Savannah Jewish Film Festival Starts TONIGHT!

Don’t worry, there’s no biopic of Bernie Madoff (“Scumdog Billionaire?”) Tonight kicks off with “Bye Bye Bravermen”, a hilarious Jewish intellectual take on the road trip/homage to dead friend genre at 7:30.

There are so many intriguing offerings goin’ on – the hard-working young Jews who organized this found something for everybody. Us Yentas are already way over the babysitting budget – I’m definitely down for “The Powder and the Glory,” a documentary that incorporates two of my favorite topics, smart Jewish women and make-up, and “Circumcise Me,” the story of some poor shmo who keeps converting to more observant levels of Judaism and thus must meet with the mohel more times than anyone’d care to.

I’ll also go ahead and recommend “Surfwise,” which El Yenta Man received on DVD for his birthday, about a meshuggeh Jewish doctor with nine children – I may just have to attend that screening on March 4 just to watch everyone’s faces when his wife starts talking about the rules of tushy hygiene while living in a 24-foot camper.

And best of all, this eclectic collection of celluloid culture is a BARGAIN – Passes to the ENTIRE festival are only $50 for JEA members – Get yours here!

Mutual Respect – the Elusive Illusion

Fascinating article by Stacy Palevsky in the current j.weekly about the conflicts within Jewish home about differing levels of observance:

“Much has been written and researched about interfaith couples. Much less is published about couples who are both Jewish. It’s assumed that two Jews equal one Jewish family.”

So just because you finally find your Jewish mate and make your bubbie happy, it doesn’t mean everything will peachy, right? I totally relate – even though we were both raised Reform, El Yenta Man and I have definitely diverge on certain issues: Bacon has crossed my lips in the past , but the guilt is too much so I generally abstain; he’ll mack on bbq, no problem. I’d rather meditate in nature than sit in synagogue; he joined the temple board. I do my best not to spend money or do anything work-related on Shabbat; he avoids doing anything work-related at all times. (Just kidding, babeleh.) But we do our dance and make it work and find the common ground.

Anyhoo, the article peeks into the lives of three couples and comes up with the following lightning bolt:

“Judaism means different things to different people.”

I know that seems like a big “DUH,” but if that idea was actually applied universally – and more importantly, locally(are you listening, Savannah?) to our secular institutions – we might actually maintain a healthy, thriving community instead of quibbling non-stop. (Like many Jewish community centers around the country, apparently ours is failing fast. In order to survive, it probably needs to be open on Saturdays to accomodate the people who’d like to spend their Sabbath on the treadmill or in the pool. If “Jewish” means being shomer Shabbos to you, you’ll spend it within the eruv; why does it matter what others do? The kitchen will still be kosher; the spirit of the place will be Jewish.)

*sigh* Wow, that was a little rant-y. It’s just that it’s nice to read about solutions.

The Yenta Method of Teaching Torah

Keeping my Shalom School kindergartners interested in the Old Testament can be a challenge, but I find sticking to six-year interests can help tremendously.

For instance, The Tower of Babel? We built a huge structure out of wooden blocks and knocked that sh*t over. Like fifty times. Jonah and Whale? El Yenta Man was subbing for me that day, and he turned off all the lights and had them pretend they were actually in the big fishy’s belly – they were “returned” to land after he burped really loud.

So naturally, today’s lesson (I know, we’re a bit behind) on Jacob’s all-night tussle with an angel the night before he went to seek his brother Esau’s forgiveness, led to the obvious: An arm-wrestling tournament.

Congrats to my man Eli, who went undefeated. I can only hope that if any of the others get this parsha for his or her b’nai mitzvah, they don’t challenge him to a rematch on the bima.

T-Shirt of the Week: Taking the Long View

Back in the 80’s Frankie used to say “Relax,” but now that our president has put the economic plan in full effect, I think “Oy Vey” is a much more appropriate reaction.

Whether we’re completely f*$#d or just partially remains to be seen, but maybe it’s still worth it to try relax about money – if there’s food in the fridge and no one’s come to evict you today, maybe that’s the best we can do for now. Personally, I’ve had plenty of tough times, and I’ve always drawn inspiration from artist SARK’s philosophy.

Yup, Jewish Women Are Hot. And?

For some reason I can’t post images today (WordPress gets PMS, too?!), but thanks to Heeb Magazine for directing the Yenta to Esquire‘s requisite “Wow, the Israeli gene pool really turns out some lookers” story.

Apparently that’s breaking news (again) since last week’s announcement that Israeli Bar Refaeli and her barely-covered boobies will grace the cover of Sports Illustrated‘s famed swimsuit issue this year. (Of course, Heeb beat SI to the punch by featuring Bar the Babe as a cover girl on its 5769 swimsuit calendar.) As a Jewish feminist, I find these types of stories reductive and silly but hardly offensive to the point of outrage. As Heeb’s blogger points out, it’s a welcome distraction from other way-uglier Jews in the news lately.

Personally, I think my homegirl Tzipi Livni is missing from Esquire’s list. I know my more hawkish readers don’t approve of my girlcrush – if she was that popular, Kadima would have swept it by more than one vote. But I have to say I’m impressed that’s she’s standing her ground by not ceding to Netanyahu’s suggestion that her party merge with Likud – as long as he’s in the top seat.

