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Israel, worldwide Jewry mobilize to help Haiti

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)–Israeli and Jewish aid organizations are mounting emergency relief efforts and are calling for donations to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, where more than 100,000 people are feared dead and millions affected by the widespread destruction. The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID) dispatched a search-and-rescue team to Haiti. The coordinating body of Israeli and Jewish organizations, IsraAID was also considering sending a field hospital, including doctors and medical equipment, as well as humanitarian aid.

IsraAID and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) are funneling support into Haiti. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti in the wake of this overwhelming disaster, and as we did following Hurricane Gustav in 2008, JDC will leverage its strong partnerships in the region to respond quickly and compassionately to the needs of those affected,” Steven Schwager, JDC’s chief executive officer, told JTA. “Now and in the months to come, JDC will provide both immediate relief as well as long-term assistance to help the Haitian people rebuild their lives.” Money can be donated to that effort through www.jdc.org.

The Jewish Federations of North America is coordinating with the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief to assist victims of natural or man-made disasters on a nonsectarian basis. The coalition is managed by the JDC, which is the Jewish Federations’ foreign aid agency, and consists of organizations including the Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, World ORT, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, AJWS and American Jewish Committee, among others.

The American Jewish World Service is also collecting donations for its Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund at www.ajws.org/haitiearthquake.”We are assessing where the gaps in service are and putting a process in place to help specific communities that might not be immediately served otherwise,” the group’s vice president for programs, Aaron Dorfman, told ‘Haaretz’, adding: “Because of the economic and political situation in Haiti, disasters like this have devastating consequences throughout the country. Our long-standing partnerships with grassroots organizations in Haiti allow us to reach the poorest and most remote populations with the speed necessary to save lives.”

Canadian Jewish Congress President Mark J. Freiman and CEO Bernie M. Farber communicated the following message in a letter to the Haitian chargé d’affaires in Ottawa: “On behalf of the Jewish community of Canada, we express our deep sorrow on the tremendous loss of life and damage from the earthquake in Haiti. We grieve with you and our fellow Canadians of Haitian origin at this sad time and we extend our condolences to the families of the victims. We pray for a complete recovery of those hurt or ill as a result of this terrible natural disaster and for the expeditious rebuilding of the devastated lands.”

“You will be interested to know that in response to the crisis, United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Greater Toronto and Combined Jewish Appeal of Montreal have established funds for humanitarian relief aid to the afflicted areas… We sincerely hope that this will assist in relieving the human suffering experienced in Haiti.” The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto set up a special site for donations to IsraAID at https://www.ujadonations.com/login.asp?destinationsite=donations&destinationid=33. Alternatively, donors can call (+1) 416 635 2883.

B’nai B’rith International is also funneling money to Haiti through IsraAID at https://secure.ga1.org/05/web_relief_donations.

With an average per capita income of US$ 3.60 per day, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Thus, its population is especially vulnerable to natural disasters, such as this massive earthquake. Haiti has a tiny Jewish population of around 25, most of which live in the capital Port-au-Prince. Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who also serves Haiti, said on Wednesday morning that the Embassy had not been able to reach Jewish families in Haiti as the telephone network had broken down.

Meanwhile, the actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie said they would donate US$ 1 mililon through their foundation to help the victims.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

‘Expecting Isabel’ delivers

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Amanda Cooley Davis, Stephen Elton and Rhona Gold in
Expecting Isabel
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By Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO–Lisa Loomer’s Expecting Isabel couldn’t be timelier for director Jennifer Eve Thorn.

Thorn, founding mother along with Delicia Turner-Sonnenberg and Jo Anne Glover and mother of one,  is expecting her second child any second now!

Loomer’s modern day answer to infertility, Expecting Isabel, is on target bringing to light the plight of any and all couples experiencing the need to have a biological child in their lives who cannot for various and sundry reasons cannot  conceive the good old fashioned way.  (Often one partner’s sperm just can’t seem to make its way to the other partner’s egg.)

Throughout the evening we are taken on a rollercoaster ride as we follow the story of Miranda and Nick in their efforts to conceive. What is in some cases doing what comes naturally, for these two becomes a thing of angst that almost ruins a good old-fashioned marriage.

Miranda (Jo Anne Glover) and Nick (Stephen Elton) have been married for ten years. He is an artist, a sculptor and painter.  She works for a greeting card company making up sayings that appear on sympathy cards. He comes from an average middle class Italian family from the Bronx and her roots are (not that she’s a believer) Episcopalian.

