Aaron Liberman’s kippah makes basketball history


On Jan. 5, Aaron Liberman of Northwestern checked in for the final minute of action against Michigan in the Wildcats’ 74-51 men’s basketball loss in Ann Arbor. In the process, the redshirt freshman made history twice:

According to the Big Ten News Network, Liberman was the first player to wear a yarmulke in Big Ten Conference history.

Also, Michigan became the first NCAA Division I basketball program to host two kippah-wearing players on its court. On Dec. 27, 2000, the first night of Hanukkah, Tamir Goodman of Towson University recorded 9 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in 34 minutes in the Tigers’ 73-71 loss  to the Wolverines. (Aside: I attended the game featuring the “Jewish Jordan” with my hometown rabbi.)

In his first season of college ball, Liberman’s stat line reads 2 rebounds in 4 games. But the yarmulke angle has made his celebrity star shine brighter. As Yahoo News reports:

Liberman was invited to speak after a home game last month about what it’s like for him to be an Orthodox Jew playing major college hoops. The school handed approximately 200 purple yarmulkes with an N printed on them to people who attended.

Northwestern University Jewish center vandalized


A Chabad House serving Northwestern University in suburban Chicago was vandalized.

Saturday’s attack came a day after President Obama revealed in a televised news conference that two packages containing remote-controlled bombs addressed to Jewish organizations in the Chicago area were intercepted on the way to the United States.

The large menorah in front of the Tannenbaum Chabad House, located a block from the university’s Evanston campus, was vandalized for just the second time since the Jewish center opened more than 20 years ago, the Daily Northwestern reported.

“I’ve been in this community for so long, and we’ve never had vandalism of this nature,” Chabad director Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein told the student newspaper. “I was pretty saddened by it. I felt somewhat violated.”

Evanston police have classified the incident as a hate crime, Klein told the newspaper.

Sherry Lansing’s epiphany


By 8 a.m. last Wednesday, when Sherry Lansing took the stage at the downtown Bonaventure Hotel, the women of Hadassah were hollering as if they were in a gospel service.

“Sixty is the new 40,” said TV anchor Rikki Klieman to shouts and cheers swirling through the crowd.

Lansing disagreed. “I used to think 60 is the new 40, but now I say, 60 is the new 60!” More cheers erupted from the 1,800 delegates at the Hadassah Convention, who were munching on bagels and lox during a conversation between Klieman and Lansing, gal pals from Northwestern.

“We are younger, healthier — and, statistically, people in their 60s are the happiest group demographically,” Lansing continued. “We’re not competing anymore, we’re just enjoying.”

Lansing has good reason to enjoy the prime of her life: Since retiring as chairwoman of Paramount Pictures and her historic role as the first female to head a major movie studio, Lansing has “shifted priorities” and is now devoted — full time — to her new thrill and philanthropic enterprise, the Sherry Lansing Foundation.

As she describes it, on the eve of turning 60, she had an epiphany.

“Suddenly, I cared less about a hit movie or making money than I did about giving back. That was the legacy that I wanted,” Lansing said.

Indeed, she achieved her Hollywood dreams, is financially secure and, she says, equally passionate about the new chapter of her life advocating for education and healthcare. Through her foundation, the one-time movie mogul responsible for such critical and box office hits as “Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart” and “Titanic” is working with the Los Angeles Unified School District to place qualified retirees in either volunteer or paid positions in local public schools.

For Lansing, turning 60 was not about retirement — it was an opportunity to start over from a different place. With years of vitality left, she is encouraging other 60-somethings to give back too. Why waste the expertise and talent of successful individuals on golf courses?

Lansing’s inclination toward social work has been a part of her dream fabric since she was a child growing up in Chicago. After her father’s death when she was 9, her mother chose to learn the family real estate business instead of passing off responsibility to some male friends who offered to manage it. Her mother’s work ethic and determination is the source of Lansing’s drive and inspiration.

“I watched my mother never be a victim. I watched her never show me her tears, and like she used to say ‘pull up her socks’ and take care of her life.”

When other girls dreamed of marriage and family, Lansing thought of work. In 1984, when she became head of 20th Century Fox, she discovered that being a woman had its setbacks — but it also had benefits.

“No one knew how to handle a woman. I could be myself. I didn’t have to follow any rules. All I did was work. I overworked,” she said.

After three decades in the upper echelons of showbiz, Lansing shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to her work with her foundation, she is also on the board that governs California’s $3 billion stem cell research fund. When husband and filmmaker William Friedkin was directing an opera in Israel, Lansing went from hospital to hospital encouraging Israeli doctors to apply for California grant money. When she mentioned that Hadassah Hospital in Israel is a leading stem cell research institution, the crowd cheered again.

Lansing is an impressive icon in many circles, but in this room, she was among hardcore fans.