Calendar Picks and Clicks: June 1-7, 2013


SAT JUNE 1 

LOS ANGELES JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL 

More than 20 dramas, documentaries, comedies, foreign language films and shorts will be shown at seven venues from Thousand Oaks to Beverly Hills. Highlights at the eighth annual L.A. Jewish Film Festival include tonight’s star-studded opening-night gala celebration with the premiere of the comedy “Putzel,” starring Susie Essman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Melanie Lynskey (“Two and a Half Men”); “Neil Diamond: Solitary Man,” a documentary on the music icon; “Becoming Henry/Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir,” with Polanski addressing every aspect of his celebrated and controversial life; “My Father and the Man in Black,” the untold story of Johnny Cash and his talented but troubled manager; and “When Comedy Went to School,” the closing-night film, which presents an entertaining portrait of the country’s greatest generation of comedians. A program of the Jewish Journal. Sat. Through June 6. Various times, locations. $40 (opening-night gala), $7-$12 (films). (213) 368-1661. lajfilmfest.org.

“ON SACRED GROUND” 

Rabbi Anne Brener, a psychotherapist and director of spiritual development at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California; the Rev. Janet Bregar, a pastor of Westwood’s Village Lutheran Church; and the Rev. Tom Eggebeen, interim pastor at Hawthorne’s Calvary Presbyterian Church, reflect on the passages from the Five Books of Moses that guide their lives. Jeff Bernhardt, editor of “On Sacred Ground,” moderates. Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom hosts. Sat. 12:30 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000. vbs.org.

“FIRST TAKE” 

The Industry, Los Angeles’ home for new and experimental opera, presents this showcase of excerpts from six new operatic works-in-progress. Included are Brooklyn composer Aaron Siegel’s “Brother Brother,” an operatic work for percussion, strings, choir, soloists and actors that explores the enigma of brotherhood, and “Pierrot Lunaire,” a new theatrical song cycle by rising star composer Mohammed Fairouz with libretto by cultural critic and poet Wayne Koestenbaum (“The Anatomy of Harpo Marx”). The performances feature the modern music collective wild Up, conducted by Christopher Rountree and The Industry’s music director, Marc Lowenstein. Sat. 2 p.m. Free. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000. hammer.ucla.edu.


SUN JUNE 2 

SORO COMMUNITY FESTIVAL 

This annual gathering near Pico-Robertson builds bridges among local neighbors, businesses and nonprofits, and celebrates the cultural diversity of the community. This year, the 16th annual SoRo (South Robertson) Festival features a variety of L.A.’s hottest gourmet food trucks, including Kosher Grill on Wheels; more than 60 vendors, with the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles and ORT America among them; a boutique with Jewish artwork for sale; live musical entertainment and dancing. Attractions for children include a rock climbing wall, arts and crafts, and more. Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. South Robertson Boulevard, between Cattaraugus Avenue and Beverlywood Street (just north of the 10 Freeway at the Robertson Boulevard exit). (310) 295-9920. soronc.org.

JTEENLA FILMFEST: “TELLING THE JEWISH STORY”

JTeenLA’s “Telling the Jewish Story” showcases a diverse range of short films from Southland students. Halston Sage of Nickelodeon’s “How to Rock” introduces the festival, and a teen filmmaker panel and reception follow the screenings. A program of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, BJE — Builders of Jewish Education and The Righteous Conversations Project. Sun. 3 p.m. $6 (students, seniors), $8 (adults). Laemmle’s Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (213) 368-1661. lajfilmfest.org.

“SUPERMAN AT 75: A JEWISH HERO FOR ALL TIME” 

For those who are curious about Superman’s Kryptonian name, Kal-El, which is Hebrew for “vessel of God,” or who have ever wondered why the origin story of the world’s first superhero seems like it’s straight out of the Book of Exodus, today’s discussion explores the Man of Steel’s Jewish roots. Marking 75 years since Superman debuted in the June 1938 issue of Action Comics, Larry Tye, author of “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero,” the first full-fledged bio of Superman; Geoff Johns, chief creative officer at DC Comics; Jack Larson, television’s original Jimmy Olsen; and “Superman” director Richard Donner appear in conversation. A Q-and-A and book signing follow. Sun. 2 p.m. $8 (general), $6 (members), $5 (full-time students). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


WED JUNE 5 

“INSIDE JEWISH TURKEY” 

If you’re interested in learning about Turkey’s Jewish community, which has a long history of self-sufficiency, don’t miss tonight’s shmoozefest, featuring young Jewish voices from Turkey discussing their traditions, triumphs and challenges, which continue to define their community. Organized by Entwine, the young adults outreach movement of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and presented in association with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Wed. 7-10 p.m. Free. Mama’s Secret Bakery & Cafe, 8314-8316 W. Third St., Los Angeles. jewishturkeyla.eventbrite.com.


FRI JUNE 7 

“HANNAH ARENDT”

Margarethe von Trotta’s biopic stars Barbara Sukowa as the influential German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Arendt. Using footage from the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial — during which Arendt introduced her now-famous concept of “the Banality of Evil” in her controversial reporting of the trial for The New Yorker — and weaving a narrative that spans three countries, von Trotta turns the invisible passion for thought into immersive and dramatic cinema. Fri. Various times. $11 (general), $8 (children under 12, seniors). Laemmle Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. Laemmle Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.

Arts in L.A Calendar


SEPTEMBER
 
Sat., Sept. 16
 
“The California Modernist Portrait.” Exhibition of portraiture from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s by Victor Arnautoff, Otis Oldfield, Mabel Alvarez and others. Sept. 16-Nov. 11. Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts, 9200 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 200, Beverly Hills. (310) 273-8838.
 
www.helfenfinearts.com.
 
“Vaudeville Extravaganza!” With variety acts by Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys, Davis and Faversham and juggler Beejay Joyer; and screenings of a cartoon, vintage newsreel, Charlie Chaplin comedy “One A.M.” and Buster Keaton’s “Pardon My Berth Marks.” Alex Film Society. 8 p.m. $12.50-$19.50. Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. (818) 243-2539.
 
www.alextheatre.org.
 
“Mexico — Mi Tierra y Mis Pasiones” by Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company. Features “De Cara al Mar,” choreographed by Viviana Basanta Hernandez in collaboration with Los Angeles’ Grandeza Mexicana. 8 p.m. $25-$30. Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.
 
www.fordamphitheatre.org.
 
