Candle No. 1.
Who says a baby is too young to light a menorah? As they say, practice makes perfect. So start with the huggable, colorful “My First Plush Menorah” ($13.95, oytoys.com). The best part: It comes with a special pouch holding nine candles that fit right into the menorah’s holders.
Candle No. 2.
Any young child would want to cuddle with the bright blue Mazel teddy bear by Russ Berrie & Co. ($12.99, amazon.com). But if you’re having trouble peeling a kid away from the computer, slip in the CD-ROM, “Who Stole Hanukkah?” ($19.95, davka.com). The interactive mystery game teaches the story of the Maccabees in five languages.
Candle No. 3.
When it comes to teenagers away at college, first thing’s first: send a menorah. A classic Chanukiah will do the job ($24.95, crateandbarrel.com). Then, it’s about what a teenage girl wants. A trendy T-shirt makes a statement. The “Famous Challah Bread” tee takes its cue from rap and hip-hop, sporting the words “Challah Bread” on the front and “Challah Back” on the back — as in, when someone gives a shout, you “challah” right back. The saucy “Kabballywood Tee” pokes fun at Hollywood stars like Madonna who can’t get enough of kabbalah. ($30-$40, chosencouture.com).
For an aspiring superhero teenage boy, pick up a copy of the “Jewish Super Hero Corps Comic Book” featuring Menorah Man and Dreidel Maidel ($3.95, jewcy.com). Throw in some classic, kosher Hebrew Bazooka Gum, which has comics inside its wrappers ($10.95 for 100 pieces, jewishsource.com). Another Jewish superhero, “The Hebrew Hammer,” saves Chanukah, this year out on DVD. ($16.99, thehebrewhammer.com)
Candle No. 4.
If Mom has all the menorahs she needs, give her an elegant dreidel she can display. Waterford makes a beautiful, crystal dreidel etched with Hebrew letters ($49, bloomingdales.com). If you want to splurge, buy a handcrafted, porcelain, Lladró dreidel. The detail makes these pieces unique. ($105-$130, macys.com).
Candle No. 5.
Nudge Dad into the miracle mood with music. The group, Safam, has a lively “Chanukah Collection” and “Passover Collection” two-CD set ($25, safam.com). Original and upbeat tunes like “Eight Little Candles,” “Maoz Tsur” and “Judah Maccabee” will get Dad — and the whole family — hopping. You can listen to some songs on the Web site before you buy, but you won’t go wrong with this one.
Candle No. 6.
Grandparents will love a gift they can share with their grandchildren. Those who speak a bissel of Yiddish are sure to get nachas from reading their grandchildren Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” — in Yiddish ($15, jewcy.com). But if the language of the Old World prompts an “oy vey,” go with a modern classic like “A Blue’s Clues Chanukah” by Jessica Lissy for preschoolers ($11.80, amazon.com) or “Festival of Lights: The Story of Hanukkah” by Maida Silverman, for children 4-8 years old ($5.99, amazon.com).
Candle No. 7.
There’s always the family friend or baby sitter who deserves some love. In this case, your best bet is an edible treat. For a cookie “monster,” get some chocolate-covered Oreo cookies topped with Chanukah decorations. Nine cookies come in a gold box, tied with a blue ribbon ($16.99, macys.com). Make a chocolate lover’s day with See’s Candies’ Star-of-David box. It’s filled with kosher goodies like milk chocolate coins, blue-and-white sugar sticks and lollipops that will satisfy any sweet tooth ($8, seescandy.com).
Candle No. 8.
Worried your pet will feel left out? Chanukah’s no time for ordinary ol’ bones. Throw a dog the blue and yellow “Squeaky Dreidel Dog Toy” ($8, jewishsource.com) and a give your cat some silver and blue “Chanukah Mice” ($7.99, petco.com).
Give Thanksgiving a Jewish Flavor
The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed orfaxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least threeweeks in advance to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Keren Engelberg
Hebrew Discovery Center: Nov. 26-28. Family Shabbaton with special guest speaker Rabbi Isaac Balaness. $195, $375 (couples). Ventura Beach Marriott, 2055 Harbor Blvd., Ventura Beach. R.S.V.P., (818) 348-4432.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Padua Playwrights: 4:30 p.m. Padua Playwrights presents a workshop production of “Tirade for Three” and “Gary’s Walk,” parts one and two of a trilogy by Murray Mednick. $10. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 823-0710, ext. 4.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family JCC: Noon-5 p.m. “Diversity of Life: A Photographic Exhibit” by Zion Ozeri. Free. David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. (858) 362-1348.
Yiddish Alive: 4-7 p.m. A new conversation group in Orange County. All ages and experience levels welcome. Temple Beth Tikvah Fullerton, 1600 N. Acacla, Fullerton. (714) 671-0707.
