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The Top 13 To Keep Your Eye On in 2023

Now that we are in February, you might have already changed some New Year’s resolutions. But be sure not to miss out on what these movers and shakers are doing in 2023.
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February 16, 2023
Director Jeremy Garelick is excited for the release of his film “Murder Mystery 2” on Netflix.

Jeremy Garelick — Director, “Murder Mystery 2”

When Jeremy Garelick was a teenager, he wrote jokes for Adam Sandler and dreamed the famous comedian would get them. Decades later, Garelick stood behind the camera for “Murder Mystery 2” starring Sandler and Jennifer Anniston as Nick and Audrey Spitz.

“They say that Adam Sandler is the biggest mensch in Hollywood,” Garelick told the Journal. “After working with him I can attest to the fact that it is definitely true. He couldn’t have been nicer.”

Garelick worked with Anniston before, directing her and Vince Vaughn in 2006’s “The Break-Up” which he directed and co-wrote with Jay Lavender.  He also directed Josh Gad and Kevin Hart in “The Wedding Ringer,” which he also cowrote with Lavender.

“I feel lucky to get to work with so many talented people who are also good people and it was a pleasure to work with Jennifer another time,” Garelick said.

Garelick credited his wife Samantha, the daughter of a cantor, for lighting a spark in his heart and always keeping him grounded. The Los Angeles resident was never one to be bothered by pressure — playing basketball as an eighth grader for Solomon Schechter School (now known as Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School), his jumper at the buzzer traveled through the net to win the championship. The director of “The “Binge” has produced many other films and said he didn’t feel any pressure about coming in for a sequel for this film, and that he is happy with the result. “I had my own distinct vision that I was able to see through,” Garelick said. “We worked hard.”

In 2014, Garelick founded American High productions with the purpose of making high school comedies, and he purchased a high school building in Syracuse. He’s filmed a number of movies there.

“Murder Mystery 2” will be released by Netflix March 31.

Guy Nattiv — Director, ”Golda”

Guy Nattiv was surprised when he won an Oscar for his short “Skin,” about race relations.

“Not in a million years,” did he expect to win the Oscar, Nattiv told me in 2019.  When he expanded the story into a feature film, Nattiv masterfully directed Jamie Bell, who gained 40 pounds for the role.

Combining Nattiv, with Helen Mirren, an Oscar-winner for best actress for the biopic “The Queen,” “Golda” will showcase Nattiv’s complexity.   While some have complained that a Jewish actress should have played the role, Meir’s grandson doesn’t think so.

Shaul Rahabi, whose mother was Meir’s daughter, told The Jewish Chronicle, “I have no issue with Helen Mirren being Jewish or not Jewish playing my grandmother … It doesn’t matter at all. I’m sure Helen Mirren is great.”

Liev Schreiber plays Henry Kissinger so it should be interesting to hear him do that accent.

After premiering at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, “Golda” is scheduled to be released in the United States on August 23.

Matisyahu — Musical Artist

The Grammy-nominated singer and rapper recently said he will win a Grammy one day in the future. But he said he will release music according to a new model.

Grammy nominated artist Matisyahu says he will release songs every few months rather than one album every few years.

“Gone are the days where I will work with one producer for six to eight months and release music once every few years,” Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Miller, told the Journal.

He said he is enjoying fatherhood and is excited to see that his son Laivy has decided to become a musical artist. He said he is giving him advice.  Matisyahu recently performed at the Sundance Film festival. Matisyahu, who was impressive in the 2012 thriller “The Possession” said while he has no current plans to act, he is leaving his options open and would consider anything interesting that came his way.

In his latest, self-titled album, he sang about his difficulties with drinking. He said he is strong now, and was glad to see something come full circle, as he recently released a video with Chad Tepper.

“A fan of mine, who once came up to a show, who was really poor, I’m talking dirt-floor home,” Matisyahu said. “Now, he’s an artist in his own right, so we did a video together and it was really cool.”

The video is called “Buy Us A House,” a song that combines Tepper’s smoky rock voice with Matisyahu’s rap. The song would be a perfect fit for any soundtrack about a rags-to-riches story. This song has some funky greatness and is inspiring.

He said he is thankful for his “great fans in L.A., New York and around the world” and said he will release new songs every month or so, depending on his schedule.

