LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The White House recently released a detailed strategy for combating antisemitism, complete with more than 100 action items.
One thing not on the list? Comedy.
That’s where Jewish celebrities such as Howie Mandel, Rachel Bloom and Michael Rapaport came in on Wednesday night at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, at a so-called “Roast of Anti-Semitism.”
As event organizer Dani Zoldan put it, the comedy show was focused on “making fun of people that hate Jews.”
Emceed by longtime standup and occasional TV actor Elon Gold — who joked that there were no Proud Boys in the audience, only “Jewish mothers who are proud of their boys” — the evening was full of Yiddishisms, circumcision jokes and poking fun at the likes of Kanye West and Donald Trump.
There were countless jokes about antisemitic stereotypes — more than one performer mocked the idea that Jews control the weather, noting that the auditorium was uncomfortably warm. There were bits about conversion, Jesus and Hitler, and even a couple musical numbers, including Bloom’s rendition of “Remember That We Suffered,” from the musical comedy she co-created and starred in, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
The sold-out crowd of 1,900 also heard from Montana Tucker, the social media star who has become known for her Holocaust education content, and Noa Tishby, the actor and Israel’s former antisemitism envoy, who was fired after criticizing the current government’s proposed judicial overhaul.
Israel itself was not a big topic at the show, aside from a few jokes about flying El Al and Gold proclaiming, to considerable applause, that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”
Zoldan, whose Manhattan comedy club Stand Up NY produced the show, said he and his collaborators hope to pitch the show, which was recorded, to streaming platforms to help it reach an even wider audience.
“There’s obviously so many different initiatives around the world fighting antisemitism, so this was just our contribution, hoping to make some small difference,” Zoldan told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a phone interview prior to the show. Zoldan is also the creator of the Chosen Comedy Festival, a touring Jewish comedy show featuring many of the same comics.
Daniel Bernstein, who works at nearby Wilshire Boulevard Temple, said he attended the roast because he is “pro-semitism.”
“I think we’ve been through so much, the only way to get through it is to laugh,” he said.
Bernstein was there with his friend Talia Amoyal, who added that “a lot of pain comes out through humor.”
Tehran Von Ghasri, who goes simply by Tehran on stage, also performed on Wednesday. A comedian and actor based in LA, Von Ghasri said he often seeks opportunities to use comedy to address difficult topics. He is half Iranian and half Black, and his maternal grandmother is a Mizrahi Jew from Egypt.
“I wanted to add some literal and metaphorical color to this lineup,” he said. He added that his close bond with his grandmother made Judaism a big part of his life growing up. He celebrated Jewish holidays and had a bar mitzvah.
“It’s good to show that there’s no monolith of Judaism,” he said. “There’s no one thing or person that it looks like.”
Zoldan, who himself is an observant Jew, said the event was largely targeted at a younger, non-Jewish audience. The team behind the show relied on influencers and social media marketing to spread the word and sell tickets.
“I don’t think it’ll help the cause if we just filled the audience with Jews who agree that antisemitism is bad,” Zoldan said. Instead, he said he hoped the show would offer a younger, non-Jewish audience “a different side and a different conversation about antisemitism.”
In fact, multiple comics asked the non-Jews in the audience to make some noise — a prompt which received a few scattered cheers.
The show also featured Orthodox comedian Modi Rosenfeld, who, along with Mandel, received the most laughs of the night; a video from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (who was created by Jewish comedian Robert Smigel) interviewing people in London about controversial Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters; “Roastmaster General” Jeff Ross and others.
Due to the size of the lineup, each comedian’s set lasted only around 10 minutes. Still, Zoldan said, he recognized how big the ask was each time he invited someone to participate.
For one thing, unlike in a typical comedy show, in which traveling comics can repeat their go-to set (which Rapaport and Yamaneika Saunders still seemed to do anyway), this show’s specific theme required the performers to write new material. Plus, Zoldan added, the ongoing Hollywood writers strike may have dissuaded some comics from agreeing to take part, out of deference for the striking writers.
Mandel, who closed out the show, ended by encouraging the crowd to be proud about their Judaism — that is, after he made fun of a woman in the front row for falling asleep during his set.
“We’ve been persecuted for 6,000 years,” he said, “but you can’t sit for a f–ing hour?”
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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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