Batsheva Dance Company reads between ‘Three’ dances

Ohad Naharin, choreographer of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company credits a back injury with helping him develop a new language of dance.

“I started relating to my body differently,” he told the Web site in 2004. Naharin’s innovations mean that for the dancers in Batsheva, sensation is more important than form, and pleasure more important than ambition, creating a direct, instantaneous experience of dance.

“You don’t have to translate it,” said Luc Jacobs, Batsheva’s rehearsal director, in an interview with The Journal. “It’s very immediate, like when you listen to music or eat food. Ohad created his own movement language to find better keys to access the abilities of dancers and we all share a collective intelligence for the way we work and the way we approach movement.”

This month, the Batsheva Dance Company will be performing Naharin’s “Three” at the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts. “Three” is an interlinked collection of three dances: “Bellus,” “Humus” and “Seccus.”

Bellus, which means beauty in Latin, explores the silence between the musical notes. Ten dancers, all dressed in urban-looking short-sleeved T-shirts or shirts and cut-off pants, move across the stage with sinewy alacrity. The music seems still at times, with the dancers’ movements creating an overlying rhythm. At one point, a man and a woman dance together in a way that evokes a dialogue between them.

“Ohad is very turned on by composition, by tension between elements — dance and music [man and woman]” Jacobs said. “The piece is very linked to music, but in many areas we also dance to the silence, or we play to the silence and the movement. The music is as much the silence as it is the actual sound — that is what creates the gap between the notes.”

“Hummus,” or “earth” (not smashed chick peas), is an all-female composition, set to the music of Brian Eno. In this piece, the women move together as a troupe, with the music playing very softly in the background, almost imperceptible above the women’s movement.

“In ‘Hummus,’ the music lives happily next to the dance, and at the same times contributes to the atmosphere that is being presented,” Jacobs said.

In the final piece “Seccus” (meaning both ‘this’ and ‘not this’), all 18 dancers of the troupe are on stage. The dancers dance individually, testing their own boundaries, while creating a fervent, energetic group composition.

“Ohad never spoon-feeds the audience,” Jacobs said. “He tickles their imagination and their creative thinking — and there are many blanks to be filled in.”

Batsheva Dance Company will be performing Ohad Naharin’s “Three” at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus on Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

Musical Journey in Time

Ah the ’60s. Those were the days when Geula, Aliza and Hedva would prance around in their khaki skirts in the Israeli military band — they were the highlight in entertainment for the young and na?ve Israel. After their army stint, they continued performing, singing passionately about the Western Wall and the Kineret and were young, beautiful and adored.

But today? Geula Gil, Aliza Kashi and Hedva Amrani — three of the most successful Israeli female singers of their time — no longer frequent the Israeli stage. And although they might not openly admit it, it is clear that over the years, Israel became a bit small for their ambitions.

All three women married Americans; they now live in beautiful villas in Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Westwood. And not surprisingly, all three share intense and passionate memories of old Israel, the place where they grew up and where their international careers were launched.

I recently spent long and enchanting afternoons with each of them in their homes, with the smell of eucalyptus and the private pools, the old magazine covers and the moving stories from the past. The three were part of a country that had “artists” instead of “talents.” The army bands controlled the music scene and dictated songs with national and Zionist context.

Unlike today, singers would not express personal feeling and mostly sang someone else’s words. The wars, especially the glory of the triumph of the Six Days and later the shame and doubts of the Yom Kippur tragedy were eminent in many of the songs.

The highlight of a career was performing in front of troops in the battlefields. America’s influence on Israeli culture was not yet to be found: No commercial TV or radio, no McDonald’s or Nike, no big cars or Hummers. Instead, there was the open Jeep, the Kol Israel broadcast with its pathos-filled news announcements and the embroidered dresses.

For me it was a journey back in time; for them a glimpse at an old photo album. For both, a look at Israel that some believe doesn’t exist anymore.

Geula Gil

It is lunchtime and Gil stands in her lovely kitchen, facing the Seinfelds’ Bel Air home. (“Jerry is a lovely man, but his little daughter can’t stop nagging, like a Jewish yenta,” she says.) She prepares a light meal with a precision rare to be seen; it is the same seriousness she always applied to her career.

“What can I do?” she shrugs while cutting the sweet papayas she got from the farmers’ market that morning. “I’m a perfectionist.”

In the background, a small waterfall trickles and gathers into a petit turquoise pond. Sometimes, deer come running down the hill and gaze at their home, Gil says. It’s a far cry from Lahakat Hanahal, the famous military band and hothouse for many of Israel’s top entertainers that Gil was part of 50 years ago.

“I miss the band,” she says quietly more than once during the interview.

Everybody always thought the beautiful Geula was Yemenite, because of her tanned, dark skin and large black eyes. But her parents came to Israel from Russia. She joined the army in the late ’50s and was accepted to the prestigious lahaka (band) almost by default.

“I was in Kibbutz Dafna in the northern part of the country, and I hitchhiked to Tel Aviv in the back of a pickup truck, when the rain started pouring on me. By the time we got to the big city, I was miserable as a dog, and my hair was frizzed out like a ball.”

Dubi Zelzer, the leader of the band, took pity on her and made her a hot cup of tea. “Well, after that, he couldn’t refuse me, of course, and I got a part in a musical production that they were working on at the time.”

Zelzer’s tea developed into a hot romance, and the two married. The well-known composer, responsible for some of the biggest hits of the ’60s, such as “Ya Mishlati” (“My Base”) and “Hora Heachzut” (“The Dance of the Settlement”), wrote songs for Gil that made her a superstar: “Kineret Kineret,” “The Western Wall,” “Why Does The Zebra Wear Pajamas?” and, especially, “Talk to Me in Flowers,” one of the greatest romantic Hebrew ballads of all time. Later, when she finished her military service, the couple toured the United States and South America as part of the Oranim Zabar trio, playing to packed venues — mainly Jewish crowds.

“Gil’s voice competes with her beauty — and that’s no easy task,” an American critic wrote after watching her show.

Gil was the first Israeli singer to tour the former Soviet Union in a set of historical performances in front of Refuseniks, Jews who were denied the right to immigrate to Israel and practice their faith by the communist regime.

“Those were probably the most moving performances of my career,” she says. “I’m still moved to tears when I remember the people who saved a whole month’s salary just to get a ticket to see us. They grabbed me, tore my chiffon dress out of excitement and yelled ‘Geula, Geula, Geula!’ You could see the desperation in their faces, and I just couldn’t stop crying.”

Later on Gil fell in love with New York and left Israel for good. Her marriage to Zelzer went downhill, and, finally, they divorced. Gil performed in Jewish clubs in New York, and from time to time was invited to appear on TV, including on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” She was even nominated for a Tony for her role in the musical, “The Grand Music Hall of Israel.”

In the late ’70s, she made one more attempt to attract an Israeli audience. Her brush with the then more commercialized Israeli entertainment business disappointed her.

“Let’s just say that promises weren’t kept, and the whole attitude by music producers in Israel toward me was not fair,” she says. “And my second husband [producer Richard Cohen] just couldn’t understand why people were driving in Israel the way they do and why they kept trying to con us. It was a culture shock for both of us.”

She keeps feeding me all afternoon with her homemade baked oatmeal cookies, while we look at pictures of her with such celebrities as Bill Cosby, Kim Novak Charles Aznavour and Salvador Dali. Finally, before I leave, I ask her one more time if she plans to return and perform in Israel one day.

“Maybe,” she smiles coquettishly. “If there was a serious offer that would be well executed. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I would like very much to try one more time.”

Aliza Kashi

Just after she sang gracefully about a dovecote [“Sho, sho, shovach yonim”], Kashi spread her wings and left Israel to see the world. That was in the mid-60s, and Kashi has hardly looked back since. When she did come back to visit Israel, it wasn’t always pleasant.

But we’ll get to that in a second.

Because first, her elegant husband, Marvin Spatt, 85, pours more wine into the glasses and opens another bottle of red, which he pairs with terrific Gouda cheese. And you can hardly bring up scandals when everybody is toasting and giggling in their colorful Westwood home.

Kashi, who retired from the stage five years ago, even agrees to sing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Naomi Shemer’s famous “Jerusalem of Gold”) for us in her very own dramatic interpretation. Nobody sings like that anymore — with pathos, bravado, arms in the air and all.

