February 2024

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Local Experts. Global Reach.

The Blumenfeld Group’s local renown and national respect stem from their unparalleled service, marketing, and expertise. Representing exceptional residential properties in San Diego, Joel and Paris stand as trusted authorities in the housing market. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned investor, we’re dedicated to finding the perfect match between property and vision. Align yourself with the most trusted experts in the housing market.

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Joel Blumenfeld

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REALTOR® 619.919.2488 paris.dixon@compass.com DRE 02114072

T H E B L U M E N F E L D G R O U P. C O M 8889 Rio San Diego Drive #200, San Diego, CA 92108

Compass is a real estate broker licensed by the State of California and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws. License Number 01991628. All material presented herein is intended for informational purposes only and is compiled from sources deemed reliable but has not been verified. Changes in price, condition, sale or withdrawal may be made without notice. No statement is made as to accuracy of any description. All measurements and square footages are approximate. This is not intended to solicit property already listed.

Move from “Can I retire?” to “How can I make the most of my retirement?” While most people understand the importance of saving for retirement, the concept of retirement income planning may be less familiar. Retirement income planning is a holistic process to help address key retirement decisions, effectively manage risks, and efficiently provide ongoing income to meet both the clients’ current and long-term retirement needs. We can support you by providing the guidance needed to make better, more informed choices to help provide a retirement as flexible as you are. As experienced advisors, we take the time to understand your unique goals to help create a plan tailored for you – one that will modify and change over time.

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Cherry Del Mundo Senior Client Associate 858-523-7945 Cherry.DelMundo@wfadvisors.com

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do YOUR part for

ISRAEL In this scary time for our Homeland, how can you do YOUR part to keep our brothers and sisters in Israel safe?

Add in the Mitzvos you do! Men, put Tefillin on daily. Women, light Shabbos candles on time. Everyone, give extra Tzedakah and LOVE YOUR FELLOW JEW!" We have Chabad Jewish Community Centers all over San Diego!

Scripps Ranch (Chabad S. Diego HQ), Bonita, Carlsbad North, Carmel Valley, Chula Vista, Coronado, Downtown, East County, Encinitas, Escondido, La Costa, La Jolla, N. County Inland, Oceanside/Vista, Pacific Beach, Penasquitos, Rancho S. Fe, SDSU, UCSD, University City 4 | SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM February 2024

When it turns out to be mBC … turn to Sharsheret. Support, education, and resources. Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer (mBC) is challenging on so many levels. Sharsheret is here for you with compassionate emotional support, educational materials, and connections to key lifestyle and medical resources. We are a nonprofit supporting Jewish women and families at high risk for or diagnosed with cancer. Turn to Sharsheret for support … and hope. This campaign is supported by

To learn more about Sharsheret resources, visit Sharsheret.org/mbc or scan the QR code.


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Mark Edelstein and Dr. Mark Moss EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Jacqueline Bull


Makayla Hoppe


Eileen Sondak


Donna D’Angelo


Ronnie Weisberg




Film Reviews & Features 24 ‘Monkey House’ Film Review 25 ‘The Story of Annette Zelman’ Film Review 26 Screenings Schedule 29

Prepping SDJA Alumni For College and Beyond

30 ‘The Goldman Case’ Film Review 33 ‘Remembering Gene Wilder’ Film Review 34 ‘Catskills’ Film Review 36 ‘Charlotte’ Film Review

Columns 11 From the Editor | Goodbye 16 Israeli Lifestyle | Ani Ma’amin: I Believe 18 Religion | Get Rich or Die Trying 20 Literature | Working-Class Genius 42 Advice | What Jewish History Forgot: Two Places Where Our Homeland Isn’t

Departments 12 What’s Up Online 14 Our Town 38 Online Offerings 40 Food



Emily Bartell, Linda Bennett, Leorah Gavidor, Emily Gould, Judith Fein (Senior Travel Correspondent), Paul Ross (Senior Travel Photographer), Patricia Goldblatt, Pat Launer, Sharon Rosen Leib, Andrea Simantov, Marnie Macauley, Rabbi Jacob Rupp, Rachel Eden, T.S. McNeil, Sybil Kaplan. ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES

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assistant@sdjewishjournal.com SDJJ is published monthly by San Diego Jewish Journal, LLC. Subscription rate is $24 for one year (12 issues). Send subscription requests to SDJJ, 7742 Herschel Ave., Suite H, La Jolla, CA 92037. The San Diego Jewish Journal is a free and open forum for the expression of opinions. The opinions expressed herein are solely the opinion of the author and in no way reflect the opinions of the publishers, staff or advertisers. The San Diego Jewish Journal is not responsible for the accuracy of any and all information within advertisements. The San Diego Jewish Journal reserves the right to edit all submitted materials, including press releases, letters to the editor, articles and calendar listings for brevity and clarity. The Journal is not legally responsible for the accuracy of calendar or directory listings, nor is it responsible for possible postponements, cancellations or changes in venue. Manuscripts, letters, documents and photographs sent to the Journal become the physical property of the publication, which is not responsible for the return or loss of such material. All contents ©2024 by San Diego Jewish Journal. The San Diego Jewish Journal is a member of the American Jewish Press Association and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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What keeps you up at night? From

“The inability to afford the basic cost of living. Struggling to pay for rent, education, and food.”

“I take care of two elderly parents. I worry about them all the time.” “I want to be more involved (especially with my child) and find myself doing less and less due to rising costs.”

“There are things that aren’t covered very well by Medicare that I just don’t have the money to pay for.”

Right now, 15% of Jewish community members in San Diego are struggling financially. The Center for Jewish Care is here for San Diego’s Jewish community. Today. Tomorrow. Always. The Center for Jewish Care is here to assist community members who are experiencing trauma, grief, or financial challenges. Our team of compassionate professionals are uniquely prepared to provide assistance that will help each person find stability, move forward, and thrive. The Center for Jewish Care offers: • Compassionate support in English and Hebrew • Spiritual support with Rabbi Susan Freeman • Mental health navigation and coping strategies • Care coordination for Holocaust Survivors and their families • Financial assistance You are not alone. Take the next step. (858) 637-3018 www.CenterForJewishCare.org Learn more about community study: sdjewishblueprint.org





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Goodbye I started my very first column as Editor-in-Chief with “Shalom” so I thought I would start my last one with “Goodbye.” My first issue as editor was May 2019 and if my math is correct this is my 69th issue. This time (6.5 years if you include my time as Assistant Editor) has been a gift. I’ve seen and learned and experienced a great deal from the work on my own articles and editing others. And before I get carried away on memory lane, I want to thank you the reader for your interest and attention without which none of that would have been possible. I have many personal highlights from my own articles like meeting Dr. Ruth and Tovah Feldshuh. I was energized by Team Maccabi San Diego. I was fascinated by the many Jewish educators I’ve gotten the chance to speak to. I’ve been inspired by countless playwrights, artists, musicians and directors. I was amazed by the passionate hard work from many do-gooders like the people at the JFS Food Pantry. Reading the work of our contributors also has many bright spots. We’ve had great travel pieces, delicious recipes, captivating reviews, poignant narratives and many, many thought-provoking columns about life. Even in the really difficult times like the Chabad of Poway shooting and the pandemic, I’ve seen time and time again how this community has shown up and did what needed to be done instead of despairing and hand wringing. Sitting behind a computer screen and sending the issues out in the world with just a by line does at times feel remote and removed; this has made meeting readers out in the wild both fun and surreal. I hope the magazine has inspired you to experience more of life, comforted you, made you think, given you more reason to be kind and brought you hope. Until we meet again...