Sun., Sept. 17
 
“Five Days of Freedom: Photographs From the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.” Images by Austrian photojournalist Erich Lessing. Opening Reception: 3 p.m., Sept. 17. “The Art of Photojournalism” symposium: 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Sept. 18. On view: Sept. 17-Dec. 17. Doheny Memorial Library, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. (213) 740-3270.
 
www.usc.edu/libraries.
 
Mon., Sept. 18
 
Writers Bloc Presents Michael Tolkin in Conversation With Stephen Gaghan. Tolkin, the writer of “The Player” and “The Return of the Player” is interviewed by Gaghan, screenwriter of “Traffic” and “Syriana.” 7:30 p.m. $20. Fine Arts Theater, 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 335-0917.
 
www.writersblocpresents.com.
 
Tue., Sept. 19
 
Classical Pianist Gabriela Montero in Concert. 8 p.m. $35. Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 655-2520.
 
www.livenation.com.
 
Wed., Sept. 20
 
“SIDES: The Fear Is Real…” Comedic play about six hopeful actors and their audition nightmares. East West Players. Sept. 20-Oct. 1. $20-$60. David Henry Hwang Theater, Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. (213) 625-7000.
 
www.eastwestplayers.org.
 
Fri., Sept. 22
 
“Yosemite: Art of an American Icon — Part I: 1855-1969.” Includes works by Albert Bierstadt, William Keith, Maurice Braun and Ansel Adams. Sept. 22-Jan. 21. Free (children under 6), $3-$7.50 (general). Museum of the American West, 234 Museum Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 221-2164.
 
www.autrynationalcenter.org.
 
Sat., Sept. 23
 
“On Being Human: Expressions of Faith, Love, Shame and Hope.” Exhibit of works by figurative artists representing free and captive societies around the globe. Sept. 23-Oct.21. Johnson Art Collection, 8304 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 655-5738.
 
www.johnsonartcollection.com.
 
Fri., Sept. 29
 
“Un Domingo en La Alameda/A Sunday in the Alameda.” World premiere play inspired by a mural by painter Diego Rivera. Sept. 29-Nov. 5. (All performances in Spanish, with English performances from Oct. 12-15 only.) $20-$35.Teatro Carmen Zapata, Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, Los Angeles. (323) 225-4044.
 
www.bfatheatre.org.
 
Garth Fagan Dance. Fagan is perhaps best known for his choreography of the musical “The Lion King.” Program includes “Prelude From Discipline Is Freedom,” “Oatka Trail,” “Touring Jubilee 1924 (Professional),” “Life: Dark/Light” and “Translation Transition.” 8 p.m. $20-$36. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (562) 467-8818.
 
www.cerritoscenter.com.
 
Sat., Sept. 30
 
Jules Massenet’s “Manon.” The opera is performed by Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón, and conducted by Plácido Domingo. Pre-performance lectures occur one hour prior to each performance. Sept. 30-Oct. 21. $30+. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center of Los Angeles, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-8001.
 
www.laopera.com.
 
OCTOBER
 
Sun., Oct. 1
 
2006 Mak Architecture Tour. Sample L.A. modernism with houses by Irving Gill, Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, John Lautner and Peirre Koenig. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $65-$135. R.S.V.P., (323) 651-1510.
 
www.makcenter.org.
 
Wed., Oct. 4
 
Cinema Italian Style. Screening series celebrates contemporary Italian cinema and is the official site for Golden Globes for best foreign picture eligibility screenings. In-person guests include actress Valeria Golino. Oct. 4-8. $6-$9. American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456.
 
www.aerotheatre.com.
 
Fri., Oct. 6
 
“The Marvelous Wonderettes.” The pop musical tells the story of four high school girls and features songs from the ’50s and ’60s. Oct. 6-Nov. 26. $40. El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (866) 811-4111.
 
www.marvelouswonderettes.com.
 

“Transforming Vision: The Wood Sculpture of William Hunter, 1970-2005.” First retrospective exhibition of the seminal artist’s work. Oct. 6-Dec. 10. Free (members, children under 12 and all Fridays), $6-$7 (general). Long Beach Museum of Art, 2300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. (562) 439-2119.
 
www.lbma.org.
 
Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montréal. The contemporary ballet company presents “Noces,” a fast, energetic piece choreographed by Belgian dance maker Stijn Celis, and “TooT,” by Dutch choreographer Didy Veldman, known for her humor and energetic dance theater. Oct. 6-7. $25-$95. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center of Los Angeles, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 365-3500.
 
www.musiccenter.org.
 
Three Mo’ Tenors. The trio of African American operatic tenors perform Broadway and gospel music. Oct. 6-7, 8 p.m. $42-$67. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (562) 467-8818.
 
www.cerritoscenter.com.
 
City Ballet of Los Angeles performs “Behind the Red Door.” The cabaret-style ballet explores the Greenwich Village jazz scene of the 1950s and celebrates the music of John Coltrane, plus classical ballet works. 8 p.m. $12-$20. Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.
 
www.fordamphitheatre.org.
 
Sat., Oct. 7
 
The Folk Tree Collection Presents Joel Nakamura. The award-winning illustrator and fine artist uses a sense of humor and critical social eye to reflect on contemporary issues in his paintings on tin. Opening reception: 2-6 p.m. On view: Oct. 7-Nov. 4. 199 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena. (626) 795-8733.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, June 24
Legendary folk singer, poet and ladies’ man, Leonard Cohen, makes a rare appearance at the Ford Amphitheatre this evening for a tribute in his honor. The event coincides with this week’s Los Angeles release of the concert film/documentary “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man” and is part of the L.A. Film Festival. A screening of the film follows a live performance by Martha Wainwright.

8 p.m. $10. 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt = “” >

Sunday, June 25
Nostalgic for Babs in drag? USC Casden Institute’s got your back today as they revisit the classic “Yentl.” A talk by professor Pamela Nadel, titled “Rediscovering Streisand’s Yentl: From Yiddish Story to the Culture Wars,” precedes a screening.

2 p.m. (lecture), 3 p.m. (screening). $5. Warner Grand Theater, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro. R.S.V.P., (213) 740-3405.

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Monday, June 26
For cultural immersion they’ll confuse for fun, take the kids to REDCAT’s International Children’s Film Festival this week. The Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater showcases animated and live-action films for children from 15 countries, including the Israeli live-action short “The Red Toy,” in which a young boy plays guide through Jerusalem’s Old City.

