Drake wins first Grammy


The Jewish Canadian singer Drake won a Grammy Award, his first, for Rap Album of the Year.

Also, the indie pop band fun. won Song of the Year with “We Are Young” and Best New Artist at the 55th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Its lead singer, Jack Antonoff, is Jewish, and he thanked all the band's fans after fun. won in the latter category.

“We've been touring for 12 years and we haven't made money for a very long time,” he told the crowd, extending a shout-out to girlfriend Lena Dunham.

For Drake, his album “Take Care” brought him the Grammy before the televised portion of the show began. He beat out Lupe Fiasco, Nas, The Roots and Rick Ross.

Drake had been nominated 10 times before breaking through this year. He also was nominated for Best Rap Performance for his song “HYFR” and Best Rap song for “The Motto.”

Fun. also performed at the Grammys, playing its hit “Carry On” during a staged indoor rainstorm at the Staples Center.

In his introduction of the group, actor Neil Patrick Harris said, “As legendary gangsta rap icon Katharine Hepburn once said, 'If you obey all the rules, you don’t have any fun.' “

Other notable Grammy winners were the English folk band Mumford & Sons, who won Album of the Year for “Babel”; Gotye, whose hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” won for Record of the Year; and Adele, who won her seventh Grammy for her live performance of “Set Fire to the Rain.”

I’ll try it!


If you tell anyone I know that I was awake at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, on purpose, they wouldn’t believe you. If you added that I didn’t immediately turn over
and go back to sleep, they would start laughing. If you told them that the reason I was awake at the crack of dawn on a weekend was to go camping, they might actually bust a gut.
 
Although this statement may seem more the result of a chocolate-induced hallucination, or simply a trip out of reality, the bottom line is that it’s all true.
 
I, Caroline, the lover of sleeping in, the guru of late nights, the “midnight is early” girl, saw Saturday before noon came around. How did I get into this predicament, one might ask? Was I possessed by an evil spirit? No. Was I pulling an all-nighter and just never went to bed? Not quite. The answer is that I was awake that early on a weekend because I had a boyfriend.
 
So now you’re wondering how those two things go hand in hand? Well, we had reached “that place,” the place all new relationships reach at one point or another, that spot where your mutual likes have reached an end, and you start hearing yourself say, “I’ll try that” to your significant other’s idea of fun.
 
We all know and have been at “that place,” where a die-hard sports fan might find himself or herself taping a game or favorite TV show so they can go to their significant other’s family gathering. A person who isn’t overly fond of the beach might start trudging through the sand because it’s their honey’s favorite place in the whole wide world. A picky eater might take small bites of unappealing foods without admitting their distaste.
 
This is when we are testing our own comfort zones. When the person we’re dating mentions the word “hiking” or “musical,” do we shudder, scream and run in the opposite direction? Or do we slowly push ourselves and try that something new.
When my boyfriend first mentioned camping, I won’t lie: I definitely hesitated. At first I found the suggestion more comical than anything else.
 
Me, camping? Are you serious?
 
Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I happen to love nature. But I tend to enjoy taking pictures of nature more than, say, living in nature. I’d rather watch the National Geographic channel on the couch than sleep on the ground in the woods.
 
But after “I’ll try it” slipped out of my mouth, I soon found myself experiencing my first “true to life; sleep in a tent; live with nature; no hot water; cook your food; granola bar for breakfast; what’s that noise in the bushes … did you hear that, too?” camping trip.
 
The good news was that my boyfriend had picked a spot that was simply stunning. Our campsite was steps from the ocean, with a backdrop of bright green hills covered with yellow wildflowers. As we took in the sunset barefoot on the beach, I remember thinking, “If this is camping, I can deal with it.”
 
As the night went on, it seemed that I was not only tolerating camping, but, dare I say, actually enjoying it. The night sky was just amazing. I saw a sea of stars, and could even see them twinkling in different colors.
 
Although I was slightly sleep deprived by the end of the weekend, I had to agree with my boyfriend that camping can be a very relaxing experience. I had pushed outside of my comfort zone, falling asleep to the sounds of the ocean, the wind and the gazillion or so frogs living in the stream right behind the campsite. I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed myself.
 
The thing about reaching “I’ll try it” is that you are daring to imagine that things can work out for the best, and that you can add another activity to the list of common likes.
 
So will I go camping again? Sure. But if he thinks he’s ever going to get me to try and actually like hiking, he’s got another think coming.
 

So sorry, wrong numbers


There are so many choices of singles events, but most of them don’t seem to work for me: SpeedDating — concept is interesting, but my age range and location
never seem to match my availability; outdoor sports — not my thing, and it’s not that I’m out of shape, I’m just a fair-skinned California girl who, in addition to not wanting to be burned to a crisp, has never shown much talent for volleyball or hiking; social dances — I went to enough of those alone when I was in junior high. Enough said.

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When Birthday Party Blowouts Blowup


The wedding invitation convinced me that modern moms and dads have officially lost their gumballs regarding children’s birthday parties. “Master Jacob Estroff” read the ivory parchment envelope; it took a moment to register that the addressee was in fact Jakey, my 5-year-old. The bride-to-be (Miss Sophia Rosenthal) was Sophie, his toothless classmate.

The party lived up to its invitation. There were bridesmaids, groomsmen and, of course, a mini groom and a mini chuppah. There was even a wedding cake taller than the birthday bride herself.

In all fairness, Jewish parents come by it honestly. We’ve barely cleared labor and delivery before we’re expected to be on the phone with the caterer ordering bagels and lox for 200 for the bris or baby naming.

It seems a natural progression to plan a three-ring circus in the cul-de-sac when that bundle of joy turns 6. It’s just that somewhere between the petting zoo, the pony rides and the moonwalk we end up with an empty wallet, a giant headache and a kid who is so overwhelmed by the hoopla, he can barely enjoy his big day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we bail on our kids’ birthday parties altogether. On the contrary, these annual rites of passage are much-anticipated events in our children’s lives. But going to the opposite extreme isn’t the answer either.

Fortunately, it’s perfectly possible to plan a kid-friendly birthday bash without compromising our values, sanity and pocketbook. All it takes is a little panning for gold.

You know when you take a big clump of mud and swoosh it around in a pan until a few glistening specks of gold are all that remain. Well, we’re going to do the same thing here. Only instead of mud, we’re going to swoosh a big, mushy mess of modern birthday party madness.

Are you swooshing yet? Do you see those overpriced invitations and goody bags spilling over the sides into a bucket by your feet? Great, keep swooshing. But don’t go peeking at those golden nuggets yet. Not until we’ve spent some time looking at the slush in the bucket, and have a clear grasp on what exactly our child’s birthday party does not need to be (regardless of what parenting magazines, party planners or other parents might think):

  • It does not need to be a reflection of our parental prowess. We accomplish lots of amazing feats as parents. Getting our children out the door and into school every morning; keeping them safe, healthy and happy. Our child’s birthday party is but one little parenting accomplishment in a year of millions; it’s hardly a manifestation of our maternal savvy.
  • It does not need to be a Martha Stewart masterpiece. Have you ever bought a magazine based on the teaser “foolproof birthday party ideas” only to realize a page and a half in that you are a fool for buying the magazine in the first place? Not only is making tulip-shaped cupcakes not foolproof, but it takes a degree from the World Culinary Institute. Besides, our kids couldn’t care less if their cupcakes are shaped like tulips or toilets, as long as they’re yummy, icing-soaked and flanked with the right amount of candles.
  • It does not have to be an unprecedented concept. Do you know that sinking feeling we get when we learn another kid is having a birthday gala at the same secret site we’ve booked for our own child’s party — only a week earlier. “The nerve!” we think to ourselves. “I’ve had that inflatable jumpy place booked for a year and that parent stole the idea right out from under me.” But the reality is our kids love playing on inflatable jumpy stuff. They would do it day in and day out if we’d let them. I must ask you this: Would you turn up your nose at an opportunity to go to a spa just because you did the same thing last weekend? I think not.
  • It does not need to go off without a hitch. For my niece’s sixth birthday, my sister-in-law booked a highly acclaimed magician, months — if not years — in advance. You could taste the excitement as the guests counted down the seconds until he arrived. And then they counted some more. And some more. Until it became painfully evident that the magician had taken his vanishing act to the next level.

That’s when they started building Oreo towers. Those kids went through package after package of double stuffs until they’d constructed a bona fide chocolate cookie Camelot. And then it was time to go home. “Thanks, that was fun,” the children told my catatonic sister-in-law as they exited.

Lesson learned? Despite a catastrophic birthday party disaster, my niece turned 6, the guests were happy and we had a family memory that would last years beyond the applause after a perfectly executed magic show.

OK then. I think we’re finally ready to peek at the golden nuggets. At those few precious, glimmering things our child’s birthday party should be. They look something like this:

  • A fun, memorable day spent with family and friends.
  • A means of making them feel happy, proud and loved.

  • A celebration of their development, uniqueness and existence.

Sharon Duke Estroff is an internationally syndicated Jewish parenting columnist, award-winning Jewish educator and mother of four. Her first book, “Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? The Essential 411 on Raising Modern Jewish Kids” will be published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House in 2007.

Art With A Twist — It Inflates!


He didn’t know it at the time, but when Doron Gazit discovered twisty balloons while working as a camp counselor at a Jewish summer camp in Texas, it was the start of something big.

Most Americans know the twisty as the elongated latex balloons used to make poodle-like dogs or hats for children at fairs, circuses and birthday parties, but for an Israeli like Gazit, the twisty was something entirely new. He brought back as many as he could to Israel and began selling them on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street. He would soon begin huffing and puffing his way to bigger and better things.

The twisties served as his inspiration for creating artwork out of large colorful air tubes made from a stronger plastic and supporting them with heavy duty high pressure blowers. Today, he produces tunnels, canopies and decorations galore using the tubes and highlights, air sculptures that inflate to specific shapes.

Gazit ended up in Los Angeles when he was hired to decorate the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. He soon set up Air Dimensional Design in Burbank, decorating everything from bar mitzvahs to restaurant openings to awards shows.Air tubes have blown Gazit and Air Dimensional Design around the world, too. Since the 1984 Olympic Games, the company has decorated venues as varied as Osaka’s Kansai Airport, the Long Beach Convention Center and a salt lake in Mexicali.

Despite its grandiose possibilities, Gazit emphasizes that air tubes and highlights aren’t just for big-budget corporate events and can be used in any environment, he says.

“What can be done with colorful inflatables is like magic,” he said. “There’s no other medium with which you can create big designs so quickly and inexpensively.” — Lisa Hirschmann, Contributing Writer

Scheduled Relaxation


Last Sunday afternoon I was standing in my shower scrubbing my tile. It suddenly occurred to me — in the midst of Ajax and scouring pads — that the man who was ruling my fantasies was on a plane coming back from a sure-it’s-professional junket in Las Vegas.

Something was wrong with this picture. I dropped my sponge and ran to call my girlfriend: “Hey. You gotta help me. All of this straight-and-narrow is getting to me. I need to have some fun.”

We met at a local restaurant reminiscent of the hip, urban San Francisco eateries of our 20s, had a drink, stayed late, and laughed as the waiter batted his lashes.

“Listen,” I told her over martinis. “I think I’ve forgotten how to play.”

