comfortable for both sides to be with themselves,” Smotrich, a member of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party, tweeted on April 5. “It’s really not racism.”

In a subsequent tweet he wrote that it’s “natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby, who may want to kill her baby 20 years from now.”

Smotrich’s remarks were panned by lawmakers from left and right, including Naftali Bennett, the leader of Jewish Home. Responding to Smotrich, Bennett tweeted a rabbinic passage about man being created in God’s image, adding, “Every man. Jew or Arab.”

Jews and Arabs are afforded equal rights under Israeli law. But in many ways, the two sectors live in separate societies — attending different schools, living in different cities, reading different newspapers and espousing different political ideals.

Unlike the prescribed, top-down segregation supported by Smotrich, much of this separation stems from longstanding structural factors like language, culture and religion.  

“In most places, there’s no problem. The Arab population lives in totally Arab villages,” said Nachum Blass, a senior researcher at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies.

But the divisions between Israeli Jews and Arabs, who represent 20 percent of the population, have also contributed to economic disparities between them. And despite laws meant to prevent discrimination, Arabs point to studies showing persistent disparities in education, social services, income and political participation.

“There’s definitely discrimination in every aspect” of Israel’s education system, Taub said.

Nongovernmental organizations and government bodies have worked to promote a “shared society” in economic development, higher education and the labor market.

Here are four ways Jews and Arabs live apart in Israeli society.

Jews and Arabs attend separate schools.

Israel’s schools are separated by both religion and race. Jewish students attend either secular, religious or haredi Orthodox schools, while the Arabs attend separate Muslim, Christian and Druze systems taught in Arabic. Of the 1.6 million total students in grades 1 through 12 last year, fewer than 2,000 attended the handful of joint Jewish-Arab schools.

The split education system, where students are taught in their own language and according to their own cultural norms, according to Blass, “answers the [Arab] community’s needs.” But it has also led to lower educational achievement among Arab Israelis.

In 2012, two-thirds of non-haredi Jews qualified for university, as opposed to less than half of Arab students. Israel’s universities are more integrated, but Arabs make up a low proportion of students. In 2012, Arabs made up only 12 percent of bachelor’s degree students, and 4 percent of doctoral students, according to Sikkuy, an organization that aims to foster Jewish-Arab coexistence.

Jews and Arabs live in separate towns.

In addition to studying separately, Israeli Jews and Arabs mostly live in separate cities. Two of the country’s largest cities, Jerusalem and Haifa, have substantial Arab populations, but even those cities are often separated by neighborhood. Nearly all of Jerusalem’s Arab residents live in the eastern half of the city.

Aside from a handful of other mixed Israeli towns, most of the country’s cities are more than 90 percent Jewish or Arab. Though Arabs make up nearly 20 percent of Israel’s citizenry, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Israel’s largest, is nearly 95 percent Jewish.

The Jewish-Arab division is also marked by economic gaps. Arab cities have higher poverty rates and, in general, worse municipal services than their Jewish counterparts. Eight of Israel’s 10 poorest towns are Arab. The richest 30 are Jewish.

“It’s not a problem in principle to live in different places,” said Rawnak Natour, co-director of Sikkuy. “There needs to be a possibility to live together, that there will be [cultural] symbols and the ability to encompass the different cultures.”

Their political leaders rarely work together.

Israel often points to its Arab-Israeli lawmakers as proof of the country’s democratic chops. Arabs hold 16 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, and the body’s third-largest party, the Joint List, is Arab. Arabs have also risen to the top of other branches of government, including sitting on Israel’s Supreme Court.

But Israeli Arabs’ political leadership perpetually sits in the Knesset’s opposition, and few politicians in the government are Arab, such that the two communities’ agendas rarely align. The only Arab in Israel’s political leadership is the deputy minister of regional cooperation, Ayoub Kara, who is part of the Druze minority.

Arabs are barely present in Israel’s mainstream media.

Lucy Aharish, the young Arab co-host of a morning show on a leading Israeli TV station, speaks accent-less Hebrew, has gained admirers for her forthrightness and was even honored with a role at the country’s official torch-lighting ceremony on Independence Day.

But she’s one of the few Arab faces and voices Israelis will see and hear on their TVs and radios. Israeli Arabs have their own active press, but they are vastly underrepresented in mainstream Israeli media, comprising fewer than 3 percent of total interviews on leading Israel stations in January and February, according to a study by Sikkuy and the Seventh Eye, a media watchdog.

The number drops even lower when it comes to news segments not directly related to Israeli Arabs. Aharish’s Channel 2, for example, spoke to only 11 Arabs out of more than 5,500 total such interviews in January.

“You have low representation, and the moment you have it, it’s about specific topics and a very specific framing, which is crime and the conflict,” Natour said. “The way they’re interviewed is a negative framework that perpetuates the stigmas about the Arab population in the state.”

Netflix streaming comes to Israel, 129 other countries


Israelis will now be able to stream “Orange Is the New Black” and “Breaking Bad.”

Netflix, the video-streaming and mail-order video service that increasingly produces its own content, announced Wednesday it is now available in Israel and 129 other countries, several media outlets reported.

“Today you are witnessing the birth of a new global Internet TV network,” co-founder and chief executive Reed Hastings said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, according to the Times of Israel. “While you have been listening to me talk, the Netflix service has gone live in nearly every country in the world except China, where we hope to be in the future.”

Programming is primarily in English, with support in Arabic, but not Hebrew.

Until Wednesday, the 18-year-old American company’s streaming was available in 59 countries outside the United States, including Canada, Japan, and much of Latin America and Europe.

According to Haaretz, not all Netflix content will be available in Israel. For example, “House of Cards,” whose broadcasting rights have already been sold to other entities in Israel, will not be offered.

Netflix subscriptions in Israel will range from $7.99 to $11.99 per month, Haaretz reported.

Holiday preview calendar


MON | DEC 2

HA HA Hanukkah

If you like to laugh and hear happy Chanukah songs, then this is the show for you. It will be a special night of funny people, including Stephanie Blum, Jimmy Brogan and Mark Schiff. Hosted by Kenny Ellis, who has long made it a mission to marry the cantor and the comic within, there will be nods to his top-rated CD, “Hanukkah Swings!” Make the sixth night of Chanukah the best night. Mon. 8 p.m. $17-$30. The Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 656-1336. TUE | DEC 3

“I’LL EAT YOU LAST: A CHAT WITH SUE MENGERS”

Bette Midler stars in the fresh-from-Broadway one-woman show that celebrates Tinseltown’s hottest talent agent. With clients like Barbra Streisand and Marlon Brando, and immigration to the United States from Germany when she was 5, Mengers’ story is a version of the American dream. The Divine Miss M, performing John Logan’s words and directed by Joe Mantello, captivates, entertains and charms. Tue. 8 p.m. Through Dec. 22. $87-$397. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-5454. WED | DEC 4

ARI SHAVIT

The leading Israeli journalist and writer makes a rare Los Angeles appearance to discuss his new book, “My Promised Land.” By combining interviews, personal experiences, historical documents, private diaries and letters, Shavit captures all the elements that contribute to the relationship we each individually have with Israel. How does Israel’s past inform her present? What does origin have to do with future? A Q-and-A and book signing follow the program. Reservations recommended. Wed. 8 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. FRI | DEC 6

“INTO THE NIGHT: PROGRESSION”

Nothing says early December like multimedia Jewish indie artists. With acts by rock band Avi Buffalo, the Los Angeles debut of Brooklyn-based performance group People Get Ready and a site-specific dance show by Jmy James Kidd and the Sunland Dancers, the evening will be a salute to some of the eager underground artists of our time. Come for the music, come for the movement, and come see the first-ever performance in the Skirball’s new Guerin Pavilion. Fri. 8:30 p.m. $15 (general), $20 (at the door). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. SAT | DEC 7

THE KLEZMATICS

The old country just got a little newer. Taking traditional sounds and themes and infusing them with some modern funk and interpretations, the Grammy-winning band brings rhythm and timeless spirit to its audiences. With 25 years of experience and a growing fan base with each performance, the Klezmatics have changed the face of the Yiddish imprint on popular culture. They are making history, performing history and you get to dance all the while. Sat. 7:30 p.m. $69-$108. The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 434-3200. SUN | DEC 8

“AMERIKANER SHADKHN” (AMERICAN MATCHMAKER)

Nat Silver is desperate to rid himself of his unlucky-in-love motif as his eighth engagement goes awry. Our urbane and neurotic hero sets up a matchmaking business to learn what it takes to find a match for himself in this 1940 romantic comedy by Edgar Ulmer. Part of Sholem Presents: Yiddish on the Silver Screen series. Other films coming up include “The Light Ahead” (Jan. 26) and “The Dybbuk” (Feb. 9). Sun. 10:15 a.m. $15 (general), $5 (members). Westside Neighborhood School, 5401 Beethoven St., Los Angeles. (818) 760-6625.” target=”_blank”>aju.edu.


THUR | DEC 12

SHELLEY BERMAN

The comedian, actor and writer has a new book of poetry out! “To Laughter With Questions” is a collection of serious and not-so-serious verse, limericks, rhymes and an attempt at iambic pentameter. While you might know him best from his many film and TV appearances, here is an opportunity to get to know the man more intimately. His collection is full of personal experiences, and with Berman having taught in USC’s Master of Professional Writing program, you know it’s well written. Thu. 7 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. MON | DEC 23

WOODY ALLEN AND HIS NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND

Forget the movies — the man is making music. With more than 35 years of bringing New Orleans-inspired music to audiences all over the world, the band has mastered creating the sounds Allen has loved since childhood, including nods to George Lewis, Jimmie Noone and Louis Armstrong. Come because you liked “Manhattan,” and stick around because you’ll love New Orleans. Mon. 8 p.m. $52-$112. Royce Hall at UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101. FRI | DEC 27

“MARVIN HAMLISCH: WHAT HE DID FOR LOVE”

It makes more sense to tell you what Hamlisch was not responsible for when it comes to defining music — but sense is no fun. A musical prodigy at the age of 6, the conductor and composer was the brain behind “A Chorus Line,” and wrote the scores for “Sophie’s Choice,” “Ordinary People” and, more recently, “Behind the Candelabra.” In this first film biography, we get an inside portrait of one of the most respected artists of both the 20th and 21st centuries. Fri. 9 p.m. on PBS. Check local listings. SUN | JAN 12

A SALUTE TO ISRAEL

Join the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Chief Cantor Shai Abramson, the IDF Vocal Ensemble and conductor Ofir Sobol for a community concert featuring classical, opera and Israeli music. Presented by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, this benefit concert features a special guest appearance by IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz. Sun. $29-$180. 6:30 p.m Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 843-2690. FRI | JAN 17

JOAN RIVERS

The new year means we are all ripe for self-deprecation, and there is no one better to serve as our shepherd than Rivers. For more than 50 years she has been making us laugh, think, squirm, agree and disagree. Whether you saw her on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson,” spent revealing time with her in the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” or currently watch her during awards season, you know exactly who Joan is and what you have to look forward to. Fri. 9 p.m. $77-$225. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111. SAT | JAN 18

PINCHAS ZUKERMAN

The principal guest conductor leads one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious orchestras through some Bach, Schoenberg and Brahms. Born in Tel Aviv, Zukerman trained at Juilliard before playing the violin with the London Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. After a successful career in recording, he began conducting in 1970. Since then, he has been a global musical leader, player and teacher. Forget the sounds of silence — bring on Zukerman. Sat. 8 p.m. $40-$65. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-3000. TUE | JAN 21

“THE BOOK OF MORMON”

It’s a religious satire musical from the guys who brought you “South Park” and “Avenue Q.” That means you’re gonna laugh. Tag along with a couple of Mormon missionaries as they try to spread the word to a remote village in Northern Uganda. It won nine Tony Awards in 2011, including best musical, so if you feel better about going to critically acclaimed things, you can feel good about this. Tue. 8 p.m. Through March 16. $43-$103. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 468-1770. THUR | FEB 13

“LOVE, MATHEMATICS, AND THE X-FILES”

“X-Files” co-creator Chris Carter is in conversation with Edward Frenkel — one of the 21st century’s leading mathematicians. Working on one of the biggest math ideas in 50 years — the Langlands Program — Frenkel, in his autobiography, reveals a side of math filled with all the metaphysical beauty, elegance and spirit of a work of art. Discover how the things you just thought were numbers might carry a charge of love. Thur. 7:15 p.m. Free (reservation required). Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., downtown. (213) 228-7500. SAT | FEB 15

“SANDRA BERNHARD: I LOVE BEING ME, DON’T YOU?”

If you were a respected and talented comedian, singer, author, actor and monologist, you’d love being me, too! From a big break in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” to a recurring role on TV’s “Roseanne,” to off-Broadway successes, Bernhard understands entertaining. She will sing, she will muse about her teenage daughter, and she will love being her. And we love that. Sat. 8 p.m. $25-$60 (general), $15 (UCLA Students). Royce Hall at UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101.

Dog ‘Guru’ Justin Silver puts owners on tight leash


When it comes to canines going to the dogs, trainer Justin Silver has seen it all: the pooch whose owner treated it like a baby, complete with diaper changes; the bulldog named Beefy who refused to take a walk unless he was schlepped down the street on a skateboard; the modeling agency owner who brought her fierce terrier mix to work every day, where it tried to attack everyone in sight. When Silver asked her how many times the mutt had bitten people, she replied, “Are you counting blood bites and non-blood bites?”