$5 (per screening). June 24-29. Times vary. 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt = “”>

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Tuesday, June 27
Consider participating in the Iris Chang Memorial Essay Contest, established in March to preserve Chang’s legacy in educating the world about the atrocities of World War II in Asia. The author and historian took her own life at the age of 36, no longer able to cope with the intimate knowledge of such horror. The theme of the essay should be “How Has Iris Chang’s Book, ‘The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of WWII,’ Affected My Life and Thinking?”

Submission deadline is July 31. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt = “”>

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Wednesday, June 28
Finegood Gallery at the Bernard Milken Community Campus offers a well-rounded exhibition as their latest. “Elements” presents works by five female artists, with each woman exemplifying one of five graphic elements. For color, look to Adria Becker’s floral subjects. For line, view Susan Gesundheit’s watercolors. For texture, Dafna Gilboa’s landscapes resonate. For shape, see Jeanne Hahn’s collages. And for value, take in the nuances of Helen Kim’s paintings on canvas.

Through July 25. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3218
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Thursday, June 29
Nonagenarian Enrico Donati has been featured before at galerie yoramgil. In fact, the gallery has made an annual project of displaying works from each decade of the artist’s career over the last six years. This month, they’ve presented a culminating event: a major retrospective of Donati’s seven decades’ worth of art, with an example piece from each series of Donati’s career. Catch “Enrico Donati: One of Each” before it closes this week.

Through June 30. 462 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-2641.

Friday, June 30
Warmer Shabbat nights are upon us, so head to the beach to commune with God and maybe some dolphins. Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue hosts Summer Sunset Services in the sand, tonight. Bring a picnic dinner, something to sit on and a sweatshirt in case it gets chilly.

Also July 14 and 28. 7 p.m. Westward Beach, Westward Beach Road, Malibu. (310) 456-2178.

7Days in the Arts


Saturday, June 17

The “Red Scare” is over and the Hollywood Blacklist forgotten, but the war is about to heat up between Benny Silverman and Leo Greshen in Jeffrey Sweet’s play “The Value of Names.” When Leo testified against Benny before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, they became enemies. Now, several decades later, the two are brought together as Benny’s daughter Norma is cast in a play directed by Leo. Benny must decide the fate of his relationship with Leo as well as with Norma, who wants to change her name, thereby denying her heritage. What’s a Jew to do?

Through July 23. $20-$35. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. R.S.V.P., (866) 811-4111. www.theatermania.com.

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Sunday, June 18

Willy Loman returns to the stage on his desperate quest to achieve the American Dream. Pacific Resident Theater has revived “Death of a Salesman” as part of its Summer Series. Although Arthur Miller’s classic play is a tragic tale, this story is deeply rooted in American literature and history and should be read or seen in one’s lifetime.

Through July 23. $18-$20. 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. R.S.V.P., (310) 822-8392.
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Monday, June 19

Shabbat is not for a few days, but flautist Toby Caplan-Stonefield will have you feeling festive with her new CD, “The Spiritual Flute” Vol. 1. This album features Caplan-Stonefield with the Conejo Valley Flute Society, guitarist Larry Giannecchini, pianist Paul Switzler and percussionist Ken Meyer, performing pieces by Jewish composers and other composers with spiritual qualities. This mellifluous music will surely turn a manic Monday into a relaxing one.

$15. CD is available for purchase at ” target=”_blank”>www.fluteworld.com.

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Tuesday, June 20

Dan Thorne’s new art exhibit, “Tzva’im Mavrikim — Bright Colors,” features plein-air, acrylic works that pay homage to Havdalah ceremonies and customs. Through his vibrant pieces, Thorne celebrates the distinction between Shabbat and the rest of the week. Of Havdalah, Thorne explains, “it’s a wondrous service, and I wanted to share some images that it brings to me.”

Through July 13. Free. Pauline and Zena Gatov Gallery, Barbara and Ray Alpert JCC, Weinberg Jewish Federation Campus, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 426-7601.

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Wednesday, June 21

What do George Costanza, Bob Patterson and Max Bialystock have in common? The man behind these great characters, Jason Alexander, who is now flexing his directing muscle for the Los Angeles Premiere of Sam Shepard’s “The God of Hell.” This dark political comedy follows the lives of Frank and Emma of rural Wisconsin, whose lives are greatly disrupted after two unwelcome visitors arrive at their home. One can almost hear Frank and Emma shouting “Serenity now!”

$35-$69. The Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 208-5454. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt = “”>

Thursday, June 22

When Academy Award-nominated movie star Tyler Johnes finds himself in a bar in purgatory on Oscar night, schmoozing with the glitterati and posing for the paparazzi on the red carpet are no longer in the cards. Johnes is then forced to re-examine aspects of
his unsavory life through appearances by people from his past, including his agent, his former acting partner, a bimbo escort and his soon-to-be ex-wife.
Playwright Mitch Albom’s comedic play “And The Winner Is…,” reveals the ugly side of show business in a Hollywood-style tale ? la “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Will Johnes get a second chance and live to thank the Academy?

Through July 2. $20-$59. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. (949) 497-2787.

Friday, June 23

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll may be a necessary backdrop for the rock musical genre, but “Prime,” written by Luke Lehman and Deborah Kassner, also highlights the inner conflicts of four musicians as they strive to pursue their dreams. Creators of this multimedia production successfully blur the lines between reality and fantasy by staging a real vocal competition during each performance. The contest winner will receive a professional recording session. Details are available at www.primetherockmusical.com.

Through July 1. $30. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (866) 811-4111. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt = “”>


