Sunday, October 26, 2014

Palestinian teen with NOLA ties killed in Silwad clash

A Palestinian teen with New Orleans ties was killed in a clash with Israeli forces about 20 miles north of Jerusalem on Oct. 24.

Israeli soldiers patrolling north of Ramallah near Silwad said Orwah Hammad had taken a position along Route 60 and was preparing to throw a firebomb at traffic, and fired at him when he lit the fuse.

An Israeli army spokesman told Reuters the soldiers “managed to prevent an attack when they encountered a Palestinian man hurling a molotov cocktail at them on the main road next to Silwad. They opened fire and they confirmed a hit.”

A cousin, Moath, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that Hammad had been part of a group throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.

An uncle, Hakeem Khalek, told the Times-Picayune that he didn’t consider the incident a clash — “little kids throwing rocks or pebbles against live ammunition.”

The incident will be investigated by Israeli authorities. The U.S. State Department called for a “speedy and transparent investigation” while expressing “deepest condolences to the family of a U.S. citizen minor who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces.”

Hammad’s funeral was held on Oct. 26 to allow his father time to travel from New Orleans. Thousands attended the funeral, which included clashes with Israeli soldiers.

Hammad was born in New Orleans, returning to the territories at age 6 with his mother and siblings, as his father split time between them and New Orleans.

According to media reports, Silwad residents said Hammad was the cousin of Ta’er Hammad, who killed 10 Israelis in a sniper attack in 2002 near Shilo. An uncle of his was reportedly killed in the first intifada.

The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans issued a statement: “We were saddened to learn of the death of Orwah Hammad… Our fervent sympathies are with his family, as the loss of any life is always tragic and painful. The incident is being investigated by the Israeli authorities, but as we wait to learn more about what happened, we continue our prayers and hopes for a meaningful peace that allows Israel and a Palestinian state to live together side-by-side as neighbors.”

Many of Hammad’s relatives attend the Muslim Academy in Gretna. School President Nabil Abukhader told the Times-Picayune that they will discuss his death on Oct. 27. "We'll mention the nature of his death (and) at the same time in that moment of sorrow, that violence does not lead to any happy endings."

The incident took place during a time of heightened tensions. On Oct. 22, a Palestinian motorist plowed into a crowd at a Jerusalem light-rail station, killing a 3-month-old girl who was a U.S. citizen, and a 22-year-old student from Ecuador.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Birmingham's LJCC hosts first Jewish Book Month festival

Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center will have its first celebration of Jewish Book Month with a book festival, presented by the Melba and Abe Epsman Center for Creative Expression.

The festival is free and open to the public. During the festival there will be a book sale in the LJCC main lobby, and many of the books are also available through the Southern Jewish Life website.

The festival kicks off on Nov. 2 with local attorney Chervis Isom and “The Newspaper Boy." The 2 p.m. program includes a dessert reception.

“The Newspaper Boy” is Isom’s memoir of growing up in Birmingham under Jim Crow segregation and through the civil rights era. Born in rural northwest Alabama, Isom grew up in the Norwood section of Birmingham and delivered newspapers.

He frankly states that he was a racist, because that was the culture of his time. In the book he describes his personal evolution, and Abe Berkowitz, a prominent figure in Birmingham’s Jewish community, plays a major role. Isom calls Berkowitz "the most remarkable man I have ever known."

Isom’s evolution started by trying to win a contest at the newspaper for the delivery boy who signed up the most subscribers. He decided that the only way to win was to go through the “colored” neighborhoods, meeting blacks for the first time. He also met a Catholic family that moved to the area from the north, and they changed many of his perceptions.

He learned of Berkowitz and his courage in trying to change Birmingham’s segregationist ways from letters Berkowitz wrote to the local papers, and when Isom went to law school he tried to get a summer job with Berkowitz in 1965. In the book, he writes how it was a strange journey, from being a racist and anti-Semite to sitting in the office of “a Jewish civil rights hero.”

