7 Days in The Arts

Saturday 25

Israel Prize laureate Ehud Manor passed away in April but his beloved songs live on in the hearts of Israelis. Tonight, the UJ pays tribute to his memory with a concert by Einat Sarouf, accompanied by Tali Tadmor and other guest artists.

9:30 p.m. $40 (includes wine and hors d’ouevres). Gindi Auditorium, University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1246.

It’s official. Poker is now everywhere. Tonight, American Friends of Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel raise funds “in support of our historic mission of preserving the democratic future of Israel.” And what better way than with some Texas Hold ‘Em? A tournament and black-and-white party complete with jazz ensemble and party lounge fill out the night of “Poker at the Shore.”

3:30 p.m. 1541 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. www.cecisrael.com.

Sunday 26

It’s official. Poker is now everywhere. Tonight, American Friends of Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel raise funds “in support of our historic mission of preserving the democratic future of Israel.” And what better way than with some Texas Hold ‘Em? A tournament and black-and-white party complete with jazz ensemble and party lounge fill out the night of “Poker at the Shore.”

3:30 p.m. 1541 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. www.cecisrael.com.

Monday 27

Big-time comedy in the comfort of your own home now comes courtesy of Big Vision Entertainment. “The Comedy Shop” host Norm Crosby has released a five-disc collector’s series of best-of moments from his show titled “The World’s Greatest Stand-Up Comedy Collection.” Watch three- to four-minute sets by more than 300 comedians including Jay Leno, Garry Shandling and Phyllis Diller until your stomach hurts.

$24.95. www.bigvisionentertainment.com.

Tuesday 28

Yiddishkayt L.A. partners with ALOUD at Central Library today for a unique conversation between film critic Kenneth Turan and Aaron Lansky, aka “the man who rescued a million Yiddish books.” Lansky also authored a book about his quest to save Yiddish literature, a read that Cynthia Ozick said is “as stirring as it is geshmak.” Live klezmer by the L.A. Community Klezmer Band rounds out the evening.

7 p.m. Los Angeles Public Library, Mark Taper Auditorium, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (213) 228-7025.

Wednesday 29

In “The Talent Given Us” the retired parents of three adult children decide to embark on a road trip with their two unmarried daughters in a quest to see their uncommunicative son who lives in Los Angeles. In a novel concept, Andrew Wagner directs his real-life parents and siblings in this comedy about familial angst that has been hailed by critics. Catch a sneak preview tonight at the Egyptian Theatre or a regular screening tomorrow and next week at the Laemmle Sunset 5.

7:30 p.m. 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. www.americancinematheque.com. www.laemmle.com.

Thursday 30

In “The Talent Given Us” the retired parents of three adult children decide to embark on a road trip with their two unmarried daughters in a quest to see their uncommunicative son who lives in Los Angeles. In a novel concept, Andrew Wagner directs his real-life parents and siblings in this comedy about familial angst that has been hailed by critics. Catch a sneak preview tonight at the Egyptian Theatre or a regular screening tomorrow and next week at the Laemmle Sunset 5.

7:30 p.m. 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. www.americancinematheque.com. www.laemmle.com.

Friday 1

“Layali Al Saif.” Translated from Arabic, it means “Summer Nights,” an apt title for the sensual offerings of this dance show, which runs for three days only. The multicultural celebration of Middle Eastern dance includes Egyptian raqs sharqi (women’s solo dance), Persian banderi, Rom (Gypsy) circus and Turkish styling, as well as fusion pieces.

8:30 p.m. (June 30 and July 1 and 2), 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (July 3). $20. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 315-1459.


Israel Fete to Focus on Music, Culture

Israeli entertainers often get a jumpstart on a civilian career following military service, which they spend polishing their act at morale-boosting performances for the armed forces.

That proved the case for Shlomo Rabinowitz. After a three-year and two-war military stint ending in 1975, he easily found conducting and keyboard work on stages and television programs and heard his compositions performed and recorded by Israel’s top-billed artists.

Now, 50, Rabinowitz of Woodland Hills is a musical chameleon, sharing the spotlight conducting alongside violinist Itzak Perlman or playing piano in a Burbank studio for a cantor’s vanity recording.

Rabinowitz and a quartet of musicians is the first featured act of this year’s Israel celebration to be held Sunday, May 23, on the field of Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School. Organizers expect 5,000 people will attend the 11 a.m.-6 p.m. festival, which is expected to be the county’s best-attended Jewish community affair in recent memory.

Set almost a month following Israel’s official Independence Day anniversary on April 27, the event promises to serve as a cultural showcase for Israel and the local Jewish community, said Mali Leitner of Villa Park. She is organizing the event with a committee of community volunteers and the financial backing of the Orange County Jewish Federation.

The event may also serve as a political showcase as well. It is hoped that a robust turnout will demonstrate the community’s solidarity with embattled Israel for the politicians expected to attend.

