The Circuit


HEEB Goes Deep

Call it the "Brooklyn Invasion."

All traces of the solemnity and sadness of Holocaust Remembrance Day were gone by nightfall when the gang from New York-based Heeb Magazine threw their first West Coast party at the Hollywood-and-Vine hotspot Deep. Palm Pictures, celebrating the DVD release of Henry Bean’s controversial 2001 film, "The Believer," co-sponsored the event.

About 50 yarmulke boys and Heeb-sters socialized over cigs and cocktails against the backdrop of the club’s trademark exotic dancers in glass displays. One table boasted Heeb stickers and tees, while pieces of Streit’s matzah could be found at every booth.

Heeb and "The Believer" may not be such strange bedfellows — both have garnered attention touting radical Jews on the fringes.

Launched in January 2002, with a grant from the San Francisco-based Joshua Venture fellowship program, Heeb — equal parts journalism and satire with a SPIN-style design and snotty, in-your-face celebration of Jewish culture — embraces a punk fanzine sensibility in its humor-laced coverage of pop culture and an idiosyncratic Jewish nexus.

Past issues have included pieces on beat poet Allen Ginsburg, filmmaker Todd Solondz and porn publisher Al Goldstein; a Neil Diamond centerfold; and tons of references to hip-hop culture. The current issue, No. 3, continues the eclectic tradition of articles played for laughs, including pieces on the world’s worst Jewish comedian and an homage to the late actress Nell Carter, who had converted to Judaism. The magazine’s slogan says it all: "We’re the kids your rabbi warned you about."

A quartet representing Heeb’s staff, including editor-in-chief Jennifer Bleyer and publisher Joshua Neuman, spent their week in Los Angeles holed up at the Grafton Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.

Neuman, happy to be back in Los Angeles, revealed plans to throw Heeb parties in Montreal, Atlanta and Las Vegas within the coming months. The Deep party was a priority, because Los Angeles is Heeb’s second-biggest market.

"It’s Tel Aviv to New York’s Jerusalem," he quipped.

Neuman, 31, who started out reviewing music for the magazine, recently became Heeb’s publisher when the magazine’s founder, Bleyer, decided to concentrate on her editor-in-chief role.

Bleyer, dressed in jeans and a Heeb T-shirt and sporting a tan from a recent assignment in Costa Rica, made some West Coast friends at the party. The brunette journalist, who last year gained the magazine some notoriety by talking openly about her sex life on Howard Stern’s radio and cable programs, spoke about the progress of her enterprise.

"Huge amounts of people are not Jewish who have enjoyed it," she said.

Perhaps the most interesting revelation: Bleyer, who is most proud of the Heeb articles focused on social justice, has no real use for the satire.

"I’m not into a lot of the humor stuff," said Bleyer, who considers this "the sugar to make the medicine go down."

Politically, Heeb makes no bones on its far left-wing stance. It flaunts it and flouts those who can’t deal.

"We want Jews on the left to realize that there are other Jews out there just like you," Neuman said.

Bleyer considered a recent Noam Chomsky article as one of her favorites.

"For me, as an activist," she said of Heeb’s political side, "it’s more important than anything kitschy and Jewish."

Neuman pointed to the late San Francisco Jewish radical rag Davka and Los Angeles’ own Asian cult favorite Giant Robot as kindred publications from which Heeb draws the most affinity. A personal Heeb highlight for Neuman, who teaches philosophy at New York University, was researching a piece on David Deutsch, "the world’s worst Jewish comedian." Deutsch got to hang out at the New York Friar’s Club and in the Catskills, and brush funny bones with the likes of Jack Carter, Pat Cooper and Soupy Sales

"We’re edgy and shticky," Neuman said, trying to bottle up the essence of Heeb.

As Heeb works out the kinks on an upcoming book deal and issue No. 4 in September, Neuman explained why he believes the magazine continues to fluff its ever-expanding subscription base, currently at 2,500.

"I think we have a really great sense of humor. We don’t take anything too seriously," said Neuman, in a moment of seriousness.

For more information on Heeb Magazine, visit www.heebmagazine.com.

Book ‘Em, Dena!

The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles (JCLLA) has received a philanthropic gift from The Karma Foundation. Dina Karmazin Elkins, executive director of The Karma Foundation, presented the JCLLA with a check for $2,200. The gift will be used to develop and promote the JCLLA audio book collection. Dr. Aaron Willis, JCLLA chair, said that he is "delighted that the Karma Foundation sees such value in this new JCLLA project that promotes Jewish literacy to the blind, visually impaired and L.A. commuters."

Among the titles in the JCLLA audio book collection: "Bee Season" by Myla Goldberg and "The Diary of Anne Frank."

The Karma Foundation gift comes hot on the heels of several grants for JCLLA. The American Library Association presented JCLLA with $2,500 as part of the 2003 Gale Group Financial Development Award. That award will support JCLLA’s creative project, "One People, Many Stories," a radio series for public radio. JCLLA also received an undisclosed contribution from Richard and Lois Gunther to purchase materials for the library’s community beit midrash.