She looked at me with the knowing eyes of a friend and said, “Me too. I feel like all I do is work on myself. Where’s the friggin’ fun part?”

What occurred to me as I started thinking about it is that I used to rely on my relationship life to have fun. I’d fly to New York, run around the city, eat passionately with my boyfriend for 10 days and come home. I’d rush home from work, throw all my clothes on the floor, don a slinky dress and feverishly drive to the beach for a drink date. I’d hike up Runyan Canyon in the middle of a storm with my dating man, laugh uproariously and kiss in the rain. It was flash and dash, delight and joy — and sometimes even love. What is was was fun.

I relied on my relationship life for downtime, too. It was the time I hung out in bed, took the slow walk around my neighborhood, had the morning-after breakfast made sloppily and slowly between intimacies.

But lately all of that has been different. I stopped dating for a while altogether (no need to go into the now-mercifully distant reason why), and in the wake of a more careful re-entry into dating life, I’ve become a project girl. Creative things that I’ve been longing to express my whole adult life I’ve taken on like a conquest. I write, I paint, I sing, I cook and I songwrite. It’s rich and it’s full and it’s fulfilling.

But what it also is is busy. And beyond my projects and an involved social life, there seems to be no genuine relaxation time. There are no goof-off, just-for-fun days where there’s nothing to do but play. I’m not sure I even remember what play-time looks like anymore.

Yet — to be totally honest — when I think back on some of those play-time, nostalgia-inducing boyfriend experiences, I have to admit that as sweet and easy as those encounters could be, they were just as often peppered by the nervous tension of “being together” when we weren’t all the way there, or by the dodging and ducking of using our intimate connection to mask other, bigger incompatibilities. That wasn’t relaxing.

As the years have gone by, I realize I’d just as soon be alone than continue to go through cycles of head-spinning effort with someone in exchange for a couple of moments of grace. So I don’t do that anymore. And though this kind of spiritual honesty has created an ease in my nervous system (and a welcome death to that horrible intimate uncertainty of giving myself where it’s not appreciated), I have to stop and wonder, have I become overworked and underplayed?

I don’t want to say that getting rid of the -isms has gotten rid of the fun part. That’s not it. But there’s something here about playing and free-falling joy that I’m missing. Something in the enjoyment of what is already here, versus the pregnant push of needing to create it. To observe, appreciate, enjoy, relax, and receive. That’s what I’m missing. And now that I’m officially dating, it seems kind of imperative to bring this ethic back onto the playing field.

I was on my cell with my wise girlfriend yesterday — the one who gives me that uncannily timed girl-advice that saves me from giving in to my idiotic post-second-date fears — and three times in row she cut out at a pivotal word.

“What?” I intoned. “On my cell. You cut out.”

She laughed outloud: “Receive, sweetheart. It kills me that you missed that. Relax and receive!”

Oh, that.

If I’ve forgotten how to have downtime, if I’ve joined the ranks of the over-diligent in my efforts to not fall into wary paths of love, then it’s time to loosen the reigns a bit. Underplaying means I have to let go of my project-queen, art-making cottage-industry, and just be done for a while.

So, with the grace of personal discovery, I’ll be amending that busy behavior, whether I’m accompanied or not. It’s time to enjoy whoever I’m seeing, and have fun on my own. It’s time to let go, go slow, play, hang out and take some time to do absolutely nothing.

Even if it means I have to schedule it.

JoAnneh Nagler is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She writes articles, philanthropic proposals and has recently been at work on Fox’s telenovellas “Table for Three” and “Fashion House.” Her newly completed folk-pop CD “I Burn” is online at

The Hebrascope: Signs of the Jewdiac


(April 21-May 20)
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Barbra Streisand

During this birthday period, it makes sense to expect things to be all about you. Sadly, friends and family aren’t so sensitive to your needs. The trick is to divide your expectations in half and you’ll enjoy yourself twice as much. Family and friends aren’t trying to steal your thunder; they’re only human and thus likely to want some attention for themselves. Generally, the stars wouldn’t suggest tucking yourself into a protective cocoon for a little healing and rejuvenating. This week is different. Spend an afternoon in your own world, watching your own lame TV shows, reading magazines, eating popcorn in bed and generally isolating yourself from other people. You will emerge anew, with perhaps a few popcorn kernels in your hair, but otherwise refreshed.

(May 21 — June 20)
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Barry Levinson

Gemini loves to socialize on the job, especially now. The math goes something like this: One hour on a work project, 20 minutes discussing last night’s game in the break room, two hours in a meeting, half an hour debating whether or not the temp has been surgically enhanced. Here’s the thing, in order to ever make headway in terms of your career, you may have to keep your nose to the grindstone for awhile instead of in other people’s business or a particularly fascinating salon.com article. Self-employed Geminis should consider holding a social gathering, attending a trade show or throwing a gallery exhibit to expose your work to a wider audience.

(June 21-July 20)
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Sydney Pollack

All those big ideas floating around in your keppe just need a little faith, hope and cash. That’s easy for your horoscope to say, but perhaps hard to muster. The stars say otherwise, but advise you to think things through carefully before investing time and money. A burst of confidence and luck will galvanize your efforts, just be careful to ponder every possible outcome before taking any leaps. It may be tedious, but will certainly be useful. Saturday, a casual lunch with friends or family may reach “My Dinner With Andre” proportions. Expect stimulating conversations and don’t cram too many plans into your day so that you can fully enjoy the interaction without having to check your watch.

(July 21 — August 21)

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Monica Lewinsky

If there’s a burst in the real estate bubble, that doesn’t matter much to Leo right now. An investment in a first home or condo is advised, according to celestial influences. Leos who already own property might think about doing some improvements this week. As for long time homeowners, it’s been years of looking at that monthly mortgage like it’s the boogeyman, scrimping and saving and being conscientious of every little splurge. Finally, the end is in sight as that home may be almost paid off. Look for socializing to ramp up from May 3-29, when Venus (the planet of love) visits impulsive Aries in your ninth house of ideas. You will not only be attracted to new people, but to new ideas.

(August 22-September 22)
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Adam Sandler

Traveling, or even just a rough daily commute, is beginning to wear on you, grinding you down both spiritually and physically. This is a good time to find a workout buddy. You are far less likely to miss that personal training session if it’s also a fun hour of chatting and even good-natured whining about your evil trainer and her evil squats. What’s more, if you’ve pre-paid, the guilt factor will also provide an incentive to get you to the gym, yoga studio or duo Pilates session. Think about it. What better way to counteract the stress of being trapped on planes or in automobiles than by simply moving your body? Strengthen a friendship while you strengthen your muscles and make even better use of your time.

(September 23-October 22)
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Michael Douglas

Partnerships are big for Libra this week. Whether it’s a professional partnership that’s moving ahead, or the announcement of an engagement or even an impending cohabitation, the stars have your back if you are teaming up in any significant way. Collaboration is favored up until May 29. Tuesday, some confusion could arise involving a love affair. It may feel lasting and permanent, but your horoscope says this small romantic blip will be all cleared up by Wednesday.

(October 23-November 22)
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Jonas Salk

People like people who like them. It’s such a simple concept that Dale Carnegie would be rolling his eyes. Still, it’s something we often forget. This week, folks will be looking to you for validation and approval. It doesn’t take much, like the old saying goes, a handful of peanuts and a pat on the back. It costs you nothing to shell out a few compliments to those around you who look up to you, and in the end it creates much good will. A meaningful conversation could mark the end of this week, as could especially poignant interactions with those in your circle who are younger than you are.

(November 23-December 20)
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Harpo Marx

Heads up to the Sagittarius worker: you will be walking into what feels like an ambush at work. Be armed with patience and flexibility. Check all your facts and figures when it comes to paperwork. Employ all of your teamwork skills and be ready to tackle tasks using creativity. By midweek, things will cool off at work just in time for a romantic slump to come to an end, as Venus moves into Aries on Wednesday. Pay special attention to your hygiene, floss, wax, get those roots done, bleach the moustache, trim the bangs and don’t be afraid to splurge on at least one big luxury item. Don’t feel guilty about buying yourself something you’ve been wanting. Your horoscope says it’s OK.

(December 21-January 19)
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Dave Attell

Envy and irritability — they aren’t your friends but they seem to be tagging along everywhere you go this week, leading to feelings of frustration. Instead of plotting your revenge on the people who are annoying you the most, dig down deep for some compassion. At the very least, lay low and avoid any altercations you may regret later. A partner or family member may seem indifferent to practical matters that concern you. Instead of presenting a lecture complete with PowerPoint presentation on all of the flaws in their thinking (or lack thereof), remember that the quality of this relationship is more important to you than being right.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)
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Ted Koppell

It may be tempting to jump into a new relationship, as passion intensifies this week. Try to slow your pace and protect any financial assets. You may not be Trump with a pre-nuptial agreement the size of “War and Peace,” but we can all be taken advantage of when our heart is in charge. Look forward to community celebration midweek. Also, you may feel overwhelmed now just thinking of all your friends and family scattered throughout the world. How do you keep in touch? Dedicate at least an hour this week and roll some calls. Once you get in the habit of keeping in touch, it will seem less daunting and ultimately rewarding.

(February 19-March 20)
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Josh Groban

This week opens like a scene from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” There may be lots of shouting and betrayal. The whole situations will be high drama with plenty of unnerving interactions. The resolution of this drama could be ruthless, but it will at least be swift, coming to a resolution by midweek, when uplifting astrological patterns are in your favor. Relatives and friends support you, spontaneous outbursts of fun attract you, and you may even be in for a streak of luck. Curious Pisces may wish to dabble in gossip, but you would do better to plan for an overseas trip that will satisfy your curiosity more deeply and with less trash talking.

(March 21-April 20)
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Matthew Broderick

It sounds like a conundrum, but it’s just crazy enough to work. Cooperate with others this week and you will stand out as an individual. Your ability to facilitate teamwork and put your own ego aside will be noticed and appreciated. The only bitter taste in your otherwise sweet week is an outstanding debt — either a credit card or mortgage payment that’s overdue and may cause stress with a partner or family member. Take care of the debt so that extra charges don’t start piling up — and know that financial freedom is on the horizon as an unexpected check is likely to come in just when you need it.

Hip Cynics for Export


In Israel, no one wants to be a friar — a sucker, a patsy, a flunky, a tool.

It’s the Israeli equivalent of the Chinese never wanting to lose face. And in Israel, this primary motivation explains much of the country’s machismo — and perhaps even its political situation.

Yet who can resist making fun of such puffed-up pride?

That’s one of the appeals behind the music of Hadag Nachash (Snakefish), the best-selling Hebrew hip-hop band performing in Los Angeles on April 16 as part of the Let My People Sing weeklong festival.

“And we’ll do our reserve duty/pay our taxes/and get stuck in traffic/(No one screws with us)/We are definitely, definitely, definitely not, we’re definitely not friars,” go the lyrics of the “Not Sucker” song.

This tune comes from Hadag’s second of four albums, “To Move,” which features the silhouette of a little boy gleefully urinating on the cover. (This tidbit is animated graphic on the group’s tripped-out Web site.)

