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Julie Benko, ‘Funny Girl’ standby star, to join Broadway cast of Barry Manilow’s ‘Harmony’



(New York Jewish Week) – Broadway actress Julie Benko won’t be out of a job when “Funny Girl,” in which she plays the Jewish performer Fanny Brice, closes in September.

Instead, Benko, 34, will join the cast of Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman’s forthcoming Broadway musical “Harmony,” which is set to begin previews Oct. 18 and open Nov. 13 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, Playbill is reporting.

The new role, like the one in “Funny Girl,” has Benko playing a Jewish woman in a musical about performers from a century ago. “Harmony” follows the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a popular singing group in 1920s Germany consisting of both Jews and non-Jews. The group was banned from performing in 1934, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported at the time, for including two “non-Aryan” singers

Benko, who is Jewish and got her start on stage at her local Jewish community center, is playing Ruth Stern, the Jewish wife of a non-Jewish member of the Comedian Harmonists.

“It is rare to be offered the chance to be part of a Broadway show that resonates so deeply on both personal and political levels,” Benko said in a statement. 

“Harmony,” which features music from Jewish legend Manilow and lyrics from Sussman, premiered in 1997 and was most recently staged by the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene during a four-week run at the Museum of Jewish Heritage last year.

“We wrote the show we wanted to write, and we hoped that people would like it and that we would find a home for it. It was just a matter of getting it to New York,” Manilow told the New York Jewish Week ahead of the opening of “Harmony” at the Folksbiene

The Folksbiene production went on to win “Best New Musical” at the 2022 Off Broadway Alliance Awards. 

Since April 2022, Benko has appeared on Broadway as the standby for the Fanny Brice character in “Funny Girl,” a role originated by Barbra Streisand. Her first big step into the role was last June, when then-lead Beanie Feldstein contracted COVID-19 and missed several shows. Benko ultimately filled for Feldstein 26 times, then performed the role full-time last August after Feldstein left the show early and before “Glee” star Lea Michele took the helm in September.

Benko quickly became a fan favorite; according to the New York Times, “she has established herself in theater-loving circles as a performer worth seeing.” In an email to the Times, Michele called Benko “a savior” to the show, and since September Benko has performed the role every Thursday night.

Prior to her role in “Funny Girl,” Benko was a swing for the roles of Hodel and Chava in the 2015 Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” As it happens, “Fiddler” was also the show that launched her career; at age 14, she appeared as Hodel in a production mounted by the JCC in Fairfield, Connecticut, where she grew up. 

“I’ve covered eight roles in ‘Fiddler,’ and I feel like Fanny is more than all that put together,” Benko told the New York Times. “Plus Tevye maybe.”

The post Julie Benko, ‘Funny Girl’ standby star, to join Broadway cast of Barry Manilow’s ‘Harmony’ 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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