January 20, 2019

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. Dec. 15-21: Special Events, From Synagogues to Staples Center

Saul Kaye


IKAR holds a musical, high-energy kabbalat Shabbat service, followed by a communal meal. Your favorite foods of the Festival of Lights are served. Vegetarian options available. 6:15 p.m. (scotch and services), 7:45 p.m. (dinner). $12. Shalhevet High School, 910 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870. ikar-la.org.


Saul Kaye

Jewish blues artist Saul Kaye visits from San Francisco to perform at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills’ Hanukkah bash. 6:15 p.m. Free. Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-3737. Tebh.org.


Temple Judea holds a service and dinner with special holiday treats by the Temple Judea Brotherhood and Women of Temple Judea. A pop-up choir of adults and children performs. The event also features art projects, special musical guests and more. 6:15 p.m. (service), 7:30 p.m. (dinner). $15 (adults), $10 (kids 6-13), $4 (5 and younger). Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. (818)758-3800. templejudea.com.


Guest scholars Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, author and founder of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and his wife, Blu, a pioneer in Orthodox feminism, visit a community Shabbat dinner. The event is in recognition of the yahrzeit of Rabbi Harold Schulweis. 6 p.m. dinner, 7:30 p.m. dessert and speakers. $42 dinner; registration required. Dessert and speakers are free and open to the community. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 530-4009. vbs.org/scholar-dinner.


University Synagogue holds a soulful and spiritual experience of music, connection and community. Flutist Peter Gordon, percussionist Ava Nahas and oud player Dimitris Mahlis participate. 7:30 p.m. Free. University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. unisyn.org.


Bridget Flanery and Ross Benjamin in “New York Water”

It’s your last chance to see this comedy about Linda and Albert, who have a love-hate relationship with the Big Apple. This screwball romance, which spans years and locales, is written by Sam Borbrick and directed by Howard Teichman. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday. Through Dec. 17. Tickets start at $40. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 821-2449. wcjt.org.


Director Mike Burstyn

Yiddish actor Mike Burstyn’s directorial debut begins a weeklong Oscar-qualifying run at the Laemmle in Encino. The war film, shot on location in Israel, is set during the last hours of the Six-Day War in an abandoned U.N. post in the Sinai. An Israeli soldier and an Egyptian soldier come to realize that in order to survive, they have to help each other. The film is based on a story Burstyn received after the war. Israeli actor Yiftach Klein and Egyptian actor Sammy Sheik, whose real-life fathers fought each other in the actual Six-Day War, co-star. Through Dec. 21. 3:15 p.m., 7:40 p.m. (Q-and-A sessions with Burstyn follow the 7:40 p.m. screenings), 10 p.m. $13 (general), $10 (seniors, children). Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.


Join Beverly Hills Jewish Community (BHJC) for a program featuring the Chanukah Choral Spectacular, with Levi Coleman and the BHJC A Cappella Choir. Maestro Lior Himelstein conducts. The event includes dreidel games, latkes and glaze-your-own-doughnut activities for kids. Kiddush lunch follows. 9:30 a.m. (Shabbat services), 10:30 a.m. (cantorial performance). Free (RSVP at info@beverlyhillsjc.org). Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-4246. beverlyhillsjc.org.


American Jewish University’s night of Jewy and not-so-Jewy pub trivia also features complimentary drinks and Hanukkah eats. 7 p.m. $15. Busby’s East, 5364 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. infinitelight.la/event/did-jew-know-hanukkah-pub-trivia.


The Klezmatics.

Renowned klezmer band the Klezmatics perform a “Happy Joyous Hanukkah” concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center. The evening is a celebration of Yiddish culture at a time of year when candles and family warm the dark nights. The event embraces audiences of all cultures and backgrounds. 8 p.m. $33-$68. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-8800. valleyperformingartscenter.org.


American rap star Nissim Black, born Damian Jamohl Black in Seattle, released two albums before retiring in 2011 to focus on his conversion to Orthodox Judaism. He returned in 2012 under his Hebrew name, Nissim, and began writing from a more religious perspective. This is his first performance in Los Angeles. With opening musical act Erez and comedian Tehran. For ages 18-36. 8:30 p.m. $40 in advance, $50 at the door. Nessah Synagogue, 142 S. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 273-2400. nessah.org.


Chris Murphy.

Before becoming a United States senator, Chris Murphy served as the congressman representing Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six educators were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Having seen the devastating effects of gun violence up close, Murphy emerged from that tragedy as one of Washington’s most outspoken gun violence prevention advocates. Murphy joins Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who has been at the forefront of gun control legislation for more than 20 years, in a discussion. Sponsored by Writers Bloc. Noon. Tickets start at $25. Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. writersblocpresents.com.