Learn to Remember


Skip Aldrich signals a student to turn down the lights and flips on the projector. An image of a gaunt concentration camp inmate hunched over a workbench evokes a collective gasp from the 10th-grade world history class at John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles.
“What do you see in this picture?” Aldrich asks his students, all of them Latino.
“Sadness,” says a student, and others repeat the word, nodding their assent.
“No hope,” says another.
“Despair,” others agree.
Aldrich’s students are two weeks into their three-week unit on the Holocaust. Like all students in California public schools, these teens will learn about the genocide and its context as part of the state’s mandated social science curriculum. These teens have the added benefit of learning about it from Aldrich, a leader in a growing network of educators who have learned how to teach the Holocaust and who are helping other teachers to do the same.
As more states, including California, have mandated Holocaust education, Holocaust organizations have made teaching the teachers a priority. The goal is to produce a cadre of teachers who can more effectively teach an entire generation of students how to apply the lessons of modern history’s greatest man-made atrocity. Although some Holocaust scholars worry that the Holocaust could become overly universalized or sanitized for mass consumption, nearly all agree that educators must build a bridge to a future when there are no longer Holocaust survivors to tell their own stories.
Building that bridge has become a personal mission for Aldrich.
Students in this class spend several minutes analyzing each slide, all the while, Aldrich drills the students on the causes, events and effects of the Shoah. The kids know their stuff, calling out in the darkened room the keywords he’s looking for — “isolation,” “dehumanization,” “Christian anti-Semitism,” “Nuremberg laws.”
Aldrich, an L.A. public school teacher for 26 years, says the Holocaust is the most important subject he covers, with its implications of how tolerance and individual choices can affect lives. It’s also the historical event that grabs and keeps the kids’ attention the most — an assessment confirmed by nearly everyone who teaches the subject.
Aldrich, 50, is the church-going Protestant son of a history teacher. He grew up with Holocaust survivors in the Fairfax area and became fascinated with the history of World War II. In 1997, he traveled to Europe with Warsaw Ghetto uprising leaders Benjamin and Vladka Meed. He later participated in a teaching fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. Last January, Aldrich was one of 17 teachers nationwide to join the museum’s Regional Educational Corps.
“My guess is I’ve taught about 6,000 students by now,” said Aldrich, who teaches in Fremont’s magnet program, which offers accelerated academics with a particular emphasis on math and science. “I’m just one teacher. Imagine how many people you can reach over time.”
Thousands of teachers nationwide have participated in Holocaust workshops, but many thousands more have not. While more than half the states mandate Holocaust education, few pay for teacher training, leaving teachers on their own to master a topic that can be overwhelming. Online resources abound, but so do Web sites put together by Holocaust deniers. And if a teacher is uninformed or uninterested, the Holocaust unit is more than likely to get lost amid the history curriculum’s mountain of names and dates.
California required public schools to teach the Holocaust in the mid-1980s, primarily in world and U.S. history classes in high school. A 2002 Assembly bill, sponsored by Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), established the California Center for Excellence on the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance at California State University, Chico. The center trains teachers and has a model curriculum for fitting the Holocaust into state academic standards for each grade. It also has created a bank of resources and lesson plans.
State lawmakers have extended the life of the center to 2007, but cut state funding. The center now operates with private support.
The center’s director says his tiny agency plays an essential role in the appropriate teaching of the Holocaust.
“It is not enough that the state has mandates and standards, it is critical to be able to get content out to teachers, and to motivate them to use the material,” said Sam Edelman, a professor of Jewish studies who is the Cal State Chico Center’s director.
Other organizations have a similar agenda. The USHMM has nearly 200 graduates of its intensive summer fellowships and almost 3,000 teachers have gone through its training programs, such as a three-day seminar at CSUN in March that attracted 200 teachers.
About 110,000 students a year visit the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, which provides classroom materials to teachers. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been running teacher seminars for 22 years and, in February, teamed up with the Cal State Chico Center, the Wiesenthal Center and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust for a four-session seminar in Los Angeles that pulled in 55 teachers. ADL also partners with USHMM and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., to train Catholic school educators in the Bearing Witness program.
Facing History and Ourselves, a Massachusetts-based organization dedicated to making history — particularly Holocaust history — come alive for teachers and their students, has 1,500 teachers in its Los Angeles network.

At the February conference, the presenters included Marilyn Lubarsky, a social studies teacher at Upland High School, who explained how to make the most of the 10 54-minutes periods allotted to the Holocaust in world history class. When she started teaching the Holocaust 18 years ago, Lubarsky said, she used “Night and Fog,” the seminal 1955 French documentary that shows piles of bodies being bulldozed and buckets full of skulls. Lubarsky, who has since studied in an intensive fellowship program at the Washington museum, no longer shows the film. Instead, she’s developed an interactive, contextualized unit that moves her students without devastating them.
For Lubarsky and others, the key is to make the history both personal and contextualized. Lubarsky gives her students a photo of a teenager from that era, and then asks them to pick a caption for it from Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” a semi-autobiographical account of a teenager’s life in the camps.
Aldrich, in his class, has students research a pre-war photo, then compare it to a picture of themselves in similar circumstances — at the beach, on a picnic, at a family dinner.
Both teachers allow for discussion and ask students to keep journals, and also to think about how choices and circumstances faced by Holocaust perpetrators, victims and bystanders relate to their own lives and to contemporary human rights atrocities.
Lubarsky includes in her unit “The Enemy has Surrounded Upland,” an exercise in which students consider choices they would make under Nazi-like circumstances. She gently prods them to be thorough. If they decide to run to the hills, would they take their frail grandmother? What would they eat?
Carol Edelman, who with her husband, Sam Edelman, runs the Chico Center, cautions against taking such activities too far.
“It is impossible to simulate what the victims went through, so don’t even try because often it ends up traumatizing the kids,” she said.
As an alternative, teachers can use case studies of actual victims or perpetrators, or even better, bring in a survivor — one of the most powerful educational tools available.
“One of the subliminal messages a survivor gives is, ‘You don’t have to be shaped by your history,'” said Michael Berenbaum, director of the University of Judaism’s Sigi Ziering Institute on the Holocaust.
Having it bad “doesn’t mean you have it bad forever and ever,” Berenbaum said, adding that the message is one high school students, with their own dramas both real and imagined, need to hear.
Berenbaum lamented that survivor visits to schools are getting scarcer, but is heartened that so much recorded testimony is available to teachers through the USHMM, the Shoah Foundation and the Wiesenthal center, among others.
The Chico Center, too, helps to make these resources available for students of all ages, while vetting Web sites for reliable and appropriate material. Center materials also help teachers imbed information about the Holocaust in learning activities encompassing everything from literature to art. Even in kindergarten, teachers can include a Holocaust rescuer in a unit on heroes, for instance.
Most organizations are cautious about using graphic images, even in high school. On one hand, teachers find that students already have been desensitized to violent and gruesome images. At the same time, they’re concerned that overly explicit photos can distract from what’s being taught.
“The more graphic stuff can sometimes get in the way of the analysis that needs to take place,” said Bernie Weinraub, program associate for the L.A. office of Facing History and Ourselves. But losing too many of the images might dilute the impact.
“Essential to the arc of the American narrative is hope — we all came from somewhere and reconstructed our lives with decency,” Berenbaum said. “Unless we can tell the story with integrity, and that means to use all the power of its bleakness, we run the risk of sanitization.”
The Museum of Tolerance, where children under 12 are not allowed, uses images to tell a story that words cannot.
“The material is very graphic and the exhibits are deliberately powerful and they need to be in order to make a strong impact,” museum director Leibe Geft said.
Making the experience relevant is driving a rethinking of old Holocaust taboos. For one thing, educators are increasingly willing to compare other atrocities to the Holocaust, a practice that was once thought to diminish the uniqueness of the Shoah. And the Holocaust no longer seems to be taught as history for history’s sake or tragedy for tragedy’s sake, but as a living lesson in tolerance, personal responsibility, and the fragility of a free society.
“A generation ago we were teaching the Jewish tragedy, something that made the Jews bearers of a particular legacy,” Berenbaum said. “That is no longer the case. The event is particular but its implications are universal. And unless you see the implications in a universal way, you don’t quite reach the students in the same way.”

