Thursday, January 31, 2013

Love Thy Neighbor

         Sometimes I encounter people at work who are a little odd and a lot annoying. They are actually really nice people, but I find them really strange. I have to hold myself back and make sure that I am nice to them. Its a real test . I am not proud to say that I struggle with this issue, but I do. It is hard to uphold, but so rewarding  to achieve.  At the end of the day I do not want to be the one who makes someone cry before they go to sleep at night . I do not want that on my head.
           I work with someone who is a bully . It is so awful to hear those she torments confide how she harasses them. The shame in their faces when they tell over the story makes me resolve  not to bully those who it would be so easy to take advantage of. I like to be able to sleep at night. Having a clear conscious goes a long way.
           Holding my tongue when it could be used sharply against some nerd gets easier with time. After awhile they get less annoying as I get used to them. Life and death are in the power of one's tongue. I would prefer to use my words  for life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


     I miss the days when a person could end a friendship by slowing drifting away from them. I miss when ending friendships did not have to be so official. Like the days before facebook. Now when you drift out of friendship from someone you have to wonder when it is okay  to remove them from your facebook friends list. Or is it ever okay? When they defriend you on facebook it feels bad, but you already weren't friends for a long time. So why does it even matter? Before facebook breaking up a friendship did not have to be so official.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Art of Speigelman

     I saw a documentary about Art Speigelman at the Jewish Film Festival on Monday. I read Maus years ago, and i was intrigued to see a documentary about this author. For better or for worse, this documentary brought Speigelman to life.
     Art Speigelman is the child of holocaust survivors who was born in Sweden after the war. He grew up reading Mad Magazine  and became a comic artist himself. When he wrote Maus , Steven Speilberg's An American Tail  was set to come out. Speigelman was not ready for the whole work to be published but he wanted to publish it before An American Tail. He did not want any confusion between  his book and Speilberg's film.  Speigelman / Speilberg and two Jewish stories about mice. Oy vey.
    When Speigelman is going through something emotionally he expresses it through his art. He wrote a book about 9/11 and the twin towers called In The Shadow of No Towers. 
     Speigelman designed  wacky packs and garbage pail kids cards. He also has drawn a lot of controversial New Yorker magazine covers.
     The Art of Spiegelman was not the most prolific documentary about its subject but it was an enjoyable journey down memory lane.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ofra Haza - The Wailing Wall (HaKotel)

     This is such a beautiful song. I just had to post it. One of my most favorite lines in the song is 'There are some men who have hearts of stone and there are some stones that have the heart of a person'  Even if you don't understand the words, Ofra Haza has the most beautiful voice so it is worth listening to.

The Power Of a Teacher

     I know of a teacher who recently passed away. He wasn't my teacher, but someone that I knew that  was a teacher and mentor to high school students. I looked online at one of the teacher rating sites and he was given high marks by students and former students. Some of these ratings went back as far as 2006.
     This teacher touched the lives of some kids who did not necessarily have parents or family members who cared. He cared and made an impression on their lives even  after high school.
     A person does not know the impact that they can make, just as one person. If only more would take this to heart.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Half Full

     Like most single people I have had my share of heart ache, but I am able to pick myself up and look for someone new . Though I am single I still have the hope of being part of a couple. I have some friends who feel that it may be better not to want to find a spouse , After all, if you don't have the desire to marry , then you won't be sad when it doesn't happen to you. Perhaps this is true, but this logic is not why the world was created. We may not achieve everything that we want to  but it doesn't mean we shouldn't try . That would be so depressing. I also know quite a few singles who were not so young who have married and are very happy. If they had given up they would still be single. We may want to be on a specific time clock, but G-d has other plans .

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Upper West Side Story" - The Groggers

    This is from 2011, but I just found it on you tube. Its kind of cute so I thought that I would post it. Enjoy.

