LEADERS WANTED – Numbers 27 – Pinchas – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

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LEADERS WANTED – Numbers 27 – Pinchas – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

After taking a census of his people, Moses gets a look at the Promised Land, although only from Mount Abarim, one of the peaks of the mountain called Nebo. He hears the Divine warning that, since he will not enter the Land himself, he can expect to die as his brother Aaron died, in solitude on a mountain top. But while Aaron had his son Elazar with him to anoint as High Priest to succeed him, his brother Moses to transfer his clothes to his son, and both of them to bury him, we will see at the end of Deuteronomy that Moses will die in total solitude and G-d will bury him. Moses will have plenty to do from now till then. This “mountain view” is therefore nothing but a preview. And an opportunity to speak with G-d.

How does Moses use this opportunity? Does he beg the Almighty to reconsider, to let him lead his people across the Jordan? Does he pray for immortality? Maybe he would like to, but he knows better. He asks the Eternal One for a successor, a leader “who will go before the people to take them out and bring them in,” one who will galvanize them to win wars, and inspire them to build their future in peace. Like the American vice-president, this successor takes over only after the death of the current leader. After witnessing the process of choosing such a potential successor for both of this year’s candidates, we can relate to Moses’ prayer.

The answer Moses gets can teach us lasting principles about choosing leaders. He is told to take Joshua, his lieutenant who grew into maturity as Moses’ devoted helper, one of only two spies who brought back a positive report about the Land, who in his youth was described in the Torah as a “boy who did not move out of the Tent of Meeting.” “Take Joshua,” says G-d, ”a man who has spirit… Place some of your glory on him… Let him stand before Elazar the Priest to hear the word of G-d.” Then Joshua and the people will take action.

Elazar, son of Aaron, will supply the law, but he will not be the leader. By now, he and his brother Itamar learned from their father and from their uncle Moses what their role should be. High Priest is not head of state. Ayatollahs are notably missing from Jewish history. The notable exception is the family we recall every Hanukkah – the Maccabees. Matisyohu – Mattathias, the senior head of the Hasmonean clan, is identified in our prayers as kohen gadol – the High Priest. He and his soldier sons freed the people from the Syrian Greeks who tried to eradicate their faith and their culture. And then they set up a theocratic dynasty which became corrupt and earned the disapproval of the rabbis of the Talmud, who played down Hanukkah rather than glorify that dynasty.

Speaking of dynasties, of course, we note that Moses also had two sons. Why are they ignored?

Rashi and other commentators ask why this story immediately follows the case of the daughters of Zelophehad who had no brothers and therefore needed a special ruling in order to inherit their father’s property. The ruling they get specifies “if a man dies and has no sons.” The Klee Yokor commentary adds the condition that maybe he had sons who were not deserving to inherit, who lacked knowledge, wisdom and leadership qualities that their father did not give them. They should not inherit his position. As we read Moses’ career, we must admit that he did not raise his sons. He was facing continuous crises in leading the People of Israel.

Where were his sons? Certainly they were elsewhere during most of their father’s years of leadership. Neither Gershom nor Eliezer shows up in the Torah narrative much after their birth in the desert, well before the Exodus.

Clearly, selecting a leader is no easy job. Not even for Moses. As our history progressed, from tribal chiefs to judges to kings, it didn’t get easier. And when David had to deal with his various sons, bloodshed and revolt scarred the country until Solomon, the wise one, secured the throne.

Democracy complicates the process still further. Whether in Israel or the United States, in Germany or Russia, in Cuba or Egypt or any other country officially using the election process, brilliant and successful leaders are rare. Chosen successors might or might not extend their achievements. Too often momentous mistakes can produce inept or misguided leaders. Results for the people can be disastrous.

No inherited authority in the U.S., for sure. Even John Quincy and George W had to be elected independently. Our foreseeable heir to the White House will not be Ivanka Trump or Chelsea Clinton (Jewish connections notwithstanding). So good luck to Messrs. Kaine and Pence.

Over and again, Moses’ prayer rings in our ears: “Let the G-d of the spirits of all flesh set a man over the people, who will bring them out and bring them in, so the nation will not be like a flock without a shepherd.”

