Saturday, December 06, 2008

Amy Kronish- on Out for back shortly on her blog.
Israeli film & filmmakers - updates and analysis

The Personal and the National
My recent postings have mentioned a number of films in the style of personal documentaries – My Terrorist by Yulie Cohen, Martin by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz and The Green Dumpster Mystery by Tal Yoffeh. Today, I have chosen another film in the personal documentary style – Out for Love – Be Back Soon by Dan Katzir (1997, 55 min.).
יצאתי לחפש אהבה – תכף אשוב

The film is particularly relevant during these days, when religious youth are killing Palestinians and rioting against Israeli security personnel in Hebron, refusing to be evacuated from a house in the center of the city, even after a Supreme Court decision has ordered their evacuation. At this time, we must strengthen our resolve to support the ideals and institutions of a pluralistic and tolerant democratic society; we must continue our struggle against violence in this society; and we must pledge to uphold the spirit of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's last words on that fateful night, Nov. 4, 1995, when he said: "I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace, are prepared to take risks for peace… and oppose violence." The spirit of these words was shattered by Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, a young man who did not want peace but embraced violence.

The film is an attempt to understand the Israeli psyche, issues of identity and the search for personal fulfillment by young people, against the background of the realities of army service, terrorist attacks, and the assassination of the prime minister.

As part of his film studies, Katzir embarks on a unique film project – a personal diary which will help him to better understand himself, his surroundings, and to analyze why he can’t find love. He uses his camera to investigate both the personal and national -- he eventually finds love, but things are not so easy.

This quirky documentary includes home movie footage from his bar mitzvah and a visit to his grandmother who retells the incident in which his grandfather was killed in a terrorist attack at Lod Airport in 1972 by a Japanese terrorist. Katzir documents demonstrations and terrorist attacks. He shows a rightwing demonstration in which the faces of the demonstrators are filled with hate, Rabin is compared to Hitler, and a sign reads: “This peace is killing us.” At the same time, he is documenting developments in his own life.

The Individual vs. the Collective
The lives of these young people are seen against the wider tapestry of national events. Can the individual in Israel live his own life? Or must he always live bouncing off the emotional roller coaster of the events and crises happening around him? During the pioneering period, it was generally accepted that you must sacrifice your own needs and desires for the greater good of the collective. This type of thinking is no longer accepted. Rather, the needs of the individual are considered to be most important today. But, in actuality, things have not changed completely and sacrifices are still required.

Israelis grow up looking forward to serving in the military. Youngsters watch proudly as their older brothers and sisters wear neatly pressed uniforms and come home carrying a rifle. They watch their fathers and uncle go to reserve duty. They accept this as part of their lives. But it isn’t so simple. It requires maturity, dealing with life and death situations, and a willingness to put your life on the line for what you believe.

Grappling with Loss and showing emotions
Katzir realizes that he is hiding behind his camera and that he has difficulty in expressing his feelings. Using the camera, he documents his first kiss with his girlfriend. But he is unable to tell her that he loves her. He seems to be saying that you need to talk about your pain in order to cope and you must struggle with sorrow and loss in order to feel love.

Israelis are particularly good at showing anger and hatred in public. The film shows the anger of bereaved families at an outdoor rally as an example of this. Why is it easier to express anger than love? Why is it easier to express emotions in public rather than in private?

Katzir recalls that when he was a little boy and he cried at the gate to the kindergarten, his mother would say, “Wipe your tears Dan. What will you do when you’re a soldier?” In this way, little boys were taught to be strong, not to cry, and never to expose their own vulnerability. However, this has changed in Israel and during the 1990s, an increased awareness developed that men were permitted and capable of expressing emotion.

The Assassination of a Prime Minister
The film shows that Rabin was hated by the rightwing and was compared to Hitler because he was making peace with the Palestinians and negotiating to give back territory, all at the same time that there were ongoing incidents of terrorism against Jews in Israel.

Yet, the people of Israel mourned Rabin so strongly! They waited on line all night to pay last respects when his coffin was lying in state by the Knesset in Jerusalem! In addition to respect, this was also an expression of the shock that our society could breed such intolerance and hatred! In fact, the shock and grief unified the country. During this intense period of mourning and public emotion, Katzir realizes that he was still incapable of expressing personal emotion and saying “I love you.” As part of the collective, he could mourn; but as an individual, he was incapable of expressing emotion and was hiding behind his camera.

Taking responsibility as part of the collective in contemporary Israel, we must resolve to defy the forces of evil that support those who throw acid in the faces of soldiers of Israel, those who do not respect the decisions of our Supreme Court, and those who condone the assassination of leadership who are prepared to make the sacrifices needed for peace.

Out for Love – Be Back Soon was produced, directed, photographed and written by Dan Katzir. The film is available from his company or directly from him at .

Monday, December 01, 2008


The Women of the Wall, Twenty Years On
Feminists challenge the Israeli ultra-Orthodox
by Phyllis Chesler, November 30, 2008

Twenty years ago today, on December 1, 1988, for the first time in history, 70 Jewish women prayed together out loud as a group at the Western Wall (or "Kotel") in Jerusalem. Women have always prayed at the Kotel, often silently, and alone. What made this service radically different, certainly transcendent, was that we not only prayed aloud but we also chanted from the Torah.

What we did was the equivalent to nuns conducting an all-female prayer service--but at the Vatican. As important: The participants came from Israel, the United States, Europe, South America, and Australia; represented every religious denomination of Jewry, (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, meta-denominational); and every political persuasion (left-wing, centrist, right-wing). Some of us donned tallesim (prayer shawls) and head coverings, many of us did not. We were radiant, overwhelmed, humbled, united.

However, once the ultra-orthodox men and women understood that Jewish women were chanting from a Torah, they began hurling unholy and terrifying curses at us which fouled the very air. Threats of physical violence quickly followed. We made it out safely: this time, the first time.

That is where I first met the woman whose idea this all was: Over an open Torah, under the early morning skies. Rivka Haut, who has since become my beloved chevrutah, or Torah study partner, was, at the time, already a long-time Orthodox feminist pioneer of womens' halachic prayer groups. After the service had started, Rivka turned to me, and offered me the honor of opening the Torah for the women. This single, "accidental" honor wedded me most fatefully to the struggle that was to come.

For years, I did not know why Rivka, with whom I would go on to co-author a book about this struggle, Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism's Holy Site, had picked me. There were so many scholars and rabbis amongst us. Only recently, Rivka told me that she chose me because I had "an otherworldly look on my face" while I was praying.

We left Israel, high as kites.

The Jerusalem-based women, initially led by Bonna Haberman, Miriam Benson, Shulamit Magnus and Anat Hoffman, a.k.a. the Women of the Wall (WOW). continued to pray. They were mainly "nice Jewish girls." With one exception, the group was not involved with politics of any kind.

Nevertheless, beginning early in 1989, WOW was met with serious and continuous violence. Ultra-orthodox (haredi) men threw heavy metal chairs at them over the high barrier that separated men from women. One young girl was hit and had to be hospitalized. Canisters of tear gas were thrown into the womens' section.

Ultra-orthodox women, often following male orders, sometimes on their own, uttered terrible curses, and tried to silence the quietly praying women in every way possible. They shrieked, circled, raged, and made awful faces. They pushed and shoved a pregnant Bonna Haberman who was holding onto the Torah with all her might. At one point, the government of Israel actually hired women to physically remove the women-- not for disturbing the peace but for praying.

At first, we organized solidarity prayer services for the women under siege in America. We were on the phone to Jerusalem almost constantly. We founded a not-for-profit International Committee for the Women of the Wall (ICWOW). At the time, there was no law which prohibited what the women were doing. But the violence escalated and the women decided to go to the Israeli Supreme Court to demand protection for their peaceful, religiously lawful prayer services. The Court took the case but prohibited the women from praying at the Kotel with a Torah until the court rendered its decision. The women continued to pray at the Kotel but went to the Archeological Gardens, Hulda's Gate, or to a site overlooking the Kotel plaza, for their Torah service.

And so, we decided to raise the money, acquire a Torah, dedicate it in the streets of Jerusalem, donate it to the women of Jerusalem, and pray with it at the Kotel, according to our custom, as we had done the previous year and as many of us routinely do in our synagogues all across America. We were prevented from doing so--and were thus able to join WOW's lawsuit in the Israeli Supreme Court.

After much discussion and many disagreements, we petitioned the court for only eleven hours a year, on Rosh Chodesh, the new month, a holiday expressly given to Jewish women. (In the month of Tishrei, Rosh Chodesh is actually Rosh HaShanah). On other holidays, where non-Torah scrolls are read, (as on Purim or Shavuot), WOW continued to pray there, reading aloud from the megilla of Esther and Ruth.

We understood that even a modest demand was revolutionary. The opposition saw us coming, they saw the future in us, and they knew that if they yielded even a little, that the future would instantly be upon them. In upholding tradition, they not only continued to uphold misogyny, they also sought to hold back and sully the inevitable tradition-honoring changes that Jewish women, (and men), living in a feminist era, were obligated to bring to our tradition.

