Comedian Jerry Seinfeld (fourth from left) appears at the American Friends of Magen David Adom (MDA) Red Star Ball with (from left) MDA first responders Nati Regev, Rivka Or, Aharon Adler, Israel Weingarten and Mohammed "Chamudi" Arrabi. Photo by Michelle Mivzari

Moving & Shaking: Seinfeld Headlines Ball, Iranian-American Jewish panel and Israeli American Council National Conference


Leave it to Jerry Seinfeld to transform a Beverly Hilton ballroom into an intimate comedy club.

Performing a half-hour set to conclude the American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) Red Star Ball on the evening of Oct. 30, the comedic legend commanded the large, candlelit room like he was headlining the Improv.

Seinfeld opened the evening with a few minutes of material — joking about how Gentiles attend events for the alcohol, Jews for the rolls — but he promised he would return at the end of the night. When he came back onstage after 10 p.m., the funnyman captured both the mood of the fundraiser and the comic sensibility he is famous for.

“It’s been a beautiful night of generosity …,” he said. “Now, let’s get back to complaining.”

The gala raised pledges of more than $18 million, a record for an AFMDA event anywhere in the country, according to an event spokesperson. It also spotlighted the life-saving work of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s ambulance, blood-services and disaster-relief organization that serves as emergency medical first-responders for the state’s more than 8 million people. MDA is mandated by the Israeli government to serve in this role, but it is not a government agency.

Of those in attendance, Humanitarian of the Year Honorees Sheldon and Miriam Adelson pledged $12 million to the organization, and Maurice Kanbar, creator of SKYY Vodka, pledged $5 million.

“My heart is in Israel,” Sheldon Adelson said. “And Israel is in my heart.”

Renee and Meyer Luskin received a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their support for the arts and education in Greater Los Angeles.

Next Generation Award winner Nikita Kahn — an actress, model and animal rights advocate — credited gala co-chair Dina Leeds with instilling in her the importance of supporting Israel.

“Her passion for Israel is contagious,” Kahn said of Leeds, who co-chaired the evening with her husband, Fred.

Additional speakers included Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and the Leeds’ daughter, Alisa. The latter highlighted the contributions of MDA to Israel. She has volunteered with the organization and called it a model for peace as it treats patients regardless of religion or ethnicity.

A number of MDA medics attended the gala, including Rivka Or, a senior emergency medical technician; and Mohammed “Chamudi” Arrabi, a gay, Muslim medic.

“It makes me happy when I help somebody,” Or said.

Also in attendance were comedian Elon Gold; Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky, of the faith-based rehabilitation organization Aleph Institute; USC Hillel Executive Director Bailey London; Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa; and Israeli reality TV star Yossi Dina.

From left: Jesse Sharf, Kam Babaoff, Aliza Karney Guren, John Ghermezian and Kamyar Shabani participate in 30 Years After’s “The Builders of Los Angeles.” Photo by Jasmine Foroutan

30 Years After, the Iranian-American Jewish civic engagement organization, held its first in a series of events celebrating its 10th anniversary. The event, titled “The Builders of Los Angeles,” took place on Oct. 24 at the PH Day Club – Luxury Penthouse in West Hollywood and brought together a panel of prominent real estate developers and philanthropists.

The panel included Kam Babaoff, managing director of Ensemble Investments; Aliza Karney Guren, CEO of Karney Properties; John Ghermezian, chief business officer of Mall of America; and Kamyar Shabani, principal of Optimus Properties and a member of the 30 Years After advisory board. Jesse Sharf, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, moderated.

The panelists discussed their careers, the real estate industry, their passion for philanthropy and the Jewish community, and how their Jewish identities influence their philanthropy and businesses.

“People think that bad people get ahead in business, but people actually like doing business with good and philanthropic people,” Sharf said in response to an audience question. “It gets you further.”

When the panelists were asked what compelled them to be philanthropic, Babaoff responded: “My mom and dad were my role models. Growing up in Iran, our house was like Grand Central Station. People who needed help were always coming through, whether for money or dispute resolution. It is our duty and responsibility to give back, and giving back isn’t just giving money.”

“Money isn’t satisfying, but philanthropy is,” Ghermezian added. “A cause gives you a reason to continue working hard.”

About 250 people attended the event, including former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad; Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang, and 30 Years After co-founder Sam Yebri.

In an interview, 30 Years After Executive Director Shanel Melamed said she was proud of how the program has helped provide a space for Persian Jews.

“This decade of engagement and leadership training has led to a comprehensive, emerging generation of Iranian-Jewish leaders who are equipped and motivated to contribute to, and lead, Los Angeles,” Melamed said. “We’re proud to be the central organization empowering Iranian-American Jews to be impactful members of society, and we have even greater goals for the next 10 years. We welcome everyone to join our exciting and growing movement.”

Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

Diego Cartagena, vice president of legal programs at Bet Tzedek. Photo courtesy of Bet Tzedek

Bet Tzedek, a pro bono legal aid agency, has named Diego Cartagena as its next vice president of legal programs.

Cartagena succeeds Gus May, who became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in August, and will report directly to Bet Tzedek CEO Jessie Kornberg.

“This is a good day for Bet Tzedek and a great day for the thousands of clients that depend on us for a fair chance and a better life,” Kornberg said in a statement announcing Cartagena’s appointment.  Diego exemplifies what is best about our mission: an audacious commitment to push the bounds of what seems possible and deliver on our pledge to deliver equal justice for all.”

Cartagena’s responsibilities will include managing “the continued growth of Bet Tzedek’s community services,” according to the announcement. He has worked at Bet Tzedek since 2012, serving as the organization’s pro bono director.

“I look forward to working with longstanding and new community partners, pro bono supporters, and sister legal services agencies to continue to build on Bet Tzedek’s incredible history of protecting the rights of those most vulnerable by building innovative programs and coalitions that are responsive to the evolving community landscape,” Cartagena said.

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to the Jewish Journal’s David Suissa at the Israeli American Council National Conference. Photo by FPerry Bindelglass

The Israeli American Council (IAC) National Conference attracted a record number of attendees this year — about 2,500 — when it was held from Nov. 3-6 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

“We have to make sure that America is pro-Israel regardless of who is in Congress and who is in the White House,” Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) said at the event, which examined Jewish and Israeli identity, Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people and cutting-edge innovative ideas in education, technology and community building.

Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer also appeared and described President Donald Trump’s recent speech criticizing the Iran deal as “the second-best day since I have been ambassador.”

Additional speakers included U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who participated in an interview with Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief David Suissa; diplomat and author Dennis Ross; IAC Chairman Adam Milstein; and Miriam Shepher, an IAC national council member from Los Angeles. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, sat for a conversation with IAC board member and chairman emeritus Shawn Evenhaim.

The IAC is an umbrella organization with 16 chapters across the country, including in Los Angeles. Since 2007, the organization has prided itself on investing in programs that assist the Israeli-American community.

From left: Imam Abdullah Antepli, Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief David Suissa and Yossi Klein Halevi participate in a discussion titled “Enemies, A Love Story.” Photo courtesy of Beth Jacob Congregation

An Oct. 29 discussion at Beth Jacob Congregation, titled “Enemies, A Love Story: A New Way Forward for Jewish-Muslim Relations,” featured a formerly self-proclaimed extremist Jew and a formerly anti-Semitic Muslim discussing Muslim-Jewish relations. The Shalom Hartman Institute, a pluralistic research and leadership institute for Jewish thought, organized the discussion.

Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa moderated the discussion between Yossi Klein Halevi and Imam Abdullah Antepli, co-directors of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative, which, according to Hartman.org, “invites North American Muslims to explore how Jews understand Judaism, Israel and Jewish peoplehood.”

Halevi and Antepli spoke with compassion and conviction about how they want to see the program work now and in the future. Their remarks often drew applause from the approximately 250 people who attended, including Beth Jacob Rabbi Kalman Topp.

Ginger Vick contributed to this report

Larger Than Life children and volunteers attend the 14th annual Larger Than Life gala dinner at the JW Marriott L.A Live. Photo by Abraham Joseph Pal

Larger Than Life–L.A. Family, a nonprofit affiliated with the Israel-based Larger Than Life organization, in October brought to Los Angeles from Israel 38 youths with cancer for a 10-day dream vacation.

The youths, ages 10-18, enjoyed Southern California theme parks, rode ATVs, sailed on a yacht and partied at a gala dinner downtown at the JW Marriott hotel at L.A Live on Oct. 29. It was the 14th annual trip organized by Larger Than Life.

At the gala, approximately 750 guests watched a video about two friends, May Gurfinkel and Noa Tzemach, who both died months ago after battling cancer for two years. The two became close after visiting Los Angeles in 2015 on a Larger Than Life vacation.

“Noa started as a mentor to May, and they became one soul. They went together to the very end, talking about things that we will never, ever be able to understand,” said Gurfinkel’s father, Golan, who traveled from Israel for the event. May Gurfinkel died in July.

“I used to be the one who gave others money and a helping hand, and I thought I could handle this by myself, but it simply wasn’t possible,” he said. “We needed all the help we could get. Without Larger Than Life, your generosity and help, we wouldn’t be able to make it. The Larger Than Life dream trip gave May hope and the best friends ever.”

The event raised more than $1 million, including $2,000 raised by the youths themselves.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld (fourth from left) appears at the American Friends of Magen David Adom (MDA) Red Star Ball with (from left) MDA first responders Nati Regev, Rivka Or, Aharon Adler, Israel Weingarten and Mohammed "Chamudi" Arrabi. Photo by Michelle Mivzari

Seinfeld Stars in AFMDA Gala, Adelson Honored


Leave it to Jerry Seinfeld to transform the Beverly Hilton into an intimate comedy club.