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Gabriel Attal, France’s new prime minister, says his Jewish ancestry has shaped him by Ron Kampeas, JTA News France’s newest prime minister is getting attention for the two firsts he brings to the job: Gabriel Attal, at 34, is the country’s youngest ever prime minister and its first to be openly gay. He says another facet of his identity also shapes him: His late father’s Jewishness. Attal’s mother raised him and his siblings in her Russian Orthodox Christian faith. But his father, the film producer Yves Attal, was Jewish, born in Paris to Tunisian Jewish and European Jewish parents. A rising star in President Emmanuel Macron’s center-right Renaissance party, Attal was education minister until Tuesday morning, when Macron selected him to replace Elisabeth Borne as prime minister. Borne resigned over differences with Macron over immigration after Macron backed legislation that made it easier to deport foreigners in France.

A Chilean-Jewish artist strives to capture the entire Torah in massive murals by Jacob Kessler, JTA News Mauricio Avayu is working on his most ambitious project yet: capturing the key moments of the Torah in 40 large murals. “Forty is a sacred number in Judaism,” Avayu said. “Forty years in the desert, 40 days and nights to receive the Torah.” He has already finished the eight murals that comprise his depiction of Genesis, the Torah’s first book. The murals, two meters tall, were shipped two years ago to Taipei, where they will be permanently displayed at the Jeffrey D. Schwartz & Na Tang Jewish Taiwan Cultural Association.

The new Jews of Porto: How the Portuguese city built a Jewish community from scratch by Shira Li Bartov, JTA News Porto, the country’s second-largest city, whose cobblestone streets and twinkling Douro riverbank hum with tourists, was home to about 40 Jews in 2012. They couldn’t scrape together enough cash to hire a rabbi or seal a leak in the historic synagogue’s ceiling. But over the past decade, a community of roughly 1,000 Jews has materialized in Porto, thanks to a law that since 2015 has allowed the return of people whose ancestors were expelled during the Portuguese Inquisition. Jewish locals organized a campaign of expansive outreach online and in news advertisements around the world, and an entire community of immigrants heeded the call.

Continue reading these stories at sdjewishjournal.com

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h future is w e J t h ig r b Ensuring a eoplehood p h is w e J l ael & globa r Is h it w g Connectin s in need w e J r o f g in Car munity m o c h is w e t & secure J n ie il s e r a Building

This is Federation. For nearly 90 years, Jewish Federation has worked to ensure there will be a vibrant, caring, connected, and enduring Jewish community in San Diego, Israel, and around the world for generations to come. Your support is not just a donation; it is an investment in a thriving Jewish future. To learn more or make a gift, visit


Our Town by Linda Bennett and Emily Bartell

If you are curious about the growth of our San Diego Jewish community, the “San Diego Jewish Community Study: A Blueprint for Our Future,” is a full report on the San Diego Jewish Community. Understanding more about our identities, attitudes, needs and engagement levels helps to maintain a thriving community. You can download a full report at sdjewishblueprint.org. We were so pleased to attend the Dec. 3 Community Conversation and Reception at the LFJCC. Others we ran into were Andy Mayer, Stan Caplan, Marsha Sutton, Hon. Susan Davis, Guri Stark, July Galper, Sonia Israel, Larry Katz, David Wax, Susan & Dick Braun, Robert Singer and Janet & Larry Acheatel. Mazel Tov to Scott and Elena Levens Craig on the engagement of their son Daniel Levens-Lowery to Dharti Tarapara. Mazel Tov to Orly Rose Lefkowitz on becoming a Bat Mitzvah on Dec. 23 at Congregation Beth Am. Orly’s parents Emma & Eric Lefkowitz along with grandparents Kanice & Andrew Barron and Sheila Lefkowitz were beaming with pride as well as older siblings Maytal and Avi. A lovely evening celebration at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla Aventine topped off this beautiful day. Mazel Tov to Ron & Lupita Cohn on the birth of their first grandchild Savannah Sidhu. Proud parents are Katie and Curran Sidhu. Mazel Tov to Merav Blum & Gabe Skop on the birth of their daughter, Roni Maayan, born on Dec. 16, 2023,

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in Israel. Roni Maayan was named after her great grandfather, Ron Fox (z”l) and, in memory of Merav’s cousin Marla Ann Bennett (z”l). Proud grandparents are Jody & Brian Blum. Her great-grandmother is Carol Fox. *This marks at least the 26th baby naming in honor of our beloved, Marla Ann Bennett(z”l).

Yom Huledets Sameach to... Norma Dreifuss celebrating her 90th birthday. Ilene Silvers celebrating her 87th birthday. Harvey Korfin celebrating his 84th birthday. Carol Korfin celebrating her 82nd birthday. Ella Cashuk celebrating her 82nd birthday.


Wedding Anniversaries

with infinite love & happiness, Mazel Tov to… Norma & Werner Dreifuss, 69 years. Iris & Matt Strauss, 69 years. Barbara & Ralph Levy, 65 years. Susan & George Kaplan, 62 years. Erin & Richard Savitch, 58 years. Nancy & David Amiel, 57 years. Ann & Alan Chaitin, 56 years. Judith & Henry Krumholz, 56 years. Susan & Rabbi Jonathan Stein, 55 years. Lorraine & Stephen Enoch, 54 years.

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LIVING ON THE FRONT PAGE by Andrea Simantov | andreasimantov@gmail.com

Ani Ma’amin: I Believe It was another 4:04 Sunday wake-up that offered no hope of returning to bed. And I hadn’t even slept that much on Shabbos, certainly not enough of a nap to disrupt my R.E.M. reverie that night. It was the third rainy morning in a row, doing little to elevate my battered spirits. The husband awakened, bleary-eyed, morose, sipping coffee together with me on our glassenclosed balcony before his morning prayers. We monitored the drizzle and I surreptitiously noted that his eye-bags matched mine after a night of tossing and turning as well. My first thoughts went to our soldiers. The entire Shabbos had been wet and bitter cold. The electricity blew just before I had lit my ten candles, eight for my family and an additional two for captive/missing women who are unable to usher in the Sabbath for themselves. How are our soldiers faring in the cold? The ground is wet, the sky so bleak and I’m not certain my son has gloves, a scarf or a woolen hat. He likes to have less because that means less weight on his back. Other mothers think the same because their babies and mine are one. My bed is warm, the house is toasty — despite the rawness of the weather — and I woke up at 4:04 because maybe my son is cold. Sometimes I need a reminder to breathe. Several years ago, I read a story about a young Ethiopian girl who had

