Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

Israel Reflections

Posted: January 8, 2012 in Israel
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Jaffa Gate. I took this photo on one of my many walk through the area.

I sit here now on the F train at 5am. I just finished shooting for 4 days, the last of 9 days of principal photography for a film I played lead in. As is always when completing a large, intense project I feel exhilarated, exhausted and most of all reflective. Listening now to some of the music I listened to often in Israel, my thoughts turn to that time in my life.

Admittedly it was a time of intense change, thought and confusion, but most of all it was the birth place of a dream. A dream so vague, so wonderful, yet so unattainable. I remember going to visit my friend from Venezuela who at the time was learning in Chevron. We’d meet up at his dorm, go catch a movie where I’d learned that if a movie had Deniro or Al Pacino in it yes, we’d go see it. (We saw Righteous Kill.)

I’d watch as he flirted with the cute cashier, experiencing my first taste of freedom. Of something different. We’d go back and chill at his dorm, chain smoking and generally bullshitting the night away.

The walk back to the bus at 7am. I’d be listening to the music that I have on now and I’d realize I just wanted to be somebody. I wanted to express myself.

I had an urge, a desire for something better.

I had a will for life. To really live, for the first time.

It was the time of intense yearning for something I could not have. Or could I? Years later it makes for some pleasant memories. Surprisingly so. While I spent 6 months depressed over a girl chainwatching movies on my iPod touch and was overall highly emo, I became – well I became…me.
And for that, I am thankful.

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When I first started this blog, I simply was looking for a way to express myself, perhaps find a few readers or cause a laugh now and again. As time went on it became important to me to convey my feelings as I underwent a transformation from a religious teen, to a rationally thinking young adult. It was at that point, perhaps after I wrote the post Get With the Program in the summer of 2010, that I began to feel a need to explain my viewpoint. At that point I’d gone from someone confused about what means something to them, to someone who knows what doesn’t and what does. In any argument, the idea is always to convince others of your viewpoint, not to prove them wrong.

We don’t care about his viewpoint, only that he care about ours. I noticed at some point that whenever I spoke to someone religious about religion, unlike that of a typical argument, I’d walk away frustrated. I felt that I was talking to someone, who instead of believing he was right but respecting that I believed in my argument as strongly as he believed in his, I instead felt belittled for my beliefs. Many blog posts after followed, in which I spoke about the normal life, and tried to convey in a broad sense that the life I chose to live was normal, very much fulfilling and in no means foolish.

“And here I begin to feel irrationally angry with her. I believe YU is a vital organ of the Orthodox Jewish community and to publish such a guilt-ridden, neurotic article in one of their publications perpetuates a toxic culture for the whole of it. It’s irresponsible. When she writes about her shame and YU students respond in kind, I see it becoming that much harder for me, and others who have chosen a path other than that of Orthodox Judaism, to be taken seriously in our choices, to be thought of as mature adults making decisions based on well-thought out ideological differences, and thus, it makes it harder for us to maintain healthy relationships with our families and friends, because they think we’re on some kind of Rumspringa-style bender and need to be brought back into the fold.

So I want to make this clear to you, brothers and sisters (in the college-student-camaraderie sense, at the very least) – this is not what it means to leave Orthodox Judaism. This is what happens when we perpetually shut down discussions about alternative paths and alternative lifestyles. We are forced to communicate in these tragic half-truths in anonymous posts. I have lost friends because of my choices and I don’t believe that had to happen. It leaves a terrible taste in my mouth about the Orthodox world that I do not want to be there. Though I experienced some closed mindedness in my Orthodox upbringing, I have no illusions that those kinds of people are exclusive to Orthodox Jewry. I do believe they are not the majority there. I believe that the people who showed me friendship, love, and acceptance all my life did so not because I was a Jew, but because they were good people, good friends, and so was I.”

This article was a response to the original article published in The Beacon, YU’s newpaper, which made waves in the Jewish community. I felt that noone quite expressed so succinctly the ideas and feelings I had in regards to the misunderstanding between myself and many religious people.

I showed someone, a religious relative of mine from LA, and the response was something between a murmur of acknowledgement that the above excerpt isn’t foolish, I disagree with what you’ve showed me. When confronted with something so blatantly saying what they feel, and a perfect response to how we feel as mature adults, what else is there to say? And so I thank the writer of that article, whoever she may be, for enlightening others, and helping clarify myself.

Holy Doritos!

Posted: November 22, 2011 in TV
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I recently filmed a spec for Doritos. 

I found this one which is kinda awesome: http://www.crashthesuperbowl.com/#/gallery/?video=15109

I love subways. Put two native New Yorkers in an enclosed space, virtually take away their cell phones, and interesting shit happens. That’s why i love the subway. Something about looking out at the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn bridge through grimy, scratched-up windows of a rickety subway car on a hot summers day has tempers and perhaps hormones flying.

Trust me on that last one.

A few weeks ago, while coming back from work, which is no longer in DUMBO, I walk onto a train car and sit down next to…a cute girl. No I wasn’t creeping; it was the only empty seat. Or one of the last 50 empty seats.

