(JTA) — British filmmaker Oliver Park isn’t Jewish, but he does have a deep appreciation for the Jewish roots of the horror genre that informed his work on “The Offering,” his feature debut as director about an ancient demon set in a Hasidic enclave in Brooklyn.
“Jewish horror stories have been around for thousands of years,” Park told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “All of these fantastic and rich stories come from this Jewish space.”
The first horror movie franchise, he points out, centered on the Jewish Golem monster and was produced in the 1910s, years before “Nosferatu,” the well-known silent vampire film from 1922.
The legend of the Golem, said to have originated in 16th-century Prague, has been credited with inspiring “Frankenstein.”
“Having been a lifelong fan, obsessed horror nut that I am, I’ve always wanted to get into the Jewish space,” Park said.
The demon in “The Offering” is known as Abyzou. “She is this very, very old ancient demon. For all we know, she could be Lilith herself,” Park said, referring to a spirit of darkness and sexuality found in biblical and Talmudic texts.
In the film, which hits theaters and on-demand platforms on Friday (the 13th), a young man (Nick Blood) brings his pregnant, non-Jewish fiancé (Emily Weisman) to meet his long-estranged father (Allan Corduner), a Hasidic man who works at a funeral home and morgue in Brooklyn. Long-buried tensions are revealed and revisited, and there are several lines of Yiddish dialogue.
The screenwriter and producer, Hank Hoffman, is the son of a rabbi and has a background in Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition. The main producer, Jonathan “Yoni” Yunger, comes from a Jewish background as well. Hoffman worked in a morgue for a time in his youth.
“Both of them immediately, their brains just exploded with ideas,” Park said. The film was in the making for about six years. He called it “a passion project, and very much their baby.”
“The Offering” was shot in early 2021, with Bulgaria standing in for Brooklyn, and the production was able to continue during a particularly nasty stage of the pandemic. Park called the script “so rich with characters, and so rich with horror, and mythology and rituals, and the occult and esotericism, and all within this beautiful Jewish community.”
Theres has been a boom in the Jewish-themed horror realm in recent years. “The Vigil,” from 2020, took as its subject matter shemira, or the Jewish ritual of watching over a dead body. “The Unborn” was a dybbuk-themed horror movie that came out in 2009 — featuring Gary Oldman as a rabbi — and in 2021, a movie called “Dybbuk” was made in India, in Hindi. That was itself a remake of a 2017 film called “Ezra,” which was made in Malayalam, an Indian language, and involved an Indian Jewish protagonist.
“I’m so excited that in the last 30 or so years, they’ve slowly trickled back through and we’re seeing more and more of them now,” Park said of Jewish-themed horror movies. “So I’m really hoping that there are many more terrifying and disturbing tales that are inspired richly in Jewish folklore.”
Lead actor Nick Blood may have a perfect name for horror — “I think I’m destined to play Dracula one day,” he said — but he described himself as not particularly an enthusiast of the genre. However, he told JTA that the director and writers’ “passion for it convinced me straight away” to star in the film.
Blood said he had some Zoom sessions with a Yiddish teacher in New York, who helped him get words and pronunciations right. Some of the spells and incantations used in the film were in Aramaic, a language with which Hoffman, the screenwriter, is familiar.
“The Offering,” which premiered at festivals last year, comes from Millennium Films, founded by the Israeli-American producer Avi Lerner. Corduner, who plays the father, was raised Jewish, as was actor Paul Kaye (who played Thoros of Myr on “Game of Thrones”), actor Daniel Ben-Zenou and several background actors in the film.
Park and Blood both said that the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man” was frequently cited in the production of “The Offering,” and not only because of a scene in which a Kabbalah passage appears inside a dead body — much like the Hebrew passage engraved on a dental patient’s teeth in the Coens’ very Jewish movie. In the opening scene of “A Serious Man,” a possible dybbuk appears in a 19th-century shtetl.
“There was an enormous amount of inspiration taken from that film,” Park said.
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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