They own their own place in an upscale area of New York and for all intents and purposes, are happy together. Out of the blue, Nick suggests they have a baby to complete their lives.

At first Miranda is skittish about the idea signaling that she is perfectly happy with their lives, as they know it. She worries about genetics, overpopulation and life changes. He’s convinced it’s the right thing to do. Nick prevails by persuading her that their biological clock is winding down;  he’s close to forty and he thinks now would be as good a time as any to begin a family. The odyssey of their trying to conceive begins.

In Act I Miranda narrates the story telling us, the audience, in an often moving, cute, funny and descriptive account of their efforts  to get pregnant. We watch the two begin in earnest working together to make this baby thing happen. Glover is most convincing as in one short scene after another she describes sometimes very emotionally the rollercoaster ride they experience by trying everything possible to get pregnant.

Elton’s Nick is helpful, sympathetic, kind and lends support by going along with every suggestion from collecting sperm to counting active sperm to Miranda’s injections as well as being with Miranda at every doctor visit she makes in their effort to conceive.

As the mounting frustration and disappointment of not getting pregnant begins to take its toll on the pair they decide to separate, take a break from each other and go back to living with their respective families. It is at this juncture that we get a true glimpse into what these two have either run away from or might be looking at, if and when they ever have a child of their own.

Her mom Lila (Robin Christ) is an alcoholic and before she moved back home Miranda worried that it will be a genetic minus for their child. She is even more convinced as she sees her mother on a daily basis. Christ, a regular face at New Village Arts Theatre, is making her Moxie debut in Loomer’s comedy/drama and she is terrific. She takes advantage of every opportunity to look and sound like an drunken  airhead with a martini glass permanently fixed in her hand.

His family, Mom, Yolanda (Rhona Gold is so damned funny as the Italian Mom that one might dismiss the fact that her last name is Gold.) But that’s the glory of Gold, who has been part of the San Diego acting landscape for as long as I can remember. Aside from her too many to name roles in San Diego she has also appeared in staged readings of a number of plays by Allan Havis.

She, along with the rest of the support cast, play no less that twenty-four different characters. They are all excellent and each and every one of them makes this play rock.  As the parents (Mark Petrich is Sal his cigar smoking father) and family of Nick, each of the siblings is beyond funny.

They typically pull the stereotypical race card in their objections to what Nick is doing and one can almost forget (for a short while) the sad plight of these two struggling young people while we get absorbed in their families day to day objections.

Along with Petrich, brother Dominic (Justin Lang), sister and sister in law (Sandra Ruiz) and (Amanda Cooley Davis) are a force to be reckoned with but Nick persuades himself that they are ‘normal’ with no genetic defects except for a few prejudices which he’s convinced he can overcome.  Their Thanksgiving dinner is one of the highlights of a family ‘gathering’ and one funny shtick skit.

Loomer uses broad strokes to characterize the family and the rest of the support groups and workers the couple needs to make this thing work. Doctors, nurses, social services and eventually possible surrogate mothers are paraded in and out as the young folks make their way toward their eventual goal.  

Both Glover and Elton are most engaging and on target while their story moves from hope to hopelessness as their modest plan takes on a life of its own, one they never dreamed of. According to Thorn, the play is more about what life has planned for us rather than what our plan for our life is about.

By the end of Act I they are now on a different path and that is one of adoption. At this point Nick has intervened in the story telling to let us know that Miranda has wandered a bit in her telling of the events and in Act II he narrates the plight of adoption and a whole new set of standards applies. The story goes on a bit too long, there are the same set of obstacles, different support groups and different politics involved with a politically different set of standards but Expecting Isabel delivers.

Mia Bane Jacobs all in one set design in the old Cygnet space is simple. In the center of the stage is a huge cabinet which when opened acts as a vertical bed where Nick and Miranda begin their journey of baby making. Four sets of curtains on the diagonal are used for wheeling stools, tables, chairs and some equipment on and off the stage as the scene changes fast and furiously from Dr’s offices to Nick’s parents’ home to Miranda’s Mom’s place to their own surroundings. Corey Johnston’s costumes are pretty much your average every day attire and Ashley Jenks lighting and Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design round off the excellent technical support of Moxie’s first new play in their new digs.

Expecting Isabel continues through Feb 2nd at the Roland Theatre at 6663 El Cajon Blvd. More information is available on the Moxie Website, www.moxietheatre.com

See you at the theatre!