For more cartoons, visit thedailysnooze.com.
For more cartoons, visit thedailysnooze.com.
Alison Pick (photo by Emma-Lee Photography)
Award-winning author and poet Alison Pick comes to Vancouver later this month to participate in two panels at the Vancouver Writers Fest, one of which is already sold out.
As a teenager, Pick discovered that her father’s parents were Jewish. As she tells a rabbi in the first chapter of her memoir, Between Gods (Doubleday Canada), “My grandparents escaped Czechoslovakia in 1939. They bribed a Nazi for visas, came to Canada and renounced their Judaism. They spent their lives posing as Christians…. As a kid I was forbidden from discussing it. But now I’m going back and asking questions.”
In her 30s, struggling with depression, about to be married, and writing the novel that would become Far to Go, Between Gods is about Pick’s life during this period in which she lays claim to her Jewish identity. She spoke with the Jewish Independent via email.
JI: The title of the book is Between Gods. With what vision of God did you begin your spiritual/cultural journey, and how now do you grapple with or appreciate God/Source? Did your concepts/beliefs change when you had a child?
AP: Between Gods tells the story of my conversion from Christianity to Judaism. That said, the conversion was mostly cultural for me – an attempt to reclaim my family’s hidden Judaism. My personal concept of God, ironically, is probably most Buddhist in nature: the idea that there is a presence larger than us; that is it benign or even loving. It seems to me there is something akin to an energy field, and that we can choose to ignore it or to engage with it, and that, in engaging with it, we foster our relationship with it. I like the image of two hands. One is moving, grasping, reaching, touching – that hand is the ego, or the personality. The other hand remains still – it is the witness, both personal and theological.
These concepts didn’t change when I had a child, although I am very conscious of fostering a sense of the divine for and with her. The most important part of our week is Friday evening, when we have Shabbat dinner – seeing her take that for granted (in the best kind of way) is hugely gratifying.
JI: In the acknowledgements, you note that you’ve taken artistic liberty with some of the details, but still, it must have been difficult to write about family, friends. From where came the desire to write such a book at this point in your life?
AP: It didn’t really feel like a choice. Between Gods began as a set of notes I was taking at the same time as I was writing Far to Go. At first I thought the two projects were the same book – then it became clear that they were different. By the time I had finished writing Far to Go, I had converted to Judaism. I just knew that Between Gods was the next book I had to write. As a writer, you have to trust where the artistic energy lays, and so my practice is comprised at least partially of listening to what wants to be written as opposed to what my ego wants to write.
JI: Reading the memoir, your frustration with the conversion “policy” is completely understandable. With the distance of time, how do you feel about it?
AP: I had difficulty converting to Reform Judaism in Toronto because my fiancé was not Jewish. At the time, it was hard to not take this personally, to not feel rejected. It still, in retrospect, seems odd to me that I was already half Jewish and yet encountered many more obstacles than the other women in my class who were engaged to Jewish men. That said, I do see the very clear benefits that having an entirely Jewish nuclear family offers, not just individually, of course, but collectively. My experience made me more compassionate towards others, in that way that our personal suffering always shines a light on the suffering of the world, and has influenced my decisions around how to practise Judaism with my daughter – we are involved in communities that are inclusive and progressive while at the same time honoring tradition.
JI: Why did you choose, in a memoir mainly about your becoming Jewish, to also write so openly about your struggle with depression?
AP: It seemed to me that the two were intimately related. The more I learned about my family background the more I began to think that my depression was something inherited and that, in some ways, it was the result of the legacy of the Holocaust. I’m not saying that the relationship was directly causal, but that the two things fed off each other, culminating in an existential darkness.
JI: The absence of your mother and sister in the memoir is felt, even though they are mentioned, you share that they were supportive and you address why they don’t figure more prominently. The rabbi was concerned with creating an interfaith nuclear family, but extending this concern, how has your family’s being Jewish fit in/worked with your larger family (and even friends)?
