Saturday, January 31, 2015

Point of View

     On the whole the Jewish film festival of New York attracts an over 60 crowd with a smattering of younger people depending on the film. Or at least this is my view after attending 6 shows this year at various times of the day and week. There was a lady sitting next to me at the 9pm show on Thursday night who thought that the crowd for the Jewish film festival is getting younger now that she is older and it made her feel old.  She felt that she was one of the younger ones years ago  and now that she is one of the older ones she feels that there are more younger attendees now. I hope she is correct but judging by the shows I have attended I know she is wrong. There are some younger attendees but not so many. Israeli films get a younger demographic. That's about it. I never mind being the oldest in audience at a Jewish film because seeing the younger people restores my faith in the continuum of Judaism.If only older people are interested in Jewish things this does not bode well for the future. The best is when there is a mix of ages in the audience. If something is really good it should be able to attract an  audience of various demographics.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

     Its seems the Jewish Film Festival in New York has gone on for weeks. Two weeks to be exact. This year every film I have seen has been a good one. So far, anyway. The last film I saw was on Sunday. It was called The Outrageous Sophie Tucker produced by Lloyd and Sue Ecker. I had heard of Sophie Tucker a few years ago when the Jewish film festival showed a film about Jewish women in comedy called Making Trouble.That  film  recounted  her life more than  her career. This film told more about her career than about her life.
       When I stood in line before the film I really did not know what to expect. There was a mix of old and young, but mostly older. An older woman in line in front of me commented how it was too bad that Sophie Tucker was not there to see how many people were there to see the documentary about her. The man behind me in line commented "Oh she knows, she knows" . Certainly a fun way to herald the showing of a documentary about a woman I knew little about except for the fact that she was an icon to many of a previous generation.
        Sophie Tucker was born in Russia in 1886, and moved with her family to Hartford , Connecticut when she was an infant. Her family was orthodox and was not happy when she decided to become a performer. Eventually they did accept her path, but it took awhile.
        Sophie Tucker first performed in black face because club owners thought she was too ugly to perform as she was. Eventually that went by the wayside. Like Al Jolson she performed Jazz music. She was the forerunner and mentor of Mae West. She performed in Barbara Walters' father's club. Barbara Walters was interviewed  in this film. It was wild. Tony Bennett was also interviewed as well as Mickey Rooney , Kaye Ballard and other old time celebrities.
          During the prohibition era the clubs were owned by mobsters so Sophie Tucker was friends with mobsters like Al Capone so she could perform. She was friends with seven presidents including John F. Kennedy .
           I am not so sure that I am into the old style music that Tucker performed, but her celebrity is quite impressive. She befriended her fans wherever she went. She kept scrapbooks of her career. There are more photos of her with celebrities that fictional Forrest Gump had. She portrayed a warmth onstage that her audience could not get enough of. She was written to as much as any glamour girl was by soldiers during World War II. One Jewish soldier from Brooklyn named Al brought a record of her singing Yiddishe Mama with him to the army and would continually play it to the annoyance of his fellow soldiers.His goal had been to play this record in the streets of Berlin when they got there. He died during combat before he was able to realize his dream, but his friends did this for him when they later reached Germany.
             Watching this documentary made me feel a little bit like someone who was late to the party because I only saw snippets of her career instead of full performances. It does however give me a glimpse into her celebrity and  make me want to read more about her . The Eckers, who produced the film have also written a book about her which is available on amazon which deals with her youth , to be followed by two more books. I plan on reading them. They also plan on making a broadway show about her which is cool because Sophie Tucker was all about stage presence.
            I always like a film that is informative as well as one that makes me want to pursue more knowledge about its subject. This film succeeds on both counts.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

     I saw the film GETT ; The Trial of Viviane Amsalem at the Jewish film festival in New York City.  What a film. The film deals with an Israeli couple. The woman wants a divorce but the husband still loves her and does not want to let go and give her a divorce. The case goes on for five years. Most of the time it does not take so long to have a get given but when it does  the bitter side  of frumkeit is exposed.