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arrived in Israel with an older brother, married sister and others who were able to make the trek from Gondar to the Sudan, where they were picked up and flown home to Israel. This young girl was placed in a Zionist youth village where she gently acclimated to Israeli culture, language and safety. But she refused to sleep in a bed. Regardless of whatever the compassionate counselors told her, no matter how much they cajoled or attempted to reason, she stubbornly slept upon a folded, thin blanket placed on the hard, cold tile floor of the dormitory. “When my mother can sleep in a bed, so will I.” The story had a happy ending and who doesn’t love that? The mother arrived a short time later and after reunification, for this family, a mattress served as a symbol of wholeness shalaymut. Shalaymut also refers to “perfection” and “completion.” When I can’t sleep, need more air, or can barely scramble an egg for dinner in lieu of a more robust meal, it is comforting to know that others are sharing my destiny. Unity is always a good thing and dwelling in Israel during these most desperate days cements our stalwart family in ways that I cannot imagine

experiencing while living in Galut — the Diaspora. Every day myriad calls go out via the social network looking for apartments in which to house evacuees; able-bodied men, women and teens to pick fruit; grandmas to bake challahs; and requests for donations of clothing, food, jobs, therapies, friendship. The communal response to these appeals is staggering. The blessing of sitting in the front row of Jewish peoplehood and history is humbling, especially when a portion of the populace is frightened, wavering in conviction and needs bolstering. But by virtue of emunah shelemah — full faith — we will reign victorious. Am Yisrael Chai. A


Nefesh B’Nefesh Closes 2023 with 720 North American Olim Amidst Iron Swords War The last week of 2023 alone brought 200 new Olim, with nearly 4,200 requests to open Aliyah files in the last quarter, an increase of over 120% compared to 2022 JERUSALEM, DECEMBER 31, 2022 —

Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA, has recorded 720 newcomers who arrived in Israel since the onset of the war, with 200 of them landing just in the last week of 2023. “The significant number of new immigrants to Israel during the Iron Swords War and the tremendous increase in requests to open Aliyah files are an important demonstration of Zionism and a beautiful expression of solidarity with the country, providing us with a much-needed boost to our morale,” said Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Ofir Sofer. “Together with our partners at The Jewish Agency for Israel and Nefesh B’Nefesh, we are working to improve the absorption process by easing the bureaucracy as well as helping with Hebrew learning and job placements. We believe that full integration of the newcomers will contribute greatly to Israeli society and economic growth.” “Aliyah in these times is another expression of the partnership of world

Jewry in building, and now in rebuilding, the State of Israel,” said Chairman of The Jewish Agency, Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog. “I embrace each and every one of the Olim who are building their lives in Israel these days and call on all of Israel to receive them with love and open arms. The Jewish Agency will continue to work, together with its partners in Israel

and around the world, to strengthen the resilience of Israel’s society as a whole.” In addition, 231 young individuals who made Aliyah in 2023 will serve as lone soldiers in the IDF as part of the FIDF-Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, and 35 young women will be lone national service volunteers with the “Ori” Program.

About Nefesh B’Nefesh (www.nbn.org.il): Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA, strives to facilitate and celebrate Aliyah, advocate for Olim, and education towards a stronger connection to Israel. By minimizing financial, professional, logistical, and social obstacles, Olim are able to actualize their dreams and continue building a stronger Israel. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its over 75,000 new immigrants have ensured that 90% have remained in Israel.

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POST-POLITICAL by Rabbi Jacob Rupp | rabbirupp@gmail.com

Get Rich or Die Trying Are we really choosing to live the life we are? Whose life are you living? Isn’t it true that each of the people in your life, where you live, your vocation are the products of your nature or nurture? As much as we might seem to be on a random cosmic slingshot through the universe, most of what we experience is the result of our input. Perhaps you’ll ask, “What about the big picture stuff?” Economic considerations, wars, famine, etc. Certainly there was “luck” or divine providence in Bill Gates learning about computers right at their infancy. Are you primed for an opportunity should it arise? To paraphrase the great Viktor Frankl: It isn’t the events that change us, but rather how we respond to them that makes or breaks us. So if we are actually living a life we’ve chosen for better or worse, what kind of life do we want and how do we influence it? Some people don’t look at what is practical. They look at what is possible. And for that, since they don’t know, they have to reach outside of themselves. They have to go into the world of the fantastic and that which is beyond the physical. The real change makers of society, in every field of achievement from sport to science, from business to spirituality never considered if they could do it, they just went for it. It’s the calling. The desire that, as unrealistic as it might seem, beckons us.

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Some people don’t look at what is practical. They look at what is possible. Everyone could see the burning bush. It took a Moshe to turn towards it, to listen to G-d speaking to Him and to allow his life to unfold far beyond his humble human beginnings. Tapping into the impossible for these types of people isn’t a choice; it’s the only way. The alternative of living day-to-day just wouldn’t suffice. I was two years into college when 50 Cent’s breakout album took over the airwaves. Besides being an amazing album, the concept of “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” was a call to action for me. Sure I wanted to be rich. I wanted to be fit and attractive. I wanted to be spiritually astute. But I was so far away. I grew up in a middle-class family. I was raised with the societally safe framework of work hard, go to college, get a good job with benefits. I was obese; at my peak I was 268 lbs on a 5 foot 6 inches frame and size 48 waist. I’d get pains in my chest when I walked up stairs and I felt incredibly

unattractive. I was good at faking my way through things, but I couldn’t fake my way through not being able to read Hebrew (a necessary stepping stone on my path to becoming a rabbi). So what was I supposed to do? Get rich or die trying. Meaning when it comes to what you really want in life, you have to be willing to die for it. Crying by yourself, cursing yourself, being broke, letting your family down, feeling outcast, breaking hearts, having those who you are closest to tell you that you’ve let them down or they can’t trust you — none of these things will kill you, but will feel like death. And that is the price you have to pay sometimes to have what you want if you quest for the unrealistic. At the end of the day, see it as three paths: a life of unconscious creation, a reasonable life, and a life where you can actually create whatever you want but will cost you comfort, sanity and familiarity. When Abraham was challenged by G-d at the beginning of his hero’s journey, he was promised everything: fame, money, and a legacy. His test was to just go where G-d told him, not where he could see. And it nearly cost Abraham everything — including his life multiple times. But in the process he became Abraham: the man that stood across the river from his entire world and built something new. And that legacy is now ours: do we want to remain in our father’s home or wander beyond? A

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Working-Class Genius If all the world’s a stage, as the Bard would have it, then it falls to some to play the part of the chorus. They stand just on the fringes of the actions of the main players to get a clearer view on things and comment where needed to make sure the greater absurdities are clearly seen (like the emperor’s new suit). H.L. Mencken was one such voice of reason as was Neil Simon — though with a good bit more overt mirth than many of his contemporaries. One of the more recent to take on the darker and dumber side of American life is David Mamet. Landing on the world like a bomb in 1947, Mamet grew up in a family of leftwing intellectuals. His mother, Lenore, was a teacher and his father, Bernard, was a labor attorney, each fighting the power in their own way, during the Second Red Scare led by Joe McCarthy, when being a Communist, which they both were, was enough to spark a senate investigation. Mamet would later joke that he was “a red diaper baby.” He attended the Francis W. Parker School and later Goddard College, graduating with a B.A. in English literature in 1969, though he would later say: “My alma mater is the Chicago Public Library. I got what little educational foundation I got in the thirdfloor reading room, under the tutelage of a Coca-Cola sign.” The farthest thing from a “limousine Liberal” Mamet stayed true to his working-class roots, working service

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There are no good guys or bad guys in his fiction, at least not in terms of the interesting ones who always come out as a slightly different shade of gray.

