(JTA) — In 1996, Jordan Gorfinkel launched two series of comics that get at the two sides to his personality and career.
One was “Birds of Prey” — which has since been the basis for several television and film adaptations — that he created while overseeing the Batman franchise as an editor at DC Comics. (Another claim to fame during his tenure from 1991-99 was the creation of “Batman: No Man’s Land,” which served as inspiration for the 2012 Christopher Nolan blockbuster “Dark Knight Rises.”)
The other that he launched 1996 was “Jewish Cartoon,” an ongoing series of comics that poke fun and celebrate aspects of Jewish life and religious observance. To date, he has followed a cast of characters in this series for over 1,000 cartoons.
Gorfinkel’s newest project combines those two passions into a graphic novel version of the Purim story, usually read in what’s called a Megillah scroll. Gorfinkel said “The Koren Tanakh Graphic Novel Esther,” which is illustrated by Yael Nathan, is a “Batman-style” adaptation.
It’s not his first collaboration with the Jewish publisher — three years ago, he published a graphic novel haggadah with the Israeli artist Erez Zadok.
He and Nathan spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about their latest creation and what’s next in the Jewish graphic novel world.
JTA: What does the book provide beyond the normal Megillah story text?
Gorfinkel: The Koren Esther graphic novel is 100% kosher to bring to your Megillah reading because alongside the sequential art pages is the full, unabridged Hebrew text. The mitzvah is to listen to the Megillah in Hebrew and the tradition is to read it in the language you understand. That’s why this book presents the English translation in the captions and word balloons embedded in the fabulous art by Israeli illustrator Yael Nathan in a stunning package designed by Tzipora Ginzberg.
Why a graphic novel?
Nathan: From a visual perspective, this story has everything. Emotions, action, intrigue, great characters, battles and redemption. It really allowed me to flex my storytelling muscles and try to convey complex scenes and ideas in a limited space.
Gorfinkel: Esther/Hadassah is the O.G. Wonder Woman! Ripped away from her family, her land and her people to serve in a foreign court, keeping a secret identity until the moment comes to step up and be a savior. Megillat Esther is tailor-made for a graphic novel.
Is this book just for kids? Who do you want to reach?
Gorfinkel: I want to reach everyone. With Esther and the Passover haggadah graphic novel that preceded it, readers can return to the material at every age and gain new and deeper insights out of the experience. Think of it like a good “Simpsons” episode, or Pixar movie: kids enjoy the surface meaning while teens and adults experience the same material at deeper levels. The Jewish graphic novels that I produce are child-friendly but decidedly not childish. This is because I acknowledge that Western readers presume that if a book has pictures, it has to be for kids. I’m going to need a few more books to educate the masses otherwise!
Nathan: I think this book is for everyone. The style of the characters is purposefully endearing and humorous, to help people connect to them — but what is conveyed in each panel goes much deeper than cute characters. There is a wealth of knowledge and interpretations that are not in the plain text and are portrayed visually so the reader can take them in without reading a whole page of explanations. Both those who know the meaning behind the text would find interesting references, and those who don’t will learn something new.
What comics did you grow up with? And what do comics mean to you?
Nathan: My father was born and raised in the Philippines, the son of Jewish immigrants who fled from Germany before the second World War. So my influences are from all over the world. I grew up looking at European comics, Israeli cartoons, American golden-age comics that my father brought over from the Philippines and Japanese manga. Comics mean the freedom to tell stories from my own viewpoint with no constraints. Unlike movies — where the efforts required to film a person in a room is much less involved than filming a full space scene with aliens and battleships — in comics, the work involved is all the same. It’s just drawing. No big budgets or additional resources needed. Just imagination and storytelling skill.
Gorfinkel: I never grew up. I’m a Jewish Peter Pan (Pinchas Pan?). In my youth, however, I devoured Batman comics, of course. The basic morality tales of extroverted “good guys” vanquishing evil and consistently delivering justice for all complemented the grade school Torah education I was receiving in Jewish day schools of a variety of different denominations. We moved around a lot, and these superheroes were my comfortable and consistent companions. As I got older, I began to lean into Marvel Comics, whose anti-heroes fought internal struggles between their “yetzer hatov” (good inclination) and “yetzer harah” (evil inclination). Teenaged Gorf appreciated how these nuanced characterizations reflected the deeper layers of Torah I was learning in high school and my gap year in an Israel yeshiva. At the same time, I was, and am, a huge fan of newspaper-style four panel comic strips, quite possibly introduced to me by my zayde [grandfather], who always clipped the Sunday funnies for me. My mother continues the tradition to this day. When I was first starting my own newspaper strip, I reached out for advice and “chizuk” to my favorite artists. I received handwritten replies from nearly everyone, from Charles “Peanuts” Schulz to G.B. “Doonesbury” Trudeau. To this day, I treasure Canadian cartoonist Lynn “For Better or For Worse” Johnston as a mentor and friend.
You have done a Passover graphic novel and now a Purim graphic novel. What’s next?
Gorfinkel: Esther is intended as the lead-off for a Koren graphic novel series surveying the entire Bible. We’re just getting underway… I am also conceptualizing a nonprofit Jewish graphic novel initiative as an umbrella organization, to provide further support for the Koren work and moreover, to train and provide support for the next generation of Jewish visual storytellers who reach out to me because they want to do what I do. Jewish people created the superhero medium. Now, I am bringing the medium full circle so that superheroes and graphic novels can benefit the Jewish people. At the same time, I am traveling North America and the world as a scholar in residence and Jewish Cartoon workshop instructor, spreading my core message: Make Judaism your superpower!
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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