June 26, 2019

Elon Gold Gets Into the Hanukkah Spirit

For comedian Elon Gold, this is a busy time of year, with stand-up appearances in his native New York, here in Los Angeles and in Israel, where he performed in Jerusalem on Nov. 24. He spoke with the Journal about Hanukkah memories, Christmas admiration and his comedy-centric dreams.

Jewish Journal: What Hanukkah memories stand out from your childhood?

Elon Gold: My parents were teachers on teachers’ salaries. We lived in an apartment on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. I remember unwrapping one present and it was a package of three Bic disposable pens. But it was still a nice tradition, a gift every night. These customs continue generation after generation and I’m doing that with my family. I’ve got four kids, 9 to 18, and by night five [the presents] get very shvach (weak). But we end it with a bang on the last night. Hanukkah is not a religious holiday like Yom Kippur when you’re in shul all day. There’s no obligation other than lighting the menorah. It’s not so much a religious observance as a fun family tradition that recognizes our heritage and our people.

JJ: How are you celebrating Hanukkah this year?

EG: I’m doing five shows in New York and my family is coming with me. Then I come back to L.A. to emcee the (pro-Israel nonprofit) Stand With Us “Festival of Lights Gala” at The Beverly Hilton on Dec. 9, for the eleventh year in a row.  

JJ: Got a good Hanukkah joke?

EG: “There aren’t any songs on the radio for us, other than Adam Sandler and his great ‘Hanukkah Song.’ You know why? All the great Jewish songwriters were busy writing Christmas songs. They knew where their bread was buttered.” My brothers and I used to take Christmas songs and make up new lyrics, with a funny, Hebraic twist. 

JJ: You do an annual Christmas Eve comedy show.

EG: “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory, making Christmas fun for the Jews in L.A. This is our 10th year. Russell Peters, Alonzo Bodden, Ben Gleib and Dom Irrera will be there this year, and surprise guests. I love the whole holiday season, starting with the night before Thanksgiving through New Year’s, including Christmas. I kind of enjoy it. I like the lights and listening to Christmas music. I can get into the spirit of it, even if I don’t observe it.

JJ: Do you have any TV appearances coming up?

EG: Judd Apatow asked me to be in Season 3 of his show “Crashing” on HBO. I’m in two episodes. I think the first and second. I take Pete [Holmes, the lead actor] to one of my shul gigs. It premieres in January. I’m on a new family show on Netflix called “Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever.” I’m playing a really funny character, a pet store groomer, loosely based on a couple of Israelis that I know. I’m an integral part of the story about these kids who are trying to get into Comic-Con. I have a stand-up special streaming on Amazon Prime, “Elon Gold: Chosen & Taken,” and I’m working on my next hour-long comedy special. In July, I did an appearance on [“The Late Late Show With] James Corden,” where I got to dispel the inaccurate Jewish stereotype that Jews are obsessed with money. When there’s a message behind the joke, it makes it a little more important. I’m proud of that.

JJ: When did you know you were funny?

EG: In eighth grade I started doing impressions of my teachers, but the first time I knew I wanted to do this for a living was at a Purim spiel at Yeshiva University High School in my sophomore year. I wrote and performed two one-man sketches. It went so well that seniors and juniors that never looked at me, let alone talked to me, came over and said, “You’re funny, dude.” It was so gratifying. 

JJ: You always planned to do it as a career?

EG: For a while I was into the stock market, read The Wall Street Journal, but jokes come so naturally to me. This was what I was meant to do. Unlike a lot of people, it was never my intention to get into comedy to get girls. I met my wife when I was 15, and I knew I would marry her. We’re together 30 years. Our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up in June.

JJ: What’s on your career wish list?

EG: There are projects I’m trying to develop, including a comedy TV show with Howard Gordon, the [co-]creator of “Homeland.” I’m very active on WhatsApp and I want to keep putting out viral clips and have people share my work. For the first time in my 25-year career I feel like I have fans who are familiar with my stand-up and are excited to come see me live. 

I love being the go-to Jew for fundraisers and gala dinners. I get to help a cause and make people laugh — a total win-win. I’m happy where I’m at and creatively at the top of my game but I’m not satisfied. I don’t think I’ve scratched the show-business surface. A lot of comedians put in 20 years before things start cooking for them and hopefully I’m one of them. Meanwhile, I’ll keep coasting like I am. As long as I’m paying the mortgage, I’m OK.

Elon Gold hosts “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory on Dec. 24.

Ushpizin: Who Would You Invite Into Your Sukkah?

During Sukkot, we gather with in our temporary structures (sukkot) meant to recall those used by the children of Israel after they left Egypt and wandered the desert. 

One tradition suggests that, in addition to hosting family and friends, we invite specific Jewish historical figures as ushpizin (guests): Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. More recently, a new tradition has suggested adding Jewish historical women: Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, and Esther. Even more contemporary interpretations expand the list of potential guests to include relatives who have passed away and other important or inspiring figures from our lives.

We asked rabbis, community leaders, comedians and others to tell us which historical or living inspirational figures they would like to symbolically invite into their sukkah this year:

Rachel Grose, Executive Director, Jewish Free Loan Association
Anne Frank. Her ability to believe in people despite her desperate and terrifying situation is an inspiration for all of us to make the effort to see the best in everyone.

Joshua Holo, Dean of the Los Angeles Campus and Associate Professor of Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Legendary actor Archibald Leach once said of himself, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” Good company and lively conversation, purveyed under palm trees and lubricated with sacramental wine, enliven Sukkot’s moniker as “the season of our joy.” My dream ushpiz is one part self-examiner, perhaps a little hungover from the previous week’s introspection, and two parts conversationalist, suitable for public radio’s “The Dinner Party Download.” Who better to carry the banter in the sukkah than Cary Grant? Fabulous stories of a bygone age, threaded with mildly rueful self-discovery, all in real time. 

“Haman, so he could see that his plan backfired. I’d also make sure that all the fruit in my sukkah were hanging from the bamboo in tiny nooses.” — Elon Gold

Elon Gold, comedian and actor
Haman. I’d seat him at the kids’ table in my sukkah because he’s a big, stupid baby, and so he could see that his plan backfired and that we have lived on, generation after generation, flourishing, beautiful and strong as ever. I’d also make sure that all the fruit in my sukkah were hanging from the bamboo in tiny nooses. Just to remind him of the good old days and what happens to anyone who tries to wipe out our people. 

Also, Noah’s next door neighbor. Most people would want Noah himself to visit but I have a few questions for his neighbor: How annoying was all that construction morning, noon and night for all those years? Does he believe in climate change? Also, when you saw your neighbor building an ark, it didn’t pique your curiosity? Because if it were me, I’d be either kissing Noah’s ass big-time to get a couple seats on the ark or start building my own. 

And Golda Meir. I know a lot of comedians, all sharp, quick-witted and fun to be around. But every quote I’ve ever heard or read of Golda’s was laced with biting, brilliant humor. I would love nothing more than to hear her regale us with stories of Israel in its “Golda-en” age and get her take on the modern world. (I bet she’d figure out who wrote that anonymous New York Times op-ed). And then I’d ask her to share her thoughts on Haman and Noah’s neighbor, and then just sit back and laugh as she laces into them as only Golda knows how.

E. Randol Schoenberg, attorney and genealogist
I spend a lot of time working on genealogy, so there are naturally many ancestors I would really like to have met, especially my two grandfathers, the composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl. Their musical legacies continue to inspire me and so many others, but I would love to be able to just sit around a table and get to know them. The conversation wouldn’t have to turn to weighty topics, although I am sure their views would be fascinating and insightful. I’d really just like to enjoy their wit and sense of humor. The public tends to think especially of my grandfather Schoenberg as a stern lawgiver, sort of like the depiction of Moses in the Bible, but within our family he isn’t remembered that way at all. Probably Moses wasn’t so strict all the time, either. I’d like to get to know my famous grandfathers, not as famous people, but just as grandfathers. 

Naama Haviv, Director of Development and Community Relations, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
I’d love to share my sukkah with Leibel Fein (z”l), intellectual, journalist, activist, co-founder and editor of Moment magazine, and founder of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. I wonder especially what he would say about our place in the world as Jews now, in today’s ever more hyperpartisan atmosphere. When he founded MAZON, hunger was a safe, nonpartisan issue that everyone could get behind without political rancor. If stories from our staff and board who knew him are correct, he’d probe the question with immense curiosity and thoughtfulness, and with his trademark razor-sharp wit and charm. And we’d all be better people, better advocates and better Jews for it. 

Rabbi Adam Greenwald, Director, Miller Intro to Judaism Program, American Jewish University
Moses. OK, so that might seem like the most painfully “rabbi-ish” answer ever, but bear with me. The Talmud tells the story of Moses traveling through time to sit in Rabbi Akiva’s (50-135 C.E.) study hall. Moses can’t follow the discussions and begins to despair that he no longer recognizes those who are supposed to be his spiritual heirs. Finally, a student asks a question to which Rabbi Akiva responds, “Well, that is Torah that we received from Moses, our teacher,” and Moses’ mind was set at ease. If Moses was confused by the Judaism that followed him by just a thousand years, it’s hard to imagine what he would make of ours. Yet I wonder if he could come and sit with us in the sukkah, what would he recognize, and even knowing that so much would be profoundly unfamiliar, would we make him proud?

Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas, Valley Beth Shalom
There are so many people I’d like to invite, but if I’d have to choose one, I’d probably choose President Abraham Lincoln. I’d Iike to sit with the ol’ rail splitter and ask him to reflect on how we can bridge a very divided country today. I’d love for him to guide us to recover our civic virtue and help us find those “better angels of our nature.”  

Jay Sanderson, President and CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
I would invite those who personify the leadership skills we sorely need today. My guests would be Moses (resilience), Mahatma Gandhi (sacrifice), David Ben-Gurion (determination), Martin Luther King Jr. (vision), Anne Frank (optimism), Abraham Lincoln (persistence) and Lillian Wald (idealism).

“Moses. I wonder what would he recognize, and even knowing that so much would be profoundly unfamiliar, would we make him proud?”
— Rabbi Adam Greenwald

Mayim Bialik, actress, writer, founder of GrokNation
I’m kind of wanting to invite whoever wrote that NY Times op-ed just because I’ve got so many questions, but I would invite Sacha Baron Cohen. His “Who Is America?” has blown my mind. 

Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Co-founder of Jewish World Watch, Chair of Beit T’Shuvah and of Jews United for Democracy and Justice
I would like to invite both Maimonides (Rambam) and Nechama Leibowitz into our sukkah on the same night. I have always seen Maimonides as one of the smartest, most open-minded and perhaps most influential Jewish thinkers of all time. His teachings on all aspects of Jewish thought, including the role of women in Judaism, permeate rabbinic education and Jewish learning. It surprised me that Maimonides, a progressive figure for his time, expressed the belief that women are biologically inferior to men and that a man ought not teach his daughter Torah. 