He didn’t get the job then, but Berkowitz hired him after graduation.

The book concludes with another major Birmingham Jewish figure, Samuel Ullman, and his famous optimistic poem “Youth.”

On Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m., Keith Thomson presents his latest technothriller, “Seven Grams of Lead.” In it, journalist Russ Thornton hears from an old flame who works on Capitol Hill and wants to disclose some top-secret information, but she is gunned down in front of him — and now the killers are concerned about what he knows.

As part of his talk, he will speak about enemy intelligence posing as Mossad agents while trying to recruit American Jews.
Participants are invited to bring their own dinner or purchase one from Bo’s Kosher Café.

Auburn Professor Craig Darch will speak about his biography of retired legendary Auburn track coach Mel Rosen, “From Brooklyn to the Olympics,” on Nov. 7 at noon. Participants can bring a lunch or purchase one from Bo’s Kosher Café.

The book describes how a Jewish kid from New York wound up at Auburn, where he coached for 28 years, including seven Olympians and 143 All-Americans and guided Auburn’s track-and-field team to four consecutive Southeastern Conference indoor championships. The pinnacle of his career was coaching U.S. Olympians to a record 20 medals in Barcelona.

The book details Rosen’s coaching career during the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, and includes vignettes about Auburn sports history, Alabama history, Jews in the South, and the Olympics.

Mobile native Zoe Fishman will lead a discussion of her novel, “Saving Ruth,” on Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. The novel is about Ruth Wasserman, who grew up Jewish, curly-haired and plump among very blonde and Baptist classmates in Alabama. She returns home from her first year of college up north, 40 pounds lighter and in the middle of an eating disorder, but finds that things have not changed as much as she had hoped.

The book is a coming of age tale about family, misconception, race and religion in the South. Fishman said it echoes her experience of going to Boston for college, the first time she had really left home, and “that first summer home was very strange for me.”

After working in the publishing industry for 13 years in New York, she moved to Atlanta in 2011, where she is working on her next novel. She recently published “Driving Lessons” and is also author of “Balancing Acts.”

At the Nov. 10 program a pizza dinner will be available for purchase.

On Nov. 11 at 10 a.m., New York Times bestselling author Eric Litwin will visit for a program aimed at children. Litwin is author of the first four Pete the Cat books, starting with “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.” The books have been translated into seven languages and won 15 state and national awards, including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award.

Litwin, who lives in Atlanta, is also author of the new musical series The Nuts, and co-creator of The Learning Groove.

Mindy Cohen, adult and senior director at the LJCC, said they hope to attract many children and parents because public schools will be out for Veterans Day.

On Nov. 13, Birmingham attorney Barry Marks will give a poetry reading at Church Street Coffee in Crestline, starting at 6:30 p.m. A recent president of the Alabama State Poetry Society, his first book, “Possible Crocodiles,” was named Alabama Poetry Book of the Year, and his second book, “Soundling,” was a national finalist for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize.

Marks said he likes writing poetry for people who don’t usually like poetry. Much of his work is light-hearted, but “Sounding” is about grief and recovery following the death of his daughter, Leah, who is memorialized with the Chai statue in front of the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School.

He will read selections from his new book, “Dividing by Zero,” along with pieces from his first two books.

The series concludes on Nov. 23 at 10 a.m. with an event co-sponsored by Birmingham Hadassah and the three congregational Sisterhoods. Claire Datnow, author of the historical novel “The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll” and “Behind the Wall Garden of Apartheid: Growing Up White in Segregated South Africa” will speak, and a light breakfast will be served.

A native of South Africa, Datnow moved to the United States in 1965 when her husband got a job with NASA, and they moved to Birmingham in 1972. She writes about how historical events affect individuals and families, and her writings explore how apartheid and the Holocaust “shaped future generations in surprising and inspiring ways.”

She also has written an eco-mystery series, “The Sizzling Six.”

