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‘Succession,’ ‘Barry’ and the very Jewish nature of unresolved endings



This story originally appeared on My Jewish Learning.

(JTA) — Over the past few weeks, a lot of sad faces were peering at their screens as two popular television shows came to an end. Two HBO staples, “Succession” and “Barry,” aired their season finales in late May. And as happens with all high-drama prestige television, the debates began the moment the episode was over. Did Kendall deserve what he got? Was justice served for Mr. Cousineau? Without revealing any details, it is fair to say that many fans were left with that gnawing feeling of an unresolved ending.

TV endings were not always this way. Decades before “The Sopranos” famously concluded with its cut to black, shows typically concluded with a nice emotional ribbon — loose ends tied up, characters discovering the promised land. On “Cheers,” Sam returned to his bar. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended with an actual group hug. On “Friends,” Ross and Rachel finally got together. “M*A*S*H,” still the most watched television finale of all time, ended with the main character finally returning home, wistfully looking from a helicopter to the word “goodbye” spelled out in stone. The episode was aptly titled, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”

Then everything got darker and grittier. Today, TV fans have come to expect unsettling, unresolved and even unhinged endings to their favorite shows. I am here to say that such conclusions are quintessentially Jewish. The Torah itself is an ode to unresolved endings.

As you may already know, the Torah concludes (spoiler alert!) with the death of Moses on the edge of the promised land. I take it for granted now, but imagine reading this for the first time. What?! The leader of the Jewish people, who brought them out of Egypt, received the Torah on Sinai and led them through the desert for 40 years doesn’t live happily ever after in the promised land?

If the Torah were an HBO show, fans would have been outraged. Shouldn’t the final scene have seen Moses walking arm and arm with the Jewish people across the Jordan River, the sun slowly setting as the credits roll? Instead, we are left with our beloved leader buried right outside the land he yearned to enter. Why does the Torah end this way?

Franz Kafka — himself no stranger to unresolved endings (The Trial” ends with Joseph K. being beaten “like a dog”)— took an interest in this question. He writes:

The dying vision of it can only be intended to illustrate how incomplete a moment is human life, incomplete because a life like this could last forever and still be nothing but a moment. Moses fails to enter Canaan not because his life is too short but because it is a human life.

In Kafka’s reading, the Torah’s ending reflects the larger reality of human life itself, which is “nothing but a moment,” an exercise in incompleteness. Our personal narratives don’t fit neatly into a box. They don’t have ribbons on top and rarely end with group hugs. Human life ends unrequited, ever yearning, ever hoping. As Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg writes in her magisterial biography of Moses: “Veiled and unveiled, he remains lodged in the Jewish imagination, where, in his uncompleted humanity, he comes to represent the yet-unattained but attainable messianic future.”

And that is perhaps why I love abrupt endings most. They reflect the fabric of life itself. As David Foster Wallace once observed of Kafka’s narratives, they emphasize “[t]hat our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.” What is more human than an ending that just recursively folds into another beginning of longing and hoping? Moses’ unrealized dream and legacy continues, and begins again, in the minds and hearts of those captured by his story.

So save your group hugs for sitcoms. Real life doesn’t have a neat ending. We continue the journey where the last generation left off. An ending that perpetually endures.

The post ‘Succession,’ ‘Barry’ and the very Jewish nature of unresolved endings 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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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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