Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, a 34-year-old violinist and the director of the Polyphony Conservatory in Nazareth, will be awarded the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts.The prize has been awarded annually since 2009 by Ono to artists from various fields for their efforts to promote peace through the arts.Ashkar founded Polyphony in March of 2011 in order to promote tolerance and co-existence through classical music education. “The organization believes that through music we can develop equal opportunity for music education and dialogue between Arab and Jewish youth in Israel,” Ashkar said.
Ono met Ashkar at a concert in New York this month featuring Majd Mashour (15), a student at the conservatory, and Uri Tivon (17) from Tel Aviv. The concert was one of two organized by Polyphony in February.
Among the guests at the event were Yoko Ono and former Beatles impresario Peter Brown. “Peter Brown called me on Friday to tell me that Yoko Ono had decided to give me the prize,” Ashkar told Haaretz.
“The win gave me the feeling that there are people in the world who believe in our path,” he said, adding that he hoped more people in Israel would hear about the work of his organization thanks to the award.
“I realized that an artist seeking to tell the truth in her art takes great courage. I recognize the courage required to bring children together from Israeli and Palestinian communities to find commonality in music as a very powerful and effective beginning towards Peace,” Ono wrote on her website.
Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar is a member of the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, founded by conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian author Edward Said in 1999. He studied music and physics at Tel Aviv University, and also studied at the Rostock Academy of Music and Theater in Germany.
The cash prize will be awarded by Ono to Ashkar and four additional artists at a ceremony at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on February 26.
It’s not every day your local rabbi is recognized by the queer community, but for Rabbi David Lazar, it’s actually happened twice — and on two different continents.
Lazar, the current chief rabbi of Stockholm’s Jewish community, was honored last week by the Swedish GLBTQ Magazine, “QX”, as its Årets Hetero (straight person of the year) at a star-studded gala, Gaygalan.
This is Lazar’s second such award. While still a pulpit rabbi in Israel, the American immigrant received the Yakir Hakehila award from Tel Aviv’s homo/lesbian community.
“I could probably be in the Guiness Book of World Records,” chuckles the fifty-four year old during a short trip to Israel this week. “I’m the only rabbi with a gay award on two continents.”
Lazar wasn’t able to receive his Israeli award in person as the show unfortunately fell on Shabbat. This time, as a nominee in a foreign country, Lazar felt he should make every effort to attend, and the father of five brought his wife Sascha too: “I realized that if I get this, I’d better look the part and show up with a woman.”
Pleased “just to be nominated,” the modest rabbi hadn’t really entertained the notion of winning, but he prepared a short statement in Swedish just in case.
“Five minutes before the award was announced I was still looking up the word ‘honor’ in Google. I was nervous, it was very Hollywood-y, and this is such a huge honor.
“But really, it’s not my honor as much as an honor for the entire [Jewish] community.”
Lazar, a leading figure in Israel’s Masorti Movement, has been on the frontlines of gay rights in Israel since the 1990s. In the early 2000s, he was the first rabbi to marry same-sex couples in the Holy Land. When asked to take his current position in Sweden in 2010, Lazar told the hiring board he had every intention of continuing on this path.
“For me, it’s a matter of human rights, ” Lazar said in a television interview in Sweden after receiving the prize. “Every human being was created in the image of God… we see God in each other… Nobody is abnormal; everybody is part of normality.”
Lazar was interviewed with Swedish soccer player Anton Hysen, who is only the second player to come out of the closet while still playing. The first player, Justin Fashanu, came out in 1990 and tragically took his life in 1998.
“I am worried that young people are afraid to be who they are… We can’t let young people lose hope like that,” said Lazar on Swedish television. And so, since taking his new pulpit at Stockholm’s Great Synagogue, Lazar has implemented a Rainbow Kabbalat Shabbat and initiated numerous ecumenical programs working against hate crime, prejudice and hate speech.
Lazar, who is the head of the entire Stockholm Jewish community, says that in general, he has received positive feedback from his flock. “Even members of the Orthodox synagogues congratulated me the next morning.”
He sees this award as the beginning of the next stage in the relationship between his community and the GLBTQ community. Seeing as he plans to stick around for the long run, he asks, “Does this mean I’m Swedish now?”
Another achievement for Israeli cinema: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s documentary, “The Law in These Parts,” has won the World Cinema Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the top gathering for independent movies made outside of Hollywood’s major studios.
The film, which won the Best Documentary award at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival, reviews Israel’s legal system in the West Bank from Alexandrowicz’s critical point of view.
It combines interviews with senior legal experts, including former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and former Judge and Military Advocate General Amnon Strashnov.
The film was praised during the festival, and Alexandrowicz was even invited to write an op-ed for the New York Times about the issue discussed in the documentary.