Pinchas

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BILAAM OR MICAH? – Balak – Num. 22:2—25:9, by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

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BILAAM OR MICAH? – Balak – Num. 22:2—25:9, by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

This week gives us a Sedrah and a Haftorah that are both full of marvelous, famous lines to quote. Our first prayer when we enter a synagogue is a line from this Sedrah: Mah tovu ohalekha Yaakov – “How fair are your tents, Jacob!” And later in this Shabos service we will hear the Haftorah, finishing with Micah’s message: Higid l’kha Adam mah tov – “He told you, oh man, what is good.” Great lines. Great quotes, echoing religious truth and inspiration.

We can also find a powerful political message in these readings. Here is Balak, king of Moab. He sees hundreds of thousands of aliens entering his country. He’s alarmed. There goes the neighborhood, right? These aliens will “lick up the land,” he says. They’ll take away jobs, housing, public facilities.

So what does he do? Build a wall? Threaten deportation? Not Balak. He sends for a sorcerer named Bilaam. “Come put a curse on them,” he says. “Keep them out of my schools, keep them out of my hospitals, keep them from learning my language.” And he sends a special delegation to the sorcerer with a definite message: This curse is worth money to the king.

Bilaam invites the delegates to spend the night while he consults with a Higher Authority, seeking a message from the Divine. That night in his dreams comes the Divine question: Mee ha-anashim ha-eyleh? “Who are these men?”

Come on, now. You mean HaShem doesn’t know who Bilaam’s visitors are? Of course He knows. So why is He asking? A great commentator, the Kli Yokor, points out that there are two ways of asking Who? One is for information; the other is an expression of scorn: Who ARE these guys? Who do they think they are? Who do you think they are? You think they’re princes, officers, statesmen? They’re PR men! Don’t go with them.

Of course, Bilaam is thinking with his pocket. If he shouldn’t go with this committee of PR men, then maybe a more important committee will be different – more clout, more cash. So he doesn’t go with Balak’s first group, but he does go with the next group. Higher rank. Higher offer.

The story continues with fascinating detail about Bilaam’s journey by donkey, his repeated forced stops along the way, his three projected curses which all turn into blessings, prompting Balak’s fury. And the reward Bilaam never collects. On this eventful trip, what ultimately stops Bilaam? His donkey. The world’s only talking donkey, right?

Wrong. In politics, as I’m sure you heard before, you can find plenty of talking jackasses. Bilaam’s donkey was not unique. Except…

Except that we are told in Pirkey Avot that this donkey’s power of speech was specially created at the time of the creation of the universe – on Shabos beyn hash’moshos – at twilight before that first Sabbath at the dawn of time – created then as one of the few exceptions that prove the rules of Creation, the rules of Nature. Specifically provided for this particular purpose. For this particular man – Bilaam.

How does he rate?

Granted, he had an evil streak – greed and cunning and a deep desire to destroy Israel. Granted, he found himself unable to utter the curse, but he managed to send women out of Midian to seduce the Israelite men into idolatry. Yet, despite his evil side, Bilaam was very lucky. He had a fabulous donkey who saved his life, not once but three times right here in this story. He himself could not see what the donkey saw – a mal’akh blocking his way.

What’s the mal’akh? An angel? Literally a messenger? He’s more than that. The mal’akh with the drawn sword is the consequence of Bilaam’s action.

It takes a lot of wisdom to see the consequences of what we plan to do. Bilaam couldn’t see those consequences, but the donkey could. The third time she sees the danger, the donkey squats down on the ground for safety, whereupon Bilaam blows his stack and beats his donkey with a stick. Only then does the donkey speak, saying, in effect: “You think I’m only a jackass, but I’m smarter than you are. Open your eyes and look what you may be getting us into!”

Isn’t that what any political leader, in fact any responsible human being needs to hear? Sometimes it takes the talking donkey in our midst to open our eyes. She never went to school, Bilaam’s donkey. She has no wealth, no power, no status. But she can see what Bilaam can’t see – because she is not blinded by the thought of Balak’s gold. Bilaam cannot see the results of his own curse.

You can discriminate against people. You can keep them down. You can exploit them. You can even praise them while you’re doing it. That’s what Bilaam did when he said Mah tovu, isn’t it? Praise the aliens for building nice tents. But his real objective was to get those tents for himself, or to destroy them. It would be like Khamenei praising the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv.

Sooner or later there’s an avenging messenger to deal with.

And here’s where the prophet Micah comes in, to tell us: Look ahead, and see the real purpose. What does HaShem require of us? Asot mishpat – DO justice, don’t just talk about it. Justice is even. Justice is fair. Don’t favor the rich; don’t favor the poor.

