September 25, 2018

Fewer Tribe Members Get Oscar Nods

Photo from Flickr.

In a normal year, a rundown on Academy Award nominations is cause for Jewish celebrations and self-congratulations. However, 2018 is not one of those years.

Even the iconic Steven Spielberg couldn’t break the jinx. While his widely praised “The Post,” a paean to journalistic courage, got a best picture nod, Hollywood’s most admired Jewish name was shut out of the best director list.

Another apparent shoo-in, actor James Franco, who just won a Golden Globe for his turn in “The Disaster Artist,” went missing on the Oscars’ best actor nomination list. It is a fair assumption that a rash of current reports on Franco’s sexual misbehaviors contributed to the omission.

To add to the disappointments, “Foxtrot,” Israel’s wrenching entry in the best foreign-language film category, was eliminated after earlier making the shortlist of nine nominees. In the same category, Germany’s “In the Fade,” which focused on the rise of neo-Nazism, was also eliminated.

However, not to paint an entirely dark picture, there were some eminent Jewish names on the final nomination list. Foremost is the film “Call Me By Your Name,” which probes the love affair of two young Jewish men in the 1980s, which came up with four nominations for Jewish talent. These included lead actor Timothee Chalamet, best picture, adopted screenplay and best original song (“Mystery of Love.”)

Other members of the tribe also made it to the finals — the glamorous Academy Award ceremony in Hollywood on March 4. Among them are Britain’s Daniel Day-Lewis for his role as a noted dressmaker in “Phantom Thread.” Day-Lewis, a three-time best actor winner, has announced his retirement from stage and screen.

Also nominated were veteran composer Hans Zimmer for his numerous film scores, including “Dunkirk.”

Another composer, Benj Pasek, who wrote the lyrics for last year’s hit “La La Land,” is up this time for best original song, “This Is Me,” from the musical “The Greatest Showman.”

Well, there is always next year.

JTA contributed to this report.

Holiday Preview 2017 Calendar

James Franco's "The Disaster Artist" can be seen in theaters on December 1.

SUN NOV 26
BILL NYE

Scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor Bill Nye appears in Beverly Hills as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series of Southern California. Nye, who currently can be seen on Netflix’s “Bill Nye Saves the World,” discusses his fascination with how things work, his celebrated career — he began as a comedy writer and performer on a Seattle ensemble comedy show and broke through with his Emmy-winning “Bill Nye the Science Guy” — and inspiring life lessons on the importance of education. 7 p.m. Tickets start at $260. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 546-6222. sabantheatre.org.

THU NOV 30
100 YEARS OF BUDDY RICH

The Grammy Museum commemorates the life and legacy of Jewish-American jazz drumming legend Buddy Rich, who was born in 1917 and collaborated with towering talents ranging from Frank Sinatra to Thelonious Monk. The evening features a Q-and-A with his only child, Cathy Rich; Gregg Potter, the drummer for the current incarnation of the Buddy Rich Band; and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, whose playing has been influenced by Rich. A special live performance follows the conversation. 7 p.m. (doors), 7:30 p.m. (show). $20. Grammy Museum L.A., 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 765-6800. grammymuseum.org.

MICHAEL CHABON AND ZADIE SMITH

The two literary heavyweights participate in a conversation. Chabon is a Jewish author known for the Pulitzer-winning “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” and Smith is an Brit of Jamaican descent whose debut novel, “White Teeth,” garnered critical acclaim. They may not seem as if they have much in common, but the novelists’ latest works — “Moonglow” and “Swing Time,” respectively — explore the influence of family, cultural heritage and politics in shaping identity. 8 p.m. $15 students; $29-$59 general. Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-4401. cap.ucla.edu.

FRI DEC 1
“WONDER WHEEL”

Writer-director Woody Allen’s latest film is set in Coney Island in the 1950s, following a lifeguard, played by Justin Timberlake, who tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator and his beleaguered wife. When the wife and the operator’s estranged daughter fall in love with the lifeguard, problems ensue. Jim Belushi, Juno Temple and Kate Winslet co-star. Various theaters. wonderwheelmovie.com.

