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‘Love, Sex and Violence’ more charming than name implies

September 13, 2010 1 comment

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

SHERMAN OAKS, California — Sometimes a book of short stories is a welcome diversion from the usual industrial-strength novels.  Just as an evening of short one-acts can provide a satisfying evening at the theater.  And that’s just what playwright Helena Weltman and producer/director Pavel Cerny have brought to the stage of the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks.

The six vignettes, collectively titled Love, Sex, and Violence Too is subtitled Or False Advertising, since there is mostly yearning for love, rather than love itself, and no sex or violence at all.

Although the first act gives sex a good college try as a young man (Allen Yates) brings home a waitress (Olivia Peri) from a nearby café.  He slips into a gaudy red dressing gown and plies her with wine in a paper cup.  But she is looking for a “meaningful relationship,” while he is just looking to get laid.

In the next scene a married couple (Lisa-Beth Harris and Joshua Grenrock) are having a late-night drink after a triumphant party celebrating the publication of her book on baking.  He is heaping her with platitudes, which only annoys her, and very soon their marriage is falling apart right before your eyes.  (Grenrock was the “brilliantly poignant” lead clown—the man with an air of desperation and a rubber face—in Circus Welt, which director Cerny adapted from Leonid Andreyev’s  He Who Gets Slapped, presented earlier this year.  Grenrock has been nominated for a 2010 Ovation Award for that role.)

Adrian Lee Borden and Desi Jevon are strangers marooned in a stalled elevator in “Boring,” the third vignette.  In contrast with the recent play Elevator, in which seven people are stranded in a large elevator, a situation that doesn’t seem at all frightening or claustrophobic, this elevator in “Boring” encloses the two actors in a very small square with little room to move around, and so their getting-to-know-you conversation is close-up, personal, and bizarre.

“Thirteen Months, Two Weeks” is how long Lacey Rae has been wasting the time of her psychiatrist, Robbin Ormond.  She lies, contradicts herself, and needles the doctor with confrontational personal questions, much to the psychiatrist’s consternation.  In desperation, the psychiatrist protests, “You hear my interest as a judgment…”

In the next scene Robbin Ormond plays the psychiatrist again, this time alone on stage talking to her own psychiatrist.  This vignette is the best of the lot, beautifully written and gloriously acted, as Ormond expresses her frustration and anger with her clients and deals with—and avoids—her own personal dramas.  “I can’t take life any more, it’s too painful,” she says.

And finally, ending on a lighter note, Lacey Rae meets a dancer (Eddy Hawks) in a hamburger joint and with headwaiter Ward Edmondson, the three “tap dance to survive,” as Eddy puts it.

While the six vignettes differ in tone and intensity, they make for an engaging mix—even though some scenes are considerably better than others (and sometimes make more sense).  For the most part, the overarching themes are loneliness, disappointment, and estrangement, but surprisingly, there is a good deal of humor in the midst of all the pathos.  And director Cerny has done a good job of bringing out the best in his actors.  Making it a very pleasant outing for a Sunday afternoon.

Love, Sex and Violence Too will be performed every Sunday at 2 p.m. through October 17th at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., in Sherman Oaks.  Call 866-811-4111 for tickets.

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Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World

ZOA challenges TIME magazine to debate on Israel

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)–The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned TIME Magazine for the anti-Semitic and misleading cover/article in its September 13, 2010 issue, falsely claiming Israel doesn’t care about peace, while ignoring the reality of Palestinians having repeatedly rejected every extraordinary peace deal Israel has offered. Not only do they reject peace offers, they also responded with terror and more incitement against Israel and Jews.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein is publicly challenging the author, Karl Vick, or the TIME Magazine Editor, Richard Stengel, to a public debate on the subject of whether the Israelis or the Palestinians have shown little interest in a peace deal.

“The cover depicts a Star of David composed of daisies with the caption contained within, ‘Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.’ The cover and the article are a malicious depiction of Israelis as a people more interested in making money and enjoying material pleasures than in concluding a peace agreement with the Palestinians. To prove its bogus thesis, TIME Magazine primarily relied on the words of two Israeli real estate agents, a left-wing columnist, a left-wing academic and a few others, while totally ignoring Palestinian Authority (PA) lack of interest in peace.