Kashi started in Lahakat Hanahal slightly after Gil did in 1959. A singer with a distinct voice and charm, she became the soloist in hits such as “Ya Mishlaty” (“My Base”) and “A Desert Lullaby.”

“We were young and beautiful, and it was lovely,” she says. “I had a boyfriend in the group, and we kept hiding so we could kiss. But they kept finding us. How embarrassing.”

Kashi’s civilian career took off soon after her release from the army, and she became a soloist in Green Onion, one of the top bands of the ’60s. Then came her biggest hit, “Night Comes,” which won the national singing contest and put her right at the top. But Kashi wanted to see the world and moved to Argentina.

“Two agents came to see me and invited me for a two-week tour. I left for a moment — and was gone forever,” she laughs.

Kashi performed all over South America before landing in New York. Ed Sullivan, the TV show host, sent a representative to the Israeli nightclub Sabra to scout for talent for his show. He picked Kashi, more for her spunk than for her vocal abilities.

“I was crrrrrazy back then,” she says with her rolling R. “And he wanted me to fool around with him and with the audience. So I did.”

During her first appearance, she turned to the crowd and yelled, “Hello peoples!” Her mistake in English later became her signature entry in many guest appearances to come — 78 by her own count.

“Did I miss Israel?” she asks rhetorically. “Of course I did. But my life in the Big Apple blossomed, and I didn’t want to stop the ride.”

She came back to perform in Israel during the Six-Day War and once more during the Yom Kippur War, when she made an offensive remark about Arabs on live TV. The newspapers highlighted the story, and the public broadcast authorities, then the only network airing in Israel, were shocked and vowed never to invite Kashi to appear again. That decision insulted her deeply.

“I was very sad that day because my nephew was killed in that war. So after finishing my song, I said what I said without being aware that the microphone was still on, and everybody could hear me. So what? That was what my heart cried out at that moment.”

She went back to New York, performed with Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis and others and refused to get married for years, until she met Spatt in 1980, who became her personal manager and companion. Then, in 1996 just before retiring for good, she made one quick comeback in Israel and sang on TV. This time the event was successful.

Kashi is nostalgic; her house is filled with collages of pictures from the past. She does still perform these days, although rarely and mostly for charity concerts. She visits her sisters and nephews in Israel occasionally, but says she doesn’t miss the stage.

“The music business today is so different, and that’s not my style anymore. I had my time, but now I prefer living tranquilly here in sunny L.A., just the piano and Marvin and me. ”

Hedva Amrani

Quietly, unannounced, she goes alone to Israel every couple of months, stays with her cousin and chooses material for her next Hebrew album, the comeback album. The one that, she hopes, will bring her back into Israeli hearts.

After almost 20 years of separation from the Israeli crowds, Amrani feels it’s time to try again. The graceful Yemenite singer, who burst onto the music scene in Israel with megahits, such as “One Heart” (better known as “Salam Aleicom”) and “I Dream of Naomi,” believes it’s time to remind people back home who she is.

“I know the older people in Israel still remember me,” she says as we sit in her Beverly Hills living room filled with ornaments and statues, where she lives with her husband, Dr. Dudley Danoff, a urologist. “But the younger generation doesn’t.

“They know the songs but don’t connect my face to them at all. I want to change that. And I miss the crowd so much. But I’m also very scared of discovering they won’t throw their arms around me after all these years,” she says.

Her career took off during the ’60s, when she performed with singer David Tal as Hedva and David. They sang together for almost 10 years. Their most famous hit, “I Dream of Naomi,” made it all the way to Japan, where it won first place in a prestigious singing contest, prompting a two-year Japanese career. They finally broke up in 1973. Tal died six years ago, after a long battle with drug addiction.

Ironically, it was only after moving to Los Angeles in the late ’70s that her solo career in Israel really took off. She began going back and forth — setting up a home and a family with Danoff and their two children here and promoting her singing back in Israel. It almost paid off in 1978, when her song, “One Heart,” tied for first place with “Abaniby” in the pre-Eurovision contest, once the top showcase for pop culture in the country.

The committee debated and finally, to her dismay, decided to send Izhar Cohen’s “Abaniby” (which means “I love you” in gibberish lingo) to represent Israel in the international Eurovision contest. Cohen won first place, became a European sensation for a couple of years and Amrani stayed home, somewhat embittered.

“I don’t wish to harp on this anymore,” she says today. “Just one thing I don’t get: How did ‘Abaniby’ win Eurovision? What is this song about — can you explain this to me?”

Amrani returned to compete in the pre-Eurovision contest two more times. She didn’t win, but added another huge hit to her resume, “The Two of Us Together,” before settling in the good life here for good.

“I was na?ve to think that I could go back and forth forever. And in my last contest, they started taunting me that I am a yoredet [a derogatory term for a person who left the country]. And once I started raising my kids here and taking care of my ailing parents, it was clear that my career takes a backseat.”

Now she is hoping for a comeback but only something small.

“I can’t go back to Israel for good; there is no way. It’s impossible,” she says. “I have my life here, and in my profession you cannot make a decent living, especially in Israel.

“So everything I own here is from my husband. I’m just hoping I could get a small condo in a nice area in Israel, perhaps not far from the beach, so I could come visit once in a while, perform, then open the door and smell the fresh air of the Mediterranean Sea and feel I am home again. That will be wonderful,” she said.

Spectator – Sweet Music Amid Turmoil

Those who have followed the documentaries produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center know what to expect: Films like “Genocide,” “Liberation” and “In Search of Peace” that hit you right between the eyes and in the solar plexus.

Thus, it is more the surprise that its Moriah Films division’s latest documentary, “Beautiful Music,” a 39-minute film narrated by Brooke Shields, proves to be sensitive and understated. “Beautiful Music,” directed and written by the Wiesenthal Center’s Richard Trank, was based on original material by Trank and Rabbi Marvin Hier.

It’s about a blind and autistic Arab girl who blossoms into a musical savant under the tutelage of a caring Jewish piano teacher.

Rasha Hamad, who is deaf and blind like her younger sister, is locked into a small room with her sibling by their parents and later abandoned. Traumatized and helpless, the girls are given a warm home in the Arab village of Beit Jala by a Dutch missionary couple, Edward and Helene Vollbehr.

The girls seem unable to respond to human contact, they beat themselves on the heads and they scream endlessly. But then the Vollbehrs notice that Rasha calms down when listening to classical music and shows an amazing aptitude for playing the piano.

The Vollbehrs turn to the Jerusalem Conservatory of Music, where Rasha is entrusted to Devorah Schramm — although the task is daunting even for this devoted teacher. While Rasha’s piano playing keeps improving, and she even starts to compose her own music, it takes two or three years of daily lessons before Rasha shows any signs of bonding with her teacher. Rasha also suffers when the larger world around her goes awry, when Scuds fall during the 1991 Gulf War or during the terror of the two intifadas.

With calmer days, Rasha picks up again, The last scene shows her performing a Chopin sonata, joined by Jewish classmates, to the applause of the Jewish audience, which had pitched in to pay for her lessons.

Summing up her experience, Schramm observes, “If we look at the headlines, we see generalities. But when we look at one individual, we see more deeply.”

The film will screen at the Hollywood Film Festival on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 3:30 p.m. at the Arclight Theatres, 6360 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. For information visit


Secular Fans Hip to Religious Rapper


He’s into rap, hip-hop, reggae — and religion. He’s not a Christian rocker; he’s a Chasidic reggae/hip-hop musician.

Matisyahu is the artist formerly known as Mathew Miller — until he found God, Lubavitch-style, almost five years ago.

The 25-year-old certainly beats to his own drummer. Over the last several years he’s played packed houses, garnering a following with Jews and non-Jews. He’s a regular on the New York club circuit, and always takes to the stage in the requisite black suit and white shirt. And he gets his groove on with a kippah on his head and his tzitzit flying.

On April 10, Matisyahu will work his magic in Los Angeles at a sold-out concert at the University of Judaism.

There are a handful of Orthodox musicians who use their Judaism in their lyrics, but Matisyahu seems to be one of the few who has managed to appeal to both Jewish and secular audiences. After Matisyahu performed at a secular nightclub in Iowa in January, an online magazine review said, “The crowd responded equally to his religious and secular utterances. Matisyahu certainly made converts of a few from the crowd, but whether it was to reggae or to Judaism is impossible to say.”

Matisyahu doesn’t appear to find anything incongruous about his hip-hop Chasidism. The soft-spoken young artist said it’s what has made him so successful.