WOW has never stopped. WOW has prayed at the worst moments of this most recent, endless Intifada. According to Rivka Haut, "WOW has maintained a group presence that is welcoming to every Jewish woman, teaching bat mitzvah girls as well as elderly women who never heard women leading prayers and never saw women reading from a Torah scroll, that they can actively participate in prayer. The women have persevered despite the rocks thrown over the mehitsa at them by haredim, despite the rocks raining down upon the Kotel area from the mosque above."

WOW became "legendary" and was written up everywhere--and uproariously misunderstood by almost everyone. Some reporters thought we wanted to pray on the men's side of the mehitza or together with men. Others thought that we had "feminized" the prayer service and were counting ourselves as a minyan (Prayer quorum). None of this was true. It took us awhile to understand that people visited their own longings upon us; we were a "projective" test.

Artists created tallesim (prayer shawls) and tambourines in our honor. We were included in feminist Passover Hagadot. Two films have already been made about this struggle. The most recent film, by Yael Katzir, a secular Tel Avivian and a professor of film, is a powerful, haunting, soulful, heartbreaking, and enraging film. It is called "Praying in her own Voice." You may both read about it and order it here and see clips of it here.

This film shows WOW's inspiring and steadfast women, both at home and under siege. It is a searing film. It cries out to heaven for justice. It also shows WOW's last visit to the Israeli Supreme Court; hope dashed; and it shows the archeological dig/prayer site the government has prepared for them.

Katzir, whose film was recently showcased at the Israeli Film Festival, managed to catch on film a great deal of WOW's hope and joy, as well as several particularly ugly instances in which ultra-orthodox women, led by one Shira Leibowitz Schmidt, may be seen cursing, surrounding, and creating a riot against WOW. Schmidt is seen on camera trying to steal their Torah away. (I have been told that Schmidt has begun to tell people that she had been "paid to be an actor in the film." This is a bald-faced lie.)

Katzir's film now includes opening comments from prominent American woman rabbis but it also includes deeper portraits of WOW's core of long-timers: Danielle Bernstein, Batya Cohn-Kallus, Anat Hoffman, Rahel Jaskow, Haviva Ner-David, Peggy Sidor, and lawyer Frances Raday at their most heroic.

How ironic! All over the world, including in Israel, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jewish women are rabbis and lead their congregations, both male and female, in prayer. Orthodox women in Israel, the United States, Europe, and Australia, pray together in women's prayer groups in which they chant from the Torah. More recently, orthodox women began to pray together with orthodox men in partnership minyanim (prayer quorums). This has included both women and men chanting from the Torah and receiving previously male-only honors.

Only in Israel, and at the site most holy to Jews, at a site where soldiers are sworn in, and national celebrations are held--at that place, Jewish women were, (and still are), prohibited from praying aloud in a group with a Torah.

Although I care deeply about Jewish womens' religious rights in Israel and of course, about all womens' right to both practice their religion--and to not be coerced into doing so--the struggle in Jerusalem is an intra-tribal matter and important in its own right.

However, as the Intifada of 2000 continued to rage against Israel, as did the United Nations, Muslim terrorists, and Western academics everywhere, I did not have the heart to join the jackal chorus against the Jewish state. Rivka and I decided to dedicate our book to the state of Israel and to refrain from writing articles or giving interviews to the non-Jewish media on this subject.

But such silence is not possible forever. Is Israel head and shoulders above Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia in terms of womens' rights? Absolutely. But our struggle also proves that justice for Jewish women is quite imperfect in the only Western-style democracy in the Middle East.

The Israeli Supreme Court would ultimately render three decisions. The first decision, in 1994, sent us to the Knesset where, I kid you not, the guys tried to banish our prayer group to rubble-strewn Arab areas of Jerusalem. We returned to court and, in 2000, rejoiced over a unanimous three judge decision in our favor. The state immediately appealed this decision. We then faced nine judges. In 2002, four judges were in our favor, four opposed us--and the fifth and decisive vote against us was cast by none other than the great liberal and humanitarian, Chief Justice Aharon Barak, a man who has been able to find justice for Palestinian Arabs, both Christians and Muslims but not for Jewish women.

This 2002 decision ordered the government to build a prayer site for us at Robinson's Arch which is mainly an archeological and tourist site. They have done so, at great cost. You may see it all in Katzir's moving film.
When I asked Rivka for her comments, here is what she said:
"Looking back 20 years after having organized the first halakhic women's group prayer at the Kotel, complete with prayer leader singing aloud and Torah reading, I have mixed emotions. I was 20 years younger, my husband was alive and with me then, and I felt exhilarated and proud at having begun a great spiritual adventure. Since then, however, the brave and pious Israeli women who have doggedly continued, coming every month, despite the narrowness and hatred they experienced emanating from our own tribe, have endured much, and have not succeeded in the Israeli Court. They have been banished, exiled, to Robinson's Arch, an archeological site they do not want and did not choose as a place of group prayer. What we all wanted to accomplish has not happened. We are still journeying towards our dream, towards women's freedom to pray, halakhically, and read torah, at our holy site."

This struggle empowered me to study Torah something which gives me much joy. It taught me that one should not try to change tradition if you have no intention of practicing it and without re-interpreting it smartly, humbly, carefully. WOW symbolizes the extraordinary learning in which Jewish women have been engaged and, as important, prides itself on finding ways to include all Jewish women in its prayer service. WOW does not separate from women of any denomination and is willing to sacrifice in order to do this.

From the outside, it may appear that our struggle has been legally defeated by ultra-orthodox fanatics. To some extent that is true--but we have also had orthodox supporters, both male and female, as well as orthodox detractors; feminist supporters as well as feminist detractors; Israeli supporters and Israelis who have such negative views of the Orthodox rabbinate that they will have nothing to do with religion--and they have viewed WOW negatively, as yet another religious group. Please remember that, as I've noted, it was a liberal, progressive, highly esteemed man, the President of the Israeli Supreme Court, who refused to grant justice to Jewish women in this era.

To WOW: Happy 20th Anniversary! We only have 20 more years to go before we reach the Promised Land in the promised land.

To Jewcy's readers: Please see Katzir's film, read our book, and go and pray with WOW when you are in Jerusalem.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A little break from reviews from various press resources about film to an interesting article about another family member. This one's from this week's Jerusalem Post:

Nov 29, 2008 18:29
A life full of days

Many people can't remember where they left their car keys or whom they met last week. Yet Prof. Ephraim Katzir, one of Israel's greatest living scientists, at 92 has written an autobiography packed with a mind-boggling cornucopia of people, dates, places, events and facts from as long as eight decades ago. Only once or twice does the author concede: "I am sorry I don't remember" someone's name. As Katzir found himself at key intersections in modern history, his story of a life well (but often-painfully) lived is intertwined with some of the most memorable events of the Jewish State and the Jewish People.

The 362-page hardcover Hebrew volume, just published by Carmel in Jerusalem, is simply titled Sipur Haim (A Life's Tale) - an apt reflection of his modest manner. Most Israelis, I presume, don't even recognize Katzir's name, or remember that he was a founding faculty member of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, a pathfinding biochemist and biophysicist, and the fourth president of the State, between 1973 and 1978.

Even if they did, many would be surprised to hear that he is still around, living on the Weizmann Institute campus.

But I recall him well. As a new Jerusalem Post reporter, I was assigned to cover Beit Hanassi (among other things) and the presidency when Katzir was inaugurated. I watched and listened to him at Beit Hanassi receptions, interviewed him in his private office and tagged along as he toured the country and - in perhaps his most momentous meeting - welcomed Egypt's president Anwar Sadat to Israel and Jerusalem.

Katzir never had the charisma or gift for gab that some Israelis prefer in a leader; at dull ceremonial events, he was probably dreaming of his lab, microscopes and test tubes. He always smiled shyly and looked people in the eye when he shook their hand, but a veil of sadness seemed to hang in the background. Many of his relatives perished in the Holocaust; his only sibling, best friend and world-renowned scientist Prof. Aharon Katchalski was murdered by the Japanese Red Army terror attack at Lod Airport on May 30, 1972; his daughter Nurit died of carbon dioxide asphyxiation at 23 when she fell asleep at home without being aware of a burning kerosene stove and sealed windows; daughter Irit, a "sensitive poet," died at 43 in "tragic circumstances"; and Katzir's wife Nina died of cancer 22 years ago. Only their son Meir and his family are left.

KATZIR WAS born in 1916 with the name Ephraim Katchalski, which he hebraicized only when elected president of Israel. His father, Yehuda, was an accountant with fiercely Zionist ideals. He and his wife Tzila lived in Lodj in Poland, where Aharon was born, but the family moved to Kiev in the Ukraine because of World War I. After migrating on to Bialystock, economic problems in the country and ideology induced the Katchalskis to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael in 1925.

Living with an uncle who came here previously as a pioneer, Aharon and Ephraim attended the Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv, riding their bicycles on the sandy paths. But when their parents failed to make a decent living, they moved to Jerusalem, where they rented an apartment in Rehov David Yellin. Yehuda didn't settle easily into an occupation and served as a synagogue beadle; Tzila excelled in running a clothing shop. The boys attended the Rehavia Gymnasia, which was then located in the Bokharian quarter where the family moved; Ephraim still recalls sharing a room with Aharon where the table was covered by a green velvet cloth. Ephraim joined the Haganah (which later became the Israel Defense Forces) at 16, like many of his peers, and learned to take apart and put together guns. Yehoshua Aluf, his physical education teacher, was a Hagana commander in Jerusalem (as president in 1974, Katzir presented him with an Israel Prize for his life's work). With over half of its small population of 70,000 being Jews, everybody seemed to know everybody. King George Street had become the first paved road in 1924.