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel: 7 p.m. Discussion on “‘In God’s Image’ or ‘The Image of God’: a Spiritual Look at Your Brain.” $15 (includes dinner). 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7311.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Workmen’s Circle: 3-5 p.m. Stanley Schwartz presents his “The Peaceable Kingdom” sculpture. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.
Academy for the Performing Arts at Huntington Beach High School: 7:30 p.m. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” the story of one boy’s journey through the Terezin ghetto on the way to the Auschwitz death camp. $6. Huntington Beach Library Theatre, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 536-2514, ext. 4305.
MET Theatre Company: 8 p.m. Opening of “The Merchant of Venice,” the classic play reset in early 20th-century New York. $15, $12 (students and seniors). 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. (323) 957-1152.
Beth Jacob (teens): 9 a.m. “NFL” Non-stop Fun and Learning, featuring four big-screen NFL games playing simultaneously. Free. 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911, ext. 120.
OASIS (seniors): 1:30-3 p.m. Yiddish conversation group. All levels welcome. $5 (per trimester). Jewish Family Service, 8838 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 446-8053.
City of Hope Singers: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Vocal group for singers of all skill levels from all over Los Angeles. Hope Village, Comedy Theatre, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte. (714) 562-0860.
Caravan for Democracy: 5 p.m. Natan Sharansky, Israeli minister for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs addresses students and faculty at UCLA. Free. www.caravanfordemocracy.org. For more information, see page 16.
The Menachem Institute: 7:30 p.m. Rabbi Laibl Wolf discusses “The Art of Jewish Meditation.” ($5 in advance), $7 (at the door). 18181 Burbank Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 758-1818.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Hammer conversation with screenwriter Bill Condon and author T.C. Boyle. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7056.
Jewish Federation of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley Jewish Book Festival: 7:30 p.m. Author Kate Wenner discusses “Dancing With Einstein.” La Canada residence. R.S.V.P., (626) 967-3656.
Adat Ari El: 12:30-1:30 p.m. Erika Jacoby a Holocaust survivor discusses her new book, “I Held the Sun in My Hands – a Memoir.” $3. 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.
StandWithUs: 7 p.m. Lecture by Khaled Abu Toameh, award-winning Palestinian journalist. $10 (in advance), $15 (at the door). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-6140.
Jewish Book Month: 7:30 p.m. Author Ruth Ellen Gruber speaks about her latest book, “Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.” Alpert JCC, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 985-7585.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Some Favorite Writers presents Jonathan Franzen. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.
Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 7 p.m. (beginners), 8 p.m. (regular class), 9:15 p.m. -midnight (open dancing). David Dassa leads Israeli dancing. $7. Irmas Campus, 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. email@example.com.
Valley Beth Shalom Day School: 9:15 a.m. Kindergarten Live. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 530-4072.
Temple Isaiah: 4-7 p.m. Chanukah Bazaar. 332 W. Alejo Rd., Palm Springs. (760) 325-2281.
Northridge Hospital Medical Center: 6:30 p.m. The Healing Arts program offers its monthly topic, “Balanced Nutrition for Holiday Eating.” Roscoe Campus, Penthouse Auditorium, 18400 Roscoe Blvd., Northridge. (818) 885-5488.
Israel Cancer Research Fund: 7 p.m. Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, associate clinical professor, UCLA department of neurology, discusses “Using Molecular Biology to Individualize Brain Cancer Care.” Free. Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. 1224 Beverwil Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (323) 651-1200.
California Museum of Ancient Art: 7:30 p.m. “Warrior Women of the Bible” with speaker Dr. David Noel Freedman. First in a two-part series, “Women of the Ancient Near East.” $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), free (members). Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Piness Auditorium, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 762-5500.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
L.A. Film School: 8 p.m. Larry Hankin’s “10 Funny Fables Plus 1” with cameos by Janeane Garofolo, Larry Hankin, Jeff Garlin, Jerry Stiller and others. Free. 6363 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (877) 952-3456.
B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 6:30-7:30 p.m. A musical family shabbat. Services and potluck dinner. Free. 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 645-6262.
Nashuva: 6:45 p.m. Nashuva community service-oriented Kabbalat Shabbat.
Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd, Westwood. www.nashuva.com.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
CSUN Arts Council: 7-9 p.m. Eighth annual high school art invitational opening reception. Thirty-nine Valley high schools and more than 200 students are participating in the show. Main Gallery, N. University Drive, Northridge. (818) 677-2226.
Camelot Artists Productions: 8 p.m. David Steen’s “A Gift From Heaven” is the story of an Appalachian family’s demise. $28 (general), $20 (students). Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 358-9936.
Vanguard Theatre Ensemble: 8 p.m. Opening night gala of the holiday play “Greetings.” Champagne reception immediately follows the show. $23. 120-A W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton. (714) 526-8007.
