September 23, 2019

Moving and shaking: LAJFF, Wexler’s Deli and SoulCycle

An audience of 900 at the opening-night gala of the 11th annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF) was treated to the North American premiere of the Israeli TV show “False Flag” (Kfulim), followed by a discussion with Amit Cohen, the co-creator of the series, and actors in the show, Angel Bonanni and Ania Bukstein (“Game of Thrones”). 

The May 18 event at the Steve Tisch Cinema Center at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills marked the first time a television show and not a movie was the opening screening of the festival, according to LAJFF Executive Director Hilary Helstein.

“After I watched ‘False Flag,’ I just had to share it with the L.A. community,” she said. “It was most exciting and so different.”

The show involves five seemingly ordinary Israeli citizens who get caught up in international espionage drama. An English-language adaptation is in the works.

Among those at the gala were Greg and Bob Laemmle and Jay Reisbaum, all of Laemmle Theatres. The mom-and-pop chain was honored for its commitment to showcasing and supporting independent films since 1938. It also has supported the film festival since its inception 11 years ago. (TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal, is the nonprofit sponsor of the LAJFF.)

Festival highlights included the 50th anniversary screening of the film “Shnei Kuni Lemel” and Mike Burstyn — who, at age 19, made his debut in the film based on a Yiddish play — receiving the LAJFF Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Monty Hall. Burstyn also took part in Q-and-A sessions after both screenings of the film.  

Closing night on May 25 featured the screening of “None Shall Escape,” a 72-year-old black-and-white film on the war crimes against Jews that has been newly restored. It was the only film made during the war years to address atrocities against the Jews in the Holocaust. Although she could not be there in person, the film’s starring actress, 98-year-old Marsha Hunt, was awarded the Marvin Paige Hollywood Legacy Award.

— Lakshna Mehta, Contributing Writer

Deli-loving Angelenos lined up May 27 for the opening of the new Wexler’s Deli location in downtown Santa Monica, eager for the pastrami sandwiches, bagels and lox that have captured the hearts — and bellies — of locals since the original deli was opened by chef and founder Micah Wexler, a 2000 graduate of Milken Community Schools, and his business partner, Michael Kassar, at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles in 2014.

From left: Micah Wexler, chef and owner of Wexler's Deli, and his business partner, Michael Kassar, take a break from the bustle of the deli's grand opening in Santa Monica to pose for the Journal. Photo by Ryan Torok

But the new, 2,000-square-foot location, housing an indoor and outdoor eating area, dwarfs the 300-square-foot stall and counter at Grand Central Market. Its menu is expanded, too, featuring a double-smoked pastrami lox and “Dana’s Matzo Ball Soup,” named for Wexler’s mother, Dana, and based on her recipe. 

From left: Dana Wexler, mother of Micah Wexler, and her daughter, Keren Geier, attend the opening of Wexler's Deli in Santa Monica. Photo by Ryan Torok

“We’re just so proud of what they have accomplished here,” she said.

The opening was a family affair, with Wexler’s fiancée, Shawna Kornberg, at the restaurant. “I have to eat the babka,” Kornberg said, seated at a table with several of Wexler’s family members, including his nephew, Isaac. “And the lox is my favorite thing in the world.”

Kassar said the deli’s ambitions remain humble, despite the hype preceding the opening, which drew a line out the door for the lunchtime rush. “We just want to give people really good Jewish deli soul food,” he said, helping in the kitchen.

Jon Budish, a 30-something Merrill Lynch employee originally from New York, said the deli reminded him of home.

“It’s the closest thing to New York City since I’ve been out here in L.A.,” he said, eating at the counter and joined by his friend, television producer Jon Zimelis (“@midnight”), who ordered an “Uncle Leo” –— a bagel with lox, egg and onions. Zimelis, a 35-year-old Venice resident, described the food simply: “Delicious.”

Wexler’s Deli in Santa Monica is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

Justin Bieber, Meghan Trainor and other pop musicians provided the soundtrack to a May 12 SoulCycle Beverly Hills spinning class-cum-benefit attended by nearly 50 supporters of American Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro (AFOBIS), which raises funds to support children with special needs.

“We were all reminded that as able-bodied [people] we’re given a lot of things. It can be very difficult to work out, but we’re very lucky we have the ability to sweat and work hard. So I was thrilled,” AFOBIS regional board member Shani Fisher, an attorney who organized the event with her husband, Seth, a television writer and actor, said in an interview after the nearly hourlong workout. 

“People did awesome,” she said. “It was such a great, sweaty, hard, fun, intense workout.”

Moving and Shaking highlights event, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email