Performing a half-hour set to conclude the American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) Red Star Ball on the evening of Oct. 30, the comedic legend commanded the candlelit ballroom like he was headlining the Improv.

Seinfeld opened the evening with only a few minutes of material — joking about how Gentiles attend events for the alcohol; Jews for the rolls — but he promised he would return at the end of the night. When he returned after 10 p.m., the funnyman captured both the mood of the fundraiser and the comic sensibility he is famous for.

“It’s been a beautiful night of generosity …,” he said.  “Now, let’s get back to complaining.”

The gala raised pledges of more than $18 million, a record for any single AFMDA event anywhere in the country, according to an event spokesperson. It also spotlighted the life-saving work of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s ambulance, blood-services and disaster-relief organization, serving as emergency medical first-responders for the state’s more than 8 million people.

MDA is mandated by the Israeli government to serve in this role, but it is not a government agency. Attendees did their part in assisting with its funding: Humanitarian of the Year Honorees Sheldon and Miriam Adelson pledged $12 million to the organization, and Maurice Kanbar, creator of SKYY Vodka, pledged $5 million.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson attend the American Friends of Magen David Adom Red Star Ball. Photo by Michelle Mivzari

“My heart is in Israel,” Sheldon Adelson said. “And Israel is in my heart.”

Additional honorees Renee and Meyer Luskin received a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their support for the arts and education in greater Los Angeles.

Next Generation Award winner Nikita Kahn, an actress, model and animal rights advocate, credited gala co-chair Dina Leeds with instilling in her the importance of supporting Israel.

“Her passion for Israel is contagious,” Kahn said of Leeds, who co-chaired the evening with her husband, Fred.

Additional speakers included Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and the Leeds’ daughter, Alisa. The latter highlighted the contributions of MDA to Israel. She has volunteered with the organization and called it a model for peace as it treats patients regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Adding a human touch to the praise, a number of MDA medics attended, including Rivka Or, a senior emergency medical technician, and Mohammed “Chamudi” Arrabi, a gay, Muslim medic.

“It makes me happy when I help somebody,” Or said.

Comedian Elon Gold; Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky of the faith-based rehabilitation organization Aleph Institute; USC Hillel Executive Director Bailey London; Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief and Publisher David Suissa and Israeli reality TV star Yossi Dina also turned out.

Budd Friedman with Lily Tomlin (left) and his wife, Alix Friedman. Photo courtesy of Jeff Abraham

Improv founder Budd Friedman looks back in laughter in new book


Budd Friedman helped launch the careers of some of comedy’s brightest stars, including Jerry Seinfeld, Lily Tomlin, Jay Leno, Andy Kaufman, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Maher, Larry David and Billy Crystal. He also invented the modern comedy club as we know it. Now, he’s released a book detailing the history of the club he founded.

Friedman’s book, “The Improv: An Oral History of the Comedy Club That Revolutionized Stand-Up,” co-authored by Tripp Whetsell, includes a foreword by Jay Leno and commentary from many of the comedians who appeared on the Improv’s stage over the years.

Friedman, 85, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Alix, said he decided to write the book because, “I thought everyone should see my side of things. I let the comics have their say about me and my accomplishments.”

Friedman opened the Improv on West 44th Street in Manhattan in 1963. He wanted it to be a place for Broadway performers to hang out after their shows because he had dreams of becoming a Broadway producer. Soon, people like Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Christopher Plummer, Bette Midler and Dustin Hoffman dropped by, and the club became a sensation among the Broadway crowd.

As Whetsell recalled, one year after the club opened, comedian David Astor asked to go onstage and do his act. Other comedians started following because they’d rather perform there than open for performers at jazz and strip clubs. They’d do their act in front of the famous brick wall, which eventually became a staple at other comedy clubs.

“It was a very eclectic bunch of comedians,” said Whetsell, who is a comedy journalist. “They were very experimental. Even though singers were the main draw for many years, eventually the comedians became the main draw.”

In 1974, Friedman left New York for Los Angeles and opened up a second Improv, on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. There, he discovered one of comedy’s biggest emerging acts: Robin Williams.

“From the moment he walked in, it was obvious to me and everybody else that he was going to become a big star, perhaps even one of the biggest we’d ever seen, which, of course, turned out to be true beyond anything we could have ever imagined,” he wrote in the book.

Comedians such as Williams, Kaufman and Leno were drawn to the Improv because of how Friedman treated them. “I’ve always had the attitude that the comedians are already right, even when they are wrong,” he said.

And Friedman also had standards for the comedians he booked at the club. “I looked for originality,” he said. “They had to talk in their own voice.”

Although the club was welcoming well-known comedians and taking off through the 1970s, Friedman was in a bitter rivalry with Mitzi Shore, owner of the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. Before the decade was over, the Improv burned down and Friedman was finalizing his divorce with his first wife. As his 46th birthday was approaching, he almost called it quits.

Instead, he turned it all around. He struck a deal with A&E to put out a weekly syndicated comedy show called, “An Evening at the Improv,” which ran from 1982 to 1996, and he started expanding his comedy empire. The New York location eventually closed, but the Improv has 22 locations in 12 states, including the rebuilt flagship L.A. location.

Although there have been many memorable moments at the club, what sticks out the most for Friedman is the night he met Alix, in 1981. “She came into the club and sat down, and I was immediately struck by her beauty,” he said. “I was dating a girlfriend of hers, but it was then that I decided that I was going to date Alix instead.”

Today, Friedman has taken a step back from managing the club. He spends his time with Alix and reflecting on his earlier years.

“I look out of my house, which is over the Los Angeles Country Club in Westwood, and I see myself in better years,” he said. “I used to look out over the terrace and yell down to the golfers, ‘Bend your elbows!’ ”

Friedman’s daughter Zoe has carried on her father’s legacy in the entertainment business, as a senior vice president of development at Blue Ribbon Content, a digital production company, and as co-founder of Comedy Gives Back, which leverages live comedy to raise money for charity. 

Whetsell said the Improv has played an integral role in the comedy industry that will live on. “It was the first comedy club in America that pushed comedy in a full comedic format. It created the template for comedy clubs today.”

Friedman added that his club shaped two generations of comedians. And even though platforms like Comedy Central, YouTube and Snapchat have made comedy accessible to everybody, he believes the clubs will continue to flourish.

“They’re here to stay,” he said. “Especially the Improv.” n

The cast of “Will & Grace” (from left): Megan Mullally, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes. Photo by Heidi Gutman/NBC Universal

Jewish actors, issues featured in new TV season


Members of the tribe are the stars and creators of some of the season’s most anticipated shows on broadcast and cable television and streaming services.

“WILL & GRACE”

When it left the air in 2006 after eight seasons, 16 Emmy awards and countless conversations about dating, drinking and sex, the sitcom “Will & Grace” sent its titular characters off with marriages and children. Eleven years later, with NBC’s revival, the lives of gay lawyer Will Truman, straight interior designer Grace Adler and their friends Jack and Karen have been rewritten.

The 16-episode reboot erases events of the series finale and brings the quartet into the present. Although Will and Grace haven’t been roommates for a decade, “circumstances bring them together again,” executive producer/creator David Kohan said.

In a TV season that’s also resurrecting shows such as “Dynasty,” “S.W.A.T.” and “Star Trek” to capitalize on the familiarity factor, the new “Will & Grace” has a built-in interest. “Why wouldn’t we want to do it?” Kohan said.

The idea to revive the show started when stars Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes got together to shoot a get-out-the-vote video in October.

“The campaign season between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton absolutely was the catalyst for us coming back,” Messing said. “If that election did not happen and it was a different kind of campaign season, we would not be here right now. Doing that skit made us realize that there is a kind of magical synergy between the four of us, and the writing was so smart and funny and relevant that it gave us all the confidence to say, ‘Let’s dive in together.’ ”

To Messing, the table read of the first script “felt like coming home. To come back together and to laugh out loud and to be surprised by one another and to have new stories to tell and to have the opportunity to do it, it’s a no
brainer,” she said. “It’s just a beautiful, crazy thing that’s
happened.”

NBC renewed the show for another season the following day.

Considered groundbreaking when it premiered for having two gay main characters, “Will & Grace” will continue to explore LGBTQ issues. “When we started, it was revolutionary to have two gay characters, so what we were able to address at the time was LGB,” Messing said. “We stopped at B, and my hope is that now we can finish the alphabet.”

The original series also frequently referred to Grace’s Jewishness, and going forward, “her Jewish identity is absolutely intact,” said executive producer/creator Max Mutchnick, who is Jewish, along with Kohan and Messing. “It’s mentioned in the first episode.”

“Will & Grace” premieres at 9 p.m. Sept. 28 on NBC.

“TEN DAYS IN THE VALLEY”

Kyra Sedgwick stars in “Ten Days in the Valley.” Photo by Bob D’Amico/ABC

 

For seven seasons, Kyra Sedgwick solved crimes in the cop drama “The Closer.” Now, she’s playing a woman involved in a crime from a different perspective as TV producer Jane Sadler, the mother of a kidnapped child in “Ten Days in the Valley.”

“I was interested in doing a show where I’m not solving a mystery. I am a mystery,” Sedgwick said, noting that unfolding secrets include “the mystery of the character, what happens to her daughter, and the who, what, why of Jane and her relationships.”

The show also explores the pressures women face as they try to juggle career and family — “the archetypal guilt that women have that every moment spent not with your child is a reason to loathe yourself,” Sedgwick said.

As a producer of the series, Sedgwick was involved “soup to nuts, in everything from casting to crew,” and she said she hoped to direct future episodes if the show has a second season. She recently directed her husband, Kevin Bacon, and their daughter, Sosie, in “Story of a Girl,” which aired on Lifetime.