“THE DISASTER ARTIST”

James Franco directs and stars in this acclaimed look at the making of Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” the real-life cult classic considered the “Citizen Kane” of bad movies. An adaptation of a nonfiction book of the same name, “The Disaster Artist” follows Wiseau, an aspiring filmmaker who pursued his dream of making it big in Hollywood against insurmountable odds. Franco’s younger brother Dave; Seth Rogen; Alison Brie and Ari Graynor co-star. Various theaters. a24films.com/films/the-disaster-artist.

SAT DEC 2
HADAG NAHASH

Funky hip-hop grooves with rock, reggae and Middle Eastern flavors set apart Hadag Nahash in the crowded Israeli music scene. The group features a full electric band, turntables, samples and lyrics about ending corruption and racism in Israeli society. The group performs at American Jewish University with Mizrahi artist Hanan Ben Ari. 8:30 p.m. $45-$75. American Jewish University, Gindi Auditorium, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (818) 483-8818. teevtix.com.

THU DEC 7
RITA RUDNER

Stand-up comedian and best-selling author Rita Rudner often alludes to her Jewish upbringing in her act. Don’t miss an evening with the funny lady who claims to have the longest-running solo comedy show in Las Vegas’ history. 8 p.m. $40-$75. Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 506-4522. arts.pepperdine.edu/events/rita-rudner.htm.

FRI DEC 8
“BIG SONIA”

Holocaust survivor. Grandma. Diva. Big Sonia. Director Leah Warshawski’s documentary film follows her octogenarian grandmother, Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor who runs the last store in a defunct shopping mall, a tailor shop she’s owned for more than 30 years. When Sonia, one of the last remaining survivors in Kansas City, is given an eviction notice, the specter of retirement forces her to confront her harrowing past, which includes concentration camps and death marches. The film weaves Sonia’s current conflict with stories about her diva-like personality from family and friends. Various times. Laemmle Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.

A MICHAEL FEINSTEIN HOLIDAY CELEBRATION

Michael Feinstein.

Five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein performs holiday classics from his album “A Michael Feinstein Christmas.” Feinstein has been called the “Ambassador of the Great American Songbook” for preserving and presenting the meld of old and new vocals. The crooner will belt out holiday classics including “Sleigh Ride,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” 8 p.m. $38-$98. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-8800. valleyperformingartscenter.org.

SUN DEC 10
HANUKKAH FESTIVAL: LA/LA

All ages enjoy live music, dance, art and food at the Skirball Center. Latin-Jewish bands Klezmer Juice and Pan Felipe perform; dance ensembles Versa-Style and Mambo Inc. teach attendees salsa, cumbia, mambo and hip-hop moves; visual artist Sandy Rodriguez leads attendees in creating a visual art installation; Maite Gomez-Rejon, founder of Art Bites, teaches about Mexican chocolate and decorating chocolate gelt; and storytellers Mario Ibarra and Julia Garcia-Combs recount the age-old story of Chanukah in English and Spanish. The museum’s current exhibitions, “Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico” and “Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs and Mark-Making in L.A.” will be open. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. $12 (general), $9 (seniors, full-time students and children older than 12), $7 (children 2-12). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

WED DEC 13
DANIEL ELLSBERG

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, a study of government decisions related to the Vietnam War, to the media when he was an analyst for the Rand Corp., discusses his new book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” a nonfiction account of the nuclear arms race. The event takes place in a run-up to the January release of Steven Spielberg’s new film, “The Post,” in which Ellsberg is a key figure. 8 p.m. $20 (general admission), $30 (reserved seat), $45 (reserve seat plus book). William Turner Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. livetalksla.org.

SAT DEC 16
KLEZMATICS

Renowned klezmer band the Klezmatics perform a “Happy Joyous Hanukkah” concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center. The evening is a celebration of Yiddish culture at a time of year when candles and family warm the dark nights. The event embraces audiences of all cultures and backgrounds. 8 p.m. $33-$68. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-8800. valleyperformingartscenter.org.

WED DEC 20
BARRY MANILOW

American singer-songwriter Barry Manilow, whose more than five-decade career has spanned hits including “Mandy,” “Can’t Smile Without You” and “Copacabana,” performs “A Very Barry Christmas.” He will sing holiday standards, including “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” 7:30 p.m. $39-$216. The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. ticketmaster.com.

