JWeekly

  • ‘Interpreter’ evokes war angst in past and present Europe
    The notion of victims or their children reconciling with the children of perpetrators, for the educational benefit and moral guidance of future generations, appeals to our innate optimism. Each side, however, must first reconcile with the painful events of the past. Truth is the prerequisite for reconciliation. Yet the truth is an elusive goal for the World War II-scarred protagonists of Slovak writer-director Martin Sulik’s intriguing road movie, “The Interpreter,” screening four times in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. While it is an intriguing and nuanced consideration of Slovakia’s participation in the Holocaust, catharsis proves just out of reach both for the characters and the audience. The film opens in present-day Vienna, where an elderly man disembarks from a train, obtains directions at the station and goes to a stylish apartment building. Intent on revenge, Ali Ungar knocks on the door of the Nazi officer who murdered his parents 70-plus years ago, only to be informed by Herr Graubner’s gray-haired son that he’s dead. Aroused by something — curiosity, guilt and/or long-deferred and long-denied responsibility — the younger Graubner hires Ali, a multilingual translator, to accompany him to his father’s wartime stomping grounds in what was then eastern ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-16
  • The secret society who documented truth of the Warsaw Ghetto
    The 13,000 Jews who fought to the death in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising are celebrated 75 years later as heroes who refused to surrender to the overwhelming firepower of the Nazis. But another group of Jews in Warsaw also carried on a heroic struggle, without guns or Molotov cocktails. Using pens, typewriters and paper as their weapons, they secretly chronicled life in the ghetto — and those hidden memories became the basis for much of what we now know about life within the ghetto’s walls. The 60-member group, led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum, met on Saturday mornings and called itself “Oyneg Shabes,” Yiddish for “Joys of the Sabbath,” to hide its true intent. Members collected more than 35,000 pages of diaries, letters, photos and newspapers, as well as items such as food ration cards and Nazi-mandated armbands, burying them in metal boxes and milk cans — many of which were recovered after the war. Oyneg Shabes members were determined to tell the world what life was really like in the ghetto, and not to allow Nazi propaganda films — which depicted the Jews as dirty carriers of lice and typhus — to tell their story. And when they became aware ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-13
  • Save our day schools; communism’s moral heirs; travel ban security angle
    I watched four struggling day schools become none Regarding “Before it’s too late, unify Jewish schools in East Bay,” having lived in the Midwest before moving to the Bay Area, I fully understand what author Reuven Kahane meant when he said we must try to figure things out before it’s too late. I wish someone had given my previous community the same advice before we sadly watched our four struggling Jewish day schools become none. As the saying goes: “You won’t know if you don’t try.” Michael S. Walnut Creek If you criticize travel ban, also consider security angle However many times I read your editorial “Muslim travel ban ruling sets dangerous precedent,” I can find no reference to any legitimate security concerns that are the obvious origin of the policy in question. (You do dismissively quote the chief justice’s reference to security in his description of presidential authority.) This omission is astonishing. Let’s start by reviewing the history of this policy of giving added scrutiny to travelers from certain — actually a small minority of — the world’s Muslim-majority nations. It was President Obama’s administration that first identified four such nations for added scrutiny with the Terrorist Travel Prevention ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-13
  • Banksy in the West Bank: Whose art is it anyway?