Training humans, as well as hounds, how to behave in an urban setting is Silver’s focus on CBS’ “Dogs in the City,” which will air its final episode on July 11 (previous episodes are available at CBS.com). It’s the latest take on how-to-fix-Fido shows, following the success of National Geographic’s “The Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan” and Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” with Victoria Stilwell. Silver’s angle is that he’s a guru for the more than 1 million dogs in New York City (there are 78 million dogs in the country) — and that owners are often to blame for canine malfeasance. “A dog’s behavior is shaped by the people in its life,” said Silver, who was raised with Shih Tzus in a Jewish home in Queens. “You’re always communicating to your animals, whether it’s directly or inadvertently, through your behavior.”

Read the rest of this story at Naomi Pfefferman’s blog, The Ticket.

Leonard Slatkin’s last stand at the Hollywood Bowl?


Maybe it was his heart attack during a concert in Rotterdam in 2009, or perhaps it’s just a matter of aging, but conductor ” title=”hollywoodbowl.com/tickets” target=”_blank”>hollywoodbowl.com/tickets.

TV for dogs reaches prime time


Bark if you love DogTV.

The new made-in-Israel U.S. cable channel is scientifically programmed to keep pooches stimulated, happy and comforted when they’re home alone.

When dogs are left alone, they can get depressed, lose their appetite and their desire to play, says DogTV CEO Gilad Neumann. There are 46 million households with dogs in the United States, encompassing a total of 78.2 million pet canines.

“That’s quite a few potential viewers and many lonely dogs,” he said. “It’s all very scientific, although I know it sounds like a joke. When you dig deeper, you see it’s a serious business.”

Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications began a six-month free trial of the 24-hour digital channel on Feb. 13 for their one million viewers in San Diego. If it is successful, DogTV will be distributed more widely as a subscription-based service, Neumann said.

The concept came from Ron Levi, a New York-born dog lover and chief content officer at Jasmine Group, a private media communications company in Ramat Gan.

At the time, Neumann was CEO of Jasmine TV, one of several subsidiaries of the Jasmine media conglomerate whose July-August Productions recently sold the format for the hit game show “Who’s Still Standing?” to NBC Universal.

“We’re always seeking interesting ideas with an emphasis on international expansion. So when Ron approached me with this idea, I thought it was crazy enough to look into,” Neumann said. He suggested that Jasmine invest some seed money to explore the idea.

Their research revealed that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States all recommend leaving the TV on for dogs home alone, to provide stimulation and keep away stress and depression.

“We combined this with a lot of science on the effects of video on dogs, how they react to TV and what kind of visuals, music and sounds they enjoy,” Neumann said.

He recruited professor Nicholas Dodman of Tufts University’s animal behavior department as DogTV’s program director and chief scientist. Dodman explains on DogTV’s Web site that dogs won’t sit on the couch for hours at a time watching the channel. It’s more like a backdrop with a pleasing soundtrack that they can choose to view as long as they wish.

British trainer Victoria Stilwell, from the Animal Planet series “It’s Me or the Dog,” and Warren Eckstein, an animal rights activist and pet trainer, round out the crew of DogTV experts.

“They added their knowledge to our production experience,” said Neumann, who holds an MBA from Pepperdine University and a law degree from the Israeli College of Management.

As good as the idea was, it couldn’t have been put into action if not for the introduction of LCD television technology. Neumann explains that dogs’ eyes are bothered by the flickering frames on old analog televisions, though humans don’t notice them.

“Now they can see perfectly fine on LCD, but they can only see blue and yellow, so we enhance and recolor the contents for them,” Neumann explained.

As content developer, Levi organized the channel’s programming into three categories: shows meant to relax dogs, shows that stimulate them and shows intended to expose them gently to situations with which they may need to get more comfortable — such as a running vacuum cleaner or street traffic.

“This creates a companionship environment,” Neumann said, “a channel that is fully suitable for dogs. ”

This is hardly the first instance of an Israeli TV show hitting prime time in the United States. “In Treatment,” “Homeland,” “Traffic Light” and “The Ex List” went first. However, it is the first time a programming concept has gone directly from the Israeli drawing board to American TV screens. Neumann hopes DogTV is barking up the right tree.

Holiday preview calendar


FRI, NOV 25

“GREETINGS FROM L.A.: ARTISTS AND PUBLICS, 1950-1980.”
Part of “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” this exhibition at The Getty explores how a community of Southern California artists, including Wallace Berman, George Herms, Judy Chicago and John Baldessari, developed innovative strategies to disseminate their work. Photographs, ephemera, correspondence and artwork from the Getty Research Institute’s archives are on display, many for the first time, revealing the methods artists used to connect with diverse and varied publics. Fri. Through Feb 5. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday), 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Saturday), 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Sunday). Free. Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300. getty.edu.


TUE, NOV 29

“A PATCHWORK OF CULTURES: THE SEPHARDIC-LATINO CONNECTION”
Buenos Aires native and Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue Cantor Marcelo Gindlin performs Spanish-Jewish melodies during this day of musical education. Organized by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony Educational Outreach Program for fourth- through sixth-graders, the event also features an instrument “petting zoo.” Tue. 11 a.m. Free (space limited, reservations recommended). Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 436-5260. lajewishsymphony.com.


WED, NOV 30

“WICKED”
Composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz’s enormously successful musical returns to the Pantages. Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” the big-budget production follows two girls who meet in Oz — one has emerald green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood; the other is blond, beautiful and ambitious. A friendship develops, but their paths eventually diverge. Wed. 8 p.m. $30-$196.50. Through Jan. 29. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (800) 982-2787. broadwayla.org.


SAT, DEC 3

“LOVE IN US”
Temporarily shedding his cantorial persona, Juval Porat blends spoken word, pop, jazz and Broadway tunes during tonight’s performance. Offering a musical journey through the various states of love, Porat is accompanied by T.J. Troy (percussion), Scott Ferguson (violin), David Tranchina (bass) and a guest pianist. Proceeds benefit Project Chicken Soup and One National Gay & Lesbian Archives. Sat. 7 p.m. $25 (general), $50 (preferred seating). Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023, ext. 205. bcc-la.org.

“ME AND MY GIRL”
The Jewish Women’s Repertory Theatre re-creates this musical set in 1930s Britain, but with an all-female cast. Bill, a working-class Joe from London, learns he’s actually nobility, the legitimate heir to the title of Earl of Hereford. One problem: For Bill to inherit his title and the money owed to him, the Duchess of Hereford says he must learn how to be a gentleman. Performances for women only. A portion of proceeds benefit Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. Sat. Through Dec. 4. 8 p.m. (Saturday); 2 and 7 p.m. (Sunday). Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 964-9766. jewishwomenstheater.com.


TUE, DEC 6

JEFF GARLIN AND MICHAEL MOORE
Actor-comedian Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) interviews filmmaker Moore (“Sicko,” “Bowling for Columbine”) as part of the “Jeff Garlin in Conversation With …” series. Moore will discuss his recently published memoir, “Here Comes Trouble: Stories From my Life” (Grand Central Publishing), and proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the charity of Moore’s choice. Tue. 9 p.m. $30. Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 855-0350. largo-la.com.


THU, DEC 8

“THE HOLLYWOOD SOUND”
The Los Angeles Philharmonic performs selections from film scores by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (“Kings Row,” “Deception”), Alex North (“A Streetcar Named Desire”), Bernard Herrman (“North by Northwest”), Henry Mancini (“Charade”), Jerry Goldsmith (“Planet of the Apes,” “Chinatown”) and John Williams (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) as part of The Getty’s citywide art celebration, “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.” Thu. 8 p.m. Through Dec. 11. $53.25-$178. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (323) 850-2000. laphil.com.


SAT, DEC 10

“BENJAMIN AND JUDAH: A CHANUKAH MUSICAL”
Temple Adat Elohim’s Cantor David Shukiar reinvents the Chanukah story. Bullied at school for being Jewish, 13-year-old Benjamin is feeling low about himself and his religion. After dreaming one night that he’s Judah Maccabee, however, he awakes with a new sense of self-confidence. Music, dance and drama highlight this family-friendly show. Sat. Through Dec. 11. 7 p.m. (Saturday); 2:30 and 7 p.m. (Sunday). $27-$36. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. (800) 745-3000. toaks.org/cap.

NESHAMA CARLEBACH
The daughter of “Singing Rabbi” Shlomo Carlebach teams up with the Rev. Roger Habrick and members of the Bronx-based Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir for an evening of bridge-building music at Shomrei Torah Synagogue. Stopping in Los Angeles on her Soul Unity tour, Neshama and the choir perform songs by her father, who created melodic versions of Jewish prayers. Sat. 8:30 p.m. $36 (general), $50 (reserved), $100 (VIP). Shomrei Torah Synagogue, 7353 Valley Circle Blvd., West Hills. (818) 346-0811. stsonline.org.


TUE, DEC 13

Frank Gehry

FRANK GEHRYThe renowned L.A. architect appears in conversation at The Getty Center discussing “Modern Art in Los Angeles.” Gehry will be joined by fellow artists from the Venice art scene of the 1960s, including Peter Alexander, Chuck Arnoldi, Tony Berlant, Billy Al Bengston and Ed Moses. Tue. 7 p.m. Free. Getty Center, Harold H. Williams Auditorium, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300. getty.edu.


FRI, DEC 16

JUDITH OWEN AND HARRY SHEARER’S HOLIDAY SING-A-LONG
Actor-satirist Shearer (KCRW’s “Le Show,” “The Simpsons”) and his singer- songwriter wife, Owen, host their annual evening of musical mirth. What began as a yearly gathering for family and friends soon grew too large to host at the couple’s home. Mixing traditional and nontraditional holiday music, the public performances have drawn such celebrity guests as Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Weird Al Yankovic and Shearer collaborator Christopher Guest. Who knows who will turn up this year? Fri. 7:30 p.m. $47-$75. Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 434-3200. thebroadstage.com.


SUN, DEC 18

NAZI HUNTER SIMON WIESENTHAL
This one-man show, written and performed by Tom Dugan, follows Wiesenthal on the day of his retirement as he welcomes a group of students to his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna and recounts his experiences pursuing such Nazi war criminals as Karl Silberbauer and Franz Stangl. A Q-and-A with Dugan follows the performance. Sun. 4 p.m. $30. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (888) 853-6763. ajula.edu.


MON, DEC 19

The Klezmatics

THE KLEZMATICSThe Grammy-winning klezmer supergroup celebrates its silver anniversary this year. Steeped in Eastern European Jewish traditions and spirituality, The Klezmatics aren’t afraid to mix up their Yiddish-roots sound, whether it’s recording an album set to Woody Guthrie lyrics (“Wonder Wheel”) or collaborating with kosher gospel artist Joshua Nelson (“Moses Smote the Water”). What better way to spend the night before Chanukah than with this eclectic ensemble? Mon. 8 p.m. $38-$97. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (323) 850-2000. laphil.com.


SAT, DEC 24

MESHUGGENEH CHRISTMAS
Spend erev X-Mas with Jewish comedians at Flapper’s Comedy Club. Tonight’s lineup includes Matty Goldberg, who recently released his debut comedy album, “The Right to Remain Seinfeld”; Abby Krom, a Jewish comedian who knows her Christmas songs; Amy Dresner, who prides herself on brutal honesty; David Zasloff, who, in addition to his comic skills, is a master shofar blower; Rus Gutin, who appears regularly at the Comedy Store; Sandy Danto (“MADtv”); and a special guest.  Sat. 9:30 p.m. $10 (half off if you mention The Jewish Journal at the door). Flapper’s Comedy Club Burbank, 102 E. Magnolia St., Burbank. (818) 845-9721. comedycasting.com.


SUN, DEC 25

“EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE”
Jonathan Safran Foer’s (“Everything Is Illuminated”) 2005 novel about a New York family whose patriarch was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11 comes to the big screen. Starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, the story follows 9-year-old Oskar (Thomas Horn), an amateur detective who has found a key that his father left behind. What does the key open? Oskar’s search will reveal the truth behind a 50-year-old family mystery. John Goodman, Viola Davis and James Gandolfini co-star. (Limited engagement. Opens in wide release Jan. 20, 2012.) extremelyloudandincrediblyclose.warnerbros.com.


THU, DEC 29

Woody Allen

WOODY ALLEN’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ ORCHESTRAThe iconic director’s New Orleans-style jazz ensemble makes a rare appearance in Los Angeles. Allen plays clarinet in this group, which has performed in small venues — mainly in New York — for more than 35 years. Drawing on a repertoire of more than 1,200 songs, the shows feature no set play list, nor do the musicians know what song Allen, in collaboration with band director Eddy Davis, will call out next. Thu. 8 p.m. $55-$115. Royce Hall, UCLA Campus, Los Angeles. (310) 825-4401. uclalive.org.


THU, JAN 12

“THREE WEEKS IN JANUARY: END RAPE IN LOS ANGELES”
This socially conscious art exhibition uses the city as its canvas. Over three weeks, performances, presentations, a candlelight ceremony and more will be held around Los Angeles, bringing attention to issues of gender-based violence. Led by internationally known artist Suzanne Lacy, who created the similar exhibition “Three Weeks in May” in 1977, a large map in downtown Los Angeles will provide each event location, and young women will mark the map with the prior day’s police reports. Held in conjunction with “Los Angeles Goes Live: Performance Art in Southern California 1970-1983” and Getty Center’s “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.” Thu. Through Feb. 1. Visit losangelesgoeslive.org for more information.