“Eden According to Eve” is a funny, irreverent show about love, loss and the joys of life, featuring Shelly Goldstein, Monica Piper, Lisa Robins, Judith Scarpone and Robert Trebor. Directed by Susan Morgenstern. No one under age 16 admitted. 2 and 5 p.m. $40, includes dessert buffet and Q-and-A. The Braid, 2519 Colorado Ave., No. 102, Santa Monica. (310) 315-1400. Brown Paper Tickets, (800) 838-3006. jewishwomenstheatre.org.


From 2014-17, Inbal Abergil traveled across the United States to photograph and interview 18 American families that lost loved ones in wars spanning from World War II to Vietnam to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Abergil, an artist and educator originally from Jerusalem, launches a two-volume book of photographs from that experience called “N.O.K. — Next of Kin,” featuring images that examine the way American families memorialize relatives killed in military conflict, with commentary written by contributors. She holds a master’s in fine arts from Columbia University, and her work has been exhibited internationally in museum and gallery exhibitions. $10 (admission), $45 (book). RSVP recommended at arts@aju.edu. 5 p.m. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1246. wcce.aju.edu.


“The Meshuga Nutcracker”

Don’t miss a nationwide cinema presentation of the Hanukkah musical, featuring the silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm, a Klezmer-influenced orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” and original lyrics that celebrate the Festival of Lights. Over the course of the film, the Chelmniks, residents of a fictional town of fools, tell eight stories, including the triumphant victory of the Maccabees, accounts of perseverance during the Holocaust and the celebration of the first Hanukkah in the new State of Israel. Dancing dreidels, singing sufganiyot and guest stars are thrown in for good measure. 7 p.m. $16 (adults), $13 (children, seniors). Ahrya Fine Arts, 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.


Celebrate the last night of Hanukkah with NBA action at Staples Center as the Los Angeles Clippers square off against the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers have been struggling this season, so maybe the miracle of the Festival of Lights is just what the team needs to turn things around. A pregame ceremony features a candle lighting and blessings in front of a 10-foot menorah. Attendees receive a complimentary Clippers menorah. 7:30 p.m. From $16. Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. nba.com/clippers/promotions/specialevents.


At Sinai Temple, Drs. Nooshin and Afshine Emrani present the 19th-century artifact Syrian Torah case to the Westwood Conservative congregation. Sinai Temple Max Webb Senior Rabbi David Wolpe delivers commemorative remarks, following evening minyan. 6:15-7 p.m. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.


David Broza

Israeli singer and guitarist David Broza and a new set of all-star musicians perform eclectic world music offerings combining Middle Eastern influences with sounds meant to please all ages and backgrounds. Joining Broza are Ali Paris (qanun), Jonathan Levy (guitar), Yuval Lion (drums), Uri Kleinman (bass) and Tali Rubinstein (recorder). 7:30 p.m. $65-$115. The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 434-3200. thebroadstage.org/davidbroza.

In film ‘Azimuth,’ Enemies Face Eye to Eye

From left: Israeli actor Yiftach Klein and Egyptian actor Sammy Sheik with “Azimuth” writer and director Mike Burstyn. Photo courtesy of Mike Burstyn

“Azimuth” is an impressive addition to a subgenre of war films in which two enemy soldiers start out by trying to kill each other and end up laying down their arms after recognizing each other’s humanity.

The film, in Hebrew, Arabic and English, is also an unlikely first feature for Mike Burstyn, who made his debut at 3 on the New York stage with his parents, celebrated Yiddish actors Pesach Burstein and Lillian Lux.

Over the years, Burstyn, 72, has displayed his dancing and multilingual singing and acting talents, hopping between the United States, Israel and other countries, on stage, screen, television and in concert halls and nightclubs.

Given his age and continued success in his accustomed media, few might have envisioned Burstyn as writer-director-producer of a serious and humane antiwar film on a conflict as complex and emotional as the battles between Israel and Egypt.

The film opens in the last hours of the Six-Day War in 1967, with hellish scenes of machine gun, tank and aerial fire, and closes in on a wounded Egyptian soldier, painfully crawling in the Sinai desert.

Out of sight but not far away, four Israeli soldiers try unsuccessfully to extract their truck stuck in the sand, until the sergeant in charge decides to take off in the accompanying jeep to look for help. Before his communications go dead, he hears a bulletin that the war is over.

And so the scene is set for Sergeant Moti (Israeli actor Yiftach Klein) and Private Rashid (Egyptian actor Sammy Sheik) — whose real-life fathers fought each other in the actual Six-Day War — to simultaneously seek shelter in a shell-pocked, two-story blockhouse, abandoned in the desert by United Nations forces.