When Maimonides meets Nechama Leibowitz in our sukkah, he will certainly see that there is no biological inferiority and that there is great benefit to teaching one’s daughter Torah. Nechama Leibowitz, who died at 92 in 1997, is widely viewed as one of the most influential teachers of Torah of her generation. My family and I would enthusiastically welcome Rambam and Leibowitz and would relish being witness to their conversation, but since ushpizin is an idea that requires a certain degree of magical thinking, I would hope that, after experiencing Nechama Leibowitz and her brilliant Torah, Maimonides would go back and do a few corrections in his teachings and analysis and become an active advocate in favor of an inclusive role for women in all aspects of Judaism, thereby letting the women of the last millennium use their advocacy talents and energies to fight other battles. 

Annie Korzen, actress/humorist
I am a secular Jew, but I happily celebrate the holidays when someone invites me. I enjoy being in a room full of Jews, plus I never refuse free food. If I were hosting in a sukkah, my guest list would include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela and, to add a touch of levity, Mel Brooks. Sounds like a fun group to me.

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. Dec. 22-28: Volunteering, Comedy, Singles Events and More

"Fiddler on the Roof" will be played at various Los Angeles theaters on Christmas Eve.


The exhibition features oil-on-canvas portraits by Stuart Perlman of area homeless people that are accompanied by biographies of the subjects. Perlman, who has been a psychologist and psychoanalyst in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, began painting these portraits in 2010. He spent hours listening to his subjects’ stories and getting to know them. He has painted 200 portraits of homeless people who have lived on Venice Beach and Skid Row. Through March 7. By appointment. Free. Council House, 543 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 852-8512. ncjwla.org.


Experience the peace and presence of Shabbat through the mindful movement of a vinyasa flow yoga class. Live music, chanting, challah. No seats, no books, no stress. Welcome, namaste and shalom! Bring your yoga mat, towel and water, and wear comfortable exercise clothes. Roll out your mat, take stock in what you accomplished in 2017 and set intentions for 2018. Hosted by Om Shalom Yoga. 8 p.m. $15. Space limited; guests admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Yogaraj Yoga Studio, 2001 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. (Free parking in the structure next door.) (424) 299-2507. facebook.com/omshalomyoga.


Like Hanukkah, this night of improv comedy has a theme of eight: eight scenes from eight improvisers. One person begins a scene, which builds to an eight-person scene, then revisits all of the show’s scenes again. Featuring Beth Appel, Hal Rudnick, Jonny Svarzbein, Talia Tabin, Danny Cymbal, Matthew Brian Cohen, Jake Fallon and Heather Sundell. 7 p.m. $7. UCBT Franklin, 5919 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 908-8702. franklin.ucbtheatre.com.


Pink Lady and Senior Star Power present this musical salute to veterans. Performers range in age from their 60s to their 90s, but they bring the sassy, the sexy and the sizzle in this revue featuring singing and dancing. Through Dec. 31. 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, 6:30 p.m.  Dec. 31. $25-$45 (Dec. 23 and 30), $60 (Dec. 31). Madrid Theatre, 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park. (818) 400-2701. brownpapertickets.com/event/3097240.


Tevye, Golde and the folks of Anatevka light up Norman Jewison’s musical film, which plays at Laemmle theaters across Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. This year marks a decade since Laemmle began this annual “Tradition,” featuring Jewish leaders serving as hosts of the screenings, prescreening trivia and prizes for “Fiddler” buffs, and more. Attendees are encouraged to come dressed in costume. Children are welcome. 7:30 p.m. Additional 5 p.m. screening at the Town Center 5 in Encino. $18 (general), $15 (seniors, students). Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd.; NoHo 7, 5420 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Ahrya Fine Arts, 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles; Claremont 5, 450 W. Second St., Claremont. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.


Stand-up comedian Elon Gold performs on Christmas Eve with special guests at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. Come for his spot-on Jeff Goldblum and Woody Allen impersonations; stay for his humorous insights about what it is to be Jewish in contemporary America. 7:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m., 11:30 p.m., $35 (general), $55 (VIP). Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 656-1336, ext. 1. laughfactory.com/clubs/hollywood.


The indie klezmer and folk band puts a modern twist on traditional Jewish sounds when it performs at the 58th annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration. Led by musician Leeav Sofer, who was named one of the Jewish Journal’s “30 Under 30,” Mostly Kosher bridges Jewish and American musical roots. Other performers at this multicultural event presented by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors include VOX Femina Los Angeles, a choir of 34 women that will perform Hanukkah and Christmas songs. Musicians from Korea, Hawaii, West Africa and elsewhere also perform. Those who can’t make it in person can catch a broadcast of the event on KOCE, the PBS SoCal station. The event also will be streamed live at pbssocal.org. 3-6 p.m. Free (first come, first served). Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-3099. musiccenter.org/holidaycelebration.


Michael Gelbart

Spend Christmas Eve laughing with a lineup of nearly a dozen comedians. Michael Gelbart, who has appeared on Comedy Central, Teen Nick, the Disney Channel and Starz, headlines. Additional performers include Adam Feuerberg, Dana Eagle and Joshua Snyder. 7 p.m. $20. Flapper’s Comedy Club Burbank, 102 E. Magnolia, Burbank. (818) 845-9721. flapperscomedy.com.


Mix, mingle and socialize at this Jewish singles event in West Hollywood. (What else are you going to do on Christmas Eve?) Previous years have drawn upward of 1,000 attendees, so arrive early to avoid long lines. 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. $35-$50. Bootsy Bellows, 9229 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. letmypeoplego.com.


Find your bashert in time for New Year’s. The 31st annual MatzoBall on Christmas Eve draws young Jewish singles looking for friendships, hookups and marriages. 21-and-older only. IDs required. 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. $30. Spare Room (Inside the Roosevelt Hotel), 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. matzoball.org/our_events/matzoball-los-angeles.


Temple Israel of Hollywood has held an annual Christmas meal for the underprivileged and homeless for more than 30 years. Volunteers are needed for the event’s setup, parking lot control, food service and cleanup. Setup is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 23 (open to all ages). Christmas Day shifts are 6-10 a.m. for early food preparation (13 and older), 6:30-10 a.m. for parking lot control (13 and older), 8-10 a.m. for first shift (13 and older) and 4-5 p.m. for cleanup. The meal is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hollywood United Methodist Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. (323) 874-2104 (church); (323) 876-8330 (temple). tioh.org.


Gaston Poon in “Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas.”

Director Larry Weinstein’s irreverent musical documentary tells the story of a group of Jewish songwriters, including Irving Berlin, Mel Torme and Johnny Marks, who wrote the soundtrack to Christianity’s most musical holiday. It is a tale of Jewish immigrants and how they used their talent to go from being outsiders to the creative forces behind Christmas’ most memorable music. A Q-and-A follows with classic film and music expert Michael Schlesinger. Noon. $11. Laemmle Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (800) 838-3006. lajfilmfest.org.


Join congregants of synagogue Kehillat Israel in packing and delivering groceries and toys to low-income families in South Central Los Angeles. Co-founded by Kehillat Israel member Michael Schwartz, One-on-One Outreach is a volunteer organization that convenes once a month to help those in need. Noon to 2 p.m. Email Michael@oneononeoutreach.org for additional information. (310) 459-2328. ourki.org.


Temple Aliyah Rabbi Stewart Vogel discusses and analyzes the week’s Torah portion.  This interactive classic offers insights into Judaism’s most sacred text. Accessible for beginner students. No Hebrew or previous Torah experience necessary. 12:15-1:45 p.m. Free. Temple Aliyah, 6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 346-3545. templealiyah.org.


Executive producer Steven Spielberg’s classic animated movie follows a Jewish family of mice emigrating from Russia to America by ship. At the center of the story is a young mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz, who gets lost from the rest of his family. Fievel’s family presumes he is adrift at sea, but Fievel makes it to New York and meets a bustling crew of colorful characters. Throughout the adventure, the little mouse is determined to reunite with his family. The film screens at the Skirball Cultural Center as part of “Family Film Series: Journeys Near and Far.” On Jan. 4, Pixar’s “Up” closes the series. 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

An interview with comedian Elon Gold, proud pro-Semite

Elon Gold. Photo courtesy of Elon Gold

Elon Gold attended Jewish day schools, including Yeshiva University’s high school, but his comedy routines are clearly not prepared under rabbinical supervision. A recent bit described Israel as “the nipple of the Middle East breast.” because, as Gold said, it’s the most sensitive area, and he doesn’t get to visit it as much as he’d like.

The New York-born, now Los Angeles-based comedian, actor, writer and producer has been making audiences laugh since his first stand-up routine at a high school Purim party. The married father of four, who is Modern Orthodox, has starred in two TV sitcoms, made nearly a dozenTonight Show appearances, has a comedy special on Netflix, and will make his 11th appearance at Montreal’s prestigious annual “Just For Laughs” comedy festival the week of July 24.

In 2011, Gold began writing and producing routines and videos about what he calls “Pro-Semitism,” which eventually developed into the new show he’ll be debuting in Montreal, “Pro-Semite.” He spoke about it in this edited conversation with the Jewish Journal.

JEWISH JOURNAL: How did the “pro-Semitism” bits become an entire show?

ELON GOLD: Unfortunately with all the new anti-Semitism in the world … I mean, you don’t see a headline “Pro-Semitism Sweeping Europe”… I realized there was a show here. Jews have contributed so much to the world, whether it’s medicine, science, technology, the arts … so where are all the pro-Semites? Comedians talk about what bothers them. And this really bothers me, whether it’s outright anti-Semitism or expressed as anti-Israel sentiment and the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement.

JJ: With anti-Semitism on the increase, both here and abroad, how do you find the funny in this dangerous and worrisome time?

EG: I love to find the funny in hate because then you get to expose the ignorance of bigotry. More important than the laugh is the message that’s behind the laugh. Comedians get across lots of messages disguised as jokes. Those jokes resonate and stay with you.

JJ: What can the audiences in Montreal expect from this new show?

EG: Chris Rock’s first special was called “Bring the Pain,” and his second was called “Bigger and Blacker.” My first special was “Chosen and Taken,” and this one should almost be called “Louder and Jewy-er!” I’m going to be even Jewy-er in this show, and I’m going to go deep and hit the heavier topics. One example is the anti-Semitic hate incident that happened to my family several years ago. Now I’m ready to talk about it onstage. Comedy is tragedy plus time.

I have a whole bit about the perception of Israel as the Goliath in the Middle East, and the joke is, we know Israel is still the nebbishy little David … but now, David went to the gym. He built himself up, and if you mess with him, he’ll kick your ass.

I also see Israel as Sandy from the movie “Grease.” At first, she was naïve and weak and picked on by Rizzo and all her friends. Then she came into her own, and that’s what Israel is now: tight leather pants on a permed Sandy, with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth saying (in an Israeli accent), “Ehhhhhh, what you think of me now, Rizzo?!”

The message is, we’re not the Goliath. You can’t compare the 50 Arab countries to the one Jewish state, the billion to the few million, the oil to the no oil. The joke I tell is, it’s difficult for me to explain Chanukah to my non-Jewish friends without perpetuating a stereotype. I say, we bought enough oil to last one day, and then a miracle happened, and we didn’t have to purchase any more for another week. And they’re always like, “Wait, so you built a holiday around a ‘buy one, get seven free’ deal?!” Meanwhile, the Arabs have all the oil, and not one oil-related holiday!