AP: It was a conscious decision to not include very much of my mother, although you’re not the first person to say they would have liked more of her. She was generally extremely supportive, as was my sister. I have heard many other conversion stories in which at least one member of the potential convert’s family was upset, or at least in which the family dynamic was fraught. I experienced none of that. My mother, my sister, and my extended family and friends have really been behind me. Of course, I had many in-depth conversations along the way, but all of them had positive outcomes.
At the Writers Fest, which takes place Oct. 21-26 on Granville Island, Alison Pick participates in two panels about writing based on personal experience, one of which – Writing Back to the Self on Oct. 24 – still had tickets for sale at press time. In addition to Pick, Jewish community members participating in the festival include Cory Doctorow, Esther Freud, Herman Koch, Christopher Levenson, Daniel Leviton and Tom Rachman. For tickets: vancouvertix.com, 604-629-8849 or the box office at 1398 Cartwright St.
Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum of Human Rights is now open for visitors. (photo from CMHR-MCDP)
The Sept. 19 opening ceremonies for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) were broadcast live on several networks, and live streamed on the CMHR website (humanrights.ca). The opening celebrations lasted through the weekend, with more than 40 performances at the Forks market and downtown Winnipeg, including free public tours of the museum and a concert on Saturday night, featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie, A Tribe Called Red, Shad, Marie-Pierre Arthur, Ashley MacIsaac and others.
The excitement among museum staff was palpable ahead of the opening weekend, said Matthew McRae, a museum representative. “Everyone here, whether they started two years ago or two months ago, has put in so much work to make this project happen. It’s truly amazing to watch all the little bits I’ve worked on coming together to make a whole. What’s more, this is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
McRae has been with the museum for two years, researching gallery content and gathering background on different feature stories for the museum’s core exhibits. When asked to pick his favorite story from the museum, he said, “There are lots of amazing stories I’ve had a chance to research during my time here, so it’s hard to pick just one. However, the story Wilcox County High School’s first integrated prom, held in 2013, is something I’m very happy it made its way into the museum. The school, located in southwest Georgia, in the U.S.A., had never had an integrated prom.
“In 2013, Mareshia Rucker and her friends decided they wanted to be able to go to prom together, regardless of their skin color or background, and so they fundraised and organized their own integrated prom, despite opposition from some members of the community. Their story got picked up by the international media and, in the end, the school announced it would hold an official prom for all its students in 2014.”
McRae conducted an oral history with Rucker and the young woman’s prom dress will now be featured at the museum. “A prom dress is not something you would normally associate with human rights, but that’s perhaps what’s so neat about it,” said McRae. “It tells people that human rights struggles can come in all sorts of forms, and it tells people they are still going on today, all around us.”
Ensuring people from around the world can access and use the museum’s content and knowledge base has been a major focus. While the museum does not have specific projections for online attendance, McRae said, “We are expecting people to log on from all across Canada and the world. There will be lots of chances for people to feel connected to Canada’s new national museum.”
The museum will continue working with various community groups, human rights organizations, academics and stakeholders. There are plans to organize and participate in many events, including lectures, panel discussions and art projects.
“This will involve anything we can think of to build awareness and education about human rights and to encourage public discussion from multiple perspectives,” said McRae. “We will pilot a national student program in 2015 and hope to eventually bring students from across Canada here for an immersive educational experience in human rights.”
The museum has also developed programs for school groups and the public, so all ages can make the most of having a human rights education hub in Winnipeg.
“Above all else, the museum will be a place of inspiration where people can learn about the many different ways people as groups and individuals have worked to promote human rights, resist violation and overcome adversity,” said McRae. “This is the only museum in the world solely devoted to human rights awareness and education, and we explore human rights concepts with an international scope, but through a uniquely Canadian lens.
“As the first national museum established outside the National Capital Region, the CMHR will be a source of Canadian pride – not to mention an iconic piece of architecture already being noticed around the world.”
“Gail Asper fought to have her father’s dream become a reality,” said Stephanie Lockhart, who attended the opening ceremonies with her husband. “She brought this incredible dream to life. What a tremendous gift for our children, our children’s children, and for many generations to come. To be able to visit this place and have the opportunity to learn all about our human rights – the history, for good and bad – their view of human rights will be transformed and actualized because of what they will have learned in this spectacular place.