Imaginary Friends Music Partners: 9 p.m.-midnight. Jazz pianist George Kahn and the George Kahn Quartet play songs from their newest release “Compared to What?” Featuring Andy Suzuki, Karl Vincent and Paul Kreibech. $10 cover, plus minimum. Lunaria Jazz Club, 10352 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City. (310) 282-8870.
Chai Center: Dec. 3-5. Desert Hot Springs Retreat. Hot springs mineral baths, women speakers and teachers, gourmet healthy food, stress reduction, massage and informal classes. R.S.V.P., (310) 391-6691.
Sat., Dec. 11
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
MnR Dance Factory: Creative drama workshops for children with Chicago actress/writer Lisa Diana Shapiro. Free. 11606 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 826-4554.
Sun., Dec. 12
ATID (21-39): Dec. 12, 4 p.m. “Adventures in Judaism II” for young professionals ages 21-39, an afternoon of workshops, latkes, cocktails, “ultimate dreidel” and a Middle Eastern buffet. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244.
Dec. 30-Jan. 2
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Wilshire Boulevard Temple: Winter Rikud in Malibu. Israeli dancing weekend. From $175. www.rikud.com.
Jewish Student Union: Applications now available online for the annual JSU New York experience trip. www.jsu.org.
Conversations at Leon’s: 7:30 p.m. Post-Thanksgiving mixer. $15-$20. 639 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 393-4616.
Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. “Not-So-Speedy Meeting” and game night in conjunction with Temple Ner Maarav. $9. 17730 Magnolia Blvd, Encino. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 750-0095.
Jewish Singles Volleyball: 3 p.m. Volleyball and post-game no-host dinner. Free. Playa del Rey Beach court No. 11 at the end of Culver Boulevard, Playa del Rey. (310) 278-9812.
JDate: 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (concert). Performance by Israeli recording artist Noa. $45 (online only). Fred Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. www.jdate.com.
New Age Singles (55+): 7 p.m. “Starlight Ballroom Dance” with music by Johnny Vana Trio. $10-$12. University Synagogue 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 473-1391.
Nexus (20s and 30s): 7:30 p.m. (beginners), 8:15 p.m. (intermediate), 9-10 p.m. (open dance). Israeli dancing lessons and open dance. $5 (members), $6 (nonmembers). Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. www.jewishnexus.org.
Project Next Step: 8 p.m. “Coffee Talk” with coffee and pastries. $7. 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 284-3638.
L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: 6-9 p.m. Dinner at Marmalade Cafe. The Grove, Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.
Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. Therapist Maxine Gellar leads a discussion about “My Most Embarrassing Moment.” $10. R.S.V.P., (310) 444-8986.
The New JCC at Milken: 8-11 p.m. James Zimmer leads Israeli folk dancing. $5-$6. Salsa, swing and tango lessons for an additional $3 (7-8 p.m.). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (310) 284-3638.
Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m. Volleyball followed by no-host dinner. End of Culver Boulevard, near court No. 15, Playa del Rey. www.jewishnexus.org.
Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Date or Mate, What Are You Looking For?” $15-$17. 639 226th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P. (310) 393-4616.
J Networking: 7:30 p.m. The new Jewish networking group meets in the West San Fernando Valley. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 342-2898.
Mosaic: Dec. 2-5. Trip to Kartchner Caverns, Ariz. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandeis-Bardin/Makor Jewish Learning Circle: Dec. 3-5. Partnership weekend with the theme “The Search for Roots and Wings: Commitment and Creativity” with Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin. $130 (singles), $240 (couples). Simi Valley. (805) 582-4450.
New Age Singles: 6 p.m. No-host dinner at Nibbler’s in Beverly Hills followed by Creative Arts Shabbat Service at Temple Beth Am. 1039 La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 838-7459.
Singles Toward Marriage (30-39): 6:30 p.m. Monthly Shabbat dinner with group discussions led by Rabbi Shlomo and Tovi Bistritzky. 5998 Conifer St., Oak Park. R.S.V.P., (818) 993-0441.
Sat., Dec. 11
Sephardic Singles Havurah (40s-60s): 7 p.m. Chanukah celebration and potluck dinner with candlelighting, prayers, songs and dancing. $5. R.S.V.P., (323) 294-6084.
J-Ski (20s-40s): Mammoth Ski Trip. $185. Also, March 2-6, Whistler Ski Trip. $759. JskiLa@aol.com.
Le Nouvel Anti-Semitism
What’s new in French anti-Semitism? Head downtown Thursday, Dec. 2 to find out as ALOUD at Central Library presents Michael Curtis, who will discuss “Anti-Semitism in France: Past and Present.” The author of numerous books on the history of France and anti-Semitism will discuss the relationship between historic traditional anti-Semitism in France and its current manifestations, including new factors like the extreme political left and Muslim
7 Days in the Arts
7 Days In Arts
Aaron Samson wrote and stars in “Not Dead Yet,” a piece inspired by his grandfather’s memoirs of his Russian past: working for Leon Trotsky, the consequent threat of execution by Russia’s communist regime and his quick escape to the United States where he began a new life. The one-man show follows the journey of a grandson, Jacob Samson, back to Russia to find his roots and the missing pieces of the story his grandfather Leo wrote down. It plays today at the Elephant Lab.Runs Saturdays, through Sept. 18. 8 p.m. $10. 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles. (323) 878-2377.
