Haiti Relief Update

We’ve finally gotten some footage from our sponsor Dave, who’s been in Haiti all week assisting with relief efforts. Besides distributing supplies and helping with triage, Dave and his anonymous Flip cameraman have managed to capture the scope of international presence in decimated Port-Au-Prince.

Here’s a tour of an outdoor hospital run by the IDF, with a spontaneous op-ed speech about why and how the Israelis managed to be the first responders after the disaster:

For more of Dave’s on-the-ground videos including street footage, check out PrimeTime’s YouTube Channel.

I personally have not heard from my Brother the Doctor, who was deployed as part of a FEMA international medical response team last week as well, but according to this piece in the Arizona press, he is hard at work performing trauma surgery at a facility right outside the city.

He did manage to text our mother yesterday with the following image of his accommodations:

My mother forwarded it me, with the message “Well, I guess we can’t call him ‘The Prince’ anymore…”

For reals, we are kvelling to have a family member who has the skills to provide so much help to people in need. In the Yenta house we’ve made some donations, but El Yenta Boy has decided on his own that there is one form of tzedakeh that’s going to fulfill his deep and sincere need to serve: We need to adopt a Haitian orphan.

“Please, Mom? I’d take care of it and feed it and let it sleep in my bottom bunk…”

I told him that he can barely keep the snake cage clean and that generally, we don’t refer to human beings as “it,” but that I’d discuss it with El Yenta Man.

In the meantime, a wish for a peaceful, sheltered, delicious Shabbat to all.

A New Jewish Olympian

Mazel tov to Laura Spector, who recently qualified as the youngest member of the U.S. Biathlon Team. Laura’s the daughter of my dad’s medical school roommate, and we’re awfully proud to have a connection, no matter how tenuous, to a real, live Olympic athlete. (And until talking until you’re blue in the face becomes a recognized sport, it’s as close as we’re gonna get around here.)

Though I’ve known what a biathlon since watching an 80s afterschool special starring Tracy Pollan as a winter athlete who gets kidnapped by some creepy Deliverance guys while training in the snowy backwoods, but here’s a little education for those of you who missed that one: A biathlon is any sport that involves two disciplines, but Olympically-speaking, it usually refers to a race that combines cross-country skiing and rifle-shooting.

Since Laura hails from chilly Massachusetts, I can understand the skiing part, but just how does a nice Jewish girl get involved with big guns? I don’t know, but maybe she’ll give me an interview when she’s returned from Canada, perhaps with a medal! Until then, here’s the Dartmouth student explaining her love of the sport to USA Today:

Cheer Laura and the rest of the American athletes on during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver next month — from the comfort of your sofa and with the convenience of your DVR, of course.

Don’t Have to Tell Me Twice

imagesI’ve gotten several emails from around the country — or rather, the same email forwarded several times — imploring me, as a Jew, to boycott Mel Gibson’s new movie, Edge of Darkness, opening this weekend.

Now, I have many reasons to not to see Mel’s film. First off, he’s a cheating douchebag. Second, his Jews-killed-Jesus directorial direction in The Passion of the Christ made all the old people in America scared to go to the mall. Third, he’s never apologized for his 2006 anti-Semitic drunken spewfest when he accused Jews of being “responsible for all the wars in the world.”

Look, I’m a forgiver. It’s been a long time since Mel has shone his bigoted colors. I mean, after three years a reporter should be ashamed to even bring it up, right? Watch KTLA’s Sam Rubin try his damndest:

Yup, Mel’s still a douche. But I’m not going to tell you not to see his movie because it’s bad for the Jews. I’m telling you not to see it because according to the reviews, it sucks.

joseph_gordon_levittBetter you should rent 500 Days of Summer, a very cute and inoffensive film with a kicky soundtrack starring sexy mensch Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Hippie Jews Have Their Day

AAAAC4_5busAAAAAAF2z7wSo in these parts most Jews identify themselves by the initials of the congregations to which they belong: “B.B.J.” is the Orthodox shul B’nai B’rith Jacob, “A.A.” is short for Agudath Achim, the Conservative synagogue, and “T.M.I.” not only stands for “too much information” but also for “Temple Mickve Israel,” the Reform representation in Savannah.

Plenty of folks belong to all three, which means playing local Jewish geography is a deluge of acronyms: “My parents belong to the B.B.J., but we’re associate members of the A.A. because my grandparents were founding members, but I like to go to T.M.I. ’cause the services are shorter.”

Though I pay some dues, I’ve never liked the term “unaffiliated” to describe those who can’t find a spiritual home among the available choices. Thanks to Adam Solender, the big man at the JEA, there’s now an acronym for those of us who don’t need no stinkin’ labels: “J.J.”