“For me, the museum truly represents one of the most significant accomplishments articulating the dignities of humankind. All human beings are born free and equal with dignity and rights.”
MLA Andrew Swan, minister of justice and attorney general, said, “I was truly inspired by the opening ceremonies…. As a lifelong Winnipegger and Manitoban, I am fiercely proud that the CMHR is located here, the first national museum outside of Ottawa/Hull.
“My favorite moment was watching [singer] Maria Aragon – a young woman from a local school and daughter of an immigrant family – perform at the opening.”
Winnipeg City Councilor Jenny Gerbasi was also in attendance. “There was a significant inclusion and a feeling of deep respect for Aboriginal, Inuit and Métis communities throughout the event,” said Gerbasi. “I was very moved by the words of Dr. Wilton Littlechild, when he talked about ‘a new spirit and a hope for positive change … a call to action and honoring the human rights of all people.’
“The umbrellas had to come out as rain started prior to and throughout the ceremony … but it did not dampen the spirits or the sense of excitement of the audience.”
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.
(photo by Rebeca Kuropatwa)
Miracle at the Forks: The Museum that Dares Make a Difference, which chronicles the 14-year journey to plan, build and open the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR), was launched on Sept. 22 at the museum with Gail Asper, Moe Levi, Stuart Murray, and co-authors Peter C. Newman and Allan Levine. The 200-page book, released by Figure 1 Publishing, officially hit the bookstands on Sept. 23.
In her remarks at the launch, Asper said that she was pleased with the volume’s title. “I love it because it is miraculous … being inside this museum we’ve talked about for 14 years … this is a really great time for Winnipeg, Manitoba and the world.”
She continued, “We started on this journey to find a way to educate our youth about our human rights violations that occurred in our history and to inspire people to take action. This has been a long, often challenging, and many times miraculous journey from dream to reality. That’s why we’re thrilled that non-fiction writers Peter C. Newman and Allan Levine are here and have written a compelling book, recounting the story from the day Dad – Israel (Izzy) Asper – dreamed of a centre for human rights and gave Moe Levi the mandate to make it happen, to the completion of the building this year.
“During the dark days after my dad’s passing, it was Moe’s support, his ridiculous optimism and resolve, that kept us going…. And, of course, thank you to the federal government under the leadership of Stephen Harper, this maverick person whose courageous decision to make this a national museum ensured our going forward. Also, thanks to our 8,200 donors who’ve made this day possible.”
Newman described the book’s overarching purpose. “Canada was built on dreams as well as appetites. This country was founded by waves of immigrants with big ideas and big dreams. The [Canadian] Museum of Human Rights will dramatically alter Winnipeg’s skyline. But its name is a misnomer; museum is too limiting a description. That’s a venue people visit to remind one another of past lives … memories that can light up a rainy Sunday afternoon.
“This museum is to make a difference. This book is about how this idea, which seemed far too risky to be Canadian, actually came about. Its purpose is more significant than its contents…. If you consider this notion, it really defines what this is all about. Its existence will turn focus on its mission. The key to this great achievement is the image you get of a long time ago.”
Co-author Levine said, “I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with Izzy Asper and listen to him talk…. He told me often, one of the secrets of success came down to perseverance. He just never gave up on anything he did.
“The CMHR project gave new meanings to that. As Peter and I were researching and writing the book, I was struck by the amazing perseverance of Gail and Moe, and other members of the Asper family and foundation. They refused to quit, and are standing in the museum today.”
Levine read aloud excerpts from the book’s section “A Magnificent Conception,” about the delay in getting the museum off the ground.
“You see, Asper was not a journey-to-the-destination type of person. He was a just-get-to-the-destination kind of guy. So, if you’d told him in 2003, prior to his death, that more than a decade later the Museum for Human Rights would not be open, he would have been appalled.
“Back in 2000, once the initial idea of the Museum of Tolerance, as it was first referred to, began to germinate, and after Asper had found a spot at the Forks where he wanted to build it, plans advanced methodically and purposefully.
