IDEAS and ideals spell innovation for Israel


In some ways, the secret to good movie-making remains as simple as ever, according to Steve Tisch, the Oscar-winning producer of “Forrest Gump.” “People want to see movies that move them, entertain them,” he said. “They want to laugh.” 

Tisch, a philanthropist who donated $10 million to Tel Aviv University earlier this year to create the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at the Israeli university, was among the most popular draws at American Friends of Tel Aviv University’s (AFTAU) inaugural “IDEAS Los Angeles: Israel Digital Entrepreneur Arts and Science” conference in Santa Monica at The Broad Stage.

He dispensed wisdom to budding filmmakers in the crowd, which included business card-wielding techies and Jewish communal employees. 

The June 18 event featured dozens of TED Talk-style lectures, panel discussions and one-on-one dialogues from a variety of fields.

David Dorfman, creator and managing director of IDEAS, said in a statement that the goal of the event was to present a broad array of companies, businesses and more. AFTAU raises funds and awareness for Tel Aviv University, and the event’s sponsors included the California Israel Chamber of Commerce. 

“IDEAS Los Angeles is a new platform we’ve created to inspire people to think deeper and more broadly by engaging with inventors and innovators tackling some of the most exciting challenges in the world today,” he said.

Tisch, who also is the co-owner of the New York Giants, discussed his upcoming July 24 film, “Southpaw,” a boxing drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal. He said he anticipates challenges in finding an audience during a summer movie season of blockbuster films, but added he is confident that the film’s marketer, the Weinstein Co., will help make the film successful. 

Tisch is unique in that he has won both an Oscar for “Forrest Gump” and two Super Bowl rings. Tisch appeared in conversation with moderator Andrew Wallenstein, co-editor-in-chief at Variety. 

Other people discussing the world of entertainment were Israeli-born television producer Alon Aranya (“Hostages”) in conversation with David Bloom (of deadline.com). Aranya, a faculty member of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts (named after Steve Tisch’s father, Preston Robert Tisch, and his uncle, Laurence Tisch), talked about how “Hostages” had been conceived for Israeli audiences before it premiered in the United States. Showing artwork from the show of a sniper peering into a weapon while in shooting position on a rooftop, Aranya said the pitch for the show excited him far more than anything he’d heard about at that time. It was different from most Israeli shows, he said. 

Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter opened the event with a lecture inside the intimate Broad theater. Audrey Jacobs, vice president of OurCrowd Americas, an Israel-focused crowdfunding platform, was among those who made presentations, as was DreamWorks lead character animator Liron Topaz, who delivered a multimedia presentation that showed footage from the films he has worked on, including “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” 

Some of the panels directly addressed issues facing Israel, including how to discuss the country with and among casual observers in the United States.

“If you’re going to mention Israel, it’s got to be entertaining,” Jewish Journal President David Suissa said during a panel he moderated, titled “Waze Diplomacy: Navigating a Broader Conversation about Israel in the Digital Age.” 

Dana Erlich, Israeli consul for culture, media and public diplomacy in Los Angeles, and Nate Miller, director of digital engagement at Israel21c, a nonprofit news site covering Israeli life and politics, were also part of the panel.

The conference drew hundreds of attendees and featured indoor and outdoor stages, and a tented area for booths and meals — food trucks served up breakfast and lunch. Among those who came were Dikla Kadosh, regional director of the Israeli-American Council, and Jacob Segal, Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce executive board member. An after-party took place at Cross Campus, a Santa Monica event space. 

Shmoozing was in effect, at least for educator Shirin Laor-Raz Salemnia, CEO of PlayWerks, a company that provides technology education to children and adults. Hanging in the conference’s “company pavilion,” she said the IDEAS event was an excellent way to meet others. 

“I think conferences are really about networking,” she told the Journal.

Isaac Nazarian perhaps said it best. Relaxing in an outdoor tent following the panel with Suissa, he said the event was an “excellent gathering of ideas, especially from Israel.”

Following Ted, not Steve


With the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs, master creator of the iPod, iMac, iPhone and iPad, many people are now wondering: Which future brilliant gizmo will be buried with Jobs that we’ll never get to see?