Stands for “Just Jewish.” Dig it.

I also have Adam to thank for letting me know the outlaw Jews of Berkeley have gotten officially organized. I heard about Chochmat Halev back when I was working as a copywriter at San Francisco’s J. Weekly but I never made it to one of their famous stomp-your-feet Shabbat services.

Now that the little-meshugge Jewish meditation group-that-could is a full-fledged synagogue, it gives me great hope that “alternative Judaism” — that which aspires to inspire the soul using the ancient texts in a context that makes sense in the present moment — might have a fighting chance as a widespread movement.

In “How A ‘Jewish Rave’ Grew Up to Be A Synagogue” at Forward.com, Zeek editor Jo Ellen Green Kaiser examines how a loosey group of 40 has gained momentum and given rise to a movement that almost transcends definition, let alone affiliation:

Drawing from the Jewish meditation movement, the Renewal movement (particularly its embrace of Hasidic chant and dance), feminist liturgy, and African and Middle Eastern music, the new Jewish spirituality defines itself as an alternative to both formulaic davening and rationalist, English-based, sit-in-the-pew prayer.

Meditative Feminist African Dance Judaism? Sheesh, I thought that was something I made up after inhaling too much besamim. Now I find out that not only is it a recognized tendril of modern Judaism (it doesn’t get more validating than the Forward) but that there’s an actual synagogue I could affiliate with — if I still lived in the Bay Area.

*sigh* Sounds dreamy. Still, I know enough about Jews and opinions to figure out that it’s not easy to harness a community of unorthodox observers. Chochmat Halev is trying to find the balance of containing itself within a “traditional” congregational format while maintaining its freethinking mission, and there’s also a paradoxical problem of what was fringe moving into the mainstream, kinda like when punk music actually started selling albums. Green Kaiser rightfully asks, “What happens when an anti-establishment movement establishes itself?”

Although, really, when spinning like an ecstatic Sufi during the Amidah becomes mainstream, I will likely be far dead and gone. But could we be on our way towards (or back?) to a more authentic, connected form of worship that would bring all those “J.J’s” home?

Can the new Jewish spirituality be institutionalized? Chochmat’s example shows that a very different kind of Judaism can exist within the four walls of a synagogue … a sign that American Jews are ready to change the content of their worship, if not the institutional structure in which it takes place.

Well, at least they are in Berkeley, anyway. Here in Savannah, I’m not sure the Jews are ready to change the tune of “Adon Olam” to something that doesn’t put everyone to sleep. But Udi the Shaliach and I are plotting to get this Havdalah rave thing off the ground with a family-friendly dance party, disco lights and some Israeli acid jazz (Infected Mushroom roolz, yo!) so who knows — perhaps the new Jewish spirituality might sneak its way into the deep South.

Until then, a meditative, bumpin’-beat Good Shabbos to all!

*T-Shirt available from LonelyDinosaur.com.

Savannah Jewish Film Festival Feb. 5-14

getimageWho was it that said there’s no ruach in Jewish life in the South? Um, come to think of it, it might’ve been me, but it was probably a long time ago and I was just pissed off that I can’t find a decent bagel around here. (Someone told me the Midtown Deli makes their own – anyone?)

No matter, ’cause in the next few weeks Savannah’s gonna get ELECTRIC with cul-chah as 12 Jewishy-themed films are screened for the public. The mensches in charge of the Savannah Jewish Film Festival have a little sumpin’ for everyone — and by that, I mean I’d better see y’all’s tushies at Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg, which basically proves that balabusta Gertrude Berg invented the sit-com, and at Jump, starring Mr. Patrick Swayze in one of his final roles. Browse the full line-up for other super-juicy treats.

Listen, nowhere else within 500 miles are you gonna find Israeli sumo wrestlers, Filipino drag queen homecare workers and most shocking of all, happily single observant Jewish women.

Full festival passes are only $50 for JEA members (which all you locals should be because now that the DAC is closed where are you working out?) and $65 for non-members or $7/$9 per screening.

Check out an excerpt of “Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg” — why, YES, that IS Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Most showings will take place at the JEA. See you there!

Help Heads to Haiti!

Dave and his forkliftWell, there has certainly been a big turn of events in PrimeTime Amusements’ efforts to get vital supplies to the citizens of Haiti since Friday’s post:

After PTA President David Goldfarb filled up his trucks on South Beach all weekend with your generous donations, he was recruited to accompany said goods to the beleaguered island yesterday. Dave himself arranged everything on palettes to ready it for delivery, and his experience driving forklifts to move his giant 700-lb. arcade games was a huge asset when packing the 40-foot container full of thousands of pounds of water, medical supplies and non-perishable food. He’s been put in charge of logistics for this mission, which means he’ll be distributing the supplies after making contact with the University of Miami medical team.