“There’s never really been a religious Jewish voice that modern-day Jews and non-Jews alike can relate to,” he said.

The Lubavitch-style tradition, he said, is something others who have taken the same path can connect with: the heritage, the religion. “While this is the focal point of my life, at the same time I’m still a person that grew up with American culture and listening to American music, and I combine the two.”

The lyrics used in traditional reggae music, he says, originate from the same place as his own work: the Torah. “The Rastafarians base a lot of their on the Psalms and King David.”

In “King Without A Crown” Matisyahu sings:

What’s this feeling?
My love will rip a hole in the ceiling
Givin’ myself to you from the essence of my being
Sing to my God all these songs of love and healing
Want moshiach now so it’s time we start revealing

Many of his other songs speak of the yearning to connect with God and change the world. “Having one God is not just a Jewish concept,” he said. “Everyone can connect with that.”

While growing up, Matisyahu was heavily into all forms of alternative music, particularly reggae.

“A person’s life is in phases,” he said. “When you go through a new phase, you don’t kill the old you or forget who you were or where you came from.”

Mathew Miller came from White Plains, N.Y., where he grew up in a traditional Jewish household. His main Jewish education was twice-weekly Hebrew school classes, for which he came close to being expelled because of his disruptive influence.

A restless teenager with little interest in his studies, he turned to music, finding solace in beat-box rhythms, hip-hop and reggae.

Like many youth searching for something, Miller’s journey from Matthew to Matisyahu was an evolution and included a life-altering 11th-grade trip to Colorado, where the vast landscape made him realize there was a God.

Nonetheless, he dropped out of high school, turned to drugs and alcohol, and drifted aimlessly. But a trip to Jerusalem, and a chance Shabbat evening service at the Carlebach Shul on New York’s Upper West Side, eventually put Matisyahu onto the path he now treads today. He calls Crown Heights home.

The Chasidic melodies, raucous singing and the flower-power vibe of Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s legacy, helped Matisyahu delve deeper into both his musical and Jewish soul, ultimately finding peace, solace and meaning in his life in the Lubavitch world.

Today he focuses on spreading the message of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe — with his music. “He said we’re supposed to take the things that we do and tell the world about the moshiach, and about God.”

At his concerts, he uses psalms, quotes from the Torah and anything else to fulfill the commandment to be “a light unto the nations” — albeit with a heavy Jamaican tone.

How does he reconcile Orthodox Judaism with performing on stage — particularly when he himself has said he has to avert his eyes at some clubs because the women are not dressed modestly enough?

“Those who know me know that as an artist this is my way of fulfilling my role and doing tikkun olam,” he said, referring to the Hebrew for “healing the world.”

One of his greatest supporters is his wife. A little-publicized fact, Matisyahu was married last August to an NYU film student. The couple is expecting their first child later this year.

In the meantime, Matisyahu is busy touring the country.

“I hope that people will enjoy my concerts and come away with a sense of truth and pride in who they are and where they come from,” he said. “And everybody can hopefully learn and discover what their mission is here.”

The 8 p.m. show has sold out. A 10:30 p.m. show has been added on Sunday,
April 10 at the UJ. Tickets are $25 each.



The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed or

faxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least three

weeks in advance to:

By Keren Engelberg




B’nai Tikvah: 6:30 p.m. Hot Dogs and Havdallah Under the Stars. Candle- and spice box-making follows. $15 (per family). 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Westchester. R.S.V.P., (310) 645-6414.


The Emmis Foundation: “The Big Lie: News, Media and the Fiction of Nonfiction” featuring Harvey Sheldon on the untold story of the news media and the Holocaust. 7855 E. Horizon View Drive, Anaheim Hills. (714) 281-5929.


Consulate General of Israel L.A.: 2003 Israeli Academy Award-winner “Nina’s Tragedies,” a film about an Israeli boy, opens this week. Laemmle’s Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.

April 3 /SUNDAY


Skirball Cultural Center: 10 a.m.-
4:30 p.m. “Discover Your Personal Exodus Story: A Passover Seminar for People of All Faiths.” Lectures on history and art history, a writing workshop, hands-on ceramics and tour of the holidays gallery. $20-$60, plus $10 for ceramics workshop. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4651.


Hillel Foundation of Orange County/ Israel on Campus Coalition of Orange County/Caravan for Democracy/ StandWithUs: 8:30 a.m. (Sun.)-6 p.m. (Mon.). “Making the Case for Israel: A Two-Day Conference Presenting an Accurate Picture of Middle East Reality.” $36 (students), $75 (per day, nonstudents). UC Irvine and Merage Jewish Community Center, 1 Federation Way, Suite 200, Irvine. (800) 969-5585, ext. 247.

Beth Hillel Day School: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Designer Apparel Fundraiser with up to 93 percent off the original retail. Free admission. Temple Beth Hillel Activities Building, 12326 Riverside Drive, Valley Village. (818) 986-9052.

Temple Isaiah: 11:30 a.m. Steve Platt memorial “Par-tee” Golf Tournament. Golf, light lunch, refreshments, tee prizes and buffet dinner with awards and drawing. $250. Canyon Country Club, 1100 Murray Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 325-2281.

Valley Beth Shalom Jewish Vegetarian Society: 2 p.m. Dr. Shirley Hon discusses “Protein – Myths and Facts.” Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 349-2581.

Workmen’s Circle: 4 p.m. Comedian Howard Berger opens for Jeff-Chaim Goldberg, who performs original songs and Jewish music. $5-$10. 1525 S. Robertson Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 552-2007.
Congregation B’nai Emet: 7 p.m. Barbara Lanzet leads a discussion on “The April Dilemma” for interfaith families celebrating Passover and Easter. Part two of an interfaith program sponsored by Jewish Federation.
4645 Industrial St., No. 2C, Simi Valley. (800) 581-3723.

New Community Jewish High School: 7 p.m. Students perform Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” with lighting, sound, sets and choreography by industry professionals. Also, April 4, 7 p.m. $7-$12. The New JCC at Milken, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills.
(818) 348-0048.

April 4/MONDAY


Bais Chana of California Women’s Yeshiva: 11 a.m. “Painlessly Preparing for a Panic-Free Pesach” with Esther Simon. $18. Los Angeles Residence. R.S.V.P., (323) 634-1861.

April 5 /TUESDAY


Stanford Jewish Alumni of Los Angeles: 7 p.m. Book signing with Vincent Brook, author of “Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the ‘Jewish’ Sitcom” followed by vegetarian appetizers and Herzog Cellars’ kosher wines. Beverly Hills residence. $24. R.S.V.P. by April 1, (213) 763-7377.



Jewish World Watch: 7:30 p.m. Ruth Messinger discusses “Genocide in Sudan.” Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
(310) 474-1518, ext. 3243.

Cinema Bar: 8:30 p.m. Peter Himmelman concert. 3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. (310) 390-1328.

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University of Judaism: 8 p.m. “Memory and the Monument After 9/11” a slide lecture by James E. Young. Free. Gindi Auditorium. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. R.S.V.P., (213) 470-3405.

Noy Productions: 8:30 p.m. “Rita: The Concert.” See page 31 for more information.



Ahavah (20s-30s): 7:30 p.m. Shabbat by the Beach potluck dinner for young professional women. $5. Marina Del Rey residence.


April 11

Chapman University: “An evening of Remembrance and Hope” black-tie dinner with Elie Wiesel. For information call (800) 253-8569.



New Age Singles: 4 p.m. No-host movie and dinner in West Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 874-9937.

The New JCC at Milken (21+): 6:30 p.m. Syrah wine tasting. $25 (members), $35 (public). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3269.


Singles Helping Others: 9 a.m.-noon. Sort food items at the SOVA food bank. Light physical activity required. 6027 Reseda Blvd., Reseda. (818) 884-5332.

Elite Jewish Theatre Singles: Noon. American-style Sunday brunch at the Magic Castle. $41.50 (includes admission, brunch, tax and tip). 7001 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. Prepaid reservations only, (310) 203-1312.

Jewish Singles Volleyball: Noon-3 p.m. Weekly coed beach volleyball game. Court 11 or close to it. Playa del Rey, where Culver Boulevard meets the beach.
(310) 402-0099.

Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza: 3 p.m. Israeli singer Noa Dori joins Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble in “Neshama: Stories of the Soul.” $26-$72. 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. (805) 449-2787.

