Tuesday, June 7
Israeli group Mashina has had a long and, sometimes, rocky past. But the band is now back together, touring to promote their 12th album. For the first time in a long time, they’re back in Los Angeles for one night only. Catch them tonight at the Avalon while you can.
8 p.m. (310) 273-2824.
Thursday, June 9
Laughing for charity sounds like a pretty good deal. Tonight, StandWithUs and Pups for Peace co-sponsor “LaughWithUs,” a comedy night featuring funnymen Wayne Federman (“Legally Blonde,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Lenny Schmidt (“Joe Dirt”) and plenty of others. Proceeds will help send comedians to Israel for comic relief and also benefit Israeli charities.
7:30 p.m. $75 (includes 2 drinks). Improv Theater, 8162 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-6140.
Jason Alexander becomes the latest star to try his hand at children’s book writing with his new release “Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy?” (Which would perhaps be better titled, “Dad, Since When Are You a Writer?”) Still, we’ll grant you Alexander’s a pretty funny guy, and you can size up his literary talents for yourself tonight. He reads from his book and signs it at Barnes and Noble at the Grove.
7:30 p.m. 189 Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-2070
Friday, June 10
Author Maggie Anton does the book tour circuit in Los Angeles this week, promoting her new work of historical fiction, “Rashi’s Daughters.” The book explores the stories of Jewish scholar Rashi’s daughters, who, unlike his sons, were largely ignored. She appears at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles on June 8, and as scholar-in-residence at Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills this weekend.
Jewish Community Library: (323) 761-8644. Shomrei Torah: (818) 346-0811.
7 Days in the Arts
Valuable Art From a Disregarded People
From the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to the Museum of the Negev in Beersheba; from the walls of Reverend Al Sharpton’s home in New York to the mantle of photographer Irene Furtik’s home in Santa Monica, Ethiopian Israeli art has arrived.
Award-winning artist Elaine Galen, whose work has been displayed in prestigious venues across America, describes her favorite Ethiopian Israeli piece — a sandy-colored, miniature clay sculpture that sits atop the fireplace in her living room:
"It’s in the likeness of an Ethiopian rabbi. He has a beard, he’s wearing a kippah on his head, and he has a tallit draped down his back…. His arms are extended in front: His hands come forward, like two hands in prayer, then suddenly become a unit, turning into a plaque that is a symbol of the Torah…. [H]is head is extending up, with his mouth halfway open — as if he knows the words by heart, as if he’s reciting them. It’s beautiful," she said.
Galen immediately bought the sculpture for her private art collection, an eclectic mix following her one guiding principle — good taste in art.
"When I saw this piece," she said, "I saw quality."
The indigenous, noncommercial feel of the art was especially appealing to Galen, and it is a key ingredient in the growing attraction to Ethiopian Israeli pieces sold throughout Israel and abroad.
"Word goes out that this is avant garde art that you can’t find anywhere else," said Michael Jankelowitz, spokesperson of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Drawn to its signature style, he said, Israeli tourists hungrily purchase Ethiopian artwork at galleries and stores across the country.
For numerous Ethiopian artists throughout Israel, artwork is their primary source of income. Some work for an hourly wage at a studio; others work independently from their homes.
One independent artist, who prefers to remain anonymous, has created a well-known line of biblical paintings with all-black figures — from Noah and Moses to Devorah and Miriam. In this way, his art parallels much African American religious art, challenging European-based images of religious history.
The bold colors of his paintings — yellow, green, red, orange and blue — also can be found in the embroidery of Yazazo Aklum, who has several works housed in the Israel Museum’s collection of Ethiopian art. Ora Shwartz-Be’eri, Israel Museum curator, beams as she holds up one of his pieces.
"It’s exceptional," she said passionately.
With its vibrant portrayal of the Ten Commandments, two Lions of Judah with Stars of David, and a dove and rainbow from Noah’s arc, the tapestry is indeed breathtaking. For this reason, it was photographed for the 1994 postcard printed in honor of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.
Despite the success of Ethiopian Israeli art, Ethiopian Israeli artists are struggling for power and economic leverage in representing their own work. According to Shlomo Akele, director of Bahalachin Cultural Center for Ethiopian Jews, individual artists are disenfranchised, because there is currently no museum, gallery, or center run by a community member.
Tasamach Tazazo, a retired potter and embroidery artist living in Tel Aviv, agrees.
"We have to take this on ourselves," she said emphatically, "and not let other people manage our artwork." But independence will take time, she adds, being that it is linked to complex social, racial and economic struggles associated with the community’s relatively recent immigration.
"On the one hand, they say we are primitive, even tell us we are not real Jews, and on the other hand they get all excited about our artwork," she explained. "Not everyone. But there are people who have bought my artwork, even turned around and sold it for up to seven times what they paid, and all the while looked down at me as stupid and worthless."