Secondly: Ahavat Khesed – love mercy. Know the difference between love and seduction. Bilaam wanted to be seduced by Balak’s PR men, and glorified with Balak’s gold. When that didn’t work, he stirred up some seduction himself, and spread disease among those alien Hebrews. Couldn’t beat them with a hex? We’ll beat them with sex. And pass it off as love.

So Micah comes to tell us: Ahavat Khesed – love mercy. More than passion is compassion.

Third: And always, whether you lead a nation, a city, a family, a local organization, or a chapter of a global movement – or just lead your own life – Hatzneya lekhet – walk with humility. Humility does not mean to be timid and always take the back seat. Humility means, be ready to listen – listen to the message of your heritage, and you have a great one…listen to the voice of your conscience…even be ready to listen to somebody you may think is only a talking donkey. Just be careful. Don’t confuse the talking donkey with the prophet.

Today, we need to listen to the Prophet Micah.

Ken y’hee ratzon.

BilaamOrMicah Balak

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ALL ABOUT MIRIAM – Chukas, Numbers 20 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

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ALL ABOUT MIRIAM – Chukas, Numbers 20 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

At the beginning of Chapter 20 in the Book of Numbers we will read this week of the death of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. Tersely the Torah says: “The people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.” Period.

At the end of the same chapter we will read of the death of Aaron, the High Priest. During his last day, he gets taken up the mountain by his brother Moses, along with his son Eleazar. There, at G-d’s command, Moses divests Aaron of the priestly clothes, the evidence of his position, and dresses Eleazar in those clothes as his successor. Then Aaron dies peacefully, and the entire camp mourns him, shedding tears for 30 days.

Tears? Now wait a minute. Wasn’t Miriam worth a few tears? She started her career by saving her baby brother Moses from Pharaoh’s genocidal edict, and providing the Egyptian princess with a Hebrew nursemaid for him – namely her mother. She continued her service by leading the women of Israel in song when they crossed the Red Sea on dry land. She is called n’viah — a prophetess – both there and in the later books of the Bible. All right, she badmouthed Moses’ wife. But so did Aaron. And Miriam took the punishment for that offense, spending a week in quarantine outside the camp. During that week the people stayed where they were; they would not move on without her. She was important to them.

Just how important Miriam was, we learn from the very next sentence after her burial. “There was no water for the people, and they protested to Moses and Aaron.” In this succession of events, the rabbis found a connection. Miriam was the connection. In her merit, a miraculous water well accompanied the people on their desert trek. When she died, no more water.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe notes the traditional principle Eyn ma-yim ella Torah – “Torah is the only water,” signifying that just as water is indispensable to physical life, so Torah is what we all need for our spiritual life. And he comments that just as Miriam’s lifelong interest was in helping children, so every mother, sister and teacher can give spiritual life to the growing generation. Certainly for most of us, our first taste of the water of Torah – from how to pronounce haMotzi to honoring our parents and telling the truth – the very concept of Mitzvah — came from a woman. Could be our mothers, grandmothers, older sisters – each one following Miriam’s example. So we all still drink from Miriam’s well.

Of course, something else is missing from the story of Miriam’s death. Who buried her? After all, she had next of kin. If Abraham could insist on buying the Cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah…if Isaac and Ishmael could overcome their conflict with each other and join in burying their father Abraham… if Jacob could build a special tomb for Rachel… did Miriam have to be buried by some impersonal burial society?

These questions bring up another, also quite interesting question. Besides her brothers, did Miriam have any family of her own? The Torah mentions none. No mate, no children. True, later commentators and Talmudic rabbis associate Miriam’s identity with several other women who are named in the Torah, including the wife of Caleb – Joshua’s fellow-spy and the only other one who brought a positive report about the Holy Land. They also posit that Miriam, by another name, had a son named Khur who once climbed the mountain with Moses. But none of these connections appear in the Torah text. And none of them figure in Miriam’s last rites. On the textual evidence, she died as she lived – by herself.

Considered this way, Miriam emerges as an exception to the pervading Jewish ideal of family growth. She did not bear any future leaders. She said what she thought, and did what she believed in. She benefitted her people in her own unique way. Among the great women of the Bible, she clearly stands alone.

No wonder hers is a favorite name for Jewish daughters, ever since her time.