Chef Richard’s: 6 p.m. (reception), 6:45 p.m. (dinner) Family-style Chinese dinner with wine reception. Free parking. $30 (prepaid reservations only). Uncle Chen’s, 16624 Ventura Blvd., Encino. R.S.V.P.,
(818) 995-3455.

New Age Singles: 7 p.m. Starlight Ballroom Dance with mixers and line dances, wine and refreshments. $10-$12. University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 472-1391.

The New JCC at Milken: 8 p.m. Swing dancing workshop with an introduction to jitterbug/East Coast swing, foxtrot, waltz, cha cha, rumba and more. $5-$10. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills.
(818) 464-3269.

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Singles Helping Others: 7 p.m. Monthly meeting to socialize, meet others and hear about new events. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 591-0772.

Coffee Talk (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. Weekly discussion group. $7. 9760 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-4595, ext. 27.


L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connection: Pizza supper and conversation at La Piazza for all ages. 6301 W. Third St., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.

Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. “Being real.” $10. West Los Angeles.
(310) 444-8986.


Nexus: Wed., April 6, 7-9 p.m. The first meeting of the Nexus OC book club will discuss Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case For Israel.” Also, Schmooze and Java Coffee House Night happens on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 7-9 p.m. Coffee Plantation, 18122 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley.


Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Calling in ‘The One.'” $15-$17. 639 26th St., Santa Monica. (310) 393-4616.

UCLA Hillel (18-26): 7 p.m. “Turbo-Dating,” spend seven minutes with seven single guys or gals. Limited seating; first come, first served. Free mocktails and light refreshments. Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. by Wed., April 6,


Beach Hillel/Jewlicious: 6 p.m.-Sun., April 10. “Jewlicious @ The Beach” a gathering of the tribe weekend with students and young adults from California and Arizona. $36-$100. Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach.

ATID: 7:30 p.m. Friday Night Live Shabbat service and after event with Rapid Networking. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244.

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Strike a Jewish Pose

Done with downward-facing dog? Try an Aleph instead. This Sunday, Bat Yam Hadassah’s “Under 50” group does Jewish Yoga. Yoga Garden owner Ida Unger leads a one-hour introductory session in “Yoga and Judaism,” which combines discussion and practice of yoga postures that correspond to letters from the Hebrew alphabet. A social hour and light refreshments follow.

Sun., April 3, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. $18-$20. 30s and 40s. Yoga Garden Studios, 2236 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 478-6596.

7 Days in the Arts


Disabled artists make headway today thanks to the Irene Vaksberg Salon. The hair salon-by-day becomes an art space this evening, offering a forum for work by emerging artists with disabilities. “Readings From Explore and Express” features works by blind photographer Michael Richard and ceramicist Beth Abrams.

7 p.m. $10. 7803 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 939-7400.


Jerusalem-born artist Rhea Carmi is one of eight early and mid-career artists whose work appears as part of TarFest Art Show 2004. According to her Web site, her body of mixed-media pieces “depicts brutality and insanity of war and its resultant human suffering both physical and spiritual.” The exhibition is part of the Miracle Mile Players’ Festival of Film, Music and Art being held this weekend, but remains on display at Lawrence Asher Gallery through Nov. 6.

5820 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.


Fashion designer-cum-musical producer Max Azria and BCBGMaxAzria Entertainment compatriot Charles Cohen are honored tonight by AMIT Cherish the Children. The Israeli organization provides religious and general education in the form of 60 schools, as well as youth villages, surrogate family residences and other programs. The gala dinner benefits the AMIT network of schools in Israel.

5:30 p.m. $300+. Luxe Hotel, 11461 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 859-4885.


Tonight, those not yet sick of the political season get one last dose of wit before Big Tuesday. Parlor Performances and Harris and Frank Productions present the next and last installment of “Entertaining Politics: Six Tuesdays of Post-Conventional Wisdom,” with “philosopher-comedian” and Harvard grad Emily Levine.

7:30 p.m. $25. Magicopolis, 1418 Fourth St., Santa Monica. (310) 471-3979.


With hopes to become an annual event, The Century City Film Festival kicks off this year featuring films falling under the banner of “Camp, Cult, Classics,” and raising much-needed money and conversation on behalf of minorities in entertainment. Tonight’s benefit lasts through Friday and gives to the Minorities in Broadcasting Training Program.

Oct. 27-30. (877) 723-6887.” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>


Simians get center stage at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery’s new exhibition by celebrity photographer Jill Greenberg. A departure from her usual subject, “Monkey Portraits” is true to its title, featuring portraits of apes, who, through Greenberg’s lens, begin to look remarkably human.

Through Dec. 11. 6150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 937-0765. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>


Sure, ventriloquism can be creepy in the same way that uncle who used to pull a coin out of your ear always kind of freaked you out. But David Strassman has got the stuff, if you believe anything the Brit and Irish critics say. His one-man/many-puppet show “Dummy” was well-received on that other continent, so check out his latest, “Strassman,” for yourself. Just leave the kids at home for this decidedly grown-up puppet show.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 2 p.m. (Sun.). $14-$16. 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 769-7529.

Seeking Klezmer at the Source by Naomi Pfefferman, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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When Yale Strom created his first klezmer band in 1981, he promptly bought a one-way ticket to Eastern Europe. While other groups in the emerging klezmer revival were transcribing old-world music off 78s, Strom intended to “find songs that existed only in the memories of Jews who still lived there,” he said.
Scholars scoffed as he packed his backpack, violin and tape recorder: “After the Holocaust, they assumed the Jews who had returned to their former homes had succumbed to communism,” said Strom, 47, a leading klezmer musician and scholar.
He proved them wrong during his year-long 1981 trip, the subject of his new memoir, “A Wandering Feast: A Journey Through the Jewish Culture of Eastern Europe” (Jossey-Bass, $24.95), co-written with his wife, Elizabeth Schwartz. This Jewish “On the Road” records his musical detective work as well as songs and recipes he encountered.
It all began when he arrived at Zagreb’s Jewish old age home on a drizzly night; the next morning, 79-year-old Rut sang the “Waltz From Senta” she had danced to at her cousin’s wedding in Szeged, Hungary as a girl.
In Kosice, Czechoslovakia, Strom sloshed through eight inches of snow to the shul on Zvonarska Street, where the shammes cried as he remembered how his mother, who had died in Auschwitz, had loved Yiddish songs.
To capture the zmiros the man and his friends sang on the Sabbath, Strom strapped his tape recorder to his leg and turned it on as the elderly Jews pounded their fists against the chipped, wooden table covered with siddurim, crumbs and shot glasses.
In the Carpathain Ukraine that spring, he traveled by horse and cart to perform with a Rom (Gypsy) band at a wedding and was so inspired that he improvised a song, “On the Road to Salang.” When the musician returned to the United States in 1982, he brought back more than just 50 obscure songs for his band to perform.
“I felt I had literally walked the paths where our forbears had walked, whether they were marching to the chuppah or the gas chambers,” he said.
If Strom is now renown as one of the world’s most prolific klezmer aficionados (he’s completed 10 books, eight films and nine CDs), he traces his passion to the journey.
“I learned not to take any day for granted, because you may not know where you’ll be the next day,” he said.

Aroeste Gives New Life to Ladino Tunes

Purists were skeptical when Sarah Aroeste debuted her Ladino rock ‘n’ roll band back in 2001. Most artists singing in the fading Sephardic language were traditionalists, performing classical versions of songs dating to the Jews’ expulsion from Spain in 1492.

But here was Aroeste, mixing rock and jazz with the flamenco and Middle Eastern-tinged music of her ancestors, singing those same lush romances accompanied by electric guitar as well as oud. And, the New York press noted, she was doing so while performing with a bare midriff and gyrating hips — moves that led several publications to label her “The Jewish Shakira.”

During a recent phone interview from her Manhattan apartment, the 28-year-old singer expressed distaste for the “Shakira” label.

“People tend to harp on that, as if I’m being deliberately exploitative,” she said with a sigh. “But why shy away from the sensuality that is actually in this culture?”

Yet, when she quit her day job to found the band, “people thought I was nuts,” she said. “I mean, a Ladino rock group — who had ever heard of that? So I was charting new territory. I was afraid of the critics, and I struggled to find a balance I hoped would work.”

Mission apparently accomplished. Aroeste’s 2003 CD, “A La Una — In the Beginning,” sold out its initial run and now shares shelf space with CDs by classical Sephardic artists, such as Isabel Ganz. Her band regularly performs not just at nightclubs but at Jewish venues across the United States.