As someone who adores Apple products, I appreciate the question, but it still disturbs me.

That’s because it reminds me that we live in a world that worships cool gadgets. I’ve noticed this is especially true with men. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a dinner conversation be overtaken by male friends debating megabytes, bandwidth and cellular connections.

Cool gadgets fascinate us because they give us an illusion of power — a sense that we’re always making progress, that we have the power to control an unpredictable world.

The problem, of course, is that machines, however mesmerizing, can’t teach us how to think.

In fact, they might do just the opposite. They train us to consume. The faster our digital gadget, the faster we consume. The more sophisticated the gadget, the less sophisticated we seem to become.

How do we consume our information? In little snippets, posts, Tweets and texts. If the snippet is juicy, like a graphic video of Gadhafi’s last minute, or one of monkeys that can paint, we spread it around so others can consume it, too.

We’re becoming a snippet society. We snorkel and catch newsy snippets and instant opinions that reinforce our thinking but rarely go scuba diving for deeper understanding. 

One of the sexiest snippets is news of The Upgrade. We eagerly await it, crave it, sleep outside the Apple store hoping to be among the first to get it.

Can you imagine Ernest Hemingway, while he was working on “The Old Man and the Sea,” lining up outside a pencil store for a “new and faster” pencil?

Instead of meaningful or creative thought, our new mobile gizmos make us value speed and ease. They spew out zillions of digital Doritos that our minds snack on all day — and once you start crunching, who can stop?

“Information is cheap,” Internet philosopher George Dyson wrote, but “meaning is expensive.”

Yes, but in truth, how can meaning compete with the serial pleasures of our alluring gadgets? We caress them, study them, marvel at their features, and, in no time, discard them so we can marvel at the upgraded version. This pattern of pleasure never stops. A better gadget is always around the corner, waiting to seduce us.

The maestro of this impulse was the great Steve Jobs. His sensual and intuitive machines, it must be said, have added an enormous amount of pleasure, convenience and human connection to the planet, and we owe him immeasurably for that.

But what his machines can’t do — what no machine can do — is encourage us to think more deeply and value the power of human ideas.

For that, you’ll need to go see Ted.

This is one of my favorite Web sites (TED.com) because it seduces with ideas — fascinating, challenging, eye-popping ideas on subjects like life, science, philosophy, beauty, ethics, art, astronomy, love — you name it.

The site offers videos of hundreds of the best and deepest thinkers in the world presenting their ideas in snappy talks that last anywhere from seven to 20 minutes. 

As I write this, here are some of the subjects featured on its home page: “How Beauty Feels,” “Art Made of Storms,” “Learning From a Barefoot Movement,” “How to Spot a Liar,” “Less Stuff, More Happiness,” “What Do Babies Think?” and “Finding Life We Can’t Imagine.”

The subjects are endless. The insights are riveting. But here’s the point: The site could be just as riveting in 100 years — even without improved technology — because its hero is content.

When I say content, I don’t mean disposable content that gives you a sugar rush. I mean deep and meaningful content that intrigues you, fires up your curiosity and provokes thought. This kind of content makes you think of new ideas, not new technology.

It reminds us that the ultimate gizmo is the human mind, and the ultimate app is human ideas.

I have no doubt the presenters on the TED site all have their own smartphones, iPads and Twitter accounts. But I also have no doubt that in order to come up with their ideas, at some point they had to slow down, unplug and just think.

The Jewish tradition seems to have a prophetic understanding of this need to reconnect with the essential. Maybe it’s no coincidence that 3,300 years before the invasion of Tweets and texts, God gave us a day for just that purpose. It’s Shabbat, our weekly holy day, when we liberate ourselves from all technology and reconnect with our inner humanity, our inner ability to think and go deep.

It took the extraordinary content of a Web site to remind me of this great Jewish value of elevating our minds over our machines.