But the point of their rapping verses isn’t to mock just for irony’s sake. As “The Sucker Song” says,

“My friends say enough!/Stop being so heavy/and I’m not opposed to it/but the situation is absurd.”

The situation in Israel is absurd: for youths who have to cut their fun short by going to the army, and for everyone who has to live in a constant state of war. As their lyric puts it:

“If it’s a combat zone here/there’s a minefield/ what does it matter if I pay by check, credit or cash?”

What does it matter, indeed. These are the nihilistic sentiments of a band from Jerusalem that formed in 1996 and released its first studio album “The Groove Machine” in 2000. The group claimed to be a “funk band with a rapper” and proved, according to the Israeli music site Moomba, that “there can be good Israeli rap.”

But the music is more than rap; it’s got bluesy rhythms that are even lounge-y at times.

This is the band that The Village Voice said “holds the record on songs we aren’t embarrassed to play for the goyim.”

You don’t necessarily need to know Hebrew to enjoy the sound. But it would help if you were young — or had a young musical taste. That’s why the band was brought over for the otherwise more adult “Let My People Rock” concert.

“They are extremely popular with kids,” said Genie Benson, one of the festival organizers and the head of the Keshet Chaim Dance Troupe. “I think it is important for American Jewish kids to understand that Israel has artists that they can connect with, and through music they can connect to kids in Israel.”

It would be more than organizers bargained for if American Jewish kids also connect with Hadag Nachash’s attitude: fed-up, irreverent, bordering on anarchist.

“What do we do, what do we do, that I’m always stoned like this?

I don’t want/I don’t want to reach the edge.

What do we do, what do we do that my generation is crooked like this

I think it’s too late to come out of this.”

But of course, to really get the band’s groove, it would help if you spoke Hebrew — and not only spoke Hebrew, but lived in Israel to understand all the political, religious and artistic references.

For example, you’d have to have seen the hundreds, if not thousands of contradictory bumper stickers and slogans plastered across the country over the years to understand “The Sticker Song.” Consider all the times the word Shalom, or peace, occurs in the following lyrics:

“Dor Shalem Doresh Shalom … Am Chazak Oseh Shalom … Ayn Shalom Im Aravim … Ayn Aravim, Ayn Piguim.” — A Whole Nation Wants Peace … A Strong Nation Makes Peace … No Peace with Arabs … No Arabs, No Attacks.

“The Sticker Song,” off their 2004 album “Local Material,” was written by literary novelist David Grossman; such are the far-reaches of Hadag Nachash into the upper echelons of Israeli culture.

It’s a culture that mixes lowbrow with highbrow, humor with meaning, Bible with rap. Perhaps at this pre-Passover concert they will sing their “Numbers” song, which is a play on one of the Passover hagaddah’s closing songs, “Who Knows One?”

The song begins incrementally:

One is the number of the countries from Jordan to the sea

Two are the number of countries that here one day will be.

Three years and

Four months is the time I gave to the to IDF.

And up it goes:

Nine times I was close to a terrorist attack, at least for now.

Ten is the most Israeli answer to the question, “What’s going on?”

“Ten” means great, perfect. When someone asks, “How’s it going?” “Ten” is the answer an Israeli should give.

Eser. Great. Fabulous. Perfect.

For more information about Hadag Nachash, visit www.levantini.com/hadag/.

Read This Related Article:

The King of Israeli Hip-Hop
www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=13699

Despite everything.

 

yeLAdim


Thank You!

The Navon family — Rebecca, Ariella, Eitan, Elisha and Asaf — gave us our pick for our new name: YeLAdim, which means children in Hebrew. The large L and A are in honor of where we live (good thing we aren’t in New York or it wouldn’t work). Thank you to all the kids who sent in ideas for a new name — you are really creative!

Kein v’ Lo:

Vashti

This section of the page will be a way for you as kids to sound off on an issue. This month’s kein v’ lo (yes and no) is about Queen Vashti. Is she, in the 21st century, a role model for women?

The Kein Side:

  • She stood up for what she believed in by refusing to dance in front of her drunk husband and his friends — wearing only her crown — during the royal feast. Even under penalty of death she stood by her convictions.
  • In earlier verses, she is referred to as “Vashti, the queen.” When she tells the king she won’t come, she is called “Queen Vashti,” to show that she has a mind of her own. The king’s advisers feared Vashti would start a trend. One adviser in particular (who some identify as Haman) told Ahashsuerus that he should issue a decree that women should obey their husbands, which he did.

The Lo Side:

  • She hosted a separate feast just for the women, but the sages say she held it in the same palace so the women would have a chance to flirt with the men. Some say she was incredibly vain and didn’t want to dance because she had a skin disease.
  • She was the great-granddaughter of the villainous King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who had destroyed the sacred Temple. On Shabbat, she would summon Jewish women and children and force them to work and do humiliating tasks.

We aren’t saying which is right and which is wrong. We want to know what you think. E-mail your thoughts to kids@jewishjournal.com with the subject line Vashti. We’ll publish your opinions on a future yeLAdim. And whether you like poppy seed or cherry filling in your hamantaschen

— Happy Purim!

About…Purim

“Purim is when we celebrate Jews being free to have their way of life and live peacefully. It teaches fairness and kindness, because it said Haman needed to be kind to people that were not like him, and that Esther was very fair in how she got him to stop.

“But the most important thing about Purim is that it’s a lot of fun. You eat yummy foods and have a big carnival. For Purim, I plan to attend my religious school’s Purim carnival and hear the Megillah.” — Mimi Erlick, 10, Farragut Elementary School, Culver City, and Adat Shalom Religious School.

Do you want to share your opinion about something? Just e-mail kids@jewishjournal.com and put About…(your topic) in the subject line. We’ll print as many as we can.

 

Singles – Imperfect One and Only


Sometimes, just for fun, I look at the singles ads. I play a game of wondering which one I would respond to. The answer is a resounding zero. That’s because they all sound too perfect, which makes me think they’re lying.

When a man describes himself as “Looking for someone who can indulge their longing for fine dining, travel and theater,” I suspect the reality is more like warm beer, dirty underwear and reality TV.

I have a friend who answered one of these “too-good-to-be-true” ads. They met for brunch and she knew right away it wasn’t going to work out because he glanced at the menu and then said, “So, do you want to split an order of toast?”

She said, “Why don’t you have the whole order, and I’ll just split?”

I can’t say I blame her, although in general I think single people have totally unrealistic expectations of perfection in a mate. I fixed up two friends of mine, and they seemed to be getting along fine. Then the woman told me that she didn’t think the relationship was going to go any further, because he didn’t own any classical CDs, just jazz. I told her she should be looking for a partner, not a clone. And there’s nothing wrong with jazz: It’s not like he had a collection of polka music! She could go to the opera with her girlfriends. Fortunately, she listened to me, and they are living happily ever after.

I don’t envy anyone who’s playing the dating game: It can be nerve-wracking and heart-breaking. As for me, I was never very good at the quality men admire most in women, which is keeping your mouth shut. If I disagree, I voice my opinion. I just happen to believe the world would be a better place if everyone would just do what I tell them. Plus, I only laugh at jokes I think are funny. So I guess I don’t fit the standard profile of someone who wants to please men.

So there I was on a blind date one February, meeting a man who needed his Green Card, which is why we got married in April.

My friends thought I was taking a big chance, that he might disappear as soon as he got his papers. That was more than 40 years ago, and we’re still going strong. Truth be told, sometimes we’re going weak — but at least we’re still going. In this game of singles, you just never know.

My husband, Benni, seems to like me just the way I am — even though we argue constantly.

If I say it’s too cold in the house, he says “Oh please, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

If he says no one’s dressing up for the party, I say, “Oh please, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

It’s become a knee-jerk reaction — even when it makes no sense. Once, I was telling some friends what a wonderful father Benni is, and he interrupts me, “Oh please, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The Danish philosopher S?ren Kierkegaard said, “Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way.”

But the Larry David of existentialism was wrong. I do not regret it — even though we have our differences. In my performances, I want to make people laugh, but here’s a more serious song I sing for couples like my husband and me. We’re like most married people I know — including the jazz vs. classical friends I fixed up.

We seldom have heart to hearts,

We rarely see eye to eye,

But when we’re hand in hand,

It’s grand that he’s my guy.

I like Broadway, he likes jazz,

He wants simple, I need pizzazz.

There’s only one thing on which we agree,

I like him, and he likes me.

He likes home, I like out,

He’s kinda soft-spoken while I tend to shout,

The future looks grim, our chances are slim,

But he likes me and I like him.

He washes the cars, he opens jars,

He keeps the books and feeds the cat,

He doesn’t bring flowers or valentines,

But I’ve learned to read between the lines.

He keeps me safe, he keeps me sound,

I’m not myself when he’s not around,

We’re as different as two could be,

Still I love him and he loves me.

We’re day and night; we’re black and white,

Still I love him and he loves me.

The good news? When it comes to finding the love of your life, all you need is one.

Annie Korzen’s latest show is “Straight From the Mouth,” at the Acme Theatre every Thursday through March 16. 135 N. La Brea, Los Angeles. $25. For information, call (323) 525-0202 or visit

Fit L.A. – Let’s Take a ‘J-Walk’ Around the Block


I enjoy walking if it’s through a store during a sale or to show off a grandchild. But walking for the pure fun of it isn’t fun for me. The last time I exercised was when Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles, and I jumped up and down in the living room as they played.

Enter the Neshoma Orchestra and their two CDs to walk by, “J-Walking” and the recently released “J-Walking the Next Step.”

After schlepping 40 years in the desert, it’s hard to imagine a CD to exercise by coming from a people who have harbored a subconscious distrust of walking. But with my daughter’s upcoming nuptials, my unending kvetch about fitting into the dress won out over my skepticism.

Tuesday, 8 p.m.

I dusted off the portable CD player, stuck an earphone in my ear, put on as flattering an outfit as I could conjure up and hit the open road, one foot in front of the other.

Before I knew it, I had gone a block, then two, humming along with the familiar Yiddish melodies that played faster and more upbeat than I ever remembered. Strains of “Chabibi” coursed through my veins.

My mother’s Yiddish musical selections ran more toward, “My Yiddish Mama” and “Make Mir a Bisala Yingala” from The Barry Sisters. “Sob Your Heart Out Greatest Hits.”

So there I am, walking along at a jaunty pace, humming and moving without my usual stops to check the time, but actually enjoying the pace.

At three blocks I began forcing myself to ignore the objections of my feet and focus on the beat.

I had made it through four songs and I was feeling empowered. Suddenly, the old anti-exercise gene kicked in and my body began to rebel and slow the pace. I fought valiantly and luckily, the next selection was more upbeat. I kicked into overdrive to “Reb Shlomo’s Niggun.”

I was feeling good, and a bit shocked that I had just absorbed five Yiddish songs without shedding a tear.

I decided to push my luck, so I kept walking, farther than I had planned. I wasn’t sure if it was endorphins or the music, but I was feeling good; so good in fact, I pressed forward, another street, another, until I had gone farther than ever before.

I was pretty sure that by now, my pushy Jewish genes had taken hold, awakened by the chemicals released in my brain to combine with more than 5,700 years of feistiness.

Whatever it was, it was working, so I tested myself even more and attempted an uphill walk. This was major since the flat terrain was enough of a challenge.

