It’s hard to believe that in 2009 there are still important films that are only just making their DVD debuts, but such is the case with Yentl. I’m not sure what the hold-up was, but the film has finally gone digital with a 25th anniversary, two-disc directors’ cut edition. It may be easy for nonbelievers to dismiss Barbra Streisand’s masterpiece as a vanity production, but the film broke through Hollywood’s glass ceiling as the first woman (since the silent era) to write, direct, produce, and star in a film. The glass ceiling hasn’t been totally shattered. No woman has yet won the Academy Award for directing. (In fact, if I’m reading the list correctly, I don’t think any women have even been nominated. Ever.)
Watching the film again for the first time since college, I was struck by just how good the film is. I know, I sometimes see Streisand’s work through the goggles of a gay man who, after all, once had a “Wall of Barbra” in my living room.
But watching the film with seven years as a full-time, professional Jewish educator under my belt, the story of a woman who risks her entire world for the sake of learning… well, let’s just say I was moved to tears when (SPOILER ALERT!) she gets accepted to the Yeshiva. That a woman broke through Hollywood’s barriers to tell the story of a woman who broke through her Jewish community’s barriers only made the message more resonant.
I was similarly moved this week reading about Sara Hurwitz. If you’re not familiar with her name yet, you will be. To quote from an e-mail sent to the mailing list of Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, a center for advanced Jewish learning dedicated to empowering women:
In the years following her three years of full time study at Drisha, Sara, the Madrichah Ruchanit (spiritual counselor) of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, intensively studied for and successfully passed the examinations that traditionally entitle candidates for rabbinic ordination to receive yoreh yoreh certification. Her new title, MaHaRaT, which is an acronym for Manhigah Hilchatit Ruchanit Toranit – a leader capable of serving the halakhic, spiritual and educational needs of her congregants – reflects the depth and breadth of her accomplishments and her commitment to her role as a full member of the clergy.
There has been (and will continue to be) a lot of debate about whether or not she should have the title of Rabbi. I’ve heard conflicting reports as to whether Maharat Hurwitz wanted the title “rabbi” at all. In an article published last month by the JTA, she was quoted as saying, “I hope to reclaim and redefine my new title, so that it comes to have the identical connotation that the word rabbi does.”
This sounds to me a lot like the same-sex marriage compromise argument. I know plenty of us who would trade the word “marriage” for the 1000+ federal benefits currently being denied married couples of the same gender. But I also know that even once those rights were granted, most of us would not stop fighting (or at least hoping) for the true equality that comes in both name and deed.
Still, as someone who is neither Orthodox nor a woman, I can only root from the sidelines and offer my congratulations and support to both Maharat Hurwitz and the many I hope will follow in her footsteps.
No one’s ever accused network television of subtlety, but the hype leading up to NBC’s new drama Kings has managed to obscure the source of the story for at least one reviewer. (Otherwise, how can you excuse a line like “Some aspects of Kings are predictable”?)
For the rest of us, this rethinking of the biblical story of Saul and David should be a mix of the familiar and the new. The pilot has been generating some good buzz, and I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good Biblical retelling, so I’ll certainly be tuning in for the March 15th two-hour premiere episode, in which Goliath is reimagined as a really big tank.
It will be particularly interesting to see if any contemporary feelings about Israel color the discourse around this story (which the writers and producers have carefully set NOT in Israel, but rather in a fictional kingdom called Gilboa, borrowing the name of the site of Saul’s final biblical battle). (And of course, by “discourse” I mean “internet jibberjabber.”) But perhaps the most pressing question around the series is which biblical figure will be played by Macaulay Culkin, and once that image has passed our eyes, will we ever be able to read Tanakh the same way again?
So set your Tivo and bookmark this page… after you’ve seen the show, come back for a lively discussion of the timeless themes of the Biblical story… or at least some snarky jibberjabber that we all do so love to spew.
I’m more than a little bummed that Waltz with Bashir did not win the Oscar. Not that I’ve seen the film that won, but it’s a break from the typical Jewish films up for Oscars which are always about the Holocaust. Seriously, it’s time to find another good-vs-evil setting in which we can inspire ourselves that We Westerners did a Good Job.