JJ: Can comedy change anti-Semitic attitudes?

EG: I think it can change awareness and perspective. I don’t think it’ll change attitudes, and no actual anti-Semite who might see this show is going to come out of it saying, “You know, he’s right. The Jews have contributed a lot. I should like them”. He’ll still believe what he believes.

JJ: You do different shows for all-Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. What will you do for the mixed crowd in Montreal?

EG: If I could put a warning label out for this show, it would say “Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Gentiles.” [Laughs] But the truth is, it’s still going to be universally funny.

JJ: Jews have always been persecuted, and then they’ve made fun of that persecution. Do you see yourself as part of that historic tradition?

EG: Absolutely. But I also talk about my persecution as an actor in Hollywood! They say Jews run Hollywood, but how come I haven’t gotten a decent acting gig in four years?! I talk about the cliché that Jews run Hollywood, but why wouldn’t they? They started Hollywood! That’s like saying “Blacks run the rap music business.” Yeah, well, they started it!

Nowadays it’s all about diversity and minority hires in Hollywood. But I don’t benefit from that. To Hollywood, I’m a white guy, but to the Bel-Air Country Club, I’m a minority. Neither works in my favor. But I’m a white guy, the way Almond Milk is milk. It’s the right color, but it ain’t milk!

For tickets to “Pro-Semite”, go to www.hahaha.com and to learn more about Elon Gold, go to www.elongold.com.


Moving and Shaking: L.A. celebrates Purim, IDF soldiers celebrated, Elon Gold reignites Jewish comedy

From left: Michael Robin, Melanie Zoey Weinstein, Marnina Wirtschafter and Jaclyn Beck sing a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” as part of IKAR’s Purim celebration. Photo by Len Muroff.

Mayim Bialik suited up for the Velcro wall at Valley Beth Shalom’s March 12 Purim carnival. Photo courtesy of Mayim Bialik.

Los Angeles Jews celebrated Purim across the city and around the world on March 11 and 12.

On the Westside, Shtibl Minyan and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills held “Hamilton”-themed shpiels, “Hamalkah: A Purim Musical” and “Esther: A Purim Musical,” respectively. Temple Isaiah hosted “The Late Late Show Purim,” with Rabbi Joel Nickerson playing talk show host James Grogger and featuring characters from the Purim story as his guests. At Temple Beth Am, senior staff and interns dressed as either Little Orphan Annie or her dog, Sandy, to convey the message that “the sun will come out tomorrow.” Aish Los Angeles held a jungle-themed Purim party for young adults ages 21 to 32 at Morry’s Fireplace.

Venturing to Club Fais Do-Do, IKAR held a combination Megillah reading and shpiel, featuring slides with funny images. Between chapters, the shpiel team screened a number of video shorts, including “IKARaoke,” starring “Royal Pains” actor Mark Feuerstein. The spiel ended with a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” (from the musical “Rent”). Costumes, too, skewed political, with Rabbi Sharon Brous dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Festivities continued Sunday around the region, with carnivals at Temple Judea, Temple Isaiah and Valley Beth Shalom (VBS), among other places. At VBS, actress Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”) was one of the carnival-goers who suited up for the Velcro wall.

In Israel, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was spotted dancing after a Megillah reading at the Tel Aviv Hilton with his son, Avi Hier, and Andrew Friedman, president of Congregation Bais Naftoli.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around
businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Lev Chayal held its second annual “Toast to Our Heroes” party on March 4 at The Mark for Events on Pico Boulevard. The party honored 10 Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were wounded during hostilities with Hamas in Gaza in 2014.

Lev Chayal, which translates to “Heart of a Soldier,” is a group dedicaxted to honoring wounded Israeli soldiers by offering them free leisure trips to Los Angeles. Chaya Israily and Brocha Yemini founded the group in 2016 under the auspices of the Chabad Israel Center.

The black-tie evening coincided with the second trip for soldiers sponsored by Lev Chayal. During their 10-day tour of Los Angeles, dubbed “The Trip of a Lifetime,” the soldiers attended a Lakers game, toured the headquarters of dating app Tinder and visited the Getty Villa museum, among other attractions.

Businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz donated the use of the event space and paid for a significant amount of the event’s expenses.

Some 200 people attended the event, which raised nearly $50,000. Lev Chayal is preparing for the next trip for soldiers in December.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

More than 250 people participated in the “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference on March 4-6, organized by the group StandWithUs, which focused on countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Supported by the Diane Shulman and Roger Richman Israel Education Fund, the conference at the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport drew students, professionals and activists from the United States, Canada and Israel. Attendees and members of StandWithUs, a nonprofit pro-Israel organization, shared their experiences with the BDS movement and the tactics they have used to challenge it on college campuses and other places.

“Today, you can’t say anything about minorities, about gay people, about Palestinians, about Muslims or about Arabs,” said Harvard University law professor emeritus and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz. “But when you put a shoe on the other foot, you can say analogous things about the nation-state of the Jewish people, about the Jewish lobby, and ultimately about Jews.”

He said college campuses should “demand a single standard” that is fairly applied to both sides.

“Whatever the left says is hate speech against them, we must demand that that be deemed hate speech against us on the other side,” Dershowitz said.

Other guest speakers included Judea Pearl, father of late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; Yaki Lopez, consul for political affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; and Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Hannah Karpin, 17, StandWithUs High School Intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, said the conference enabled her to learn more about the BDS movement.

“I think it should be acknowledged as an anti-Semitic movement,” said Karpin, who is planning to attend college next year. “It was shocking to hear that some recognizable organizations were behind the BDS movement.”

— Olga Grigoryants, Contributing Writer


Elon Gold. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Comedian Elon Gold performed at a Purim comedy concert at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on March 9, during which he talked about why Israel is the nipple of the Middle East breast (Gold said Israel is the most sensitive area and he doesn’t get to visit it as much he would like) and acted as Abraham negotiating with God over how much should be cut off during a circumcision (with God sounding like Marlon Brando and Abraham like Woody Allen).

Gold is Modern Orthodox and his material focused almost exclusively on the Jewish experience. He asked at one point if any gentiles were in the crowd. When nobody raised a hand, he insisted there were a couple of goy but they were hiding. He then asked the non-Jews how it felt for them to be the ones hiding.

Alex Edelman, a stand-up comedian who opened the show, gleaned material from his Jewish upbringing and did an eight-minute bit about the year his family celebrated Christmas, much to the chagrin of his yeshiva teacher.

The several hundred attendees included Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife, rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein; Jacob Segal, co-chair of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp., and his daughter, Tova; and Scott Jacobs of JooTube.

On a more serious note, Gold took the opportunity to denounce the anti-Semitism that has been on the rise over the past couple of months, with Jewish community centers being targeted with bomb threats and several Jewish cemeteries vandalized.

“You mess with the Jews, you lose,” Gold said.

From left: FIDF Chairman Ari Ryan and FIDF board members Francesca Ruzin and Michael Spector. Photo courtesy of S&N Photography.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) held its Young Leadership Western Region Spring Mixer on March 9 at the Nightingale Plaza dance club on La Cienega Boulevard.

Some 650 young donors mingled over cocktails under violet lighting as house music blared, celebrating the work FIDF has done to support Israeli troops. Life-size posters of IDF soldiers in uniform beamed at the guests.

For an extra $18 above the $36 ticket price, attendees were able to send a Purim gift package to an IDF soldier.

The event, chaired by Danielle Moses, Mimi Paley, Francesca Ruzin and Miles Soboroff, raised more than $41,000 for FIDF.

In 2016, FIDF supported, by its own count, 66,000 soldiers, veterans and bereaved family members, including 14,500 through educational programming, 2,800 through assistance to so-called lone soldiers who don’t have immediate family in Israel, and 8,000 soldiers needing financial assistance.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer


Michael Janofsky

Michael Janofsky, a former correspondent for The New York Times and more recently managing editor of LA School Report, has joined the Jewish Journal as an assistant editor. Janofsky was a sportswriter, national correspondent and Washington, D.C. reporter over 24 years with the paper. After moving to Los Angeles in 2006, he worked as a speechwriter for the dean of UCLA’s business school and a freelance writer and editor before joining the Journal.

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

Calendar: March 3-9, 2017

Maya Avraham. Photo courtesy of YouTube.



Join Reboot and Open Temple for an “Unplugged Party” in celebration of Reboot’s National Day of Unplugging. Your phone will be checked at the door. Step off the grid to listen to live music, play board games, visit the analog photo booth, and more. Event dedicated to the late Levi Felix, founder of Digital Detox and Camp Grounded; $3 of each ticket will be donated to Camp Grounded in his memory. 21 and older. 7 p.m. $18; tickets available at eventbrite.com. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. nationaldayofunplugging.com.


Honor a group of 10 young Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers visiting Los Angeles who have been wounded in combat. Food, drinks and an open-bar after-party with a DJ spinning until midnight. All proceeds go to Lev Chayal’s program for wounded IDF soldiers. Black-tie attire. 8 p.m. VIP reception; 9 p.m. cocktails and buffet. $180 for individual reservations; $100 for young professionals ages 21 to 35. Tickets available at eventbrite.com. Venue TBA. levchayal.com.



A chartered bus will take riders alongside the Metro Gold Line into the San Gabriel Valley on a tour that will focus on the area’s unique Jewish heritage and its contemporary community life. Wear comfortable walking shoes — the tour includes two miles on foot. Instructors include Stephen Sass, president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California since 1989, and Jeremy Sunderland, who is on the board of directors for the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California. Space is limited. Lunch on your own. 9 a.m. $58. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. wcce.aju.edu.


The ninth annual Nefesh B’Nefesh Israel Aliyah Fair offers the opportunity to gather aliyah information under one roof. Professionals will discuss financial planning and budgeting, choosing a community, building a strategic job search plan, navigating the health care system, buying or renting a home in Israel, and more. 10 a.m. for retirees and empty nesters; noon for students and young professionals. Free. Shalhevet High School, 910 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. nbn.org.


cal-hign-noon“High Noon” is more than a Western; it is also a story about the Hollywood blacklist. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel will discuss his book about  screenwriter Carl Foreman, producer Stanley Kramer, director Fred Zinnemann and actor Gary Cooper, and how their creative partnership was influenced — and crushed — by political repression and agendas. Book signing to follow presentation. 2 p.m. $14; $10 for students and seniors; $6 for children; free for members. Autry Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles.


The Los Angeles Balalaika Orchestra presents its 22nd annual concert, featuring the voice of Mark Goldenberg, cantor at Young Israel of Century City. 3 p.m. $35-$45. Herbert Zipper Hall, 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (626) 483-2731. balalaikala.com.


Elana Stein Hain, director of leadership education at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, will discuss the core values of some of the “tribes” that compose Israel today, and how a divided people build a shared society. Part of the Synagogue Collaborative Lecture Series. 4 p.m. $20. (Post-lecture dinner and discussion extra; RSVP only.) Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. shalomhartman.org/LAcollaborative.


“Labscapes” presents vivid images from the mysterious and usually unseen wonders that exist under the powerful lenses of the microscopes of some of the world’s most renowned researchers at Technion — Israel Institute of Technology. A special presentation by students will be followed by the grand opening. RSVP requested: jose@ats.org or (310) 254-9899. 5 p.m. presentation; 6 p.m. reception and exhibit. Through March 27. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. ats.org/labscapes.