and blue-collar jobs such as a busboy and cab driver. His first breath in what would be his later career as a playwright, screenwriter and essayist came from a chance meeting with Robert Sickinger, a theater director and owner of the Hall House Theater in North Chicago. His first major hit was the original stage version of “American Buffalo” performed off-Broadway in 1977 which was later made into a feature film version in 1996 with Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz. His biggest theatrical success was the stage version of “Glengarry Glen Ross” which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984. It was also adapted into his most successful film in 1992. By far Mamet’s most famous period was a string of hits in the 1980s and 1990s

including the historical pieces “The Untouchables” (1982), “Hoffa” (1992) and ending with “Wag the Dog” (1997), a biting satire of political manipulation, especially as practiced by Republicans. In addition to his stage and screen work, Mamet has had a long, if less distinguished, career in prose writing. As diverse as he is insightful, Mamet’s bibliography runs the gamut from the expected books on style, particularly in terms of theater, to essays, memoirs of the industry and novels. Starting after his break into theater and film, his first publication, “Writing In Restaurants” (1987) has one of the most literal titles, other than perhaps “Directing Film” (1991), each of the essays particularly tackling issues of playwriting technique. A bit bolder is his follow-up “Some Freaks” (1989) which covered the topics of American Judaism, the art world and classical music. One of his most impactful and controversial works was a 2006 collection with the eye-catching title “The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews.” Were Mamet not Jewish himself, his grandparents were Jews from Poland, the book would have gained considerable ire, but even this face was not enough to spare him some backlash, not with a dedication that includes lines like “To the Jews... whose favorite Jew is Anne Frank,” and “The world hates Jews...The world hates you.” Then again Mamet always was a bit continues on next page >>

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Literature continued of a cynic, as his work clearly shows. There are no good guys or bad guys in his fiction, at least not in terms of the interesting ones who always come out as a slightly different shade of gray. The book that immediately followed “Wicked Son,” again following the business of movie making, carried the whimsical and bleak title, “Bambi vs. Godzilla.” The name is an intentional play on David versus Goliath, but with a very different power balance and includes chapters with titles like “Victims and Villains,” “A Dark Comedy,” “An American Tragedy” and no doubt channeling his fire-brand parents, “An Understanding and a Misunderstanding of the Repressive Mechanism.” Mamet’s novels are much fewer, compared to his plays, and certainly his nonfiction, which has taken up more pages overall than anything else he has ever tried. In addition to having a view of humanity that is both clear as well as pretty cynical, the man does love to pontificate, for good more often than ill. A

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Shevat – Adar I, 5784 SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM | 23


A Writer’s Stories Spin Out of Control in ‘The Monkey House’ by Michael Fox The preeminent Israeli writer-director Avi Nesher begins his latest comedy of (bad) manners, “The Monkey House,” with the familiar tagline “inspired by a true story.” Legal implications aside, those five words typically encompass a lot of ground from “truth is stranger than fiction” to “liberties were taken.” In this case, it provides us with a helpful handhold as this literary world shaggydog story winds and twists and morphs from character study to cultural satire to movie romance. “The Monkey House” is ostensibly about the immortality that artists aspire to and the lengths they are willing to go to attain it. Given that there’s a novelist at its center, the film is more entertainingly about the thin gray line between stories and lies. At the turn of the 1990s, Amitay Kariv (played by standup comic Adar Miller) is a middle-aged writer of little repute

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whose sad-sack existence is brightened somewhat when his longtime friend (and secret crush) Tamar (Shani Cohen) is suddenly widowed. Amitay is filled with purpose at the moment: An Israeli PhD student studying in Colorado is writing her dissertation on his work and has an offer to publish it as a book. In need of a researcher to assemble materials for Gal’s impending visit — and subsequently to impersonate her when unexpected health issues preclude travel — Amitay curiously hires the non-intellectual Margo (Suzanna Papian). “The Monkey House” turns into “Pygmalion” for a few minutes, with Amitay supervising Margo’s makeover from New Wave party girl to buttoneddown academic. Amitay, who possesses a good deal of self-awareness, informed us at the outset of the film that novelists harbor the illusion they can control the characters

they create. (And that writers often extend that belief to people in their lives.) “The Monkey House” takes a flying leap when fate — in conjunction with Margo’s rebellious nature and free will — derails Amitay’s imagined scenario. Every character in the film, including the Italian movie director whose path Margo crosses, proves to be a liar, an embellisher or a hider of secrets. Unfortunately, “The Monkey House” reveals the costs of all those concealments in a way that resolves into a moral—trust and confide in those who love you—rather than leaving a poignant, painful mess. Ultimately, this is the payoff of “inspired by a true story.” We might not care as much about the characters, or be inclined to cut them as much slack, if “The Monkey House” was a work of fiction. A


‘The Story of Annette Zelman’ Tells a Holocaust Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers by Makayla Hoppe Annette Zelman loved art. She attended the famous Academie des Beaux Arts in Paris and spent her afternoons at the Café de Flore. The café was filled with surrealists, painters, philosophers and poets. One poet stood out: Jean Jausion. She was Jewish, he was Catholic, and they met in 1942. Annette fell for Jean Jausion and the two were swept up in a young love.“The Story of Annette Zelman” tells the true story of these “Romeo and Juliet” star-crossed lovers in Nazi-occupied Paris. The French film by director Philippe Le Guay is a terrifying and heart-wrenching look into the Holocaust. Annette and Jean want to get married. When it becomes apparent that the Zelman family is no longer safe, the other members of the family leave for the Free Zone, but Annette and Jean believe marriage will be enough to protect Annette in Paris. Jean’s father goes to the Gestapo in an attempt to scare the two

kids from getting married, but what he has done is sealed their fate. The film is a wonderfully presented period piece that feels rich in its world, costuming and atmosphere. There are also clear depictions of the differences in class and how those classes responded to the Nazis infiltrating Paris. Annette, played by Ilona Bachelier, and Jean, played by Vassili Schneider, are so naïve about the surrounding situation that it is painful to watch. You find yourself really rooting for these kids, wanting them to succeed and find happiness together, only to know deep down that just like “Romeo and Juliet” this story, too, ends in tragedy. All the performances — from the two main leads to the smaller supporting characters — feel earnest and genuine. The cinematography and natural dialogue make you feel like you’re there with these people, feeling their fear and remorse.

The film features a wonderful turn when suddenly it cuts to today, and we see Michèle Zelman, Annette’s sister, talking about their life during that time. It’s a touching way to remind the audience that this is all based on a true story and the family is still alive to tell it. At only 90 minutes, the film is clean and succinct. It moves at a steady pace without feeling sluggish at any point. There is a good mix of romance, drama, fear and sadness that keeps it unpredictable. This could have been a story lost to time, but instead, it is a haunting look at how individual people were affected by the rise of Nazism and didn’t fully understand the danger before it was too late. “The Story of Annette Zelman” presents the story with respect and care, helping to share the messages of love and warning from another time. A

Shevat – Adar I, 5784 SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM | 25

34th Annual San Diego International

Jewish Film Festival Mon


10:00 a.m. GENERATION 1.5 Documentary Free public screening GOLDA’S WAR DIARIES









6:45 p.m. REMEMBERING GENE WILDER Documentary



12:00 p.m. LESS THAN KOSHER Narrative and SHIVA BABY Narrative

1:00 p.m. 5TH PARAGRAPH Documentary and GROSSMAN Documentary 4:00 p.m. CHILDREN OF NOBODY Narrative 7:00 p.m. LETTER TO A PIG, REQUIEM FOR A WHALE, WHITE LIE Short films Free public screening Murray Galinson San DiegoIsrael Initiative (MGSDII) Emerging Israeli Filmmaker Artist in Residence