This is surely a value that won’t soon die — not with Steve Jobs or any of us.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

How to save on wedding costs without sacrificing


Several years ago, a character on my favorite television show expounded on the cost of modern weddings, finishing up his tirade with, “And the next morning, you wake up and realize that for the same price as the down payment on a house you’re married to that.”

The average wedding costs about $30,000, and in this declining economy it might not be too long before that will once again be a down payment in Los Angeles.

Most brides want beauty and romance during their wedding — an expression of their love in the form of a grandiose ceremony. But for many couples, a lavish wedding would require a major financial sacrifice at time when few can afford to do so.

For brides and grooms who are focused more on the marriage than the wedding, the following are some cost-cutting ideas to preserve the grand expression, while leaving enough aside for a nest egg.

Planners

Unless the guest list tops 300, don’t hire a wedding planner. Their service won’t save you any time or trouble, because they will regularly want to meet to offer you more choices. What you might save in prices with vendors will in turn be spent on their fees. Planners are mostly in the business of selling services, and as a result, they look to increase the extravagance.

Wedding at Home

While people generally think that having a wedding at home is the least expensive, it can cost as much as a banquet hall to rent the tables and chairs, hire a valet service and pay for the catering service to provide and serve the food. Having the wedding in a professional venue only gets expensive when all the extras are added in, from valet parking to serving your guests champagne upon entering.

Food

At a recent wedding, guests were served apples and champagne before they could get their coats off, and then there were exotic hors d’oeuvres, tables filled with fruit, cheese, crudités and dip. Then as they left the ceremony, they were offered goblets of a variety of soups. Entering the hall for cocktails, guests encountered deli, Japanese, Italian, French, Latin and Chinese buffet tables. By the time people were ushered into dinner, the three entrées they had to choose from were hardly enticing.

Instead of stuffing the guests before the dinner, serve hors d’oeuvres and drinks, allowing the guests to mingle without having to get in long lines.

Another approach is to have a morning or early brunch wedding and forgo elaborate dinners.

Invitations

Next comes invitations; these seem to get more elaborate each year. A recent one came in a box that when opened, a light inside went on. Even the postage was exorbitant. Short of doing the invitations yourself, go for more imagination in the printing and the design than the size and grandeur of the presentation. Leave out response cards. Most people will call anyway and tell you if they’re coming.

Tchotchkes

Decorations have become more elaborate each year — streamers, horns, hats and even Hula-hoops being handed out just to keep everyone occupied and having a good time. Cutting out all the handouts can save a ton of money, perhaps enough to get a higher quality band that will play music that won’t blast out the eardrums. Plus, all the tchotchkes tend to get thrown out rather quickly, literally money down the drain.

The Dress

Of course, every bride wants to look like a vision coming down the aisle. But designer gowns can cost more than $6,000, and they’re only worn once.

However, there are alternatives, such as off-the-rack gowns that can be purchased for as little as $500. Another practice, which is becoming more popular, is to get a secondhand wedding gown at a thrift shop, a secondhand clothing store or for the more adventurous, by bidding for a gown on an online auction site like eBay. It’s also possible to borrow a gown through L.A. Hachnosas Kallah at (323) 936-3254.

The best way to save money on your wedding is to focus on quality. Think seriously about what is important and the best reflection of the values of the soon-to-be happy couple. Throwing out money to keep up with the Steins reflects the values of others and is a poor start to any marriage.

Anne Phyllis Pinzow is a scriptwriter who makes her main living as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Gifts for Grads That Will Make the Grade


It’s hard to find that perfect gift for the high school or college graduate — something personal and thoughtful but also useful. It’s even harder for distant relatives and friends of the graduate.

Cash and gift certificates can be a tad too impersonal (albeit useful), but you don’t want to break the bank. Whether buying for a high school or college grad, here’s a list of unisex gifts under $50 sure to make the grads give caps off to you:

Quad Camera

Accoutrements’ Quad Camera takes four pictures per click, creating four segment images that capture motion. The prints from this camera are great for creating kitschy wall art for apartments or dorms. This plastic no-flash camera uses standard 35-mm film. You can find this cute little camera at ZGallerie stores. ” target=”_blank”>koshergiftbaskets.com. $14.95.