“I realized I’ve been preparing my whole life as an actor to be a director, and that’s what I should be doing,” Sedgwick said.

Raised in New York by a Jewish single mother whose family was from Germany, Sedgwick has a secular connection to Judaism. “Temperamentally and culturally, I always think of myself as a Jew. I think it’s cooler to be Jewish. I find that Jews are a little more in touch with their emotions than WASPs tend to be,” she said. “But we weren’t raised with any traditions.”

Sedgwick loves the concept of Yom Kippur, “the idea that there’s one day a year when you look back on all the crappy things that you’ve done all year. But every day is Yom Kippur for me,” she said. “What did I do right today? Did I hurt anybody? I go over my day, apologize, and do the same thing tomorrow.”

“Ten Days in the Valley” premieres at 10 p.m. Oct. 1 on ABC.

“THE GOOD DOCTOR”

Richard Schiff stars
in “The Good Doctor.” Photo by Stuart Pettican/ABC

 

In his three-decade acting career, Richard Schiff has played many doctors and a number of Jewish characters, including White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler in “The West Wing,” a rabbi in an episode of “In Plain Sight” and a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant in the play “Talley’s Folly.” Playing Dr. Aaron Glassman, mentor to a young physician with autism and savant syndrome in the ABC drama “The Good Doctor,” he checks both boxes.

“I’ve been attracted to a lot of roles because they delve into the experience of the character,” Schiff said. “Some just happen to be Jewish.

What intrigued him more about Glassman was his desire “to leave the world a better place than how he found it.”

“I have a history with autism and a couple of people in my life that I have been able to help,” he said. “This is a story about a man who reached out to someone who was not only challenged but going through trauma. It’s a beautiful depiction about how a little bit of help can change a life.”

Descended from Jewish immigrants from Austria on his father’s side and Ukraine on his mother’s side, Schiff was fond of his maternal grandfather and remembered watching him lay tefillin and daven every morning — although the Orthodox Jew had a wild side. “He was a gangster with Murder Inc. and drove around in a Cadillac like ‘The Godfather,’ ” Schiff said.

Schiff described his own Jewish identity today as “not religious in any way, but I have a fascinating relationship with the culture.” He has been to Israel, and in 2012 he was a judge at a student drama festival in Sheffield, England, where he put together a Palestinian troupe with a Jewish one. “The Palestinians refused at first, but they ended up doing cultural exchanges and producing each other’s plays,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing I’m interested in.”

Schiff is also interested in doing more theater and continuing to play a wide variety of roles. “I like going from a comedy like ‘Ballers’ to a more traditional drama to a play,” he said. “I don’t think in genres. I think in story and what’s fun and what’s compelling.”

“The Good Doctor” premieres at 10 p.m. Sept. 25 on ABC.

“THIS IS US”

Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia of “This Is Us.” Photo by Ron Batzdorff/NBC

 

With its time-shifting, emotional story that blends past and present in surprising ways, the family drama “This Is Us” struck a nerve with critics and the public and earned 16 Emmy nominations for its first season in 2016.

Creator Dan Fogelman acknowledged the raised bar for Season 2. “But we try to put it out of our mind,” he said. “There’s a lot of expectation. But I’m really confident. The first episode is really strong.”

In the season finale in March, parents Jack and Rebecca Pearson were on the brink of a breakup. The new season begins in the aftermath. Other plotlines will follow their daughter Kate’s romance and singing career, son Randall’s quest to adopt a baby, and son Kevin’s role in a Sylvester Stallone war movie. Stallone will guest-star as himself in at least one episode. “The writers wrote a really beautiful monologue for him about acting and life and loss and aging,” Fogelman said.

Viewers know that Jack will die, but not when or how. Fogelman promised that details will be revealed “at some point this season.” Actor Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack, and Ron Cephas Jones (the deceased William) remain in the show. “Just because somebody dies doesn’t mean they’re not in the painting anymore,” Fogelman said. “You’re always watching how the past informs the present.”

Fogelman’s own past informs his storytelling. He turned a road adventure with his mother into the Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen comedy “The Guilt Trip,” and can see his own family in the “This Is Us” characters.

“Kate is very much my little sister in a lot of different ways,” he said. “I see a lot of my mom in Rebecca in ways I didn’t expect.”

A self-described “Philip Roth junkie,” and cultural Jew whose observance is limited to High Holy Days services and a Passover seder, Fogelman identifies “very strongly as Jewish.” He didn’t make the Pearson family Jewish, but “not for any real reason.”

“I had an image of this Pennsylvania family, the people I grew up with near Pittsburgh. There were not a lot of Jews around,” he said. “But you can see my Jewish family in these WASPy characters.”

“This Is Us” premieres at 9 p.m. Sept. 26 on NBC.

“THE MAYOR”

Daveed Diggs is producing “The Mayor.” Photo by Image Group LA/ABC

 

“Success means getting to do jobs you like. I don’t have to deliver catering anymore,” said Daveed Diggs, who was a struggling actor and rapper when a meeting with Lin-Manuel Miranda four years ago changed his life dramatically.

In the summer of 2013, Miranda asked Diggs to take part in a workshop production of his hip-hop musical “Hamilton,” playing the dual role of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette. Diggs’ performance in the show’s Broadway run brought him a Tony Award and opportunities including recurring roles in the series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “The Get Down,” “Black-ish” and the HBO mockumentary “Tour de Pharmacy.”

Diggs’ latest project is the ABC comedy “The Mayor,” about a young rapper who runs for office as a publicity stunt but actually wins. He serves as an executive producer and is writing a lot of the music for the show. Other than a tiny cameo, he isn’t in it.

“There’s so much work to do on this show, and I’m so excited to do it that I don’t really feel the need to be in front of the camera so much,” he said. “Since ‘Hamilton,’ I’ve been in the rare position where people wanted me. I had a lot of options, and the ones I said yes to are things that I believe in and make my brain turn over.”

It’s fitting that Diggs became a star in the multiethnic musical, because he is biracial, the son of a white Jewish mother and a black Christian father. “My mom used to do Shabbat every week when my brother and I were young. She was pretty good about making sure we got a sampling of all the holidays so we could choose later whether we wanted to continue. We had Christmas, too.”

He quit Hebrew school, did not become a bar mitzvah, and was too young to remember a trip to Israel with his parents to visit his grandparents. But as an adult, Diggs identifies as Jewish. “There are two things I identify with most about the Jewish religion,” he said. “One is that it removes the idea of retribution: You are good because it’s the right thing to do; and it is a religion that values the idea of argument.”

Diggs will continue to appear in “Black-ish”; he’ll join Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay (“Room”) in the movie “Wonder,” out Nov. 17; and he’ll work with his rap group, Clipping. Next year, the self-described “sci-fi nerd” will play one of the have-nots in the TV-series version of “Snowpiercer,” the science fiction thriller about class warfare on a train.

“I love a lot of things,” Diggs said. “And I’m very, very fortunate to get to participate in all of them.”

“The Mayor” premieres at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 3 on ABC.

ALSO PREMIERING

Jerry Seinfeld returns to the Comic Strip in New York to revisit his best jokes for a Netflix stand-up special called “Jerry Before Seinfeld,” which begins streaming Sept. 19. The same day, Conan O’Brien takes his late-night show to Israel for a prime time special on TBS.

The Israeli comedy series “The Beauty and The Baker,” about a beautiful, rich model who falls for a guy who lives with his parents, begins streaming on Amazon on Sept. 15. Also on Amazon, the Pfeffermans head to Israel in the fourth season of “Transparent,” beginning Sept. 22.

The life and career of director Steven Spielberg are the focus of the documentary “Spielberg,” premiering Oct. 7 on HBO.

Israeli actress Yael Grobglas, who plays Petra on “Jane the Virgin,” returning Oct. 13, will recur on another CW show this season — “Supergirl,” beginning Oct. 9 — on which she’ll play the psychic villain Psi.

Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler and Judd Hirsch star in Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” a Netflix movie about a Jewish clan, premiering Oct. 13.

Jason Alexander packs his family in a bus for a cross-country adventure in the Audience Network comedy “Hit the Road,” debuting Oct. 17.

“Indecent,” the Broadway play about the staging of Sholem Asch’s controversial “God of Vengeance,” comes to PBS’ “Great Performances” on Nov. 17.

Jon Stewart signed on for two HBO comedy specials, one stand-up and the other a mix of performances, sketches and short films, dates to be announced. Stewart will host the “Night of Too Many Stars” autism benefit, Nov. 18 on HBO.

Also, this season of “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Lewis Gates Jr. on PBS has revelations about the Jewish ancestry of Larry David, Amy Schumer, Carly Simon, Paul Rudd and Scarlett Johansson, who learns about the relatives she lost in the Holocaust. Sportscaster Bryant Gumbel discovers he has Jewish ancestry on his father’s side, and political commentator Ana Navarro’s genetic profile contains Ashkenazi DNA.

Jerry Seinfeld sells 17 cars for $22M


Jerry Seinfeld sold 17 collectible cars at auction for more than $22 million.

The Jewish comedian’s cars – 15 Porsches and two Volkswagens – brought in $22,244,500 this weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. A 1955 Porsche 55 Spyder alone went for more than $5 million.

Seinfeld is known to be a car aficionado. In his web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” — which featured President Barack Obama in December — he goes out to eat with a well-known comedian in a vintage car.

Gooding & Co. estimated the auction would actually bring in $10 million more than it did, Jalopnik said.

The “Seinfeld” star and co-creator showed up at the auction house to promote the sale.

Seinfeld had previously said he loved owning the cars and would have held onto them in an ideal world.