Before joining The Idan Raichel Project, Maya Avraham was a widely sought-after backup singer for Israeli superstars such as Eyal Golan, Sarit Hadad and Shlomi Shabat. She will sing some of The Idan Raichel Project’s greatest hits as well as her own songs. 7 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Gindi Auditorium at American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. wcce.aju.edu.


This panel discussion features Vince Brook of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; David Isaacs, TV scriptwriter, producer and Emmy winner; Shaina Hammerman, Jewish film, literature, religion and cultural historian; Josh Moss, visiting assistant professor of film and media studies at UC Santa Barbara; and Ross Melnick, associate professor of film and media studies at UCSB. 6:15 p.m. dessert reception; 7 p.m. panel. Free. RSVP by March 3 at wbtla.org/shtetl or (424) 208-8932. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-2401.



Learn how to use Google Earth and Google Maps to gather information about where your ancestors lived, and how to educate yourself and meet other like-minded individuals (and perhaps relatives) using Google’s social media. Mary Kathryn Kozy, who has been researching her family history for more than 35 years, will speak at this meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County. 7 p.m. Free. Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest, Thousand Oaks. (818) 889-6616. jgscv.org.



cal-elon-goldComedian, writer and actor Elon Gold kicks off the Purim weekend with a night of comedy, drinks and a DJ. Also featuring Alex Edelman. 8 p.m. $40. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (888) 645-5006. sabanconcerts.com.


Explore the ethical and religious implications of the Holocaust at this event. Wine and cheese reception will be followed by a multimedia program and discussion about the Polish underground’s mission that sent officer Witold Polecki into Auschwitz to gain intelligence and build resistance among the prisoners. 7:30 p.m. $8. Burton Sperber Jewish Community Library at American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1572. wcce.aju.edu.

Moving and Shaking: New Gaza film screening, local olympian celebrated, TIOH Rabbi announces retirement

From left: Claudia Puig, president of the L.A. Film Critics Association; Robert Magid, producer of “Eyeless in Gaza;” Hollywood journalist Alex Ben Block; Creative Community for Peace co-founder David Rezner and Tribe Media Corp. President David Suissa. Photo courtesy of Roz Wolf.

“Eyeless in Gaza,” a documentary that attempts to show how Israel suffered from biased media coverage during its 2014 war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, had its Los Angeles premiere on Feb. 6 at the iPic Theaters in Westwood.

The film incorporates news footage of the war, including that of a media company capturing on camera Hamas fighters setting up rocket-launch sites in densely populated Gaza neighborhoods. Israel has long maintained that this is standard practice by Hamas and that it is part of the reason why Israel inflicts high civilian casualties on Gaza in the event of violent conflicts with the anti-Israel terrorist organization.

The 50-minute film also incorporates original interviews with Hamas officials; Israeli-Canadian journalist and author Matti Friedman, who formerly served in the Israel Defense Forces and pro-Israel attorney Alan Dershowitz. It delves into the history of Israel’s relationship with the Gaza Strip, beginning with Israel’s 2005 withdrawal and its dismantling of settlements in the region.

During the 2014 war, mainstream media depicted Israel as using disproportionate force against the Gaza people. Reporters cited the uneven death toll — 1,483 Palestinian civilians killed compared to five Israeli civilians, according to gazadeathtoll.org, which cites the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — as evidence of Israel’s brutality.

The film explains that Israel’s Iron Dome defense prevented Israel from suffering higher casualties despite the constant rocket fire on Israel from Gaza.

About 60 people attended the screening, including pro-Israel philanthropists Naty and Debbie Saidoff.

A post-screening panel featuring the film’s producer, Robert Magid; Hollywood journalist Alex Ben Block; Creative Community for Peace co-founder David Renzer; and Tribe Media Corp. President David Suissa examined the media’s portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Los Angeles Film Critics Association President Claudia Puig moderated the panel.

The film will be available Feb. 28 on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime and Vimeo.

From left: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinsky; Jewish Graduate Student Initiative (JGSI) Executive Director Rabbi Dave Sorani; NBC Universal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer; and JGSI Director of Operations Rabbi Matthew Rosenberg attend the Jewish Executive Leadership Conference. Photo courtesy of Jewish Graduate Student Initiative.

The Jewish Graduate Student Initiative (JGSI) on Jan. 29 drew the largest crowd ever to its Jewish Executive Leadership Conference, which was held at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.

More than 400 Jewish graduate students and recent college graduates attended the conference that featured 50 panelists and three keynote speakers.

The goal of the conference was “to create a forum for Jewish graduate students and young professionals to interact with high-level Jewish executives who share insights into their careers and industries while impacting upon them the importance of philanthropy and community leadership,” said Rabbi Matthew Rosenberg, JGSI director of operations. “Participants are then introduced to volunteering opportunities with a full range of L.A.’s premier Jewish nonprofits.”

The featured speakers addressed a variety of topics, including real estate, finance, law and the entertainment industry. The three keynote speakers were Scooter Braun, founder of the entertainment and media company SB Projects; Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBC Universal; and Elaine Wynn, co-founder of Wynn Resorts.

“This year was our best-attended and most successful conference ever, with our best lineup of speakers to date,” Rosenberg said. “We look forward to hosting an even bigger and better event next year and getting even more young people involved in their Los Angeles Jewish community.”

— Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

World Swimming Championships XOlympic champion swimmer Anthony Ervin, a native of Valencia, is among inductees elected to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for 2017.

Ervin captured a pair of gold medals at last year’s Olympics in Brazil in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter relay. His performances were a near repeat of his gold- and silver-medal-winning efforts in the same events at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. He now resides in Florida.

The other inductees to the hall of fame include two Americans, a Canadian, a Hungarian, an Israeli, a New Zealander and a Russian.

One of the Americans, who among all the inductees arguably has had the longest impact on spectator sports, was the late Albert Von Tilzer, a New Yorker who wrote the immortal baseball anthem “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in 1908. The other American, Thelma “Tybie” Thall-Sommers, was a two-time world champion in table tennis. In 1948 she paired with Richard Miles to become the first Americans to win the world mixed doubles title. In 1949, as a member of the U.S. team, she won world championships in singles and doubles. She also won several national titles during her career.

The other inductees are:

The late Hy Buller of Canada, a National Hockey League star who played for the New York Rangers. He set a rookie record in 1951-52 for scoring the most goals, and ranked second for most goals among all NHL defensemen in three consecutive seasons.

The late Joszef Braun, who joined the MTK Budapest soccer club in 1916 at age 15 and three years later was named Hungary’s “Player of the Year.” His team won nine national championships through 1924. Braun perished in a Nazi forced labor camp in 1943.

Israel’s Lee Korzits, a four-time world sailing champion, who won her first Mistral-class title in 2003. After a long layoff due to injuries, the Hadera native won world gold medals in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

New Zealand sailing champion Jo Aleh, who won gold medals (with Olivia Powrie) in the women’s 420 Class event at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and at the 2007 and 2013 world championships.

Swimmer Semyon Belits-Geiman, a Moscow native who broke 67 Soviet national freestyle records, set a world 800-meter freestyle record in 1966, and the same year won two gold medals at the European championships. In 1999, he and his wife moved to Stamford, Conn.

The election results were announced in December by the hall of fame’s co-chairmen, Alan Sherman of Potomac, Md., and R. Stephen Rubin of London. Formal inductions are slated for July 4 at the hall of fame’s museum on the Wingate Institute campus in Netanya, Israel.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

emple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH) Senior Rabbi John Rosove has announced his plan to retire from TIOH and become the Reform synagogue’s rabbi emeritus, effective June 30, 2019.

By the time he retires, Rosove will have served as senior rabbi at TIOH for 30 years and “will have completed 40 years of service to the Jewish people since my ordination” at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, in 1979, Rosove said in a Feb. 8 statement.

“Though my retirement is still two-plus years away, I am announcing now to give our Temple leadership the time necessary to thoughtfully establish a process that will ensure the best and wisest selection of my successor as Senior Rabbi,” he said.

Rosove assumed the position of senior rabbi at TIOH in 1988. The Los Angeles native graduated from the UC Berkeley in 1972.

He is the board chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America; holds a seat on the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; serves as a Jewish Agency for Israel committee member; recently was national co-chair of the rabbinic cabinet of J Street, a left-leaning, pro-Israel organization and more.

From left: Westwood Village Synagogue Rabbi Abner Weiss; actor and comedian Elon Gold; Shalhevet High School senior Micha Thau; and Shalhevet Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal participate in a discussion about Orthodox Judaism and the LGBT community. Photo by Eitan Arom.

From left: Westwood Village Synagogue Rabbi Abner Weiss; actor and comedian Elon Gold; Shalhevet High School senior Micha Thau; and Shalhevet Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal participate in a discussion about Orthodox Judaism and the LGBT community.
Photo by Eitan Arom.

In middle school, Micha Thau wanted to live what he called “the Jewish Orthodox American dream” — a future with a house in Beverlywood with a Honda Odyssey in the driveway, four kids and a pretty wife eight years his junior. When he realized he was gay, in eighth grade, “it spit in my face, robbed me of all motivation.”

Now a senior at Shalhevet High School, Thau spoke at Westwood Village Synagogue on Feb. 8 as part of a panel called “Modern Orthodoxy and LGBT: Navigating a Complex Reality,” alongside Shalhevet head of school Rabbi Ari Segal; actor and comedian Elon Gold; Westwood Village Synagogue Rabbi Abner Weiss; a clinical psychologist, and moderator Alexander Leichter.

In high school, Thau was ready to come out to his community. “It came to the point where staying in the closet was so much more painful than anything that could happen outside of it,” he explained to about 50 people who gathered at the synagogue, upstairs from Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Westwood.

Something clicked for Segal when he realized Thau had spent years worrying if Shalhevet would ostracize him for being gay. “I made a decision at that moment,” he said. “We were going to have a [gay-straight alliance], we were going to stop pretending that we don’t have gay kids at the school.”

After that, Segal wrote an editorial for Shalhevet’s newspaper calling LGBT acceptance “the biggest challenge to emunah [faith] of our time.” With Thau at the helm, Shalhevet issued a pledge Jewish schools can sign to commit themselves to supporting gay students. So far, Shalhevet is the only school to have signed it, Segal said.

Gold, an observant Jew, played a gay father in the web series “Bar Mitzvah.” He spoke about his brother, Ari, who came out at the age of 18. To this day, his brother doesn’t feel comfortable within the Orthodox community, Gold said. “He is a very proud Jew,” he said. “He just feels like he can’t stay observant. It’s too conflicting.”

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

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

8 things for Jews to do at Christmastime

SAT | DEC 24


All fans are invited to screenings of the classic musical film “Fiddler on the Roof.” With audi- ence participation, movie trivia and guest hosts, it’s sure to be a memorable evening. Sing along to “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “To Life,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and more. “Fiddler on the Roof” will screen at six Laemmle venues across Southern Cali- fornia. 7:30 p.m. $15 to $18. For tickets and more information, visit laemmle.com/fiddler.