Might wanna throw some buttered popcorn into the picnic basket tonight for the Hollywood Bowl’s movie night program, “The Big Picture.” John Mauceri conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in selections from MGM/UA movie scores, as scenes from the films are projected on the Bowl’s giant screen. The James Bond series, “Rocky,” “The Pink Panther” and “West Side Story” are some of the featured films.7:30 p.m. $3-$88. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (213) 480-3232 (for tickets).
Horn in on High Holiday fun with shofar-making activities this week. The Hebrew Discovery Center holds a Shofar Factory Party on Sunday for kids ages 5 and up, while Calabasas Shul holds a shofar-making workshop at the local Albertsons today.HDC: Sept. 5, Noon. $7 (per child, include slice of pizza and refreshments). (818) 348-4432. Calabasas Shul: Sept. 6, 5-6:30 p.m. $5 (per shofar). (818) 591-7485.
The Mexican Jewish community isn’t one that gets much ofa spotlight, but for filmmaker Guita Shyfter, it made sense to focus on her ownroots and community. “Like a Bride” (“Novia Que Te Vea”) is the result. Thefilm’s uncommon subject matter is made more unique by its treatment: the storyof two women friends coming of age in 1960s Mexico City is told primarilythrough dialogue in Ladino and Spanish, with some Hebrew and Yiddish, as well.It is newly released on DVD. $17.96. www.amazon.com
Klezmer goes upbeat in the latest CD by Yiddishe Cup,”Meshugeneh Mambo.” Six parody tracks pay tribute to klezmer comedian MickeyKatz, with the rest offering up original or reworked “neo-Borscht Belt klezmercomedy” tunes, and the titles say it all: “K’nock Around the Clock,” “I Am A Manof Constant Blessings” and “Second Avenue Square Dance.” $15. www.yiddishecup.com .
Sports nuts despair not. With the close of this summer’s Olympic Games also comes the opening of “Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?” at USC Fisher Gallery. The exhibition features photographs of women from the 1890s to today participating in sports from hunting to ping-pong to soccer. Creator Jane Gottesman has compiled images from myriad sources, including the Associated Press and various renown photographers including Ansel Adams, Robert Mapplethorpe, April Saul and Annie Leibowitz.Runs through Oct. 30. Noon-5 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.). Harris Hall, 823 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 740-4561.
The Nuart goes behind the music tonight, presenting the L.A. premiere of “End of the Century,” a documentary about the seminal punk rock band, The Ramones. From their interpersonal disputes to their struggles for fame, the doc takes a hard look at the hard-living band that arguably failed to achieve the recognition they deserved until long after they’d split.11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 281-8223.
Short Films, Big Messages
ADL Rock and Rawls
About 900 supporters of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
filled a Century Plaza Hotel ballroom on Dec. 7 for its 90th-year bash, an
anniversary evening capped off with a masterful performance by crooner Lou
“We stand for the civilized human beings of the world,” said
ADL Pacific Southwest Region Chair Bruce Einhorn, a federal immigration judge.
His half-hour opening speech stirred the ballroom crowd as
he said the ADL will fight for an Israel, “with Jerusalem as its capital, and
we will not retreat from that goal.”
The ADL gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Billy and
Tootsie Veprin, who in their 62.5 years of marriage have remained strong ADL
“I’m almost speechless, almost,” said retired real estate
executive Billy Veprin. “Tootsie and I love you all.”
The event’s keynote speaker was Canadian writer Irshad
Manji, the Muslim author of “The Trouble With Islam: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty
and Change,” which is coming to U.S. bookstores in January.
Manji gave a provocative speech in which she outlined
Islam’s historic anti-Semitism, especially in the Middle Ages during the
Islam’s golden age. While she noted that, “the Quran reminds us that the Jews
are an exalted nation,” Manji said that independent Islamic thought now is
nonexistent, aided by what she said were non-Muslim, “Islamo-facists — those
who romanticize Islam.”
“Our version of independent thinking died on our watch,”
said Manji, adding that Muslims today are practicing not an abundance of
tolerance but “just enough tolerance.”
After the speech Rawls covered “They Can’t Take That Away
From Me,” the tune made famous by Rawls’ old friend and staunch Israel ally,
“We like to be around groovy people,” Rawls told the crowd,
before giving his trademark, low-voice “Hi baby” greeting to a woman at a table
near the stage. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Young Israel of Century City’s (YICC) Dec. 6 Night of Comedy
& Soul fundraiser brought about 300 admirers to West Hollywood’s Pacific Design
Center for music, slick sushi, elegant chocolate and clean, sophisticated
“I’m much more ambitious when I’m setting the alarm clock
than when it’s going off,” comedian Gary Gulman said.