“A lot of extreme things can happen in life,” Matisyahu said. “The main thing is to stay centered and control your destiny and not feel like you have to let others control you. And it’s important to believe in yourself and your talent. Not everything has to be perfect in life, it just has to come from the authentic fiber of who you are. If you want to get to the top of a mountain, you have to be willing to climb. But I’m blessed to be able to be on stage and perform and it makes me happy to be able to do that. I know my fans are interested in what I’m gonna do and the message is ‘look out!’

Taali — Musical Artist  

Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Talia Billig, who goes by Taali, recently wrote a song with Moby and her husband Jose James called “ache for.” She is the president of Rainbow Blonde Records, which she co-founded with James. From watching her perform at several New York venues, I can make you a promise: You will like her voice, or I will shave my head! She lived in Los Angeles for a few years and wrote a song about the city. She was in Manhattan for the worst of Covid and was ill but thankfully came out of it. She now lives in Pasadena and makes very cute challah videos on Instagram that you should check out. Her album release party will be in New York at Le Poisson Rouge on March 7. Taali, who has also worked with Aloe Blacc, said she is excited for her next chapter.

Taali has her album release show at March 7 in Manhattan at Le Poisson Rouge.

“There were so many things that were unexpected,” she told the Journal. “I love performing, writing songs and yeah, also showing people how I make challah.”

While her songs often evoke a feeling of introspection,

on stage she is apt break mid-vocal to say hello to a friend in the audience or crack an amazing joke between songs. Taali’s performances will leave you star-struck but her personality will make you feel like she is your long-lost cousin who you want to go out for coffee with and schmooze about the insanity that is life. The song “Hear You Now” is straight fire, with lyrics that  express her beliefs of empowerment and equality for all.

“Music is the way I communicate and grow and hopefully unite people,” Taali said. “I’m humbled to be able to bring people some moments of joy if they can hear one of my songs or watch one of my videos.”

 

Team Israel —World Baseball Classic

First, the good news. Team Israel, which shocked the world by beating teams including Cuba at the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC) now boasts several current major leaguers, including Giants slugger and former Dodger All-Star Joc Pederson (23 HR, 73 RBI last year) as well as Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer, who was 8-7 with a 3.23 E.R.A. The bad news is that Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried and Houston Astros slugger Alex Bregman didn’t join the team and NY Yankee center fielder Harrison Bader won’t be part of the team.

Joc Pederson of the Giants is the biggest power threat for Team Israel.

“Israel has been the underdog in all its existence,” Team Israel general manager Peter Kurz told the Journal. “If it’s politics, if it’s the UN, if it’s the battlefield or the baseball field it’s always David vs. Goliath, and we’re used to it. We savor that role. There is no doubt about it. They thought we would lose all three games (last time) and were shocked. I asked Major League Baseball if they could put us in North America, so it’s helpful that we’re playing in Miami. I didn’t expect them to put us in the ‘’Death Pool.’”

Kurz is referring to the Pool D, a bracket of difficult opponents. On March 14, Israel will face the Dominican Republic, a team that is favored to be the best overall team. With a stacked lineup, the squad is expected to boast the Padres’ Manny Machado and  Juan Soto, Mariners’ Rookie of The Year Julio Rodriguez, Rafel Devers of the Red Sox, Jose Ramirez of the Guardians and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays. With starting pitcher Luis Castillo announcing he won’t be playing, Team Israel hopes to avoid Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara, who went 14-8 with a 2.28 E.R.A. and struck out 207 batters, winning the National League Cy Young Award. On March 13, Team Israel plays Puerto Rico, a team that boasts NY Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, Minnesota Twins infielder Carlos Correa and Javier Baez of the Detroit Tigers. They have starting pitchers Jose Berrios and Marcus Stroman as well as Mets closer Edwin Diaz and reliever Seth Lugo of the San Diego Padres. The odds are much better for Team Israel’s first game against Nicaragua.

“We have a number of major league relievers and the Dominican Republic beat us last time, but they were very respectful,” he said. “We’re having a clinic in Miami where some of the Dominican players and some players will come out together. We want to fight against antisemitism that is spreading.”

Kurz said the players for Team Israel are ready to play against anyone when the WBC begins March 11 in Miami.

“Ryan Lavarnway (a catcher on the Guardians) was the MVP of the 2017 WBC and we hope he will do well for us, and Garrett Stubbs (of the Phillies) is our other catcher. We have two really good catchers. Matt Mervis (Cubs) is our first baseman. He’s a kid that had the most home runs in Triple-A last year. Matt Mervis is our first baseman. He had 36 home runs, and led the minor leagues with 119 RBI’s and is nicknamed “Mash. We don’t have an Edwin Diaz like Puerto Rico but we have a number of guys in the bullpen that can get the job done. He is especially high on Ty Kelly.