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. Nov. 16-23: Vulture Festival, Dennis Prager and ‘War of the Worlds’

FRI NOV 17
“WHY JUDAISM MATTERS”

During a Kabbalat Shabbat service, Temple Israel of Hollywood Rabbi John Rosove discusses his new book, “Why Judaism Matters: Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His Children and the Millennial Generation.” Rosove’s work, presented in the form of letters from a rabbi to his sons, is a guidebook for Reform Jews who find it difficult to engage with Jewish orthodoxy, beliefs, traditions and issues in the 21st century. A dinner follows services and the discussion. 6:30 p.m. Free. (RSVP required for dinner). Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330. tioh.org.

“BERNSTEIN ON STAGE”

John Mauceri conducts the New West Symphony in an evening of the music of Leonard Bernstein, honoring the centennial of the famed composer’s birth. The concert will also feature the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, the Women of Areté Vocal Ensemble, the California Lutheran University Choir, Suzanna Guzmán, Davis Gaines, Celena Shafer and Casey Candebat. 8 p.m. Tickets $58–$73. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. Also 8 p.m., Nov. 18, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; 3 p.m., Nov. 19, Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard. (818) 677-3000. valleyperformingartscenter.org.

GRATITUDE SHABBAT: CELEBRATING UNITY AND THANKSGIVING

Wilshire Boulevard Temple brings together its Rabbi Susan Nanus, the American Jewish University Choir led by conductor Noreen Green, and the BYTHAX Gospel Choir led by composer, vocalist and conductor Diane White Clayton in a joint Shabbat concert that mixes poetry, prayer and song. A community Shabbat celebration follows. 7:30 p.m. Free. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Glazer Campus, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-2401. wbtla.org.

“A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM”

Comedy — tonight! An ancient Roman slave tries to gain his freedom by helping his master woo a young woman in the bawdy farce “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. Ancient Rome is turned on its ear in this raucous Tony Award-winning musical featuring mistaken identity and dizzying plot twists. (Intended for adult audiences; may contain adult language and situations.) 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Through Dec. 31. Tickets $45–$52. Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank. (818) 955-8101. garrymarshalltheatre.org.

SAT NOV 18
VULTURE FESTIVAL L.A.

Sarah Silverman

James Franco.

Lena Dunham.

Natalie Portman.

Hollywood Jews, including Sarah Silverman, James Franco, Lena Dunham, Natalie Portman, Damon Lindelof, Eugene Levy, Rachel Bloom and Joshua Malina are among the stars appearing at this two-day festival in Hollywood. From a panel on “Stranger Things”: Inside the Upside Down, to a discussion with the women behind HBO’s “Girls” on The Panel of Their Generation (or at least a panel of a generation), this is the ultimate festival for any pop-culture fan. Organized by politics and culture magazine Vulture. Through Nov. 19. 11 a.m. Saturday–9 p.m. Sunday. Various prices. The Hollywood Roosevelt, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. vulturefestival.com.

“WAR OF THE WORLDS”

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, featuring Israeli-American opera director Yuval Sharon, up-and-coming Jewish composer Annie Gosfield, and members of the L.A. Phil New Music Group, re-creates Orson Welles’ 1938 original radio script, incorporating Gosfield’s satellite and machine and industrial sounds. Admission to the concert includes entry into “Noon to Midnight,” which lets attendees roam Walt Disney Concert Hall for a day of pop-up performances featuring L.A.’s top new-music ensembles. Noon, 2 p.m. $25-$58. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111. S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000. laphil.com.

DENNIS PRAGER

Nationally syndicated radio host and New York Times best-selling author Dennis Prager will discuss “Supporting Israel and Maintaining Conservative Traditional Values in America’s Contemporary Cultural Climate” during a special Shabbat morning service. After the service, the founder of Prager U will participate in a Q-and-A session over a catered lunch. Childcare available. Seating is limited. 9:30 a.m. $40 members, $60 nonmembers. Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7000. sephardictemple.org.

SUN NOV 19
“NAZISM IN THE U.S.”

Beth Ribet, who holds a doctorate in social relations from UC Irvine and a law degree from UCLA, discusses Nazism in American institutions and history, its relationship to white supremacy and what it means today. Attendees explore opportunities to mobilize and respond. Coffee and bagels served. Co-sponsored by Sholem Community and LGBT congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim. 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Free. Westside Neighborhood School, 5401 Beethoven St., Los Angeles. (310) 984-6935. sholem.org.