I looked up toward Sunset Boulevard. It could’ve been Mount Sinai. Oy, that’s steep, I thought. But I was pumped with Yiddishkayt and defeat was not an option. I began the ascent. Gevalt, could I be this out of shape?

The songs had gotten to me and Yiddish was flowing out of my mouth now like lies from a politician. “Hodu” suddenly kicked in, and so did I. Breathing heavily, I climbed ever upward, inspired, pumped, lungs aching, feet screaming obscenities. I could not be stopped. I was a Jewish walking machine, sucking in air as I ascended higher and higher toward Sunset Boulevard. Mouthing silent oys as I schlepped, the beat growing faster and more upbeat, I was inspired and — oy, was I tired. Could I reach the promised land of Sunset Boulevard? I knew I would pay for this the next morning, but I didn’t care. I refused to look upward and focused on my feet so as not to notice how high I was climbing. I wondered how long I might lie on the street if keeled over before someone would find me.

I could be lying there, Yiddish music blasting from my unconscious ears, my headband covering my eyes, just another exercise victim who had crossed a threshold of pain.

This daydream diverted my attention long enough to get my second wind and I was off. Huffing and puffing nearing the top, almost there, thousands of years of Jewish determination pounding in my veins, two feet more, one, I was there. I stood on Sunset Boulevard and peered downward like Moses glimpsing the River Jordan.

The beat compelled me onward, so I walked along Sunset, so filled with accomplishment I thought I would burst.

I walked toward home until I found a downhill street on which to begin my descent. Whoa, this downhill was almost as hard. I fought to keep the rhythm, until I reached Santa Monica Boulevard. I trudged up the steps and tore my shoes off, the music still filling my ears, joyous, upbeat. I had done three miles and walked uphill. There was no talking to me now. I was filled with hope. Tomorrow I could do this again. I felt it; I knew it.

Wednesday, 8 a.m.

I opened my eyes, and flush with optimism I stepped out of bed. Oy, flush with pain.

But there was no stopping me. I was a Jew with her music and a worthy goal of fitting into the dress for her daughter’s wedding.

 

‘Love With Noodles’ Rife With Canoodles


“Love With Noodles” by Harry I. Freund (Carroll & Graff, $25).

Consider the curious case of Dan Gelder: 60 years old, Jewish, paunchy, bad back. Yet it seems every bejeweled Park Avenue matron is after the investment counselor for love, for money or maybe for just a quick roll in the hay.

That’s the cute and quirky premise of “Love With Noodles,” the debut novel by 65-year-old Park Avenue investment counselor Harry I. Freund. The novel’s subtitle is, “An Amorous Widower’s Tale,” and just how true to life it is, we may never know. But whether or not art imitated life is irrelevant, especially when the ride is as much fun as “Love With Noodles.”

What Freund sorely lacks in literary style, he more than makes up with heart and humor.

Narrated in the first person, present tense (always risky), “Love With Noodles” follows Gelder’s canoodling with a string of women who enter his life just as he emerges from mourning his late beshert, Ellen. Gelder lives alone. His grown son, Eric, faces financial ruin. What’s worse, Eric is planning to marry a non-Jew.

Though all Jewish, Gelder’s women vary widely — from Charlotte, the wife of a friend off on a gay fling, to Maya, a Palestinian rights activist with a knack for lovemaking so vigorous it puts her partners in traction.

He nearly finds beshert No. 2 in Violet, a stinking-rich widow who loves adventure, diamonds and sticking it to those she detests. Gelder nearly steals her heart, and the two are off to Israel to visit Violet’s Orthodox daughter.

But soon, Gelder meets Tatiana, a 43-year-old Ukrainian widow with a 9-year-old piano prodigy son. She is gorgeous, lonely and seemingly angelic. Gelder falls for her hard. But does she love him for who he is or for his bank account?

The last third of the novel chronicles Gelder’s efforts to weed out all the meaningless sexual encounters and settle on choosing between the women that matter: Violet and Tatania. How about both?

Freund has trouble setting the tone of his story. Is it farce? Comedy of manners? Social satire? He isn’t sure, and that trips up his writing.

Moreover, though the book is filled with sex scenes, Gelder/Freund approaches them so gingerly, so squeamishly, they end up less than erotic. One almost feels embarrassed for the author, who doesn’t seem to want to shine a light into the bedroom.

As with many first-person narratives, the main character/narrator is often the most poorly drawn. That is the central problem with “Love With Noodles,” as Gelder ends up frustratingly two-dimensional. A novelist is required to reveal characters, not cover for them.

However, the women are delightful, especially Violet. She has all the color and brashness of a Tennessee Williams heroine. If they ever make a movie adaptation of this book, the Shirley McClaines and Meryl Streeps of the world will be fighting for the part.

There’s plenty of Jewish content here, from the pair of Orthodox Jewish weddings, to Gelder’s anguish over his son’s intermarriage, to the sojourn across Israel.

Like all good fiction, “Love With Noodles” expands its borders beyond the parochial. Anyone past the halfway point of life, hurtling forward with unease, will see something of himself in Gelder, paunch or no paunch.

Freund has a long way to go if he wants to join the ranks of great American novelists. But if there was a Pulitzer Prize for understanding the subtleties of life, Freund would have his on the mantel by now.

Hey Kids!


It’s Your World

Welcome to your page in The Jewish Journal. The last Friday of every month belongs to the kids of Jewish Los Angeles. In honor of the New Year and new look of this page, we want you to come up with a new name for it. Please send your ideas to kids@jewishjournal.com with the subject line New Name. We’ll pick the best one and make it the new name for the kids page (and you’ll get all the credit).

Kein v’ Lo

The Kein Side:

Many children use the evening to collect tzedakah for different charities instead of asking for candy — or they donate the candy to a food bank. For most people, the holiday has nothing to do with religion or real witches or saints. It’s more of a chance to go out with friends, have fun and decorate. Besides, it’s a great way to meet your neighbors.

The Lo Side:

It is a pagan holiday (a night when people believed the spirits of the dead would contact the living) and a Catholic holiday (candles are lit Nov. 1 on All Saints’ Day to honor the dead), but Jews are not supposed to celebrate non-Jewish holidays. Asking strangers for candy is rude; and tricks are mean. Jewish children have Purim as a day to dress up.

What do you think. E-mail your thoughts to kids@jewishjournal.com with the subject line

Kein V’Lo: Halloween. We’ll publish your opinions next month.

Stump Your Parents

Enjoy these facts about autumn — test your parents, grandparents and older siblings and see who gets the right answers first.

1) Which Hebrew month do we welcome in November?

2) How many weeks of autumn are there?

3) What is the full moon that follows the beginning of autumn?

4) What were the first jack-o-lanterns made from?

5) Who first suggested using Daylight Saving Time?

6) Why do the leaves change color?

7) In the Torah Portion Noach (which we read Nov. 5), God put up what object to show that everything was OK after the flood?

Answers: 1) Cheshvan; 2) Thirteen; 3) Harvest Moon; 4) Turnips; 5) Ben Franklin; 6) As the leaves lose chlorophyll (which makes them green) their other pigments
are exposed.; 7) A Rainbow

Burton’s ‘Corpse’ Has Jewish Bones


Once upon a time, a bridegroom jokingly recited his marriage vows over a skeletal finger protruding from the earth. After placing his ring on the bone, his mirth turned to horror when a grasping hand burst forth, followed by a corpse in a tattered shroud, her dead eyes staring as she proclaimed, “My husband!”

This chilling Jewish folk tale hails from a cycle of stories about the great 16th-century mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, in what is now northern Israel, said Howard Schwartz, a top Jewish folklorist and professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

It also apparently inspired Tim Burton’s charmingly ghoulish animated film, “Corpse Bride.” Yes, the film features a bridegroom who accidentally weds a cadaver. But the feature eschews the folk tale’s grotesquerie for romanticized gloom and Halloweeny fun — a trademark of Burton fare such as “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” “Corpse Bride” is among more than a dozen fantasy films slated to open this year, including Peter Jackson’s “King Kong,” which some analysts attribute to the yen for escapist cinema during wartime.

“Bride” revolves around a shy, bumbling groom, Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), who is practicing the wedding ceremony when he impulsively slides his ring on what he assumes is a stick. The corpse who emerges (voiced by Burton’s real-life fiancée Helena Bonham Carter) is not a hideously disintegrating cadaver, but a lovely, if unearthly heroine.

“When she gently takes off her veil and we see her for the first time, it becomes a glamour-girl shot,” cinematographer Pete Kozachik said.

The cadaver claims her husband, but does not emit bloodcurdling shrieks or insist upon the consummation of the marriage, like her folk-tale counterpart. Her mild flaws include a tendency toward petulance and an understandable proclivity for dropping a limb or having her eyeball pop out. On these occasions, a maggot pal pops out of her exposed eye socket. This damsel-past-distress whisks Victor off to the Land of the Dead, a lively place where skeletons party, forcing Victor to leave his living fiancée (voiced by Emily Watson) bereft.

So why did Burton — who is known to dress like a mortician — brighten the Jewish tale?

“We wanted to make a version that wasn’t so disturbing that you couldn’t put it in a family movie,” said co-screenwriter John August, who also wrote Burton’s “Big Fish” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

“The parts that are ‘scary’ are really parodies of classic horror-film moments, such as when our bride’s detached hand crawls after Victor.” The characters are non-Jewish, he added, “because Tim gravitates toward universal, fairy-tale qualities in his films.”

Burton got the idea for the movie when his late executive producer, Joe Ranft, brought him excerpts from the 16th-century legend.

“It seemed right for this particular type of [stop-motion] animation,” Burton said in an interview with studio publicists. “It’s like casting — you want to marry the medium with the material.”

The director saw elements in the tale that he could transform to match his love of protagonists who seem bizarre but who are actually tragic and isolated. In interviews, Burton has traced this preoccupation to his lonely childhood as an eccentric, artistic boy growing up in Burbank. No wonder his characters have included the titular disfigured innocent in “Edward Scissorhands,” the reclusive Willy Wonka in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and now the corpse bride.

“On the surface, she appears to be a monster but in fact she is kind and sweet and misunderstood,” screenwriter August said.

The Jewish folk obsession with the macabre — encompassing tales such as the corpse bride — comes from strikingly different cultural sensibilities than Burton’s obsessions, said Rabbi Pinchas Giller, professor of Jewish thought at the University of Judaism.

“Over the centuries, the Jews were very helpless and very beset by outside forces,” Giller said. “Bad luck could always come about, and it was a real act of Providence that bore a couple to the wedding canopy.”

Schwartz, author of “Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism” (Oxford University Press, 2004), retells the corpse tale in his 1987 book, “Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural” (Oxford University Press), in a story titled, “The Finger.” His source was the 17th-century volume, “Shivhei ha-Ari,” which collected earlier stories about the alleged feats of the real Rabbi Luria. The stories are hagiographic legends — tales about a master that show his great powers. In the corpse-bride narrative, Rabbi Luria confronts the cadaver, who accepts his authority. He is a member of the rabbinic court (the beit din) that eventually rules against the corpse, stating that she is not married because the dead have no claim upon the living, among other reasons.