Although his father wanted his younger son to go into business because Aharon was on a scientific path into biophysics at the budding Hebrew University, Katzir followed him to the new Mount Scopus campus, swerving from pure biology to chemistry. The brothers used their scientific knowledge to help the Haganah, and regretting that it was too late to save European Jewry. When a young Jew named Abba Kovner - a Lithuanian Jewish partisan leader who became a famous Hebrew poet and writer - arrived at the campus at the end of the war in Europe, he told the brothers what had happened to the Jews. He vowed to take toxin from the university, return to Europe and symbolically poison Nazi soldiers' bread in their barracks. On the boat to Europe, Kovner's plan was discovered and the poison from the HU storeroom was tossed into the sea.

FOR THE Haganah, the brothers developed new types of explosives to supplement the Jewish paramilitary organization's precious store. But, Katzir recalls in his book, the product was so malodorous that they had to do their lab work in a cave in Jerusalem's Sanhedria quarter. "When I entered a bus, people used to run away because of the stinky smell. Only years later did we learn how to eliminate the smell from that material."

One funny incident in the volume is Katzir's recollection of Amos Horev (who later became president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa) working with former Palmahniks on thermal bombs that exploded with a delay. As they had to be ignited with sulphuric acid, Horev suggested keeping them in latex condoms that would gradually be eaten away by the acid. "For his first experiments," Katzir recalls, "we depended on Amos's private stock, but when we needed serious supplies," a colleague went to buy them from a retailer in King George Street who "didn't hide his admiration for what seemed to be his customer's impressive sexual activity."

Before the establishment of the state, Katzir went to New York for post-doctorate study in New York and to raise funds for the Rehovot institute among friends at the Brooklyn Polytechnic. He also worked with future Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek to smuggle weaponry for the expected war.

The author recalls personal details about his esteemed teachers and fellow students and how they influenced him along his academic path. As HU did not then have the necessary equipment and funds for their research, the Katchalski brothers eagerly accepted an offer from the new Weizmann Institute, named for Chaim Weizmann, the chemist who developed a process for producing acetone, that enabled the manufacture of explosive propellants critical to the Allied effort in World War I. Rewarded by Britain with the Balfour Declaration, Weizmann served as a Zionist leader, president of the World Zionist Organization and - in 1949 - the first president of Israel. Katzir knew the esteemed scientist when he was sickly and chose the legendary Meyer Weisgal to run and promote the Rehovot institute. "I never dreamed for a moment that a quarter of a century later, I would find myself in Weizmann's seat as president of the State," Katzir writes.

ARRIVING BACK with the birth of the state - prevented for days from reaching his wife and small children in besieged Jerusalem - Katzir was named head of the IDF science corps. Later, he focused at Weizmann on polymers (large molecules composed of repeating structural units connected by covalent chemical bonds), specifically on immobilized enzymes and polyamino acids, which led to the development of synthetic antigens and the production of synthetic vaccines. One practical application of his work was his development of a synthetic fiber used to sew up internal wounds that dissolves in bodily enzymes. For his varied work, he received many awards, including the Israel Prize in Life Sciences and the Japan Prize. He also served as chief scientist of the Defense Ministry.

A long-time socialist, Katzir supported the Labor Party and was urged by prime minister Golda Meir to present his candidacy for the presidency to succeed Zalman Shazar. He relates that he didn't really know what a president is supposed to do, but did recall that the post had in 1952, when Weizmann died, been offered to Albert Einstein (who turned it down). Powerful Labor Party finance minister Pinhas Sapir told the reluctant Katzir he would build him a lab at Beit Hanassi so he would not be separated from his beloved science during the five-year-term, but this never happened. MK Yitzhak Navon, David Ben-Gurion's right-hand man (and Katzir's Haganah colleague) whom Meir opposed due to unpleasant memories of Labor's rift with the Rafi Party that Navon had joined with B_G, was proposed in the party's central committee due to his charm, intellect and Sephardi background. But Katzir won 56 percent of the vote and then defeated the great HU Jewish studies scholar Prof. Ephraim Urbach, nominated by the National Religious Party. In the secret vote, Katzir won with 66 ballots.

About four months later, Katzir symbolically led the nation through the Yom Kippur War, with its horrific death toll, anti-government demonstrations, Meir's resignation and the appointment of Yitzhak Rabin to replace her. Katzir was well received at the White House by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. In 1977, the Likud's Menachem Begin defeated Labor and a new bipartisan era began. Beit Hanassi was the scene of talks with party heads and the president's symbolic request to try to establish a coalition.

But it wasn't long before Egyptian president Anwar Sadat shook the country with the first official visit of an Arab leader. Katzir stood with Begin as they greeted the Egyptian at the airport and sat with them on the Knesset podium.

Katzir did much during his presidency to promote science education and research, continuing to boost biotechnology. After leaving office and returning to academia, he established a biotechnology department at Tel Aviv University while continuing his research at Weizmann and serving as world president of World ORT (the educational network).

"I believed with all my heart that science will bring peace to this country, renew its youthful vigor and create the sources for new life, both spiritually and materially," he wrote in a biological chemistry journal in 2005. "I have been lucky enough to spend my life in pursuit of my goals, with some success and considerable satisfaction."

Katzir, wheelchair bound but with a mind as clear as ever, was happy to give a telephone interview to mark the publication of his book to this reporter (who he said he remembered). He doesn't get to his lab, he said, but his former students - leading professors themselves - come to his home and bring their scientific articles before publication so he can comment on them. His son, a mathematics professor at the Technion, has three adult children, and some are engaged in science but not biology ("even though I tried to persuade them").

He spent six years working on the book, two of them reminiscing with his former biology student Amos Carmel, a journalist at Yedioth Aharonot.
"I told him he was better at writing than biology," Katzir jokes. "He did a wonderful job helping me. I didn't take notes during my long career, and didn't save any documents. Everything came from memory, with Amos's help. I felt that before I meet the Almighty, I wanted to write a book my son and grandchildren could read, and so that scientists will see that they can accomplish things outside scientific life as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oct 26 screening in Temple Emanualle, Beverly Hills.

From this weekends Jewish Journal:

Arts & Entertainment
“Praying in Her Own Voice” Film Screening and Discussion
By Danielle Berin and Dikla Kadosh

Israel Matters at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills along with Beth Chayim Chadashim,Ikar and Kol Ami, invite the community for the exclusive movie screening of “Praying in Her Own Voice”.

This powerful film documents the courageous struggle of the famed “Women of the Wall” movement. This group has spearheaded the battle for women’s equality in the religious world. Its focus is the Western Wall--- the holiest site for Jews --- where Orthodox, Conservative and Reform women are not allowed to gather and pray in community. Women of the Wall have challenged the Israeli government for a decade.This is their story.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Ravit Markus, the film maker, and Myra Newman, member of the Pluralism and Religious Diversity in Israel Committee of the LA-Tel Aviv Partnership.

The screening is made possible by a generous gift from the Chais Family Foundation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 7:00 PM. $10. Temple Emanuel, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

For more information please call (310) 288.3737 ext. 232 or visit
Dates: Sunday, October 26, 2008
Time: 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Event Price: $10
Organization: Temple Emanuel
Other Organizations/ Sponsors: Beth Chayim Chadashim, Ikar and Kol Ami
Venue: Temple Emanuel
300 N. Clark Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Phone: (310) 288.3737 ext. 232
Web Site:

Friday, September 12, 2008

SEPT 12 2008

7 years since that horrible day and it seems that much if not all of what we have experienced has been strongly forgotten.
I don't get it.
Don't get it at all.
Only 7 years.
And already people have moved on.
Is that the nature of the world?
Wanting so eagerly to forget?
Sept 12 was used by the media mostly for political gains in the ongoing heated election campaign. Each commentator was using Sept 11 either to bash the candidate they opposed or to use it to help the candidate they endorse.
7 years and still no memorial site in the place where nearly 3000 people lost their lives.

I will never forget Sept 11.
It was a moment that shaped my life forever.
Being the grandson of a person who was murdered in a terrorist attack I understand the pain of the grieving families.
I am with all of you.
I hope that the pain after 7 years is a little less.
It will never go away. I can attest to that from my own life.
But hopefully it doesn't sting as much as it did when it just happened.

I pray for all of your. You are and will always be in my heart and mind.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


“Praying in Her Own Voice” deals with the question of women’s place in Israel’s society
Bijan Tehrani


Filmmaker, college professor, wife and mother, Yael Katzir was born in Tel Aviv in 1942. Studied at Hebrew University, Jerusalem and at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA received her Doctoral Degree in History. She completed a Masters at Boston University MFA in Broadcasting and Film.(Cum Laude)

Director of Beit Berl College: Communal Cable Television Center Broadcasting regularly on Israel Cable TV Channel 98, country wide.
Prof. of film and history at the Art School. Independent Documentary filmmaker director and producer; she is also a published author.Her Award winning films are: Company Jasmine, Shivah for My Mother, A place for everyone. A glimpse of Paradise and Praying in her own voice.