Planned for the event are a procession of 30 Israeli flags, an Israel Defense Forces-themed fashion show and a hoped-for appearance by Yuval Rotem, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles. The diplomat, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other elected officials were invited, but their response is not expected until later this month.

"A major goal of Orange County Celebrates Israel is to provide opportunities for everyone to be exposed to Jewish and Israeli culture and to gain a better understanding of the importance of the State of Israel as one of our country’s leading allies and trading partners," the Federation said in an e-mail to members last month.

Tarbut’s field will sprout a bazaar of booths, including 30 or more Israel-based craftsmen and artists selling their wares, 50 community groups offering information and kosher delicacies to satisfy noshers. Umbrella-shaded picnic tables will add to the party atmosphere.

"Celebrate and do a mitzvah," Leitner urged. "Come with open hearts and open pockets to help Israeli vendors."

Other entertainment featured on stage will include another native Israeli who resides in Tarzana, vocalist Gilat Rapaport, and her band, InJoy, and longtime Israeli folk dancer Yonnie Carr of San Diego.

In addition, there will be a fashion show produced by Guy Kochlani of Encino, a former UCLA Hillel events coordinator turned Israel promoter. The 45-minute runway show will feature 10 models in three changes of military-accessorized garments.

The clothing will come from Los Angeles-area merchants who are natives of Israel.

"They can’t support the troops on the ground, so they salute the troops on the runway," said Kochlani, who promised a surprise ending.

Leitner, a former vocalist who is also a native of Israel, will get a turn in the limelight, singing nostalgic Israeli songs with Rabinowitz, who will play a synthesizer. His group’s repertoire will include traditional patriotic tunes, along with some medleys in Yiddish and Middle Eastern melodies.

In at least one corner there will be informal 25-minute classes taught by a half-dozen local Chabad rabbis on an array of topics. They may include Chassidic stories, a game of stump the rabbi or an introduction to Jewish mysticism, said the booth’s organizer, Rabbi David Eliezrie of Yorba Linda’s Chabad.

A children’s corner will be supervised by the Jewish Community Center’s staff.

The $6 admission tickets will be sold at the gate, however, organizers are urging advance ticket sales through participating synagogues. Advance sales will be split, earning a synagogue $2 per ticket.

Leitner is still seeking event-day volunteers, booth renters and event sponsors.

For more information, call (714) 755-5555, ext. 240.

Bazel Draws Sabra Artists to Encino

Hanging out with a group of Israeli artists at a hot new cafe in Encino may not be the same as sitting on Dizengoff in Tel Aviv, but the conversation is as close as it gets for Los Angeles. Tempo is still great for Middle Eastern food and music, but now Cafe Bazel appears to be the spot for late-night carousing.

Named for a Tel Aviv street full of cafes like this, Bazel’s menu has Theodore Herzl on the front cover because it was in the Swiss town of Basel that he conceived the Zionist movement. The Bazel on Ventura, which has been open for six months, has shakshuka, beet salad, rugelach, tea with mint leaves, waitresses in tight black T-shirts and other women in tight black leather who arrive and sit right in front of the join and make you watch them eat. Long black limos are parked out front, facing off against a Lamborghini and a Mercedes on the other side of the boulevard.

Tonight we’re here with Roni Cohen, an Israeli artist who is telling friends about her new show at the Bank Leumi.

Cohen, who moved to Los Angeles in 1997, was a foreign press photographer during the 1973 war in the Golan and Sinai. An accident near the end of the war wrecked her leg and her camera and she went to study with Ran Schori at Bezalel Arts. She also studied in London and New York and began working in a variety of textures, showing at the Shafrai and Mabat Galleries in Israel.

In 1991, her house on Rehov Bialik in Ramat Gan was rocketed by a Scud missile (she wasn’t home, having escaped to Beersheva). With a damaged life and broken heart, she painted through waves of despair and hope. Working in red and black, signifying drums and explosions of not only war but of new energy, she began expressing what she calls "emotional and industrial landscapes."

Her show features abstract forms on large compressed felt rugs, acrylic and collage, and serigraphs and etchings of Jerusalem and Safed.

"I know the soul is here," she says pointing to her head. "I have a new life now, new friendships, new ideas — new everything."

Cohen teaches early childhood education at Stephen S. Wise Temple, and has a son in high school in Agoura Hills. She has had 11 solo shows in Israel and California and is a resident artist at the 825 Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard.

Back at Bazel, it’s after midnight and Israelis are still pouring in for dinner. The sidewalk tables are packed and the men’s bathroom has a widescreen television showing MTV. Deejays Shai and Ariel play Morcheeba and Zero 7 hipster beats behind the coffee bar. There is no alcohol here yet, but fruit shakes are popular. You can get Israel toast and Schnitzel Panko until 3 a.m.

"Tempo is forever," sculptor Uriel Arad says. But now this is his place.

Every time an artist comes to Los Angeles, like Israeli stand-up Naor Zion, who recently played the Wilshire Ebell Theater, "the place to be after the show is over is Cafe Bazel, for real," Bazel manager Nicki Zvik tells me. "This place will be jammed like it’s no tomorrow."