One thing that you should know about Dave is that not only is he a savvy businessman with a heart of gold, he’s a trained UFC fighter with monstrous muscles. OK, maybe he’s not a professional kickboxer spilling blood on TV on Saturday nights, but really, even if someone likes to fight in a ring with no shoes and no rules as a hobby, that automatically of makes them a huge bada**, don’t you think? I once went to a club with Dave and he made the bouncer cry. When Chuck Norris needs a pep talk, he begs Dave to roundkick him in the head to set him straight. I’m telling you this because no one, no one, is gonna be looting these supplies when this mensch while the iron fists is guarding them.

This just in: My man in Miami, my Columbian source for all news related to these relief efforts, has just informed me of more incredible news for the people of Haiti. Another sweeping organizational force, that weapon of mass construction, My Brother the Doctor, will be flying out on Saturday to Haiti to join Dave in triage work and other logistical endeavors. Everybody better put down the machetes and stand in line, nice and orderly-like — if they know what’s good for them.

Stay tuned to Yo, Yenta! in the few days for the latest in PTA Haiti Relief news…

Help for Haiti

haiti-photos3Attention to those in the Miami area: PrimeTime Amusements, parent company of Jmerica.com and longtime Yo, Yenta! sponsor, is collecting relief supplies in South Beach to send to Haiti:

“I have donated my PrimeTime trucks for the victims in Haiti from the recent earthquake. It will be parked in front of 90 Alton Road until Monday morning, January 18th. Bring your donations – water, non-perishable food, fist-aid kits, shoes, etc. No matter where you are in the world, from Miami to New York, South America to Europe, take the time to donate something.”

- David Goldfarb, President, PrimeTime Amusements

PrimeTime has found an aviation sponsor who will fly everything directly to Haiti and pass it off to a team of doctors from the University of Miami, who will then distribute it into the hands of Haitian citizens until it runs out. This grassroots project is one that will actually help instead of hamper – as PA rep CTraffik points out, “the ENTIRE effort is state-less … all spontaneous and sans-government (with the exception of the FAA having to give our planes clearance to leave).” EXCELLENT.

For those of us far, far away from such a magical place where flipflops are being worn this week but are still looking give tzedakeh to the efforts to get the Haitian people back on their feet (although, honestly, where have we been for the last 20 years??) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE check out CharityNavigator.org! This site rates charities based on past efficacy, and there’s a list of tips to ensure your donation will be put to good use (Tip #2: Do not give to the creepy and corrupt Haitian government because it will be promptly spent on Cadillacs and caviar for its head honchos instead of clean drinking water and shoes for its citizens. Besides, it’s not tax-deductible.)

Let’s do our research before throwing our hard-earned dollars at any ol’ text or email that comes your way (it’s great to see that American Jewish World Service is one of CharityNavigator’s top-recommended organizations!)

A Blessed Shabbos to everyone, near and far…

This Too Shall Pass

The above-mentioned phrase is, of course, the title to Chicago art band OK Go‘s new fabulous video (which can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, but go watch it here, ok?) and is also a mantra that I’m invoking to dissolve the writer’s block that’s been plaguing me this week.

The video is amazing — OK Go got themselves famous for their mind-blowing one-take wonders, and they’ve outdone themselves with the visuals for “This Too Shall Pass” off their new album, Of The Blue Colour of the Sky.

Check out OK Go bassist and nice Jewish boy Tim Norwind in this week’s Jewish Chronicle, where he says yes, there are in fact Jews in Kalamazoo.

Tim also fronts the band in their 2006 breakout hit “Here It Goes Again,” which cannot be watched enough times:

Eh, at least I’m inspired to head to the gym…

Bring it On, Blondie

Well, since my declaration of independence from obligational Judaism last week not only have I managed to drag my tush out of bed for Saturday morning services to lead my Shalom Schoolers in the Sh’ma and AGAIN on Sunday to teach those same little Jews a thing or two, I’ve also agreed to attend a planning meeting for the Purim festivities at the JEA and RSVP’d for a “future community leaders” cocktail party. What the hell is wrong with me? Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in … *sigh* At least there’s always food at these things, although I’m with the kinders in being totally over the bottomless barrel of animal crackers that some well-meaning parent brought in at Rosh Hashanah.

I decided as an antidote to all this Jewishy do-goodness, it was high time I surrounded myself with some meshugenah (*from the Yenta’s non-definitive, interpretive modern guide to Yiddish: “crazy-a**” or “batsh*t”) shiksas (*from the Yenta’s non-definitive, interpretive modern guide to Yiddish: fun-loving, non-Jewish girls who you hope will convert before they marry your son.)