Bijan Tehrani: Your film, “Praying in Her Own Voice”, deals with a subject that holds a great deal of importance, which some viewers may not grasp. Please tell us a little about the importance of this subject.
Yael Katzir: “Praying in Her Own Voice” is a film that deals with the very important question of women’s place in Israel’s society. It takes a look at a very courageous group that is paving the road for other women. The group is called Women of the Wall. They are a very heterogeneous group that includes Orthodox women, conservative women, Reform women and women who do not belong to any specific Synagogue. They come on every first day of the Jewish month at seven o’clock in the morning to pray in front of the Wailing Wall, the most sacred place for Jews in the world. They wish to pray according to the Jewish law. In the women’s section, when they are wrapped in the prayer shawl , they want to read from the Torah, and to pray and praise the Lord in song This is something that really threatens and raises havoc for the ultra orthodox Jews, who are afraid that if women take part, and are not chained down at the back of the synagogue, something will happen to Jerusalem. In the 21st century, when women are lawyers, neurosurgeons, and Prime Ministers, it is not clear why there must be a divorce between their roles in the temporal world and their duties in the spiritual realm. The struggle is very long. I have interviewed some Rabbis with authority, both in the US and Israel, and they all say that there isn’t any restriction for women reading from the Torah. Women are released from some things that were difficult for them to enact in ancient times but those things are not forbidden. Thus, if they want to read, they should be allowed to. There is another issue, and that is dealing with the voice of the women. There is a sentence in the Torahreferring to how the voice of women is tempting sexually, but many say that when it comes to prayer, everyone should pray. All the restrictions that are being put on women are because the men are afraid that they would be aroused sexually— so what?

BT: This film deals with a question of faith, but also even more so with women's rights. This is about fighting for your rights.
YK: Exactly, fighting for civil rights.

BT: How has the Israeli government reacted to this situation?
YK: The status of women in Israel is still at the back of the bus. While there is some progress, it takes place very slowly. When the issue of the rights of the Women of the Wall to pray according to their custom came by appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court, the decision was for the women, they should be allowed to pray. But then there was strong pressure from the religious political circles of the Government that reached the Supreme Court, and they have re-opened the case.. They have not gone back on their principle decision that women have the right to pray at the Wall according to their custom, but they have assigned for them a place at the archeological dig of the Wall 12 meters below the Prayer area and thus gave the women a place which no one hears or sees. This is very annoying, because all the civil rights and feminist rights organizations did not come out to support the women’s group. I have to say that the group of the Women of the Wall is very determined and strong, and they continue to fight for their rights, and I believe that in the end people will join them. As with the suffragists in England, their struggle took time. Those who are exiled or excluded from praying according to their own custom are not only the Women of the Wall , but also the religious Reform Conservative Communities, who compose the majority of the Jewish people in the World. .

BT: How difficult was the making of this film?
YK: Theses things are hard to measure. It was a big challenge; I received very little financial support but I had my ex students as my team. And the most important part was that I brought it to the finish line with the help of my son Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus who helped me to get to money in the crucial final stage. I myself am a secular Jew, and I met the Women of Wall? when I was with my students one day in the Old City, in a very odd situation. I saw a group of old women praying in the ruins of a German Christian church. I thought, are they crazy? I started to research, and understood that while the case was in court, they could open the door and look at the women’s section, but only in these ruins. They wanted to be present, and to be an example for other women. The film premiered at a big documentary film festival in Tel Aviv, and then word started to get around, but the Israel television is still not accepting it, because they don’t want to confront the religious people.

BT: How many times has the film been screened in Israel, and how has it been received?
YK: It did a round of all the cinemateques, and was screened two or three times in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa and Rosh Pina. It is being screened at many universities as well, and some of the reformed synagogues, but there it is like preaching to the converted. We had a very good screening at the San Francisco film festival, and will also have one in Berkley. The film has also been around the world. It won a merit award in India. It was in Spain, at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, and the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles last month. It attracted a full house in Los Angeles.

BT: Where do you think this struggle will go from here? Will it be a success for Women of the Wall??
YK: In the long run, I think it will be a success. Today the ultra-orthodox are going to try to pass a law in the Knesset(Israel House of Parliament) , proposing that the female members of Parliament (thirty percent of members of Parliament) will not be allowed to sing the national anthem in the house of Parliament!!!. So the film becomes even more relevant. I think that more exposure and publicity will help the cause. I worked on this for three or four years, and didn’t get paid, and I didn’t care because I care about the cause. This is something that has insulted me as a human being living in the 21st century. I have a PhD in History, and to think that the Jews, who were so clever in survival forms and always find solutions to situations, are fundamentalists and ready to resemble the Iranians?

BT: What are your future films?
YK: I have 2 projects. One deals with the influence of Berlin on Tel Aviv. This is going to be for the centennial celebration of Tel Aviv. I have another project that I hope to finish, but it depends on the finances. It is a diary of a violin builder during the second Lebanon War. It will carry the message that in spite of everything, he is going to continue to build violins during wartime.

I would like to add: that I have never had questions about my Jewish identity. But in the process of doing this film, my sense of Jewish identity really strengthened, because I felt that no one will take my Judaism away from me, even when they try to call me Goya, Arafat, and Amalek, what the Ultra Orthodox called us. The film ends with a song that I have written that include these lyrics; “In my voice, in your voice, in a woman’s voice, I lay another prayer. Not with silent mouthing words, my voice is crying to heaven. Out of Zion a Torah will come, and I too will have a place in the universe. In my voice, in every woman’s voice, there is a prayer. The music is very beautiful

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Famed critic George Robinson on Yiddish Theater Film.

George Robinson, is a top NY film critic for the NY Jewish Week.

When he wanted to review our film we were both delighted and scared. He's a tough reviewer and yet also one that's very respected by the film lovers community both in NY and across the US.

So we were very fortunate that he liked the film and also gave it a wonderful review that helped get the word out about the film in NYC.

This week, when the film returned to NY to a theater in Queens, he mentioned it in his blog.

Here's the full article in his blog. Yiddish Theater is mentioned at the second paragraph. I put the first paragraph with commentary about Woody Allen's new film so that those few who don't know who George Robinson is will get a sense of his honesty and his no BS attitude towards films and filmmakers.
Here's the G Robinson's blog of Tues. Aug 19 2008:

"Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Back With a Vengeance (?)

By George Robnison"

Okay, I'm not going to make any absurd promises about keeping up with this thing -- as you well know, those are futile. But I will make something more of an effort. Lots of goodies to offer you in this posting, at any rate.

First, my review of the new Woody Allen, for Jewish Week. The film is dire and in some ways, although it is better than Cassandra's Dream, it is successful in the most uninteresting manner, a clumsy recycling of old themes, characters, attitudes.

Second, allow me to direct your attention to a review by the estimable Donald Richie of a new English version of a key Japanese monograph on Kenji Mizoguchi, of whom we have spoken in the past.

One of the nicer surprises of last winter, a documentary about a dying Yiddish theater (is there any other kind?), has resurfaced in Queens. Yiddish Theater: A Love Story, directed by Dan Katzir, is playing at the North Shore Towers Cinema (270-10 Grand Central Pkwy., Floral Park). For information, phone 718-229-7702. My review of the film can be found here...."


Here's the link to George Robinson's blog:

Here's the full review of our film that appeared in the NY Jewish Week:


Spaisman’s Struggle
Israeli documentary chronicles the Yiddish theater star fighting to keep a new company alive
by George Robinson
Special To The Jewish Week

There is nothing in the arts as evanescent as live theater. After the curtain goes down it vanishes, to borrow a metaphor from Dashiell Hammett, “like a fist when you open your hand.” And all you are left with is memories.

How much more poignant, then, is the plight of those men and women who struggle to keep the Yiddish theater alive, for they are not only bucking the essential nature of their medium, they are also, it would seem, swimming against the strong current of history itself. If she were still alive, you could ask Zypora Spaisman, one of the pillars of the Folksbiene Theater and the founder of the regrettably short-lived Yiddish Public Theater. Or, almost as good, you can see Dan

Katzir’s new film about her last struggling company, “Yiddish Theater: A Love Story,” which opens next week at the Pioneer Theater.

Although she was well into her 80s when she died in 2002, and she had logged nearly a half-century on the Yiddish stage, Spaisman was a latecomer to the theater. A Jewish-Polish midwife who had survived the Shoah and had decided to pursue her acting dream, she came to the States in the 1954. By then, the Yiddish-language theater that had ruled the Lower East Side and what is now called the East Village, had dwindled from over a dozen professional companies in the 1910s to just the one struggling straggler, the Folksbiene, which Spaisman had joined in 1956. In the ‘90s an internecine dispute led to Spaisman’s departure from the Folksbiene, ostensibly into retirement. But as the film makes abundantly clear, Zypora Spaisman was not one to go quietly into the night. “Retire is a death sentence,” she tells the filmmaker.