Fellow clean comic Wayne Fetterman’s “guy” adaptation of
Janis Ian’s weepy 1975 high school girls anthem, “At Seventeen,” had the
lyrics: “And those of us who chose debate, would sit at home and … meditate.”
Jewish hipster musician Peter Himmelman performed
customized, impromptu songs and asked the audience if they wanted to hear a song
about his love for his wife or one about his father’s death, saying, “Both
songs are equally valid; they both serve Hashem.”
Among the synagogue members enjoying the laughs and
chocolate were the Museum of Tolerance’s own Rabbi Abraham Cooper and his wife,
“Jews are best when they can laugh at themselves,” he said.
“A good place to start is the shul.” — D.F.
Happening at Hakim’s
Persian Jews in their early 20s to late 30s bought bags of
food and toys to the house of prominent general surgeon Dr. Saeed Hakim on Dec.
7 for a fundraiser for Persian Jews United (PJU) and One Degree of Separation,
a Persian student and young professional organization. The food and toys were
collected to distribute to needy children through Jewish Family Service of Los
Angeles (JFS) and the SOVA Food Pantry program.
Hakim’s daughter, Melinda, organized the event — which
featured a delicious buffet and a jazz band in the living room — after being
inspired by a friend in Baltimore who holds annual Chanukah fundraising parties
for needy children.
“I wanted it to be a Chanukah holiday party that was
something fruitful,” said Melinda Hakim, who is a medical resident at the
Doheny Eye Institute.
Mastaneh Moghadam, the Farsi liaison for JFS, briefed the
crowd about social services for the Iranian Jewish community.
“Through the family violence project and programs dealing
with violence against women, we have been able to provide programs in Farsi for
the victims of domestic violence,” Moghadam said.
She also noted that JFS provides referral services and case
management and therapy for the Iranian community. — Mojdeh Sionit, Contributing
Read Around the
Although J.K. Rowling has managed to lure kids away from the
television screens with her “Harry Potter” books, all around the world it seems
that getting kids to read is still a battle for educators and parents. On Dec.
5, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy decided to fight that battle with a vengeance
by joining thousands of schoolchildren in a special reading project sponsored
by Scholastic (the publishers of the “Potter” series) called “Read for 2004,”
in which students read aloud for 2004 seconds (approximately 33 minutes).
The school invited guest readers such as grandparents,
aunts, uncles and other adult family members or relatives to join in the fun by
reading their favorite books aloud to the class and then speaking to the
students about why reading is so important. The classes involved had their
names added to a Scholastic interactive world map.
“This is part of an ongoing plan to increase reading and its
integration into the daily lives of the students at the school,” said Rabbi
Boruch Sufrin, the school’s new principal. “Reading is such an integral vehicle
educating our students.”
For more information about Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy or
a personal tour, call (310) 276-6135.
On Nov. 18 at the University of Judaism, award-wining writer
Sonia Levitin spoke to the University Women of the University of Judaism.
Levitin was born in Berlin during the Nazi era, and her family escaped when she
was 3 years old. She has written more than 40 books, many of which reflect the
Jewish experience throughout history. At the event, Levitin spoke about her
latest book, “Room in the Heart,” a story of Danish resistance to the Nazis
told through the voices of two teenagers.
When hostesses are united wonderful things happen. On Nov. 1
United Hostesses Charities (UHC) held its 61st annual dinner dance at the
Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where Marilyn McCoo and Billy David Jr. were the
high-octane performers. The event honored the 10 past recipients of its
Humanitarian Award and recognized their outstanding contributions to
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the community. The group supports the
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center division of cardiology and the groundbreaking
research of director Dr. P.K Shah, as well as the Didi Hirsch Community Mental
Health Center. The organization’s newest project is its UHC Cardiac/Stroke
Emergency Care at Cedars-Sinai .
Minds over Milken
While the community was all in a tizzy about the recent
Milken video scandal, at Milken Community High School, students were just doing
their thing — learning, studying and creating excellent science projects.
On Nov. 12, the American Society for Technion-Israel
Institute of Technology in collaboration with Milken Community High School held
its third annual Excellence in Science Awards Dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel,
where students Noam Firestone, Judy Reynolds, Sara Meimin, Raquel Cedar, and
Bobby Kanter received awards for their exceptional perseverance and innovation
in researching the science topic of their choice.
At the event, Technion professor Wayne Kaplan spoke about
how the Technion was a critical partner in Israel’s security, life sciences and
Milken is not the only school whose students are being
recognized for their fabulous academic achievements. On Dec. 3 Valley Torah
High School senior Josh Bregman was nominated to compete in the national
Principal’s Leadership Award (PLA) scholarship program, sponsored by the
National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and Herff Jones,
Inc. If Bregman is one of the 150 national PJA winners this spring, he will
receive a $1,000 college scholarship.