MiriamChukas

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KORAKH 5776 – Num. 16-18 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

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KORAKH 5776 – Num. 16-18 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

This week, we will read the story of a revolution. A revolution that failed. Not the first such revolt in our history, it was nevertheless a threat to the leaders and the entire structure of the Israelite nation in the desert. Its leader, a Levite named Korakh, came a good deal closer to success than the most recent wouldbe revolutionary in our experience, one Bernie Sanders. Unlike him, although Korakh came to a dismal end, he earned a place in Jewish history that lasted all these centuries.

Korakh and Moses shared a grandfather, namely Kehas, the oldest son of Levi, Jacob’s third son. Also Korakh was wealthy, ambitious, and deeply jealous of his cousins Moses and Aaron. Why should they be the Leader and the High Priest? Why not he? Setting out to displace them, he gathered support among other ambitious and impatient tribesmen – some 250 of them, in fact. Included were not only fellow Levites but also three prominent members of the tribe of Reuben, who felt that as descendants of the oldest son of Jacob they should have the authority. These 250 rebels are described in the Torah as anshey shem – well known people. They did not consider themselves the disinherited, or the proletariat, or the downtrodden. These men already had some power. And wanted more.

Who else joined them? Their families. Wives, children, other relatives, all followed the lead of Korakh and his fellow Levites. First, they stage a protest. Gathering together to face Moses and Aaron publicly, they voice their challenge: “Rav lokhem – Enough for you! Aren’t we all holy people, with G-d among us? Why do you lift yourselves up?” In other words, do you have the right to be boss? At this point, Moses falls on his face as if to express a desperate hope for Divine guidance.

After all, this is fourth in a series of rebellions of one kind or another. Moses is out of patience. He puts Korakh and company to a test. Since they focus their rebellion on Aaron and the priesthood – as the religious symbol of authority – Moses uses tomorrow morning’s incense offering as the test.

“What is Aaron, that you murmur against him?” asks Moses. It’s easy to see that pagan peoples also offered incense. They had many idols, many altars, and hundreds of priests. The Israelites had one G-d, one altar, and one high priest. And here come 250 men who all want to be high priests! So the Midrash explains, Moses offers Korakh an attractive test: take the incense, the most prestigious of offerings. But bear in mind that this incense contains a deadly poison. This is the offering that already caused the death of two of Aaron’s sons. And recognize that Ho-ish asher yivkhar haShem hu hakadosh – “the one G-d chooses, he is holy.” Take warning that one offering will be accepted, and all whose offerings are not accepted will die. According to the Midrash, Korakh had advance knowledge that he would have important descendants, including the prophet Samuel, so he assumed that he would certainly be chosen. He accepts Moses’ conditions.

Now Moses sends for two of the Reubenite rebels, Dathan and Aviram, to negotiate with them. They refuse to come. They are stubborn enough to follow Korakh’s lead.

Originally there was a third Reubenite involved, named On ben Peles. He is suddenly out of the story. The Midrash supplies the reason: On did not continue with the rebellion, did not participate in the trial by fire, and he survived. Why? Because his wife convinced him to break away from Korakh. With a true Yiddishe kop, she points out that he would just be exchanging one boss, Moses, for another boss, Korakh. What does he need that for?

Morning comes, and the firepans are brought to the Tabernacle. Aaron brings his offering and it is accepted. Korakh and his followers approach, and suddenly fall into a huge crack in the ground – as if the earth opened its mouth “vativla osom v’es boteyhem — and swallowed them and their houses!” All the people take flight, hearing their cries as they dropped living into the pit!

Impossible? Couldn’t happen? Or could it? Do we see it on TV today, when sinkholes suddenly open without warning? Or when earthquakes crack and split the ground? Perhaps the most picturesque comment on the story of Korakh is another story told by Rabbah bar bar Khonnoh, a rabbi in the Talmud, known for his tall tales. He says: “I was travelling in the desert, and an Arab took me to a spot where there was a crack in the ground. I bent down and put my ear to the crack. And I heard the voices of Korakh and his followers, calling out: “Moses and his Torah are true, and we are liars!”

The rabbis of the Mishna contrast Korakh’s controversy with the later controversy of Hillel and Shammai. They agreed on almost nothing, yet their dispute had lasting value, because it was – not a revolution – a makhloket l’shem Shomayim, a “controversy for the sake of Heaven.” For a high purpose. Korakh’s controversy had no future, because it was built on jealousy and falsehood.

So that was the end of Korakh and his rebels.