Karl Vick’s article drives home the idea that Israelis are not interested in peace repeatedly, even in the article’s subtitle that includes the words, “Israelis feels prosperous, secure – and disengaged from the peace process. Is that wise?” The idea is insinuated in the article that the Israelis are heedlessly ignoring dangers and that Mr. Vick’s warning will be vindicated when violence at some point in the future breaks out – whereas in fact virtually all Israelis desperately want a real peace, but have understandably lost faith in the possibility of one because they see the PA daily fomenting violence and extremism in its schools, media, speeches and sermons.  They have also seen numerous past peace offers rejected by the Palestinians. After striving for years, making concessions, offering almost everything the Palestinians publicly claimed they wanted, only to receive terrorism and hatred in return, it is like the case of the boy who cried wolf – Israelis do not believe the stilted public statements directed to them from the PA about wishing to live in peace. The PA has no credibility with them.

Karl Vick also unsubtly introduces traditionally anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews being preoccupied with money at the cost of human virtues – “they’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money, they’re enjoying the rays of the late summer” and preaches to the Israelis – “don’t Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity?” The article shows picture after picture of Israelis enjoying themselves in cafes and lying on sunny beaches (Karl Vick, ‘The good Life and Its Dangers,’TIME Magazine, September 13, 2010).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “This anti-Semitic and misleading cover and article plumbs new depths in TIME Magazine’s long-running, historic bigotry towards Israel. The ZOA demands an apology and retraction of this story which ignores all the concessions Israel has made to the Palestinians, including giving away half of Judea and Samaria, all of Gaza and agreeing to the recent 10-month construction freeze.

“During this period, there have been no Palestinian concessions, no fulfillment of its signed agreements to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorist groups and end incitement to hatred and murder against Israelis and, until last week, a refusal to even negotiate. Meanwhile, the PA honors and lauds terrorists. But Karl Vick dishonestly withheld all this from his readers.

“Palestinian polls indicate continuing Palestinian support for terrorism and non-acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians have been consistently polled supporting the so-called ‘right of return’ to Israel by Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendents, something that would turn Jews into a minority in their own country and end the Jewish state.

“Palestinian Authority leaders have publicly honored and glorified terrorists who murder Jews, including last month holding a public celebration of the 1978 coastal road massacre carried out by Fatah terrorists led by Dalal Mughrabi, in which 37 Israelis, including a dozen children, were murdered. The PA has also named two youth summer camps in Mughrabi’s honor. It has accused Israel and the U.S. of poisoning Yasser Arafat.

“In recent weeks, senior PA officials have called for Israel’s destruction and demonized Israel, not for peace and conciliation. On the very day negotiations between Israel and the PA commenced in Washington, D.C., the PA ambassador to Iran said that the PA will continue its war on Israel until ‘the complete eradication of the fabricated regime in due course’; another PA Minister threatened war if Israel does not return  to its ‘owners’ Jerusalem, which he described as ‘Palestinian … throughout history’ while another PA Minister honored the families of dead terrorists and accused Israel of harvesting the organs of dead Palestinians.

“None of this found its way into Mr. Vick’s article. It couldn’t – had he had the integrity to inform his readers of these issues, it would be impossible to falsely state that the Israelis are a bunch of heedless materialists who are unaccountably uninterested in making peace with Palestinians. Mr. Vick would be forced to admit that Palestinians are not interested in peace.

“Instead, Mr. Vick praises the PA for ‘taking a serious stab at governance, starting by professionalizing the security forces.’ He even writes, in reference to the murder of four Israelis by Hamas terrorists last week, that PA forces, even before that terrorist assault, ‘arrested more than 300 Hamas activists.’ What Mr. Vick didn’t tell his readers is that the PA is in a struggle with Hamas and therefore arrests Hamas members that are a threat to the Fatah-controlled PA, not because Hamas murders Israelis. He also didn’t tell his readers that in January, when Fatah terrorists murdered an Israeli in a similar roadside assault, the PA praised the terrorists as martyrs and heroes while condemning their killing by Israeli forces and that Salam Fayyad personally paid condolence calls on the terrorists’ families.