See, ever since high school when I was the only Jewish drill team dancer in the history of suburban Arizona (although surely I no longer hold that distinction) I’ve always tended to find myself amonst groups of large blond women. I’m not sure what this shiksa collecting is all about. Maybe I’m trying to emulate their tall, graceful ways; maybe it emphasizes my Semitic good looks. Maybe I’m trying to taunt my mother by introducing them to my Brother the Doctor. Maybe I have repressed fantasies about Pamela Anderson. Whatever the attraction, I always seem to have many dear friends who are much taller and blonder than I. You should see my wedding photos with my bridesmaids — it looks like Tarzan’s monkey bride invited the Amazons to give her away.

Anyhoo, since moving to Savannah I have acquired yet another awesome set of hot blonds (or so they say, only their hairdressers for fer shur) whom I adore and who think my obsession with my own Judaism is boring and will always remind me that I am far too twisted to be trusted with the spiritual shepherding of other people’s children. We got together Saturday night at the home of the Tallest and Blondest (T&B) for some vodka and gossip, and I was really looking forward to not discussing synagogue politics or how to make a Havdalah spice box out of a Coke can.

Now, one member of my blond posse in particular, let’s call her Uber Shiksa Chick, is more charmingly meshugenah than the rest. She’s a brilliant single mom who makes loads of money doing something with insurance; she’s also very up front about the fact that she grew up in Effingham County, GA and therefore knows nothing about Jews except that she’s almost positive that it’s not cool to say they’re cheap like her older brother taught her. USC has this amazing quality of being able to say the most offensive sh*t on the planet and get away with it; she says it’s because she paid $7K for her boobs, I think it’s because underneath her wacka** persona, there’s a truly generous and sincere person — who could probably use some ADD meds. She totally slays me.

So I’m mixing up a pear martini in T&B’s kitchen when USC shows up and takes off her coat, revealing something that blew my mind even more than the huge carton of chicken wings: Hanging around her neck, right above her top-of-the-line rack was a HA-yoooog Star of David.

I gasped and pointed.

“Christ on a bike! Look, I’m sorry b*tch, but the f*ckers at Fresh Market only had chipotle bacon, okay? Eat a cracker and shut up.”

I tried again. “Why…are you…wearing that?”

She looked down. “What? No big deal.”

I sputtered that it IS a big deal, not because it’s offensive, but that if rockin’ Jewish bling has become trendy, well, that is a MARVELOUS milestone for the Jewish people, but Britney Spears aside, I’m not sure we’re there yet. I was pretty sure USC didn’t buy her necklace at Express, so I had to grill her on how might’ve acquired it.

“I stole it. From a cop in Garden City. He was hot.”

First of all, only USC could say that with a straight face. Second, there’s a hot Jewish cop in Garden City and I didn’t know about it?

“Yeah, well, he actually gave it to me. I told him I was going to buy a gun for Christmas but I forgot and I wanted it for protection.”

I tried to explain that wearing a Jewish star is actually the opposite of protection in many neighborhoods of the world and that she would have done better to talk him into giving her his gun, but she was having none of it.

“Look, I’m exploring right now. I’m trying on being Jewish and I don’t need any sh*t from you unless you’re gonna show me how to do it.”

It occurred to me that I could work this to my advantage. “You got it. The first thing you gotta do is go to a meeting about Purim tomorrow night…”

“A PORN meeting? I love this religion already!”

Yeah, I’ve been the only Jewess among blondes for too long — I could get used to sharing the spotlight…

Yenta and USC rock the bling

Yenta and USC rock the bling

IMG_0406

*I must give all kinds credit to Jodi Laird, a fellow brunette and Goddess of Legs, who witnessed the whole scene and took this photo!

Probably Not Coming to A Shul Near You…

shemot091Excellent news! Ben Yehudah Press has raised the funds it needed to publish Aaron Freeman and Sharon Rosenzweig’s The Comic Torah, which means those of us who pre-ordered this fabulous and colorful piece of holy heresy can expect our copies … soon?

By Passover, me hopes, ’cause it’d be super fun to spice up the seder with its hubba-hubba characters and manaically hilarious — yet sincere — interpretations of the Good Book. (Yes! Would the authors consider a comic hagaddah as their next project? It might keep El Yenta Man from falling asleep after the third cup of wine…)

Check out this week’s parsha, Shmot, featuring a dark Moses encountering the purple-haired goblin who lives in the burning bush. Good gawsh, I do love these people’s dark sense of humor. Charming as The Comic Torah might be, however, even I in my newly-amped blash-feemous glory can tell it isn’t appropriate material for the Shalom School kinders. But b’nai mitvot kids will loooooove it!