10:00 a.m. MY FATHER’S SECRETS Animation Free public screening 1:00 p.m. PROPHETS OF CHANGE Documentary

4:00 p.m. THE BURNING COLD Narrative

4:00 p.m. THE GOLDMAN CASE Narrative

7:00 p.m. THE MONKEY HOUSE Narrative

7:00 p.m. SHOSHANA Narrative

26 | SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM February 2024


ON-SITE | JAN 31–FEB 11 David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre Schedule below

ON-DEMAND | FEB 11 – 18 2024sdijff.eventive.org




10:00 a.m. THE KEN Documentary Free public screening and HOPE WITHOUT BOUNDARIES Documentary Free public screening 1:00 p.m. CHARLOTTE Animation 4:00 p.m. STORY OF ANNETTE ZELMAN Narrative 7:00 p.m. THE CATSKILLS Documentary


7:00 p.m. HOME Narrative




10:00 a.m. CHILDREN OF PEACE Documentary Free public screening 1:00 p.m. ISRAEL SWINGS FOR GOLD Documentary



10:00 a.m. WOMEN OF VALOR Documentary 1:00 p.m. MARTHA LIEBERMANN — A STOLEN LIFE Narrative




10:00 a.m. REMEMBERING GENE WILDER Documentary 12:30 p.m. THE FRISCO KID Narrative

4:00 p.m. THE SHADOW OF THE DAY Narrative 7:00 p.m. BELLA! Documentary THE SHADOW OF THE DAY


Shevat – Adar I, 5784 SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM | 27

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Prepping SDJA Alumni For College and Beyond by Makayla Hoppe College applications can often be the most stressful part of being a high school senior. Choosing where to go next in life is never easy, and deciding where to live and which career to go into can depend on what and where you study. San Diego Jewish Academy has implemented a well-thought-out college preparation program that students have found integral to their acceptance and time in university. The Maimonides Upper School (MUS) has a college counselor who works with 11th and 12th graders to help them achieve success at the college of their choosing. The counselor, Mr. Kahn, has been at SDJA for over 20 years and works with

“I think that really helped me to understand...what’s best for me? What’s best for my interests? What am I comfortable with? Not just straightforward GPA and numbers.”

students one-on-one to find what they look for in a university. Kayla Swartzberg is a third-year communications major at UCSD from SDJA. “The year before we applied, there was a special class with Mr. Khan about journaling and self-reflecting,” she said. “I think that really helped me to understand...what’s best for me? What’s best for my interests? What am I comfortable with? Where am I going to find friends? Where am I happy — not just straightforward GPA and numbers. it just brought things more into consideration leading up to the actual application process. We studied, continues on page 31 >>

Shevat – Adar I, 5784 SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM | 29


The Holocaust, French Resistance and Colonialism Shadow ‘The Goldman Case’ by Michael Fox Before we meet the Jewish defendant in “The Goldman Case,” we learn that he is a brilliant, articulate nightmare — from his frustrated Jewish lawyers. “The Goldman Case,” a mesmerizing French courtroom drama based on actual events that premiered at Cannes last year and opened in French theaters in the fall, screens Feb. 6 (and online Feb. 11-18) in the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival. In the spring of 1976, the notorious left-wing loner Pierre Goldman has won a new trial. Previously convicted of the 1969 shooting of two Paris pharmacists in addition to three other armed robberies, Goldman copped to the latter crimes but denied any connection to the murders.

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His best-selling prison memoir, “Souvenirs obscurs d’un juif polonais né en France” (“Obscure Memories of a Polish Jew Born in France”) was embraced by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Signoret and various factions of the vocal left — represented in the courtroom on the first day. But Goldman (Arieh Worthalter) wanted to dismiss his principal counsel before the sensational re-trial began. He rejects the redoubtable Georges Kiejman (Arthur Harari) as an “armchair Jew,” that is, someone who doesn’t publicly acknowledge his identity. Fortunately for Goldman, Kiejman doesn’t abandon him. A guilty verdict means the death penalty, so Kiejman is deeply invested in (and the viewer is rooting for)

Goldman’s innocence. Veteran writerdirector Cédric Kahn skillfully employs the familiar courtroom-movie approach of interrogating the credibility of the witnesses like the cop shot trying to stop the killer, the young woman who the perp bumped into fleeing the scene and Goldman’s erstwhile friend and alibi Joel Lautric. Goldman, however, proves unlikable if charismatic. Impulsive and paranoid, he is single-minded in his demand that the judge and jury focus solely on the facts of the incident (rather than Goldman’s family background, psychologically unstable adolescence and forays to Venezuela and Cuba) and uncontrollable, arguing with the continues on next page >>

Film: The Goldman Case continued prosecutor and attacking the police. Except for the opening sequence in Kiejman’s office and a couple brief scenes in Goldman’s holding cell, the film unfolds entirely in the courtroom. Fortunately, the French justice system allows a more intense, back-and-forth style of crossexamination and debate than do U.S. courts (even the melodramatic ones of “Law and Order”), infusing the film with anger, wit and pace. Fascinatingly, as the trial progresses we begin to see the fate of one deeply troubled man in a much bigger context: lingering French guilt for collaborating

with the Nazis in the Final Solution and respect for the Jews (such as Goldman’s father) who joined the Resistance. “The Goldman Case” is a subtle commentary on the place and perception of Jews in postwar French society, as well as that of Africans and Arabs in the wake of the Algerian War. To be sure, the film is not speaking solely about mid-1970s France. It isn’t a coincidence that Kahn made this impassioned movie during a period when anti-Semitism in France was increasing. Nor is it random chance that “The Goldman Case” follows “J’accuse” (“An

Officer and a Spy”), Roman Polanski’s acclaimed 2019 film (unseen in the U.S., to my knowledge) about the wrongfully convicted French Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus. Beautifully acted and stunningly edited, “The Goldman Case” succeeds completely as taut entertainment. The film’s probing of the complicated subject of Jewish identity in France, however, is just as compelling. A

SDJA Alumnni continued we looked at the different stats, we had personal meetings with Mr. Khan, with our parents and without our parents, so I felt like all in all, they did prepare me.” Head of School Zvi Weiss explained that the Academy aimed to teach students about the importance of college preparation and application, but not cause them anxiety about it. “We want the kids to be able to really get their greatest fulfillment out of their high school years,” he said. In addition to test preparation and application help, SDJA has classes like art and design available to students that expand upon interests and career possibilities that would lead to a college major that they enjoy. Eduardo Jinich is a senior at USC, majoring in graphic design. He found a love of digital art early on and was able to take art and design classes at SDJA, which helped build his skillset and eventually led to a college degree. “I took AP studio art, and my project—my portfolio — I worked on that semester, it was purely digital,” Eduardo said. “So that helped a ton and gave me a lot of space and time to work on stuff. In my yearbook class, I was the head of design. [I worked on] all the layouts,

“I did a lot of extracurriculars. I think that’s really where they helped me to thrive — because of all the opportunities. and it was a completely different type of design. It was a lot of work on their cover and the layouts and everything. And so that definitely pushed me towards doing more design.” SDJA also has a wide spread of extracurriculars like sports that have helped students find their way to college. Kayla explained that the clubs and after-school activities she participated in helped her application essays for UCSD. “I did a lot of extracurriculars,” she said. “I think that’s really where they helped me to thrive — because of all the opportunities...The theater was amazing...We got to perform for the Seacrest Retirement Center, which