Traveler’s Journal

This brown traveler’s journal is the perfect size to tote on graduation trips and record adventures and memories along the way. It lies flat so it can be written in easily, and refill sheets can be purchased. ” target=”_blank”>www.swissarmy.com. $16.

Tassel Photo Frame

Let the grad keep a reminder of the special day with this photo frame with tassel keeper. The frame has a space for a 4 x 6 photo and a cardholder and enough white space around the photo for friends and relatives to sign. ” target=”_blank”>www.amazon.com. $19.95.

Crate and Barrel Beach Chair

Grads are ready for a little rest and relaxation after graduation. Heck, they’ve earned it. This Maui Beach Chair lets grads catch some rays and relax comfortably in this comfortable padded chair with foam headrest.

The steel-framed chair adjusts to three positions for comfortable reading and tanning. It comes with an easy-carry shoulder strap so it can be taken anywhere from the back yard to the beach. Available in sky blue, cherry red and citrine yellow. ” target=”_blank”>www.target.com. $29.99.

Touro Teardrop Mono

This minitravel backpack is the ideal backpack for the graduation “I’m off to find myself” trip. This one-strap adjustable pack is dual density, with padded foam to keep out moisture from summer showers. With a built-in pocket and U-shaped front, it comes seven of colors — from candy pink to sky blue. ” target=”_blank”>www.william-sonoma.com. $49.95.

Failed Joshua Venture’s Serious Failings


 

Now that it has been “formally put to death and buried,” as one of its grantees told me, I feel free to speak out about the Joshua Venture, a supposed breakthrough organization, subsidizing the ideas of nonprofit professionals who will be leading the next generation of Jewish life.

I don’t know the intricacies of what happened that brought it to its final demise. I don’t even know all the details of how it worked when it was alive. I do know that when I dealt with its 14 20-30-something-aged grantees last year, it was the worst professional experience I have had since my company, Passion Marketing for Issues and Causes, began servicing the Jewish and nonprofit world.

The purpose of the Joshua Venture is something like this:

It was founded by several foundations in Jewish life to enable young social entrepreneurs (that means nonprofit start-ups) to receive funding and two-years of support, seminars, tools (that means training), mentoring and advice.

What I found out it basically meant is that they chose a group of creative and brilliant young Jews, many whom were committed to building edgy nonprofits in the Jewish world, who were coddled, handed monetary support on a silver platter, catered to, spoiled and allowed to believe that they were privileged and beyond socially acceptable behavioral norms.

I learned these realities the hard way. Initially, I was impressed and excited to be working with the grantees of the Joshua Venture. I already knew some of them. Several were great young people doing extraordinary new work in Jewish life.

There was the founder of J-Dub Records, bringing a new, hip style of Jewish music touching the lives of thousands of young, uninvolved Jews, opening a door for them into a Judaism from which they felt distant and alienated.

There was the founder of the Ayecha Resource Organization, an organization promoting the diversity of Jewish life, founded by a firebrand young Jewish woman who was a proud African American.

There was Sharsheret, supporting the needs of young, Jewish women dealing with breast cancer, founded by a young cancer survivor.

There were performance artists, filmmakers, political activists, intellectuals and others, forming an eclectic mix of dynamic personalities, committed to building their generation’s idea of a new Jewish world.

Joshua Ventures had contacted me about being one of their mentors. They asked if I could plan a full-day seminar for their grantees, teaching them the principles of marketing their causes for funding, advocacy and participation.

I was so excited to work with these people and help them further their ideas that I required my entire staff of 14 people to attend the seminar, positioning them to work as one-on-one mentors with each of the grantees. We prepared for weeks, working way beyond the hours for which Joshua Ventures was paying. I was happy to give the cause our time and a full day of 14 extraordinary professionals.

We arrived that morning to the seminar pumped up and ready to dive in with the grantees. I was prepared to work with them until midnight, if need be.

After an introduction from their professional, I stood up to convey our excitement at being with them and laid out the day’s schedule. Next, the head of our account service team, took the floor to begin the first part of the morning’s program.