Monday, January 21, 2013


     When people think of Jews they always think of Jews as comedians. The thing is for an Orthodox Jewish audience it is hard to get a comedian that is really funny and its not because so many comedians have rated R material. I think its because the Orthodox crowd is a tough audience. They don't really appreciate traditional Jewish jokes .Or at least this Orthodox Jew does not. I don't appreciate the typical Jewish jokes stereotype of being cheap, women as japs , or the over bearing Jewish mother jokes. When a comedian who is trying to entertain a frum crowd starts with the Jewish jokes they often bomb. We don't really care. Those jokes don't really touch us.
     There are a few comedians who do well at entertaining the Jewish Orthodox crowd. The brothers Stone and Stone are such comedians. They are foremost just very funny. They are not frum but they are just great with word play and get the crowd enough to do well .
     Another good comic for the frum crowd is Bill Lubel. He is not observant as far as I know, but he does well performing at Orthodox Jewish functions.  Though his act does have traditional Jewish jokes in it, its more self deprecating than Jewish.
     The foremost comedian in the Jewish Orthodox comedy circuit is Modi. Not only is he funny, but he gets where the audience is coming from. He is Israeli and went to orthodox yeshivas in the United States. I am not clear whether or not he grew up frum but he grew up in the hood and knows what jokes will work. Comedian Jackie Hoffman describes Modi as the Jimmy Hendrix of the synagogue comedy circuit. I have heard Modi perform. He is really funny. Modi was even in a short film at the Jewish film festival  a few years back called Waiting for Woody Allen .
       Jackie Hoffman was a comedian featured in the documentary film Making Trouble that was shown at the Jewish film festival in New York City a few years ago.It was not the same year as Modi's film. She actually went to yeshiva but is not frum now.  She does not usually do the Orthodox Jewish Comedy Circuit, then again the Orthodox groups don't usually let women perform. She had performed after Modi at a shul comedy night somewhere and she mentioned in an interview that she bombed because she performed after him since he was the Jimmy Hendrix of the synagogue comedy circuit. After hearing her say this it really made me think. The Orthodox Jewish comedy circuit is a really hard audience to please no matter how you slice it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Preview - Not by Bread Alone - Nalaga'at

     As a kid I was intrigued by the life of Helen Keller. She had two major disabilities and yet she became so iconic. Since then I would say that she is the only deaf and blind person I would hear about until yesterday when I saw the Israeli play Not By Bread Alone  . NBBA  was presented by the Na Lagaat drama troupe which is the only deaf-blind acting troupe in the world. A woman named Adina Tal created this acting troupe after teaching an acting class for deaf-blind. The experience changed her life She then created this acting troupe and a few plays with deaf-blind actors.
      Not By Bread Alone begins with the actors kneading bread and the whole show is done within the time it takes to bake bread. Everyone , even a deaf-blind person has hopes and dreams. No one can live on bread alone.
     Most of the actors were born deaf and later became blind. One of the actors was born blind but became deaf after having meningitis at the age of eleven. Each tells his/her story at the beginning of the play.
     Some speak words , others speak through a translator. It is incredible to see how they are real living breathing people despite their disabilities.
      During the show I was treated to some of the most amazing mime by one of the actors who had loved Charlie Chaplin movies when he still had vision. It was amazing mime for someone who is sighted, and  for someone who is not it is even more amazing.
      The music is really cool , the movement is well timed. It is so sad to me that these people are not able to see or hear how beautiful their play is.
      What is so unique about this play is how much it teaches the audience.There is a wedding scene and we see how the couple speak to each other by signing on their hands. It is a beautiful language to watch.
      At the end of the production everyone was invited to the stage to speak to the actors through interpreters. And to shake their hands. For a deaf blind person if you shake their hand when you meet them it is how they know you are really there.
      They also had real bread that they made during the play for anyone to partake of .
      In the playbill there are short bios of the actors. Some live with family members, some are married and have children. A few live in elder care environments because there is not any state funded programs for deaf-blind people in Israel. For those two actors it is so special that they were able to find this acting troupe. Of course it is a life line for all of them. It is so beautiful.
       The play makes me appreciate what I have, but it also makes me regard people who are deaf-blind as real live functional people as opposed to just someone to feel sorry for. This is the biggest success of this play. The Na Lagaat troupe performs more than just entertainment, they present their souls and all of us who experience their show have been treated to a most special experience.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kol Nidre