I always remember was a fun time. They just gave you a lot of leadership roles and leeway. I was able to write scripts if I wanted to, perform them and submit them. So I was really into theater, and then cross country and track, which was fun...All good things outside of school; it was really nice to be able to explore my passions and thrive in those environments.” Many high schools will point students toward universities that are local and easy to get into, or prestigious and difficult to achieve. There is no right answer, and SDJA prides itself on offering one-on-one discussions and activities that cater to each individual student. Kayla said that her college choices changed when she started to think more about Jewish life on campus, the weather and the distance from home. Eduardo figured he would go to the university that his siblings studied at, but SDJA helped him realize another path that suited him better. Whether it’s a college degree or another path in life, SDJA has counseling and preparation for every outcome, and the alumni feel that they are wellprepared for entering adulthood. A

Shevat – Adar I, 5784 SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM | 31


Point Loma Playhouse presents the West Coast premiere of “N” A thought-provoking comedy by award-winning playwright David Alex that changes what you think about being a liberal or a conservative. Mrs. Page is a passionate, politically conservative, agoraphobic African American woman with a strong belief in astrology and the stock market. Eddy, an out of work actor and her caregiver, spouts the usual liberal jargon of a young white male oblivious of his privilege. He finally gets a career launching role, but he must use the N-word. Will he? Funny, poignant, and insightful, N is a wake-up call for the over-woke and under-woke. Starring Portia Gregory, Tyler VanCamp and Nate B. Smith. Directed by Milena Phillips and Dori Salois. N opens February 23 and runs through March 10. Friday 8pm | Saturday 2pm and 8pm | Sunday 3pm Point Loma Playhouse is located at 3035 Talbot Street, San Diego 92106. For tickets and info: www.pointlomaplayhouse.com

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A Little Bit Wilder by Makayla Hoppe When we are lucky, Hollywood finds an actor who dedicates their entire career to bringing audiences pure joy. Gene Wilder was one of those great actors, and his films — from “Willy Wonka” to “Young Frankenstein”— have stood the test of time. “Remembering Gene Wilder” tells Wilder’s life story from the man himself. The film features narration from Wilder’s autobiography audiobook alongside film clips and interviews with close friends and family. Born Jerome Silberman in 1933, Wilder changed his name because he felt that he could be “just a little bit wilder.” He found the stage during his adolescence and made his way to Broadway soon after. A performance in “Mother Courage and Her Children” starring Anne Bancroft would eventually lead to meeting the one and only Mel Brooks. Bancroft thought that Wilder would be a good fit for Brooks’ upcoming

film, “The Producers.” His performance garnered an Academy Award nomination. Wilder took to comedy early on and knew it would fuel him for the rest of his life. Much of the film focuses on Wilder’s working relationship and friendship with Brooks, including interviews with Brooks as he looked back on their great films together. The film explores his comedy partnership with Richard Pryor as well. An interview with Pryor’s daughter showcases all the films they worked together on through the 70s and 80s. Despite their great comedic chemistry together, Wilder and Pryor never had much of a relationship outside of performing. Wilder’s relationship with Gilda Radner is also a highlight as it shows their evolving relationship and, eventually, her passing from ovarian cancer in 1989. He spent many years

advocating for cancer research and treatment following her death. Wilder remarried in 1991 to Karen Webb and spent the rest of his life with her. The film really pulls at your heartstrings as it enters Wilder’s later years and his developing Alzheimer’s. It was difficult to see side-by-side comparisons of Mel Brooks — 97 years old and still sharp as a tack — next to stories of Wilder sadly losing himself within his own mind. Wilder passed away in 2016 at age 83 after struggling with the disease for three years. “Remembering Gene Wilder” is a wonderful documentary that highlights the career and life of one of Hollywood’s greats. The film clips and bloopers from all his best films is a delight. The end of the film shows sadness, but it is a bittersweet end as it celebrates a lifetime of comedy and joy that not many actors achieve. A

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The Catskills’ Revisits a New York ( Jewish) State of Mind by Michael Fox A breezy blend of oral and social history, “The Catskills” comes with a generous side dish of nostalgia. Not too sweet and thankfully not overpowering, it’s the perfect accompaniment. Whether you’re a Boomer who spent 10 summers at an upstate New York resort or a pisher who can’t imagine the world before air conditioning, Lee Gillespie’s fast-paced scrapbook of the good old days is darn near impossible to resist. The centerpiece film of the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival, “The Catskills” screens Feb. 7. It is not included in the festival’s streaming program. Crammed with archival clips, postcard photos, home movies, celebrity cameos and, of course, food for days, the documentary is an all-inclusive smorgasbord of mid-20th-Century Jewish middle-class frivolity.

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The resort and hotel business took off in the 1920s, when tuberculosis was common, automobiles became prevalent and country air was the prescribed cure. But proprietors didn’t have to serve everyone; “Hebrews and consumptives not accepted,” read a typical sign (augmented here with a clip of Gregory Peck in Elia Kazan’s 1947 Oscar-winner “Gentleman’s Agreement”). Jewish entrepreneurs saw an opportunity with the Grand Mountain Hotel and (later) Grossinger’s Catskills Resort Hotel, catering to Jewish families fleeing the summer humidity of New York City. Seemingly overnight, hundreds of family-owned establishments sprang up, accommodating tens of thousands of patrons. Activities on offer included swimming, boating, eating, tennis, dancing, Simon Says, fressing, nightclub singers and comedians and even, at one resort, mock

weddings where women played the roles of groom and ring bearer and men dressed as the bride and flower girl. As a native Chicagoan of a certain age, I confess I had no idea of the enormous scope and scale of the Borscht Belt (as a “Variety” editor dubbed the biz) in the years after World War II. The confluence of factors is clear from this vantage point: a booming economy, waves of marriages and floods of children and all in all a higher standard of living for the generations born to the struggling Yiddish-speaking immigrants of the late 1800s and early 1900s — although apartment air conditioners were still a big-ticket luxury. “The Catskills” is the antithesis of an academic treatise or sociological survey, however. Gillespie integrates a few historians into a chorus of regular folks who revisit their formative memories continues on next page >>

with palpable pleasure. We sense the filmmaker’s delight, just off-screen, at giving his interviewees a reason to shlep upstate and revisit, remember, remind and reunite. Of course, “The Catskills” is hardly the first documentary on the subject — “Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort,” to name one, came out back in 2012 — so I expected to find it late to the party and reeking of ancient history. We deduce that Gillespie began filming several years ago, but the tricks that the movie plays with our head (by suggesting that certain establishments are still open, before showing us that they are not) are readily forgiven. The most fabulous character whom Gillespie includes is Jackie Horner, a dancer who came to Kutsher’s for a performance in 1954, was offered a job as dance instructor and held the position with gusto and grit for a good, long time.