Enjoy an evening of comedy featuring comedian Elon Gold. Show times: 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. $35. Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 656-1336. ” target=”_blank”>infinitelight.la


Say goodbye to Shabbat, welcome another day of Chanukah, stretch, sing, listen, have a bite and delight in your inner glow and outer light during Om Shalom and Beth Chayim Cha- dashim’s Havdalah and Chanukah-themed yoga practice. Bring a yoga mat, towel and water, and dress in comfortable exercise clothes. Light vegan finger food will be served. Om Sha- lom Yoga is led by Zack Lodmer and assisted by Jason Gamer and Cantor Juval Porat, and features live music. 6 p.m. $15 (No one will be turned away for lack of funds). Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. ” target=”_blank”>matzoball.org.

SUN | DEC 25


All are welcome to join Temple Adat Elohim’s annual holiday meal. The event is open to com- munity members throughout the Conjeo Valley, from the homeless to those who are seeking ca- maraderie during the holiday season. This is a volunteer-driven event. 11:30 a.m. Free. Social Hall at Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-7101. ” target=”_blank”>lajfilmfest.org.

Elon Gold: Three weeks in Israel and I go blond and gay

It was my first kiss — on camera. 

I was filming a TV pilot in 1998 where I played a Jewish guy marrying a shiksa, the first of many similar roles. In the rehearsal, I cautiously leaned into actress Cynthia Geary and gently kissed her lips. The director stopped me. He pulled me aside. 

“Are you gay?” he asked. He was nonjudgmental, matter of fact. 

“No, why do you ask?’ I said.

“Because it looks like you have no interest in kissing that gorgeous woman,” he said.

I explained to him that I had every interest in kissing her, but this being my first TV kiss, I didn’t know how it works. With tongue? Without? Do you just go for it, or hold back and let her lead? I was losing my TV kiss virginity, and I was nervous and scared to be too aggressive and have the actress blow a rape whistle on me.

Cut to almost 20 years later. Just last week I was in Tel Aviv on a set with a full production crew, filming a web series called “Bar Mitzvah,” in which I play a gay dad who takes his son to Israel for his bar mitzvah. Only now, this was going to be my first on-screen kiss … with a man. 

I was nervous — dreading not only my first man-on-man smooch, but also a repeat of my maladroit, first TV kiss. Now, my fear was the director taking me aside after I sheepishly and awkwardly lean in for a kiss and asking me, “Are you straight?” To which I would reply, “Yes! And if it looks like I have no interest in kissing this man, I don’t!”

This all started when my manager called me with an offer to co-star in a web series created by Gal Uchovsky, known as “The Simon Cowell of ‘Israel Idol’ ”; Ilan Peled, a popular Israeli actor/comedian; and Eytan Fox, who had one of Israel’s biggest hit movies, “Yossi & Jagger.” 

“It’s filming in Israel for three weeks and you play a gay dad,” my manager said. 

My first thought was, getting paid to do what I love — comedic acting — in a land I love, how could I say no? But then like any real Jew, I went right to the negative thoughts. I’ve never been away from my family for more than a week. And what about all my relatives, rabbis and everyone else I encounter as an observant Jew, who have always chastised me about playing a guy who’s married to a non-Jewish woman? There’s only one thing that could be worse to them than that: playing a guy who’s married to a non-Jewish man! 

My first concern about the length of time away from my family was instantly alleviated by the deal itself; with four kids in yeshiva, I couldn’t turn down what they were offering. 

But it was my second concern that I really had to grapple with. Every TV sitcom I ever did, the producers cast me against a non-Jewish wife. I always promised everyone that one day I’d be able to have my own show and I would make sure my TV wife was Jewish. That day never came. I did have my own show: I pitched and sold a sitcom to NBC called “In-Laws” about my experience living with my Jewish wife’s parents. But when it came time for casting, the producers and network wanted to go shiksa — and there was nothing I could do about it. There I was again, playing the Jew who marries out of his religion. “You’re not helping our problem with intermarriage!” I heard over and over again. 

My defense was always the same. As an actor, I will take on any role, including that of a serial killer. It’s just a part I’m playing. I don’t kill people in real life. And I happen to be married to a nice Jewish girl from Scarsdale, N.Y., and we are raising our kids in an observant home. But that wasn’t enough for everyone. It was like I was single-handedly responsible for the end of the Jewish people.

The cast of the web series “Bar Mitzvah.”

After “In-Laws,” I got cast opposite Pamela Anderson — a lovely woman and the ultimate shiksa! — on another sitcom. After that, on the hit show “Bones,” I was playing the boyfriend of a woman who is not Jewish and half black. I could just hear my not-so-casually racist aunt saying, “A half-shvartze shiksa!? What’s he gonna play next — faygala??”

Well, yes. That’s exactly what I’m proudly playing. A homosexual who is married to a man and has a child whom he is also raising to be gay. When my character finds out, while in Israel, that his son is attracted to a young girl, he spirals out of control and just can’t handle it. 

“My son, straight? You think he’ll grow out of it?” I hopefully ask my husband after hearing this terrible news. 

It’s a funny script and a great role. One I wouldn’t turn down because of Jewish-peer pressure. 

In fact, the only relative I had any concern about offending was my younger brother Ari, who is gay. He was glad that I was going to portray a Jewish, gay man in a positive light. He is a well-known recording artist in the gay community and is very out and proud of both his Jewishness and his gayness. “Another gay role going to a straight actor!” he complained, mostly in jest. His bigger concern was that I would play the role stereotypically. 

“No effeminate lisps or limp wrists, please!” he warned. 

The truth is, by the time I was cast as the gay man, I had already wrestled with what it meant to be the straight brother. Being an observant Jew and having a gay brother whom I love and accept with all my heart can sometimes be conflicting. I’m an advocate for gay rights, and yet I’m also a Torah Jew who loves and learns Torah regularly, knowing it doesn’t exactly have wonderful things to say about a man lying with another man. But I don’t believe you have to take sides. Gays should never be judged negatively for who they are, and the Torah shouldn’t be scorned for calling homosexuality a sin. Let’s not forget that in the Torah, there’s all kinds of heterosexual sex that’s also a sin. This is a much bigger topic that I can’t tackle alone. I just wish people would be more accepting of those who marry outside of their religion, or inside their gender. Especially considering that a close friend of mine who married a non-Jew, who converted to Judaism, almost single-handedly rebuilt our synagogue. The running joke in our congregation is that, “A shiksa built our shul!”

With that in mind, and the knowledge that you can’t ever please everyone anyway, I took the role. I slipped into my first class El Al seat — another reason to do it! — with excitement and anticipation of what lay ahead of me in the Holy Land.

My first day, they had me in a wardrobe fitting where I was trying on the gayest outfits I’ve ever worn. Then, to gay me up even more, they took me to a hair salon and dyed the top of my hair blond. Now I looked and felt the part. The next day we began filming and all my trepidations of whether or not I could play this role — and fears of what relatives and fellow Modern Orthodox Jews will think — went away.

And the kiss? It was three seconds longer than I would’ve liked, but it was nice. The gay director was happy with his two heterosexual actors sharing a sweet, “real” moment between these two “husbands.” It didn’t hurt that I had been away from my wife for almost a month, so, frankly, it was good to get any action. 

While I may not be looking forward to the wrath of negative comments and emails when this web series premieres, I am looking forward to continuing to make Jews and non-Jews everywhere laugh, and to keep on playing roles that challenge me as an actor and entertain audiences — whether my Aunt Ruth approves or not. 

I’m back in L.A. now, filming a TV pilot this week and preparing for my big annual “Merry Erev Xmas” show at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood next week. I walked into the door of my home after my long but fruitful trip and passionately kissed my wife. There were no cameras, no actresses or actors, just me and my high school sweetheart. And no director took me aside to ask if I was gay or straight. Because, you know, you can’t fake real love.

Elon Gold is a comedian, writer and actor whose latest viral video has more than 1 million hits and counting. His annual “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory will take place Dec. 24. For times, tickets and information, visit this story at laughfactory.com.

Moving and Shaking: Yom HaAtzmaut, Yom HaZikaron and Foster Mother’s Day

The May 11 Yom HaAtzmaut reception held by Israel’s consulate in Los Angeles took on a bittersweet air — not just because it followed Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, but also because it was a de facto goodbye party for Consul General David Siegel.

The celebration, held at the Skirball Cultural Center, was the outgoing consul’s final Independence Day celebration in Los Angeles after five years of service here.

Before the ceremony, guests lined up to take pictures with Siegel. 

Among those spotted at the event were Stuart Steinberg (father of fallen Israel Defense Forces soldier Max Steinberg); philanthropist and co-founder of the Israeli-American Council Adam Milstein; German Consul General in Los Angeles Hans Jorg Neumann; Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev; Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, the longtime executive director at UCLA’s Hillel, and his wife, psychologist Doreen Seidler-Feller; City Attorney Mike Feuer; and Los Angeles City Councilmen David Ryu, Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz.

A host of dignitaries took the stage to pay tribute to Siegel and to toast Israel on its 68th birthday, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Beverly Hills City Councilman Julian Gold and West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. A trio of Israeli singers, including Kathleen Reiter, the first winner of Israel’s “The Voice” television competition, provided musical entertainment.

Taking the stage last, after a surprise video tribute, Siegel recalled how he arrived in Los Angeles five years ago hoping to “share the real Israel with all of you.” He noted some encouraging signs from his tenure. For example, he recounted that when he arrived, UC Irvine was a “stark symbol” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Now, UCI has partnerships with a number of Israeli universities, he said.

He pointed to a bill currently under consideration in California’s legislature as a sign that “support for Israel is deep, is strong and is bipartisan.”

Speakers did not fail to pay respects to the evening’s nominal star: the State of Israel. “It’s such a pleasure to be here to celebrate one of my favorite birthdays — of a nation both older than my oldest ancestor and younger than my mother,” Garcetti said.

Uri Herscher, the Skirball’s president, offered a personal account of the birth of the Jewish state 68 years ago, when he was 7 years old. “I had never stayed up until midnight, but my father did not want me to miss the glorious moment” when Israel came into being, he said.

He added, “[Those memories] move me even now after all these years more than ever.”

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

IDF Sgt. Miles Rubin lighting yahrzeit (memorial) candles to honor Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Photo by Justin Kenderes

For about 60 seconds on the evening of May 10, more than 1,000 Angelenos at the Saban Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard were transported to Israel by the sound of air raid sirens.

The crowd that gathered to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, silently rose to its feet when the mournful wail came over the theater’s sound system, mimicking the custom observed each year in Israel.

“This is no longer just an Israeli observance,” said Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts, which makes its home at the Saban in Beverly Hills. The congregation co-hosted the event with the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces Western Region and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The ceremony celebrated the sacrifice of 23,447 fallen Israeli soldiers and terror victims since the state’s founding, including 47 Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and 32 civilians slain this year.

