Posted by Danielle Berrin
Jay Firestone guest blogs a Jewish Halloween treatise:
Why donât observant Jews trick-or-treat?
This question has plagued me for some time now. Growing up with observant relatives and having attended a religious day school, Iâve always wondered what’s so bad about trick-or-treating?
Thereâs the obvious response: Itâs a pagan holiday, full of pagan rituals. I understand - celebrating Halloween conflicts with respecting the Jewish faith. But trick-or-treating isnât really paganism and it doesnât really conflict with Judaism…
It’s free candy!
I get free candy from the Gabbais at shul, so why canât I get free candy from my neighbors??
I know the observant are thinking, ‘maybe with all this candy going around, I’m bound to end up with a juicy, tasty, treif bar—-and everybody knows that non-kosher candy bars are the gateway treif to more non-kosher consumption. From then on, itâs a downward spiral into a secular lifestyle.’
Iâm ok with that argument. Except for the fact that Jews live in Jewish communities with Jewish neighbors. If a kosher Jew is looking for kosher candy, he neednât go far to satisfy those urges. In fact all you really have to do is check the doorposts of their homes for dripping lamb-blood, or its modern counterpart, the mezuzah â both usually a good indicator of kosher candy (and probably a good indicator that the candy will be “miniature” instead of “king size” but nobodyâs perfect).
So if you plan on staying home this Halloween, remember: itâs your kids that are suffering. And havenât Jews suffered long enough?
8.18.08 at 2:26 pm | Hollywood producer/talent manager Joan Hyler. . .
8.15.08 at 7:21 pm | Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be. . .
8.14.08 at 6:37 pm | In town to promote her new book, House Speaker. . .
7.18.08 at 3:03 pm | The new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San. . .
6.25.08 at 10:36 am | Jina, our Calendar intern, is heading to an. . .
6.24.08 at 11:18 am | A clandestine love affair at a girls seminary. . .
October 30, 2007 | 6:34 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Without a doubt, fans of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, “The Kite Runner,” have been waiting with a mixture of excitement and dread for the major motion picture to hit theaters. Film versions of books are notoriously disappointing - “The DaVinci Code” and “The Nanny Diaries” being recent examples - because plot points are often omitted, characters changed, or the movie simply doesn’t translate well onto the screen.
Let me assure you, fellow Kite enthusiasts: the movie is GOOD.
“It’s emotionally satisfying,” said Stephen Farber, a seasoned film critic and the host of the screening-and-discussion series, Reel Talk With Stephen Farber. “I think it will be a serious awards contender.”
Hundreds of guests crowded the Wadsworth Theatre in Westwood on Monday, October 22 to see the first major L.A. screening of the highly anticipated and slightly controversial film. Buzz about the pivotal rape scene and the potential danger it poses to the three young Afghani stars of the film has only increased the hype surrounding the release, which has been pushed back from Nov. 2 to Dec. 14. The delay gives Paramount Vantage time to relocate the boys and their families to Dubai, which is supposedly safer.
First-time actors, the boys who play Amir and Hassan are phenomenal. So are the rest of the actors in “The Kite Runner,” who are all relatively obscure. Four of the main adult actors participated in the post-screening Q&A with Farber, including 26-year-old Khalid Abdalla (Amir), who stunned the audience by revealing that he learned to speak Dari, an Afghan dialect, in less than a month in order to play the lead role.
Hosseini also made a last minute surprise appearance and shared his genuine delight at the success of the book-turned-movie experience. Everyone on stage - the author, actors, producers and host/film critic - seemed pleased with the film version.
More importantly, the audience (most of whom raised their hands high when asked if they had read the book) appeared satisfied. They wiped away tears and stood in applause as the emotionally loaded final line of the film was spoken:
“For you, a thousand times over.”
October 29, 2007 | 3:44 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Where in the world is Mariane Pearl?