Top honors at Sundance were given to “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a mythical film starring an eight-year-old girl, which won the grand jury prize in the US dramatic competition, and “The House I Live In”, about the war on drugs, which won the same honor in the US documentary category.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report
‘Footnote’s director Joseph Cedar is no stranger to the Oscars, as his movie ‘Beaufort’ was nominated in the very same category in 2008, and started a run of three consecutive years, in which an Israeli movie was nominated for Best Foreign Film Award at the glamorous show (‘Waltz with Bashir’ was nominated in 2009, and ‘Ajami’ was nominated in 2010). Last year Israel sent ‘The Human Resources Manager’ to compete in the Best Foreign Film category, but the movie missed the final cut and didn’t get nominated. So far, Israel has never won in this category, and ‘Footnote’ is the 10th movie nominated in this category since Israel started sending movies for Oscars consideration, in 1964.
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, February 26, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center(r), and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.
The nominees for Best Foreign Film Award at this year’s Oscars are:
‘In Darkness’ (Poland)
‘Monsieur Lazar’ (Canada)
‘A Seperation’ (Iran)
The francophone dramedy “Monsieur Lazhar” is about a group of Montreal elementary students grappling with the death of their teacher.
It’s up against Belgium’s “Bullhead,” Israel’s “Footnote,” Poland’s “In Darkness” and Iran’s “A Separation,” which won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film earlier this month.
It’s the second year in a row a Quebec filmmaker is vying for an Academy Award.
Last year, Denis Villeneuve was in the running in the same category for his war drama, “Incendies.”
The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 26 on CTV.
“Monsieur Lazhar” already has nine Genie Award nominations and previously collected TIFF’s award for best Canadian feature and the Toronto Film Critics Association’s Rogers Best Canadian Film Award.
Falardeau is not Canada’s only hope in the category.
Poland’s “In Darkness” is a Canadian-Poland-German co-production written by Toronto’s David Shamoon and produced by Canadians Eric Jordan and Paul Stephens.
The film is set in Nazi-occupied Poland and is based on a true story about a Polish sewer worker who agrees to hide a group of Jewish men, women and children in the sewers.
“In Darkness” is being released in Canada on Feb. 17.
“Monsieur Lazhar” hits select cities this Friday.
It was a big weekend for Israeli TV formats. First on Friday, a drama based on the Israeli series Pillars Of Smokebecame the first in-cycle drama pilot picked up by NBC. And then on Sunday another Israeli drama adaptation, Showtime’s Homeland,became the the biggest TV winner at the Golden Globe Awards with two statuettes, for best drama series and best actress Claire Danes. That caps several years of a building momentum for formats from the Middle East country with strong ties to the U.S. and deep connections in Hollywood.
Exactly 3 years ago, the first of the current wave of U.S. adaptations of Israeli series, HBO’s In Treatment, landed 5 Golden Globe nominations, including best drama series, and won one, for best actor Gabriel Byrne. This year, Homelandconverted 2 of its 3 nominations. How significant is the show’s best drama series win? Israeli formats got to the coveted top award after a four-year presence in Hollywood and a handful of series, In Treatment, CBS’ The Ex List and Fox’s Traffic Light leading to Homeland. For comparison, U.S. adaptations of British series have a long-standing tradition, spanning dozens of series over four decades. And yet, I could only think of one American series based on an U.K. format that has landed a best series Golden Globe, the CBS classic All In The Family. (NBC’s The Office won for star Steve Carell in 2006 but never in the top series category.)
Israel’s opening to the U.S. TV market started several years ago when groups of local producers and representative came to Los Angeles to meet with leading Hollywood TV executives and agents. CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, then Chair of the Jewish Federation’s Entertainment Division, was among those spearheading the initiative, which included master classes held both in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. Top U.S. TV agents began shopping Israeli formats to the U.S. networks. Last night, Homeland executive producer Howard Gordon began his acceptance speech by thanking “Rick Rosen at WME for bringing us this project.” Rosen is one of the leading agents handling Israeli formats, with CAA’s Adam Berkowitz also active in the arena.
As a result of the rising interest, the broadcast networks this season bought as many pitches based on Israeli formats as they did formats coming out of the U.K. In addition to Pillars Of Smoke, awaiting word on a pickup are comedy Life Isn’t Everything at CBS and drama Danny Hollywood at the CW. Additionally, one of the projects based on a British format, NBC comedy Friday Night Dinnershepherded by The Office chief Greg Daniels, revolves around a Jewish family and their regular Friday dinner experience. Because of the far smaller size of the Israeli TV market and thus series budgets that are a fraction of what U.S. shows have at their disposal, Israeli producers put stronger emphasis on storytelling and search for formats that would help them overcome the financial shortcomings, including setting up most of the action in one (In Treatment) or 2 rooms (dramaThe Naked Truth, an U.S. version of which was once set up at HBO with Clyde Phillips.)
Israel’s U.S. TV influence is not limited to scripted formats. NBC’s reality seriesWho’s Still Standing?, which aired as a strip last month, was based on a hit Israeli series, with other reality projects also in the works.