“[T]he reason I wanted to bid these cars farewell in this way is really just to see the look of excitement on the faces of the next owners who I know will be out of their minds with joy that they are going to get to experience them,” he said in February statement.

Seinfeld only failed to sell one car at the auction, a non-drivable Carrera GT concept car, one of two in the word, which didn’t reach its minimum $1.5 million minimum asking price.

WATCH: Jewish jokes dominate New York magazine’s top 100 list


New York Magazine’s culture section, Vulture, this week published a mega-listicle, “The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy.” With the help of comedians and historians of comedy, the magazine’s editors picked the most important jokes ever uttered — from Charlie Chaplin making dinner rolls dance to Louis C.K. dissing his daughter.

And Jews dominate the list.

Jews make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population, but the chosen people had a hand in no fewer than 50 of Vulture’s 100 jokes, according to a JTA count. Beyond the numbers, Jews have remained a consistent comedic force, showing up in every decade: Vaudeville in the teens and 20s, the Marx Brothers in the 30s, the Borscht Belt in the 40s and so on — all the way up to Jerry Seinfeld, John Stewart, Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer. (Though Adam Sandler, who ruled the ’90s, somehow didn’t make the list.)

Most of the jokes are Jewish by virtue of who wrote or performed them. But some explicitly reference Judaism and the traits associated with it — from Yiddish accents to circumcision.

Here’s a sampling of the most-Jewish moments on Vulture’s list:

Cohen on the Telephone (1913)

In what Vulture called “the definitive Jewish vaudeville monologue,” George L. Thompson struggles to conduct business on the phone, owing to his Old World, Yiddish inflections — a tactic Jewish comedians have used ever since. Hilarity ensues.

Duck Soup (1933)

In one of the most iconic films of one of the most iconic Jewish comedy acts, Groucho Marx channels the anxiety leading up to World War II by playing a man who becomes leader of a small nation and then goes to war. In the song above, all four Marx Brothers dance as Groucho excitedly declares war.

Johnny Carson discovers a mohel (1965)

It’s Ed Ames who’s Jewish but Johnny Carson who makes a Jewish joke in this clip. When Ames throws a tomahawk and misses his mark, Carson comes back with a perfect one-liner.

Springtime for Hitler (1968)

Mel Brooks. Zero Mostel. Gene Wilder. Nazis on Broadway. ‘Nuff said.

Annie Hall (1977)

Watch Woody Allen reach peak Jewish neurosis in the opening to one of his best films. “I think I’m gonna get better as I get older, you know? I think I’m gonna be the balding virile type, you know, as opposed to, say, the distinguished gray, for instance, you know? ‘Less I’m neither of those two. Unless I’m one of those guys with saliva dribbling out of his mouth who wanders into a cafeteria with a shopping bag screaming about socialism,” Allen says.

Seinfeld talks “Seinfeld” (1992)

In a meta moment, Jerry pitches George on a sitcom for NBC modeled on “Seinfeld”: A show about nothing that manages, somehow, to be about everything.

Sarah Silverman and the Jewish doctor (2005)

The risque comedienne pushes the boundaries when she recalls an experience that was “so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.”

Obama brings the Jewish banter on Seinfeld web series


Apparently, President Obama thinks Jerry Seinfeld could have been a Jewish Orson Welles.

The commander-in-chief went on Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” (a title that tells you everything you need to know) for the show’s seventh season premiere Wednesday. Obama — who Seinfeld said qualified for the show with jokes from previous White House Correspondents dinners — held his own in a candid conversation with the Jewish king of comedy.

“At a certain point,” Obama said to Seinfeld in a part of their conversation about fame and money, “you might have thought to yourself, ‘I’m more than just a comedian, I’m going to make a Jewish version of “Citizen Kane.’ How did you keep perspective?”

“I fell in love with the work,” Seinfeld responded. “And the work was joyful and difficult and interesting, and that was my focus.”

The pair got into a host of other humorous topics in their drive around the White House grounds, from Obama’s thoughts on world leaders who have lost their sanity to his love for nachos. The president even described how co-Seinfeld creator Larry David “lathers himself in sunscreen” while playing golf.

“It’s caked white all over and it catches parts of his ears, and there’s big globs of it,” Obama said.

In a typical episode of the show, Seinfeld takes a well-known comedian on a drive in a vintage car to a café or restaurant. Due to obvious security constraints, Seinfeld’s attempts to drive Obama away from the White House (“Just tell [the guard] you’re the president”) fail. Instead, they drive around the presidential mansion in a light-blue 1963 Corvette Stingray and get coffee in a White House cafeteria.

Obama has appeared on other comedian’s shows in recent years, including Zach Galifinakis’ “Between Two Ferns” web series and Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, to sell Obamacare to a young audience. On Wednesday, Seinfeld made the pitch for him, turning to the camera to say: “Please try Obamacare today.”

“Do you ever think about: Every person you talk to is putting on an act, a total show?” Seinfeld asked.

“It’s a problem,” Obama said.

Two Jews walk out of Israel: With Seinfeld in Israel


Literally minutes after Jerry Seinfeld and I finished four great shows at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, where we played to a total of 32,000 people in two days, we stood at the stairs of the plane. 

We were getting ready to board and leave Israel to head back home to America. I hugged the head of our security team Amir and said goodbye. Jerry and I agreed Amir was the type of guy that either one of us could easily be friends with. He was amazing. Every minute we were out of our hotel rooms, we had 4 to 6 security people walking with us. Some walked in front, some in back and some rode in a Mercedes SUV in case we wanted to ride. Plus Jerry had 2 or 3 guards outside his hotel room door every night. It was a small dose of what it must be like to be a Prime Minister, or a President, or a cartel kingpin. And everywhere we went people yelled out, “thanks for coming to Israel Jerry. We love you.”  The Israeli people could not have been nicer.  I wish I got half that when I walk into my own home. 

My last thought before boarding the plane?  Now is always the right time to visit Israel.

Because of the recent events in Israel, I felt that almost everyone I saw walking towards us, whether it was a man, woman or anyone over 12, could be a potential killer. I never felt like that in Israel before. It was very sad to me. I also found that while walking the streets of Tel Aviv, I turning around occasionally to make sure no one was running towards me to stab me in the back.  

My friends, Alan and Rachel Jacoby, who came to our show, emigrated to Israel 10 years ago. They told me that just that morning three people were stabbed just a few blocks from their home in Ra’anana.  

“We certainly didn't expect this when we moved here,” Rachel said to me, “but then again, we're not going anywhere.”

But Israelis are tough, and you'd never know the terror exists when you’re out and about walking in Tel Aviv.  The beautiful streets and cafés were full, and people were surfing and swimming in the ocean. People were playing paddle ball on the sand. Young lovers were strolling in the park holding hands. And tourists are still flocking to the holy land. 

On Sunday morning, Jerry and I took a long walk through Tel Aviv and talked about how much we love Israel and the people of Israel and what an amazing trip this was. We also stopped at two very memorable places during the walk. One was Independence Hall, the site of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. I could not stop starring at the building. Not since the splitting of the Red Sea has there been a bigger or more obvious miracle.  And then we went to Ben Gurion’s apartment.   The apartment consisted of 5 rooms and had over 10,000 books. They don’t call us The People of the Book for nothing. After Jerry and I left Ben Gurion’s house, we talked about how much Ben Gurion looked like Larry from the Three Stooges and wondered which one of them came up with the haircut first. We could not come up with an answer to that question but we both agreed that this trip brought us both much closer to Israel and to the Jewish people. 

It's hard for most people to understand that these killers who are doing the stabbing are doing it for one and one reason only: they want to kill Jews and terrorize the rest of the people of Israel. And eventually the rest of the world.  And they are having some success. As my mother would say to me when I would do a bad thing, “So this makes you happy?”

One thing the world knows is that you can kill Jews with little flack from most of the world. But they also know you can't get rid of the Jews. We are not going away. Not now, not ever. Many have tried and none have succeeded. As my mother used to say, “If you’re trying to get rid of me, good luck.”

I opened for Jerry.  When we did our shows, it took longer than usual to get people into the theater. There was a more noticeable presence of security since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. Those events have somewhat changed things. We also had a few guards around the stage and bomb sniffing dogs were brought in before the show. While I was standing in the wings waiting to be introduced, for a split second, I thought “Where should I run in case there's an attack while I'm on”? Not a great thought moments before doing standup comedy. When Jerry was on, I thought “if someone goes for him, I'll run out and kick them in the face.” 

At the end of Jerry’s act, he came back out to the audience to answer question from them. Someone yelled, “Have you been here before?”   Jerry then told this great story about when he was a teenager, his parents sent him to Israel to work on a kibbutz for a few months.  The first day of work, the Israelis had him standing on a truck cutting banana leaves with a machete.  He said he lasted one day at that job.  The next day he left the kibbutz and toured Israel by himself for a few months and had the time of his life. You could feel his love of Israel pouring out of that story. 

My opening joke at The Menora was this:  “You know before I came here to Israel, people were saying to me, ‘Hey Mark, aren't you scared about going to Israel with all the problems they are having now? Aren't you frightened?’ I said, “Hey, I'm married over 25 years. Nothing frightens me anymore.’”  Cue applause and laughs. 

But then something else happened — God added a few more words for me to say that just popped in my head.  After the applause died down from my opening joke, somewhere deep down in my gut I felt obliged to scream out as loud as I could, “SCREW THOSE GUYS. SCREW THEM!” 

There was a beat and then the applause from the audience was deafening. Then even louder I screamed it again. More big applause.  Everyone in the theater agreed with me, “SCREW THOSE GUYS.” We are Jews and we are here to stay. Not for a while but forever.