“As Bret Stephens observes in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Can the magazine point to equally pointed cover stories about internal Palestinian affairs and what, perchance, they mean for the peace process? I checked: It last did so in April 2002 with a largely sympathetic portrait of Yasser Arafat ‘All Boxed In’ by an invading Israeli army.’

“This wretched issue of TIME unfortunately partakes of a long anti-Israel tradition that includes instructing readers in 1977 that then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s name is pronounced like ‘Fagin,’ the hideous, villainous Jewish character in Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist. TIME Magazine also called Begin ‘dangerous.’

“TIME Magazine and Mr. Vick will no doubt repudiate these criticisms. I challenge Mr. Vick or Mr. Stengel to a public debate in which he will have the opportunity to explain why at length.”

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Preceding provided by the Zionist Organization of America

ADL challenges Arizona’s employment law

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release) –The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of a challenge by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others to a stringent Arizona employment verification law that could lead to discrimination against immigrants and other groups.

“Arizona’s employment verification law is unconstitutional as it is clearly preempted by federal law,” said Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. “The responsibility to set immigration policy is that of the federal government, not individual states. We are also concerned that the Arizona law invites disparate treatment of immigrants and may foster discrimination.”

In 2008, Arizona enacted the controversial Legal Arizona Workers Act, which imposes severe sanctions on employers who hire undocumented workers and mandates that all employers use E-Verify, a temporary and voluntary federal program that allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees.  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. 

The brief argues that the law should be struck down as unconstitutional because it frustrates Congress’s intent to balance discrimination concerns with control of illegal immigration.

ADL joined a coalition of civil rights and labor organizations in filing the brief, including the Asian American Justice Center, the Asian American Institute, National Council of La Raza and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

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Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League

Conference of Presidents questions Abbas’ sincerity in peace talks

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)–Alan Solow, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Monday, Sept. 13,  issued the following statement about the Middle East peace negotiations today:

 “We wish the parties success at the talks this week in Sharm El Sheikh and hope that they can continue to move forward toward meaningful direct negotiations. We are deeply concerned by the repeated threats by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to leave the talks, which he made even before the talks began.

“In the last week, President Abbas threatened to leave the talks if he is asked to address the right of return, concessions on borders, recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or if the settlement freeze is not extended. He even said that he will not make ‘any concessions.’ This is not the way to create an atmosphere conducive to successful talks or that will give the people of Israel a sense of confidence that President Abbas is truly ready for serious negotiations that will lead to an end of the conflict.

“We are also concerned about the increasing attacks from Gaza, including several barrages over the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which hit populated areas. These attacks must be met with the strongest reaction from the international community. In particular, those who continue to provide arms, especially Iran and Syria, must be held to account. The many arms caches found in the recent days by Egyptian forces in the Sinai underscores this urgency,” said Solow and Hoenlein.

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Preceding provided by Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Making Israel’s Yom Kippur universal

September 13, 2010 1 comment

By Nachman Rosenberg

LOD, Israel — There’s a commonly held belief that one of the main reasons why Israel’s enemies chose Yom Kippur to launch their attack in October of 1973 was that most of the country would have been in synagogue and it would take that much longer for the reserves to be called up. 

The reality is that unlike the Diaspora where this day is revered as one of communal prayer, many secular Israelis simply stay home on this holiest of days.  Data shocking to some display that the day before Yom Kippur used to have the highest number of movie rentals across Israel of any day of the year.

Contrary to a common misconception, the decision to abstain from actual participation in high-holiday services is not driven by apathy or secularism.  In fact the vast majority of Israeli Jews fast on Yom Kippur and do identify with the day’s solemnity and themes of repentance and judgment.

A leading reason why they stay home is that they are unable to find a house of worship where they can feel comfortable.  As hard as it might be to believe that a Jew in the Jewish State can’t find a good shul / synagogue in which to daven, this is the reality. 

While “traditional” houses of prayer come in every shape and stripe, catering to the panoply of origins that makes up Israel’s Jewish community, if you classify yourself as secular every other day of the year, finding this comfort zone on Yom Kippur can be highly frustrating. As such many simply throw up their hands and choose to commemorate the date at home rather than be forced to feel like a fish out of water.