She is still a live wire when Gillespie catches up with her, so much so that she makes us want to go back in time to the resort’s heyday. The most unexpected appearance in the entire documentary dates from those heady days. A high school basketball player by the name of Wilt Chamberlain worked as a bellhop at Kutsher’s in 1954 and, yes, there is film to prove it. Just as big a celebrity, in certain circles, was Jennie Grossinger (18921972), who personally welcomed every guest at the resort bearing her and her husband’s name. She backed the bright idea of inviting Jewish boxing champ Barney Ross (and later Rocky Marciano) to train at the resort and her friends included Mr. and Mrs. Jackie Robinson. “The Catskills” devotes a solid section to the bungalow colonies which had an entirely different vibe from the fullservice resorts. They were populated variously by extended families, political groups, collections of writers or fine

artists, or just people who knew each other from the same neighborhood back in the city. Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote the 1987 Catskills-set movie “Dirty Dancing,” turns up briefly, as you would expect, although Gillespie overlooks “A Walk on the Moon” (1999), which imagined Viggo Mortenson as a blouse man romancing a married Diane Lane in the Catskills in 1969. It goes without saying that “The Catskills” is littered with the headshots and more of Jerry Lewis, Henny Youngman, Buddy Hackett, Alan King, Sammy Davis, Jr. and even Judy Garland. What is mildly surprising, though, is that Gillespie doesn’t cap his entertaining film with a poignant, lengthy lament for the passing of the Borscht Belt. The world evolved, tradition was subsumed by rebellion and Jews moved to the suburbs where the air was clean, the houses had central air and you could see all those Jewish comics on television. Even “The Catskills” knows you can’t go back. A

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For ‘Charlotte’ Painting is Bearing Witness by Jacqueline Bull Choosing to make a film about an artist into an animation is such a good and obvious idea it makes you a little bit mad you didn’t think of it yourself. “Charlotte” follows the life of real Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon as she attempts to paint her entire family’s life story while also evading capture from the Nazis across the globe. What I want to say now is to put this magazine down, go watch the film and when you feel that ache you get from watching something good and touching that makes you need to know if someone else felt that too, you come back to this article to see if I agreed with you. The animation is simply lovely. It is warm and human. The art style thankfully doesn’t suffer from “same face syndrome” that is common in animation; you can easily tell all the characters apart. The absolute highlight of the film is the incredibly satisfying depiction of

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We see her earnestness and small rebellions and we root for her. Charlotte actually painting. By the other characters in the film, Charlotte’s style is described as a bit rushed and emotive; this is true, but the animation captures the meditative action of it. The arc of the film doesn’t follow a strict Western (rising action, climax, falling action) formula, it’s a bit quieter and meandering, but the pacing is never slow. It leaves room for wondering what will happen next and mercifully doesn’t have an overwrought moral lesson you can see from a mile away. The film builds tension with the dramatic irony of the rising dread we

feel for the Salomons as they try to simply exist in 1940’s Berlin. There are additional forces of conflict between the family and internally within Charlotte. We see her earnestness and small rebellions and along with being voiced by Keira Knightly, we root for her. In addition to Knightly, there are some other big hitters on the voice cast like Jim Broadbent and Sam Claflin. The voices add texture and gravity to the film, though it is a small gripe that the German characters have English accents. The later third and ending prompts us to consider which resolution is needed the most. Is it resolving the conflict with the family, winning love, completing an artistic endeavor or simply surviving? It asks us which or which combination constitutes a happy ending. Charlotte presents her own stakes with “Only in doing something mad can I hope to stay sane.” A


There are many ways to support Israel and its people, but none is more transformative than a gift to Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical system. Your gift to MDA isn’t just changing lives — it’s literally saving them — providing critical care and hospital transport for everyone from victims of heart attacks to casualties of rocket attacks. Join the effort at afmda.org/give or call 866.632.2763.

Shevat – Adar I, 5784 SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM | 37

Local Offerings BY EILEEN SONDAK

SAN DIEGO MUSICAL THEATRE sdmt.org San Diego Musical Theatre is ready to revive the classic musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” The beloved story unfolds against the backdrop of magnificent music and spirited dancing. “Fiddler” will entertain a new generation of theater-goers Feb. 9 through Mar. 10. It’s a show for the whole family, so don’t miss it!

BROADWAY SAN DIEGO broadwaysd.com Broadway-San Diego will feature the razzle-dazzle musical sensation, “Chicago” Feb. 13-18 at the Civic Theater. This multi-award-winning musical masterwork has Bob Fosse’s signature all over it, and it’s sure to bring down the house during this brief stay in San Diego.

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Cast of “Fiddler on the Roof” at SDMT. PHOTO BY JULIE LICARI





La Jolla Playhouse is ready to turn the spotlight on “Redwood,” a world premiere musical that stars Broadway icon Idina Menzel in her local debut. This one-of-a-kind theatrical event focuses on one woman’s journey into the awe-inspiring world of the redwoods. Written by acclaimed writer Tina Landau, this exciting new musical comes to life with cinematic force and a soaring score. The show will take up residency at the Potiker Theater Feb. 13 through Mar. 17.

The Oceanside Museum of Art will feature “Listening to Unheard/ Drawing the Unseen: Meditations on Presence & Absence in Native Lands, Drawings by John Halaka,” through Feb. 18. “Deena Altman: Female Rising” is being showcased through Feb. 4. Also on display is “Artist Alliance Biennial.” This show is slated to remain through Mar. 31.

THE LA JOLLA MUSIC SOCIETY theconrad.org The La Jolla Music Society has an eclectic slate for February. “Nat Geo Live!” with Mark Synnott, is coming on Feb. 16, followed on the 19th by Aris Quartett. Quartetto di Cremona performs on Feb. 24, and pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard rounds out the month on Feb. 26.

“Outside Mullingar” at Lamb’s.

Quartetto di Cremona at LJMS.

CYGNET THEATRE cygnettheatre.com Cygnet Theatre is bringing the life story of Billie Holiday to life in its current production of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” The show will keep the legend alive through Feb. 18, with jazz great Karole Foreman belting out the iconic songs.




The Old Globe kicked off its 2024 season recently at the White Theater with “English,” a witty and compassionate play about foreign students preparing for an English proficiency exam — and contemplating the life they leave behind. The play snared the Pulitzer Prize in 2023, so check it out before it pulls up stakes on Feb. 18.

The Lamb’s Players launched its season with an Irish tale titled, “Outside Mullingar.” The plot deals with love, family, and a property dispute. This staging features one of San Diego’s favorite theater couples — Robert Smyth and Deborah Gilmour Smyth. The play will continue through Feb. 18.


The Globe’s Shiley Stage is poised to unveil a Globe-commissioned world premiere, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, “The Age of Innocence.” Set in the Gilded Age of New York City, this new adaptation is a lush period piece about high society in the 1870s — and the Globe’s staging should make an opulent visual backdrop for the beloved novel (Feb. 8-Mar. 10).

Shevat – Adar I, 5784 SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM | 39


by Micah Siva


Sweet and Savory Tahini Popcorn It is time to get cozy and cuddle up to your favorite movie and snacks this February! Popcorn has always been my top choice for movie delights and this sweet and savory version is no exception. Air-popped popcorn is drizzled with a maple and coconut oil caramel, tahini, salty pistachios and rich halvah for a sweet and salty treat that is both a decadent dessert and addictive treat. I love using a pistachio halvah for extra nutty goodness, but use whatever kind you have on hand! SERVES 6-8 INGREDIENTS:


• 8 cups popped popcorn


Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with silicone baking liner or parchment paper.

• 1/3 cup maple syrup


Add the popcorn to a large bowl.

• 4 tbsp. tahini


In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the coconut oil and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, and let boil for 2 ½ minutes. Be sure to watch the syrup as it can boil over. Remove from heat.