“Asper’s vision, although not clearly articulated initially, was to establish a museum that would teach the lessons of the Holocaust as well as examine human rights in a Canadian context against the backdrop of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There was a part of Canada’s history that had never been told, and he spoke really with as much passion about the Holocaust as he did about the Japanese, Chinese and Aboriginal societies, in particular.
“The project Asper envisioned was unique for several other reasons, factors that would prove a stumbling block difficult to hurdle, the grandeur of the museum Asper had in mind was akin to the Guggenheim Museum in Spain.
“One misconception that stands out is how people believe that he intended this to be a private museum … the opposite is true. Right from the beginning, he stated that he only wanted to spearhead this project, not run it or control the agenda.
“In the early years, Asper had underestimated the opposition he was to face from just about every corner – skeptical politicians who questioned the need for such a mammoth and expensive museum, academics and journalists who did not believe the museum of human rights could be done properly, or whether it was even necessary.
“Ottawa bureaucrats protested loudly about placing a national rights museum anywhere but in Ottawa, and a collection of naysayers who questioned the use of the Asper Foundation’s use of tax-payer money as part of an alleged scheme to advance so-called Jewish interests.
“Yet, even if he had known of the obstacles that stood in his path, Izzy would never have quit. Always he had persevered. As Gail recalls about her father, there’s a great quote that comes ‘Do it: do or do not. There is no try. Let’s just get the job done.’
“At the same time, there had been times when he had tried and tried and tried, and he failed. But the bottom line is, if you keep trying, the perseverance will pay off somewhere.”
When finished reading the first book excerpt, Levine shared, “Izzy, by the way, dictated things. Gail was instructed by her father that she was to dedicate half her day, every day, to the museum.
“So this, I quote, from Izzy’s letter to his daughter: ‘You must get up and end every day and ask yourself, what did I achieve in finding 60 million needed from the private sector for the museum? You are not to take any calls, answer any letters, or have any meetings with people who are seeking donations from the Asper Foundation. That is Moe’s job, and not to be duplicated.
‘I’m spelling all of this out because this is your opportunity to prove that you can act like a senior executive, and not to be distracted by everything that happens to go by. I hope you can exercise for us and discipline the outlined above.
‘This is the way I’ve operated all my life and, in my opinion, the only way you can accomplish things that everyone thinks can’t be done.’” Levine added, “And Gail obviously followed that [instruction].”
“Working with Allan and Peter has been one of the joys of putting this whole project together,” Levi added in his remarks. “It made me reminisce with Gail, and many times we laughed and cried thinking back [on] this incredible journey. I think it’s a great book. The key thing here is all the proceeds of this book go to the Friends [of the CMHR]. Anytime you buy it, you’re helping a child come to visit the museum in Winnipeg.”
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.
Joel Bernbaum and Kayvon Kelly are good friends who’ve drifted apart in My Rabbi. (photo by Derek Ford)
Religion, family, even something as innocuous as a book club or a sports team – any group to which we belong creates an “us” and a “them.” Conversely, for most of us, not belonging anywhere, with anyone, leads to feelings of isolation, desperation. Finding space for “the other,” being secure in oneself, these basic building blocks of healthy relationships, are at the core of My Rabbi.
When interviewed last month by the Jewish Independent (jewishindependent.ca/at-foundation-of-my-rabbi-is-friendship) co-creators Kayvon Kelly and Joel Bernbaum expressed the hope that their two-man play would raise more questions than it answers. It certainly does.
The opening scene shows both men praying, Arya (played by Kelly) on his knees to Allah, Jacob (Bernbaum) adorned in tallit and tefillin to Hashem. Arya and Jacob are not religious extremists, however. Both have turned to religion in part because of the relationship they had with their respective fathers, they are both seeking meaning, but both still live in Canada, by choice – in Toronto no less, one of Canada’s most multicultural cities – Jacob a Conservative rabbi, Arya still searching. They have drifted apart by the time the play begins and, when they happen to bump into each other again, the timing could not be worse – a synagogue in Toronto has just been bombed.