Katzir’s documentary traces the eight days of Chanukah 2000, when her new company was battling both an unfashionable location and the worst blizzard in New York in years, playing before tiny houses despite truly excellent reviews of its production of “Green Fields.” He says at the film’s outset, “As an Israeli I should learn about my culture,” quite a change of tune from the old Zionist loathing of Yiddish. Purely by chance, Katzir had a home video camera with him when he saw the show and became acquainted with Spaisman. So at the drop of a hat, he found himself making a new film without any of the usual technical comforts of home. (Not that you can tell — among other virtues, “Yiddish Theater” is a good-looking film.)

As you can see from her first appearance on screen, Spaisman is the kind of person that entrances everyone around her, a warm but not effusive presence, with a diva’s command of the scene and a wry sense of humor. Katzir intertwines her story with that of the company’s fight for survival and the larger picture of the decay of what had been a powerful Yiddish cultural scene. The film benefits greatly from comments by Dov Katz, a prominent historian of Yiddish, and from the fleeting presence of the great Yiddish crooner Seymour Rexite, who does not suffer fools gladly and makes no secret of it. The members of the Yiddish Public Theater are also a strikingly variegated lot, from Roni Neuman, the Israeli ingénue who learned her lines phonetically, to Felix Fibich, a dancer and actor who is as spry at 85 as most of us were at 25.

“Yiddish Theater: A Love Story” is just funny and spikey enough never to allow the audience to wallow in cheap sentiment (unlike some of the worst but most successful Yiddish plays). Spaisman seems to hold her Israeli interlocutor at just enough distance that the film can never become a soggy valentine to her indomitable spirit. Instead, it is a bittersweet, funny and charming tribute to a theatrical tradition that may be on the ropes but isn’t quite down for a 10-count yet

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Our film opens this weekend in Queens NY. Here's one of the reviews we got there:

Yiddish language makes a comeback

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 9:40 PM EDT

When I.B. Singer said, “Yiddish is the most alive dead language,” perhaps he was predicting the release of Dan Katzir’s documentary film, “Yiddish Theater: A Love Story,” which will open at the North Shore Towers in Queens on Friday, August 15.

The documentary was one of’s Top 10 Documentaries of 2007 and was hailed at film festivals everywhere from San Francisco to Tel Aviv.

Zypora Spaisman, 84, is the actress and Holocaust survivor who runs Folksbiene, the oldest running Yiddish theater in America. Katzir tells the story of her fight to keep an old art form alive, as well as her struggle to reclaim the stage from a youth-obsessed public.

A major point of concentration in the film is the star’s work on her theater troupe’s revival of Peretz Hirschbein’s Yiddish play, “Green Fields” (“Grine Felder”) in 2000, which was critically acclaimed at the time of its debut.
Although the film is set in one of New York’s coldest winters, its personalities are warm, energetic and fun loving, and humor drives the action throughout. Even when Spaisman has to raise enough funds to keep her last show going and possibly transfer it to Broadway, there is witty commentary to be heard.

Born in Lublin, Poland in 1916, Spaisman immigrated to the United States in the 1950s and became an actress. She has passionately kept both the Yiddish language and the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater alive in New York for 42 years, though she retired at 84, when she started a new production with Yiddish Public Theater.

Other Yiddish theater legends featured in the documentary include Shifra Lerer, Felix Fibich and Seymour Rechzeit, not to mention the 2nd Avenue Deli, with its Yiddish walk of fame.

To find out more about the film, visit

Sunday, August 10, 2008


For all those who missed Luke Ford's previous review of our film, here's a new one.
Seems like this film has touched Luke Ford- a colorful character that's not easily touched by any film, no matter the subject matter.
This new write up was fascinating for me, one of the filmmakers to read. I also found it to be a huge compliment that he's decided to revisit the film.
For those who don't know Luke Ford and won't take the time to check his blogs, let me just say that he's a very popular blogger with a few blogs on different and very diverse subject matters.

His own website LUKEFORD.NET covers the Religious Jewish world BUT from a hip and happening point of view.
He's extremely critical, always controversial, totally unpredictable, and always and I do mean always sees things totally in a different way than anyone else which gives his writing a very personal and unique point of view. Some love Luke Ford's writings. Some hate him- but everyone gives him credit for seeing things in his own way and always keeping it interesting to read.
Here's the latest review about our film on his blog. It's really a trip to read. Luke wasn't in love with my previous film. I'm delighted that this one gave him so much more to contemplate about:

July 27, 2008
A Spiritual Artist Examines ‘Praying In Her Own Voice’

Rabbi Sharon Brous of Ikar begins the movie: "I’ve traveled all over the world and I’ve prayed with talit and tefillin in trains in Japan in airplanes going to Prague and to France and the only place I’m actually scared to put a talit over my head to pray lest I get hit over the head with a chair or have feces thrown at me is at the kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem."

Rabbi Denise L. Eger of the gay-friendly Reform temple Kol-Ami on Sunset Blvd: "The women of the wall are the prophetesses of our time because they are challenging injustice in sacred space. There isn’t anything more prophetic than that."

Rabbi Laura Geller: "This movement began because Jewish women want a relationship to God and a relationship to Jewish tradition."

The women of the wall make a powerful case for equal access to the Western Wall to pray in the way they seem fit, only their case comes from feminism and other secular notions, and not from Judaism.

When I watch this movie, I feel like I’m watching Martin Luther King marching in Selma, Alabama.

Unless you are rooted in tradition, these women seem like civil rights activists.

I’ve watched this movie three times and I’m looking forward to seeing it again, to watching it with people from all perspectives.

This is totally a movie to catch a wife with, even if she’s a lesbian who wants to wear tefillin and blow a shofar.

I feel like you can tell what every character is going to say simply by looking at how they dress. The traditionalists vs. the moderns. It goes down the line. The Reform and Conservative Jews look like moderns and take modern positions. The traditional Orthodox women carefully cover their hair while the women of the wall tend to be more free with theirs.

The Women of the Wall says: "We stand far from the Wall so as not to offend anyone."

I like that. It’s just the thing you say when you know you don’t have much power and that you could get into big trouble. I’ve said the same thing myself many times. "Just let me stay. I’ll be real quiet. I’ll just sit over here. I won’t disturb anyone."

A leader of the Women of the Wall says: "I don’t know why we’re such a big threat. Why are women raising their voice in prayer supposedly undermining the Jewish tradition?"

Tens of thousands of Jewish women raise their voices in prayer at the kotel without disturbance. The problem is that this group deliberately violates the norms of a sacred space by taking on practices traditionally reserved for men. If I went to a NOW convention wearing a right-to-life t-shirt, I couldn’t expect a friendly reaction.

A Modern Orthodox girl is asked if she wants to pray like a man.

She responds: "A Jew doesn’t do what he wants or feels like doing. The Torah says what’s forbidden or allowed, what we must do."

"If my husband says something, he knows what’s best for me because he studies Torah."

Q: "You don’t know what’s best for you?"

A: "No."

Rabbi Daniel Sperber at Bar Ilan says: "Nothing prohibits women from reading the Torah. Anyone may be one of the seven customarily called to the Torah. Namely, anyone may read from the Torah on Shabbat, the seven sections, including women and children."

This is not the normative Orthodox view.

Rabbi Samuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall, says the normative Jewish position: "People can’t just do what is right in their own eyes."

The late Shinui politician Tommy Lapid weighs in on the side of the Women of the Wall as does Shulamit Aloni. So when the anti-religious are choosing the side of the Women of the Wall, it makes you wonder how normatively religious these Women of the Wall are?

Rabbi Andrew Sacks of the Conservative movement says the Orthodox have driven away "most Jews who want to pray differently."

If he means that most Jews in Israel want to pray differently from the Orthodox, then he’s saying something absurd. The people who the overwhelming amount of formal davening in Israel and around the world are the Orthodox. They are the ones who show up to shul every day to daven and learn Torah.

The Reform and Conservative movements in Israel have never gained much of a following in Israel.

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef says, according to a newspaper: "Bury the Refom women wrapped in prayer shawls."

Anat Hoffman, a founder of Women of the Wall and a leader of Israel’s Reform movement, says: "We want to show other women and girls that women can read Torah."

Well, when Anat and company do that by the Wall, the other women beat them up. It doesn’t seem they wanted to be educated in modern ways.

Anat: "There is no reason that this group, observing Jewish law, can’t be in the women’s section at the Kotel."

Well, few Orthodox rabbis would say this group’s aims are in line with Jewish law, which mandates separate roles for men and women.

Rabbi Samuel Rabinovitch: "It is inconceivable that everyone should do as they see fit."

Haviva Ner-David is throughout this documentary. She’s presented as "Dr. Haviva Ner-David, Post-denominational Rabbi, Women of the Wall, Orthodox."