He was just a few minutes into his presentation, when I noticed there was a buzz among the grantees. One young woman stands and says to me, “We believe your company is gender challenged. So far, we have heard from you and then another man. Why aren’t the women presenting?”

Not yet clued in, I nicely explained that there would be many women presenting, but that the way it worked out, the first two presentations were from men.

We continued, and then there was another buzz and interruption.

“We don’t like your methodology of presenting, as if you and your company are the center of knowledge. Your presentation model is outdated. You should be asking us what we know and then basing your presentation around our knowledge.”

I stopped and looked at their professional and their lay leader. Neither said a word. I waited to see if any of the other grantees would open their mouths to balance the critics. None did.

At the break, their professional informed me that the grantees tended to “eat up each professional that presented to them.” She further explained that this was par for the course.

(Today, as I recall this story, it reminds me of the report by Michael Jackson’s housekeeper telling the press how the kids at Neverland were allowed to run amok, without any supervision.)

The criticisms continued to fly. Finally, having reached my limit, I told them how excited we were to work with them, but as I listened to them, I was concerned about the values and behavior of the community they wanted to build. I then said that I believed through the grants they received that they had been empowered by the program and that they misconstrued this empowerment to feel entitled.

“You are taking away our safe space,” I was told by one of the grantees. “We’re supposed to be given safe space.”

As professionals, we stupidly continued to work with them through the entire day. We should have left. I should have publicly ripped up their check as a closing ceremony.

About two months later, I received a phone call from the professional, offering me a too-late and very weak apology. None of the funders, who had all heard about this fiasco, all of with whom I have worked very well over the years, ever called to ask about the experience.

The Joshua Venture raises many questions. There are numerous other programs in Jewish life, which are also handing the world on a silver platter to a new generation of Jews. The funders and their advisers have determined that free trips, free conferences, free hotel rooms, in addition to scholarships, fellowships, meetings with the rich and famous, study sessions with the brilliant, along with the awarding of cash, prizes and other untold privileges, not to mention the very deliberate creation of a new, selected elite class, are the methodology to perpetuate a vibrant and meaningful Jewish world.

And they may very well be right. But, several years into this new culture of privileged perpetuation, the late Joshua Venture is showing us that the methodology is also creating a sense of entitlement that is growing out of control.

I don’t believe that the programs should stop. But I do believe they must include some courses or sessions on values and humility, while demanding that the participants carry certain levels of responsibility. They must also include codes of conduct and expectations of gratitude, as well as an understanding that their participation does not place them above the community — or above amcha — the people.

The foundations of the Jewish world that fund these programs have stepped up to the plate to infuse Jewish life with a vibrancy and relevancy in a way the Jewish world has never worked before. They are to be thanked and praised.

But as they pursue the evaluations of their funding — as they all do, they must also question whether or not there is a critical issue of respect missing from the programs they are creating.

Gary Wexler is the owner of Passion Marketing for Issues and Causes based in Los Angeles.

 

Say Hello to a Sane ‘Goodbye’ Brunch


The wedding was beautiful. Everything went off without a hitch. Now it’s time for the farewell finale — the "Goodbye, it’s been great to see you, thanks so much for coming" Sunday brunch.

Your mishpacha may have traveled from around the world to attend this wedding, and because it’s rare that they’re gathered all together for the entire weekend, it’s your pleasure to send them off well fed.

Ironically, this casual assembly — when everyone’s outfits and hairdos (to say nothing of their sense of humor) are a bit droopy — can be the most upbeat, emotionally intimate happening of the entire weekend.

When folks keep bumping into each other at one of the happiest events in a Jewish family’s life, friendships are forged, long-lost cousins have kissed and pledged an eternity of e-mails; maybe there’s even a shiddach or two in the offing.

This is the time when people want to linger — even though they’ve got to hurry. Suddenly everyone is aware the magic they’re feeling comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

Food For Thought

Make sure to include a separate invitation to the brunch, as well as all other events, with your wedding invitation. A clear map will make everyone happy. Invite guests for a flexible time, open house, giving them space to relax or pack before coming over. Do not run out of food so stragglers are greeted by an empty table.