Yes, this is a time for to put aside party pettiness for the sake of Israel’s survival, but Tzipi’s dovish sanity is the face the world wants to see. If Bibi is really so hot on unity, he should offer to take second chair.

Either way, I wouldn’t want to see either of them in a bikini.

Chozzerai of the Week: Not For the Nunnery

Ha-yoooge “Chai Five” to Brooklynite jewelry designer Carlen Altman for creating Jewish Rosaries! I think these are freakin’ awesome – the hipster Jew alternative to Tibetan prayer beads. For shizz, why should Catholics and Buddhists get all the good bling?

Read the Jew Spot interview with Miss Carlen where she ‘splains that this is NOT the Chanukah Bush version of religious jewelry and buy your own here!

Hope this makes Pope Benedict XVI and his stupid Holocaust-denying friend Bishop Richard Williamson gag on their wafers.

Tu B’Shevat: Too Much Info

The battery in my camera died so I couldn’t post photos of Shalom School’s Tu B’Shevat (“the Jewish Arbor Day” lesson, which included planting little broccoli sproutlings (little trees, get it?), but I really wish I could upload the audio ’cause it was the kind of hilarious philosophical discussion that can only be overheard in kindergarten classrooms.

I feel like this holiday was one of my most successful lessons thus far as a Sunday School teacher. We walked around Monterey square collecting magnolia seed pods and pinecones and followed roots to branches with our pointer fingers and delved into the sacred geometrical attributes of God’s creation…

Teacher Yenta: So, check it out, you’ve got an apple, it’s got seeds inside. And oranges have seeds. And what about the giant one? It’s an avocado seed…

I hate avocados.

Teacher Yenta:
Fine, well, I promise never to bring guacamole for snack. So, see all these seeds are different, but each of them has all the information to make a whole big tree, which in turn grows more fruit, which has more seeds that pass on the information. Isn’t that cool?

God is really smart.

Teacher Yenta: I know! What a great system, right? God made it so everything is made from seeds and can keep going on and on…

Kindergartner: Is everything made from seeds?

Teacher Yenta: Yes! It’s a pattern, see? Even though these are all different things, they grow in the same way!

Kindergartner: Am I made from a seed?

Yenta (sweating): Um…yes….

Kindergartner: How did I get planted?

Ask your mother. Now, who wants apple slices?

Multi-Dimensional Marvels

The Yenta is busy blogging for her day job today, but I must direct your attention to the art of Mordechai Rosenstein. His combination of rich colors, Talmudic wisdom, Hebrew script and three-dimensional cutouts are just rocking my world right now.

For you locals, take a few moment to take in his show this month at the JEA before you sprint onto the treadmill!

Good Shabbos to all!

Alterkocker Worship

I don’t know who Sam Hoffman is and how he got his mom to use the F-word on camera, but he’s my new favorite Jew. Why? Because his site OldJewsTellingJokes, is the best idea EVER.

Storytelling is a Jewish tradition…Jokes are like stories, but shorter and funnier… Humor was and is the ultimate anti-depressant. My father gathered twenty of his friends to share their favorite jokes. We set three rules for the production: the joke-tellers were to be Jewish, at least sixty years of age and they were to tell their favorite joke – the one that always kills.

I’m just glad someone is videologging old Jews telling something other than Holocaust stories.

Not that those aren’t important, but after Iran bombs us all into oblivion shouldn’t future generations know what a freakin’ hilarious people we were?

Sorry. I drank cynicism for breakfast today.

You Know It’s Hard Out Here For A Yid

I’m back from Charleston (fabulous city – well, the block and half I saw of it, anyway) and am still catching up. But, please, behold the glory of last Sunday’s homemade havdalah candles:

You can see our snazzy salt shaker spiceboxes there in the background – that six dollar package of tissue paper has got to be the best investment ever.

Adorable as my little Shalom School babelehs are, I have to say it’s starting to get a little frusturating being a Jew around here. First off, when I asked the children this week how many of them actually celebrated havdalah (the short ritual that closes Shabbat) at home with their new candles and color-copied handouts, they looked at me like I was nuts. One kid told me he’d unraveled his beeswax candle and sculpted a robot out of it.

Then there’s the whole Israeli boycott business and synagogue attacks from Maine to Venezuela.

As if threats of global anti-Semitism and Hugo Chavez’s moronic machismo weren’t enough to make you sweat, apparently it’s going to get even hotter for the Jews of Savannah come summer: Plans to close down the JEA pool were announced in this month’s Savannah Jewish News.

El Yenta Man and I not thrilled about this turn of events (we’ve always welcomed the JEA pool as a wonderful opportunity to shock people with our inappropriate tattoos) and I’ve gathered from snippets overheard on the elliptical that people are VERY pissed about this. There’s a meeting on February 12th at 7pm for folks to weigh in, but I’m wondering: If the JEA board knew about the issues of the pool filter and resurfacing, why didn’t they spring into action right after the summer? That pool has been tearing up my kids feet for two freakin’ years and y’all are going to tell me no one knew a major overhaul was due? Puhleez.

If there’s no pool for camp, I have no idea what will happen to our summer plans.

*Sigh* But I’m positive we won’t be vacationing in Caracas.