During the film’s next hour, Moti and Rashid try to kill each other by rifle volleys, hand grenades and hand-to-hand combat. Both antagonists communicate in passable English, and early on Moti tries to convince Rashid that the war is actually over, to which the Egyptian replies, “Yes, and I am Moshe Dayan.”

The standoff is interrupted by flashbacks from their lives. In one, Moti receives his mobilization orders in the midst of celebrating his son’s bris, while in another, Rashid, having just returned from fighting in Yemen, consoles his wife that “this time we will beat the Jews.”

In the end, the two antagonists realize that the only way they will survive, and see their families again, is by helping each other.

Burstyn recalled in an interview that as far back as 1967, after serving in an entertainment troupe during the Six-Day War, he played with the idea of making a film showing the “humane” side of war.

The film opens in the last hours of the Six-Day War in 1967, with hellish scenes of machine gun, tank and aerial fire.

At about the same time, a friend gave him the synopsis of a story outlining a theme similar to what would become “Azimuth.” Burstyn kept the story in a trunk and at the beginning of this year, with the looming 50th anniversary of the 1967 war and Burstyn having passed the biblical age of 70, he took another look at the story and decided to set off on a new career.

The film went into pre-production in January of this year, with the desolate Mitzpe Ramon crater in the Negev desert standing in for the Sinai Peninsula as the filming site.

The cast and crew wrapped up shooting in March and the film was ready to go in June.

Looking back on his work of the past few months, Burstyn said, “It took a lot of chutzpah on my part to write and direct a movie for the first time. But I enjoyed it so much, that’s what I want to do in the future.”

The film has not been shown publicly in Israel, but it was screened in July in India at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, where it won the award for best narrative feature.

It will have its American premiere on Dec. 15 at the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino and continue for a one-week Academy Award-qualifying run. During that week, Burstyn will join the audience for Q-and-A sessions after the daily 7:45 p.m. screenings.

Moving & Shaking: Mike Burstyn’s directorial debut, Rabbi Jon Hanish honored and more

From left: “Azimuth” director Mike Burstyn; Egyptian actor Sammy Sheik; Israel Film Festival Director Meir Fenigstein and Jewish Journal President David Suissa attend a Beverly Hills screening of “Azimuth. Photo courtesy of Israel Film Festival

Yiddish actor Mike Burstyn’s directorial debut, “Azimuth,” which tells the story of two soldiers during the last day of the Six-Day War in June 1967, premiered at an Aug. 24 Israel Film Festival event at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Burstyn, 71, who also wrote the script, is the Bronx-born son of Yiddish actors. The Los Angeles resident first read the story about the two soldiers years ago and decided to develop it into a full-length film, which stars Israeli actor Yiftach Klein and Egyptian actor Sammy Sheik.

Sheik, who lives in Los Angeles, told Burstyn he loved the script.

“He called me back and said that, even though it’s an Israeli film, he wanted to do it because of the message it sends,” Burstyn said during a Q-and-A after the screening, conducted by Jewish Journal President David Suissa.

“Azimuth” follows the conflict between two soldiers deadlocked in an abandoned United Nations outpost during the ceasefire that ended the Six-Day War. Burstyn said the movie doesn’t take sides but, instead, portrays a battle of survival between two relatable individuals.

“The metaphor is … we cooperate or we are going to die in the desert,” the filmmaker said.

Sheik, who attended the premiere, said he traveled to Israel and met many Israelis whom he found to be the “sweetest people I ever met. I found that most people really want peace.”

Both Sheik’s and Klein’s fathers participated in the Six-Day War, on opposite sides.

The film will screen during the 31st Israel Film Festival, which opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 5.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Bottom row, from left: Shawn Landres; Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer; Valley Beth Shalom Rabbi Noah Farkas and Julie Munjack and (top row, from left) Mishkon Tephilo Rabbi Gabriel Botnick; Dara Papel, Caroline Kelly, Va Lecia Adams Kellum and Adam Murray attend a Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles homelessness event. Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles


Religious and community leaders gathered at Mishkon Tephilo Synagogue in Venice on Aug. 24 to discuss strategies to prevent and end homelessness.

The panelists addressed the lack of sufficient resources and affordable housing in Los Angeles County at the event organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Engagement Strategic Initiative.  

“Every person who became homeless went through some kind of trauma,” Rabbi Noah Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom and chair of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, told the audience at the synagogue located in the beach community where hundreds of women and men sleep on the street.  