Give guests a "bracelet" (purchased at a party store) or colored ribbon to put on their glass or coffee mugs so they won’t get them mixed up. Since people will be grazing, use luncheon-size paper napkins instead of cloth. The only silverware you will need on the table is forks.

Let There Be Lightness

Since you’ve done the formal and traditional, now is the time to get whimsical: kick back, take off your shoes and thank yourself for the memories you’ve created. Decorate your living room with a banner: "Thanks for the Memories." "Perseverance is Healthy for Parents of the Bride and Other Living Things."

Create a fanciful centerpiece for the table. Include props from the wedding — extra invitations, wedding books, photos of your daughter growing up. Make original bouquets of bright flowers such as daisies or daffodils sticking out of oatmeal boxes. Take an egg carton; place a small amount of dirt in each of the 12 holders, then put a tiny, flowering plant in each one. Line up containers of seasonal flowering plants and invite guests to take them home.

Fruit and Nut Granola

Store granola in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

4 cups assorted flakes (oat, wheat, rye, triticale, millet)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup dark molasses

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup wheat or rice bran

1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

3/4 cup raisins or mixture of dried cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple

Mix flakes with honey, molasses, oil and salt. Spread thinly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 300F, until lightly browned. Stir frequently while baking to prevent burning. Remove from oven. Mix in wheat germ, almonds, seeds, raisins and dried fruit. Serve with fresh fruit, yogurt and milk.

Makes 4 cups

Scrambled Eggs Topped With

Tomato and Basil

8 large, firm tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices

2 cups basil, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil or more, as needed for sautéing tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, chopped fine

2 tablespoons butter for frying eggs or more as needed

2 dozen eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup yogurt

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sauté tomato, basil and garlic in oil in a large skillet for one minute, just to heat through. Remove from pan. Whisk eggs and milk together in bowl. In same skillet melt butter over medium heat. Pour in eggs; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until soft curds form. Stir in yogurt, salt and pepper and remove from heat. The eggs should be soft and creamy. Transfer eggs to serving platter, top with tomato mixture and serve immediately. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil.

Serves 12.

Grilled Potatoes

Olive oil for frying

4 red potatoes, sliced very thin

1/2 cup onions, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup red peppers, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil on grill or non-stick skillet. When pan is hot, add potatoes, sauté until golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Turn potatoes to other side, add onions and peppers; cook two to three minutes, until golden. If desired, add salt and pepper. Place in chafing dish to keep warm.

Serves eight.

Banana Pineapple

Breakfast Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 cup ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened,

or canola oil

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup dried pineapple

1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. In large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Stir in wheat germ. In another bowl, mix together bananas, eggs, butter or oil, yogurt, sugar and lemon juice. When mixture is smooth, gradually stir in dry ingredients. Add raisins, dates and nuts; stir until combined. Pour into a buttered loaf pan and bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until a toothpick plunged into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Makes one loaf

Let There Be Food

In addition to the wedding brunch menu:

A basket of hard-boiled eggs: Boil organic eggs with tea bags or beets, giving them a natural, understated glaze. Or go to your local farmer’s market and buy naturally gorgeous eggs. Some varieties of chickens lay eggs of blue, aqua, green, grey and various shades of brown, tan and off white. Place a bowl of French salt and a pepper grinder nearby.

A basket of organic oranges: Set the oranges next to an electric or a hand juicer. Let guests squeeze their own juice. Place bottles of champagne in ice buckets nearby; some people might want to make their own mimosas. Include a breadboard of whole-wheat challahs, a bread knife, a dish of butter and homemade jams, jellies or marmalades. Place butter and jam spreaders in appropriate places and set a toaster nearby.

Coffee and Tea Service: Set up a separate table or use the end of your buffet table for the hot drinks. Don’t forget sugar, honey, cream and teaspoons.

Lemon Tart

Pate brisee sucre (sweet tart pastry) from French-trained Los Angeles resident, Tamara Rowland. Filling from Petra Nettelbeck, who recommends Belgian Vergoyse sugar for the filling.