This awkward reintroduction leads to a reunion over coffee and flashbacks to earlier, happier days of their friendship. Frat-boy humor offers breathing room in this intense 60-minute play, as, in addition to the current-day tensions, we see Arya and Jacob interacting with their fathers (each played by the other actor) in some emotional, identity-defining scenes. We witness how/why Jacob becomes a rabbi with a strong sense of religious affiliation and Arya becomes more of a lost soul, his sense of identity not as clear.
There is little female presence in this play. We find out that, while Arya’s father was Muslim, his mother was Catholic, but other than sexist jokes at the pub about bar conquests, and catching up on the latest girlfriend status, women don’t play a large role in these men’s lives.
The easiest assumption to make between this play and the larger world is that it is a commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the larger “clash of civilizations” between extremist Islam and the rest of Islam and the West. However, these characters could belong to any group (religious or not) that leans to the insular.
And, it’s not really about this group versus that group, but about human beings in general, how a question asked at the wrong moment can end a years-long friendship, how selfish we can be in our own fear. It’s about how we relate to each other, our susceptibility to outside forces, our evaluation of our self-worth.
While based on Kelly and Bernbaum’s own cultural backgrounds, it almost would have been nice if they had chosen characters that didn’t already come with so much baggage. As the discussion after a Victoria show proved, we come to the play – as we come to anything else – with our own preconceptions, and even though the play is intended to elicit openness, some will find it hard to empathize with Jacob (i.e. Jews) or Arya (i.e. Muslims). There is such a strong human tendency, it seems, to lay blame.
The title of the play doesn’t help in this regard, as it sets viewers’ expectations higher for the rabbi. And, it’s misleading, as the play is not more about Jacob than Arya, Judaism over Islam. It’s about two friends, any two friends, and it would be a shame if the play were considered relevant only to the Middle East conflict or how Jews and Muslims as groups may interact. Kelly and Bernbaum are asking us to consider our own personal motivations, actions and reactions, and are asking us to put ourselves not only in Jacob and Arya’s places and consider what we would have done, but what we – not someone else – should have done.
My Rabbi is at Firehall Arts Centre from Oct. 7-18.
Entrepreneur Brian Scudamore’s success is due in part to lessons he learned from his grandparents about how to treat people. (photo from O2E)
When Brian Scudamore addressed business owners at Small Business BC’s Inspire event, held Sept. 29 at the Telus World of Science, his Jewish grandparents, Kenneth and Florence Lorber, were on his mind.
The founder of 1-800-Got-Junk? says they were the source of his inspiration, first-generation Americans who lived in San Francisco, owned a store called Lorber’s Surplus and, whenever possible, recruited the help of their grandson.
“I spent every summer and holiday working there and I learned a lot, especially from my grandfather,” Scudamore told the Independent. “He really cared about his employees and treated them like part of the family. Both my grandparents had a reputation on the street for being lovely people. They treated everyone with respect and would do anything to help other people. Even when homeless people came in to ask for money, they would listen to them, ask how they were and care about them.”
From his grandfather, Scudamore inherited the drive and ambition that would lead him to establish the company O2E, which stands for “Ordinary to Exceptional,” and includes the brands 1-800-Got-Junk?, Wow 1 Day Painting and You Move Me. The latter was created in 2013, inspired by a less-than-desirable experience with a local mover. In Scudamore’s version of a moving company, uniformed, trained movers bring coffee for clients on moving day and leave a housewarming plant when they go.
For 1-800-Got-Junk?, Scudamore’s goal is to double the company’s revenues from $100 million to $200 million by 2016. “We’re nearly there,” he said of the company that began in 1989 with $700 and a beat-up truck. Today, it’s the world’s largest junk removal service.
“It’s always about finding the right people, ensuring we consistently hire top-performing, A-players,” he said.
Back in 1994, not long after he started the company, he let go all 11 of his employees and started over from scratch. “I felt I hadn’t hired the right people and hadn’t spent time training them,” he recalled. “Today, we hire great people who have the potential to do great things.” What’s more, he goes out of his way to keep them happy.
He’s quick to attribute his success to his roots and the lessons he learned about how to treat people. Kenneth Lorber would take his employees out for a meal to thank them for their hard work. But, when you have 300 employees in Vancouver and Toronto, and 3,000 when you include the 200 franchise partners that stretch across North America and in Australia, a thank-you dinner isn’t quite possible. So, the innovative entrepreneur created the 101 Life Goals program, where his employees could list their measurable, specific goals and he could help them achieve them, when rewards were warranted.