Bregman is an all-rounder at Valley Torah. He has been the
Student council secretary, varsity basketball manager, yearbook editor and an
active Boy Scout. This fall, he plans to travel to Israel for a year abroad and
then return to study business at Yeshiva University.
“Bregman has demonstrated excellence in the classroom and in
his community,” said Gerald A. Tirozzi, the executive director of the NASSP.
“NASSP is proud to recognize such an impressive young person.”
7 Days In Arts
Having survived the eight days, you’re back to breaking
bread, but questions about the Passover holiday still linger. Jim Long claims to
have the answers for all you questioners and nonbelievers. His new book “The
Riddle of the Exodus” seeks to prove that the Passover story really happened,
based on “newly revealed historical evidence.” Order it and decide for yourself.
Like cops and doughnut shops, like Rodgers and Hart, like Gershwin and Gershwin, Jews and American popular music just seem to go together. Coincidence? Jacqueline Bassan doesn’t think so — and she expounds her theory in the pages of her new book, “From Shul to Cool: The Romantic Jewish Roots of American Popular Music.” Head to Valley Beth Shalom today to hear more about it.
11:15 a.m. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.
The Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity offers an original option for commemorating Yom HaShoah and the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising this evening — a dramatic musical suite titled “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 1943.” Composed by Yale Strom and performed by the Center’s ensemble, Synergy, the program is co-sponsored and hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance.
7:30 p.m. $18 (general), $15 (members), $10 (students). 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 772-2452.
Props to Cal Rep for their good timing, as they open their not-so-France-friendly production of “Diary of a Chambermaid” this week. The story focuses on Celestine, a chambermaid who begins a new position with an eccentric French family and is eventually seduced by each of the various men in the household. Written as a critique of French bourgeois hypocrisy during the Dreyfus affair, some would say the message still resonates today.
7 p.m. (Tuesday-Thursday), 8 p.m. (Friday), 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Saturday). $15-$20. Edison Theatre, 213 E. Broadway, Long Beach. (562) 432-1818.
Cantors Chayim Frenkel and Meir Finkelstein have put
together a unique salve for the wounds that terrorism has inflicted on Americans
and Israelis. Titled “Nishmat Tzedek (A Righteous Soul),” it’s a CD and book
set; nine inspirational writings by Jewish thinkers as well as nine photographs
of Israel by award-winning photographer Eric Lawton, coincide with each of the
CD’s nine movements, which are based on the “Yizkor” (Memorial) service. $50. “>www.kcet.org
7 Days In Arts
The Sound of Cantors
For Shannon McGrady Bane, the music of the High Holidays had always welled up into a transcendent, life-changing event. Raised a Methodist, she found the theology of Judaism a better intellectual fit while attending college. There, a rabbi asked her to sing the holiday repertoire.
“It opened up another world for me,” said McGrady Bane, 37, a cantorial soloist at La Mirada’s Temple Beth Ohr, who converted to Judaism and is working on completing her cantorial education.
For many Jews who make an annual pilgrimage to synagogue only during the High Holidays, it is cantors who summon a spiritual experience. “The key that opens the soul is music, not words,” said Shula Kalir-Merton, cantor of Aliso Viejo’s Temple Beth El.
Cantors believe most congregants revel in hearing the repetition of the familiar, traditional chants sung exclusively on High Holidays. Even so, like any performer with a captive audience, some cantors use the showcase to experiment, introducing fresh arrangements of traditional melodies as well as popular ones by contemporary composers.
“This is the high point for cantors; it’s very high drama,” said Cantor Linda Ecker of Fountain Valley’s Congregation B’nai Tzedak. This year, her repertoire of prayers set to music will include three original pieces composed by congregant Ted Bach.
Today, the liturgical music of Conservative and Reform congregations are a blend of traditional melodies, Germanic and high-church in quality, along with others sung in a contemporary-folk style familiar to fans of Bob Dylan, but also popularized among cantors by the late Israeli rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach. For congregants in their 20s and 30s, however, a reliance solely on classical European melodies is a playlist for discontent. “It doesn’t mesh with our spirituality,” said Rabbi Elie Spitz, of Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel. After doing without a cantor for 21 years, the synagogue hired Cantor Marcia Tilchin, who appreciates both genres.
Tilchin, along with another newcomer, Svetlana Portnyansky, increase the ranks of women cantors locally to seven. While the Orthodox movements still do not permit women clergy, even in the Reform and Conservative movements it’s only been in the last 25 years that women could officially become cantors. Entrenched attitudes, however, erode even slower. Only in recent years, as old-timers in synagogue leadership are succeeded by baby boomers, are women cantors gaining acceptance, said Abraham B. Shapiro, executive administrator of New York’s Cantors Assembly, the 538-member professional group for Conservative cantors.