Baron’s remarks followed a video address from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. After Rivlin’s speech, a host of community leaders and visiting dignitaries took the stage to light 18 memorial candles. Among those called up were Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Miles Rubin, a “lone soldier” who emigrated to Israel to serve in the IDF, and Leehy Shaer, whose nephew, Gilad Shaer, was kidnapped and killed in 2014 by Hamas operatives along with two other Israeli yeshiva students, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

The candles remained onstage as the lights went dark for a screening of “Our Boys,” a 2015 documentary produced by Moriah Films, a division of the Wiesenthal Center. The film is about the three Israeli yeshiva students who were killed and features extensive interviews with the boys’ parents.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

From left: Ashley Williams, volunteer with Foster Care Counts; Jeanne Pritzker, founder of Foster Care Counts; U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass; Jennifer Perry of Children’s Action Network; and Maggie Lin, volunteer with Foster Care Counts at the eighth annual Foster Mother’s Day celebration on Mother’s Day. Over 2,000 foster moms and kids were treated to a day of fun, entertainment and pampering. Photo by Chris Devlin

Foster Care Counts, the nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and serving the needs of foster youth and families in Los Angeles, hosted its eighth annual Foster Mother’s Day on May 8 at The Willows Community School in Culver City. 

“We started Foster Mother’s Day eight years ago to honor and show our respect for the many foster parents who give selflessly of themselves every day,” Jeanne Pritzker, the founder of Foster Care Counts, said in a press release. “We all share responsibility for children in foster care — in fact, I see these kids as all of our kids! Foster Mother’s Day allows us to show our appreciation while bringing the community together in support of foster families.”

The event served more than 2,000 foster moms and kids with a day filled with fun, entertainment, food, relaxation and pampering. Visitors to a spa enjoyed hairstyling by future professionals from Paul Mitchell the School in Sherman Oaks and makeup from Jouer Cosmetics. Children had their own area, where there were carnival games, arts and crafts, magicians, balloon artists and face painting.

Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services Director Philip Browning, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas made appearances at the event, as did Hayden Byerly from Freeform’s “The Fosters.” 

“There is no one more deserving of recognition and our gratitude than the many Los Angeles County foster mothers and fathers who care for our most vulnerable children,” Browning said in a press release.  

— Avi Sholkoff, Contributing Writer

Comedians Gad Elmaleh and Elon Gold mug backstage with a Jewish Journal cover story on Elmaleh, who closed out his limited run at Largo at the Coronet with a sold-out show May 5.


#OscarsSoGoyish is not a hashtag you will see out in the Twitterverse. Even though, like #OscarsSoWhite, it is warranted. African-Americans aren’t the only ones absent from the Academy’s nominations. A quick review of this year’s nominees reveals a glaring lack of Asians, Latinos and, shockingly, even the very people who supposedly “run” Hollywood seem to have lost control. Aside from Jennifer Jason Leigh (three goyish names), “we” have no other acting nominations. Even the iconic, master filmmaker Spielberg (one very Jewish name) was ignored for best director by those anti-Semites! But will he be attending? He sure will. Because Shmuely Spielberg knows that you don’t boycott the Oscars. Nobody should.

There are many who argued that Chris Rock, the host, should join the growing ranks of actors, screenwriters and directors in boycotting this year’s Oscars. Why would anyone ever boycott the Oscars? The Oscars are sacred. That’s like boycotting Israel, and we have plenty of schmucks out there doing that. To me, being at the Academy Awards is similar to being in Israel — every breath you take is rarefied air. It is a blessing and a privilege to be in either of those holiest of holy lands. In the same way, shutting down the West Bank Soda Stream factory hurt the very people BDS was trying to help (in costing them their livelihood), denying Chris Rock a platform from which to mock and ridicule the glaring lack of diversity is counterproductive. 

Calling for Rock to boycott as host removes his ability to capitalize on the situation and confront it head-on with a captive audience of 1 billion. From his podium, he can brilliantly and justly skewer and lambaste the lack of diversity both in this year’s nominations and in the entire entertainment industry. Chris will shine the brightest light on the issue, and his presence will be an enormous win for diversity in every way. As a friend and fellow comedian, I can tell you that he is chomping at the bit to get up there and address the white elephants in the room. And, by “white elephants,” I’m not talking about the Weinsteins. 

Why am I comparing the all-important issue of Israeli boycotts to that of a few actors and one comedian’s possible boycott of an awards show? Because both issues are important to me. However, as much as the need to increase diversity troubles me, it’s not nearly as bothersome as the real-world problems of boycotting and singling out the one country in the world that is the only free democracy in the Middle East, and one of the biggest proponents of human rights, equality for women, gays and all religions. I’m tying these two very disparate issues together because when I hear the word “boycott” nowadays, I have a Pavlovian reaction, which takes me right to thoughts of the BDSers, and just how wrong and pointless boycotting can be in some cases. I’m a believer in showing up and making a difference. Not hiding and kvetching from the sidelines. I’d love to see action that would enable a soda factory that housed one of the great vestiges of coexistence in Judea and Samaria to still be standing. And would be thrilled to see Chris Rock publicly recognize that Idris Elba was robbed of a much-deserved nomination.

But if Rock does succumb to peer pressure (don’t worry, he won’t) and allows the injudicious ones (you know, the Roger Waterses of this issue) to get to him, I am ready to step in at a moment’s notice. Because hosting or even just attending the Oscars is an incredible privilege that no one should dismiss for their cause. Nor miss the opportunity to promote their cause. (And let’s not forget that $50K trip to Israel in those gift baskets!)

Here is a sample of a few of the jokes I’d do if I were hosting. I wouldn’t take on the diversity issue as much as Chris would. My monologue would be more … Jewish.

“Good evening and welcome to the Academy Awards, the show that proves Jews don’t learn from their mistakes and still idolize golden statues.

“Yes folks, this is an amazing awards show. It reminds me of when I hosted the Chabad Telethon. Except here we have underrepresented black actors; there we had way too many black hatters.

“Tonight we are celebrating diversity. If by diversity you mean a Martian, a Danish Girl, a Mad Max and a Big Short.

“ ‘The Big Short’ was a great movie, and also the before and after of my bris.

“Getting an unexpected best picture nod was ‘Mad Max.’ Not to be mistaken with my uncle, ‘Mad at Everyone Max.’

“Of course, there was the amazing film ‘Room,’ about a mother held captive in a room with her son for years. What most people viewed as a horror story, Jewish mothers everywhere called the film, ‘A dream come true!’

“I’m actually doing a movie that’s closer to my life story — about a husband who is supposed to get sex but never does, called ‘Yichud Room.’

“ ‘The Martian,’ a great movie about a man who goes to Mars and gets stuck there. I couldn’t help but not feel badly for the guy. I mean, what kind of putz goes to Mars? I have enough trouble shlepping out of the house to go see a movie about a guy going to Mars.

“In the film, Matt Damon is seen growing potatoes out of poop. All I’m saying is, if you get invited to his house for Shabbos lunch, don’t eat the kugel.

“Let’s not forget the great film ‘The Danish Girl,’ which I think is a movie about a raspberry Danish that really wants to be a cheese Danish.

“Christian Bale is nominated tonight. Last year, he starred in the film “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” That’s right, it was a movie about Moses starring a guy named Christian. Even the best Jewish roles go to goyim. But you never see the reverse, in our favor. You never see a movie about the pope, starring Fyvush Finkel.

“Who can forget the film ‘Carol’? Most of the movie features two women trying to figure out how to be lesbians together. I’ll wait until it comes out on cable so I can just fast forward to the good parts.

“And finally, Jennifer Jason Leigh is nominated for ‘The Hateful Eight.’ Not to be mistaken with my morning minyan, ‘The Resentful Ten.’ ”

(After reading these jokes, you can see why they didn’t ask me to host … those anti-Semite bastards!) 

Elon Gold is a comedian, actor, and writer who has appeared in numerous TV shows and currently has a one-hour special on Netflix, “Elon Gold: Chosen and Taken.” He can be seen live next month performing at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C.

Calendar: December 20 – January 2

SAT | DEC 20


Finally, a Chanukah-themed Shabbat. This is truly a treat for families with school-age kids and crafty attitudes. Participants will get to enjoy crafts, songs, a cooking project and more, all relating to our favorite winter holiday. Bring grandparents, neighbors and your best Saturday spirit. RSVP requested. Sat. 10:30 a.m. Free. Ahavat Torah, 343 Church Lane, Brentwood. (310) 362-1111. SUN | DEC 21


The Original Farmers Market is joining forces with Zimmer Children’s Museum and Chabad of the Miracle Mile Area for a Sunday afternoon of Chanukah fun. This year’s event features not only crafts, but also live music from Etan G the Jewish Rapper — an artist with two solo albums and a rich history of working with and educating children in Judaic studies. There will be a special menorah-lighting ceremony, face painting, a giant balloon menorah and tons of gift ideas. Sun. 2:30 p.m. Free. The Farmers Market, 6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (323) 933-9211. MON | DEC 22


Celebrate the Festival of Lights with a band making music just right for the occasion. A seasonal favorite, the Grammy-winning Klezmatics are a unique hybrid of traditional klezmer music mixed with Eastern European, Latin, Celtic, Afro-Caribbean and folkish flares. Well respected in Jewish artistry, the band has collaborated with Tony Kushner, Itzhak Perlman and Israeli singer Chava Alberstein. Bring the whole family — tickets are 50 percent off for ages 2-12. Mon. 8 p.m. $42-$105. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000. WED | DEC 24


Comedian Elon Gold knows a thing or two about converting a famously non-Jewish night into something more on the kosher side. With a heap of other comedians by his side, Gold entices audiences to laugh their way into the next day (when we will be movie-watching and Chinese takeouting). Known for his spot-on impressions of Jeff Goldblum, Jay Leno and Howard Stern, Gold is good at being lots of people, hilariously. He’s made several appearances on “Chappelle’s Show” and “Chelsea Lately” and has been a judge on ABC’s “The Next Best Thing.” Be the envy of all your gentile friends and get yourself a ticket. Wed. 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. $25-$40. The Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 656-1336.


Christmas Eve’s got nothing on the nation’s leading Jewish singles event. Bigger and better than before (and that’s with 27 MatzoBalls behind us), L.A. singles can gear up for an unforgettable night and a party that is way better than whatever silly Christmas-themed movies are on TV. So throw on a hip outfit and get ready to dance the night away at the No. 1 holiday party around. Wed. 9 p.m. Ages 21-35. $30. Avalon, 1737 Vine St., Hollywood. (212) 389-9922. THU | DEC 25


Director-writer team Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg offer up an action comedy that takes us all the way to North Korea and back. When tabloid TV duo Dave Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) land an interview with Kim Jong-un, the two are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean dictator. With the pair completely unqualified, their success is questionable — but your enjoyment is guaranteed. Also starring Lizzy Caplan and Randall Park. Thu. Check local listings. FRI | DEC 26


Truly funny, with a bite that sneaks up on you, this comedian is as talented as her last name is multisyllabic. Having moved at an early age from Russia to America, Soltanovich finds the delight in assimilating into American culture from the old country. She trained with The Groundlings and the American Conservatory Theater; has written for various TV personalities, from Selena Gomez to Joan Rivers; and is best known for prank-oriented roles on shows like “Girls Behaving Badley” and a recurring role on a sketch on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” She was named “hottest new writer” by the ABC Comedy Development Showcase and is a constant on the comedy festival circuit. Fri. 8 p.m. $15. Hollywood Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. (323) 651-2583. WED | DEC 31


Sing in the New Year with Hershey Felder himself. Featuring an entire century of music, including musical gifts from the likes of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Felder will lead from the piano as you ring in 2015. It sure beats watching the festivities in Times Square, alone in your pajamas (not that that doesn’t have its own merits). Includes a post-concert champagne and dessert reception. Wed. 10 p.m. (7 p.m. show is sold out.) $175. Gil Cates Theater at The Geffen, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-5454.