Here’s Steven I. Weiss’s interaction with her from May 2006:

Haviva Ner-David Thinks She Got Semicha

I got a voicemail from R’ Aryeh Strikovsky this week wanting to follow-up on our conversation last week about Haviva Ner-David’s certification [1,2]. Maybe he’ll have something vastly different to say this time around, but it was pretty surprising to receive this letter from Ner-David this morning:

Subject: Thanks a lot!!!
Steve, I don’t know what your agenda is, but I smell something fishy. Why did you want to prove on your blog that what I got from Rav Aryeh Strikovsky is not smicha? You asked me to forward you the smicha document, and yet, you did not put it in on your blog, at least not that I could see. Is that because it would show that it is indeed smicha? What are you trying to prove? Are you some right-wing reactionary? Do you have something against the idea of women rabbis? I’m trying to understand what makes you tick. I am not sure what Rabbi Strikovsky actually told you, but I am sure you must have misquoted him or misunderstood him. Either that, or you scared him away from saying the truth. He signed the document I sent you. His only reservation was about giving me the title of Rav because he felt the Orthodox world was not ready for that yet. But the more people like you hound him, the more he will feel threatened and scared and reluctant to admit the truth.
So what is your agenda exactly? Why didn’t you include the document or at least quote from it?
I know I learned one thing from this, which his not to trust people who pose as reporters, I should have checked your credentials before being helpful.
I try to live by the ideal of dan lekaf zechut, but it is getting harder and harder these days.
Haviva Ner-David

My response:

Haviva -
I did post the document, and I quoted R’ Strikovsky precisely on what he told me — and it was he who called me, gave me the quotes, and ended the conversation; I’m not being selective. He did leave a message on my answering machine asking to do some follow-up, which I will do.
I have no agenda as to whether or not you’ve been given semicha; I don’t know you and don’t know much about you (though your letter certainly reveals a tendency toward paranoia, overstatement and hyperactivity). I was simply seeking the truth, and the quotes I got from Strikovsky are not only real and complete — they echo his statements to the Jerusalem Post that what he gave you was not semicha. Indeed, I find it pretty curious that you’d be so angry at what the rabbi said; this would seem to indicate the two of you are not exactly on the same page.
I certainly did not “hound him.” I left a message for him, he called me back, and I quoted him on what he said. It’s not my job to put your words in his mouth, just to quote him accurately.
As to my credentials, I don’t know what you checked up on, but here’s my standard bio:

Steven I. Weiss is an award-winning religion journalist in New York City who has written for such publications as New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Radar. He is currently the New York correspondent for the London Jewish Chronicle, and is a former staff writer at the Forward.

keep it good,
Steven I. Weiss

Haviva says about the Women of the Wall: "It is in accordance with Jewish law."

"We have to be confident that what we’re doing is for the sake of Heaven, even if it is a bit new and revolutionary."

People who are confident that what they are doing is for the sake of Heaven don’t need to tell themselves to be confident that what they’re doing is for the sake of Heaven.

I was struck that one of the opponents of the Women of the Wall has a hyphenated last name, "Shira Leibowitz-Schmidt."

She tries to take the Torah scroll from the Women of the Wall when they’re davening and an amusing fight breaks out.

Jonathan Rosenblum writes Feb. 9, 2005:

Mrs. Shira Leibowitz Schmidt heard about the planned demonstrations on the Monday night English-language news. Unlike most Torah Jews, who have long since learned to filter out such news items or convinced themselves that they are helpless, Mrs. Schmidt has become something of a one-woman truth squad.

When she hears or reads such a news item, she starts with the assumption that something has been misunderstood and does not rest until she gets to the bottom of the issue. So when the story of Rabbi Abergil’s psak broke, the first thing she did was to call Rabbi Abergil, whom she did not know. He told her that no one from the press or Machon Hoda’a had ever contacted him, and that he was very disturbed about the way his words were being distorted and misquoted. He faxed Mrs. Schmidt his psak.

Next Mrs. Schmidt contacted the Maariv reporter. He admitted to her that he had not contacted Rabbi Abergil. Worse, he had never even seen Rabbi Abergil’s actual psak, but had only learned of it from an informant. The only thing he could offer in his defense was that Rabbi Abergil’s failure to respond after the story was already published proved that it was accurate.

After that, Mrs. Schmidt contacted the op-ed editor of the Jerusalem Post and offered to write a piece placing the entire hullabaloo in perspective. Her lengthy response was prominently featured in the paper’s Friday magazine.

Even then, Mrs. Schmidt did not rest content. She proceeded to track down every news outlet that had carried the story of Rabbi Abergil’s psak and the subsequent demonstrations to inform them of the inaccuracies and politely suggest that an apology to Rabbi Abergil was in order.

All in all, Mrs. Schmidt provides a remarkable example of how much each of us could do if we only set our minds to it and did not leave the task for others.

If similar news items come to your attention, please contact

Shira Leibowitz-Schmidt responds to a different item by Jonathan Rosenblum: "Sometimes, Jonathan….
…the situation is vice versa- people from the national religious (knitted kippa) stream “take the rap” for something that characterizes the haredim. A group of knitted-kippa wearing yeshiva boys from a hesder yeshiva where the boys alternate periods of study and army service went on Israel’s Memorial Day to fallen soldiers to say Psalms in an army cemetery. To honor the fallen they donned white dress shirts. While they were there I saw a woman (from her dress probably not observant) go over to them and lambaste them for not serving in the army, mistakenly identifying them as yeshiva students with deferments. They tried to gently explain that they do serve in the army. But in her rage she couldn’t listen and shouted, “I bet your rabbis tell you not to serve” “why don’t you at least guard kindergartens” etc. (Eventually her husband, who did realize they were yeshiva-student-soldiers-dressed-in-white-shirts calmed her down.) After witnessing this I understood why many from the national-religious sector are particularly vehement against deferred yeshiva students. The non-haredi yeshiva students are often grouped along with haredim in the mind of the public, just as in Jonathan’s case (of the spitting) the haredim may have been grouped along with non-haredi yeshiva students."

Here is an online bio of Shira: "Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. "That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered," he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Shira acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. She remarried Dr. Baruch Schmidt, and they live in Netanya where she currently works as a translator and writer, and does volunteer work for the Shas Ha’maayan Torah day schools."

Shira has co-authored a couple of books on Judaism and science.

Here’s another online bio of this woman: "Shira Leibowitz Schmidt has six children and eight grandchildren … so far. She is a lapsed engineer and co-authored Old Wine, New Flasks: Reflections on Science and Jewish Tradition (New York, 1997) with Nobel chemist Roald Hoffmann. She is currently affiliated with the Haredi College in Jerusalem and writes polemical articles on controversial issues for The Jerusalem Post."

Danielle Bertsin of WOW says about her critics: "How are they so sure that their way is the right way?"

Well, Danielle seems pretty sure her way is the right way.

The documentary ends: "The Women of the Wall continue their struggle to give women’s prayer a voice."

Director Yael Katzir is Dan Katzir’s mom.

Filmmaking is in his genes."


Rahel Jaskow writes March 23, 2007:

This morning I went to the DocAviv International Documentary Film Festival in Tel Aviv with other members of Women of the Wall to see Praying in Her Own Voice (Hebrew title: Kol be-isha tefilla), a film about our group and its legal struggle that was made by history professor and filmmaker Yael Katzir. I came out extremely moved, and wonderful to relate, I wasn’t the only one by far. It seems that the entire audience—which filled the largest auditorium at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque almost to capacity—was, too.

Yael, who spent four years making this film, put her heart and soul into it. Most important, she understood us. She got us: who we are, what we’re about (and, just as important, what we’re not about), what we want and why it is important to Israeli society and to Judaism as a whole. Thanks to her film, Israelis now understand that for the first time… and if we can judge by the audience’s reaction—prolonged, loud applause at the end of the film and the heartfelt comments they made to us after we left the theater—they get it, too.

People have already asked me where they can buy Praying in Her Own Voice on DVD, and I hope that soon I will be able to tell them. I recommend it highly: not because I am involved in Women of the Wall or because I appear in the film (a little), but rather because in my opinion it shows who we are, truly and simply, and why our struggle for the equal right of Jewish women’s prayer groups to worship according to their custom at the Western Wall has implications that go far beyond ourselves.

On July 28 2008 Luke Ford also decided to interview the director Yael Katzir. Here's the interview:

July 28, 2008
An Interview With Yael Katzir, Director Of ‘Praying In Her Own Voice’

1. Why did I choose to make the film

For many years I am dealing with topics that concern womens’ role in our society.
In 2000 I did a documentary on the role of women in the army - the sterotype Macho club.
To this film I came by chance when I dicovered a group of Jewish- Israeli women praying in the old city of Jerusalem in the ruins of a crusader church from the 13th Century.
It was so bizare that I decided to follow them. I started research and then started to film. I followed them for four years but the movie covers only two years.
I chose to make the film because I felt an urge almost an irresistable impulse to become the mouthpiece of this group in their struggle to have a voice and the right to read, the freedom to have knowledge. I am a secular jew, and yet I think that every citizen have the right to pray in his own voice and manner, even though I don’t pray at all. The dictatorship of the ultra orthodox in Israel is a threat to freedom. The fact that women are treated as second class citizens, this is what compelled me to do the film.

2. Did I have a point of view - and did it change over time?

I have a liberal democratic POV. Namely I believe in human rights and freedom of expression in every domain of life including religion.
My point of view did not change much but my viewing of reality received a twist of sadness as I shared with women of the wall the fact that they were defeated in the supreme court. I felt that this fight must go on as women are 50% of the population.

3. Differences in reaction in Israel and US

In Israel, secular people ar shocked. They didn’t know how violent women can become to women.
The TV chanels did accept the film as it has a powerful criticism of what is going on in the wailing wall.
In America the issue is exteremly hot as most of the Jews belong to more liberal comunities and they don’t want to be excluded like the women of the wall from the right to pray at the Kotel.