Whoa! But hang on a minute. Bradley Burston has not done his homework. Apparently this clip of Winslet was on the HBO show Extra and she’s satirizing herself and her lack of Oscar trophies despite thrice-over nominations — and three years ago at that. More »
Sunday night’s Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-tv movie, Loving Leah, combined many of my favorite things – Lauren Ambrose (of Six Feet Under), Michael Buble songs (Everything!), cheesy stories of improbable love, and Jews. The basic plot of Leah, based on the play by Pnenah Goldstein, is that a young Lubavitch woman in Brooklyn loses her rabbi husband and ends up marrying his brother, a secular unaffiliated Jew (but he’s a cardiologist, so….). Throw in Ricki Lake as the Reform rabbi who counsels them both, Tonye Patano (of Weeds fame) as the wise and sassy housekeeper and you’ve got yourself a Hallmark movie.
Unlike some movies and TV shows (I’m looking at you Seventh Heaven), I’d say this one actually did a relatively good job on the Jewish content. We got a nice shabbos: motzi in a Reform synagogue, candlelighting, baking challah; home life: kashering the oven (“a man is coming to use a blow torch on your oven today” was one line that had me in stitches), head & hair covering; and funeral customs: rending garments, funeral and unveiling, with a dash of yibum (levirate marriage) featuring the halitza shoe!
The women’s fashion, in my opinion, was spot-on. (Though apparently Susie Essman didn’t think so!) Leah transitions from ultra-frum with a sheitel to modern orthodox with a hippy head scarf. Even her choices when dipping her toe into the waters of below-the-knee-but-above-the-ankle length skirts seemed totally believable.
I only caught a few missteps in their portrayal of Jewish practices. Since they were so heavy handed with explaining the other customs, I gasped when they ordered in and ate out Chinese food. I had expected them to make a point of mentioning that the restaurant had to have a hekhsher, or turning it into another moment of conflict – “I can’t eat those egg rolls! Vey Zmir!” Rabbi Ricki also gave a strange attempt at explaining the afterlife, which no rabbi should ever try to do in the greeting line.
The elephant in the room, however, was named Yibum. This biblical commandment is where the movie gets its romantic underpinnings. What!?! A custom in which a childless widow must marry her deceased husband’s brother-in-law in order to carry on his family’s name was troublesome even for characters in the Torah. These days, as Loving Leah’s gloriously bearded rabbi appropriately explained, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that halitza will occur and they will both be released from this obligation. The romanticizing of this ritual was particularly irksome. Jake and Leah could have found themselves in some pretty dangerous, abusive territory. Trapping your sister-in-law into a sham marriage because you feel guilt about the fact that you lost touch with your brother when he became religious doesn’t end up a smoothly soundtracked romantic comedy for most folks.
But above all, I was irritated because, like in so many movies that have come before it, there was a distinct message: “people would be happier if they weren’t so darn religious!”
In Loving Leah, like in Renee Zellweger’s Price Above Rubies and a Melanie Griffith’s A Stranger Among Us, the orthodox world is insular, stifling, and ultimately, wrong for the heroine. The Hassidic woman, we learn, is secretly yearning to break out of her prison so she can let her hair down, wear brighter colors and date sexy non-rabbis. I do know some folks who did feel repressed and imprisoned and are much happier since they have left that world, but I also know people who have become their best selves since they took on more mitzvot and became part of a religious community. Aren’t there movies that don’t present religious women in this way?
Just saw “The Wrestler” and loved it. Loved Mickey Rourke’s performance. Loved the new Springsteen song. (Not sure the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce will love it so much…)
I also enjoyed the director”s earlier movie takes on kabbalah and the Tree of Life. And here’s the thing: “The Wrestler” is a pretty spiritual movie too. It’s actually a remake of “The Passion of the Christ.” (In case anyone misses the connection, Gibson’s infamous flick is actually referenced in the movie). But take it from me: “The Wrestler” is much more enjoyable than “Passion of the Christ.”
It’s essentially “Passion of the Christ with a staple gun. And without the anti-Semitism.
Nothing could be more important at this point in the history of the planet and the relatively connected history of the Jewish people than finding out what percentage of Americans (or that subset of Americans who don’t hang up on pollsters) think that Jews control Hollywood.
Ace reporter columnist/funny guy Joel Stein insightfully reports that
When the studio chiefs took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago to demand that the Screen Actors Guild settle its contract, the open letter was signed by: News Corp. President Peter Chernin (Jewish), Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey (Jewish), Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger (Jewish), Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton (surprise, Dutch Jew), Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer (Jewish), CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves (so Jewish his great uncle was the first prime minister of Israel), MGM Chairman Harry Sloan (Jewish) and NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker (mega-Jewish). If either of the Weinstein brothers had signed, this group would have not only the power to shut down all film production but to form a minyan with enough Fiji water on hand to fill a mikvah.