Letters to the editor: Elon Gold, Daniel Pearl, ISIS and Israeli field hospitals

A War at Home

Having just read “Drive-by Hate” (Aug. 29), as a Protestant of Italian descent, it occurred to me that everyone should read this, then close their eyes and imagine the scene, the Gold family happily enjoying Shabbat and their time together, when this happened). Try to see the faces of the children who are seeing what every loving parent wants to shield their children from. Imagine the incredible fear in Elon and his wife and especially these kids. Now replace the image you have of those children’s faces with the faces of your own kids, or if you don’t have any, imagine kids you love. My suggestion is familiar and obviously borrowed, but it’s necessary, I think, to experience in a small way what this must have been like. Shalom Mr. Gold. Only the best to you and your family.

Joe Hampton via jewishjournal.com

Thank you, Elon Gold, for this well-stated and personal posting. I have been disheartened by the lack of Jewish entertainers speaking up for their people and Israel. Although I’m grateful for those who HAVE spoken up in the entertainment industry, there is a noticeable lack of some of the prominent names I would have hoped to see sharing their concern for, and love of, Israel. 

Beverly Bloom via jewishjournal.com

I’ve read Elon Gold’s unfortunate episode that he and his family had to experience what the police calls a “hate incident.” I feel sad that his young kids had to go through it. But, I feel proud of him for taking time to write about his experience and make people aware that we need to speak up and put the blame where it belongs. I do hope our city’s, state’s and country’s Jewish influential people take to heart what happened to the Gold family and speak up. Things like these should never happen in our city and our country.

Isaac Venouziou, Los Angeles

Remembering a Hero

I would like Daniel Pearl’s parents to know we, our whole family including grandkids, consider Danny Pearl a hero … and a Jewish hero (“The Pragmatic Fight Against Evil,” Aug. 29). We bought “A Mighty Heart” but couldn’t watch it … it was too sad. Almost like seeing our own family.

Rose Galston via jewishjournal.com

History of Healing

Those of us who are old enough to remember the civil war in Lebanon, which involved the Palestinians, also remember Israel’s Open Fence policy (“Why Didn’t Gazans Use the IDF Field Hospital?” Aug. 29). These were Israeli-run hospitals that were located right over the border into Israel that allowed any and all Palestinians or Lebanese to come into Israel for free medical treatment, which is something they could not get in Lebanon during the war because there were no medical shipments into the country. They did this in spite of ongoing terrorist attacks from the Palestinians, who were based in Lebanon before they got kicked out by the Lebanese. Jewish physicians have always been available to treat the wounded and sick, no matter what nationality, religion, or whether or not they were the enemy. Once again Hamas kills Palestinians for PR purposes. Once again the Jews show their humanity regardless of the lies told about them by their enemies.

Paula Bojsen via jewishjournal.com

Be the News You Want to See 

We need to move beyond pessimism and optimism and become the agents that change what is small, barely noticeable, yet nevertheless saves someone somewhere from misery and suffering. This is how civil society works — the accumulation of many healing acts (“The News Summer From Hell,” Aug. 29).

Janet Vickers via jewishjournal.com 

Gift and Burden of Hindsight

Reading Rob Eshman’s column about the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) matter (“What Ramy Knew,” Aug. 29) is very similar to the Aug. 28 front-page article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Islamic State’s Economy of Extortion.”

Seems the only way ISIS can be eliminated is to eliminate them — knowing very well that some other group — perhaps worse yet — will replace them.

Glad you and your weekly column are back.

Milt Cohen, Sylmar


The op-ed “Why It’s Not About Ferguson” (Aug. 29) should have stated that there were 20 children (not 20 white children) murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. One of the children, Ana Marquez-Greene, was Puerto Rican and African-American.

An open letter to Elon Gold

Dear Elon,

I’m sorry for the frightening confrontation you experienced. (“A Hate Incident” Jewish Journal 8/25/14) 

Today, all Jews in the world where news penetrates must understand that the actions of Israel are going to have repercussions on their lives, and there is no predicting how that’s going to manifest itself.  A month earlier, those four men might have passed you in their SUV and barely noticed you.  Or they may have made some crude comments amongst themselves about your family as Jews, not unlike, by the way, Jews making crude comments about goyim all the time, and much more stark comments about “middle eastern” men – like “the only good Arab is a dead Arab” which I’ve heard more than once.  

In recent days of the Gaza War, Israel flattened a 10-story apartment building.  Because of phone calls made in advance, more than 400 people evacuated the building to the builder’s residence across the street, and then it was blown to smithereens, because it had been identified by Israeli intelligence as a place Hamas was “operating” out of.  Since the phone calls had left the building empty, there was no real aim to kill Hamas fighters.  It was more a punishment for the people – many of whom were not Hamas, supporters – that such a thing was allowed on their premises.  And if the phone messages had not reached everyone, if children had died, Elon, children whose faces were as “angelic” as the faces of your children, they would have been (as many have been) the collateral damage that Israel blames on a perfidious enemy that seeks to mount its own casualties as a propaganda tool. 

Yes, it’s true that Hamas is pledged to destroy Israel and kill Jews.  Yes, they have fired thousands of rockets into Israel, built attack tunnels with the aim of perpetrating horrible terrorism.  Yes, they refused or broke many cease fires.  Yes, they set up operations, fighters, and rocket launching positions in civilian populated areas.  But yes, as well, hundreds of Palestinian women and children are dead, and yes, it may be, Elon, that part of Israeli strategy in its war to delegitimize and defeat Hamas is for that “collateral damage” to turn public opinion against Hamas, marginalize them and drive them from power.  And even if you don’t believe that, the fact of the civilian dead in Gaza is a fact of great power.  No middle “eastern man” perhaps predisposed to anger and hatred, emotionally jacked up on the carnage of his people, feeling secure with his buddies in the car, is going to want to debate you on the fine points of the conflict or gives a damn about your anguish over the dead on both sides, or whether or not you only “kill” on stage. 

These people exist; they have always existed, and they will always exist.  And frankly, what he said to you was no more than the 2014 version of “Jew bastard” that you heard on the Bronx streets as a kid.  You survived that and prospered.  Now Israel has upped the ante, and we all have to live with it.  This is not about whether Israel is justified in its response.  That moment you experienced is not about a tiny country fighting for existence in a bad neighborhood, surrounded by people who wish it gone.  This is now their people versus ours on such a visceral level that reason has gone out of a great deal of the response. 

Even among Jews, many people are realizing that who you are no longer depends on how you feel about your Judaism, or Judaism in general – on what rules and practices you follow.  It is all Israel all the time, and the litmus test is whether or not you stand with Netanyahu’s interpretation of how Israel chooses to stand in the world.  Many in Israel decried Netanyahu’s being knee-jerk sucked into a war in Gaza that has resurrected Hamas, but exposing and destroying the tunnels turns out to be a good thing.  However, killing the women and children is a bad thing, a very bad thing, so don’t expect “middle eastern” people to buy into the Golda Meir line about not being able to forgive their forcing us to kill their children.  Their children are dead.  Your little girls are momentarily traumatized but alive, and God willing, will survive and prosper like you did. 

Elon, some people hate Jews, and some people very specifically hate what Israel has done to their relatives – distant or not.  There are “good and moral” people on both sides, and since you could only report a “hate incident,” not a crime, it just might be that he was one of them.  You were a “soft target” for verbal abuse by a jerk momentarily driven to distraction.  Count your blessings.  

Mitch Paradise is a writer/producer and teacher living in Los Angeles. 

A hate incident against Elon Gold

This past Friday night, instead of having my usual guests for a festive Friday night dinner in my home, I had three compassionate Los Angeles Police Department officers standing in my kitchen explaining the difference between a “hate crime” and a “hate incident.” My family was the victim of the latter.

We were walking home in Los Angeles after a Friday night dinner at a friend’s house, dressed nicely for Shabbat, easily identifiable as a Jewish family. We waited for a light to change on a corner of a major intersection when a black Mercedes SUV pulled up alongside us. Four Middle-Eastern men in their 20s were in the car. The one in the back rolled down his window and yelled, “Free Palestine!”

I immediately turned to face them, knowing I was in danger, remembering the rabbi who was gunned down in Miami on his way to synagogue. This was the beginning of either a hate crime or a hate incident, but either way, hate was coming our way. We all know too well that “Free Palestine” means free Palestine from every Jew. As they chant “Free Palestine, from the river to the sea,” that doesn’t mean they want a two-state solution — they want Hitler’s Final Solution and a Jew-free Middle East.

Then this Arab young man opened the car door, stepped onto the street and yelled at me, my wife and four young children: “I hope your children die! Just like you are killing children in Gaza!”

We all stood silently in utter horror and fear.

Then he got back in the Mercedes and they drove off. We were in a state of complete shock. My 10-year-old daughter immediately started crying and couldn’t stop. She kept yelling, “I’m scared.” My 5-year-old daughter asked me why they want her to die. My other kids were too rattled to say anything.

I was stunned that I can no longer feel safe walking on Shabbat with my family in my city. I kept reading about all the anti-Semitism all over Europe, but here in these United States? That my innocent children had to be exposed to this level of anti-Semitism has shaken me to my core. These people weren’t just yelling “Jew bastard” as I’d experienced growing up in the Bronx; they were wishing my children dead, right to their angelic faces. This was beyond appalling.

I couldn’t believe that they were filled with such hatred and ignorance, and that someone could go as far as wishing my children dead and blaming me for the death of children in Gaza. Me?! I’ve been killing children in Gaza? I’m a comedian. The only killing I’m personally responsible for is the killing of the audiences I’ve performed for. And the only “bombing” I’m guilty of are those rare sets where I don’t quite connect with the crowd.

Like any good, moral person, I hate to see death and destruction anywhere. As we are taught in Proverbs, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” I would have loved to have shared with them that I’m against war and the loss of innocent life. But they didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to spew hatred. I would’ve gladly had an intellectual discussion with them about the fact that all of humanity should join together against terrorists like Hamas and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), who are slaughtering innocents, but they didn’t want to listen.

I would’ve been happy to debate them on the fact that Israel has a right to defend itself against a terrorist group who is firing a barrage of rockets at every citizen. Or that had Hamas accepted the first cease-fire, no children in Gaza would’ve been killed. Or about their firing from hospitals and schools and other densely populated areas in order to get the civilian casualty numbers higher, gaining Israel worldwide condemnation. That the leaders of Israel have called every innocent civilian death “a great tragedy,” while the leaders of Hamas consider every innocent civilian death “a great victory.”

