RIP Leslie Jordan

If you knew that your life was to end tomorrow, who would you call? What would you do?

Leslie Jordan died earlier today in a car accident. He was 67. He is best remembered for playing Beverly Leslie, Karen Walker‘s (Megan Mullally) frenemy on Will and Grace.

From this fan’s perspective, Jordan was one of the most beloved recurring actors in the how. His bits with Mullally are nothing short of perfect.

During the early days of the pandemic, his Instagram account was one of the brighter spots in what was a dark and confusing time.

May his memory be a blessing. Z”l.

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Not Okay Movie Review

Social media is a wonderful thing. It connects us with like-minded individuals and opens the door to meeting people that we wouldn’t meet otherwise. The problem, however, with it is that it often creates an image that may not reflect reality.

The new Hulu movie, Not Okay, takes on this concept. Danni (Zoe Deutsch) is an NYC-based wannabe writer whose romantic and social life, in addition to her career is in the toilet. Adding insult to injury, she has zero Instagram followers.

Faking a trip to Paris, she suddenly has the attention she has been wanting. That attention grows tenfold after a terrorist attack. Danni has to pretend that she survived it. Labeled a hero upon her “return” home, she becomes friends with Rowan (Mia Isaac). Rowan is a young woman who is a true survivor. While dealing with her own trauma, she is trying to create a better world. She also attracts the attention of her long-time crush, Colin (Dylan O’Brien).

The facade has to be come down eventually. When it does, the fallout is spectacular and reveals the truth of our current-day culture.

I really liked this movie. It speaks to the need for approbation via the Internet and the truth that this approval is not always real. Though it took a little too long to get to the end, it was overall, an enjoyable film. I also enjoyed Danni as a character. Though she is inherently unlikeable, I still wanted to follow her story.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Not Okay is available for steaming on Hulu.

The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story Book Review

To be the descendent of a Holocaust survivor is to grow up with a trauma that stretches well beyond the first generation. They have a unique responsibility to tell the stories of their loved ones that sometimes feel more pressing than those of us whose direct families were out of harm’s way during the war.

The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story, by Nechama Birnbaum, was published at the end of last year. The book tells the story of her late grandmother, Rosie Greenstein. Though Rosie was often told that her red hair was undesirable, she believed that it was an asset. Though her family was poor, Rosie’s childhood was idyllic. Raised by her widowed mother, she dreamed of her wedding day and future husband.

That dream came crashing down in 1944. The Jews of Hungary were forced out of their homes and sent directly to Auschwitz. The only thing that is keeping her alive is her fierce spirit and the will to survive in the face of all-encompassing death.

This biography is written in such a way that every gruesome and horrific detail is hard to ignore or forget. The narrative flashes between two different time periods until the story converges: Rosie’s life before the war and her time in the death camp. What I got from the book was more than a granddaughter’s love for her grandmother. It was pride in the strength that was passed down through the generations and families that come into the world since the end of the war.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. P.S. I also recommend following the corresponding Instagram account.

The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story is available wherever books are sold.

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Will Smith & Chris Rock: The Slap Heard Around the World

Every major name that makes it in Hollywood has a persona that is instantly recognizable to audiences.

Over the last thirty-odd years, Will Smith has developed a reputation as a genial, friendly, and overall easy-going type of guy. That reputation took a beating on Sunday night during the Oscars. Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife. Jada Pinkett Smith is bald due to alopecia. Without batting an eye, Smith walked up to the stage and smacked Rock across the face.

At first, it looked like it was a joke that had been previously agreed upon by both men. But it wasn’t. Though Smith apologized during his acceptance speech for Best Actor for the film King Richard, it was not accepted. He tried again to confess that he made a mistake via his Instagram account, but it again fell on deaf ears.

As of now, the repercussions of his actions are TBA. While at the time, he may have felt like he was being a man and defending his wife, there is no excuse for what he did. My opinion is that Smith will reap what he sowed that night. Sometimes, the only way to learn is via the hard way. I have a feeling that this will be a lesson he will never forget.

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It’s Been 100 Years Since the First Bat Mitzvah

Every culture and society has its own ceremony or experience to mark the point in life in which a young person starts on the road to adulthood.

In Judaism, this commemoration is called Bar Mitzvah (for a boy) or Bat Mizvah (for a girl). Usually held around the child’s 13th birthday, it is both a religious experience and a time for family and friends to celebrate the new phase in this person’s life. While Bar Mitzvahs have been held for centuries, a Bat Mitzvah is a relatively new addition to the Jewish life cycle.

Last Friday was the 100th birthday of the first Bat Mitzvah. On March 18th of 1922, Judith Kaplan (daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism) became the first girl to officially celebrate her entrance into the world as a Jewish adult.

Coming only two years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, it was just reading from the Torah. It was a revolutionary act, opening the door for future generations of Jewish women to move beyond the traditional spheres of marriage, housework, and motherhood. Since then, it has become standard practice within most streams of Judaism that both girls and boys will have their turn on the bimah.

In honor of this anniversary, an Instagram account has been created to tell Kaplan’s story in a way to speaks to this generation of kids. It’s cute, charming, and reminds me of my own excitement of becoming a Bat Mitzvah almost 30 years ago.

If I am reminded of one thing, is that feminism, like all social movements, cannot exist in a bubble. Without allies, it is nearly impossible to turn slogans and ideas into reality. Rabbi Kaplan, in our modern vernacular, was a feminist ally. It is through him and his daughter, we would still be stuck in the dark ages and the outdated idea of what women can and cannot do.