Despite this, (and because we have not yet emerged from the Bush era into the reality based world) only 22% of Americans now believe “the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews”. Meanwhile Abe Foxman (remember him? ADL fightin’ the bad guys… pointing out genocide… except in Armenia…) thinks that this number is too high.
“That’s a very dangerous phrase, ‘Jews control Hollywood.’ What is true is that there are a lot of Jews in Hollywood,” he said. Instead of “control,” Foxman would prefer people say that many executives in the industry “happen to be Jewish,” as in “all eight major film studios are run by men who happen to be Jewish.”
Someone remind me why the ADL exists any more?
The poll is here.
The full column is here.
My name is Rob Kutner. I’m a writer for “The Daily Show,” as well as the creator of annual NYC Purim spiel “The Shushan Channel,” and the co-writer of a little piece of fun-with-stereotypes you may or may not have seen called “Jewno.”
But most recently, I’ve authored a book entitled APOCALYPSE HOW, a tongue-in-cheek “survival” guide that goes through topical chapters n Food, Clothing, Shelter, Social Life, Dating, Politics, Career, Recreation, and Finance — to show you how the world to come will be much better than the current one.
However, since the book’s publication, I’ve received numerous complaints from Jews (I know, can you believe it???) that the book does not sufficiently address specifically Jewish end-time issues.
So, I want to assure you that the next edition will contain an entire “Olam ha-Bagraphy,” including such critical tachliss as:
-Food — Ten low-fat, delicious, and totally blecch-friendly recipes for Levyatan (ever tried it smoked with a nice shmear?)
-Relocation — Finding a comfortable place to stay in Israel when all the world’s Jews have returned there (Hint: How do you feel about the Negev?)
-Home Makeover — Design advice for Beit HaMikdash 3 (Ex: Who makes the best dolphin skin, and where you can buy it wholesale)
-Personnel — Telling the real MashiachÃ‚ from impostors (Spoiler alert: It is Schneerson after all – should have donated to the telethon!)
BUT, I cannot release this updated version until ALL COPIES of the current run are sold out. So it’s up to you guys. Ã‚ Go to www.apocalypsehowthebook.com
and buy one now! Hint: Makes a great Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift — and muchÃ‚ funnier than a savings bond.
Sure, we disagreed about a number of things. You liked to tote guns around and champion the 2nd amendment. You opposed Affirmative Action and became a Republican later in life. You campaigned for George W. Bush, George Bush Sr., and Reagen. You boycotted Ice-T.
But at one point in your life, you supported the Civil Rights movement and became inextricably linked as an icon of Jewish Biblical history. For many of us, before our political awakening, we knew you as the man who carried the tablets down from the mountain. Or, a different subset of us knew you as the man who fell to his knees and cried out, “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
So God bless, Charlton Heston. May you be remembered for good (at least on TNT’s annual pre-Passover Ten Commandments screening).
Okay, no one really thinks so. For one thing, Hoffman’s been dead a while, and Sacha Baron Cohen is still alive and kicking. Also he appears, as a general rule to be adequately groomed. But this just in:
In Spielberg’s new movie on the trial of the Chicago seven, Baron Cohen will play Abbie Hoffman. A rather more serious film than Baron Cohen’s incredibly strange, and disputedly funny (some say yes, others not so much) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, The Trial of the Chicago Seven is about the famous dust-ups resulting from protesters of the 1968 Democratic party convention (not “Democrat party convention,” as the TimesOnline refers to it, incorrectly)
The Trial of the Chicago Seven follows protesters who disrupted the 1968 Democrat party convention with an anti-Vietnam-war â€œcarnivalâ€ that turned nasty. Demonstrators threw bricks, police responded with tear gas and the centre of Chicago was engulfed in flames. Curfews only escalated the violence.
After the clashes, independent investigators blamed eight police officers and eight protesters including Hoffman, who had already disrupted the New York Stock Exchange with showers of fake money.
The police were not charged but the protesters were accused of inciting a riot. One was jailed for contempt, leaving the seven to fight the charges.
It was, said the late writer Norman Mailer, who testified for the seven, a noisy televised clash between the old order and the burgeoning counterculture.
Hoffman and four others were found guilty of attempting to incite a riot while crossing state lines, but the convictions were overturned and none served any jail time.
Hoffman, of course, was well-known as a prankster who used his somewhat outre pranks as a form of protest against the Vietnam war. That, I’m sure is the attraction for Baron Cohen, but he also had a much longer history as well. He had been active in the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and later a leader of the Yippie movement. Hoffman was also somewhat of a tragic figure, as he committed suicide at 52 , having somewhat earlier been diagnosed as bipolar.