“One employee wanted to get his scuba certification, so we signed him up for lessons. Another wanted a ride in a hot air balloon and a third wanted to read the book Anna Karenina in Russian, her father’s mother tongue. I found a copy in Moscow and had it shipped over to her. It’s just a little, creative way to thank someone with a personal connection that has meaning outside of the company,” he said.
Scudamore also attributes his success to having a clear vision of what he wants the future to look like. It hasn’t always seemed so bright and promising and he admitted there have been dark places in his life when he felt he wasn’t as successful as he wanted to be. “At that time, I sat down and sketched my vision for the future. It called for my company to be in 30 cities in North America, even though we were only in one at the time,” he explained. “We wanted to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show, too. All those things came through, and I believe that having the vision is a big piece of the puzzle.”
Adopted into a Jewish family as an infant, Scudamore said his Jewishness keeps him connected to his family and gives him a deeper appreciation of “the culture of community and connectedness. I’m not a very religious person,” he admitted, “but I’m very connected to the religion and community side of my mother’s side of the family.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady. (photo from Cohen Media Group)
Arobust 75, the award-winning playwright, theatre director and screenwriter Israel Horovitz isn’t in the market for a new career. Too bad, for his moving debut as a filmmaker, My Old Lady, is a rewarding, beautifully acted story of adults overcoming loneliness and bitterness.
“[The late, great Jewish director] Sidney Lumet once said to me about directing, ‘Get the best actors you can on the face of the earth and then get out of their way,’” Horovitz said. “And that was, in a sense, a directing style for me.”
Adapted by Horovitz from his stage play, My Old Lady begins with a rather unlikable New York Jew named Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) primed to claim the Paris apartment left him by his perpetually despised and recently deceased father. Mathias thinks his luck has finally turned, and that he’s landed on Easy Street after a lifelong stretch of failed marriages and unpublished novels.
Alas, the apartment is a viager, which means the elderly Englishwoman (Maggie Smith) residing there with her unmarried daughter (the always-great Kristin Scott Thomas) retains tenancy until her death. Mathias’ actual inheritance, in the meantime, is the monthly payment contractually owed to the old lady. You don’t need to imagine his frustration and anger, for Mathias makes no effort to hide it.
My Old Lady, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and is in wide release this month, spills many poignant secrets that expose the characters’ long-concealed connection, and the scars from the past that they still bear. It makes for powerful drama, even though Horovitz excised a chunk of the original play dealing with the treatment of Jews during the Nazi occupation.
“I found that I had to boil the whole thing down into a kind of ‘guy walks into a bar’ story,” Horovitz said, “then write a film as though I had never written [the] stage play. In the first draft of the film, which was enormously too long, all of the talk about the Nazi occupation of Paris was in. As I boiled it down to what I thought the real theme of the film was, the real spine, it wasn’t that. It was about Mathias, his relationship with his father, and his ultimate forgiveness of his father. [Mathias] doesn’t renounce being Jewish, he doesn’t hide being Jewish. It’s just not what the movie’s about.”
Horovitz is the author of more than 70 produced plays, including such Jewish-themed works as Park Your Car in Harvard Yard and Lebensraum. He also penned the screenplay for Sunshine, István Szabó’s epic 1999 film about a Hungarian Jewish family spanning the 20th century.
“Being Jewish is part of my life, but it’s not my only subject,” Horovitz said.
The writer has garnered several shelves’ worth of awards, including two Obies, France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a lifetime achievement award from B’nai B’rith. The writer is as famous and respected in France as he is in the United States, which allows him a unique perspective on the increase in French antisemitism.
“I have some Jewish friends [in Paris], some of them in high places, who are grievously alarmed, and some Jewish friends who are kind of in denial,” Horovitz said. “And then I have me, in my own skin, and when I’m in Paris I’m, quite frankly, a very highly regarded playwright, so I may not get the same kind of experience or the same kind of antisemitism [as] some French Jew going to synagogue in a [small] town. You couldn’t have a more Jewish name than mine unless your name was Israel Jew, so there’s no question in anybody’s mind when they meet me that I’m Jewish. Do I personally experience a lot of antisemitism? Almost none; almost none that I see.”