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Emma Watson is Wrong About Israel

As a proud Jewish person, I get tired of the antisemitic, anti-Israel bullshit. For once, I wish we would just get over it and move on with their lives. As I see it, it takes way too much physical and emotional energy to hate another person simply because of who they are. Why not just live and let live?

Recently, Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson made a rather controversial post on her Instagram account.

Outside of her work as a performer, Watson is known as a feminist and a humanitarian. The fact that she is committed to both causes is nothing to sneeze at. But they are undermined when Israel is marginalized and demonized due to either purposeful lies or ignorance. Watson seems to be an intelligent and educated woman with a dedication to creating a better world. The problem is that she, like many people either ignore the facts or doesn’t bother to do their research before professing support of a terrorist organization. The issue grows tenfold when someone who has a platform as she does spreads lies.

I have nothing against those of Palestinian origin. My problem is when a government uses their resources not to build up their country, but to destroy another and convince the people that the neighbor is to blame. One of the podcasts I regularly listen to, Israel Story, had a recent episode about the Sbarro suicide bombing that occurred in the summer of 2001. Instead of just interviewing the surviving victims and their family members, they also interviewed the family of the person responsible for the attack. While I find it heartening and revealing is that the brother of the bomber partially places the blame on his government, not on Israel (start at 1:12:39).

Is she antisemite? I don’t know, I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her in person. But I do know that Israel is the only nation in that region in which women are fully enfranchised. The Tel Aviv Pride parade is one of the biggest gay pride parades in the world. It is a full-fledged democracy in which all citizens, regardless of any societal labels, have the same rights and responsibilities.

I don’t want to tell her to shut up and look at her next script. But I do want to give her a history book and recommend that she do a little reading before making her next broad and misleading statement.

How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived Book Review

The key element of a memoir is voice. The reader should be able to hear the voice of the writer through the page, as if they are in conversation with one another.

How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived, the memoir by actor Leslie Jordan, was published in April. As Covid-19 spread around the world last year, Jordan took to Instagram to share his thoughts about being home all day. He became a viral sensation, drawing in millions of fans with his own unique brand of Southern charm and telling stories that only he can tell.

I loved the book. It is a joy to read. He is as delightful, entertaining, and authentic on the page as he is on social media. I first noticed him when he played Beverly Leslie, the frenemy of Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) on Will and Grace. Of the many side characters, I think I laughed the most when he came on screen.

It is a wonderful book and definitely worth the read.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

This Latest Round of The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict is Starting to Scare Me

As a third generation American Jew, I’ve grown up in the safety and security of the United States. I’ve always known that antisemitism exists, but it has hit me in the face this week with the latest round of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

For the first time in a long time, I am scared.

I am scared that there are too many in this world who believe the lies that Hamas (and Iran by extension tells the world). Human rights are universal and always important, but they can also be twisted to fit one’s perspective.

I am scared that some of my Jewish brothers and sisters are falling for the falsehoods that could kill them. Across the United States, Jews have been attacked by pro-Palestinian mobs. In Los Angeles, a mob screamed at customers and threw glass bottles as they eat outside a restaurant. I am all for peace, but how does one make peace with a neighbor who constantly agitates for your death?

I am scared that the Israel I know and love will cease to exist. Not just due to the violence within the region, but due to the silence and the complicity (again) by the outside world. I am scared that both Palestinian and Israeli children will grow up not only psychologically damaged, but also unable to see past the fears and hatred that they were taught by the adults around them.

If you listen to only one thing today, listen to last week’s episode from the podcast Us Among the Israelis. I cannot imagine what it is like to not be able to function normally, not knowing when a rocket may fall on your home or place of business. It’s akin to living during the Blitz. But instead of this happening during a specific time in history, it becomes a common occurance.

I am a Jew and proud of it. I have yet to move away from my faith and will likely never. But that does not mean that it scares the shit out of me.

Thoughts On Noa Tishby Calling Out John Oliver

The accusation of war crimes is not to be taken lightly. The problem is that the phrase can be co-opted to misrepresent the truth in a conflict.

During a recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oliver towed the media line and continued to spread the same old lies about the Israel/Palestine conflict. I could show the video, but I would like to be able to sleep tonight. Normally, I love John Oliver. He presents the news in a way that includes much needed common sense but a few drops of comedy.

But on this subject, I cannot stomach the lies he and other media outlets/personalities have shared. Nor can I be silent.

For the rest of this post, I am going to let author, actress, and activist Noa Tishby speak. She is far more eloquent on than I could ever be.

Am Yisroel Chai.

Firing Gina Carano was Necessary

What we say and do has consequences. Further, what we say on the Internet sometimes comes back to bite us in the literal behind.

This morning, The Mandalorian star Gina Carano (Cara Dune) was fired due to an Instagram post that is without a doubt, offensive.

“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views,” 

Her right leaning politics is not the issue here. The issue is the correlation between being a Republican in America in 2021 and being Jewish in Nazi Germany.

Being Jewish in Europe during World War II was a death sentence. Belonging to the Republican party is not a death sentence.

I take offense to her statement for two reasons. The first is that the entire narrative of Star Wars is about the importance of protecting democracy and human rights from autocracy and hate. The second is that I am a Jewish woman who lost family in The Holocaust. Comments like these make it seem like the six million have been killed all over again.

Only time will tell if Cara will be written out completely or if Carano will be replaced. But there is one thing that is certain, firing her was the right decision.

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