The Jews in Hollywood Film Series at the LJCC follows on Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. with “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bonds, Federation event to focus on Christians in Middle East

This year’s combined annual event for the Birmingham Jewish Federation, Birmingham Jewish Foundation and Israel Bonds is turning things upside down.

Usually, such events are geared toward Jewish needs in Israel and around the world, with some help from Christian supporters. While that will continue to be the case this year, the event’s focus will highlight the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Boohaker, who has long been active on behalf of Lebanese Christians, will be the guest speaker. A leader in the national American Lebanese community, he will speak about the plight of Middle East Christians.

Over the last few months in particular, Islamist groups that have taken over areas of Syria and Iraq have decimated Christian communities, some almost 2,000 years old, forcing them to convert to Islam, pay a submission tax or leave.

The Federation has made emergency donations to organizations that assist Christians and other groups in the Middle East, standing up for those facing persecution by ISIS.

Israel’s role as the only country in the Middle East where Christians, Jews and Muslims can worship and live freely will also be highlighted.

Additionally, Asaf Stein will reflect on his time in Gaza as a Lone Soldier in the Israel Defense Force this summer. Stein is a Birmingham native.

The Oct. 29 event will be at Temple Emanu-El. A reception will begin at 5 p.m., the program will start at 6:15 p.m.

The joint meeting is when all three agencies present their annual awards. The Federation will present the Joanie Plous Bayer Young Leadership Award to Andy Saag. The Susan Goldberg Distinguished Volunteer Award will go to Sheryl Kimerling.

The Foundation will present the N.E. Miles Lifetime Achievement Award to Louise and Jim Abroms. The award is presented on the basis of long-standing service to the community and a commitment to the future by endowing an Annual Campaign gift in perpetuity.

Israel Bonds will honor Harold Ripps.

The event is free and open to the community. There will be an opportunity to purchase Israel Bonds, but it is not required.

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, U.S. sales so far in 2014 tallied more than $900 million, on pace with 2013’s record U.S. sales. In August, worldwide sales surpassed $37 billion since bonds were first issued in 1951.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Weiss, Stone among speakers at Rabbi Greenberg's installation in New Orleans

Rabbi Gabe Greenberg

Several national figures will be in town for the installation of Rabbi Gabe Greenberg at Beth Israel in Metairie.

The installation will take place during a fundraising gala at the Audubon Tea Room in New Orleans on Nov. 2 at 11:30 a.m.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, founding president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a modern Orthodox seminary in the Bronx, will be one of the guest speakers. Weiss announced on Oct. 16 that he is stepping down as the long-time rabbi of Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. He stepped down as head of the yeshiva last year.

Weiss’ successor at YCT, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, will also give remarks at the event. Allen Fagin, executive vice president and chief professional officer of the Orthodox Union, will also speak.

Also on the program is New Orleans native Richard Stone, the Wilbur Freidman chair in tax law at Columbia Law School. He is also immediate past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Greenberg was named rabbi of Beth Israel in 2013, succeeding Rabbi Uri Topolosky, but he had another year on his commitment as rabbi and senior Jewish educator at the Hillel of University of California at Berkeley. He arrived in New Orleans permanently this summer.

Originally from New England, Greenberg studied at Yeshivat HaMivtar and the Pardes Institute in Israel following undergrad at Wesleyan University. He completed the Adamah Fellowship in Falls Village, Conn., a three-month leadership training program for Jewish adults that integrates organic agriculture, farm-to-table living, Jewish learning, community building and spiritual practice. Greenberg also directed the Kayam Farm Kollel in Baltimore, Md.

While at YCT, Greenberg served as the rabbinic intern at Congregation Achei Yosef in Norwich, Conn., at Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley, and was the first rabbinic intern at the New School in New York City.

Tickets to the Nov. 2 event are $100 per person or $180 for two. Individual and table sponsorships along with commemorative event journal ads of various sizes were also available.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nashville holding 14th annual Jewish Film Festival in November

For the 14th year, the Nashville Jewish Film Festival will present a range of movies depicting the broad scope of Jewish experience.