But wait. What about the prophet Samuel, who supposedly descended from Korakh? And what about all the psalms that are assigned to the family of Korakh, and apparently they sang those psalms in Solomon’s Temple centuries later?

The answer to this dilemma comes in one sentence we won’t read until three weeks from now, in Sedrah Pinkhas: Uv’ney Korakh lo meysu – it simply says “the children of Korakh did not die.” So what happened to them? They were there with their father, weren’t they? In the Gemara Sanhedrin we read a teaching that they were reserved a special place in Gehinnom where they sat and sang. To which the Tosfos commentary adds: “The Holy One prepared a high spot for them, so they would not go deep into Gehinnom, and they did not die.” There they sat on a ledge, with the flames licking at their feet, singing psalms! As the Yiddish expression goes: Eykh mir a lebn – Some life!

But the important fact is: they survived. All the fanciful legends surrounding the descendants of Korakh add up to a marvelous message. Look at what his descendants lived to do:

Samuel the prophet crowned Saul the first king of Israel, as we will read in this week’s Haftorah, and actually completed the organization of the loosely connected tribes into a single nation. And the Levitic family of Korakh became the doorkeepers of the Holy Temple. They were responsible for eleven different psalms, singing of deeply felt religion – a thirst for G-d. They sang of human friendship, of Zion and the Temple itself, and they sang about individual life and death. They played instruments. They danced. The women took part. The Korakh family is repeatedly called Maskil – informed, competent, successful in their Levitic duties and their music.

All of this value from the family of the arch-rebel: Korakh, the rich ambitious envious rival of Moses and Aaron. Korakh the man who lost his cause and his life because he challenged authority for the wrong reasons. Selfish reasons. Indeed his children did not die. They lived, with difficulty at first, but they lived to prove their value for centuries to come. They transcended Korakh’s mistakes. They survived his failed rebellion. They made a better choice.

The pattern of Korakh and his descendants happened more than once in our history. In fact it is still happening. Look around, and you find families – we all know one or more families like this – where one generation rebelled against their Jewish heritage, chose assimilation, or Communism, or secular Humanism – and became lost, swallowed up by the world. And then their children, or perhaps their grandchildren, grow up and rediscover their Jewish roots. They find they enjoy brightening their table with Shabos candles… they find an intellectual excitement in learning Torah… they find great charm in Jewish music… they find a loving fulfillment in sharing Jewish ceremonies. They find exactly what the rebel ancestors threw away – still there, speaking to them loud and clear, as if those rebel ancestors were calling out to them: “Moses and his Torah are true, and we were wrong!”

Sometimes it doesn’t take two generations. Or even one. Sometimes it happens in one lifetime. Our Judaism can manage to survive all kinds of challenges. Rebellion can sometimes be valuable too, because it strengthens us. We can only hope that any controversy it produces will be l’shem shomayim – an argument in the name of Heaven. Then we have a chance to resolve it productively, for a Jewish future that can still sing our songs as the family of Korakh did.

Ken y’hee rotzon.

Korakh

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L.A.’s JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL, YEAR 11 Review by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

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L.A.’s JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL, YEAR 11 Review by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

Film festivals of all types entertain audiences throughout the world by now. In many ways, the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival stands out as unique. One distinction is its international scope. The opening night gala on May 18th was co-sponsored by the Israeli Consulate. No surprise there; we saw Israeli films that night. But other shows were programmed differently. Just as the Jewish population occupies many different places, so do the films that document its life. Reflecting the Festival’s worldwide sources, on-screen thanks also went to the Consulates of Poland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Austria.

Another distinguishing fact of this year’s festival is that it is not limited to theatrically released films. In fact, on opening night we saw a pair of segments from a current Israeli TV series called “False Flag,” or its more descriptive Hebrew title “Kfulim – Doubles.”

Already sold to a U.S. company for an American version, False Flag turned out to be a powerful kickoff choice for the 2016 series. Filmed in Hebrew, with English subtitles – and the subtitles appeared even when one of the cast members (an American olah) spoke in English! — the story concerns a group of five ordinary Israeli citizens who somehow get caught up in international espionage, when they are reported implicated in the Moscow kidnapping of an Iranian official. Opening the first segment is a Russian spokesman delivering his indictment. Then the Shin Bet gets involved, and all you-know-what breaks loose.