However, Horovitz can’t say the same about growing up in Wakefield, Mass., a town about 12 miles north of Boston, in the 1940s and ’50s.
“Did I as a kid experience antisemitism? On a daily basis. The overriding sentiment in my town was, ‘Why did we go to war and lose all of these American boys? We just should have given Hitler his Jews.’ Now that wasn’t everybody, but it was some people, and they were quite vocal about it. I can’t, in my wildest imagination, think that all of France or all of Paris is antisemitic, but the people who go out in the street with their fists in the air and do Hitler salutes are certainly visible.”
For his next film project, Horovitz is working on a screenplay based on Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, his play about an old Jewish man (and retired high school teacher) and his younger housekeeper (and former student).
“I have had offers to direct other films,” Horovitz confided. “That doesn’t interest me. Really, I’m not trying to build a hot career. But I think I’ve got a couple more movies in me and I’d like to make a record of what I consider to be my best work onstage.”
Michael Fox is a writer and film critic living in San Francisco.
Temple Mount Western Wall on Shabbat. (photo by David Shankbone via en.wikipedia.org)
Robin and Jon Sirkin prepared to celebrate their son Eitan’s bar mitzvah in Jerusalem last weekend. There was a Dr. Who theme and an ice-cream bar planned for the reception at the synagogue after the services. As part of the celebrations, Robin Sirkin’s brother, sister, aunt and cousin were planning to make their first trip to Israel. She booked a trip to southern Israel and a meal at one of Jerusalem’s most expensive restaurants for 15 people.
Four weeks ago, just after the ceasefire was declared between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, they all canceled their trips. Sirkin, who moved to Israel from Cleveland three years ago with their four children, said she tried to convince her relatives that the ceasefire would hold, but to no avail.
“It’s devastating and heartbreaking and feels unsupportive,” Sirkin told the Media Line. “I think they’re overreacting, but we have a different sense of security here.
She said they held off telling their son that his relatives had canceled, hoping that as the big day he approached he would be more excited about the ceremony and the party, and less disappointed.
“He was a little sad, but he’s trying not to focus on that,” she said.
The Sirkins are not alone. Mark Feldman, CEO of Ziontours, said that the seven weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas over the summer has devastated tourism for the rest of the year, except for the Jewish holidays this month, and Christmas. Feldman said they lost about 2,000 bookings, and most of the time waived the cancellation fees.
“Tourism for the rest of 2014 simply doesn’t exist,” Feldman said. “Now we’re looking toward 2015, and hoping the government will begin to lay the seeds to allow tourism to begin to come back.”
Read more at themedialine.org.
World ORT’s Nechama Kenig, a Kadima Mada professional from Israel, was here in May with colleague Udi Gibory. (photo from ORT Vancouver)
On Wednesday, Oct. 22, ORT Vancouver hosts its Annual Card Party at Richmond Country Club. All funds are designated to the ORT Vancouver Smart Classroom Program.
Vancouver has been chosen by ORT Canada to introduce the ORT Israel-designed Smart Classrooms. This is a grassroots, first-of-its-kind joint venture in education between Israel and Vancouver, which is being locally implemented at King David High School and Richmond Jewish Day School.
This project provides significant educational enrichment to both primary and secondary students, preparing them for a future of technological advancements. The students have hands-on interaction with the Smart Classroom equipment and they work in collaboration with their teachers and their fellow classmates. An added benefit of the program is that students feel more positive about learning, and gain greater confidence and fulfillment from their educational experience.
The Oct. 22 ORT card party happens 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Admission is $50 (lunch included) and a partial tax receipt will be issued. Abba Brodt, principal at RJDS will offer a Smart Classroom update. For table reservations and information, contact Lois Gumprich, 604-731-0507, [email protected]; Beverly Pinsky, 604-538-9597 (until Oct. 20), [email protected]; or Mary Tobin, 604-276-9282, [email protected].