    While “The Man Who Stole Banksy” focuses on the theft of one graffiti-covered section of the security border between Israel and the West Bank, this documentary playing at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival also raises ideas about how the art world works, and who benefits. At first the film is about Walid the Beast, a Palestinian taxi driver and amateur bodybuilder who removed the street art of the British graffitist known as Banksy by carving it right out of the wall. (Banksy is known for his political art created in public spaces.) Then it branches out into the world of street art, stealing and selling, commercialization, Palestinian street art, capitalism and colonialism. The documentary follows the flow of a human conversation: starting on one topic and ending up somewhere tangential, interrupted by digressions and transitional clips of Palestinian musicians. It seems the film’s editors didn’t storyboard this elaborate tale of art that traveled from Bethlehem to London to Los Angeles. Or maybe they did, but finally settled on a congested though illuminating series of interviews with U.S. and European art collectors, dealers and anthropologists, as well as Palestinian locals and artists. As much as Banksy understood the context ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-13
  • S.F. Jewish Filipina heads to prestigious Wexner program
    Joan Laguatan did her due diligence before embracing Judaism. “I went to Catholic school my entire life,” she said. “In my late 20s, I thought, ‘What is the right path for me?’” To figure it out, Laguatan, who was born in the Philippines and raised in San Francisco, did a lot of reading and thinking before choosing to convert to Judaism 10 years ago. Now that “right path” includes being selected as one of 20 Bay Area residents in the 2018 Wexner Heritage Program for up-and-coming volunteer/lay leaders. “It’s a significant achievement for Joan to have been accepted into the program,” said Rabbi Benjamin Berger, director of the Wexner program. Laguatan, who owns a real estate brokerage, said becoming Jewish just fit with her character — she defines herself as a “skeptical” person and enjoys the questioning aspect of the religion. “There’s this constant underlying encouragement to think critically,” Laguatan said. The 43-year-old is married to a Jewish man (whom she met when he was teaching a course on Jewish values at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation) and has two children at the Shalom School in San Francisco, and the family is part of the Congregation Beth Sholom community. Laguatan’s ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-13
  • What can we glean from the Bible’s disturbing passages?
    Matot-Masei Numbers 30:2 – 36:13 Jeremiah 2:4-28 “Justice justice shall you pursue.” “You shall care for the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “We are all made in the image of God.” These are the inspirational phrases of Torah my children and I wrote on our colorful poster-board signs as we prepared to spend Shabbat morning at a rally to end family separation and unjust immigration policies. Like Abraham Joshua Heschel, who famously spoke of praying with his feet, and countless of our forebears who protested injustice in the name of Judaism, we, too, found strength from our sacred text as we put our prayers into action. Torah is powerful. Its passages can give articulation to our deepest-held values and help us to shine the light of our faith onto the world. When the state of the world seems so dismal that we avoid opening the paper in the morning for fear of what headline we will find, it is beautiful and necessary to lift up the parts of our tradition that give us hope and inspiration, and affirm the righteousness of our indignation. The guidance and support to be found in our texts is vital ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-13
  • Lifecycles for the week of July 13, 2018
    Births Joey Levy of San Francisco is excited to announce the arrival of his brother Noah Samuel Levy, born on April 27 in St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco to his parents, Emily and Jacob Levy. Grandparents are Solange and David Levy of San Francisco and Kathleen and Rick Sahm of Washington, D.C. He is the great-grandson of William Kane of Bethesda, Maryland. His birth also was welcomed by his aunts Becky, Emily and Allison, and uncles Robby, Danny and Gabriel. B’nai Mitzvah Lily BrownDaughter of Rayna Caplan and Matt Brown, Saturday, July 14 at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont. Eitan CamachoSon of Yonah Camacho Diamond and Rocio Camacho, Saturday, July 28 at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont. Zoe CohnDaughter of Joseph and Adrienne Cohn, Saturday, July 28 at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto. Kyle Isaac GonopolskySon of Tracey and Howard Gonopolsky, Saturday, July 21 at Temple Sinai in Oakland. Joshua Henry CoutuSon of Stephanie and Christopher Coutu, Saturday, July 14 at Temple Sinai in Oakland. Noah MasseySon of Dania and Conor Massey, Saturday, July 14 at Congregation Beth Shalom in Napa. Blake SibleySon of Cindy and Ford Sibley, Saturday, July 21 at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame. Benjamin TunickSon of ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • Deaths for the week of July 13, 2018
    Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel. Rita Goldman Resident of Danville January 28, 1931–June 27, 2018 Rita passed away on June 27 after battling for several years against advanced Parkinson’s disease. She was surrounded by her three daughters, Aidel Heller (Baruch) of Boca Raton, FL, Marilyn Bitton (Shlomo) of Ra’anana, Israel, and Laureen Cohen (David) of Oakland, CA. Rita GoldmanRita was born in Berlin, Germany, to James and Frieda Osterweil. At the age of 7, Rita was one of the children of the Kindertransport who landed with an extremely loving family, headed by Will and Debbie Brecker, in Woodgreen, London. When she was 16, Rita reunited in San Francisco with her parents, James and Frieda, who lived in Shanghai from 1940 to 1947. She met the love of her life, Martin Goldman, in 1949, and they wed two years later in 1951 in San Francisco. They were married for 48 years until Martin passed away in 1999. Rita spent most of her adult life raising a beautiful family in San Francisco and then Oakland. From 1993 to 1999, Rita was Martin’s caregiver at their Oakland home after he suffered a major stroke. After living for many ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • He stripped off his suit, she wore a rainbow, and they danced
    It’s nearly impossible to capture in words the spirit of a wedding celebration, even if you were there. This one was joyful. Silly. Unconventional. Exuberant. Inspiring. Jewish. And fun. Mostly fun. There was dancing, of course. And raising the chuppah. Breaking the glass. A ring prayer. But there was also tent camping. Costumes. Eating in a mess hall. A Warriors playoff game. A parachute. An alpaca. “Camp Besheret” (Hebrew for soul mate or destiny) was a wedding and a summer camp in one jubilant celebration, joining two kindred souls who share a joie de vivre — Tamar Sberlo, 33 (my niece), and Jeffrey Sabin-Matsumoto, 30 (now my nephew). Their surprise-filled commitment ceremony on May 26 in San Gregorio was at the center of a weekend party that perfectly captured their playful relationship and optimistic spirit. The guests, who came from as far away as Israel, Kenya and New Zealand, knew not to expect a typical wedding. Sleeping options included tents or bunk beds. Meals were eaten at picnic tables. A rack with costume accessories was available for anyone to borrow from at any time. People were encouraged to wear whatever they felt comfortable in all weekend, “from black ties to ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • Anti-Semitic Holocaust denier on ballot for East Bay House seat
    John Fitzgerald claims the Holocaust is “an absolute lie.” He accuses Israel of supporting the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001. He rails against “Jewish supremacism” in the U.S. And he’s the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives from a district that includes most of Contra Costa County. Fitzgerald finished second in the June 5 primary, after incumbent Mark DeSaulnier, a Democrat who has represented the district since 2015. A small business owner from Concord who attended San Francisco State University, Fitzgerald received 24 percent of the vote in the primary. DeSaulnier got 68 percent and political analysts consider him an overwhelming favorite to win re-election in November. Fitzgerald, 54, is the second such outspoken anti-Semite to campaign for Congress from California this year. Albany resident Patrick Little also ran in the June 5 primary, for the Senate seat now held by Dianne Feinstein. Little, however, received just 1 percent of the vote and didn’t qualify for the general election. Fitzgerald came in second in a four-candidate field, securing the right to challenge DeSaulnier for his congressional seat this November. Though the California Republican Party has disavowed Fitzgerald “due to anti-Semitic comments he made recently,” his name will ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • Q&A: The keeper of ‘Candid Camera’s’ zany TV legacy
    Pebble Beach resident Peter Funt, 70,  has spent decades writing for newspapers, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Between journalism gigs, he has been intimately involved in the production of “Candid Camera,” the hit television program created in 1948 by his father, the late Allen Funt (he died in 1999). Peter Funt served as a co-host in the 1980s, and he’s keeping the program alive with “Candid Camera’s 8 Decades of Smiles! With Peter Funt,” a stage act that includes comedy, reminiscences and clips from the series. It comes to San Jose later this month.   J.: With its hidden camera, “Candid Camera” played jokes on people or caught them behaving in hilarious ways, but it never seemed mean and was all in good fun. Is that accurate?   Peter Funt: Absolutely. “Candid Camera” was a celebration of humanity, and we wanted to show that people are wonderful and good sports. My father was interested in a variety of human experiences — how people walked up and down stairs, chewed gum, licked a stamp. My dad was not a practical joker or much of a joke-teller. But he was a student of human nature without a degree. ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • My son has epilepsy. Cannabis saved his life.
