The Thing You Need To Know About Jewish Film Festivals Is That They’re Not All About the Holocaust

Savannah Jewish Film Festival starts tonight!

Thought I’d share this piece I wrote for the day job about the festival with my dear Yo readers. Even if you can’t attend, there’s an interview with director Roberta Grossman that I’m particularly proud of. Her historic and hilarious look at Judaism’s most famous tune has inspired much dancing around the Yenta table — and with the Big Bar Mitzvah coming up, we need the practice.

Oh, you mean you don’t know about Grossman’s awesome film Hava Nagila: The Movie? Let’s rectify that shanda immediately:

Now, go read my article (but only if you feel like it):

The thing that you need to know about Jewish film festivals is that they’re not all about the Holocaust.

True, the mass murder of six million Jewish people under Hitler’s evil hand has given rise to a seemingly endless slew of acclaimed yet heartrending films: Au Revoir Les Enfants, Schindler’s List and last year’s Sarah’s Key only scratch the surface. It’s been less than a century since WWII, and while the world’s Holocaust survivors reach the end of their blessedly long lives, new stories of tragedy and bravery continue to emerge.

But the Jewish story is much bigger than the 20th-century horror of Eastern Europe, and the films it inspires reach beyond its lens. Global themes of identity, celebration and meddlesome in–laws work their way into the canon and can be pondered at the Savannah Jewish Film Festival, taking place Jan. 24–Feb. 2 at the Jewish Educational Alliance.

Read the rest here…



Toes of a dog for thin hair and other Bible beauty secrets

bookcover-1I like to think of myself a pretty low-maintenance gal. No Real Housewives Botox parties around here, and I’ve had the same pot of Benefit eye concealer since my long-ago days at skirt! magazine.(Though my current job is far more stimulating to the brain, I sure do miss the free swag.*sigh*.)

I do have my vanities, of course: I don’t leave the house without penciling in eyebrows since the ones God gave me, She taketh away with the flood of hormonal chaos called “after 40. ”

Also, I’ve been using eye cream since I was 12, but that’s only because my bubbie put the fear of wrinkles in me like other grandparents preach virginity. She took me aside one day and handed me a tiny jar, saying “You don’t want to be able to do this, do you?” as she pulled her eyelid between her thumb and index finger and stretched it past her nose. Scared me so bad I always keep a tube in my purse to dab on during the day.

So I do love certain products, as long as they’re not tested on animals or shilled by teenagers with fakey boobies. As long as it’s naturally-derived and doesn’t require needles, I’m cool with cushioning the aging process. I’m as gorgeous as I’m gonna get in this life, and I attribute it mostly to excellent genes, a rabid protection of my sleep cycle (which includes ear plugs,) lots of water, yoga, massive amounts of backyard kale and sexy massages courtesy of El Yenta Man. But no balloon lips or dessicated pig hormones for me.

That’s why I’m completely loving Rachelle Weisberger’s new book Biblical Beauty: Ancient Secrets and Modern Solutions — it delves back in the day to see how the matriarchs kept it real with natural materials we all have access to today.

Part One covers Outer Beauty, invoking a biblical beauty at the beginning of each chapter: Bathsheba introduces us to the secrets of bathing and body care, Judith helps us learn what weapons to combat hair problems, and 100 year-old mother Sarah teaches us about healthy aging. Full of sage Torah interpretations, historical nuggets (who knew the ancient Egyptians used dog toes and donkey hooves on their hair?), professional tips (moisturizer is most effective when applied to damp skin) and recipes to make at home.

But it’s Part Two that really gets good. Calling on the feminine leadership of Esther, Deborah and Miriam, Weisberger defines true beauty as something that comes from the inside. No Kardashian is ever gonna tell you that, yo.

An accomplished aesthetician and makeup artist from New York who specializes in helping women recover from cancer and other post-operative procedures, Weisberger — a gorgeous grandma herself — carries the theme that no amount of kohl or Brazilian butt lifts can make a lady truly lovely:

Looking beautiful is more than having a wrinkle-free complexion, perfect hair and flawless makeup. True beauty is a reflection of one’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, being socially connected and forging a spiritual awakening can generate an inner glow that illuminates the face, outperforming any cosmetic enhancement.

Dig it. Though Biblical Beauty concentrates on the women of the Old Testament, it’s not just for Jewish mamas — after all, these are everyone’s matriarchs.

And I’m grateful that my own bubbie and mother taught me good beauty practices to use over a lifetime — who knows what kind of sea hag I’d be without those decades of eye cream?




Wal-Mart Shopping List: Chips, Soda, Rabbi Costume?


I have so many problems with Wal-Mart I don’t know where to begin, but hawking haredi rabbi costumes complete with peyes and fur hat is pretty much at the top of list. Well, right behind how their unfair slavery labor practices. And the way anything I’ve ever had to buy there breaks immediately.

Jewish mothers get the cheapy Wal-Mart treatment, too. There’s actually two versions: The Rachel and and the Rivkah, which has polyester camels sewn onto it. So not kosher. ‘Cause you know that sh*t is made in China.

Feeling fairly famisht about this: Is it Wal-Mart’s attempt to break into the enormous but thus far invisible Orthodox Purim costume market? Or will we see hundreds of lil’ rebbes roaming the streets next Halloween? Beats zombies, I guess.


Happy Jew Year!

I blinked and it’s 2013!

Here’s hoping all of you had a comfy transition into the post-Mayan era. (If you’d like to read my musings on the Mayan UnApocalypse as well as my aversion to New Year’s Resolutions, I invite you to check out this and this over at the day job.)

After some deep downtime, the Yenta Family must now kick it into high gear. We’ve got a little over five weeks until the boy’s bar mitzvah, and the list of things that aren’t done is giving me an ulcer. If I didn’t have Mindy of M. Nash Events helping me keep track of the many hundreds of details, I’d have cancelled the whole thing by now and demanded that we elope the whole simcha to Vegas. (Oooh oooh! Yo Yenta’s Express Bar Mitzvah Tavern and Tabernacle! Now that’s a business idea!)

Really, Mindy’s been so amazing. I used to think event planners were for real housewives and politicians, but without her decor ideas and gentle reminders to make a song list for the DJ, we’d be sipping Manischewitz in a bald room to Pandora come Shabbos Mishpatim. (Speaking of the boy’s torah portion, remind me to remind him to write his speech already!)

She’s really helped me to stay grounded through all the menu planning and the rabbi meetings and the guest list finagling. She’s also reigned me in from insane budget decisions (guess what, son? We’re renting a white tiger for your bar mitzvah, but sorry, we drained your college fund!) I can’t help dreaming big now that there’s the fabulous new glossy drool book Mazel Magazine to live up to. (Please do not let Yenta Boy see the custom sneakers!)

I feel OK that things are coming together. I hope it’ll be a fun simcha without being too schmaltzy, that the meaning of the day will shine as bright as the boy’s fancy new suit. Every night, I read a little bit of Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin’s book, Putting God on the Guest List, to remind us why we’re doing this in the first place. Just thinking about the fact that El Yenta Man and I have raised our little boy to the point that he’s old enough and smart enough to stand on the bima and read trope (the little squiggly lines on the Torah scroll) gets me all ferklempt. I’m not even going to attempt mascara on the Big Day.

funny_jewish_bar_mitzvah_shirt-4In the meantime, we still have to figure out party favors. I dunno, do you think Mindy will approve of this t-shirt from KosherHam? Me neither.