A program of the Gordon Jewish Community Center, the festival brings educational, entertaining and thought-provoking Jewish-themed films to the Nashville Community and the region. Along with special guests, panels, and Opening and Closing Night celebrations, the festival is an annual event dedicated to the awareness and celebration of Jewish life in contemporary society.

RELATED: Announcing the 2015 Baton Rouge Jewish Film Festival lineup, Tulane Jewish Studies hosting Israeli Film Festival

Through the screening of both feature films and documentaries at several venues over an 8-day period the festival attracts an audience of over 1000 people. 

The festival also has a student film competition for short films. Finalists for the $1,000 cash prize will be screened at the festival and the winner will be screened at the Nashville Film Festival in April 2015.

Screenings are at the Belcourt Theatre in downtown Nashville, the Noah Liff Opera Center and the GJCC, and the Franklin Theatre in downtown Franklin. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors and $5 for students with ID. An all-festival pass is $200 and is good for all films and special events. Tickets may be purchased at the Belcourt and Franklin Theatre websites.

This year’s festival begins on Nov. 5 with “Return of the Violin” at the Noah Liff Opera Center at 7:30 p.m. An opening night cocktail supper is at 6 p.m., and is $75 per person or $140 per couple.

The film details the story of a Stradivarius violin that was stolen from musical prodigy and Israeli Philharmonic founder Bronislaw Huberman in 1936 from Carnegie Hall. It was rediscovered in 1985. Disturbed that such an instrument would remain silent, virtuoso Joshua Bell purchased the Huberman Stradivarius and now plays it during his concerts.

On Nov. 6 at noon, “Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love” will screen at the GJCC. With exclusive access to Hamlisch’s personal archival treasure trove and complete cooperation from his family, Dramatic Forces and THIRTEEN’s American Masters explore his prolific life and career. The film debuted on PBS last December.

On Nov. 6 at 7 p.m., “Aftermath” screens at the Belcourt. The 2013 Polish film is the story of brothers who are sons of a poor farmer. In the 1980s, one of them immigrated to the United States and cut off all ties with his family, returning only when his brother’s wife shows up. He discovers his brother has been ostracized from the community and threatened, and they eventually uncover a dark secret about their family and hometown.

The film won the Yad Vashem Chairman’s Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Polish nationals have accused the film of being anti-Polish propaganda, as well as a distortion of a sensitive piece of Polish history, leading the film to be banned in some Polish cinemas.

On Nov. 8 there will be two films at the Belcourt — “It Happened in Saint Tropez” at 6 p.m. and “Peace After Marriage” at 8:10 p.m. “Saint Tropez” is “a veritable chocolate box of family dysfunction,” opening with a wedding and a funeral, as well as an extreme case of sibling rivalry between austere religious violinist Zef and his brother Roni, a lapsed Jew and hedonistic gem mogul.

“Peace After Marriage” is an ethnic comedy about a Palestinian in Brooklyn who bargains his U.S. citizenship into a marriage with a woman looking for a green card, never expecting that he would wind up marrying an Israeli.

The festival’s religious school screening will be “The Other Son,” about two young men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who discover as the Israeli prepares to go into his military service that they were switched at birth. Which is more disturbing to the families — that their sons were raised by the enemy or that they were raised in a different religion? The screening will be at the Belcourt at 9 a.m. on Nov. 9.

At 4:30 p.m., “Go Go Boys” will be screened. It is the story of two Israeli-born cousins who produced over 300 films and became the most controlling independent film company in the world, Cannon Films.

At 7 p.m., “The Jewish Cardinal” tells the story of Jean-Marie Lustinger, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants who converted to Catholicism and eventually became Archbishop of Paris, while maintaining a Jewish cultural identity. He wound up being a mediator between the communities when a group of Carmelite nuns wanted to build a convent at Auschwitz.