    By the time he was 6, Sam Vogelstein was having dozens of epileptic seizures a day. His parents, Evelyn Nussenbaum and Fred Vogelstein of Berkeley, discovered that a British-made, cannabis-based drug stopped the convulsions. But they couldn’t use the medicine in the U.S. because it was illegal. Their push to bring the medicine to the U.S. eventually proved successful. Sam is now 17, and on June 25 the Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, its first cannabis-derived drug. My son Sam Vogelstein pioneered Epidiolex, the first cannabis-derived drug approved by the FDA. By pioneered I mean this: Our family found the medication, convinced its British maker to let us try it, and helped set in motion its launch and path to the United States. It’s changed everything for us. I hope it changes things for many more patients and, just as importantly, leads to a new way to think about and study cannabis in this country. Sam started Epidiolex to treat his seizures in May of 2013. He’s been completely seizure-free 2½ years. He has, or had, Epilepsy with Myoclonic Absence, that caused him to have up to 100 blinky, jerky seizures a day. He cracked a windowpane with his ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • For now, Hebrew program back on at Lowell High School
    The Hebrew program at San Francisco’s Lowell High School is fully funded again, at least for now. In 2015, J. and the student newspaper reported that the program had run out of funding, and that Hebrew 1 would not be offered starting the following school year. Hebrew 2 and 3 would be continued for students already in the program. The plan was to start phasing out Hebrew entirely. But with support from the Lowell Alumni Association’s general fund and the initiative of one alum in particular, enough money was raised to reinstitute Hebrew 1 and keep the program going. It needs $35,000 annually to stay afloat. Ever since the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund ended its support in 2012, the program has been in doubt. In 2012, Lowell alum Sam Lauter stepped up, soliciting donations from alumni, outside donors and local synagogues. Alumni Association executive director Terry Abad described Lauter’s “masterful” ability to connect to various funders, some with no direct connection to the high school. The Koret Foundation, Robert Friend and the Friend Family Foundation, Jerry and Barbara Babin, Valerie Sopher, Jack Klein, Scott Horwitz and Missy Mastel and Dr. Ingrid Tauber have donated in recent years, in addition ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • Global zeitgeists on screen at 38th SF Jewish Film Festival
    With apologies to Lewis Carroll, “seriouser and seriouser” might characterize this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the annual summer event for Bay Area cinephiles and lovers of Jewish history, culture and ideas. But “funnier and funnier” would also do, what with the opening night premiere of “Love, Gilda,” the feature-length documentary homage to the most seriously funny woman in the history of American entertainment. The new film will screen for one night only, on July 19 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, with Radner’s “SNL” costar Laraine Newman in attendance. Radner, the Detroit-born actress, writer and comedian, wife of the comic actor Gene Wilder, and a personality beloved by many baby boomers, died of cancer in 1989. “Gilda was the first person to be cast in the original ‘Saturday Night Live,’ the first person to say the word ‘bitch’ on camera and the first to ever talk about cancer in comedic terms,” said SFJFF executive director Lexi Leban. “Tina Fey, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler and so many others of the satirists we love today are all part of Gilda’s legacy.” Satirists we need today night be closer to the mark. The lineup of the 38th SFJFF reflects a ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-12
  • ‘Nation-state bill’ would be a disaster for Israeli democracy
    On July 22, Israel’s Knesset is set to vote on a bill that would enshrine the state’s Jewish character in a manner that threatens basic democratic rights. The so-called “nation-state bill,” first proposed in 2011 and dragged out several times since in various versions, is now enhanced with troubling new provisions. A pet project of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Likud party and its right-wing allies, the bill states that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people and declares the flag and the Star of David to be its symbols. Jewish holidays are national holidays and the Hebrew calendar is the national calendar. These are all status quo items. It goes on, however, to demote Arabic, now an official state language, to one that only has “special standing”; it states that when there is no relevant precedent, Jewish law may be invoked to decide legal cases; and it states that communities may legally exclude individuals whose identities do not match those of the community itself. That means, in effect, Jewish communities may bar non-Jews from living there, as well as Mizrachi Jews, Ethiopian Jews and LGBT individuals, among others. Additionally, this nation-state bill is proposed as a Basic Law, ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-07-11