All summer we were inundated with images of Angelina-as-Mariane with her faux brown eyes and tousled curls, sporting a Parisian accent and shouting “maybe nobody finds him!” in the trailer for A Mighty Heart. We heard Angie gush in admiration over her new pal and we read countless articles limned by father-in-law Judea Pearl espousing the message of his son’s brutal death. Here at The Journal, we’ve hosted two Daniel Pearl fellows, a journalist from Egypt and another from Syria… Yet in all the hullabaloo over the film, nary a word about the Wall Street journalist’s widow, who is quite frankly, responsible for why most of us care about Daniel Pearl in the first place.
After finally seeing the film this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder: where is Mariane now and what is she doing?
Then I googled. Then I was blown away.
I found her in the pages of Glamour magazine (of all places!). After reading 12 articles, I couldn’t pin her down. Because Mariane Pearl is everywhere: reporting on sex slavery in Cambodia, the first female President of an African nation in Liberia, learning about corrupt politicians in Mexico, outcast unwed mothers in Morocco, meeting female political activists in Cuba and an AIDS orphan-turned-doctor in Uganda. The list goes on and on. The places she’s visited traverse the globe and the people she’s met are changing the world.
When she began this yearlong reporting adventure aptly titled, “Global Diary” Mariane Pearl wrote:
In this new monthly column, I plan to explore a question that a child could easily ask and an adult could hardly answer: Who changes the world, and how? Senator Robert F. Kennedy once said, âIt is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.â I hope to meet women who, by challenging their own fate, are shaping our world and helping to write the history of our generation.
Her journalism reveals that she is anything but a defeated spirit. Remarkably, the trauma of her husband’s death has had the reverse effect - she is more passionate than ever! The tragedy seems to have reinforced the mission she and her husband were on together: two humble journalists traveling the world in pursuit of truth, in pursuit of making a difference.
Read Mariane Pearl’s “Global Diary.”
October 25, 2007 | 5:43 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In the timbre of the clarinet, you can hear stories tell themselves: boisterous, spirited, painful and proud. Yiddish klezmer is a sound full of color and poetry, laden with history and sung by knowing voices; voices of memory, full of struggle, full of family. In this context, the experience of a concert is not simply about the music, it’s about singing along—thumping your feet, tapping your knees, clapping your hands and reveling in the camaraderie of community. Such is the quality of A Yiddish Night.
And this night was especially unique because I was reunited with a friend from college and we shared an art unlike the art we’ve shared before (experimental film), but it was imbued with a personal quality layered with our own Jewish histories. Tucked into the intimate blackbox of CalArts’ REDCAT theatre at Walt Disney Concert Hall, we watched in joy as Argentinean clarinetist Gustavo Bulgach and his Grammy-nominated band Klezmer Juice performed a sold-out set of back-to-back shows featuring film, tango and klezmer.
Gustavo’s off-kilter wisecracks served as relief from the emotional weight of the music, but the prize piece of the night was the flamboyant and fascinating Divina Gloria. An Argentinian actress, she sang her rich and raspy blend of Yiddish and Spanish with the full force of her soul. Her wild and eccentric personality coupled with his casual banter created a seamless repartee - a highlight and a hoot. And then, there was the highly erotic tango dancing, a true pleasure to watch…
My talented friend, filmmaker Aylon Ben-Ami wrote his thoughts about the show:
My thoughts drifted. They ranged, but remained Jewish. Started off with guilt as usual, “why don’t you buy some raffle tickets and help us support this event we brought for you?” Then it went to Jewish history, the South American stories…
All the klezmer instruments were there - accordion, clarinet, drums, trumpet, tuba, bass and so on. And then Divina came on, and took the show to another level. Her voice was mesmerizing; it had the texture of Jewish struggle and identity, and you could feel how far the voice has traveled from its original home. Worlds came closer together and collided on stage.