Whatever.

Some dude walks up to me, leans over and softly whispers in my ear “Can you help me out, perhaps spare 50 cents?” Now THAT’S creepy. I didn’t give him the money.

Needless to say, she overheard and thus began our conversation about NY, homeless people and jobs. Subject of nationality came up, I asked her if she was black, and she said no, she’s white, and Jewish. I should’ve known. Anyway we’re talking about whatever two people talk about on a subway, which is usually meaningless banter, except by now she knows my background; the average white guy doesn’t know names of girls seminaries in Israel unless he’s been there, done that.

Been there. Done that. Get it?

Nah I kid, the worst (best?) that I did in Israel was get drunk with friends. And without. And not much more. Long story, wrong forum.

Back to this girl. I’m talking to her, and I’m staring at her. Now I can’t figure out why, I mean I know she’s cute, but I’m looking at her because something about her is familiar. [insert creep horror movie soundtrack here]

She gets a text from Jonathan. Ya I saw her screen. How else would I know? It was at that moment that I looked at her, and almost in what seemed to me slow motion, I said you’re dating Jonathan So-and-so! [Inner wheels in my brain screech to a halt. That’s my dudes girl here. Whoa. Backtrack, reboot. Whoops?]

Silence.

“Your name is Leona, or Leora…Kaplan”

“Yes, my names Leora Kaplan!”

“Ya, your boyfriend, who’s a friend of mine, (whom I only met twice in my life…) has your face as his profile picture.”

Now I’m really not the Facebook stalker type. I don’t recognize people before I meet them. That’s some Inception shit right there.

(Although I just yesterday recognized someone I’d seen briefly, by putting her first name and the person who mentioned her first name together with memories of a certain Racheli who’d been dating an English friend of mine two years ago…maybe I have a knack for names. I should be a private investigator.)

But hey, it’s NYC. It’s the subway.

We spent the next 10 stops marveling over how in a city of 9 million people, I bump into the one person that I don’t know, and recognize.

Oh, and both of you, “Leora and Jonathan”, next time you come to my neighborhood I’ll get a few friends together and we’ll all reminisce about the old times. Whatever old times you want.

“Stand clear of the closing doors please. The next stop is 34th Street.”

Encounters 3, 4 and 5 will be combined into one post. Stay tuned later this week.

There is a Hasidic family in Brooklyn. The father is a member of the Puppa sect. He sells Judaica items in a Synagogue in Boro Park, Bobov. They have many children, one of them with Down’s Syndrome. One daughter got married a while back, had a few children, and unfortunately fell into a coma during childbirth roughly two years ago and died a year later. After a short while, the younger daughter approached her father in regards to a marriage proposal. Her idea?

“My late sister has children. Will her widower husband get married to a random girl who will then be entrusted with the task of raising my sisters children? We know him [late sisters husband]. Let me marry him.”

Her father told her to ask him again in 6 months time. She asked, and the wedding was on.

Sadly, today was the funeral for a different daughter, only 22 years old who just passed away. Noone deserves to lose two children. Ever.

Thoughts on the marriage?

Let’s hope for more positive news in the coming weeks.

Subway Encounters Part 1

Posted: July 15, 2011 in Random
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I’m a friendly guy. I meet people where ever I go. Living in NYC I’ve had met some amazing people and figured I’d share.

Perhaps I’m just aware of what and who is around me and I like talking, or perhaps I’m just a creep. Either way, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know some great people. At the very least, it gives me interesting stories.

A few months ago, while working in DUMBO – which for those of you who aren’t aware, is where the real cool people hide out,  I used to take the same train every day. I always took the late train. You kow the one where everyone looks hungover and guilty they aren’t in their office and it’s 10am…

Anyway, I saw this cute short girl a bunch of times, but never said anything. I guess I wasn’t in a talkative mood during the winter. Well one day I did approach her and we chatted a bit. I asked her for coffee but she said she was busy that night, and we never did meet up.

Maybe she isn’t a drinker.

She did find me on Twitter however. Stalker girl. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Anyhow I stumbled across her blog and from there to this video of her doing standup comedy.

Probably from the top ten best standup videos I’ve ever seen, and I normally HATE  standup comedy.

Oh, and Marina, my offer for coffee still stands.

A Hasidic guy tries to have an affair over craigslist. WTF? Here’s the post from Gothamist.

Art and Jews

Posted: April 24, 2011 in Life Musings
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Wait...What??

Anonymity and blogging: We all love it. It allow us to write more freely, to express ourselves more clearly. Many of my friends know who I am, and certainly if you saw my Facebook feeds, you’d know, and that’s just the way it is. Which is perfectly fine. I like to call it semi-anonymous. Meaning if you know, keep it to yourself. That being said…I’ve been busy lately, which is why  haven’t blogged in close to a month.

Never mind that though. Art: What is it? Why do we love it? Why do some of us scorn it?

Jews have a love hate relationship with it. Some look down on it, some are actively involved in making it.