Or that Gaza is no longer “occupied.” Or the fact that the definition of the word “occupation” doesn’t apply to a country that won land in defensive wars. Wars that were attempts at the total annihilation of Israel. Wars that were thrust upon them before any “blockades” or “settlements” or “occupation” or any of the other made-up words that are now used to justify killing Jews. Or that much of the suffering of the Palestinian people is a direct result of their elected leadership, just as the suffering of Arabs in most Middle-Eastern countries is at the hands of their oppressive regimes. That the Arabs who enjoy real freedom, including freedom to worship any sect of any religion, freedom to speak their minds, freedom to be gay, are the Israeli-Arabs living in Israel. Or simply educate them on the 3,000-year history of our people in our tiny homeland and our willingness and desire to live in peace with our Arab neighbors.

But they didn’t want a debate. They just wanted to hate. They wanted to terrorize my family and they did. But as I explained to my crying and visibly shaken kids as we walked home, “They said they wanted us dead — now imagine living in Israel where every day they don’t just say it, they actually attempt to kill all of the Israeli children, and tragically just today they murdered a 4-year-old Israeli boy with a Hamas rocket.” Not the most comforting words to young, rattled children, but now that their innocence was shattered, I felt that it was important for them to understand the reality of the world they are living in.

The LAPD officers who were dispatched to my house were extremely kind and compassionate. In fact, the first officer who showed up was Jewish and very comforting to my children. I, too, was comforted by him and by the knowledge that there were Jewish men and women protecting the citizens of Los Angeles. (At least more than the one Jewish officer I heard about in Malibu, at whom Mel Gibson directed his anti-Semitic tirade.) This officer really put my kids at ease and told them not to be scared. It also didn’t hurt that he told us that he and his wife enjoyed my work, especially when I’ve hosted the Chabad Telethon.

Then two more officers showed up to take the report. It was explained to us that it would’ve been a hate crime if they had said they were going to kill us, instead of merely hoping we got killed, which makes it a hate incident. Try explaining that differentiation to a 10-year-old girl who was just told to die.

I feel so sad that my children’s innocence was lost at that very moment. That they were unwillingly and instantaneously initiated into the “We Hate You Because of WHAT You Are” club. That they now know the harsh reality that just because they were born into a Jewish family they are targets and subject to death threats. That they can be blamed and scapegoated for things they have nothing to do with. That they are hated.

I can write a 50-page piece about where all the hatred comes from. There are too many reasons to point fingers at. The media, (I’m talking to you CNN, The New York Times, etc.), who instead of reporting on every single rocket fired into Israel, chooses to focus on every civilian casualty of this war, instigated and perpetuated by Hamas. Constantly providing the numbers of the dead, instead of the number, 11, which is the number of cease-fires Hamas has broken, thereby causing all of this death and destruction. Repeatedly displaying images of dead civilians without any of the context that many of the dead are terrorists and that any real civilian casualties were victims of Hamas’ double war crimes of firing rockets at innocent civilians while using their innocent civilians as human shields. Or that a number of casualties include civilians who were killed by errant Hamas rockets.

This is what fuels the fire and allows people to think they now have the right to wish death upon my children.

I can blame my fellow “comedian” Russell Brand who has the audacity to say that Hamas is firing “harmless’ rockets. Harmless?! Tell that to the family of the 4-year-old Israeli boy who was murdered by a “harmless” Hamas rocket.

The world is buying into this propaganda. They’re allowing the terrorists to win this media intifada. They are actually listening to celebrities like Javier Bardem and Roger Waters using the word “genocide” to describe Israel’s actions toward the Palestinian people, when the only genocide occurring in the Middle East is by folks in the Bashar Assad regime, which murdered 170,000 innocents, or in ISIS, which is murdering innocent Christians and others who are not of their beliefs. Oh yeah, and the attempted genocide of every Jew in Israel, a genocide that is codified in Hamas’ very own charter, one that has been stopped thanks to the Iron Dome and the destruction of the terror tunnels, which were built for an actual genocide.

I can go on and on about how all of the pro-Palestinian rallies have signs that say “Death to Jews” and praise Hitler, and why Jews everywhere are now targets of hate crimes, hate incidents, vandalism and murder. I could … but I have jokes to write. Because I’m trying to make the world a better place with laughter. Sadly, we now live in a world full of people who love to hate, more than they love to laugh.

Elon Gold is a comedian and actor who has appeared on The Tonight Show 10 times, starred in the FOX sitcom “Stacked” and has a stand-up special out on Netflix. Follow him on Twitter: @elongold.

Rabbi David Wolpe and Elon Gold at JFN 2013 [VIDEO]

Rabbi David Wolpe speaking at the 2013 Jewish Funders Network Conference.

Elon Gold speaking at the 2013 Jewish Funders Network Conference.

Happy Jewish New Year! [VIDEO]

For more Gold, see Merry Erev Xmas with Elon Gold and special guest comedians at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood. Two shows from 8-10pm on Sat., Dec 24th. Call 323-656-1336 ext. 1 or go to


Chabad Taps Elon Gold, Shelly Berman for 26th Telethon

The sight of dancing rabbis on television has always been slightly funny — if not “ha-ha” funny, then a “that’s kind of interesting” kind of funny.

But this year’s 26th annual Chabad “To Life” telethon on Sept. 10 hopes to offer some real laughs, with host entertainer Shelley Berman (whose credits stretch from “The Ed Sullivan Show” to “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Boston Legal”) and co-host comedian Elon Gold (“Stacked,” “The In-Laws”).

Why did Chabad get these two entertainers to host the six-hour show?

Last year, semi-regular host Jon Voight had to opt out because he was filming two movies, so Dennis Prager hosted (Prager and Voight both will be in attendance this year). Berman and Gold both appeared on the telecast and impressed the hosts.

“Last year we were very moved and inspired by the story [Shelley] told about his own son, who had unfortunately passed away just before his bar mitzvah and how Chabad was there at this time for him,” said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, public relations director for West Coast Chabad. Over the years, Berman became more involved with Chabad, even hosting a seder at the Malibu center, so they asked if he’d host the telethon. “He just turned 80, and we asked if he had the koach for it,” said Cunin, using the Hebrew word for strength.

“I could stand 24-hours for Chabad,” Berman told the rabbi.

Berman’s dedication notwithstanding, producers also decided to bring in Gold, 35, to co-host the live fundraiser.

“Elon will bring a nice fresh face to the telethon,” Cunin said.

“We’re going to add some fun and funny to it,” Gold told The Journal. He is hoping to bring some of his “J-list” (Jewish celeb friends) and, this being Hollywood, he can’t confirm anyone, but he’s put in calls to Josh Malina, Jonathan Silverman and Bob Saget.

“I want to make it more of a fun, hip, Hollywood kind of thing,” Gold said.
The Hollywood kind of thing to Gold means him doing some of his bit, and adding some new jokes to it, such as:

  • The Chabad Telethon — the only telethon where you can’t spot Matisyahu in the crowd.
  • The Chabad Telethon — the only telethon where men dancing with each other doesn’t raise eyebrows — it raises money.
  • The Chabad Telethon — the only telethon that God TiVos.

Gold, who just sold a TV pilot and is still doing stand-up, is planning to add skits and bits to the telethon, like going into the studio audience or onto the street asking people to empty their pockets, or maybe playing a little celebrity poker on the side to raise money for Chabad.

In the past, “To Life” has raised upward of $6.5 million annually to support West Coast Chabad’s 200 centers, its schools and programs on the West Coast, including a much-touted drug rehab center.

This year’s broadcast will include appearances by James Caan, Keith David, Emilio Estevez, Craig Ferguson, Elliott Gould and Regis Philbin, as well as community leaders including Los Angeles’ Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Sheriff Lee Baca and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, will also appear.

The broadcast will include a tribute to the comedian and TV star Jan Murray, who passed away in July. Murray helped launch the telethon in 1980 with his friend, Carroll O’Connor, and continued to serve as its host through 1996.

On a rare serious note, Gold says he’s hosting because Chabad is an amazing organization.

“I love Chabad, because anytime as a comedian I’m touring at a strange city, I always have place to go to shul and to have a nice Friday night meal, warm family company, and that’s amazing thing, in addition to everything else they do. I need them spiritually, and they’re always there for me.”

The Chabad “To Life” Telethon can be seen on a live Web cast at www.ToLife.com, and will also run on the following TV stations:
Los Angeles: KCAL Channel 9; San Diego: KUSI Channel 9; San Francisco: KTSF Channel 26; Las Vegas: KVMY Channel 12; New York/New Jersey/Connecticut: WLNY Channel 55; Nationwide: Dish Network 9601

–Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Owing It All to Jerry

Elon Gold is an Orthodox Jewish comedian whoplayed an offbeat Jewish guy from Long Island on the recent WBsitcom, “You’re the One.” Though the short-lived series wascancelled, Gold has plenty of Jewish-themed TV and even movieprojects in the works. During a recent conversation with The Journal’s Naomi Pfefferman, he said he owes it all to”Seinfeld.”

Jerry and I both had Castle Rock shows and we shotthem on the same lot. I was flabbergasted to discover he was a fan ofmine from work I’d done on Comedy Central and the stand-up circuit.He was always asking me to do my impressions; my Jeff Goldblum washis favorite.

So before they taped the historic last episode of”Seinfeld,” I had my agent call his manager and ask if there were anyspeaking parts for me. He said no, but would I consider being anextra? I was like, ‘Are you kidding? It would be the thrill of alifetime.'”

I ended up being the guy in the diner who ispaying the bill at the top of one scene.

At the party on the set after the final taping,Alan Horn, one of the partners at Castle Rock, came up to me andsaid, “This could be you someday.” But my thinking is, without Jerry,I wouldn’t even have my career. I would absolutely not be takenseriously as a leading man and the star of my own sitcom if itweren’t for Seinfeld. He paved the way. Now guys like me and AdamSandler can be more than just character actors.

Paul Reiser has helped, too, but unlike Seinfeld,he never mentions he’s Jewish on “Mad About You.” Maybe he’s afraidto, but it bothers me that he’s so obviously Jewish and it’s just soglossed over.

Jerry doesn’t avoid the fact that he’s Jewish on”Seinfeld,” and he’s had Jewish themes like the bris episode. Of course, GeorgeCostanza was supposed to be Italian, but there is no way thatcharacter is Italian. He’s based on Larry David, the creator ofSeinfeld, who is a Jewish comedian and writer. I think maybe hisethnicity was changed because the show initially had pressure fromthe network, saying “This series is too Jewish.”

Actually, every Jewish viewer knows that all fourcharacters on that show are Jewish, even if stated otherwise. Thenon-Jews know it too, and that’s why the show has been so good forthe Jews. For someone with a name like Jerry Seinfeld to be the mostimportant phenomenon in American pop culture, can’t help but dotremendous things for the Jews.

Racism and anti-Semitism are overlooked whenpeople are entertaining you, when you’re Seinfeld, Oprah or EddieMurphy. People for some reason are suddenly willing to accept youinto their living rooms.

And there is nothing more Jewish than “Seinfeld.”The overtones, the undertones, the writing, the performing is soJewish at the surface and at the core. All four of the actors areJewish; so are 80 percent of the writers, and it’s just theirsensibility of looking at the world. They analyze everything from aJewish point of view and speak in Jewish tongues. The charactersdissect the smallest of matters; it’s virtually Talmudic.