Cohen is drinking cappuccino with friends Eytan Rogenstein and Arad. Other friends of hers come to Encino from the newer Jewish communities of West Hills and Calabasas. One says the atmosphere at Cafe Bazel reminds him of being on Dizengoff because, "You see everybody."

But his friend disagrees.

"It’s the only place on this entire street," he argues, "so it doesn’t remind me [of] anything."

"Everybody and his opinion," says the first artist.

"Plus it’s too wide, Ventura," continues the second.

Cohen’s friend, the sculptor, also "works in construction, like everybody else."

Looking at the long black sedan parked near his table, he jokes, "I came in that limo." Then adds, "I’m driving it."

Directors, painters, football players, even actor David Hasselhoff comes to Bazel, according to Zvik. He says Hasselhoff claimed the warm chocolate cake the finest dessert he ever had in his life.

However, a shooting in the parking lot a few weeks ago slowed business for a bit.

"Ihiye b’seder" ("It will be okay"), Cohen tells Zvik at the coffee bar.

"It’s already b’seder," the manager assures her.

Roni Cohen’s art appears from Oct. 14 through Nov. 21 at Bank Leumi, 16530 Ventura Blvd., Encino with a reception Oct. 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Cafe Bazel is at 17620 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 728-0846.

Hank Rosenfeld is a folk journalist.

Comedian Provides Laughs to Israel

Avi Liberman likes to keep his jobs separate. A Sinai Akiba Academy teacher’s assistant by day and a stand-up comedian by night, Liberman doesn’t do arts and crafts on stage and doesn’t tell jokes at school. Which is why, after class, scores of second-graders chase Liberman down the stairs at school, begging him to tell them some jokes.

But these students will probably have to wait until they’re older to get into The Comedy Store or The Laugh Factory and hear Liberman’s rapid-fire observational humor and riffs on everything from weird poker games — where your buddies make up rules as they go along — to the joy of being Jewish in the Luxor Las Vegas (“Because nothing makes a Jew more comfortable than walking into a pyramid”). Liberman’s style is fast and smart, and he embellishes his jokes with quirky voice inflections, expansive physical comedy and wide-eyed expressions that contort his fresh face into a droll collection of visages.

This month, the 31-year-old Liberman will take a break from his Los Angeles and Vegas gigs and head to Israel in a bid to make the beleaguered residents of the Jewish State crack a smile or two. The show “Stand Up and Laugh, The Best of America’s Young Comedians,” will feature Liberman and three seasoned comedians: Los Angeles’ Wayne Federman and Gary Gulman and New York’s Dan Naderman, who all have appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “The Late Show With David Letterman.”

“I was there last summer and I was thinking of ways I could help besides just visiting and supporting pro-Israel causes,” Liberman said. “My Hebrew is not good enough to do a show there, but I thought, ‘There are tons of Americans who live there,’ and I realized that the majority of the people who were suffering were the younger generation — so I thought I could contribute by doing some English shows there.” His agent got in touch with Zev Isaacs, the Israeli promoter who brought Madonna to Israel, and they went full-throttle to get the group there.

For Isaacs, the comedians represented a welcome respite from the drought of overseas artists performing in Israel. Before the second intifada started in September 2000, Isaacs routinely had 10 major acts booked for any given year — like Elton John, Peter Gabriel and Eric Clapton. Once the violence erupted, artists started canceling their tours — sometimes only two weeks before the scheduled date, leaving Isaacs with dry years in 2001 and 2002.

“Very few artists are coming here at the moment, and it’s great to see that someone is prepared to come over and make us laugh a little bit,” said the promoter on the phone from Israel.

The comedians are scheduled to appear in Israel’s Anglo enclaves like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ra’anana. They will receive a small stipend and their plane tickets, but most of the proceeds from the shows will be going to charities like Magen David Adom and the Jewish National Fund. As for the jokes they will tell — Liberman said they will be “the funny kind.”

Thinking of ways to help Israel is nothing new to Liberman. He was born there, but raised in Texas, where he attended yeshiva day school and participated in the Young Judea youth movement. Since then, he has become more conservative, both in his personal practice (he is now Orthodox and will turn down acting auditions if they fall on Shabbat, and tends not to perform on Friday nights unless the venue is within walking distance) and in his views on Israel.

“Look at Israel today — would Golda Meir and [David] Ben-Gurion have put up with this crap? The answer is no. My father said he was raised with the principles, ‘Buy the land, farm it, settle it,’ and that is what I was taught. But for some reason, [today’s] Labor Zionists have totally abandoned those principals.”

Liberman has a duel agenda for his time in Israel.

“I really want the guys I am bringing to have a good time because they have never been to Israel before. And I really want the shows to go well and for the Israelis to laugh and have fun and forget about their problems.”

Avi Liberman will be featured this August on Comedy
Central’s “Premium Blend.” For more information, visit them on the Web at www.comedycentral.com .

Solace in SoCal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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