The real Luria lived in the 16th century, but the origin of tales about nuptials with supernatural entities is far earlier. Schwartz traces them to a biblical commentary that suggests Adam had an insubordinate first wife, Lilith, who became a seductive demon. Later variations on this storyline include “the forced or accidental marriage of a man to a demon; an attempt to be free of unwanted vows and a decision reached by a rabbinical court,” Schwartz wrote in “Lilith’s Cave.” The unearthly characters “perhaps represent the fear of marriage to gentiles and hybrid offspring,” he said.Like the supernatural fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm (also the subject of a new movie), the corpse bride of folk tradition also serves as a cautionary tale, warning about the consequences of bad behavior.

“It tells us, ‘Be careful, don’t ever take an oath in vain. Don’t take it lightly,'” said Peninnah Schram, a professional Jewish storyteller and associate professor of speech and drama at Stern College in New York.

In “The Finger,” the wayward bridegroom gets lucky. After the rabbis rule against the validity of the corpse’s marriage to the careless suitor, the would-be bride — after emitting one last shriek — collapses in a pile of bones and dies, this time for keeps.

The movie has a more Hollywood kind of ending, with that Tim Burton twist.

“Tim’s characters tend to wear darker colors and some, like the corpse bride, are no longer living, but they have a pluck and a spirit that makes you fall in love with them,” August said.

“Corpse Bride” opens Friday in theaters.

 

Kids Page


Share the Fun

Have you been having fun this summer?

Our rabbis say that we should give up to 10 percent of what we own to tzedakah (charity) every year.

What percentage of your fun can you give to another person?

Dr. Doolittle I Presume?

In this week’s Torah portion Balak, the sorcerer Bilam discovers that his donkey can talk. Here are some more places you can find talking animals:

Unscramble the names of the books below and match them to the picture of which talking animal can be found in its pages:

H C I O C N E R L S FO A N R I N A

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __

L I A C E N I O N W L A D E R D N

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

T A U S R T T T I L E L __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __

A R O C L T E S H T B E W

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __

My Amazing Summer Contest

Send me your stories and pictures of an amazing thing you did this summer. First-, second- and third-place stories will be published on this page, and winners will also receive prizes. Deadline is Aug. 26, 2005.

E-mail your story to abbygilad@yahoo.com.

My son, Amit, spent a week of his summer on the Tole Mour, above, sailing around the Channel Islands and learning about marine biology.

 

Spectator – The Geffen’s Great Escape


In the 1930s, with the Great Depression at home and Hitler saber-rattling overseas, George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, two sharp-witted Jewish lads, kept Broadway and the nation laughing.

Together, they wrote such comedic classics as “Once in a Lifetime,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” “I’d Rather Be Right” and “You Can’t Take It With You.”

The latter play, which debuted on Broadway in 1936 and won a Pulitzer Prize and as an Oscar-winning movie two years later, has now been revived by the Geffen Playhouse.

The revival marks the 100th anniversary of Hart’s birth and, to keep the familial connection, is directed by his son, Christopher.

Cunningly constructed, the play relates the adventures and misadventures of the Sycamore Family of New York, whose guiding motto is, do whatever turns you on, however eccentric, and you’ll have lots of fun, avoid ulcers and enjoy a happy ending.

This philosophy may not always work in this harsh world but it surely does on the stage.

The pace of this production is not quite as antic and frantic as we recall from the olden days, but there are enough laughs to get your money’s worth.

Excelling in a somewhat uneven cast is veteran British actor Roy Dotrice as the family patriarch, who quit the rat race 35 years ago and has never looked back.

Also amusing are Conrad John Schuck as an irascible Wall Street tycoon, and Magda Harout, who doubles as an inebriated actress and an aristocratic Russian refugee who has fallen on hard times.

The Geffen’s performances have been in exile on the Veterans Administration grounds while its Westwood playhouse has been undergoing a $17 million facelift.

Included in the renovations are a plusher main stage and audience seats and construction of the smaller Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theatre.

A grand reopening of the Westwood facility is set for Oct. 17. The inaugural drama on Nov. 4 will be Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” directed by Gilbert Cates and starring John Goodman as Big Daddy.

“You Can’t Take It With You” concludes its run on May 22 at the VA’s Brentwood Theatre. For information, call (310) 208-5454 or visit www.geffenplayhouse.com

.

How to make a seder child’s play


For parents of squirmy kids, a Passover seder can seem longer than the 40 years our ancestors spent wandering through the desert. Fortunately, all it takes is a little forethought and creativity to keep the younger set from getting as jumpy as the frogs in Pharaoh’s bed at the big event. The following suggestions should help you plan a family-friendly Seder that promises to hold the attention of all kinds of kids — wise, wicked, simple and those just plain unable to ask.

Set the Stage
You’ll immediately pull children into the exodus experience by adding scenery to the seder. Drape sheets across the ceiling to give the table a tent-like feel, or pitch a freestanding Bedouin abode in the corner. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, ask guests to sport full Israelite attire. It’s amazing what can be done with some sheets, robes, pillowcases and towels.

Not Quite Ready for Primetime Seders
Set an early seder start time, thus keeping the evil Pharaohs lurking within your kids at bay a bit longer.

It’s in the Bag
Hand out goodie bags at the door to your most wiggly guests. Include Passover stickers, mini-books and kosher-for-Passover candies.

Open a Mini-Matzah Factory
Dig up a matzah recipe on the Internet and let kids have a go at baking the afikomen. The dry crumbly results may not be Manischevitz material, but they’ll leave your pint-sized bakers feeling more a part of Passover, and the extra dough can keep little hands occupied during the seder.

Serve Up Some Plagues
Scatter plastic frogs, beasts and insects (locusts) and other plague-related knick-knacks around the table.

Recline in Style
Help kids use fabric paint to decorate plain pillowcases with Passover related art. Since reclining is the name of the game during the seder, these meaningful creations will be put to good use.

Stretch the Festive Meal
Grumbling tummies are prime perpetrators of seder-night meltdowns. By serving the matzah ball soup upon arrival and offering up platters of carrot and celery sticks as karpas, you can squelch pre-festive meal kvetching faster than your kids can say, “Let my people go!”

Who Wants to be a Matzahnaire?
Passover is all about asking questions, but the big four are only the beginning. Keep kids excited and involved with the seder by intermittently morphing into a game show host. Be sure to award correct answers to holiday-themed questions with special Passover prizes.

Give a Taste of Slavery
Just as little heads are beginning to nod off, “discover” an envelope addressed to all the children at your seder table containing a letter from the Pharoh himself. Read the edict — commanding all children to begin building pyramids, immediately — aloud; pull out the blocks you stored under the table prior to the seder and let the enslavement begin.

Try a Change of Venue
Whether everyone moves to the living room to sing Passover songs or takes a walk outside to the pool to send a baby Moses doll off in a basket, a field trip away from the table during the course of the seder works miracles.

Chop It Up
It’s much more fun to eat a Hillel sandwich when you helped in making the charoset and maror. In my family, making horseradish sauce is an annual pre-seder event complete with Shlomo Carlbach music. Since only those old enough to safely handle a knife are allowed to participate, the kids consider it a virtual rite of passage.

Put a Spotlight on Stories
The true purpose of the seder is to pass the story of Exodus down from one generation to the next. But why stop there? Ask a few of your senior guests to come prepared to share a true and entertaining tale about their lives. When kids start to stray, pass a play microphone to one of these individuals. Their tales are sure to turn little heads back toward the seder table.

Finally, keep in mind that keeping children occupied during a seder is liable to take far more effort than simply bribing squirmy kids with chocolate-covered macaroons or sticking them with a teenage baby sitter in the playroom for the night. By taking the time to orchestrate a kid-friendly seder, you significantly up the odds that your fidgety children will one day do the same for your fidgety grandchildren.

Afikomen, Afikomen Wherefore Art Thou?


 

The afikomen: dessert or simply a ploy to keep children — and some adults — awake through most of the seder? Most people probably favor the latter, and tend to choose one of two techniques to make finding the half-piece of matzah interesting:

Method No. 1: Hiding the afikomen somewhere in the room/house/neighborhood for the child or children to find it.

Method No. 2: A child steals the afikomen from the leader’s place at the table when he or she gets up for rachtzah (washing the hands), hides it somewhere else and gets to bargain back for it. (This only works if a second child doesn’t take the matzah from the hiding place of the first.)

In either case, there is usually some prize or reward for finding the afikomen, thus allowing the adults to be able to continue the seder — and merrily sing “Chad Gadyah.”

While most children would probably welcome a monetary gift, you aren’t supposed to give money out at the seder. So, if your family chooses method No. 1, go the present route with one of these kitschy, quirky, “isn’t that cute,” “I wish I got that” items. (Note: if your family chooses afikomen-finding method No. 2, be warned that Sony PSP or Club Libby Lu might come up at the bargaining table.)

“Ma Nishtanah?” just got a whole lot cuter with artist Yitzy Erps’ reversible 4 Questions Finger Puppets. Each plush puppet has a seder item on one side, with its year-round equivalent on the other: matzah/bread, maror radish/carrot, cushioned chair/hard chair and karpas/beet.

$12.95. Ages 3 and older. ” target=”_blank”>www.chosencouture.com.

When your kid shouts, “I have boils!” don’t panic — it is just Matzah Ball Bingo. Two to six people can play this educational (shhhh, don’t tell the kids) retelling of the Pesach story. No reading required, which means parents can spend the seder at the adult table.

$8.95. Ages 4 and up. ” target=”_blank”>www.cafepress.com/yidgear.

Need a way to infuse your holidays with creativity? One word: Haggadah-rama — and there are 51 more where that came from. Lynn Gordon and Nina Miller condensed some very cool ideas into the playing card-size 52 Activities for Jewish Holidays. Pick one and make a memory.

$6.95. ” target=”_blank”>www.dreamworks.com.

As strange as your family is, be glad you aren’t having seder with the Byrneses and the Fockers. But you can bring Ben Stiller, Barbra Streisand and Bobby DeNiro home for the holiday on the just-released “Meet the Fockers” DVD. Cool extras include more than 60 bloopers and 20 deleted scenes, feature commentary with director Jay Roach, a Fockers’ family portrait and a virtual tour of Streisand’s Malibu mansion (just kidding).

$29.98.

Enemy Ties


 

I hadn’t been to a Tel Aviv bar for a while, and I was craving one. I had recently returned from a vacation to Los Angeles, where there were no worthwhile singles bars. Last call for alcohol in Los Angeles is 2 a.m., and a good Jewish girl like me prefers to pick up and be picked up by Jewish men.

That’s why Eliezer, a new bar on Ben Yehuda Street, was a relief for me and also for my friend, Tali, who had just returned from her native Melbourne. Inhaling the smoky air and swaying to the rock music, we reveled in the dozens of masculine men around us.

“Welcome to Israel,” we proudly toasted. “Where you know the men in the bars are Jewish.”

A beer and two vodka shots later, I let my guard down and scoped the scene, looking for hot prospects. Gradually a group of short, stubby men surrounded us. I sighed. None of them had been on my radar, but, nevertheless, we all danced and laughed and flirted.

Suddenly, a man in a gray shirt and gray tie walked in. I was not particularly attracted to him, but I noticed that his tie was practically strangling him. I gestured to him to take it off. We were in a bar, not a conference room.