    My favorite film so far at the Jewish Film Festival this year is a film that has recently been restored by the Jewish Film Archive called Kol Nidre. 
     For some reason , many of these old films use Yom Kippur as a theme.
     Kol Nidre is about 3 American born Jewish school children in the about late 1920's or early 1930's . Two of the children - the girl and one of the boys are shomer shabbos. The second boy is not. The shomer shabbos boy is the son of a rabbi who follows in his father's footsteps. They grow up. One boy is a sleazy charmer and the other becomes a rabbi. The girl's parents want their daughter to marry the rabbi. She of course runs off with the good for nothing who of course turns out to be a good for nothing.
      The funny thing about the movie is that the child actors in the film speak Yiddish with strong American accents. The adults that play them when they are grown have authentic Eastern European accents.
       This film was made in 1939 which is of great significance. This movie is about assimilation of the young people without demonizing those who remain faithful to their religion. In the end the girl ends up with the handsome rabbi after being heartbroken from her gambling womanizing first husband. Of course the beginning her t'shuvah is when as a  beleaguered young wife  she walks by the shul with her baby on Yom Kippur eve. And the rest is melodrama.
        I love the fact that these old Yiddish films are being restored. They hold a key to a world that so many of us have never seen. It is the world of my grandparents and great grandparents. The world of the Eastern European Jewish immigrant. They were glad to live in the new world but they missed the old world. By the 1940's Jews were already part of the general society so there was not a need for these films. Sure there were holocaust survivors in the years after WWII but they had a different story than these Jews.
          Then again , many Yiddish actors died in the shoah. Two of the actors in the movie Kol Nidre were saved by doing this movie. It took awhile to film it so the actors did not end up returning to Europe as quickly as they had planned to. It was during this time that the war broke out. They were very fortunate to be able to be in New York at that time.
         There is still another film that I plan to see at the Jewish Film Festival. If it ends up being worthwhile I will write about it.                                                                  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


      The New York Jewish Film Festival is always walking the line between  being a festival with Jewish themes or just of festival of films made by Jews. When the films don't have such a Jewish center I wonder how this film festival is more different than any other Hollywood film festival. Hollywood is full of Jews. All films in the U.S. are sort of Jewish films. Or are they? After all, there still is anti-semitsm in America. A lot of films still try not to be too Jewish even when they are made by Jews.
      One evening of the festival this year was devoted to films by the Safdie brothers Benny and Josh. They are Syrian Jews who appear to be in their late twenties. They presented five film shorts and one feature film . The shorts were not especially Jewishly themed , but quite surreal and enjoyable. I especially liked the short called The Black Balloon. TBB is about a bouquet of hot air balloons at a children's party that are set free and the adventures of one of the balloons that was set free. It is kind of like an update of that old French film called  The Red Balloon which is about a little boy chasing a red hot air balloon in Paris in the late 1950's.
     The Safdie  brothers also presented a feature film about an immature divorced dad and his two little sons. The family is secular Jewish, although the only mention of Jewishness is their surname which is Sokol. The father portrayed is so immature and his persona is so real that one feels grateful someone like him is not your father. The brothers loosely based this story on their own upbringing which I assume is as kids of divorce . I hope that their real dad was more adult than the dad in the film. 
      I am torn. An Israeli secular film seems Jewish even if it does not mention religion. I guess Israeli films are about Jews living life in Israel so that has to be qualified as being Jewish enough for a film festival while a film about people happening to be Jewish in America does not always qualify as being a Jewish film
     The Safdie brothers are adorable and they drew a much younger than usual crowd to their films at the festival . Of course one question still remains...Are they single....?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bathroom Art

I admit that I am one to always look for an establishment with a working restroom. I don't usually
pay so much attention to the art on the restroom doors, but lately I have noticed some restroom doors with pizazz. Trader Joe's on 72nd  Street near Columbus Circle has cool figures on their restroom doors. Its kind of how I feel when I really have to go, and how I am floating on cloud nine when I actually find a place of relief.  The second set of  doors I have posted are on the restroom doors of Carlos and Gabby's in Midwood. They are the least stereotypical restroom doors for a Jewish establishment. Carlos and Gabby's is a chain of Mexican Kosher restaurants in the New York area. Their food is even cooler than the paintings on their restroom doors. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

New York Jewish Film Festival

     Its that time of the year again. Its the New York Jewish Film Festival at Walter Reade Cinema now through January 24. This year's selection do not seem to excite me as much  as some other years had, but I still have managed to find quite a few that I would like to see. I will write about them after I see them. Many of these films tend to show up in other venues so if you have missed them now fear not, they will show up somewhere else. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Jazz Singer