The very different backgrounds and training of the new cantors, both hired by Conservative synagogues, illustrate the national shortage of Jewish clergy, a phenomenon true of other religions, too. Their differences also provide a window into the sensitive subject of cantorial professionalism. Many congregations, especially in the Western states, rely on cantors who lack academic credentials. Instead, they learn the distinctive prayer chants in apprenticeships by studying at the elbow of mentor cantors.
The reasons range from geography to historical precedent to regulatory reluctance. In addition, new synagogues are outpacing new graduates, said Cantor Israel Goldstein, director of the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which graduated 12 cantors this year. The Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) installed nine more as cantors in 2002. Both New York schools are no more than 50 years old.
“Very few congregations would employ rabbis who are not ordained,” Goldstein said. To avoid constitutional conflicts, unlike in other professions, states largely avoid establishing professional standards for clergy.
Portnyansky, 37, named permanent cantor of Newport Beach’s Temple Isaiah, is more accurately called a cantorial soloist since she lacks a diploma or certification by a professional group. A conservatory-trained vocalist, she discovered sacred music in 1988 when the Moscow Jewish Theater reopened 40 years after its closure by Stalin. In 1991, she defected, ditching the Russian music group she toured with in the United States. Though not fluent in Hebrew, Portnyansky auditioned to be accepted by JTS, singing Ukranian folk songs. “They took me,” she said. “I was almost illegal.”
After transferring to Los Angeles’ University of Judaism (said to be considering starting a cantorial program) and taking private lessons, she started working part time as a cantorial soloist in 1994. She continues secular concert work, too. During the holidays, Portnyansky, who lives in Woodland Hills, intends to tinker little with what people expect. She may anyway. “You can improvise from your heart,” she said.
Conversely, Tilchin, 41, a JTS graduate, prays in a traditional style. “I’m like the old guys murmuring with a couple of great, grand pieces thrown in,” said Tilchin, who studied and worked in theater before enrolling in cantorial school in 1992. Given a choice of secular jobs, hers would be country music singer.
“We’re looking for a different kind of music experience than we were in the old days,” she said, when High Holiday soloists sung prayers as operatic arias. Today, she said, “97 percent of the people don’t know the meaning of the prayers. It’s the tune that makes you feel like you’re having a spiritual experience.”
She sees her job as communal cheerleader engaging congregants rather than one defined by the limelight.
The county’s only other invested cantor is Jonathan Grant of Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm.
Historically, only congregations of 600 families or more could afford two full-time clergy. Nationally, cantors — who earn less than rabbis — average $92,500 annually, according to the University of Akron’s Department of Statistics, which surveyed Cantors Assembly members in 2000. The highest paid were in the West, averaging $97,000.
To accommodate second-career students and help address the cantor shortage, the cantorial schools and their movements’ respective professional groups established a certification process. Cantorial soloists can demonstrate their competency during a five-year period. Just four cantorial soloists a year succeed, said Goldstein, of HUC-JIR’s cantorial school.
One who did is Ecker, who graduated in 1998, having sung at the temple’s first service in September 1976. “By the time it opened up to women, I was already married” and established professionally as a senior accountant at UCI’s Medical Center, she said.
“There are more and more untraditional students that the college should start looking at,” argues Cantor Evan Kent, director of cantorial music at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus, which this September will start offering some undergraduate education classes geared to returning students.
The certification process is harder than attending graduate school. “Because when you are in school, you’re tested as you go,” said McGrady Bane, who is working toward certification by taking Judaic studies at HUC-JIR. Passing the cantorial certification requires successfully taking two exams a year apart. “It’s a lot of information to have at your ready,” she said.
McGrady Bane said she loves the music of the High Holidays. “It’s always been my favorite season, because the music is so stirring, majestic and passionate.”
She is using a new piece this year that evokes those emotions; a choral and trumpet piece written for the 134th Psalm by contemporary composer Charles Feldman. “It’s grand. It’s very majestic. It’ll start the new year off right.”
Learning Lite in Laguna
Homage for the Holidays
Don’t call her the “Jewel” of Jewish preschool.
Sure, Pearl B. sings to the accompaniment of her acoustic six-string. And she does lean professionally on her gem-like first name. But that is where any similarity to the chirpy pop star ends.
“There are so many levels of Judaism — from the most religious to the most secular kind of Jew and there’s this common thread…. My goal is to make it understandable for a young child.”
No aching tales of love lost here — the songs Pearl B. (the B is for Berzansky) writes for young Jewish children mix the joy for Jewish tradition with “a bit of silliness in the approach.” Pearl will perform her original compositions — along with traditional Chanukah songs — at a string of local appearances with Sue Epstein, a fellow writer/performer of Jewish children’s songs, beginning this Sunday.