In a conversation with Avital Armoni, the owner of Armoni’s Art, Tazazo’s claims ring true. Among its other art products, Armoni’s company makes magnetic prints of Ethiopian Israeli embroideries — a popular and seemingly lucrative sales item. Though her company profits from the work of Ethiopian Israeli artists, Armoni makes a point of asserting that Ethiopian Jews "are not really Jewish."
In addition to facing battles over their identity, Ethiopian Israeli artists are facing tremendous financial hardships. The Ethiopian community is reportedly the hardest hit by Israel’s economic crisis, and out of desperation for money, many artists tolerate exploitation.
Others turn to Bahalachin for help.
"Our dream is to create a big center in Jerusalem," Akele said in response to the numerous requests he receives. "There are very many talented artists … we just need the framework to support and develop them." That framework, he noted sadly, takes the financial resources not coming to Bahalachin during these hard times.
As an upshot, while the artwork of Ethiopian Jews is enjoying financial success and mainstream acceptance, Ethiopian Israeli artists are struggling for respectful recognition, economic empowerment and self-representation. Ironic though it may seem, art has always been ahead of its time.
Loolwa Khazzoom (
7 Days In Arts
Valley Festival Draws Thousands
It was a sunny day in Woodland Hills — perhaps a little too sunny — but the heat did not stop the 11th biennial Los Angeles Jewish Festival from creating some heat of its own.
"More booths, more vendors, more of everything" is how festival co-chair Nancy Parris Moskowitz described this year’s gathering, sponsored by The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance and a host of Jewish organizations and corporate sponsors, which attracted a multiethnic group of some 30,000 people throughout the day. Moskowitz also welcomed the festival’s return to the Pierce College campus, where attendees benefited from "good parking, lots of access and lots of shade."
Ken Warner, Valley Alliance president, was proud that the festival’s $125,000 price tag "is not costing The Federation any money. We did this by asking businesses to contribute."
In keeping with this year’s social action theme, "World Jewry," Becquie Kishineff, who went on a mission to Argentina last November, enlisted the graphic art services of an unemployed Argentine Jew she had met for a special Jewish unity-themed jigsaw puzzle project sponsored by the Valley Alliance.
"He spent hundreds of hours working on it but he didn’t want to accept any money," Kishineff said. "There are people out there who still want to give."
And the festival gave its all in reflecting the diversity of Jewish Los Angeles. Among those occupying booths: Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks); organizations and nonprofits of every stripe from the Anti-Defamation League to StandWithUs and Million Mom March; Yiddish and Jewish culture societies; and grass-roots clubs, such as the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework.
"Part of our mission is to have a visible presence in the community," said Bill Rice of GaySantaBarbara.org, which hosted the Gay Cafe alongside food kiosks Klassic Knishes and Kosher Connection.
Judaica and art vendors ranged from a Shop for Israel shuk to local artists. The Main Stage showcased live music all day long, and kids had plenty of activities to choose from — everything from rock-climbing and Family Stage entertainment, to the Temple Beth Torah of Mar Vista booth, which offered kids a respite from the heat with some storytelling. Keith Levy, director of programs at Congregation B’nai Emet of Simi Valley, showed children such as Abby Leven, 10, of West Hills, how to play the shofar just in time for Rosh Hashanah.
Abby’s father, Paul Leven, who also brought his wife, Saralyn, and 12-year-old son, Aaron, summed up the festival’s appeal: "We like to see our friends and to check out the booths."
Big-Hearted Giver’s Crowning Moment
Solace in SoCal
Sergio Edelsztein said he would not have come from Israel to
a cultural exchange in New York. “Los Angeles is so much more open, and it’s
still about regular people — not so much of an establishment,” said the
director of the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv.
Edelsztein was one of seven Israeli artists, curators and
educators who came to Los Angeles Feb. 10-15 to view art and establish
professional dialogues, as part of The Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv-Los Angeles
Partnership. Participating local institutions included the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art (LACMA), the J. Paul Getty Museum, LACMA Gallery, Craft and Folk
Art Museum, Otis Art Institute and Inner-City Arts.
It may seem an auspicious time to bring Israeli artists over
to America, as Israel has been in a virtual state of war since the beginning of
the second intifada, and America is on the brink of war as well; but in a way,
the timing could not have been better to discover what role museums play amid
“Where you’re heading now, we’ve been for years,” Edelsztein
told Angelenos about living with violence during a panel discussion at LACMA on
the impact of political turmoil on arts institutions. LACMA Lab Director Bob
Sain and others wanted to know how Israelis and their art were affected by the
“A lot of people are still doing personal art,” said Nili
Goren, curator of photography at the Tel Aviv Museum.