In Los Angeles this week, she played at the Temple Bar, a rock nightclub, and Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel; tonight she’ll appear at Sinai Temple’s young adult service, Friday Night Live.

Observers have noted her crossover appeal: “I am stunned … at how successfully Aroeste has succeeded in setting this music in a way that makes it contemporary, without losing the very traditional feel of the music and the music’s roots,” Ari Davidow wrote in Klezmer Shack magazine. “Until [‘A La Una’], I don’t think I could have pointed to a sharp, contemporary, danceable Sephardic music album. Until I heard this particular album, I don’t think it would have occurred to me that the category was necessary.”

“Sarah has really cornered the market on Ladino rock,” said Randee Friedman of Sounds Write Productions Inc., a distributer of her CD. “A lot of Ladino comes across my desk, but it’s old-style, and Sarah is really hip. She’s reaching out to the younger generation, and I think she’s been very successful at that.”

If Aroeste has successfully conveyed her enthusiasm for Sephardic music, it’s virtually in her blood. She grew up in a “big, fat Jewish Greek family” in Princeton, N.J., where Ladino songs graced the record player and the Shabbat dinner table. The Yale-educated soprano further fell in love with the ancient art form while studying at a Tel Aviv opera summer program eight years ago.

But when she organized a new Jewish music project for the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in 1999, Aroeste grew “frustrated and disappointed” by the dearth of novel Sephardic fare. The klezmer-fusion renaissance was thriving in Ashkenazi circles, courtesy of artists such as Frank London and John Zorn, “but there was nothing Sephardic that I could relate to as a modern, American woman,” she said.

“I felt, this music is in danger of disappearing within a generation unless we do something to reach new people,” the performer continued. “And that became my mission.”

To reach as wide an audience as possible, Aroeste focused her Sephardic fusion on secular, rather than liturgical songs. “The themes are totally universal and contemporary, like bad breakups, blinddating, crushes, long-distance relationships,” she said. “In fact, if you walked into one of my shows, you might not even realize it’s Jewish music, because it doesn’t sound the way most people think of Jewish music, meaning klezmer.”

“Yo M’enamori” (“Moon Trick”), for example, is more reminiscent of contemporary rock; Aroeste’s trance remix of “Hija Mia” (“The One I Want”) sounds practically psychedelic.

Yet all her songs are grounded in the original, ancient melodies and lyrics, which has apparently satisfied would-be critics.

“At first, people wanted to see if I was going to completely change and popularize the music, but they’ve seen that’s not the case,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to maintain the integrity of the music and to use my work to preserve and revitalize the tradition.”

Sarah Aroeste will perform Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m. at SinaiTemple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. For more information, visit .

David Gamliel’s Weird Science

It’s a wintery Saturday night in Hollywood, and I am having one of those quintessential L.A. outings. Sitting in the dank, stonewalled basement of the landmark Magic Castle, I am watching psychokinetecist David Gamliel move objects with his mind. Our well-dressed group stares at the short, intense, balding, goateed Israeli as his hands hover over a pair of eyeglasses that sit on a green felt table. His hands begin to make slow circles in the air, and soon the glasses levitate and circle, mimicking his hands’ movements. There is an audible sigh. He never touched the glasses — we all watched.

"These magnets cost a fortune," Gamliel jokes, easing the tension of the moment, and allowing the glasses to fall back onto the table.

"He’s a mutant!" one woman exclaims.

Later, Gamliel tells me he prefers to think of his abilities as a gift. Other tricks up his sleeve that night included spoon-bending and hypnosis. He says he’s always known he was different, even before he discovered his gift nine years ago.

"As a small boy, when we used to play hide-and-seek, I was able to know where everybody is," he says. "I always thought it was a natural ability; that other people can do it."

After 25 years in this country, Gamliel’s slightly broken English is still spoken with the hint of an accent. Maybe it’s that Israeli charm that does it, or that ever-elusive charisma, but there’s something about Gamliel that makes you want to believe. He backs up the talk with his act, too. Watching him bend a spoon with just his thumb and forefinger, or levitate a fork, it’s impossible to discern the trick — if there indeed is one.

This draw has taken him as far as Japan, and as close as the last bar mitzvah you attended: "I’ll start in the lobby while they serve hors d’oeuvres for about half an hour, then I go and do tables."

He also performs Thursday nights at Cafe Belissimo, and every couple months at the Magic Castle.

In the six years he’s been performing, Gamliel’s had his share of nonbelievers. But, as he puts it, "I always have arguments with people that study physics or psychology. But it brings us back to the fact that all they study is wrong and they don’t like it."

In truth, it seems the jury is still out on the reality of psychokinetics. Probably the most famous Israeli spoon bender and mentalist, Uri Geller, acquiesced to have his powers studied by Stanford Research Institute back in the 1970s. But the controversy surrounding his claimed powers has never really been settled.

And though too late for a ride on Geller’s proverbial coattails, the 53-year-old carpenter-by-day seems unconcerned. Gamliel enjoys his regular gigs, and says his eventual goal is to be able to use his abilities to help people more. Party tricks aside, he lists hypnosis, healing, mind-reading, psychic predictions and conflict resolution among his powers.

"I want to apply to be an adviser to our new governor," he says. (As I cynically wait for the punch line, I realize he’s being sincere.) "I think I can help him out to make the right decisions. I can do predictions."

It was during a visit with his sister in Holland that he realized he had these gifts.

"We were sitting in a restaurant and waiting to be served and I just started playing with a fork, and I noticed that the fork is acting really funny," he says. "It started moving inside my hand and it started getting warm. I remember this vividly. I came home to L.A., and I started calling people because I wasn’t sure what it is."

Gamliel says he eventually found a man who could explain it to him.

While he says he was scared by his own powers at first, he’s learned how to harness them and today has chosen to embrace them.

"My favorite thing is to make peace between people — between family members or between neighbors," he says. "I don’t know how I do it. I just talk to the people. By talking and showing love, they can change their opinions about each other and I make them understand that there’s no need for animosity or rage."

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m surprisingly touched by the warm and fuzzy spoon-bending mentalist. If it’s not real, I’d rather not know anymore, and so I have just one more question. Doesn’t all that silverware get expensive?

"I’m a regular customer at Denny’s," he says with a smirk.

Livin’ La

Singer-songwriter Diex sees himself as an ambassador, a
bridge between the unlikely worlds of the prayer filled synagogues and the
groove-shaking beats of J Lo, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin.

Since he moved to Los Angeles from Buenos Aires 18 months
ago, Diex’s reggae and jazz-tinged Latin melodies like “Desde Aca” (From Here)
and “Cuidad De Nostalgia” (City of Nostalgia) have been stealthily invading
college and noncommercial radio stations across the country. And while the
musical influences of his catchy songs come from Anglo and Latino songwriters
like the Beatles, Oasis, Fito Paez and Charles Garcia, it is also his Jewish
roots and his work as a musical arranger for synagogues in Argentina and Los
Angeles that inspires Diex.

“My mother is a singer who sings tango in Yiddish,” said
Diex, 30, who is known to his mother as Diego Goldfarb. “I have a lot of
melodies in my mind from her singing. I also like the Sephardi stuff — the
rhythm and percussions of Mizrachi music.”

Snatches of synagogue melodies too have insinuated
themselves into  Diex’s music. When he was 20, Diex started a decade long stint
as musical director in different synagogues. In Los Angeles, he worked at
Temple Etz Chayim in Thousand Oaks, but he says the American style of synagogue
music is too conservative for his tastes.

“I was more used to the Latin style with everyone singing,”
he said. “It is more messy, and more happy for my ears.”

Now Diex sees himself as a world citizen, a person whose
roots come from more than one place. His songs have a playful ambiguity about
them that reflect his roving identity and musical tastes, and he is not worried
that he sings in a language that many Americans don’t understand.

“Even if people don’t know what I am saying in the song,
they know that it is a love song or whatever,” he said. “I think there is
something international about music, and even without knowing the lyrics,
people can still feel the music.”

Diex will be performing at the Latin-Alternative Holiday
Party on Dec. 19 at the Alterknit Lounge in The Knitting Factory, 7021
Hollywood Blvd., at 9 p.m. $10. For tickets, call (323) 463-0204. He will also
be performing on Dec. 26 at Fusion at Club Good Hurt, 12249 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles,
at 11 p.m. (310) 390-1076.