Last year saw the release of Pearl B.’s first musical collection, “Gotta Sing All Week Long!” On the tape, the modern-day bard sings, but not alone — choruses performed by children fill out the songs, with the binary purpose of inviting child participation and reinforcing the positive Jewish values that is at the heart of each ditty. While several tracks deal with life’s daily routines, most of “Gotta Sing” celebrates Jewish ritual. “Days of the Week” enthusiastically counts down the week until the Sabbath. “Havdalah Trio!” embraces the end of Shabbat, singing the praises of the Kiddush cup’s purple wine, the spice box and the twisty candle. “Hallah Chain Hamotzi” incorporates the Hebrew bread prayer while “Jing-a-ling” rhapsodizes tzedakah and even gives a shout-out to SOVA, the local food-collection charity organization.
Born in South Africa, where “everybody belongs to an Orthodox shul even though nobody was Orthodox,” Pearl — whom the kids like to call “Curl” — currently resides in Venice. A mother of three and grandmother of six, Pearl is no stranger to children or Judaism. All three of her grown children are observant Jews, “each in a different kind of religiousness. My oldest daughter is a Lubavitcher, my middle daughter is [Modern Orthodox], and my son is a black hatter…. And they’re all so happy.”
A rabbi’s daughter, she spent many years working as a religious-school director and teacher before switching to a full-time music career five years ago.
“It kind of just mushroomed,” says Pearl.
“I’ve had parents tell me their kids won’t go to sleep unless they put my tape on.”
Parents and educators interested in purchasing copies of “Gotta Sing All Week Long!” will find the tapes on sale at temple gift shops, synagogues and at these upcoming Pearl B. appearances:
Pearl B. and Sue Epstein’s Magical Musical Chanukah Party Family Concerts, Sunday Dec. 6, 4 p.m., Temple Aliyah, 6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills.
Sunday Dec. 13, 1:30 p.m., Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Mann Family Early Childhood Center, Marcia Israel Chapel Auditorium, Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. — Michael Aushenker, Community Editor
The Idiot Box
‘Mendel & Moses’
When Mendel Moscowitz is transported from Brooklyn to ancient Egypt, the juxtaposition of a whiny New Yorker on the eve of the Exodus is supposed to create the setting for campy high jinks and musical hilarity.
Billed as “Fiddler on the Roof” meets “The Ten Commandments,” original musical “Mendel & Moses” feels more like “The Little Rascals” meets Soupy Sales. It has an amateurish “let’s put on a show” quality with an overabundance of shticky one-liners that even Sales might be embarrassed to use.
The action begins after a Passover seder, when Mendel questions God about the meaning of the holiday. Gabriel, straight out of the Bible and dressed in full Egyptian regalia, takes Mendel back to Egyptian slave days.
“How far is Egypt? Do I get frequent-flier miles?” asks Mendel, played by veteran actor Ciro Barbaro.
“Here I am in Egypt without my Mylanta,” he says. And the canned music kicks in. Oy.
The warmed-over Catskills schlock appeared to leave the audience at Sunday’s performance a little queasy as well.
Written by Jeremiah and Wendy Ginsberg, the show is a misguided hodgepodge of styles. In the opening scene, Mendel’s family is singing about Passover while three women dressed in red are inexplicably rendering Bob Fosse-esque dance moves. In another scene, a slave sporting a goofy burlap outfit attempts to deliver a serious monologue about the brutality of slavery — a moment that is misplaced among the wacky musical numbers.
And when I say wacky, I mean lyrics such as “lice aren’t nice, so take my advice, avoid the lice.” And perhaps the most egregious example: “eenie-meenie-minie Moses, catch the Pharaoh by his toes-es.” Even the Little Rascals might have come up with something less grating.
The cast, most of whom have a list of impressive credits, do their best to compensate for the material. Still, in the intimate Century City Playhouse, their acting has the overblown feel of bad childrens’ theater.
While the creators of the musical are attempting to teach us about Jewish history, they are also feeding us a full course of unpleasant Jewish stereotypes, including a squealing Jewish American Princess as Eve and even Mendel himself, who convinces Moses that he should help alleviate slavery because he’s a good businessman.
The only audience members who seemed to enjoy the broad humor were those in the under-10 set. Not marketed as a play for children, “Mendel & Moses” could ramp up the silliness, cut many of its songs and offensive stereotypes, and perhaps find new life as a holiday show for children.
After all, there was something charming about a stern Moses dancing a duet with a befuddled Mendel. But the joke gets old for those of us who are well past our Barney years.
Mel Brooks gave us biblical parodies with as much sophistication as slapstick. “Mendel” gives us only the urge to shout “let my people go” by intermission.
“Mendel & Moses” is playing on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., at the Century City Playhouse, 10508 Pico Blvd., in West Los Angeles. Tickets are $20 and $22. Call (888) 566-8499.