MAAGALIM CYCLING EVENT

Israeli and Jewish families with special-needs children come together for a day of cycling, karate, fitness, pumpkin decorating and more. Professional cyclists will
provide instruction to those who have never ridden a bike. Israeli Scouts (Tzofim) will attend and partner with kids with special needs. Organized by Maagalim, a new organization aiming to provide more opportunities for inclusion for special-needs families. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free. IAC Shepher Community Center, 6530 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. (818) 288-8108. maagalimcircles.org.

“HITLER, MY NEIGHBOR: MEMOIRS OF A JEWISH CHILDHOOD, 1929-1939”

Historian Edgar Feuchtwanger participates in a talk and book signing for “Hitler, My Neighbor: Memories of a Jewish Childhood, 1929-1939.” The book is Feuchtwanger’s account of being a young boy from a prominent German-Jewish family in Munich when Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler moves into the building across the street. The boy watches from his window as terrible events unfold. 3 p.m. Free (RSVP required). Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 100 S. The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 651-3704. lamoth.org.

CAROL LEIFER AND WENDY LIEBMAN

The two headliners at Whizin’s Stand-Up Comedy Showcase have starred in comedy specials on HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central. Carol Leifer is a four-time Emmy Award nominee for her writing on “Seinfeld,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Saturday Night Live.” Wendy Liebman has performed on late-night shows hosted by Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, and was a semifinalist on “America’s Got Talent.” 4 p.m. $25. David Alan Shapiro Memorial Synagogue Center, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. wcce.aju.edu.

“E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL IN CONCERT”

American Youth Symphony (AYS), a laboratory for skilled high school musicians, performs John Williams’ legendary score for “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” accompanying a screening of the iconic Steven Spielberg film. AYS Music Director Carlos Izcaray and conductor Jon Burlingame lead the symphony. The event features a Q-and-A with industry leaders, moderated by Burlingame. 4:30 p.m. $11-$15. Royce Hall, UCLA, 10745 Dickson Court, Los Angeles. (310) 470-2332. aysymphony.org.

MON NOV 20
“NIGHT OF 80 SHABBATS”

Today is the final day to register as a host for the Builders of Jewish Education’s (BJE) “Night of 80 Shabbats” on Dec. 1, when
Shabbat dinners are served in homes across Los Angeles. The initiative marks the 80th anniversary of BJE. Young adults and millennials who host a dinner could be eligible to receive $10 per person in food expenses, up to $150, from One Table, which brings Shabbat to people of all backgrounds who are in their 20s and 30s (restrictions apply). For additional information, visit bjela.org/night-80-shabbats-0.

REZA ASLAN AND RABBI SARAH BASSIN

Join Reza Aslan, best-selling author of “Zealot,” and Rabbi Sarah Bassin of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills as they discuss God and the concept of the divine, from prehistoric times to today. Part of the Behrendt Conversation Series, in partnership with Chevalier Books. A copy of Aslan’s new book, “God: A Human History,” is included with the price of admission. 7 p.m. $25 online; $35 at the door. Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Corwin Family Sanctuary, 300 N. Clark Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-3737. tebh.org.

INTERFAITH THANKSGIVING SERVICE

Seven congregations comprising the Pacific Palisades Ministerial Association, including Reconstructionist synagogue Kehillat Israel, participate in an annual evening of prayer, music, readings, meditation and fellowship. A patio reception with hot beverages and other refreshments follows. 7 p.m. Free. Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 459-2328. ourki.org.

“SUDDENLY, A KNOCK AT THE DOOR”

Writer Eitan Katzen is visited by a bearded man, a survey taker and a pizza delivery woman in this original play by Robin Goldfin, based on stories by award-winning Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret. Brandishing weapons, these visitors hold the writer hostage and demand a story. For these three strange muses, Katzen begins to weave his tales, played out on the stage by the same characters holding him captive. The staged reading is directed by Jeff Maynard. Free with RSVP required. 8 p.m. Lenart Auditorium, Fowler Museum at UCLA, 308 Charles E. Young Drive North, Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081, ext. 108. international.ucla.edu/institute.

For more events in Jewish L.A., visit http://jewishjournal.com/calendar/.

James Franco’s bar mitzvah spectacular

Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer has helped plenty of students prepare for bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies, and, in some ways, the one he officiated on Oct. 3 was no different. It involved months of serious study, a special bar mitzvah speech and even a mitzvah project.

“It was like any other bar mitzvah — except not,” the Portland-based rabbi said in a phone interview with the Journal.