Given that the very large percentage of Israel’s Jews is in fact secular, yet strives for some sort of accommodation on Yom Kippur, such a situation is untenable.

In recent years, an organization of rabbis called Tzohar, committed to bridging the ever widening gap between secular and religious began to pursue a real solution.

While many well-meaning outreach organizations act just as their name indicates by reaching out to bring fellows Jews into these “traditional” settings, this approach simply does not relate to the interests of many secular Israeli Jews. 

Rather than looking for any awakening or return to traditional practice, on Yom Kippur these already spiritual Jews are only in search of an outlet to convey their individual forms of spirituality.

For this reason Tzohar has developed a global network of close to 200 prayer services in community centers, sports facilities and public spaces specifically designed for Israel’s secular majority. Imbued with an appreciation for the unique sensibilities of this community, the service is neither designed to preach nor condescend.  It simply gives Israelis an environment of prayer where they can feel welcome and in sync with the holiness of the day.

The greatest evidence for the need for such an institution is borne out through the ever growing numbers of participants we see each year.  Founded in 1996, when the Tzohar rabbis were still unsure whether the secular community would trust anything that even felt like institutional religion, we were thrilled to quickly earn their trust. (Due to the success of these services, similar programming has been created for Purim, Shavuot and Israel’s Independence Day.)

This Yom Kippur, over 40,000 Israeli Jews will welcome the power that is Yom Kippur in these special prayer services.  Expressing their Judaism in a forum that is both in total context of Jewish tradition but respectful of the parishioner’s real emotions, we know it will be a high holiday that they will long remember. Most fundamentally these services will imbue a heightened love for Judaism and Jewish tradition that will last throughout the year.

As even the most casual observer of Israeli society will tell you, this is a nation with no shortage of inner division and conflict- on top of all the other external challenges that befall our beloved homeland.  There are no easy solutions to any of these problems.  But to even hope to overcome the social divide, we know we must feel the spiritual pains of all sectors of the population.

Throughout our history, Yom Kippur has been a constant reminder of our humility, and that regardless of our differences we are a united people. 

Across Israel this year, thousands more Jews, who might otherwise have passed the day in front of their television screens will be reminded as such. And in so doing their actions will give hope for a brighter future for our land, our religion and our people.

Nachman Rosenberg is the Executive Vice President of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization. To find out more about the Yom Kippur program and other efforts supported by the organization throughout the year visit www.tzohar.org.il

Some asteroids may be like gravel glued together by gravity

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

TEL AVIV (Press Release)― Though it was once believed that all asteroids are giant pieces of solid rock, later hypotheses have it that some are actually a collection of small gravel-sized rocks, held together by gravity. If one of these “rubble piles” spins fast enough, it’s speculated that pieces could separate from it through centrifugal force and form a second collection ― in effect, a second asteroid.

Now researchers at Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with an international group of scientists, have proved the existence of these theoretical “separated asteroid” pairs.

Ph.D. student David Polishook of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences and his supervisor Dr. Noah Brosch of the university’s School of Physics and Astronomy say the research has not only verified a theory, but could have greater implications if an asteroid passes close to earth. Instead of a solid mountain colliding with earth’s surface, says Dr. Brosch, the planet would be pelted with the innumerable pebbles and rocks that comprise it, like a shotgun blast instead of a single cannonball. This knowledge could guide the defensive tactics to be taken if an asteroid were on track to collide with the Earth.

A large part of the research for the study, recently published in the journal Nature, was done at Tel Aviv University’s Wise Observatory, located deep in the Negev Desert ― the first and only modern astronomical observatory in the Middle East.

According to Dr. Brosch, separated asteroids are composed of small pebbles glued together by gravitational attraction. Their paths are affected by the gravitational pull of major planets, but the radiation of the sun, he says, can also have an immense impact. Once the sun’s light is absorbed by the asteroid, rotation speeds up. When it reaches a certain speed, a piece will break off to form a separate asteroid.

The phenomenon can be compared to a figure skater on the ice. “The faster they spin, the harder it is for them to keep their arms close to their bodies,” explains Dr. Brosch.

As a result, asteroid pairs are formed, characterized by the trajectory of their rotation around the sun. Though they may be millions of miles apart, the two asteroids share the same orbit. Dr. Brosch says this demonstrates that they come from the same original asteroid source.

