Thursday, February 28, 2013

Do Jews Run Hollywood? "The Gatekeepers" comes to town, Moses vs. Aaron, A Stiff-Necked Shabbat-Across-America-O-Gram

 Ah, the craziness of Purim; for more photos see OUR PURIM ALBUM

The Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Mia and Lonny Weinstein
in honor of their son, Edward, becoming a Bar Mitzvah.

Shabbat Shalom 

This weekend is the 17th annual Shabbat Across America. Even if you are not signed up for our SAA dinner, there are two things you can do join thousands of others who are becoming part of the biggest, boldest continent-wide event unifying Jewish communities across North America:

1)     Have a great Shabbat dinner at home or at a friend's.  You can download this packet of materials with all the info you need to do Shabbat on your own.

2)     THEN COME HERE FOR OUR Musical "Shabbat With a Global Spin." (see flyer at bottom). Cantor Mordecai has put together a very special service with the help of some superb musicians from NYC.  Come and bring lots of friends!!!!!  

Mazal tov to Eddie Weinstein and family - Eddie becomes Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat morning.  During the service we're going to focus on the two key figures of the Golden Calf episode, which is read in the Torah that morning: Aaron and Moses.  One was known for patience, the other for action.  Which trait makes for a better leader?   See the parsha packet for a sneak preview.  It's also Shabbat Parah.  Read about its significance.

Oscar Follow Up: "The Gatekeepers" in Stamford

One of Israel's two best-documentary nominees is coming to the Avon this weekend.  The Gatekeepers has been called "A documentary potent enough to alter how you see the world..." by the L.A. Times.  It features interviews with a half dozen former heads of Israel's secret security services, and their testimony is - from what I hear - mind boggling.  At a time when Israel is justifiably wary of all that is going on, it is hard to consider what it could be doing to advance the chances for a two state solution; but evidently that does not stop these Shin Bet leaders from suggesting that Israel could still be doing much more.  I'll have to see the film before further comment.

 I will not be at AIPAC next week, but I look forward to Shalom TV's coverage (channel 138) and hearing about it from our TBE congregants attending, including three of our teens - and if you are going there, look for my son Dan, who has been putting in mega-hours as an AIPAC intern this semester in Washington.  You can download the AIPAC 2013 app from iTunes and follow a live stream of the conference on AIPAC's website.

Oscars Follow Up: Do the Jews Run Hollywood?

Last week's Academy Awards presentation was noteworthy for its tasteless humor.  Although I am one of the handful of people who actually liked the film "Ted" when it came out last summer (must be those scenes at Fenway), the Seth MacFarlane teddy bear character crossed the line last week in comments made about secret synagogue meetings and Jews running Hollywood. 

The comments in and of themselves weren't horribly out of place in a culture where crude and self consciously offensive humor has become the norm - and often is seen as mocking real prejudice, misogyny and homophobia.  I think of  Broadway's "Book of Mormon" (and its South Park relations)  as an excellent example, and Monty Python's Spamalot - with its hilarious song about, yes, Broadway and Jews.  

So what made MacFarlane's bit so distasteful as to incur the wrath of the ADL and theWiesenthal Center?  From what I can see, the contents of his remarks were secondary to the setting.  If his character had said the same thing on "Family Guy," a billion people all over the world would not have been watching, many of whom happen to believe the very things he was saying.

But the other factor that made his remarks so offensive is that they simply were not funny.  They came off sounding like rehashed canards, not piercing satire.  The Spamalot bit is funny.  Jon Stewart's "War on Purim" segment this week was hilarious.  The "Ted" bit was not. Dov Hikind in blackface was not. If people aren't laughing, therefore it is not a joke.  It's that simple.  And if it's not a joke, and it was said, the words are out there, naked, and when they fall flat, they hurt.

Still, I was prepared to let it all go, until, a few days later, I was talking to a former student, a young adult struggling with his Jewish identity.  And in the middle of the conversation he suddenly asked if it's true that the Jews run Hollywood.  At that moment I realized that MacFarlane's unfunny bit had caused the most damage where we can least afford it: not in the minds of Iranian mullahs who hate us anyway, but in the hearts of young Jewish adults who are impressionable and confused.

No, we don't run Hollywood, nor is there a "Jewish lobby" running Washington or a Jewish cabal running the media.  Jews don't run the banks nor are Jewish radicals intent on taking them down.  Jews aren't neocon warmongers intent on getting America into another foreign entanglement, nor are we the peaceniks whose naiveté will get Israel destroyed.

What we are is a "stiff-necked people," an expression that comes from this week's portion, Ki Tisa.  In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, this stubbornness which is seen primarily as a negative characteristic is actually not a tragic failing but a noble and defiant loyalty.  We are a people marked by persistence, and that persistence drives us not simply to achieve, but to seek truth and justice and to fight beyond all measure for a better world.  Persistence is what turns dreams and ideals in to Pulitzer Prize winning exposes, Nobel winning discoveries and Oscar winning scripts.

If Jews have succeeded in Hollywood and elsewhere, you can blame the stiff neck, just as Moses and God do in our portion. 

One can only wonder when Moses and God talked about us in those mocking tones, were they laughing?

Latest on Gun Violence

See this inspiring Photo Montage from the "March for Change"   Because it is so important to see this thing through, I continue to run weekly updates sent to clergy by our Interfaith Council Exec., Rev. Kate Heichler. 

Please sign on to participate in this important weekend of worship and witness in support of stronger and more protective gun laws in our nation.     Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence hopes that thousands of faith groups from all across the country will join in. The more that are registered as participants, the stronger the message to decision-makers and media that we are serious in our desire for action. 

Participation can be as simple as including a prayer for gun victims orlegislators in your worship that weekend, or more involved, such as preach- ing on the subject or incorporating an activity like writing letters tolawmakers encouraging action on proposed legislation.    


Every Friday at 9:30 (the time of the Sandy Hook shooting)
 Call your legislator or members of the Gun Violence Task Force
and remind them it has past time we had a package of legislation to pass.  

Come hear Marian Wright Edelman in Hartford March 14:
Follow-up to the March for Change -RSVP here
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13th at 7:30pm, McMANUS ROOM, Westport Library
FRIDAY, MARCH 15th at 10:00am, CHRIST and HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, 75 Church Lane, Westport 

  1. Strengthens our assault weapons ban with a focus on improving current list and strengthening functionality features; apply "one military feature" test to definition of assault weapons.  Bans possession and sale with no grandfathering.
  2. Bans large capacity ammunition magazines of more than 7 rounds.  No grandfathering.
  3. Requires universal background checks on ALL sales and transfers, including long guns.
  4. Requires registration of handguns with annual renewal. Require annual fee and annual background check for all guns owned; stipulation that they are still in the possession of original purchaser or transferee; explanation for any gun still not being in their possession. Require safety inspection every three years. Charge fee on initial registration and renewal.
  5. Make gun owners liable for negligent storage if any person gains access to firearms and injures himself or another person or causes damage to property. The violation would be a Class D felony.
  6. Requires permit/license to purchase and carry all guns, including long guns, and to purchase ammunition
  7. Prohibits sales of guns or ammunition via internet to CT residents.
  8. Restricts handgun sales to one gun/month.    

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


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