On the way back to America, Jerry and I were talking and he asked me when I thought would be a good time for him to come back with his family to visit Israel. I told him a line I had heard before. “There's never a good time, but for sure, there's never a bad time. No matter what's going on. Now is always the right time to visit Israel.”

The feeling I had from the second I landed in Israel until the flight home as I wrote this is:  “Yes, I'm going home to Los Angeles. But yes, I left my real home and my people back in Israel.”  God bless Israel and the Jewish people.


Mark Schiff is a Jewish comedian, actor and writer living in Los Angeles. His website is markschiff.com.

SNEAK PEEK: Seinfeld’s apartment gets an open house in West Hollywood


It’s a Festivus miracle: a West Hollywood storefront on Melrose Avenue has been transformed into an exact replica of Jerry Seinfeld’s New York apartment from the sitcom “Seinfeld,” opening to the public Dec. 16.

“Seinfeld: The Apartment” is hard to miss – look for the mural of George Costanza posing in his tighty whities – a shrine to all things “Seinfeld” that recreates the comedian’s kitchen and living room. The online television company Hulu organized this touring show after it acquired exclusive streaming rights to all of the “Seinfeld” episodes.

Visitors are greeted by Jerry’s booth in Monk’s Restaurant from the show’s set, flanked by other memorabilia, such as the leather couch from George’s undies shoot. Around a corner is the corridor to apartment 5A, which guests are invited to enter Kramer style – suddenly and out of breath.

The apartment itself is furnished down to the details, with cereal boxes stocked above the kitchen sink and a green bicycle hanging from the wall through the doorway.

Just outside, a concrete patio serves as a Festivus pole lot (think Christmas tree lot, but for Festivus). The first 50 fans at the exhibit each day will each get a desktop Festivus pole to honor a holiday invented by George Costanza’s cheapskate father as a rebellion against the commercialization of Christmas – don’t forget to notify your boss that you’ll be out celebrating on Dec. 23.

Behind the apartment, a canvas styled as a brick wall bears dozens of signatures from guest stars, who scrawled their farewell messages during the taping of the show’s finale.

On Dec. 15, the day before the exhibition opened to the public, Larry Thomas, better known as the Soup Nazi (“The Soup Nazi,” Season 7, Episode 6), pointed to his mark on television history: a poorly drawn heart on the canvas sheet with the words, “No Soup For You!” scrawled in capitals inside.

“I don’t know how many actors can tell you they were on their favorite TV show,” said Thomas, who described himself as a religious watcher of the show during its original NBC run.

Sporting a mustache and a long white apron, Thomas described how he rocketed into unexpected stardom as perhaps the show’s most famous guest star.

Barely a day has gone by since he taped the Soup Nazi episode when Thomas is not asked to repeat the famous line from his six-minute appearance on the 180-episode show, he said.

“Starting the next day, I was no longer the same guy – I was now the Soup Nazi,” he said.

The show’s cultural influence has exhibited remarkable staying power, despite the fact that the final episode first aired in 1998. Thomas has sold nearly 19,000 autographed pictures of himself in Soup Nazi garb to fans all over the world, and this year published a book titled, “Confessions of a Soup Nazi: An Adventure in Acting and Cooking.”

“Now that Hulu is streaming the whole series, it’s going to reach a whole new generation of young people that don’t actually watch [regular] television,” Thomas said.

Like Seinfeld’s character, the exhibit is native to New York. After a successful run there, Hulu decided to bring it to Los Angeles to promote its service.

“It was such a great hit in New York that we had to bring it to the fans in Los Angeles,” said Hulu publicist Mitchell Squires. “Perfect timing for Festivus.”

“Seinfeld: The Apartment” is located at 8445 Melrose Ave. Open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 16-Dec. 20.

Two Jews walk into Israel


On Dec. 19 and 20, Jerry Seinfeld and I will be performing stand-up comedy at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv. I have not been this excited about doing a gig in years. Jerry and I had talked about going to Israel to perform and, God willing, it’s now happening.

Jerry and I have been touring together for more than a decade. Touring with Jerry is a total first-class experience. We travel in a private jet, which is a lot better than an El Al flight, where every 10 minutes people wake you up to join a minyan or some woman with 14 kids wants you to hold the triplets while she tries to get the other 11 kids out of the bathroom. We stay in the best hotels and we laugh more in a day than most people laugh in a year. Plus, the people who come to see Jerry’s shows are, by far, the best audiences on the planet. 

I expect Israel to be all that and more. For me, performing in Israel is different from performing anywhere else in the world. The people in Israel are more than just an audience. They are my brothers and sisters. They are modern-day heroes.  And now more than ever is a perfect time for Jerry and I or anyone else to go and show support for the people who live there. 

People ask me, “Aren’t you scared to go to Israel with all that’s going on now?” Not really. My job calls for me to go wherever people want and need to laugh. Bob Hope taught us all about that. Israel is under immense pressure on almost every level. Just having a Jewish mother is enough pressure for anyone. Now add to it all their other mishegoss and your head could pop off.

I love Israel and I love the Jewish people. In stand-up comedy, Jews have always reigned supreme. They set the standard for the art form, and have raised the bar pretty darn high. A question that comes up a lot is, “What keeps the Jewish people going? How have they survived when, in every generation, someone or some group is trying to wipe them out?” One answer might be laughter. Jews love to laugh. Jews like to tell funny stories. Jews don’t mind jokes at their own expense. In a rabbi, a priest and a minister joke, the rabbi is almost always the fall guy. And no one laughs harder than the rabbis.

So, on Dec. 19 and 20, two Jews will walk into the Menora Mivtachim Arena and tell some funny stories to the great people of Israel, who will listen and laugh. You know what? Not even terrorism can stop the laughter.

Mark Schiff is a Jewish comedian, actor and writer living in Los Angeles.

Moving and shaking: AFMDA Humanitarian Award, Tour de Summer Camps and more


The Beverly Hilton was filled with laughter and emotion on the evening of Oct. 22 as Jerry Seinfeld emceed the American Friends of Magen David Adom’s (AFMDA) Los Angeles Red Star Ball, which drew 1,100 guests and raised $12 million. 

Those funds will go toward ambulances, medical supplies and the construction of an underground blood-supply facility in Israel that will be immune to rocket attack and natural disasters and will provide 97 percent of the blood used by Israel’s hospitals and the Israel Defense Forces.

From left: Michael Richards and Jerry Seinfeld attend the American Friends of Magen David Adom Red Star Ball. Photo courtesy of AFMDA

The world-famous comedian and sitcom star took the stage after a series of intense videos highlighting the life-saving role in Israel that Magen David Adom has played, particularly during the spate of Palestinian knife attacks in recent weeks.

“As a comedian, I always like to perform after emergency activities are shown with injured people and blood flowing,” Seinfeld joked. He then went into a routine touching on many of his classic observations of life, ranging from marriage and children to smartphones and voicemails.

Dina and Fred Leeds, the evening’s hosts, told the audience that in the first three weeks of October, Magen David Adom had provided treatment for 174 casualties since the knife attacks began. After the names of the nine Israelis who were murdered in the attacks were read, several Magen David Adom volunteers were brought onstage, including Hananel Alvo, who was stabbed several years ago on his way to work, then became a paramedic for Magen David Adom after his life was saved by the group’s paramedics.

AFMDA presented the Humanitarian of the Year Award to Adam and Gila Milstein, who are major donors to groups such as the Israeli-American Council (IAC) and StandWithUs. (Adam Milstein was recently named national board chairman of the IAC.) Ruth Flinkman-Marandy and Ben Marandy received the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Barak Aviv received the Next Generation Award.

Following a 30-minute after-dinner fundraising appeal — which included a $5 million gift from casino mogul and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam — Seinfeld took the stage again before dessert to close out the evening.

Joining Seinfeld in attendance was one of his co-stars from “Seinfeld,” Michael Richards, who played lanky goofball Kramer. Actresses Odeya Rush and Karla Souza also came to honor Magen David Adom. 

Joining them was a distinguished group that included Michael Milken, Art Bilger, Antonio Villaraigosa, Elan Carr, Sam Yebri, Geoffrey Gold, Shawn Evenhaim and Naty Saidoff

— Jared Sichel, Senior Writer


This year’s Tour de Summer Camps — the annual community cycling event organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — drew more than 500 cyclists on Oct. 25 and raised $1.2 million through riders and sponsorships for summer camp scholarships, according to Jay Sanderson, CEO and president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.  

Tour de Summer Camps, the annual community cycling event organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, raises money for summer camp scholarships. Here, some of the beneficiaries express thanks to Federation for its efforts. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography 

Rodney Freeman, a Federation supporter who is active in a Federation real estate and construction group and who was instrumental in launching the event three years ago, raised more than $20,000, making him this year’s top individual fundraiser. Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps, the top fundraising team, brought in nearly $43,000 at the event presented by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. 

Accommodating all skill levels, the event featured 18-mile, 36-mile, 62-mile and 100-mile rides. Ages 16 and older were eligible to participate. Riders began and ended at Camp Alonim on the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of American Jewish University.

Children were able to enjoy arts and crafts and visit farm animals, as well. Those younger than 16 who raised funds were considered “virtual riders,” according to the Tour de Summer Camps website. 

“It’s about the kids and the family,” Sanderson said. “It’s not about any one camp or institution.”


Entertainment executives mingled with Jewish community leaders at an Oct. 20 American Jewish Committee (AJC) awards dinner at the Globe Theatre. More than 200 people turned out, including dinner co-chairs Ron Meyer, NBCUniversal vice chairman, and Donna Langley, Universal Pictures chairwoman.