 


For More Infomation

These sites all contain links to other vetted Web sites.

www.ushmm.org The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with a vast database of photos, survivor testimony and primary sources.
www.csuchico.edu/mjs/center California Center for Excellence on the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights, and Tolerance at California State University, Chico, with model curriculum imbedded in the history-social science standards of the State of California.
www.adl.org The Anti-Defamation League, including sample lesson plans and resources for students and teachers.
www.facinghistory.org Facing History and Ourselves, with lists of teacher seminar dates and locations and teaching resources.
www.remembertoteach.com/museum.htm The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, with listing of traveling exhibits available for classroom use.
www.museumoftolerance.com Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, with a multi-media learning center, exhibits, and downloadable resources for teachers.
www.shoahfoundation.org Steven Speilberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which develops products and programs using Holocaust-related archives.

Kershaw Museum Plans Ethiopian Show


Timed to coincide with the Bowers Museum’s “Queen of Sheba” exhibit, the Kershaw Museum at Temple Beth El is organizing its own sampler exhibit of artworks by Jewish Ethiopians and Yemenites, who believe themselves to be the queen’s descendants.

The museum is seeking to borrow examples of Ethiopian and Yemenite art or artifacts from local collectors for possible exhibition, beginning Oct. 14. Descriptions and photos of the items should be submitted before Aug. 1 to Irene Breisacher, a volunteer at the Aliso Viejo synagogue, who is helping organize the exhibit.

“A lot of people went to Israel when the country was new and bought Yemenite art, but they didn’t tell you it was Yemenite,” said the museum’s director and founder, Norma Kershaw. “Ancient or modern, whatever people have” would be welcomed.

Typical works are silver Bible covers with fine filigree work. Ethiopian folk art is evident throughout Israel, produced by resettled Ethiopian Jews, who fled religious persecution and deteriorating economic conditions in their homeland en mass beginning in 1984.

Kershaw, who previously created exhibits on Chanukah and Israeli art with examples borrowed locally, hopes to fill three exhibit cases with at least 100 items. One person has offered Ethiopian costumes.

The exhibit’s logo is likely to be a pillow cover featuring King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, which Kershaw obtained recently in Los Angeles from an importer promoting modern folk art by Ethiopian Israelis.

The Bowers’ Sheba exhibit will open Oct. 17 and will feature 100 treasures, some from the first century, chosen from the vast collections of the British Museum.

As part of an archeology trip to Yemen in 1985, Kershaw said she looked without success for scientific evidence to support the biblical legend. According to legend, Sheba ruled an ancient kingdom that prospered as a trading crossroads between Jerusalem and the Roman Empire; she was seduced and married to King Solomon around 950 B.C.E.

Potential lenders should contact Irene Briesacher at
(949) 837-1005 or by e-mail, irene@fea.net before Aug. 1.

Bush Names Friend to Museum Council


Century City lawyer Donald Etra has been appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President Bush, a close friend since their undergraduate days at Yale.

Etra is joining the governing body of the Holocaust Memorial Museum as the Washington landmark celebrates the 10th anniversary of its founding. During the past decade, there have been approximately 19 million museum visitors, of whom 13.8 million were non-Jewish.

In a sense, Etra’s appointment marks a generational change. "We are the first generation that didn’t see what happened during the Holocaust," said the 55-year-old attorney.

A native of Manhattan, Etra came to Los Angeles as assistant U.S. attorney in 1978. He has been in private practice since 1981, primarily in criminal defense and occasional civil litigation. Among his clients have been actors Eddie Murphy and Fran Drescher.

Etra first met the Bush at Yale, when they attended some of the same classes and shared the same dormitory. According to press reports, they both belonged to Skull and Bones, but in keeping with the secretive rules of the society, Etra declined comment.

Though close friends for more than 30 years, the two men are on different sides of the political fence.

"I am a liberal Democrat," Etra said. "When the president and I talk politics, we disagree, but we both agree on Israel."

Bush and his wife, Laura, attended the Etras’ wedding at Shaarei Tefila, an Orthodox congregation, in 1985, and the Etras have reciprocated with visits to Texas and the White House.

The nuptials were one major payoff for Etra’s Jewish activism. He met his wife-to-be, Paula, on a Jewish Federation mission for singles to Israel.

"There were 21 singles on that trip, and 10 ended up marrying each other," recalled Etra.

He has been involved in Federation activities since as former chairman of its Legal Division, member of the planning and allocation committee and vice chairman of the United Jewish Fund. Etra currently is a member of the Jewish Community Relations Committee and has also served as chairman of the regional Jewish National Fund chapter.

During the coming weeks and months, the Holocaust Memorial Museum will mark its 10th year with special exhibits commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the Nazi book burnings of the 1930s and with the first display in the United States of Anne Frank’s writings.

Solace in SoCal


Sergio Edelsztein said he would not have come from Israel to
a cultural exchange in New York. “Los Angeles is so much more open, and it’s
still about regular people — not so much of an establishment,” said the
director of the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv.

Edelsztein was one of seven Israeli artists, curators and
educators who came to Los Angeles Feb. 10-15 to view art and establish
professional dialogues, as part of The Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv-Los Angeles
Partnership. Participating local institutions included the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art (LACMA), the J. Paul Getty Museum, LACMA Gallery, Craft and Folk
Art Museum, Otis Art Institute and Inner-City Arts.

It may seem an auspicious time to bring Israeli artists over
to America, as Israel has been in a virtual state of war since the beginning of
the second intifada, and America is on the brink of war as well; but in a way,
the timing could not have been better to discover what role museums play amid
chaos.