SUN, JAN 22

“THEIR EYES WERE DRY”
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. L.A. director Brandon Assanti reflects on the Ma’alot massacre in this documentary. Interviews with survivors, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, longtime Ma’alot Mayor Shlomo Bohbot and others highlight the 2011 film, screening today at American Jewish University. Assanti participates in a post-screening Q-and-A. Sun. 4 p.m. $15. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777. ajula.edu.


TUE, JAN 31

DANIEL HANDLER AND MAIRA KALMAN
One is a best-selling author from San Francisco who authored “A Series of Unfortunate Events” under the nom de plume Lemony Snicket. The other — born in Tel Aviv and based in New York — is an illustrator whose work frequently makes the cover of the New Yorker. Today, Handler and Kalman appear together to discuss and sign copies of “Why We Broke Up,” a work of young adult fiction that explores why Min Green and Ed Slaterton’s relationship had to end. Tue. 7 p.m. Free. 1201 Third St., Santa Monica. (310) 260-9110. barnesandnoble.com.


THU, FEB 16

Itzhak Perlman

ITZHAK PERLMANThe iconic Israeli-American violinist, whose career is marked by countless highlights — winning more than a dozen Grammy awards, taking part in the inauguration of President Barack Obama, playing with every major orchestra throughout the world and more — comes to Los Angeles. He performs at UCLA Live, accompanied by Sri Lankan-born pianist Rohan De Silva. Thu. 8 p.m. $35 (general), $15 (UCLA students). Royce Hall, UCLA Campus, Los Angeles. (310) 825-4401. uclalive.org.

A woman’s world?


It’s hard to tell, what with the requisite girdles, supervised weigh-ins and protocol panty hose (“not too dark; this isn’t a cabaret”), that the 1960s world depicted in “Pan Am” is supposed to be about the era’s most worldly women.

ABC-TV’s new hour-long drama, which premieres Sept. 25, is set at a lush airport popping in Pan Am’s signature blue. Stewardesses walk in a perfectly synchronized horizontal line (like at a cabaret), each leg in kick-line step as they ascend their version of a stage — the tarmac. The women talk like this: “I get to see the world,” one stewardess, Maggie (Christina Ricci), tells her boyfriend. “When was the last time you left the village?” And the men, awed by the Pan Am breed of beauty and brains, say things like: “Get your fanny to midtown, Sweetheart!”

It’s not exactly the milieu remembered by Nancy Ganis, one of the show’s creators and executive producers, who was a Pan Am stewardess more than 30 years ago. Ganis took to the skies for the first time in 1969 as a wide-eyed 21-year-old in search of the world. Back then, she said, becoming a stewardess was an indication of ambition and intelligence, and many of the women hired were well educated and from privileged backgrounds. On the show, a woman gets props for being “trilingual.” 

“Pan Am hired people to be like the girl next door,” Ganis said by phone from the show’s New York set. “We were supposed to have very high moral standards. We were considered ambassadors of good will, sort of a quasi-diplomatic corps. You came to the job with certain innate skills — how to be gracious, good manners, poise.”

But, even with Ganis at the show’s helm, truth can get lost in translation.

The current cultural fixation on retro fantasies of the ’60s (think “Mad Men”) portrays women as beautiful and submissive. Last May, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd quoted an anonymous entertainment executive suggesting that amid great economic uncertainty, men find comfort in Hollywood chimeras of female subjugation: “[I]t’s not a coincidence that these retro shows are appearing at the same time men are confused about who to be. A lot of women are making more money and getting more college degrees. The traditional … dominant and submissive roles are reversed in many cases. Everything was clearer in the ’60s.”

Ganis thinks the clear-cut gender roles of yore permitted more social graces. “When those lines got blurred in the so-called sexual revolution, I don’t think it liberated women; I think it gave men license to disrespect. There’s been a denigration of how women have been presented in the media; they’ve become more objectified than they were then.”

“Pan Am,” at least on its shiny surface, portrays women eager for opportunity. Working for the world’s most prominent airline was the way — often their only way — to see the world. “It was the best education I could have had,” Ganis said. Having grown up in Detroit “rather comfortably,” as she put it, Ganis had planned on teaching in an inner-city school, but realized she lacked a certain cultural proficiency. 

“How could I teach kids whose life experience is so removed from mine?” she said she wondered at the time. Being a flight attendant was illuminating. “When I ventured out into the larger world, it helped me begin to understand diversity and to appreciate differences,” she said.

Nancy and Sid Ganis. Photo by Phil McCarten/Reuters

The dawn of the airline industry, as depicted on the show, plays out as a nostalgic fantasy. Travel is glamorous and exciting — a world filled with dignitaries, movie stars and wealthy businessmen. Travelers dress up for air travel. Notably absent are today’s cumbersome security measures and ubiquitous TSA uniforms; then, the only acceptable pat-down for a stewardess was a little smack on the behind by a female superior, just to ensure proper girding by the girdles.

Other aspects of air travel are unrecognizable, too. Flights were sparse, and international travel often involved multiple-day layovers, allowing crews to kick back and explore cities. Ganis remembers decamping to the village of a prominent Maasai warrior in Kenya, hiking the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan, partying in Karachi, and boarding a houseboat to Srinagar in Kashmir.

In the show’s opening moments, a fictional Life magazine cover declares this “The Jet Age,” heralding opportunity as much as uncertainty. A real 1968 Life cover featuring Pan Am stewardesses, titled “Aboard the First Flights,” reported on the first direct flights between New York and Moscow, signaling an incipient economic partnership between Russia and the West. In those days, Pan Am travel was so groundbreaking that cities eager for tourism rushed to build runways and hotels. “New Caledonia brought in yachts to put up the crew when women started flying, because they couldn’t put us in Army barracks,” Ganis said. At that time, about half of Pan Am’s flights were special charters, serving an elite clientele that included the White House Press Corps and members of the State Department. The airline ran diplomatic missions to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, helped evacuate American troops from Vietnam and, according to Ganis, secretly airlifted special parties out of Israel when the Six-Day War broke out. “I had a couple of friends who were on those flights,” she said.

The women in charge of the passengers had to be cool in a crisis. “One of the primary reasons you’re on the airplane is to save lives in case of an emergency,” Ganis said. “You had to be prepared for any situation and know how to get out of a burning aircraft in under 90 seconds, with all your passengers.”

The stewardesses’ success hinged on the confidence and trust of those in the traveling class. “We were treated as equals,” Ganis said. “Passengers invited us on their journeys. You never thought of yourself as being subservient.”

Ganis’ husband, Sid, a well-known film producer and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2005 to 2009, is also a producer on “Pan Am,” mostly in an advisory role. During a three-way conference call with the pair, he said he’d much rather sit back and relish his wife’s success — after all, she lived the life depicted in the show.

“My wife is in the lead, she’s in the spotlight,” Sid said, en route by train to meet Nancy in New York. “In our lives, throughout 25 years of marriage, she is my equal. At this point in my career, this brand-new thing is happening, and it’s about Nancy. And it’s very, very gratifying for me.”

To which Nancy cooed: “I’m much more comfortable with you in the spotlight.” And then they hung up.

Contrary to type, Larry David’s not at all neurotic


Three adjectives are often used to describe Larry David, the star and creator of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which recently premiered its eighth season after two excruciating Curb-less years.

One is “bespectacled,” which is fair enough. Another is “bald,” a signifier that David’s television alter-ego regards as a traditionally oppressed tribal identity (spitting in biblical fury when the assimilationists among this imagined fraternity of the hairless attempt to “pass” under the camouflage of a baseball cap or, God forbid, a toupee). Finally, and most ubiquitously, he is “neurotic.”

“Larry David plays himself as a bald, bespectacled neurotic,” The New York Times wrote in a review of the new season.

“Larry David plays a neurotic fussbudget named Larry David,” The Washington Post said in 2010.

“He’s officially an L.A. neurotic,” the New York Post recently bemoaned.

Far be it for me to argue with writers for such august publications. But having said that, I don’t think any of these people actually knows what “neurotic” means, other than a word you swap in when you think it’s impolite to say “Jew.”

I can’t speak to the inner tumult of the real Larry David, the writer and actor behind the bald, bespectacled mask. I’ve never met the man. (If I ever did, we either would circle each other silently in a moonlit forest clearing before gently pressing our foreheads together like unicorns performing a mating rite, or within five minutes each lie dead by the other’s hand.) Yet by any measure — and certainly compared to his Jewish comedic contemporaries — Larry David is a character remarkably free of internal conflict.

Psychoanalytic theory holds that neurosis occurs when the different parts of the personality are at war with each other. Now think of Larry David: He has no internal conflicts; he’s difficult, but he’s content.

Not for him the unrelenting angst of Albert Brooks or the comically tattered sense of self-esteem of Richard Lewis (a frequent “Curb Your Enthusiasm” guest star). As for the Grand Emperor of Neurotics, Woody Allen (and David’s director in the 2009 film “Whatever Works”), the two men’s public personas could hardly be more different. Apart from the glasses, the Brooklyn accent and their Jewishness, David is, in effect, the anti-Allen.

Skeptical? Consider, for a start, their attitudes toward women. A defining theme in Allen’s oeuvre, women are no more than an afterthought in David’s, and the latter gives his female stars far more interesting things to do. (Just think of Susie Essman’s volcanically foul-mouthed Susie Green.)

David is no romantic; he wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with a whimsical naive like Annie Hall.

In the first episode of “Curb” latest season, David’s divorce from Cheryl is finalized. First, though, there is a possibility of reconciliation, which David characteristically bungles. Cheryl leaves and then David just cuts to his divorce lawyer one year later. One can imagine Allen commemorating this event with a sentimental montage of happier times; Larry is more concerned with Dodgers tickets and whether his divorce lawyer is lying to him about being Jewish.

Nor does sex hold him in any particular thrall. In a recent episode, as Jeff, Leon and Marty Funkhauser are rendered all but catatonic by the bodacious ta-tas on Richard Lewis’ burlesque-dancer girlfriend — Lewis, in true Allen fashion, can only bring himself to admit he admires her for her mind — Larry calmly slurps his drink and later matter of factly informs her that she has a mole on the underside of her right breast that she really ought to get checked out.

In all realms, sexual David is refreshingly un-creepy. In the world of “Curb,” Jeff and Susie’s teenage daughter, Sammy, is Larry’s antagonist. In the world of Allen’s films, she’d be a love interest.

Their relationships with technology are at odds as well. Compare Allen’s famous war with machines to Larry’s primal rage at vacuum packaging. Allen blames himself for his difficulties. With Larry, it’s the package’s fault. For David, the conflict is always external, and this lack of introspection characterizes virtually all of his interpersonal actions.

When David refuses to add an additional tip for the servers at the country club, the problem isn’t his parsimony, it’s the server’s greed. He feels similarly in the right when he tries to rescind his order for Girl Scout cookies or screams at the neighborhood kids for serving him subpar lemonade. Why should he allow himself to be taken advantage of?

As far as Larry is concerned, his only problem is the unreasonableness of others. He might come off like kind of an a—hole, but that’s your problem, not his. He’s a self-actualized a—hole.

It’s tempting to ascribe David’s blind unconcern for the feelings and good opinion of others on his immense fortune, which is alluded to, if rarely explicitly stated — if I had half a billion dollars, I probably wouldn’t care what anyone thought of me either. But Larry seems utterly unimpressed by the trappings of wealth — he still buys his pants at Banana Republic, for God’s sake — and as such, I propose his bizarre self-confidence comes from another, deeper source: Virtually alone among his peers, Larry David has absolutely no ambivalence about being a Jew.

From his disgust at Cheryl’s enormous Christmas tree, to the glee with which he hangs a mezuzah with his father-in-law’s special Christ Nail, to his inadvertent rescue of a Jewish man from a mildly coerced baptism, David’s outlook is essentially tribal. To him, a Jew trying to pass as a gentile is as ridiculous as a bald man in a toupee. David’s comic pose is less that of the anxious assimilationist eager to fit in than that of the clueless greenhorn making his way in a world to which he’s not sure he cares to belong.

Or perhaps he’s even more atavistic than that. Neurosis is often defined as a focus on behavioral minutiae that can border on the obsessive-compulsive, but Larry’s many preoccupations, from the unwritten laws of dry cleaning, to the proper way to treat chauffeurs, gardeners and other laborers, to the irrevocable uncleanness of certain objects (pens that have seen the inside of Jason Alexander’s ears, $50 bills laced with Funkhauser’s foot sweat) recall another endless litany of unbending edicts: the Book of Leviticus. Larry David isn’t a neurotic; he’s just demanding. Like the God of the Hebrews. He can be kind of an a—hole, too.

This was reprinted from Tabletmag.com, a new read on Jewish life.

Casey Abrams’ ‘American Idol’ chutzpah


Singer and multi-instrumentalist Casey Abrams was the one for Jews to watch during the 10th season of “American Idol.” His reddish-brown beard was the constant butt of jokes on the show and the most talked-about “Idol” hair growth since Sanjaya Malakar. (Remember Malakar from the sixth season? His frizzy up-dos put Jew-fros to shame). For a pre-performance sketch about Abrams, fellow finalists donned a fake beard piece and blew into a red melodica while klezmer music played in the background.

But during Elton John week, the show’s weekly mentor, Rodney Jerkins, told Abrams to trim it, claiming facial hair prevented the audience from seeing him. So Abrams got a trim but left some straggle. Casey is not Casey when he’s clean-shaven.

“It’s not hiding, but it’s a little bit of laziness,” Abrams said. “Just a little bit of rebellion. It feels nice. It’s something to scratch and twirl.”