For more information go to .

7 Days In Arts


“The Nanny’s” Fran Drescher whines her way into heartsonce again, as she hosts the Jewish Television Network’s one-hour,all-the-stops-pulled-out”A Chanukah Celebration.” Today on PBS, Fran shares herown Chanukah memories, then introduces each of the segments that follow: anexplanation of “The Eight Lights of Chanukah” by Rabbi Irwin Kula; homedecorating tips with The Journal’s own Teresa Strasser; music by Craig Taubmanand Theodore Bikel; and “Aleph … Bet … Blast-off!” puppet show. 9 p.m. .


From yesterday’s “Celebration” to today’s “Chanukah Extravaganza.” Day Two of the Fest O’ Lights brings the Friendship Circle’s kick-off event. The program for special-needs kids presents an introduction to their organization for parents, children and potential teen volunteers, while avoiding the typical lecture-and-refreshments open house scenario. Today’s activities include a latke-making workshop, arts and crafts, sports and games and a bubble show.1-3:30 p.m. Chabad Persian Youth Center, 9022 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 653-1086.


One little girl thinks her school friends’ names don’tsuit them at all. Shira — whose name means song — doesn’t like to sing, and Avi — whose name means father — isn’t anyone’s dad. So begins the premise of “ShemotMuzarim,” (“Strange Names”). The newly released Hebrew kids’ book, written byShari Dash Greenspan and illustrated by Avi Katz, explores the meanings behindHebrew names from a child’s perspective. $12.



Perfect for gathering ’round the chanukiah, DebbieFriedman’s “Light These Lights” is her latest collection of Chanukah songs, outjust in time for the holiday. The CD features Friedman classics like “Not ByMight,” traditional songs like “Y’Mei HaChanukah,” as well as her interpretationof Peter Yarrow’s “Light One Candle.” $15.95.



Intercultural holiday warm fuzzies come in the form of afree six-hour music and dance show at the Music Center, sponsored by the LosAngeles County Board of Supervisors today. Included in the list of more than 38acts are performances as diverse as Persian santur-playing by ManoochehrSadeghi, a Haitian carol sung by the Compton High School Choir and Chanukahsongs by Valley Beth Shalom Congregational Choir, with live music by the LosAngeles Jewish Symphony and klezmer variations by the Oy!Stars. Other actsacknowledging the MOT’s are Louisville High School’s Christian-oriented choirand the San Fernando Valley Youth Choir. 3-9 p.m. Free. Dorothy ChandlerPavilion, downtown Los Angeles. (213) 972-3099. The show will also be broadcastlive on KCET.



Your gift this Christmas morning? Jewishy fun at The Zimmer Children’s Museum. Just roll out of bed to be ready for their Pajama Party, featuring games, storytelling, exhibits, hat-making and snacks.Free (members),$3 (nonmembers) plus $5 (per family, suggested donation). 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8998.


Missed the nipple controversy the first time? Copro/Nason Gallery now offers you a second opportunity. Leonard Nimoy’s black-and-white photographic exploration of Jewish mysticism, spirituality and sexuality, “Shekhina,” is on display through Jan. 31.1-6 p.m. (Wednesday-Saturday). 11265 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 398-2643.

The Circuit

Not So Funny Comedy

Emotions have been erupting between Jewish comedians performing raunchy and tasteless routines at the twice-monthly, Comedy Central-sponsored “blue” humor “Sit ‘n’ Spin” nights at Hollywood’s Hudson Guild Theatre.

The fracas began at an early October “Sit ‘n’ Spin” when John Hayman, a non-Jewish comedian, performed his work-in-progress which included a galling routine where Hayman imitated Anne Frank describing her death-camp experience in summer-camp terms. The jokes offended longtime comic actress Annie Korzen, who also performs the traveling one-woman show “Yenta Unplugged.” Korzen’s heckling brought mixed audience reactions.

At the “Sit ‘n’ Spin” two weeks later on Oct. 16, while other comedians maintained the lowbrow and crass atmosphere in the club by slinging penis and sex jokes thick and fast, Korzen performed a serious rebuttal piece to Hayman, stating “Didn’t the world do enough to Anne Frank?”

Tension climaxed with the evening’s final routine by Jewish comic and TV producer Ron Zimmerman, who defended the original Anne Frank routine as satire. He also read Holocaust revisionists’ anti-Semitic literature to the audience, saying, “This is not satire. Why aren’t Annie [Korzen] and her friends out heckling them?”

Zimmerman then read the original Anne Frank routine, including a joke about her death camp’s arts and crafts activities including the pulling of gold teeth. Korzen’s supporters stood and walked out, shouting “This is disgusting!”

The show’s organizers then cut short Zimmerman’s routine, cuing the house band and announcing the evening’s end.

“Shame on you!” said Zimmerman as patrons left their seats. “Everybody that left here is pathetic! The last Jewish man standing, that’s what I am.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Knott’s Berry Shul

Prayer was a special Sukkot attraction at Knott’s Berry Farm, when about 50 visitors converged to daven mincha, the afternoon prayer service, on Oct. 15.

Remembering Chana

Supporters of Bais Chana of California Women’s Yeshiva gathered at the home of Alan and Lisa Stern on Oct. 1 to honor the memory of rebbetzin Chana Schneersohn, the mother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the seventh Chabad Rebbe.

Rebbetzin Chana died 39 years ago, on the sixth day of Tishrei, but she is vividly remembered for the self sacrifice that she exhibited when her husband, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was exiled in Siberia in the 1920s and 1930s. There she collected herbs and plants to grind into ink so that he could continue writing his kabbalistic texts.

At the Stern’s house, Berel Weiss spoke about the joy of giving, and Sarah Karmely talked about inspiration from the rebbetzin. Neil Seidel played Chasidic tunes on the guitar, and Vanessa Paloma played the harp.

Nshei Chabad (the Women of Chabad) also held a gathering for the rebbetzin’s yarhzeit, at the home of Devorie Kreiman in Hancock Park. Fayge Yemini and Ruchama Thaler organized the event, which featured Shternie Lipsker from Sherman Oaks, speaking about the High Holidays, and Chabad emissary Ita Marcus from Los Alamitos, who spoke about the mystical experience of baking challah. Marcus explained that the Hebrew name Chana stands for the three mitzvot given to women: challah (separating a portion of challah dough for God), niddah (family purity) and hadlakas ner (lighting Shabbat candles). She said that one should give charity before baking challah, and when kneading the dough, one should bear in mind the needs of others, and ask that they be blessed with what they need.

For more information about Nshei Chabad, call 310 785-9389, or 323-651-0138.


If you are still hankering for a taste of sukkot then you can head down to the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles where you can look at the winning booths of the Jewish Student Union’s (JSU) model-sukkah-building contest. Be sure to check out Gina Gorner’s winning booth. Gorner is a sophomore at John Marshall High School, and she won the $200 prize. Neda Kadkhoda and Nazanin Frankel of Santa Monica High School shared the first runner-up prize, a Sony Discman. Honorable mentions went to Michelle Rapport of Hamilton High School, and Jasmine Andout and Julianne Andout of Santa Monica High School.

JSU is a program that facilitates Jewish clubs for public school kids. Typically, JSU counselors go to public schools at lunchtime armed with kosher pizzas, and sit down and talk about Judaism with unaffiliated Jewish students in a friendly and open manner. Currently, JSU is operating in 14 public high schools in the greater Los Angeles area.

Call 310-229-9006 for more details.

Laugh it up

Fifth District City Councilmember Jack Weiss refused to tell any jokes, but he did get up on stage on Oct. 16 at the Laugh Factory to thank everyone who attended the Benefit for the Fairfax Building Plane Crash Victims (to help those injured in the June 6 tragedy when a airplane crashed into an apartment building in the Fairfax district). The comedians who performed were hilarious. Among them, Sunda Croonquist who launched into a thousand accents as she described being black, Jewish and having to fit into both South Los Angeles and Sinai Temple; Tony Rock, brother of comedian Chris; and Bob Saget (“Full House,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos”).

Before Saget’s set, he and Weiss schmoozed about the jokes they heard in shul over the High Holidays.

Comedian Provides Laughs to Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberman has a duel agenda for his time in Israel.