“We’re looking for him to break out.”  He’ll be joined by the lone Sabra, Assaf Lowengart,  who can play infield or outfield.

“They said we had no chance last time,” said pitcher Shlomo Lipetz, who got former Mets third baseman Todd Frazier to ground into a double-play at the Tokyo Olympics.

Lipetz said it was a great honor to represent Israel on the world stage.

“The pressure will be on the other teams, not Israel,” Lipetz said. “I think our pitchers will probably just look to get batters to make outs because a strategy to try to strike out everybody isn’t a good one.”

Dmitriy Salita — Boxer/Boxing Promoter

Dmitriy Salita, an Orthodox Jewish boxer who didn’t fight on Shabbat, will be inducted into The New York Boxing Hall of Fame on April 30. He had a record of 35-2-1 with 18 knockouts, he was a Golden Gloves winner at 139 pounds and earned the WBF junior welterweight title as well as others.

A documentary Orthodox Stance was made about him and there was talk and preparation for a biopic starring Eminem as Salita, though it did not come to fruition. But Salita is making his real life seem like a movie in two parts. He’s taken off the gloves but making moves to becomes one of the game’s top promoters.

One of the fighters he represents, Claressa Shields is considered the best female fighter in the world and may have another match this year.  She had the biggest career victory in October, taking down Savannah Marshall in London. Salita returns to London April 1, as his fighter Jermaine Franklin (21-3, with 22 knockouts) takeson former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

“This is a life-changing opportunity for Jermaine,” Salita said. “When I signed him more than three years ago, I believed he had the ability to be one of the best heavyweights in the world. On April 1, I am confident that he will show the world his true potential by beating Anthony Joshua, who for a decade has been one of the most dominant forces in the Heavyweight Division.

Ryan Turell — Motor City Cruise Basketball Player

Speaking of surprises, Orthodox basketball player Ryan Turell set new records in most categories at Yeshiva University. The 6’7” shooting guard/small forward, who attended Valley Torah High School scored the most points all-time for the university, scoring 2,158 points. There was talk about the possibility he could be drafted into the NBA. He suffered an injury during workouts, but he was drafted into the G League and plays for the Motor City Cruise, the affiliate of the Detroit Pistons.  He hasn’t gotten as much playing time many would have liked, but the 24-year-old impressed when he was on the court, scoring 21 points in only 17 minutes in a game in December. This YouTube video shows him nailing shots from all over the court.

“There are people that think I will wind up playing in Israel,” Turrell said.  “I appreciate all my fans. My main goal is to get stronger every day, improve every day, be a kiddush Hashem, play wearing my yarmulke and work to what my goal now is, and that is to get better and better; but my dream remains to make the NBA,” Turrell told me \a year ago, before he was drafted into the G League. Turell recently had a New York homecoming, scoring 11 points against the Long Island Nets. Should Turrell put together a few big games, even more people will be wearing a wig for Purim. The Motor City Cruise will return to Nassau Coliseum on March 7 on Purim. No doubt, there will be some dressed as Turell with a blonde wig.

Rudy Rochman — Israel Rights Activist/Influencer

Rudy Rochman, who lives in Israel, was quick to put out videos in response to Ye’s antisemitic remarks as well as the situation where Kyrie Irving tweeted a link to a film with antisemitic tropes and Holocaust denial.

“My drive to combat antisemitism stems from a personal incident when I was a child in France,” Rochman told the Journal, alluding to an incident where he was kicked off a bus. “Rather than just saying something is antisemitic, people need to understand why and that’s why I felt it was important to make my videos.”

 Rochman drew international news  in the fall of 2021 when he was in Nigeria working on his documentary series “We Were Never Lost.” He and two colleagues who were working on the series to explore the Jewish roots of people in different African countries, and had filmed enthusiastic people, some who wore tefillin and a tallit and chanted in Hebrew.

He thinks that as a result of a photo of his gifting a sefer Torah to the community being shown online, bloggers spread false claims that the men were working against the government of Nigeria.

Men with guns in ski masks forced them into a car. Rochman would be jailed for 20 days and shared a cage with a man who was a member of the terrorist group, Boko Haram. The floor was covered in urine, he said, and for the first few days they could not shower and when they could, it was just a bucket of water.

“It was insane,” he said, adding that he stayed up some nights in case he would be attacked.