With the right garb, the cuddly 20-year-old might pass for a young Chabad rabbi, but Abrams admitted — a tad apologetically — during a phone interview with The Journal that he’s only half-Jewish, adding that, in case it’s any consolation to Jewish readers, “I love everything Jewish.”

As his name suggests, the Jewish part is on his father’s side. Abrams, an only child, was born in Texas, but his family moved first to Illinois, then to Idyllwild, Calif., when he was in fifth grade. He did a brief stint in Hebrew school. He also was primed for a career in entertainment. His mother, who was raised Catholic, runs a nonprofit that provides mentorship opportunities to screenwriters. His father teaches film at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, which is also Abrams’ alma mater. The family celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas. 

“My dad had a bar mitzvah, and I didn’t,” Abrams said.“We celebrated all the holidays, some I don’t even remember. It wasn’t the biggest thing in my life, but I would call myself Jewish. I kind of have Sarah Silverman’s take on it. I would say culturally I am.”

Hailed by the “Idol” judges as one of the most musically talented of all the contestants, Abrams made it only to sixth place on the show.  His formal training is in jazz, and he plays the bass, guitar, piano, clarinet and accordion —  and he loves klezmer.

“My dad has a whole bunch of old klezmer tapes — cassettes. I have a clarinet and accordion and have actually composed klezmer.” He fondly recalled performing “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof” at a recital.

He also participated in a few Passover seders but passed on the offer to attend this year’s seder with Michael Orland, the show’s vocal coach, so that he could practice instead. But practicing during the holiday of liberation didn’t provide him with redemption on the show. A week later, he was voted off. Redemption actually had come five weeks earlier, when the judges — Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson — used their only save to keep him on when he was voted off in 11th place.

“Along the way, we’ve had to make some hard decisions and send some really, really great people home, and I lost sleep over that,” Lopez told him after his performance a week later. “But one decision I did not lose any sleep over was saving you.”

The grateful Abrams repaid Lopez, the “world’s most beautiful woman” according to People magazine, with a highly publicized kiss (on her cheek — to his regret — because she turned her head) after his performance of “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5. Lopez responded, saying “Casey’s got soft lips.”

There’s definitely a wild side to this otherwise good (half-) Jewish boy. When he sings, he grits his teeth and growls like he’s about to kill someone — so much so that Randy Jackson cautioned him to go easy on the growling.

Turning into an unlikely sex symbol, Abrams went on to kiss a bunch of female audience members (on the cheek) during his farewell performance of “I Put a Spell on You,” only to stop and look into the eyes of finalist Haley Reinhart on the words “you’re mine.” She’s rumored to be his shidduch, a relationship he likes to keep mysterious.

“Haley and I are still really close,” he said.

Abrams is living in Los Angeles until the “American Idol Live” cross-country tour kicks off on July 7. He says he indulges his inner Jew at one of his favorite local haunts — Canter’s Deli. (“I actually get their matzah ball soup.”)

The show advertised Café Aroma in Idyllwild as his favorite haunt, not to be confused with the Israeli-owned Aroma Bakery & Café on Sunset Boulevard or in Encino. (“I actually passed it, and it was really weird,” he said.) The Italian restaurant named its gnocci alfredo after the local idol.

Abrams also hopes to check out local synagogue life.

“Jacob Lusk [the gospel-inspired finalist from Compton] and I want to go to synagogue together, and I’ll go to his church. We’ll exchange cultures.” Abrams said, however, he’s not sure which synagogue to try. “Where does Larry David go?” he asked.

After the tour, he plans to settle in Los Angeles to build his music career, with an eye on comedic acting inspired by his look-alike, Seth Rogan.

He credits his antics on the show to his natural Jewish humor and chutzpah. “I love testing the limits.”

Watch Abrams perform live with the “American Idol”  finalists on July 15 at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.  For more information and to buy tickets, go to

2011 Oscars Trivia Quiz


See below for the answers.










Highlight the space between the words “ANSWERS” and “HERE” to see the answers to this quiz. ANSWERS (1-A, 2-B, 3-B, 4-A, 5-A, 6-C, 7-A, 8-A) HERE

Chanukah Events


Wed. Dec 1

First night

American Hasidic singer Lipa, Jewish rock band Pardes and Lenny Solomon perform at the Chabad of the Valley’s Chanukah celebration. Wed. 5-9 p.m. Free. Universal Studios City Walk, 100 Universal Hollywood Drive, San Fernando Valley. (818) 758-1818. chabadofthevalley.org.

Spend the first night of Chanukah on the Santa Monica Promenade for a candelighting with congregation Beth Shir Shalom. Wed. 4:30 p.m. Free. 3rd St. Promenade, Santa Monica (meet in front of Banana Republic). (310) 453-3361. bethshirshalom.org.

Thu. Dec 2

Second night

The Los Angeles Jewish Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles co-host a Chanukah Mixer, featuring Wolfgang Puck cuisine and live musical entertainment. Thu. 5:30 p.m. $10 (members, advance), $20 (general, advance), $25 (general, door). Club Nokia VIP Room, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown. lajewishchamber.com.

Fri. Dec. 3

Third night

Celebrate Chanukah and Shabbat at Beth Shir Shlaom. Bring your own dinner and chanukiah. Fri. 5:30 p.m.-dinner ($10 donation per family, call for reservations). 6 p.m.-family Shabbat, 7:30 p.m.-Chanukah Shabbat Celebration. Beth Shir Shalom 1827 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 453-3361. bethshirshalom.org.

Sat. Dec. 4

Fourth night

Young professionals (ages 21-39) “Hannukah Hop” at three different houses in Santa Monica for an evening of food and drink. 7 p.m. $12 (members), $18 (guests). For more information, visit atidla.com.

Sababa in the Valley: Crazy Chanukah Party features DJs spinning top 40, house beats and Israeli music. People who bring a toy for children of Chai-Lifeline receive a $5 discount at the door. Sat. 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. $15 (before 11 p.m.), $20 (after 11 p.m.). Club Aura, 12215 Ventura Blvd. (second floor), Studio City. sababaparties.com.

Sun. Dec. 5

Fifth night

A Chanukah concert for kids features The Hollow Trees, The Living Sisters, The SIJCC Shabbat Band, The Silver Lake Chorus and Lucky Diaz. Other activities include food-creating contests Iron Chef Latke and Brisket Making. Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $10-$15 (adults free). Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, 1110 Bates Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 663-2255. sijcc.net.

Musicians Peter Himmelman and The Witcher Brothers perform at Down Home Hanukkah Celebration. The family-friendly event also includes woodworking and quilting demos and circus acts. Sun. 11 a.m. $10 (general), $7 (seniors and full-time students), free (members and children under 12). Skirball Cultural Center 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon speaks on behalf of the Israeli government, following a Chanukah celebration with Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple. Sun. 5:30-7:30 p.m. $10. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 390-7172. a4j.myevent.com/3/rsvp.htm.

Make eco-friendly menorahs using recycled materials during a Humanistic Judaism celebration. Sun. 10 a.m.-noon. Free. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (818) 518-7867. humanisticjudaismla.org.

A Chanukah-inspired scholarship benefit concert features performers Netanel Hershtik, Nati Bar Am and Herschel Fox. Sun. 7 p.m. $25 (friend), $36 (patron), $54 (donor), $108 (benefactor). Beth Jacob Congregation, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911. bethjacob.org.

Comedian Robert Cait performs at the Chabad of West Orange County’s annual Chanukah Latkes and Laughter party, which includes sushi and salad bar. Sun. 6:30 p.m. $14 (adults, advance), $6 (child, advance). $18 (adult, door), $8 (child, door). Chabad of West Orange County, 5052 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 846-2285. chabadhb.com.

Tue. Dec. 7

Sixth night

Dance, eat and sing the afternoon away a Board of Rabbis of Southern California/the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ second annual Chanukah celebration. Tue. noon-1 p.m. Free. City Hall Rotunda, 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles. RSVP no later than Friday, Dec. 3 to {encode=”barri.worth@lacity.org” title=”barri.worth@lacity.org”}. (323) 761-8600.

Wed. Dec. 8

Seventh night

Celebrate the last night of Chanukah with Temple Etz Chaim. Kindergarten through second grade students perform. Wed. 6:30 p.m. Free. Janss Marketplace, 275 North Moorpark Road, 
Thousand Oaks (meet by the fire pit located near the Mann Movie Theatres). (805) 497-689. templeetzchaim.org.

If you would like to add your Chanukah event to our listings, please email {encode=”ryant@jewishjournal.com” title=”ryant@jewishjournal.com”}.

So you want to be a DJ . . .


You’ve danced your last on the bar or bat mitzvah circuit and moved on to high school. But that doesn’t mean the party has to end.

For those who have dreamed of going from an infinite iPod playlist to playing live on the ones and twos, the bar and bat mitzvah party scene is a great place to get your start. Setting up a DJ business takes practice, planning and professionalism, but it beats baby-sitting and burgers.

The Journal turned to two local experts to help you get started: DJ Elan Feldman of Elan Entertainment, a 21-year-old economics major at Claremont McKenna College, and DJ Chris Dalton of C.D. Players Entertainment, a 36-year-old entrepreneur who began his career as a teen talk show host in Detroit.

Starting Out

It might seem like a daunting task to turn a hobby you like into a lucrative business, but both DJs say it isn’t that hard.

“There are some formalities, like creating business cards, buying insurance and buying equipment,” Feldman said. “But the hardest part of starting a DJ company is finding a market. DJing is one of those businesses that a hobby can be a real business, too.”

Start by asking your parents to help you buy a DJ system as an investment. Spin every opportunity you get, even if it’s just to perform for friends at their events for no cost. Practice makes perfect, and if you do a good job, word of mouth goes a long way for these events.

Getting Hired

Referrals do wonders. If you have already worked one bar or bat mitzvah party, chances are the parents know other parents from the Hebrew school who need to hire someone to DJ their child’s event.

“All of my business involves referrals,” Dalton said. “I don’t spend anything on advertising. One time, I put an ad in the Yellow Pages, and it almost put me under.”

Having your own Web site or establishing a presence on Facebook or MySpace doesn’t hurt, especially if the student is doing the research. But parents don’t necessarily turn to a Web site for information about hiring a DJ for their child’s special day.

More important is a professional-looking business card. You can expect to spend about $65 for a box of 1,000 cards if you order them through a designer or retailer. But it’s also possible to get print-it-yourself packages from office supply stores for about $15.

Be sure you bring cards and any other marketing materials to the event. If the adults like what you do, there’s a chance they will pass your card on to someone else and get your name out.

Equipment

Feldman prefers Apple products, saying that he’s found them to be the best and easiest to use.

“I have several DJ programs; the most popular right now is Traktor,” he said. “I like to use an iPod, because I feel more involved with the party when I’m not hiding behind a DJ booth.”

Dalton brings a DJ rig with him that uses dual CD players, much like a vinyl turntable. He uses a tracker scratch with a laptop and will even break out an iPod as a backup to make sure those special moments go without a hitch.

For speakers, Dalton swears by Mackies and JBLs, which he considers to be the most dependable available. He also prefers American Audio mixers, which he says last up to three years.

Cost

Some DJs say shelling out a few hundred dollars a year for insurance purposes is worth the expense, while others say it isn’t necessary. Those who do carry insurance say it provides venues and clients alike with peace of mind.

Most of your expenses will come from investing in new equipment.

“I upgrade my equipment annually,” Dalton said. “It can cost a minimum of $10,000.”

Labor is another a big cost. It’s possible that you will have to pay dancers and assistants based on the size of the party.

And then there’s transportation. You may have to start shelling out for travel expenses, depending on your level of success. Given fluctuating gas prices, consider your transportation costs as part of your price quote.

Rates

Check to see how others in your area structure the rates they charge.

Dalton charges a flat fee of $925 for four hours. But Feldman, on the other hand, doesn’t have a set rate.

“I consider the type of event, its length and the financial situation of the customer before I set my price,” Feldman said.

Generally, if a party lasts longer than four hours, the customer will be paying more for that luxury.

Setup

If there are issues with the synagogue or hall where you need to set up — for example, there isn’t enough room for dancing — go with the flow.

“I teach everyone to give yourself an hour of prep time to make sure everything is OK,” Dalton said. “I work very well with everyone and make sure that everyone working for me understands that we are a team and that there is no ‘I’ in the word ‘team.'”

When dealing with pushy or demanding parents, it is imperative to figure out what they want well before the party starts so you aren’t hit with any last-minute issues. Micromanaging takes the fun out of the event for all parties involved, so before the day of the event, it’s important to come to an agreement on party details (for example, what time the cake comes out, what time dancing starts, if anyone is going to light the candles or give speeches and when, etc.).

Remember to handle parents in a professional manner, because you need their referral.

Playlist

A good DJ must be confident, engage the crowd and never forget that the event is to celebrate someone else’s personal moment, not to showcase his or her ability to entertain.

“Before any party, I meet with the client to discuss and plan the event. All my parties are fully customized. So these meetings serve as an opportunity for the family to tell me exactly what they are looking for and what type of music to play, as well as how the order of events should play out,” Feldman said.

A good DJ should understand his/her audience and keep current with popular music trends. Clean radio edits for certain hip-hop songs don’t hurt, especially because b’nai mitzvah kids often have little brothers and sisters at the party.

A great DJ must be able to guide the party in the right direction based on what the parents and bar or bat mitzvah student want. But then a little musical spontaneity never hurt anyone, and the variety will probably keep partygoers out on the dance floor clamoring for more.