Yael Borovich, director and curator of education at the Tel
Aviv Museum of Art said that Israelis — artists and non-artists alike — make a
point to keep on with their normal lives. “We still go to the theater, we go to
museums, we go on living,” she said.
For some, the situation has had indirect influence their
exhibits. For example, Nitza Behroozi, curator for Judaica and folklore at the Eretz
Israel Museum exhibited a Hamsa exhibit shortly after the intifada started in
September 2000. Although the exhibit was planned way before the situation
erupted, she felt it still was positive, considering the tensions. “We wanted
to do something that was about what Jews and Muslims share. We share a lot.”
Similarly, American curators and educators are considering
holding exhibits that defuse the charged political atmosphere. Gabrielle
Tsabag, senior educator from the Skirball is considering doing exhibits on
“The museum’s role is not just to be a showcase but to be
pertinent,” she said. Exhibits on Islam could “possibly be a way to empower the
moderate Muslin community in this country to feel they can come out and speak
War was hardly the only thing the Israeli and American
groups had in common; art discussions — on education, exhibit selection,
technical subjects such as preservation — peppered the frenzied week of
Fowler Museum curator Polly Roberts, led the group through
the “A Saint in the City” exhibit, teaching them about the secret Sufi wisdom
painted into Senegalese street murals.
At the home of Cliff and Mandy Einstein, Ohad Shaaltiel,
artist and Meyerhoff Education Center’s Workshop director in Tel Aviv, was
overjoyed at viewing an Ad Reinhardt painting: “Look at the brushstrokes. I can
see his later work in the brushstrokes,” he said.
In addition to viewing art, the Israelis found practical
lessons to take back home. Nachum Tevet, artist and director of the MFA Program
at Bezalel Academy of Art, fostered artist-in-residence programs. Edelsztein
discovered festivals and other venues for Israeli video artists. Behroozi
learned how textiles are preserved at the Gene Autry Museum of Western
The Los Angeles group began to establish professional
connection that would continue long after the trip ended. Bob Bates, who
founded Inner-City Arts, said that he is willing help the Israelis create
successful arts education programs for kids. “Please stay in touch,” he told
the group repeatedly.
But what the Angelenos might have learned the most from
their Israeli counterparts was how to continue working with art in an
atmosphere of fear, which is relatively new for Americans.
“Yihyeh tov,” Hebrew for “all will be well,” could have been
the motto throughout the week.
“When you come to the museum, you see we’ve always been
threatened, we’ve always struggled, and still look what we did anyway,”
Behroozi said. “So we should take strength from that.”
The Jews and Iraq
Marvin Mirisch, one of three brothers who formed the Mirisch Co. motion picture production company, died on Nov. 17 of undisclosed causes at UCLA Medical Center. He was 84.
Born in New York City, Mirisch was the third of four Mirisch sons. After attending City College of New York, Mirisch eventually relocated to Los Angeles in 1953, where he joined brothers Walter and Harold at Monogram Pictures. When Monogram turned into United Artists, the first artist-run independent studio, the Mirisch brothers independently packaged such movies as John Huston’s “Moby Dick” and the Billy Wilder favorite, “Love in the Afternoon.”
In 1957, the Mirisch brothers established the Mirisch Co., where Marvin acted as the chief financial officer and Walter functioned as the producer. The Mirisch Co. created 68 motion pictures over 17 years in a deal with United Artists. Mirisch Co.-produced films — which included “The Apartment,” “West Side Story” and “In the Heat of the Night” — were nominated for 79 Academy Awards and won 23.
In 1968, after Harold died, Marvin and Walter moved to Universal Pictures, where they produced “Midway” and “Same Time Next Year.” Marvin also produced 1979’s “Dracula” and in the early 1990s was an executive producer of a “Pink Panther” cartoon series.
Marvin Mirisch was active in Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences politics. He also chaired the motion picture division of United Jewish Welfare Fund, and was on the boards of Temple Israel and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Mirisch is survived by his wife of 60 years, Florene; son, Don; daughters Carol Hartmann and Lynn Rogo; six grandchildren; brother, Walter. He was buried on Nov. 20 at Hillside Memorial Park.
Contributions can be made to UCLA Foundation, 10945 Le Conte Ave., Suite 3132, Los Angeles, CA 90095. — Staff Report
Buy for Chanukah, Donate to Israel
Art of the Scalpel
Archie Granot is very careful and precise when making incisions with his scalpel — yet he knows he’ll never be sued if he makes a mistake. As the world’s leading paper cut artist in the area of Judaica, the London native is among 30 artists from Israel and the United States whose work will be on display at Temple Isaiah’s 22nd annual Festival of Jewish Artisans on Nov. 16 and 17.