For more information, call the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles at (323) 761 – 8644; www.JCLLA.org.

Air Buds

More than 300 guests gathered at the Four Seasons in West Hollywood to honor "Temple of the Air," a program created by Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom For The Arts designed to reach the homebound and others unable to attend synagogue on the High Holidays. Monty Hall served as master of ceremonies, and several temple members entertained, including comedian Steve Landesberg (Det. Arthur Dietrich on "Barney Miller") and musical performers Theodore Bikel and Cantor Ilysia Pierce, who sang tunes from "Fiddler on the Roof." Anita Mann and Allen Kohl and Bobbie and Bob Stern were honored at the event.

Hawaiian Seder

Attorney Laura Stein of Beverly Hills, along with her mother and legal partner Sandra Stein, recently attended a seder hosted by Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle in the Governor’s Mansion in Honolulu. Lingle, who was elected in November 2002, became the first woman to govern Hawaii and the first Republican to hold the office in 40 years. The Steins have been long supporters of Lingle, dating back to her initial bid for governor in 1998.

"I’m just so proud to know her," Laura Stein said. "I think she sets the example for so many groups that are underrepresented." — Staff Report

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The Shul That Comes to You


Monty Hall is not going to be going to shul this Yom Kippur. On previous Yom Kippurs, the 80-year-old philanthropist and former "Let’s Make a Deal" host attended the Temple Shalom for the Arts High Holiday services at the Wilshire Theatre. This year, because he is bedridden after surgery, he can’t make it to the theater, but through a $1 million television production of last year’s service, he is still going to be doing services with his congregation.

Temple Shalom’s Temple of the Air Yom Kippur service is one of several options that homebound Los Angeles Jews have this Yom Kippur to partake in services. The broadcast, the brainchild of Temple Shalom’s Rabbi David Baron, is a 30-minute program culled from over 44 hours of tape accumulated by four cameras at Temple Shalom’s service last year; it will also be broadcast in New York, Miami and Chicago. It was originally conceived as a surrogate synagogue service for people like Hall — homebound on Yom Kippur for health or other reasons, or for those spending Yom Kippur in nursing homes or hospitals — but Baron said he believes the service will reach a broader audience as well. "We think we are going to reach people who are unaffiliated," he said. "We realized in the editing process that this is very compelling. If someone is Jewish, but has not always related to temple because of the structure, or never understood the prayers, the way we have done it — with dramatic readings on internal themes and music — is a way that makes Judaism accessible.

"I also think that there is a huge gentile audience who is going to watch this and get a better understanding of what Jews do on Yom Kippur. I think that is a hidden benefit of all of this — a lot of non-Jews will be exposed to Yom Kippur and learn what the themes of remembrance and forgiveness are all about," he added.

The "Temple of the Air" show includes cantorial singing from Broadway star Ilysia Pierce, and readings from film critic Leonard Maltin, "Entertainment Tonight" anchor Mary Hart and talk show host Larry King. Part of the service was taped at the Western Wall, with Baron giving viewers a chance to inscribe a mental note on a blank paper, which is then placed in a crevice of the wall.

Baron chose to air the show the day before Yom Kippur rather than on Yom Kippur itself, for several reasons. "I felt in my gut that a lot of people would maybe go to a grandparent’s or parent’s home and watch it with them," he said. "That way, they could be together with them, but that same person might have a conflict if it was on Yom Kippur itself, because they would want to be attending their own service. [Having it air the day before] enables that shared experience to happen. It is not distant from Yom Kippur because it is on the morning before, so it is actually part of the holiday. The other thing is that some people might have found it religiously objectionable that a program about Yom Kippur was aired on Yom Kippur."

For those who want to commemorate Yom Kippur on the day itself, but can’t for whatever reason, there are still several options available. For Reform Jews, Temple Beth El Binah in Dallas, a member of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews, which is, according to their Web site, the world’s first online synagogue, will be broadcasting Yom Kippur services over the Internet at bethelbinah.org.

For those who prefer not to use the Internet or television on Yom Kippur, West Coast Chabad Lubavitch has several alternatives. "We help people find places to stay so that they can be close to their families on Yom Kippur," said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, a spokesperson for West Coast Chabad. "We also send prayer books to patients in hospitals, and to Jewish prison inmates as well. Another thing we do is that if people can’t attend shul because they aren’t well, they can send in the names of their deceased parents before the holiday, and Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin will say Yizkor for them on Yom Kippur. Finally, during the break [between the morning and afternoon services] at West Coast Chabad headquarters we get volunteers together, go to hospitals, seek out the Jewish patients and say some prayers with them."

But as good as these substitutes are, they are no replacement for the real thing. "One of my congregants quipped ‘rabbi, can I just watch the tape and fast and not go to temple?" Baron said. "I said ‘No, we can’t give you that shortcut, and it is bad karma anyway.’ The show won’t be the same as a full day in shul — it can’t be, but it will give the feeling that can be created on Yom Kippur."