The band played traditional songs, reinterpretations, and Jewish tangos. And, of course, there was dancing. This element worked in two ways for me, or maybe didn’t work. First, it changed the musical performance to one of theater. Second, it took the music away from special consideration and brought it down to everyday levels - the tango, the hora, occasional celebration. I heard these Jewish tunes and thought of them as the blues - as happy music in rebellion against hard times, as festive music to celebrate the faith and get through the reality.
Eventually the performers grabbed audience members and brought them to the stage, while the band played on. Tangible Jewish character came through - tradition, history, family, community and hope.
The music was on point the whole night. The band played effortlessly, causing me to wonder how many gigs they get a year, and how much Yiddish music is heard by non-Yiddish ears. I know nothing about Yiddish language. I wonder if it’s like Hebrew, a language I find to be very strong and succinct, one that mirrors its people’s mentality perfectly.
This moving performance was co-sponsored by Yiddishkayt Los Angeles, who are planning a citywide biennial celebration of Latin klezmer music. Stay tuned to The Calendar Girls for mas noches interesante!
(photos courtesy of CalArts Photography)
October 24, 2007 | 2:03 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Yoav Galai documented the Israel-Lebanon war in the summer of 2006 as the only embedded photographer. No other Israeli photojournalist wanted the job. And when Galai returned with graphic images and an ignominious tale, no Israeli newspaper wanted to see or hear what he had to offer.
Unedited and unmitigated, Galai’s gritty photo series is now being displayed at the UCLA Hillel through Dec. 14.
“Under Fire in Lebanon” chronicles the few days Galai spent with an Israeli Defense Forces engineering unit in mid-August. A ceasefire was expected any day, and the unit was one of the last ones to push that far north into Lebanon.
The intrepid 26-year-old trudged through the dusty terrain to the deserted town of Ainata along with the young soldiers and photographed them preparing a bomb-blasted schoolhouse for incoming wounded soldiers.
Minutes later, they themselves became the wounded, a medic suffering some of the worst injuries. The unit commander called for an immediate airborne evacuation of the eight wounded soldiers, but the rest stayed behind, close to their tanks and guns.
Galai continued to focus his lens, through the chaos, the danger and the innate feeling of intrusion he had for photographing a seriously injured man as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Two days later, a ceasefire was announced. Months later, Galai and the men he accompanied were informed that they had not been hit by Hezbollah. They had been hit by Israeli tank fire.
The responsible soldier came forward, apologized and requested to meet the engineering unit he had so critically injured. As of last week, when I met Yoav Galai at the opening of his exhibit, none of the men had agreed to meet the man.
“We don’t blame him. We have no anger,” said Galai, who keeps in touch with the soldiers. “I’m sure he feels worse - much worse - about the incident than any of us do.”
A caption in Galai’s book, which shares its title with the exhibit, sums up the fate of the soldiers.
“All of the soldiers injured during the making of this essay are alive and not so well.”
October 23, 2007 | 1:46 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Wafa Sultan is on a mission to debunk what she calls the Islamic ideology of hate. Since 9/11, the Syrian-American psychologist has spoken out against the Muslim world calling them “hostages of their own belief system.” She believes Islam has polluted the subconscious of millions of Muslims who are indoctrinated into a culture of toxic religious and political ideology.
Those are powerful words coming from a woman who was born and bred in that system, but even more, they’re courageous: “I sometimes hear Osama Bin Laden walking behind me in my bedroom and I wonder why he doesn’t shoot me; but most of the time, I am at peace about my decision to speak out.”
Now, she is urging the western world to join her and help liberate Muslims from Islamic teachings that are their only access to knowledge.
Since her fiery speech on Al Jazeera in February 2006 caught worldwide attention, Sultan has been promulgating her criticism of Islam from college campuses to international governments. She has met with leaders in Israel, Australia, Qatar and will soon travel to France. Last night, she appeared at Sinai Temple to tell several hundred people “what the west needs to know about Islam” and how she believes her message will resonate 200 years from now.
