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Niece’s voice may bring Spielberg to Israel

Posted on:
July 7, 2014
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Jewish American director planning to visit Holy Land this summer in order to root for his sister’s daughter on reality singing competition ‘The Voice Israel.’

Jewish American director may visit Israel soon in order to root for his niece, Jessica Katz, one of the contestants in Channel 2’s reality singing competition “The Voice Israel.”

Sources in the show’s production say they were informed by Spielberg’s relatives that the visit could take place soon, depending on the progress Katz makes in the competition. Spielberg’s father Arnold, his sisters Susan and Nancy, Katz’s mother, and his brother-in-law Shimon Katz, have already visited the set.

Arnold Spielberg, 97, who bought his son his first 8-millimeter camera, arrived in Israel to applaud his granddaughter during one of the show’s episodes. His daughter Nancy will be returning to Israel soon with a documentary she produced about the Israel Air Force, which has been selected for the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

Jessica Katz hinted in a recent interview she gave Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nevo Ziv that her famous uncle may visit Israel soon. “He hasn’t been here for a long time and he said there’s a chance he’ll come here in the summer,” she said.


GI Joe and Barbie, meet Menachem Begin and Golda Meir

Posted on:
July 4, 2014
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You can now own a piece of history. Asaf Harari, an Israeli graphic designer from Yavne, has designed action figures of famous Israelis throughout time.

Included in his new series are Moshe Dayan, David Ben-Gurion, Theodor Herzl, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin.

According to Piece of History‘s site,

Established in 2009, Piece of History is proud to be Israel’s first design studio focused on creating conceptual, history-oriented, art-toys, prints, t-shirts and more. We are based in Tel Aviv, Israel, and employ a crew of passionate designers motivated by their love of history and art.

Read more at JPost.com.


Guinness World Record breaking Shabbat meal is set in Tel Aviv

Posted on:
June 16, 2014
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Last Friday evening, a shabbat dinner known to host 2,226 people, one being an official Guinness World Records representative, took place in a large venue by the Tel Aviv port.

The record breaking event was jointly hosted by Chabad- Lubavitch and White City Shabbat, whom without which, the 800 bottles of wine, 80 bottles of vodka, 50 bottles of whisky, 2,000 challah rolls, 1,800 pieces of chicken, 1,00 pieces of beef, and 250 vegetarian meals wouldn’t be possible.

Not only is Tel Aviv hot in the public eye right now for their gay pride efforts, but now their status as Guiness World Record breakers as well!

Read more at Times of Israel.

Jewish Agency to march in Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Posted on:
June 10, 2014
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The Jewish Agency will march in Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade for the first time this year.

According to Times of Israel,

At the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade this Friday, the Jewish Agency will be coming out, too. Spurred into action by a group of LGBT immigrants in Tel Aviv, the agency, which in March launched its LGBT group ‘Coming Out, Coming Home,’ will join dozens of other gay-friendly organizations at the annual Gay Pride Happening in Gan Meir park before marching with their own branded banner in the day’s parade.”

Coming Out, Coming Home was launched to “welcome LGBT new Olim and to introduce them to LGBT Israelis, veteran Olim and Israeli culture.”

Read more at Times of Israel.


A Victory Dance for LGBT Rights

Posted on:
May 20, 2014
Activism, LGBTQ, Video
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A rabbi who publicized a dance instructor’s sexual orientation, thereby damaging her livelihood, will have to pay her 60,000 shekels ($17,400) as compensation, as well as apologizing to her.

The Jerusalem District Court reversed an earlier decision by a magistrate’s court, which had ruled the rabbi had acted in good faith when he called on women in his neighborhood to refrain from going to a popular dance group since the instructor was gay.

In its decision, the judge also removed a ban on publicizing the names of the persons involved. Nurit Melamed is a choreographer and folk dancing instructor who held classes in several Jerusalem neighborhoods, including one in Givat Mordechai, home to an Orthodox population.

Rabbi Isser Klonsky, the former rabbi of the neighborhood, spread a warning about her classes, forbidding women from attending since the classes were “an abomination.”

In a lawsuit Melamed claimed that, following this letter, her rental agreement with the hall in which the classes were held was revoked and the class terminated. Classes in other neighborhoods also dwindled and she became depressed.

However, the magistrate’s court accepted the rabbi’s claims that her sexual orientation was known and that he had acted innocently, concerned about her romantic ties, including with a married woman who had left her husband. He saw this as a “threat” against his community.

One of the witnesses who backed the rabbi was Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, one of the founders of Tzohar, an organization of modern orthodox rabbis, who was known in recent years to be holding dialogues with the gay community.

Melamed appealed to the District Court, represented by attorney Riki Shapira Rosenberg from the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform movement in Israel, and by attorney Ziva Ofek.

The district court overturned the decision, and the two sides reached a compromise under which Klonsky would apologize and pay Melamed 60,000 shekels.