From left: NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer; Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara; Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman Jeff Shell; Universal Pictures Chairwoman Donna Langley and Universal Pictures President Jimmy Horowitz attend an American Jewish Committee dinner Oct. 20 at the Globe Theatre. Photo by David Medill

AJC, an advocacy organization focusing on Israel and domestic issues, awarded Jeff Shell, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman, the Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Human Relations Award — the highest honor AJC bestows upon members of the entertainment industry.

“AJC plays an irreplaceable role for the Jewish community,” Shell said, as quoted in a press release. “AJC isn’t just an organization that fights anti-Semitism across the globe — it promotes freedom and tolerance of all religions and cultures and builds bridges at a time when we desperately need them.”

Dana Shell Smith, the honoree’s younger sibling and the United States ambassador to Qatar, delivered a keynote address about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and AJC Regional President Dean Schramm discussed the mission of the organization.

Mark Hoppus, vocalist and bassist for rock band Blink-182, served as master of ceremonies. Level A Cappella performed. 

Other attendees included Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros. chairman and CEO; Universal Pictures President Jimmy Horowitz; and former national AJC president and prominent entertainment attorney Bruce Ramer, as well as the Corwins’ children, Bonnie Corwin Fuller and Bruce Corwin.


The Tower Cancer Research Foundation (TCRF) Magnolia Council Spirit of Hope Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire honored Harriet Rossetto, founder and executive vice president at Jewish addiction recovery center Beit T’Shuvah, and Nancy Mishkin, chairwoman of the board at TCRF.

Rossetto spoke about how her work with Beit T’Shuvah has helped her understand what it is to be human.

From left: Tower Cancer Research Foundation (TCRF) Magnolia Council President Beth Goren; Harriet Rossetto, founder of Jewish rehabilitation center Beit T’Shuvah; Nancy Mishkin, Tower Cancer Research Foundation board chairwoman; and Shelley Warsavsky, TCRF Magnolia Council chairwoman attend a luncheon to support cancer research. Photo by Tiffany Rose

“I have accepted I matter and I’m good enough, with all my flaws and imperfections, and so are all of us; I make peace within myself with right action; I defeat sloth and existential despair by making my bed; I have resolved my good boy-bad boy problem by finding a Jewish bad boy and helping him become a rabbi,” the wife of Beit T’Shuvah spiritual leader Rabbi Mark Borovitz said.

Mishkin, former board chairwoman at Beit T’Shuvah and the child of Holocaust survivors, focused on how TCRF is making a difference, addressing approximately 400 people at the Oct. 12 event.

Among those present were TCRF Magnolia Council President Beth Goren and Chairwoman Shelley Warsavsky.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas.  Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Your guide to Jews and the Emmys


Mayim Bialik–Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy (The Big Bang Theory)

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Jenji Kohan–Showrunner for best comedy series nominee, (Orange is the New Black)

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Julianna Margulies–Outstanding leading actress in a drama series (The Good Wife)

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Lizzy Caplan–Outstanding leading actress in a drama series (Masters of Sex)

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Lena Dunham–Outstanding leading actress in a comedy series (Girls)

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus–Outstanding leading actress in a comedy series (Veep)

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Mandy Patinkin–Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (Homeland)

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Josh Charles–Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (The Good Wife)

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Matthew Weiner (writer)–Outstanding drama series (Mad Men)

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Jon Stewart–Outstanding variety series (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

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Bill Maher–Outstanding variety series (Real Time with Bill Maher)

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Sarah Silverman–Outstanding varietal special (We are Miracles)

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Billy Crystal–Outstanding varietal special (700 Sundays)

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Nathan Lane–Outstanding guest actor in a comedy series (Modern Family)

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Anthony Bourdain–Outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program (Parts Unknown)

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Carrie Brownstein–Outstanding writing for a variety series (Portlandia)

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Amy Schumer–Outstanding writing for a variety series (Inside Amy Schumer)

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Jerry Seinfeld–Outstanding short-format nonfiction program (Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)

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Calendar May 10-16


SAT | MAY 10

MARK LEIBOVICH

You’ve seen “Scandal,” “The West Wing” and “House of Cards,” but what is Washington, D.C., politics actually about? In his new book, “This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral,” the chief national correspondent for The New York Times gives us the skinny, whether we like it or not. Leibovich discloses there are no longer Democrats or Republicans — just millionaires. You’ll discover some distasteful news, stunning inside scoops and stories so outrageous, you can’t help but laugh. Sat. 4 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. TUE | MAY 13

“THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA”

Writer, activist, friend to painter Paul Cezanne — it’s no wonder he has a fictionalized biography of his life. Directed by William Dieterle, the film stars Paul Muni as the man who brought you “Thérèse Raquin” and “Nana,” and focuses on Zola’s paramount defense of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army who was accused of treason. Winner of an Oscar for best picture, it’s not a shabby way to spend an afternoon. Tue. 1:30 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. WED | MAY 14

“DISCOVERING JOY AFTER HEARTBREAK”

Life can sometimes deal an unfair hand, throw a curve ball or test us a little too often. “The Broken and the Whole: Discovering Joy After Heartbreak” is Rabbi Charles Sherman’s new book on how we can live with, and even conquer, the fragments we have left. Touching on concepts such as faith, time, regret and joy, Sherman, who will be in discussion with his son Rabbi Erez Sherman, shares personal stories that just might help with your own. There will be a book  signing following the program. Wed. 7:30 p.m. $18 (non-members), $10 (IKAR and Sinai Temple members). Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3243. ” target=”_blank”>emmagoldman2014.com.


THU | MAY 15

JERRY SEINFELD

 

All right, this is a big deal. Seinfeld (of “Seinfeld,” “The Marriage Ref” and “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”) will be on local stages two — count them — two nights in a row. The first night, Seinfeld is joined by fellow comedic heavyweights Jason Alexander and Ray Romano for some standup, a Q-and-A and to benefit The Fulfillment Fund: Empowering Youth Through Education. The following night and a bit farther away, he will be joking solo, but this time he’s doing two shows. Could be the funniest 24 hours there ever was! Wed. 8 p.m. $49-$250. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111. sabantheatre.org. Thu. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. $101.50-$225.50. Fox Performing Arts Center, 3801 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside. (951) 779-9804. FRI | MAY 16

BIG SUNDAY WEEKEND

Finally! The weekend we’ve all been waiting for. Time to get our hands dirty and open our hearts during these three days dedicated to bettering our community. Whether you decide to pitch in with some city beautification, support our troops with “Operation Gratitude” or ensure meals for people who rely on food banks, your contribution will be “big.” See website for the huge number of times, locations and RSVP options. Fri. through Sun. All day. ” target=”_blank”>laemmle.com.

“THE PROMISED LAND”

Based on the novel by Nobel laureate Wladyslaw Reymont, Andrzej Wajda’s film follows three friends in Lodz at the turn of the century: a Polish nobleman, a German and a Jew. The three will stop at nothing to build their industrial empire. Whether it’s treachery or fraud, brutal chaos or moments of luxury, the film deals with the nuance of business. Nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film, it offers audiences an artistic treat. Fri. 9:10 p.m. $3 (members and students), $5 (general). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6010.

Jerry Seinfeld reveals new collaboration with Larry David


Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have teamed up for a new project, and it’s big. And…well, that’s it.

Other than the fact that the thing is about “intentional mumbling” and that we will see it “eventually,” Seinfeld revealed little else about the script while answering audience questions on Reddit.com. Reddit’s AMA, or “Ask me Anything,” feature allows members of the popular social website to ask questions to significant figures. Seinfeld opened up to questions on Monday.

Although he was reticent about the new mystery project, he was more vocal on other topics. In the interactive interview the comedian spoke about going for bagels and lox with his kids, scrapping an episode of “Seinfeld” in which Jerry buys a handgun, his favorite supporting character on the show (Newman!), and much, much more.

Oh yeah, and there was also that plug for season three of his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, with a debut episode featuring Louis C.K. It’s no “Seinfeld” part two, but it’ll do until “eventually” finally hits.

Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler to headline Philly museum’s opening bash


Two of the country’s most famous Jewish performers will highlight the opening of one of the most ambitious Jewish museum projects in years.

Jerry Seinfeld will emcee and Bette Midler will headline a Nov. 13 gala to celebrate the official unveiling of the renovated National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, a $150 million project to place the museum on the city’s Independence Mall and expand it from about 10,000 square feet to more than 100,000.

The museum, which will trace the history of American Jews from the 1654 arrival in New Amsterdam of 20 Jews from Brazil until today, will aim to attract some 250,000 visitors per year—10 times what it has traditionally attracted since it opened in the mid-1970s.

“The opening is a celebration of an institution that is focused most of all on connecting American Jews more closely with their heritage and inspiring in all Americans a greater diversity of the American experience and the contribution they have made to this country,” the museum’s president and CEO, Michael Rosenzweig, told JTA. “It was important for us to keep these purposes front of mind. And these two individuals”—Seinfeld and Midler—“are highly successful and both very proud of their Jewish heritage.”’

The museum, which received a lead $25 million gift from Jones Apparel owner Sidney Kimmel, has attracted some big names in Jewish philanthropy, including Steven Spielberg, the Tisch family, Raymond and Ruth Perelman, and Howard Millstein.

It also has attracted billionaires Eli and Edythe Broad and Michael and Susan Dell, two of the country’s most generous families who are not known for giving prodigiously to explicitly Jewish causes.

“We like to say that the story we tell is their story,” Rosenzweig said.

Quite literally, the museum will tell the story of its visitors—one feature in its main exhibit will allow visitors to videotape an interview about their own Jewish history. The video will be e-mailed to the participants and become a part of the museum’s archives.

The 25,000-square-foot main exhibit is entirely new and includes 30 films, all of which were created especially for the museum and a number of never exhibited artifacts.

