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Broadway’s Jews gather in response to neo-Nazi protest



(New York Jewish Week) – Twenty-four hours after neo-Nazi agitators heckled ticket-holders outside the first preview of “Parade,” a musical about a notorious antisemitic incident, Jewish members of New York’s theater community came together to share their emotions and reactions and look to the future. 

The gathering, organized by producer and actor Ari Axelrod, was held on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in a rehearsal space at Open Jar Studios in Times Square. It was just three blocks north of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where “Parade” is currently in previews. About 50 people from all ranks of the theater industry — from Broadway producers and marquee stars to undergraduate students in college shows — joined the conversation. 

Starring Jewish actor Ben Platt, “Parade” tells the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager accused and found guilty of murdering a girl who worked for him, despite little evidence. In 1915, Frank was kidnapped from jail and lynched by a mob, and the case led to the creation of the Anti-Defamation League and a resurgence of interest in the Ku Klux Klan. 

At the show’s first preview on Feb. 21, protestors who identified with the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group headquartered in Florida, accused Frank of being a pedophile and condemned audience members for paying to support pedophiles and Jews.

“The story about Leo Frank is not a new one. They could be protesting anywhere. But there is a reason they knew that that play was happening and where it was happening,” said Axelrod, who told the New York Jewish Week that he has been thinking about holding a gathering in response to antisemitism for nearly two years. “It feels like they came into our home, not just our home as Jews, but our home as theater artists.”

Axelrod, 28, opened by leading the Shehechiyanu, a prayer of gratitude, and a round of deep breaths.

“The intention for today is not to find a solution to the rise in antisemitism or even the solution to what happened yesterday,” Axelrod told the crowd. “The intention is to be in a space and find community and gather as Jews, which is what we’ve been doing for thousands of years. To commiserate and talk and bear witness to how we’re feeling and how other people are feeling, to be seen and heard and held and valued and validated as an individual and as a member of a community.” 

The room was full of Jewish and some non-Jewish people in the theater industry of all ages who wanted to express their thoughts and ideas about the protests. (Julia Gergely)

Many in the room felt fear, sadness, frustration and anger at the events. For an assistant on the production team of “Parade” — who asked to remain anonymous because he came to process his own feelings and not as a representative of the show — “it was emotional, especially because not everyone on the team is Jewish. So just being there as a Jewish person, hearing them say that to people going into the show was hard.” 

However, he noted the importance of committing to see and work on the show. “Just being at the show last night was its own protest to what they were saying,” he said, adding that the team behind “Parade” is committed to ensuring a safe environment for everyone involved and that they don’t want to let the protests deter people from seeing the show, which is scheduled to run through Aug. 6.

Elliott Masie, a Broadway producer who was on the line with his wife when the threats and jeers began, said his initial reaction was surprise. “I couldn’t discern what they were about at first. They tried to pretend that they were against pedophiles, but then their rhetoric escalated and they started to go up to people in the line and say ‘You paid so much for this, to advocate for a Jew.’ The moment I heard them say the word ‘Jew,’ I realized what they were,” he told the New York Jewish Week. 

“The hardest part was that it seemed like most people coming into the theater didn’t understand who they were,” Masie, 72, added. 

Still, he said, the show was wonderful. “I’ve never been at a first preview that had as prolonged an ovation. In some ways, they stole the moment. We have to give the moment back and give the moment to all of us. The ultimate love and support we need to do is show the cast and the company that we’re here,” he said. 

Over the last year, Jewish stories have been having a moment on Broadway and off, with “Funny Girl,” “Leopoldstadt” and “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish” all coming to the stage in 2022. Surrounding each show has been discussions of their relevance at time when watchdog groups have been reporting a rise in antisemitic incidents.

“The entire cast of our show and company was scared last night that we were going to walk out to something similar,” said David Krumhotlz, who is in the final weeks of his role as patriarch Hermann Merz in “Leopoldstadt,” Tom Stoppard’s play about the Holocaust. “Thank God it didn’t. We stand in solidarity not only with ‘Parade,’ but with the entire Jewish Broadway community.”

Yael Chanukov, a cast member of “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish,” spoke about the safety and security discussions the cast and crew had during the show’s run and the fear and anxiety she felt at times doing such a proudly Jewish show that otherwise was one of the most fulfilling experiences of her life.

The Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where “Parade” is in previews, Feb. 22, 2023. (Julia Gergely)

For many, it was an exhalation of years of frustration and confusion over minor and major antisemitism they said they experienced in the theater industry and beyond.

While Axelrod said the goal of Wednesday’s gathering wasn’t to find solutions, by the end of the evening, he had cemented an idea for a Jewish advocacy coalition within the theater industry. He said it might offer resources and tools for how to speak up and show up to support the Jewish theater community. 

Representatives from the Anti-Defamation League and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice who were at the meeting offered to help get contacts and funding if the idea were to get off the ground.

“The general tenor that I’m getting is that no one is asking the theater community to make the fight against antisemitism the top priority. Just make it a priority,” Axelrod said.

Actor and writer Mike Haber, 31, had tickets for Wednesday night’s performance of “Parade.” 

“Last night, I literally couldn’t even sleep because of what happened,” he said. “This is so beautiful to see so many theater people and we’re all coping with the same emotions and feelings.”

Ninety minutes before the Wednesday evening performance began, the rain had stopped and all was calm in front of the theater. Haber took pictures and burst out singing the show’s tunes. “I love this,” he said. “I can’t wait to see it.” 

The post Broadway’s Jews gather in response to neo-Nazi protest appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.

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Local News

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.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

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.)

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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.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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