4.My obstacles

I had a number of obstacles:
1. My husband didn’t think that this is an important topic
2. I didn’t get money from the Israeli film funds
3. Shooting was tough as there were many occasions when we were violently attacked by the hate, screamings and fists of the ultra-Orthodox women.
4. The reactions to the movie that most surprise me were: those of young people in India. They understood and Identified with the women whose voice is repressed and their need to read from the Torah and have joy in their worship are rejected by man.
I believe that in 2008 it is impossible to accept women as doctors, attorneys, judges, politicians, and have the same women banned to sit at the back of the bus. This is a disgrace to the future of Judaism. Women were present when Moses gave the Torah and they should be together with men to continue to be the carriers of it.


Dear Luke,

I probably was too tired when I have written to you last night.

If this is OK allow me please to add a few points which I failed to include.

The passage or journey that I went through was rather an eye opener.

I did the film for the Israeli public and as a protest against the way women are treated. But in the course of doing the film I realized that there is also another issue and that is the question of who is a Jew and what is Judaism in modern times. In the famous debate about identity what are we in Israel — Jewish first or Israeli first? My answer and unquestioned attitude was that I am a Jew first and an Israeli second. (My husband is Israeli first.)

When I did the film I felt that my long given answer to the question is not satisfactory. On the contrary, the Ultra Orthodox people curse me together with the women of the wall as being a goy or even worse, a person ruining Judaism.
So the film has created for me an opportunity to restructre my personal identity and deepen my conception of what is Judaism - or what it ought to be in the 21st century.

Yes I believe in the unity of the Jewish people. This is the one and only code word for survival (Kol Israel Arevim ze laze = all Israel are responsible each one for the other). In today’s world there must be space for all Jews and for a diversity of religious practice. Reading of the Torah depends on interpretations and traditions and as much as the Jews were dispersed among the nations and collected various traditions so it should be accepted that more than one custom will prevail.

What happened in the course of the making of the film is that I realized that the film is not only for Israelis but also for the Diaspora Jews if we want to remain one people. My son Dan and Ravit suggested that I open the film and adjust it to the American Jewry and I did it (with all the resulting extra labor and cost that it required).

I hope that the screening of the film with the right echo here in the US will open the doors and more important the hearts of people in Israel to understand that there is more than one road to the gates of heaven. Moreover no one should forget the women were also present at Mount Sinai when the whole people of Israel was given the task to carry the Torah…

At the end of this journey I find myself not one of the Women of the Wall but an more ardent jew who wants to read his Torah and sing and pray to good with enthusiam although I am a woman!

I also must add that without the encouragement of my students, some of whom observers, I could have never brought the film to the finish line.


Do you feel any irony that you have become so passionate over these religious questions when you are not religious?

Do not the ultra-Orthodox have the right to control the Wall as they are the ones who daven the most and study the most Torah and observe Torah the most keenly?

Was there any proponent of the traditional perspective that you felt much sympathy for?

Yael responds:

Dear Luke,
The kotel belongs to all the jewish people and not to one group.
Even in the days of the 2ed temple the jews were not a solid state unit, and the temple was shared by all.
So I think that all the jews especially the majority of them should not be excluded. the ultra orthodox are a minority, and they should be tolerant to other jews. when Hitler sent people to the Gas chambers he didn’t ask them which synagogue they went to and many of those burt were not going to schule at all.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Jewish SF WEEKLY : PRAYING IN HER OWN VOICE Film review at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Direct Link:

Jew vs. Jew: Documentaries focus on two Jerusalem standoffs

by michael fox

There are few things more disturbing than Jews attacking Jews. After all, we have plenty of enemies without fighting each other.

In “Jerusalem is Proud to Present,” a lesbian and gay organization’s 2006 plans to host the annual international World Pride celebration in the capital, culminating with a parade, run into a storm of opposition and enmity fanned by Orthodox rabbis and city council members.

“Praying in Her Own Voice,” another documentary in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, catalogs the efforts of a small group of Orthodox women to don tallits and read the Torah at the Western Wall. They encounter all kinds of resistance, but the most vociferous and venomous interference, shockingly, comes from other Orthodox women.

Neither film is a great work of art, but each contains passages that convey with nerve-wracking immediacy the level of passion and intimidation that Orthodox Jews of the Holy City can muster.

Although both epic confrontations unfold in Jerusalem, the movies would seem to have their greatest impact in the diaspora. After all, it’s inconceivable that either film will influence the opinion of a viewer already in one camp or the other. A religious person with a strict traditionalist interpretation of Torah will not be swayed by civil rights arguments, nor will a liberal, secular individual be persuaded by halachic interpretations.

But American Jews, especially those who’ve heard anecdotes and rumors about religious-secular conflict in Israel but haven’t seen it firsthand, will find both documentaries profoundly unsettling.

It should be noted that the filmmakers intend to inspire a portion of their audiences through the words and deeds of the courageous, committed activists they put on camera. They succeed, but any feeling of celebration is decidedly bittersweet.

“Jerusalem is Proud to Present,” co-presented with Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco, starts out as an upbeat lark, with Israeli gays and lesbians handing out postcards on the streets of Manhattan touting next year’s bash in Jerusalem. But the tone darkens with the introduction of Adam Russo, a young man who was stabbed while marching in the ’05 parade, and gay council member Sa’ar Netanel, who is mocked and ignored in open session.

Filmmaker Nitzan Gilady (“In Satmar Custody”) also gained access to American-born, media-savvy Rabbi Yehuda Levin and religious city councilwoman Mina Fenton, giving the film a vestige of balance. But the death threats and violence originate with only one side.

As an organizer of the pride events remarks while perusing a crude, anonymous hate flyer, “Since when do religious people know how to make Molotov cocktails?”

The tension ratchets as the day of the parade approaches, and one frets for Israel’s soul. Only a miracle, or a war with Hezbollah, can prevent an ugly scene.

“Praying in Her Own Voice,” co-presented by Temple Sinai of Oakland and the San Francisco chapter of Hadassah, introduces us to Orthodox women who want nothing more than to pray to God on an equal basis with men. That means reading the Torah at the Western Wall, an act that goes against the beliefs and teachings of the male Orthodox establishment.

Director Yael Katzir at times relies a bit too heavily on interviews, cutting from one talking head to the next (including an array of Los Angeles women rabbis who are supportive of the Women of the Wall but not directly involved).

She does a good job, though, of illuminating the influence of the Orthodox on the government. From the handling of the case in the Supreme Court to the reaction of policemen in the women’s section of the wall, one sees that the Orthodox are the 800-pound gorilla in Israel’s parlor.

And they are not at all adverse to breaking some of the family china if they don’t get their way.

“Jerusalem is Proud to Present” screens

7 p.m. Tuesday, July 29 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, 4:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Roda Theatre at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and 8:45 p.m. Aug. 6 at CineArts @ Palo Alto Square.

“Praying in Her Own Voice” screens with the short “Four Questions For a Rabbi” at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, July 31 at the Castro, 4:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at CineArts and 4:15 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Roda Theatre. Tickets: $10-$12. Information:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story in Indianapolis

This weekend we played in a theater in Indianapolis. Here's the review from the local paper the Indianapolis Star:

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story
Robert Hammerle
by Robert Hammerle
Posted: Jul 28, 2008 in Things to do, Culture, Movies

Tags: documentary, Zypora Spaisman, South Keystone Art Cinema
"B" Rating by Robert W. Hammerle

Seeing "Yiddish Theater: A Love Story" at the South Keystone Art Cinema was meaningful on two levels. First of all, director Dan Katzir has made a heartfelt documentary centering around Zypora Spaisman, an oxygenarian actress trying to save the last surviving Yiddish theater in New York at the end of the 20th century.

On a second level, I could not help but notice the irony in a documentary about the attempts to save the last theater of its kind playing in a movie venue that is the last of its kind here in Indianapolis. South Keystone is a treasure in its own right.

Unlike its upscale counterpart, namely the Landmark Art Cinema at Keystone at the Crossing, you won't find this theater prostituting itself commercially by showing films that can be seen in any other cinema chain in town. South Keystone is a truly independent movie theater in every sense of the word, and it deserves our patronage.

As for the "Yiddish Theater" itself, it is a moving account about the singular dedication of the beautiful and determined Ms. Spaisman. 84 years of age, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust that claimed over 100 members of her family, she has an inspiring story to tell about her life in the "Yiddish Theater."

Because Hitler and his satanic extermination machine were so effective, a large portion of the Yiddish artistic community in Eastern Europe was wiped forever from this earth. Survivors like Zypora dedicated themselves simultaneously to keeping a dying language and art form alive.

She is simply a marvel, as are many of the other older actors who are trying to stave off the closing of their theater. In particular, Zypora's account of the death of her beloved husband whose bedside she left so that she could make rehearsals brings tears to her eyes, as it will yours.

In Zypora we see the true meaning of life. As nice as they are, personal satisfaction in life is not found in public fame or material possessions. Truly wealthy people in this life never give up or give in. They have a personal dedication and spirit to persevere through any crisis that defines the human spirit at its highest level.

SPOILER ALERT Zypora fought for her beloved "Yiddish Theater" to her last breath, only to die thinking that she ultimately failed. However, her tenacious drive survived the grave, as shown in the scene where the Governor of New York gave a $200,000 check to her son who made sure that the "Yiddish Theater" will survive into the future.