     The Jazz Singer was the first Hollywood feature film that had people speaking in it. It actually is  more of a silent movie interspersed with singing and some dialogue. The Jazz Singer  is kind of sad. Its the American Jew's assimilation's dream.
    A short synopsis of the film is in order. Jakie Rabinowitz is a cantor's son who lives on the lower east side in New York . The story starts out when he is about 10 years old in about 1910 and he is enticed by the jazz music in what looks like bars. He actually goes and sings in the these places. His father the chazan wants him to follow in his footsteps. He of course has other thoughts. Jakie leaves his parents and pursues his musical career. . Eventually a gentile woman named Mary helps him get his big break. He sends his mother news of his success. She is pleased his career is doing well, but not happy that he is dating a shiksa (the word used in the film). When his father turns 60 he visits his parents again. His father is displeased that he is  still OTD and tells him never to return.
     Years later Jakie aka Jack Robin is scheduled for a big show to premiere on Yom Kippur night. At the same time his father is very ill and is dreaming of his son being the chazan for  Kol Nidre at  his shul .First a family friend urges him to do Kol Nidre for his father in the shul. Next his   mother goes to get him from the theater and hears him sing. She realized that her son is meant to be a jazz singer. She still implores him to do Kol Nidre as his father is very ill and this is his dying wish. Eventually his duty to his family culminates with him doing Kol Nidre for his father's shul.
       In the end Jakie/Jack does perform Kol Nidre for his father's shul. He remembers it despite his many years OTD. This of course does not keep him on the derech. He continues to perform on stage. The film ends with him singing the song Mammy in black face.
       The parents always look old in this film even when they are young. They are always old because their ways are old, therefore they always look old.
      When I first saw this film I was in my early twenties and I was horrified.. It was such a glorification of assimilation. My grandmother who was about 15 when she saw the movie absolutely adored the movie and was so happy that I had seen it. Then again, the era The Jazzz Singer was the era my grandmother grew up in. By then there were a lot of Jewish immigrants who were trying to fit in with the general culture as well as retain their religious identity. Though all Jews experience this in the current era,it was different then. They were of the first to be Jewish in America after immigrating to the United States at the turn of the century.
     After watching this film years later I have a different take on it. The Jazz Singer is very much in the tradition of Yiddish films. In fact its almost "too Jewish". Jakie's parents are authentically orthodox Jews. The shul has a mechitzah. Since Jolson was Jewish and was born in Russia he sings Kol Nidre perfectly. I think that the OTD factor is sad, but there is also a lesson to be learned. Jakie's emotional connection to both of his parents were still drawing him to his Jewish identity. His mother's love kept him connected and his father's  teachings  were still ingrained in him otherwise he would not have returned to do Kol Nidre even that one last time. The black face scenes were there to show how Jakie was not really being himself when he was on stage. He was trying too hard to fit in and be someone else instead of be himself. At that time (1927) Jews did not want to flaunt their Jewishness due to so much anti-Semitism.
     I think that a lot can be learned from The Jazz Singer .  The saga of OTD is not a new one. Even if a family member does not observe Judaism as one would like them to , one must not abandon them. One needs to show them love but also try to make them understand why what one believes in (Judaism) is important . They may never return to full observance, but there is zero chance of their return if one cuts them off.
      You may not agree with me on my analysis of this movie, but you won't regret watching it if you haven't yet watched it. It is of great significance that a film on this topic was the first feature talking film.
      If The Jazz Singer disappoints you too much , be sure and watch the 1937 Yiddish Moishe Oysher film The Cantor's Son. It is the anti-Jazz singer movie about a cantor's son who comes to the United States to become a singer and ends up returning to Poland to marry his sweetheart and to return to his roots.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

This is 40

     I recently saw the movie This is 40. It was yet another movie with a Jewish husband and his shiksa wife. Paul Rudd was the husband and Leslie Mann was the wife. It was a Judd Apatow film and Leslie Mann is his wife in real life. Judd is Jewish, Leslie man is not. My thought is that religion was a non-issue to Apatow when he married Mann, and it wasn't because he was trying not to marry a Jewish woman. That said , Jewish women are often berated for being whiny and annoying. Well, Leslie Mann is both. Often what a Jewish man says he dislikes in a Jewish woman he finds in a gentile woman. I guess he would prefer a gentile woman to wine than a Jewish one. At least with  the show Will and Grace , another gentile male / Jewish woman pairing you knew that they would never marry. Will was going to stay gay.
     The plot of the movie was okay - couple turns 40 and feel old, but the Jewish husband /gentile wife cliche is tired or at least I am tired of it. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


     I am always busy at work but I hate being told what to do. When I first started at my job my supervisor would always tell me do this, do that in her annoying way. I quickly realized if I just did everything I needed to do I would not have to hear her nagging. Some people would rather sit around and wait for you to tell them what to do and they don't mind being hounded. I suppose that they still do less work because sometimes it becomes tired to have to tell someone what to do all the time. I hate being told what to do all of the time. I guess some don't mind if it means they can be lazier.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


     Happy Blogoversary to me! I have been writing this blog for five years now. Wow. I can't believe that I have had five years of thing to write! I would like to thank all of you who frequent this blog for reading . Happy 2013 and cheers to many more years of blogging.