Federation’s Entertainment Division debuts first YouTube video


Here’s how YouTube member EntDiv describes the video:

The Entertainment Division of The Jewish Federation is a dynamic group of entertainment and media professionals who participate in a wide variety of educational, social, and volunteer opportunities to benefit the Jewish community locally and aboard. If you are interested in philanthropy, the Jewish community, networking or simply having fun, the Entertainment Division has something for you. Whether you are a media mogul or an up-and-coming young executive, we hope you will join us in giving back!

 

 

Festival-goers this year can party under the moonlight



For Yoram Gutman, the Israel Independence Day Festival is a yearlong effort.

“The minute one festival ends, I start working on the next,” said the Reseda businessman, who has served as the festival’s executive director since 1994.

This year’s festival, which celebrates Israel’s 60th birthday at Woodley Park on May 18, is expected to be a larger, more extravagant affair than in years past. Organizers anticipate more than 50,000 Israelphiles to attend the festival, which is adding three hours this year, stretching the celebration from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Last year we had 30,000 people participating, but this year, because Israel is celebrating 60, we hope to see more people,” Gutman said.

Israeli rapper Subliminal has built a music empire


The first song Ya’akov Shimoni ever wrote was called, “Genesis.” The lyrics — in English, Hebrew and French — were about pollution, global warming, Mother Earth and the destruction of Israel’s natural resources. It was 1997 — long before “An Inconvenient Truth” became a blockbuster and the green movement reached an unprecedented level of hipness.

“I always wrote about things that are not cool,” said Shimoni, a.k.a. Subliminal, Israel’s reigning hip-hop mogul, who will be the headlining act at this year’s Israeli Independence Day Festival on May 18.

As a young Israeli rapper in the ’90s, he shopped his demo tapes around to various music distributors. He was given the following advice: “Don’t ever rap about politics again. It’ll never sell.”

Subliminal proved them wrong.

The stocky 28-year-old has built a multiplatinum music empire on songs that tout Israeli pride, serving in the army, the hope for peace and, during the height of the second intifada, a hawkish stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is widely credited with being a founding force behind “Zionist hip-hop” along with his long-time rapping partner, Ha’tzel or “The Shadow,” one of several members of Subliminal’s powerhouse team of performers, the T.A.C.T. Family. In addition to Yoav Aliasi, other artists that have ridden the wave of success along with Subliminal include Shai 360 (Shai Hadad), Booskills, Sivan and Itzik Shamly.

Subliminal’s first album, “The Light From Zion” (2000), broadcast an unabashedly pro-Israel message to the world with songs like “Living From Day to Day.” The explicitly political lyrics were startling to an Israeli audience used to lighthearted dance beats. He received a harsh rebuke in the media, labeled an “extreme rightist” and a “producer of hatred music” by some, according to the rapper’s official biography. But his young audience, seething from rising violence in the streets, was surprisingly responsive and the album eventually went gold.

Plowing ahead, Subliminal became more provocative as his T.A.C.T. (Tel Aviv Street Team) label grew in influence with its own professional recording studios, street teams and Tel Aviv clubs. His single, “Divide and Conquer,” was lambasted by left-leaning Israeli journalists, but embraced by the public as a patriotic anthem to counter the raging intifada. In a public retort to the Palestinians’ demand for territory, Subliminal wrote “Biladi” (“My Land”), naming the song in Arabic so that his message would reach the desired target. In the song’s lyrics he asserts: “We’re here and we’ll never leave.”

Balancing the seen and unseen is a juggling act


In the defining moment of Sara Felder’s performance piece, “Out of Sight” — about a mother and daughter who clash over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — she juggles machetes while precariously balancing on a rola bola.

“There’s danger in trying to ‘see’ someone you [oppose], and in being seen,” says Felder, who brings her semiautobiographical monologue combining storytelling, vaudeville and circus arts to the Skirball Cultural Center May 21 and 23. “The show is about whether we can have an intimate relationship with someone with whom we sharply disagree, how we can ask questions and open up dialogue.”

Felder manipulates shadow puppets to create images of seeing and not seeing throughout the show, which is partly inspired by her own arguments with her late mother.

“I tell the true story of how my mother lost her eyesight as a girl by staring too long at a solar eclipse,” Felder says. “She was so transfixed she couldn’t look away, even though her eyes hurt, and for that she paid a terrible price. All my life I have been haunted by that story, and I thought it would be a good way to approach the metaphors in the play.”

Felder began writing the piece several years ago when she realized she had never discussed Israel in a play, despite decades of dissecting her Jewish and lesbian identities onstage. The politically progressive Felder says she remained silent out of respect for her mother, Francis, a passionate Zionist who had come of age during the Holocaust.

“When asked about her regrets in life, my mother would never say, ‘It was the day I looked into the sun — she would say it was the day she did not chain herself to the fence to protest President Roosevelt’s policies about Jewish refugees from Hitler.”

After refugees aboard a German trans-Atlantic liner were turned away by the Roosevelt administration and forced to return to Nazi Germany, Francis Felder vowed to support Israel so Jews would always have a safe haven. Sara Felder grew up in a proudly Zionist household, and, while at UC Berkeley, eagerly signed up to spend a school year in Israel.

“It was right after the Camp David accords, a quote-unquote peaceful, optimistic time,” the artist recalls. “Then on a class trip to Gaza, this Palestinian kid threw a stone at the bus. In the play, I tell the tale as if he threw it directly at me, because that’s how I experienced it. It was just a small moment, but it completely changed my perspective.” Felder sought to learn about the Arab perspective and came to feel that “everything my mother had taught me was wrong. Or at least, incomplete.”

In the play, Felder uses a balancing trick (invented by W.C. Fields) to build a block wall while describing the rift between the fictional mother and daughter.

“When I create a show, I look for objects that can tell the story more efficiently than words ever could,” she says.

Now 49, Felder learned to juggle in college and as a member of the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco. She incorporated the craft into her own monologues when she discovered that viewers “would listen to whatever I said, so long as I was juggling; it opened people up to different points of view.”

As for juggling knives, she says she’s only bled once onstage: “As soon as a machete leaves your hand, you know if it’s a good throw or not, and you can decide whether to stick out your other hand to catch it or to let it fall to the floor.”

Felder has juggled everything from boom boxes to latkes (which she says are harder than machetes, because they’re greasy) in solo shows such as “June Bride,” which is loosely based on her own Jewish lesbian wedding.

Tossing machetes on a rola bola could described how she sees much of her work. “I like to explore the balancing act of being Jewish in America today,” she says.

Sara Felder will also deliver a lecture, “From Fanny Brice to Woody Allen to You: A Short History of Jewish Humor,” on May 22. For information about her lecture and performances, visit www.skirball.org.

Drug abuse debate: Legalization, medication or therapy?


On a wall at Beit T’Shuvah’s sanctuary there are plaques with the names of those connected with Beit T’Shuvah who have passed away. One of those names is that of Josh Lowenthal, a former resident who died on June 11, 1995.

The Jewish Journal recently ran a story about “One-Way Ticket,” Rita Lowenthal’s memoir about her son, Josh, who was addicted to heroin from the age of 13 until his death from a self-administered overdose 25 years later. Lowenthal’s moving account of her son’s life punctures the myth that addiction can’t happen to Jews. It can, and it does.

Another myth that Lowenthal would like to puncture is that if addicts only had enough willpower, they could kick the habit — that only weak-willed people can’t pull themselves out of the addiction abyss.

A recent Newsweek cover story is called, “The Hunt for an Addiction Vaccine.” The article says that science views addiction not as a failure of willpower, but as a “chronic, relapsing brain disorder to be managed with all the tools at medicine’s disposal,” and that the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) is developing and testing compounds that could prevent or treat addiction.

NIDA scientists have concluded that there are three kinds of self-control: putting off present gratification for a later reward, processing sufficient information before making a decision and being able to change responses that have become automatic.

It should come as no surprise that addicts score poorly in all these categories. In other words, addicts’ brains are wired to opt for immediate rewards, to leap before they look, and to keep repeating accustomed behavior in a rote manner. The medicines in development would change the addict’s responses in all three areas.

Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, has a different focus: He objects to what he calls the massive failure of the global war on drugs. Like a growing number of responsible voices, Nadelmann argues for drug legalization, or at least decriminalization.

In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, Nadelmann makes the case that the war on drugs cannot be won — he cites “mountains of evidence documenting its moral and ideological bankruptcy.” He writes that U.S. administrations have let rhetoric and ideology drive policy, and that in countries that have adopted a different way of dealing with drugs and addicts — Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland — the result has been “a reduction in drug-related harms without increasing drug use.”

When asked about this, Beit T’Shuvah staff and residents uniformly say that legalization and pharmacological addiction treatments are beside the point. Their attitude is that addiction — defined in their Web site as the “obsessive pursuit of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, money, property and/or prestige” — is not about drugs, it’s about the issues that lead to drug use, issues that also lead to other self-destructive behavior.

One long-time Beit T’Shuvah resident, a middle-age man with an MBA and a background in the entertainment industry, said that “you can solve your drug problem and still not be any closer to an effective life. The point is to find out what the problems underneath are: not living your life effectively, not living it with truth. The problem is not the drugs.

“You can legalize drugs, you can find chemical ways of neutralizing the effects of drugs, but the end result will be the same: the root problem will still be there, and the person who has that problem will suffer in a different way. If it’s not drug addiction, if it’s not incarceration, it’ll be family dysfunction or abuse or other issues. These are all manifestations of a deeper problem, just as drug addiction or alcoholism is a manifestation of a deeper problem. And it’s that deeper problem that has to be treated.”

Lowenthal agrees that addiction’s deeper problems should be addressed: “Anyone who has been shamed and punished for addiction needs understanding and support.” But she points out that the situation with illegal drugs, as opposed to alcohol or prescription drugs, makes users subject to the law: Her son was in and out of San Quentin and other prisons because he stole in order to maintain his addiction. “Try getting a student loan, a job, or sympathetic in-laws after serving time in prison,” Lowenthal says.

If her son had lived in a society where heroin use is not a crime and where it’s cheaply available, then he probably wouldn’t have stolen, she believes. He probably wouldn’t have gone to prison over and over, and he might not have chosen to take his own life at the age of 38.

Local students go to lobby in D.C., seniors party at ‘senior prom’


Local Students Lobby at the Capitol

A group of University Synagogue religious school students paid a springtime visit to Washington, D.C., where they lobbied senior staff members of Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as well as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles). The class of confirmands was led by Rabbi Morley Feinstein and rabbinic intern Joel Simonds, who accompanied the students as they learned about Judaism and social justice issues and visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

WAIPAC Waxes Political for Young Leaders

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Belmont residents Morty Jacobs and Thelma Lichtenfeld at their “senior prom” with USC students Stewart Mouritzen, Maddie Littrell and Emon Yazli

Senior prom isn’t only for high school students — in fact, University of Southern California students organized an April 13 “senior” prom for residents at Belmont Village, an assisted-living community in Hollywood, where spunky seniors proved they still have hot moves on the dance floor. Morty Jacobs emerged as this party’s prom king when the longtime pianist and conductor, who accompanied George Burns for many years, enraptured students and seniors with his prodigious musical talent.

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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lauds the generosity of Cheryl and Haim Saban at The Saban Free Clinic

To honor the contribution of Cheryl and Haim Saban’s $10 million endowment for The Los Angeles Free Clinic, the affordable health care facility has been renamed The Saban Free Clinic. To add some icing to the honor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger along with some of Los Angeles’ top officials, including County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, attended the April 21 ceremony to fete the philanthropists. For more than 40 years, the clinic has provided low-cost, quality health care for underserved families throughout Los Angeles.

Teen angst bring laughs film director won’t ‘Forget’


Nicholas Stoller remembers the day he joined the “Jew-Tang Clan,” the creative posse led by comedy wunderkind Judd Apatow (“The 40-year-old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”).

Apatow was interviewing the then-24-year-old writer for a job on his 2000 college sitcom, “Undeclared.”

“I was incredibly nervous,” said Stoller, who directs Apatow Productions’ latest heroic-zhlub-fest, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” But he impressed the producer with an idea based on his own college days: “I had a sleepover in a friend’s room, and he put on an Erasure song, and we both cried about our long-distance girlfriends,” Stoller said. “Judd laughed really hard at that.”

“Sarah Marshall” — which stars “Undeclared” alumnus Jason Segal — is an ode to this kind of male blubbering. When sweet slacker Peter Bretter (Segal) is dumped by his TV-star girlfriend, he endeavors to forget his woes by flying off to Hawaii — only to find that he is staying at the same resort where his ex is cavorting with her new beau.

Between misadventures, the distraught Peter bawls everywhere: in public, on the floor curled up in fetal position and on the balcony of his lavish suite, where the romantic sunset in the background only enhances his misery. His howls are so deafening that guests complain about a woman crying too loudly somewhere in the hotel. Inevitably, a new love interest emerges, in the form of a feisty hotel employee (Mila Kunis); the film becomes the kind of raunch-fest with a heart one expects of Apatow et al, who have carved a niche (and created blockbusters) by combining gross-out gags with chick-flick sincerity.

“Jason and I find ‘Pathetic Man’ hilarious,” Stoller said of the inspiration for “Sarah Marshall.” “The idea of a grown man crying is the funniest thing in the world to us. Of course, relationship troubles and breakups can be devastating. But the melodrama is also kind of amusing.”