The “not” is because the bar mitzvah boy in question was 37-year-old actor James Franco (“127 Hours,” “The Interview,” “Pineapple Express,” “Freaks & Geeks”). The actor’s belated coming-of-age ceremony was a prelude to what may have been one of the biggest mitzvah projects in history, serving as a massive fundraiser for Hilarity for Charity, a movement led by comedian, actor and frequent Franco collaborator Seth Rogen to inspire change and raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among the millennial generation.

A sold-out Oct. 17 variety show-style event at the Hollywood Palladium, which has a capacity of 4,000 people, was a hot ticket and included a performance by Miley Cyrus. In a phone interview with the Journal after the event, “Conan” writer Rob Kutner, who wrote material for the event, said Franco referenced the week’s Torah portion (Noach) in his speech, saying that as he’s only now become a man, he shouldn’t be held accountable for anything he did before. (Franco is known for some eccentric behavior, especially in social media.)

Another segment featured Rogen requiring Franco to have a “circumcision.” It was performed by actor Jeff Goldblum (going by the moniker “Rabbi Jeff Goldblum”), and — in a bit Kutner came up with — actor Zac Efron played Franco’s about-to-be-severed foreskin, uttering its last words, which included, “While you have the mohel, why don't you have him cut away some of your eyelids so you can finally see?” referring to the star’s famously squinty smirk.

Malina Saval, an editor for Variety who was covering the event, called it “spirited, sweet and meaningful in places that one would not necessarily expect.”

“The crowd rocked out and danced the horah to Haim's guitar-heavy rendition of 'Havah Nagilah,' Seth Rogen, dressed as Tevye, sparked a sense of nostalgia for anyone who grew up starring in their Hebrew school production of the play [“Fiddler on the Roof”] and over $2 million was raised for Hilarity for Charity, which provides care and support for those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Talk about tikkun olam!” she told the Journal via email.

While the event was a spectacle of a fundraiser, it also proved to be a chance for Franco — whose mother is Jewish — to connect to a tradition that he never really felt a part of before, according to Mayer (aka Rabbi Brian). Two weeks before the media-filled fundraiser, the actor stood with the rabbi in front of a Torah and chanted in Hebrew and English before a small crowd of people from Franco’s production company.

James Franco and Rabbi Brian (courtesy of Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer)

How did this particular rabbi get there? At the intersection of Hollywood and Jewish geography, it’s all about who you know. In this case, it was Suzi Dietz, one of the Hilarity for Charity event producers. Nearly two decades before, while still a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Mayer, now 45, had presided over Dietz’s son’s bar mitzvah.

The two talked to “figure out what would be meaningful and make sense,” Mayer said, noting that the original plan was to have the religious ceremony and the fundraiser the same night. But he suggested a way to “do it with a little bit more kavod [honor]” would be to have the ceremony first — which took place at Dietz’s house — so that it could be taped and edited into a version that they could share at the Palladium. The idea was to make the experience itself “much more intimate — a real bar mitzvah — as opposed to a goofy thing on the stage,” he said.

Franco is known for his voracious appetite for learning, having studied in programs at schools including Columbia University, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Brooklyn College, Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University.

“The image that he has of being a mensch, that he’s a serious student, I can vouch for that,” the rabbi said. 

About nine months passed between the first conversations and the bar mitzvah. The rabbi and actor started by exchanging detailed emails, in which the rabbi outlined choices and asked for responses. Then they moved to phone calls.

“Then, like every other bar mitzvah boy, he sent me a speech, which was really adorable,” Mayer said.

“It’s a whole other world with a celebrity — but it was also like every other bar mitzvah. If he did more or less Hebrew reading than some 13-year-old is not important to me,” the rabbi said. “That his heart was in the right place was paramount.”

Franco did recite the Shema — in Hebrew — while holding a Torah, a moment that the presiding rabbi proudly described as emotional and beautiful.

“It was kind of like a renewal of vows,” he said. “He always knew he was Jewish and now he's officially proclaiming it and officially standing at Sinai.”

In his speech commemorating the occasion, Franco said: “Here I am, finally, 25 years after I turned 13. But what I realize is that I didn’t need to go to any mountaintop or across the sea to find my place that I have been connected all along. Judaism has been a part of me my whole life. And like the scarecrow in Oz, all I’m doing now is getting a little reminder that I have been here all along.”