I recently finished filming a very intensive 6 day shoot of a 25 minute short film, directed by a young but very talented director. We worked endless hours each day, giving it our all until wrapped. We were exhausted, yes. But also exhilarated. Here we all were, doing what we liked. We all appreciated the fact that art was being created, minute by minute. It wasn’t just the idea of perfecting the character. It was also acknowledging that the talented gaffer (lighting guy), the sound mixer, who came recommended as “the best sound guy he knows” by the sound mixer on Godfather, and all the crew’s work, both pre and post production comes together to form this amazing thing we call a film. Bit by bit, (more…)

It was only a matter of  time before some Rabbi blamed the Tsunami and Nuclear disasters in Japan on someone not eating kosher in Brooklyn….

Here goes:

“Rabbi David Twersky, leader of the Rachmastrivka Hasidic dynasty, says the recent tsunami in Japan, which has left thousands of people dead, was the result of the arrest of two yeshiva students by Japanese authorities after being convicted of smuggling drugs.

“The Japanese don’t understand why they keep on receiving blow after blow, and it never ends. If they want it to stop, they must release the two guys jailed in their prison immediately, and then experience salvation,” the rabbi told his followers last week during a Purim celebration in Jerusalem.

Haredi website Ladaat reported that the Rebbe asked for the names of the two jailed men and said a prayer for their immediate release. “Amen,” the audience responded.

The Purim tish (Photo: Aharon Baruch Leibovitch, Ladaat.net)

The yeshiva students were arrested in an airport in Japan in April 2008, in possession of a suitcase with some 90,000 Ecstasy tablets. The detainees’ lawyers claimed at the time that the young men were victims of a ‘sting’ and were tempted with money, but the two were convicted the following year.

One of the detainees, a minor, was sentenced to eight years in prison, and Israel submitted a request to have him transferred back to the country.

The Rachmastrivka Hasidic dynasty is one of the biggest and most famous Hasidisms, with thousands of followers and many affiliates. It has two centers – one in Jerusalem and one in Borough Park, New York.

Ahead of the Hasidic celebration last week, huge screens were placed near the Torah study house in Jerusalem, and the tish was broadcast live due to the density inside the building.”

My thoughts: Many in the religious world reverted ethically and morally back to the dark ages when we began placing too much trust in rabbis. Immorality isn’t solely based on the length of a woman’s skirt; it’s about respecting other people as equals. Placing value on the heads of two Yeshiva students to the point where he can suggest the death of thousands is punishment…well that Rabbi has issues, and I pity him, and thousands like him.


 

Airplane Confusion

Gothamist had this article about Jews wearing tefillin called

“Tefillin Totin’ Jews Terrorize Another Airplane”

Dramatic, right?

It’s the comments on that article that intrigued me:

– Don’t people understand that Jews do not directly involve themselves in a terror scheme… They let the American CIA do it for them.
Sheesh!

In reponse to above: Have you always been stupid or was there a time, maybe in the second grade, when a teacher told you that there was “promise”? Educate yourself, you fool.

Response back: Do I educate myself by first ignoring the uncomfortable bedfellows that is Israel & the CIA? Ignorance is bliss, HO. I think you might need some educating, too. I loved 2nd grade.

– If you’ve never seen the ritual, it’s pretty scary/intense, especially on a plane. I’m a jew and it still creeps me out.

– hey, all you religious nuts, keep your prayers at home in the church or temple…any one tying boxes to their heads on a plane needs to have their heads examined. so irresponsible…religious fools.
Response: Have you seen how Jews are able to control their women? It’s definitely the best religion for that.

– There’s a time and place for everything. Inflexibility is the Orthodox creed. In today’s world public safety must trump religious ritual every time. With this said, I smell a freedom of religion suit with these facts reaching the Supreme Court in about 5 years. Watch for it.

– Judaism allows for flexibility in a lot of things. Those who insist on putting on Tefillin on a airplane should find a loophole…Judaism is full of them. And besides, standing up during a flight is not only dangerous for the people doing it, it puts others at risk too.

– Some day we will get over religion and its superstitions and work on evolving as a society.
In response: No we won’t. It’s too easy to pretend there’s some supernatural daddy figure in the sky telling you what’s right and wrong so you never have to take responsibility and think for yourself. And most people, whether it’s in their private lives or professional or anywhere else, will do what’s easiest no matter what the consequences.

– Agreed! Wait until you get off the plane to perform the prayer rituals.

-Hitler would be proud.
In response: Godwin would not. (awesome reference!)

– I’ve never understood loud religious rituals at all. If you’re praying to an almighty deity, surely he’ll hear you even if you whisper or just think your prayers. There’s no correlation between true, heartfelt piety and aural volume anyway. Often, the people who are the loudest with their “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lord” are the least pious. For example, Pat Robertson, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, the Westboro freaks – the list goes on and on.

– While I don’t think these guys are getting supernatural powers from “tefillin'” I certainly think it is a bit ridiculous that people freak out whenever anyone who isn’t white does some of their religious mumbo-jumbo. Pray the rosary: those beads are okay. pray with tefillin & suddenly DUN DUN DUN. TERROR!

– Hilarious.