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.

Baton Rouge Jewish Film Festival announces 2015 lineup

The ninth annual Baton Rouge Jewish Film Festival announced its lineup for the 2015 season. Held at the Manship Theatre, the festival will be Jan. 14 to 18. Mobile will have its Jewish Film Festival from Jan. 11 to 22, with the lineup of eight films to be announced. Jewish Cinema Mississippi will be Jan. 21 to 25 in Jackson.

Four of the six films will also be screened at the Nashville Jewish Film Festival — “The Sturgeon Queens,” “The Lady in Number 6,” “Quality Balls” and “Under the Same Sun.”

“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.

“Under the Same Sun” 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.”

“Quality Balls: The David Steinberg Story” is about the director of 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.

“Sturgeon Queens” will be the opening night film on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. Guest speaker will be Louisiana native Susan Rosenbaum, who moved to New York in 1989 and conducts Enthusiastic Gourmet Food Tours.

The Jan. 15 double feature includes “The Lady in Number 6” and “Hitler’s Children.” The latter is a documentary of how family members descended from high-ranking Nazi officers of Hitler’s inner circle struggle with the last names they carry, such as Goering, Himmler and Hoess.

On Jan. 14 and 15 there will be student screenings of “50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus,” a Jewish couple from Philadelphia who traveled to Vienna in 1939 and rescued the single-largest group of children allowed into the U.S. during that time. The screenings will be at Independence Park Theater.

On Jan. 17, “The Wonders” is about a slacker, a private investigator and a femme fatale who join forces to rescue an abducted holy man. The film, which explores the idea of messianic cults that misuse funds finagled from followers, uses hand-drawn animation to show the protagonist’s overactive imagination with Jerusalem as a Wonderland.

The festival concludes on Jan. 18 with a double feature of “Quality Balls” and “Under the Same Sun.”

Tickets are $8.50, available online or at the Manship Theatre box office.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hillel celebrates Israel Week at UAB

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hillel will have its first Israel Week, starting with an event in the UAB sukkah.

On Oct. 14 at 10:30 a.m. there will be a bagel brunch and Krav Maga demonstration. The sukkah is located at the north Campus Green. In case of rain, the brunch will be in the Blazer RLC across from the Commons.

On Oct. 15 there will be a table for Israeli Art Day from 1 to 2 p.m., with temporary henna tattoos available. At 6:30 p.m. there will be Israeli dancing on the green, near the sukkah.

Oct. 16 will be Israel history day, with a film and popcorn at Heritage Hall 124 at 7:30 p.m. There will also be information on travel opportunities.

The final day will be Israel Diversity Day. An informational table will be in the Heritage Hall lobby from 1 to 2 p.m., and at 7:30 p.m. there will be a film in HHB 126 on LGBT rights in Israel. A light nosh will be provided.