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‘Mitzvah Mania’: A Los Angeles synagogue is hosting a show with Jewish professional wrestlers



LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Colt Cabana, real name Scott Colton, is used to walking out to crowds of hundreds of fans as a member of All Elite Wrestling, a popular show that airs on channels such as TBS and TNT.

On Sunday, he’ll be wrestling at a synagogue.

Temple Beth Am, located in Los Angeles’ heavily Jewish neighborhood of Pico-Robertson, is putting on “Mitzvah Mania,” a one-off show with mostly Jewish wrestlers. It’s pegged to another event taking place this weekend: “WrestleMania,” the annual marquee event for the WWE, the country’s largest professional wrestling series.

“Mitzvah Mania” will break new ground for the synagogue with about 900 member families that typically holds more traditional programming, such as Shabbat dinners, adult education offerings and text study.

“We’re trying to do something different that synagogues haven’t seen before,” said Ari Fife, the synagogue’s director of programming and engagement.

The show, which is being billed as the first of its kind, will include six matches, five of which will feature only Jewish wrestlers who perform at various professional tiers, and one with a Jewish referee.

In addition to Cabana, attendees will see former Jewish WWE stars Lisa Marie Varon (or Victoria, as she was known in the ring) and Chris Mordetzky (a two-time National Wrestling Alliance champion known as Chris Masters and later Chris Adonis).

“Certainly in America, this is the first time there’s been representation in every match on the card, Jewishly,” said Jeremy Fine, a Chicago-area rabbi who planned the event.

The backstory started about seven years ago, when Fine, who runs the Jewish sports blog “The Great Rabbino,” went to his first independent wrestling show and saw Cabana, a fellow native of Deerfield, Illinois.

Fine was living in Minnesota at the time, and he recalled telling some of his congregants about the show. When they suggested putting on a wrestling show at the synagogue, he thought the idea was crazy. (Fine’s former synagogue is still innovating: they recently built an ice skating rink.)

“They were very persistent,” Fine told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We did it, and it was a huge success. And by our second show, we were sold out in a Minnesota blizzard on a Wednesday evening.”

Fine ended up hosting three wrestling shows at Temple of Aaron Synagogue in St. Paul Jewish with Israeli athletes and entertainers — “Mitzvah Mayhem,” “Hanukkah Havoc” and “Exodus.” It turned into his own wrestling company, 2econd Wrestling, that puts on shows near his current pulpit in Chicago and around the country, including Sunday’s event in L.A.

“Mitzvah Mania” will be Fine’s most Jewish show yet.

Fine had approached Beth Am about the event to tie it to “WrestleMania,” which rotates its location and is this year being held at nearby SoFi Stadium. Fife said the synagogue’s senior staff was hesitant about the idea, even as they set out to hold more unique events.

Fife, who himself grew up a wrestling fan, said there was initially “a lack of understanding of what wrestling really is.” For the uninitiated, professional wrestling in the likes of the WWE and AEW is a far cry from Olympic-style wrestling. In addition to being athletic performers, wrestlers like Cabana are also entertainment figures, complete with detailed costumes and character backstories.

Fife said once everyone understood the storytelling aspect of the sport — and were assured that it’s not as violent as they thought — the idea was approved.

“Mitzvah Mania” is sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations, including Maccabi USA, BBYO and the Jewish National Fund. Fife said Beth Am secured a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles to help put the event on.

Fine said Jewish interest in wrestling has increased in recent years, in part thanks to Maxwell Jacob Friedman (known simply as “MJF”), the current AEW world champion and an outspoken and proud Jew. Earlier this month, for example, Friedman celebrated his “re-bar mitzvah” as part of an “AEW Dynamite” night on TBS. Jewish fans also cheered when Goldberg, one of the stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s WWE craze, returned to the ring in 2015.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman attends a UFC event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Dec. 10, 2022. (Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

The overlap between Jews and wrestling extends beyond the ring, Fine said, arguing that the connection is biblical — from Jacob wrestling with an angel in Genesis to rabbis intellectually wrestling in the Talmud.

“If we just take that and put it into the context of wrestling, we at our core, are storytellers,” Fine said. “We’re listening to the stories, and we’re incorporating them into our lives and we’re building up. And so wrestling is the greatest platform to struggle, to wrestle and to very much create stories that present a narrative for us to think and root for what’s good and boo what’s evil. That’s the story of Purim!”

He said it’s important for rabbis to go beyond the usual work of teaching the weekly Torah portion, or speaking about antisemitism and Israel. Many wrestlers Fine has worked with will approach him with questions about Judaism — from asking about holidays to basic questions about what a synagogue or JCC is.

“If we’re really going to defeat antisemitism, if we’re really going to be able to have intellectual conversations about the modern State of Israel, what better way to do that than rabbis getting into niche communities and really having those conversations, and not just talking to the congregants who either agree or have heard it before?” Fine said.

The post ‘Mitzvah Mania’: A Los Angeles synagogue is hosting a show with Jewish professional wrestlers 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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