While celebrity bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies aren’t his bread and butter, Mayer, who held a pulpit at Temple Judea in Tarzana for two years as a student rabbi and then another three after ordination, does specialize in outside-the-box Jewish observance and connection. According to his website, he “left organized religion” in 2000, and since 2005 has run an organization called Religion-Outside-The-Box (rotb.org), whose mission statement is “Nourishing the spiritual hunger.” There are more than 3,000 subscribers to his Wisdom Biscuit newsletter, which contains material that he described as “filling, digestible and yummy.”

It makes for serving a different kind of congregation, he said, citing as examples a woman who lives on a yacht, a priest from Malta and a same-sex couple from Australia who flew to Palm Springs so they could legally marry. “Whoever wishes spiritual nutrition, I'm going to feed them. I don't care about age or affiliation. If there's a need, I'm glad to be there.”

In Franco’s case, Mayer, who attended the Palladium party as well, said he’s learned from the experience of working with this most prominent student.

“No matter the circumstances, meaningful ceremonies can be done. I’m really proud to have been able to take what probably started as a pipe dream way of doing a fundraiser and help that thing of meaning to come out,” he said. “The world is weird and awesome and I'm glad to be part of it.“

Actor James Franco has bar mitzvah

Actor James Franco was bar mitzvahed in a religious ceremony at the age of 37.

The ceremony was held on Oct. 3 and included the actor wearing a prayer shawl and chanting from the Torah.  Franco posted a photo on Instagram, including a message: “I am now a MAN! Got Bar Mitzvahed tonight!!! Finally!”

The message included an invitation to the Hilarity for Charity variety show at the Hollywood Palladium on Oct. 17, to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s disease, sponsored by actor Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller Rogen.

Seth Rogen announced Franco’s bar mitzvah for the charity event in July.

Miley Cyrus will headline the bar mitzvah event.

“The Rabbi wouldn’t do it on the actual event, so he did it last night at our friend’s house and we filmed it and we’ll show it at our fundraiser,” Rogen told the culture website Vulture.

New York premiere of North Korea comedy canceled after threats

The New York premiere of “The Interview,” a Sony Pictures comedy about the assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, has been canceled and a source said one theatre chain had scrapped plans to show it, after threats from a hacking group.

The hackers, who said they were also responsible for seizing control of Sony Corp's computer system last month, on Tuesday warned people to stay away from cinemas showing the film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, and darkly reminded moviegoers of the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the United States in 2001.

“We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time,” the hackers wrote.

“(If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)”

A spokeswoman for Landmark, which was to have hosted a premiere of the film at its Sunshine Cinema in Lower East Side, New York, on Thursday, said by email that the screening had been canceled, but did not explain why.

A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the threat.

Sony executives had earlier told theater owners it would not pull the film but added they would not object if they decided to cancel screenings, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Carmike Cinemas, operator of 278 theaters in 41 states, informed Sony late on Tuesday that it would not show the film, the person said. Carmike executives were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday evening, a spokesman said.

An official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and another U.S. security official said investigations had found nothing concrete so far to substantiate the threat.

“At this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States,” the DHS official said.

Police departments in Los Angeles and New York, however, said they were take the warning seriously.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told a news conference that officers would be taking extra precautions to make sure movie theaters were “as safe as we can make them”. He said the threats were “done to put terror” into U.S. audiences.

The North Korean government has denounced the film as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war” in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

CYBER ATTACK

Internet news company BuzzFeed reported that Franco and Rogen had canceled all planned media appearances on Tuesday, the day they were scheduled to appear at a BuzzFeed event. Representatives for the actors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. security agencies are investigating a hacking group that carried out the cyber attack in November that severely damaged the movie studio's network and published damaging internal emails, unreleased films and employee data online. The group published what appeared to be more internal emails on Tuesday.

Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm BeyondTrust, said he believed it was the first time a film screening had been pulled in the wake of a high-profile cyber attack.

“If they pulled the premier because of the hacking it's troubling. The moment you start reacting is the moment you give them more power,” said Maiffret.

Sony is already reeling from the disclosures in documents released by the hackers, which have publicly exposed internal discussions important to the company's future.

Reuters has not been able to verify the authenticity of the more than 100 gigabytes of documents that have been distributed via the Internet. The company has confirmed that at least some are authentic, apologizing for the loss of sensitive employee data and some comments made by executives.