“Where you’re heading now, we’ve been for years,” Edelsztein
told Angelenos about living with violence during a panel discussion at LACMA on
the impact of political turmoil on arts institutions. LACMA Lab Director Bob
Sain and others wanted to know how Israelis and their art were affected by the
situation?

“A lot of people are still doing personal art,” said Nili
Goren, curator of photography at the Tel Aviv Museum.

Yael Borovich, director and curator of education at the Tel
Aviv Museum of Art said that Israelis — artists and non-artists alike — make a
point to keep on with their normal lives. “We still go to the theater, we go to
museums, we go on living,” she said.

For some, the situation has had indirect influence their
exhibits. For example, Nitza Behroozi, curator for Judaica and folklore at the Eretz
Israel Museum exhibited a Hamsa exhibit shortly after the intifada started in
September 2000. Although the exhibit was planned way before the situation
erupted, she felt it still was positive, considering the tensions. “We wanted
to do something that was about what Jews and Muslims share. We share a lot.”

Similarly, American curators and educators are considering
holding exhibits that defuse the charged political atmosphere. Gabrielle
Tsabag, senior educator from the Skirball is considering doing exhibits on
Islam.

“The museum’s role is not just to be a showcase but to be
pertinent,” she said. Exhibits on Islam could “possibly be a way to empower the
moderate Muslin community in this country to feel they can come out and speak
out.”

War was hardly the only thing the Israeli and American
groups had in common; art discussions — on education, exhibit selection,
technical subjects such as preservation — peppered the frenzied week of
touring.

Fowler Museum curator Polly Roberts, led the group through
the “A Saint in the City” exhibit, teaching them about the secret Sufi wisdom
painted into Senegalese street murals.

At the home of Cliff and Mandy Einstein, Ohad Shaaltiel,
artist and Meyerhoff Education Center’s Workshop director in Tel Aviv, was
overjoyed at viewing an Ad Reinhardt painting: “Look at the brushstrokes. I can
see his later work in the brushstrokes,” he said.

In addition to viewing art, the Israelis found practical
lessons to take back home. Nachum Tevet, artist and director of the MFA Program
at Bezalel Academy of Art, fostered artist-in-residence programs. Edelsztein
discovered festivals and other venues for Israeli video artists. Behroozi
learned how textiles are preserved at the Gene Autry Museum of Western
Heritage.

The Los Angeles group began to establish professional
connection that would continue long after the trip ended. Bob Bates, who
founded Inner-City Arts, said that he is willing help the Israelis create
successful arts education programs for kids. “Please stay in touch,” he told
the group repeatedly.

But what the Angelenos might have learned the most from
their Israeli counterparts was how to continue working with art in an
atmosphere of fear, which is relatively new for Americans.

“Yihyeh tov,” Hebrew for “all will be well,” could have been
the motto throughout the week.

“When you come to the museum, you see we’ve always been
threatened, we’ve always struggled, and still look what we did anyway,”
Behroozi said. “So we should take strength from that.”

The Art of the Matter


When artist Ted Meyer was first diagnosed with Gaucher disease, a lipid-storage disorder that is the most common genetic disease affecting Jews of Eastern European descent, he used his artistic talents to express his pain.

Now fully recovered due to breakthroughs in treatment, the 44-year-old, who is also a designer, illustrator and the author of two books, reflects on the progression of his work in relation to the course of his illness.

In October, Meyer’s two exhibits, “Structural Abnormalities” and “Scars” will be on display at the Biola University Art Gallery in La Mirada. The artist began the former series about 10 years ago when his illness was in full swing. Gaucher disease, caused by a genetic mutation, primarily consists of bone pain and damage to the shoulder or hip joints as a result of an enzyme deficiency. Meyer had a hip replacement and will undergo another this November, although he is now healthy and receives enzyme replacement every two weeks.

Although his illness has been compared to Tay-Sachs because of its association with Jews, Meyer doesn’t relate Gaucher disease to his religion. “It doesn’t come into play because African Americans have Tay-Sachs. I just see it as evolution,” said Meyer, who said he feels “culturally Jewish, but not religiously Jewish.”

“Structural Abnormalities” depicts images of skeletons crouching and kneeling, as if locked inside the boundaries of the canvas. “I started the skeleton paintings about six months before I had my first hip replacement done. I was at the point where I couldn’t walk very well and I felt very trapped in my own body,” explained the New York native. “So, I started these contorted, painful skeletal images. Many of them are sort of compressed, which is how I felt.” As his symptoms subsided, the figures in the series became rounder and fuller than the earlier works. Most of them also include more than one person, symbolizing the end of his own isolation.

“I started bringing in the outside world,” Meyer said. “I was healthy and I wanted to be excited about that.” Several paintings from “Structural Abnormalities” were included in the high-profile “eMotion Pictures” exhibit, which toured the Chicago Cultural Center, the United Nations and is currently continuing its U.S. tour.

Meyer’s second series, “Scars,” was inspired by a woman he dated who had an 18-inch scar from when she broke her back and, as a result, was wheelchair bound. “I would see her back at night as we slept,” he remembered. “I liked the shape of the scar.” Meyer felt the visible memory of the wound revealed his friend’s strength and uniqueness. He took an imprint of the scar and then created a painting, which he felt was, in essence, a portrait of the woman herself. “It really marked where her life had changed,” he said.

Meyer’s girlfriend encouraged him to reach out to others, as she was very active in the disabled community. “She really got on my case and felt that I lost touch with my psyche because I was now healthy and I wasn’t relating.” Meyer first displayed his new piece in the Art Walk, an exhibit at Brewery, the world’s largest artist complex, located in Los Angeles, which he has called home for the last five years. People were fascinated by the piece and even approached him with their own scars and the stories behind them. From there, Meyer began a collection of the scar paintings.

While he admits that his work doesn’t appeal to everyone, many art enthusiasts feel the paintings are very powerful. For those who have had surgery, viewing Meyer’s work can be cathartic.

“I’ve had people come to the studio and just break out crying,” Meyer said. “That’s what every artist wants: To resonate with people.” The upcoming exhibit will include 16 pieces from the series.

As for the scar bearers, the experience of seeing reminders of their past pain transferred to the canvas has been a positive one: “Many people say, ‘I never thought anything good could come from this scar and now it’s going to be art,'” Meyer said.

As his work progressed over the years, he feels he’s able to reach out to others in a way he was once unable. “My artwork has gone from being very ‘Ted-centric’ to being about everyone else.”