I think it will be very interesting to see Baron Cohen’s take on Hoffman. Note to Baron Cohen: What could you change with your comedy if you put your mind to it?
This is one part amusing, two parts horrific. The first thing we learn in this trailer for You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is that Adam Sandler has gotten buff and doesnâ€™t do an Israeli accent very well. That doesnâ€™t stop him from playing Zohan, a Mossad agent who fakes his own death so that he can move to New York City and become a hairdresser. Until his past catches up with him… Sort of like Shampoo, Exodus and Munich rolled into one.
If the trailer is anything to go by, the film half mocks, half affirms American stereotypes of and fetishes for Israeli soldiers. Still, you know you’ll see it when it hits the theatres in June.
Update: according to CNN: “It is an awful and disgusting lie,” Smith said in a statement Monday provided by his publicist. “It speaks to the dangerous power of an ignorant person with a pen. I am incensed and infuriated to have to respond to such ludicrous misinterpretation. Adolf Hitler was a vile, heinous vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet,” read the statement.
What I want to know, now, is what he actually did say. I suppose we’ll never know.
Scottish press, who quoted him saying, “Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today. I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good’. Stuff like that just needs reprogramming. I wake up every day full of hope, positive that every day is going to be better than yesterday. And I’m looking to infect people with my positivity. I think I can start an epidemic.”
I’ve gotten a dozen emails about this, and I’ve seen it reported in an assortment of blogs, and what I want to say is: STOP! More »
So the Sci Fi channel has this reality show called Who Wants to Be a Superhero?
Thousands of hopefuls begin with an original idea for a superhero, a self-made costume and their best superhero mojo. From those thousands, [Marvel comics creator] Stan Lee chooses 11 lucky finalists, who move together into a secret lair. There they begin their transformations â€” and their competition for the opportunity to become real-life superheroes.
The winner of the competition walks away with their character immortalized in a new comic book created by Stan Lee himself.
And this season, the show, which premieres on July 26th, features a Jewish superhero named MISTER MITZVAH!
Joanna Angel was raised in an orthodox home, and is now making porn. She’s interviewed in Mr. Skin (by “Rabbi Mo Gaydau”), and discusses her religious upbringing, the relationship of her religion to her work, and Jewish views on sex in general.
May I publicly “out” you as Jewish?
Of course! I am not ashamed! I am proud to be one of the Chosen Ones.
Are you religiously observant?
Well, I donâ€™t know. I mean, really no . . . I grew up religious, like didnâ€™t use electricity on Saturdays, went to temple almost every week, etc., so yeah. I donâ€™t do all that anymore, but I spend most of the Jewish holidays with my family, and they are observant, and I respect their rules when Iâ€™m there.
I wasnâ€™t with my family this past year on Yom Kippur and I still fasted, and I donâ€™t eat bread on all the eight days of Passover. It sounds like a bold statement, but I would venture to say I am the most observant Jewish porn star . . . but you know . . . compared to how I was raised I feel like the way I am now is pretty goy-ish.
Did the melodic voice of a cantor ever make you touch yourself in temple or just climax from the sheer power of faith?
My sister is a cantor in a synagogue in Indiana. And if you say something dirty about my sister, I will kick your ass.
OK, letâ€™s change the subject. Are you into messy fun? Like what if I asked you to join me in a vat of schmaltz for a game of find the kosher salami?
I would tell you that I am a Sephardic Jew, not an Ashkenazi Jew, so I donâ€™t speak Yiddish.
Don’t ask me to explain what this is or where it comes from. The only thing I can make out is that the narrator is speaking Persian, he sounds completely serious, and he actually seems to be conveying the fascinatingly bizarre notion that Woody Allen is intentionally attempting to corrupt Western values as some sort of Jewish conspiracy.
Moderate Islam, please, for the love of Allah, we’re trying over here. Please, try harder over there.
The Today segment on MSNBC had a section on the Jewish view of heaven. Although IMO the treatment of Judaism was listing heavily toward comedy – I suspect they won’t treat Christianity this way, on their segment- I have to admit that Joan Rivers was in fine form (if it’s heaven, that means I’ll be able to get Wavy Gravy flavor, right?). But I do have to ask, where were the other five questions?
Raba said, When man is led in for Judgment he is asked, Were you honest in business, did you fix times for learning, did you engage in procreation, did you hope for salvation, did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom, did you understand one thing from another? Yet even so, if â€˜the fear of the Lord is his treasure,â€™ it is well: if not, [it is] not [well].