He said the DSS (The Department of State Services) interrogated him and took his phone and of course, found no evidence of any efforts against the government, because he had none.

The former member of the Israel Defense Forces said he isn’t done.

“I plan to go back to Nigeria, hopefully, this year,” Rochman said. “The government is having new elections soon and either way, whoever is in power will know that I have not, nor will I be doing, anything illegal. I didn’t get the chance to complete my story.”

Asked why he would do something so risky, he said his mission to educate about Jewish culture and practices was important to him.

“I’m not afraid” he said. “If I was left behind from the Holy Land, I would want the people that made it there to help me, wouldn’t you?”

 As for antisemitism on college campuses, Rochman, who can be seen in numerous videos he filmed when he attended Columbia University, said it is important to stop the spread of false narratives and antisemitic tropes.

He also said he hopes for a solution that will lead to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“If one side says, ‘we are right’ and the other side says ‘we are right’ I don’t know how exactly that ends up in any peaceful solution,” Rochman said.

Rochman, who once debated Noam Chomsky, said he has no problem debating people he disagrees with and in the future may film dialogue he has with other noted figures.

Hillel Fuld —Tech Guru and Influencer

The tech and marketing guru who advises global brands has also helped more than 500 people find jobs, simply from his database, and he hasn’t charged a penny for it. Fuld said he expects 2023 to be the year that Artificial Intelligence is recognized on a mainstream scale.

“We have seen through Chat GPT and other manifestations that A.I. is going to have a significant impact,” Fuld told the Journal. “Some people are predicting tons of job losses but people were afraid with the emergence of the Internet and the iPhone. What we will see is that people eventually adjust to new technology and those who are good people use technology for good purposes and there are always others who may try to use it for not so good purposes. But I don’t think we need to be worried. We will see amazing advances.”

Fuld and his family made Aliyah from New York, and, heencourages others to do the same. Asked if the recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem would scare people away from moving to Israel, he said he did not think it would.

“I think anyone who knows the history of Israel knows that there will be terrible tragedies,” Fuld said. “No places are 100% safe no matter what, as we painfully saw from the attack in Pittsburgh. But Israel is the one place where Jews have an army and we can defend ourselves. Looking at the big picture, I think for Jews in America or anywhere outside Israel who have been thinking about making Aliyah, it makes more sense no than ever before.”

On September 16, 2018, his brother, Ari, a father of four, was stabbed in the back and killed by a terrorist, though he was able to chase after and shoot his attacker in his last moments and was nicknamed the “Lion of Zion.” The murderer received a life sentence.

Fuld said on a weekly basis, if not more frequently, he receives messages from around the world of people who have been touched by the story of his brother and either named things after him or created artwork of him.

iHs brother is a hero, Fuld said, and part of his motivation to help people and make the world a better place is because of his brother.

From  politicians, to business leaders to people looking to for help being set up with someone, Fuld is often in meetings discussing strategy.

His advice?

“Do your research, be prepared and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there as long as you do it in a confident and respectful way,” Fuld says/

He also advises against petty online arguments with people.

He sometimes gets criticism for posting a pic of a conversation with someone  that some online may not agree with politically, or if he is with a celebrity they might not like.

“People seem to like being insulting sometimes,” Fuld said. “If someone is posing an argument and asking for opinions, that is one thing. But if someone posts a pic with a friend, I’m not sure why some think that is an invitation to a debate.”

He said people should be careful what they post online.

“Your words are your reputation,” the noted lecturer said.

Elon Gold and Modi Rosenfeld — Veteran Jewish comedians

Told that some look at these two Jewish comedians as Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, only these two Jewish men came up together at the same time period with the same amount of heckling, Gold laughed.

“I like that, Gold,” told The Journal. “But to be accurate, Modi and I are very good at comedy but not quite as good at comedy as they were and are at basketball. Gotta keep it real.”

Gold appeared as a Hulu executive on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and joined Rosenblum on HBO Max’s “Crashing.”Gold fakes people out a bunch of times in his YouTube special “Sets In The City: Elon Gold’s Favorite People.” He and Rosenfeld work exceptionally well together in the The Chosen Comedy Festival. They have unbeatable chemistry and when I saw the first festival in Brooklyn last summer, I laughed so hard, I almost got into the wrong cab. They did Miami and just performed at The Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, with their sites on Dallas, Houston, Toronto and Montrel, with another one in New York City and Israel will hold the festival perhaps in 2024.