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

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

7 Days In Arts


Linda Richman types be warned. The American Cinematheque’s “Can’t Stop the Musicals!! A Celebration of Hollywood Musicals of the 1970s and 1980s” presents the plotz-inducing Barbra Streisand Double Feature tonight. From Glamour Babs to Cross-dresser Babs, the back-to-back bonanza showcases two very different Streisands in screenings of “Funny Lady” and “Yentl.”


The Conejo Jewish community continues to sound its presence today with a special cantors concert at Temple Etz Chaim titled “Shema Koleinu: Hear Our Voices.” Cantors Pablo Duek of Temple Etz Chaim, Peter Halpern of Temple Adat Elohim, Kenny Ellis of Temple Beth Haverim, Mike Stein of Temple Aliyah and Marcelo Gindlin (pictured) of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue join cantorial soloists Sandy Bernstein and Kim Moskowitz in performing an eclectic selection of spiritually uplifting songs.8 p.m. $18-$25 (general), $50-$1,000 (patrons and sponsors). 1080 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-6891.


All around Los Angeles on practically every day of the week, Israeli dancing sessions are offered for a fee that’s cheaper than a movie ticket and a payoff that’s way better than “The Matrix: Reloaded.” Today, head to the 310 for lessons by Tikvah Mason or Michel and Israel Yakove. (Tikvah also teaches in West Hollywood on Wednesdays.) David Dassa brings his expertise to West Los Angeles and Valley Village on Sundays and Wednesdays, respectively; and James Zimmer offers swing-salsa-tango before segueing into Israeli on Tuesdays at the West Valley JCC. Those who don’t know their Yemenite step from their grapevine should show up early, as lessons generally precede open dance.Mason: (310) 278-5383 (Mondays), (323) 876-1717 (Wednesdays). Yakove: (310) 839-2550. Dassa: Zimmer: (310) 284-3638.


Old-schoolers seeking Jewish gangsta flava need look no further than the American Cinematheque tonight. In conjunction with the film’s special edition DVD release on June 10, “Once Upon a Time in America” screens tonight in all its digitally restored, uncut, 229-minute gory glory. For some added bling-bling, the big night also includes in-person appearances by actor James Woods, producer Arnon Milchan, film historian Richard Schickel and production executive Fred Caruso.7 p.m. $6-$9. The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-3456.


Zócalo. It’s a cultural forum. It’s a public think tank. It’s a chance to mingle with some of the biggest American thinkers. And it’s happening again tonight. Essayist and author Debra Dickerson discusses “The End of Blackness and the Future of African America” at the downtown Central Library. Educate your mind. Free your soul.7 p.m. Free. Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., downtown. (213) 228-7025.


Three female Middle Eastern artists bring their individual perspectives to the subject of displacement in three movies now on view at UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. Mona Hatoum, originally from Beirut; Shirin Neshat, born in Qazvin, Iran; and Michal Rovner, born in Tel Aviv, each contribute film or video to the exhibition titled “Elsewhere: Negotiating Difference and Distance in Time-Based Art.”Noon-8 p.m. (Thursdays); noon-5 p.m. (Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays). Runs through July 27. Free. Westwood. (310) 825-4361.


Another faux-weathered, mass-produced Pottery Barn piece? Think outside the mall this weekend. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium welcomes back the Contemporary Crafts Market this year. On display and for sale will be decorative, functional and wearable artwork by over 250 artists.10 a.m.-6 p.m. June 6-8. $6. 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 285-3655.

Cantor Steven Puzarne of Breeyah.

Carole Levine had been a member of Temple Israel of Hollywood for 28 years. During that time, she attended temple only during the High Holidays. Recently, Levine has started going to temple more often. As a flautist for The Chai Tones, a 10-piece temple band, Levine finds herself at the temple now at least once a month, playing jazzed-up versions of the regular synagogue melodies.

“I’ve felt more connected to the temple since I started playing there,” said Levine, a professional musician. “I know all the songs now and I know all the prayers I didn’t know before.”

To counter declining attendance during regular services, several temples are regularly holding arts-enhanced services — such as The Chai Tones at Temple Israel, Friday Night Live at Sinai Temple in Westwood, Shabbos Fest at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino and services at Temple Shalom for the Arts — to get the crowds in the door. Typically, these services increase the temple attendance by at least 25 percent and, for many, they facilitate an entree into synagogue life that they might not have experienced before.

“Friday Night Live [FNL] has made a tremendous difference,” said Rabbi David Wolpe, who started FNL with musician Craig Taubman as a way of appealing to the single and childless post-college population to attend temple. With its mixture of live music, Israeli dancing, singing and speakers, FNL now draws about 1,500 people to Sinai Temple once a month.

“It gives a lot of people the chance to be part of our community, and most come to other events at the temple as well,” Wolpe said.

“[These programs] attract people who are peripheral members of the temples, Jews-by-choice, people on their way to conversion as well as active members,” said Cantor Aviva Rosenbloom of Temple Israel of Hollywood.

In fact, these ventures have been so successful that there are two Los Angeles synagogue revitalization organizations — Synagogue 2000 and Breeyah — that are devoted to helping synagogues and temples develop arts-based services. Synagogue 2000 has already consulted with 95 synagogues in Los Angeles and 23 in other cities, and they use the arts as one of the ways to help synagogues give their congregants a more authentic spiritual experience. Breeyah, which was started by Cantor Steven Puzarne, has already assisted in the creation of 10 temple bands around the country.

“We have a theory that every synagogue should be a Jewish arts center,” said Puzarne, whose experiences at Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica — where only 30 people would attend regular services, but 300 came to the musical services — led him to start the organization. “The synagogue should be an extremely creative place that uses the arts as the center of that activity…. Every cantor should be the artist-in-residence.”

Arts-based services tend to be held in Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues. Although halachic restrictions prevent Orthodox synagogues from having live music, the success of congregations like The Happy Minyan in Pico-Robertson, where standing-room-only crowds regularly enjoy the extended singing and dancing, suggests that there is a place for a less traditional service in the Orthodox world as well.

“A lot of artists are soul-searchers and dreamers, and so, too, are people on a religious path,” said Rabbi Zoe« Klein of Temple Isaiah. “There are lots of different windows into the soul, and one of them is creativity.”

For more information on Synagogue 2000, visit For more information on Breeyah, contact (310) 572-7969. The organization’s Web site,, will be up in mid-May.

Maseng of Many Hats

Somebody must have perfected human cloning, because no way is Danny Maseng just one person.

When the singer-songwriter-guitarist-actor-poet-dramatist-lay rabbi-teacher-visionary, who will headline the Fund for Reform Judaism’s annual fundraiser at Temple Isaiah in Rancho Park on June 13, isn’t performing, he may be teaching the Zohar, leading a service at his New York congregation or dashing off a new setting for a passage in Jewish liturgy.

Or he might be working institutionally on innovations in Jewish arts, Jewish worship, Jewish music or Jewish camping.

Maseng , 51, (whose first name is pronounced "Donny") was born in Israel to American parents and jumped onto the fast track as a youngster outside Tel Aviv. Trained in classical guitar as a child, he was playing professionally by age 14 and became a popular singer and actor in Israel while still a teenager, appearing in productions of the Habimah National Theatre.

His first stateside gig was a role in the Broadway production "Only Fools Are Sad" in 1971. Maseng immigrated to the United States in 1975 and worked in theater as an actor, director and designer. In recent years, he’s had roles in the "Law & Order" spinoffs and the soap opera "One Life to Live" and has done voice-over narration for documentaries.

Maseng told The Journal he started writing tunes as soon as he started performing as a kid, but didn’t get serious about songwriting until the early ’80s. "I was always writing music as a singer, but I didn’t see myself as a songwriter; it was always about the singing, what sounded good for my voice," he said. One of his early full-length works was a musical titled "Let There Be Light" that never made it into production, but will be released later this year as a concept album.

More recently, he’s toured a one-man show called "Wasting Time With Harry Davidowitz." Using the stories of his grandfather, Harry, as a framework, the intimate 90-minute performance traces Maseng’s own spiritual journey using homily and song.

After the introspective "Wasting Time," Maseng said, "I wanted to do something big, with big vocal music." The result was "Soul on Fire," which Maseng’s Web site describes as "a blend of meditative, uplifting, and ecstatic songs" that form "a musical journey of discovery."

The work combines spoken narration with updated versions of Chasidic, folk and cantorial tunes, as well as Maseng’s own compositions (and a song by Irish singer Loreena McKennitt). Maseng may be the first composer to pair the teachings of Reb Nachman of Bratslav with a Zen Buddhist chant.