Tali and I continued to dance and flirt, and the man in the tie passed us by, stiff-necked. I motioned to him again to take the thing off.

Finally, we headed out to go salsa dancing, and I noticed the man in the tie had taken it off and began waving it like a flag, signaling me over.

“Congratulations,” I said. “That’s much better.”

“Where are you from?” he said in an unidentifiable accent.

“I’m from Israel, but originally from L.A.,” I said. “Where are you from?”

“I’m Palestinian.”

“Oh,” I said. “Palestinian.”

No wonder he wore a tie to a bar. Israelis just don’t do that.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked.

“I’m very Jewish,” I said proudly.

There I was. Face to face with the enemy, in a Tel Aviv bar. I immediately recalled the Stage nightclub bombing in Tel Aviv a week earlier, and I looked for a backpack strapped to his waist, but he was strapless. I was safe, but I couldn’t help but provoke confrontation. I wasn’t about to be fake or polite or cordial just because he was Palestinian. A Tel Aviv bar, to me, did not provide sanctuary.

“You know, I’m very right wing,” I said.

I didn’t think he understood what I said or what I meant, or maybe he didn’t want a bar brawl, because he ignored my comment and instead asked me where I lived.

I almost made myself more explicit by adding: “If I were a soldier with a gun, and this were a battle line, I would shoot you. By the way, I entertain the idea of transfer.”

But I stopped myself. This was a bar, I reasoned. He wasn’t the enemy, he was a descendant of Abraham who wanted to break Islamic law and have a drink. I had to respect him for that. So I dropped the politics and told him I lived in Tel Aviv.

“Israeli women are hotter than Palestinian women, aren’t they?” I said, trying to find some common ground.

“No, no.”

“Why, do you like it when they are covered from head to toe, with those veils?”

“Well, women in Ramallah are not so hot. Yes, Israelians are hot,” he said awkwardly.

It seemed like that was the first time he used “hot” in that context.

I told him I had to go, and he presented his tie and said: “For you.”

“What?” I said. “I can’t take this.”

At first, I felt bad. It looked expensive, and don’t most Palestinians live in dire poverty?

Then I thought about the implications: I take this tie, and my hands are tied. I’d forever have to remember that one night a Palestinian gave me an expensive tie, and that he was nice to me. I’d have to question all my stereotypes and generalizations, and recognize that there are good, normal, generous Palestinians who just want peace, who just want to be my friend, who just want some fun.

I couldn’t take the tie.

But then I looked down at its elegant striped pattern. It would look smashing with a white tank and hip hugging jeans, I thought. He insisted, so I gracefully accepted.

“Thank you,” I said, smiling, and blew him a kiss.

As we sauntered out, Tali, a pro-peace activist, said, “You see, they’re not all bad. You’ll switch sides.”

“Hmm,” I said. “Maybe.”

As long as I felt good and stylish with the tie on, I couldn’t resent the fashion benefactor or his people.

I woke up the next morning, both me and the tie hungover in bed, alone.

I glared at it, frightened. Is this the first step toward my own private reconciliation with the Palestinians? If I keep it, is it a personal symbol of possible peace? Or should I just burn the thing?

Eventually, I hung it in my closet as the accessory that will forever go down in my wardrobe as “the tie the Palestinian gave me.” It’s not an enemy tie I’m ready to make, but it’s an enemy tie I’m ready to wear.

A friend told me that wearing a tie is a proven pick-up technique. It worked well for Abbas. Maybe it’ll work for me.

I’ll wear it next time I go to a bar. And when I do, I’ll use it to pick up and tie up a hot Jewish Israeli man, and I’ll have a Palestinian to thank for it.

Maybe then we could start talking about reconciliation.

Orit Arfa is a writer living in Israel.

 

Holiday Frivolity for Young at Heart


 

Offering the chance to parade in costume as Queen Esther or King Ahasuerus, shake groggers at the mention of Haman’s name and feast on hamantaschen, Purim is the perfect holiday — for our kids’ grandparents and great-grandparents.

At every age, we must be connected to life’s fun side, and Purim, the boisterous and tumultuous holiday that begins this year at sundown on March 24 and celebrates the triumph of the Jews in ancient Persia over enemies determined to destroy them, gives us that opportunity.

But far more than the kids, today’s elders — many of whom are contending with the death of a spouse, poor health, loneliness and dwindling finances — need the frivolity that Purim brings. Of the 35 million Americans who are 65 and older, up to 7 million suffer from some form of depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That age group also claims the nation’s highest suicide rate, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

“Laughter is the best medicine,” said Faye Sharabi, activity director for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ Valley Storefront, an adult day health-care center in North Hollywood. For the entire month leading up to Purim, Sharabi provides a variety of fun-filled activities, all part of the five-day-a-week program of physical and occupational therapy and socialization for the Storefront’s elderly, physically disabled and/or memory-impaired clients, who range in age from 40 to 99.

“The megillah is a fascinating story that is not just for kids,” said Sharabi, who stresses Queen Esther’s positive outlook and ability to inspire the Jewish people. She arranges a Queen Esther “makeover” for the female participants as well as a beauty pageant, with everyone designated a queen.

“When you’re elderly, you’re still beautiful,” she said.

The highlight, however, is Purim morning, when the king and queen, selected by lottery beforehand, are crowned and feted with flowers, a fiddler playing Jewish songs and a parade.

In addition, costumed second-graders from nearby Adat Ari El Day School come to sing, dance and share hamantaschen that they baked the previous day. They also bring sequins, feathers and other art materials to help the revelers make Mardi Gras-style masks.

“The older people love the kids,” said second-grade teacher Soli Friedman. “They see that the kids care about them and that they are not left alone.”

Other older adults are less interested in intergenerational activities.

“We have too much fun ourselves,” says Paula Fern, director of the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ Pico-Robertson Storefront and Holocaust Survivors Program.

Her group is Café Europa, a social and support group for Holocaust survivors that was founded in 1987 by social worker Dr. Flo Kinsler, which has spread to other U.S. cities.

In Los Angeles, Café Europa’s Purim celebration, funded by the Claims Conference, is expected to draw approximately 150 survivors. Fern explains that the March 22 event is a party, a catered luncheon with singing in a variety of languages, dancing and feasting. Many of the members, who observe a range of religious practices, attend Megillah readings and carnivals with their families.

For some survivors, the festivities provide an opportunity to recall memories of a happy Jewish childhood in prewar Europe.

Eva David, who grew up in Transylvania, remembers her mother covering every available surface of their house with freshly baked cakes.

“Mother would put each cake in a cloth napkin, and we would take them to the neighbors,” she said. “What a memory. The whole street was filled with Jewish children carrying cakes.”

But other survivors remember that they were being rounded up into ghettoes or concentration camps or were hiding, fleeing or living under false identities when they should have been celebrating Jewish holidays.

John Gordon, born in Budapest, Hungary, and president of Los Angeles’ branch of Child Survivors of the Holocaust, was only 2 when restrictions against the Jews were enacted. His family’s Purim celebration, fresh cookies and a Megillah reading, was confined to their home.

So Café Europa’s parties — “as many as we have funding for,” Fern says — help compensate for survivors’ lost childhoods.

But for all older adults, Purim, the holiday that celebrates the survival of the Jewish people, provides an opportunity to reflect, to recapture childhood memories and to create new ones.

“It’s fascinating that Purim, which is so easily dismissed as a holiday for young children, becomes actually a serious adult-oriented holiday,” said Elon Sunshine, rabbi-in-residence at Heschel Day School.

And a serious time for fun.

 

The Great Camp Learning Curve


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Spring is in the air: apricot blossoms burgeoning on their branches, daffodil 10-packs floating in plastic pots at Trader Joe’s and summer camp brochures stuffed into our mailboxes.

I am a big fan of camp. Every summer from 1973 on, I packed my trunk and headed to Malibu. Camp Hess Kramer shaped my teen years and reinforced my Jewish identity. It was my second home from age 12 to 22, and to this day, whenever I catch a whiff of pancakes frying in hot oil on a griddle, I close my eyes and return to camp. My life revolved around those precious summer months. If somebody offered me a job at camp today, I’d roll up my sleeping bag and hop on the bus.

When it came time for my own children to go to camp, one would have thought that with all my experience, knowledge, and leadership training I would have been better prepared. But, from the mother’s standpoint, summer camp is whole different adventure.

I’m not one of those plan-ahead moms. I like to follow in the footsteps of mothers before me. If some mom did the research and decided it was good enough for her kid, then it was good enough for mine. Car seats, strollers, sneakers, bicycles, preschools, camps, whatever — who am I to question? Besides, why do all that work when someone else just did it? It’s a time-management thing.

A number of years ago, when my first son was halfway through kindergarten, I tried getting my feet wet in the elementary school scene by attending a PTA meeting. After the meeting a few moms invited me for coffee at some new place called “Starbucks,” which had just opened on the corner.

“So,” Janis (an obvious expert at motherhood) said as we squeezed four chairs around a tabletop the size of a cookie tin. “Have you sent in your applications yet?”

“My what?” I asked, burning my tongue on a ridiculously expensive latte.

“Applications,” she said. “For camp.”

“What camp?” I asked.

“Summer camp,” Elaine, another veteran, chimed in. “It’s March. You know they’re due pretty soon. If you don’t send them in by next month, it’ll be too late.”

“That’s right,” Janis said, “camps fill up by April. Do you know where your son is going to go?”

I had no idea where my son would be going, but I knew that I’d be going to the place where bad mothers who don’t meet deadlines go.

“I … I don’t know anything about it,” I confessed, panic rising in my throat.

“Calm down,” Carrie said, “it’s not too late.”

I immediately pegged Carrie as an ally.

“You still have a few more weeks,” she said. “And if you miss the deadline, there’s always summer school. That’s what my kids are doing, and then three afternoons a week they’ll go to nanny camp.”

We all looked at Carrie.

“Nanny camp?” Janis asked, skeptically. “What’s that?”

“It’s when my mother-in-law takes my children. She loves it, the kids love it, I earn major in-law points, and the best part is it’s free.”

I had met my guru.

“Well,” Elaine looked askance, “mothers ought to put a little more thought into a child’s camping experience. Last year, Tommy went to science camp and loved it. This year I’m signing him up for two sessions — each week they do a different project. There’s rocket week, nature week, history of the Earth week….”

“Do they offer college credit?” Carrie asked.

“What?” Elaine asked.

“Nothing.”

“And then,” Elaine prattled, “in between science camp, he’ll do a three-week session of regular day camp.”

Janis chewed her lip thoughtfully: “That probably only takes you to, what, mid-July? You should consider six weeks of day camp, then throw in a week of art camp, or maybe that music and fencing combo-camp thing at the enrichment center.”

“Hmmm,” Elaine sipped her cappuccino. “That might be a good idea.”

Carrie broke off a piece of currant scone: “So Elaine, what’s all this camp gonna cost?”

“Oh, puh-lenty,” Janis interrupted, scribbling figures on a napkin. “You’re up to at least $1,000 so far. And that’s without the music/fencing combo.”

“And don’t you have something like three kids?” Carrie asked.

My head-held calculator spun wildly. The deadlines, dollars and decisions — my overpriced latte swirled in my stomach.