For The Pastry

Pate Brisee Sucree

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 cup cake flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch bits

2 eggs

Set oven at 375F. In a food processor equipped with steel blade, work the flour, cake flour, sugar and salt for 30 seconds, just long enough to combine. With processor running, add butter and eggs. Work them into the dry ingredients in on-off motions until the dough forms large, moist clumps. Remove dough from work bowl, place in middle of 11-inch tart pan. Using your fingers, press dough lightly into bottom of pan to evenly cover base. Trim off excess dough. With your thumbs push dough up into sides of tart pan to create a decorative edge. Pierce bottom of pan with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Set it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Set tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Press a piece of foil directly onto the pastry. Transfer pastry to hot oven and bake it for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Turn oven temperature down to 350F.

For The Filling

Zest and juice of two lemons

2 tablespoons heavy cream

3 tablespoons blanched almonds

2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

2 tablespoons slivered almonds, browned, for garnish

1 dozen thinly sliced lemon pieces

In a food processor or blender, combine zest, juice, cream, almonds, sugar, eggs and butter. Blend until smooth. Pour into cooled pastry shell. Bake tart for about 25 minutes or until set.

Allow tart to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, slivered almonds and lemon pieces.

Israeli Novel of Ideas Overpowers Story


“Foiglman” by Aharon Megged. Translated by Marganit
Weinberger-Rotman. (Toby Press, $19.95).

Can a work of fiction be important without being successful?
If so, it would look pretty much like “Foiglman,” by the distinguished Israeli
author, Aharon Megged.

“Foiglman” was originally published in Israel in 1988 and is
being issued here for the first time in English by Toby Press, a
Connecticut-based firm with an active editorial office in Jerusalem that has
been busily acquiring backlists of leading Israeli writers.

Megged’s book is a novel of ideas in which ideas completely
overpower the novel itself. True, they are ideas of the utmost gravity, and
they are given unusually thoughtful and provocative treatment here. If the
fictional framework of Megged’s book were handled as magnificently, in fact,
this would have been a staggering work of art.

At the center of the novel is Zvi Arbel, a 60-ish professor
of European history and the author of “The Great Betrayal,” a study of a 1648 massacre
of Polish Jews that many historians view as analogous to the Nazi genocide. Zvi
lives comfortably in his hometown of Tel Aviv and teaches at the university,
while his wife, Nora, works as a biologist. Their grown son, Yoav, is employed
by the army and lives nearby with his wife and young daughter.

Trouble arrives one day in the form of a fawning fan letter.
Out of the blue, an obscure Yiddish poet named Shmuel Foiglman sends Zvi a
volume of his poems that contains a lavish dedication “to the very important
author of ‘The Great Betrayal,’ who … penetrated to the crux of the awesome
tragedy of the murdered Jewish people, the ashes of whose 6 million are
scattered over the earth of Europe.”

With little interest in poetry and only a spotty command of
Yiddish, Zvi is perplexed by this gift from a total stranger. Yet something
about the book — which contains mostly lamentations by a man who clearly lived
through the Holocaust — elicits sympathy from Zvi.

The two men strike up a correspondence, followed by a series
of meetings in both Tel Aviv and Paris. Against the wishes of Zvi’s
increasingly irritated wife, he offers to arrange for a translation of
Foiglman’s book into Hebrew and, eventually, for Foiglman to move to Israel for
good.

Over time, Zvi learns pieces of Foiglman’s past, from his
childhood in Zamosc, Poland, to the 1942 deportation of the town’s Jews,
whereupon Foiglman and his twin brother fled to the barn of a Polish peasant,
who agreed to hide them for a high ransom, then turned them over to the Germans
two weeks later.

“Thus Shmuel Foiglman,” Megged writes, “witnessed first hand
‘The Great Betrayal.'”

Later, the brothers were sent to Majdanek and from there to
various labor camps, surviving somehow until the end of the war, when they wandered,
barely alive, through a shattered Europe.