What The West needs to know
“Americans went into the wrong country [Iraq]! They should have gone to Saudi Arabia!” said a vehement Sultan, who explained that the underlying foundation of Islam is to spread the religion—and if necessary, impose it by force. No one is supporting that cause more than Saudi Arabia, whom she insists are the masterminds behind Islamic terrorism. When she was young, she remembers a few mosques scattered around town and attributes the now 5,000 religious structures in Syria to Saudi investments. Adamant that the growth of Islamic fundamentalism has been fueled by Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, Sultan wonders why the U.S. is turning their head.
What The West should do
“Take action!” Sultan urged the audience to educate themselves about Islam and engage the Muslim community in dialogue. She recommended the website FaithFreedom.org and credits the internet with allowing for a breakthrough in the hermetic Muslim world. Young Muslims, ages 16-25 are reading her essays which advocate increased exposure to other cultures, religions and ideas.
Listening to her polemic, one wonders what quality enabled Sultan to escape her religious prison and how she mustered the courage to denounce Islamic terror. Though she credits her husband, whose encounter with a Christian man expanded his theological purview, she is sustained by her belief in God and in American democracy: “America is my God. Americans take it for granted because they do not know the difference,” but Sultan says she does, concluding, “I was born in hell and now I’m in paradise.”
October 22, 2007 | 5:42 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Emma Forrest hadn’t been to temple in nearly 10 years and she was terrified. Aside from the usual anxieties that accompany a return foray into a religious arena, a woman worries about her image - covering her shoulders, hiding her skin—appropriate concerns for a writer who recently published a book about women’s preoccupation with their appearances. But there was more: tonight the prolific journalist and novelist would get personal—intimate, provocative—about her feminism, her Judaism and her defiant skin inscriptions.
Growing up in a small Jewish community in London, Emma’s religious life was limited. Yet, despite an admitted lack of experience, there is still something undeniably Jewish about her, as if she emanates member of the tribe as she might emanate a scent, or as she does, an overwhelming sensuality. It was thick like fog around her when she arrived at Sinai Temple for Friday Night Live, where she would be the evening’s special guest at the new Shabbat salon, themed: “What’s Your Story?”
Wrapped in a colorful shawl and nude fishnet stockings, her trademark freckles looking painterly on her right cheek, she danced her way through the musical service and into the salon where conversation about sex, femininity and celebrity was probing, intense and borderline illicit.
She hooked the audience reading a short fiction about a rabbi’s preoccupation with Ben Affleck. The challenge then was whether to delight in her clever tale or revel in the poetry of her voice.
A smitten crowd listened to her own story: how at 13 an interview for the school paper with a just-outted Ian McKellen eventually landed her a column in London’s Sunday Times and how at 16, she dropped out of high school. She published her first novel at 21 and says the second, Thin Skin, “saved her life.” That story is a harrowing portrait of teenage self-mutilation, but she stopped short of elaborating on that.
Instead of cutting, she inked her skin with tattoos but only one disturbed her Jewish mother - the tattoo in Hebrew letters. Of that she wrote: Me: the Jew with the tattoos, unable to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. The Jew disrespecting those who had been tattooed by force.
But you don’t want to reprimand Emma. She’s too heartfelt, and forthright and genteel. She’s someone who donated all the first-run proceeds from her novel Damage Control to Women For Women International, an organization that rehabilitates women survivors of war. Still, her interests represent the paradox of womanhood in the 21st century: in Africa women are raped while in late-capitalist America, they can write books about their lovers and their looks.
In modernized countries, is the cultural obsession with female beauty maintenance the post-feminist form of oppression? Is beauty the means through which free women oppress themselves—or worse, each other?
“What’s Your Story?” salon takes place following Friday Night Live, the second Friday of every month at Sinai Temple. 7:30 (service), 9:30 (salon). Free and open to the community. 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. http://www.atidla.com/wys.php