Mazel Tov, Zypora. While you now belong to the ages, your beloved theater survives to this da

Friday, July 25, 2008


Our new film: "Praying in her own voice" is about to have it's official premiere at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
But already we were lucky to get a wonderful review of the film in the LA Jewish Journal following our sneek peak in LA.
Here's the review.
Thank you Danielle Berin for the kind and warm words.

June 26, 2008

Women fight for equal Western Wall rights, Democrats for Israel leader moves up
By Danielle Berrin

Should women have equal prayer rights at the Kotel?

It's a question of profound religious, spiritual and political complexities that a new documentary, "Praying in Her Own Voice," by filmmaker Yael Katzir, dares to ask but doesn't attempt to answer.

As it stands, Israeli law has prevented the organization, Women of the Wall, and other gatherings of women from holding organized prayer groups -- reading Torah and wearing tallit, tefillin and kippah -- in the women's section of the Western Wall's main plaza.

Women of the Wall has been challenging the religious establishment since 1989, fighting for the right to conduct an organized prayer service at the most significant worship site in Israel.

The penalty for defiance? Violators face seven years of prison.

The documentary follows the women as they gather once a month on Rosh Chodesh to form a minyan and pray at the Kotel. Disapproving onlookers have thrown chairs at them, spat at them and disrupted their prayer with verbal and physical assaults.

Sometimes the women huddle tightly together, forming a bulwark against other hostile religious Jews -- and by extension, the chief rabbinate of Israel, which governs the Western Wall. Other times, they give up and retire to their "alternate" prayer site, Robinson's Arch, far removed from the public gathering at the holiest Jewish relic in Jerusalem.

"I have traveled around the world, and I have prayed with tallit and tefillin on trains in Japan, on airplanes going to Prague and to France, and the only place where I'm actually scared to put a tallit over my head and pray -- lest I get hit over the head with a chair or have feces thrown at me -- is at the Kotel, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem," Rabbi Sharon Brous proclaims in the film's opening line.

Brous is one of six L.A.-area female rabbis interviewed in the film, which includes Rabbis Laura Geller, Denise Eger, Lisa Edwards, Lynn Brody and Naomi Levy, who support the movement for religious freedom in Israel.

After the screening, part of the 23rd Israel Film Festival, was a panel discussion with Edwards and Brody and the film's producers, Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus, which raised issues from the film before an audibly impassioned crowd.

Edwards recounted visiting Israel in 1989, when the first women's prayer gathering took place at the Wall. She said she had to defend her choice to wear a head covering when a self-identified Orthodox woman literally cried out from her seat, "I feel a woman's place is behind her man. I could never put on a kippah. I could never put on a tallis. That is for my husband and my brothers."

Edwards' experience was an unironic echo of the film, and the Orthodox woman a vehemently dissenting voice that cast a dose of reality on an empathetic audience, a minor example of just how uphill this battle will be.

The Israeli government, which has seen its Supreme Court concede turf to the Women of the Wall only to repeal its decision when squeezed by Charedi political parties, appears quite helpless to resolve the swelling religious conflict.

What's missing in the film -- and the movement -- is commentary from Torah scholars who might challenge the law, using halacha not to defend but affirm a woman's place in Jewish religious life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Luke Ford

Praying in her own Voice, the new film I produced had a sneak peek screening at the Israeli film festival 08 this week at the Laemmle Sunset 5, one of the best theaters in the Los Angeles (Even thought technically some might say it's located in West Hollywood and not LA) .
It was a sold out screening that's aimed at helping us improve the film before the official premiere at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 08 in July.

Luke Ford a famous blogger came to see the film and immediately afterward wrote about it in his blog. I met Luke Ford some time ago. He is a charming but controversial person that loves stirring things up. To some he is quite radical. Some might be offended by his review of my new film. Some might be offended by the ideas and his point of view of women in general and will find more justifications of that point of view in his review and the way he writes about the women of the wall.
It's is debatable if in our media savy world a public campaign can be run by women who are not 18 and are not gorgeous models.
My last two films have proven that I personally am more attracted to the beauty of a woman's soul rather than just to exterior looks.
But I will respect if disagree with those who think otherwise.

I appreciated the fact that Luke Ford came to see the film and wrote what he thought about it.I'm delighted that he liked the film even thought he had issues with the way the women look.
His review proved to me that the target audience is much wider than I expected at first and that even those who are oppressed by the figures of exterior beauty will also find meaning relavance and satisfaction watching this important and powerful film about women with a beautiful soul that I admire and that inspired me as well as the director who spent 5 years filming their battle and bringing it to a much wider audience.

Here's the review. Take from it what you may- and hope that it will make you think not just about the film itself but about the continuing battle of the sexes :

June 24, 2008
‘Praying In Her Own Voice’
Listen to this article. Powered by

It’s a testament to my growing spiritual sensitivity that I’m able to enjoy a movie about such ugly women.

People will either love or hate the protagonists of this documentary from Yael Katzir.

The hour-long production makes no pretense about whose side it is on.

It is billed:

"The new documentary Praying in her own Voice is a thought provoking powerful piece about Feminism and Judaism . It depicts the struggle of the Women of the Wall in the last few years for the right to pray like men do at the Western Wall. It includes commentary from some of the top women rabbis in LA: Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Naomi Levy , Rabbi Sharon Brous, Rabbi Denise Eger , Rabbi Lisa Edwards and Rabbi Lynn Brody. Rabbi Levy, Rabbi Edwards, and Executive Producers Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus will attend a panel discussion after the film, moderated by Rabbi Brody. The film was directed by award winning director Yael Katzir and is an hour long, Hebrew and English, with English sub-titles."

The leaders of this small group (they never seem to number more than two dozen, of which about a dozen are Israelis and the rest largely American visitors) want to do everything that men can do at the Western Wall — wear tefillin, blow a shofar, tallitot (prayer shawls), call women to the Torah and conduct a service (in Orthodox Judaism, only men do this). These are mad manly women. I said an involuntary "Oy vey!" when I saw some of them wearing tefillin (traditionally reserved for men, with a few exceptions such as Rashi’s daughters).

These women are fat and passionate and old and bizarre. They convey no sympathy for the Jewish tradition they want to overturn and no doubts about their own righteousness.

Their opponents are just as old and ugly, screaming epithets and starting fights.

I love watching this hour-long fight. To some it makes Jews look bad. I think it makes Jews look good that they care so much about Torah and prayer.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Beijing World Art Musuem - Sigal Bussel.

My friend Sigal just had large exhibition of her paintings in one of the largest Modern art musuems of Beijing.
She asked me to take some pictures of her for the catalogue- but I was blown away when one of my still photographs of her was blown up and placed on a full wall in a Chinese Modern art musuem.
Sigal showed me pictures of Chinese musuem goers taking pictures of my still photograph at the entrance to her exhibition in the Beijing musuem.
For a videographer and documentary filmmaker like myself- it was a really interesting experience capturing the essence of a person in one frame. I am used to capturing moving life. So the fact I succeeded in capturing a frozen moment in life was a wonderful experience.

That still photograph made it's way to CCTV's website- the website for China's TV station that interviewed Sigal as well.
They Zoomed in on the photograph and that looks just as interesting.

Here are the different variations on the picture and the article from CCTV's website:

Sigal's an amazing artist and I hope this exhibit will be one of many to come for her new and powerful collection of paintings titled: HEAD.

Heads: A voyage of self discovery

05-13-2008 10:00

The rules and conventions of interpersonal relationships are unraveled at an exhibition that opened Sunday. It's at the Art Exhibition Center of Beijing's Millennium Monument. Viewers are guided on an Odyssey of self discovery, through the works of American Artist Sigal Bussel.

The rules and conventions of interpersonal relationships are
unraveled at an exhibition that opened Sunday.(Photo:
The sole subject for Sigal Bussel's exhibition is the head - the primary center for control of human activity and the seat of consciousness.

The Heads, executed in propylene pigment, face different directions. Other materials, such as ropes, chains, resins, wood chips and sticks complement the works.

The exhibition is entitled "Heads: A Voyage of Self Discovery". Bussel says she wanted to examine estrangement in interpersonal relationships - the connections between people and the world around.

Sigal Bussel, artist, said, "I feel the heads are very symbolic. They express all our emotions, and who we are. Everything is expressed through our facial expressions. And I really want it by removing some of the facial features, to remove our individuality and our differences. I think by removing our differences, then we'll afterwards face the humanity. These heads can be used as a mirror to go through a self-voyage, a self-discovery."
Lei Zhengmin, arts critic, said, "The various materials Bussel used in her productions bear different connotations. Seemingly the works are simple and plain but they're actually profound in nature. The Heads are presented as a perfect starting point."

Sigal Bussel lives in Los Angeles. Her paintings and sculptures have been showcased many times in her home country and outside. She's had exhibitions at Harvard University where she earned her Master's degree, and at China's Xi'an Modern Art Gallery.

The exhibition runs till May 16th.


 Another Amazing Review in Art Beats LA. Thanks  Kurt Gardner. ART BEATS LA REVIEW OF AMERICAN POT STORY: Slamdance Review: ‘American Pot St...