  The film was first released in Israel three months ago. Divorce courts in Israel are closed to the public so for many this is the first time they had seen these proceedings. The film does not say that there should not be a gett process it just presents the issues that come up often and that have prevented so many from being able to get divorced and move on with their lives.
      The film has made quite a stir in Israel, so much so that it will be shown on February 13 at a rabbinical convention.
      What I find so interesting about this film is that it was made by a brother and sister. It is a very interesting dynamic.I felt that the film was made out of love and hope and not as a way to slam Jewish law, more as a means for dialogue and resolution.  After the screening there was a question and answer session with Shlomi Elkabetz. It is the first film about this subject that has finally forced the rabbinical courts to take notice .. I think that this is due to the respectful way that the film has portrayed this delicate issue. Of course we do not yet what impact the film will actualize, but we can only hope.

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

        I watched this show yesterday and I was blown away by it. It would not be on TV these days for several reasons. Joan Rivers is interviewing a child psychologist and Jerry Lewis. Lewis is in favor of spanking his kids.  I  found an interesting snippet while watching this . Jerry Lewis who grew up performing in the Catskills and attending orthodox shuls says on live TV in 1968 that he prefers to wear a yamulke in shul while davening because he grew up going to orthdox shuls. He says this 4 minutes into this clip. This is all quite curious when one looks at the secular Jewish life that Lewis has lived. It just goes to show you that there always is that spark of a Jew within a person no matter how much one has strayed. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Go2Films- SHTISEL trailer

      Now that Srugim is over I have been looking for another good Israeli TV show. Enter Shtisel.  Shtisel can be viewed in Hebrew on you tube . It can also be seen on Monday nights in January and February at the the JCC of Manhattan.
      Shtisel is a show about a charedi family in Israel. The matriarch has passed away and the widower father lives with his single son . The father is trying to find his son a good shidduch and the son is more open minded about who he is looking for . He is interested in a divorced mother of one of his young students . The widower's daughter's husband has left her and their five kids, The widower's mother lives in a nursing home and watches The Bold and the Beautiful.
      The nice part of the show is that its not preachy about being religious nor is it pro rebellion. It is a simple story about a family with lots of drama. Its not the same as what Srugim was to me. Watching Srugim was like watching my life. Shitsel is however an amazing Israeli television show. It is unlike anything I have seen on American tv.
      Watch Shtisel on you tube, Watch Shtisel at a Jewish film festival or community center, or by the series online. The venue is not important. Just watch it. You won't regret it.

Monday, January 19, 2015


     I saw the movie BOYHOOD by Richard Linklater last night. All I can tell you is that I thought it was amazing. The story line is not the most unusual. A couple that has two children get divorced and this is the story of the twelve years that follow. The story is told in real time. It is not unlike Michael Apted's up series  where the same people are filmed every seven years. The difference being that BOYHOOD is fictional and The Up Series is a documentary.
     One really sees how the characters in BOYHOOD evolve physically as well as emotionally. Because the story is such a familiar one it is even more touching. The passage of time bonds you to the characters in a way theater makeup to age a character does not. I am not sure that the movie needed to be almost three hours to be effective, but its length does not detract from the message of the movie. It has such a potent one. If you haven't seen the movie and want to come to your own conclusions do not read any further. ......
     In my opinion  the message of the movie is that everyone does the best they can even if they are not perfect. I think that the point of the movie is to show it to the audience instead of preaching its message. When you see how these characters pan out through the years you see this. People are neither all good or all bad. At least in this story.
      I highly recommend this movie. And if you have not seen  the Up Series, please do. Its a really special series.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Jewish Film Festival 2015 - The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer

     Its that time of the year again. Its the Jewish Film Festival in Manhattan. I love it . This year promises to have some really good films. I saw my first film of the festival yesterday.The film was called 'The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer.'. It was a documentary about some of  the women who helped him translate his Yiddish written books into English.
     I had wondered about how Singer had thought up the many love stories that he wrote. Were they based  on his own experiences or were they merely the works of an imaginative mind? As the film unfolded I realized that the romantic escapades of his characters were based on his own life.
      Singer's translators were all female. In the film the women who were interviewed were interviewed  at their current ages. This made for some unintended humor. Sometimes they showed pictures of these women in their youth and often not.
        Half the fun of watching films at the  New York Film Festival is seeing who is in the audience. Two women who were in the film were in the audience. One of the women was interviewed in the film , the other was in a clip of the film. She sat three people away from me in the audience.
       The other joy was the question and answer session at the end of the film. It added an extra dimension to the film.
        If this film ever pops up elsewhere I would recommend it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Choosing Good Over Evil