Elaine wiped some crumbs onto the floor. “Well, I have time to think about it, but you, little missy,” she stood and pointed at me, “had better get started. The clock is ticking. And take it from me, a kid with nothing to do makes for a very long summer.”

Thus began my introduction to the chaotic camp frenzy that would become a fixture in my life every spring. I wish I could say that never again was I caught unprepared, but each year I live through my own version of March madness. As fate would have it, after experiencing all types of fun-filled, exciting camps, my boys have ended up right back where I began — at the same Jewish camp in Malibu, where life-long friendships bloom and religious identities are formed and enriched.

Now that I firmly belong in the “experienced mother” category, I’ve had younger mothers ask me about sending their kids to camp. Well, as I said, I am a big fan of camp. And take it from me, a kid with nothing to do makes for a very long summer.

Â

Yeladim


 

This month, Tevet is the darkest month because the days are shortest. And, in this month, a siege began on Jerusalem, which eventually led to the destruction of the Temple. That is why we had a fast day on the 10th of Tevet (Dec. 22).

But here’s an interesting fact about Tevet and the holiday we just celebrated – Chanukah. If you count the number of candles we lit (not including the shamash) you get 36. If you count the number of days from the beginning of Chanukah (25 Kislev) until the last day of Tevet, you get – 36. Pretty cool, huh?

This is the season of lights.

It’s also the season of presents.

Follow the lines to find who is holding the ribbon to which present:

I was at the Westside JCC’s 50th anniversary the other day. There was a big cake and a lot of Chanukah fun. And guess whom I got to stand next to on stage?

Follow the clues to answer the question:

1) A rainbow drops into a pot of__________

2) How many fringes on a tallit? ___________

3) Part of his name sounds “Krazy!”

5) His first name rhymes with Penny _______

6) An event that started in ancient Greece ___________

Who is he and what did he do? Send your answer to abbygilad@yahoo.com for your prize!

 

From the Mouths of Babes


How Do You Decide Whom to Marry?

\n

•You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. — Alan, age 10

\n

•No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with. — Kirsten, age 10

What Do You Think Your Mom and Dad Have in Common?

\n

•Both don’t want any more kids. — Lori, age 8

What Is the Right Age to Get Married?

\n

•Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person forever by then. — Camille, age 10

\n

•No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. — Freddie, age 6

How Can a Stranger Tell if Two People Are Married?

\n

•You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. — Derrick,

age 8

What Do Most People Do on a Date?

\n

•Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. — Lynnette,

age 8

\n

•On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. — Martin, age 10

What Would You Do on a First Date That Was Turning Sour?

\n

• I’d run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns. — Craig, age 9

When Is It OK to Kiss Someone?

\n

•When they’re rich. — Pam,

age 7

\n

•The law says you have to be 18, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that. — Curt, age 7

\n

•The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do. — Howard, age 8

Is It Better to Be Single or Married?

\n

•It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. — Anita, age 9

How Would You Make a Marriage Work?

\n

•Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck. — Ricky, age 10

Yeladim


TAKE A LOOK, IT’S IN A BOOK
On Sunday, Nov. 14,
come to the second annual
Jewish Children’s Bookfest
from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.,
at the Triangle, Mount Sinai Memorial Park
(6150 Mount Sinai Drive, Simi Valley,
exit the 118 West at Yosemite).
Children and their families are invited to celebrate: “350 Years of Jews in America” with their favorite authors and entertainers, and participate in fun workshops.
You’ll get a free gift if you complete the following puzzles and bring it to Debra at the Jewish Journal workshop.
For more information on the Bookfest, call (866) 266-5731 or visit www.jewishchildrensbookfest.org.
350 YEARS OF JEWISH ACHIEVEMENT

“Tiby” Eisen will actually be at the festival.
1) “Tiby” Eisen’s given name is:
a. Martha
b. Thelma
c. Louise
2) The movie based on her team’s experiences is called:
a. A League of Their Own
b. Ladybugs
c. Quarterback Princess
3) From 1946-1953, she played professional:
a. Soccer
b. Football
c. Baseball
Mail your cartoons, drawings, puzzles, etc. to The Jewish Journal, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010. E-mail your written answers to our contests, or your jokes, riddles, poems, etc., to kids@jewishjournal.com. Make sure you write your name and address in your e-mail. See you next time!

I Love a Parade


I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love a parade. The first one I remember attending was as a 10-year-old. My parents took my brother and me to what was then called the “Santa Claus Lane Parade,” which took place just after Thanksgiving Day and made its way down Hollywood Boulevard. There were movie and TV stars as well as the people on horses and floats. I remember it being a lot of fun.

Until last July 14 I had never attended a military parade. You know the kind where soldiers and sailors walk in a procession down a large, wide boulevard. They are typically accompanied by a very awesome display of military firepower, such as tanks and missiles and rockets of all sizes and descriptions. The highlight of a military parade is usually not what is on the ground but rather what files overhead. At the end of the parade one hears from a distance a sound of approaching aircraft and then — to everyone’s amazement and delight — a squad of jets fly over in a precise formation, usually leaving behind a plume of colored smoke. Everyone cheers and yells and then leaves the parade route feeling quite proud of the strength and power of the military branch or country that sponsored the event.

This past July 14, Carol and I were in Paris and attended the Bastille Day parade commemoration of French Independence Day. Hundreds of thousands of people were in attendance lining the Champs Elysees. The weather was perfect and the participants were dressed in all their military finery. Actually, the group that got the largest round of applause didn’t come from the military but rather from the fire department. The event was a lot of fun and I was glad that I took the time to see it.

What do we have in Judaism that comes closest to a military parade? It occurred to me that every Sabbath morning, when we take out the Torah and walk around the sanctuary, we are actually simulating a military parade. No guns, not tanks, no jet planes to impress onlookers. But when the Torah is carried down the aisles of the temple, people of all ages stand at attention and show it the highest form of respect. Many even are eager to touch or even kiss what is contained on that long roll of parchment: commandments and laws and guidelines for living a moral and satisfying life. We also know that the Torah we are viewing is but one in a long history of Torahs that have been carried from one country to another as we Jews have been exiled and escaped from the power of ruthless and evil leaders.

One of the biblical prophets once declared: “Not by might, nor by power — but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” The spirit of God is found in the Torah. We Jews have rarely given over our trust to weapons of mass destruction. For we know that stronger and more powerful weapons are always being created. Egypt was defeated by Assyria and Assyria by Babylonia and Babylonia by the Romans and on and on and on. But we Jews are still alive and our survival can be attributed to the most portable weapon ever created: the Torah. We have carried it from one land to another. Other armies may defeat armies with more potent weapons. But any army that relies on the word of God is invincible.

So the next time you see the Torah being marched around think of it as the major weapon in the battle for goodness and justice. Salute the Torah, cheer the Torah and, above all, honor the Torah for it is the greatest safeguard and protection we have.

Lawrence Goldmark is the rabbi at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada.

Superflirt


Faster than a benching rabbi. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall bachelors in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s SuperFlirt.

That’s right, I’m spending three days in San Diego at Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic book convention. Before you crack a kryptonite joke or ask me to beam you up, let me say that I’m a proud Con regular. I read graphic novels. I own Wonder Woman Underoos. I’ve got a Super Shin baby tee.

Many of the women at The Con are actually here with their husbands and boyfriends. I saw Neo and Trinity holding hands at the "Courtney Crumrin" booth, Legolas and Goth Chick macking down in the "Revenge of the Sith" shirt line and Batgirl and Chewbacca sharing churros at the food cart. (Wait, that might not be Chewie, just a hairy convention dude.)

I start to crack a joke about the star-crossed lovers, when it hits me: Who am I to poke fun? At least they’re in a relationship. They get to share their big day with someone else who, well, thinks of a Carrie Fisher autograph signing as a big day. Somehow in this crazy world, two people who can speak Klingon in the bedroom actually found each other. And I think that’s beautiful.

This goes to my Disneyland theory. When I’m standing in line at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, it’s undoubtedly behind two sweaty, overweight people pulling the old "hand in the other’s back pocket" move. Even if these classy folks weren’t wearing matching Waffle House tank tops, I’d know they were meant to be together. This guy with his stone-washed cutoffs is not for me, but he’s perfect for his girlfriend, who he’s been kissing since we passed the "20 minutes from here sign" 30 minutes ago. They’re beshert, and not afraid to let everyone from Fantasyland to Tom Sawyer’s Island to the guy who sells the giant turkey legs know it. My Disneyland dictum? If these two Mousketeers somehow found each other, then I’m certainly going to find someone. Somewhere out there is a match for everyone. So rather than think I’ll never meet my man, I just wonder when I’ll meet my man.

No time like the present. I cruise the convention floor searching for cool comics and cute guys. And let me say to my fellow single chicks — this is where the boys are. Forget the bars. Ditch JDate. Those social scenes have nothing on The Con. It’s a whole convention hall packed with single guys.

The ratio of men to women here is about a zillion to one. Of course the ratio of men to Spider-Men is about 10 to one. But that’s part of the fun. Men in tights. Who cares if these single guys are dressed as Hobbits and Jedis — you should see their lightsabers.

I coast The Con with an open mind. My match could be here. I can picture it now: we’ll talk publishers, exchange a little ink and paint, then — Zam! — Wonder Twin powers activate! (I’m kidding — duh — everyone knows Zan and Jayna are siblings, not a couple. And that the Wonder Twins are from the planet Exxor, not Earth.)

I’m in line for the Warner Bros. panel when a built guy with a great smile and a Mariners hat asks, "Can I join you?"

His name’s Brian. He’s from Seattle, works in video games and is checking me out. Holy cow, Batman, this is it. My Comic-Con hookup. My potential beshert. Bring on the geek love, baby. He passes me a warm, unopened package of Red Vines.

"Can you hold these for a sec? You can have one if you want."

He shares; that’s good. I start to think of all the things Brian and I will share together — our favorite restaurants, our top five movies, our last name — when he starts wildly waving his now free hands to his buddies in the corner. They sprint toward us, jump in line and give each other lame high fives. I think I hear his short friend say, "Classic line jump, dude."

Armed with my Disney theory, I don’t get discouraged. It’s not that things will never work out with someone. It’s that Brian wasn’t that someone.

So look out beshert, there’s a new flirt in town.

Will Carin meet her mate at Comic-Con? Will she take to wearing a cape? Stay tuned for her next column. Same Jew time, same Jew paper.

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

Frum Frenzy


Visitors trolling for casual sex on Craigslist.org last week were left scratching their heads over an unfamiliar reference that has surfaced in a flurry of recent postings.

"I keep seeing this term ‘Frum.’ Can somebody please clue me into what the hell that is?" wrote Jeff, a 30-year-old regular on the site.

"OK, I give up … what does ‘frum’ mean?" huffed another.

To the posters’ disappointment, frum (pronounced "froom") is not shorthand for a kinky new posture or adventurous attitude. It’s a Yiddish word that technically means "religiously observant," but for all intents and purposes is used by men and women who identify themselves as Orthodox Jews.

Jeff, an events planner who grew up Catholic in the Midwest, said he kept seeing requests from frum men and women seeking frum sexual partners.