Add the tahini and vanilla to the maple, whisking until combined. Pour over the popcorn, mixing with a rubber spatula. Transfer to the baking tray, and spread in a single layer. Top with the pistachios, halvah, sesame seeds, and sea salt.


Bake for 8 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Let cool completely before eating. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

• 2 tbsp. coconut oil

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract • ½ cup salted pistachios, chopped • ¼ cup halvah, crumbled • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds • ¼ tsp. flaky sea salt

40 | SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM February 2024

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“I am here to tell you the show is hilarious and an absolute joy to watch! OUTSIDE MULLINGAR is a most unusual play, not like anything else I’ve ever seen. Kudos to all involved for this remarkable and delightful production.”

VETERAN SAN DIEGO THEATER CRITIC JEAN LOWERISON IN STAGE & SCREEN Featuring four of San Diego’s nest Brian Mackey, Rachael VanWormer, Robert Smyth & Deborah Gilmour Smyth photos by Ken Jacques


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by Marnie Macauley, M.S., Columbia University |marniemacauley@gmail.com

What Jewish History Forgot: Two Places Where Our Homeland Isn’t My dear San Diegans: Did you know that before present-day Israel, there were at least two attempts to establish an autonomous Jewish State and one still exists. Let’s look!

A Frozen Wasteland? Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Oblast Imagine making a Sukkah in -18 degrees Fahrenheit. Or how about getting a gezunte tongue sandwich with a pickle at the end of the world? Yet such a place sort of exists in the Russian Far East. Birobidzhan is the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, located on the Trans-Siberian Railway near the ChinaRussia border. The whole region of about 14,000 square miles is largely a frozen wasteland, which for good reason is largely short on freezing people. Stalin created this first Jewish autonomous region, also called Red Zion, in the early 1930s as a Soviet alternative to British Mandatory Palestine. Stalin “put” us in this remote uninhabitable, rocky swampland, with no shelter, roads or even land to grow a potato, to strengthen the southern border with China following the Sino-Soviet conflict of 1929. Why Jews? Gelt. He wanted to cozy up to overseas Jews and attract investment. In addition to Jews from the Soviet Union, early settlers, eager

42 | SDJEWISHJOURNAL.COM February 2024

for a “safe” Jewish homeland, also came from such disparate places as Argentina and even Palestine. It did manage to attract a few prominent Jews in its heyday – including Yiddish poet Peretz Markish. With a max Jewish population of about 75,000, this strange place never really caught on with us: a people who: 1) “Button Up” at less than 71 degrees; and 2) weren’t fond of Stalin’s purges. In the late 1930s and despite another influx of Jews following World War ll, it was again hit by Stalin’s growing anti-Semitism in the late ’40s. Soviet leaders decided that Yiddish and Jewish autonomy wasn’t a good fit with a united Soviet front and many of the region’s leaders were murdered. Birobidzhan was virtually over before it started. However, did you know that its unique cultural history still fascinates? Birobidzhan attracts foreign researchers and artists interested in Yiddish and Ashkenazi culture. The official language was Yiddish including an early Yiddish newspaper, the “Birobidzhaner Shtern” as well as a Yiddish theater. By 1939, almost 18,000 Jews lived in the region. Today, upon disembarking the Trans-Siberian Railway in Birobidzhan, you’ll see a large Yiddish sign atop the train station. Get off the train and you’ll

be greeted with monuments to early Jewish inhabitants. You can also do a walk-about on “main street” named for Sholem Aleichem. All the street signs are in Yiddish, and Jewish symbols, for example, a menorah, pepper the town. As of 2017, though only one percent of its population is Jewish there are ardent revivalists that include individuals, local government and various Jewish agencies that are trying to “make Birobidzhan Jewish again.”

A Noble Idea By A Multi-Talented Meshuggener That Failed The dream? A Jewish Colony almost 100 years before Theodor Herzl. The place? Ararat. The location? Buffalo, New York, 1825. It was a bit warmer than Birobidzhan, but also not densely populated. (However, if bored, one could always barrel over Niagara Falls.) The multi-faceted “meshuggener” who thought of this “utopia” for Jews? Mordecai Manuel Noah. To understand this quirky plan, you have to understand the man. Noah, who was born in Philadelphia in 1785 and raised by his Ashkenazi paternal grandparents, preferred to promote his Portuguese origin (via one maternal zayde) to be a bigger hit with the “more elite” Jews of his

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time. Throughout his life, Noah was, among other things, a patriot, sheriff, lawyer, journalist, military man, playwright and utopian. In 1820, Noah’s fervor to provide a safe home for the Jews of the world on American territory was a revolutionary idea. He negotiated purchasing a place near Niagara Falls; the ironically named Grand Island (all of 30 square miles and room for fewer than 20,000 people) where he planned to build skyscrapers to house the millions of MOTs who couldn’t pass up this opportunity. He also invited American Indians to join in his “City of Refuge.” Five years later in a majestic ceremony with Noah in similarly majestic attire, he named his “City” — the “State of Ararat.” Noah not only promised his new state would be a sanctuary for Jews worldwide, he appointed rabbis and other machers in Europe to collect taxes from their fellow Jews to maintain the place. He got media hype, but it wasn’t pretty. Poor Noah was mocked and ridiculed. Alas, the “State of Ararat” didn’t make it above the ground. True, his idea for a Jewish “utopia” wasn’t entirely “baked” but to his credit, he did bring world attention to the concept of a Jewish homeland. A

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“An astonishingly delightful romp.” — NEW YORK POST Acknowledged as one of the most enduring comedic masterpieces in the theatrical canon. The charlatan Tartuffe worms his way into a wealthy family, causing disruption and pandemonium. With wicked precision and brilliantly rhyming verses, this highly satiric comedy skewers religious hypocrisy, duplicity, and lust. Lovers of classic theatre and ingenious wordplay will not want to miss this inventively entertaining evening. Directed by Richard Baird

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Supporting Israel

Thank you


TO THE COMMUNITY The Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) galvanized our Donor Advised Fundholders in response to the terrible events of October 7th. Together our generous donors supported the Jewish Federation of San Diego’s Israel Emergency Fund to provide much needed support in Sha’ar HaNegev, San Diego’s sister region. The collective impact has been outstanding and we are deeply grateful to everyone’s contribution.


Grants Distributed


Organizations Supported

For more information and ways to give, please visit:



Million Dollars Granted


J C F I M PA C T Over


assets under management Over


in grants last fiscal year Almost


donor advised fundholders More than


organizational funds


educational programs offered in 2023

Annual Professional Advisor Luncheon The Jewish Community Foundation offers an annual high-level event for advisors to learn about new developments in charitable planning and keep up-to-date on relevant law.

Featuring: Nancy Henderson Henderson, Caverly Pum LLP / Founding and Co-Managing Partner Topics May Include: • Unpacking the Corporate Transparency Act Law • Defensive planning using family-controlled entities • Moving assets between trusts • Philanthropic strategies to mitigate taxes

Monday, March 11, 2024 / 11:30 am - 1:00 pm The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla MCLE AND CFP CREDITS APPLY For pricing information or to register, please contact: Sharleen Wollach (858) 279-2740 / sharleen@jcfsandiego.org

Jewish Community Foundation San Diego Individuals can make a difference; together we change the world. info@jcfsandiego.org | www.jcfsandiego.org

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