The newest file published on Tuesday appeared to be emails from Sony studio chief Michael Lynton. One email showed Lynton consulted with a senior official in the U.S. State Department in June this year, days after North Korea threatened “merciless countermeasures” over the release of the film.

Several rounds of leaks of emails have prompted apologies for disparaging remarks that executives made about celebrities. The leaks have included a James Bond script, high-quality digital copies of films that have yet to be released and private employee data.

Sony has also been sued by self-described former employees who accuse Sony of failing to properly protect their personal data. Sony declined comment on the lawsuit.

Group claiming Sony hack demands ‘Interview’ not be released

A group that claimed to be responsible for the massive computer hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment demanded the company cancel the release of “The Interview,” a film comedy that depicts an assassination plot against North Korea's leader.

A letter posted on a file-sharing site on Monday asked Sony to “stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War!” It was signed by GOP, the nickname for the “Guardians of Peace” group that says it is responsible for a cyber attack at Sony that began Nov. 24.

Pyongyang has denounced “The Interview” as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war” in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

People close to the investigation of the Sony hacking have told Reuters that North Korea is a principal suspect, but a North Korean diplomat has denied that his nation is involved.

The letter included links to downloads of several gigabytes of new data purported to have been stolen from Sony. Reuters was not able to verify whether the letter or documents were released by the same group that revealed other Sony documents.

The letter also said the GOP was not involved in a threatening e-mail sent to Sony staff on Friday. That e-mail claimed to be from the group.

The documents released on Monday included an e-mail to Sony that demanded “monetary compensation” to avoid “great damage” to the studio, according to the website Mashable. The e-mail was dated Nov. 21, Mashable said in its report. News of the hacking became public on Nov. 24.

A Sony spokesman had no comment on the new letter or the Mashable report. Sony Pictures Entertainment is a unit of Japan's Sony Corp.

“The Interview,” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, is scheduled for release in the United States and Canada on Dec. 25. The studio is holding advance screenings for media and others.

North Korea slams U.S. movie on leader assassination plot; Un calls it ‘act of war’

North Korea on Wednesday denounced a forthcoming American comedy film featuring a plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong Un as an act of terrorism and threatened to unleash a “merciless counter-measure” if Washington failed to ban the movie.

The movie “The Interview”, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is scheduled for release in October this fall.

“Making and releasing a movie on a plot to hurt our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated,” the North's official KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

The Hollywood movie recounts the story of a talk show host and his producer who land a rare sit-down interview with Kim, the third leader of his family dynasty to rule North Korea.

The Central Intelligence Agency then recruits the pair to assassinate him.

Kim, in his early 30s, has shown no sign of easing the iron grip imposed by his grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung, and his father, Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011. Nor has there been any letup in the personality cult surrounding his leadership.

He has maintained tight control of virtually all aspects of life after ordering the execution of his powerful uncle to crush what was termed an attempt to overthrow the authorities. More than 200,000 people are believed to be held in prison camps, but Pyongyang rejects as “fabrications” details of mass brutality set out in a U.N.-sponsored report citing escapees and exiles.

The foreign ministry spokesman said North Koreans regarded the life of their leader as “more precious” than their own.

“If the U.S. administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless counter-measure will be taken,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying.

The North currently holds three U.S. nationals, accusing them of various crimes, and remains technically at war with Washington's key Asian ally, South Korea.

North Korea routinely refers to Americans as “imperialist warmongers”, berates American leaders through its media and once called U.S. President Barack Obama a “wicked black monkey”.

But Kim is also believed to be a fan of American culture and oversaw the staging of a show featuring popular U.S. folklore.

He was seen giving a thumbs-up to dancing Disney characters and a performance set to the theme song from the film “Rocky”.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, the most high-profile American to meet Kim, sang “Happy Birthday” to the North Korean leader during his latest visit in January to stage a basketball game.

Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Ron Popeski

James Franco: Of Entice and Rejection

Call it luxury or call it tragedy, but history writes that celebrities aren’t typically known for their moral upstanding, especially in the field of sexual (mis)conduct. Google almost anyone with an IMDB page and throw “controversy,” “affair” or “sex tape” into the search bar — you’re bound to find something fun.