The Monday Matinee Box Lunch on Nov. 10 precedes a 12:15 p.m. double-feature of “The Lady in Number 6” and “The Sturgeon Queens” at the Belcourt. The $25 admission includes both films and a box lunch from Jason’s Deli at 11:30 a.m.

“Number 6” is an Oscar-winning documentary about Alice Herz Sommer, a 109-year-old Holocaust survivor and the world’s oldest pianist, discussing her story on how to achieve a long and happy life.

“Sturgeon Queens” is about four generations of a Jewish immigrant family and how they maintain Russ and Daughters, a Lower East Side lox and herring emporium.

At 7 p.m., “Under the Same Sun” will screen at the Belcourt. It follows a Palestinian businessman and an Israeli businessman as they try to forge a business relationship, dealing with unique personal and political challenges in a society where there is a strong stigma about working with “the other.”

“Magic Men,” at the Belcourt on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., is about the journey of a 78 year old man and his religious Chasidic rapper son to Greece, searching for an old magician who saved the father’s life.

On Nov. 12, the Belcourt will screen “Little White Lie” at 7 p.m. Lacey Schwartz grew up in a typical Jewish home in New York though often was asked how she had such dark skin. At 18 she found out it wasn’t because of a Sicilian grandfather but because her mother had an affair with a black man. After her biological father dies, she starts to try and reconcile her identities.

“Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force” will screen at the Franklin Theatre on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Belcourt. The documentary details how Jewish American pilots smuggled planes from the U.S., trained in Czechoslovakia and flew to Israel to fight in the 1948 War of Independence. Producer Nancy Speilberg will be at both screenings.

The closing night film will be Nov. 15 at the GJCC. A supper and wine bar will be available at 6 p.m., with admission at $35 per person including the film.

“Quality Balls: The David Steinberg Story” will screen at 7:30 p.m. Steinberg directed some of the most successful situation comedies of the last 20 years, including “Seinfeld,” “Mad About You,” “Golden Girls” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Backstage stories are told by Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Larry Charles, David Bianculli, Bob Einstein and others.

Registration for the dinners and the box lunch are required by Oct. 28.

Tulane Jewish Studies hosting Israeli Film Festival

The Jewish Studies Department at Tulane University and the Stacy Mandel Palagye and Keith Palagye Program for Middle East Peace will hold an Israeli Film Festival at Tulane on Oct. 26 and 27.

Shai Ginsburg, the Andrew Mellon Assistant Professor for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Duke University, will be the main speaker. His field is in Israeli and Jewish cinema.

The festival begins with “Life in Stills” at 5 p.m. and “The Hangman” at 7 p.m. Both films will be in LBC Stibbs, room 203.

“Life in Stills” is about a 96-year-old woman in Israel and how she joined with her grandson in an attempt to save her late husband’s life work — about one million negatives depicting Israel’s defining moments — when “The Photo House” was slated for demolition. It won Best Film at the Israeli Films Competition in 2011.

“The Hangman” is the story of Shalom, a Sephardi prison warden who was the hangman for Adolf Eichmann following the Nazi officer’s conviction. He later became a ritual slaughterer, but continued to carry “a national burden that dramatically shaped his life.”

“The Garden of Eden” will be screened at noon on Oct. 27, followed by “Life Sentences” at 2 p.m. Both films will be in the Jewish Studies conference room.

“The Garden of Eden” is a 2012 film about the Sakhne, one of the largest and most-visited parks in Israel. The film progresses through a year of season changes and looks at the wide range of Israeli society through the stories of people who work there and who visit.

“Life Sentences” won Best Documentary at the 2013 Jerusalem Film Festival. It is about an Arab man who marries a Jewish woman, living quietly with their children. It is later discovered that he was behind numerous mysterious terror attacks in the late 1960s, prompting the woman to flee with their young children, eventually landing in Montreal’s Orthodox community. The film centers on identity and the son’s eventual journey back to Israel and shedding of all labels.