Though he now expects that here in Israel both he and his
poetry will at last find a nurturing home, Foiglman is doomed to
disappointment. There is little interest in Yiddish in Israel at all, where
Hebrew reigns supreme. Foiglman’s hopes that the Yiddish language might rise
again out of the European destruction, that something might be preserved from
that savage annihilation, are dashed.

After Zvi himself puts up the money to translate Foiglman’s
book, it is all but ignored by the Israeli literati.

“Sometimes at night,” Foiglman confesses to Zvi, “I wake up
from a terrible nightmare in which I’m shouting, ‘Gevald!’ and nobody
understands my language.”

Meanwhile, as Zvi’s friendship with the poet blooms, his
marriage withers. At first merely irritated by Foiglman, Nora becomes jealous,
then angry and finally, after Zvi refuses to cut off his association, she
begins a tumultuous affair with a younger man.

Finally, after months of unbearable agitation, she commits
suicide. Four months later, Foiglman becomes ill and dies, leaving Zvi doubly
haunted by sorrow and guilt.

If these domestic betrayals seem trifling when compared to
the massive betrayals of history and language that are the themes of Megged’s
book, their failure to move the reader lies at the bottom of the perhaps
unavoidable pitfall the author has set for himself. The truth is that the
author has succeeded so well in outlining his big ideas — the impossibility of
translating the horror of the Holocaust, the failure of art and faith in the
face of mass murder — that his own novel has become a disappointed testament to
the truths of those ideas.

His characters are simply too flimsy to bear the symbolic
weight he has heaped on them, and it’s difficult to care about Zvi and Nora’s
marital squabbles in the face of Foiglman’s devastating history.

In the end, the reader is left with awe and certainly
compassion for the victims of genocide, but with little in the way of aesthetic
satisfaction . Â

Eight Crazy Delights


1. No Nostalgia for Waxing

This Chanukah, there is no more scraping, boiling water, melting with a hair dryer or freezing to remove wax drippings from your menorah because Wax-Off prevents wax from sticking to any candle-holder surface. Visit www.wax-off.net or call (800) 334-9964 for more information.

2. Fiddler-mania!

Question: What would your Chanukah be without your hand-painted “Fiddler on the Roof” Figurine Music Box ($45), “Fiddler” Chess Set ($300), “Fiddler” Chip n’ Dip Set ($50), “Fiddler” Teapot ($36) and set of “Fiddler” Shmear Spreaders ($45)? And the answer: Much less expensive. (www.jewishsource.com ).

3. A Big Blow to the Jewish People

Hebrew Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum Box of 100 ($10.95). If you can’t read Hebrew, don’t sweat it — the comic strips are probably funnier when you don’t understand the gags (www.jewishsource.com).

4. Rabbi Said Knock You Out!

Boxing Rabbi Puppet ($9.50). Finally, a way to one-up your neighbor’s Fighting Nun Puppet (www.mcphee.com ).

5. Ark for Ark’s Sake

The Ark of the Covenant ($11.95). Indiana Jones nearly lost his life searching for his. So why not pick one up for yourself and see what all the hubbub is about? (www.mcphee.com ).

6. Giving You Plaque

Gefilte Fish Plaque ($5.95). A Jesus plate parody for your car. In all honesty, this plaque probably tastes better than the fish that inspired it. Unclear whether it comes packed in jelly. (www.mcphee.com ).

7. When the Golem

Gets Tough…

Share with your children the legend of the Prague protector with a copy of “Golem,” an award-winning children’s book by David Wisniewski. (Clarion Books, $17) (www.amazon.com ).

9. Winnie the Jew

Winnie the Pooh in a yarmulke with dreidel in hand. Nobody saw this one coming, but then again, the lovable bear perhaps makes a more convincing Jew than a boy named Christopher Robin. ($8.50). (The Disney Store. For locations visit disney.store.go.com ).



Bonus Shamash Gift: The Jewish Version of The Spinners?

The Draydelettes, a chorus line of Chanukah tops created by designer Susan Fischer Weis, grace a light set ($19.95) and mug ($7.95) (www.jewishsource.com ).