(JTA) — Like many of us left without plans during the initial COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Lisa Edelstein spent some of her time rummaging through old family photographs. But instead of just basking in the nostalgia, she was also on the lookout for her next painting project.
Since then, the actress, known for her often Jewish roles on several hit TV shows — from “House” to “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” to “The West Wing” to “The Kominsky Method” — has been producing paintings that recreate old photos of her Jewish family. She is showing them at her first solo art exhibition, titled “Family,” at the SFA Advisory art gallery in downtown Manhattan through Jan. 25.
“I don’t think there is any way around my Jewishness being a part of what I do or make, whether or not I intend to make it a part of it,” says Edelstein. “Almost every role I get turns Jewish if it lasts long enough. I don’t think of myself as so obviously a Jew, but my name definitely gives it away and I don’t mind.”
Her Jewish identity comes through in her paintings, too. Like the photos they are modeled after, they capture family members in candid moments, often at group events. There are works of men in yarmulkes kissing family members on the cheek at a celebration, of a woman mid-phone call, of kids and adults stuffing their faces at a pizza parlor.
“What I’m looking for are those images that tell a more honest story, a caught moment, an odd angle, an awkward pose,” Edelstein said. “We don’t have images like that anymore, the world is too camera savvy and our phones are so high tech that we can just delete things that tell stories we’d like to forget or filter them into something else. Back when we took pictures on film, each photo took time, effort, and money to produce, so even if we hated it, we tended to keep it, at least in a box somewhere. Those are the ones I’m looking for.”
Edelstein, 56, grew up in Wayne, New Jersey, in a Conservative Jewish household observing all the holidays and Shabbat.
“Though I was raised with a healthy Jewish identity, it wasn’t without embarrassment and apologetics,” she said. It didn’t help that the local head of the school board, who later became mayor, published an article in a local paper telling people not to vote for the Jews for the school board because they would cancel Christmas.
“The way people talk about Jewish women in particular, with for example the word JAP [a derogatory term used to describe young Jewish women], is really disgusting. On some level, I think there was a feeling that I needed to dissociate myself with that identity in order to not be that thing that people associated with that identity,” she said.
She did consider changing her name when she moved to Los Angeles in 1991, thinking it could help her career. But she said it would have taken away from any feeling of true success. It was letting Hitler win, she said.
She has since dealt with antisemitism in her career, from being lumped into a non-specific “ethnic” category at the start of her career, to not getting a job because they already had a Jewish actor — and two Jews were considered one Jew too many.
A few years ago, Edelstein posted an old photo of herself with her mother and two siblings on Instagram for her mother’s birthday, and it happened to be in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. She got death threats in public comments, which she deleted, on the post.
“And lately, just painting a yarmulke feels like a radical move, never mind painting an El Al logo or even just Jewish faces. It’s suddenly daring to just be publicly Jewish,” she said.
But she wasn’t afraid to put Jewish-themed art on display. She was more nervous about the entire project in the first place.
“Actresses are a breed that people love and they also love to hate, so you just don’t know what the public response is going to be. But I felt very supported within the art community, at least the one I’m in,” she said.
Edelstein enjoyed drawing as a child and teen, but she didn’t continue with it after high school. It wasn’t until pandemic lockdown that she returned seriously to the art form. It started with buying adult coloring books to fill the time, but she didn’t like the images in them and decided to make her own. Her husband, Robert Russell, an artist himself, pushed her to do more, and the images got larger and larger, until she went from magic marker to watercolor.
Russell always encouraged her to make things — when they first started dating, he asked her to make him a drawing about a week into their relationship. Always a fan of using photography as a starting point for her work, she gave him a drawing of herself at four years old sitting on the beach holding a crab. (He had given her a painting of two doves on their second date.)
“Suddenly I realized I actually did have permission to do this stuff, not because he gave it to me, but because I always had,” Edelstein said.
She will continue to act, write and direct, but she wants to continue in her new career, too. Edelstein is toying with the idea of adding drawings to a Passover haggadah that she wrote for her family and updates every year. If she published the haggadah for public consumption, the drawings could turn the seder book into a coloring book of sorts for small children.
“I have a lot of energy, so I’m up for whatever,” she said. “And I think it’s important to view all of these things as one. They’re just different ways my body pushes out ideas. Each one feeds the other.”
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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.
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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