The museum has been given a boost by the fact that it has become a Smithsonian Institute affiliate museum. Still, Rosenzweig feels that many of his donors became involved because the museum is the story of their own successes.

“For certain donors, what was very attractive was the story we tell. At its core it is a story of freedom, and of what one ethnic group—the Jews—can achieve when they are given the freedoms we enjoy under the Constitution of this country,” he said.

“Many took to heart that this was their story about what they have achieved by virtue of those freedoms. There are certain donors for whom philanthropy in the organized Jewish community has not been a priority, but they have found this a compelling project.”

The museum has raised about $141 million, which covers the $137 million cost of construction. By the opening Rosenzweig hopes to have pledges in hand covering another $9 million for the start of a $13 million endowment. That will have to grow to cover the museum’s $9 million annual operating budget.

Ticket prices for the gala have not yet been announced, but proceeds will go toward the museum’s operating budget. Having Midler and Seinfeld, who are being paid to perform, will likely give the event a boost, Rosenzweig said.

“They were at the very top of our list,” he said. “There were other individuals we were interested in, but they were both our first choices. We hit a home run in all respects.”

The artist Elimelech, the comic David Steinberg


Saturday the 17th

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Fantastical images by female artists are on view at the Finegood Gallery in Flight of Fancy 2007 art exhibit, which opens today. With titles like “Samson and Delilah” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the paintings include imagery inspired by religious and literary works, as well as music.

Feb. 18-March 11. Feb. 18, 1-4 p.m. (opening reception). March 11, 1-4 p.m. (closing reception). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 885-0430.

Monday the 19th

Two special events for families with special-needs kids occur this week: Today, at the Zimmer Children’s Museum, HaMercaz sponsors a Family Playday that includes a craft activity, play time and pizza all around. (Reserve early, as space is limited.) And, Sat., Feb. 17, at Shomrei Torah Synagogue, “Tefillah B’Yachad…Together We Pray” is a monthly Shabbat program with song, dance, prayers and storytelling.

“Family Playday”: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. $7.50 (adults), free (children). 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 761-8800, ext. 1251 or sblitzstein@jfsla.org.

“Tefillah B’Yachad”: 11 a.m.-noon. Free. 7353 Valley Circle Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 346-0811.

Tuesday the 20th

The golden age of Polish poster art is celebrated in venues throughout our city over the next three months. “Polish School of Posters” is California’s first large-scale exhibit of original work from the 1960s-1980s, an era of award-winning poster art in communist Poland.

The show will include 80 CYRK — Polish circus/art — posters at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica opening this week; 40 jazz posters at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City, opening Feb. 24; and 40 Jewish posters at the University of Judaism on Feb. 25.

In March and April, Weidman Gallery and Voila Gallery will participate, as well, and film posters will be displayed at Laemmle Theaters in conjunction with the Polish Film Festival LA and the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. West Hollywood’s Bar Lubitsch and Santa Monica’s Warszawa Restaurant also get in on the action.

‘ target=’_blank’>www.tvland.com.

Thursday the 22nd

This weekend offers a last opportunity to catch Mark Kemble’s drama, “Bad Hurt on Cedar Street.” The play about an Irish-American family of characters, each with secret demons, has been well received — as has a performance by Israeli-American actress Iris Gilad, as a mentally disabled adult daughter.

$18-$22. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Hollywood. (323) 655-7679, ext. 100. Global beat, Klezmatics treat, Weill and Brecht meet

Mr. Schiff Tries for Washington


I am a comedian and I have been lucky enough to have worked in my business for 20 years. This is a huge thing because most people in comedy never even work 20 days in 20 years. I have also been blessed to be part of a great group of comedians who have emerged in that time. Three of them are not just my peers, but also good friends. I both love and respect them as comedians and as human beings. Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser and Larry Miller.

I started in New York with these three comics. We saw each other practically every night during the first five years of our careers. We would get to the comedy club around 9 p.m. and go home around 4 a.m. We slept until noon practically everyday, unless we had an audition or a dentist appointment. At that point in our careers, we had two auditions and one dental appointment a year.

We worked at “showcase clubs,” which meant we weren’t paid. If a club owner liked you, he would feed you dinner and give you a drink or two. The club owners made it known to us that what we were doing wasn’t about money, but rather, it was about being funny. It was a nice concept, but try telling that to a New York landlord.

Seinfeld, Reiser, Miller and myself worked hard on our comic careers, but after five years, working day and night, seven-days-a-week with time off only if you were having a near death experience, each night we were only earning a burger, a Coke and about $6. We made a commitment to each other, though, to stay friends and to stay in touch forever. We went as far as saying, for the rest of our lives, we would meet every New Year’s Day for lunch and a few good laughs.

That was 1980, and so far we have done that.

Cut to 20 years later. Seinfeld, Miller and Reiser are still my friends and well, thank God, none of us is working for chopped meat. We mostly live in Los Angeles now, except for Seinfeld, but we still meet as a group every New Year’s Day in New York. So this year, on Dec. 28, my wife and I flew to New York to hang with my buddies and their wives.

Seinfeld put us up at the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West. When we first started in comedy, we would stay in cheap and dirty hotels. But The Trump International was incredible. It’s referred to as a “Preferred Hotel.” In other words, the owners prefer you have a lot of money.

The next night we were off to Broadway. Seinfeld had purchased tickets for himself and his new bride, Jessica, and a group of us to go see Jackie Mason’s new Broadway show. Mason is perhaps the funniest man in the world. Before the show, a few of us made a bet on how many times Jackie would actually use the word “Jew” in his show. We lost count around the 6000th time.

After the show, we went back to see Mason. He asked everyone if they were Jewish, then Mason told Seinfeld that he had always hoped he would be successful, but not as successful as he is. Mason heard a few years back that I had started going to synagogue and every time he sees me he asks if I’ve become a rabbi yet. Then he talked to us about how terrific his show is and how long it’s going to run.

From there, we went out to a restaurant that Seinfeld had arranged. During dinner, about five or six other writers and comedians stopped by the restaurant to say hello to us. Somehow performers know where other performers are, especially if there might be a free meal and some drinks attached.

Seinfeld picked up the dinner tab for all of us and off we went. After dinner, I went over to thank him for the tickets, dinner and the hotel and said, “Listen. It looks like you’re going to pay for everything, so why don’t you just give me your credit card and I won’t have to bother you.” We laughed. Then he tipped the coat guy for all of us.

The next day was New Year’s Eve. Seinfeld was throwing a party at his apartment that overlooks Central Park and half of Manhattan. It is really a spectacular view. Since it was Friday night, my wife and I first walked over to Shlomo Carlbach’s old shul to daven and we then had Shabbas dinner with our friends, the Jacoby’s. Around 9:30 p.m., we walked over to Seinfeld’s for the party and to bring in the new millennium. Shabbos dinner was the first time in two days that Seinfeld didn’t pay for our meal. But if I asked him, I’m sure he would have.

New Year’s Day was just for the guys. Seinfeld, Reiser, Miller and myself met for our annual New Year’s Day brunch. No matter how busy we are, we still make this one day a priority. And boy, have we gotten busy. Jerry and Paul with their hit shows and millions of other commitments that go along with it. Paul, married and the father of one son. Larry, a veteran of 30 movies, endless sitcoms, a wife and two kids. Me, with my wife and three kids, and endless roadwork and writing assignments. Nevertheless, I believe, only once in 20 years did one of us miss the New Year’s Day brunch.

In the last 20 years, only twice was our annual brunch not in New York. One year it was in Los Angeles, which is the wrong place to celebrate almost anything. And one year, we went to Paris for lunch. That’s right. Paris for lunch. Reiser was in Europe working on a movie and could not break away to return to New York for brunch so we brought the brunch to him (anything not to break tradition). I’ll never forget walking down the Champs Elysées with Reiser and him saying “As long as I’m in the area, I should pick up some parts for my Peugot.”

The way the day works is simple. We meet around 11 a.m and keep going until we all feel it’s over or until we’re just out of jokes and don’t feel like making the other guys laugh anymore. When we were younger and not married, the day lasted longer than now but we still manage about eight or nine hours together these days. After a few minutes together, we all share jokes we picked up from the past year. Reiser is a great joke teller. One of the reasons is because he just loves to tell them. Not many people can tell a joke well, but Reiser is an expert at it. If I ever feel down, I know I can call Paul and he will have one or two new ones to pick me up.

We then head for Brooklyn for brunch. A running joke each year is when we get to the restaurant and are seated at our usual table for brunch, we ask Robert, our same waiter for the past 20 years, “how is the squab?” He always says “We don’t have squab,” and the four of us throw down our napkins and pretend to walk out of the restaurant disgusted. When we get about halfway out, we turn around and go back to our seats. The lunch is always good, but the main course is really the different stories each one of us brings to the table from the past year. And with our group, there are always some good ones.

After lunch, we do the one activity that officially puts the past year behind us and starts the clock ticking on the new year. We walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. That is one of the greatest walks in the world. You can never be on the Brooklyn Bridge and see the same thing twice. It truly is an amazing place. We also have a tradition that if the weather is too cold, we first stop near Chinatown and buy four Russian fur hats with the flaps and chin straps so we can keep warm when we walk over the bridge. I must have 10 of these now. Some years it’s been 15 or 20 below zero on top of the bridge. I carry a camera and often have to ask people to take pictures of the four of us. They are always shocked when they look through the camera and see who the four of us are. When we get to the halfway mark on the bridge, we kiss the old year goodbye and smile and wish each other well for the year to come.