"The only thing that was in my mind was ‘fru-strated, m-arried?’ I had no clue what it was," he said. "I didn’t realize it was an Orthodox Jewish person. From what I understand, they’re supposed to put a sheet between them when they have sex."

It turns out that the deeply religious have sexual tastes as mundane as the rest of us:

"Single frum guy for single frum girl for fun!" one 24-year-old wrote. "Married, frum guy looking for a frum girl (married or unmarried) for some NSA [no strings attached] fun. We can have good time ‘learning’ together," a 31-year-old posted.

"Frum married guy looking for frum guy to explore," wrote another, continuing: "I am a frum married 28-year-old guy … during the summer my wife will be upstate and I am looking to explore having sex with a man … please be frum."

That’s not to say that this frum frenzy hasn’t ushered in a whole range of heretofore unimaginable caveats such as "We could do as little as you want," written by a gentle soul seeking a frum woman, and "No Chasidish," written by a 24-year-old married Manhattanite, referring to the ultra-Orthodox denomination whose members wear black hats and suits and sport long sidelocks.

Or, less chastely, a poster seeking "Frum girls gone wild" for an orgy in Brooklyn, or another one advertising a Yahoo group for married frumsters seeking "extracurricular fun."

Though the posters are seeking members of their observant sects to romp in the sack with, none seem to be under the illusion that this is, well, kosher.

"Frum guy seeks frum girl for not such frum fun!" a 32-year-old wrote. And one might question whether picking someone from the notoriously tight-knit community would be a discreet move.

In case there were any doubts, Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, confirmed that Jewish law prohibits such shenanigans — either in the form of extramarital affairs or premarital sexual contact.

"Rabbis have taught that there is a prohibition of all contact of a sexual nature between male and female prior to marriage," he said, referring to Maimonides’ encyclopedic code of Jewish law. "But we’re not talking here about a man and a woman who are emotionally bonded and have difficulty with a specific Jewish law. We’re talking about people who are completely disconnected and lonely. It’s sad; it reflects the reality of our time."

Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, director of organizational development for the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, added that while traditional Judaism discourages sexual relations outside of marriage, "Historically some were permitted if the relationship was ongoing and committed" in the case of concubines.

"I assure you, they know very well that society doesn’t approve it — that’s why they’re going to the Net," he added. "If they belong to parts of a classically frum society, they can’t exactly go to a party and say, ‘Do you want to come back to my place?’"

"That’s so funny," said Jessica Ressler, 26, a Modern Orthodox divorce lawyer. "I just posted an ad on there for a nanny. I didn’t know they went on there for that."

Of course, it was only a matter of time before a class of frum frauds emerged on Craigslist. But if the missives from Orthodox neighborhoods are to be believed, where there are frum, there is desire.

"Are there any frum men here that want to meet for real?" one single gal wrote. "I am sick and tired of all the fakes here."

Article reprinted courtesy The New York Observer.


Anna Schneider-Mayerson is a writer living in New York City.

Shabbat in Jerusalem


Friday in Israel is not really a work day, but a semi-holiday. Friday is not a holy day, but it has a special flavor because it is when we finalize our Shabbat preparations.

I used to live on a gorgeous street in Jerusalem, Rehov Caspi. The street boasts a view of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, the Jordan Valley and the hills of Jordan, a mere 30 miles away. The street is perched above a hillside park called The Promenade, which also faces the Old City. A short two-block walk away is Derech Beit Lechem, a street full of small shops. This neighborhood is abuzz on Fridays.

I was privileged to be one of only two women who were welcome at "The Parliament," a group of 10 or so men who meet every Friday morning at 7 a.m. in Yonotan’s lighting store. The men are both Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and are mostly in their 60s and 70s. The elder parliamentarians are mostly from Eastern Europe and are old enough to be considered heroes of the War of Independence. One of the exciting aspects of living in contemporary Israel is that the founders of the country are still walking around.

During the meeting, Yonotan served small glasses of his special tea (black tea with sugar and fresh herbs), along with cheese borekas, olives and cucumbers. It’s a guy’s yackfest and I always felt like the proverbial fly on the wall. The conversations were lively, good-natured, where traditional morality prevailed while spanning the religious and political spectrums.

By 8:30 a.m. we’d all disperse for leisurely Shabbat shopping. Israelis, many of whom have survived the Holocaust or the siege of Jerusalem, will stock up on Friday as if the stores may not open for a week or more.

Hospitality is the rule and guests are considered a blessing. I never lacked invitations for Shabbat dinners and lunches as a single person, but I also loved hosting.

The small specialized stores of Derech Bet Lechem made shopping slower, but more fun and personal. The butchers subtly gave their approval when you purchased expensive cuts. Likewise, the baker let you know your good luck and good taste when buying the last box of date nut cookies and a sesame challah. The vegetable seller, a swarthy Sephardi, maintains a high testosterone environment and lots of photographs of ancient rabbis. Until you’ve tasted Israeli tomatoes and cucumbers, you simply do not know what the flavor should be.

Sundries and dairy products are purchased in the makolet, a small neighborhood market. This proprietor, Moshe, I saw more often than most of my friends. I cried with him when his mother died, and he cried with me when I had to move back to the United States. He gave me a bizarre blessing once, "Shabbat Achla!" The second word is "good" in Arabic.

Once the shopping was finished, I’d probably run into a neighbor and stop at a sidewalk cafe for a coffee. It’s not that I needed to drink anything after all the tea at Yonotan’s, but it was an excuse to sit and talk more.

Finally, I’d head home, shlepping my bags of whatever, and start chopping vegetable for salad, whipping up unbelievably rich tehina dip and boiling some soup. On Fridays, even the rock music stations help get you in the mood for Shabbat by switching their programming to shirim yafim, the beautiful songs from the early days of the state. The songs are sentimental and patriotic, and help you to slow down and appreciate Israel; that Israel actually exists.

In between preparing food, I’d set the table with a cloth only used on Shabbat and my strange but beautiful mismatched set of meat dishes. Each plate and bowl has a different Japanese pattern; but all being blue and white, they work together. I’d do any last-minute cleaning and straightening.

Once in a while, if I was very organized, I’d have the time for a tub bath, a real luxury because of water shortages, and an indulgence I permitted myself only for Shabbat. I have a special perfume, which I only use on Shabbats and holidays: Joy from France. Also, I have a special nightgown that I only wear on Shabbat, so that when I wake up, I know without a doubt what day it is.

When the guests would arrive, I’d have them leave their street shoes near the door and give them house shoes. It’s a custom I learned in Russia and Asia, which not only keeps the street filth out but puts most people at ease and makes them feel more at home.

What with the various blessings, many courses of the meal, the songs, and the Torah discussion, the Shabbat dinner usually runs at least two hours. Finally the well-fed guests waddle off and I put my feet up and began the long Shabbat rest.

What a glorious life. If you haven’t celebrated a Shabbat, give it a try. You may find, as I have, that it becomes the axis of your week.

Shabbat shalom!

Laurel Sternberg is a muralist who lives in Dana Point.

For the Kids


One Fun Festival

Come to the Israeli Independence Day Festival on May 2,
10 a.m.-7 p.m. at Woodley Park (between Burbank Boulevard and Victory Boulevard adjacent to the 405).

For more information about the festival, go to www.israelfestival.com,
and be sure to stop by The Jewish Journal booth for free goodies.

My Culture War


Freedom of the press is, strictly speaking, the freedom to own a press. Within wonderfully broad limits, The New York Times can say anything it wants, but you can’t say anything you want in The New York Times.

Radio entertainer Howard Stern, as successful and wealthy as he is, doesn’t own the stations or networks that broadcast his show. So when one of those networks, Clear Channel Communications, dumped him last week from six of its stations on extremely suspicious indecency charges, all he could hope for was that outraged citizens or loyal listeners would speak out.

Howard, here I am.

I discovered Stern’s morning show driving to work 11 years ago, and I’ve been listening since. Day in and out, it has guaranteed me at least one good smile before work begins. To the working commuter that is a gift. When it’s good, which is often, Stern’s show offers a kind of ongoing, un-PC satire of political, pop and celebrity culture that — at least until Jon Stewart’s "The Daily Show" appeared — had all but vanished from TV and radio. I turn it on after I drop the kids off at school. When it bores or offends me, I switch stations for a while.

Now people want to take my show away. After Clear Channel dropped his program, Stern said that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving to bring fines for indecency against the show, which will eventually force Infinity Broadcasting to drop it as well.

Make no mistake: the FCC, composed of five presidential appointees, levies fines, grants licenses and approves station expansion. It holds all the best cards here.

I understand that by many peoples’ standards, Stern is indecent, but he has been so for a long, long time. The incident that prompted Clear Channel to dump him, and for which the FCC may levy fines, has been so commonplace on his program that it could have been mistaken for a promo spot.

Ever since Janet Jackson exposed herself during the Super Bowl’s halftime show, the FCC and some members of Congress have been pushing for tougher decency standards and higher fines. Conservative religious-oriented citizens groups, like Focus on the Family, have urged them along with coordinated e-mail campaigns.

The media have picked up on this latest battlefront in the Culture War because the media loves a good Culture War. The issues are easier to understand than arguments over health care or the tax code, and they usually involve sex (Howard Stern, gay marriage) and violence (Mel Gibson, gun control).

Stern is saying that what has put the FCC on his trail this time is not dirty words, but his sudden and outspoken opposition to the re-election of President Bush. Stern supported Bush following Sept. 11 and throughout the second Gulf War, praising him as a tough leader. But he began speaking out against Bush over issues at the heart of the Culture War — stem-cell research, gay rights — and began urging his listeners to vote for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, a centrist Republican, has credited Stern’s on-air support with making the difference that got her elected. Clear Channel, a corporation with a long history of support for Bush, might not have pulled Stern from such swing-state markets in Florida and Pennsylvania for political reasons, but doing so certainly won’t hurt Bush there.

I’ve never really understood where the Culture War ends in this country and the Political War begins. My sense is that each needs and uses the other, and an election year kicks them both into high gear. Each side wants you to believe that it is on the brink of losing the war, but the evidence is murky.

Sure, Stern may get canceled, but books by leftists like Michael Moore and Al Franken are at the top of national bestseller lists. Yes, many in the media trashed "The Passion of the Christ," but that didn’t stop it from earning close to $200 million so far. There may be vast conspiracies of the left- or right-wing, but Americans themselves vacillate.

It isn’t surprising that Stern is caught up in the kind of cultural and political battle in which Jewish comedians and commentators like Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce once found themselves.

He is heir to the Jewish tradition of the badchen, or shtetl entertainer. "They were scandalous, filled with gossip," comedian and frequent Stern guest Richard Belzer has said. "Their essence was to expose and make fun of things in their society. The badchen’s society was the shtetl. We expand it to include the whole society."

"Stern’s is an unleashed id unrepressed by socially approved feelings," writes Lawrence Epstein in his seminal study of Jewish comedy, "The Haunted Smile." "He is an attack on society’s right to censor the honest feels of the individual. He is a safety valve, a release." In as free and democratic medium that exists, 18 million Americans vote for Stern each morning.

The badchen is what Thomas Cahill might call a "Gift of the Jews," an outsider who exposes society’s foibles, pokes fun at its hypocrisies, makes people laugh and makes people think. The FCC has no right to look this gift horse in the mouth.

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