Ted Meyer’s exhibits can be seen at Biola University Art
Gallery, 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada, Oct. 7-27; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (Monday-Friday),
noon-5 p.m. (Saturday). Meyer will be at the gallery Oct. 8 from 6-9 p.m. For
more information, call (562) 903-4807. For more on Meyer’s artwork, visit www.artyourworld.com .

The Art of the Matter


When artist Ted Meyer was first diagnosed with Gaucher disease, a lipid-storage disorder that is the most common genetic disease affecting Jews of Eastern European descent, he used his artistic talents to express his pain.

Now fully recovered due to breakthroughs in treatment, the 44-year-old, who is also a designer, illustrator and the author of two books, reflects on the progression of his work in relation to the course of his illness.

In October, Meyer’s two exhibits, "Structural Abnormalities" and "Scars" will be on display at the Biola University Art Gallery in La Mirada. The artist began the former series about 10 years ago when his illness was in full swing. Gaucher disease, caused by a genetic mutation, primarily consists of bone pain and damage to the shoulder or hip joints as a result of an enzyme deficiency. Meyer had a hip replacement and will undergo another this November, although he is now healthy and receives enzyme replacement every two weeks.

Although his illness has been compared to Tay-Sachs because of its association with Jews, Meyer doesn’t relate Gaucher disease to his religion. "It doesn’t come into play because African Americans have Tay-Sachs. I just see it as evolution," said Meyer, who said he feels "culturally Jewish, but not religiously Jewish."

"Structural Abnormalities" depicts images of skeletons crouching and kneeling, as if locked inside the boundaries of the canvas. "I started the skeleton paintings about six months before I had my first hip replacement done. I was at the point where I couldn’t walk very well and I felt very trapped in my own body," explained the New York native. "So, I started these contorted, painful skeletal images. Many of them are sort of compressed, which is how I felt." As his symptoms subsided, the figures in the series became rounder and fuller than the earlier works. Most of them also include more than one person, symbolizing the end of his own isolation.

"I started bringing in the outside world," Meyer said. "I was healthy and I wanted to be excited about that." Several paintings from "Structural Abnormalities" were included in the high-profile "eMotion Pictures" exhibit, which toured the Chicago Cultural Center, the United Nations and is currently continuing its U.S. tour.

Meyer’s second series, "Scars," was inspired by a woman he dated who had an 18-inch scar from when she broke her back and, as a result, was wheelchair bound. "I would see her back at night as we slept," he remembered. "I liked the shape of the scar." Meyer felt the visible memory of the wound revealed his friend’s strength and uniqueness. He took an imprint of the scar and then created a painting, which he felt was, in essence, a portrait of the woman herself. "It really marked where her life had changed," he said.

Meyer’s girlfriend encouraged him to reach out to others, as she was very active in the disabled community. "She really got on my case and felt that I lost touch with my psyche because I was now healthy and I wasn’t relating." Meyer first displayed his new piece in the Art Walk, an exhibit at Brewery, the world’s largest artist complex, located in Los Angeles, which he has called home for the last five years. People were fascinated by the piece and even approached him with their own scars and the stories behind them. From there, Meyer began a collection of the scar paintings.

While he admits that his work doesn’t appeal to everyone, most art enthusiasts feel the paintings are very powerful. For those who have had surgery, viewing Meyer’s work can be cathartic.

"I’ve had people come to the studio and just break out crying," Meyer said. "That’s what every artist wants: To resonate with people." The upcoming exhibit will include 16 pieces from the series.

As for the scar bearers, the experience of seeing reminders of their past pain transferred to the canvas has been a positive one: "Many people say, ‘I never thought anything good could come from this scar and now it’s going to be art,’" Meyer revealed.

As his work progressed over the years, he feels he’s able to reach out to others in a way he was once unable. "My art work has gone from being very ‘Ted-centric’ to being about everyone else," the artist said.

Ted Meyer’s exhibits can be seen at Biola University Art
Gallery, 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada, Oct. 7-27; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (Monday-Friday),
noon-5 p.m. (Saturday). Meyer will be at the gallery Oct. 8 from 6-9 p.m. For
more information, call (562) 903-4807. For more on Meyer’s artwork, visit www.artyourworld.com .

7 Days in the Arts


25/SATURDAY

The band is called JEW and blatant Jew pride is reason enough for a shout-out. But these guys also have a show tonight. Their sound is best described as alt-rock, and they name the Police and Nirvana as strong influences. Support the tribe and check out their show, at midnight at The Joint. $7. 8771 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 275-2619.

26/SUNDAY

Be prepared for an irreverent take on the Bible in Venice Mootney Company’s play, “Meat: a Bible Tragi-comedy.” This version includes a gay-male love triangle and plenty of feminist and media-critical commentary. And by the way, they’ve turned the sacred Temple into a barbecue pit. Confused? Intrigued? We’re pretty sure that’s the point. See it today at a special Memorial Day Sunday Barbecue-Benefit preview. Runs Sundays through June. 7 p.m. $12.50 (general), $10 (seniors and groups of ten). Hopkins House Studio, 11736 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles. For reservations, call (310) 586-0114.

Maybe you know him as the creator of the Comedy Store or maybe as Pauly Shore’s dad. Either way, Sammy Shore’s name is synonymous with comedy. His show “…But First, Sammy Shore!” is extended through Sept. 1, but why wait? Take in some laughs at 5:30 p.m. Sundays only. $17.50 (general), discounts available for students, teachers, seniors and groups of 16 or more. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. For reservations, call (310) 394-9779, ext. 1.

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27/MONDAY

It’s your moral duty to make the most of this glorious, no-work, sunshiny Monday. So pile the kids into the SUV and get your tuchus to the Old Pasadena Summer Fest. They’ve got art exhibits, a Playboy Jazz festival, food from various local restaurants and an interactive Sports Zone. Just leave the picnic and dog at home–they’re not allowed. Free. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Central Park, Fair Oak Avenue (two blocks south of Colorado Boulevard), Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 797-6803.

28/TUESDAY

Mark Rothko, Piet Mondrian, Paul Cézanne and Willem de Kooning’s contributions to the world of art are undeniable. Attend a panel and open discussion on these artists’ reflections at the end of their careers, with Getty Museum Director Thomas Crow, USC professor Nancy Troy and University of Texas professor Richard Shiff. 7 p.m. Free. J. Paul Getty Museum, Harold M. Williams Auditorium, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. For reservations, call (310) 440-7300.