Sometimes, if someone is in need of a prayer, for whatever reason, we stop and say it for him as a group. The older I get, the more I realize that good friends are not easy to come by. And maintaining friendships seems to get more complicated rather than easier. But when you put in the time and effort to maintain friendships like the four of us have done, I find you have something that is irreplaceable. This year, I thought to myself, “You know, Mark. You really have a great life. You have a great wife, great kid
s, and great friends. You’re a lucky guy.”

A lot of people are always asking, “have these guys changed with all of their successes?” The answer is that we have all changed. We are not the same guys we were 20 years ago. We are all different and that’s why we are still friends. We always have new and exciting things to bring to the relationship whenever we talk with or see each other. The fact is, in our hearts, we are still comics that love doing what we do and enjoy the company of other funny people. There are few things in this life that are better than hanging out with some of the funniest people in the world. If that doesn’t make you feel better, then nothing will.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, writer and actor
in Los Angeles

Payback Time


You’ll never find “The Cadillac,” on any critic’slist of top 10 “Seinfeld” episodes, but I don’t care. “The Cadillac,”episode 124 in the Seinfeld oeuvre, IMHO (in my humble opinion, forthose who don’t use Internet shorthand), is the real thing, among theshow’s most authentically Jewish episodes, revealing theuncircumcised heart within a sitcom generally acknowledged to reflectonly callousness, narcissism and an urbane hipness in post-shtetlAmerica. And, in a small way, “The Cadillac” changed my life.

Here’s the plot of the show that ran February 8,1996 as a 60-minute “Seinfeld” special.

Morty and Helen Seinfeld have been worrying foryears about their son’s ability to earn a living as a stand-up comic.Morty, in particular, has suggested over time that Jerry enroll in abusiness internship program or go back to school. Anythingstable.

Now Jerry’s nightclub act really is making it big,and to prove it, he buys his folks a Cadillac. Immediately, the giftbackfires. The car, enormous, obvious, and an egregious symbol ofAmerican success, makes Morty and Helen a spectacle among the formershmatte salesmen and other luftmenschen of their Florida condoproject where Morty is president.

None of Morty and Helen’s neighbors believe thatJerry can afford to buy the car for his parents. Suspicions aboutMorty become so strong that he faces impeachment as condo president,and has to prove to his arch-rival Jack Klompus, that he himselfdidn’t embezzle the money to buy the car. After endless complexity,the Cadillac is returned.

Why did this show make such an impact that myfriends and I were laughing about it weeks later? Just the words “TheCadillac,” has become shorthand to us, indicating a host of familialjoys and tensions which until then had gone unarticulated.

Well, of course, it’s because we’re in “TheCadillac” stage of life too. For what are the 40s in the course of anadult life if not “payback time.” The time of the commandment tobring honor to thy father and thy mother; when we show them who weare. The 40s are the time when parent-and-child stuff finally getssorted out, and the gifts of kindness, generosity and considerationbegin to flow the other way.

But in a way it’s too late. As “The Cadillac”shows, reconciliation is not easy. Jerry’s parents have stoppedwaiting for their payback; Helen and Morty have moved on and nowaccept Jerry as the limited, sarcastic being he has become. TheCadillac means less to them than the respect of their peers.

Moreover, what does it mean to have a son who canafford to buy you a Cadillac? It’s a mixed blessing to be upstaged,diminished in your child’s eyes. For many older “Seinfeld” watchers,writer Larry David is merely updating the wisdom of Lao Tsu: Bewarewhat you wish for, you may get it.

But how ironic it is that only now, when itmatters less to his folks, does Jerry want to please them. Theparents who have eternally been the butt of jokes for their boringstolidity now seem paragons of loyalty and islands of admiration. Atshow’s end, Jerry is bewildered that he can’t persuade Helen andMorty to keep the car. He shrugs, as if to say: see, no good deedgoes unpunished.

For most of “Seinfeld’s” nine-year run, Jerry andhis buddy George (Jason Alexander) have slowly, painfully and withlimited success been working to see their parents as people, not asjudgmental tyrants. What’s striking is the strength of that need;these hardened cynics, who can drop girlfriends and best-friendsbecause they don’t like the way they answer the phone, still feel theumbilical chord strongly attached. In the midst of the “Seinfeld”universe, where people use, abuse and lie to each other without asecond’s guilt, it’s amazing to find an ongoing plot line concerningparents and adult children who try to turn things around.

Another of my favorite continuing story linesconcerns George’s parents (played by Jerry Stiller and EstelleHarris), who are having marital troubles.

GEORGE: Oh my God! You know what I just realized?!If they get divorced an’ live in two separate places? That’s twice asmany visits!

JERRY: I never thought of that.

GEORGE: Imagine if I had to see them both on thesame day? [mirthless] Haha! It’s like runnin’ the doublemarathon!

ELAINE: Hey George, did you have any idea thatanything was wrong?

JERRY: Have you ever spent any time with thesepeople..?

George and Jerry never actually stopped judgingtheir parents. But sometime during this show’s great run, it seems tome that I have.

So if I never buy my parents a “Cadillac,” I have”Seinfeld” to thank for that.

Marlene Adler Marks is senior columnist at theJewish Journal. Her e-mail address is wmnsvoice@aol.com. Her5-session writing retreat”Writing and Reading for Heart and Soul”begins May 16 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

SEND EMAIL TO MARLENE ADLER MARKS
wmnsvoice@aol.com

May 1, 1998StillDead

 

May 1, 1998Israel: Reclaimingthe Feminine

 

April 10, 1998The ExodusThroughout the Years

 

April 3, 1998A Worrier’sDelight

 

March 27, 1998Clinton and theFeminists

 

March 20, 1998Shabbat, AmericanStyle

 

March 13, 1998The PublicMan

 

March 6, 1998Taster’sChoice

 

February 27, 1998 ALiberal Feminist Meets Modern Orthodoxy

 

February 20, 1998Spinning theWeb

 

February 13, 1998How Do We DoIt?

 

February 6, 1998One by One byOne

 

January 30, 1998TheDaughter

 

January 23, 1998Babysitters NoMore

 

January 16, 1998FalseAlarms

 

November 28, 1997As AmericanAs…

 

November 21, 1997The ThirteenWants

 

November 14, 1997Music to MyEars

 

November 7, 1997Four Takes on50

 

October 31, 1997ChallengingHernandez

 

October 24, 1997CommonGround

 

October 17, 1997Taking Off theMask

 

October 10, 1997Life’s a MixedBag

 

October 3, 1997And Now ForSomething Completely Different

 

September 26, 1997An OpenHeart

 

September 19, 1997My BronxTale

 

September 12, 1997 — Of Goddesses andSaints

 

August 22, 1997 — Who is Not a Jew

 

August 15, 1997 — A LegendaryFriendship

 

July 25, 1997 — A Perfect Orange

 

July 18, 1997 — News of Our Own

 

July 11, 1997 — Celluloid Heroes

 

July 4, 1997 — Meet theSeekowitzes

 

June 27, 1997 — The Facts of Life

 

June 20, 1997 — Reality Bites

Owing It All to Jerry


Elon Gold is an Orthodox Jewish comedian whoplayed an offbeat Jewish guy from Long Island on the recent WBsitcom, “You’re the One.” Though the short-lived series wascancelled, Gold has plenty of Jewish-themed TV and even movieprojects in the works. During a recent conversation with The Journal’s Naomi Pfefferman, he said he owes it all to”Seinfeld.”

Jerry and I both had Castle Rock shows and we shotthem on the same lot. I was flabbergasted to discover he was a fan ofmine from work I’d done on Comedy Central and the stand-up circuit.He was always asking me to do my impressions; my Jeff Goldblum washis favorite.

So before they taped the historic last episode of”Seinfeld,” I had my agent call his manager and ask if there were anyspeaking parts for me. He said no, but would I consider being anextra? I was like, ‘Are you kidding? It would be the thrill of alifetime.'”

I ended up being the guy in the diner who ispaying the bill at the top of one scene.

At the party on the set after the final taping,Alan Horn, one of the partners at Castle Rock, came up to me andsaid, “This could be you someday.” But my thinking is, without Jerry,I wouldn’t even have my career. I would absolutely not be takenseriously as a leading man and the star of my own sitcom if itweren’t for Seinfeld. He paved the way. Now guys like me and AdamSandler can be more than just character actors.

Paul Reiser has helped, too, but unlike Seinfeld,he never mentions he’s Jewish on “Mad About You.” Maybe he’s afraidto, but it bothers me that he’s so obviously Jewish and it’s just soglossed over.

Jerry doesn’t avoid the fact that he’s Jewish on”Seinfeld,” and he’s had Jewish themes like the bris episode. Of course, GeorgeCostanza was supposed to be Italian, but there is no way thatcharacter is Italian. He’s based on Larry David, the creator ofSeinfeld, who is a Jewish comedian and writer. I think maybe hisethnicity was changed because the show initially had pressure fromthe network, saying “This series is too Jewish.”

Actually, every Jewish viewer knows that all fourcharacters on that show are Jewish, even if stated otherwise. Thenon-Jews know it too, and that’s why the show has been so good forthe Jews. For someone with a name like Jerry Seinfeld to be the mostimportant phenomenon in American pop culture, can’t help but dotremendous things for the Jews.

Racism and anti-Semitism are overlooked whenpeople are entertaining you, when you’re Seinfeld, Oprah or EddieMurphy. People for some reason are suddenly willing to accept youinto their living rooms.

And there is nothing more Jewish than “Seinfeld.”The overtones, the undertones, the writing, the performing is soJewish at the surface and at the core. All four of the actors areJewish; so are 80 percent of the writers, and it’s just theirsensibility of looking at the world. They analyze everything from aJewish point of view and speak in Jewish tongues. The charactersdissect the smallest of matters; it’s virtually Talmudic.

 

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