    Watching this brings tears to my eyes. What a good person. It just goes to show you that even as it seems that evil has taken over the world there are still who choose to be kind and uphold justice. Of course we have to have faith in Hashem that good will prevail, but it is also heart warming to see that there are still those on earth who are kind and are doing the right thing. What a hero. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Gooey goodness in Jerusalem

     This looks so amazing. I would love to go visit this bakery or have someone I know go on a trip to Israel and bring me back some rugalach from this bakery.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Grass is Always Greener

     We always want what we can't or should not have. This adage could not be more true with regards to dating. If I had a nickel for every time a friend male or female has said to me that dating goyim is so much better than dating a Jew I would be rich. The story always goes that whatever it is that they dislike about Jewish men or Jewish women , a gentile man or woman is always kinder and more appreciative of them. I find it a shame that they feel that someone of their own religion would appreciate them more. My feeling has always been is that there are lovely people of every religion but if you want to lead a Jewish life , marry a Jewish spouse. It is sad though that I have heard so many Jewish men criticise  Jewish women so much that it makes me feel that the only people that I hear extolling the virtues of Jewish women are non-Jewish men. The world is really upside down. I work with a lot of non-Jewish women. Some are nice and some are not.
      Sometimes stereotypes ring true, but not always. If you want an excuse to do the opposite of what one should one can always find a loophole. In the end we are all people and sometimes what someone thinks they don't like about Jewish men or Jewish women is what they don't like about women or men in general, but they are too busy kvetching to realize it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy Birthday

      Its not my birthday today, but I thought I would write about birthdays in general. It is true that birthdays can be limiting in many ways but in other ways they make me wonder "now what?" When I reach a dreaded age I realize that its not really that different than being the age I was the day before and that there are still things to do and experience regardless of age. There may be things that I cannot do because of my age, but there are lots of things that I can do and I would prefer to focus on the positives. I  enjoy not having to worry about taking the SAT ever again, not wondering how tall I won't end up being as an adult and not wondering about so many firsts in life. Its exciting to do things for the first time but its also nice to have experienced life a little bit  and know what I like and dislike due to life experiences. Then again, , no matter how much in life one has already experienced there is always so much more to accomplish. 

Friday, January 2, 2015


          The other day when I exited a store much  to my chagrin I spied some flurries and said to the teenager leaving the store, "That's not snow is it ? " and the teen said to me " I wish!" Not the response I was expecting. I thought for a moment and then I realized it really was snow. Then I said, no , that's snow. At that point the teen jumped for joy. She had never seen snow before in her life and she ran to tell whoever else it was she was with. I felt so jaded. All I could think about was how much I wished
it wasn't snowing and anticipated a nasty commute home. There was a time when I found snow exciting. I remember the joy of a snow day off of school , of sledding and building snowmen. Sadly that life seems so long ago now that I work full time and snow has become more of a nuisance than a wonder.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Accidental Mentor

     I have  always admired people who mentor kids from less fortunate backgrounds but I never had the drive to do so myself. Over time I have realized that there is all sorts of mentoring. You can be an example to others without going out of one's way to do so. I work with younger people of diverse backgrounds. Work is sometimes the only thing that I really have in common with them, but somehow we all get along. By now I am old enough to realize that there is no need to pretend to be ultra -hip  just because I am of a different generation than some of my co-workers. No one expects me to be. I am comfortable being myself. I also do not really want to be part of their ridiculous shenanigans. We can all coexist quite harmoniously despite our differences. I can also be a beacon of nerdy normalcy for those who hail from more colorful backgrounds. I have not achieved many of my goals in life, but I am still a good example of a stable adult that some of my young co-workers do not always have in their lives. I can be an example by being their friend . This is not a responsibility that I have ever asked for but one that I know is important to try to do. Just because some people hail from weird home situations it does not mean that they can't change their luck and become boring respectable people.

Mini Times Square in the Bloomingdale's window

Happy 2015 from the windows at Bloomingdales in Manhattan.