During the course of the study, Polishook and an international group of astronomers studied 35 asteroid pairs. Traditionally, measuring bodies in the solar system involves studying photographic images. But the small size and extreme distance of the asteroids forced researchers to measure these pairs in an innovative way.

Instead, researchers measured the light reflected from each member of the asteroid pairs. The results proved that in each asteroid pair, one body was formed from the other. The smaller asteroid, he explains, was always less than forty percent of the size of the bigger asteroid. These findings fit precisely into a theory developed at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which concluded that no more than forty percent of the original asteroid can split off.

With this study, says Dr. Brosch, researchers have been able to prove the connection between two separate spinning asteroids and demonstrate the existence of asteroids that exist in paired relationships.

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Preceding provided by the American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Israel makes gains in unexpected places

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The “delegitimization” of Israel is not to be taken lightly – professional agitators make the case that while Israel may have some theoretical “right to exist,” nothing that Israel does to protect itself, advance itself or enhance itself is legitimate. 

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) long ago rejected begging the Arabs to give Israel what no other country requires – permission.  Israel is legitimate by its history, the circumstances of its birth as a modern country and its defense of its territory and people. But, while the problem is real, two incidents remind us that there are circles and cycles to international affairs as there are to everything else; one made us smile.
 
1. Fidel Castro’s comments to Jonah Goldberg of Atlantic Monthly have now been widely circulated. Castro criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and talked about the “unique” history of anti-Semitism. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything… The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.”
 
Castro is an old dictator and a liar – and he’s already recanted his comments on Cuban economics. But, in fact, in the early days he was far from an enemy of Israel or Jews. In the journal Cuban Studies 23 (University of Pittsburgh press), Jorge Perez-Lopez relates that Jews who left Cuba for Israel in 1961 were called “repatriados” (people returning to their native lands) although, he notes, most were of Eastern European origin. Other Cubans fleeing the revolution were called “gusanos” (anti-revolutionary worms). Israeli agricultural workers were common in Cuba and when Israeli president Yitzhak Ben Zvi died in 1963, Castro declared three days of official mourning. Algerian dictator Ahmed Ben Bella subsequently canceled his trip to Havana. Castro said he didn’t care.
 
Only in 1974, when seeking leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement did Castro break relations with Israel. Which itself is a reminder that “delegitimization” is an old art form: after the Yom Kippur War, 29 African states severed diplomatic relations with Israel under severe pressure from the Arab states. And only two brave countries – Costa Rica and El Salvador – maintain embassies in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Israel is the only country the United States considers unable to determine its own capital.

2. Click here to watch “Red Square Moscow with IDF Band” Large screens behind the band show band members, the Israeli flag and – hold on here – the Knesset, the Western Wall and broad views of Jerusalem. The band chose Fiddler on the Roof, Machar (“Tomorrow”) a modern Israeli favorite, “Hava Nagila” and “Shalom Aleichem” (with which the Russians were clearly familiar).

The faces of the Israeli soldiers are extraordinary – they understand the moment. For those of us old enough to have grandfathers who fled Russia to escape the Czar’s Army, not to mention “duck and cover” in school in fear of the Soviets, watching a large and enthusiastic Russian audience clap in time to the IDF Band on Red Square with the Kremlin lit up in the background is eye-popping.
 
Coincidentally (?), Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in Russia last week to sign a military cooperation agreement, declaring Israel “ready to continue sharing experience with the Russian military on fighting terrorism and ensuring security, including by using air drones.” The Russian Defense Minister said Moscow was “studying seriously and attentively” the experiences and practices of the IDF. Barak met with Vladimir Putin as well to discuss proposed Russian arms sales to Syria.

It doesn’t make us at all comfortable to watch Israel and Russia cooperate at what surely will be the expense of Georgia. And it doesn’t let Castro off the hook for policies that have made Cuba one of the poorest and most repressive places in our hemisphere – and we are not overlooking the Cuban government’s treatment of Alan Gross, a Jewish American imprisoned while on a humanitarian mission.

But there are things we thought we would never see. The IDF Band being cheered in Red Square is one.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.