The Jewish hot stuffs are no exception, as we’re reminded today by the surfacing of suggestive texts and Instagram photos/messages, from a 35-year-old James Franco to a 17-year-old Lucy Clode, of Scotland. On the night of April 1, the teen, who was visiting her mom in New York for her 18th birthday, met Franco during an autograph signing outside the theater where she had just seen his Broadway play “Of Mice and Men.” The two started a rousing game of Instagram tag, which is where the night of almost-passion starts to culminate.

After the two part ways, Franco cuts right to the chase. His messages open with “Where do you live?” and “Do you have a bf?” Lucy seemingly vacillates between star-struck giddiness and disbelief.

“April fools was an hour ago though…”

“It’s me,” insists Franco.

Lucy, unconvinced, asks Franco to send her photographic evidence that he is, in fact, James Franco. He accommodates. More than once. But after a few more exchanges, a “Should I rent a room?” here and a “Tomorrow or Thurs?” there, their night is cut short when Lucy musters up what one can only assume to be outrageous self control, and denies the movie/TV/Broadway heartthrob.

“I’ll come back when I’m 18.”

Hats-off to Franco should this turn out to have just been an April Fool’s prank for the ages, and let this be a reminder of the level of commitment he brings to the table for all his acting endeavors.

For the less optimistic, lest the judgments flow too harshly, keep in mind we’ve all been a sucker for a pretty face with an accent once or twice.

Official opening night for “Of Mice and Men” is April 16 at Longacre Theatre in New York.

VIEW FULL THREAD BELOW.

I'M NOT! I HOPE PARENTS KEEP THEIR TEENS AWAY FROM ME. Thank you “>April 2, 2014

Watch: Mila Kunis, James Franco, and Zach Braff in ‘Tar’ trailer

And now for your viewing pleasure, the trailer for the indie film “Tar,” or as we like to call it, a film featuring a supremely high ratio of Jews.

There’s the sexy Mila Kunis, the highly roast-able James Franco, and the quintessential Kickstartering Jersey boy next door, Zach Braff. On the highbrow end of the spectrum, the film tells the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams, author of “Jew on Bridge.”

“Tar,” which also stars Jessica Chastain and Bruce Campbell, was written and directed by 12 New York University film students and premiered last year at the Rome Film Festival.

Best (Jewish) jokes from the James Franco roast

Comedy Central’s roast of James Franco doesn’t air until September 2nd, but already a slew of critics and bloggers are hard at work ruining it for enlightening the rest of us who weren’t lucky enough to attend the event Sunday night.

While we really did want to wait to actually hear funny people like Andy Samberg, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill make fun of Franco–and each other–naturally we couldn’t help but take a peek at the many lists of the evening’s best jokes that are flooding the Internet.

It turns out the lines were pretty funny–and pretty Jewey. Here, a few of our favorites.

Bill Hader on the Seth Rogen / Barbra Streisand movie The Guilt Trip: “If I wanted to watch two ugly Jews weaving through traffic I’d watch Seinfeld’s web series.”

Rogen on the roasters: “This dais is literally Hitler’s wet dream. It’s got Jews, gays and whatever Aziz is.”

Nick Kroll: “James Franco is truly our generation’s James Dean. So handsome that you forget he’s only been in two good movies. Dean, of course, died at the tender age of 24 sparing himself the embarrassment of writing self-indulgent short stories and getting roasted by a bunch of jealous Jew monsters.

Sarah Silverman: “I can’t tell if this is the dais or the line to suck Judd Apatow’s balls. This dais is so Jewey. What is this, the Comedy Central audit of James Franco?”

Natasha Leggero: “Andy Samberg’s comedy group is called The Lonely Island, which is how each of his teeth feel.”

Since there is no video of the roast just yet, here is James Franco chatting with his brother Dave Franco chatting about their careers:

Seth Rogen to lead James Franco roast

The prospect of Comedy Central’s upcoming James Franco roast got funnier on Friday when the network announced that Seth Rogen has been named Roast Master.

The two Jewish actors go way back, having co-starred a little over a decade ago on the TV series “Freaks and Geeks,” and more recently in the films “Pineapple Express” and “This is the End.”

The special will air on Sept. 2, improving Labor Day for fans everywhere and helping Jewish fans everywhere ring in the New Year (which hits two days later).

Oscars 2011 Slideshow

Find more photos like this on EveryJew.com