“People really love Elon and Modi. They give people a feeling of Jewish pride wherever they are,” Dani Zoldan, organizer of the festival, said.

Gold’s comedy special hits the mark. “Sets In The City, Elon Gold’s Favorite People” (available on YouTube) shows his charm and gravitas.

Rosenfeld told the Journal he is excited to perform at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills on June 8 and will be doing a West Coast tour.

He said it’s been a thrill to perform with his friend and fellow comedian.

“To get to do comedy is a great high,” Rosenfeld said. “To get to do it with your great friend is even better and is really special and we’re good friends and we bounce ideas off each other and what I live with the festival is it unites people and it can go everywhere I’m sure will be in Israel and who knows what other cities. And the message is always to be a proud Jew and I think that’s a powerful force that unites people.”

Ariel Elias — Comic

The Kentucky comedian did something essentially Jewish — turning something bad into something good. At a New Jersey show, someone threw a bottle that missed her face by a few feet. She drank from the bottle,  to the applause of the audience. She said the beer was thrown by the husband of a woman who heckled her. Elias then got on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

In a previous interview Elias told me she thought the people were looking for an easy target.

“I am not an easy target,” Elias said.

She has gotten many fans due to the video that went viral and we will see if she parlays it into more shows, a special or more.

She was not surprised that some online wondered whether this was a stunt to get attention (it wasn’t) but said she is taking things in stride and feels like she handled the situation perfectly. Those that see her on tour will realize she is a great joke-writer as well as a great joke-teller.

Inna Vernikov — New York City Councilwoman 

One of three children in a family of Ukrainians immigrants, many pundits said Republican Inna Vernikov would not be able to win the New York City Council seat representing District 48 in Brooklyn , partly because the GOP has a tough time winning anything in New York City. For whatever reason, her opponent refused to debate her. Vernikov won by a landslide.

The attorney said she will aggressively fight for justice.

“I don’t want any person to fear walking in the street that they will be attacked or persecuted for who they are,” Vernikov told The Journal. “There have been rising levels of antisemitic attacks in New York and we must work to stop them.”

In an unprecedented New York City Council hearing on antisemitism on college campuses, Vernikov asked pointed questions of representatives of the City University of New York (CUNY) who were unable to answer them. Despite the event being scheduled on the date he could attend,  CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez decided not to show up. Scores of students and faculty members testified that they were treated unjustly at CUNY schools due to antisemitism.

Vernikov said she is planning another hearing for this year. She trained in Krav Maga with Legion, a nonprofit that trains mostly Jews in self-defense and has counterterrorism and active shooter drills. She recruited them to offer classes in her district.

“It is simply impossible for the NYPD to be everywhere at all times,” Vernikov said. “Jews have often been targets so it makes sense to be trained.”

She said she is proud of being Jewish, and is closely monitoring two cases of alleged antisemitic assaults. Joseph Borgen told police he was beaten up in Times Square by a gang and surveillance videos show him being struck by a person with a crutch. Borgen said he wore a yarmulke when he was attacked. Blake Zavadsky said he was punched in the face by a man who threatened to do so if he did not take off his IDF hoodie and when he refused, he was attacked, he said.

“The two cases are a little bit different,” Vernikov said. “But we are watching both closely and want to see that justice is served.”

“Oppenheimer” — Film

Only an idiot would try to use a pun and say that the film will be explosive. But director Christopher Nolan is one of the masters of direction. Yes, everyone knows that J. Robet Oppenheimer was a secular Jew who was able with his team to build the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forcing Japan to surrender. But if you read the book it is based on, “American Prometheus; the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin there are many interesting points.  Some military officials didn’t want to give Oppenheimer clearance due to fear of communist contacts. Oppenheimer left Los Alamos to visit a “friend” who was a former lover, and he may have slept with her one last time before she’d later tragically die in what many think was suicide. He also thought President Truman was quite naive,  telling him that, as a scientist, he felt he had blood on his hands. Truman told him he thought Russia would never develop a capable nuclear program. There was an effort in which some tried to get Oppenheimer to spy for the Russians.

“Oppenheimer” hits theaters on July 21; It will be interesting to see Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer, Robert Downey Jr, as Lewis Strauss, a man who cast aspersions on Oppenheimer, Florence Pugh as Oppenheimer’s lover Jean Tatlock, and Matt Damon, as Leslie Groves, the Army man who selected Oppenheimer despite objections of others.

If this film isn’t a blockbuster, I don’t know what is.

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