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Just in time for Hanukkah, an irreverent Jewish adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ debuts on stage



(New York Jewish Week) — A selfish social media influencer, an all-knowing, benevolent ghost known as “Harry the Hanukkah Fairy” and “Tiny Tim” Cratchet, the good-natured ill child from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” may seem like they all come from different worlds, but each appears as a character in “A Hanukkah Carol, or GELT TRIP! The Musical” — a show its creators hope will become a winter tradition for years to come.

For co-creators Harrison Bryan, Rob Berliner and Aaron Kenny, the lighthearted “A Hanukkah Carol” is their answer to inundation of Christmas material and cheer throughout December.

“There is a plethora of Christmas entertainment options that we get every holiday season, especially in New York City,” said Jewish actor and playwright Bryan, a native of Brooklyn. “For me, growing up, there was a sense that Hanukkah is the second-place holiday.”

His new musical, however, “feels like this is an opportunity to join the party in a way that feels authentic,” he said. “It’s just allowing the season to feel more inclusive in a city that prides itself on being a melting pot.”

The plot of “A Hanukkah Carol” centers around Chava Kanipshin, a cruel and manipulative social media influencer who hides her Jewish identity because she was bullied as a child. But on one memorable Hanukkah, Chava is visited by spirits of the past, present and future to reckon with her life’s work — namely, her pursuit of internet fame by posting mean and embarrassing videos of her friends and family — before it is too late.

It’s a very obvious Jewish take on Dickens’ 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol” — which has already been adapted into various plays, movies and more in what feels like a thousand times over. (Did anyone else suffer through the 2009 Matthew McConaughey flick “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”?) But to remake this classic in a Jewish way feels refreshing, adding new depth by exploring themes of Jewish pride, tradition, family and tikkun olam. After all, what is “A Christmas Carol” if not a guilt trip (or, erm, a “gelt trip”) — that stereotypical purview of Jewish mothers everywhere?

Bryan claims the show is “authentically Jewish, but not exclusively,” meaning he and partners want their version of “A Christmas Carol” to be something Jews can participate in and love for themselves. At the same time, however, due to the musical’s inclusive and heartwarming holiday message, it can be appreciated by anyone.

“There’s no Hanukkah classic yet — there’s not a Hanukkah film or show that people go to see as a matter of tradition,” lyricist Berliner told the New York Jewish Week. “We have the opportunity to take our decades of Jewish life and pop culture and comedic sensibilities and love of musical theater and sense of what’s commercial and merge it all together and see how we could present something that even non-Jewish friends would love.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, the show is rife with references to “Fiddler on the Roof,” both implicitly and explicitly. For example, main character Chava, the Scrooge-like social media maven, has nearly lost her parents’ goodwill due to continually blowing them off for holidays and acting superior to them. When Chava has a visit from the ghost of Hanukkah future, she hears her father say: “She’s dead to us.” This, of course, is a callback to “Fiddler,” when protagonist Tevye says something similar when his third daughter — also named Chava — marries a non-Jew.

The creators of “A Hanukkah Carol” see their musical as “in conversation” with the classic Jewish musical. “There are no smartphones in Anatevka, but exploring what it means to be Jewish — both in a contemporary moment and looking backwards and forwards — is a core part of ‘Fiddler,’” Berliner said. “It asks, ‘what is tradition and how can we change with the times?’ Oddly, the framework of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is perfectly aligned with that.”

Bryan, for his part, describes “A Hanukkah Carol” as “Dickens meets ‘Fiddler’ meets Mel Brooks.”

The show, which had an “industry reading” at a Midtown rehearsal studio on Tuesday, has been a long time coming — the trio has been working on it since 2018, all while juggling day jobs and navigating a hiatus during the worst months of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Kenny, a composer, and Berliner, a lyricist, met as songwriters through the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, which is considered a “top training ground” for up-and-coming theater artists. The two loved working together, and wanted to find a playwright to collaborate with. Kenny, an Australian — whom the group calls their “token goy” — reached out to Bryan, whom he had worked with on his masters thesis film at NYU. Bryan immediately sent over 20 short plays he had written — “A Hanukkah Carol” rose to the top.

Berliner, who is Jewish and grew up in Westchester, was sold immediately on Byran’s “A Hanukkah Carol” script. “The reaction that I had is the reaction that we’ve experienced a lot of folks have when we tell them the title of our show, which is, ‘how does this not exist yet?’” he said. “I would have been drawn to it at any point in my life. I certainly was in this moment.”

After working together on the script and songs, the trio put out an animated “proof of concept” trailer in early 2022. When they saw how much interest the trailer garnered, they opened up a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $33,000 in a month — which will allow them to stage a one-night-only performance at The Green Room 42 (570 10th Ave.) on Sunday, Dec. 18, the first night of Hanukkah. The concert will also be livestreamed.

Meanwhile, Bryan, Berliner and Kenny are in the process of searching for a producer — whether that be for Broadway, off-Broadway or an animated or live-action movie. During the Dec. 6 reading at Ripley-Grier Studios, where an all-Jewish cohort of eight Broadway actors played the more than 80 parts in the show, steady laughter throughout and a standing ovation at the end felt like finally seeing a dream come true.

“It felt amazing,” Bryan said about the first full run-through. “The sky’s the limit!”

“A Hanukkah Carol, or GELT TRIP! The Musical” will be performed at The Green Room 42, 570 10th Ave., on Sunday, Dec. 18. Livestream also available.  Tickets from $15.

The post Just in time for Hanukkah, an irreverent Jewish adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ debuts on stage 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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