Writer Amit Cohen and director Oded Ruskin can be credited with creating some truly exciting experiences. The audience was riveted, and their applause was thunderous. From the bride who gets arrested and taken into custody from her wedding, to the bearded young man who ducks into an airliner’s restroom to apply an electric razor to his hair and beard, refusing knocks on the door and finally packaging the hair in a plastic bag and shoving it into a overhead baggage rack; from the interrogation where the accused is denied access to a lawyer, to the final sequence of that opening night, described below, we saw what international crime can do to innocent individuals.

That last sequence was memorable. One of the featured five Israelis is steering his boat through the harbor on his way to leave the country. He gets radio messages, call after call from Security, ordering him to return to the dock immediately. Ignoring them, he picks up speed, but the speedboats are after him. He proceeds to set up his alternate escape, and as the speedboats bear down, his boat is destroyed in a massive explosion – while he swims ashore underwater.

Throughout these suspenseful episodes, director Ruskin got totally believable performances from his cast. They came across as “real people, not actors” (you should pardon the expression. Always wondered when SAG will file suit against that ad!). Beyond the dialogue scenes, the action footage is guaranteed to keep you on edge. It will be truly interesting to see what a U.S. studio like Fox will do with this series.

Opening night of this first show of the L.A. Jewish Film Festival’s second decade saw some special appearances by members of the Laemmle family, pictured below with Festival’s Hilary Helstein. Their theaters provide entertainment for all Southern California audiences. The Laemmles were suitably honored for their policy of showing motion pictures that are not only good but different, including archive films, some not available anywhere else. They take pride in their 75-year record of providing neighborhood theaters in a market where such experiences – the good old Mom ‘n Pop shop, popcorn chewing “let’s go to the movies” spirit – survives. An active Jewish family, they welcome the Festival generously.

Also addressing us enthusiastically was Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch – another name with major importance in the motion picture industry, as the older generation’s Mirisch Brothers will be remembered for many major productions including the film versions of West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.

To conduct the program, Rabbi David Baron of the Temple of the Arts introduced the creator of the Festival, whom he aptly called a “one-woman dynamo,” Hilary Helstein. Still young and energetic, Hilary has indeed scored a valuable accomplishment for the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Interviewed after this year’s Festival finished, Hilary looked back happily on her first decade’s achievement. Since beginning the project in 2005, working out of the Valley Cities JCC to exhibit films in just 5 venues, she has expanded to cover greater Los Angeles. This year’s Festival included 14 venues, from Pasadena to Silver Lake to the West Valley to Santa Clarita, as well as central locations like Hollywood and Beverly Hills. A rough estimate of this year’s total audience comes to at least 5,000. This reviewer first met Hilary and her Festival when she was occupying a small office at Westside JCC, and building the event. Watching her progress since then, I have every expectation that its growth will continue. Noting some singular features of this year’s Festival, Hilary expressed special pleasure in the audience response to the documentary East LA Interchange, which pictured the oldest neighborhood in East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights. Its opening night took place at the Breed Street Shul, a spiritual home for so many Jewish Angelenos, and one that my one-time Bar Mitzvah student Steven Sass can claim credit for preserving and honoring. Treating the history of this suburb, the film told the stories of Latino, Russian, Japanese and Black residents, many of whom were in the audience along with representatives – and descendants – of what was once the largest Jewish community west of Chicago. To co-sponsor this event, Hilary brought in the Jewish Historical Society, the Latino Jewish Roundtable and Asian Jewish Initiative, and brought Congresswoman Roybal-Allard to participate in the question and answer session.

Another outstanding feature of this year’s series was the restored classic None Shall Escape, a Holocaust story starring Marsha Hunt, now only 98 years old! The Festival’s closing night welcomed Miss Hunt and presented her with the Marvin Paige Hollywood Legacy Award.

Another award, accompanying the showing of the classic Israeli musical comedy Shnei Kuni Lemel – The Flying Matchmaker honored favorite Israeli star Mike Burstyn with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

What lies ahead for Hilary Helstein and the L.A. Jewish Film Festival? For one thing, we don’t have to wait till 2017 to see the pictures she finds for us. She plans to exhibit one film per month during the year. Judging from her record, they should be well worth seeing. And we can expect the next Festival, Number 12, to outdo all the others. Save me a seat!

Laemmle receive award

L-R:
Jay Reisbaum (cousin), Bob Laemmle, actor Dennis Christopher, publicist Melody Korenbrot, Hilary Helstein (LAJFF Executive Director) and Greg Laemmle.

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