They’ve given you fair warning to lock up your bunnies again. Penn and Teller are back in town, prepared to entertain you with more of their comedic magic. But better grab those tickets before they disappear — the odd couple is only around for one week this time. Runs May 28-June 2. 8 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday), 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (Sunday). $42-$52. Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. For reservations, call (213) 365-3500.

29/WEDNESDAY

If you think Beethoven is yawn-inducing or stale, consider the Ojai Music Festival, where classical works annually get freshened up. This year, the festival is built around two contemporary forces: the Emerson String Quartet and pianist Marino Formenti. The Emersons will link the final quartets of Shostakovich with those of Beethoven, while Formenti plans on three performances that will include music composed by Jewish prisoners in Nazi camps. Continues through Sunday, June 2. For more information, call (805) 646-2094

30/THURSDAY

God and some contemporary literary works have inspired Greenway Art Alliance’s two-part, one-act series, “Acts of Love and Redemption.” Series A consists of adaptations of Philip Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews,” Flannery O’Connor’s “The River” and Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” All three explore our sometimes peculiar relationships with the Almighty. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays through June 7. $15. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. For reservations, call (323) 655-4402.

31/FRIDAY

Margaret Handwerker (aptly named) really does spin tales. Working on a large loom using hand-dyed and hand-spun wools, Handwerker creates colorful tapestries that incorporate biblical images and stories. Two of her works, “Six Days of Creation” and “Noah’s Ark,” will be displayed through Aug. 25 at the Skirball Cultural Center. noon-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Sunday). $8 (general), $6 (seniors and students), free (members and children under 12). 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 440-4500.

An Early Face Lift


On the north side of the Skirball Cultural Center, two dozen construction workers shout to each other over the roar of the 405 Freeway. They handle jackhammers and operate bulldozers amid huge piles of building materials. A crane several stories tall towers above the construction site, where steel pilings rise from concrete foundations.

Mammoth changes are afoot at the Skirball, where the current space will be more than doubled, to 325,000 square feet — rendering “the largest Jewish cultural center in North America,” center founder and president Dr. Uri D. Herscher said.

By November 2000, a three-level, subterranean parking structure, designed to add 600 parking spaces to the facility’s existing 200, will occupy the construction site.

Above the parking structure, an airy, domed Great Hall, reminiscent of Lincoln Center and also to be completed by November 2000, will seat some 600 people for plays, lectures and concerts; it will also double as a banquet hall. A wall of floor-to-ceiling windows will open out onto a courtyard of pale-gray stone and an informal outdoor stage.

To the south, the tentatively named Winnick Family Heritage Museum, largely funded by a $5 million grant from Gary and Karen Winnick, is slated to be completed within the next three years. The museum will feature two 3,500-square-foot children’s galleries and an 8,000-square-foot changing gallery, which, Herscher said, is larger than the Getty’s. Behind the Winnick Museum will be two children’s archaeological digs and a large outdoor amphitheater that will seat 500 people.

The price tag on the additions, which will be drawn up by renowned Skirball architect Moshe Safdie, is $50 million.

More immediate changes are set to begin Sept. 7 with the extensive redesign and renovation of the Skirball’s museum galleries, which will close to the public for three months. Herscher said the goal is to make the museum more accessible and to further emphasize “how we as Jews intersect with the American democratic tradition.” Funding for these renovations was drawn from a California Arts Council $2 million grant.

During construction, visitors can still attend special events, conferences and programs, such as the Oct. 3 Neil Simon film retrospective and lecture. Audrey’s Museum Store, Zeidler’s Cafe, the Resource Center and the Ruby Changing Gallery (now showing the “Latinos in Hollywood” photograph exhibit through Oct. 18) will remain open.

The galleries will reopen Sunday, Dec. 5, to coincide with the center’s annual Chanukah Festival.

So why is the Skirball redesigning its core galleries just three years after the $65 million center opened in April 1996? It’s part of the Skirball’s strategic plan, Herscher said.

“Prophesy is for fools,” he said. “We started out with specific priorities, and we knew we would have to refine them when we saw who actually showed up to the center.”

While only 60,000 visitors were expected the first year, the center drew 300,000 visitors, one-sixth of them children and up to one-third of them seniors. Thus the redesign includes an improved traffic flow through the galleries as well as more interactive displays for students and oversized print for the elderly.

The first major change will be evident upon entering the holiday gallery, where displays of each festival will emphasize the Jewish values immigrants brought to America. In the center of the space will be a comprehensive work of Jewish ritual art, encased within the form of a shtender — the humble study desk once found in many traditional synagogues. The shtender has been transformed by artist David Moss and woodcarver Noah Greenberg into a compartmentalized treasure chest for Jewish ritual objects, commissioned by the Skirball.

The more than 25,000 students who annually visit the Skirball (the majority of them non-Jewish) will learn about Jewish and American values in two new “gallery classrooms.” One will depict a cheder, a Jewish classroom from Eastern Europe, with wood-clad walls, benches and tables. The other will suggest a turn-of-the-century American public school classroom, complete with period artifacts, presidential portraits and a vintage American flag.

There will be an interactive exhibit of trunks that immigrants brought with them to America; displays on baseball star Hank Greenberg and actress Molly Picon; and a detailed replication of the ark of the 19th-century New Synagogue of Berlin, to be added to the existing replica of the synagogue’s ark pavilion. For the first time, viewers will be able to approach the ark, open its doors and examine the vintage Torahs inside.

The biggest changes will take place in the American galleries, where a large case resembling a turn-of-the-century storefront will house some 200 artifacts that depict the material culture of American Jews. On display will be objects such as canned goods with labels in English and Yiddish, an egg basket once used by Jewish farmers from Petaluma and tools once wielded by immigrant tailors on New York’s Lower East Side.

The exhibits on Presidents Washington and Lincoln, who helped ensure constitutional liberties for Jews, will include impressive artifacts on loan from private collectors: an early copy of the Declaration of Independence, signed by George Washington, and Lincoln’s quill pen and black stovepipe hat (one of only two in existence).

“It’s all part of the story we’re here to tell: The story of the Jews from antiquity, with a special emphasis on Jews in America,” said Dr. Robert Kirschner, the Skirball’s program and core exhibition director.

Ask Herscher about why a Jewish museum should house non-Jewish Americana, and the rabbi’s response is swift. “We wouldn’t have any opportunities to live as Jews in America if it wasn’t for the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “I am devoted to Jewish continuity, but I get concerned when people try to push the Jewish part without the context … What I hope this redesign and renovation will provide is an even better understanding of how important the Jewish moral conscience is to the American community in which we live.”