Stoller is not the first Jew-Tanger to draw on his own neuroses. The New York Times called Apatow’s prot�(c)g�(c)s “a dedicated core of comedy geeks … propelled by social sensibilities that all of them acknowledge are lodged firmly in high school.”

Stoller attended high school at St. Paul’s, a New Hampshire boarding school affiliated with the Episcopal Church. “I had a girlfriend but I didn’t play lacrosse, and I was obsessed with comedy movies, which is a big notch on the nerd board,” he recalls.

“It’s not like anyone burned a cross outside my room,” he adds of being one of the few Jews at school. “But it was hard for me to engage in that very reserved, WASPy ethos. In general, I found that my Jewish friends and I were much more open to talking about our fears and teenage angst. But I’m glad I went to St. Paul’s, because it was the most difficult social situation I’ve ever been in. When I went to Harvard, it was just really easy from there on out.”

Stoller wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and performed in a school improvisational troupe — but did not escape relationship woes. Consider the time a college girlfriend broke up with him, then asked for one last kiss: “I started to tear up in what I imagined was a romantic way, then I started to cry, then I started to cry really hard — and then she left, because it was really weird and awkward,” Stoller said with a laugh. “I spent the next month drunk, which was good.”

Today, Stoller shares a Los Angeles home with his wife, Francesca Delbanco, and their 6-month-old daughter, Penelope. The droll and occasionally self-deprecating director met Delbanco through friends at an informal writers workshop in 2001. (She is the author of a well-received novel, “Ask Me Anything,” about the single life of a struggling actress.)

They were both dating other people at the time, and Delbanco lived in New York, so their first date didn’t take place until the following year. They met up in Big Sur, made each other laugh constantly, and moved in together after two more transcontinental dates. In 2005, they wed in a Jewish ceremony in Los Angeles, where guests included fellow Apatow-niks such as Seth Rogen.

Stoller was hanging around on the set of “Knocked Up” when Segal, his favorite writing partner, mentioned a script about his own experiences as a dumpee. (The actor actually had a girlfriend break up with him while he was naked, which became “Marshall’s” opening sequence.)

“I went to Judd and asked if I could direct the movie — my first — if I helped Jason through the writing process,” Stoller said.

Apatow agreed on the spot.

Now Stoller and Segal have two more projects in the works: a new Muppet film for Disney and an interfaith romance, “The Five Year Engagement,” which will also star Segal.

“The Jewish character is an atheist, but he suddenly becomes very religious when someone suggests a priest officiate at the wedding,” Stoller said.

Apparently Segal’s mother was so shocked by her son’s nudity in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” that she ran into the lobby and sobbed during a preview.

Stoller warned his own parents about the Full Monty: “I said that Jason does show his penis, but it’s not gratuitous,” he said.

The film opens April 18.


‘Sarah Marshall’ trailer

Calming those wedding-day jitters, virtually


The situation couldn’t be more stressful: convince your ex-boyfriend to sing at your sister’s wedding after the band quits; keep the groom’s sister from making it “her” day; assure the groom’s mother that it is OK to have a store-bought wedding cake; make sure the bride’s divorced parents don’t kill each other; don’t let the bride know the groom had a stripper at his bachelor party; and above all, keep the bride calm.

It’s a good thing all this insanity comes with a “quit” function.

Wedding-themed video games for PCs and mobile phones are a small but growing segment of the industry that offers a fun, tension-relieving distraction for women planning a wedding. Yes, the plots are simple, but the games themselves rely on brainpower and observation — a marked difference from the first-person shooters often found in the groom’s Xbox 360.

“My Bridezilla”

In the wireless phone game “My Bridezilla” (AMA), you play Michelle, the scientist sister of the bride-to-be and default maid of honor. Your sister visits you at the lab and, while walking off in a huff, crashes into a cart of chemicals that turns her into a green monster whenever she gets mad. The player selects a line of dialogue to continue the action in this interactive adventure game. The wrong conversation will anger the bride, and too much anger turns the bride into Bridezilla, which forces you to replay the scene. In the final scene, the groom’s sister becomes the spawn of Satan, and it’s your job to get the bride so angry she turns into Bridezilla for the final showdown.

Given that the soon-to-be newlyweds are named Elizabeth Olivia Greenberg and Jake Winston Weiss, it’s odd that the couple is getting married at Sacred Hearts Chapel. What, no synagogues or hotels in this virtual town?

“My Bridezilla” also features two minigames: One involves tackling people who try to steal food, dresses and flowers; the other takes a little more brainpower as you create cakes and antidotes in the lab. Once you beat the main game it unlocks the minigames, allowing you to play them as often as you want without replaying the entire game.

“Dream Day” Trilogy

The “Dream Day” trilogy (Oberon) — “Dream Day Wedding,” “Dream Day Honeymoon” and “Dream Day First Home” — is a “Where’s Waldo” homage to the big day for your Windows-based PC (98-Vista). This first-person puzzle adventure tests the player’s memory by locating different items as well as solving hidden-object puzzle and memory games.

“Dream Day Wedding” has gamers visiting the florist, gown shop, bakery and other shops to find objects to make your friend Jenny’s wedding day a dream. Minigames between shopping trips helps unlock a secret honeymoon level, and the “Choose a Story” feature allows you to explore how the couple met, fell in love and got engaged. And what would a wedding game be without a few crisis moments to solve?

Once you get the happy couple hitched, it’s off to “Dream Day Honeymoon,” where you help the happy couple solve their honeymoon troubles by uncovering hidden treasures in beautiful and romantic tropical locations.

And in “Dream Day First Home,” Jenny and Robert return from their honeymoon and need your help choosing the house, shopping and redecorating.

While all three titles are highly addictive, anyone who gets a headache from staring at a screen too long might want to set a timer — you can only search for a bowling pin in a jewelry shop for so long before you go cross-eyed. No word yet on “Dream Day Delivery.”

“Wedding Dash”

Fans of the reality TV series, “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?” will eat up this game version of a wedding planner’s day from hell. “Wedding Dash” (PlayFirst) is from the makers of “Diner Dash” (it even features a cameo by Flo the Waitress) and is available for both PC and Mac.

As Quinn, you have to help the bride and groom put together their perfect wedding. But you have to deal with drunken guests, tipsy cakes and girls that put the “b” in bridesmaid, all the while trying to earn money to keep your business afloat. Piece of cake.

The game is gentle on the first-timer by starting out slow, but “Wedding Dash’s” ending — like plenty of titles aimed at guys — is not so clearly defined and it’s easy to get lost in the game play.

“My Fantasy Wedding”

For those who prefer planning their own wedding instead of someone else’s, there’s the PC game, “My Fantasy Wedding” (ValuSoft). Those who are in the midst of planning an actual wedding might find little entertainment in picking the groom, cake, bridesmaids and dress. But this game lets you also pick the location (so can have that beach wedding you dreamed of). In the end, you can watch the wedding of your dreams take place.

Although there’s no rabbi, chuppah or family drama, this is still fun for gals who have a few years to go before their nuptials.

“Cake Mania” and “Cake Mania 2”

“Cake Mania” (Sandlot Games) is an arcade-style game featuring culinary school grad Jill. Her grandparents’ shop is closed and it’s up to you as the master baker to help them reopen. Grow your cake-making business by setting up sites in different locales (Why does anyone need a bakery at the circus or in the middle of a casino?) and keep your customers happy. Buy enough upgrades to make wedding cakes and really start bringing in the “dough.” Warning: Cupids have a very short temper.

Available for the PC and mobile phones, “Cake Mania” might have enough action to keep even the most impatient fiancÃ(c) occupied as you’re picking out the perfect invitations.

While these titles won’t do much to help you plan your wedding day, they offer a much-needed break for a bride-to-be’s brain (and that of her bridal party). Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy.

The Calendar Girls: Picks, kicks and plugs


SAT | FEBRUARY 2

(THEATER)
” target=”_blank”>http://www.chancetheater.com.

(DOCUMENTARY)
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and maybe that’s also true of this movie’s title: “Farewell Israel: Bush, Iran and the Revolt of Islam.” The documentary highlights Islam’s susceptibility to Western influence and its trials with Jews and the State of Israel. Told from a Muslim viewpoint, the documentary suggests Western misunderstanding of Islam will incite a disastrous war — devastating to the modern world and most of all, to Israel. 7:30 p.m. $7. Congregation Shaarei Tefila, 7269 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 938-7147. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.theatre40.org.

SUN | FEBRUARY 3

(ENTERTAINMENT)
The Foundation for Jewish Education invites you to partake in their “Yiddish English Variety Night.” No, that does not mean you have to get up on stage and belt out an old folk song. It means you get to enjoy an evening of laughter and entertainment, delicious desserts and hors d’oeuvres and pleasant company. 7:30 p.m. $50 (tax-deductible donation). Beverly Hills residence. R.S.V.P. for exact address, (310) 273-8612 or info@tfjeinc.org.

(THEATER)
The 1924 Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb thrill-killing of a Chicago teenage boy is garnering lots of attention in the Los Angeles theater scene with the recent opening of “Thrill Me” at the Hudson Backstage Theatre. Now the Blank Theatre Company is staging “Dickie and Babe: The Truth About Leopold and Loeb.” Writer and director Daniel Henning did research for two years before creating this riveting documentary play based on trial transcripts, medical reports and newly discovered primary source materials. Sun., 2 p.m.; Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m. $22. 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. (866) 811-4111. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’ alt=’Pick’>
You’ve heard of Rabbi Hillel; Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life; and a Hillel sandwich. But what about Hillel the Balloon Man? Mysterious Argentine-born entertainer Hillel Gitter describes himself as a magician, actor, mime and clown, and he brings his balloon tricks to the Magic Castle for a tantalizing live performance. Be warned, this Academy of Magical Arts requires an elegant dress code, and the only way in to “The Palace of Mystery” is through Mr. Balloon Man himself. Once admitted, magic-seekers have the option of five different shows in three showrooms. 21 and over. Through Feb. 10. $20-$25. The Magic Castle, Academy of Magical Arts, 7001 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. For guest passes, visit
” target=”_blank”>http://www.uclahillel.org.

TUE | FEBRUARY 5

(DIALOGUE)
Even for an accomplished writer like David Rieff, writing about the death of one’s mother is with difficult — especially when your mother happens to be Susan Sontag, who was one of New York’s leading intellectuals before her death from leukemia in 2004. In “Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son’s Memoir,” Rieff writes, “This is a book of questions about what we know and, perhaps more importantly, what we can take in when confronted by the death of a loved one.” He’ll appear at ALOUD with L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten. 7 p.m. Free. Central Library Mark Taper Auditorium, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles. Reservations required. (213) 228-7025. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.rjchq.org/events.asp.

WED | FEBRUARY 6

(STORYTELLING)
” target=”_blank”>http://www.levantinecenter.org/pages/land_twice_promised.html.

(HEALTH)
What modern girl-in-the-know isn’t familiar with “Sex and the City”? At Women’s Health Day, naturopathic physician Brett Jacques will speak about something a little different, “Stress in the City.” A variety of speakers will discuss an array of contemporary health issues for women. 8:15 a.m.-3 p.m. $50- $60 (includes breakfast, lunch and two passes to the Skirball Cultural Center). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 276-0036.

The Calendar Girls: Picks, kicks and plugs


SAT | JANUARY 26

(KIDS)
andeebhdspa@yahoo.com.

(FILM)
” target=”_blank”>http://americancinematheque.com.

(LECTURE)
Have a thirst for higher education, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of test taking, registration and studying? Now you can go “Back to College For a Day” and learn from renowned USC and UCLA professors, among others. Lecture topics include the impact of stress on behavior and the brain, the coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews in Medieval Spain, and law in a multicultural world. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. $179 (parking and lunch). Mount St. Mary’s College, Chalon Campus, 12001 Chalon Road, Los Angeles. (818) 704-4207. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.plays411.com/thrillme or ” target=”_blank”>http://maccabilosangeles.com/.

(SINGLES)
The Jewish Single Parents and Singles Association has a lovely Sunday all planned out for you: start out with a hearty omelet or toasted bagel with cream cheese at local favorite Katella Deli, then spend the rest of the day with the group, wandering the glorious art-filled halls of the Getty Center Museum. Exhibitions to check out include the photographs of Andr�(c) Kert�(c)sz, the history of the nude in photography and Nicole Cohen’s critically acclaimed video installation, “Please Be Seated.” 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Katella Deli, 4470 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos. (714) 964-7031.

(THEATER)
Harry Boychick is inviting you to his bar mitzvah. Don’t know him? Doesn’t matter. None of the guests know Harry, but they will be joining him and his family at a rollicking reception. Amy Lord, the creator of “Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral,” brings us her new interactive show, “The Boychick Affair: The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychick,” where the audience joins in the insanity, mingling with actors, dancing, laughing and even partaking in the celebratory meal. This promises to be unlike any show (or bar mitzvah) you’ve ever been to. Sundays at 2 p.m. (open-ended run). $36 (twice chai for the bar mitzvah boy!). Price includes meal. Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (800) 838-3006. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.westsidejcc.org.