Maseng started writing liturgical music about three years ago, although his interest in it is not new. "There was something about liturgical music that always spoke to me," he said. Nor was his fascination limited to Jewish music; he said Bach was his favorite composer when he was a youngster.

Although Maseng formed a chamber group to perform liturgical music before he left Israel, he got sidetracked from it for 25 years. Now, he said, "it’s literally taken over everything that I’ve been doing."

Recent commissions from cantors and synagogues include prayer settings, the seven wedding blessings and a Chanukah tune. "For a songwriter to know in advance that your stuff is going to be recorded and paid for is a real luxury," he said.

Maseng is also active in Jewish life on the institutional level. A former arts director at the Reform movement’s summer camp in Wisconsin, he’s currently the director of the Spielberg Fellowships for the Foundation for Jewish Camping, Inc. He’s also a teaching fellow for the worship think-tank Synagogue 2000 and was recently awarded a grant to establish T’hila, the Jewish Arts Institute.

For the past 10 years, he has taught classes in Torah and Jewish mysticism and served as spiritual leader of Congregation Agudas Achim, a Reform synagogue in suburban Westchester County, N.Y.

Maseng’s mellifluous, caressing voice, virtuosity on the guitar, eclectic musical styles and multiple talents make him a powerful asset to the forces that are seeking to revitalize Jewish institutional life. But he doesn’t seem to have allowed his ego to keep pace with his gifts.

"I don’t really believe that human beings create," Maseng told a Vancouver reporter in April. "I believe that God creates, and a person’s individual talent is really just special ears or special eyes that have the ability to access something that already exists."

For more information about the Fund for Reform Judaism event, call the Union of American Hebrew Congregations at (323) 653-9962.

The Music Men

Move over Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

The Three Jewish Tenors are coming to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa next month, accompanied by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra.

Cantors David Propis, Alberto Mizrahi and David Katz — all of major U.S. congregations — will perform cantorial classics, arias and showtunes. They’re equally at home on the operatic stage as the bimah: Mizrahi has understudied for Pavarotti, Propos’ 1998 Carnegie Hall debut was dubbed "stunning" by The New York Times, and Katz received standing ovations for his starring role in "La Boheme."

The goal of the March 14 concert, presented by the Jewish Community Center of Orange County (JCC), is to raise more than $100,000 to benefit the JCC and participating Jewish organizations. It also aims to bring Jewish music out of the synagogue and into the concert hall: "We’re trying to elevate the work in a way that makes it more accessible to a cross-generational public," says Chicago-based Mizrahi.

The Three Jewish Tenors began during a round of golf between sessions of a cantorial convention in Chicago in 1993. Propis, Mizrahi and Katz’s predecessor, Cantor Meir Finkelstein, were puttering around the course while harmonizing Yiddish songs and snippets of the Verdi opera, "Rigoletto."

The Houston cantor flashed back to the concert his renowned father, Dov Propis, had performed with fellow cantor-opera singers Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker. It was the 1950s — the Golden Age of cantorial music — a time when Tucker and Peerce regularly appeared with symphony orchestras and received the enthusiasm usually reserved for secular stars.

Propis’ mind then flashed forward to the early 1990s, when The Three Tenors — Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras — had become classical music’s hottest ticket. The opera stars were selling out concert halls and inspiring copycats such as the Three Irish Tenors and the Three Mo’ Tenors.

The light bulb went off inside Propis’ head. "I thought, ‘If they can do it, why can’t we?’" he recalls. "Why not The Three Jewish Tenors?"

The cantor was so sure of his idea that he went for broke — literally — when proposing the act as a fundraiser for his Conservative shul. "I basically pledged my salary for a year if we didn’t make a profit," says Propis, who was vindicated when a 1995 concert with members of Houston’s Symphony Orchestra netted $120,000. In 1996, another Houston concert sold out a month before the performance and raised $350,000.

Concert proceeds from this stop on the tenors’ national tour will benefit the JCC transition fund to the new Samueli Jewish Campus to be built in Irvine, according to David Goldberg, JCC development director.

Propis hopes it will also build some Jewish pride. "After every concert, people tell me how proud they feel to be Jewish," he says. "Having Jewish music in a symphony hall setting gives a new kind of legitimation to Jewish music, and says it can compete with the best."

For tickets ($20-$65) and information about a preconcert reception and dinner, call (714) 755-0340, ext. 123.

Sweet Sixteen and Ready to Rise

Even though 16-year-old singer Liel Kolet was born on a kibbutz in northern Israel, she’d prefer to be called an international artist rather than an Israeli one. That largely explains why many of the younger generation of Israeli rock/pop buffs would know little about her. Nor is she routinely counted among the growing crop of Israeli pop princesses, such as Shiri Maimon, who also will be performing in Los Angeles later this month. She hasn’t released an album in Hebrew for wide distribution, and her English songs don’t get Israeli radio play.

And that’s just fine with Kolet. While the dark, curly-haired singer remains deeply connected to her Israeli roots — even while trotting the globe in America, Europe and Canada — she has her sights on the big leagues.

“From the start the idea was to build me as an international singer,” she said.

And there are parallels with her idol, Celine Dion. As young singers, both set their sights on international stardom with the backing of a dedicated manager (Kolet’s manager is Irit Ten-Hengel). Kolet, like Dion, has a clean and wholesome image, singing heartfelt songs about love, humanity and “the children.” On May 20, Kolet will represent Switzerland at the Eurovision singing contest, just as Dion, originally from Canada, did in 1988. The title of Kolet’s debut album is “Unison,” also the title of Dion’s hit debut.

“I’m not trying to be Celine Dion — we don’t have same kind of music — but what she achieved in her career and the steps she’s been through and what she represents are an example to me,” said Kolet in a very slight Israeli accent during a telephone interview. “She is an example of what an artist should be: She has an amazing voice and presence on stage that really touches to the heart of people. People come to hear her voice. That to me is what an artist is about.”

Kolet has a powerful voice and range, but Israeli-born female vocalists have notoriously failed to make a successful U.S. crossover. With the possible exception of Ofra Haza, another of Kolet’s favorites, Israeli divas usually fare better in Europe, which is generally more open to musical diversity.

Still, Ten-Hengel, Kolet’s international manager, left her prestigious career as a music executive at Sony Europe to focus solely on Kolet, because she has little doubt that Kolet will achieve her dreams.

“Mark my word: When she’s 18, she’s huge in America,” said Ten-Hengel. “She has the whole package — voice, personality, love for music, passion and angelic beauty.”

A select audience will judge for themselves when Kolet headlines the May 24 black-tie award dinner of the International Visitor’s Council. Music industry bigwigs are expected to be there for their own look, including Grammy-award winning producer David Foster, who has produced several of Dion’s hits. Ken Kragen, Kolet’s U.S.-based manager, is the dinner’s honoree for his production of humanitarian projects, including We Are the World and Hands Across America.

A veteran manager of such artists as Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Olivia Newton John and the Bee Gees, Kragen came across Kolet two years ago when he saw a video of her performance at the 80th birthday celebration for former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. At the star- and diplomat-studded event, Kolet spontaneously called Bill Clinton to the stage to sing a duet with her of Lennon’s “Imagine.” It happened to be one of her best career moves.

“I realized this lady had amazing poise and ability and was a wonderful singer with an amazing voice,” Kragen said.

Two years ago, Kragen introduced the aspiring starlet to American music industry executives in Los Angeles.

With no major American record deals were in the offing, Kolet spent the last two years building up an impressive resume of performances in Europe, particularly in Germany, where she has won several awards. Her management believes that she’s now poised to conquer North America, making her upcoming visit to Los Angeles all the more significant.

“It’s not easy,” Kragen said. “The record industry today is much less inclined to sign new acts. The difference now is that there’s a track record in Europe.”

Kolet’s participation in charity events has put her onstage with artists such as Elton John, U2’s Bono and, most recently, Andrea Boccelli. She has developed a close working relationship with Klaus Meine of the legendary German rock band, the Scorpions, having performed with him last year in Israel.

Her first international album, “Unison,” is a potpourri of ethnic-tinged love ballads, upbeat pop songs and music with a “message”; it includes three duets with Meine. Their take on Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” is the most Israeli song on the album, reflecting the Israeli pride she says she’ll always carry with her.

As Kolet put it: “Singing for peace and everything that I do and my charity events are because I grew-up in Israel.”

For more information on Liel Kolet, visit