:: Haaretz.com

Israeli-Canadian singer’s new single seeks to give Purim miracle everyday relevance

Posted on:
March 16, 2014
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In time for Purim 2014, popular Israeli-Canadian singer and composer Naftali Kalfa seeks to give everyday relevance to the Jewish holiday’s age-old story with his recently released single “Miracles.”

Written by Kalfa, and recorded alongside well-known Israeli singer Gad Elbaz and Jewish reggae singer-songwriter Ari Lesser, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, “Miracles” is a song thanking God for saving the Jewish people living in ancient Persia who were slated for annihilation at the hands of the King Ahasuerus’s second in command, Haman the Agagite.

The story of the miraculous salvation of Persian Jewry is recorded in the biblical book of Esther and is customarily read by Jews all over the world on Purim in commemoration of those events.

In an interview with JNS.org, Kalfa explains that the song—which includes sections in both Hebrew and English—not only focuses on Purim and other miracles throughout Jewish history that are detailed in the Bible, but also seeks to “inspire us to think about the small miracles that happen in this world every single day.”

“How many people wake up in the morning and mean it when they recite the ‘Modeh Ani’ prayer, thanking God for returning our souls back to us?” Kalfa asks.

The lyrics of Kalfa’s song express his strong sentiment that Jews shouldn’t take “small miracles” for granted, whether it’s waking up in the morning, having a properly functioning body, or being able to earn a livelihood. He says that these everyday activities and others all warrant an expression of thanks to God.

The new single comes on the heels of the release of Kalfa’s latest album, a double CD titled “The Naftali Kalfa Project,” featuring 28 original compositions and orchestrated songs alongside some of most established and well-known names in the world of Jewish music today.

Musical collaborations feature artists including Shlomo Katz, Yossi Piamenta, Yehuda Glantz, Gad Elbaz, Yosef Chaim Shwekey, Lenny Solomon, Benny Elbaz, Yehuda Solomon, Shyne, and many others.

“These songs are part of me, like my children—and many of them were inspired by my children” says Kalfa, a native of Toronto who splits his time between Canada and Israel and is a father of five.

With styles spanning numerous genres, from cantorial music to rock, Kalfa drew inspiration for the music on his new album from the Book Psalms and prayers, with songs like “This Time Next Year,” taken from the Passover Haggadah, and the Yom Kippur-derived “Adon Haselichot” (“Master of Forgiveness”). But he also focused on the strong Jewish spirit to persevere, with songs like “Refaenu” (“Heal Us”), “Ten Li Koach” (“Give Me Strength”), “Bridges,” and “I Will Be.”

“The uniqueness of this album is that it welcomes the talents of a diverse collection of artists while being inspired by an underlying love for music and connection to Hashem that is at the heart of everything we do as singers and composers,” Kalfa says. “It’s been a real honor to bring together so many people for this project, and I’m confident that listeners will feel that sense of passion within each and every song.”

Kalfa, 33, whose debut album titled “Yihyu Liratzon” was recorded in collaboration with the Piamenta brothers, says that his passion for music started as a young child.

“I was always the guy in the synagogue standing next to the chazan (cantor), or at weddings trying to understand what the band was doing,” he says.

Kalfa says he has had a wide array of influences on his career, from Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones to some of the most well-known names in the world of Jewish music, such as Avraham Fried and Mordechai Ben David. His first recorded composition was a cover of the popular Simon and Garfunkel classic “The Sound of Silence,” titled V’ani Tefilati (“I Am My Prayer”), which he says came to him on a road trip with friends in the U.S.

The singer adds that at least half of the songs on the new album “were composed during Friday afternoon pre-Shabbat ‘jam-sessions,’” which he attends regularly with a group of musically talented friends in his community of Ma’ale Adumim.

While Kalfa does some live-performance touring, appearing at concerts and other events in Israel and abroad, he says that he performs live “as little as possible,” preferring to spontaneously compose. But he admits that some of the most fulfilling moments in his career have included playing live—whether in front of Israel Defense Forces soldiers at the Gaza border [during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense], “trying to give them the joy of music, as they waited to go into battle,” at a high school for troubled teenage girls, or at an old-age home in front of his grandmother and the other residents.

“Visiting my grandmother, while singing and bringing in the guitar to the old-age home, to me, that means more than playing in front of 5,000 fans, or even in Madison Square Garden,” he says. Referring to his visit with the soldiers during Pillar of Defense, Kalfa says, “That experience really touched my neshama (soul).”

Kalfa admits that the world of Jewish music is a difficult business and that “only the guys at the very top are the ones able to make a good living.” To compensate, he is involved in other business ventures. Yet he hopes that one day, he can dedicate all of his time to his music, and says that it’s really not about the money.

“All the music I make is for my neshama and comes from the neshama,” Kalfa says.

“I’m just an imperfect Jew who aspires to improve and to work towards being the best person I can be,” he says. “I hope that my music can inspire.”