(VOLUNTEER)
Drag your honey out of bed to do some good today. ATID’s Couples Havurah, for young Jews (married or dating) between the ages of 21 and 39, has planned a volunteer day where you and your other can help prepare kosher meals for people with HIV/AIDS. “Project Kitchen Soup” will leave you feeling so warm and fuzzy inside that you’ll forget you woke up at 7 a.m. 7:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Free. Hirsh Family Kosher Kitchen, 338 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. required, (310) 481-3244. ” border=”0″ vspace=”8″ hspace=”8″ align=”left” alt=”pick”>Erudite composers Hans Gal and Robert Kahn were forced into exile when they fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Their music was removed from libraries and destroyed, and they were stripped of their prominent posts. Tonight, contemporary musicians on cello, bassoon and piano will reclaim the banished music of their forbears during an evening of “Recovered Music by Exiled German Jewish Composers.” Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Stephen S. Wise Temple and Kehillat Israel are underwriting the program and proceeds will benefit the Alfred and Miriam Wolf Scholarship Fund of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. 4 p.m. $36. Second Space — The Stage @ Santa Monica, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Santa Monica Boulevard (between 10th and 11th streets). (310) 434-3414. ” border=”0″ vspace=”8″ hspace=”8″ align=”left” alt=”pick”>Comedian Wendy Liebman confessed something during a Hillel fundraiser last summer that deeply shames her: “I have separation anxiety … so I can’t do laundry.” The fundraiser was so successful, it’s happening again. Hillel 818 Presents “Comedy Night” is a cacophony of L.A.’s most wicked, witty and wild talent: the handsome Elon Gold, Lisa Ann Walter, who’s not sure if she’s naughty or nice, and Liebman. With nights like these, the partnership between the Pierce and Valley Colleges Hillel and the CSUN Hillel seems like a match made in heaven. 7 p.m. (VIP reception), 8 p.m. (show). $10-$75. The World Famous Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (818) 886-5101 or

Jewish themes on tap at Sundance festival


“I never sold weed after high school — I swear,” said 31-year-old filmmaker Jonathan Levine.

Instead, he said, “The Wackness,” which revolves around a dealer who trades pot for therapy sessions (and premieres in competition at the Sundance Film Festival this week), was inspired by his teen angst back in 1994, as he bemoaned his social status, bickered with his Jewish parents and obsessed about what he calls life’s “wackness, the awful stuff, rather than living in the moment.”

The movie — which stars Ben Kingsley as a druggie psychiatrist — is among the high-profile films of interest to Jewish viewers at Sundance, where many of the 121 features deal with existential angst and how individuals come to terms with painful realities, often in comic ways.

“The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” — also in competition — is adapted from Michael Chabon’s early novel about a young man who crosses his Jewish mobster father (Nick Nolte) and explores his own bisexuality; “The Deal” tells of a suicidal producer (William H. Macy) who cons a studio into financing a $100 million movie with a nonexistent script, starring a black action star who has converted to Judaism; the drama, “Strangers,” spotlights an affair between an Israeli man and a Palestinian woman; and Boaz Yakin’s “Death in Love,” chronicles a Jewish woman’s (Jacqueline Bisset) trysts with a Nazi doctor, and how that later impacts her grown sons. (A documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” recounts the sexual scandal that led the director to flee this country in 1978.)

Yakin (“Fresh,” “Remember the Titans”) previously appeared at Sundance in 1998 with “A Price Above Rubies,” which raised ire in the Jewish community (and earned mixed reviews) for its tale of a Chasidic woman battling her oppressive community.

“People will probably be more upset about this film,” Yakin, 42, said of “Death in Love,” which melds Holocaust themes with explicit sex.

“But it’s not a bone I’m picking with Judaism, as much as it is an expression of how difficult it is to be a human being,” he insists. “Because I happen to be Jewish, the story manifests in that way.”

“Death in Love,” Yakin said, is the most fantastical (in terms of plot) but the most “emotionally personal” screenplay he has ever written. It draws on the time — about five years ago — that he fell into a severe depression as work proved uninspiring, a longtime relationship ended and, he said, “I woke up and went to sleep thinking about suicide.” He said he went back into therapy and delved deeply into “the roots of my own psyche, which includes my relationship to the Holocaust.”

Most of Yakin’s mother’s relatives died in Auschwitz.

“Her parents were the only ones of their respective families who survived, so the Holocaust is deeply ingrained in my psyche and the way I approach Jews and non-Jews,” he explained. “It’s a wariness, and a kind of masochistic relationship to the outside world. In the film I try to explore what I consider to be a kind of sadomasochistic relationship that Jews have had with their tormentors over the centuries — an almost sexual cycle of pain and suffering that keeps this relationship alive.”

The Sundance Festival runs through Jan. 27.

YeLAdim yaks with Disney’s Adam Bonnett


How cool would it be to pick what everyone else gets to watch on television?

Well that’s what Adam Bonnett, Disney Channel and Jetix senior vice president of original programming, gets to do — every day.

He helped bring shows like “Hannah Montana,” “That’s So Raven” and the “Suite Life of Zack and Cody” to television sets around the world. And he knows his stuff: Before working at Disney, Bonnett was director of current programming for Nickelodeon, and he helped created “Kids Choice Awards.”

YeLAdim was invited to Disney Channel headquarters in Burbank to talk with Adam about his job, the Jewish themes on the network and what goes into creating hit television shows.

YeLAdim: So what does the senior vice president of original programming do?
Adam Bonnett: It means I develop the series — animated and live action — that air on [Disney Channel and Jetix]. And I take pitches for new ideas. When I’m exited about something, I get the network excited about it and develop that script into something we want to shoot as a pilot. We shoot it and test it and show it to kids and get feedback on it.

Y: What’s the best part of your job?
AB: Seeing the excitement of a kid and how passionate they are. If I developed “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “According to Jim,” adults watch, but they don’t have the passion that kids have. They don’t look at these characters like they are friends.

Y: What’s the hardest part of your job?
AB: There’s not a lot of margin for error. We don’t come out with pilots the way networks do. The other challenge is staying ahead of the curve. Kids are changing. They are very sophisticated. There is a demand for pop culture and wanting to grow up, but still loving being a kid…. That’s why you have “Hannah” and “High School Musical.” We’re in production year-round.

Y: What were your favorite shows growing up?
AB: “Laverne and Shirley” — I identified with them being outsiders, because I felt that way as a kid. A lot of the Garry Marshall stuff, the broad physical humor in “Three’s Company.” That’s what I grew up with, and that’s the kind of humor I like to put into the series that I develop. I also grew up watching “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island,” so you take a show like “Suite life” that takes place in a hotel.

Y: With its revolving door of guest stars.
AB: I see a lot of “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” in a show like that. You look at a show like “Hannah Montana,” and I remember thinking how inspirational it was to see a character like Ritchie Cunningham break the rules and be a little naughty because of The Fonz. I see a lot of that in our show –but it is Disney Channel friendly. I watched a lot of shows that were empowering to girls, like “Charlie’s Angels,” and I see a lot of that in shows like “Kim Possible” and “Hannah Montana.”

Y: Cory on “That’s So Raven” had a bar mitzvah — or what he called a “bro mitzvah” — last year, “Even/Stevens” had a Chanukah episode. How do you decide where to insert Jewish themes?
AB: We try to portray all different types of kids on our shows, whether they are Jewish or Christian or Muslim, which we did on the “Proud Family.” The honest answer is that writers and execs like to draw on personal experiences. And a lot of producers are Jewish. With Cory, the exec producers are Jewish; writing for an African American character, but they draw from their own experience. I haven’t spoken to him about it, but [likely] when he was a kid, he wanted a bar mitzvah mainly to make some money like every boy — they don’t get what the bar mitzvah is about till it’s over. Ron Stoppable [“Kim Possible”] had a bar mitzvah — we did one with Gordo on “Lizzie Maguire.” It was interesting with “Evens/Stevens,” we did a Chanukah episode, but it was a blended family. It comes from the writer’s personal experience — regardless of the character’s religion.

Y: And it’s great that London Tipton on “Suite Life” keeps bringing up all the presents she received for Chanukah.
AB: Again, Jewish writers. The wonderful thing about London’s family is that we never met them, and we kind of never know where this is all coming from. There’s another character on “Suite Life,” Barbara Brownstein, who is Cody’s girlfriend, but she’s Asian and her parents are Caucasian — which shows that Barbara is likely the adopted child of a Jewish family. The irony is that London uses Yiddish expressions, but goes to a Catholic school with Maddie Fitzpatrick [“High School Musical’s” Ashley Tilsdale]. It’s not about having a Jewish agenda — just showing all different types of kids.

Y: Are you surprised that girls have found a kinship with Maddie and London on “The Suite Life,” or was that always planned?
AB: It was always the plan. We wanted to create a dynamic where the girls were frenemies — friends and rivals — because we had never done that before. We didn’t see it with Raven and Chelsea [“That’s So Raven”] or with Lizzie and Miranda [“Lizzie Maguire”].

Y: What’s your first Disney memory?
AB: Probably “Mary Poppins.” I remember seeing animation and live action blended together. Then you look at something like “Lizzie” and you see the melding of live action and animation.

Y: What’s coming up this season on The Disney Channel?

No Rat King, no fairies — just one ‘MeshugaNutcracker’


Not long ago, Scott and Shannon Guggenheim’s 4-year-old daughter, Lily, looked up at them and asked when Santa would be bringing her Christmas presents.

“To say that we, as creators of a Chanukah musical, were shocked is an understatement,” recalls Shannon Guggenheim. “[Lily] is already feeling the pull so many Jewish kids feel. She probably went drifting off to sleep dreaming of sugar plum fairies.”

That Chanukah musical, “The MeshugaNutcracker!” is the Guggenheims’ tuneful contribution for children like Lily, who need an antidote to the ubiquitous Christmas blitz that occurs every year.

The Bay Area-based couple co-wrote, produced, choreographed and directed the holiday staple. Drawing on music from Tchaikovsky’s famous “Nutcracker” ballet, “The MeshugaNutcracker!” has been a hit with Jewish families since its 2003 debut in the Bay Area.

Now, says Shannon, the show is expanding its reach, playing cities like Seattle and Scottsdale, Ariz., for the first time this Chanukah. That’s in addition to runs in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

This year, six of eight cast members are new, the music has been re-orchestrated to give it a more Broadway feel, and a newly constructed proscenium arch will be in place for opening night.

“It’s an homage to Chagall,” Shannon says of the goat-and-fiddler decorated arch. “We still have the dreidel as the centerpiece. And now we have a dream cast of amazing musicians. In the past we had actors who sing. This year we have singer-actor-dancers.”

“The MeshugaNutcracker!” tells the tale of eight citizens of Chelm, the mythical shtetl of fools, who gather every year to perform at their Chanukah festival. Through the course of the two-act musical, each tells a story of Chanukah heroes from the time of the Maccabees through today.

Shannon wrote the lyrics and Scott directs, while both wrote the musical’s book based on stories adapted by Eric A. Kimmel (author of “The Jar of Fools”) and Peninnah Schram and Steven M. Rosman, (authors of “Eight Stories for Eight Nights”). Stephen Guggenheim, Scott’s brother, provides musical direction.

The musical is just one mainstay of the theatrical couple. Their company, Guggenheim Entertainment, provides entertainment, marketing and support services for corporate and private clients (think “holiday show for the mall”), and their National Jewish Theater Festival develops Jewish-themed stage productions for every audience.

But “MeshugaNutcracker!” holds a special place in their hearts, largely because their own daughter fits the target-audience profile.

“It’s no joke,” adds Shannon. “We say it in the show: ‘Santa has the last laugh/His holiday lasts a month and half.’ I’m not saying what we’re doing is brain surgery, but it occurred to us that it’s a Jewish parent’s cultural responsibility to take their kids to this show. It’s not Tiny Tim or the Mouse King.”

Shannon, a Jew-by-choice, stresses that she and her husband are not engaging in Christmas bashing.

“Santa is a good guy,” she says. “But Jews have something else right here in their backyard. They can say ‘I own that and I am proud of that.'”

Though with each passing year the Guggenheims have taken their show on a longer and longer road, they are reluctant to license the musical to other theater companies. Call it creative control, call it a labor of love, but the two plan on keeping “MeshugaNutcracker!” to themselves for those eight crazy nights and beyond.

However, eternal as the lights of Chanukah may be, the holiday comes around but once on the calendar, which can be a drawback to a theater company.

“Sometimes,” Shannon says with a laugh, “we kick ourselves for having a show that’s only six weeks a year.”

Performances of “The MeshugaNutcracker!” take place at the University of Judaism on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. $35-$50. 15600 Mulholland Drive, just off the 405 Freeway. For more information, call (818) 986-7332 or visit www.kcdancers.org.

frdy nt efis


Rabbi Effie Golberg is in a bind. It’s late Friday night and he’s got about 60 noisy teenagers at his home in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Right now, they aresampling five different cholents, as part of his first-ever Cholent Cook-Off.

But there’s a problem: Cholent No. 4 is too popular, and they’ve run out of No. 4 cards. Since they can’t make new ones on Shabbat, the rabbi needs to improvise. He sees that cholent No. 5, his own, has gotten no reaction, so he announces that No. 5 cards will now count for cholent No. 4.

Problem solved.

It’s another day at the office for Rabbi Effie, the head of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) on the West Coast.

Rabbi Effie’s specialty is dealing with teenagers. On this night, a happy group of teens is buzzing throughout his modest but welcoming home, and they are filling its many “play areas.”

Within about a minute, he asks a 10th grade YULA girl how her science project is coming along; he tells a Shalhevet boy that he hasn’t yet received his paperwork for the “regionals” (the nickname for their big annual Shabbaton in December); and he introduces a kid from Natan Eli to a kid from Shalhevet (where he gives a class on comparative religion).