“We don’t have a lot of shelters, food banks and affordable housing,” Farkas said. “We have to establish neighborhoods, so people who fall into homelessness can stay in the communities and neighborhoods where they used to live.”

The event drew about 140 guests and community and civic leaders, including Ted Winterer, mayor of Santa Monica; Va Lecia Adams Kellum, president and CEO of the St. Joseph Center; and Shawn Landres, chair of the City of Santa Monica Social Services Commission and chair of the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission.

Before the panel, guests were invited to take a tour of the St. Joseph Center, which provides services to homeless people in the area.

Adam Murray, executive director of the Inner City Law Center, said the lack of affordable housing units in Los Angeles is pushing people to live on the streets. He encouraged guests to educate themselves on the issue, volunteer and join organizations that assist homeless people.

“Roll up your sleeps and get involved,” he said. “Every community needs to have affordable housing.”

With homelessness at crisis levels, some panelists encouraged everyone in the audience to be patient.

Caroline Kelly, chair of the Los Angeles County Mental Health Commission, said that because of mental illness issues, people who are homeless often “need much more time to have housing and stay in the housing.”

Other panelists talked about the importance of erasing the stigma of mental illness and homelessness.

“[Homeless people] are someone’s mother, father, brother, sister or daughter,” Murray said. “We need to bring a sense of urgency to homelessness and see them as ourselves.”  

At the end of the event, the organizers announced the recipients of the Federation’s 2017 ChangeMaker Challenge, a program that rewards organizations that make an impact on the city. This year’s winners were the Latino Resource Organization, the New Beginning Outreach Foundation, Safe Place for Youth, Shomrei Torah Synagogue and University Synagogue.

Olga Grigoryants, Contributing Writer

Rabbi Jon Hanish, senior rabbi at Temple Kol Tikvah of Woodland Hills and a recipient of the National Alliance on Mental Illness 2017 California Outstanding Clergy Award. Photo courtesy of Temple Kol Tikvah

Rabbi Jon Hanish, senior rabbi at Temple Kol Tikvah of Woodland Hills, has received the 2017 California Outstanding Clergy Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The honor, announced on Aug. 25 at the annual NAMI California Conference in Newport Beach, recognizes faith leaders who show exemplary commitment to supporting people with mental illness and their families.

“I know many religious leaders who do more than me when it comes to mental health issues,” Hanish said in a statement. “I feel dwarfed by their efforts. All I can do is say thank you to NAMI for this unexpected award.”

Hanish became involved with NAMI, a volunteer-based organization that provides resources and support groups for people affected by mental illness, when he participated in a clergy panel in 2013. Hanish has since become a regular speaker about Judaism and mental health at NAMI events, and every year has invited a NAMI speaker to address his congregation between morning and afternoon Yom Kippur services.

Hanish recently gathered 12 congregants and community professionals for “Care and Share Training,” a two-night NAMI program that prepares religious institutions to launch mental health support groups. Hanish’s session was the first of its kind in California.

Before leading the misheberach, the prayer for the sick, during Kol Tikvah services, Hanish often emphasizes the equal importance of mental and physical healing. 

“Acts of God are the actions taken by us and our communities to embrace everyone,” Hanish said. “No illness, no affliction, no challenge should be suffered alone. Community is needed.”

— Gabriella Kamran, Contributing Writer

Saba Soomekh, assistant director of interreligious and intercommunity affairs at American Jewish Committee Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of American Jewish Committee

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles announced on Aug. 28 the addition of Saba Soomekh as its assistant director of interreligious and intercommunity affairs and Roslyn Warren as associate director for international relations.

Soomekh was the associate director of research at UCLA’s Leve Center for Jewish Studies from 2015 to 2017 and has written about world religions, women’s studies and the geopolitics and history of the Middle East. Her book, “From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women Between Religion and Culture,” was published in 2012 and was awarded the gold medal at the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the religion category.

“It is an honor to be a part of the AJC family,” Soomekh said. “For the past 13 years, I have been involved with AJC as a lay person. As a religious studies scholar, my new position as the assistant director of interreligious and intercommunity affairs enables me to engage directly with various faith groups and communities in order to ensure that we work together to promote democratic values and the protection of human rights.”

Warren previously worked at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security alongside Melanne Verveer, the first U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues and a former chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Warren has traveled to more than 50 countries throughout her career, and has written about international affairs ranging from local partner protection in Iraq and Afghanistan to women’s participation in global peace processes.

“After spending several years dedicating myself to human rights issues across the world,” Warren said, “I am honored to have the opportunity to return to my hometown of Los Angeles and serve a community and a global mission that I hold dear.”

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.