Granot, who resides in Jerusalem, discovered his talent for paper cutting — an ancient art form that involves snipping and layering multitextured paper to create designs — several years ago when his daughter came home with a menorah she made in school. Inspired, Granot made his first masterpiece, which he claims was a disaster. "I was lucky that my parents liked it because I might never have done another," said the artist with a laugh. He is currently touring the United States with his works.
Upon studying the art form, Granot, 65, decided to focus on Judaic life cycles. His work includes ketubbot, mezuzot and haggadot, among other traditional Jewish relics. "When I’d look at paper cuts around the world, Polish paper cuts were made in Poland, Moroccan [paper cuts] were made in Morocco, so it seemed right, as a Jew living in Jerusalem, to make Judaica," Granot said.
While most paper-cut artists work with a knife or scissors, Granot uses a scalpel, after recalling using the tool for dissection in his high school zoology class. The artist is a regular customer at the local medical supply store, as he goes through 30 or 40 scalpels in a short period of time. Thinking back to that science class long ago, Granot is thrilled to have found his passion with the use of the delicate tool. "It’s much more aesthetic cutting paper than dissecting," he said.
Archie Granot will conduct a paper-cutting workshop Sunday, Nov. 16. at Temple Isaiah’s Festival of Jewish Artisans, 10345 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. Other featured artists include silversmith Emil Shenfeld and jeweler Shula Baron. For more information, times and tickets, call (310) 277-2772.
The Feiler Phenomenon
“Don’t be deceived by the simplicity of the art,” Judy Chicago admonishes a group of reporters gathered for a preview of her “Resolutions: A Stitch in Time” exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center.”The works may look effortless, but they are not simple in technique and meaning,” adds Chicago (née Judy Cohen).
Even to a male ignoramus who wouldn’t know a French knot from an appliqué, the 20 works on display are impressive, as much for their painstaking craftsmanship as their ability to infuse fresh perspectives into old platitudes.
Take the first work encountered by the visitor, the painting and embroidery titled “Home Sweet Home.” Instead of a sampler gracing a bourgeois parlor, we encounter the diversity of human habitat through a globe surrounded by an igloo, Indian tent, high-rise, mobile home and more.
“Home Sweet Home” is part of the “Family” section of the exhibit, followed by such virtues and verities as “Responsibility,” “Conservation,” “Tolerance,” “Human Rights,” “Hope” and “Change.”
Under Chicago’s creative spur and design, 17 craftswomen labored some six years to complete the works, using such traditional “women’s” textile arts as needlepoint, embroidery, French knots, weaving, appliqué, macramé, beading, smocking (gathering fabrics in a series of pleats) and quilting.
“This exhibit is about the ability of art to teach, perhaps even achieve social change,” comments Nancy Berman, director emeritus of the Skirball. “Like this cultural center itself, these works lie at the intersection of Jewish and American values.”
Chicago began work on “Resolutions” in 1993, after immersing herself the previous eight years in “The Holocaust Project.”
“By the time I finished the project, I was in a deep depression. I felt as though I had traveled through Dante’s ‘Inferno,'” she recalls. As an antidote, she returned to the biblical injunction “to choose life” by making art celebrating humanity’s deeply rooted moral values.
The artist, a petite redhead, has ardent followers and equally ardent detractors. “When “Resolutions” opened in New York, The New York Times critic pulled out all the stops by blasting it as “aesthetically vacuous, conceptually inane and morally disingenuous.”
Chicago shrugs off the harsh judgment. “I’ve gotten the worst reviews of any contemporary artist in the world,” she says. “If I started getting good reviews, I’d think I was doing something wrong.”A number of programs related to the exhibit include:
Feb. 25: “Turn Over a New Leaf”: Tu B’Shevat family program with Lisa Deutsch. Paper making and bookbindings for ages 4 and up. 2 p.m. at the Skirball.
March 3-April 7: A show of Chicago’s drawings at Works on Paper, Inc., 6150 Wilshire Blvd.
March 4: “Responsibility.” Rabbi Harvey Fields will discuss the role of social responsibility within the Jewish tradition. 2 p.m. at the Skirball.
March 6: “Art Matters.” Barbara Isenberg interviews Judy Chicago in the Getty Center’s Harold Williams Auditorium at 7 p.m.
March 31: The Gwen Wyatt Chorale of the Wilshire United Methodist Church will perform a concert of gospel music exemplifying the value of hope. 1 p.m. at the Skirball.
The “Resolutions” exhibit will run through April 29. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Monday. Admission is $8 (adults); $6 (seniors and students). Members and children under 12 free. For information, phone (310) 440-4500.
Here Comesthe Bride