The rabbi has some extra stress tonight, because the housekeeper didn’t show, and his 9-month-old baby girl is having trouble sleeping. His wife and partner, Sara Leah, a New York frummie who could have played the lead in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days,” is commuting between the baby’s bedroom and the kitchen, handing out little cholent containers, directing traffic between the crockpots and matching her husband’s affinity for delivering instant soundbites to an easily distracted generation.

As the climax of the evening approaches — the reveal of the best cholent — Sara Leah is helping her husband gather everyone in the kitchen. They interrupt a high-intensity foosball game, kids playing cards and board games and others just being loud for no reason. It’s clear they don’t mind yelling above the din of the crowd to get people’s attention.

Every party has a star, and for my money the star of this party is a stocky, Moroccan version of John Belushi (kids, go rent “Animal House” or “The Blues Brothers”) who goes by the name of Ouriel.

This 23-year-old character recently joined the staff at NCSY, and tonight he will announce the winner. When he introduced the five cholents a little earlier, he used references to the movie “Borat” and the MTV show “Yo Momma!” to make fun of everything, including the crockpots. He picked on a fancy-looking crockpot (my daughter’s) by referring to MTV’s “Pimp My Ride,” revealing with a perfect deadpan that this particular crockpot came equipped with a DVD player and a navigation system.

When Ouriel announces the final scores, he shows no mercy for the losers, which plays well with a crowd raised on “American Idol.” As the contest comes down to the two finalists, he lowers his voice to build suspense. He’s no fool. He knows that the grand prize — a $20 gift certificate at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf — will not build suspense on its own, so he must compensate. By the time he announces the winner (cholent No. 4, Sephardic style) and ridicules the runner-up cholent’s Polish Ashkenazi lineage, it’s clear that the yelling and celebrating have nothing to do with the winning of a free chai latte.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Effie is schmoozing with a 15-year-old boy from Beverly Hills High, trying to entice him to come to the regionals (“the food and the speakers will be amazing”). He also reconnects with an alum who is now at USC and who tells me that in his last year of high school he rarely missed a Friday night of E=MC2.

E=MC2 is the somewhat corny name for Rabbi Effie’s Friday night drop-ins (Effie’s = munchies plus chillin’ and cholent), but corny or not, the kids have been coming. What started as impromptu invitations to a few high schoolers three years ago has become a weekly happening for the teens of the hood.

Outside, I ask a Shalhevet girl who is a friend of my daughter why she likes going to Effie’s, and she replies that it makes Shabbat “less boring.”

Rabbi Effie is very aware that “not boring” is the secret password to win over teenagers. If you hear what this sharp-dressing 28-year-old has to sell — lighting Shabbat candles, putting on tefillin, learning Torah, eating kosher, honoring the Shabbat, honoring your parents, visiting the sick, avoiding gossip, saying your brachas, etc. — you understand why he needs to avoid boredom at all cost.

He heads two organizations on the West Coast: NCSY, which runs programs for teenagers in Jewish day schools, and JSU (Jewish Student Union), which works with Jewish teenagers in public schools. As he sees it, he encourages both groups of kids to do the same thing: strengthen their connection to Judaism, whether their level of Torah observance is high or nonexistent.

Although he doesn’t shove the Orthodox label down anybody’s throat, he makes no apologies for his Orthodox agenda (NCSY does, after all, fall under the Orthodox Union umbrella), nor for the fact that he would love to see every Jewish teenager in America keep the Shabbat and eventually marry Jewish.

He’s smart enough to take what he can get. He once pleaded with a teenage girl who was completely disconnected from her Judaism to try honoring the Shabbat for just 10 minutes: light the candles, he told her, and stay off the Sidekick, the iPod and the TV for 10 minutes, and try it again next week, this time for 20 minutes.

He believes that if he can keep the kids busy with their Judaism, they’ll spend less time wasting their lives away on things like MySpace and YouTube.

The King of Hearts; Celebrating diversity


All About Atidim

“As Henry VIII told each of his six wives, ‘I won’t keep you long’,” promised Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, as he addressed some 300 guests at the Skirball Cultural Center.

The Nov. 16 occasion was a benefit for Atidim, an innovative Israeli project to assure an education for promising youngsters from the country’s poorer development towns and thus help close the social and economic gap between Israel’s haves and have-nots.

Gillerman assured his audience that the recent battles against Hezbollah in Lebanon had been a success and had changed the rules in the Mideast diplomatic game.

Joining the ambassador on the speaker’s rostrum were Rabbi Eli Hirscher, Skirball founder Uri Hirscher, Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch, and Israeli industrialist Eitan Wertheimer.

The only disappointment was the no-show of megabillionaire Warren Buffet, who called in sick.

Metuka Benjamin, co-organizer of the event with Anette and A. Stuart Rubin, received a standing ovation, as did two Atidim-aided graduates, one from Ethiopia, the other from Russia.

Conversation at the Circuit’s table was enlivened by Rochelle Ginsburg, principal of the Stephen S. Wise Temple elementary school, and her physician husband Eli.

As master of ceremonies, actor Michael Burstyn kept the action moving and concluded the evening on a high note by leading guests in singing “Jerusalem of Gold.”

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

King of Hearts

Larry King and his friends showed the world their determination to provide health care to all no matter what their economic circumstances when the Larry King Cardiac Foundation hosted “An Evening with Larry King and Friends” at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was a feast for the eyes and the palate and the heart and there was something for everyone as King and wife Shawn Southwick-King hosted the gala, entertaining the group with playful banter and true stories and incidents in their life.

“Entertainment Tonight”‘s adorable Mary Hart acted as emcee, bringing a whole lotta smiles and sunshine to the proceedings that honored Los Angeles’ own “movie star” mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, Eva (the men couldn’t get their eyes off her) Longoria, beloved and uber-generous philanthropists Alfred and Claude Mann, and renowned cardiologist Dr. Enrique Ostrzega. Athlete extraordinaire Lance Armstrong was on-hand to present the Corazones Unidos (United Hearts) award to Longoria, who thanked Armstrong for being there for her and acknowledged her deep admiration for him as someone who has triumphed in the face of personal adversity.

Three fortunate families bid $15,000 a piece for a personal portrait done by legendary American artist Peter Max.

The event featured entertainment by Il Divo, and raised more than $700,000 in funds to support the partnership forged earlier this year between the LAC+USC Healthcare Network, COPE Health Solutions, the Los Angeles County division of the American Heart Association and the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

A Woman of Valor

It was a nonstop kvellfest when civic leader Rita Brucker received the Coastal Cities “Volunteer of the Year” award by the American Cancer Society. Brucker was recognized for her 35 years of outstanding service as one of the founding architects for the “Reach to Recovery” program helping breast cancer survivors. Proud son Barry Brucker, Beverly Hills City Council member, who attended the event with his wife, Sue and father, Charlie, stated, “I was amazed at the number of breast cancer survivors who credited my mother for being an integral part in their survival … it was very emotional and we are very proud.”

Celebrating Diversity

The evening was as diversified as its cause Nov. 19 at the star-studded black tie Multicultural Motion Picture Association’s (MMPA)14th Annual Diversity Awards — “Celebrating Diversity – Creativity and Talent That Shine.” The event, honoring artists for their exceptional achievements in film and television, benefited The Multicultural Motion Picture Association’s Educational and Development Scholarship Fund, that helps talented and dedicated students, and upcoming filmmakers, seeking entry into the film and television professions.

Jarvee E. Hutcherson, executive producer of the 14th Annual Diversity Awards and president of MMPA, said, “We are very pleased to honor a very select talented group of artists every year at The Diversity Awards, each of whom our organization feels have broadened the creative landscape in the film and television industry through their visionary work. With this year’s theme … we are recognizing the foundation laid by both artistic leaders and the emerging depth of dedicated young artists, behind and in front of the camera, who are bringing to this industry, a vision and talent indicative of only greater things to come in the future.”

MMPA’s Educational Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance and technical support to young filmmakers bringing diverse stories to the screen.

All’s Well

Three women were honored at The Wellness Community of West Los Angeles’ annual Friends of Wellness luncheon at the Skirball Cultural Center.

The women, Judy Bernstein, Shirley Blitz and Lynda Levy have given of their time, their hearts and their spirit to helping fulfill the mission of The Wellness Community.

“Their efforts have helped bring hope and support to countless people with cancer,” said Ellen Silver, executive director of The Wellness Community -West Los Angeles,
More than 265 people attended the event that featured a heartwarming presentation from cancer survivor and Wellness Center participant Karen Sabatini and a presentation with authors Carolyn and Lisa See.
For more information about The Wellness Community-West Los Angeles, visit www.twc-wla.org.

Michael Richards: Still not a Jew


There’s a civil war brewing in Lebanon, missiles sizzle on their launch pads in Gaza; death and doom stalk Iraq; the earth’s climate speeds toward collapse; andIran is five days closer to going nuclear than it was before my Thanksgiving holiday began.

And when I return to work, what does the whole world seem to be wondering?Hey, is Michael Richards Jewish?

Richards is the former “Seinfeld” star who was videotaped at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood lashing out at hecklers using the N-word.

He’s been making the usual Stations of the Media Cross, apologizing ever since.And from the beginning, somehow Richards’ Jewishness, or lack of it, became an issue.

Comedian Paul Rodriguez held a press conference at the Laugh Factory, saying that Richards should know better, because the Hollywood community defended Jews against actor Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirades.

The implication was that Richards, a Jew, should not be launching racist attacks.

Black leaders, self-proclaimed and otherwise, told journalists that they’d be watching to see whether Hollywood reacted as strongly to Richards’ racist outburst as they did to Gibson.

How proud Mel must be that the intensity of Hollywood hate speech is now measured in Gibsons.

But if Gibson himself set the standard at 10 Gibsons, Richards is probably closer to a 5. He never made a full-length feature film shot through with vicious stereotypes. He never stood by a kooky Holocaust denier. And when he vented, he vented onstage in the course of an act.

I happened to catch Richards’ act at the Improv back in September. Richards showed up unbilled and stole the evening. He didn’t have punch lines — he had riffs, rants and characters — and he wasn’t close to offensive. At one point, he channeled the conversation of two dogs barking to each other across a suburban neighborhood. You needed to be there, and maybe you needed a drink in you, but it was hysterical. But channeling a racist without sounding like one is a much taller order, and best left to someone not as untethered as Richards.

That said, there’s also just a touch of hypocrisy in roasting a guy for using a word that a great many black comedians from Chris Rock on down use like … a noun. He may have gone too far, in character or not, but he certainly went where other comedians, not to mention hip hop artists, have gone before. How ethnic groups speak among themselves is one thing. But to maintain that the N-word is okay only when black comedians say it in public is a perverse kind of racism of lower expectations, as if they can’t help it but we should know better.

A lot of people in this affair should know better. How goofy is it that Richards must genuflect in apology to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who, for all his good works, is hardly pure in these matters? Evidently, people who live in glass houses can throw stones, so long as the houses are outside “Hymietown.”

And how obscene that attorney Gloria Allred immediately tried to shake Richards down for money on behalf of her clients, the hecklers. How inspiring to see the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement looting the headlines for ratings and cash.

But what interests me about Richardsgate is not black hypocrisy, but Jewish pathology. What tribal chain of ours is yanked the moment someone of indeterminate ethnicity hits the headlines?

The second the brouhaha erupted, there was an atavistic rush to get to the bottom of Richards’ identity. On Nov. 20, The Journal posted a story at reporting that Richards, contrary to the intimations of Rodriguez and others, is not Jewish.

By Tuesday night we had tens of thousands of hits from around the world.

By the following Monday, after a period of Thanksgiving reflection led people to realize what really matters most in life, our Web site had hundreds of thousands of hits, and the piece had been picked up and echoed and blogged on ad infinitum.

Monday morning I had several phones messages and two dozen e-mails demanding confirmation that Richard is not, in fact, Jewish.

What happened is that over the holiday, two more aggrieved audience members came forward and accused Richards of launching into an anti-Semitic rant on the Laugh Factory stage April 22.

Richards’ New York publicist Howard Rubenstein tried setting the record straight. It was preposterous to accuse Richards of anti-Semitism because, Rubenstein told Yahoo News last week, “He’s Jewish. He’s not anti-Semitic at all. He was role-playing, he was playing a part. He did use inappropriate language, but he doesn’t have any anti-Semitic feelings whatsoever.”

That quote was good for another tens of thousands of Web hits. Thanks to Rubenstein’s one man beit din, our original story was under attack.

But our sources were entertainment industry people who’d known the actor his entire professional life.

“Not a Jew. Never was. Take him off the list for a minyan,” e-mailed one comedy writer by way of reassurance. “Rubenstein should be wasting his time on real Jews, like David Beckham.”

(For many in Hollywood, what matters is that Richards’ outburst doesn’t cripple the “Seinfeld” franchise. There are tens of millions of dollars to be lost if fans can’t separate Michael Richards from Cosmo Kramer.)

Hollywood Jews may not know much Mishna or give to Hadassah, but at the tribal level they are sharper than Abe Foxman at knowing who’s in and who’s out.

Rubenstein knows, too, of course. The man Inc. magazine called “PR’s top dog” started his career servicing the Menorah Home and Hospital for the Aged and Infirm in Brooklyn and got his first Manhattan real estate tycoon publicity by arranging for him to sing to little Jewish orphans on Jewish holidays. So I called him and asked how, suddenly, Michael Richards is a Jew.

“Well, he wasn’t born with Jewish blood,” Rubenstein tells me in a voice that is silky, deep and confidential — with just a shmear of Flatbush. “It wasn’t an inherited religion. But after studying some of the other religions, he believes in Judaism, and that’s what he’s adopted for himself.”